Eastern Red Cedar Bench

Karma is being unkind to the unvaccinated, and rightly so, but gave us a truck load of Eastern Red Cedar lumber. Actually, it was my in-laws, who we have practically buried with free eggs. This tree grew on the same property where Melanie Jane grew up.

I’ve never made something this large from slab lumber, so I made sure it would not fall apart–the stretcher is through tenoned and held together with a tusk wedge.

It Really Came with that Burl

I still have to finish the ends of the slab. The other leg on the bench is full of heavy-osity.

Not Going Anywhere

The finish is super blonde shellac, though I think super blonde is Melanie’s nickname at her office. ESPN has a similar looking coffee table made of red cedar in their main studio, but they painted the live edge with gold glitter paint. There really is no accounting for taste.

Hop Hornbeam Knife Block

Live Edge or Free Edge?

After this piece of Hop Hornbeam log rolled around on the floor of my shop for a good couple of years, I had had enough. Then we began buying these French made Laguiole utensils, and the answer appeared. Make a knife block out of it.

A few vertical cuts with the miter saw, and some walnut spacers, and the job was done. I had just bought a Swiss-designed Bessey web clamp, and it will hold practically any shaped object tight while the glue dries. The Swiss, they are so clever.

Hop Hornbeam grows on our property, and this is from one specimen that expired during a two month drought. It’s incredibly strong and heavy as a sea anchor, so this is not likely to tip over. Those are steak knives and cheese knives, and one sliced my finger open while making this. That’ll learn me.

Sjobergs Workbench, and Sloyd in Sweden and the USA

Woodworking Utopia or Dystopia?

Sjobergs of Sweden makes literally thousands of benches and go alongs every year. This one is headed for its forth decade soon, and still has many years left in it. Professional woodworkers prefer mortise and tenoned benches the size of a Buick or a beached whale, but this has had at least four different homes, and it was easily moved. Was–it is now bolted to concrete in four places by lag bolts.

This is a realistic picture of the condition my bench stays in, as I am always making something. It would probably cause laughter from the nine year olds in Sweden, which is when they begin studying sloyd (sljöd in Swedish), which is the Swedish word for crafts. This study continues until after the child is fifteen.

Here’s the kind of thing that Swedish public education gives to nine year olds.

Not the Shavings, but the Knife

That’s a Sloyd knife, in this case a quality Swedish knife made of laminated steel. Instilling quality and character into students is what Sloyd is all about. Sloyd is also a good substitute for physical education, as all I learned in PE was how to become a tolerable free throw shooter.

Alas, the US hierarchy chose to follow “the Russian system,” which is vocational training. The current system here is not to build character and intelligence, but to churn out workers to make some greenback dollars for somebody. As an anecdote, I was the chair of the English department at a “Liberal Arts” University, where the school’s VP told me that English was a department that was a “service” department, there to help departments like the nursing school. So much for building character. My bench has more character than that.

I really should stop using it as a place to mix my various home made paints. If you look close enough, you can see gold glitter paint, that I spilled while mixing it. That’s too much character.

“Leftover” Wood Spoon Rack

The Camera was Crooked

I have changed my terminology so that my vocabulary no longer contains “Scrap Pile.” My two substitutes are “Leftover Wood” and “Firewood.” Recycling small off cuts and shavings, and other odd pieces in the bread oven, and turning them into food, may be the new cycle of life.

–Which naturally brings me to the brick oven. When the trim is almost done, and the decoration begins, the end of the project is near. Anna Napoletana looked a little lonely hanging on the back of the oven by herself, so I made a very fast useful item with Leftover Wood–a Spoon Rack.

This is the end cuts of the picture frame next to it, and as soon as I saw them, I thought–spoon rack. This has four 1/2″ holes, so it will accommodate four spoons. Three cuts with the miter saw, and then assembly with finishing nails, and a couple of deck screws. It needed some of the gold glitter paint, to match Anna’s frame, and then it was attached to the oven with deck screws. It took far longer for the paint to dry than it took to build it.

Leftover wood, like left over food, can be as good as fresh.

Favorite Woodworking Planes, Part 9 and 15/32–Scrub Planes

I Need Something to Scrub

Scrub plane are essential tools for anyone who uses split or rough sawn wood. These will quickly flatten and dimension boards, as they remove thick pieces of wood with every pass. How do they do that? With a little engineering.

Feed Me

The classic German scrub plane–this one is an Ulmia–with a wide throat and a highly convex blade. This is designed to take off a good deal of stock in a hurry, and it does. Now for a home made scrub.

Jack of All Trades

Stanley #5 Jack planes used to be about the price of a High School lunch, and some of the older ones were the cheapest. This is a pre-1902 plane made without a Frog adjustment screw, which is pretty much useless for a scrub plane anyway. I just ground the cheap Stanley blade into a convex cutting machine. I do need to file the throat wider, so those Walnut shavings don’t clog as often.

So scrub away. These planes will save hours of time, and many obscenities.

Amish Made Berry Basket

Blueberry Muffins for Breakfast this Week

It’s always a pleasure to know where a product or ingredient comes from–I think it’s called accountability. Not only did this come from the Amish region of Ohio, but its maker was proud enough to sign his name to the basket–a Mr. Jonas Miller. We liked this so much we bought a matching piece to use on the center of our dining room table.

The uprights of the basket are nailed to a solid wood bottom with brass nails. Then the splints are used to shape the piece.The top is a piece of woven Raffia sandwiched between to splints. The belt loops are made of some very nice leather.

We purchased these from the best of the old school hardware stores, Lehman’s in Ohio, which was originally founded to serve the Amish community. If it isn’t top quality, Lehman’s will not sell it.

This basket is in for a long hot summer, as this was only the first picking from our eight Blueberry bushes. We leave some berries for our winged friends, and throw some to the chickens. There is no better way to start a chicken riot than to throw ripe blueberries into the chicken run.

Favorite Woodworking Planes, Part 8 5/16–German Planes

Wood or metal? The debate about what to make planes out of has been around for over a couple of centuries. Like the Romans, my response is–both. I admit, however, that my favorites are these German wooden planes.

The first and the last are the best, so I will start at the bottom and work my way north. The block plane is an ECE plane, which has a fantastically good adjustment mechanism. The Lignum Vitae sole is not too shabby, either.

To the left and up may look like a smoothing plane, but it is actually a scrub plane. As I use mostly split or rough sawn wood, this plane is a necessity. I have used it more than all the rest combined. Ulmia brand.

The well used, well loved plane next to it is an Ulmia smoothing plane. It is the same length as the scrub plane, but is considerably wider. The order of use would be scrub-joiner-smoother.

The next to last row has specialty planes. The first is a very fine Ulmia rabbet plane. It doesn’t have a depth gauge, but the quality of the joints it cuts more than makes up for that. It also has an adjustable throat for finer work. Purchased at an antiques store for $10.

The match planes are ECE, and the grooving plane works fine. Something is wrong with the bevel angle on the tonguing plane, as it jams easily. I would fix that, but I have three other planes that will cut a tongue and groove joint.

The last plane on the top is the daddy of the bunch. That jointer is 24″ of solid beech, and built like an entire Panzer division. It will flatten anything, without also flattening you with its weight. Not something you want to meet in a dark alley.

I had ancestors in two different states in southern Germany. They should be thanked for bringing this kind of craftsmanship across the pond.

Favorite Woodworking Planes, Part 7 1/2–Reed Fillister Plane

I have been thinking about buying a Moving Fillister Plane for years., and had decided on buying a fancy new German one. Christopher Schwartz once wrote that old ones can by quite difficult to tune and could be difficult to get to work properly. This one was in good condition, and cost 20% of a new one. It was worth the risk.

The plane was cutting perfectly after about five minutes of sharpening. I’ve spent far more time than that getting new planes to work properly. And after I did a little research, I found that I had purchased a piece of American woodworking history.

The Reed Plane Company of Utica, New York was founded by four brothers from Wales, who came to the US in 1801. A fifth brother was a builder who constructed most of the warehouses along the Erie Canal. All this info comes from the EARLY AMERICAN INDUSTRIES ASSOCIATION.

Depending on the source, the brothers began making planes in their kitchen in 1820 or 1826. They are believed to be the first commercial plane makers in New York, and one of the first in the US. Note: Apple, Google, and Microsoft were either started, or worked out of, garages. At least Amazon was started in a rented house.

The Reed brothers eventually built a twenty square foot workshop, which contained a big one horsepower grindstone for sharpening plane blades. The horsepower was supplied by one horse.

They eventually built a much larger shop, staffed by the brothers, and various journeymen and apprentices. Apprentices at this time often had to pay to learn such a skilled trade, which amounted to a tuition of a sort–the early version of a technical college.

Back to this plane. The business edge is boxed, which means it is reinforced with Boxwood. There is a slight chip in the Boxwood right at the throat, but that has had no effect on its cutting ability. As the company ceased production in 1894, this plane is solidly nineteenth century. This is only a guess, but I say it’s 130 to 160 years old.

Now for a little outrageous behavior. How do you clean a plane that old? My go to cleaner, which many hate, is WD-40. It cleans the wood, and provides it with temporary water resistance. WD in the name means water displacement, and this is formula number 40.

Some necessary tools to use a plane like this.

The cross peen hammer is an all around useful carpenter’s hammer, and just the right size for adjusting the depth of the cut. The screwdriver is beefy enough to deal with the giant screws that hold the fence in location. It could also be used as a defensive weapon, if things come to that. They never do.

Refurb of Cherry JK Adams Cutting Board

Chop Away

Melanie had a very bad case of cutting board envy, as I tend to hog up our huge Adams maple cutting board. Thus I was dispatched to find her a board of her own. The one we wanted from Thailand turned out to be from the “not available” category. Thus I was instructed to look on fleabay.

This Adams end grain cherry cutting board was available for less the twenty dollars. It did have a small crack on one side, but I have plenty of heavy duty clamps. It also needed to be refinished, as it appeared that it had never been oiled even once.

Some glue and a big Jorgensen bar clamp solved the crack problem, and the hairline crack that remained was filled up with sander dust, which is an old repair person’s trick. Now a positive word about sanders.

I rarely use sanders, but having fallen ill with the dreaded Gearhead Syndrome, I bought three anyway. The two random orbit sanders are a small Ryobi one, and a massive Bosch one. The beast of a belt sander I have is a now legendary Swiss made Bosch one. After two decades of work, it still runs perfectly.

This was a perfect job for the little Ryobi. I started with fine discs, then finished with a 320 grit disc. A few coats of food grade Danish oil, which is polymerized linseed oil, and it’s ready for decades of cutting .

Outdoor Kitchen, Old School, Part One–A Brick Oven, and a Curtain of Green

Ms. Eudora Welty came up with the Curtain Line

No stainless steel grills here, just bricks, camp stoves, and the end of an old propane tank, made into a fire pit. Welcome to old school, part one.

Our primary fuel is wood, mostly dead fall from our 5.5 acres of forest. The brick oven can take a couple of logs at once. It makes one mean pizza, or two. I need to get back into baking big loaves of sourdough bread.

Twenty two years and a few more days later, I am ready to do the trim work on this multi ton beast. Here’s the side view.

Egg Tempera Paint

That’s homemade paint, that came out very well. The siding was made a few miles from here. I have to buy some wood for the trim. Now for the back, which will be the center, or workplace, for the rustic kitchen.

Hobo Kitchen

Four more fuels available here, which I will get into later. The camp stoves burn alcohol, kerosene, and white gas. The blackish paint is flour paint. The wood grill on the right is my riff on a Tuscan style outdoor grill. The whole thing is as rustic as can be. I might even finish it one day.

A Curtain of Green is a great book by Ms. Welty, and the title of an equally great short story. It’s what happens here in this part of the South in the spring–the forest becomes so thick that a person cannot see through it. A great metaphor is forever.