Wednesday, November 18, 2015

From log to lumber mill....

Every now and then, I'll be at the lumberyard checking out their boards and think to myself - I wonder where this log grew up? It's hard to tell, especially if the logo of the company is painted on the side of the stack. 

Here's an interesting log-to-lumber-mill story. I used to sell timber when I lived in Ohio. I owned 8 acres of mostly cherry trees, and during the 20 years of living on that land, I sold trees three different times. Sure, the money was nice, but it was more about responsibly thinning the forest, so the younger trees could flourish. These log-to-lumber stories are near to my heart.

My buddy Steve's family has a heavily wooded lot back in Ohio, and they sell timber about every 20 years from their land.

His dad had dealt with the lumber mill, Hillcrest Lumber, on a previous sale many years ago and was pleased with their performance.  

Hillcrest is a small to medium sized mill, a family operation in NE Ohio's Amish country.  

We're not talking small trees here!

The lumber mill subcontracted the logging to Nate Miller Logging, and the trees were felled by a  3 man crew for about 4 weeks, with a few breaks due to weather.  

 Timber buyers will often cold call a landowner, but you'll get better results by doing a little research. The Ohio Forestry Association is quite helpful with this.  

This is some dangerous work!

Since Steve's family had a large volume of timber, the mill was willing to travel a relatively long distance from their mill in Apple Creek to get the logs.  Short hauls to the mills are more common and can affect the market price the landowner receives.  

The mill will process the logs into varying grades of green rough lumber.  Steve wasn't sure if they had any veneer grade logs, but you can rest assured that those lumber buyers knew what they were buying. They're pretty sharp at grading the tree, just from checking out the bark and the limbs, even from a distance! 

In all, they sold about 1300 trees from 140 acres, in a wide variety of species.  Everything from the common major hardwoods, cherry, walnut, oak, maple, poplar, and ash to the less common beech, hickory, sycamore, elm, basswood, sassafras, and buckeye.  

(I would have LOVED to get a few of those sassafras logs for some bowls!)

The timber graded out variously from prime to blocking.  The largest trees exceeded 36 inches in diameter, the smallest were 18 inches or so. 

Why sell trees, besides the obvious rea$on?  First and foremost, a selective cut that thins  the existing timber opens up the tree canopy and improves the growing conditions for younger trees.   

And - they wanted to clear out the ash trees in anticipation of the arrival of emerald ash borers.  If you ever get the chance to witness some logging going down, I highly recommend it. 

The  sound of the trees cracking as they fall is amazing.  And the ground shakes like you wouldn't believe.... better than a thunderstorm!

Speaking of being out in the woods and seeing amazing things - these electricians found a baby deer out in the middle of nowhere.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

More fun than a barrel full of monkeys!

If I let my imagination run wild, there would be all sorts of phrases I could use to describe this recent commission.

It was a barrel full of fun? 

I was over a barrel, trying to design it?

I finished it - lock, stock and barrel?

You get the idea!

A client contacted me, and then sent me this small, grainy photo of something he wanted me to build - a tabletop for a barrel that he had just purchased. 

But not just any barrel! 

A Crown Royal barrel! (I can't tell you how much attention this piece got in my shop!)

Making the top was easy– I selected some beautiful Oak boards to match the barrel,

and glued up a rough blank for the top.

Of course – using a router with a compass attachment is the best way to get a perfect circle. 

After the outside was cut, I did a test on a scrap piece of plywood, to find the correct diameter for the center hole. 

This was a perfect fit. 

And voilĂ  – the top fit perfectly on the barrel. 

It doesn't get much better than this. 

The harder part was coming up with the way to attach the top of the barrel. I saved some of the scraps from routing the table top, and planned on using them as supports.  But I didn't really like the way they looked.

 So I enlisted Hugo, a local metal fabricator who owns Vulcan Custom Iron Work and explained what I wanted - some rustic looking  brackets, so that I could bolt the top of the barrel and keep the rustic look of the metal  and  wood.  

Hugo is a pro, he knew exactly what I wanted. 

These brackets were beefy and strong, 

and fit the theme of this table perfectly.

The gentleman who commissioned this piece wanted the top finish to match the barrel, with its aged appearance. The best way to do that, in my opinion, is to soak some steel wool in vinegar, and paint it on the wood.

I let the mixture soak for a day or two,

 and then brushed it on a sample of the oak. 

Here it is, after soaking into the wood for about five minutes.

 Holy crap! Within an hour, the wood was ebonized almost a perfect black. Way too dark for what I needed! 

So I went back to the drawing board, and mixed up a highly diluted version of this. You can see this on my sample board on the right - the perfect proportion was 2 teaspoons of this mixture, added into a cup of straight vinegar. It turned to oak a beautiful aged gray color.

I applied to coat, and then sanded the top, adding some distressed marks and scraping in other areas, to simulate aging. Once I had it perfect, it was time to attach the top using those brackets that Hugo made.

There's a slight gap all the way around the barrel top, to allow the tabletop to expand and contract. I wanted to that gap to be uniform, so I added a few wedges to keep in place, and screwed everything together. 

It couldn't have worked out better! And here you have it - a gorgeous table, perfect for entertaining or doing shots of Crown Royal! 

Working on this was more fun than a barrel full of monkeys!

Monday, November 09, 2015

Yes, I love IKEA...

Is it wrong to admit I love IKEA? 

 I know, I know - most of their stuff is built with the worst of materials - particle board, vinyl wrapped crap, etc. 

But damn - their lines are so clean and the designs are so smart. I just love this contemporary version of a grandfather clock, complete with bookshelves underneath. 

 This footstool is so ergonomically gorgeous and simple. 

 Even though it's hard to tell from my lousy photo, this dining room table's lines are gorgeous and really well proportioned. 

 I have a friend who is decorating her niece's bedroom with a button theme - how cool would this rug look in that room?! 

Say what you want about it - IKEA is a pretty cool concept of a store, it's just a shame that their quality isn't up to par. Imagine if they had a "real wood" line of furniture... something like that right put me out of business! In fact, when a customer has requested it - I've built whole bedrooms full of furniture based on their designs, only out of solid wood. And better joinery. And better finishes. And well... you get the idea. 

I absolutely LOVE this IKEA hack... Check out this very cool bedroom design.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

It Takes a Village

There's an incredible amount of work that goes into putting on a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event. From cleaning, to the crate of wares arriving the week before 

- the set-up is amazing. Let's just say hours and hours of preparation is needed. 

We hung the sign the morning of the event, and said a silent prayer to the rain gods, to keep the rain at bay.  

Photos of all of our past students greeted the visitors as they walking into the lobby.

Kevin from Glen Drake Toolworks arrived and set up fairly quickly, 

Planemaker Juan Vergara 

and Dennis Patchett, a local carver also set up shop, sharing some very interesting techniques and philosophies. 

Everything seemed perfect... the tool displays

the sharpening station... 

The staff was helpful and shared a ton of techniques and information about the tools. 

Hand tool expert and cashier extraordinaire Anne Briggs Bohnett brightened the shop with her huge smile and personality. 

She was instantly recognized by several visitors - her Instagram feed is a very popular destination for many woodworkers! Check out her website too!

She wrote a terrific article about dovetails for Lee Valley. Here's a link...

I started working on my dresser carving, doing some detail sanding, and it quickly became a community effort...

 Beth sat down and grabbed a piece of sandpaper. (You have to love people who roll up their sleeves and help with sanding!)

Speaking of Beth, she brought in the AMAZING Brian Boggs inspired chair that she recently built. Honestly, her work is insanely good - to read more about the chair, check out this link. 

Like last year, we held a raffle for some cool things - Rick won a free woodworking class, Kean won some Bessey clamps, Esther won a sandpaper setup - a dispenser and two rolls of paper, and Beth won a nice assortment of cutting boards, which was ironic because that is EXACTLY what she wanted to win. 

And no... the raffle drawing wasn't fixed - Beth's just lucky that way! 

All in all, the attendance seemed to be a bit higher than last year, but I think sales were a bit sluggish. That's understandable; last year people made considerable purchases for their tool arsenal. This year, they were just adding a piece or two to compliment what they already owned. Will Lie-Neilsen return? I sure hope so!

I'd like to take a second to thank everyone who helped out during the event - 

Most importantly - a big thank you to Denny, who cleaned, set-up and broke-down the displays with the Lie-Neilsen crew. This was a HUGE job, and he did it with a ton of energy.  

Thanks to Lupe, who printed the signs and helped man (woman?) the door, selling raffle tickets and greeting our visitors. If you know Lupe, you know that's the perfect position for her!

Beth also lent a hand with raffle sales and was so helpful in giving mini-tours of the shop to new visitors. Her enthusiasm is contagious!

A big thank-you to Dennis Patchett, who spent two days carving wood and discussing his craft. I can't wait to get Dennis back into the school, to teach a carving class. 

Let's not forget Ann, who babysat Stella, taking a huge weight off my shoulders for the weekend!

And a big thanks to all who attended - we met a lot of new woodworkers, signed up a lot of new people into our woodworking program, and made some wonderful connections. 

Keep your fingers crossed for next year!....