Who Splits Logs when it’s 90° Outside?

Um, yeah, me. There’s a reason that smart people like Peter Follansbee, Curtis Buchanan and Mike Dunbar do this stuff when there’s still a bit of snow on the ground. I went through three t-shirts, two bandanas, a gallon of ice water, two IPAs and four ibuprofen (hey Bob, how many Snickers bars would this be?), but I got this 5 foot red oak log split into eighths on Saturday before the skies opened up. This log is destined to become at least one, but hopefully several chairs.

I still have another five footer to go if anyone wants to come over and swing a sledge hammer for a few hours…anyone…anyone? At least the second one will be cut into shorter sections first. That one will be used for joint stool stock for a couple of reproductions we are going to work on in the joiner’s shop at Pennsbury Manor. If you can’t make it to NJ this week, you can come to Pennsbury on August 4th from 1-4 PM and help me split one there. Maybe it won’t be in the 90s by then :).

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William & Mary Bible Box Completed

I finally finished my reproduction of the William & Mary bible box I have been working on. If you missed the previous posts about it, you can check them all out, including pictures of the original, here: William & Mary Bible Box Posts.

To give you the short version, this project was a group build with my woodworking club, the Central Jersey Woodworker’s Association. I co-mentored the build with our club president, and each group member built their own box. We met as a group four times, once a month from January through April, to discuss key steps in the build process. Then each member went back to their own shop to complete that phase of the build. For certain specialty tasks, like the veneering and turning, we did those at the mentor’s (Frank’s) shop so that everyone wouldn’t have to invest in specialty tools that they may not have. Overall it was a really fun project.

My biggest take-aways:

  • Veneer work is fun stuff! Everyone should try it.
  • Turning small items on the pole lathe is a bit of a challenge. One needs to be sure to leave an extra 4 to 6″ where the drive cord wraps around for turning small things like the feet for this box. For long items like Windsor chair legs, it’s not a big deal. You can just turn the leg end for end in the lathe and continue to go at it. For turning small stuff though, having extra length is the way to go. I didn’t have that here (the blanks were designed to fit Frank’s Jet lathe) and I struggled a bit with the turning (not just because of the short blanks, but that’s a post for another day).
  • The parting tool isn’t a lot of fun to use on a pole lathe. The skew works much better.
  • The tool rest on my lathe flexes too much. This was the first time I’ve done any serious turning for a piece of furniture on my lathe. Previously it had been only practice pieces and rough turned items for the shop, such as the handles for my tool chest. I hadn’t noticed the flex in the tool rest with those turnings, but it reared its ugly head while turning the feet for this box. So I’ll need to remake the tool rest before I do any more turning. If you make this lathe for yourself, do yourself a favor and use a stiff hardwood for the tool rest and not construction grade lumber. The hem/fir I used just flexes way too much to make a solid tool rest.

Tonight is our club’s annual member showcase meeting where the club members bring in projects to display and talk about. It will also be the unveiling of our group’s finished bible boxes. If you’re in the area, you should stop by. You can get the address from the club’s web site, linked above. There’s no cost for your first meeting, so you have nothing to lose. It’s sure to be a great meeting with lots of really great work on display.

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Moland House Reenactment

This Saturday, August 18th, I will be participating in an historical reenactment at the Moland House Historic Park in Hartsville, PA. Moland is a 12 acre park, named for John Moland and the house that he and his family lived in during the 18th century. John Moland was a provincial councillor for the British Crown when Pennsylvania was a British colony.

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On July 31st, 1777, the Continental Army was marching on its way from New Jersey to Philadelphia. General Greene decided that the area around the Moland House was a good place to camp for the night. The Army was off to Philadelphia the next day. While camping at the “Falls of the Schuylkill” the decision was made to march to New York. On Sunday, the 10th of August, word was received that a large British fleet had been sited off of Delaware Bay. Again, the Continental Army was near the Moland House and decided to camp in the area. Moland House became General George Washington’s Headquarters. Waiting for more word of the British fleet, the Continental Army stayed at Moland until 3:00 am on Saturday, August 23rd. During that stay, the Marquis de Lafayette came to join Washington’s army. Count Casimir Pulaski also joined and the U.S. Cavalry was born at Moland.

The 2012 Moland Reenactment features a host of activities throughout the day, from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM. The Fifth Pennsylvania Regiment of the Continental Army will reenact Washington’s encampment in honor of its 234th anniversary. There will also be a host of historic craft interpreters, including 18th century musicians, coopers, basketmakers, blacksmiths, spinners, 18th century cooking, and of course joiners/cabinetmakers, among others. We’ll have several workbenches set up and will be demonstrating 18th century woodworking tools and methods throughout the day.

Joiners/Cabinetmakers at Moland
Joiners/Cabinetmakers at Moland

Moland House Historic Park is located at 1641 Old York Road, Hartsville, PA. The reenactment takes place this Saturday, August 18, 2012 from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM, with a rain date of Saturday, August 25th. Admission is very inexpensive and benefits the Warwick Township Historical Society. So if you happen to be in the area, stop by, tour the house and grounds and come and see us at the workbench! I’ll be the guy in the breeches and green waistcoat behind the 5 foor Roubo frame saw :). I hope to see some of you there!

Delaware Valley SAPFM Meeting & Pennsbury Manor

It was a busy woodworking weekend for me this past Saturday and Sunday. While I didn’t get any work done at home in my shop, I did have a great time in two other shops.

Saturday I attended the spring meeting of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers. We had probably about 25 or so folks show up for the event, and it turned out to be a very full, but interesting and informative day. If you have any interest in period furniture, you should definietely check out a chapter in your area. SAPFM is a great organization with a lot of really talented individuals.

We started out the day with a great demonstration on workholding strategies and shaping cabriole legs by William Duffield. William is a very talented woodworker with years of experience. He’s a member of SAPFM and the CJWA, and has also been an instructor at Woodcraft.

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After William’s demonstration, we got a demonstration in sawing trees into lumber on a Woodmizer from Tyler Emerick, who also hosted the meeting at his shop and warehouse in Alpha, NJ. Tyler took a 24″ diameter walnut tree that had come down last winter in the ice storms that hit northwestern NJ and turned it into some beautiful 8/4 and 4/4 slabs. Then he gave the lumber away to whatever members wanted it and had the means to get it home. There were a couple of guys who scored some beautiful 24″ wide 12′ plus long 8/4-10/4 slabs that will air dry to some really good boards over the next few years. Tyler was exteremely generous giving this lumber away and letting the chapter use his shop for the meeting.

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After lunch, I did a demonstration on building frame and raised panel cabinet doors using hand tools. I was pretty satisfied with the way the demonstration went, though after the fact I realized that there were a few things that I had forgotten to point out while doing the demo. It’s amazing how fast time goes and how much you forget once you get up there and start speaking and going through the steps. I really need to start making notes for these demonstrations. Overall I think it was a pretty good demonstration though and I think most folks enjoyed it.

Finally, to close out the day, Frank Vucolo did an amazing demonstration on Federal stringing, banding and inlay styles and techniques. To say Frank is an excellent speaker is an understatement, and his work speaks for itself. Frank is an amazing craftsman and he did a really great demonstration that left me really wanting to build a Federal period piece. Frank is also the president of the CJWA.

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Besides the demonstrations, there was also a great “show-and-tell” of projects that fellow members had completed or were in the process of working on. I think the level of talent of these folks speaks for itself in their work. Absolutely stunning craftsmanship. If you have any interest in this kind of furniture at all, or even just in traditional joinery and construction methods, you should really join SAPFM. You can’t help but learn from these kinds of events.

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On Sunday, I spent the afternoon with another bunch of great guys in the joyner’s shop at Pennsbury Manor. It was my first day volunteering at the shop and I had such a great time being there and meeting and conversing with all of the other joyners and visitors in the shop that I completely forgot to take any pictures. Perhaps I’ll shoot a few in July the next time the shop opens. If you’re in the area and you’ve never been to Pennsbury Manor before, you should definitely check it out. Touring the grounds and the manor house and checking out some of the historic crafts interpreters and out buildings is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Get Woodworking, Together

One of the best way to get started in the craft, learn a great deal, and meet other like minded individuals of all skill levels is to take a class or get invloved in a local woodworking club. Classes are great because you get hands on instruction. They can be expensive though. Local clubs on the other hand are an absolute bargain, and often you can attend a meeting or two for free to see if the club is for you. The benefit of local clubs is that you can meet local people who usually are more than eager to help out newcommers and get them started right. Most clubs have lectures and demonstrations fairly regularly, and many have special seminars, group wood buys, and mentor led group builds to help you get your feet wet.

My own club, the Central Jersey Woodworker’s Association, has recently started doing mentor led group builds as a way for us to get together in small groups, work out project details and learn from each other. Participant experience levels run the gamut from rank beginner to seasoned professional, and skill sets are equally as diverse, from CNC to hatchet and drawknife. Group projects like these are a fantastic way to see other woodworker’s shops, learn new skills, build new projects, and make new friendships for nothing more than the cost of a club membership.

So seek out classes, but especially get involved in your local guilds and clubs. The cost of annual membership to one of these organizations typically pays for itself the very first meeting. If you’re around the New Jersey area, feel free to stop in to the CJWA meetings. New members are always welcome. We meet the second Wednesday of the month (except for July and August) and are centrally located to many areas. Click the link above for more information and directions to the meetings.