NBSS Week 7 – Turning a mallet, hand cutting a mortise and tenon, more chair design, a visit to a furniture auction, and a slight change in the blog

With the start of this week I’m going to slightly revise my initial plan for the blog and the information I relate here. Up to this point the blog has served as a general summary of each week and the projects and content of our classes and lectures. It’s been a good way to review the week for myself but not quite the best way to relay useful information to you the reader. So with this week I’m going to change to content to less of a “week in review” and more a “what I learned this week”. So, let’s jump right in.

The first project this week was turning the mallet that that we glued up last week. Interestingly, the mallet is glued up in 3 stages so that all four sides have quarter-sawn striking surfaces.

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This is a very unique way to build and turn a mallet and is actually how bowling pins are made so they withstand the impact of those pesky bowling balls that people are always throwing at them (the first learned concept-see how this works!). Here’s my finished mallet after applying a few coats of Danish oil and wax:

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The second task for the week was hand cutting a mortise and tenon joint. We cheated a bit and used the mortise machine for the mortise and then we hand cut the tenon to fit. The take away lessons here were many. First, always lay out your joints from reference faces and edges. For this exercise we only actually milled a face, one edge, and one side so that it would be obvious what faces to use to layout and cut the joint. This is a fundamental woodworking law of sorts: by always measuring from the reference faces you choose, you are ensuring that your parts are always cut in relation to one another and not upside down, backwards, or in the wrong right to left, inside-outside orientation. The second lesson: practice makes perfect. I know it’s so cliché, but when chiseling, sawing, and paring it really does make a difference. I’ve heard many woodworking stories about craftsman who always cut practice dovetails before they start the day, or saw to a bunch of lines before cutting, etc. Well, it does work. Over-eager as always, I jumped right in to sawing and paring my tenon and the first attempt was just crap: horrible shoulders, sloppy fit, and bad alignment. I came in the next morning and practiced my sawing and some paring and, well, judge for yourself:

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It does work!

I also continued a bit with the chair design classes and Sean and I got approval for the Chippendale chair back splat design. Of note here is some interesting chair terminology. We learned about rear post cant, back splay and kickback, as well as the seat trapezoid angle. All of these things must be learned to visualize, draft and ultimately build a chair and they are a significant reason why many woodworkers believe that chair making is one of the harder woodworking pursuits.

To end the week the class took a field trip to the American Furniture and Decorative Arts pre-auction observation period at Skinner Auctioneers here in Boston, where we were able to get up close and personal with a good selection of period furniture. A good time was had by all. I came away with some inspirations and ideas for my future game table collaboration with Sean:

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On the way home from the auction, my Friday meal out this week took me back to Quincy Market for some Chinese take-out  at Jen Lai Rice and Noodle Co. As always the market was crazy and tourist-packed but the noodles and chicken I had were quite good and (as always seems to be the case with Chinese take-out) served in large portions, which suited me just fine because I was in the mood to down some food! Next week, we make an oilstone box, draft our shaker nightstand, and make our first trip to a lumber yard to purchase materials so we can start building the nightstand. Until then…

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