"......[woodwork] was something done by thickos in a shed"
(From James Dyson's memoir "Against the Odds")
After three and a half years, it's time to brighten up this website. I never really liked the funeral-service grey-on-black theme, since it was hard to read. (Anything other than black on white for text is a nuisance, so why indulge?) The previous banner was chosen only on the basis of its shape, and was fuzzy in the first place; like a lot of other older images it originated from a scanned print. Also the subject was not one of my favourite pieces of furniture. It came from a period when I was beguiled by decorative inlays, but never really asked myself why, for example, legs really needed to have stringing lines of black ebony, inset with burl arbutus. Art-deco without the art.
Prices needed adjusting; they haven't increased in three years, although some were too high anyway, notably the standing press, which is now a snip at $4000.00 (although it does have inlaid drawers). PayPal, although in all ways excellent, does charge a commission which until now I have simply ignored; wood has of course increased in price, as has brass.
More editorial work needs to be done; when I made this website, my impulse was to throw everything into it. A lot of the photographs were of pieces which I only somewhat liked, and in some cases quite disliked. Moreover the photographs themselves were sometimes wretched. These will be weeded out in the coming while.
I also thought about ditching this journal; I don't have any evidence that anyone but family reads it, so why bother? Similar sites to this have busy comment sections, where depressingly competent sounding blokes with names like Rip_saw21 and carbide_pete have muscular discussions on the appropriate rake angle for crown-moulding shaper cutters. I did have a comment section enabled for a while, but no-one came, so I dropped it. However, the journal stays for now. I enjoy writing it, and looking back over the archive, I enjoy reading it. What more could one ask of a diary?
This is (reportedly) a genuine Australian aboriginal boomerang from the 19th.c. It has a broken tip, because the owner's son likes to throw it. I am to repair the tip, and also make a replica so that the original can be preserved. The replica can be played with.
(Ignore the Indian-Head spinners. Another project.)
It took a while to get around to making the replica, but I gave it some thought. The original was clearly made from either a curved root or branch, with the grain running continuously through the bend. I thought that an epoxied lamination would be just as strong, perhaps stronger. My real concern was how to reproduce the aerodynamic form of this rather roughly carved primitive artefact.
First step: make a laminating form and cut some strips of suitable hardwood - in this case from a short plank of Jatoba that was hanging around with nothing better to do:
Then a trial lay-up without glue:
And after a weekend spent at a Scottish Country Dance workshop
it's all glued up and ready to shape. Dead easy, mate no worries! Tree roots, indeed!
Spring, a week away, is almost here. The shop only occasionally really needs a fire in the stove, the door can be left open, although in the interminable rain the skylight still leaks and makes a small dark puddle on the floor. Daffodils are about to bloom in the tubs outside, the pond is full, and the tree-frogs are rehearsing for their spring concert: altogether a good time to be at work.
And work to do there is: E. & Y.'s pair of bookshelves is finally well under way (more later), S.'s teak has been ordered (at nearly 30.00 per board foot) for two bedside tables for her teak bed which have been gestating since 2010. Two days ago an apparently firm order arrived for another lying press as well as other tools - so that is encouraging. (The lying press I made and shipped before Christmas made it to New York, but not without some unwelcome attention en route from Homeland Security, causing some minor damage. Despite securing the top with well-marked Phillips head screws (no Robertsons S. of the border), one box appears to have been opened with a wrecking bar. I may be wrong though, and await photographs.)
Three weeks hath December (rather fewer, in fact) and three weeks hath January, and then it's Bloody February again; with a hey-ho, the wind and the rain.
I was very pleased to get all my book-binding equipment orders finished, crated and sent off before Christmas. All of them seem to have arrived at their destinations.
The assembled lying-press, ready to ship.
Testing the plough.
We had Edward home for a week after New Year's, which meant a possible opportunity to work on the bass, which has been an ongoing project for some years now. Its last appearance in this jourrnal was in June of 2011, when we made the six ribs (bouts). Since then the ribs have been gathering dust here and there in the shop, waiting for an opportunity to work with Ed (who lives in London) and glue them together to make a recognisable beginning to an new instrument.
A short account of January's progress:
We didn't have a lot of time together - there's a good deal to fit into a short visit - but we hauled out the construction form and the laminated ribs. We found that more had been done on the corner blocks than I remembered; even the neck block had been cut and shaped, and temporarily screwed to the form; there was no end block, but a decent enough piece of spruce had been saved for just this purpose. Ed worked on the final shaping of the corner blocks, checking that their curved surfaces were fair, and that the ribs fitted as closely as possible. He also made the end block, and we were then ready to begin gluing the ribs into place.
A pleasant day: breakfast in Ganges with J. and friends to start, then a successful design change to the lying-press plough and a decent afternoon's progress on a German-style finishing press with a removable pin plate for tying-up (a new design variation).
Barb's was crowded (at 10.30 a.m.) with mostly middle aged and older brunchers, confirming that Saltspring has an unreasonably large population of leisured retirees, affluent enough to be eating out on a Tuesday morning, and in no hurry to be elsewhere. Wooster-like, I pronged a moody forkful of scrambled egg, and thought of French aristocrats c. 1760 or so, and had a brief vision of a guillotine set up in Centennial Park, just between the band-shell and the playground. No guilt, but a feeling that this state of affairs really cannot last. Then we drove home in our new-to-us Honda Element (what else?), and I went back to "work". (Work is one of those words that becomes increasingly unreal the longer you stare at it; it also starts to rhyme with "dork", which is a whole other weirdness. Why doesn't "dork" rhyme with "dirk"?)
A slightly random collection of photos following the construction of a new beech lying press, tub and plough.
From Fowler's "Modern English Usage" O.U.P. 1926.
"HYPHENS. The chaos prevailing among writers or printers or both regarding the use of hyphens is discreditable to English Education. Since it sufficiently proves by its existence that neither the importance of proper hyphening nor the way to set about it is commonly known, this article may well begin with a dozen examples, all taken faithfully from newspapers, in which the wrong use or wrong non-use of hyphens makes the words, if strictly interpreted, mean something different from what the writers intended.
It is no adequate answer to such criticism to say that actual misunderstanding is unlikely; to have to depend upon one's employer's readiness to take the will for the deed is surely a humiliation that no decent craftsman should be willing to put up with……."
I had an enquiry recently about the unfairness of the difference between what a craftsperson would like to be able to charge for their 'one of a kind' creations, taking all their time, materials, creative energy &c. &c. into account, and what they might actually expect to receive in the real world of a small business. It can particularly galling to some to see their immaculate joinery (no screws!), exotic materials and elegant designs apparently worth about the same as (or less than) a run-of-the-mill piece of reno work - perhaps with a couple of new windows, a bit of drywalling, a new outlet or two and maybe a new carpet.
I was tempted to reply as follows:
I'd say that the feeling that one is not being adequately rewarded (in $$) for one's work is fairly universal among studio/art furniture makers, certainly in the earlier stages of a newly established business. Woodworking talent is a not-very-hard-to-acquire skill, (design talent is another matter, and hard to measure), so there's always competition for commissions. Custom-made studio furniture is a luxury - I don't think that I've ever made a dining table for someone who didn't already own a perfectly serviceable table.
J. and I came back from our two month summer sail on N.'s birthday (August 29th) and I was eager to get back into the shop - but not before undertaking a little property maintenance and winter preparation. Addi came over from Vancouver and piled all the house firewood into the woodshed. (There's a much smaller pile still to stack down near the shop, if anyone happens to pass by.) We're fortunate in the younger generation. Firewood stacking has a rural attraction for urbanites, and is comfortably limited in scope - unlike, say, clearing and uprooting the invading Salmonberry bushes along the southern borders. And it's in a good cause - keeping the agèd P.'s warm through the winter.
Sometimes I have to remember that a workshop is a tool like any other - only bigger, and there are a couple of major problems down by the road. The lean-to roof leaks around the two big skylights, and has done so for some years. Not often, it's true, but reliably; not much, but enough to ruin a newly finished table-top, or an upholstered chair, or to rust tools. Secondly, the pretty shingled roof that is visible in the shop photo on the home-page has grown a small meadow of spongy green moss on its lower section, where the pitch artfully (and foolishly) decreases. I should have followed J.'s advice and cleaned off the moss years ago, but it was picturesque, and people will stop and take pictures. But I didn't, and underneath the lovely green are rotting shingles. Corruption at the heart.
A new package arrived from sRam - one hundred and fifty bits and pieces, perhaps to be made into a new pArt (what's all this lowercase/uppercase stuff??) (Not counting the little plastic packages at nine o'clock. They appear to contain hundreds of little bushings and links. Perhaps they are the individual bits of a bike chain.
The following components look intriguing. Oh, and everything comes in sets of four, except for one odd black and white sprocket at ten o'clock.
I had to leave little post-it notes around the shop to remind me to NOT laminate the eighth strip when clamping up the three posts. Before the final strip could be glued on, a 1/2" x 3/8" channel had to be routed in the back for the wire. To forget this would almost be a category III error. No recovery possible, cut up for firewood and burn. Perhaps a cable could be stapled to the outside as a sort of fuck-you gesture to the ocd woodworking crowd, but I'm a bit that way myself. I'd find myself anxiously centering the cable and making a jig to get the staples exactly aligned. I know I have move on, but not yet, not yet.
Anyway, the tapered strips were laminated, removed from the form, and I had three nicely curved lamp standards with a slightly humpy back surface on the lower straight section. Since I had in fact remembered not to glue up the final strip, I was able to simply run the whole thing over the jointer, rout the back, and glue on the final strip, which nicely covered up the resolved problem. (The "humpiness" was owing to an unevenness in the prepared 2x6 pine board used to plane the taper on the strips (see previous post). Obviously a better method of planing a long and varying taper has to be found other that hopefully nudging the depth of cut wheel on the thicknesser.)
The previous post showed the making of a bending form for three standard (or floor) lamps; since the shape of the upright gradually tapers in both width and thickness (like the table legs on which it is modelled) some thought was called for. Tapering the width is simple enough — just saw the shape from the finished lamination — but the taper in the thickness cannot be sawn. Well actually it can, but it would look singularly horrible at the points where the saw cut crosses the glue lines at a shallow angle. The answer is to taper the individual strips that make up the lamination; when glued together the total taper will be the sum of the tapers of the individual strips.
Before this could be done, I needed to know how many strips would be required; the maximum thickness of an individual strip will be that which can be bent around the form without breaking. (Something less than this probably a good idea, given that wood is an inconsistent sort of thing; also the actual task of laying up the stack of laminations is made a good deal harder with overly springy (springful?) strips. A merely moderate pressure needed to force one strip around a sharpish bend becomes a serious test of upper body strength when multiplied by eight.) In this case I decided on a maximum thickness of just over 0.25", with each consisting of eight strips.
The Cycloidoscope is on its way, though I've no idea where to, if anywhere. Velo Village arrives on Saltspring next week, with 400 bicycles and riders taking their very own BC Ferry from Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour on Saturday 23 June, followed by a mass ride to Ganges; the associated Art show and Auction ("pART), sponsored by SRAM, will take place in Ganges from June 20th to the 24th.
Howard Fry's photos of the Cycloidoscope can be seen here, along with his pictures of all the other works that will be on display next week.
For the last couple of weeks I've been working on three lamps for S.B. We've been talking about these for a year or two — can it be so long? — and their time has come. Like the teak and concrete table I made for her and H. in 2010, and the subsequent teak bed, the initial design has been hers, its form often suggested by some unrelated object or detail that has caught her eye. In the case of the teak/concrete table it was the chimney cap of her house. For the lamp (all three are of the same design) the origin was the legs of two small occasional tables, possibly Edwardian, in a slightly Egyptian style:
"Reculer pour mieux sauter" is one of the very few bits of french I can remember - possibly from school, although the expressed idea seems a bit sophisticated for an impatient seventeen year old.
In the last episode I left the Cycloidoscope undergoing a genteel adjustment and arrangement of gears, balancing the various gears on their spindles so that they didn't flop around when left to their own devices. When I brought it all up to the house to show off and was looking through it admiring the charming effects, I noticed two things: first, that the alignment of the kaleidoscopic images at the vertices of adjoining triangles was definitely off. (Actually, it had never been all that good — something which I ascribed to the original arrangement of the triangular mirror assembly. It had turned out to be a millimetre or so larger than I'd anticipated, and had required a rather substantial amount of force to get it all the way into the barrel*. But then it would never need to come out again, so that was okay, wasn't it?); and second, that there seemed to be a faint line across one section of the image. Dust? A hair? For all my inner denial, it was obviously it was a crack — but how? when? where?
A cursory look inside confirmed that one of the three mirrors was indeed cracked (from "side to side"). How this had happened was of minor interest. Getting the mirror assembly out of the barrel was something else. There was only one way:
Inanimate objects are rebelling. First the truck (rusted brake lines, broken leaf spring, leaking main bearing, radiator leak, broken passenger seat, ball joints shot and a rusted hole in the floor pan), then last night the washing machine quietly pumped water over the bathroom floor and hall while we were watching S02E05 of Game of Thrones, which meant a major clean up at 11p.m. The lawnmower won't start, but the grass won't stop, and there's something else as well, but I don't remember what......
Anyway, with the control rods in place it was time to start attaching the decorative objects to be viewed through the Cycloscope/Cycloidoscope:
A bit confusing against the cluttered background, but the general idea is there.
Everything is accomplished by rotating the objects with the control rods, whilst viewing them through the cycloidoscope barrel.
It's now time to make the rosewood knobs for the control rods, and also to work out how to support a rice-paper or silk screen behind the rotating objects. After that it's french-polishing, and possibly giving the steel rods some sort of antiquing patination.
J. says that "Cycloidoscope" sounds like some sort of medical apparatus for examining swollen cycloids. We'll think about "cycloscope" for a day or two.
This morning the control rod supports were glued into the barrel, and the steel control rods inserted. Very soon the oscillating metamorphic quartz crystals will be activated, and the long dreamed of goal of bicycle time-travel will be a reality.
A brief progress report: yesterday and today I worked on the base and the support system for the tube. I'm required to use some 20% of the supplied bicycle parts; I think we're up to nine, nearly half way. The functional parts are still to come, and I can begin on these tomorrow.
At least the device has a name; there's only one Google reference to a Cycloidoscope, where a William West Esq. demonstrated some experiments with the same to a meeting of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society in 1848. (Whatever was the purpose of William's apparatus, it was unlikely to have had the least connection with the 2012 model.)
The decorative black gear wheel on the base is not yet attached, but will eventually be fastened with turned ebony or wenge pegs. It would be nice to inlay it, but..........really.........
Detail of securing/friction screw securing support forks to base.
End details, pivot securing nut.
Another long break from posting; however, we've been away gallivanting around England, Scotland and France for six weeks, so perhaps it's not surprising. The array of bicycle parts was waiting for me when I got home, with the official date for photographing entries to the Velo Village show just over two weeks away.
Before we left, I'd pretty much abandoned the orrery idea; Ian, it turned out, had no useful leads, and the whole thing was way too complicated. Another time. (I did in fact go on an orrery hunt in Europe; the best examples are in the London Science Museum. The Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris was wonderful, but orreries were hardly to be seen.)
We came back on Thursday night, and by Saturday morning I was back in the shop:
This is the main component of the bicycle-bits-and-pieces construct: a laminated hexagonal mahogany cylinder, about 18" long. It gave me a good deal of trouble, and came out rather smaller than intended, but since the intended dimensions were too large anyway, it finished up just right. All the same, this sort of thing does not make one feel terribly competent - merely careless, albeit with an ability to exercise a kind of niggling suburban fussiness in the effort to correct the errors. This process should not be mistaken for craftsmanship, even if the joints do fit. (Quite well, actually.)
Yesterday Felicity came for a weekend visit, and this morning borrowed my camera and took a series (60) of photographs of the bicycle components. Making these close-ups seemed to require nothing more than a sheet of white paper; it's always nice to see a professional at work, whether they're a photographer or a piano technician or a carpenter — no fuss, no anxious demands, no complex set-ups: simple tools, simply used.
As for the photos here, it's not hard to see where the "unconscious" is leading: it's all about the gears. This evening I brought some lengths of bicycle chain up to the house (left over from the Port Townsend Kinetic Sculpture Race a few years ago), and looped them speculatively around the large and small sprockets, imagining axles and bearings, and calculating reduction ratios, before balking at the design problems of concentric shafts.
When in doubt, call a friend, so I hope that Ian will answer my note. He knows about these things.
Photographs by Felicity Perryman, photography & graphic design: www.felicityperryman.ca
I've been waiting with pleasant anticipation for the promised box of bicycle parts to arrive from Saltspring's Velo Village pART project (referred to in a previous post ). What would be in the box? A hundred or more bicycle parts, but which parts?
In any case, a few days ago I went down to start the fire and the day, and on the way for kindling found a cardboard box on the front porch, lit the fire, and carried it up to the house to open over breakfast with J.
Opening and exploring was not an unmixed joy - like some Christmas presents, it was very nice, and thank you, but not quite what I'd wished for and sent into the sky via the chimney.
However, it made a brave display, all one-hundred (mostly small) pieces:
Looking at them again as I write this, I see a lot of attractively coloured, beautifully made, interestingly shaped, but in a functional sense, useless junk. The nuts and bolts are, literally, just not there. Almost no item relates to any other item - other than forming some part of some generic common whole. There are sprockets, but no hubs (well, actually there are three, including the red stepped starfish-shaped things, but they don't fit any of the sprockets). There are no bearings, even if there is a front hub and two crankshafts (7 o'clock). There are bits of a front-fork assembly, and some intricate components of some sort of shock-absorbing mechanism; four small chain-tensioning sprockets (4 o'clock) and what might be, but isn't, a cage for them at 10 o'clock. Several brake levers (and even a very nice pair of brake shoes, next to the black starfish), a set of shift levers, three (?) cranks (no pedals). And many more shapely but nameless "components".