Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Splinter Stitches

Last week, disaster struck [[dramatic drums and organ play]]. Well, not really, but I did manage to get a 2" shard of plywood lodged in the depths of the palm of my hand that required a hand surgeon to remove.

It all began as a normal Friday. We are working on putting together a live edge desk that Jeff has been designing over the past couple of weeks. I was in charge of shaping and drilling the holes into the supports that will attach the legs to the live edge walnut slab desktop. Because we exercise such consistent safety precautions here at Lohr Woodworking, I got through milling the rough material, cutting it all to size, and routering the edges (top and bottom) all unscathed. Naturally, no machinery, sharp tools, or handling of heavy material was necessary for me to wound myself.

I was setting up the famous Jeff Lohr router jig that conveniently uses wedges and a back fence to hold wood stable and properly-placed for easy routering of more than one piece at once and accurately without any hassle. Now, I will say that again; I was setting up the router jig (which requires little-to-no effort) when I decided to brush off some dust with my hand. I must have harvested the perfect circumstances for my hand to catch on the edge of the plywood base of the jig at just the right angle and speed for a 2" splinter/shard/wooden needle to slip into my palm and break off inside.

Off to Urgent Care we went, because tweezers and sewing pins were not going to cut it this time. As you can tell from the picture, there was one tiny entrance point but the actual length of the wood was buried so deep under my skin that it was really difficult to see where it stopped and started. The kind doctors at Urgent Care gave me an x-ray (which turned up nothing because it was wood and not metal or dense bone tissue). Then, they numbed me up, sliced me open, and did their best to hunt the wood piece(s) down and take it out. After looking for it for an hour or so with no luck, they decided it best to send me to a specialist. I am incredibly thankful to The Philadelphia Hand Center staff for staying late on their Friday afternoon to take me immediately. Dr. Sweet did an amazing job with the impromptu mini-surgery she did to finally separate me and the plywood. Scalpels, surgical binocular loupes, more numbing agent, stitches- the whole nine yards were required for this splinter removal.

Watching her pull a 2" shard of plywood from my hand was both relieving and nauseating. Five stitches and five hours later, I was wrapped up and on my way home. With a little TLC, limited right hand use for the week, and stitch-removal on Friday morning, I will be good as new. Jeff is mad at me for not saving the extracted wooden shard but, equally as grateful that the worker's comp/insurance is getting some exercise. A huge thanks to you, Jeff, for driving me all over creation to get my hand repaired and ensuring that everything was in order all the while.

Because safety is always the first priority at our shop, Rob has already eliminated any possible safety/splinter risks posed by the existing jig by making a new one (even though this accident was 110% my own doing and really not that fault of the jig). This Lohr-original jig is something that is used in the shop more-than-regularly. The swinging door stops can be adjusted or removed to create mortises with ease. The base alone can hold similar sized pieces together for any quick-and-easy routering. It is a work of genius that has been featured in Wood Magazine and has been a crucial shop aid for well over 10 years, so although the older edition is now retired, students can look forward to learning to work with the latest model.

Moral of the story, folks: Use a dust brush. It's not like we have a lack of them around the shop so it was my own thoughtlessness (paired with some seriously perfect circumstances) that lead to my own disaster. I can take solace in the fact that all the safety measures and precautions that we take at the shop every day continue to protect me from any major harm.

With my very first set of stitches, and a much more intimate relationship with plywood, I think it's safe to start to consider myself a real woodworker.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Pi Day to all!

In honor of Pi Day, I am here to share my most recent circle-based project with you!

On March 13th, it is only proper to take some time to recognize the beauty of circles. I got this apprenticeship with a lesson-based interview that had Jeff & Rob "discover" Pi using some yarn and several circular objects. The fact that no matter the size of the circle, the ratio between it's circumference and diameter will always be the same (3.14, of course) is such an amazing mathematical concept.

So, recently I have been at work to construct a live edge clock with a face whose hours are marked with the different phases of the moon. Starting by cutting walnut plugs and gluing them into a maple piece, I then used the plug cutter to cut off-center thus leaving different slivers of the white wrapped around the darker walnut. Then, I did the same thing in the inverse; maple plugs into a solid walnut piece. I placed one 1/16" thick piece of wood between the fence and the edge of the piece (and added another 1/16" thick piece for the next moon and so on) as I was cutting the moons from so that each phase was increasing in size by the same amount.

After I had all the phases cut, I drew out the placement of the hours using a 30-60-90 triangle and circle stencil. I was sure to consider the length of the clock hands while doing so. Next, came the jig making.

I constructed a jig that was nothing more than a piece of MDF (to ensure flatness below the piece on the drill press table) with a short piece of a dowel stuck into it at 90 degrees. I then drilled a hole through the center of the face of the clock and used the dowel as a pivot point. I clamped the jig down to the drill press so that the forstner bit was set up to cut perfectly into one of my marked hour-moon layouts. From there, I could just spin the entire piece around to each marked 30 degree increment and be sure that each circle would be exactly the same distance from the center of the clock.  I love circles!

Finally, I glued my moon phase plugs into their new holes and sanded them down. Naturally, as this was my first attempt, some of my phases aren't the ideal size or perfectly placed during glue up but, overall, I'm pleased with the result. Now that I have the process down and have ironed out many of the snags, I am eager to start work on the next (and better) moon phases clock face!

Happy Pi Day to all and have a glorious, woodworking-filled weekend!