Monday, April 14, 2014

Furnitude Returns

Hello again, everyone. I wanted to let you all know that I’m starting up Furnitude again. My goal is to post once a week and focus on curated furniture. Sometimes I’ll write commentary and sometimes I’ll just post photos and links. Occasionally I’ll write about other stuff I find interesting. The important thing will be to spread the word about great furniture makers. I have also started writing about furniture making for a website called Craftsy. Here is my first post. I might be migrating to a Wordpress site soon, but I’ll keep you posted on that. In the meantime, I’m always on the lookout for great furniture, so stay in touch.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Plywood Is Not Boring

I found these two cool videos about plywood on Andrew Sullivan's site.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mitch's Moxon Vise -- Reinventing the Handwheel

I’m not sure if Christopher Schwarz inspired a craze or a hysteria when he wrote about the Moxon vise, but it is safe to say that Moxon-mania has spread throughout the land. Check out Schwarz’s blog to learn about the history of the vise. My version is made of 1 ¾”-thick ash. The handwheels are cherry with a walnut stripe and walnut wedges. They work like a charm. I’ll post a video soon of the vise in use.

P.S. Don’t judge my messy workbench.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Colbert + SawStop = blog post

You're welcome.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
People Who Are Destroying America - SawStop
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The MoMA Table

Several years ago on a trip back to New York, I visited the Museum of Modern Art to check out their Architecture and Design Galleries. They have a pretty amazing collection of twentieth century design, complete with all kinds of consumer products and some great furniture such as chairs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Gio Ponti and Gustav Stickley. There was even a molded plywood leg splint designed by Charles and Ray Eames for battlefield use during World War II when certain kinds of metal and other materials were rationed. But the piece that blew me away was this little side table by Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, a designer/architect I had never heard of from the early Arts and Crafts movement in England. (I haven't received permission to use MoMA's photo yet, so in the meantime my grainy, dark cell phone photo will have to suffice.)

Made in 1901, the table I call the MoMA Table is quite small, only about 27 inches high and 20 inches in diameter. It was made from quarter-sawn white oak that was fumed and has a round top and three legs joined by three angled stretchers. Another interesting feature is that the legs are hexagonal, tapered and splayed.

When I approached the table for the first time, walking around it, the angles of the stretchers made it seem like there was a fire underneath it. (Check out the movie below that I took with my cell phone.) I had never thought about designing something so that it moves as you change your perspective. I’m not sure if that was Baillie Scott’s intention, but he nailed it if it was. The other thing that struck me was that for an Arts and Crafts piece, this table is surprisingly delicate and elegant. Most of the furniture from that era tends to be heavy and strong to suggest that it is connected to the earth. Other Baillie Scott pieces I’ve seen, like these at the Art Institute of Chicago, strike me as dated, bulky and showy while his side table seems timeless.

As soon as I saw the table, I knew that I had to make one someday. I’ve looked around everywhere and can’t find an example of anyone ever reproducing it. Even though it is small, the table presents some serious engineering challenges. First, as I said above, the legs are hexagonal, tapered and splayed. Square legs that have one or two tapers are challenging enough. Square legs that have four tapers are even more challenging. But hexagonal tapers are off the charts. To make them consistently and precisely, I will have to design a jig to use on the table saw. I’ll write more about it later, but I’m envisioning something that would allow me to set the taper then turn the legs on an axis at a precise angle to cut the facets of the hexagon. The facets have to be the same width because the stretchers connect to them. The stretchers are the next challenge because they are joined with a compound angle. I’m not sure how I would make the tenons at the ends of the stretchers yet. I’m open to using floating tenons if that makes it any easier. Or if that doesn’t work, I might have to use magic.

It’s a bit of a risk to talk about something I’m going to make because I’m not sure how quickly I’ll be able to get to it. And I’m not sure I’ll succeed. But if I do, I’ll have a very cool table that I’ll be able to make multiples of and maybe even sell. I’ll have a very cool jig that will theoretically be able to make tapered legs with different numbers of sides. Also, I’ll be able to make cool, faceted legs for other tables and stools. I guess the main reason I’m interested in attempting this table is that I’ll learn a lot along the way – even if I’m not able to pull it off. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Studley Tool Chest - Video Tour

I wrote a while back about the Studley tool chest, but the photos don't do it justice. An alert reader sent me this video of Norm giving a tour of it. It's a stunning piece of work, especially the little pull out doors that reveal more and more compartments full of tools. I would love to see this in person someday. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Woodworking for Children

Here are a fascinating article and video in the NY Times about teaching woodworking to children and all the issues that brings up. I’m not sure if this is behind their paywall or not. My favorite quote, “Tetherball is more dangerous than the shop.” This will spark lots of conversation, which I think is badly needed. Despite shop class in schools becoming a thing of the past, it’s nice to know there is still such great interest in woodworking for children (and adults).