A new way of thinking

I can’t believe it has been over a whole month since I posted last. First let me say that the “By hand and by eye” class at the PTSW was awesome! I would like to write an entire post about everything, but let’s be honest, I’m not really consistent at posting. I will simply say that the class has led me down a path of rethinking how I look at everything and I mean everything. The fact that great furniture design has been historically made with dividers, a compass and a straightedge is very freeing. Not to be constrained by measurements. Take for example a candle stand. Do you know why they are around 26 inches tall? They were that tall, because that was the perfect height for someone to sit down and read by candlelight! Who would have thought!! Furniture that was made to fit a space and specifically for the client and his/her height. A sideboard was made to the height it would take for the client to set a pot on without having to raise the arms or bend down. The great part was the furniture maker didn’t have to change designs in order to accommodate different clients. They simply used proportions. It’s hard to explain much more without writing a book, but the great thing is I don’t need to. Jim Tolpin and George Walker have already written one and should soon be published by Lost Art Press. If the information in the book is half as good as the class, I am sure it will be one of your favorite reads, I know it will be mine.

Since the class, I have been working on more rough sketches on different pieces and will eventually start putting them into production and sharing them with you.

This first one is probably the easiest I will work on. I wanted it to be simple, so I could work through the entire process without making it more complicated than it should be. Probably a cop-out, but oh well. It started with a sketch. I find my best ideas come to me either in the middle of the night and in the process waking me up, or most often through the tedium of my day job. This is probably why most of my sketches you’ll see are done on a yellow sticky note pad.

I drew this out in less than a couple minutes. From there a mocked up a temp drafting table on my work bench and away I went. I decided on the proportions I wanted, in this case a 3:5. Three parts tall, and five parts wide. The side view is a 1:1. I may have to make a short video to show the rest of the process, as it’s fairly involved. It is safe to say that once the proportions are set, the details are so easy to fill in. Here are some photos of my set up.

And my completed design.

Once I had the proportions worked out on my drawing, I needed to translate that into an actual size I could build. Really this is the only time a measurement is needed. Doesn’t necessarily mean that a tape measurement is needed, but some standard of measurement is needed to translate the drawing into a finished product. In this case, I knew that my rails and styles are limited to the width of lumber I have. I could have just set a pair of dividers to the width of the lumber, but for this I knew my measurement was three and a half inches. My starting point. The other cool thing we worked on in the class is translating your drawings onto story sticks. If you’ve never tried this, I encourage you to try it out. If you don’t know, a story stick is just that. It is a thin stick of wood that has all of the main measurements on it, to include joinery (basically the “story” of your project). As you look at the following photos, you’ll see I used black and red marks on one of the sticks. The black marks are the height measurements and the red marks are the depth measurements. The other stick is my width measurements. I would have like to put them all on one stick (I was going to use a green pen for the third color) but the stick I had used was not long enough to get all the measurements on.

And there you have it. Everything I need to layout and build my blanket chest. And only one number needed. We’ll see how it turns out, but so far I am pretty excited. At least it’s very different from my normal procedure, and this year, anything different is good. It’s nice to deviate from my norm and to try new things in my woodworking adventure. I’ve been doing it the same way for so long now, I was growing stale and bored. Now I can’t wait to get into the shop!

Here are a couple of photos of the wood I selected, both the beginning pile and the pile of rough cut parts using only my story stick. The panel cutter was used to mark the widths of the inserts. I will share more as I move along, but it hard for me to remember to stop and get photos when I get going, as I get hyper focused on what I am doing.

One more photo…It’s of my bandsaw. I love this thing!! 3hp and 21″ of cutting awesomeness! It also doesn’t hurt that I have timberwolf bandsaw blades. It cut the Sapele like it was dried pine.

I am considering getting rid of my tablesaw and a few other machines, so I am not going to use it on this project to see how difficult it will be to adapt without it. Why would I get rid of my tablesaw you ask? Eventually I am going to move my shop into a much smaller space and I need to start deciding how to downsize. As I am re-thinking how I approach my woodworking, I am also re-thinking the tools I use. Crazy? Maybe, but I don’t really care. I am all about radical thinking right now! Thanks for reading!

This entry was posted in furniture design, port townsend school of woodworking, shop photos, The Butler Did It, woodworking. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A new way of thinking

  1. timlawson says:

    Great article. Well written. Looking forward to seeing the finished piece.

    Thanks for your help on the shave horse weekend.

  2. Jim Arnold says:

    I got rid of my table saw a few years back and will not replace it even though I have room for one now in my much-expanded shop space. To be honest I do use my Festool track saw, especially for ripping. That said, there are times when a table saw would be nice for repetitive rips or when making precision-width thinner rips. But this has honed my skills with my other tools – especially hand tools and I really don’t miss the table saw at all. I’m convinced not using one does not cost me any time and I’m absolutely convinced that getting rid of my table saw has made me a much better woodworker.

    Jim A.

    • Thanks for your comment Jim. It’s good to hear from someone that has made that transition already. I’m finding that since I have started that transition, my tablesaw is becoming more of a work surface. I have a blog post I’m finishing up that in which I touch on a lot of what you mention.

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