Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Luckiest Chickens

This week, we are in the midst of an Advanced Joinery course and are joined by 8 strapping gentlemen already hard at work building their side tables! We are happy to have these Practical Woodworking alumni return to us for a second visit as we step it up a few notches in this course. There are floating shelves, Green & Greene bread board ends, dovetails, buttons, and drawers galore around these parts!

On another note, it's officially fall in the north east and the chilly weather has demanded that I break out my scarves and heavier coats. At the shop, we have had to fire up the coal stove and maintain a steady fire to keep warm in the mornings until the sun is kind enough to grace us with her presence.

As the only lady in the shop this week, I thought I would be most eager to sport my fall attire but as it turns out, I rank third best in that department. The gang of 22 chickens gather around the back door each afternoon to indulge in their daily "chicken noodle" dinner which is a potful of plain, boiled macaroni noodles (no chicken broth so no worries). Amongst the crew this fall, you'll find that two of the lovely ladies are rocking some awesome fall sweaters. Needless to say, the Janices (Janice & Janice Ian) have won the honor of Best Dressed this season at the Lohr School of Woodworking. Fashion forward fowl is just one of the many things you will find in the Lohr domain that you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else on the planet.

Because the photos do all the talking, I'll leave you with this final thought as you carry on the rest of your day with a chickens-in-sweaters induced smile: Linda, the lady of the Lohr domain and mother hen to all the birds/animals, was quoted in saying, "Janice Ian is wearing the more splashy argyle number, while Janice has the beige model with the logo 'I love Mom' and a dog bone. Hey, some chickens are luckier than others."

Check back later this week for an update about the events, procedures, and results of the advanced course that unfolds on the other side of the office wall as I write this. Until next time, cheers and Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Live Edge Maple Coffee Table in Progress!

After our trip to Hearne Hardwoods in July, we returned home with two stunning Bigleaf Maple slabs destined to be a long, live edge coffee table. This coffee table is amongst a few tables in the works here at JD Lohr Woodworking that will find their home inside a Vik hotel, perched among the hills of Chile.

As the fall descends upon us in Pennsylvania, we are hard at work making, what were recently, merely slabs into a beautiful coffee table, ideal for many a wine glass to rest upon. But, before I elaborate, I will take a moment to admire mother nature's work. Linda, the lady of the Lohr domain, took a trip to Washington and brought back with her a leaf from a Bigleaf Maple. As someone who is relatively new to the woodworking field, I harbor little-to-no knowledge of trees so this leaf really brought to light how massive the tree that produced these slabs likely was. A leaf as big as your head! Nature is something to be truly appreciated. I'm glad to know that this coffee table will embody the life of it's Bigleaf Maple and allow it to be admired indefinitely.

Planing: The process began with a giant router sled. For slabs as massive as these, we can't exactly rely on our 8" jointer or 24" planer to help us flatten the faces. For that, we have a Lohr-built router sled (which is about the side of a car).  We use a bottom cleaning bit in the router and take several passes, removing thin layers until the entire face is smooth. From there, we have a working face to rest on to duplicate the process on the opposite side ensuring two flat, parallel sides.

Joinery: Then, it was on to some major joinery. Jeff's design called for the two slabs being butt-joined to create one long, fluid table top. But, because this is a Jeff Lohr creation, this table would have no ordinary butt joint; To maintain a natural aesthetic to marry with the live edges, Jeff decided to create a curved joint.

In order to ensure that the curve we cut from the ends of the slabs would join seamlessly, we planned to use template and router with a pattern cutting bit. We first cut the curve into a piece of melamine and shaped it as perfectly as possible. Because the bit will ride along the template, it will replicate the exact shape of the curve in the template and, unfortunately, that means it will duplicate any extraneous bumps or hollows as well. As you can see to the left, we test the fit by holding the seam up to the light to see any gaps or discrepancies so that we can tune them out before we make the cut to the slabs.
From there, the curve was cut and it was onto the floating tenons that would hold everything together. Jeff was quick to create a new, adjustable jig that held the router at 90 degrees and centered on the curved edge while he plunge-cut slots for the tenons to live in.

As you can see, it was delicate and carefully executed process but the end result was 5 floating tenons and a perfect-fit curved joint. We used West System two-part epoxy to hold the tenons in place and ensure the most secure of  joints.

Bark Removal: Because this is a live edge piece, the outside of the table will remain in it's natural, textured state. To see the textured edge however, the bark needs to be removed. If we were to leave the bark in tact, over time it would continue to dry and thus flake and chip off into dust and dirt (which is not ideal for a clean floor).

The first stage of bark removal is to break out all the gouging chisels we can find. Being careful to avoid gouging the wood in the process, we chip away at the bark exposing the natural edge of the slabs. In most cases, the bark breaks away from the wood with ease and gets saved for knot and hole patching. The process is tedious but it provides an unbeatable result. But, the chiseling doesn't do the entire job. There will always be tiny bits that won't break from the edge and for those pieces we take to the sandblaster!
We set the slab(s) up on saw horses outside and take to the edges with a sandblaster. Jeff suited up and blasted away any remaining bark pieces. The result of the sandblaster is ideal because it doesn't leave behind any unwanted marks or scratches that something like a wire brush would create. As you can see to the right, the edge is so beautiful and unique when it is fully exposed.

Progress on the Vina Vik live edge, maple coffee table will continue this week and next. Look for another update soon all about creating, cutting, and setting bones along the curved joint!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The 2014 Woodworking Course Schedules are Here!

While the government is shut down to sort out their differences, we are focusing on what all Americans (and people of the world) have in common- a love of woodworking, of course!

In honor of new bills, new healthcare, and the new year we have posted the new 2014 Course Schedules! Practical Woodworking courses galore! What better year than 2014 to spend a week in Schwenksville, PA with us learning about the practical, safe, and beautiful approach to woodworking and furniture-making, right? Better yet, if you hurry, we have just a couple of benches left open before the end of the year!

If you don't know about the courses we offer here at the JD Lohr School of Woodworking, let's discuss our Practical Woodworking course. If you read my past entries, you'll see several thorough recaps of our 6-day, intensive woodworking course. In summary, during the 48 hour class, 11 students (provides an unbeatable 3:1 student to instructor ratio) learn wood theory and behavior, how to select and mill wood from the rough, how to plan and design a furniture piece, using machinery (table saw, jointer, planer, router, etc), mortise and tenon joinery, jig development, finishing, and more. At the end of the course, students go home with a completed hall table that is styled with their own personal details. If the course sounds appealing, feel free peruse the updated schedule to see when you can join us!

Speaking of Practical Woodworking, I want to thank yet another group of fantastic woodworking students for gracing the shop with their presence last week. Each student came with their eager, motivated minds and hands and it made for a wonderful week! To Tom, Brandon, Candace, Seth, Rob, Chuck, Lex, Joel, and Kim, we want to say congratulations and we hope you enjoyed your time here! We hope to see some pictures of those awesome red oak hall tables when they are finished!

Check back next week for progress on the live edge maple coffee table destined for Chile!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

JD Lohr School of Woodworking Update!

As we find ourselves in the midst of another week-long Practical Woodworking course at the shop, I wanted to thank our most recent JD Lohr School of Woodworking alumni. To Phil, Bobby, Allen, Mark, Tom, Denise, Joe, Nick, Josh, Nate, and Pete, I want to say congratulations for your course completion and, more importantly, your hard work and enthusiastic attitudes. It was a pleasure hosting all of you and we hope to see some pictures of those beautiful hall tables when they're finished! Keep up the hard work!

My blog updates have been infrequent because things have been busy, busy around Lohr Woodworking. As you may remember from my past entry, Woodcraft Magazine was here to document and write an article featuring Rob's step-by-step process to build the Jeff Lohr designed Morris chair. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the print and sale date has arrived; so, be sure to keep an eye out for the latest issue of Woodcraft Magazine in stores now! Rob graces the cover along side the Morris chair. In it, you can read the entire process (including the jigs necessary) to build the Morris chair yourself. Rob talks about the chair construction, design, processes, and finishing so the 10+ page article really is a must-read.

Thanks again to Woodcraft Magazine and all those involved in the execution and wonderful completion of the article!

Beyond the Woodcraft Magazine article and ongoing classes, we have been working hard on a new website for the woodworking school. As it nears completion, you can now visit: for all of your JD Lohr School of Woodworking needs and information! We have been working hard to gather new photos, course schedules, enrollment forms, and even the beginnings of a school store for our current, future, and past students to enjoy! Feel free to explore the new site and keep checking back for our ongoing updates and added information! The original site, is still up and running so keep up your Jeff Lohr furniture gallery explorations there!

We are also deep into the design and construction of a table destined for a resort in Chile. After scoping out and taking home two beautiful maple slabs from Hearne Hardwoods, we have taken to the router sled jig to flatten the faces and now Jeff is onto some beautiful and intricate curved joinery. The piece will be a long, live edge coffee table so be sure to look out for upcoming blog updates outlining and documenting our progress on this big, beautiful piece before it makes it's way across the world.