Saturday, December 8, 2012

Practical Woodworking Day 5

Yesterday was our fifth day of the practical woodworking course. That makes today our last day and how bittersweet it is. After what will be six days of long, hard-working hours I know we will all be happy to return to our respective parts of the country to sleep and reflect on the immense amount of information we were handed this week. But, I'm sure we can all agree that we'll smile when we look at our stunning tables and remember that beyond the exhaustion and splinters, we had a great time learning a craft together from the best is in the business!

Anyway, on to reflect about day five. The day began with coffee and pastries, as per usual. We had four skirt boards and four legs that were begging for some artistic flair. No need to worry, the shop was prepared to deliver. Here, Jeff is showing us a table router that has a bit in it that makes a small bead along the edge of the board you push through it. I ended up using this detail on my skirt boards for a little rounded detail to match the edge of my table top. This process was surprisingly simple as long as you make sure there is no saw dust piled up preventing you from making a straight cut. Naturally, I did not make sure of that but, we'll chalk it up to a learning experience. Another option we were taught for our skirt boards was cutting it to a curve. You can see Steve proudly showing off his curve. To achieve this detail, we were taught to used a nail, a thin piece of wood, and some clamps to trace a perfect curve. Then, head over to the jig saw and cut along the line. Fairly simple until you need to take a block planer to it to make sure it's is smooth and symmetrical. But, it really does end up looking great.

The next detail we learned about dealt with the legs. We were taught about the development of another Jeffry Lohr original jig designed to taper legs so they have two angled sides instead of being square. I am using said jig in the picture to the left. The jig holds the leg firmly in place with wedges at the angle desired. The excess wood hangs over the edge. It even had a handy handle to push the jig and the leg through the table saw. I must say, this jig produces some fine looking table legs.

As I mentioned yesterday, I had to finish up my tenons before I could do much of anything else. Now that I had learned of all the fun details I could add to my table, I was hustling to get the tedious work out of the way. I finally got all eight tenons to fit into their mortise holes. I also learned to properly spell the word 'tenons' in the process. Larissa's woodworking vocab score +1.
The tenons were fitted, the details were added and it was time for me to dry assembly my table to make sure everything fit and looked the way I wanted. Good news, ladies and gentlemen, my table stands! It's hard to see the tapered legs and the beaded detail along the skirt board in the photo but I assure you that they are there. I played it simple this time around knowing that I will have ample opportunity to design and assemble many more tables during the apprenticeship. I want to be able to look at this table twenty years from now as my first woodworking project and not think to myself, "what was I thinking?" Although I probably will anyway, being logical and math-minded, I played it safe. Some of my classmates have the most detailed, creative, and beautiful tables! I will be sure to snag some photos of their creations as well so you can see how we all started with the same basic design but ended with radically different looking final products. Another reason this class is so wonderful!
After lunch Jeff gave us a demonstration on how to fill knots so they look nice and natural. Using bits of crushed bark and/or wood pieces he combined them with other colored powders and epoxy until it formed a paste. Once the paste matched the color he wanted, he taped the space around the knot(s) and filled it with the paste. He made sure the paste filled the entire hole and then some so that it was raised above the wood surface. He told us that when it dries, he can sand it down and it will look like a natural knot.

For the most part, the rest of the afternoon was devoted to sanding. Jeff gave us a brief lesson on sandpaper grit numbers and what they meant. He also talked to us about which sanding machines were best. He is a fan of the random orbit sanders because they don't leave the circular marks on the wood that other sanders do. We took to our table legs, skirts, and tops to sand each of them with 80, 120, 180, and finally 220 grit paper. By the end of the day, my wood was like satin. Granted, my hand was numb from the hours of vibration but, I couldn't believe it! We made sure to avoid rounding the edges of the boards that would be glued so that they would remain flush with the parts they would be glued to. Today, my job (amongst gluing and other things, I am sure) will be to take a sanding block and dowel rod to sand around my details. I need to re-round the beaded detail I put on my skirt boards as well as the edges of my table top. I know I will have a tired arm by the end of the day.

My workbench neighbor, Steve, has gone above and beyond on his table. His love for dark walnut has worked it's way in in the form of buttons at the tops of his legs as well as set into his table top. We all laugh at his desire to "make it fancier" but, I am impressed with his dedication to his table. I heard speak of bones being set into his table top as well. I am really, very interested in what Steve's final product will be. Here he is, hard at work, using a router to drill holes for his buttons!

Although I lack any photos to document it, Jeff spent a good portion of an hour teaching us how to replace blades in jointers and planers. He has spent time throughout the course explaining the inner workings of the machines that fill the shop. He designed this course so that if you have your own shop at home, or have the desire to begin assembling one, you know how to maintain your machines. Each process is unique and, in some cases, extremely complex but he has a method for all of it and he shares it with his students. He tells you which kind of machines he recommends but also explains the pros and cons to other options. Whether you take the course to learn the proper techniques of a craft you already experiment with or a student (like me) who knows nothing about woodworking and wants to learn, this course will give you everything you could ever need or want.

Now, I will return to our final class to (hopefully) finish up my table! I look forward to finding out what finishing touches they have in store for us today. Have a wonderful Saturday!

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