Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Birth of a Roubo...

This last Saturday a friend of ours was over doing some electrical work in the kitchen. My brothers and I had removed the old counter and tore down the tile backsplash the previous weekend. While the drywall was down, I wanted Mike to update the wiring to make sure all of the outlets were GFI and add some under-cabinet lighting.

Mike has one of those big trucks you love to drive around and every guy you pass stabs you with jealous daggers from his eyes. I like borrowing it when he is working on a project at our house.

This last weekend, I borrowed his truck to take a trip to Lowes. I needed to pick up some supplies for the work he was doing, but I also wanted to take advantage of the bed of his truck to haul a little bit of lumber home.

Two hours later, I returned, triumphant (and sore and tired...)! I had the lumber picked out for what I'm calling The Ten Board Roubo.

It starts with the hand-selecting of ten 12' long 2x12 southern yellow pine boards. Let me tell you, hand-selecting 12' long boards by yourself isn't exactly easy. If you ever start on a bench-building project in the future, I would suggest bringing a friend along to help move lumber during the selection process. Those suckers are heavy and unwieldy.

Once I got them home, I cross-cut them to somewhat smaller dimensions before I stickered them in the corner of the garage. The top is going to be 8' long, so I decided to cut them all into 8' and 4' sections.

It isn't much to look at so far, but it is a start... and it makes my garage smell good!

The mahogany board sitting on top of the stack is not part of the bench but another project I also started (er... picked up again?) this weekend. I'll have some progress on that project at a later date.

Total price for the bench lumber came out at about $150. I'd love to be able to spend the time and money on wooden screws for a face vice and pick up a shiny wagon vice for the end, but I have a baby due in less than 10 weeks, so both are at a bit of a premium right now. I'll settle with using the two record vices I picked up last year (a #52) and three years ago (a #52 1/2). As long as I recess the inner jaws and make some nice big chops for them, I'll be happy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Decorative Wood Inlay Book Review

Decorative Wood Inlay
By Zachary Taylor

At some point in your woodworking endeavors, you'll find yourself doing inlay of some sort. It might be intentional, such as the addition of stringing to table legs or banding to the lid of a box, or it might be to cover up a mistake, like when I had to inlay an escutcheon into the front of a box to cover up an error I made cutting the key hole. Whatever the reason, it never hurts to have a book handy to get you through these times. Decorative Wood Inlay is the first book I reach for when I want a refresher to get me prepared for my next inlay venture.

Zachary Taylor is a woodworker from England who comes complete with the dry, wry humor we tend to associate with our brethren from across the pond. His writing style is clear and concise and easy to follow, but also very “British”. While wordsmiths will find joy in such sentences as, “The stroke is completed with the same attitude of the blade to the hone,” others might have trouble digesting the English nuance. In this case, he means the blade should be in the same position on the sharpening stone when it ends as when it began.

The book is organized in an easy-to-follow format, beginning with a brief history of inlay and ending with, as he so aptly puts it, “the finish”. Some of the chapters are a bit sparse, like the history (he does call it “brief”) and the last two chapters on adhesives and finishes. In his defense, however, I would point out that a book written on inlaying wood in a decorative manner should mostly cover the process of inlaying wood and not focus on the most basic mechanics of woodworking.

The first few chapters are useful to the beginning woodworker who already knows they want to incorporate inlay of some sort in many of their pieces. Chapter 2 covers the tools and equipment one might find useful while Chapter 3 discusses what Mr. Taylor deems to be important features for a shop setup. It is important to keep in mind that his ideal workshop is created with his kind of work in mind, so it certainly wouldn't work for someone who builds kitchen cabinets for a living.

The bulk of the book, of course, is spent discussing various types of inlay, covering several techniques for each type. Mr. Taylor first starts with one of the simplest types, corner banding. His first method uses a custom purfling tool made for him by Carl Holtey, one of Britain’s master plane makers. The second and third methods involve multi-tools (e.g. Dremel) and hand-made scratch-stocks.

He follows this process for each technique he discusses – how to perform the function with a variety of tools, going into enough detail with each method that they all seem comfortable and do-able. Throughout the next chapters, he outlines inlaying stringing, inlaying curved stringing, inlaying panels and motifs, and inlaying irregular shapes. Each technique he discusses builds upon the previous, finally ending with the high-end techniques of inlaying guitar rosettes and purfling.

Over the past seven years, I’ve amassed a nice little collection of woodworking books. Many of them are quite enjoyable and do get read from time to time. But this book gets pulled down from the shelf for reference and for reading pleasure more than almost any other. I think it would be a fine and inexpensive addition to any woodworker’s library.