Beginnings, Middles, and Ends

We have projects in all states this week.  I'm finishing up the sofa and my chair while Larissa is in the midst of coffee table construction.  We're also embarking on a new commission that's just at the proposal stage right now.

The legs have been bent...and that's really the hardest part of this whole process.  Curvy legs do add complications along the way, though.  How do you cut these guys to length.  After weighing the pros and cons of a tablesaw jig, bandsaw and disc sander, and a few other ideas, Larissa settle on using the router to get all of the legs to the same size. 

She's using a nice little multi-functional jig that rides on the fence of the table saw to cut the joint into the top of the legs.  This guy tends to be handy for a lot of things we do. 

As the mortise and tenon joints are fit and everything starts coming together these bits of wood are starting to look like something! 

 

If you've taken a class with us, you know that our finishing process takes a while.  We have bits and pieces in every state of completion.  I began this week by finishing up the shaping of the joinery on the table tops and oiled them up.  The last time we made this design, I glued up the tabletop first.  It made finishing a bit of a nightmare.  This time, I'll finish everything first, then assemble and hope everything works out better.

We had some milder weather for about two hours this week, so it was a good time to clear out the spray booth to topcoat the sofa and chair.  I'm putting the final coats on the arms over the next few days.  We should be able to photograph and deliver this guy by the end of the month.

We were contacted by a couple who is looking for a few pieces.  A dining table, two benches, and some chairs.  I'm working through the process of coming up with a design that fits their need.  We always charge a small design fee at the outset of a project so we can afford to spend the time it takes on one of the most important parts of a project.  It also helps us filter out the people that aren't serious about purchasing our work.  It's a heartbreaker to invest time and effort in something when someone isn't really considering buying it in the end.

I made a few models after some quick sketches.  As I was drawing at home, my daughter suggested I add sparkles and Moana stickers.  I wanted to run that by you all before committing.  The couple is supplying their own granite top for the dining table which does, in fact, sparkle.  The stickers, though.

 

Coffee Table Extravaganza

Two weeks ago in one of our "things in progress" post, there was mention of a coffee table that I was bending some sweet legs for. Remember that? Remember thinking to yourself, "Man, I wish I could see more about that awesome looking coffee table!" Well, folks, wish no more.

Since we completed the first ever Larissa-and-Rob collaboration in the form of a coffee table last year, we have been eager to make another. [Cue the awesome and beloved Cosgriffs] Lucky for us, we got a commission for one! And, since we're at it again, we might as well make one more for spec purposes, right? "Spec purposes" meaning of course that Rob and I just want to see what an all-walnut version of this bad boy will look like.

The low down: Just like the first, these will sport bent lamination legs, a long slatted lower shelf, and a top composed of framing with captured veneer panels floating in the middle.

I have been tackling the bases while Rob works his veneer magic on the tops.

First, I made two beefy plywood forms to bend the wedge-shaped thin layers of wood between. The forms have seen many stages of improvement since our last table. You can see in the video that these guys have maple guides mounted to either side to keep the layers of the lamination from shifting out of the form as the clamps are tightened. You can also see that Gorilla Glue makes one hell of a foamy mess. Although it requires a few additional steps, like dampening each bit of wood before applying the glue and dealing with a sea of foam, polyurethane glue is best for bent laminations because it doesn't allow for "creep" as the layers of wood expand and contract over time.

The legs were broken free from their forms the following day (and the process was repeated for the remaining 6 legs). After a few hours of scraping, the legs were sent through the jointer and planer to smooth them out and allow us to finally see the fruits of our labor. The problem solving really set in when we had to figure out how to cross cut these suckers to the correct length while ensuring that the top and bottom cuts were parallel. Over the length of a curve? This is some calculus level stuff.

There was talk of affixing two legs at a time to a carrying board made of plywood that would allow us to cross cut against the fence of the table saw and trim off the length we needed. Good idea- the problem came when these 2 5/8" legs were already pushing the boundaries of the height of our table saw blades, so to add plywood underneath would mean it couldn't possibly cut all the way through in one cut. The careful layout that would be required and added steps of having to flip the legs for a second pass to remove the portion that was missed had us dreaming up new solutions.

The current method under trial is using a large square of MDF cut to the proper length (mounted to one leg at a time with double face tape) that provides reliably parallel, straight edges for a router with a long pattern copying bit to ride against to cut the ends flush with the template. One leg down so far... 7 more to go.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the shop, Rob was making a mess. First, he cut bridle joints that join the corners of the framing portion of the table tops. The tenons were cut at the bandsaw while the mating ends were started at the band saw and finished with a bunch of chopping away with a mallet and chisel. (Video of said loud chopping can be found on our Instagram)

When the bridle joints were fitted, he was on to laying out and then routing out the mortises to accept the floating tenons that hold the veneered panels in place. The jig he used to cut those mortises is something we use in our Advanced Joinery course so, if you're curious about it, you should probably come take some classes with us. Just sayin'. It's a contraption we use quite often to rout into the edges of things. It carries the plunge router perfectly straight and parallel and can be adjusted to clamp and center onto any thickness. It can also be adjusted to rout slots of desired lengths. In this case, he set it for the proper length and centered on the thickness consistent for each part of the table top and then just moved the jig around to cut the same sized and placed mortise in each of the 44 locations.

It was critical that each of the mortises was perfectly placed to match up with it's opposing mortise so that the tenons fit just so into both parts. Forty-four mortises later, everything fit together just as planned. What a pro.

And, that is where we find ourselves on this Friday afternoon. With just an hour left in our work day, I will retire from typing and pick up the router to try and knock out a leg or two more before the weekend sets in. Happy Friday, readers! I wish you a safe, fun, and sawdusty weekend!

Walnut Three Drawer Desk

We finished this piece and delivered it about this time last year.  A very fun and simple piece to build, it takes it's roots from the mid-century modern work of George Nakashima.  You should check out the price that an old original Nakashima desk fetches these days.

The design started with a scale model to get the size and proportions just right.  The case work here is very simple.  Just some solid walnut boards, rabbeted together and glued and screwed.  I broke out the dovetail jig on this guy.  I generally like to cut the dovetails by hand, but since the budget was tight on this piece the router stepped up and cut all of the joinery in a couple of hours. 

I really do like the way the live edge top floats above the case work.

One of the challenges was the drawer pulls.  The customer wanted none.  But then how do you open the drawers!?!  We put our brains together and figured out a way.  Larissa made up a nice little ramped router jig to make a place for your finger to fit.  I sawed out some angled bits on the side, then routed a semi circle into the top of the drawer.  We had to add a bit of wood to the inside of the drawer face to achieve those results, but it looks and feels pretty cool in the end.

Jeff popped in and asked if he could help...OF COURSE!!!  He made the legs to support the other side of the top.  To make the turning blanks, he tilted the table saw to 45 and knocked out a few octagons.  This makes the turning process much nicer as you don't have to knock off all of those corners.  Nice, simple tapers are harder to execute than they look.

Eoin got a lot of great photos of this guy.  One of my favorite details in the end was the file hangers in the file drawer.  A simple bit of steel, spaced out with a metal pipe washer.  Slick!

Someday, I might make something similar for myself.  I really like the simplicity and functionality of this guy.

Works In Progress 1/25

Donald Trump cannot stop me from sharing the beautiful things we've got going in the shop over the last few weeks.

The Lewis Settle

I finished this guy up this week and put the oil on.  Whoa!!!  That's some nice cherry.  For about eight years, I pointed out this long straight cherry board in my "Sawmill Etiquette" demonstration.  The point is to save long, straight stock for when you need it.  Last week was the time.  The leather came in from our supplier, Anne will be by next week to pick up the spring deck and we'll be delivering a sofa to a proud new owner in about a month.

Coffee Tables

Larissa made up the new forms and we're gluing up.  We use polyurethane glue for bent laminations....it makes for a big mess.  We soak the laminates in hot water before bending.  This makes them a little more willing to bend without cracking.  The glue is activated by water, so it works out well. 

The veneer came in over the weekend and was there waiting for me on Monday morning.  That walnut is crazy.  As I started working with it I realized that it needed to be softened.  Too wavy and crinkly.  It makes it impossible to work with.  I sprayed it down with a veneer softening solution and it's being pressed flat now.  The paper towels go in between layers to soak up the moisture.  I remove them, let them dry out, and then put them back to press overnight.

And in other news...

I picked up some wood from under a customers back porch and loaded it into the kiln.
Larissa is making a very fancy, carved cross.
There was another beautiful sunrise.
We have sharp blades!
My chair is nearing completion.

We have our Weekend Warrior class over the next two weekends, so look out for some fun stories from class! 

 

[Real, not fake] NEWS

I am here to interrupt your regularly scheduled blog updates about our ongoing projects to tell you about our biggest ongoing project- keeping JD Lohr Woodworking (both furniture studio and woodworking school) going on into the future forever and ever.

We all know that Jeff has earned his retirement 1,000 times over through the years of building (and then teaching) this woodworking paradise from, quite literally, the ground up. He and Linda have dedicated their lives to making the Lohr Farm into a haven for animals, family, friends, students, clients, and woodworkers from around the world. Rob and I are honored to step in and take the reigns on the woodworking portion of the equation so that these two can take a load off and enjoy their retirement.

Today was one for the books as Rob and I were each given a portion of stock (Did you know that means partial ownership? Holy cow, what?!) in JD Lohr Woodworking, Inc. We will be working our dusty little behinds off over the coming years to earn more. Both of us owe our knowledge, skill, understanding, confidence, and career to Jeff and are thrilled to be able to take his legacy forward. We love the school and the making every bit as much as he does so we're hopeful that we can keep things sailing along seamlessly. The transition is sure to be made easier when things get too grand for two people by our luck of having a third hand in the wise and talented Eoin. We are honored, excited, and motivated to keep the Jeffry Lohr dream alive by making original, custom furniture and teaching the people of the world how to make furniture [safely].

P.S. Don't worry, this is still the Lohr Farm so Jeff & Linda will still be just yards away for 'hello's and 'dear god, please help us's.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and wonder to myself, "is this real life?"

Cheers to 2017 and onward, folks!

 

Works In Progress

We're quite busy on furniture commissions right now.  Here are a few projects in the works:

The Lewis Settle

Right around Christmas we jumped in on this settle.  A piece originally designed by Jeff for the Allens sometime in the 90's.

It's all very heavy mortise and tenon construction with curly cherry panels.  Pieces this big are satisfying when they all come together.  This week I'm working on the internal structure to support the upholstery frame.  Today's struggle was trying to fit that large panel in the back.  Very tough to get a tight fit and not destroy everything when fitting it in. Next week I start in on the arms.

Cosgriff Coffee Table

We're making another coffee table in the same design as the one in Larissa's last entry.  Larissa started on the legs.  The legs are made up of 13 tapered strips, so she started in on resawing a bunch of white oak and walnut.

Last year, it was my genius idea to use some green oak for the bending forms.  They worked great, but when we pulled them out this week the material had moved substantially.  Those pieces on the left were perfectly aligned just 6 months ago.  Now Larissa's hard at work on some new forms.  Plywood this time.

Hey...look at that Tuesday sunrise!

Rob's Chairs

The thing about doing this professionally is that it's hard to make things for yourself.  I'm not complaining as I find it much more satisfying to make pieces for others.... but every once in a while I want something fancy too!

I think I started these chairs 4 or 5 months ago and they've sat on a shelf in the finishing room since.  I woke up on Saturday thinking about them and then my son randomly inquired, "When will our new chairs be done?".  The universe sent me to work on Saturday.  In another 4 or 5 months they just might be finished. 

See you next week!

The Doctor's Boxes

Sometime this summer, I was approached by a doctor who was working on a video autobiography.  He had a very long and successful career and wanted to share his life to those that might be interested.  His plan was to compile a set of dvds and donate them to several libraries.  The catch...he wanted to do it in style.  That's where we come in.

Boxes seem simple at first glance.  The reality, though, is that if they're done well it takes just about the same time and effort that a large scale furniture piece demands.

My point of departure here was a box that I saw at the auction at this summer's Furniture Society Conference in Philadelphia.  It was a dovetailed, Walnut box with a spalted sycamore panel on the lid.  The lid fit inside the rabbeted box sides, which lent a very nice look.  This box was made by David Fleming, an Arizona woodworker who trained with James Krenov.  You can see his work at www.dfcabinetmaker.com

The details:  Dr. Porter wanted the boxes to fit 18 dvds, he wanted the box to have a lock and key, and he wanted his name carved into the boxes in two places.  Sounds simple enough, right?

We dovetailed and dovetailed, then dovetailed some more.  The dovetails were initially cut on the bandsaw, then marked to the pin boards.  After realizing the amount of work an energy involved in chopping out all of the waste, I put the router to work.  Ganging up all of the pieces made removing the waste with a router very quick.

Be sure to check out the issue 74 of Woodcraft Magazine that's on newsstands now.  I've got an article on hand cut dovetails that will walk you through my process.  I make a nice little candle box in the article.   http://www.woodcraftmagazine.com/posts.php?id=337

Once the dovetails were done, it was time to think about the internal compartments.  Each compartment has to fit a dvd and it shouldn't be too loose or too tight.  This sounds like a nightmare.  Time to make a jig, I suppose.  Once I determined the spacing, I glued up a jig that would guide the router in making eight, equally space, 1/4" dadoes.  Rather than rout the jig, I ripped and re-glued to establish the openings of the jig. 

I had to bring in my dwindling DVD collection to test the spacing of everything...  I really wish I held on to some semblance of a dvd collection so you guys can see how cool I am and how my taste in documentary films is above reproach.  Life changes.

The dividers are made from 1/4" plywood, capped with a hardwood strip that will match the boxes lid.  The caps were all glued to the edge using blue tape as a clamp.  Lots of dividers, lots of tape.

Hardware...  Endless bits of hardware.  So many tiny screws...

Larissa tackled installing the lock set.  It's not something either of us have ever done, so we weren't really sure how it would go.  She installed the full mortise lock set with aplomb!  The trickiest elements are just getting everything to line up and cutting shallow mortises that fit the hardware just right.  A lot of careful layout and that was about it.

The hinges were easy enough...just a lot of them.  The lid stays from Brusso are very cool and I look forward to using them again.  They were just the right thing for this box.

Carving... Larissa tackled the carving, as she is our in house human CNC.  She laid down the text with some spray glue and routed through the paper, leaving a beautiful carving in her wake.  I'm sure a CNC or laser engraver would do a fine job, but I have a feeling that Larissa captures something more special with her router work.  I was at a robot exhibition at the Franklin Institute a few weeks ago and about 60% of the robots were either broken, charging, or just plain disappointing.  Larissa is never a problem in this way.

I could go on and on with all of the little details that made these boxes challenging, but my son Sid is telling me that I've been doing this for a very long time and it's now time to play some Pac Man.  I'll leave you with some finished photos of these fine boxes.  The panels are curly maple, bird's eye maple, spalted sycamore, and curly cherry.

Rob's List of Mistakes:

1.  Quadrant Hinges?  No.  For some reason, I thought that I could use quadrant hinges as a lid stay.  They're called hinges for a reason.  I went through so much time devising a jig to install these little suckers and they didn't even work in this application.  I also cheaped out and bought rockler's version of these at $8 a pair.  The good ones are about $38 a pair.  The cheap ones are impossible to work with and look terrible.  A couple days wasted and a lesson learned.

2.  That's not a set up piece!  As I was setting up the rabbet on the lid panels, the phone rang.  I went to answer and then came back to resume my set up.  Made a cut...that's too deep.  AHHHHH!!!  That's not the set up piece, that's the real F*&$%* panel!  Luckily I had bits of the same material laying around.  A little glue and we're back in business.  Whenever I try to hustle things through the process to save a little time it always takes me twice as long.  I will never learn this lesson.

 

Live Edge Ghost Maple Coffee Table

Last winter I had a commission for a coffee table from a student in one of our Practical Woodworking classes.  He just wanted a really special piece of wood for his new home in the form of a coffee table.  We have one dwindling flitch of ghost maple and I had one piece that was right around the size we needed.  In it's raw state, the board looks pretty gnarly, so I thank Jerry for trusting me.  If you're looking for character, this stuff will fit the bill.

Bugs, spalting, cracks, and splits....  A word on Ghost Maple:  Most people call this Ambrosia Maple (yuck), after the Ambrosia Beetle that makes those "ghost-like" markings.  Some people go for Wormy Maple (no).  Ghost Maple sounds best, so that's what we go with.

Bugs, spalting, cracks, and splits....  A word on Ghost Maple:  Most people call this Ambrosia Maple (yuck), after the Ambrosia Beetle that makes those "ghost-like" markings.  Some people go for Wormy Maple (no).  Ghost Maple sounds best, so that's what we go with.

Jerry's point of inspiration was a photo from a Fine Woodworking magazine.  An Arts & Crafts piece by Kevin Rodel:  http://www.finewoodworking.com/issue/2015/12/february-2016

That is a beautiful piece, but I felt a natural edge just didn't quite go with that look, so I lept off the angular vibe of the base and tried to come up with something that would. 

I'm not an excellent draftsman, nor do I excel at free hand drawings.  That's a bit of a predicament when I have to present a proposal to a client.  In this case, a full scale mock up was the ticket.

With bits of scrap wood and cardboard, I could build a base, destroy it, and rebuild it in a matter of an hour or so.  In the end, you get a three dimensional look at things and actually get to experience the piece in the flesh before it's built.

I'm still not crazy about sending a client a picture of slapped together bits of wood and cardboard, so I photograph the piece, print and trace it.  This way I get a good pencil sketch and I can trick the customer into thinking that I'm a talented artist!  I've been down the road of trying sketch up and I'm sure many people could put something like this in a 3-D design program in a matter of a few minutes.  That person is not me.

The base was all put together with lap joints.  A very clean and easy way to join pieces of wood.  I marked the intersections with a knife and cut to my lines.  This is the only piece I've made that comes to mind with no mortise and tenon joints.

The table top came together with a few butterflies, installed beautifully by Larissa.  She's used to inlaying our bones, but this was her first go at the butterfly.  The angular nature of the base just called out for those sleek bowties.  Since the grain is so busy in this piece, we went with quartersawn maple butterflies.  A contrasting wood like walnut would be way over the top and call out for attention a little too much.  We do want these to pop, but not at the expense of the piece as a whole.

In the end, this piece came out very nicely.  The ghost maple used is one of the most colorful and figured examples we've ever come across.  We had retrieved this material as a log when a big mini-mall was going up.  Glad it didn't go to the firewood pile.  I've made a lot of pieces with the material from this log and there's still a few pieces tucked away. 

2016 at the Lohr Woodworking Studio

A lot of pieces have left through our doors here at the Lohr Woodworking Studio during the past year.  We always find it fun to look back over all of the work that we've created throughout the year. Big thanks go out to our wonderful customers who commission us to make the finest work that we're able.

Over the next few weeks, Larissa and I will dive deeper into each of the pieces you see pictured below and share some of the process and behind-the-scenes. Here's to a happy new year and a new collection of pieces for 2017!