Change of plans

Had to reboot the bench design from long, horizontal slats to short and vertical. This will allow for a tighter radius as well as less wood waste. It’s a simple and more complex change all at once. No matter; it’s a beautiful day to be working under the oak tree. 


This gives a sense of what the top of one of the four sections will look like. I still need to assemble the bases but I needed a change of pace to get the ball rolling on this project.

Kasumi-Gumi Shoji

In March of 2014 I purchased Des King’s book, “Shoji and Kumiko Design, Book 1, The Basics”. In that volume, there are three different shoji screens and a small number of kumiko arrangements that you can follow the plans and build yourself. I built the first screen that same year and played around with the asa-no-ha kumiko pattern as well. As life would have it, I got sidetracked on this and that and only now have I come back to this great how-to manual.

Which I left off at Shoji #2, or Kasumi-Gumi Shoji. For this example I’ll be building both screens as they are mirror images of each other. According to Des, Kasumi means mist and so there several different lengths of kumiko that represent mist in a way that only several small pieces of wood can. This shoji screen also incorporates a hip board. I’m kind of excited about that part as down the road I’m interested in integrating live edge hip boards to contrast with the somewhat strict structure of the shoji screens.

I’m give Monterey Pine a try this time-they actually sell it at the local big box store and it’s very nice wood and certainly less expensive than Port Orford Cedar and Alaskan Yellow Cedar. I’ll learn quickly if it’s adequate for the task at hand. For the hip boards I’m using Black Walnut from a tree I milled and dried myself and that will contrast nicely with the lightness of the pine.

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Simple Pleasures

Late last summer I milled a decent sized walnut trunk into 2″ planks, plainsawn through and through on the LT15. The rest of the slabs are closer to 6′ long but a couple came out closer to 2′ for various reasons. The slabs were air drying for about 9 months which isn’t nearly long enough for 2″ thick walnut but since we don’t have the solar kiln set up yet I thought I’d try my luck at “kiln” drying in the attic.

I wasn’t properly prepared for this in that I don’t have a thermometer up there to measure temp/humidity but if I had to guess I’d say it’s around 110 up there during the day at least during the last few months that I’ve had the wood up there. MC was around 20% when the wood went in and today the reading was closer to 7-8%. Not too bad. It was definitely a lot easier hauling the pieces down.

I need 4 legs for a small hall bench I’m building out of an old walnut slab and thought this chunk would work nicely for that.
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After crossing cutting the ends to get it to length (approx. 17″) I ripped one edge to get rid of the last gnarly bit. The off-cut was kind of cool, with the insect damage so I set that aside to use at some point down the road maybe as a decorative piece.

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Once cut to size I brought out the trusty Jack Plane and started cross planing to flatten the first side. Always a treat to plane off the sawmill marks and see the grain and figure appear. Never gets old.

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And after about 2 hours of handwork I had a lovely 2″ thick 14″x17″ chunk of walnut from a tree more or less in my own backyard. There’s some nice chatoyance when the light hits it right and I’m looking forward to ripping the 4 legs for the hall bench in the next couple days. For now, I’ll let the wood rest and see what kind of movement occurs before proceeding.

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Low Console Details

Here’s a few photographs of cleaning out and fitting the large, sliding dovetails on the low console. I’m still trying to come up with a design for the base. I’m leaning towards something simple…DSCF9469

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It Takes Time

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I’ve been woodworking now for about 6 years, blogging for 4, and using hand tools for about 3. I don’t necessarily believe in the culmination of anything to be perfectly frank, i.e. there’s always room to explore and improve, but getting to the point where I’m able to flatten a rough sawn piece of wood using only a jack plane, a jointer plane and a smoothing plane has been nothing short of gratifying. On the surface of it, a simple task, no? But considering the details of keeping a hand plane properly tuned, of learning to correctly sharpen a steel blade by hand, and to listen and respond to a piece of wood in order to coax the desired form from underneath is a real trial and a real joy. It’s a unifying process, of working in harmony with hands, tools, and wood. And I’m grateful for the opportunity.

Shop Chalkboard

For some time now I’ve really wanted to get a chalkboard for the shop, a place to sketch out large-scale plans, measurements and just generally draw on a big wall type stuff. Call me old-fashioned but the plan was to get an actual piece of black slate. I figured that something would turn up from Craigslist or an old school being torn down but no dice. I’ve been looking for nearly 18 months and nada. But as fate would have it I was talking to my step-dad a month or so ago and he mentioned that he just happened to have few pieces of slate in the garage that he bought from his old parochial school when they tore it down over 40 years ago. And if I wanted I could have one of the pieces. The chunk I got is 3/8″ thick and 50″x60″. It is heavy. Loading into the truck and getting into the shop wasn’t too bad.

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I built a temporary frame using plywood and a foot cleat along with a ratchet strap to keep everything in place and channeling the ingenuity of the Ancient Egyptians I used 1 inch dowels to roll it across the floor. This was a one man job and the possibility of getting crushed was about 10% so I didn’t want to take any chances.

Also the warning label on the back politely reminded me of this.

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Note that the warning mentions using your car or wagon. Wagon. Anybody wanna guess a date on this thing?

So I handled with care and built a frame around the chalkboard using glue, screws, and lots of plywood. I designed a double french cleat on the back to attach it to the wall and decided on using 2 pedestals at the base to actually support the bulk of the weight with the french cleats keeping it affixed to the studs of the workshop.

Once the frame was constructed I had to figure out how to raise it up to it’s final height. Back to the Ancient Egyptians.

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By using several old fence pickets that I have lying around I was able to lift one corner, slide the fence picket in and then move to the other side and slide the other end of the picket under the frame. Each picket was about 1/2″ thick so this took about an hour. I moved slowly and carefully. Once up and hooked on the french cleats that were bolted to the wall earlier I  put some temporary pedestals in place.

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I didn’t fabricate the actual pedestals until the board was up so that I could make them fit perfectly under the frame to support it which took some fussing.

And here’s the final product.

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Turned out pretty good. Only problem….no chalk. So that’s next on the list.