Never Ending

Last week! This is my very last week of internships for school. I have completed 4 months of fine woodworking and furniture making. It will be nice to have a break but at the same time I will miss woodworking. I’m know this is not the end for me, but I will be going back to regular classes and between them and my family I won’t have that much spare time until after I graduate. I guess there is always summer vacation and weekends.

For the first part of my last week I helped Duncan resize a bed frame. He had made a cherry bed frame 20 years ago for an older couple that he is friends with. Due to the declining health of the wife, they are moving into an assisted living facility. Their new bedroom is a little smaller than their current one so Duncan offered to turn their king sized bed frame into a queen.

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Drilled hole then squared one side to bolt mortise and tenon together

I helped Duncan pick the bed frame up from their house. We took out all the bolts and pulled the pieces apart and loaded it into Duncan’s small pickup truck. The next day Duncan cut a bit off each side and I helped knock the glued mortise and tenons apart with a hammer whacking, like a mad woman, one side than the other. Then I cleaned out the excess glue left in the mortises. Duncan redid the tenons then I redrilled the holes that the bolts go in that attach the tenons to the mortises and used a hammer and chisel to square one side. The next time I came in Duncan had everything finished and glued back together. We then brought it to the couples new apartment and reassembled it.

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King sized bed frame made into a queen size

With only a few days left Duncan suggested I could make another box. The first time I made a box with Duncan it took me almost a month, now I had less than a week. I had promised my son that I would make him a toy box so I took this opportunity to do so. He dug through his wood and pulled out a long 1×12 of pine. We figured out the max size the box could be; it would be just a little smaller than the first one I made.

I cut the pieces to size then surfaced all the sides. Next, using a router jig, I made box joints. Then I hand planed all the sides and made a dado grooves on the bottom inside of each where the bottom would fit. I cut a piece of thin plywood for the bottom and sanded it. Then I glued everything together. Now I had the carcass of my box. I quickly decided that I wanted a small trim around the bottom. I cut the boards, glued them around the bottom, and clamped them.

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Router jig for making box joints

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Routed box joints

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Basic box glued up

Next it was time to think about what I wanted to do for the top. Duncan suggested I could either make a lid that would lift on and off or I could put a hinge on it like I did before. I though about it for a bit before deciding that a hinge would be better, that way my son wouldn’t take the lid off and drag it around the house. So the next morning before going in I stopped by the local hardware store and picked up some little brass hinges. When I got in I measured and marked where the hinges would go and used a chisel to make a little nook in the box where they would fit. Then I screwed the hinges on and marked and screwed them onto the lid.

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First coat of oil drying on my finished box

The last step was to oil it. I put on two coats over two days. And it was done. It went a lot faster the second time around regardless of it being a lot simpler than the first box I made. I knew the steps to follow and how to make a basic box for the most part. I still had to ask Duncan questions now and then and I still made a few mistakes but all in all it went really smoothly. And I must say, I really like making boxes; maybe I will become a box maker.

I had a really wonderful time working with Duncan. The atmosphere is very relaxed and the conversation is very meaningful. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with him and to have an open invitation to come back any time. I know it’s the end for now, but not the end forever. I learned a lot during my time with him by working with my own hands, watching him work, and talking with him. I can’t wait to see what I make of all this knowledge and what I will end up building over the course of my life.

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From Start to Finish – Part 3 – Getting a Handle on It

During my last week with Doug there were many unfinished projects that I needed to wrap up including the wooden trays I have been working on for a while. Not only did I need to finish mine so I could bring them home, but Doug’s needed to be finished as well.

Doug decided we would take a day and work on them together; he would finish his and I would finish mine. So far the trays were all glued up, the handles had been cut and almost finished being sanded. The slip feather joints were complete and the edges of the trays had been sanded smooth.

To finish the handles I brought them home to hand sand them. I worked slowly on them until they were done then I brought them back to the shop and set them aside until they were ready to be glued and screwed on.

Looking at the trays Doug and I noticed that there was still glue stuck in corners and along the edges of the inside of the trays. We got chisels and worked on getting rid of it. Doug told me to be carful to not scratch or gauge the sides or the bottom of the trays. I tried my very hardest but was only slightly successful. It took me the same amount of time to remove the glue from one tray as it took Doug to remove it from three. He pointed this out saying, “Not to make you feel bad but I’ve done three and you are still on your first.” I couldn’t help it, it was awkward. But I got the hang of it a little better and the next three for me went faster.

When I was finally finished I used the orbital to go over the outside edges of the trays one last time and round the corners. Doug advised caution when doing this because when you are sanding an edge it’s putting pressure on one small spot on the sandpaper, which can wear it down a lot faster. If you wear it down too much you can go through the paper and ruin the pad underneath. This part didn’t take me too long, at least I though so.

Now the trays were ready to put handles on. The first step was to mark where the screws should go making sure they would be centered otherwise they would end up being crooked. I used the holes I had already drilled into the sides of the trays to figure out how far apart I should mark it. Next I drilled pilot holes making sure the holes were deep enough for the screws but not too deep that they would go all the way through.

The next step made me feel like a pansy. I had to screw the handles on. This in theory shouldn’t have been that hard; I had holes already drilled, everything lined up, all I had to do was stick a screw in and use an electric drill to do the rest. But I just couldn’t get it to go in. I pushed my hardest but the drill bit would just spin. It also make an awful creaking noise that made me feel like my handle was ready to split in half. So Doug drilled the first one for me, and the second one, and the third one. Each time I tried I was able to get it a little farther in before I had to call Doug over to help. By the last two I had it, I actually got them in and tight. Woohoo! And I thought I was strong, boy did those screws prove me wrong.

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Handles with plugs glued on

Now it was time to fill on the holes that the screws were in with the plugs I had made previously. I squeezed a small circle of glue onto a piece of wood and dipped the plugs in swirling them around to get the glue up the side. Then I poked them into the hole and whacked them with a hammer a few times to make sure they were all the way in. Then I set the trays aside to dry overnight.

When I came back the next day Doug showed me how to chisel off excess part of the plugs that were sticking out. He had me put a piece of wood underneath to protect the bottom of the tray in case the chisel slipped. This was a really good idea although it didn’t protect the trays form me; I still managed to gauge the bottoms with my chisel. To get off most of the excess I knocked if off one small slice at a time with a mallet and chisel. Then to get the very last bit off I carefully scraped it off with the chisel. I scratched up the sides, which had finish on it, pretty bad but Doug said I would be sanding it a bit anyway so it wasn’t that big of a deal. I also cracked one of the plugs and had to glue it back on and let it dry overnight before I could carefully chisel it off again.

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Almost finished trays

The last steps were to sand all the edges with fine grit sandpaper then slather it in a few coats of finish. I managed to get two coats on before the end of my last day. I will still need to sand it with 400 grit paper and buff it; I was able to take some sandpaper and duffy home with me so I will get to finish them.

These trays took me a long time to finish. Doug wasn’t expecting them to take so long but I am a beginner just starting out. I took my time and I did my best and I think they turned out very well. There are so many things I learned from this project. It seems like a small project but there were a lot of steps, I got to use a lot of tools, and I learned a whole bunch. I am excited to give some of my trays as gifts to friends and family and I can’t wait to use mine to see how well they hold up.

Also the last week I helped Doug make salt and pepper shakers and I got to make three sets for myself to bring home. I came close but I didn’t get to finish them, hopefully someday I will.

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Salt and pepper shakers

Always a Beginner

One month down one to go. This last week was the start of the second month of my internship with Doug. So far I’ve had a blast and learned a ton. Although, I have to say, being a novice is really hard at times. I have made so many mistakes, I move at the pace of a snail, I ask too many questions, and I feel totally clueless and unsure about everything most of the time. There are some days where everything I do I mess up. I just have to continue to remind myself that this is where I am starting from and it takes time to get good at anything. It’s nice to remind myself that all I can do is take life one day at a time and one step at a time which is much more conducive to enjoying the journey and staying optimistic and hopeful. This is true for all areas of my life.

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Adding inner boarders to trivets

Last week I had a really fun time helping Doug a lot with his projects. I made outer boarders for table runners putting dado grooves into them – it went a lot better this time. Then I put the boarders on the table runners. I also got to put inner boarders on trivets. The trivets were fun because I got to work a bit with the spalted wood and it became more about design; I got to pick out the best parts of the spalted wood and match them up around the trivets. I also got to know the chop saw better and started to figure out where to place the blade to get a closer more accurate cut. Doug always suggests cutting it on the big side to start and pruning it down over a few cuts to be on the safe side. After a while I started to see where the sweet spot was where it would either by right on or just barely big and could hit it more often.

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A stack of “canvases” (Trivets with outer and inner boarders) for Doug

Working so close to Doug on the same projects he’s working on has made me really in awe of him. He is so enthusiastic about his work and gets so excited over it, almost giddy. He is an artist right down to the core when it comes to the work he’s doing now. When you look at his work it’s so amazing and beautiful but you would never guess how much he puts into it. You can’t even begin to imagine unless you get to know him in his work setting. He wakes up really early and starts working, he’s a machine and works straight through with no break other than lunch, and he’s still working when I go home. I know he says he gets tired but you really could never tell.

Lately, Doug has been really pushing me to be more independent and to figure out more things on my own. This has led to a lot of mistakes. However, as nice as it is to do things perfect the first time, you really do learn a lot more from mistakes. People always say this and, as I’m discovering, it holds a lot of truth. It’s really hard on my immediate self-confidence and pride but in the long run it’s truly a blessing. Just by making one mistake I get to learn what not to do, how to fix my mistake, and how I can do it better the next time. That’s a pretty good ROI if you ask me.

Lot’s of ups and downs, lots of hard work, and lots of learning happening. I’m grateful for all that and looking forward to more.

“You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you.” – Barbara Sher

Working with Doug

Monday I started a new, two month long internship with Doug Adams, owner of the Spalted Wood Gallery. I took a class with him at MUM and absolutely loved it. I learned so much in his class and knew I wanted to learn more from him. He is a high-energy, humorous, honest, and kindhearted man who is incredibly conscientious about safety. He is meticulous and efficient. He used to specialize in custom furniture and cabinetry but more recently has migrated into gift items such as trivets, salt and pepper shakers, napkin holders, lazy susans, utensils, etc. as well as mosaic art work. Doug’s work is stunning and he has a wonderful and unique style that incorporates beautiful spalted and exotic woods.

My internship will be split into two categories: the first category is production; I will be learning and helping Doug produce the items he sells, the second category is my own projects; I will be choosing and designing my own projects that will teach and refine a variety of techniques and skills.

The first day at Doug’s was sort of an orientation day; He showed me around his large, two-story shop he recently built next to his house out in the country. He showed me his work and all the different projects he was working on. We spent a little bit of time getting his shop organized, tidied up, and ready for me to work in. Doug went over the different tools and safety rules for all of them. We also talked about the goals and expectations each of us had for the internship and what the structure of it would look like. We came to consensus of a few days a week Doug would teach me techniques on my own projects and the rest of the week I would work on production for him. This gives a nice balance for both of us to get something of value out of this experience.

Doug had invited my family and me over for lunch on the first day and his wife, Sandy, made a wonderful meal. So, after an information-filled morning, my husband and son came out to their house to eat and enjoy. It was a wonderful chance for us to get to know each other better. Doug and his wife are so incredibly kind and this gesture just shows how warm and open they are.

The rest of the week was packed. I got to use the chop saw and table saw a lot which made me progressively more comfortable using them. With the table saw I got to cut both very large things, like a sheet of plywood, and very small things, like small borders for books and lazy susans. I also used the table saw to cut rabbet and dado joints. The wide variety of sizes and shapes I got to cut was valuable for both confidence and skill. With the chop saw I cut 90, 45, and 22.5 degree angles for boarders on lazy susans and table runners. I needed to be very accurate with my measurements and cuts so I got a lot of practice at being very precise with the chop saw. Every time I would use a tool Doug would stress safety and show me how it can be dangerous and what I can do to stay safe. Always safety first. I learned how to mark certain pieces certain ways to make sure my cut was in the right place and the pieces would fit together properly. I also learned a few techniques for gluing these pieces together.

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I got to learn all this and more though helping Doug make his products. I had a lot of fun and am looking forward to next week. Even though I haven’t started any of my own projects I am already learning so many valuable things. I’m getting so much more comfortable in my ability and equipped with the right knowledge and skills. I am one step closer to feeling like I’ll be able to do this on my own some day.