Thursday, 29 December 2011

A Bird in the hand with a Perch.

Well it's been a few days since Xmas now and the dust has finally settled after a very busy past few months. Lisa and I have finally had a few days to get into the cottage and do some work and it's tracking along nicely, the bad 80's carport came off yesterday and more of the heavy, wavy fibrous plaster found it's way into a skip.
Today though is a day of rest, phew. Time to mow some lawns, get some things done around the rental house and organise myself.  And also go over a few things that I picked up from making the Bird Cage Arm Chair with Peter Galbert just before Christmas.

We started with some fine one piece slabs of Elm from a large log that we milled a couple of years ago now and have been air drying ever since. Slabs of Elm of this quality and size are getting to be a real rarity now, with Dutch Elm Disease and Elm beetles wiping out Elm trees all over the world. Victoria would have to be one of the last strongholds of large old growth Elm trees around now and I certainly prize any logs that come my way for milling. Anyway enough about milling, ( save for another post ) getting back to that chair....

Here is the chair with the stiles/back posts drilled, reamed and seated in the carved seat. The arm posts have also been reamed and seated and those big lumps of oak hanging off them are the blanks for the carved arm holds. When you look at the chair like this it's easy to gloss over just what is involved in getting the chair to this stage. The stile holes for instance are drilled at a particular angle and sight line
( see some of them marked on the seat blank in the first photo ) but are reamed at a different angle. This gives the bent stiles some life and accentuates their fluid lines. No walk in the park there I can tell you!

Then the arm holds have to be drilled and carefully reamed with a cello reamer at exactly the right angle to seat firmly on to the arm post but also end up in perfect alignment with where they will be mortised into the stiles. Those big lumps then have to be turned on the lathe to create the tenon end. A little unnerving when you first see those things 'wurrring' around on the lathe in front of you!

The stiles then have to be drilled to create the stepped mortise hole, which protrudes through the rear of the stile at 3/8" but is a little over an inch at the front. Sorry, Imperial measurement is still like Cantonese arithmetic to me! Of course this mortise hole is also offset one inch to the outside of the arm post, again to accentuate the flowing lines of the chair parts and not make the arm holds look rigid and stiff. Here's another view from the top to get an idea of what I mean...

Here is another perspective of the stile and mortised arm hold, as you can see there are no straight lines here to reference from. In fact it's all done with smoke and mirrors! Ok there's no smoke, but you do use mirrors to drill the mortise hole.

From here the undercarriage is assembled in the usual fashion and glued and wedged into the seat. The steam bent spindles are then roughed into shape and the lower, turned and steam bent crest rail is then mortise and tenoned into the stiles.

After this comes the upper or top crest rail. The set up for drilling the 3/8" mortise into this part is quite complex with wooden clamps, bevel gauges and two sets of mirrors all into the mix. Suffice to say, it's a handful, but executed well the results are terrific with a perfectly mated joint which will later be carved from the big bulbous turning into a false birds mouth mitre joint.

Here you can see the rough turning of the top crest rail on right and on the left the rough shape of what will be carved has been shaped on the bandsaw. The spindles are roughed in here too.

And here is where I got to at the end of five days. All assembled and fitted, spindles mortised through the crest rails and just the false mitres left to carve and some more shaping of the spindle blades. I'm very happy with how it came up. Here's the side view where you can appreciate the steam bending a little more.

Oh and in the moments of down time and just to add a little pressure to the whole situation I made one of Peter's 'Perch' type 3 legged stools at the same time.

 These little fellas are great fun and made to be used in places where you literally just want to 'prop' yourself, like a workshop setting or behind a counter in a shop. I've had a piece of Huon Pine sitting around for years waiting for the right job. So into the perch it went. American Black Walnut for the legs, as a nice chocolate coloured contrast to the golden yellow of the Huon.

It's not oiled yet, there's a little more carving of the seat needed and the legs need to be trimmed to length,  but you get the picture. I tossed a piece of the same Huon to Pete and some New Guinea Rosewood too for legs.

And here's what he whipped up! Finished with Danish Oil it really shines. The contrast of the Huon and the NG Rosewood is magic too. Pete made this one for Lisa as a thank you for all her hard work in marketing his trip, writing press releases to magazines and newspapers and organising the Seminar night on the 12th of Jan. Thanks Pete. It's a work of art from a master chair maker.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Out with the old and in with the....... older.

Here is the latest with our little house in Kyneton. As you can see from the previous photo in a past post, the bad 50's fibro verandah with steel pipe posts is gone and a new verandah sits neatly in it's place, with some temporary struts in place. The verandah posts are in the process of being made by me, just after Xmas.

Also in the new year the roof will be replaced with some new, very traditional, Aussie galvanised iron and new gutters which will return around the gable ends, where you can see the new fascia boards have been placed.
I'd love to say that all this great work has been mine, but with the past few weeks of assisting Peter Galbert in teaching windsor chair making, I haven't had time to so much as hammer a nail in here. This great job has been done by my Uncle, Alex Hanssen and his off-siders, who have done a fine job of translating my descriptions and scribbled drawings into fine carpentry on the house. But there's much more to come yet.

And just what style is this previously non-descript place being transformed into I hear you say???
A Shaker cottage. Well, as close to one as we can get with the basic shape we have to work with.
When I first saw this little house, with all it's downsides, rusty roof, sagging floor and collapsed stumps my first thoughts were what great potential it had, not how bad it looked.

Lisa and I have always loved Shaker furniture and it forms a strong part of my furniture making influences, so what better style of house to live in than one we enjoy so much?

Here is a photo of The Dwelling House at Canterbury Shaker Village ( thanks Lonely Planet Images! ) my inspiration for the little verandah. But instead of the turned verandah posts I want to pay homage to the iconic tapered Shaker legs found on their side tables and night stands and so our verandah will have Macrocarpa posts, lightly tapered from the top to the bottom, giving a light feel to the structure. Then after the re-roofing and gutters have been installed I will finish trim the whole thing to closer resemble the detail on all the Shaker buildings we studied at Hancock Village, like what you can see below in the returned fascia and gutter on this Hancock building.

So then it will be off with the awful 80's carport and equally bad front fence and gates and a new fence in keeping with a fence detail I have seen in a lot of the period buildings in Kyneton, but also fitting in  with our Shaker aesthetic. So before long this mid 1900's house will closer resemble a crisp and clean version of an 1800's classic.

Oh and have a very Merry Xmas and a safe and happy New Year from my family to yours. Cheers!

Friday, 16 December 2011

These chairs Rock!

So yesterday we came to the end of the first of Peter Galbert's Windsor Chair classes in Australia. In fact I think it would be fair to say that this is the first time any renowned chair maker from the U.S. has come to Australia to teach classes purely in chair making.

This first class was the Continuous Arm Rocking Chair. 12 positions were advertised and booked out very quickly. By the time the class came around there were people pleading to be added to the class, but at 12 the workshop was stretched to it's limit.

As a whole the class was a great success and everyone completed a great example of the chair. This was in no small part due to the Peter's masterful approach to teaching and reading the progress of everyone during the week.

Here's Pete fine tuning the rockers of one of the chairs.

Another factor being an ingenious jig that Pete developed over the course of the week which allowed the bottoms of the legs to be routed in situ, after being glued to the seat and ensured perfect alignment and minimal fine tuning. Having used Pete's original method while making my rocker in Massachusetts, 
( even though that was a great technique in itself ) I can vouch for just how much time and effort this saved. Great work again Mr. Galbert.

Here's the back of one of the 12, dry fitted and being readied for glueing. They really are a beautifully proportioned and compact rocking chair.

The finished product. This one is Daryl's, who came across Bass Straight again for his second class with us. Another fine chair mate, well done........ I think the blue tape is a band aid, the chair might have nicked itself while shaving! We had another interstate addition this class too, in Wayne from N.S.W., who also turned out about as good a rocking chair as I've seen. Nice work Wayne and hopefully we'll see you down South again sometime to make another one.

So today I have one day of rest before embarking on our next class with Pete, his Bird Cage Arm Chair. This is one of Pete's most complex chairs and usually reserved for 7 days of hard work and as Pete would say, time "down the rabbit hole." Oh, and this time I'm not assisting this master chair maker with the class, I'm a student again and we're going to try and squeeze it into 5 days! Better get the coffee on and a fresh supply of Berocca..... wish me luck.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Level playing ground.

Sometimes you just have to admit that there are things best left to the professionals.  I'm not about to argue the point when it comes to re-stumping houses. Especially ours. Don't get me wrong, we certainly paid for the privilege, but I don't regret not doing it myself.

Not when the house was still on the original split redgum posts, some of which were nearly a foot across.
But anyway the guys did a great job and now the old girl is back on solid and level ground.

And here is the little bit of re-modeling that we have done so far. I'd like to take the opportunity to thank the owner some 20 years or so ago who was good enough to glue the carpet straight to the floorboards and the next guy who was too lazy to remove it and put the new underlay and carpet straight over the top! Great work, thanks.

As you can see, not one bit of insulation in the whole place. Amazing when you think about building standards these days and energy ratings. Even more so when you experience a winter in Kyneton. It's cold!

Unfortunately with next few weeks being flat out with Windsor Chair Classes, the place will not be progressing as fast as what I would like. But post Xmas, transformation of the bland little cottage into something more inspiring will begin. I'll keep you all posted down the track with the progress.