Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Old Fashioned Toys for the Holiday

  Another Christmas has come and gone.  The grandkids have gotten bigger, a new baby has been added, and everyone in the family wondered what I'd come up with for hand made gifts from the shop.
  The really fun part of the holiday was that the kids found just as much fun in old-fashioned toys as they did in new electronic games!  I made six small spin tops with colorful chatter work on both sides, top and bottom:

The kids had a lot of fun competing with them, and even got them to work upside down:

Then there were the Klopper Stompers, made of pine scrap drilled for a rope handle.  Stomping among the wrapping papers became a sport of its own:

And for the adults, a few wine bottle coasters and French rolling pins made of local orchard Cherry:

What a great year!   But, next time, I think I'll start making presents in August. It would relieve the stress level quite a bit.  Happy Holidays to all, and here's to a great New Year!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's All In the Process

My previous blog entry was one of 'Impatience For TheWork.'  I had a piece of spalted birch on the lathe, and was anxious to get it hollowed out so I could start on newer pieces waiting for me.  I completed the spalted birch piece with a red cedar collar:

The collar on it was intended to sweep upward in a beautiful cove, standing tall and polished above the spalted birch. In cutting it thin, I destroyed that idea with one dramatic catch, which cut a chunk out of the collar a full two inches down the cove I'd so lovingly completed. The collar, with much gnashing of teeth, then became a narrow rim. It was obvious after that, that I needed to make a lid for it.
 The first lid was an ill fit, so I moved on to a second try.  The second sported a thin, tall finial that comically looked too small on top of the vessel. The third lid was better, but it seemed to emphasize the fact I'd missed a 'fair curve' on the vessel itself. The outer curve flattens toward the bottom instead of continuing in a natural arc:

So, the vessel went back on the lathe over a jamb chuck, and I re-cut the bottom half, allowing the arc of the curve to sweep down to the base.  It was only a small difference, but it made a big difference in the look of the turning.

I am learning to not get too impatient with what I'm trying to do, and I'm finally satisfied!  The vessel is 10" tall overall, and is available for sale at BarbS Woodworks

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Impatience for the Work

  I'm wondering if other woodworkers suffer this malady: after thinking through design options and solving many problems, there seems to be a certain threshold that is crossed in thinking through the process of making something.  It isn't intimidation, it isn't fear of failure, and it isn't really impatience. I think it is simply a lack of interest in the piece after the challenges are solved.

  Before final completion, when I can at last 'see' what the finished product is going to look like, and when I know it is stable and no longer threatened with disintegration, I so often feel like setting it aside and getting on to the next one. Here's a vase form of spalted birch that I've set a narrow collar on, shaped and filled with ca glue and sawdust to fill small, unsightly gaps and flaws, sanded wet with oil and successfully hollowed out to about 3/4 of its depth.

  I'm anxious to get this thing completed and off the lathe.  I've little interest in it now.

  And this may be the reason, a 14" walnut blank 3" deep given by a friend, with another below it waiting to be assessed and its shape determined.  Just look at the streaks of color in that side grain!  I cannot Wait to get to it and see what it will reveal.

Meanwhile I have to finish the spalted birch vase.  I'm really just humming along trying to hurry the old project so I can get to the new.  Having so much beautiful wood all at the same time is a curse,  I tell you...it's a curse.  Back to the shop!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

'Feel Good' woodworking

 Some days, the quiet attraction of this work is just soul-satisfying. The stresses of the world can close in on a person's daily life and make even a bright sunny day feel oppressive, but we woodworkers can always go to our 'cave' for some solace.  Just sitting on a high stool and closing the eyes to take in the smell of natural wood shavings can fill the heart with what is real...can make one see forward to unhindered possibilities in creating something new.   When I put a hand plane to wood, with the tool perfectly fettled for peak performance, and a consistent, full-width shaving peels off under my hand, the 'Ah-h-h-h factor' is a fine reward.  I've kept a few, and used others for packaging or landscape bark. These few hanging in my shop, manage to bring a smile.
  Woodworking is a completely tactile experience. It doesn't fade into the ether like software programming, outdated before its completion.  Woodworking is the original 'hands-on' activity, designing and making something intended to last for generations. As skills improve, so do design concepts. There is always a new challenge to take on, new ideas to bring forth. Those curlicue ribbons of wood I've saved make me want to get back to designing something, building something, bringing something to life.  The heart lifts, and it's all about the Potential Act.  Onward then, while the weather is good and the day has just begun...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Turners Call a 'Design Opportunity'

  Finding bug-eaten holes deep through a work piece is always a disappointment.  Deciding what to do about them puts one in a quandry that can last for days.  This piece of Western Red Cedar looked sound as I prepared it for the lathe, but once the cutting began, it revealed a nasty flaw that would leave a 5/8" hole through the side no matter how I cut into it.  I could have drilled a round hole and plugged it with the same wood.  I could have filled it with colored epoxy.  I could have left it alone and titled the piece 'What's Bugging Me.'  Instead, I decided to let the flaw become a feature:

  Adding a leather strip looped through the hole and decorated with jewelry baubles seemed a nice way to make up for an unattractive flaw.  So, now it is a unique piece of artwork as well as a functional bowl.  This is, in the Turning World, what is called a 'Nice Save.' 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Commissioned Work

  Working to detailed specifications and having to duplicate a work piece was a new experience for me.  This is a commission offered to me by a local turner who had recently moved and hadn't yet bought a new lathe. He was asked to make 14 lamp finials to a customer's design, and offered me the work. Then he mentored me through the steps necessary, and even if I won't receive top dollar for my time, it was worth doing in how much I learned about the process!
  Eight are maple, six are walnut, and they'll sit atop a glass globe and a base made by the buyer. I worked off a CAD drawing done up by the other turner, and having several sets of calipers loaned to me to check dimensions as I turned was a real bonus.  I'm putting more calipers on my shopping list.
  The main lessons I took away from this experience probably apply to all woodworking:  Assume nothing, Check everything, and Never work when you are tired!
  It feels good to have completed the task and to get a "well done."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Using and Re-Using Sandpaper

  I've seen many discussions recently concerning the use of sandpaper, and one of the widely circulated axioms of wisdom seems to be, "Use it up, and throw it away!"  The idea is to prevent the unknowing from overloading and using a bit of sandpaper beyond its useful life.

  What is often missing in this advice is precisely how to extend the life of one's sandpaper. Of course, it does wear out, but there are a couple of things I've been taught to prevent having to buy stock in a company that produces the stuff.  First off, here's a photo of a handy storage system that can be carried around the shop to different workstations. It's helpful in not having to search through piles of used pieces.

It is simply a piece of 3/4" plywood with 1/8" wide grooves cut into it on the table saw.

   For a fine finish, it is important that a new sheet of sandpaper be gently raked over a sharp edge of something like a table saw, or the front edge of the ways on a lathe before use. Even drawing the paper over the square edge of a board will help to make the uneven distribution of granules on its surface become a more consistent size. The old rule of increasing the sanding grits in stages and not skipping a reasonable grit is sound advice,  and gently drawing each one over a sharp edge helps to give a smoother surface to the abrasive, so going from grit to grit in stages will leave fewer gouges from use of the previous grit. 

  It is also important to clean off the remaining sanding dust from the workpiece before starting with the next grit of sandpaper.  And here is the real secret to extending the life of all those used bits of paper:  a crepe block placed near your work, so when the sandpaper becomes loaded it can quickly be drawn across the crepe block and doesn't become so overloaded with dust that it is ineffective.

This particular crepe block comes attached to a plastic base that can be screwed down near a bench area, or screwed onto an independent block of wood and clamped near multiple work stations.  I found this one at Klingspor.

 With the two of these devices set up near the lathe, sanding becomes an efficient process that is highly repeatable and not the nerve-wracking, disorganized effort so many people seem to make it.

  I'd also like to mention a great resource for sanding advice of all kinds, from the Wood Central archives of Russ Fairfield, a well-known wood turner and teacher who recently passed away and is much missed.

©Barb Siddiqui, use with permission only


Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Humble Box by BarbSWoodworks on Etsy

Here's a link to a new Treasury I've put together on Etsy, of many talented woodworkers' artworks.
Take a moment to view their fine work!

The Humble Box by BarbSWoodworks on Etsy

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New Website Products

I've been busy making new products for the website, and have many more ideas waiting in the wings!
 See them at:  BarbS Woodworks

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

Black Walnut

 Hand me a slab, let me chuck it up on the lathe, and it will sit there for a few days while I contemplate an ogee curve, or plan a pattern for a rim, or wonder if I should have cut it another way.  Eventually there is a resignation, and a prodding to get on with it.  Outer layers are always weather-worn, or sun bleached, and hiding what rests inside the wood. Chips fly in all directions and I'm kicking them out of my way on the floor so I can shift my stance to reach in under a tight curve.  Work alternates between the lathe and the grinder,  one with ribboned curls of wood arcing over my hands, the other with tiny sparks leaping up from the metal edge of the gouge as I guide it against the stone to freshen the cutting edge. Wood to metal, metal to wood. The two singing against each other as I reach the sweet spot, riding the bevel in a perfect, uninterrupted arc from top to bottom of the finished interior. And voila, it is done.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Ideal Bench Hook

  My old bench hook is wearing out, and it's just about time to make a new one. As with any shop jig, when we're ready to re-make, it is often time to re-design. When I thought about it, though, I realized I've been using this particular bench hook in so many ways, for so many years, that it really doesn't warrant any re-designing. It is about as good as it's going to get, so I thought I'd share it with all you woodworkers and woodworker wanna-bees.

  A basic bench hook is no more than a mini-shelf on top of the workbench, sporting a rear fence to press a workpiece against while you saw a cut line.  One lip below, which holds it in place, and one lip at the back above, where you press the workpiece to hold it in place firmly while sawing.

  This one is a bit more elaborate. It is not my own design, and I no longer have the magazine where some enterprising woodworker published it as a tip many years ago.  If he's out there, I hope he'll step up and claim authorship of his design, because I've appreciated his innovative thinking for a long time.

  Here is the basic bench hook, with storage for four dowel pegs on the left, and a drop-shelf to prevent cutting through the bench hook after doing 90% of the cut on a workpiece.

   It is made with one 3/4" sheet of plywood 12" wide and 14" long. Another 1/4" sheet is glued on top of it, 10-1/2" wide x 14" long, and aligned with the left front corner (this is for right-handers, and can be reversed for lefties.) Then an equal length block 2x2" is glued under the bottom front, and an 8" 2x2" block glued on top at the back, aligned with the left side. Be certain the end cut of that back fence is 90ยบ vertical to the flat bench hook, as it acts as a saw guide.  Then add another smaller block to the right of the cut space, to steady the work when you move it over above the drop-off to finish the cut all the way through. Also, atop the back 2x2" fence, glue on two different grits of sandpaper to brush off any whiskers from your saw cuts, or to sand down the roughened end grain from a saw cut.

  The final chore is to drill some random holes 1/2" deep in the bench hook that loosely fit your selected dowels, stored above in equally dimensioned holes when not needed. The dowels serve to steady oddly-shaped pieces for either sawing or drilling. When attaching lathe face plates for turning, for example, the drill produces a great deal of torque and the workpiece is nearly impossible to hold by hand with any stability. When secured in a front vise, this bench hook and dowel set up makes it a one-handed operation.

  So, knowing I cannot improve on this bench hook design, I'm ready to put together a new one. Truth is, I'm not going to throw away the old one, but save it for more 'scrappy' uses like chopping end cuts and various dent-worthy chisel pounding.  

  I hope this is of some use to others.   For construction, here is one more photo of it on its side to clarify my directions. The dimensions are entirely up to you, so make it to fit your bench, or alter it as needed.  I really wouldn't know how to get along without it!


Addendum: mine is only one kind of bench hook.  Here is a YouTube link to another kind by famed handtool officionado Roy Underhill:  

©BarbSiddiqui; use by permission only

Monday, May 9, 2011

The "over-the-top" workshop

Surprise, surprise! Wood Magazine is publishing an article covering a new workshop built by Wenatchee's own Mike Walker, owner of Eagle Systems. I never knew he had dabbled in woodworking, but now he proves to the world he's gone far beyond 'dabbling.' His top-notch woodworking shop on the mountains above Lake Chelan will prove to be the envy of every woodworker who sees the article in Wood Magazine. Have a look at The Ultimate Wonderland of Woodworking he's created:

The "over-the-top" workshop

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Barb Siddiqui (BarbSWoodworks) on Etsy

Working my way into the Etsy community has been fun. If any of you are thinking of 'setting up shop' and selling any of your own handcrafted items, I would recommend using Etsy.com for a launching pad. I've only been there a short time, and working on getting exposure, but I've become fully entrenched in their helpful articles and guidance to make my shop a success. I have confidence it is going to work, and work well.
Here is a Profile page with two 'Treasury' listings I've put together to honor other woodworking talent on Etsy.com. If you take time to visit, you'll find a wide range of project ideas and price values represented. In this day and age, artistic, handmade items are becoming more sought after and valuable. It's worth looking into!

Barb Siddiqui (BarbSWoodworks) on Etsy

Friday, April 29, 2011

The 'Running Crow' Bowl

  Mahogany comes in many varieties and qualities. I was told mine is African Mahogany, and as with many woods, what lies on the inside of a board may be hidden from the outside. As I turned this piece to reach the depth I'd decided on, a dark stain began to appear and I was disappointed, thinking it may ruin the appearance of the wood grain. Deeper and deeper I turned the wood away, and lo and behold, a recognizable shape began to emerge. 
The image of a crow running fast, stretched forward like a race horse, revealed itself and brought a big smile to my face. I guess it's true: Sometimes the greatest gifts are those unasked for!
See it at  BarbS Woodworks

Thursday, April 14, 2011

From A Cupped Piece of Cherry

  Selecting and cutting into a new piece of wood is always a crap-shoot.  You pick up a piece of timber, go over it carefully for flaws like knots, cracks and defects barely visible, then you select a portion of it with prominent grain patterns or unusual color, and decide how to mount it on the lathe.
  This time, I was holding a bit of a cupped piece of cherry about nine inches wide. It had a slight yellow tinge to it, with prominent cathedral grain through its center.  I carefully placed my compass to establish the workpiece avoiding small pin-knots and a lengthy crack, drawing a circle all the way to both edges to get the full effect of the piece.  Then to the bandsaw for prep work, and the workbench to plane a section flat and pre-drill for faceplate holes, then the lathe. The crusty surface texture came off to reveal a beautiful, fine-grained swirl of color, and voila! a shallow, curled-rimmed bowl was born, through four hours heavy labor:

Cherry, 8-1/2" diameter, by 1" deep

Friday, April 8, 2011

Warmer Weather = More Production

  A few items shown on the business websites. Now that the weather has improved dramatically, it is much easier to get into the work shop and work on new designs.  I'm going to have to scrounge or purchase more large, dried stock, as the big pieces of mahogany I had are already reduced to nothing.  One more smaller platter will finish it off, and 16" wide pieces are not easy to come by.
  Most of our local fruit woods are from pruned trees, which produce shortened, knobby, angled limbs of 'reaction' wood, under tension more on one side than another. This makes for lots of wood movement and twisting in individual pieces when working the wood.  I air-dry my stock, so its moisture content is always a bit higher than ideal to begin with, and dealing with wood movement is a constant. The rich grain patterns and wide variety in colors make it well worth the trouble!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

BarbS Woodworks

BarbS Woodworks

Besides my day job of managing a local tour bus branch, I also
do a lifetime's worth of woodworking, and have recently gone from
hobbyist to professional. Instead of opening a new Blog on the
business, I am currently converting this one to interests dedicated
to that endeavor, and my favorite quote still applies:
"Life may not be what we'd hoped for, but while we're here,
We Might As Well Dance!"
So please visit my new woodworking page on Facebook!
and see my new website at