The Gift that Keeps On Giving

One of the benefits of being a woodworker, whether amateur or professional, is that when gift giving occasions come up, we have the means to create something more than yet another meaningless Mall purchase. Sometimes the element of surprise is lost, when the gift is a request, or the recipient needs to provide dimensions; but, an unexpected creation is still possible now and then.

I’ve been in full blown gift mode for the last few months, what with birthdays, weddings, thank yous, and, of course, Christmas. For my Mother’s birthday, I made a (requested) countertop screen to hide an unattractive  back of a counter shelf unit. I upped the ante by trying something new for me. Using Craig Vandall Stevens excellent beginning book on artistic chip carving (which focusses on a more Asian, literati approach rather than the more traditional multi-facet patterns on Northern European chip carving) I did a pair of chip carvings on a wide poplar board in a frame of cherry. Using a greener board made it a little harder, because of the hardness of the heartwood, but I progressed through it, and each slice was better than the last.

The next project was another jewelry box as a thank you for help in wiring the Butternut Deuce. The only real difference was the configuration of the inner dividers.

Next was a bowl for a former student’s wedding, turned the morning of the wedding. The wood is an Australian Karri burl. Not a tremendous amount of burl, but enough to set off the warm grain of the bowl.

For family X-mas gifts, I had a couple of requests for frames, one for a watercolor, and one for a mirror. For the watercolor, I used walnut; my sister had requested a dark frame, at least 2″ wide. The wide expanse of walnut seemed to need to be broken up somehow, so, instead of routing various moldings, I decided to inlay a strip of birdseye maple, which provided the necessary contrast. When making a mitered frame, no matter how carefully you set up your saw, the miters are going to need tweaking. The easiest (and cheapest) tool for that is a shooting board with a well sharpened plane. After cutting the pieces to length and test fitting them, I made up a 45° angle jig for my shooting board, sharpened up my low angle block plane and made the adjustments. In no time at all, I had tight fitting miters and some beautiful shavings.

The result, after glue up and a couple of coats of Danish oil (minus the artwork):

For the frame for the mirror, I took my inspiration from Greene and Greene. Using a cloudlift template that I already had and some cherry, I used mortise and tenon construction for the larger piece. Danish oil and wax was, again, the finish of the day.

Now all it needs is the mirror.

I used some more cherry (as well as one piece of butternut) for a bedside table lamp. This was turned from 3 different block, with the main block being a two piece glue up (that way, I could cut the channel for the lamp cord ahead of time, and not have to drill though 8 inches of solid wood!). One miscalculation I made was not letting the top piece acclimate indoors before final assembly. Due to the difference in relative humidity between the shop and the heated house (oh yes, did I forget to mention, that I was making these gifts in a workshop whose average temperature was, with heater, around 35° !) after the lamp hardware had been fitted and everything glued together, the top piece must have shrunk just enough so that the nut on the threaded rod is no longer tight. As a result, the lamp socket now freely turns. Heavy sigh!

The last gift (save one!), was a saltbox made from curly and birdseye maple. The center was drilled and routed out, and the outer shape was done freehand at the spindle sander. The lid pivots on a brass rod for easy access.

One of the perils of making one’s own gifts is the time factor. Unlike a store-bought gift, some things take more time than is available; so instead of a present, somebody will have to get an IOU. So, I will be building a liquor cabinet in the near future, probably out of hackberry. Sorry, Brad.

But at least I don’t have to brave the Malls for my gift giving needs. I have the tools, I have the technology. I just need a little more time.

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