Jefferson Swivel and Secretary

Monday, January 30, 2012

Nantucket Sailor Boy Whirligig

After some digging around online and looking for a quick little project to do today while my chair parts dry in the kiln, I decided to make something I have never made before, a Whirligig. You've most likely seen the ducks or the goose, maybe the guy sawing a log or the woman washing clothes, but for those of you who haven't seen them, the Nantucket Sailor Boy Whirligig is one that is very, very collectible and very, very expensive in antique form. I have looked at some online that are in the $3800 range. While this isn't the norm and I don't know who would buy one for that, it's kind of cool little guy to make.

     Here is the version I made today just to pass the time. Its just a 3/4" thick piece of wood cut to shape, I turned the hat and the arms on the lathe, made the paddles out of 3/16" thick walnut and shaped it with a block plane then took a knife and whittled the profile. After some headscratching to get the paint colors right, I mixed up about 5 different colors and started to paint. I wanted mine to have that old and crusty dry paint texture of an antique, so with a little sanding and buffing this is what came out. You can just make out the word Nantucket on the sailors shirt but that, in my opinion, was the hardest part. I'm not a real steady hand when it comes to details like that and had to repaint it once, hence the darker blue under the word. All and all it was fun just to make something new and different. I could see getting into making these just to please the 8 year old in me. Theres something about a wooden toy with moving parts that makes the young'un in me smile.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mini Log Cabins of the Frontier

I've always loved the look of those old, square log cabins you see that were built in the pioneer days, and actually earlier than that.  Some are still standing, some falling down and more importantly some being brought back to life and lived in again. 
    So with an idea for a mini sized version, I've started making these miniature sized Log Cabins. From what I've been told, German fathers would actually make these to give to a son as sort of a good luck charm and to bring peace and prosperity to him and his new bride. I don't know if that's true, but its kind of a cool story.

I started making these based just off of pictures I've seen of old ones still standing. The logs I "hand hewn" with a drawknife and each shingle is applied one at a time. I put in some chinking compound a little paint/stain and wallah, I have a fairly authentic looking mini log cabin. I've kinda got the bug from making these. It's almost a sky's the limit as what you an do, and you can go as primitive as you want. I would love to someday, either find an old one still standing and move it to my land or build one from scratch, but until then this is going to have to satisfy. Hey, maybe it could serve as a blue print for one I someday plan to build, and that alone is worth the time involved to make these. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Skewing around...

For years, I always used sandpaper to clean up my lathe turnings. Then about 2 years ago I ran across a video Peter Galbert has on YouTube on using the skew in place of sandpaper, and it changed my lathe turning completely. It has taken about that same amount of time to get it to work consistently for me, but I never gave up. I saw how nice and crisp the turning can get and how polished you can make the turning without ever touching it with sandpaper. I do have to admit, it's not as easy as Pete makes it look in the video but he explains it very well. So after a couple years of really working at getting the hang of this tool, I can now say I'm pretty much, "OK" at it. I would love to get as good as Elia Bizzari, or the master himself Curtis Buchanan, but they both have years on me and this is a tool that takes work and time to master.

The one major thing you have to know is, the skew has to be super sharp. Now I'm not talking just sharp, there's not just a quick run over a stone and use it for the next 6 or 8 turnings kinda sharp, I talking scary sharp, like in between EVERY turning it needs to be touched up and polished. The kind that should be able to cut the end grain on pine and leave that waxy, smooth, polished look behind, or the kind that all of a sudden you look down and there's blood all over, sharp, yeah, y'all know what I'm talking about. This is that kind of sharp.

For me, I've never had a set of stones to sharpen with because in my full on power tool days, I bought a Veritas sharpening system. It works great and I get great scary sharp results with it so I've never bought the bullet on good quality stones. So even if your using a powered sharpener or stones scary sharp is the only way to get your skew chisel to behave properly. If your using sandpaper on your turnings you should at least give it a whirl and try the skew. I'm not going to say it's a tool you just pick it up and sandpaper is a thing of the past. But if you hang in there and work at it, the skew could someday replace your need for sandpaper on the lathe. I'm getting there but I'm not where I'd like to be.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Shaping a Windsor Chair Spindle

 After browsing over my past videos uploaded to YouTube, I watched the one on Spindle Making. While I'm never happy with the way most of my videos come out, that video I am defiantly not happy with. It shows basically nothing but a "buffoon" hacking away at a stick of red oak. I didn't speak one word as to what I was doing or how I got to that particular point in the process. It's just a close up of me trying my best to make a video on a subject I thought I knew something about.

So with spindles to make for the chairs I'm making now, I thought this is a good time to redo a spindle video. Maybe I can give someone wanting to make a Windsor, a little more detail on how to shape them than I had when I first started.  I'm going to leave the old spindle video up and let you all comment on which one gives more info on the process and helps you make a spindle. I'm pretty sure which one it'll be but I'll let you tell me in your own words. Who knows I may have to make another with better ideas from you.

Steam Bending Windsor Chair Parts

I'm working on another chair order and need to steam bend the bows for 4 sack backs. I thought it might be helpful to show how I go about the process for those wanting to make a Windsor. In this video, I'm starting with the already shaped pieces ready to bend.

I began by riving out the bows to roughly 1" x 1" x 48". After shaping them with a draw knife and spokeshave at the shaving horse to their pre-steamed sizes, they're ready for bending. I'm self taught at this and never learned how most chair makers go about it, so I don't move the bends from a bending form to a cooling form. I tie off the bent bows and hang them on the wall to cool. I have never had any problems doing it this way and it saves not only material for more jigs, but also a ton of space in the shop. Hope this video gives someone out there a little more encouragement to dive into Windsor Chair making. Steam bending can be used for several aspects in woodworking and it's also pretty cool just to watch happen in front of you.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Year...New Froe Club

I was splitting out some spindles for some chairs today and after a few hard whacks my froe club broke in two. I made the broken one back in June 2011 out of hard maple. I know the date because I wrote it on the one I was replacing the now broken one with. I am trying to find what woods work best for a froe club that I have on hand. Red Oak, White Oak, Hard Maple, and Walnut are the spieces I use for chairs most often and almost always have at my disposal. I would like to find a piece of Dogwood but haven't had the luxury yet for it to be placed in front of me to try. I am writing the date I retire the old broken one so I can see how long the next one will last.  

So after using the red oak one for about a year and getting a pretty good amount of use out of it, now the maple one has only gone about 7 months. I am trying out a white oak club. Here is a short video on how I go about making my clubs. This is roughly the size I start all the clubs I've made with 4" sq and 17" long. It works great for me and I love the balance this size gives.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Flat Screen TV Cabinet

 After over a month of working on this "beast", I finally wrapped it up today. The finish alone took a week to apply and get to what I think, is a pretty realistic looking primitive finish. I made this piece for a client to house a large 55" flat screen and the components that go with it.  It's made in two pieces, the wood is poplar and and has bi-folding upper doors.

With the doors open you can see how much room is saved by the bi-fold doors. The doors are over 25" wide and would take up a lot of room when swung open if made into a full door. The color on the interior is a mixture of Butternut Squash, Black, Cream, with a touch of Mustard. Once the mixture is applied it looks horrible, not something you want happening on such a large piece. When the paint dried it gave a dirty brownish, black color that "resembles" old wood left to age. The results I am fairly happy with although I will continue trying different variations till I get the inside to look like the grungy brown, black color you see on most primitive interior cabinets.

This shows a close up of the door joinery. I used through mortise and tenons and put riven pins on a diagonal. This piece has fairly heavy doors and I wanted there to be no issue with sag. This method should help keep it as square as possible.

The color chosen, was a 3 color milk paint finish, or as I call it, my "Time Worn Finish". Black was the first coat, then a mixture of Butternut Squash, Yellow Ochre and Black to get the "pumkin'y brown" color you see, followed by a turquoise and white mixture. I put on one coat of oil/varnish to give some protection but not do away with the "dry paint" look and feel. I did the aging with scrapers, sandpaper, and a ton of elbow grease. It's not everyones preference, but for the primitive antique'r, it gives you a way to have a large flat screen TV in a cabinet that fits the TV, and still get a worn primitive look, kind of a 17th century meets the 21st century, cabinet.  It can be made out of any wood for a more formal look if needed.
The finshed cabinet in it's home.