Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

It has been quite some time since I last made a post, largely due to the fact that I have not been in the shop while recovering from shoulder surgery.  I have put my time to good use reading, mostly books about woodworking in some form or fashion.  I will resume making posts after the new year, and hopefully some shavings also.

However, my family and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very safe and prosperous New Year!    

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Reading Lesson

It was a beautiful day here in Kentucky for a drive in the country.  The beauty of the sun glistening off the lightly frosted and very colorful leaves this morning, was absolutely stunning.  I started out this morning not to go leaf gazing, but to learn to read.  Yes, I made the 2 hour trip to Paint Lick Kentucky to learn to read, bark!  I met my reading instructor, Don Weber at his Paint Lick shop in great anticipation of learning the skill of reading bark.  For those of you who don't know Don, he is a chair and furniture maker, blacksmith, and a wonderful teacher.  Oh and a wee bit of a character, might I add.

After a tour of Don's shop and a look at the projects he has in the works, we headed out with trailer in tow for our reading lesson.  The wonderful conversation made the winding 12 mile ride to the classroom seem very short.  After turning down the gravel drive and cresting a small hill, there it was, our classroom.  Acres of logs loomed before us.  I thought, Don has led me to a chair makers paradise, I hope the reading lesson isn't going to be like my high school English Lit class and Milton's Paradise Lost.  The pile of logs pictured below is small in comparison to the multiple stacked piles behind me.

Well, I'm happy to report the lesson was great.  First was learning to determine the species of tree; we were looking for white oak.  Don showed me the scaly bark of the white oak and how verification can be made by looking at the ends of the log.  Next we looked at the bark to see if it was straight or twisting around the tree.  Straight bark good, twisted bark bad!  Don then peeled back some bark and examined the exposed wood.  The straight running striations confirmed the information put forth by the bark.  Next, we looked very closely for humps, bumps, and general malformations in the bark.  Malformations in the bark are indicators of likely flaws, such as knots or unruly grain in the wood that lies beneath.  I was amazed how quickly and how far away Don was able to spot these flaws. 

Armed with my new found knowledge, and Don's watchful eye, I was excited to put it to the test.  Mission: Take home a white oak log ideal for chair making.  I'm happy to report that I got the species correct on the first try.  It took sorting through several logs to find one with straight bark.  Next was to ensure there were no indications of hidden flaws.  Lets just say I'm hopeful that someday, I will develop Don's eagle eye.  After more show and tell instruction, we were able to locate an 11 foot long, 14 inch round white oak and deemed it worthy.  However, it did have a small hump in the bark 6 feet up from the butt end.  We bucked the log through the hump and it was perfect.  With the logs secured to the trailer and the ends sealed, I made the 2 hour trek north.  Upon my arrival, I was happy to find that my shop elf was all smiles and ready to give me a hand.  

After splitting the log open I will post on the results. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Photos Posted in Gallery

I have finally finished reviewing the more than 130 photos that we shot a few days ago.  I have posted in the Gallery, for your viewing pleasure, the ones that I feel are the best.  A big shout of thanks to my son Christopher for all of his help, (when he wasn't sitting down testing chairs).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Shop Conversion

Today the shop was converted into a photo studio.  I needed to get studio shots of the Nanny Rocker, Comb Back Rocker, Low Back Welsh Stick Chair, and the Guitar Chair prototype.  Once the shoot is done the chairs can then be taken to their owners and free up some much needed space in the shop and the house.

Being a frugal person (some say tight-wad) I made my own lighting system.  You can see the strategic placement of clamps and ropes used for balancing the overhead light.  My son and his family stopped by while I was shooting the pictures and he jumped in to help.  Chris is also my log splitting apprentice.

I should have the final pictures up in the Gallery section of the blog sometime within the next week.  I have to sort through the more than 130 shots taken to get what I think are the best.  I may even include a couple with one of my chair models.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sizing A Chair

Recently I have experienced some neural oscillations about sizing chairs based on the users body dimensions.  I recall reading an article, a few years ago, by Jim Tolpin in which he stated; "The human frame can be roughly proportioned in whole-number ratios of eight".  The theory is this; By dividing the distance of ones hand span into eighths (8:8 ratio), you will then be able determine any dimension needed to design furniture to fit the user.  This led me to do a little research on Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man and the proportions of the human form.  From this information one can derive that we are as tall as we are wide with outstretched arms.  Which by the way is equal to eight hand spans (64:8).  Our shoulder span is equal to two hand spans (16:8), our forearm (wrist to inside of elbow) is equal to one hand span (8:8), and the length of the lower leg (floor to middle of the knee) is a ratio of 18:8.  I know what you are thinking.  Very few people fall into the Vitruvian Man "ideal" category.  This is true and most of these proportions will not be exact but should be close enough to use in the design of a chair or any furniture for that matter.

Well, I had to put what I had learned to the test.  I got in touch with my good friend Dean and asked him to measure his hand span.  Yeah I didn't really think it through or look at the time before I initiated the conversation!  After a few questions about my activities that evening, he reluctantly took the measurement and advised me that the measurement was 8.75 inches.  I then asked him if the span of his shoulders was 17.5 inches.  This is when he accused me of drinking to excess and politely cut the conversation short.  Knowing Dean as I do, I knew this would eat at him until he would take the measurement to satisfy his curiosity.  I also knew that I would soon hear from Dean.  As suspected, he did take the measurement and confirmed my calculation, and was still of the opinion that I was drunk.

It is my hope that I will be able to use these whole-number proportions and the clients hand span dimension to design a chair that will fit the client for its intended task.  I especially want to employee this method with my guitar chair that is still in the designing/prototype stages.  Over the next several months I will be building and testing some prototypes using only this method.  If this proves to be successful, imagine how easy it would be to custom build a specialized chair for someone on the other side of the country.

I would deduce that the chair below belongs to someone with rather big hands, and you know what "they" say about big hands.  Big Chair?

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Welcome to my blog.  First let me say I am not a journalist and really never had an interest in writing until recently.  My last writing class (high school) was almost four decades ago, and I sometimes have a hard time remembering things from last week let alone thirty eight years ago.  So please take it easy on me. 

Fifteen years ago I started out building furniture more or less as a Cabinetmaker, in my spare time.  I was making end tables, night stands, side boards, cabinets, desks, beds, lamps, and the like for family members and friends, (read free).  However, over the last three years, I have been working almost exclusively as a Chairmaker, in my spare time for family members, friends, and charitable events, (read free again) .  I have been making Windsor chairs in particular.  I have also been working on a prototype chair and stool for guitar players. 

A chair is the piece of furniture that we have the most interaction with.  A chair must be pleasing to the eye, inviting you to sit down.  It must be attractive from all points of view.  It must be made to last, able to take the daily stresses put upon it.  Most of all it must be comfortable!  Chairs are designed for specific tasks, such as dining, or relaxing to mention a couple.  Each task presents the maker with a different set of design elements and criteria.
My hope is that this blog will be informative.  That there will be a  two way free flow of information on subjects such as; methods of construction, shop discoveries, finishing, tools, tool makers, random musings, to mention just a few.  My wish is that this free flow will remain respectful, informative, and not overly serious.  I realize that something that works for me may not be another persons preference.  It is my hope that the ideas put forth here will interest you and maybe present a different way of looking at things.  I look forward to sharing my discoveries with you and hearing of yours.