Friday, December 14, 2007

My Idea, One Hundred Years Late.

Audrey is from Oklahoma, slender, gray haired and bearded, looks to be in his 80's. He is in fact barely 60 but his life experience added years to his look. We were having lunch, his usual hard candies and cigarettes and me, a burger with a helping of second hand smoke.

I told him I had this great idea about gluing cork boards on the floor of my kitchen. I got the idea because the insert of my handcrafted shoes were made of cork and it’s great on my feet all day. It's supportive yet cushiony. The cork boards self-repairs after you put a pin in it. It doesn't rot from water because that’s why they use it to cork wine bottles and it must be acid resistant because wine doesn't dissolve it. So it should handle all the abuse of the kitchen.

Audrey lit up another cigarette and spent the next 20 minutes going into detail about the proper care of cork flooring because they were using the stuff since the turn of the century. I'm talking about the 1900s. It just needed to be stripped and wax once a year. Then Linoleum was the big thing, then no wax vinyl took over and that was the death of resilient flooring. Residential use of cork was dead for decades as housewives and husbands forgotten how to wax a floor.

I think I'm born too late. I looked up cork flooring on the Internet and it's huge with the green movement. Hypo-allergenic, fire retardant, natural insulation, self sealing, good for your joints, all this and it's good for the environment. All this from a tree!

So I made my own cork flooring, 99 cents cork boards, glued to the slab with resilient flooring glue, four or five coats of polyurethane and two coats of wax. The first two pictures shows my homemade cork flooring, the third picture is the manufactured floating I was able to special order from Lowes for about $3.50 a sf. I put it all over the upstairs and lined the stairs with it. I didn't know how to make stair nosing out of cork, so Pine casing will have to do. The contrast is great when you are walking down stairs at night, you can make out the steps.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Finding the Middle Path

Recently, I got this interest for a Festool ROTEX, a $460 sander/polish that hooks up to the vacuum. I did research and found a comparable machine from Bosch for $260. I justified that spending this would make me a better woodworker because sanding is much easier and quicker and a lot healthier since it is dustless, at least that's what I got from the promotional video. Then I summed up the additional expense of all the extra accessories that is needed to make the system useful. I would need extra abrasive disk, pads, vacuum attachments, a place to store all of this. This added up the price and the little tool that would help me do the job turned into a burden. I would have to use this a lot, or it would have to improve my skills by a tremendous amount to justify the purchase. I thought about how I had made the rest of my projects without a sander and realized that my smoothing plane and my two cabinet scrapers and a $2 sanding block were all I ever needed. Desire is a powerful force to deal with. My desire to be a better woodworker, created a desire to get sander. This path would lead me to a large shop filled with tools I cannot master, and that would be a waste. Now, on the other end of the stick, depriving myself of good tools will leave me in frustration as I push wood with a dull chisel. I’m quite sure that mastering the cabinet scraper and the hand plane is the next logical step. So no new tools for me. Is this way of thinking, the path to better woodworking?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Work Bench by IKEA

One reason I am able to build furnitures the size of a bed in such a small space is that I don't have a traditional a work bench. I use the floor, or anything that can support a plank of wood, even the project itself. To get the job done, I either clamp it, hold it with my hands and feet or, sit on it . This is possible because I don't mind working close to the floor, and my tools are murderously sharp. Sometimes, I find that getting the work to eye level makes for much more precise and comfortable work, so I found the perfect workbench while getting ideas at a local retailer.

For $9.99 this item from IKEA is the best workbench/saw horse I can buy for the money. They call it Bekvam. It is made of solid European beech held together with confirmat screws and bridle joints. This proves to be sturdy enough for sawing, chopping mortises, or as you can see from earlier picture, larger carving items. The hand grip hole in the middle provides the perfect size to stick the head of the bar clamp in to act as a hold down. It’s a plus when there’s one less thing to buy.

I can sit next to it to do delicate work, or get right on top of it and get some pressure on the wood for aggressive stock removal with my jack pane. Creative use of clamps helps holds the work down, and more recently, my hot melt glue gun.

When it's not on duty, as a workbench, it’s a stepladder to reach the pantry’s top shelf.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Day Bed

I logged 24 hours to make this day bed. I initiated the project on November 22nd and by December 2nd it was in it's new home upstairs. My wife and I are happy with the result, considering I made up the plans as production progressed. This design on the fly accounted for many hours of my leisurely work pace, stepping back, drinking hot tea, while trying to figure out the next set of moves (which I logged as worked hours). The bed met all of it's requirement. It has a soft light look, with just enough curves, not so much that it looked country. It can be taken apart and assembled in minutes, it is strong, and has a rational portion of exposed joinery and screws. The exposed joinery is my way of showing off my ability and the hidden screws are for quick assembly. Good skill isn't just about cutting that perfect dovetail, it also has to do with getting a quality project completed quickly with relatively little resources. Throughout the project, very little wood was wasted. Even when I made a mistake, the results were accepted and worked into the design. Case in point is the four contrasting dowels at the front legs. I had drilled the holes on the wrong side, so I got some darker wood dowels and make it a through dowel instead of blind dowels. If I should ever have to build another on of these, the result would be different since I learned to avoid certain mistakes, but then I would probably make different mistakes. Last step is to put a several coats of fast drying, hypo allergenic shellac on it.