Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

As we close out 2015, we are grateful to all of the commissioned pieces we've been honored to create, all of the students we've had the pleasure of teaching, and all of the co-workers, alumni, friends, and family that make our daily lives as wonderful as they are. We are lucky to work doing what we love and we are eager for a new year of doing more of it!

As a last toast to the year 2015, I'll be a lady of fewer words that normal and use this chance to take a glance back at some of the wooden pieces that have been completed this year at the Lohr Woodworking Studio.

First and foremost, we made ourselves a fancy new roadside sign.

"Griffin": The English Brown Oak Burl dining table

"Buried Treasure": The black walnut coffee table (with 20 year old captured walnut)

Larissa's Red Oak Toy Box

[There are more finished projects, I don't have photos of them yet so check back in the new year for updates on those guys.]

Cheers to another year of being part of the best work team the world has ever known. Bring it on, 2016! The Lohr Woodworking crew is ready for ya.

Happy New Year, folks

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Greatest Curly Maple & Walnut Cabinet You'll Ever See

Once upon a time (more specifically a couple of months ago), Rob got a call from a fellow who had stumbled upon some photos of his Maple Burl Cabinet and wanted one for his own home in California. No problemo Walter, we're on it!

Back in my first weeks as an apprentice at the Lohr Woodworking shop, the guys and I took a trip down the road to a cemetery that had a fallen maple tree. We brought along our collection of chainsaws and the Alaskan chainsaw mill and turned that fallen tree into an assortment of insanely figured slabs. Perfectly timed, here we find ourselves three years later with the maple slabs perfectly dried, kilned, and ready for use. The colors, curly figure, and grain patterns found inside that maple log were truly breathtaking and could not be better used that to be showcased as solid wood door and cabinet panels for generations to come.

After deciding which portions of the book-match pair of slabs would serve as door panels, side panels, and the cabinet's top respectively, the slabs were cut down and milled. In order to maintain the book-matching aesthetic throughout the piece, we left the boards as thick as possible and Rob resawed the pieces destined for door and side panels so that they could be opened and presented as [nearly] mirror images of one another.

Lucky for present-day us, past us had done most of the work for the carcase a couple of years ahead of schedule. In the early stages of designing our third-level advanced woodworking course, Jeff and Rob were contemplating making the project of the course a variation of this particular cabinet.

Fun fact- On my very first day here, I was put to work cutting and fitting some of the joinery for this carcase I was the 'perfect guinea pig' for the prospective course project. Can you tell by my bizarre saw-holding technique that I had never done any woodworking before that day? But, check out those sweet carcase pieces! I had nothing to do with those, that was all Rob, but I did do a stellar job butchering some tenons in 2012.

Ultimately, we designed the third-level course to focus on veneer cabinetwork but, all my hard work (completed in an anxious, I-have-no-idea-what-I-am-doing, first-day-jitters mindset) came in handy three years later. With just a few tenons to fit, a few plows to cut, and a rail or two to shape with a curve, we were off and running and ready for panels. The entire carcase is made of solid black walnut and held together with mortise and tenon joinery. There are plows cut along the inside edges to accept the maple panels.

The rest of the cabinet came together in small, intricate stages. I went to work to cut gains for the pivot (aka center) hinges into the carcase and the doors. When those were done, I hung the doors and fussed with them until they presented an even reveal. For those that have never hung doors before, just know that it's an adventure every time. [Shameless plug: Watch Rob's Craftsy class to learn more about our strategy for doors and cabinetry]

Rob took on the Greene-and-Greene style breadboard end table top. The electric figured maple top is ensured a lifetime of flatness because of its end pieces of a perpendicular grain direction, elongated screw slots to attach it securely while allowing for wood movement, button-style plugs for traditional Arts & Crafts functional detail, and signature Lohr-style spline insert to accent the tongue and groove joinery. 

We both tackled the bottom board and shelf bits as they needed to fit just right into the carcase as well as include tongues that extended through the mortises in the side rails of the cabinet. When they were fitted, we cut notches through the tusk tenons that extended outside the cabinet so that we could wedge pins down into them and lock the shelf and bottom boards into place. The cabinet is designed with knock-down construction for easy movability, therefore the pins were doing what they implied in holding the whole piece together.

With a burned-in brand to the bottom, she was ready for finishing! All the parts of the cabinet were treated with BLO, left to dry thoroughly for a week, and then a clear coat finish was applied. The breadboard top was coated with five coats of Waterlox to provide a durable surface able to be used and abused as furniture should. The cabinet was sprayed with lacquer to provide an even, not-too-shiny, protective coat to the base and it's inside shelving.

And as soon as it started, it was done. We spend some time taking some photos of the piece before we were off to the packing and shipping center to send her to her forever home. A huge thanks to Walter for commissioning us to craft this stunning cabinet for you! We hope you enjoy owning it as much as we enjoyed making it. An equally as huge thank you to Rob for designing such a sweet cabinet and letting me help you make it.

We have lots more commissions coming up the pipeline so keep your eyes out for new blog posts throughout the winter! Now, I'm off to Florida because it's cold here. But seriously, don't expect a new blog post in the next week because I'll be soaking up the sun.

Happy Holidays from me & the entire (3 whole people) Lohr Woodworking team!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Behind the Scenes: Larissa wrote an article for Woodcraft Magazine

A few months ago, Jeff forwarded me an email from the deputy editor at Woodcraft Magazine that read, "I hear Larissa is the real deal. If she's interested in doing an article with us, please have her get in touch with me." WHAT? "The real deal"? Am I the real deal? Really? Who knew. Of course I was interested! A sufficient degree of nervous, but definitely interested.

After sending over a few projects I had made in the recent past, it was decided that I'd write about my hand mirrors. I was extra excited about this decision because unique hand mirrors were the first projects I made during my apprenticeship that were actually purchased (and are currently used at the wonderful Salon Nova). Combined with my love of freehand routing, the monogrammed hand mirror article was born, and now it's printed in the 2015 holiday issue of the magazine!

The first "thank you" in this blog entry goes to the editor/photographer/fellow woodworker/cool guy, Paul Anthony. Paul has worked with Jeff on various articles and shot photographs of finished pieces in the past so he's been around our shop a time or seven. I am so grateful to him for being my guide through my uncharted territory in article-writing. I am especially grateful to him for being an experienced woodworker himself, so all the seemingly abstract techniques and tools I was trying (and failing) to explain over the phone and via email made sense.

After weeks of emails, drafts, phone calls, problem-solving, sample pieces, tool testing, and shot lists, Paul came to shoot the photos you see in the article. I had all my props ready (that's right, kids, there was a shot list and props- things were legit) and we commandeered the shop for the day to document the entire process I use to make the mirrors. I've never felt so famous whilst covering myself in sawdust and using loud machinery.

It's amazing how an experience like this really makes you dissect a process that you don't think too much about as you're working through it yourself for the twentieth time. All of a sudden I am hyper aware of the easiest and most efficient way to organize my procedure so that readers can follow along and repeat it themselves at home.

You'll have to head to a Woodcraft store or a Barnes & Noble to get the detailed step by step how-to of how to make a monogrammed hand mirror but, here's a little behind the scenes. I made three finished mirrors for the article out of walnut, cherry, and birdseye maple to show color variations and how the engraved lettering appears on each. Like most wooden creations, they start as boards with lots of chalked-out ideas scribbled onto them. The article mostly highlights how I hand cut the lettering free hand using a plunge router (because some of us can't afford a CNC machine AND there is something personal about hand cutting a personalized gift like these).

Fun Fact #1: The very first monogrammed hand mirror I ever made was a wedding gift for my best friend of 20 years. I had cut lettering for signs and made hand mirrors as separate projects in the past but, that was the first time I fused the ideas.

Fun Fact #2: The JLS initials you'll see featured in the mirror in article are my sister's initials. Paul & I decided on them because they include a very straight-angled letter, a curvy letter, and a letter that is both. The bonus is that I can use the prop mirror as a gift for my sister- Merry Christmas, Jess!

Writing this article was surreal in that I was consistently excited and proud to be contributing to the national woodworking world in a small way. The ladies and gentlemen at Woodcraft Magazine are the best of the best and we're all grateful that they provide a publication that teaches and informs hobbyists and professionals alike. I am especially grateful that they offered me the chance to contribute! I love my job and I am excited at every chance I have to share it with anyone who will read/listen/watch.

My last, but certainly not least, "thank you" goes to the ever-famous Jeffry Lohr. Without Jeff to teach me this craft from the ground up, I could never have found myself in the pages of a magazine teaching my skills to others. For your patience, wisdom, resources, understanding, and motivation, I thank you wholeheartedly, Jeff. Let's be honest, the world would be a far lesser place for us and humanity as a whole without Lohr Woodworking Studio and the JD Lohr School of Woodworking.

If you want to make a monogrammed hand mirror of your own, now you can! In the article, I broke down the process into steps that you can follow in your shop. All you really need is a plunge router, a v-cutting bit, a means to trace some letters, standard shaping/sanding tools, and some patience. What a perfect holiday gift, right?

If you want me to make a mirror for you, get in line. Just kidding! But, you can look at a few I've made here and/or shoot me an email.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Recap: Long's Park Art & Craft Festival 2015

Long time, no see! Which is entirely my fault and I appreciate your willingness to read my sporadic updates.

The last time I took a seat in the blogging chair (which in reality is a wooden stool at a work bench in the middle of the shop) was a couple of months ago as we finished up "Buried Treasure" and before our big annual trip to Long's Park Art & Craft Festival in Lancaster, PA. Labor Day weekend the one time a year we break down and load up all of the immensely heavy speculation furniture pieces we have into a horse trailer and set it up under a tent in a beautiful park for the world to see/sit/touch/buy. Care to hear about it? Cool, because I'm going to tell you about it.

The week before the show was spent collecting all of our unsold speculation pieces into the shop for a mock-up of what we wanted to the booth to look like. When you have so many large pieces paired with the aim to make a tent that's cozy and inviting (instead of intimidating), it's good measure to do the rearranging and 'hmm, maybe try that over there' dance while we have the time and space in the shop. Amongst other things, we were taking along the big live edge walnut table sofaour two live edge walnut desks, and the Morris chairs and so we wanted to create a living room environment you couldn't resist taking a seat in even if it was located in a tent in the middle of a public park. When the furniture placement was decided, everything was dusted and detailed, broken down into it's smaller parts, wrapped up, and packed into the trailer, truck, and cars. The biggest and heaviest pieces were stacked onto a big cart tetris-style and pulled into the trailer with a block and tackle pulley system. Then it was onto days of gathering all the last minute boring stuff- price tags, box of cleaning supplies, tool boxes, business cards, overhead lighting, signs and posters, a lot of zip ties, etc.

Upon a bright and early arrival to Long's Park on Thursday, we rolled the cart out of the trailer and begin the unloading process. Thanks to Tents For Rent, our necessarily enormous tent was set up and ready to go so we just had to unwrap and assemble everything we had brought. It's the finer details that tend to take the longest- hanging lights, unwrapping moving blankets, attaching the price tags, assembling the 'Apprentice's Corner', and doing the final polishing. All in all though, I'd say (with the gracious help of my dear friend Abby and one of our stellar alumni Jimmy) we did a good job setting up a rockin' tent. Before we pull down the sides of the tent and tuck the furniture in for the night before show day #1, we all crack a beer and cheers to the hope of good weather, big crowds, fun times, and lots of sales!

The weekend was not only fun, but also a success for the Lohr Woodworking Studio. "Buried Treasure", the live edge walnut coffee table with a twenty year old walnut captured in the crotch of the slab, was sold before we even wrapped it up to bring it to the park. One of our alumni called up and bought it as a wedding present for his son before the public got the chance. Thanks, Dan! Beyond that, we said goodbye while the Bowmans said hello to Jeff's brown oak burl cocktail table which was made from what small bits remain of the infamous all-burl oak log that came to us from the UK to make "Resurrection" and "Frontier". Rob's ghost/ambrosia maple coffee table found it's forever home with a favorite loyal Lohr School of Woodworking alumni, Rob & his wife Deb (although I think it's safe to say the decision to snag the table was all hers). I even managed to sell a few smaller pieces from my Apprentice's Corner!

When the weekend wrapped, we were most excited at the lack of rain that was coming down. Last year we found ourselves in the midst of a monsoon as we tried desperately to protect and pack all the wood furniture. An event like that will make you appreciate a sunny Sunday more than you can imagine. Anyway, it's amazing how much more quickly packing up must be than unpacking. The show closes it's doors at 5pm on Sunday and it's always a personal goal to hit the road before it's completely dark. We count ourselves damn lucky to have the kind of amazing and kindhearted students we do because Jimmy & John traveled more than a few miles with smiles to help us and Eoin pack everything up in record time. Thanks fellas, you are truly the best!

There are few things better than a weekend spent among fellow artists, craftsmen, admirers, and shoppers in an open air, late summer park setting. It's always such a treat to get to talk with so many new and different people from all over the country. I am especially grateful to have the chance to step into such a creative and motivated world at such a young age and being so new to the game. I am beyond lucky to have fallen into the arms of Lohr Woodworking and it's weekends like this I'm proudest to show the world what these gents have taught me and what wonderful things we do together.

A HUGE thank you to the organizers of the Long's Park Art & Craft Festival, the festival goers, the fellow artists, and especially the people who fell in love with our work enough to take it home with them. Cheers to the end of a beautiful summer and the start of a cool autumn. Keep your eyes open for upcoming posts on several projects we have starting up for this winter!

[Inside Scoop: There's a desk, a veneer cabinet, a Woodcraft Magazine article, and maybe even the start of a new show room in the works for winter- and that's just the beginning!]

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Buried Treasure [in a walnut live edge slab]

The story of this Lohr Woodworking Studio made live edge walnut table begins with the legs. Inspired by a photo of a unique table he stumbled upon in a book last year, Jeff has been hard at work creating his own take on this organic style, angled leg. After weeks of experimenting, he produced one in the shape and style he wanted, so the next step was to come up with a system to make groups of four matching legs in a timely manner. As each leg must be hand-shaped and the angle cut mid-way down each leg must be maintained (to remain matching and consistent), it hasn't been the easiest task. But, this is Jeff Lohr we are talking about here so of course he did it. With the initial cuts made on the table saw, he then crafted a lathe-style holder to be able to rotate the leg as needed as he did the initial shaping with a disc grinder. Then, he used a random orbit sander to really achieve that smooth, rounded, organic look he wanted.

Naturally, what better matches these finely shaped stem-looking legs than a funky live edge slab top? Coincidentally, we had a kind gentleman swing by the shop a few months ago with a couple of live edge walnut slabs that "he had had for years with the intention of making something with but never got around to it" so he thought we might be able to put them to good use. What a thoughtful and kind donation! And, yes sir, we absolutely can. Here was our perfect chance.

As with all of our live edge slabs, there are always splits and voids to be repaired and strengthened so they don't worsen over time with the expansion and contraction of the grain. So, as is my favorite thing to do, I took to the router and inlaid some dovetail bones across the crotch and end splits (more detail on bone inlay here). Then, I had to tend to the space between the separated split where bark had partially filled in over the years of growth but in the milling process had been left with some voids. The voids and holes needed to be filled in order to stabilize the space between the split so that the rest of the natural bark didn't crumble and fall out over the lifetime of the table.

One of the things that caught our eye most about this particular free form slab was the walnut that had fallen and gotten itself captured within the bark as it continued to grow between the split. When the log was cut apart into slabs, the nut was cut in half and a perfect view of the inside of the light-colored walnut was exposed amongst the dark bark. Based on the annual rings from the outer edge of the slab, the walnut fell into the crotch of the tree around 17 years before the tree was cut down and remained cozy, trapped within the bark pieces until the log was made into slabs. And, thus, the table was destined to carry the name "Buried Treasure", coined by the ever-genius Linda Lohr.

To accent this unlikely (and awesome) detail, we tested various combinations of saw dust with epoxy until we arrived at a proper walnut color to fill the empty spaces within the shell and create the gem pictured to the left. Jeff even added some glitter to maintain the crystallized sparkle effect that the petrified nut had left behind. As the only girl in the shop (and to feed into a definite stereotype with no shame), I am psyched about the idea of including sparkles in our furniture. As for the remaining voids within the bark, I carefully chose chunks, slivers, and crumbles of walnut bark to patch the areas as precisely as possible. The rest of the tiny spaces were filled with an epoxy/bark/sawdust mixture that would cement all the contents of the split together and bind it to the slab itself.

When the top was finished and complete with bones and a stabilized, bark-filled split, it was time to attach the all-new Jeff Lohr legs. For the initial attachment, we drilled 1/4" holes through the table top and into the tops of the legs at the same angle at which the legs splayed. Then, we used epoxy to attach the legs to the bottom side of the slab with 1/4" dowels as the connecting joint. Of course, 1/4" dowels aren't strong enough to support the weight of the table top (and whatever contents it is destined to hold) for long but, the idea was to then drill 1" holes through the top and deep into the legs and use stronger dowels to attach the two.

Once the epoxy had cured for 24 hours, we used a spade bit with the aid of a plywood angle guide to drill the necessary angled holes down through the top and into the legs. I must say, this was the most nerve wracking part for the girl holding the drill because I could have easily ruined the top and/or blow through the side of the legs instead of hitting it centered on the top. Thankfully, all things went smoothly- mostly because we quickly learned how necessary it was to have rests clamped to the table (as seen in the photo) for the splayed legs to push against as the force of the drill and the weight of the table top pushed downward.

Jeff then took the 1" walnut dowel rod, cut sections to length to fit the length of the hole we drilled, and cut kerfs down into the top ~2"of each length. The kerf allowed for a place to drive a maple wedge down into the top of the dowels as they were tapped down into place. The wedge effectively locked the dowels tightly into place so they would maintain the joints' strength over time. As you can see in the photo, Jeff used epoxy to ensure these guys were held in tight- he coated the hole down into the leg as well as the dowel. Then, with the wedge in place, the dowels were tapped all the way home and sanded down to be level when the epoxy had cured.
Then, the always-fun part: boiled linseed oil! The whole table was sanded down to 220 grit and coated in a mess of BLO. The funk-tastic grain patterns around the crotch as well as the the color value in the straighter walnut grain was perfect. I am always a huge fan of the reds, golds, and deep browns of air dried walnut and how it fades so nicely into the lighter toned sapwood out toward the live edges. In this case, we were all most excited to see how the contrast between the walnut carcass and the dark bark inclusions would pop. If I have learned nothing else from my few years so far in the trade, it's that nature will always produce wonderful and beautiful things that we are damn lucky to be able to preserve and put in our homes to admire.

And, the clear film finishing process begins today. This beaut will be finished up just in time to show the greatest people in the world- the Long's Park Arts & Crafts Festival goers! We are always excited to bring new pieces with us to mix in with some of our classics so, if you live in the area, be sure to schedule the festival into your Labor Day Weekend plans and see "Buried Treasure" up close and in person. If you live far away... well... you should schedule the festival into your Labor Day Weekend plans too. Take a trip. Treat yourself! See some art, buy some furniture, listen to some music. All the cool kids will be there!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What? A new blog entry? And a new Lohr Woodworking sign? Yes.

Hey kids, I've missed ya! After a brief lapse in blog upkeep, I am back and ready to update you guys on the regular. Are you ready?

To summarize the past two and a half months: The tail end of winter was cold. There was more snow than we/anyone would have liked. We did a massive spring clean of the barn/slab storage space, show room, and shop (we brought in a 4 ton dumpster and everything). It got a little bit warmer and then it got hot. It's still very, very hot.

I must, of course, take the time to acknowledge our ever-wonderful and most recent Lohr Woodworking School graduates that have joined us over the past few months. We have been grateful to spend time with three new Practical Woodworking classes, one Advanced Joinery class, and the second-ever Veneer & Cabinetwork class all since the start of the year. Thank you, as always, to our students for being motivated, excited, skilled, interested, and oh-so fun!

Another mission accomplished during the first few months of this year: A new sign at the road for the Lohr Woodworking Studio! Starting with an oak crotch slab, we began by using our router sled jig to level and flatten the faces. Then, after some sanding, we took to our usual repairs and split-strengthening with an inlaid dovetail bone and some sawdust-infused epoxy. After the repairs were complete and dried, I took over the lettering while Jeff & Rob started in on the base.

As far as the lettering goes, let me just say that this project deeply strengthened my ever-lasting relationship with plunge routers. First, we collectively decided on the lettering, spacing, and layout and then used a video projector to shine the words up onto the slab. I traced the text with a dark colored pencil onto both sides and made sure to trace those same letters onto a spare piece so I could practice and get the adjustments on the router just right before committing to the real deal.

I used a 60-degree v-groove bit and set a maximum plunge depth where the heaviest weight-of-line was in the lettering. So, basically, I picked out the thickest part of all the letters (I think it was the lefthand side curve of the 'G') and plunged the bit down until it was cutting the entire width between my traced lines, then set the depth stop there. From there, it was all free-hand routing. Without using guides or jigs, I relied on a somewhat steady hand, a lot of light, my dark lines, and some patience to cut the letters into both faces of the slab. I never locked the router at any certain depth; Instead, I plunged and lifted the bit gradually as I pushed forward and the weight of the lines changed. For sharp pointed corners, like in the 'N', I started at the smallest outer tip of the point and gradually plunged the bit deeper while moving it forward to create the pointed slope. It took a few hours and a bit of touch up with a chisel afterwards but, it's legible so I'm content with the results. Who needs a CNC right? You can watch me tackle this routing endeavor in the timelapse I shot to condense the few hour process into 2 minutes. Watch it here or scroll down to the bottom of this entry!

Meanwhile, Rob & Jeff were designing the base. The first obstacle was to find a means to display the house number in a way that was clear and married well with the live edge of the oak slab. Naturally, they nailed it. With a shaped and curved piece that keeps the legs parallel as well as looks awesome, obviously! Then, Jeff took over shaping some seriously cool, organic looking clamping pieces to hold the slab at the top. A carved clamping upright was attached to both the front and back at the top of each leg. They extended above the legs so that the slab could slide between them, rest on the tops of the legs, and a bolt could be fastened through-and-through each side of the clamping pieces as well as the slab to hold it firmly in place.

The finishing touches included applying boiled linseed oil to the whole project, letting it dry for a week, and then starting the finishing process. For a project like this, that will face all the natural elements, extreme weather, and live beside the road, we opted for marine varnish to create a strong, waterproof barrier and extend the life of the vibrant sign. After the first coat of clear finish dried, we painted the inside the lettering with black paint to make it easy to read from afar. We waited after the first coat of finish was applied so that it was easy to wipe away any paint that may find it's way outside the lines in the process. After the paint dried, the next two coats of finish were applied and it was ready for action!

No worries, folks, this doesn't mean goodbye to the classic JD Lohr Woodworking sign that we all know and love; It has found a new and distinguished home next to the door as to welcome us all as we enter the Lohr Woodworking shop.

Here's the timelapse of me routing the 'Lohr Woodworking Studio' lettering into our new sign:

Monday, March 2, 2015

"Griffin" the Live Edge Brown Oak Burl Table: Delivery Day!

"Griffin", the recently finished live edge English oak burl dining table, has been signed, sealed, and delivered to the Pirro family. We have photo-guru, Chris, to thank for the documentation of the day- including all the photos you see in this blog entry!

Because we make most things with a knock-down construction, it was quick and easy to break apart the base into it's five basic pieces, wrap 'em up in moving blankets and load them into our big red truck. The table top is, of course, one continuous slab, so it was wrapped up as one big piece. We loaded up the rest of the necessary toolage and several layers of extra clothing to keep frostbite at bay in the subzero temperatures that have been kind enough to grace our region with their presence. And, early Friday morning, Rob & I took to the road and spent some quality time with I-95 as we made our way from PA to CT.

Upon arrival, the first task was to get the base together. This walnut and white oak trestle base is a a quick assembly job; The trestle is pinned with two wedges at either end and the two stretchers drop into their (pre-fit and labeled) notches and are held in place with a single screw at each joint. As you can see, there is a dowel coming up from the top of either end of the base. The table top has holes drilled into the under side that fit the dowels to automatically center the top on the base.

After there was an assembled base to hold it, we unloaded the table top slab. Before we arrived, Mr. Pirro had been so kind as to shovel and salt us a clear path to make the big haul around the house much less precarious. For those of you that live in the north east, you'll know I'm not exaggerating when I say that this winter has been no joke. There was a good foot of snow on the ground to accompany the -12 degree windchill for this move-in so we were especially grateful for a slip-less path. With Rob, Mr. Pirro, and myself, we were able to tote the table top from the truck, around the house, up the stairs, and into the dining area with relative ease.
When the top was lowered and found it's place onto the dowels (therefore centered) on the base, I broke out the 3/8" bolts to pull the tabletop tightly to the base ends. Each end of the base has two elongated clearance slots drilled through it to allow the bolt to move back and forth with the tabletop and prevent any splitting of the slab as the temperature and humidity changes throughout the year. To keep the table top snug against the top of the stretches, we used six large hold downs. There were six slots cut into the inside face of the stretchers longer than the width of the hold downs themselves, again to allow movement. The hold downs were hooked into the slots and bolted into the table top with 5/16" bolts.

And, with that, the Pirro's are ready to wine and dine on the live edge English brown oak dining room table made just for them! Rob & I were honored to be invited to be the first to christen the table as we feasted on some delicious "grinders" (which in PA we know as "hoagies" and in FL we know as "subs").

A huge thank you to the Pirros again for giving us the opportunity to make "Griffin" and for making the delivery day warm, easy, and happy! An additional thank you to Chris for snapping so many great moments throughout the afternoon and letting me steal a few to include in this post.

Cheers to "Griffin", the Pirro family, and another successfully completed Lohr Woodworking Studio live edge piece!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Live Edge Brown Oak Burl Pirro Table is donezo!

When I last left you, we had cut tenons across both ends of the live edge brown oak burl slab to fit into the white oak breadboard ends. I know you're all eager to see what happened next so, here we go...

After we used the router to cut a tenon along the entire length of each end of the slab, three 5" long, 1/2" mortises were laid out and cut through the breadboard ends. What good are mortises without tenons though, right? So, three separate tenons were cut (out of the existing tenons along the ends) to fit into the mortises. As you can see in the photo, a short lip is left in between each tenon to fit into the plow cut along the inside edge of the breadboard ends.

Because of the inevitable wood movement of the table top, we can't just glue the breadboards onto the end and call it a day; The joint, or the slab itself, would break and crack in no time. To attach the breadboard end to the table top, we use pins. Pin mortises are cut through the breadboards, it's mortises, the tenons, and out the bottom of the breadboard. The pin mortise in the center tenon is exactly the size of the pin however, the pin mortises through the outer tenons are elongated so that the pins have room to migrate back and forth as the wood expands and contracts across the grain.

Before the breadboard ends are actually attached to the table top, we have to tend to the live edges of the slab. As I have mentioned in past entries, we cannot leave any bark along the edges of furniture because over time the bark will crumble and gradually become dust on your floor or worse yet, it will invite wood boring insects.

To remove the bark, Jeff suited-up to face the harsh winter climates and broke out the sandblaster. The sandblaster does a perfect job of getting into the tight crevasses of the rugged edges. It even aids in beginning the necessary rounding/breaking of the edges and knobs along the edges that we tend to next by hand.

After the sandblasting does as much bark-removal as possible, we move on to the handy Dremel and some old-fashioned hand sanding to do the rest. If there are any large chunks of bark left, we use carving chisels to break them free of the edge. Then, the Dremel does wonders at rounding the sharp (often needle-like) knobs while we hand sand to soften the edges. Our goal, as with all of our furniture, it to make all edges, parts, and surfaces pleasant to touch. All of our furniture is meant to be used as well as admired so, we tend to this type of fine sanding and detail to ensure soft-and-smoothness all around the piece.
When the edges are perfected, we can move on to attaching the breadboard ends. The tenons on the table ends fit tightly through the mortises cut into the breadboard ends, and the pin mortises perfectly align to allow the pins to go through all parts, holding everything in place. The pins have a small kerf cut down through the center of the top half. The kerf allows for a tiny wedge to be driven in to tighten and expand the pin to fill the mortise complete as well as strengthen the joint. The pins are tapped 3/4 of the way in, then glue is applied around the outside of the pin and in the kerf and then tapped nearly all the way in. By doing it that way, we are making sure there is no glue in contact with the tenon, it's merely gluing the pin to the breadboard so the slab is able to move easily. From there, the wedge is put in place and tapped in as much as possible without splitting it.

When the glue in the pins dried, we sand them down to be level with the table and proceed to sand the entire table top (and bottom) with our standard 20, 120, 180, 220 sequence of grits. Then, the top face gets special treatment and is sanded a few more grits up to make it as smooth and soft as possible without polishing the grain so much that it won't accept the oil nicely. And finally it was time to break out the BLO. It's always the most exciting day when we get to wipe on the oil and watch all the color come alive-; As usual, we were not disappointed!
After a week of letting the boiled linseed oil dry, we began the process of applying clear finish. The base, with it's curvy edges and small crevasses, was sprayed with lacquer to ensure all surfaces got even coating. Lacquer is easy to build and rub out to be smooth with a good sheen. The table top however was finished with Waterlox semi-gloss wipe on poly. We used a foam brush to apply several layers of finish to the top, rubbing it out with high grit number sandpaper and 0000 steel wool. When the final layers of finish were applied to the top, it was rubbed out lastly with rottenstone for a satin feel.
When the finish was finished, it was time to call in Eoin O'Neill, the woodworker/teacher and marvelous Lohr Woodworking staff photographer! Eoin spend two days with us, turning our built-in shop cyc wall into a full blown photo studio. Willingly bringing all of his photo gear into a dusty woodshop is reason enough to endlessly thank Eoin but, he also goes above and beyond to document these one-of-a-kind pieces before they depart to settle in their new, permanent homes. For days of setting up stands, adjusting lights, hanging tarps to block windows, moving furniture, laying on floors, and crouching and climbing all over to get just the right shot, we sincerely thank Eoin for being so awesome and even more talented.
And, the results are in: To the right, you will see the first photo of the finished Pirro family dining table! Jeff, Rob, & I are all so proud to have had a collective hand in making this beauty. It pleases us so much that we could make it for the wonderful Pirro family with the last remaining slab from the famous all-burl English Brown Oak log that previously made "Resurrection" and "Frontier". Jeff has aptly dubbed this piece "Griffin" and at the end of last week, it was carefully packed up and toted from Pennsylvania to Connecticut to settle happily in it's new home. A story on the sub-zero temperature delivery will come later this week so check back with me for the final chapter in the tale of the Lohr Woodworking Studio built "Griffin" table!