Things don’t go exactly as planned.  In fact, when bending wood, it happens more often than with most other operations.  I’ve come to take a fatalistic approach to bending projects, failures are to be expected, and allowed for.


The photo above shows the aftermath of a minor explosion.  When I inserted the tapered core into the band of my largest attempted bentwood box, the stressed wood split and sprung apart with a small bang.

I’ve been learning a lot about these little boxes.  Each one requires its own variation of technique to bend, secure and fasten it into the proper shape.  Small ones require a nimble dexterity to get the tiny tacks in place, while the larger take a firm hand and all the digits that you can muster to keep them together without splitting out between wooden fingers.

I spent most of my shop time last week roughing out stock for dozens of these boxes.  My work is cut out for me, and my education continues apace.



Something New

fullsizeoutput_3beHey Folks,

I’m taking a break from furniture to try something that I’ve always wanted to make, Shaker bentwood boxes.  These are lightweight oval boxes with telescopic lids, like a hat box.  They are made from thin bands of hardwood, with softwood tops and bottoms as plugs.  The whole thing is held together with copper tacks and wooden pegs, no glue.

These boxes were originally made by Shaker woodworkers in a variety of sizes that have since been standardized.  Today, they are often sold as a nesting collection, although there is no indication that the Shakers used them that way.  Usually, they were found in cupboards much like kitchen canisters.

Traditionally, they were painted with milk paint, then oiled or waxed.  Today, they are often finished with clear finishes to show off the wood.  In the photo above, two (made of maple with pine top and bottom) are painted with Barn Red, Old Fashioned Milk Paint, then scuffed with a ScotchBrite™ pad and buffed with dark wax.  The other two are made of black walnut with Douglas Fir top and bottom, and finished with oil and wax.

fullsizeoutput_3bbfullsizeoutput_3baThe boxes are traditionally bent by first heating in boiling water to make them pliable.  Since I don’t have a large boiling tray, I’ve been using my over large steam box to heat the bands.  It’s a bit of overkill, but it works well enough.  When the bands are sufficiently pliable, they are bent around solid softwood forms. When cooled, they are removed from the form and fastened with copper tacks, clenched on a pipe anvil.  Tapered oval cores are inserted in each end to re establish the proper shape as the oval dries overnight.  The band for the lid is bent around the outside of the larger, box band, and also allowed to dry overnight.


Next day, the top and bottom pieces are scribed, cut and fitted to the bands.  They have a slight taper to them so they fit like plugs. A boring table with a 5/64″ drill bit, precisely bores a number of holes 1/16″ up from the bottom (or top) edge and around the perimeter.  Tapered wooden plugs (toothpicks) are driven in to secure the tops and bottoms.

The boxes are traditionally left unfinished on the inside, although sometimes they were lined with fabric, and given hoop type handles to turn them into carriers for sewing notions etc.

So far, I’ve only made the #3 size.  I have forms and cores for sizes #0 through #5 and will be trying to complete a set soon.


Back by popular demand

Hey Folks,

Same dog (Peggy Tzu) , new chair.  Or rather, a new iteration of the same chair.  I’ve just completed the wood parts for four Roorkhee chairs*, and I’ve assembled one with black English bridle leather from Wickett and Craig.  I’ll hold off finishing the other three in the event that someone wants a leather color other than black.

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This one is available now, and if you get your order in before the end of November, I can have a matching one finished just in time for Christmas. 🙂


*BTW- The modern renaissance of the Roorkhee chair is entirely due to the efforts of Chris Schwarz who has taught hundreds to make them (including myself), and has freely shared his design and expertise.


Christmas is coming…


…and the goose is getting fat.  I know, I’ve used this once before, but the image of these little geese ornaments has been on my mind every year since I first saw them.  So this year, I’ve tried to reproduce them from some scrap pine that I’ve had lying around, seemingly forever.

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The woodworking is dead simple, but the painting is something that I still need practice with.  Hopefully they’ll pass muster, as each of my friends and loved ones will be getting ‘goosed’ for Christmas.



Heh heh, goose droppings.  😆

Happiness is…

A warm puppy, or a warm sweatshirt on a cold day (or so said Peanuts creator Charles Shultz).  But I wonder if he ever felt the happiness created by a new chainsaw chain (particularly if the old one was really dull). Probably not, but it’s on the same order as a full wood box, or a fire in the wood stove; things that I’m starting to appreciate more and more as the days grow shorter and colder.



“Yule Logs”


Well, not exactly.  They aren’t Jül logs or Buche Nöel in the classic sense.  What they are is an homage to an award winning design, from the son of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and a beloved toy from many a childhood, …and I made them in time for Christmas.

The original patent for what would become Lincoln Logs™ was filed in 1920 after about four years of development.  They were originally made of redwood, at one time misguidedly made of (ugh) plastic, and eventually made of other North American softwoods.

These logs are made of lumber scraps leftover from the construction of the picnic shelter/pavilion at the shop, plus whatever other softwood scraps I had around.  Mostly, they are hemlock, but there is also some Douglas fir and some pine.  They required hours of work to break down and rough out to 3/4″ square, and then to round and notch all the pieces, so although there is no (wood) material cost, the labor can never be fully covered.  Ah well, that’s what seems to happen when I make Christmas stuff.

The colors are all certified kid safe and the pieces are all hand sanded to eliminate splinters.  They should also be compatible with original sets of logs, in case anyone has a set they’ve been saving.

By the way, if you should buy a set from me, and you do have an original set, I would appreciate hearing of how well my logs work with your originals.  In any case, consider giving a kid an analog gift this year, no batteries needed.



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.