Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Another Burnside Bridge Bench

Another nice garden bench in poplar and mahogany with the image of Burnside Bridge.

This bench commemmorates the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Antietam.

That's the battlefield in the distance with Captain Tomkins Rhode Island battery visible and South Mountain on the horizon.

As always, original art.

Here, the relief cuts on the legs zero right in on Tomkin's guns.

The bench as it appears today in the Park Bookstore

and, as it could appear in your garden.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Burnside Bridge Bookcase

My young friend Heather is heading off to college and I wanted to make her a special going away gift, something unique that I knew she would really like.

A bookcase of a manageable size seemed just the ticket for all of her dictionaries, thesauri, style guides, etc.  To make the whole thing perfect for her I would add a design element reflective of something that I know is dear to her heart.

More on that in a moment.

I also wanted to incorporate into the cabinet something dear to my heart and essential to any young person with a gifted imagination...

a secret compartment!

The design motif that I wanted to incorporate is Burnside Bridge at Antietam National Battlefield, where Heather and I have worked for several years now.  The bridge is special to everyone but especially so to Heather.

This is Burnside Bridge one foggy morning as the mist rises up from Antietam Creek.  These multi-arch, buttressed stone bridges typify Washington County Maryland,  Some 32 of them were built between the 1820s and 1840s.  All but six of those bridges are still open to traffic today.

I've modeled Burnside Bridge several times in the past, and the place I started this time was with the turning of the buttresses on my wood lathe.  

This piece would be halved on my bandsaw to provide the two buttresses.

Here they are, glued to the bridge.

And here's the bridge clamped into place during the fitting process.

With a Rapidiograph pen and Prismacolor pencils I added the stonework.  What you see is all drawn on a piece of poplar.

The bridge, along with the sloped side panels provides more book storage on the top surface.

I oversprayed the artwork with clear acrylic and applied cherry stain and spar varnish to the rest of the clear pine cabinet.

Surveying the results made me realize that one day when Heather has a friend help her move this book case the natural place to grab it would be by the bridge.  And even though the bridge is screwed and glued into place, it seemed to me like an accident waiting to happen.  I subsequently cut crescent-shaped hand-holds into the side panels about a third of the way down from the top, a perfect balance point.

The result is both spiffy and unique.

And the secret compartment?   That's none of our concern.

Best of luck Heather!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Susan's Small Shelves

No sooner had I finished my Burnside Bridge bench than my wife Susan asked me if I'd make her a small bookshelf, very small in fact, something for bedside use.  I was happy to comply.  I chose to make her a bookcase and a valentine all in one.  This was on Tuesday.

By Wednesday morning I had the carcass glued up.  Made in select pine with no blemishes, the cutting, and assembley went like a dream.  As usual the screws were hidden with pegs and a cherry stain was applied overall.

As with all of the smaller bookcases I'm making this one has ergonomic hand-holds cut into the sides for ease in moving it about.

To personalize it I designed an old-school Sailor Jerry-style tattoo on the top surface.

First, I inked it in with a Rapidiograph pen,

the ink flows nicely even on the stained surface.

Then I added color, as usual using Prismacolor pencils which are always a pleasure to use, the colow seems to flow on, is very controllable, it saturates and blends like a dream.

The results were very gratifying, this is the valentine part I was referring to.

As usual, the unit was glued, clamped and screwed with pegs flush-cut to cover the screws.

I cut the hand-holds in more of a novel shape this time.

                                      Three coats of Spar varnish and it was ready for delivery.

                                         Two and a half days from concept to finished product,
                                                        The customer was very pleased!

Staying handy,


Under the influence

Every time I work in my shop my mind frequently turns to the three most influential people in getting me into that milieu of machinery and sawdust: My father, my friend Roger, and my shop teacher Mr. Hauck.

He was a patient. precise, and kind man, who brooked no foolishness in his woodshop classes.

In his classroom safety was paramount, and I don't recall a single injury under his tenure.  He eschewed lazy sanding and rewarded persistence.

I only took two classes from him; Shop I in my freshman year (1967), and Mechanical Drawing I in my senior year (1970).  Looking back, I have a tinge of regret at not taking more of his classes.

I'll always have a real appreciation for the men who have taught me the happiness, and satisfaction that can be found where metal  (and sandpaper!) contacts wood.

Thanks guys!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Triptych in Oak and Mahogany


I just finished a trio of pieces for a crafter fair coming up locally.  And I do believe that I've settled on a "look" - oak and mahogany.   Those of you who follow this blog saw this coming. I'm sure.  I will still be making my "tattoo benches" though, now poplar will be the wood of choice.  Goodbye pine, it was fun learning with you.

The first of the objects in this suite of three is a classic 19th-century candle lantern.  Though I've been making these for some time now, this is the first in my new woods of choice.

Included in the design are the square mahogany pegs that characterize my work.  In this instance they are purely decorative.

To light, or extinguish the candle, one needs merely to elevate the candle toward the chimney hole by using the dowel and platform.

I was somewhat surprised at how many hours this small project took.  The dimensions of the panes of glass make the depth of the kerfs critical.  

The "go slow" approach was essential in pulling this off.

The result is a nice blend of form following function.

Next came a bench.  This is my second bench utilizing square pegs.  The holes are cut on my Shopfox mortising machine.

I then clean the corners out with a small hand chisel.

One of the reasons that my benches are so sturdy is that I utilize both glue and screws to hold them together.  Rather than having an exposed screw head, I cut a mortise halfway through the board and cut a correspond mahogany peg to cover the screw.

I cut my peg stock to the exact dimensions of the mortising chisel on my mortiser, insuring a perfect fit.  I cut the pegs to the exact depth and...

now you see it...

now you don't.

The secret to successful gluing is adequate clamping.  The glue under this pressure makes a bond that's stronger than the wood itself,

You can never have enough garlic, olive oil, or clamps.

When the clamps come off the finish sanding begins.

Funny, something I found so dreadfully tedious in shop class now seems so relaxing.

A light brush with some neutral Danish Oil to bring out the grain and voila!

Hey, couldn't you use a pair of these?

Next up in this trifecta is a two-step library step.  I've made these before but this time I changed the design to enhance the stability.

I splayed the sides out by just 5 degrees which was plenty to provide this little step with a very stable and non-tippy base.  It was odd to move from tablesaw to bandsaw to scrollsaw and have the blade or bed of each set off-square.  I had to keep my wits about me to keep from cutting something backwards.

Assembly is identical to that of the bench.

Did I mention the thing about clamps?

After a light brush of Danish Oil I made the ceremonial first ascent.

As planned, very non-tippy!

This is a design that I am very pleased with.

Here, that five-degree splay is very evident, giving it, I think, a Roycrofter look, and I really like that.

Unlike the benches and lanterns, which are  classic designs,  this little library step is of my own design.  I do try to add appropriate elements that will maintain the elegant simplicity of the piece while giving it personal touches that add to its design and functionality.

ramped cleats,

ergonomic hand-holds,

and my name and website.

Oak, glued, screwed, and clamped makes an extraordinarily stable and strong platform.

A ziggurat of good-taste for your library.

Oak and mahogany go together like Katz and Jammer.

Ready for the show.

Making the chips fly!