Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Jacaranda Stool for Paree.

The flowering season for Jacaranda Trees is a lovely show of purple blossum all around us each year. These South American trees grow so well here in Perth, Western Australia.
Jacaranda mimosifolia. These flower across Perth in late Spring each year.
Twelve months ago, I had scored some log sections from a Jacaranda Tree which was being removed during a house demolition and block clearing just around the corner from my home.
The last part of the Jacaranda being pulled down by the excavator.
Jacaranda is an interesting timber, very plain - almost bland - but quite stable. There is very little checking (end splitting) in the log sections as the wood dries out. Months ago I had made some leg blanks and top blanks for small three legged stools, commonly called Milking Stools. These components had been waiting for me to do the next stage. This came when I was recovering from a couple of broken ribs. I found I could still use my spring pole lathe, so this provided me with a great opportunity to practice using it. I made a set of three turned legs from the Jacaranda.
The three turned Jacaranda legs, awaiting the stool top.
When I made a stool last year for little Annabelle from her Cape Lilac tree, my grand daughter Paree requested a stool too. She liked the turned Jacaranda legs which I had hanging around, and announced that they should be part of her stool. I agreed and promised to make her a Jacaranda stool. Paree really likes the colour of the flowers on the Jacaranda trees.
Bevelling the underside of the seat with a spokeshave to reduce the thickness of the edge.
When making stools like this, I try as much as possible to use timber in the seat top which is cut on the quarter. With the grain running perpendicular to the seat top, this ensures the top is more stable and less likely to cup. If the piece of timber was back sawn, it would be more inclined to bend and cup as it dried. In the picture above you can see the end grain running perpendicular to the broad surface. Perfect.


 
Paree eagerly awaiting the completion of her stool. 
 With the top's edge and underside shaped, I carved Paree's name on the underside of the seat and then set out the leg positions.
 
Working out the angle of the legs...
The angle found, (about 12 degrees) I set up the drill press to bore the three holes.
The angled holes were drilled with a drill-press.
Funnily enough, I made the legs back in October, made the top in November, and completed the stool in February! Just as well Paree was patient ... though she did often remind me about her stool and ask me about progress! 
The tenons were finish-turned to size on the spring pole lathe.
 The holes were drilled to 25mm with a spade bit, right through the top. The tenons on the legs were turned to about 25.5mm, and a tenon saw used to cut a kerf down into the end or each leg's tenon. These would take the wedges I prepared from some pieces of Cape Lilac. 

Three Cape Lilac wedges were made for the tops of the legs.
 Good old Titebond III was used for the glue-up. The tenon surfaces and the inside of the holes were coated with glue, and the legs driven into the top. The wedges were then driven into the tops of the legs, to lock them in.   
 
Legs driven into the seat, and wedges driven into the top ends of the legs.
 
Lookin' good... the glue drying...
 When the glue had dried, I used a tenon saw to cut off the protrusions. A block plane was then used to plane the ends of the legs off flush. and clean up the seat top. Yes, I did then sand the top - not very traditional, like the drill press, but it all comes down to the limited time available! A trade-off.
  
Well, the top and legs were made in 2014 ... but it was February 2015 when I finally completed the stool!
 The next step was to level it up. The stool was stood on a flat surface, and the legs packed up until the measurement from the top to the flat surface was consistent (the top now parallel to the flat surface), and a pencil used to mark lines parallel to the flat surface, on the lowest common denominator principle. The legs were then cut to the pencil lines. The result? a level stool top with feet which sit nicely flat on the ground. Nice.
 
I then applied a couple of coats of Orange Oil. The following day I applied a couple of coats of a nice product consisting of Orange Oil, Beeswax, and Carbauba Wax. Lovely stuff. 
 l
Seat levelled, legs trimmed, and first coat of oil applied.
 In the pic above you can see the legs nicely flat and parallel to the seat.
  
Not a bad looking stool.
 There it is... the completed stool. It took a few months, but I was determined to deliver on my promise to my Granddaughter.  I also had a lot of fun along the way.
 

 
 Paree, the proud owner of her much awaited stool. Love you, Chook!
 
Considering the original size of the Jacaranda Tree, which was being demolished along with the house as the block was cleared, it is a shame I obtained so little of that tree. Imagine how many things could be made from such a tree. Every day dozens of huge trees in backyards all over Perth are being cut down and chipped up or carted off to land fill. Green woodworking provides a simple way of value adding this wonderful resource wihch we are wasting, with minimal gear.
 
Simple steps towards more sustainable living. Viva la revolution!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

New Life to an Old Door. Part Two - Rebuilding the body of the door.

What a privledge to breath new life into this beautiful antique entry door...

Having worked out the obvious repairs and issues in part one of this saga, it was time to pull the old girl apart in order to repair each of the structural joints and ensure the panels would be up to the task.

This door will be re-built and modified to replace the top timber panels with leadlight panels.
Step One: Getting started - removing the mouldings.
With the door laying on a pair of ever-handy tall saw horses, the first thing to do was to remove the  mouldings. A lot of it was in poor condition though this was sometimes disguised under multiple layers of thick paint. Carefully prising off the mouldings with a flat pry-bar and a couple of chisels, each section was removed, marked for identification, the nails removed, and put aside.
Moulding removal - starting on the back of the door. The easy ones...
The front side of the door was more challenging than the back.
Removing the front bolection mould showed the poor condition of the bottom panels.
Pulling the door apart carefully can tell you much. The original nails used were cut nails. I understand these were no longer being used here in Australia by about the First World War. The original nails used to fit the 3" wide bolection mould to the door and panels were cut nails : tapered, rectangular in section, small heads, and mostly two different sizes. An indication that the door is over a century old.
 

A selection of the old nails - the original cut nails plus some more "recent" ones.
However, over the years the mouldings had been re-attached (rather, further attached) several times. One of these was a "bush carpenter". A rough job with some of the nails protruding through the panels and out the other side! Nothing that huge globs of paint won't hide apparently.
The serious amount of nails (attempts to pin down the cupping wide mouldings) and the split lower panels with the starting signs of rot both would indicate that the door spent some of its life in the weather - or at least with the bottom half of the door getting wet. The upshot of all this is the damage done to some of the mouldings - both from deterioration and despite the careful removal process of the fragile mouldings.

Step 2: Pulling the door apart.
With the mouldings removed from both sides of the door, the next step was to pull the door apart at the joints. Many of the remaining wedges were loose, so the mortice and tenon joints could be carefully pulled apart. The joints which resisted were assisted by the reverse use of a sash cramp, to spread the stiles apart. It worked a treat.
Gently does it... Sash cramp in reverse pushing apart the two stiles at the joints. 
The door came apart into its component parts: the two stiles, the three rails, the two mullion sections, and the four panels. It was pretty easy. I reckon the only thing holding the door together was a century of dirt, several ancient coats of very thick paint on the front side, and all the nails in the front bolection mouldings!
One of the separated joints.
Step 3: Cleaning up the joints ready for re-gluing.
In order to re-glue and re-wedge the joints, they would need cleaning up to help the glue to key in to the wood, and a wire brush would help to do this.
Amazing how much dirt had penetrated the joints! Getting started on this one.

A clean face on the tenons and the shoulder. This was done each side of the rail.
To help with the glue-up, I also ran the grooved edges of the components over the buzzer, removing about 2mm (1/8"), to assist with clean shoulder joints on the glue-up. While this would reduce the height of the door by 8mm (5/16") and the width of the door by 4mm (3/16"), this was OK, as to fit the new opening the door would eventually be cut a little shorter and built-up a little wider. 
Before and after. The planed edge will better take the glue and give a "sharper" joint and edge.
Of course, the machining of the edges means the mortices needed to be adjusted to accommodate the small movement inwards of the end rails. These were chiselled to allow for the small shift of the rails in relation to the stiles.

Step 4: Sorting out the panels.
The panels are housed in the grooves all round, so the panels have to be prepared and ready for the glue-up. The original Western Red Cedar panels are 7/16" thick, to match the grooves. The primary modification to the door I'm required to do is to replace the top panels with leadlights. Given that the bolection moulds are 3 inches wide, it means the glass will be housed within the panel. The fragile nature of the old bolection moulding meant that I needed a more solid panel to affix the moulding to. This panel would also need to be rebated behind the moulding and panel, so that the glass can be housed.

My solution? To use marine ply panels at the tops of the door. The bolection moulds would be glued to these and the ply cut out in the matching shapes. I machined down some 1/2" marine ply to 7/16", so it would be a nice snug fit in the panel grooves, and cut the panels to fit in the housing. The better of the two original top panels I then cut into two to make new lower panels. Nice.
The two best sections of the best original top panel provided new bottom panels for the door. 
Step 5: The glue-up.
A test assembly was undertaken to make sure everything was good, and then taken apart again ready for gluing. New wedges were made in readiness, from some bits of oregon I had lying around.
The test fit - a dry run. All good. Time to do the glue-up!
The glue-up was undertaken as early as possible in the day, as it was forecast to be 38 degrees (100F) that day! Ya can't have the glue going off mid-way through a complex glue-up! While the lower timber panels would be floating, the top ply panels would be glued into their housings for rigidity and maximum strength for housing the glass. Two sash cramps were joined end to end, to run top to bottom on the door, closing up the centre mullions against the three rails. Six other sash cramps were laid across the door to pull up the joints were the rails met the stiles. 
New wedges and nice tight shoulders...
 The glue-up went well. It was like a new door, solid as a rock...
Glue dry, the protruding tenons and wedges were sawn off and the edges shot flush with a plane. 
With the body of the door rebuilt, it was time to deal with the front bolection moulds.
Good progress thus far!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

New Life to an Old Door. Part One - Assessing the Task.

My customer had a beautiful old antique front door which she wanted to grace her home. It looked like it would be a challenging task, but one I was looking forward to.
A nice old door badly in need of some lovin'!
This would be my first job for 2015 after coming back from my summer holidays. 
Laying the door on a pair of tall saw horses, I began my forensic look. Hmmm....
 
It's what you would call a low waisted four panel entrance door, made from Oregon (Douglas Fir), with panels and mouldings made from Western Red Cedar. With the exception of the brass knocker, most of the door furniture is cast iron, including the hinges. The door is 1 7/8" thick (about 50mm).
 
Loose and compromised mortice and tenon joints.
This door has clearly been hung in at least two different openings during it's long life.  You can always tell if a traditional wedged mortice and tenon door has been cut shorter. How?
Both the top and bottom of the door had been sawn shorter sometime later in its life.
There is an old convention in traditional joinery that the distance between the end of the door and the nearest mortice is equal to the thickness of the door. The outer tenon is always haunched to make this possible. I suspect the door, made for it's original opening, was at least 6" taller than it is now. The photo above shows how the door has been cut through the end mortice. This compromises the joint - as was the case in each of the 4 corners of the door.
Clearly the joints would need to be re-wedged, as the wedges were all a bit loose - if not missing!
Open joints where the mullions meets the mid-rail.
The seperated hanched tenon joints were also crying out for attention. The top and bottom rails being cut shorter into the outer tenons would have contributed to this, as those end rails spread further apart. 
 
A few holes to fill in the faces and edges of the door.
Once the doors joints had been repaired, there would be other repairs to be made.
The old cut-out for the original Rim Lock latch.
The housing for the old original rim lock (no long present) would be filled. The void would be cleaned up and filled to flush with good quality 1/4 " ply. It will be invisible when painted.
The night latch cylinder hole and housing will need to be filled.
At some time in the history of this door, the rimlock, with it's big cast iron key, was replaced by a night latch with a keyed cylinder. As a new deadlock will be fitted when the restored door is re-hung, the old hole and housing will need to be flush filled first, likewise with 1/4" ply.
The key hole on this side will not be filled, as the nice old decorative cast cover plate will be going back on.
 
There were two sections where extensive damage to the edge door would need to be repaired.
 The stiles and rails were made from Oregon (Douglas Fir), so I would use similar material to insert new pieces once the chasm had been cleaned out and made more even for ease of gluing in a new insert.
Wear around the huge cast iron knob on the door's front.
The big front door knob (pull) in the centre of the mid rail must've been hanging loose for decades, as there was a big wear patch is on the front of the door and a huge crater in the back of the door where the fixing nut and washer were. These would need to be filled too.  
 
Moulding and panels needing some serious work.
Some sections of the bolection moulding were missing, including this tricky piece.
The bolection moulding on the front of the door is a massive 3" wide, bordering each of the 4 panels. Some of it is missing in the straight sections, some of it is too damaged and needs to be replaced, and one of the curved tops needed a major sort-out. Removing the bolection mould may damage it further, despite care taken. Only the removal will show that...
The rear moulding is much smaller, but may not be used again, depending on the primary modification I will be doing to the door - the top panels are to be replaced with leadlight glass instead of the wooden panels. That changes a few things...
The bottom panels are in bad shape... and will best be replaced. (shown here with the bolection moulds removed.)
The bottom panels are very split - right through in several places. These will best be replaced. Maybe I can use the material in the top panels to replace the bottom ones...
 
Time to pull the door apart for the re-build.  No doubt the journey of discovery will continue!
Let the challenge begin!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Display Frame found... 25 years after it was made!

For much of the period 1983 - 1994, I was working as a woodcraftsman in the beautiful Augusta-Margaret River area of Western Australia. We lived in Augusta, the most southwesterly town on the Australian continent, just 5 miles north of Cape Leeuwin, where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean.

Over that time, I did a huge variety of cabinetmaking, joinery work, furniture making and carpentry for many people throughout the district and even around the world via gallery sales and commissions. While we moved 200 miles north to Perth at the start of the new millennium, I still have a strong connection with Augusta, as my parents still live there as do my eldest son with his wife and family.

Most of the family gathered at Augusta for the Christmas/New Year period again this year, so I was back in town for a few weeks over that time.

As usual, on a Saturday morning I went along to the Leeuwin Lions Club's big Op Shop to check out the bargains along with the holiday crowds. In the furniture section I came across some jarrah pieces with threaded ends.
Those threaded ends looked very familiar...
"Hey", I though to myself, "I remember making a bunch of furniture held together that way. I wonder who else has been doing it over the years?".
Then it hit me. "Hang on a minute, that looks very familiar, I think I made this!" I said to myself. "But there's something missing!" I hunted around in the shed and found the end pieces which received the threaded rods. Putting it all together in a pile, I realised that all 16 pieces were still there. Totally amazing! There was some water damage to the old polish, as it had obviously been stored on a verandah or in a leaky shed somewhere, but it was all there and in otherwise reasonable condition!
All 16 pieces were still in existence!

My grandson Jasper was intrigued with the assembled frame.
Then I recalled I had made this piece for a local leadlight glass artist some 25 years ago, and here it was spread around in the used furniture section of the Lions Op Shop.

My resulting conversation with the shop attendant went like this:
"How much do you want for this?"
"Make me an offer I can't refuse".
"How about $10?"
Laughter. "No way, it's unique."
"Ok then, suggest a price I can't refuse".
"You'll never find another one of those. How about $20?"
"Done! I know I'll never find another one, as I made it!! I reckon it was about 25 years ago, I made it as a knockdown adjustable display stand for a leadlight glass artist in Karridale about 1989/90!"
More laughter as he scratched his head. "Well I never... that's the first time anyone has come into here and said they made something that's in here - and then bought it back!".

Having paid the $20, I bundled up the bits and pieces and loaded them into my ute. He was still marvelling and telling others about it. I drove away excitedly as memories flooded back.


The frame was made to be adjustable and portable. "Knock-down" in fact. There are two sets of  spreaders, enabling the display of two different set widths of sashes housing the leadlight windows.
The top spreaders could be moved up and down depending on the height of the sashes to be displayed. The sashes were hung on traditional mirror movements, allowing the leaglight windows to be tilted to best catch the light, and there were two different height positions on these.


The whole thing was held together with jarrah nuts which were wound onto the threaded ends protruding through the side frames. It is quite rigid when assembled.


I remember using a traditional wooden thread box to cut the threaded spindle ends, and a matching metal tap to cut the threads through the nuts. I also recall making a few furniture pieces for sale through some galleries at the time, as I went through my "wooden nut and bolt" construction phase!

I was a very happy boy as I drove away from the Op Shop that day. I had forgotten I had made this unusual piece, and I had plans for its new life.
...Yep, I was like the cat who got the cream!

I have some work to do to clean it up and put it back into service for displaying my own stuff in festivals and workshops, so watch this space for future developments!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sharing the Joy of Wood at the Kids Kerfuffle, Sat 24 January.

While the main festival seasons for The Joy of Wood are in Autumn and Spring, there are a few festival gigs which fall at other times. Last Saturday was one of those. At the invitation of Stirling City Council, we conducted a woodworking actvity for kids at the Kids Kerfuffle in the park at Jackadder Lake, Woodlands, in Perth, Western Australia. This event was part of their Summertime Arts Festival.

A nice quiet start... it didn't stay like this for long!
The park was just oozing with kids all day, and as usual our Joy of Wood woodworking activity was a very popular thing all day. The festival organisers had provided us with a 9m x 3m marquee, with lots of space all round to enable us to spill out in all directions, which we did of course! We had out 8 benches of various heights, with 27 hammers across them, plus the Sawing Station with 4 saws on it. It was flat out all day, keeping Megan and I very busy as we kept an eye on the young Sawyers, maintained the wood supply, and generally helped out people as they create amazing things from the piles of wood pieces, the nails, pincers and hammers we provided. There were many times in the day that crowds of people were hovering around desperately hoping someone would leave and put their hammer down!
People creating wonderful stuff - to the sound of 27 hammers pounding.
Kids and parents together. Nice.
Hammers. I had several conversations with people about hammers through the day. Several people asked me about the hammers, why we use the particular type, and where they can get them. It's a common discussion point in festival settings, schools, and the public workshops that we run. You see, all 27 hammers we had out at Jackadder Lake were Warrington Cross Pein pattern. No claw hammers.
Warrington Cross Pein Hammers come in assorted weights and sizes. 
Cross Pein Hammers are the best type of hammers for kids to use, to learn how to strike a nail.
  • They are nicely balanced, making them easy to use.
  • They come in a range of weights, so you can have the right a hammer for the kid/age.
  • They have two ends! Kids quickly learn the use the narrow end for those tricky corners.
  • They have no claw. This helps kids to learn good hammering technique, like changing the angle of the hammer when a nail starts to lean - rather than just pulling the nail out. Of course, a pair of pincers are good companions to a cross-pein hammer, for removing any nails which are too far gone...  
Cross Pein hammers are the traditional cabinetmaker's hammer. They are the essential hammer for every furniture maker, fine woodworker, joiner, and serious woodworker. Don't let carpenters and "wood butchers" tell you the claw hammer is the only hammer to have. Both have their place.

Meanwhile, do your kid a favour and give them an appropriate hammer. It will revolutionise their hammering skills. This was evident at the Kids Kerfuffle, which was why a number of parents asked me about the hammers.

These Cross Pein Hammers are a joy to use, as hundreds of people found that day!