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Inside the Oldwolf Workshop

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I am a woodworker and writer exploring and honing both crafts through this blog. Follow along as I discover myself in words and sawdust, moving along the path towards finding the methods of work that are best for me.Derek Olson (Oldwolf)http://www.blogger.com/profile/17266838091596906383noreply@blogger.comBlogger481125
Updated: 43 min 57 sec ago


Thu, 02/15/2018 - 8:06pm
I hereby call this officially unofficial meeting of the International Association of Moxon Vise Owners (IAMVO) to disorder. Before we begin with the important nonsense let us say the customary pledge of the organization. Please rise, hold your dovetail saws over your heart, cross your fingers behind your back and repeat the sacred words.

We who were once hunched in joinery
Can now stand tall in victory
We who were once bound to the bench 
Can now cut dovetails anywhere
We have been liberated by Moxon
Lead by the prophet Schwarz
To the holiest of all workholding wonders.
Whether atop our Roubo or on the shelf beneath
Let us never wish for a Leigh Jig again. 

Thank you brothers and sisters, before you find your seats please greet one another with the secret handshake.

Ahem . . . Norm . . .Mr. Abram. . . It's ok you can shake Mr. Underhill's hands. Well he's a little intense but he is a nice guy. 

What? No you can't catch "Brace And Bit Fever" from a simple handshake, that's a nasty myth. Besides Mr. Abram I'm certain your electron shots are all fully up to date and you're in no danger.

See, we can all get along and play nice. Oops, it seems Roy has managed to cut himself on your beard, well that's never stopped Roy from going on with the show and I suppose we should follow his example. 

To the reason I've called you all here. I want to announce we have acquired a new member! Several evenings ago I had the young James Martens to the shop. He'd found a lonely pile of maple alongside a back country highway, oddly already glued up into turning blanks. The maple was cold so he invited it into his warm cargo van, the one with the blacked out windows, and offered it a job in his shop.

Mr. Martens knew I had a lathe and the threading box and tap needed to make a moxon, (Though we all agree how elegant the less folksy options are hailing from Iowa and Texas) and he asked my assistance and I was happy to give it.

I set him up on the lathe and let him go to town and before the evening was over another glorious miracle of wood mashing mastery was brought into this world and I congratulated Mr. Martens on his new membership to our exclusive club.

We both held back tears as the vise attempted it's maiden clamping. I am happy to report it was a success.

So, fellow members of the IAMVO, when you spy the young James, whether in the wild shopping for major appliances or at his usual station sharpening and building saws for Bad Axe Tool Works greet him warmly, offer him the secret handshake, and ask how his vise is doing.

I hereby declare this meeting at an end. All in favor?

Ratione et Passionis
Categories: General Woodworking


Tue, 02/06/2018 - 8:51pm

Mrs. Wolf and I were determined to waste a day together in downtown La Crosse. There was a good sushi, a stop in the comic book store, a walk downtown, coffee, and a couple hours inside our favorite antique mall. Of course a few comic books followed me home but the other orphan was this unique turning saw I couldn't pass up.

If you've been reading here more than a second you know I'm enamoured of the old ways of working wood, not for love of the labor but in the belief there was something known that's been nearly forgotten. Turning saws and frame saws are not a new obsession. Making one has been on my "list" for too long. I have the hardware and blades sent to me by a friend, but other things seem to bump it off the top of the list.

Still when lifted this saw from the peg board hook to have a look I wasn't sure at first I was seeing it right.

I've only ever seen these saws with tenons on the ends of the cross arm and mortises in the uprights. This outlier turns that assumption on it's head. And I'll admit the construction in this way seems more straight forward than the more traditional route.

The cross arm falls on a small flat on the upright and is balanced on a moulded "button" (for lack of a better term)

I decided I had to bring it home and give it a test out to see if this was actually a usable form or if it was a ticking time bomb of tension. After replacing the two wraps of supplied bailing twine with some heavy duty linen cording, giving the saw teeth a light brush pass sharpening and tensioning the works up I was very happy to find I had a useable tool in my hands instead of just a tool shaped object.

The tensioning paddle is an obvious later replacement, probably added simultaneously to the bailing twine's arrival, but the rest of the piece carries all the layout lines and subtleties of being made with hand tools. Clearly the maker/owner J. Tonning was proud of the work as he stamped his name on each part on nearly every surface.

I'm more than happy to add this weirdo to my nest of saws and given time may make another just like it. Enjoy the photos.

Ratione et Passionis
Categories: General Woodworking


Thu, 01/18/2018 - 8:45pm
Woodworking is typically a solitary pursuit. The introvert in my loves that part. But as you begin to connect to the wider community that is out there you are bound to find like minded people who become fast friends and strong mentors.

The time I get to spend around these individuals is like plugging my car battery into the electrical output of the Hoover Dam. A little shop weary. Running tight on ideas or answers. Generally uninspired. A little visit and some shop talk, or any talk really, and I'm reinvigorated. 

This past November I had a visit at my shop from Don Williams and his wonderful wife. We all chatted for a bit as I gave them the grand tour a Le Chateau Oldwolf. consisting mostly of my library and drawing studio and the workshop outside. Don has become a trusted voice in my world, I look forward to every correspondence with him and just treasure the opportunities to visit in person. 

 After catching up we headed over to visit another person I have infinite respect for. We dropped in on Mark Harrell at Bad Axe Toolworks so Don could see the impressive goings on. I really had a treat as I was able to step back and listen to these guys parse the details of Roubo and the historical saws represented in L’Art Du Menuisier. The thing I really took away from the exchange. The possibility of a revival of the full size frame saw and turning saw as staples in the workshop. 

I know I'm an hand tool, old world craft geek, but I'm more than a little proud of it. 

 Then in December and again just this past week I was able to go down for a couple workdays in the shop of Tom Latane. For me this is so much fun because A; Tom's shop is an amazing place to stand, much less work in. A wood fire in the forge and you get that real, I don't know, romanticised, whimsical feel that is inspiring and conducive to good work. and B: I usually leave behind the projects I'm neck deep in in the shop and choose something different, usually carving, to work on. Something I'd like to get done but there's no rush, something mostly for me.

This time I got to make a new friend in a Blacksmith named Michael Fasold who was teaching himself how to cut dovetail joints, with Tom and me helping (maybe hindering) the process. He's teaching a class on forging an early american thumb latch gate handle at the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center in Minneapolis. I wish I could make the trip to take it.

There are many others out there I have to find some time and place to meet with. Being around other like minded people really opens up the spigot on the creative flow. If you're not experiencing this you should try and remedy that. Take a class, join a club if you have one nearby, stand out on the highway with a sign in one hand and a jack plane in the other.

 Maybe we just need to get someone to oversee the creation of a Woodworkers Platonic Dating App. . .
Maybe not. I have too much current in my creative juices for my own good right now. :)

Ratione et Passionis
Categories: General Woodworking

Clothes Maketh The Man?

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 12:42pm

I have a new phenomenon in my life. It's called the gym. I've never really "worked out" in my entire life and always relied on being just a naturally strong farm boy, but it's part of the suggested post-op program and I'm actually enjoying it. Earlier this week as I was changing into my workout clothes and putting in my headphones (Rage Against The Machine radio) I experienced a connection with the preparation and what I was about to do.

I started to think about the other times in my life I have the same feeling. Most notably I've spent decades culturing the state of mind that accompanies wrapping my body in armor and strapping a sword to my hip. Whether or not there's any combat demonstration, just putting on the armor brings out a side of my personality that is more forceful, decisive and authoritative. I link it to wearing the armor through years combat competition and demonstrations where hesitation can equal loss and possibly injury to yourself or your opposition.

I have the same experience when I go to work at the hospital. In the OR I wear scrubs. The act of putting those on signals the upcoming expectations of the surgeons I work for. Furthermore when I don the sterile surgical gown and gloves this becomes an armor of it's own as I enter into what is kind of a different world with new rules of sterile conscience, boundaries, and mental compartmentalization come into play.

There are routines we all use to align our mind to the events about to take place before us, but also wearing a different costume can course correct a practiced state of mind. It's true that people will often behave differently a suit and tie than a ratty Metallica T-shirt. It seems superficial, but we are all superficial creatures at heart.

All this comes back to the thoughts I had as I headed into the weight room and started my new stretching routine. I don't have a costume for working in the shop. I don't really have a specific routine that signals "game on" to my mind and attitude. When my shop was a twenty minute drive from my bed I had that journey as prep time and I was very productive but the last few years of having my shop less than twenty yards from my bed has broken down the routine and the mindset. I'm more easily distracted and I have a large number of other things I can do (sometimes should do) easily at my fingertips.

To that end I'm going to try and make a change. I ordered a new shop apron, not a fancy custom one, a cheap POS that was probably sewn in a sweatshop. I've never liked wearing a shop apron much in the past, especially when they had pockets, I hated pockets in an apron. But many of my other clothing choices are evolving these days as I more from "if it actually fits it'll have to be good enough" to "do I want to wear this." My experience with a shop apron may evolve too. Maybe I'll love pockets now, maybe I'll like wearing the apron. This one will be easy enough to modify if I want and not feel bad about the bucks I've spent.

Once I get, if I get, acquainted with what I like or don't, I'll know what to shop for in a better made version.

What do you do to get yourself in the right state of mind for the shop?  I'm curious to hear other strategies.

Ratione et Passionis
Categories: General Woodworking

For Sale: Hand Drawn Anarchist Tool Chest Poster

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 11:23am

The cold temperatures have kept me from the shop recently, it's too much for the heaters to cope with. I had a sub panel installed in the shop over the summer and since have been greedily eyeing my own mini split system to help keep things livable.

I've also been drawing a ton of chairs in my sketchbook and though I have most of the tools I'd like or need, some nicer seat shaping items are in my sights. Travisher I'm looking at you.

To that end I have decided to sell some things starting with this poster size drawing taken from the picture on page 380 of Chris Schwarz's "The Anarchist Tool Chest." The book is one of my favorite all time works and was very influential on my growth as a woodworker, an artist, and in general, as a person and the inspiration picture is my favorite of the many iconic images Chris and Narayan Nayar managed to capture for the work.

If you follow Chris's writing at all you probably know how he feels about posters. Even though he gets goaded into producing some from time to time they are more "Passion Projects" than anything, thus your chances of seeing a poster sized rendition of this image probably starts and ends here. Chris is aware of the work and has given me full permission to sell this representation.

The drawing is done on 100 lb weight Bristol paper with a vellum finish using graphite pencil and ink. The paper's dimensions are 19"x 24" with the drawings measurements at 16 3/4" x 22 3/8" Not to over state but you are buying a drawing, not a reproduced art print. This is a one of a kind item. I will include domestic shipping in the US, but shipping and insurance costs will have to be covered by an international buyer. 

The cost is $300 USD. The first person to send me an email at oldwolfworkshop@gmail.com and tell me they want it wins. The transaction will be handled through Paypal invoice. If for some reason they should fall through it will go to the second email and so on.

It's tough to let go of some work, but if it gets me further along in the shop it will be worth it. Thanks for looking

Ratione et Passionis
Categories: General Woodworking

Work With Your Hands And Think On Your Feet,

Tue, 12/26/2017 - 8:53pm

There is always at least one part of a build that blindsides me. Whether I'm working from detailed scaled plans I painstakingly drew myself or a scratched rough sketch on the small chalkboard I keep by the bench, there is always at least one thing I failed to foresee. I understand that's why many prototype important pieces and I could do that. You'd think I'd do that since I'm dealing with such a precious and finite resource as the stock from these two walnut boards.

I'm much more of a two-foot-in kind of person and problems like the one pictured above are actually the challenges I appreciate. I had the miters planned, the sliding rabeted "pencil box" style lid planned, but I missed visualizing where the two would meet. Once I got this far I stopped and cleaned the shop. It helps me think.

I thought about several solutions. Rounding over the points on the miters and saying good enough. This was not the project to take a short cut and say those two words. (I hate those two words) I considered scabbing in little mitered and slotted pieces to fill the gap and bring the sides of the box out even with the end and that was a promising thought, but getting the grain to match and the pieces to hold in alignment in clamps and blah blah blah. It was too complex of a solution.

I'm not sure if this is a common solution to the problem. I don't remember seeing it addressed in magazine or book before but I can't be the first to enact such an explication. It starts with marking and squaring off the offending miter points.

Then using an offcut, creating a tongue and groove joint at the end of the lid.

The tongue board end will be secured with wedged pegs and all will be copacetic again. But there's one more lesson in this piece.

I cut the end piece long for several reasons. Protecting myself from blow out and giving myself a larger reference surface to work from are two important ones, but a side effect is it allows me to slide the piece to fine tune the best visual impact. Early on in my on-going woodworking education I remember watching a video by Charles Neil where he discussed the many ways to consider the grain and it's visual impact in your work.

You can see how the grain lines flow from the panel into the end piece even though they're cross grain to each other. That's a recipe 40% serendipity and 55% paying attention and planning and 5% work.

He blew my mind talking about how in super high end furniture the grain of the stiles and rails (in floating panel doors) should not only flow around the corners, but how the face frame of the cabinet behind the door should be cut from the same boards as the rails and stiles so the grain continues to match as you move visually deeper into the piece. The consideration of the material and it's effect on the details in a work was a paradigm shift for me.

It almost made me quit woodworking. I was sure I'd never be able to work at that level, but once you know about it you start seeing it. Once you start seeing it YOU CAN'T STOP. It's like looking for clocked screws. It is the number one issue that bothers me when I see higher quality manufactured furniture. The thing is, it's not as hard to carry through on as it sounds at first.

The trick I've found is just to be mindful of the concept as you're moving through your wood selection and making your choices. There's a line between being wasteful in slavish obedience to matching grain, and being conscious of how the grain works throughout a piece and aware that while you might be the only person to ever notice the way things line up there is a visual difference that someone unaware of the concept will notice, even on a subliminal level.

It's just one more step into the deep rabbit hole that is woodworking.

Ratione et Passionis
Categories: General Woodworking

From Chaos With Love.

Fri, 12/22/2017 - 7:02pm

My workshop is my sanctuary. Its slightly dusty atmosphere is where I go to breathe. Where the feel of my tools in my hands is the pathway to feeling re-centered. Anxiety, anger, pensive thoughts, ennui. The workshop is my prescription for all that ails.

There is a distinct mindset that leads to good work at the bench and it doesn't start in these dark places, but the shop helps turn off these bad factors and switch on worthwhile ones. Reminds me of what I am, or can be. In the middle time, during the transition, I often head into battle with chaos.

I have a tendency to try and box the concept of a year into the categories of good or bad. Though I know a year (and a week, a hour, a minute, and so on) is a human construct arbitrarily dividing infinity, I still hold magical thinking that the turn of a new year can reset the karmic switchboard from the previous.

2017 has been a roller coaster year and I'm calling it a karmic draw.

But through it all I have my siege proof fortress. It's there for me when I'm ready and it waits patiently (more patiently than me) when I'm not. The only thing it asks of me is to help hold the line in the battle against chaos.

When I used to read and participate in woodworking forums one of my favorite subjects was shop tours. There is a special pleasure, something I'm certain only the German language has a word for, that comes from looking into another's Sanctum Sanctorum. But there was often something off-putting, off-balance, off.

Many photos I saw were spur of the moment, purported to show the rest of us a real shop, no fancying up cleaning, no staging, no care taken. The concept is to show a shop where work gets done, but there are piles of chaos everywhere. Arioch reins. It's the chaos of my dad's shop in my childhood, where there was barely time to fix or build what needed doing, but not usually enough time to clean up afterwards, with the additional help of my brother and I recklessly rummaging through for whatever we thought we needed.

I can't abide the chaos. It doesn't work for me and I don't understand how it works for anyone. I don't have to work in a pristine fantasy. Items get set out and used until I'm done. But I will often do a complete clean up at the inbetween points of a build.

All or most of the squaring and thicknessing is complete . . . clean up and put away almost all the tools I used and sweep the shop.

All the major carcass joinery is cut . . . clean up and put away almost all the tools I used and sweep the shop.

Main carcass is glued up . . .  clean up and put away almost all the tools I used and sweep the shop.

Hardware is fit . . . clean up and put away almost all the tools I used and sweep the shop.

Do you see a pattern?

This also includes problem solving moments. Something unexpected results from the joinery choices I made. Something isn't fitting the way it should. I forgot a step in my haste to glue up the carcass and now have to retrofit something. Opportunities for problem solving.

Instead of severing one more wood fiber I will often clean up and put away almost all the tools I used and sweep the shop. Usually by the time I'm done I've solved the problem and I've held the chaos at bay. I've kept up my end of the bargain.

In the end I don't care how you like your shop anymore than I care how you like your steak cooked. It's none of my business and I don't judge. I've come to an agreement with my shop and as long as it upholds it's end of the bargain, so will I.

Ratione et Passionis
Categories: General Woodworking

Mitered Corners

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 10:36am
Still on the build of a box to hold the cremation ashes of my Father-In-Law for burial. Getting stock from the odd shaped boards was the start but after stickering it and letting it sit for a weekend (while I worked my real job) I came back to address the next steps.

The boards were never well taken care of or protected. The ends sat on concrete floors near open doors for as long as I remember before they were given to me. The faces saw rain and dirt and snow and I never really thought much how beautiful the wood under these layers of crap could be. They had too much sentimental value to him, even though he had given them to me. I was convinced I would just have to move them around the lumber rack forever. It is actually more of a relief getting to build something meaningful from them.

Trimming all the ends square and removing the rot and bug holes was the next step

Then I planed both sides of the boards, first with my #4 then with a #81 scraping plane. I wasn't going for flat as much as clean, and once I scrubbed the scruff off I was super impressed with what was underneath. Some curly figure as well!

All the boards set I took the long board that would yield all four box sided and plowed grooves on the top and bottom.

 I cut them to rough length and shot one end of each side square. I like using my #6 to shoot end grain, it has just the right amount of mass and length.

I used the tablesaw to make the mitered cuts. I find I get my best chance of success shooting my reference edge square (the edge that rides along the fence.)  Your table saw has to be well set up and maintained with the fence set square and then I raise the blade all the way up and then measure the 45 degree tilt using the black reference body from my small combination square. Then I lower the blade down to a reasonable cutting height and set my fence.

For these cuts I cross cut using the fence as the guide, I do not use the miter gauge or any sliding table. I run the miter on one end of matching sides, then creep up on the outside length I'm after with multiple cuts, readjusting the fence each time. I make sure I hold the board edge tight to the fence and control were my fingers fall (away from the blade!)

Once I dial in the cut on the first board, following with the second is easy and the two sides should match up perfectly.

I measured for the top lid and bottom panel and cut rabbets for the grooves. You've gotta work cross grain first and then the long grain to keep the tears inside your eyes.

I find fitting panels like this fiddly, seems I always miss one of my dimension and have to creep up on the perfect size. Fortunately it's not difficult to make the adjustments with hand tools. A couple swipes of a plane here, a little work with a chisel there and everything fits.

Once I had the basic box dry assembled and held together with blue painter's tape I realized a design problem I hadn't anticipated. I'm pretty sure I've figured my way out of it but I'll show you next time. Until then. . .

Ratione et Passionis
Categories: General Woodworking

Breaking Down Odd Stock

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 10:25pm
As I began the journey of building a pair of boxes to hold cremation remains in a ground burial vault (you can read the specifics HERE) I had a pair of odd sized boards to break down into regular useable stock.

These walnut boards measure around 16" at their widest giving 7 to 8 foot of length. They were given to me by Bob several years ago and they came from a tree that blew over on the farm he grew up on and that was milled into lumber. Most of the tree went to make a very nice desk that is still in use, I couldn't tell you the date but to hear the stories he had it made right around the time of my wife's birth, forty plus years ago. I don't know how long he hauled the boards around before that.

He kept these two left over stragglers with large sections of crotch grain and told me many times he had intended to make a "very neat" coffee table from them. They lived in leaky garages and sheds until I was given them about seven years ago. He asked after them a bit, wanting to know what I'd made with them, and my response came to be that the boards were too dried out to do anything really with. Not a whole truth but in honesty I was at a loss when it came to how to use them.

By the time I got them large cracks had developed in the wider areas, and splits up from the narrower ends. Dry rot, punkiness, and some bug holes were problems on either end where they'd sat on dirt or concrete, semi exposed to the elements for decades. The shape was odd, triangularish, rhoboid, well odd let's just live with odd as a description. They looked like wide boards but sure didn't look useable as wide boards.

Then Bob passed away and I was discussing the building of these boxes with my wife and she reminded me of these boards. Now there was the perfect project they'd been waiting decades for. But how do you break them down to useable stock?

I pulled them out of the lumber rack and leaned them up against the wall for several days while I finished up a few other half done projects. I needed to get boards finished at 6 1/2" wide from these pieces, as much of it as I could. Both had a mostly flat edge along one side and I decided to start by jointing it out.

Lacking a leg vise doesn't usually bother me but handling stock like this makes it interesting. I supported the board on one of my saw benches. I used a holdfast in the deadman on one end and a clamp across from the other side of the bench to level out the flat area and hold the board.

Then it was just down to work with my #7. I didn't really have what anyone would call a "true face" to reference square off of, I'd just lean down and eyeball the edge every couple strokes to make sure I wasn't tilting or doing something else weird.

Once I had the flat I set my panel gauge to 7" and scratched a line.

I used a ruler to extend the line out past the points where the flat ended. Then I headed back over to the saw benches.

This stuff is shy of 3/4" thick and a 5 TPI rip saw made quick and easy work out of it. In a minute I had one board close to my desire.

On the wider board I marked a square line just inside any cracks or nastiness and cross cut those off.

I repeated the process on the second board. Then I wheeled the tablesaw from the corner because the tablesaw excels at perfectly parallel. I ran the straight edge through at 6 3/4" then ran the other side through at a hair past my 6 1/2" so I can swipe off the machine marks later.

Without mistakes I need total around 52" of material for a box. I managed to get enough good stuff for three and a half boxes. I'm not unhappy with this yield and better yet I'm satisfied I've found the right use for this walnut that has seen such a journey to get to this point.

Ratione et Passionis
Categories: General Woodworking

Human Touch.

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 9:26pm

Robert G Indahl

Robert G. Indahl, 81, of West Salem, passed away on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017 . He went peacefully at home with the scent of fresh baked cookies filling the house and his wife’s, daughter’s, and granddaughter’s voices in the air. He was born in the summer of 1936 to Harry and Blanche (Osbourne) Indahl and often told fond memories of growing up on the farm. He graduated from West Salem High School in 1954 and entered the Wisconsin National Guard where he served until 1962.

In August of 1964 he married Karen (Koll) Indahl and so began the adventure of their lives together. Having four daughters and one son made his life full but he still found time for his many passions. He was fond of photography and art, returning to Western Technical College and earning a degree in Commercial Arts in 1992, he was often pestered by his children and later grandchildren to draw pictures for them. He enjoyed camping and aviation, for a time holding his pilot’s license and part ownership in a plane. He liked to be prepared for anything and was known to carry more gadgets and tools in his pockets than seemed possible. He sang in barbershop quartets and in the church choir. He was very active in the church and on the school board and was a long-time member of The American Legion.

Maybe most importantly, over the years, Robert and Karen opened their home and hearts to numerous foster children both official and unofficial. From babies dropped off wearing only diapers to their children’s friends. Many, many called them Mom and Dad. Robert was a man of patience and kindness and will be missed.

He is survived by his wife Karen (Koll), daughters Sarah (Joseph) Avampato, Rachel Indahl, Naomi (Derek) Olson and Rebecca Indahl. And his grandchildren Ashley, Alexandria, Nicholas, Chloe, Fayth, and Infinity.

He is preceded in death by his parents, sisters Pauline Ardel (Delbert) Wiltsie and Joyce (Leonard) Hemker and his son Joseph.


A year ago when my wife and I bought a new house with my in-laws it was so we could all help take care of each other. Advanced age had made some things difficult for them and we figured our help was better than any assisted living facility. In retrospect I'm glad we, and especially my daughters, had the extra time around them both. Life is inevitably unpredictable, and a short 13 months later we lost Bob due to health complications. The obituary above is one of the most difficult things I've had to string together words for.

And now I find myself at the threshold of another difficult and related task. Bob had decided on cremation a long time ago. But as I sat near Karen listening to the little funeral geek lean into his ash container sales pitch I started to lose my temper. All the selections "tastefully" arranged on the wall were crap. Giant ceramic golf balls and baseballs, gilded vessels of robotically turned aluminum, not one item, not one with soul and heart and the touch of the human hand. We had carefully coordinated the final days of Bob's life with hospice, seen to his needs and arranged to have all his daughters get time with him near the end. We brought him home to his own bed, worked to keep him comfortable as we comforted ourselves. There was human hands, and touch, and love in every decision, every care and every moment. Why should the box that holds his ashes be less considered.

I spoke up before the pitch started. Thanks to the cremation I would have a little time to build a box, a box fit for a human, in the shop where Bob would sometimes sit and watch me work and tell me all the reasons I should find a good radial arm saw like the one he used to have.

My own post-op weight restrictions modulated from 10 to 25 lbs for the last two weeks of my convalescence. Enough to get out in the shop and work if I want and out to the shop I'd go, somehow believing inspiration would just strike me. I had a box in mind but I also had dimensions from the funeral geek for the interior of the air tight, atom bomb proof box my human construct would have to fit inside. I think I was overwhelmed by the responsibility.

I looked at a hundred designs on google photos, and many of them were beautiful and artistic, but the box I was building wasn't intended to carry the burden of shelf display with quarterly dustings. Mine was intended for the ground and the burden was the desire to house a human being's remains inside something made by a human being.

Last night I curled up to my wife and was nearly passed off to sleep when my mind clicked on the image. I could see it clearly, all the joinery, the look, the finish. I could see the construction using some walnut cut from a tree that fell on Bob's childhood home farm. Two remaining boards have followed him for years. He passed them on to me, and asked after them often, but whatever his suggestion, using them didn't feel right until now.

I almost let myself continue off to sleep, promising I'd remember clearly in the morning. My rational mind reminded me that was bullshit. So at one in the morning I found myself sitting in my robe, hunched over a card table set up for all the visiting company and not yet put away, scribbling away in my sketchbook.

Once I had the idea fully rendered I closed the book and went back to bed. This afternoon I returned to the sketches and notes. The thing is there, fully visualized. Tomorrow I head out to the shop with a plan and a purpose. I should have enough to make at least two, a matching one for Karen come her time.

I owe Bob so much. Everything really. Even though I was a loudmouthed long-haired teenage punk dating his daughter, he always showed me patience and kindness, and sometimes turned a necessary blind eye I'm not sure I could. Every decision he made in his life delivered the most important gifts to me. My wife and my daughters. I hope I'm worthy of the challenge.

Ratione et Passionis


Categories: General Woodworking

Check Another Bucket List Box

Sat, 11/04/2017 - 10:08pm
A while back I had the opportunity to do some of the work I've dreamed of. I built a couple commissions for my favorite museum. The Castlerock Museum of Arms and Armor. In an alcove of the basement level there are a few fantastic 17th century great chairs (and one suspicious cabinet) alongside a great display of silver serving platters.

The museums owner wanted three items made. A small pedestal box to raise a very ornate jewelry box up off the carpet. A board he could attach and display several period silver and tin spoons. And a small shelf to display three rare ornate period plates.

There was a little back and forth on the design and getting the color dark enough so he was happy took several tries. But in the end he was very pleased and I have a little feather for my hat. Some of my work is on display in a museum.

The pedestal was designed to be very understated so not to battle with the delicate ornament of the jewelry box. A short dovetailed box with a lid made of four rails and a floating panel so no warping or cleats should be needed with seasonal movement.

This is a good example of the debate I went through on every piece here. In particular I decided to use a electric router to cut the moulding edge around the top. I figure even on a subconscious level the modern execution will set the pedestal apart from the piece it's meant to display.

The spoon board was a different design issue. I worked with the director over several designs I wanted to add a little ornament to help offset the spoons, maybe even draw some attention to them. I traced out the mock up fan display they'd done on foam board and stepped off the arches to correlate to each spoon.

After sawing everything out with a coping saw and refining with rasps and a card scraper I went back in with a scratch stock and cut in the shadow line finishing the points with a V carving chisel.

The plate shelf was the most fun. We wanted something that definitely wasn't modern looking. I started this design based on the corbels, (which are difficult to see in these photos) I took theri design from an engraving of a 17th century kitchen scene.

From there I worked out the gothic arch back board with a handcut moulding on the underside of the shelf itself. The whole thing was pretty successful, I wouldn't mind having a shelf or two like this in my own home.

The finish ended up a little complicated. First I layered on some iron buff to react with the tannins in the wood and darken the grain significantly, then went two coats of an "Ebony" oil based stain. I followed this with a half dozen coats of Garnet Shellac which was rubbed down with 0000 steel wool to cut the glossiness. Then a application and buff of dark colored paste wax and I was done. Just finishing these pieces took two weeks and with the exception of the spoon board I got the coloring pretty well on (The spoon board was already edge joined and cut for the museum by another cabinet maker and given to me. Not wood I chose, nor done really to my standards, but you work with what you get sometimes)

All in all a ridiculously gratifying experience I hope to repeat several times more in my career.

Ratione et Passionis
Categories: General Woodworking