Back on track

Posted in Acorn House on September 30, 2011 by acornhouseworkshop

The third session that I attended got the learning environment right. Jay van Arsdale tales about Japanese Joinery. One of the reasons that it is fundamentally different than Western joinery, and tends to be more complex, is the nature of the environment. Because of the frequency of earthquakes in that part of the world, buildings had to be able to withstand the earth movements. Japanese joinery does not rely on glue, but rather on compression joints, often with a locking key. And, the compression is always focussed on the end grain, so that the wood does not split as it moves.
Numerous examples of just some of the varied number of joints that are used in practice were passed around. The layout of these is critical, since they need to fit tight for the compression to work. Also, all surfacing is done BEFORE the joints are assembled.
There will be two more sessions tomorrow on Japanese WW’ing techniques and shoji making.
Good recovery from the stumble!


Posted in Acorn House on September 30, 2011 by acornhouseworkshop

The second session, which, for reasons that will become clear, I won’t mention the presenter or subject, was a disappointment. What should have been a fun session, had some tech issues at the beginning. This totally threw the presenter. They didn’t seem to know where to start, and didn’t really want to start, until they were resolved. Even then, one supporting technology, that he had brought, still didn’t function as he had intended, nor did he seem to know what to do about it. This left him out of sorts and disorganized sounding. Knowledge of the subject was left wanting because of porridge presentation. I left before the session finished, the first time I have done so.
In teaching, as well as showcasing one’s work, it doesn’t matter how well you know the subject, or how beautiful a work is, if it is presented poorly, it is practically for nought.

This left me with some extra time to cruise the Marketplace. While walking past the various booths, I came to the realization that, while there some things that would be nice to have, there was nothing (so far) that screamed that I must make it mine. (Aside from some new infill planes that I can’t afford, anyway.) I’m sure I will find something before the end of the conference, but I don’t think I’ll have a bounty this year.
Sigh. So many tools, and so little desire to buy them.


Posted in Acorn House on September 30, 2011 by acornhouseworkshop

The first session was by Graham Blackburn, who talked about the use, care, and feeding of traditional wooden planes in joinery. One of the best quotes came before the session had officially begun. He talked about his background before woodworking, and how nowadays HIS hobby is the Argentine tango. (He started as a musician who, after studying at Julliard, just happened to join the band behind Van Morrison, he later played with others, including Janis Joplin, and actually played at Woodstock! He lives in Woodstock, NY, now, which is where the tale started.)
A running theme of the talk was the fact that; as technology becomes more and more complex, the lifespan of the items becomes shorter and shorter. Our grandchildren will not be using the computers that we are using today. It is near impossible to service today’s high tech engines without expensive computer diagnostics. Older cars are relatively simple and can be worked on at home, with just a modest amount of tools and a little knowledge. Likewise, traditional wooden planes have just three parts, the body, the wedge, and the blade. As woodworkers we should be able to make, adjust, or modify the wooden bits; and the metal bit is also relatively easy to care for. Also, we can use these tools that, ofttimes, are over one hundred years old, and can be expected to last another century or more.

He said that no matter what creative activity one endeavors, it all comes down to “balance and rhythm.”

Managed to make it down to the Marketplace to drop my Disston No.16 off to Mark at Badaxe for a little straightening and sharpening. Then back upstairs for the next session.

On your mark, get set…

Posted in Acorn House on September 30, 2011 by acornhouseworkshop

I’m in Covington, KY, waiting for the 2011 Woodworking in America conference to begin. The first session will be Graham Blackburn talking about joinery with traditional (I.e. wooden) hand planes.
The start of classes brought, as expected, a slow down (OK, a practical stop) to woodworking and luthiery activities. But now that things have settled down at school, and are down to routine, that should change. This “skills building weekend” is just what the Doctor ordered to kick start a return to activities.
I’ll try to post a few times during the conference (and not go bankrupt in the Marketplace!)

Hold Your Head High

Posted in Acorn House on July 18, 2011 by acornhouseworkshop

With the body done, save for the binding, its time to turn my attention to the neck. I decided to go with a less traditional neck wood (although it is a little more common on custom basses), and used a 5-way laminate of walnut with maple stripes. Normally I would use a scarf joint for the headstock for strength and to conserve wood; but, since there are multiple grain directions in the laminations, and since I had some walnut that had some unusable bits (sapwood, knots, etc.), I decided to skip that step and cut everything directly form the glue-up. (How’s that for an extended sentence, all you grammar fans out there!) The first step was, obviously, the glue up. The various laminations were milled and planed, glue was spread and Clamp, Clamp, Clamp, the wrists are aching!

After the glue had cured, I took it over to the table saw and squared everything up. This step is crucial, since the tenons, bolt holes, truss rod slot, etc. must be accurate.

From the block, I drilled the holes for the bolts and cross dowels. Then I routed out the channels for the truss rod and carbon fiber reinforcement strips (very helpful to keep the longer bass neck on the straight and narrow). The tenon was cut on the table saw with a tenoning jig. While cutting the cheeks of the tenon, I angle the blade inward, so that when I do the final fitting and angling of the neck, there is only the outer contact area to adjust, rather than a large surface area that would need to be chiselled and sanded to fit.

Finally, with all of the joinery completed, the basic shape can be rough sawn at the band saw. The very last rough operation is to angle the heel, thinning it at the bottom.

With the carbon fiber strips glued in and the truss rod fitted (but not glued), the joinery can be tested.

With all of the joinery and rough shaping done, the side can be tapered and the headstock veneer glued and the head routed to shape. I am using an offcut of figured walnut from the back stock for the head veneer, with the MOP Acorn logo already inlaid.

Binding, shaping and finishing to come.

Put a lid on it!

Posted in Acorn House on July 7, 2011 by acornhouseworkshop

With the kerfing glued and levelled, the final step before attaching the soundboard, is to cut socket for the braces to fit into. These need to be cut as precisely as possible; too short, and the top won’t make a solid bond, too deep, and the brace won’t transmit the energy as well. Using a saw to cut the sides, careful chisel work removes the waste.

With the top fitted to the sides, we can glue and clamp. The clamping method I used this time, was to screw short pieces of MDF to the mold, pushing the top down tight. Make sure the mold is held tight to the work surface, however, or it will just lift the mold.

With the top attached, check for any gaps and do any spot glueing and clamping. any holes will create a weakness, in both the structure of the box, and the sound. Before repeating the kerfing process for the back, the sides must be angled down towards the headstock, so that the back will have an arch to it from top to bottom, as well as from side to side (from the arched bracing). Once the taper has been marked and sawed, I use a sanding board to even the sides and the cut, as well as to ease the transition from flat to angled.

Then, the kerfing is glued and clamped as before, and sockets are cut to fit the back’s braces. One final step is to add side braces for additional support — especially on an instrument that is this deep. On my parlor guitars, I didn’t need to since the sides weren’t that deep. (In future guitars, I will be using a different side brace technique that puts the braces under the kerfing, extending the whole side.) Also, now is the time to sign the inside of the soundboard, and add any other notes for posterity.

The back gets glued on out of the mold using a variety of clamps and binding cords (in this case, old bicycle inner tubes tied together.)

After the glued has cured, and everything is tight, the overhang on the top and bottom is trimmed away using a laminate trimmer. The soundbox is complete, ready for its traditional resonance test of holding a lit match at the soundhole, and thumping the belly. If the match goes out, its a good’n. This one passed!

Get Bent!

Posted in Acorn House on June 27, 2011 by acornhouseworkshop

With the bracing on the top and bottom completed, its now time to move to the bending iron and shape the sides. After soaking them for an hour or so, I let the iron (which is a electric BBQ starter connected to a switch inside a 2″ galvanized pipe) heat up. When bending, the key is to always keep the wood moving to avoid scorching. Don’t try to force it too quickly, that will result in a sickening *CRACK*. Gentle, but firm, is the key. As the heat dries out the wood, frequent spritzes will keep the steam coming, and it is steam, even more so than heat, that is the key. I am using an oven safe glove on one hand, but that is almost not needed. You just have to be aware of the hot pipe.

[youtube ]

The bent side are checked against the mold, and then clamped with an iside mold and left to dry for a few days.

After they are dry, the ends are trimmed to fit, and the mahogany heelblock is shaped to conform to the mold’s curve and glued to the sides. The headblock is taken to the tablesaw to form the tenon and then curved and glued.

Once the glue has cured, the kerfing can be glued to the top side, with the inner molds keep the sides to shape. Clothspins and the occasional spring clamp do a good job of clamping the kerfing.

A couple of hours later, after the glue has dried, we can see the kerfing.

Once the glue has cure, the next day, we can take the sides out of the mold. The kerfing, even with only one side completed, gives it a lot of rigidity.

Next up, the sound board will be fitted and glued. No more topless bass!

%d bloggers like this: