welcome to my blog

designing and building with wood channels my creativity and challenges my mind.
This blog is a record of my life in my studio.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

DIY Open Baffle Speaker Project

Readers of this blog may remember a project I began a few months ago: my first loudspeaker.  Progress has been slow; as a personal project I have to fit in the work when I don't have anything better to do.  But my first pair of speakers is almost finished, and the project represents more than one "first" for me:

Lacquer: one tough cookie
My open baffle speakers use one Fostex FE207E 8" full-range driver in each tower, and are made from purple heart and curly maple.  Since I used such nice lumber for the project, I wanted to finish the baffles in the glossiest, deepest finish possible.  And that means good ole lacquer: the smelly, flammable, brain cell - killing gloss finish of yesteryear.  Lacquer is fast-drying, thick, and volatile, making its application a challenge.  But the result - a glossy, rich finish - is impossible to replicate.  I brushed on four coats of lacquer before rubbing it out.  But before I rubbed it out, I had to wait a full ten days after the last coat.  That's ten days after the lacquer was hard to the touch.  But lacquer isn't fully hardened until at least seven days after application, and a gloss finish isn't possible until full hardness is reached.

Monday, January 24, 2011

New Pages on the Blog

purple heart & mixed hardwood coffee table, made 12/20/2010
Blogger now offers "Pages" on its blogs.  This is an excellent feature of Blogger, as it allows users to easily create static pages and link to them from a navigation menu generated automatically by Blogger.  This can make a blog act much like a website.  Unlike most website hosting platforms, however, a Blogger blog is free.

I have made use of the new pages feature by creating two new pages: "Tools of the Trade" and "Custom Commissions".

"Tools of the Trade" is a description of the "big" tools we have in our shop, so visitors can get a sense of how furniture is made, and see for themselves the difference between furniture-making tools, and the tools used by a carpenter who comes to your house.

Have You Heard of a Manta Board?

I find few things in life more gratifying than discovery: learning, exploring, and even creating exciting new vistas.  It's no lofty concept: the new is always presenting itself to us.  Take, for example, a recent favor I did for my friend, an aquatic biologist: helping him create a manta board.

What's a manta board?  It's for scuba diving, of course!  But when my friend first asked me to help him make a manta board, for an upcoming trip to Haiti's coral reef, I thought he wanted it to scare predators (or attract them...).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Re-Saw Magic

By replacing the motor, I can re-saw 12" of maple
The band saw is regarded by many woodworkers as "the most important saw in the shop", due in no small part its unique capabilities.  Band saws can cut curves - unlike a table saw, chop saw, or hand saw - and with a thinner kerf than a router, and with no need for a special fence or guides.  Band saws can also perform the initial milling of raw timber: turning a tree trunk into boards.  And band saws can "re-saw".

Re-sawing is splitting a board in two...the hard way.  Take a look at the picture on the left and you'll see what I mean.  What you see in that pic is a piece of 3" thick hard curly maple, standing on edge roughly 12" high, and 20" long.  You also see a re-sawed slice.  The slice is 1/16" thick, and was peeled off of the block of maple on my band saw.

Unlike a table saw's disc-shaped blade, a band saw blade is a giant hoop, drawn tight between two cast-iron wheels.  And unlike a basic, 10" table saw blade, which can get bogged down trying to cut through 3" of hard maple, even a small band saw can easily go through 6" or 7" of the same hardwood.

Tools of the Trade

Four Belt sanders?  Yes, for Wine Wings
There are thousands of traditional and modern tools used in woodworking.  For many trained and formally educated woodworkers, traditional hand tools are sufficient to build nearly any piece of furniture.  But for those of us who want to spend more time bringing designs to life than training their muscle memory to wield hand tools perfectly, modern power tools represent the road to happiness.  Power tools provide unmatched accuracy in the hands of woodworkers-in-training.  They can also get the job done faster and better than hand tools in many applications.  This can be important to clients, keeping the time it takes to complete a project (and henceforth, costs) to a minimum.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Band Saw Upgrade: From light-duty to medium duty

I haven't yet learned much about the band saw, which is considered by many furniture-makers to be "the most important saw in the shop".  Still, I do own a band saw: I was given one by a friend a few months ago.  It languished in storage until yesterday, when I bit the bullet and pulled it out in order to cut a curve in a thick lamination of Purple Heart and Maple.

My band saw, a Delta 14" from 1990, is low-powered by any standard of stationary (floor-standing) band saw.  Its motor was rated at only 1/2 HP.  By comparison, Delta's current 14" band saw has a 3/4 HP motor, which is still small, but appropriate for a 14" band saw, which is the smallest of the floor-standing saws.  Strangely, the previous owner of the saw had installed a riser block, which increases the vertical capacity of the saw by 5 inches.  I say this is strange because with a 1/2 HP motor no blade would be able to cut through stock as thick as the maximum capacity of a regular 14" band saw, let alone as thick as the riser block allows.    

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sketchup v. Sketchup Pro v. AutoCad 2011

For a couple of months now, I have been using the free version of Google's Sketchup 3D modeling software to design my furniture.  It was easy to learn (once I bought a instructional book), but in just a few weeks I ran up against the free version's major limitation: it can't show and hide elements of the drawing.  So I decided to upgrade.  But to which CAD software?  I chose to take a look at Sketchup Pro ($400 retail) and AutoCad 2011 for Mac ($4,000 retail, or $400 for students). 

Downloading a free trial of AutoCad was easy enough.  And once I bought an instructional book on mastering AutoCad, learning it was also easy.  As for Sketchup Pro, I wasn't able to find a trial, so I used a friend's computer which had Sketchup Pro 7.1 installed.  So, how did Sketchup Pro compare to AutoCad 2011 for Mac?  Read on...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Stripe Coffee Table

Just before Christmas, I built a simple coffee table for my girlfriend's mother.  The top was made from a board of scrap I had made up a month previous, and the leg assembly was of birch, stained black and with a waterborne urethane topcoat.  I didn't have time to take pics of the building process, but here are pics of the finished piece (click "read more" below for more pics)

Monday, January 3, 2011

"Melting Clocks" coffee table project

Among the many projects I have going on at any given time is one involving two striped table tops, which I made from off-cut scrap from my early Wine Wing development days.  I had made two identical table tops (see "rubbing out a satin finish"), plus one more long one.  The long one was made into a coffee table for my girlfriend's mother (pics coming soon!), and one of the other two tables was made into a small end table. 

I had planned to give the end table to my parents for Christmas, but my design left much to be desired.  Compared to the coffee table I gave to my putative mother-in-law, the end table looked under-designed and amateurish.  So I decided to make a coffee table for my parents, using both striped tops.  My plan was to cut the tops and create a draping effect over the coffee table, as if the two striped tops were cloths laid out over the table's top, as in the sketch at the top of this post.