31 October 2011

Oak furniture

Two poor pictures of a nice piece of oak furniture described by the owners as Louis XV Liègois.  This sets it somewhere around 1750

Liège is also known for other artifacts

And got a waffle named after the town
Liège waffle

Not to be confused with the
Brussels waffles

30 October 2011

Workbench height - 2

Reading Jim Tolpin's The new traditional woodworker I quite liked the part dedicated to workbench heights.

Thanks to a great variety of workbenches in his workshop and a sense of proper height for each activity or is it a  more demanding back, Jim Tolpin develops a system of various heights:  Knee heigh saw benches,  finger tip height for the assembly table,  wrist height for the planing bench and elbow height for the joinery bench.

Saw benches
Jim Tolpin proposes asymmetrical saw benches and these are interesting.  Having one side with square legs allows to put two of them side by side and to saw really close the top, minimizing unbalance and vibrations. My sketch probably misses an essential characteristic of the benches,  they are stackable.  So the width of the top should be less than the width between the legs.
Getting interested I checked the Bahco catalog for their longest handsaw and found  a Bahco Pc-24-File-U7 fcut Fileable Saw 24In at 14£.  It should be closer to 26" long according to  Tolpin.  The fileable aspect makes it a sole survivor in the Bahco catalog,  most probably due to the omnipresence of hard on teeth plywood.  There is for an added cost a more up to date low friction hardpoint Bahco 2700-24-Xt7-Hp Handsaw 24In at 26£.
Is it traditional? Probably not here.  The swedish Vagnmakeri på Söder video from 1932 displays what is by then the old ways of hand sawing. It's done with a frame saw at hip height (wrist height).  It's maybe not the perfect example as it  is about cutting curves. The ergonomy is different from a saw bench cut:  he stands upright behind the blade, with two hands at the saw and pulling the saw down coming from nose height. This position is not specific to a frame saw,  as I have seen on the web people using a handsaw with a high two handed hold. 
With a saw bench  I would need to lean forward resting on one arm, being before the blade and pushing the saw down starting close to the shoulder. The picture shows a high sawing bench,  (Bernard Jones 1920). It leaves more room for the saw. Compared to Tolpin low benches, the knee is higher and is more distant from the cut.  And the left shoulder is also locked higher keeping the trunk in a similar position.
If I look at the french peugeot catalogue of  1938, I see 12 regional models of frame saws (Parisienne, Bordelaise ...) and not a single handsaw.  For narrow blades the standard saw (price in red) is a 26" model with a 10mm blade.  For straight cuts there is a 40mm blade and  numerous lengths. A last 'veneer'  model has a 6mm and a 30mm blade in only one length 24".

Using saw benches is probably very interesting,  but I am in a different tradition.  And I see them as only good for straight cuts, keeping up the need for a second setup.   As it is now, with untraditional  plunge saw and jig saw at hand, I am probably more in need of a decent cutting table (at wrist height?).

To keep this post out of the pile of unpublished ones, I close it without touching the other Tolpin benches. Maybe more about bench height another time.

22 October 2011

Wooden nails

After Adam Cherubini's seminar on Nailed Furniture at WIA 2011 I got some echoes through the blogosphere.

I have my own nailed furniture.  Here an example of paint-grade furniture of the twenties,  that was stripped (and survived) in the nineties to give it a second life. ... on second thought,  the nails possibly date from the nineties restoration.
A seventeenth century nailed example is harder to find,  to make the wood survive it would be most probably oak anyway, and oak is hard on nails.

Adam Cherubini is more specific about his nailed furniture: fasteners and a clever use of rabbets, dados and grooves.  That's different,  I always imagine I am here in a former panel and frame country and there is little chance to find assembled wide board

If I forget about the originals and go for the fun and fast aspect of nailed board, I hesitate as there are already alternatives with wooden fasteners: Dowels, like Krenov. Biscuits, making most of the rabbets, dados and grooves superfluous. Finger joints? And using screws:  pocket hole joinery, screws, dowel screws, ... . Most of these, although easy in realisation, present maybe an excessive modern - machine made aspect.

Wooden nails?  I was thinking thin dowels with a head to allow fixing thin panels without the nails slipping out. Ok here I have some ideas.  I grabbed some bamboo satay sticks,  measured them as being a skinny 2,5mm (0.1") and  went for a transversal load test.  I drilled, by lack of a 2,5mm drill, a 3mm hole in two boards and looked for the breaking point.  Two attempts gave me values close to 20kg.  I can probably improve that with glue and better holes to 30kg.  But it's not enough,  I am looking to something like 50kg and I expect to find it with a diameter between 3 and 4 mm.   If that succeeds I can go further: making nail heads, gluing and testing longitudinal load.
Testing further I covered the wood before gluing to test only the transversal strength of the stick and obtained a 27kg (60lb) breaking point with glue.  A second test: driving a stick in a 2mm hole with a hammer failed,  that's provably why nails are from metal.

12 October 2011

Ordered chaos

Thanks to the Christopher Schwarz lostartpress blog, mentioning an upcoming book by Don Williams Virtuoso, the Studley chest is hot again.

What's interesting is not so much the tools, but the story of the man behind the chest.  Luckily it's possible to learn something about him through a may 1993 article of the Fine Woodworking Magazine.  I am also curious about his character, is his chest for example an expression of obsessive behaviour?  Drawing a parallel with one of my favourite painters,  I would say I don't know, as I see Bruegel more as an encyclopaedic mind. In my view close to Roy Underhill, encyclopaedic and sometimes chaotic because of that.

The next two paintings (thanks wikipedia) are from Bruegel the Elder.  The first is Mad Meg, as it is a view from hell and the only constraint is to put Mad Meg in the picture, it is plain chaotic.  The second is Proverbs,  119 or more - is it 144,  of them. Even if it still looks chaotic there is a great part of composition to make all these proverbs fit,  this is more an ordered chaos. Like the Studley chest, there are similar realisations made by artisans of his time, but the packed quantity is overwhelming. 

[edit] Seeing both pictures side by side I discover that Bruegel used a similar structure for both: a low diagonal with moon at the right and an open house at the left with its own diagonal to the central figure.

Not all is there, this time chaos but with some line ups: here lancers, trees and the perspective of the houses - set in a curve to stay focused on the man in black.  Massacre of the Innocents 1565-7

I have my favourites but there are other possible references.  Looking at the finish, Studleys chest comes maybe closer to the late medieval Ghent Altarpiece from Jan Van Eyck  made around 1430

Keeping the woodworking aspect in mind, these are all large wooden  panels with an oil based decorative finish from the sixteenth and fifteenth century.