Wednesday, 6 November 2013

A tale of two sisters

A few years ago, probably in 2007 actually, I purchased a plank of English walnut from a fellow cabinet maker who was selling some of his stock off.

The plank had a bit of history.  

It came from a tree the cabinet maker got 'in the round', and had planked up by a local saw mill.  You would hope that the saw mill knew what they were doing, but they didn't.

Oh, the cut the log up okay.  Nice even thickness to the planks and made the best use of the timber, but that was it.

When a log is planked, it needs to be stacked up and dried. This is called 'put in stick'.  Each plank is stacked above the other with a small piece of wood (the stick?) between each plank - hence air can flow around the planks and help the drying process.

Now why didn't the saw mill do this with the walnut?  They planked it up but forgot the sticks. The wood was just plied up plank on top of plank.

When the cabinet maker went to collect his timber, it was too late. When a log is planked, lots of stress is released from the wood and if it is not dried properly, the wood will twist and warp. Which is exactly what happened to these planks.

The planks were twisted, and warped and some had mold and fungus on them. He took the planks, but for making furniture where you need relatively straight and sound timber, these were no good. So he kept them in the back of the workshop and when space was needed, decided to get rid of them.

That is where I come into the story. I saw one of the planks and it wasn't that bad.  I wouldn't be able to get large items from it, but I could work around what I had and make something smaller.

So I made two boxes.  Sisters so to speak as the come from the same plank of walnut.

Here are pictures of the big sister.

English walnut has such a great grain pattern.

I worked around the grain, and placed the handle for the lid
where the grain changes direction and swirls towards the front
of the lid.

There are three lift out trays, each with a different configuration
of little compartments. The trays and box are lined with a purple suede.

And here are some pictures of the little sister.

The little sister is much smaller, but still has a pleasing grain pattern.

Once again there is a lift out tray lined with purple suede.

Here you can actually see into the box. Items can be stored under the tray when it is
placed in the box.

Now they need a good home.  Wouldn't it be nice if they could stay together?

Friday, 17 May 2013

"As I was going to St Ives....

....I met a man with seven wives,
and those seven wives each wanted a jewellery box."

Which is lucky as I have just finished making seven jewellery boxes.

Seven jewellery boxes made from ash, walnut and various burr woods.

I will let those wives argue it out as to who is getting which box!

To see more of my furniture, have a look at my website and the pictures in the gallery section.

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Sunday, 28 April 2013

The trials and tribulations of making things.

A few weeks ago I was contacted by someone who had seen a piece of my furniture on my website. They had been looking for a something like it for ages, and the one I had made fitted the bill exactly. Even the wood was perfect. They asked if I could give them a price for how much it would cost for me to make another. I said I would, and that I'd give them the low down within a couple of days.

I duly worked out the price. What I normally do is work out how long it will take to make, which gives the labour charge. On top of this I then add an estimate of the materials. I never know this amount exactly as the price of timber constantly changes, and I have to visit the timber merchant and select the boards before I can get an exact amount. So when I give an estimate, I normally say it will be X amount plus or minus Y depending on material costs. Y is normally only a couple of hundred pounds.

I passed on the estimate.

A couple of days later I got a reply. It was a out of their price range. They wondered if I could still make the piece, but out of cheaper wood.

We had water troubles in the workshop. The biggest was that we never had water for three months as the main into the building was crushed by all the lorries that deliver to a unit further down the road. As the road is private, there was an argument as to who would pay to get it fixed. Good news is that we didn't have to pay when it was fixed.

Anyway, one of the taps in the workshop was broken. You know how it is. Turn it for ages and nothing comes out, and then a big rush of water. So the bloke who runs the workshop called in a plumber to have a look.

The plumber came in, had a look, got his spanner out, fiddled around, and changed a washer. Tap fixed! 

When the bloke who runs the workshop saw the bill of £80 + VAT, he said “but you only changed a washer. Can’t you use a cheaper one?”

A stroll through the park across the road from the workshop takes you to a street with a few nice shops in.

One of these is a sandwich shop and they sell some really nice looking artisan bread. I went in the other day to have a look.

I couldn't believe the price of the bread. £4.95 for a loaf!

Now I know a bit about baking, and bread is only really flour and water and salt and yeast.  Water (if your main isn't broken) comes out the tap, yeast will grow by itself, and salt comes in very big bags for not much money. How much must the flour cost then?

A cabinet maker, a plumber and an artisan baker walk into a pub.

“Three pints of your finest real ale, please.” asks the plumber.

“No problem” says the landlord who pulls the pints. “That will be £11.55, please.”

“Hold on!” says the cabinet maker. “That’s a bit steep, isn't it?”

“Yes” says the plumber. “I know water comes out of the tap.”

“And I know that you can grow a yeast culture.” says the baker.

“And I know that hops and barley don’t cost much.” adds the cabinet maker.

“Ah yes gentleman” says the landlord. “It isn't the ingredients in the beer that make up the expense. Okay, there is a tax to pay to the government to be accounted for too. But what you are paying for is the skill and knowledge of the brewer who makes the beer.”

“Oh!” say the cabinet maker, plumber and baker in unison, with a look of enlightenment of their faces.

To see more of my furniture, have a look at my website and the pictures in the gallery section.

Follow me on Facebook or read my tweets on Twitter.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Good enough to eat

Here are some pictures of the chest of drawers I mentioned a few posts ago, the one entitled 'January'.

It is made from steamed pear, walnut and maple.........custard anyone?

To see more of my furniture, have a look at my website and the pictures in the gallery section.

Follow me on Facebook or read my tweets on Twitter.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Q: What do you need for a very large bottle of Sol?

A: A large slice of lime.

Was travelling back to London the other weekend after being away in the Cotswolds, and on the way back we (my wife and I) stopped into a place called Welford Park in the county of Berkshire.

The reason why we stopped was to look at this seasons crop of Snowdrops. Jenny does love Snowdrops, and we were going to visit the park last year but didn't, as we went elsewhere to see some.

As a bonus and a bit of a bribe, the park does farm pigs and has for sale various pig derived products. These pigs live in the woods so have a good time rooting around in the undergrowth. So I was hoping for a tasty lunch in their cafe.

Yes, the snow drops were impressive. I have never seen so many in a single place.  For all you snowdrop fans, here is a picture.

Snowdrops as far as the eye can see

The cafe was good too!  A freshly cooked sausage bap, followed by a cream tea. The sausages were so good, we got a pack of them in the shop to take home. I would like to buy half a pig, but our freezer isn't big enough.

Anyway, at the park they have the largest lime trees in Berkshire. A couple of hundred years old. And by the looks of it, full of mistletoe, or maybe a nest of some creature I have never come across.

The largest lime trees in Berkshire

Now where is my axe? I need a large slice of lime for that beer.

Friday, 8 February 2013


Don't be fooled into thinking that the title of this blog means that I will do monthly updates on what I have been up to. Oh no.

January is an answer to a question. Not the answer to the ultimate question, but the question "How long did it take you to make?"  I can now answer by saying "January" rather than "blah blah number of hours".

What did I make in January? I made a chest of drawers in American walnut and steamed pear.  Here we go with the pictures.

These strips of timber will make the sides of the drawers.
They are the first wood machined for the project, as I want
it to stand and acclimatise for as long as possible.

This is a big plank of steamed pear. I did actually
cross cut it with a hand saw!

Four pieces of wood. These will become the cabinet legs.

I have five of these frames. They hold the sides of the carcass
together, and the drawers run on them.

The drawer frames being fixed to the carcass sides.

Here is the completed carcass (minus the top).

The last drawer box glue-up. This is the biggest of the five drawers.

Here the drawer boxes have been fitted into the cabinet carcass.

The handles for the drawers are handmade from pear.

Using yellow plastic shims while attaching the drawer fronts
to the drawer boxes.

And here is the finished piece.
This chest of drawers is currently on show at an exhibition called 21st Century Furniture IV, being held in The Millinery Works Gallery, London.

Please check my website if you want to find out more about my furniture, follow me on my Facebook pages, or see what I am talking about on Twitter.


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Not from Santa

Sometimes you just have to give up on things.

I have two routers. A 1/4" one made by Black & Decker that I purchased way back in 1992. The other is a newer 1/2" Trend router. Both have problems. 

The 1/4" is wearing out. Brushes almost worn down, and now bits keep getting stuck in the collet. It is really only a hobby machine. But it has served me well over the years

The 1/2" has a problem when it looses power and runs down. And it isn't hard work causing it to stop. I have taken it to a registered service centre three times, and they can't fix it. "We can't find anything wrong with it", they say. "Maybe it has a heat problem or something". I have told them what I am doing when it goes wrong, but they still can't find it. Heat problem! After I got it back the first time, it went wrong again in 20 seconds.  Since June, the router has been away for a total of 8 weeks being 'repaired'.

I can't risk the routers breaking halfway through a job.

So yesterday I took delivery of a new Festool router.

Yes, Festool machines are more expensive than other makes, but I feel they are better and well worth the extra cost. The after sales service and repair is much better than that offered by other companies, and there is a three year warranty. 

Slowly my collection of Festool items is increasing.....

Does that mean I am a Festool fanboy, similar to those Apple fanboys you get? Probably. But at least I don't say things like "Festool make really good stuff. They have green on/off switches and buttons".

My new Festool router

It has nice green buttons and switches