Giant Cherry Cauldron

This great, big beast finished out at 15″ diameter by 9″ tall. The cherry (Prunus serotina) blank started out at around 50 or 60 pounds and was a real bear to turn. Although it is not quite dry – it will continue to warp slightly as it looses moisture – I’ve finished it with a food safe blend of mineral oil, orange oil, and beeswax.

Interested in seeing the process on turning this vessel? Well, here it is.

Fruit Bowls

These bowls are just right for holding fresh produce on your kitchen counter. They vary in size and timber species. All finishes are food safe.

Interested in one of these pieces? Contact me via the form at the bottom of the About page.

 

Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) features a stabilized knot. 13.5″ x 4″

$425

Cherry 02 Cherry 03 Cherry 01

 

Willow (Salix babylonica) with an amazing flame-patterned grain. 11″ x 3″

$475

Willow 01Willow 03 Willow 02

 

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) with some beautiful spalting. 12″ x 3.5″

$300

Maple 01 Maple 03 Maple 02

 

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) features a stabalized knot. 11″ x 6″

$350

Walnut 01 Walnut 03 Walnut 02

 

TCAA Lectern: The Conversion of Paul

This piece was commissioned by a church. The design was left to me, but they did ask that it fit into their mission. Their congregation is heavily populated by diverse immigrant groups and I represented them with the multitude of  different species of wood (all natural, no stains or dyes added). The three beams of light represent the Conversion of Paul on the Road to Damascus, which is apropos to this particular group.

Hollowforms

Recently, I’ve been working on hollowforms. For the non-turners out there, I suppose a hollowform is best described like this: there is an opening in the top of the vessel which is smaller (sometimes significantly so) than the maximum exterior diameter, through which the bulk of the interior has been removed.

These are challenging; you cannot see what the cutting edge of your tool is doing. Instead, one must rely on the feel and sounds of the tool on the wood. One goal is a thin, consistent wall thickness – I’m getting better at that. Below are three of my first hollowforms – Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Spalted Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum), and Pecan (Carya illinionensis). They vary in size from five to seven inches tall and three-and-a-half to five inches in diameter.

 

 

Secret Locking Mechanism

I have not been doing a lot of flat work lately – instead, I’ve been focusing on turning. However, an officemate recently asked me to make a box for his nephew. The only requirement: some sort of secret locking mechanism.

This is what I cam up with. It’s primarily rock maple, with a bubinga inlay in lid and used for miter keys. Overall dimensions are around nine inches wide, seven inches deep, and five inches tall. The locking mechanism is fairly standard – a catch in the front base rotates and engages a bar in the front lid. Generally, the catch is operated by a key that is inserted into the top. In this case, there is no key hole. And the key itself is integrated into the box.

Notice the catch is in the locked position in the third picture (the lid would typically be closed when the catch is in the locked position, but that would make it awfully difficult to photograph). How does it operate, you ask? Magnets.

The bottom of the catch has a magnet attached. The inside of the mortise has two tiny magnets at both the open and locked positions – these are attracted to the catch’s magnet and hold the lock in one of those two positions. By using a more powerful magnet to overcome the positioning magnet, the catch can be moved between the two positions. Where might we find a more powerful magnet? It happens that the necessary magnet is holding the handle on to the lid. Once removed, it acts as the magnetic key.

I tried describing this mechanism on one of the woodworking forums I frequent, and there was a bit of confusion. I threw together a quick cutaway diagram of the mechanism, which helped most figure out how it worked. For those who still had problems, I shot a quick video with my phone. Both are shown below.

 

Legacy

When my grandfather returned from World War II, he became very active in local Veteran’s groups.  For more than sixty years, he participated in the honor guard at the funeral services of Veterans in his rural, Nebraska town.  There was a twenty-one gun salute at his funeral this past spring, performed by the men whom he had the honor to command for many of those sixty years.

Local tradition dictates that the flag that draped his casket be given to the VFW, who displays the burial flags of the local Veterans on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day each year.  After it was presented to my Grandmother at his funeral, she entrusted it to them.  I requested that a flag be flown over the US Capitol Building in his memory on November 11th this year – although I visited my Grandmother for Thanksgiving this year, the flag arrived too late for me to build the memorial display for it and give it to her.

Since all of her grandchildren were present at Thanksgiving, my Grandmother asked us to go through his workshop to select any tools or mementos that we would like to keep.  I was fortunate to get many of his older handtools – I’m the only woodworker amongst my cousins – the eggbeater drill about which I have previously written, some chisels and auger bits, a folding carpenter’s rule, a marking gauge, several handplanes, and an old yankee screwdriver set amongst others.

In the box with the yankee screwdriver, I found two small letter punches; the letters C and Y.  I knew that some of these tools had probably belonged to my Great-Grandfather, Clark Yates.  Finding these punches – along with several tools stamped with his initials – appears to confirm that belief.

I plan to restore and use many of the tools that are only a small part of the woodworking legacy that has been passed down to me.  I never knew this Great-Grandfather, but I’m sure his son would feel honored that I’m continuing his avocation.

My Great-Grandfather's Try-Square

My Workshop

Recently, I added a few more bowls to the collection at the Art and Invention Gallery.  I haven’t been producing much work in the last few months, as I’ve been trying to finish out the upstairs of the workshop.

Last summer, with the help of a few friends, I built a new workshop in the backyard.  The upstairs was left unfinished and I’m just now trying to complete that portion of the project.  On the weekends, I’ve managed to finish the framing, insulation, run all of the electrical and plumbing, install drywall, and I’m currently painting.  I’ll install new bamboo floors this weekend.

In my mind, the new space will be part studio, part lounge, and part media room.  I’m pretty motivated to get the flooring and HVAC done – once that’s out of the downstairs workshop, I’ll have room for woodturning again.  Look for some small pieces made from leftover bamboo…

Work in Progess :

An Early Introduction

As a very small child – I think I was around 3 or 4 years old – I would wander next door to our neighbor’s, Herb and Thelma, house to bang together little scrap pieces of cutoff 2x4s that were left over from the construction of their house.  I don’t think I was ever invited, but they didn’t really mind.  I don’t think any of those “projects” still survive today.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that when I had left, Herb would pull the nails out and toss the scraps back into the bin.  I have a distinct memory of using his hammer and the concrete garage floor to “straighten” many of the nails that I used back then.

Growing up, I would spend time with my grandfather in his woodworking shop.  I remember his shop being huge, filled with every tool you could imagine.  That was always my favorite part of going to visit my grandparents.  While I’m sure he probably enjoyed it, I was either too young for him to teach me any serious woodworking or, as I got older, not interested.

My grandfather is not doing very well these days – physically he’s in good shape for a nonagenarian – but his mind his going.  Although no one in the family is willing to admit it, he’s got Alzhemier’s.  He’s frequently confused about where he’s at, who he’s with, and what time of day it is.  He still knows who we are most of the time, but there are no more World War II stories, or anecdotes about the family farm.

While visiting them this past Christmas, my grandmother asked my wife and me to tour his workshop.  It was smaller than I recall, and more cluttered.  I fondly remembered using many of his tools – the bandsaw that, as it turns out, is the same model as mine, the old pipe lathe with the duplicator attachment, and the scarred workbench.  The lack of recent use on any of the equipment was saddening.  It was fun walking my wife through and explaining how many of the old hand tools work.  I found an old eggbeater drill that had been broken and welded back together several times.  When asked, my grandfather said that it had belonged to his father but he did not know its origin beyond that.

Later I would take shop classes and watch shows like The New Yankee Workshop, which fed my interest.  Most of the techniques I’ve learned recently have been through videos like those that Marc Spagnuolo and other bloggers produce or through trial and error.  Shop classes appear to be disappearing from public schools today, and trades are becoming unappreciated.  There does not seem to be much available when it comes to hands-on education in skills necessary to produce the work that I’m interested in.

All of those things brought me to where I am today – an aspiring artisan who has much to learn.  One day I hope to be able to pass on some of my knowledge, to have eager minds come to my workshop to try out new tools and techniques, to explain how my great-grandfather’s old eggbeater drill was once the latest and greatest in cordless drilling technology.  For now, I need to practice, create, and refine my craft.