Woodworkers spend a lot of time figuring out what to buy. This post is for those considering a bandsaw.
I have never been more disappointed in a tool purchase than with my Rikon bandsaw. Nor can I imagine a more complete failure of a piece of equipment and in a company. It's a sorted story and it ended in completely junking the entire saw. A brand new saw, less than a year old, is now a couple of hundred pounds of scrap. I hope this cautionary tale keeps you from making the same mistake. If you're thinking about a Rikon bandsaw scratch it off the list now.
First, I am a weekend woodworker. I don't spend hours on my equipment, but I do spend a significant amount of time figuring out what to buy. I want it to be good equipment. I've been around tools and equipment most of my 50-years and I'm no slouch at using and tuning them.
I bought the saw at Woodcraft and brought it home and set it up. The most immediate problem was blade movement; the blade jumped significantly. To rule out an existing blade problem, I went and bought a replacement blade and also a large resaw blade. The replacement blade made no difference and the resaw blade had severe jump - in excess of 1/4" - perhaps as much as 3/8". I called Rikon and Rod, the Vice-President, had me attempt to adjust the bottom wheel. I played with this fussy adjustment for quite some time to no avail, but I did get a good feel as to the adjustments effect. I called again and Rod said he would send a new bottom wheel. The new wheel arrived and it was the wrong wheel and didn't fit. I packaged the wheel up. Rod sent another wheel. This wheel fit and I put it on, but the saw was no better. I called Rikon again. Rod sent another wheel. The third wheel performed no better. I called Rikon again. At this point it didn't seem like much more could be done and Rod said he would send a new saw out. It may sound like an easy fix; however, it wasn't. After a while the new saw arrived and after spending quite some time getting the old saw off my mobile base I unpacked the new saw, wrestled it off the crate and back into the mobile base. Reusing the palate, crate and packing material, I re-crated and re-packaged the old saw, wrestled it out of the shop and set it outside for shipping. This took most of an entire weekend - it's not easy to lift and lower 400 pound machines many times over. After what turned out to be a many month process I was looking forward to a good, working saw. I later found out that the first saw's upper wheel was not straight; something I had mentioned to Rikon and found in my own extensive troubleshooting. My gauges told me the top wheel was out of round.
The new saw was better, but far from perfect. But, having gone through so much hassle with the old saw I decided I might live with the new one. However, large resaw blades still hammered the rear bearing. I mostly used very small blades in the saw and it performed ok. I rarely had a large blade in the saw and only resawed a couple of maple boards. The saw was plenty powerful for that task, but the blade tracking or wobble was an intractable problem.
Summer came and I spent little time in the shop. However, cool weather came back around and migrated back to my favorite cool weather activity; my shop. My son was using the saw with a 1/4" blade to cut 1/4" plywood for a sword he was keen on making for Halloween. I was with him and he was on the saw for a while. Upon stopping the saw it would not restart.
I checked everything and couldn't find a problem. I got the meter out and checked the breaker - nothing. I checked the outlet - everything was correct. I took the switch out and checked both poles. Again, everything appeared to be fine. I took the motor cover off and checked the motor. Both poles had continuity from the motor leads to the plug and both sides were getting correct voltage on a 20 amp breaker. The motor had failed! I actually thought it was the capacitor, but my electrical knowledge doesn't extend to motors. In case I missed anything I moved the saw over to the tablesaw outlet - nothing. I was incredulous and pretty pissed-off. I have spent more time troubleshooting the saw than using the saw and it had eaten into my limited shop time and now I had no saw at all. I had spent months, literally, screwing around with the bandsaw from hell and now something new.
I wrote Rikon - Rod - an email. I waited and didn't hear anything. Finally, I called and talked to someone else. I then got an email back from Rod blaming me for the wheel problem and the motor problem. I quote, "We attributed the upper wheel issue (on the first saw) to be caused by excessive blade tension and/or leaving blade tension on for extended periods of time. Your current wheel issue coupled with the motor capacitor failure all but confirms excessive blade tension." The problem with this so called theory is that I received BOTH saws with the wobble problem. I barely even used the first saw and hadn't spend much time on the second. I couldn't have and didn't create the problems on the first saw and certainly not the wobble on the second saw. The second issue is that I couldn't really put a large blade on the second saw because of the wobble, so I most often used a small blade which uses little tension. The over tension idea is pretty over-baked. Especially, for as little use as the bandsaw experienced.
I replied to Rod's email writing this all down and heard nothing back. I sent another email a week or so later and Rod wrote back telling me they'd repair the saw if I shipped it back to them! I couldn't believe it. The motor bolts on with three bolts and Rikon wants me to ship it back! They want me to ship the saw a second time, but now pay the shipping, build a palate and shipping box and move the saw all over again. I'm reliving the first nightmare.
Rikon refused to send a new motor, refused just sending the saw back, and generally refused to be any kind of a partner with this problem. It is astoundingly difficult for me to lift and move this saw. Let alone box it and ship it.
Does anyone need any scrap steel?
Do you really think this saw is a "best value" on Fine Woodworking or Woodworking magazine? Or, for that matter, anywhere? It may appear a good value, but 400 pounds of scrap steel in a small shop is significantly valueless.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Woodworkers spend a lot of time figuring out what to buy. This post is for those considering a bandsaw.
Posted by Art at 7:20 AM
Friday, October 30, 2009
James Krenov, who just passed away in October (2009), taught an entire generation of woodworkers to converse with wood; to listen and respond with a thoughtful approach; the dialog informing the very shape and feel of a thing. Design is a tricky thing, but through such a conversation we can at least arrive at a semblance of design quality. We can follow the threads which challenge our notions and preconceptions and thus raise the tenor of the look and feel of a piece beyond that which typically lies within us. Often those ideas raise our skills pushing us to explore new methods and new approaches. Sometimes a design comes together just as conceived. But, more often that which was pictured or drawn fails to live up to expectations. Something says no, we listen, it morphs, we adapt; and after a while we arrive with something that looks better for the conversation. The following tale brightly illuminates this process. I like to make two of something, especially when there are many steps and many problems to work out. I recently wrote in Cabinet-Failures and Illusions about making a handle for a cabinet. I also made an identical cabinet to the one pictured in the aforementioned post; however the two cabinets, although cut at the same time of the same species of wood, have such a different look and feel. One has a more formal feel; tall and straight-grained, clear and uniformly colored. The other one is soft with little obvious grain, but with subtle shading and hue. Dark areas define the panels and the chocolate tone of the wood is quiet and somber. It would be easy to assume that two identically sized and constructed cabinets would look good with identical handles. But, the handles for the chocolate cabinet don't compliment the tall cabinet. I had a long discussion (most of the summer) with the tall cabinet and I eventually ended up down by the creek looking for branches. I found some chokecherry and cut several branches and after stripping them of branches, leaves and bark set them aside to dry . Upon discovering the shape and length that fit and cutting them to size I turned some walnut rings which I could slip over each end. Each was sized to slip to a certain point and then stop. I intended to dowel them through the back and into the cabinet. It just didn't look right. The walnut interrupted the line of the branch and took away from the simplicity of the line. I decided to eliminate the walnut altogether and let the shape of the branch define the cabinet front. That worked. I embonized each handle and mounted them using walnut dowels.
James Krenov, who just passed away in October (2009), taught an entire generation of woodworkers to converse with wood; to listen and respond with a thoughtful approach; the dialog informing the very shape and feel of a thing. Design is a tricky thing, but through such a conversation we can at least arrive at a semblance of design quality. We can follow the threads which challenge our notions and preconceptions and thus raise the tenor of the look and feel of a piece beyond that which typically lies within us. Often those ideas raise our skills pushing us to explore new methods and new approaches.
Sometimes a design comes together just as conceived. But, more often that which was pictured or drawn fails to live up to expectations. Something says no, we listen, it morphs, we adapt; and after a while we arrive with something that looks better for the conversation.
The following tale brightly illuminates this process. I like to make two of something, especially when there are many steps and many problems to work out. I recently wrote in Cabinet-Failures and Illusions about making a handle for a cabinet. I also made an identical cabinet to the one pictured in the aforementioned post; however the two cabinets, although cut at the same time of the same species of wood, have such a different look and feel. One has a more formal feel; tall and straight-grained, clear and uniformly colored. The other one is soft with little obvious grain, but with subtle shading and hue. Dark areas define the panels and the chocolate tone of the wood is quiet and somber. It would be easy to assume that two identically sized and constructed cabinets would look good with identical handles. But, the handles for the chocolate cabinet don't compliment the tall cabinet. I had a long discussion (most of the summer) with the tall cabinet and I eventually ended up down by the creek looking for branches. I found some chokecherry and cut several branches and after stripping them of branches, leaves and bark set them aside to dry . Upon discovering the shape and length that fit and cutting them to size I turned some walnut rings which I could slip over each end. Each was sized to slip to a certain point and then stop. I intended to dowel them through the back and into the cabinet. It just didn't look right. The walnut interrupted the line of the branch and took away from the simplicity of the line. I decided to eliminate the walnut altogether and let the shape of the branch define the cabinet front. That worked. I embonized each handle and mounted them using walnut dowels.
Posted by Art at 10:18 AM
Friday, May 01, 2009
Tim slid down the chute feet first. Now, there was no going back, no return. The lip was four feet above the black pool and there was no way to reach it once plunged into the darkness. The sides were slick, polished, and beautiful. The pool opened at the opposite end into a slot; a narrow, deep, twisting slot just as dark and beautiful as the pool. Somewhere the slot opened up, somewhere unknown.
When Tim plunged in he took a moment to surface and I heard the slight panic, the thrashing, the unmeasured breaths. I felt the tension. His struggle lept off the walls and echoed down the canyon. It lasted a while and stopped and then between deep sucking breaths I heard, "It's cold."
We had been hot - very hot. We had covered the three-miles up the canyon with all of our ropes and gear in about a half-an-hour and it had been difficult to get into the deep part of the canyon, now several hundred feet above us. After walking the ledges we had repelled and then down-climbed into the deepest hole. The world changed. Gone was the ragged, wind-eroded sandstone. Replacing it were the sensuous curves of this half water world; elegant, towering, twisting, fantastic; irreducibly complex - horrifyingly simple.
I slid down the chute. I struck and forgot everything. The hole was numbingly cold and the shock from sweat to freezing was instantaneously alarming - panicking. I had perhaps ten-pounds of gear on and my feet found no bottom, my hands no grip. Air seemed in short supply. The channel was too narrow to swim. A frantic dog paddle found another curve and another. Then the narrow opened, my feet found a bottom and Tim stood at the end laughing....
I clearly remember walking down the trail after climbing all day at Seneca. Gear jingling, laughing, fooling around. It was 1993 and we were single. Besides work, we climbed. I perfected lead-climbing and Tim learned rope work, gear placement, and the craft of climbing. We ate pizza at the general store and drank too much in the evenings around the fire. They were the best days.
...The valley lay below, far below. The truck, perhaps a mile away, appeared as a speck. Only a few feet separated me from the summit of Six Shooter, but the move was committing and the fall not very appealing. A smear, an incut hold, and a mantle was all that remained, but I didn't like the smears on red sandstone.
Earlier, I had slipped on a very solid layback; the sandstone shoving my foot downward, and now I was thinking about the consequences of a fall. On lead, I sometimes go up, then down, and up again, testing, feeling the holds, readying myself for the moment when I move up regardless of what lies above. I yelled at Tim, "Watch me." I torqued my foot onto the soft rock and climbed. The moves were easy. I stood and nothing else was above me.
The top was about the size of a good Thanksgiving table. To the south the Abajo's broke the deep blue sky. To the north, the LaSalles, fresh with new snow beamed white against the red rock of Indian Creek. To the west, Canyonlands, The Maze, and Needles lay all around. I readied the ropes and brought Tim up. We had climbed as one; connected by the ropes, by our long friendship, by the trust forged in our many adventures. The rope; our bond, our suffering, our tears, our easy laugh, our deep friendship.
Desert spires are special. These unique summits give only after taking, but leave you giddy with wonder. I've stood amongst the lumbering, snowy summits and glaciated peaks of North America, yet these summits, who fall in just a day, never fail to leave one awestruck. We shared the summit, another place marked our passing and etched our memory. We readied the repel...
The brambles in Quebec demand skin in trade for passage. Each taking their meager portion - only a bit, a small sample. But, they are countless hordes. They ate at us piece by piece. Bit by bit through the night. We have a picture of our legs after the race. More blood and scabs then skin. It was the first time - the first adventure race. Crack for junkies like us.
....We sat and surveyed the expanse below and plotted our route. Perhaps a thousand feet below Salt Creek cut into the valley floor and began its relentless destruction; each layer of sandstone giving up begrudgingly and suddenly falling to the next until after twenty-miles a hundred layers lay breached. We plunged off the edge of the mesa hoping to find water but also quench our thirst for a place no one had been. In a little hole in the rock we found water and in the slot canyon we quenched our desire. Cougar tracks gave away the ghost who traveled this place at night. The canyon narrowed and became a slot. It slithered through the pinions, gathered itself together and fell hundreds of feet in one crashing, silent crescendo. We climbed up and around. We spent the remainder of the day clambering through and sandstone and the pinions. In the end we climbed back up the mesa and sat around the fire eating and talking into the night. We went out to see the stars above the mesa; shooting stars celebrated the night and the place. Orion lay deep on the western horizon, lord over the winter no more. The stillness was profound. The immensity fathomless.
I was puking on the road; great heaves and spasms, but nothing was coming out. There was nothing. We had been racing for solidly for over 24-hours over what seemed like weeks and I had eaten almost nothing. I was done, but Tim was in front - pushing, pulling. Each of us came and went - equally spent and equally energetic. When one stood; when one pushed, we both stood. We won that race. 350 miles and seven days. It marked a new point in what we thought was possible - everything.We bounced up and down Comb Ridge like bunnies spurred on by the Anasazi and the country itself. Two-days of ruins, petroglyphs, and sandstone. I have written about this place many times and I was happy to let Tim fall under its spell. Our climbing skills were put to good use as we searched the deep washes and climbed the ridge again and again.
To have American antiquity spread before is humbling. We are brothers with the people who called these places home. We felt them. Restless, they discovered everything and filled every corner. The West; these mountains, buttes, and open spaces stirs men who were born in the wrong time. We are better suited to walk with Colter, Powell, Bridger, and Lewis.
Just this week the intrepid explorer, writer, and artist Everett Ruess bones were found on Comb Ridge. Fitting, the mystery of his disappearance was solved this week and his bones were found in this place. He was killed by Utes in 1934 - perhaps the last man killed by Indians. I suspect he would have liked his resting place. It's curious and fitting that William Posey also died about 10-years earlier at Comb Ridge. Perhaps the last Indian killed by whites. Ruess said,
Adventure is for the adventurous.Throughout the trip we were reminded of the vastness of space in the night sky and the vastness of time in the stones around us. We noted these things and talked of our adventures together, we laughed easily and enjoyed the wind in our faces. We talked about one day being forced, like all men, to leave these places and return from whence we came.
My face is set.
I go to make my destiny.
May many another youth be by me inspired to leave the snug safety of his rut,
and follow fortune to other lands.
God, how the wild calls to me.
There can be no other life for me but that of the lone wanderer.
It has an irresistible fascination.
The lone trail is the best for me.
Ruess said much of this far better.
"Music has been in my heart all the time, and poetry in my thoughts. Alone on the open desert, I have made up songs of wild, poignant rejoicing and transcendent melancholy. The world has seemed more beautiful to me than ever before. I have loved the red rocks, the twisted trees, the red sand blowing in the wind, the slow, sunny clouds crossing the sky, the shafts of moonlight on my bed at night. I have seemed to be at one with the world. I have rejoiced to set out, to be going somewhere, and I have felt a still sublimity, looking deep into the coals of my campfires, and seeing far beyond them. I have been happy in my work, and I have exulted in my play. I have really lived."
My dying breath will fire my last thoughts and they will be of the wild places and the people I've shared those places with. There are a handful of people, many places, and there is still time....
Posted by Art at 5:26 PM
Saturday, March 14, 2009
For the last several days the trees at the office have been getting trimmed. Wood is scarce here on the high plains and I couldn't let good hardwood be turned into mulch so I snagged a nice piece of locust. I used the crotch out of the log and turned this yin and yang vase.
Winter is quickly fading and I'm being pulled outside; away from the shop; toward other interests. This vase fits nicely with the idea being puled in opposite directions; of wanting different things, opposite things; and achieving some balance between all of those interests. Yin and Yang are about disjunct or opposing forces which are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, each giving rise to each other in turn. Yin and yang are bound together, yet they are in opposition. So is a balanced life. Our interests are in opposition each to the other - we can only do one at a time, and the pursuit of one keeps us from perfecting the other. Yet, each informs the others. My woodworking informs my business interests. My interest in science improves my ability to perfect rational thought. Climbing, mounting biking, and other outdoor pursuits all inform each other. My interest in Western history informs my exploring. I can explore more remote places because I keep pursue all of these sports. Hard physical exertion in turn improves the mind. A sharp mind is necessary in the business world. Rational thought ties everything together. Each make me better at the other. Each turns on the other. They all nourish each other and they all nourish me.
Tammi is an artist and a scientist. Each is necessary for the other. There have been some studies lately which demonstrate, rather pointedly, that right brain activities (art, for example) improve the abilities of physicians (a generally left brain activity). For me, not only does all of the varied things I do make everything I do better, but it keeps my life sharp, vibrant, and new. The cycle is self-renewing, self-propagating; regenerative.
The duplicitous and adulterous wanderings of both our psyche and our amorous attentions are good. Like a good sports team these various sojourns build depth; strength. The key is limiting their practice so as to build strength in their cross-pollination and not foundering around trying to milk all of the blossoms.
I think I'll go work in the shop, well, a good book would be nice, no - I need a ride, ah - what I really need is a week in the desert.
Posted by Art at 8:00 PM
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Regardless of your politics, ideology, religious beliefs, or affiliation there is a element of this election that reaches beyond simple history. This event is one of those foundational movements in history when things shift. Events like the crossing of the Delaware, the return of Lewis and Clark, Hiroshima, and the Arkansas Nine.
America has always represented an ideal; an egalitarian society; a place of almost limitless possibility. Perhaps the first in the history of civilization and certainly a place that, at least on its face, represents the future of humankind. However, that ideal has been tainted by racism; by the specter that some are not equal. For our lifetimes that fact has been just underneath our collective skin; our promise unfulfilled; our destiny derailed. Photo: Revolution Studios
There is something new. Nothing ends, yet no one had such a bold dream that the pendulum of history could change with one event. That is why the old men weep. The victory in this election is not Obama's alone, but it is the exhaling of a million held breaths. Perhaps the victory is not Obama's at all. It is our victory. The realization that history will mark this single point as an end to what Truman began is, for many, beyond words. That the silent protest of Rosa Parks, the cries of King, and the sacking of Detroit are not only behind us, but that we did in fact produce a more perfect Union. That we can go froward. That the dreams of all can now be our collective dream.
If possible, there is even something bigger. Beyond these shores, there are children in Kenya and university students in France who look to us, and with joy and hope, wonder if what we have accomplished - they can accomplish. We can only hope.
Friday, January 09, 2009
"As a perfectionist, you exist only so long as you are tying to make that perfect piece: on second thought, "perfect" is perhaps not quite what I mean, since the very word implies something beyond criticism and also remote from the warmth that keeps our work alive. But I have now and then wanted to do a piece - just one single thing - which would be the sum of all my efforts, and could justify my existence as a craftsman. Of course, that urge serves best while it is an illusion. And what is that perfect piece? You complain because it eludes you--and are secretly glad because you have to complain. You mutter about the a detail or a whole piece being not quite as you wanted...Some mistakes you make and correct...You stand in front of a piece all evening wandering, is it good? Yes, but what about THAT part: is it a mistake? What will happen if you back up and change it? You'll spend time, run the risk of spoiling the whole piece and the result will be - a line: too straight to be quite alive? An edge: if you make it more even will this be a loss, or a noticeable gain? You are not so much worried about the effort or even risk involved, as over something else...." James Krenov - A Cabinetmaker's Notebook
I almost failed the cabinet.
Handles are important. Either they are hidden; unobtrusive - allowing only the piece to exist, or they call out for you to use them. Mostly they do the latter. They beg you to open the hidden; to explore a drawer, open a door. I wanted mine to invite you to look inside and to provide something new on the outside; something unique, something complete.
I envisioned a simple walnut handle, but that was somehow too simple. I wanted it to be a very elongated oval. The shape of the piece suggested something elongated. I plotted how to turn it, how to hold it, how to keep it from spinning out of control. After roughing out the knobs and using a considerable amount of time I was ready for the oval. It was disaster. I couldn't see the knob to turn it. I spun one and quickly destroyed my prior work. My idea of perfection was shattered, my vision marred, and failure seemed like a likely end.
I brooded for days while doing other things. I knew failure could be turned, but that is seldom easy and often fraught with doubt. It is difficult to replace a vision - a concept. A spark finally lit, a new vision started to form and I liked it. I went and got a small piece of ebony and cut up some cardboard in some possible shapes. I liked it. I changed the radius a bit. I cut a wooden template. I liked it. I cut some walnut into 1/4" slices and made the handle. I liked it. My outlook improved, but I still had a long way to go with something I had never done before. I needed to mount the handle; to fix it to the doors. Numerous configurations lead me back to the lathe.
I cut up the ebony and readied it for the lathe. I turned it down, pulled it off and decided it was too big. I turned it down some more and was pleased. The other three fell in quick succession.
Often, with cabinet work you spend tremendous amounts of time on something which can then be destroyed so quickly, so thoroughly, that the last steps are almost painful. There is a kind of terror in the air. I had to put a deep, angled mortise down the center of a very small, very hard knob. 1/32" was too much error.
I played with some ideas and arrived at a reasonable solution which would accomplish the task and keep my fingers their original length. My jig worked ok, and a little bench work cleaned up the remainder. I hurriedly finished the remaining work so I could see it finally together. I always get inpatient at this point - wondering if the proportion is right, if the line is good, if it works. I have to mentally slow down; appreciate the ending; not screw up. There's no mistake at this point which wouldn't ruin everything and the pieces were fragile and small.
Once it was finished I was pleased. The handles did invite you to open the doors. The chocolate tones of the wood wooed the walnut and ebony. It was a whole.
Victory comes in small steps. Each piece a part of a whole becomes so intertwined, so dependent on the other, that the victories become indistinguishable. New failures await - the pursuit of perfection presents this foreboding horizon and we plod on to our demise and our ecstasy. It all binds the craftsmen, the cabinetmaker and the artist in its wonderful grip.
I still have my illusion.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Producing interesting new work is generally accomplished by pushing one's boundaries, experimenting, and focusing on the creative process; however, the goal is seldom attained on each new project. (Sometimes, ideas seemingly explode out of nowhere, but those ideas are often hatched from some latent genesis - read"Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell) We tend to move forward in fits and starts; thinking, applying the knowledge of our errors, contemplating what-ifs, acquiring new skills, and infusing new views into our vision.
I have completed several recent projects which have included design elements that I wished to incorporate into some new work - a kind of uber project which includes all of my recent ideas. I got the impression of a wall cabinet with exposed joinery. A modern piece; tall and thin with compartments, drawers, and cubbyholes. On a recent trip to San Antonio I had some time to draw and flesh-out some of the details. After quite a few pages of doodles I had a workable design and I liked it so much that I thought I would make two and try to get one into a show or gallery. On the way home I ran into such a gallery owner on the plane - how convenient! Yes, I did get her card.
I generally draw my projects in CADD and work out all of the dimensions; however, with this cabinet I only sketched all the parts and pieces and then went and found the wood. I was thinking of hickory with walnut details as I was looking for high contrasts and unusual grain. This time I let the wood dictate the size and to some degree inspire the details.
There's a story in all this. In the midst of building this cabinet I was digging through the stacks in the library at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and found a book by Krenov. I was vaguely aware of him, but never studied his work. I was fascinated, his work is beautiful, his process seemingly renown, and I found, unknowingly, my cabinet was very much in the vein of his work. My work most likely mirrors his because he has so strongly influenced fine wooodworking today. I went on to read about him. He was very influential in establishing the studio craftsmen movement and especially the high level of skill with joinery which very much defines the best work now produced. I have unquestionably inherited those ideals and strive to attain that mastery.
Here's what he said about design; " ... however some of us may be able to sketch or imagine things in our mind, there are surprises, and problems, when it comes to the the work itself. We may have a fair idea of how we think a piece will look and may even make drawings, yet there are certain aspects in the nature of various forms and proportions - and especially in the material we work with, wood with its own graphic messages - that turn the whole process of working from a matter of certainty, or even rather definite suppositions, to a series of adventures that takes us from one uncertainty to another, with hopes of reaching a turning point."
I'm working toward more of a journey with my designs - it makes a pleasing destination and the time spent along the way is focused, intense, and ingrossingly serene.
I still have to make the inside of this cabinet and it is still unfinished, but I include pictures to illustrate what Krenov said, as it is what I experienced.
So far the joinery includes; through splined tenons, mortise and tenon - frame and panel doors, tapered sliding dovetails and tongue and groove back.
For now, I'm content to walk out to the shop and see if the piece works. To see if the proportion likes the low light, the bright light, the shade. To perceive what one might expect when it is opened. To find the shape of the handles while I wonder around my imagination and hover over my old and worn bench.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
With the two rails of the headboard complete I also needed make the stiles, which also held the leather panels. This connection requires little strength so a lap joint is sufficient. I milled these up on the table saw. A rabbit in each rail and a rabbit in the stiles will hold the leather panel. The rabbit in the rails also holds the stile.
Once these tasks were complete the first glue-up was ready. It is important to make certain everything fits before glue-up. The process must go quickly and smoothly. Prepare everything and prepare for cleanup. No matter how carefully you spread the glue there will be a little squeezed out - especially on a mortise and tenon joint. A little bit a tape along the joint can prevent most of the squeeze-out from getting on the wood thus making clean-up easier and more effective.
In the previous post I briefly discussed wood movement. The bottom tenon was almost 10" long. To accommodate the wood movement I only applied glue to a little more than half of the top of the tenon. This will allow the wood to move downward. Also the tenon should be cut somewhat smaller across the width so as to allow for this movement.
After gluing up the rails and posts I set them aside and milled up the top from 3/4 and 5/4 oak. I then glued the two together and set them aside for the next day. The next day I joined their common edge and connected the top to the rails using biscuits.
Next the leather panels - the leather must be glued to something very smooth as any defect in the surface behind the leather will show on the face of the leather. I used smooth birch plywood, but I wanted the back of the headboard to all be oak too and the panels were not going to be covered. I milled up 1/4 oak and applied it to the back of the plywood creating what amounted to an oak panel. I used Titebond and spread the glue evenly with a tile trowel and then clamped all of the panels up in a large stack.
I didn't want to apply the leather until the wood color was applied and there was one coat of polyurethane on everything, so as to not discolor the leather. Again, I used water-based aniline stain. Tammi's the color expert and always helps me mix the colors and she matched the nightstands exactly. Because aniline stain is water-based it raises the grain so the wood must be hand sanded one final time.
I finished the headboard with a mixture of linseed oil, polyurethane, and thinner. I gradually increased the mix so that the last several coats were only polyurethane. This gives the finish a very deep and lusterious look.
With the panels finished it was time to apply the leather. Previously, I applied a small piece of leather to the birch plywood with regular wood glue (Titebond III) and everything appeared fine. The drying glue didn't bunch the leather and the connection was very strong. Also, I precut leather panels somewhat larger than needed intending to trim it tightly and neatly when the glue dried. I applied leather conditioner to the finished side of the leather, faced the finish sides to one another, and stacked and pressed the leather flat for a day or so. I didn't want, or need much glue on the panel to hold the leather; however, I did need a nice consistent application so I used a foam roller to spread the glue. This gave the surface a nice even spread. The leather, once fixed, was rolled out with a rolling pin, stacked, and clamped. Once set I trimmed the edges flush and set the panels in the rabbits designed to receive them. I trimmed out the interface of the panel and rabbit with quartersawn 5/16" x 1-3/8" oak strips.
I was very happy with the results and I fully expect to incorporate wood and leather together in the future.This is the king size headboard which is just over 6 foot long.
Posted by Art at 4:41 PM
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Design, it seems, never comes easy. It's difficult to just sit down and create; to bring an the feel of an idea into reality. In addition, when money and so much time and effort go into the final product the design is often the monster in the closet. I had been thinking about making a headboard for some time, but I wanted to modernize the look of the nightstands, which match the other antiques dressers. I was generally thinking about some kind of metal panels surrounded by the oak. Perhaps a typical country-type Victorian headboard, but replacing the panels with plate steel. However, the idea never really gelled as the elements were just a little too incongruent and a little too harsh. I just never could make it work.
For some reason the idea of replacing the metal with leather came to me and I really liked the possibilities. I did some research on gluing leather to wooden panels and the process was very workable. I then began drawing up some ideas which incorporated the look of the nightstands into a headboard with leather panels. It was fairly easy to come up with a good look as a headboard is fairly simple.
I found some nice cow hides at an eBay store and paid about 40-bucks for an entire hide! It was very good leather and the color worked with the intended color of the oak. I began looking for the oak and found two absolutely straight grained, rift-sawn, wide boards. They were perfectly sawn being perhaps the straightest grain boards of this length I'd ever seen or at least worked with. These two boards supplied the majority of the visual elements and the remainder was found rough-sawn at the local lumber yard. When working with a very heavy-grained wood like oak you have to pay attention to the visual aspects of the grain. Crazy grain (unless desired) going in all directions can really change the look of something - generally negatively. In addition, of equal importance, is what the grain is creating in the board - warp, twist, cupping, and other undesirable traits. For wide boards that include joinery (in this case tenons) it is important the boards be rift or quarter sawn to avoid expansion and contraction problems. I did some calculations of the widest boards as constructed and determined that the boards potential worst-case expansion could be about 3/16" perhaps 1/4". This calculation is based upon species, some low and high moisture content assumptions, width, and grain orientation. I'll discuss the construction details later.
I often use mortise and tenon joints and planned to on this headboard; however, I usually make the tenons on the table saw. Six foot boards make that impossible so I set up the router. With very wide tenons a router works well, but the set up, from start to finish, must be precise. On the table saw the repeatability of machine crates accuracy. With a router the accuracy must be created by you. First, as usual, make sure your boards are evenly dimensioned and exactly squared. There are some things to pay attention to: First of all you should try to mill all of the tenons at one time so I clamped both boards together. This eliminates two set-ups, but more importantly ensures that both boards are milled exactly the same. The tenons should be left a little thicker than needed and planed to the exact needed size before glue-up. I left these 1/64" large. Another key element is leaving the boards with several extra inches on each end. Only waste the center leaving the extra length proud so as to support the router. You must transfer the lines from one side to the other very carefully. Mark the guide board, not the cut. This ensures that the guide board remains in the same location and that the cheeks of of each tenon are even on each side once the tenon is fit into the mortise. Mess this up, even a little, and you'll have a big problem.
Once both ends are milled on both sides the boards can be unclamped and the tenons cut to their final size.
I made these tenons quite beefy with only an 1/8" shoulder as I wanted lots of strength and my mortise was being cut into a 6/4 post. After previously milling up the posts they were ready for mortises. I cut these with a mortiser.
I always carefully lay out my cuts on the wood even though I have to set up the machine. This keeps mistakes down to zero (hopefully). Again, lay out all of your pieces, clamped together, at the same time. I even mark out the waste so I don't cut on the wrong side of the line. This is always good practice and is usually learned the hard way. Once the machine is set up the mortises are easily cut and cleaned up with a sharp chisel.
Once all the pieces are cut they are ready for preassembly. This is when you check everything before applying glue. The tenons should fit snugly in the mortises, but not too tightly. Square everything up just as it will be assembled. Plane the tenons to just the right size.
Monday, October 20, 2008
I had some scrap maple taking up space and had been thinking about making a small box with it. Those thoughts turned into this. This design is superb, but I can't claim the idea of this simple box. However, when I saw the picture I knew the maple was going to be this box. Making boxes is a great way to use scrap and to acquire and gain new skills.
The tiger maple is colored with a water-based aniline stain, and finished with a mixture of linseed oil, polyurethane, and thinner. This kind of finish, as you can see, brings out the beauty of the maple. I enthusiastically recommend this type of finish for many projects and dye for all woods where you need to bring out the figure. It works wonderfully with quarter or rift sawn oak, quilted or tiger maple, sycamore, and many exotics. On the previous picture frame post I did not use dye as I did not want the flake to pop.
The box was formed by using only a box core bit and hand planes. The two sides are simply routered with a 1/2" box core bit at the "handle" while the angled part below is cut off on the table saw leaving half of the original radius. The rounded top of the sides was formed by hand. The sides are lower than the bottom and thus form two legs. The top is hand planed to round with the box core bit forming a hollowed out area in the inside. In addition, the box core bit formed the indent in the front and top which provides a handle. The bottom was fit into a dado. The side and bottom are 1/2". The box is about 12" long and is the new home of Tammi's jewelry.