They say,…

…that when properly used, the bandsaw is the safest machine in the wood shop.  Mostly, this is because the blade is almost completely encased in steel.  Only as much blade is exposed as needed for cutting the stock on the table.  But I wonder how many heart attacks they have caused?

When the blade on a bandsaw fails, it breaks under tension, catastrophically.  It really sounds like a rifle shot, right in front of you.  Oddly enough, it’s the narrower blades that startle me the most.  The larger ones tend to give some notice that things aren’t right, they start tick, tick, ticking as they propagate a crack in anticipation of failure.  The narrow ones, BANG! without warning.  I swear my heart needs to restart itself after each time one of those things breaks.

I think it may be time to pour a drink and call it a day.



Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It

Okay, apologies to Will Smith, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity for the pun.


Even with handmade furniture there are times when a jig becomes an indispensable tool. In this case, assembly of the dock chair that I posted about earlier.  It’s an inherent characteristic of this design that minute errors at the intersection of the two sub assemblies translate into large errors in the eventual positioning of the seat and back.

Making the prototype chair was an exercise in trial and error.   But the second chair was pretty much the same problem, despite having a correct model to follow.  No matter how carefully I scribed and fit the parts, small errors amplified into major problems in seat to back angle, overall angle of recline, and seat height.


So I decided to make an assembly jig that would ensure accurate and precise placement of the critical parts that determined how the chair would sit.  I used the prototype chair (partially disassembled) to align the jig.  In a couple of days, I’ll have parts ready to assemble and we’ll know how well it works.


Ps.  Oh, and yes, before anyone mentions it, I do occasionally work in clutter.  I tend to work, and clean, in binges.

PPs.  Well, the jig worked, but there were some errors that required final adjustments as before.  Only this time instead of making adjustments to a chair, I was making adjustments to the jig that makes the chair.

In the above photos, the prototype chair is on the left, and the production chair is on the right.

So after a full day of futzing around, I’m now ready to make production chairs.  The only problem is that Summer is nearly over, and I need to start thinking about Christmas stuff.

Letter to a young customer

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Dear Michael,

Congratulations, and Happy Birthday!  I am honored that your parents have chosen to give you one of my Roorkhee chairs as your 21st birthday gift.  I believe that you will have many years of comfortable and enjoyable use from it.  In fact, with a modest measure of stewardship, I believe that your heirs will enjoy it for many years as well.

A piece of hand made furniture, constructed of quality materials, is a rare luxury these days.  Most folks purchase their first piece of factory made furniture with no thought as to its future once they are done with it.  In fact, most furniture goes to a landfill after its first owner.  By contrast, your Roorkhee chair is made by myself as one of no more than a pair, with the finest material available.  The quality of materials, and construction practices using copper rivets and hand stitching will ensure that your chair will last for generations to come.

The wood for your chair is sustainably harvested African sapele, imported by Edensaw Hardwoods of Port Townsend, Washington.  The finish is two pound cut garnet shellac, polished with dark wax.  The leather is heavy English bridle leather from Wickett and Craig of Curwensville, Pennsylvania.  They have been tanning hides since shortly after the Civil War, and produce what I believe to be the best quality leathers in North America.

The vegetable tanned leather, although comfortable, will initially be very stiff.  You will find however, that with time and use the leather will become even more comfortable, much like a new pair of shoes or a quality baseball glove.  Given that the chair will change with use, two chairs that are identical when sold, will start to become unique within minutes of use.  In time, your chair will fit you so well that you will come to think if it as a welcome friend at the end of your day.

A very small amount of leather conditioner, once a year, should be sufficient to keep your chair in good form until you pass it on to its next owner, who will probably be asking about it shortly after they hear of your passing.

Enjoy with best regards,
Tom Scott


Awesome Awning

Hey Folks,

This post has absolutely nothing to do with woodworking, but it is about the wood shop.  Since the removal of our 40 year old street trees, the display windows of the shop have suffered in the sun.  To try to alleviate some of that stress, we ordered up a new awning for the front of the building.


Because our building is the oldest thing in the neighborhood, I tried to choose an old fashioned looking fabric and design.


The guys who put it up were very efficient, it went up in about an hour all told.


I think it looks great and adds a lot to the building.  As one of the neighbors said,
“It looks like it has always been there”



Доверяй, но проверяй (Trust, but verify)

Hey Folks,

Those of us who are of sufficient age will remember the above title as the late President Reagan’s favorite phrase during negotiations with Prime Minister Gorbachev, in the Cold War period of Detente.  While my relationship with magazine editors is not exactly Cold War epic, I do think that President Reagan’s favorite phrase is appropriate.


It’s no secret that, with some exceptions, I use other people’s designs for most of my work.  I generally prefer to do the woodwork, and leave the design work to others.  However, this practice does have inherent risks.  In this case, I built a dock chair from a plan published in an old magazine article.  The chair looked good, and potentially comfortable, and the knockdown & nesting feature was intriguing.


The problem arose when I used the downloadable, full sized plans for the leg profiles.  Although the photos in the article showed the chair parts nesting, when I made it from the provided profiles, the parts would not nest.  Checking back to the article, the chair in the photos was clearly not the chair of the downloaded plans.  The author had even mentioned that he made aesthetic “adjustments” to the plans.  IMHO the truly guilty party in this malfunction is the magazine editor, who did not insist on a chair made from the “adjusted” plan.  Once I compared the templates that I made, it was clear that one would not fit inside the other.


Therefore, I advanced upon a protracted struggle with reverse engineering the chair in the magazine photos.  It took me three failures, and numerous adjustments to the intersection between the final shapes before I was satisfied with a chair that was both comfortable, and functional.


The prototype is not for sale, but the next few will be.  If you’re coming to the Pig Out this weekend, you can try it out for yourself.  Oh, and if you think that yellow is an odd color to accompany the unfinished cedar, then try to imagine the cedar in a weathered grey color.


The Doodad

Hey Folks,

I just completed a commission today to build an objet d’art / coat hook for a repeat customer.  A repeat customer is a wonderful compliment and engenders a great feeling of accomplishment.  After all, it means that someone still likes your work enough to order another round even after the initial shine has worn off.


The project today was a piece of functional art, which for some reason didn’t fit into my usual lexicon so I fell into calling it, the doodad.  The doodad is made of quarter sawn white oak, charred with a torch, then brushed with a corn straw broom.  I rubbed in some finely ground granular aluminum to highlight the raised grain.  The doodad then got a few coats of 2# cut blond shellac.


The toggling pieces that form the coat hooks pivot on 1/8″ brass rod, and the whole thing hangs on a french cleat.


I don’t often take commissions because I have so much of my own work to keep up with, but who can resist a request for a second helping?


An Exchange of Gifts

Hey Folks,

An unexpected gift from a dear friend is always a joy, even more so when the gift is thoughtfully considered.  Kris and I just returned from a vacation in England and I brought a gift for our friend who hosted us.  It was a stationery box, similar to the boxes that I made for my god-daughters for Christmas.  Although they were all made around the same time, I couldn’t show it to you because my friend Julie also follows the blog and I wanted the box to be a surprise.

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Significant differences in this box from the previous ones are the copper foil veneer top, and the fact that the dimensions reflect European paper sizes.  The copper foil is stained with a verdigris etching, and is a sample piece offered by the company that produces large rolls for tables, bar tops, etc.  The box is African Sapele left over from the Roorkhee chairs.

To my surprise, I received a gift also, a copy of Spön, A guide to spoon carving and the new wood culture., by Barn the Spoon, one of England’s premier spoon carvers.  Spoon carving is, for me, the most recreational form of woodwork.  I use no plans or specifications other than my own vision of what is possible in the wood.  I use no machines or power tools, and the end result is a very personal effort.  I hope to get around to making more spoons in the future.