Monday, August 26, 2013

Advanced Joinery Class of August 2013!

Although my absence for a week may have suggested otherwise, we have not had a dull moment here at The Lohr School of Woodworking! Last week we were graced with the presence of 8 eager and animated gentlemen as they tackled the Advanced Joinery class.

Ted, Buzz, Mike, Steve, Stephen, Chris, Randy, and Randy aka Arkansas were dedicated and quite amusing as they learned the more detailed and intricate techniques necessary to complete the project for this course. The more intricate details I refer to include drawer construction, mortise and tenon joinery, dovetail (hand and machine cut) joinery, buttons, floating shelves, Green & Greene style breadboard ends, and so on.

All students are required to complete the Practical Woodworking course at our school prior to enrolling in the Advanced Joinery class. Because of this requirement, when these gentlemen walked through our shop door last week, it was their second stay with us. It seems that having spent 6 long and busy days with us during the Practical Woods class in the past causes students to walk through our door excited, comfortable, and prepared for round 2. The comradery was instantaneous and carried on throughout the entirety of week. Even though I haven't assumed any formal teaching role in the advanced course yet, and hadn't had the good fortune of meeting most of these men before last week, I still felt like I was hanging out with 8 close friends by the end of the week.

As you can see, the sanding pavilion was in full swing thanks to the weather treating us so well as the students learned and created some stunning walnut and cherry side tables. The men made jokes as they got their hands on countless additional Jeffry Lohr original jigs paired with the usual machines; bandsaw, mortiser, routers, and tablesaws. This time around, however, students get their hands on far more hand tools and operations than the Practical Woodworking course requires. The gentlemen had to fine tune their hand saw, marking knife, chisel and mallet, and detailed sanding and gluing skills. All the while though, Rob and Jeff were there to remind us that most any question can be answered with the Jeff Lohr mantra, "All things will be revealed."

One of the more interesting (and often frustrating) operations in woodworking is learning to deal with dovetails. The joinery is undeniably beautiful and strong but, the jigs aren't always willing to be easy on the user. After the bulk of one day of the course being dedicating to hand-cutting dovetails, the students move onto the routers. Jeff does a thorough job explaining jig types and how to adjust them in order to provide fitted and proper dovetails but, that doesn't eliminate the fact that each student needs to adjust those jigs when they sit down to being their drawer joinery. Luckily, we had a shop full of students like Steve (pictured left) and his constant enthusiasm to bring light to even the most challenging tasks.

As I said, comradery was not missing from this bunch of guys. When glue up day finally arrived, a strong desire for perfection was not lacking so teamwork was essential. In order for the tables to function as intended (drawers that open and close, shelves that float perfectly between legs, and breadboard ends that hold everything in place), all things needed to be level, square, and aligned. Just as they did throughout the week, the gentlemen showed full dedication and soon enough the room was filled with assembled tables. In six very busy, rather intense days of instruction and work, there were 8 beautiful tables ready to find their way home.

A huge thanks to the Advanced Joinery Class of August 2013! Although the week demanded a lot and was fast-paced at times, you all wore a smile and delivered in production. I am happy to have had the chance to spend the week with all of you gents and I hope to see some photos of finished tables in the coming weeks! A special thanks to Chris & his thoughtful daughter for making the staff some fantastic (and incredibly appropriate) t-shirts! We'll wear them with pride.

And, as a final note, I will mention that Rob will grace the cover of Woodcraft Magazine on October 1st's issue AND we are working on the construction of a new website so keep checking back with us to see it's official launch!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lohr Woodworking hosts VFES Summer L.I.F.E. Camp!

This week we are excited and happy to welcome a stellar group of students from the VFES Summer L.I.F.E. Camp!

In honor of the quickly passing summer, we have been busy in the shop making folding red oak lawn chairs. The chairs will be finished with linseed oil and assembled with hardware that won't rust from outside use. Each of the four students is working hard to make their own chair to take home as they work together through the new woodworking techniques and processes; And what a fantastic job they've done!
 Each day begins with a demonstration of the tasks to be carried out that day. Jeff, Rob, and I worked for the past few weeks to prepare jigs and organize lessons with the most efficient techniques to finish the four chairs in just five days. For the first time, I tried my hand at making jigs and, so far [knock on wood], they have been successful!

Josh, Waimond, Tim, and Marybeth have been 
 quick to learn and seemingly excited to see their work coming along so well in just a couple of short days!

Early this week, the students started with red oak boards milled-to-thickness. They were responsible for tracing the leg shape templates and taking to the band and jig saws to cut out those shapes. From there, we used the router, files, and sanding blocks to fine tune the shape and break the edges.
On Day 2, students were given 16 milled slats. They had to choose 7 to serve as the chair seat and 9 to create the back. When they had their seats and backs labeled as such, they took to the drill press jigs to drill four clearance holes in each slat. In the meantime, they were beveling the ends of the slats, countersinking drilled holes with a brace and bit, and sanding all their parts to perfection.

By Wednesday, the students were ahead of the curve. They honed their sanding skills and moved on to the first stage of assembly. They attached a strut between the set of back legs and a shorter strut between the seat legs. This required some careful center-marking and clamp work but, they didn't miss a beat! After their U-shaped bases were screwed together, they moved on to counter-sinking the four pilot holes in each slat as well as using the scroll saw to cut a hand-hold curve into their top chair slat.

With a few moments to spare before the rain began on Wednesday afternoon, Jeff and Rob took us outside to learn about the physics that we use in woodworking!

Starting with a demonstration about levers, Jeff stood on one end of a board balanced like a seesaw and had students try and lift his weight from the opposite end. Each time, he shifted the placement of the board to differing points along the fulcrum to show how the weight distribution changes how difficult it is to lift the load.

The second lesson addressed pulleys.  Jeff started by having the three boys of the class lift his weight using the rope attached to a single pulley hung from the beam of the sawmill.  The boys got him up off the ground but it was a challenge that took every ounce of their strength.  Next, he had the one girl in the class lift his weight using the rope passing through a four sheave block and tackle which enabled her to lift Jeff high off the ground with ease. He explained how a single pulley set up simply does the work of one man but when four pulleys are employed in conjunction with one another, it allows a single man to do the work of four men. It was a great way for students to see how we use these physics methods to move big logs and boards around the saw mill regularly.

On Thursday, we finished up any last minute sanding before we starting in on finishing! The campers got a hands-on (or, more accurately, a hands-off) chemistry lesson. At Lohr Woodworking, we aim to keep all our furniture as natural as possible so we avoid the use of stains or paints. Instead, we enhance the natural grain colors and patterns of the wood with boiled linseed oil. It is easy to apply and works wonderfully so we decided it would be best for the campers to use on their chairs. One major concern when it comes to this type of oil is how to handle the dampened rags when the finishing process is done. The rags can spontaneously combust because "when linseed oil is exposed to air, it combines with the oxygen molecules. This chemical reaction creates heat. If the linseed oil is on a rag in a pile or ball, the heat can't escape and, as you can see from the photo of our experiment, can reach extreme heat within just a couple of hours. Instead of balling them up, we hang them to dry over the rungs of a ladder so that the heat being created can cool on all sides of the rag as it dries. After a few days, the reaction is complete and the rag becomes stiff- then they are safe to throw away with the normal garbage.

After the chemistry lesson, students took to finishing their chairs with the linseed oil! With the table tops covered in plastic and some sticks to elevate the pieces for drying, they did a great job wiping on the oil to cover every inch of surface. The colors and grain of the red oak popped just as beautifully as we had hoped!

On Friday, everything came together! With all the chair pieces linseed oiled and started to dry over night, on Friday morning, we were ready for assembly. Last week, the Lohr Woodworking staff made a few assembly jigs that needed a bit of explaining. The backs and seats had separate jigs for attaching the slats. As the legs sit in a bed-like jig, there are stops and guides for each slat to sit while the pilot holes are drilled. We drilled pilot holes because red oak is a hardwood so, nailing straight into it greatly increases the risk of bending nails. From there, the students used good ol' fashion hammer and nails to attach the 16 slats. The slats were held on with stainless steel trim nails so that when the chairs are inevitably left outside, the nails won't rust! The jigs held the u-shapes up off the table so that they don't rock or bounce as they were hammering the nails. I heard from more than one camper that "it was time for the fun part -- hammer and nails!"

After the nails were set and the slats fully attached, we had
students go back to set the nails below the surface of the wood. We wanted to make sure to avoid any future clothing snags on a nail sticking up above the surface.

To do this, each student used a drift. The tip of the drift was carefully held on top of the nail head and hit once or twice with a good hammer swing. Although frustrating at times, drifts do a good job of setting those nails properly.

Overall, assembly went quickly and smoothly. The chairs quickly turned from a pile of parts into foldable, usable lawn chairs! We are always excited for the final stages of assembly, not matter the project. You can't help but feel proud and fulfilled when all your hard work comes together into one functional, beautiful furniture piece. The campers were no exception to this feeling. They exceeded our expectations this week and hope that they are as proud as we are!

We were able to snap a goofy photo of the campers lounging in their chairs before they left. All the teachers and staff were such a wonderful part of the camp as well. We are grateful to parents, teachers, and campers alike for the chance to spend the week with such passionate and excited kids. We tackled a lot of tools, machines, techniques, and problem-solving together. Thanks to VFES Summer L.I.F.E. Camp for allowing us to create this course and thanks to EVERYONE else for such a fun week!

Monday, August 5, 2013

I am basically a pro with an Alaskan chainsaw mill

While Woodcraft was here to document all things Morris chair related, Jeff and I made ourselves scarce (and busy) by taking to the saw mill!

We spent two days slicing live edge slabs with the Alaskan chainsaw mill. Although I may not be a master of the 6-ft long chainsaw just yet, a few days of intensive practice definitely brought me closer to such a title. I can now oil, gas, sharpen, and start up a chainsaw all by myself! ::pats self on back:: This log was a cherry tree from which came several 2 1/4" thick crotch, live edge slabs with stunning figure. They have been coated in Anchorseal to protect said figure and any checks that might want to form.
While we were working, Donna and/or Tom snuck out and captured us in action. Beyond the fact that I now feel like somewhat of a woodworking celebrity, for those that may have doubted my scrawny build's ability to man a chainsaw, here is a bit of undeniable proof. Despite the heavy Pennsylvanian heat this summer, we now have cut and stacked a huge collection of live edge slabs. They have begun the drying process and, thus, are a few weeks closer to being usable. We are already anxious for them to finish drying!

Again, a huge thanks to Donna Chiarelli and Tom for such wonderful work on the Woodcraft Magazine article and now for sharing these photos with us! And, an additional thank you to Steve at Shreiner Tree Care for providing the beautiful logs, without which I wouldn't have been able to hone my awesome chainsaw skills a few weeks ago!