We don’t solicit reviews, so these are the real deal. The most gratifying part of the reviews is that people are becoming aware that “Chairmaker’s Notebook” isn’t about chairs alone. It’s a deep dive into the world of high craftsmanship that starts with a simple walk through the woods.
In other chairmaking news, Peter and I are in the final stages of proofing the full-size plans for the two chairs featured in the book. These plans will likely be printed on one huge sheet of engineering-weight paper and be reasonably priced – about $25 to $28, if our supplier can deliver the quality we want.
More news on the plans is forthcoming later this week.
This morning I finally cut into the stack of Port Orford cedar I’d purchased to build a Japanese sliding-lid box.
I picked up the stock at Northwest Timber while I was working out in the Portland, Ore. area and the company shipped it back home for me. (I wrote a blog entry about Northwest here.) I bought enough cedar for a single box with a typical amount of waste when I am purchasing good wood.
During my tour of Northwest, I was quite impressed by the quality of stuff the company sells. Every splinter of it is primo, photographed on the web site and ready to ship. Yes, it’s pricy compared to buying it from a typical lumberyard. But Northwest is no typical lumberyard.
Even though I knew the stock was perfect, I was surprised that I was able to easily get two sliding-lid boxes out of the four sticks. I had expected to get one box and a few extra parts. So the cost per board foot was effectively slashed in half. And because I’ll have two boxes to sell, It’s a big win all around.
Definitely check out Northwest if you are looking for figured or specialty woods. I have them bookmarked.
There is some wood that I cannot bear to discard, no matter how small the scrap. A quick survey of my wood rack this morning revealed bundles of very old quartered yellow pine, huon pine, Honduran mahogany and stacks of little teak offcuts.
Though it has been a couple years since I completed the projects for “Campaign Furniture,” the teak from that book is still with me daily. I use it for making drawer runners, skids for tool chests and the occasional folding stool. It might be another 10 years before I get rid of it all.
As my teak is more than 50 years old, I wonder if it was harvested as per the following description (I thought I smelled elephants).
— Christopher Schwarz
“This (Tectona grandis) is the only true teak. As a constructive timber its only rival is British oak. Apart, too, from the limited shipments from Siam and Java, the world depends for its supplies on the forests of India and Burma. The teak forests suffered considerably during the Second World War. The value of the timber had been recognized by the Old East India Company and was used by the naval authorities early in the 19th century. Fortunately almost all of the areas in India containing teak are under government supervision….
“The tree, which may rise to 100 ft. or more in height, is noted for its exceptionally large and rough-surfaced leaves. These have been found up to 18 ins. or 20 ins. in length, with a breadth of from 9 ins. to 14 ins. To natives they serve as a substitute for glasspaper….
“The method of extraction from the Indian teak forests are interesting. Trees that are deemed by the inspectors to be in a condition or of a size that warrants their removal are first girdled; that is, an incision is made round the base of the trunk of the standing tree, right through the sap. This prevents the upward flow of the life juices of the tree and effectively kills the growth. It remains standing in this state for two years or more, and in the interval the wood loses a great part of its weight. This operation is necessary. If felled straightaway, the logs, owing to their great weight would not float; and, as the river currents are the only means of transport, this procedure has to be adopted. Consequent upon this method of extraction, and owing to the lengthy period it takes to prepare the wood for market after it has been floated to the mills, all timber is in a well-seasoned condition by the time it reaches our own and other markets. Trained elephants, with an intelligence that is said to be almost uncanny, are employed for handling the timber, and under the direction of native labour perform all the manual work, dragging the heavy trees down to the water-courses and moving the timber with their trunks while it is being converted at the mills and until it is finally shipped.”
— “Timbers for Woodwork” (Drake, 1969) edited by J.C.S. Brough
If you’d like a close look at some of the details of Kaare Klint’s Safari Chair, check out this video (OK, it’s a commercial) from Carl Hansen & Søn on the piece.
You get to see the elegant cigar-shape stretchers and how the slightly tapered tenons flow into the overall shape. Plus a bunch of nice close-ups of the way the leather is attached to the wood.
I’ve seen a lot of new Roorkee/Safari chairs on the market lately, some of them with design details I rejected. On my first Roorkees I used a vegetable-tanned leather that I left natural. Heck, I even sent photos of it to Popular Woodworking to use in the article published three years ago on building them. I quickly changed my mind on the leather color, thinking it to “fleshy” – almost a “Silence of the Roorkees” look.
But several design houses are now triumphing that look – natural leather with dark wood.
I’m still not a fan.
If you want to build one of these chairs, complete plans are in “Campaign Furniture,” now in its second printing.
There are many things to be learned in the machine shop by keeping one’s eyes open, and observing the characteristics and idiosyncrasies of our shopmates.
There is, for instance, the much talked about and well known man who “knows it all.” You can tell him nothing that he does not already know. It doesn’t matter what sort of a job you are doing, he will tell you how he generally does it, even though it is the first of its kind. He is always afraid that you will spoil the job, because you are not doing it as he thinks it ought to be done. (more…)