A few weeks ago, I borrowed a friend’s Festool AFT-55 (circular saw) and tracks so I could make some exact cuts on the hall table and end table. I love the precision of the Festool, but don’t yet use it enough to justify such a purchase. I would consider picking up something, though, if I continue with making large-ish things, like live edge tables. At $650+ for the new track saws, however, I might get more versatility from the Carvex jigsaw.
The only real problem I encountered with the AFT-55 was the depth of cut. The walnut planks were over 8/4 thick and the Festool could only cut about 1 7/8″. So I had to finish the rest with my Disston 26″ rip saw that was cleaned up and sharpened by Wentzloff & Sons (I got it, along with a crosscut, from Jon Zimmer , who still carries saws that are cleaned up and sharpened by Wentzloff).
While I had the Festool saw in my possession, I decided to rip two of the reclaimed Checkerdome douglas fir planks to proper size so I can make some headway on the workbench, as well. Those beams are almost 3″ thick. That meant ripping over 1″ with the rip saw. It might not seem like a lot, but those old beams are very dense and heavy and it took a lot of effort to saw through them.
Although I’d be a lot happier with a longer top, say something more like 8′, having a proper bench of even 6′ long will be a welcomed change. This is a good idea of how it will look, about 6′ long, 22″ wide, and just under 3″ thick.
With the tops cut to size, I went to my friend Scott’s shop Saturday morning to put some time in on his 52″ “friend maker” (wide belt sander). I spent more time with the end table top than the other three because it had so much cup. I was able to get it perfectly flat and still retain 1 3/8″ thickness. The hall table was a lot straighter and I was able to keep it to 1 5/8″ thick. I’m not at all worried about this; I think the end table needed to be a little thinner than the hall table, anyway. If it was too thick, it would look chunky.
Some of you might recall I talked about saving the cut-offs from the bog oak butterfly keys I inlaid into the conference table I made last year. Turns out, they came in very handy (once I was finally able to locate them, after sorting through many boxes of stuff)! I was able to lay them out on the tables, not to use as actual templates for inlay (because each one is individually scribed and inlaid), but just to give me some idea as to what it would look like.
Using these, I can easily adjust positions and determine the best design layout and evaluate what I need to make.
I still have some spare bog oak keys left over from last year – one large one and three smaller ones – so I’ll make up a few more and maybe even make some medium-sized off-cuts using two of the larger ones to see if having three sizes might show better.
More to come later…
Over the years, I’ve learned that my initial gut instinct is usually right. This was no exception.
After spending a half hour cutting cardboard and using blue tape, it didn’t take two seconds for me to realize I needed to trim the end table on the crotch side and not the straight live edge side when I set it up against the slab.
Trimming the branch side off will still leave me with plenty of awesome grain in the crotchal region while allowing me to create a usable table top.
I did not have a strong initial impression of whether or not 12″ was enough depth for the hall table. This gives something of an idea of what it might be, though I would probably keep all of the live edge and not chop it like that. Or maybe I could make the live edge more of a straight-line reference for the front of the table for consistency.
I did not have time this morning to adjust the frame to 15″ to see what a deeper hall table might look like. I will do that this evening, though, as I think it is important to see. Looking at it framed out the way it is, I’m afraid I’m not getting enough depth. Also, I need to check with the photos of where the table will go again. If the hall table ends up with one end being deeper, because of the live edge, I need to know which end it should be as I can control that based on which side of the plank I take the waste from.
Oh, I updated the last post, but wanted to mention here as well that my wood supplier in Evansville, IN is Joe Schneider. His website is The Wood Slab King. If you’re in need of large pieces of wood at a great price and you’re within 4 hours of Evansville, he’s definitely worth checking out.
More to come…
Over the holiday weekend, I took a trip to Evansville, IN, to visit one of my wood suppliers, Joe Schneider. He has a great selection of wood and the price is better than anything I can find within 50 miles of the Greater Saint Louis area, so it’s worth the trip.
This time I was after an 8/4 plank of walnut that was 98″ long, about 20″ wide for most of its length and then about 30″ wide at the crotch. There were several slabs to choose from, so I picked the one I felt was best suited for the project.
Once again, there were those who doubted I would be able to fit the wood into my Toyota Venza…
Since I knew the rough dimensions I needed, however, we just cut it into two pieces there and I only had to drop down half of the back seat.
Before we left town, we were directed to a place called “Carrie Jen’s” (which seemed an odd name until we realized it was an Amish-based restaurant called the Carriage Inn) for some delicious fried chicken and bumbleberry pie with ice cream. I think the beard suits me. I’m amazed it has taken me so long to get around to growing one.
Now that I have the pieces home, I’ll make some cardboard frames of the table dimensions (5’6″ long by 12″ deep for the hall table and 24″ x 24″ for the end table) and figure out the best place to make my cuts. Having the visual reference always helps me to determine how to make such important cuts. I will take the opportunity to get the client’s opinion, as well, in this case.
I think they might want the hall table to be a bit deeper than the indicated 12″ and the crotch is about 30″ wide, so I’ll have to trim off 6″ from one of the live edges. But do I trim it from the left side, with the relatively straight live edge? Or from the right side, where there is some nice crotch figure? My initial instinct is from the right, because I think it will look better with the straighter live edge on the front of it, even though it will mean losing some of that beautiful figure, but I’ll have a better idea when I frame it out. This must be decided first; there is a bit of cup to the end table section, so I’m going to cut it to size before I flatten it to retain as much thickness as possible.
I’m not at all worried about the split, even though it looks rough. I will be stabilizing it with several bog oak butterfly keys and it is still quite solid on the far end. This table will be a first for me in that some of the keys will be exposed in the gap. This means I will treat at least part of each bog oak key as if it is a finished surface (planed smooth) and will need to figure out how to clean out the inside of the crevice (I’m thinking pressurized air for starters).
Stay tuned for more…
Funny how life works. You think you have a plan set up, at least short term, to get something done (in this case, organizing my tools and shop space and making some much-needed shop storage and a workbench) and something comes up that is terribly difficult to turn away.
Just as I was moving back into my old condo last month, I got an email from the owner of the marketing design firm I made the conference table for last year. They have need of a long sofa table and an end table. They want them in a way that is congruent with the conference table (walnut, live edge, some bog oak butterflies, fabricated legs) and wanted to know if I was interested in making them.
Jeeze, I can hardly say no to such an offer, right? Yes, of course I will!
After some negotiating, I have the commission. After some design conversations back and forth and another email off to my wood supplier in Evansville, IN, I have some ideas in place and a few large slabs of wood waiting for me to peruse after a 3 hour drive.
And I get to add some more pictures to the Shit-I-Can-Put-In-My-Venza photo album! What fun!
Now I just need to figure out where I can get all of this work done…
I spent about three hours throwing around boxes of tools and lumber the other night. It didn’t feel like I made much progress, unfortunately, but I have to remind myself it will feel like that at first and I just need to keep plugging away.
I’ve decided the first order of business is to get a proper workbench made. The workbench will be the foundation upon which everything else is built, both literally and figuratively speaking. As previously mentioned, I have acquired lumber for several different benches (now down to two). One group of lumber consists of reclaimed heart pine from a local barn. The beams have been planed to even thicknesses, but they aren’t jointed well so it will take some work to get them to glue-up point. These were the pieces I’d set aside for my workbench.
The other bench is one I was planning on making for my son. But what I might do is make his first and then after I’ve organized the shop spaces a bit more and have the room to maneuver the unwieldy barn beams, I’ll build the second one. One of the reasons I want to build the smaller one first is because the top is mostly done; it will be just two pieces of wood that are already mostly flat and surfaced on one face. With limited shop time, the more I can do to save time, the better.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love wood with character and history. I love wood that can tell me a story. These are sections of Douglas Fir ceiling joists from the old St. Louis Checkerdome. My friend (Scott Wunder, of Wunderwoods, by the way) who secured the reclaimed heart pine beams for me is the same one who had these sections of Douglas Fir in his lumberyard (he mills lumber as part of his woodworking business). I saw them and immediately visualized a bench top. The only problem is they are just 6’ long, which is a bit shorter than what I wanted for my workbench. But it would make a great bench for my budding woodworker son.
Built in 1929, the Checkerdome’s original purpose was as a livestock hall. But over the years it had been home to the St. Louis Blues and the St. Louis Steamers (soccer or, rather, proper football) and hosted monster truck shows, circuses, and figure skaters. And concerts. Lots of concerts. About 500 or so, between 1967 and 1994, including Performances by Prince, Queen, The Who, Van Halen, and so on. Billy Joel reported that the acoustics were pretty terrible in the place. I don’t doubt it! It was a livestock hall; sheep don’t need to hear their own bleating!
Unfortunately, it’s time had passed. Leaking expense and upkeep costs like a sieve, a series of 70 explosive charges rocketed through the Checkerdome on February 27th, 1999, bringing it down on itself. I’m not really sure if the beams were removed prior to the explosion in order to help bring it down or if they were removed from the rubble (and maybe that’s why they are only six feet long). The long edges on them are not parallel, so they will need some slight trimming to square them up.
But with just a few cuts of a (borrowed) Festool circular saw, I’ll be able to join one of the larger pieces, at 15” wide, with a 6” wide section of the smaller one, giving me a 21” wide top. Keeping with the recycled theme, the legs and stretchers will come from some old Kubota tractor pallets I salvaged many (15?) years ago. They are some unknown species of pine, 3.5″ square, and averaging about 5′ long.
I’m not sure what I’ll do with the other pieces from the Checkerdome. Technically, I guess I could make a second workbench top. Or the top for a joinery bench. Or I guess if I really wanted to, I could double it all up and have a top that is just a little narrower (20”) but 6” thick!
Now there’s an idea…
It’s interesting to see just how much material stuff you’ve collected over the years when you have to examine it in great detail (or when you have to move it). It’s also interesting to note just how unimportant much of it suddenly becomes when you find yourself running out of room and trying to organize it better!
I don’t need help in organizing my stuff. I need to reduce the amount of stuff I have.
With that in mind, I examined the lumber I hauled over from the house to the new condo (old? New-Old? Ummm… it’s a little confusing since I’ve lived there before. Apparently confusing to the utility company, as well, since they keep messing up my account). I realized I had three groupings of lumber that were all destined for workbenches.
I’m not sure how I got to that point, but I’m there. And “there” includes a large stack of very wonderfully garage-kiln dried (you know, when you have lumber in your improperly vented garage for several summers, properly stacked and stickered, and it gets supremely dry because of the cycles of heating it goes through) southern yellow pine. It wasn’t a big deal in an oversize two-car garage. But in a standard-size one-car garage, it takes up a lot of space.
Last weekend, that lumber was delivered to Jon, a chap from England who has lived in St. Louis for several years and recently got the woodworking bug. He has shop space in the old Lemp Brewery (jealous!) and needs a workbench.
For a reduced price on what I paid for it, he got ready-to-go lumber delivered to his shop. I got some space back in the garage. And I got to take another picture for my album called, “Shit I Can Put In My Car”. Oh, and a little bit of cash to throw towards a future woodworking project.
I’m also a big believer in paying it forward. I’ve had so much good come to me over the years, especially the last six months, and I feel it is only proper to put “good” back out there for others.
I recently picked up the revised edition of Workbenches by Chris Schwarz. My original copy was special to me because it had a rare signature drawing by a then-7 Katy Schwarz right next to her dad’s signature. But… I don’t need two copies of the same book. And I figured Jon would get some good use out of one of them. So I gifted him my prized first edition double-signed book.
He more than made up for the gift by giving me a quick tour of just two floors of the old Lemp Brewery. Man, oh man, I could spend hours there, snooping around and taking pictures of things like original track doors that are perfectly balanced with counterweights and metal spiral stairs.
And hopefully I’ve started a good friendship with a new woodworker in the area.
To paraphrase LR Knost, it can be amazing and awful and ordinary at times. Sometimes it hits you hard and knocks you on your arse. And it can take a while to gather yourself. But that’s what you have to do – stand back up, dust yourself off, get back to it.
I won’t go into any sordid details, but I will say I’ve taken some solid body blows from Life the last eight months or so. It had me against the ropes for a while, but I think I’ve pulled through. That round, anyway.
Not unscathed, though. My marriage didn’t survive the ordeal. So… there was a lot of awful for a while, to be honest.
I’ve tried to spin as many positives out of the situation as I could, though. I picked up my yoga activities. I started exercising more (mostly for an outlet of stress). I even signed up for a 5k training program and ran my first 5k race in April – a kilted 5k, if you can imagine! It wasn’t a huge race – 33 participants in all – but I managed to come in 3rd place overall and take 1st in my particular age group. And I ran a personal best 5k time of 25:46, which is pretty good, considering I’d not run more than a total of 30 minutes in my entire life before January of 2016.
I’ve been trying to do fun things with my Tiny Human to bring as much positive to him, as well. Last weekend we did some camping on the family farm with his cousin. And yeah, I have a beard now. Kind of weird seeing so much white, but it’s growing on me (both literally and figuratively speaking).
In a weird twist of fate, I’m back in my old condo – the condo I sold to a friend of mine in 2007 – though I’m just renting it for the time being. It at least offers me some comfort of familiarity.
The other thing that took a hit was my woodworking. It might be noted I lost my workshop in the process of everything that has happened. Right now, it is all in boxes split between an attached garage and a walk-out basement. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I likely won’t be parking in the garage any time soon. Also, I apparently have a lumber gathering problem.
So I’m trying to come up with a plan of action for the part of picking up my life that involves the kilted woodworker. I have no idea how long I will be in the condo, so I can’t count on using the walls for any sort of permanent storage. That means I’m brushing off my notes for tool storage options – saw tills, tool chests, and storage boxes. But also it means paring down my tools so I don’t build storage for tools I don’t need or use.
In the near future, you might see some postings of tools for sale before I put them up on the popular auction site. I won’t ever try to get anything out of them past what I have in them. In some cases, they have been cleaned up and used, but there might also be some tools I bought and never got around to cleaning up and using.
You should also see posts building up to and involving bench and tool storage builds. Oh, and remember that conference table I build last year? The people I made it for asked me if I was interested in making two more tables for them – a hall/console table and an end table – and that might be in the works, as well.
Anyway… apologies for the extended hiatus. I hope to get back in the groove of things shortly. Thanks for bearing with me.