domingo, 14 de mayo de 2017

Students exercise: a stool

A classic stool might seem a simple thing to build, but it actually has 16 joints, so it lends itself to a good exercise on mortise and tenon joinery. I designed this one to show students a number of variations on the same joint: through, blind, haunched, wedged and pinned.

As you can see in the picture, it is made from oak and the pins and wedges are made of African Blackwood (Dalbergia Melanoxylon), which is a very dark, hard and dense timber (one of those that don't float in water).

It is a nice simple object, but if we come closer we see in the details how it was made. I love it when the engineering of the piece is the decoration itself. And then this curved chamfers at the underside of the top discretely add a sense of lightness.

A close-up of the African Blackwood accents and the lighter coloured medullary rays running across the leg. This is not random, but a choice.

The mortises are made at a perfect 16º angle, to house two wedges of 8º. 

Two identical 8º wedges.

Once driven in the joint, he wedges will expand the tenon, forcing it to conform the 16º mortise.

After glue-up, the last thing to do is trim the joint flush with the leg. Best done with a block plane.

The pins are perfect 8mm cylinders just made with hand tools.

Right after glue-up. Once in, the pin locks the leg and the rail together as it pierces through the hidden joint.

I enjoy very much using my tools on this dark mysterious wood. A pleasure to work with.

miércoles, 26 de abril de 2017

Quartersawn oak at the sawmill

The quarter-sawn stock has it's growth rings perpendicular to its face, which means that it was oriented radially inside of the tree. This kind of boards take much longer to cut from the log, but they are very stable and make for premium quality furniture. In some species such as oak, quarter-sawn stock reveals the medullary rays structure with powerful visual effect. This diagram shows the way the log is cut:

(Image source:

These are some pictures of the milling of a big oak, 50cm in diameter, with quite a splendid grain. 

A log this size is hard to manage and it takes some skills and equipment. Its water content is extremely high, so it is really heavy.

The blade cutting right at the centre of the growth rings.

This piece here is remarkably figured. It will make for a nice desktop I have in my sketchbook. All the other components of that desk will come from the same log for a perfect colour match, so different sections are needed. Thinking ahead is important.

The medullary rays revealing themselves as spots across the timber.

In the end, I got 17 boards, including four spectacular book matched pairs. These are only rough sawn boards. After working them, the beauty and depth of the material will be enhanced much more.

The next step in the process is seasoning the wood, letting it air dry for at least two years so it has time to release most of the stress. It will be cared for and checked regularly. During this period of time design ideas will be seasoned as well and hopefully, only the best ones will prevail.

Slow is good.

Some of my lumber, carefully stacked.

miércoles, 19 de abril de 2017

Workshop build - part one

I belong to a group of people doing research on alternative ways to exist and coexist. We own a compound where all our lines of investigation take place: alternative education, solar power, farming, conscious forest managing, construction in stone, straw and wood, and a large etc. Within this compound, we are building a wood shop which will serve community needs and it will be my cabinet making shop as well. 

The preexistent structure is a log frame that will be closed with fast timber frame walls, OSB panels and cork thermic isolation. It has been designed to be as humidity tight as possible in order to have a stable moisture content, which is essential to building well-crafted furniture. It will be outfitted with single phase and three phase power, a powerful dust collection system, lots of natural light and pretty much anything a shop needs!

The wood is consciously harvested from our own forest,  and many of the materials are reclaimed. 

The planning started in winter 2016 and hopefully, it will be finished in early 2018. This is something I couldn't carry on my own and indeed many people are helping a great deal. I'm very grateful.
Stay tuned to watch it progress!

The shop at present: the old structure at the right of the picture and the beginning of the wall construction at the left.

We started in fall 2016 with the foundation for the extension side. 

About 30 trees were cut down in a way that benefits both the forest and our purpose. They were cut following the moon calendar too, as it helps a great deal keeping bugs away.

Cutting all the lumber into beams, posts, etc. It took about 2 months of work!

At present we are assembling and raising walls. The openings are made to fit the windows we have in stock at the moment.

Some timber framing is going on too, for structural purposes.

For the ceiling's top layer, we are using reclaimed galvanised iron sheets.

Next step is raising up the 6m long beams. Quite heavy!

miércoles, 21 de diciembre de 2016

A nice simple picture frame

Eva, who attended to my introductory workshop on joinery, asked for another one on making picture frames. I liked very much the idea and put myself to task. Here is the example I have made to show my students.

It actually is a great exercise, moderately challenging for a beginner but quite complete: we see mitered corners reinforced with splines, ploughing the glass rebates, the use of a hand plane to shoot end grain and finishing with shellac and carnauba wax. The basic structure can be completed by a student within one day, although cutting the back board and the glass to size and finishing could take some more.

It can be a good opportunity to introduce some machines such as a power router and miter saw, without forgetting some good accurate handwork.

An example in american white oak.

With the shooting board you can creep up to a perfect 45º miter and dimension the pieces to identical sizes.

Frame components ready for glue up.

A nice crisp joint with no glue line. 

Cutting the grooves for the reinforcement splines.

The splines are pieces of veneer that provide some long-grain gluing surface and in the case above, the dovetail disposition gives some extra mechanical resistance.

I like the simplicity of these little back holders.

Last step: finishing with shellac and carnauba wax.

A perfect smooth surface, pleasant to touch and to look at.

martes, 13 de diciembre de 2016

Texturing with carving gauges

I've been thinking for quite some time about introducing textures in the pieces of furniture that I am building. I have borrowed some antique gouges from a friend and here are some tests on a scrap piece of beech. You can see the tool's profile and foot print they leave. I'm happy with the results (specially the one at the top right) and I start now to do a research on brands and makers. Pfeil is on top of the list for now, but I'd love to find a fine gouge maker and buy some hand made. Any tips?

lunes, 12 de diciembre de 2016

Stock preparation for the upcoming workshops

I've been preparing the stock for the introductory workshops to come in December and also in January. 

Here you can see some nice european oak, american white oak, pine and some reclaimed exotic wood from a closing workshop, which I'm not sure what it is. It is a pleasure to work, though!

Here, some medullary rays smiling at you. I try to give the students good quality stock, quarter-sawn when possible.

Some shots on the introduction workshop we did the last weekend. 
Next dates are December 17th / 18th and January 28th / 29th.