Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to one and all.   For those of us who celebrate the Winter Solstice as the turning of the year, it has already been the new year for a week and 4 days.  ;-)  Nonetheless, since I closed out for 2009 in my last post, I'll start this next one on the "traditional" New Year's Day.  It is my wish that everyone is safe and well, and not suffering overly much from too much partying last night! ;-)

And now, on with the blog:


My wonderful and uber-talented husband is a master woodworker, and loves working with wood and making things with his hands.  Together, we make hand-crafted hardwood clocks. I am hubby's apprentice, and I am learning how to make the clocks, but I am so far behind that I don't think I'll ever catch up: he's got too many years head-start because this was a family business of his late step-dad. We bought the business when his health went south, and he could no longer do the work. That is why hubby has so many years up on me...he worked in the family business since he was in his 20's!

My lack of experience notwithstanding, I do enjoy woodworking, and I love the smell of the wood as its being worked; splinters, not so much, but it happens...'occupational hazard.'   [ I remember years back, before I met my current hubby, a friend of the family worked for a cabinet maker.  He got a nasty sliver at work, and was picking it out.  The (mean, nasty) boss came by and said, "Got a sliver?  Put a circle around it, and take it out on your own time!"  How very rude!  I would have said, "Why?  I got it on company time!" ]

We will use oak, maple, walnut or cherry woods, but oak is our favorite. It has a pleasing grain and accepts stains nicely. If you look at a piece of oak furniture, and compare it to the raw wood, you might be very, very surprised to learn that the color you think of as 'oak' is actually an applied stain. The wood itself is very much lighter in color. (See photo, below.)

  Raw (Red) Oak                                   Stained Oak

On the left, above, the actual color of the wood; and on the right, the usual "oak" color most people think of.  This is a stain color called "Golden Oak" in the brand we use.  I have noted the raw wood as 'red,' because oak comes in both red and white varieties.  The white oak is even lighter, almost like maple, but we don't use it much, as it is very difficult to work with, which in turn raises our cost on the finished product.

There are certain woods that, while they are beautiful, we don't use much for any number of reasons.  First, we try very hard, when possible, to use recycled/salvaged wood to save on resources.  We absolutely avoid buying wood from clear-cutting operations, and will use only farmed woods from sustainable operations whenever possible.  This eliminates many of the exotic hardwoods like zebra or koa wood from our available stock.

When the exotic woods can be found as farmed wood, they are usually very, very expensive, so that is another 'stopper.'  Sometimes, we can find small pieces in the 'scrap' bin at our supplier's, and these we craft into either smaller items, or use as accent laminations.

Another of the main reasons for not using much in the way of some exotics such as bloodwood is simply the wear and tear on the tools.  Bloodwood is so hard, it is almost like cutting a rock, when it comes to what it does to the saw blade.  One or two passes through, and you're done:  time to have the blade sharpened!   After that, if you persist, you will be burning your way through from the friction of the blade's rotation, more than cutting.  Not only is this hard on the saw blade and its motor--it is dangerous.  The blade can easily bind and cause the wood to break and/or be thrown, or, worse, catch fire!

We like to buy raw lumber, in inch-thick sections, called '4-quarter stock' in the lumber industry.  (Don't ask me why--I've no idea why they would use the 4-quarters of an inch measure instead of just saying 1 inch!)  There is also 1-1/4 inch thick wood we can sometimes get.. called, you guessed it.... '5-quarter stock'!! (** Check out this post on another blog for that author's take on silly ways to measure things:**)  At that, it is 'nominally' those measures--meaning, they got it close, but not exact.  This raw lumber is as it came in from the original mill.  It has been cut into boards,  but is of random lengths and widths, and still rough--not planed or sanded at all. 

We select what projects we want, and from there, cut the wood into the lenghts and widths we need, then run it through our planer to pare it down to the exact thickness desired, and do a preliminary smoothing.  (Actually reverse that--it goes through the planer first--easier and safer to feed large boards than small pieces!)  This is an operation that creates a lot of shavings!  By 'a lot,' I mean that if we are running say, 20 boards through, it takes several passes on each board, as you cannot take too large a 'bite' at one pass.  One person feeds the lumber in, and another 'catches' or pulls it on the outfeed side.  Guess which end I get:  Right!  Guess on which end the shavings end up?  Right, again!  More than once, I"ve found myself nearly knee-deep in wood shavings from this proceedure! 

Tomorrow, I'll go into some of our actual crafting operations, and design inspirations.

Until then, Cheers!

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