Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Trend's Airshield Rescues Charles Brock from the Ravages of Walnut Dust

The Trend Airshield to the Rescue.

No it doesn't work wood. It is not an exciting purchase, but it is what you must have and use, if you are sculpting wood.

Without a doubt this was the most timely arrival of all the tools I have collected and used in 35 years. I have experienced several rashes as of late. The itching got so bad that it forced me to go to a doctor, who said I had scabies (my wife hit the ceiling while my mother-in-law said she knew that I had bugs that must be affecting my brain too) and finally to a dermatologist for a second opinion who treated it with some high-powered med that made it begrudgingly go away.  It comes back every time I engulf myself in lots of walnut dust (which is often). I'm wondering, "What is it doing to my lungs?" Walnut is a known carcinogen! I'll live forever, I hope!

Enter the Trend Airshield! I was presenting Masterpiece Wood Finish to Kevin Jacobs and Associates, a group of woodworking reps who are almost all woodworkers. I was telling them about my rash in an aside, when Kevin said I needed to get the Trend Airshield. My first thought was, it can't be comfortable. Wrong! I can't lecture a class while wearing it was my next thought, Wrong Again! I won't wear it enough to get any value out of it! Wrong for the third time! I also thought the battery would last about 15 seconds but no problem! It lasts 8 hours. Sounds great!

It is a breeze to wear. In fact it is a cool breeze that makes it so darn comfortable to wear and use. As I work, cool fresh air gently blows down my face keeping the inside of the shield from fogging while I remain refreshed with filtered air. You can't beat it when compared to gagging on the taste of walnut and having some stalactite formations of walnut forming in my nose (you know the word I'm talking about ) from breathing in all the fine dust.

I wore the shield while sculpting an arm for my January class and they could hear me talk, and talk, and talk, while I was working. Lately I wear it even while turning and at the table saw ripping sled laminations too.

Another plus is that it arrived my first day back at work after having a cataract removed from my right eye. The doc said not to get anything in it, because it might become infected. I had lots of sculpting to do trying to get orders ready for Christmas customers and couldn't wait. The Trend Airshield was the answer.

Do it! You will be happy and your wife will too! No more brown stalactites. Yuck!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Best Job in Woodworking

One of the Best Jobs in Woodworking 
Producing and hosting The Highland Woodworker is a dream. In the dream I am a dressed in a kilt with my trusted Irish hat upon my head. I am swinging a sword over my head and swinging it down to slice off big chunks of wood revealing a sculptured rocker. NO! EXCUUUSE ME! That was the wrong dream, I am not producing The Highlander Woodworker I produce The Highland Woodworker. Let me tell you about that dream and it's real.

Some woodworkers might say that I produce this show just so I can meet the icons of woodworking like Roy Underhill and Brian Boggs in their shops and spend some quality time with them. To that ridiculous thought I must say, "Absolutely, YES"!

Imagine sitting in Roy Underhill's living room talking to him about how he took an axe to North Carolina Public Television's studio to pitch his famous The Woodwright's Shop show concept. You would not have had a hard time coaxing me to take a tour of Whiteside Machine Company and find out how they make those award winning router bits. One of my favorite chair makers is Brian Boggs, the first time I saw one of Brian's chairs I went back to the museum exhibit every afternoon for a week to see its perfect form and function. In our second episode of The Highland Woodworker I was in Brian's shop talking about band sawing techniques. Wow!

If you haven't seen Highland Woodworking's new internet magazine show called The Highland Woodworker, well it's free and you can watch me have this dream as many times as you would like at www.thehighlandwoodworker.com. Did I mention that it's FREE

The Lowly Scraper Could be "King of Tools"!

After a recent class I noticed that my "go-fast, down-hill, no idea who made it or where it came from favorite scraper" had departed for "Parts Unknown"! It was the perfect scraper and very important to me. I could pluck a mistake right from the surface of a project with it without bothering any of the adjacent surface or having to back up much in my sanding schedule. It bent just right in hand to make a convex or concave surface. It always seemed to know what I wanted it to do and intuitively gave me the results I wanted. Someone unknowingly has this small piece of steel in their collection now and I wondered if it has become as friendly with the new master as it was with me. Parting has been sorrowful as I didn't have a "Go To" scraper to be used for the final detailng of a surface or popping a line on a project.

I have been searching for a replacement. Some were too stiff, some scrapers were too flexible until just recently I found one that was "Just Right"!

Mark Morris from Asheville, NC was down for a day of private lessons. I watched him go through his box of tools and picked a Lie-Nielsen scraper from his collection. YES! Love at first bend. I ordered a set (have to purchase a stiff and a flexible set though I just wanted the flexible one) and they arrived. Yesterday I enjoyed shaping a settee with my new friend. I liked it and I believe it liked me. We may become friends on Facebook.

Although, I would still love to have my "go-fast, down-hill, no idea who made it or where it came from favorite scraper" back home (and if you see a scraper that is not yours but seems to be flexible send it to me), I can go on and be my sculptural self.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What the Spokeshave Gives, It Can Suddenly Take Away!

In almost every one of my seven day rocker classes there is a student who brings a spokeshave. They always ask why I don't recommend use of a spokeshave to shape spindles and other rocker parts. The next question is usually "Can I use mine?" After demonstrating the proper use of the shave, everyone is full of excitement because they have been saved from the demon rasp.

The spokeshave is almost the perfect shaping hand tool. What it can do in the experienced hand is to execute almost finished surfaces, efficient fairing of inside and outside curves, crowned and rounded over surfaces and beautiful cuts on end grain. Wow! All of these cuts make up the process of shaping rocker spindles. Then why don't I use it in my DVDs?

Windsor chairmakers use the spokeshave for shaping spindles almost to the exclusion of other possibilities. Do they know something I don't?

Back to spokeshave use in class. So, I generally give permission and the exuberant woodworker starts out rounding over the front of the spindle by making the facets that I teach. They sail along and everyone is impressed with the work and suddenly the shave grabs the reversing grain and without the experience to feel it before it before it lifts and pulls a big chunk of reversing grain out .......... Yuck! We have TEAR OUT!

The spokeshave is one I use and love. It can be used to tremendous advantage shaping rocking chair spindles. The problem is one of great risk for the user who can't easily feel the difference in the slicing of the iron and the tearing of the grain as it is being lifted by the iron. It is subtle and in an instant can ruin a project. I want all woodworkers to become proficient in using the spokeshave and enjoy the beauty of its use. The rocker class with the clock running, seven spindles to make and limited resources is not the place to learn. Unlike Windsor spindles that have been riven to provide straight grain, the sculptured rocker spindle is usually an "S" curve with reversing grain and many surprises.

For years my favorite spokeshave has been a cherry Dave's Shave that I bought for a Michael Dunbar Windsor chair class. I have a nice collection of others but the Dave's Shave just feels right to me. I have a nice Brian Boggs Lie-Nielsen with a radiused sole and although it has seen considerable use it just doesn't cut as well as my Dave's Shave. The Lee Valley shaves are very nice and also have a great feel, although I do not own one as of this writing.

The Auriou rasp and Microplanes and such really don't care so much about grain. They don't leave the great surfaces like the shave but they work. In stock with reversing grain especially figured stock the rasp is a hero. It will save you the tragedy of dreaded tear out.

Now you know!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Building A Cradle with the Late James Grisham

I received a call for help from a sweet lady named Linda Grisham. Her story was very interesting, the kind that tugs at your heart and keeps you from forming the word "No" as a response.

Linda explained that her husband James was a woodworker and had built several Maloof style pieces of sculptured furniture. He'd finished several rockers and was working on a cradle when a drunken driver hit and killed him during one of his early morning bike rides near Carrolton, Georgia.

Linda said she found me through Highland Woodworking in Atlanta, GA. She asked if I would finish the cradle because their first grand child was due in June. See what I mean?

Linda and her son Todd Grisham arrived at my studio one day with the cradle and its frame. The cradle as delivered to my studio is pictured with my work bench. It looked absolutely "Maloofian". A walnut frame with double stretchers and a cradle with coopered ends and a walnut strip basket between them made up a large cradle for the new Grisham baby. I would take the challenge, but not for pay. Thanks would be enough. How do you charge for a project like this one?

I have often imagined my unfinished projects at my passing. My family will not know what to do with them, my tools or wood stash. When attending woodworkers' estate sales, I have often felt empathy for the departed woodworker and their families. This project brought these thoughts to the forefront.

Right after taking this assignment, a lot of good happened. I was blessed with the Martha Stewart Show appearance and had two full rocker classes. I scheduled the project for late May and here it is June 9th and I’m just finishing it up. Todd and his wife Alyson are awaiting the birth of a girl due on June 12th. I have been racing the stork. I finished it on the 12th and delivered it on June 13th in time for the "Baby Grisham Girl" to come home to on Monday.

I must say I have never finished another man’s project. In this situation I tried to look for clues as to what James Grisham was thinking, the lines he was seeing and the methods he was implementing in designing and building such a piece. I removed a lot of material making lines that will move the observer's eyes.

The walnut was very brittle. It was almost too dry as if his shop had been in a basement with a running dehumidifier. I asked Todd about the location of his dad's shop and a possible dehumidifier and it was a "Bingo" on both guesses.

Titebond III was new on the market (I believe) in 2008. Squeeze out was everywhere and it did not come off easily. It was just too gummy even after all this time. On the good side the glue line was not visible.

The coopered ends were joined perfectly and all the project needed was a lot of shaping and sanding. Yea! Sanding is great fun! Well, it’s the results that count. My Festool RAS 115 grinder and RO-90 sander were big assets along with a lot of good old hand sanding.

In the Maloof tradition, the hardware used for hanging the swinging cradle should be durable but not visable. I hung the cradle on steel pins that were epoxied into the frame arms. They mate with bronze bushings in the cradle's extended arms.

I could feel James’ presence with me all the way. When I pass, I hope I am not assigned to a sanding station in heaven. I'm pretty sure that if there is one I have been sent to a certain theological destination of unending punishment. I also hope someone will finish an important project like this for my family.

May God bless you James Grisham. I think I know you.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sculptured Rocker Classes at Popular Woodworking's WIA2011

I am amazed as you, but thanks to Ches Spencer (a fellow that doesn't understand the meaning on "NO") and others, I will be a presenting instructor at WIA 2011, September 30 - Oct. 2 in Cincinnati Oh. (actually across the river in the N. Kentucky Convention Center) . The list of other instructors is a who's who of icons like Brian Boggs and Roy Underhill. I am a relative who's that!

Come if you can! It will be a blast. One of my Ohio students will be assisting me at the show. Enrollment is limited and will sell out quick next month.

Making a Coopered Chair Seat

A deeply contoured, coopered seat makes a great invitation to sit down and rest some weary bones. The coopered seat (or saddle) has highlighted the work of Sam Maloof and other contemporary chair makers for years. Charles will clue you in on all the angles and how to join them together. He will demonstrate the process of sculpting the contours using the band saw, angle grinder and die grinder as well as rasps and scrapers. He will provide a question and answer session to allow you to find out how a coopered seat can be adapted to your next chair, stool or bench project.

The Art of Sculpting Flowing Furniture

Have you grown tired of working flat, square boards? Have you been dreaming about crafting a piece of furniture that looks like it is moving even when it is standing still? Charles will demonstrate how he sculpts chairs to become flowing, organic pieces of art. Even if you are more of the engineer than the artist, you will be able to design and build using curves. Your work will never be the same. You will learn to use hard and soft lines to transition between surfaces and furniture parts. Charles uses both power tools and hand tools to create furniture that will move you to start thinking in lines, shadows and curves, Oh my!

The Ultimate Seat to Leg Joint

A great chair joint has mechanical strength, has maximum glue surface, can be easily adapted to various angles and is visually stunning. This joint can be crafted with a table saw and 2 common router bits. It may look complex but is very simple. Learn how to design with your projects utilizing joinery that will set your work apart from the rest. Charles will demonstrate how to first cut the joint and then fit it using a router plane and a sanding block. A question and answer session will follow the demonstration.

The Sculptured Rocker - A Study of Form and Function

The sculptured rocker is a true American art form as inspired by the work of Sam Maloof and others. Find out how why this rocker is so comfortable. How it is crafted to endure the stresses of rocking. Learn about hard and soft lines and how they invite a sitter. Explore the design uses of the flattened "S" curve and how they enhance the chair's form while adding support to the sitter. Charles will explain every part of the chair from geometry to construction and answer your questions after the presentation.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rock'N Chairman University Offers a NEW 5 Day Build Your Rocker Class

Seven days is a long time! Especially for a young 62 year-old like myself. I enjoy the classes especially in my new location and facility, BUT!
  • More woodworkers will be able to attend 5 days than 7 days because of the cost and the time commitment.
  • The price is $1800 including the walnut.
I have decided to try a more compact class focusing more on the joinery and shaping. A jump start if you will. Less in class spindle shaping and such. The woodworker will find a walnut kit waiting at their bench ready to build. The class will begin with contouring a prepared set of seat boards before cutting and rabbeting the seat to leg joints. After gluing up, the seat will be shaped with a grinder and the legs will be marked and the dados cut and fitted. The front legs will be rough turned and the back legs profiled. An arm will be fitted and the the headrest attached. The sleds will be glued on a form. Woodworkers will watch a demo to see how to shape the arm and headrest and all participants will shape at least one spindle.

That's a heavy order for 5 days, but generally do-able. Now more woodworkers will have the opportunity to build a great sculptured rocker and become a Rock'N Chairman!