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Showing posts from December, 2011

End of Year Thoughts on Woodworking and Other Ramblings

We are not in an age of folklore, but be it superstition or science, the results have certainly been interesting: the New England Farmer says, "The moon has potential influence in the various parts of her orbits, that by cutting one tree three hours before the new moon and another of the same kind of tree six hours afterwards, a difference in the soundness of the timber will be noticed." "When the moon is new to full," reads an old almanac proverb, "timbers fibers warp and pull." There were rules even for cutting firewood, for an entry for January 6, 1799, in an early Almanac advises, "At this quarter of the moon, cut fire wood to prevent it from snapping and throwing embers beyond the hearth."

Eric Sloane, American Barns and Covered Bridges, 1954




For end the year I have to give a warm and hearty Thank You! to Luke Townsleyof unpluggedshop.com for picking up my blog. Luke, may you never grow tired of my blog! I hope to always post something th…

My Grandfather was Paul Bunyan

Nobody asked them about Paul Bunyan, for no one outside of a lumber camp had even heard of the hero until 1910. And the early woodsmen did not write their stories down. They told them, though, and so Paul Bunyan's fame spread far and wide.


Daniel Hoffman, Paul Bunyan, Last of the Frontier Demigods, 1983



Rufus Wilson, top of spar at the Gerber Sawmill, Mineral, California, circa 1925.

"My grandfather was Paul Bunyan" I know is a big claim to make, but from the stories that I heard about him when I was young sure enough made him sound like Paul Bunyan. He was Rufus Wilson, a logger, shake maker, blacksmith, saw sharpener, barber, house carpenter, well digger and I am sure that I am forgetting some of the things that he did. He was one of the last of the old time fallers in northeastern California, one of those men who felled huge ponderosas, Douglas firs and sugar pines with a double bit axe, crosscut saw and a bunch of falling wedges. My great Uncle Frank told me that &quo…

Reclaimed Redwood Guitar Top and 2 Panel Saws

American soil and American spirit have created Paul Bunyan. His forerunners are heroes who fed on fable and thrived on exaggeration: Hercules and Gargantua and Gulliver. Bunyan is not only more humorous but more high-hearted than any of his predecessors. He was born in the days when the forests of the Northwest were dark and immense, and the men who lived in them were few and lonely. The trees dwarfed the men; the men had to make themselves big, if only in imagination.

Louis Untermeyer, The Wonderful Adventures of Paul Bunyan, 1945



I'm waiting for the bread to rise, thought I'd practice writing a bit.

I have 2 guitars that I want to get started: one will have a spruce top with California laurel back and sides and will be a loose copy of guitar FE 19 by Antonio de Torres; the other will have a reclaimed redwood top with Indian rosewood back and sides, I hope to make this one a very close pastiche of an early 1960's Hernandez y Aguado guitar. Now is the time to start, the hu…

Springpole Lathe, Snow and the First Day of Winter

Once again we are in the grip of that grim old gentleman familiarly known as Jack Frost. He is no effete degenerate, but is forceful, lusty, strong and energetic, yet he is not unkind to those who fear not to meet him face to face in his boisterous play.

Daniel Carter Beard, The Field and Forest Handy Book, 1906


Seventeen inches of champagne snow by 9am, my wife told me that Evergreen, Colorado got two feet of snow. It's warmed up to 14 degrees F, supposed to be a low of 2 degrees F tonight.



The dogs wanted to go for a walk as usual, the snow sloughed off the rocks at the narrow part of the gulch and was up to my hips.





At this point the dogs wanted me to break trail. Pete, the Kelpie, the littlest dog of the bunch, had been doing most of the trail breaking.





The lathe awaits another day.




Today is a day to be inside drinking hot chocolate or some nice whiskey. My wife is buying some sleds tomorrow before she comes home, there is a spot behind our house that is perfect for a sled r…

How to Make a Traditional Froe Mallet

What holds the Holy of the Holies, what did Brahma become? Wood. Why will aspen always tremble? For the nails driven into the cross. What makes the color of wood? The soil it tastes. Cradle, fiddle, coffin, bed: wood is a column of earth made ambitious by light, and made of beauty by the rain.

Kim R. Stafford, Having Everything Right, 1986.

Rive, verb, to split
Shake, noun, a split in a piece wood. (Heart shake, ring shake)
Shake, verb, (Middle English), to split.

I know I should have been in the studio working on my back log of guitars, but the day was so nice and warm with a tall blue canopy, I couldn't stay inside. I decided that I needed to make a proper froe mallet. This style of mallet is traditional to northeastern California, primarily Tehama (where I'm from), Butte, Shasta and Plumas counties where making shingles by hand from sugar pines was an industry. I don't know if it was used in any other region along the Pacific Rim, other parts of the United States or even o…

How to Make a Spring Pole Lathe for Bowl Turning, Part 5

I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same results.

J.S. Bach


Work continues on the lathe, yesterday I fashioned the legs for the poppits. In this shot I'm cutting the shoulders for the poppits, they'll sit on the bed of the lathe. By the way, the saw I am using belonged to my grandfather, it's an E.C. Atkins crosscut with a rosewood handle. I've never had it dated, I'm assuming that he got it around 1910 the year he and my grandmother were married. (After that they had a lot of kids and not much money!) It's a wonderful saw.




Now comes the fun part, splitting of the cheeks so I can finish with an axe. The froe is another heirloom made by grandfather from a car spring. I have 2 of his froes, a riving froe and a checking froe. I used the riving froe to split off the cheek, it is a narrow froe, I was told by my uncle that you used a narrow froe to split the shingle off of the bolt. The checking froe is wider and a little heavier, it was …

How to Make a Spring Pole Lathe for Bowl Turning, Part 4

The past is never dead. It isn't even past.

William Faulkner

My wife was kind enough to take some photos of me working on the lathe this weekend. I needed to length the slot in the lathe bed, after first cutting it I discovered that I wouldn't have enough room between the centers for a bowl blank and the mandrel. Here I've drawn some reference lines.


Thanks goodness for small chainsaws! Here I am cutting an extra five inches that are needed at each end of the slot.


Now comes my safety message: I hope you can see where my left hand thumb is in this photograph, because you will notice that I have it wrapped firmly around the chainsaw handle. I do this to maintain firm control of the saw. I know a guy who refused to do this, he put the bar of his chainsaw all the way to the femur of his left leg, luckily he didn't die, he walks with a bad limp today. I bring this up because I was looking through Dave Ellsworth's book Ellsworth on Woodturning and there are several photos…

How to Make a Springpole Lathe for Bowl Turning, Part 3

During the 16th century living standards rose and those who were well-off could afford pewter plates and dishes. Salt-glazed stoneware jugs from Belgium and Germany gradually took over from the wooden bowl as the commonest drinking vessel and English potters started making more earthenware dishes. However, the biggest challenge to woodware came in the late 17th and 18th centuries when cheap glazed pottery, dishes and bowls became available for the first time.

Robin Wood, The Wooden Bowl, 2005

Please visit Robin's blog at
http://greenwood-carving.blogspot.com/


(For those of you who are coming to my blog from Robin Wood's blog, I have updated How to Make a Spring Pole Lathe for Bowl Turning with Parts 4 and 5, so please check out these newer posts. I don't want you to miss a single episode! Wilson)



The lathe bed is upright, I decided to level it with a scrub and jack plane. This is the fourth wooden lathe that I've built and I know the need to have a flat and level bed, i…

The Wonders of French Polish, Part 2

Among the greatest perils that could stalk a guitar, except for being run over by a truck, are the climatic changes from humid to dry and viceversa, especially if these changes are produced rapidly.

Jose Ramirez II, Things About the Guitar, 1990.


Just a quick blog, here is the sitka spruce/black walnut from an earlier post. I leveled sanded the entire guitar after several "bodying" sessions with shellac, I sanded with 800 grit wet/dry sandpaper and used olive oil for a lubricant. I understand that this "satin" look is very popular on guitars today.

Here is the guitar after 15 minutes of french polishing, quite a difference isn't it.

Last night I was re-reading Things About the Guitar, by Jose Ramirez II, he didn't think that shellac was a suitable finish for a guitar. From what I read in the American Luthier magazine, many Spanish makers today send out their guitars to be finished with catalyzed urethane, which I understand is highly toxic to apply. Apparently…

How to Make a Spring Pole Lathe for Bowl Turning, Part 2

Appreciation for skills and the interpretation of the elements of design expression, inspires understanding and the desire to acquire these essentials of good craftsmanship. Let us seek opportunities to share and to exchange skills with others, especially craftsmen of other races and countries.

Lester Griswold, Handicraft, 1931

I leveled the bed of the lathe as well as I could with an axe, then flipped it over and started to drill the holes for the legs. The largest twist bit that I own is only 1 1/4 inches, so I dug out an 1 1/2 hole hog bit from my days in construction. It fit the brace nicely and the jaws held on to it, it was a bit of work to bore these holes, the bit didn't want to clear the chips that well and my shoulder joints were screaming at the end of each hole. The bit worked and made a nice clean hole. I drilled the holes about 4 inches+- deep, I drilled until the bit was buried in the log and the brace's nose was hitting the bark.


The legs I split out of the rest …