Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wood selection and preparation...

These past few days have been spent creating a cut list for the jewelry armoire and preparing some of it. A cut list is the list of wood components necessary to assemble the piece of furniture. There are typically two approaches to this phase of furniture construction.. All the components can be milled and prepared from the cut list beforehand or certain groupings of components can be prepared as the project progresses. The advantage of preparing all the components beforehand is that the lumber utilized is optimized and very little waste results. Also, certain grain orientations can be selected from the stock of lumber for the furniture piece. Personally, I like to create a cut list but tend to cut and mill my components as the project progresses. For example, I will assemble all the upper cabinet carcase components , then the door components, door panels, and so on. I typically rough cut and let the wood sit and acclimatize prior to milling, this ensures maximum stability of the wood. A large percentage of the preparation of the components of the armoire is done with hand planes. In this case, after resawing the large panels I needed to remove some accumulated bowing in the resawn boards using hand planes. The bowing is directly associated with internal tension in the boards, the boards need to acclimatize after resawing to minimize the lingering tension in the board halves.

I also spent a few hours this week tuning and sharpening some hand tools, namely hand planes. I have a fairly large selection of wooden hand planes and these typically need to be tuned through the different seasons, the bodies being of wood. I've learnt over the years to keep my tools as sharp as possible, the performance is better and less effort is needed to achieve the results needed.

We're continually dealing with the abundant apple crop we have this year. A few hours this week were spent raking apples and collecting them into small piles. This appears to be the only way to deal with the large amount of apples which have fallen. We are having guests over this weekend to help with the apples. It is interesting how the weight of the apples on some branches have actually lowered the branch to close to ground level and the branches don't break, nature's resiliency in action. In one case however, we needed to tie the branch back to the main trunk for fear it would snap off.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Apple harvest time...

We've been blessed with an abundance of apple trees on our property here outside Ottawa, Ontario. So much so that we needed to cull the apple trees down to a manageable 40-50 trees or so, down from hundreds. In the process, I have acquired some nice apple wood which is currently stacked. I will use this apple wood mostly for small tool handles and any smaller pieces of it for enhancing the charcoal grilling we often do here. Apple wood in itself is a beautifully figured wood, great for tool handles and for small panels and drawer fronts, as are most fruit tree woods.

Today we had some family over to help pick these apples, the ones on the trees, as many have simply fallen, nature's way of dealing with too many apples on a tree. Did I mention that deer love apples. Well you can't walk around the property without getting a whiff of apples, the result is many deer grazing in and around here throughout the fall. I'm currently enjoying a great novel written by a Cuban Air Force pilot who defected to the US in 1991. It is a true story and includes interesting episodes on different aspects of life in Cuba throughout the past four decades. The novel "Wings of the Morning" was mentioned to me by a Cuban friend who himself was a fighter pilot in the Cuban Air Force and the story is based on his commanding officer. This is one of those books you can't put down once you begin.

So lately I've been dividing my time between any outside work I need to do at this time of year and current work in progress in the studio. In three weeks or so, I'll be free and clear of outside chores and will be able to dedicate my time fully to my studio handcrafting custom pieces. I have some exciting ideas and designs I would like to incorporate into furniture. These are ideas I have accumulated over the summer from having visited historic sites, villages and the odd museum exhibition.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Jewelry Armoire

The end of summer is a few weeks away and the weather is already changing. The nights are cooler, the days shorter but warm. I usually become busier in the shop at this time leading into the fall. We've experienced an exceptional summer, no complaints in this area. My focus from now until completion is a large cherry jewelry armoire. This is a custom order with the design, sketching and drawing phases complete. I have acquired the cherry lumber and tiger maple veneer for the door panels. The design is primarily case construction with a cabinet on legs. The tapered legs form a base which is pegged and detachable from the upper cabinet.

This is a proven design and will allows for the easy knock down and setup of the armoire. The black cherry to be used for the cabinet carcase is clear, select cherry with quarter-sawn door components, rails and stiles. The reason I am using quarter-sawn door frame components is to make sure the components are straight-grained and do not detract from the graphics of the door panels.The door panels are tiger maple and kind of on the wild side so in the grand scheme of things the cabinet frame needs to be subdued to have the tiger maple effect pronounced. I've had great experience with tiger maple door panels in the past and the shimmery, wavy effect produced when finished with multiple coats of thinned blonde shellac.

I've designed multiple dovetailed drawers into this particular piece. This will be by far the most time consuming part of the build process. The base has two side by side drawers and the upper cabinet has multiple stacked drawers along the lower part. The upper part is free and clear to allow for any hanging chains, this will be accomplished with two revolving solid brass carrousels. The client is excited about this piece, so am I, as it utilizes most if not all my acquired skills and techniques.