Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Steam Bending Kiln Dried Cherry, Second Try

“I was depressed, but that was a side issue. This was more like closing up shop, or, say, having a big garage sale, where you look at everything you've bought in your life, and you remember how much it meant to you, and now you just tag it for a quarter and watch 'em carry it off, and you don't care. That's more like how it was.”
Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres

 First off,  here's a pic of my two latest chairs.  They're the same save for the colors, one is brownish and the other is almost black with a hint of brown underneath.  They are going to a gallery,  The Gallery at Frenchmans's Bay, which is in Somesville, MDI.  I was excited to get in there as there are pieces by builders that I have seen in magazines and such.  In September Tyra, the owner, is having reception so hopefully I'll get to meet some as well.

 As you may remember from my last post, the posts cracked when I tried to steam bend them.   So, I soaked the new pieces for a few days in some water, hoping this would soften the fibers somewhat.

I also steamed them longer and closed the door on the steambox to raise the temperature a little.  I also tried to think of a way to use straps to support the bends.  Time for some honesty...I use straps.  There, I said it.  Wood bends, or rather compresses, a lot.  Wood expands very little, ie it can not be stretched.  What a strap does it turns the whole bend into compression by holding the ends.  But I could not think of a way to use straps.  And then it came to me, sandwich.  I would sandwich the pieces between forms, rather than stretch them around the form.  I do this on the crest rails all the time, more for a more consistent arc than to ward off breakage, but the theory is the same.

So I cut out some sandwich pieces and quickly sanded them and steamed the posts for an hour and a half, and then started the bending.  And it worked!  I had to frig with the clamps a little, but the bends look good.  Of course its a long way from being dried and done, but it's a good (read better) start.

  I also want to thank Ray Duffy, a chair maker from Central Mass, who graciously offered to get me some green cherry after my last bending debacle.  And another thanks to Wilson Burnham for his blog post on axe handles.  I asked Wilson a question about the general shape of axe handles and he took it and ran...great post and great blog. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Steam Bending Kiln Dried Cherry

“I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.”
John Green, Looking for Alaska

 Well, as you can see, less than stellar results.  I kinda sorta thought this would happen, or maybe at least I wasn't totally surprised.  I think a few things made this happen.  One, and most obviously, using kiln dried wood.  Usually I use split green ash, and it bends beautifully.  Second, I think I placed the clamps in the wrong place, on the ends.  I should have started on one end and worked my way up.  And lastly, I left the door of my steam box open in an attempt to keep the tenons out of the steam.  I stuffed a towel around gaps, but there was a fair but of leakage, so I think the temp never really got high enough.  The piece seemed "dry" when I took it out, and not really all that hot.  If you can't hold it in your bare hands, it's about right.  
I should back up and say that I am building a cherry rocker and the only cherry I have is kiln dried.  If I can't get these posts bent, I may have to see if Matt can get me some green stock, or at least air dried.  When wood is kiln dried ( and a lot depends on how it is dried, the temps of the schedule etc.) sometimes the lignin can become set, meaning it can't be bent.  This is why kiln dried wood is stiff, whereas air dried is more flexible.  

Because there is no cherry growing around here, if I can't get these bent this chair is dead in the water, so I have to come up with something.  I remember reading an article years ago where Russ Philbeck, a chair maker in So. Cal. used k.d. wood but he soaks it in water with a little fabric softener in it ( it allows the water to soak in better by reducing the surface tension).    So I filled up a PVC pipe with some water and am soaking the new posts til maybe Sunday, then I'm gonna steam them for at least 1.5 hrs with the door closed, and be very careful, and quick, with the clamping....pretty much everything I didn't do the first time around.  We'll see, hope it works, cause if not this chair is done.

It amazes me how few parts it takes to build a chair.  These are all the parts, save for the the spindles and the rockers.  The spindles are already drying after steam bending.

The other problem of the day.  I had the second coat of a multi-layered paint job, and I noticed a timber break that I somehow missed in the assembly of this chair.  A timber break is when a tree is felled over another tree and breaks, but not in two, rather it creates internal breaks that rear their ugly heads later in the assembly.

As upset as I was, better to find it now than later, believe me.  So I flooded a little epoxy in the back break and some super glue on the front, a couple hours later and some sanding, good as new.  It does set the painting back but like I said, better now than years later in a clients house.  So, a good bad day, I guess.

Here are  the two chairs, before the painting.  One is gonna be a brownish, and the other, the one with the break, is gonna be more black.

This shows the importance of using green, riven wood to steam bend.  It makes everything else easier. 
Easy to the point where it's easy to get complacent about bending, and then you try to bend kiln dried, and, well, see above.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Table and Chairs

I loved you like a man loves a woman he never touches, only writes to, keeps little photographs of.”
Charles Bukowski, Love is a Dog from Hell

Here is the finished table from the breadboard ends post.  I was happy the way it came out, and the client was very pleased.  Only now, I want to build one to sit exactly where this one is so we can play games.  One thing I should mention, and really should have gotten pics of,  is the horrible scratching that the drum sander put on the top.  I never saw it until the stain went on and then Wow, there it is.

 So, I sharpened up a scraper and had at it.  It only took about ten minutes ( and one blister) to scrape off the scratches and then I sanded it to 180 grit,  re-stained and then varnished.  It's amazing how some things in life that are supposed to save work actually create more work,  like recycling.

If, not when, I get around to making a table and chairs, the chairs will be like the hoop-back to the left.  They will tuck under the table and are easy to make, relatively speaking. 

As an aside, if you have never read any Charles Bukowski, you should.  He was a working man's poet, rough, Garrison Keillor said, aptly, that he looked "like a gargoyle" but I love his writing.  Check him out. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Plank Salmon

“I feel like a wet seed wild in the hot blind earth.”
William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying 

One of my favorite things to grill is salmon on a cedar plank.  It is really easy, and the combination of salmon and cedar smoke make a perfect pair.  For some other fish, delicate ones like haddock, a maple or poplar plank works better, but the heavy taste of salmon needs cedar.  You can buy these planks, but on a trip to an ash log for some chairs, I noticed that Robert had some cedar logs so cut some pieces and then split them up for the planks.  This is exactly the way that cedar shakes are made.  The butt pieces, about 18" or so,  are split using a froe and froe club, then a 3/8" piece is popped off, then the log is flipped lengthwise and then repeated.  In short order I can get enough pieces for the whole summer's grilling.

I cut some fresh chives to create a bed for the salmon pieces.  The onion taste is interesting mixed with the cedar smoke.  As an aside, I planted the chives to deter the mice and moles that were eating my Lilly bulbs.  It worked for that, but now the chives are everywhere!

Soak the planks for a couple hours in water, and grill them until they start to smoke and burn a little.  Remember---no fire, no flavor.  Grill for about 12 minutes at 400ยบ or until the salmon flakes apart with a fork.  

I made a sauce of Soy sauce, maple syrup and a little dry mustard.  And it was de-lish!  They only thing it needed was a little wasabi, so next time I'll try that as well.  But it was fine this way, really moist and smokey, perfect.  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Bread Board Ends, Part 2

"Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”
-W.B. Yeats

I've been building tables with breadboards for years now and had usually used full on mortise and tenon along with what amounts to a spline.  It works, and is traditional, but to cut the tenons on a large panel is tricky and time consuming.

I tried then using a Domino, just that but I felt the floating tenons were a little too small, so I now use a different method that uses Domino floating tenons and screws.  Above you can see the mortises cut but not all the way thru.  I leave about 3/4" at the side that contacts the panel.

Above you can see the Domino's that only serve to line the pieces up.  I do glue them into the panel, but not the breadboard.

Here you can see the mortises with the screw holes drilled and slotted out on the backside ( the part that goes against the panel).   Another view below.

 Then line the breadboards up, clamp, and mark the screw holes.  Remove and pre-drill the holes, then finally drive the screws in with a little wax.  I used gold star drive screws, but I think 2 1/2" pocket hole screws would be a better choice.  You may not even have to pre-drill them.

Then cut and mill some plugs to fill the mortise and a little glue then tap them in.  Below, you can see the finished table end.  It really pulls the breadboard tight, and still allows the panel to move with the seasonal changes in humidity.