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Continuing Education: Woodworking Class with Master Lonnie Bird

I signed up for a woodworking class with Lonnie Bird about a year ago.  I was originally scheduled to go in March 2018, but life happened and the class got postponed to 01-05 Oct 2018.  Today was the first day of class.

My first impressions…I have way more tools than I need to make truly fine handcrafted pieces.  All you really need are a set of decent chisels, some good quality waterstones, an x-acto knife, and a couple of small sliding squares.  And a mallet.  And a dovetail marking gauge, but even that is optional. And some handplanes.  And a workbench, vise, good lighting, etc.

The time needed to make a handcrafted piece is not as long as I expected.  It helps if you have a mortising machine. The one in the classroom is a Powermatic mortising floor model, and it is superior to my ShopFox bench mortising machine in nearly every way.  It’s quieter. Faster. Doesn’t smoke. Makes good square parallel mortises. Has good depth control.

While I was getting my chisels and tools razor sharp with my set of stones, I found that if you grind a hollow on the chisel bevel with a low rpm grinding wheel and then go to the stones for sharpening and polishing, it takes much less time to get that razor edge.  It’s also much more efficient to have your sharpening station next to your workbench. You can make a leather strop by gluing a piece of tool leather to a maple block and rubbing jeweler’s rouge on it.  Boom! Instant strop. Keep that next to you while you’re doing chisel work. Dress your edge after every few whaps

Speaking of workbenches.  Simple is better. Wooden pads on a metal machine vise are awesome.  Holdfasts are the biggity bomb.  Mallets are superior to plastic hammers.  

I learned about layout.  X-acto knives are superior to marking knives because they’re thinner.  They fit into dovetails better.

Three things make a great piece of furniture, or whatever piece you want to call it

-Great Design:  designs that are appealing to the eye, aren’t chunky, follow the golden ratio, have pleasing curves and aesthetics.  Hardware that compliments the overall piece without overwhelming the piece.

-Great Lumber:  Figured wood exists and should be used to showcase the piece.  The wood grain can truly make or break the project. Highly figured wood should be used for the showside (duh, right?).  However, putting bad grain on the front of a piece will make the piece ugly and standoffish, no matter how good the design or the craftmanship is.

-Perfect Craftmanship:  No gaps in the dovetails.  The drawers fit so tight there is no side to side play and little if any up and down play, yet fit so well in the drawer space that only a finger is needed to push it in.  Drawers that fit so tight that if you push them if fast, the air pressure will push out the drawer above it. Doors that fit with a uniform gap all the way around.

You don’t need the most expensive tool to do the job, but you do need the most efficient tool to do the job.  Lonnie’s shop layout put the bandsaw on the bottom floor…I chose to use my handsaw because I think I was faster using making the cuts at the workbench.  I’d have to build another similar project and time myself and that’s just not in the realm of reality this week. At my home shop, my bandsaw is 3’ from my non-existent-in-the-first-stages-of-construction workbench, so it is probably easier to walk 5 steps and use the bandsaw.  We’ll see.

You really only need to learn (and master) two joints to make fine furniture….ok, maybe three.  The Mortise and Tenon joint, the Dovetail joint, and the Miter joint.

Did you know that the Dept of Agriculture, YOUR Dept of Agricultiure, has a forest products laboratory in the Great State of Wisconsin?  That’s pronounced wi-SCON-sin.  No joking.

I’m so ordering this

Title: .Wood Handbook, Wood as an Engineering Material (All Chapters)

Source: Forest Products Laboratory. Wood handbook – Wood as an engineering material. General Technical Report FPL-GTR-190. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory: 508 p. 2010

Author(s)  Bergman, Richard; Cai, Zhiyong; Carll, Charlie G.; Clausen, Carol A.; Dietenberger, Mark A.; Falk, Robert H.; Frihart, Charles R.; Glass, Samuel V.; Hunt, Christopher G.; Ibach, Rebecca E.; Kretschmann, David E.; Rammer, Douglas R.; Ross, Robert J.; Star

I heard a good woodworking joke today

4 Finger Vincent, the shop teacher, is running some beautiful figured cherry through the table saw.  He accidentally drags his pinkie finger (good hand pinkie finger) through the saw blade. Not deep enough to get to the bone, but he’s got a kerf if the flesh of the tip of his finger.  The doc says that he can’t sew it together, because the flesh that was in the kerf is just gone. Doc says, “I’m going to amputate the tip of your pinkie, because I’m worried that infection will set in and you’ll lose the entire finger”.  To which our hero 4 Finger Vincent replies, “Will I play the piano?” Doc says, “It shouldn’t affect you, I don’t see why not.” “Good! I could never play it before!”

And on that groaner, Dear Reader, I shall sign off from Dandridge TN.


Here is the table that I made in that class…