Sunday, September 1, 2013

How to make curves with a router sled

Creating identical, curved parts can be made very simple with a router sled. With the right bit this can be the quickest way to shape parts and all you need is double stick tape, wood, glue, and a router.



The first step is to transfer your curve to a piece of MDF or plywood. You will have to offset your curve by the depth of the router bit for your final pass, otherwise you will not have room to step your cuts down, or you will end up with a different curve. Each side of the sled needs to be identical! Make sure you leave plenty of extra room on these curves for the sled to move across, at least 3 inches on each side.

Next you will cut your bottom to hold everything together, this should not be done with solid wood. Make sure to leave extra room here as well for the router to have room to travel past the work piece. The last piece of the puzzle is the moving, rail portion of the sled. This can also be curved if you are doing a complex shape, but the version shown below is straight. The important part for this is minimizing flex in the rails and keeping smooth travel over the curves. The pieces you use need to be strong enough to resist your pressure downward, a torsion box style of construction will work very well here. Make sure these two pieces are perfectly parallel and fasten stops on the outside of your curves to lock everything in. These stops need to be long enough to prevent racking or twisting as you move the router sled over the bottom curves. 

The last part is what holds the router in place. I simply flip the router up-side-down and place my rail system on top of it with the bit centered between the opening. Next I put double sided tape on two strips of wood and press them against router around the rails. These pieces fit snuggly on the outside of the rails, allowing the router to slide along them with out any slop in its motion. 

That's it! Now wax all of the moving parts and your ready to go. Make sure you have a fence to hold your parts in the same place every time, and double stick tape your parts down very well.



Sunday, August 18, 2013

Calligraphy Stool



This stool was designed based off a brief from Thomas Moser during my last quarter at RIT.
Our brief:
In collaboration with Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers, students from the Furniture Design Program at the School for American Crafts at Rochester Institute of Technology were challenged to design and propose a stool that embodies the Thos. Moser aesthetic, while expressing the unique perspective of the designer. Qualities considered critical to the design’s success and neccessary to align with the Thos. Moser brand include: dedication to quality, commitment to function, formal simplicity, use + celebration of natural materials, and an emphasis on craftsmanship. The design should illustrate a clear understanding of the standard manufacturing practices of Thos. Moser and the solution should employ construction techniques synonomous with the Moser vernacular.
Included in this was a requirement to design a stool available at three different heights without needing different parts for each height. Basically the legs could just be cut where needed.
Typically chairs have a back rest fastened to the back rail. I chose to eliminate this and merge them into one, increasing its strength. The shaping of the seat creates a beautiful pattern to appear in the grain, showcasing the natural beauty of wood. This stool is also very comfortable!
The bridals for the back rest were cut on a multi-router after the initial shaping, everything was based of these joints.
A lamination for a back leg, I use epoxy for these
We were able to use the engineers 3D printer for models
Still doing some fitting, everything is still in the square
Laying out the last of the joinery on the rear legs
It’s finally shedding! The joinery is done and I can shape everything
All the parts!
The drawing
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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Finished Bonsai Bench

Jumping ahead a bit, but here are images of the finished Bonsai Bench. There was no sanding on this piece, everything is finished with a hand plane, leaving an immaculate surface. The Bonsai Bench was entered into Powermatic's Student vote contest, which it won! See the prize in the last image.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Bench Progress

 So time is at a premium and I am due for a post, so this is going to be a short one. I'm very busy with my current project, a bench. I have been having problems with the white oak I have purchased due to its thickness. My studio space at Rochester Institute of Technology is very, VERY dry, causing many of my white oak boards to check and crack. I only have 3 weeks left to make this bench and I am very far behind. As far as my current process I have documented some of the models and samples made
thus far. The picture on the bottom left was taken from the barn I am purchasing my lumber from. It was 6 degrees that morning when I took the picture, I was cold.



Friday, January 18, 2013

How To: French Polish


I have been reading about French Polishing for some time now and finally dedicated the beginning of my thanksgiving break to finding a good source for how to apply this classical finish.
Shellac is a very finicky finish and is hard to REALY get right. Although this site is for guitars it seems to be and excellent guide to French Polishing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Clark Little's Photography is probably one of my greatest sources of inspiration. I am a huge beach bum and love to surf, but my passion for the ocean goes further then just enjoying it, I am inspired by it. Here are just a few of Clark Little’s Photos that inspire me the most.
To see more of what I am inspired by check out my Pinterest. I'm starting to document my inspiration per project as well.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Inspiration: Ageless Wendell Castle

Wendell Castle is always pushing the boundaries of furniture/sculpture/art/design. It's hard to describe it with less words. His most recent "environment" simply amazes me. Although Wendell is considered by many one of the forefathers of American studio furniture, he progresses design and art as a whole. The fascinating part for me is how he is achieving this. His use of traditional and not so traditional woodworking in such unique ways is unparalleled. In this post by Wendy Goodman, "First Look: Upstairs, Downstairs" Wendell Castle talks about his most recent work, work I feel is his strongest yet. This is definitely a must read and I find myself short of words to describe it...Just look for yourself.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Article: A Bent for Design

http://craftcouncil.org/magazine/article/bent-design

This picture is from my visit of Alto's studio in Finland
A very interesting article on the history of plywood furniture. Eames, Saarinen, and Alto all had a dramatic impact on furniture design of today. I find it fascinating how the Eames translated their work from medical splints to furniture. Seeing the alto chair reminded me of my time studying this summer in Scandinavia, I was fortunate enough to see Alto and Saarinen's studio. This article is a definite must read.

Friday, December 28, 2012

How To: Hand Planes


Often while making work there is a need to fabricate or customize a tool. In my previous post I mentioned the need of a curved sole hand plane, well here they are. I decided to make two different ones knowing they would both get used. The larger plane is curved across its width where the smaller plane is curved both in its width and length. The smaller, compass plane allows me to create compound surfaces much easier, such as the back and seat of my "Sapele Dining Chair".





I did not use any plans to make these, just a plane one of my peers had already made himself, using his construction as a starting point. They are quite simple to make, especially after you have made a few. There are two thinner side walls, a wider "infill" piece, and the sole.







I get all of my curved irons from Hock Tools and always start with that plane Iron. You can choose any width or diameter iron you feel necessary and base both the width of the infill, and curve of the sole off it. Make sure to leave some extra width on your infill section to allow adjustment while planing. The infill section should be made up of one solid, long piece to start off. Once you have your pieces roughed out and in the square drill through holes to whatever diameter dowel you have. These dowels will be cut off after the glue up, so make sure to keep them towards the ends of the plane, but not too close to cause short grain. Next mark out, and cut your angles for the iron, this is the trickiest part to get perfect. The angles are a personal preference but keep the pitch of the iron around 45-55 degrees, and the other enough to clear chips. The difficulty in this is making sure these angels are far enough apart to leave clearance for the blade, as well as the shavings being cut. This is very difficult to do after the plane is glued together, so make sure to measure carefully and don't forget about the addition of the sole. The sole will add material to the bottom and require a greater distance between the two angles. After this step your plane should look just like the drawing above.

Another, larger dowel will be placed near the center of the plane for a wedge to leverage the iron against the infill. This location needs to leave room for both the iron wedge. This hole can be drilled either before or after gluing the plane together. Now the plane gets glued together with the four locating dowels on the edges. Make sure to be generous with clamping pressure and try to stay neat where the iron will be.

Now join and plane it flat and you can start working on the sole of the plane. The sole needs to be a very dense and durable wood such as Bubinga or hornbeam. Place the still square sole under the plane to mark the opening and transfer your angles as well, so keep your bevel gauge set. Chisel out the opening maintaining your angles and it should be ready to glue. The sole can be chiseled close and finalized once it is glued on. You should not have cut any profiles at this point as it will make the sole difficult to glue on.

Once your sole is glued hand plane it to the curve of the blade. This curve will not be the radius of the iron, it will be whatever that radius is while rotated at the angel of the infill. You should wait until the very last minute to sand the sole if at all, otherwise your sole will not be flat and will not maintain a consistent radius. If you have a CNC router this process can easily be more accurate as well. Now you can flush any unfinished edges and cut the profiles.

The wedge should be a low angle otherwise it will not stay in place, but not too low where it will pop out unexpectedly (think of this similar to a door stop). Also make your wedge out of a hard, dense material so it can withstand the pressure. A nice additional touch is to add or inset metal into the back of the plane. This will prevent damage when you knock the iron out with a hammer.

That's it, your ready to plane!! Don't forget it will inevitably take a few more tweaks to get everything fine tuned, the rest is for you to customize and finish as you would like.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Process: Canasta Reliquary 2

The roughed out doors

To make the curved doors I started with a single piece of wood, thick enough to achieve the final curve. I drew these curves on the end of the board with accurate templates made from 1/4 MDF. These templates also allowed me to make sure the curve was uniform throughout the piece. To shape the curves I used flat and curved hand planes, the curved plane I made myself. While shaping the door I took an even, small amount off the front and back of the board daily. If I were to take off too much material too quickly, or only from one side, the piece would warp and easily be ruined.


See the finished piece
Next was scraping then sanding to finish the surface. In order to make sure I was creating a highly uniform surface, I made a sanding block to match both the inside and outside radius of the curves. The door was then split in two by bandsaw and carefully shaped by hand to ensure a perfectly parallel gap.



The image below shows the dovetails that make up the drawers. I was chopping all four pairs of tails at once, the other side is the same. Luckily I was able to cut more then one set of the matching pins at a time by, doubling and even tripling up the pieces as I cut them.
Its hard to tell in this picture but each of the 
four pieces are less then an inch in width (31/32”), 
so these dovetails are very small.
I have a great little Japanese dovetail saw I use for all my smaller dovetails. It is extremely rigid and leaves a fine cut with a thin kerf. I usually do not need to true up these cuts with a chisel, allowing very small dovetails to be much easier.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Process: Canasta Reliquary 1

Hand cut dovetail drawerThis was my first real go at dovetails. Some of the proportions were off as to what I wanted but I was pleased with the craftsmanship.

First Canasta Reliquary modelAfter many drawings and a very small model, I finished a rough full scale model made out of poplar with some sharpie adding the black. The purpose of this model was to figure out proportions and size in the real world, not on a computer screen or paper. I had drawn endless samples of proportions hoping to grow closer to what I wanted, leading up to this model.

Canasta Reliquary modelI love working with mahogany but I had wanted a lighter color wood to create a contrast in the ebony divide between the doors and the panel, as well as highlight the contrast in the carvings. I just felt a light toned wood was good for this piece. I played around with the idea of bleaching Mahogany since I needed thicker stock for the carving of the panel, and could not find thicker stock of Avodire. Avodire is a relative of Mahogany I believe, and is basically a blond version. I ended up finding some beautiful pieces, acquiring a straight grained, flat sawn board used for the panel, and a more figured board used for the outer components. I needed to do extensive carving on the front panel so a good wood for carving was necessary, ideally without too much figure.

See the finished product