Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Axe and Draw Knife Work at Caribou Ranch Open Space

It would benefit children to have early music exposure, both to develop neuronal pathways for the comprehension and appreciation of music and to augment other skill sets, such as math.

Joseph Eger, Einstein's Violin, 2005



I made some partial buck and rail fencing (just one buck at the end of a rail, not bucks on both ends of the rail) for the Artist-in-Residence housing at Caribou Ranch Open Space last week.


Okay, I did use a chainsaw for some of the work, but I used my axe and a huge firmer chisel to clear out the cuts.


I made sure that both bucks would look about the same.


Kerfing with a chainsaw goes a little faster.



I then drilled a hole in the buck with a 2 1/2 inch hole saw, marked the end of the rail through the hole so I had an idea how much to drawknife away. Sorry, I couldn't get any of my co-workers to take a shot of me and my drawknife, something about the camera would break....


I made sure that the rail would stay in the hole so I did something that you would do on a Windsor chair leg, I split the end with the firmer chisel...


made a wedge...



then drove it in to ensure a good fit of rail to buck.




The finished product.



The Delonde Barn, where the artist-in-residence gets to stay for about a week. Go to BoulderCounty.org for more information on the artist-in-residence program.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Axe Handles and Helves

The Cruiser was originally developed for use by the timber cruisers of the Pacific Coast who needed a first-class, efficient ax, yet one light enought to be carried while cruising afoot.

Bernard S. Mason, Woodsmanship, 1945



from American Barns and Covered Bridges, by Eric Sloane

Terry Kelly of tkellyfurniture.com (check out his website!) asked me if I would discuss why axe handles for single bit axes went from being straight to the curved fawn foot that we see most often today.

Single bit axes changed with regions and the kind of trees that the axe men encountered as they moved across the North American continent. Some trees needed a wider bit, others a narrower bit and blacksmiths made these adjustments at the request of the "choppers". Note the different regional styles of axe heads in Sloane's drawing. In 1969, the Mann Axe Company had over 70 patterns that they could make.

Some men liked a straighter handle, some made a handle with a curve in it. It all depended on who was swinging the axe, be it for felling or log house work. From my years of handling an axe I know that that curve in the handle and swell at the end make it easy to hold onto the axe!

In The Woodwright's Companion, Roy Underhill claims that "the S curve tends to direct the axe as you swing." Dudley Cook in his The Ax Book claims that the curved axe handle can throw your swing off by 5 degrees or more and then goes on to state that our brains compensate for those 5 degrees or so and allows us to be accurate with our swing anyway. Here's something to think about, axe and historic preservation guru Bernie Weisgerber, An Axe to Grind, likes a straight handle on his Kelly Jersey pattern axe.

There once was a time when every axe man made his own handle to fit his swing, his height and his axe. Today you just go to the local hardware store and grab what ever they have.


On the left is my Collins "Boy" or "Youth" axe that my father bought for me in 1972 when I was ten years old. Note the curved handle with the fawn foot swell. Compare it to the double-bitted cruising axe on the right. That axe was made by the Warren Axe and Tool Company of Warren, PA. Since you can use either bit on a double bit you need a straight handle.



The axe on the right is a Jersey Pattern made by Stanley, it probably dates from the late 1970's, early 1980's, and you can see that I have shortened the handle. I shortened the handle to make the axe fit my height and to make it balance better. I got it to do log work. One of these days I need to see if McGuckins Hardware in Boulder can order me a proper 29 inch long handle with a swelled end from OP Link Handle Company.



Some titles to read about axes, in no particular order:

The Woodwright's Companion, Roy Underhill
The Ax Book, Dudley Cook
An Axe to Grind, Bernie Weisgerber
American Axes, Henry Kauffman

Enjoy this video about Gransfors Bruks axes!



My Other Workshop

Silver runs in ledges and gold is where you find it.


Hard rock mining saying



Looking west up Delonde Creek

I get to spend the rest of this week working at Caribou Ranch Open Space at the Artist-in-Residence barn at the Delonde Ranch. Just little pickup work-cutting in an opening for the water tank lid, putting more barrel bolts on the door, making sure that the shower works, etc.

The lean-to shed on the left side of barn is for the Artist-in-Residence


The I get to build some bucks to close off the road to the barn so visitors won't walk up to the artist's residence and disturb them. Once the bucks are made I'll put a longer pole across the two so as to make a short fence. In Montana lingo that would be "buck and rail".

Side view of buck

Another view of buck


I'll do most of the work by hand, I'll try to remember to take photos of the work.



Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Ten String Classic Guitar-My Latest Obsession, Part 2

And because Billy Malone lived almost his entire life on the Navajo Reservation working as a genuine Indian trader, a great deal of his story is a story about reservation life, Navajos and old time trading posts.

Paul Berkowitz, The Case of an Indian Trader: Billy Malone and the National Park Service Investigation at Hubbell Trading Post, 2011





I got a nice piece of Spanish cedar from LMII for the neck for the 10 string guitar, but to make the neck I needed to do a full size drawing of the peghead, neck and body. This allows me to figure out how the whole guitar is going to look and work.




The peghead is based upon photos of 10 string Ramirez guitars that I have found online, the only set of plans that I found for a 10 string guitar is from Roy Courtnall's website, but he charges 25 pounds ($38) for the plans. I'm cheap, I have Scot Antes plans for a 1960's Ramirez and my own mind and hands to develop a pleasing head stock. I think it works. I'm not sure if I want to incorporate the Ramirez crest, I want this to be a bench copy, but since I am using a rosette that is not one used by Ramirez, it won't be a really close copy.



I need to do some more research on how large to make the foot, what shape, etc., but at least now I can rip the cedar blank and start making the neck.

Here's Narciso Yepes from 1970. Many music critics of the day thought that he was the best interpreter of this concerto, I agree.




Logging, Logger Boots and a Plumb Brand "Hudson Bay" Axe

In the comparatively flat forest land of Oregon and California before the days of the trailer, high wheels served to get the short logs off the ground and horses skidded them to landings. They were a phenomena peculiar to the pine of Central and Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Ralph W. Andrews, Glory Days of Logging, 1994

Thunder clouds dumped almost 2 inches of rain on our neck of the woods yesterday, it was welcomed, the forest has been so parched here of late that it is down right scary. Since we moved into the house I've been trying to make a defensible zone around the house, we love this place so much we don't want it to burn down in a forest fire.


My boots were made by Nick's Boots of Spokane, Washington. I bought them at Dave's Boots in Red Bluff, California, I went in to get a pair of White's, a fine boot also made in Spokane, but came out with a pair of Nick's. A friend of mine went to Dave's to buy a pair of Nick's but came out with a pair of White's. These boots wear like iron and can be rebuilt, so when you work in the woods, you wear Nick's or White's, or buy custom boots from some other high end boot maker.


My Husky 385, a hard hat, felling wedges and an axe to drive the wedges into the back cut, all sitting on a stump of a Douglas fir. The tree was too close to the house, other than being a fire hazard the was the chance that the wind (we get 100 mph gusts here in the winter) might have blown it into the house. It was a nice tree, I hated to fall it, but....


A highly prized Plumb "Hudson Bay" cruising axe that I found in a flea market. I use it to carve spoons, limb trees, drive falling wedges and I take it hunting to help with field dressing a deer or elk.

Monday, July 2, 2012

For Sale: Handcrafted Classical Guitar, Sitka Spruce/Black Walnut

"This is the guitar I wanted when I first started playing the classical guitar! Wilson, I think you have found your niche"

A statement made by Warren Haskell, former head of the guitar department at California State University, Chico after I showed him two of my guitars in 2002.



This guitar is SOLD! It is no longer available! Please visit the Guitars Currently Available page!

The Sitka spruce/eastern black walnut guitar is complete and for sale. I am asking $1595, which includes a tweed covered hard shell case and shipping.


The top is very lightly bear clawed Sitka spruce purchased from Stew-Mac; the ebony fingerboard and rosette from LMII; the bridge is cut from a piece of padauk and the bindings are American cherry. The top is braced with six fan struts and a diagonal bar below the sound hole angled towards the side, a design used by Hernandez y Aguado


The back and sides are hand cut, using a Disston #8 ripsaw, from a board of eastern black walnut that was purchased from the Wood Emporium in Loveland, Colorado.


The neck is Spanish cedar that I bought from Marc Culbertson at Gilmer Wood Company in Portland, Oregon. The tuners are by Gotoh. Back braces are Spanish cedar and top braces are Douglas fir.

The entire guitar is French polished.

I have set up the guitar action so that it is easy and comfortable to play and currently has light tension LaBella 2001 classic guitar strings, which right now are my preferred strings.

I am amazed at the sound that this guitar has! All notes are clear and even, it has a bright, punchy, open tone, I love how I can make this guitar sing! It's sound will greatly improve with six months of daily playing, it is going to be an excellent guitar for a student or anyone else desiring a handcrafted classic guitar.

If you are interested in purchasing this guitar or receiving additional photos please leave your name and email address in the comment box.

All Wood Double Top Classical Guitar

  Double top , or composite top, classical guitars are all the rage these days, especially among young guitarists and I decided that I would...