Spoon #2 In Oak

Here are a few photos from my second attempt at spoon carving. This one is from the same piece of Oak as my first one-this was my attempt to replicate the traditional Swedish Spoon that appears in Willie Sundqvist’s book, “Swedish Carving Techniques”.

One benefit from using Oak is that you end up learning how to sharpen your tools rather quickly. This guy ended up being a birthday present.

Right now I’m sticking with “rough cut” shaping and leaving the tool marks, rather than smoothing out with sand paper or card scraper. I like the look that gives.

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Step Into My Office

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Today I tried my hand at spoon carving courtesy of a birthday present of a Mora 106 paring knife and 164 hook knife from my special lady. I have a big box store hatchet that I bought maybe 12 years and so I sharpened that the best I could and grabbed a piece of recently split oak (Red, I think) from the wood pile. For fun I checked the moisture content and it was somewhere upwards of 35-40%, plenty green for this go-round.

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Working with green wood is a totally new process for me and for some reason, I’ve been hesitant about going down that road. I have no idea why. Maybe since I’ve spent the past 7 years working with only dry wood and dealing with movement, etc., I was overly worried about what would happen with completely green wood. Who knows?

To split out the blanks, I just looked for a seam and setting the hatchet in line with it, took a whack with the mallet and voila.

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It’s nice to split with the grain and in this case, this is some pretty straight grained stuff.

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There’s a few steps missing here…after some exploratory hatchet work, I took a hand saw to the 1st blank and cut it to rough shape-my hatchet skills are still in the nascent stage.

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With the basic shape down I drew out the general outline of the spoon and started carving from there with my new Morakniv 106 and my M-164 Hook Knife, also from Mora.

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A bit more progress. There’s a point at which the blank all of a sudden becomes a spoon. All these subtle transformations, large amounts of material removal, and then out of seemingly nowhere, a spoon.

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The neck is too delicate-try, live and learn. At this point the handle is essentially done, just the bowl left to refine.

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And here’s a side profile-the Red Oak has an attractive grain from all angles. There’s kind’ve a wavy handle thing going on here. I’m sure I had something creative in mind-whether that was realized, well, hey it’s my first spoon.

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And from the top.

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Here’s the nearly finished piece. From here I cured it in boiling water for about 12 minutes and it’s been drying in a brown paper bag for the last two days. I’ll put a coat or two of linseed oil on it and start my spoon collection.

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At this point I prefer the tool marks from the hook knife in the bowl. Not sure I want to call it “rustic”. I just like the pattern left behind.

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Table Turn Table Pt. III

Finding homes for all the butterflies I carved the other day. In some ways this slab of Black Walnut was a marginal piece of wood but in others, it’s quite nice. Took a lot of work to get it flat going from 1 1/4″ thick to about 3/4″. That’s a lot of hand planing across the grain. And it’s full of cracks, etc that kinda need some help and kinda just need some of my killer aesthetic vision…anyways, there’s nothing finer than chiseling out butterfly key mortises on a lovely afternoon.
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For the round post that will support the far end of the piece, I decided to use some Osage Orange that I’ve had lying around. It too has a few issues but all in all is OK for this project. Good practice for the frame saw as well.

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To get it to round I’m using the jack plane to create a hexadecagon, that’s right, a 16-side polygon. Bam!

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The grain is outstanding. It feels/looks like there’s a decent amount of oil in the wood as it has this incredible polish after even a rough cut with the jack plane.

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Another gratuitous grain shot.

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Sliding Dovetails By Hand

One of my favorite parts of building this particular bench is the sliding dovetail joinery that connects the legs to the bench top.

Here’s some photos from the tail part of the joint.
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And up next are the knee braces.

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Kanna in Bushwick

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit NYC with my lady and as part of that trip I got in touch with Yann Giguere of Mokuchi in Brooklyn, Bushwick to be precise, to see if I could spend some time learning about the Japanese smoothing plane or Kanna. Yann offers classes on several different aspects of Japanese woodworking throughout the year and for a few years now, I’ve been really wanting to get a decent grasp on the mechanics and usage of Japanese planes and this was the perfect chance.

During the class it became apparent that one could spend many, many years learning the fundamentals of using a Japanese plane and that my short time with Yann was just the beginning. That being said, having a true teacher, someone who is a master of their craft spend just a couple days showing you how to get started is invaluable.

The goal was to get a good shaving using only the dai or wooden body of the plane and the plane blade itself and without the use of the chip breaker to start things off. We did eventually get to the chip breaker but as Yann explained it is not necessary to use it and until the plane iron and plane body are properly prepared no use of a chip breaker will correct any deficiencies.

The details are too many to cover here, suffice to say there are many steps and getting to a good shaving that first time around takes some serious preparation. That being said, tuning the Japanese plane is not necessarily any more complex than properly conditioning a Western plane. It’s just a different set of steps that with enough practice become regular habit.

The shots below are the first pile of shavings that I got from on a stick of Alaskan Yellow Cedar. As I get more practice I’ll move on to different woods, particularly the ones that I use for my own projects which are Walnut, Cherry, and QS Sycamore.

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Here’s a quick shot of my smoothing plane after the class. When I got home I actually made a few more modifications per Yann’s instructions to get it into proper shape including sanding the top down by about an 1/8″ to allow for proper sideways adjustment of the chipbreaker and soaking it in stable oil (olive oil in my case) to further protect and condition the dai.

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And here’s a small box of my first shavings. Not something you’d find on everyone’s mantel but I think I’ll build a nice simple box to hold them and of course finish plane it using the Kanna above.

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3 Legged Milking Stool

Here’s a few images from my most recent project: a 3-legged milking stool made of Ash and Walnut, very similar to the one I made when I took a stool making class from Fabian Fischer at FFHandcrafts in Wisconsin this past August. I wanted to try to design my own seat from scratch and come up with my own undercarriage construction. I also came across a book by the late John Brown, Welsh Stick Chairs, and while I’m not yet up to the challenge of a piece of that caliber, I wanted to meet somewhere in the middle.

The old style of Welsh furniture making is really one of complexity and understated elegance. There a simplicity to it as well, although the initial rustic appearance belies a deeper understanding of the craft. So in mixing those things together I came up with an idea and am now putting it to the test.

Here’s the initial stock, including the Walnut seat blank I glued up from 8/4 Walnut. I’m using Ash for the legs and maybe White Oak for the stretchers, maybe Walnut. I haven’t decided yet.

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I made 4 of the legs and stretchers knowing that I’d probably screw up somewhere and need an extra.

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Here’s my design. It’s kind of cross between a Windsor Chair seat and some Welsh vernacular.

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Here’s my attempt at hand-drilling the compound angles needed for the legs-I’m using a set-up described by Peter Galbert in his most excellent book, A Chairmaker’s Notebook, from Lost Art Press.

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And here I’m using a travisher to hollow out the bowl of the seat. Usually an adze would be used for this part, but I don’t have one so I set the travisher to take a thick cut and rolled up my sleeves for a workout.

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And the roughed-out bowl. It’s kinda tricky getting used to grain direction but it’s really enjoyable uncovering the grain pattern, especially when it comes from two pieces glued together. I like to think this one looks a little like a spiral galaxy. Maybe I’ll name this milking stool the Milky Way…

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And here’s is the bowl smoothed out with a travisher set to a very fine cut. I gotta say, this is probably the most enjoyable part, carving out the seat. It gives me the chance to try my hand at sculpture which is extraordinarily gratifying. Just you, a blade, and a relatively hard material. Symmetry is challenging here.

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And here’s the transition to where the sitter’s legs will rest over the seat.

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You’ll notice there’s some Oak in there by that leg mortise. Two plugs of White Oak, in fact. The first hole I drilled was too close to the edge of the seat. And the second one I drilled in the wrong direction so that the rake was directed towards the front of the chair rather than the back. That’s the reward for not paying attention.

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And here’s a shot from this morning after a few hours of using the drawknife and spokeshave on the Ash blanks. Those little ribbons of wood will make for some nice kindling this winter.

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And here’s the legs dry fit to the seat. It’s kind of a Fred Flintstone type of chair at this point. I now need to design the stretcher set-up to tie it all together. When all is said and done, this will go at the dining room table along with the new Shaker Meetinghouse Bench and the stool I built with Fabian in August.

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