The following is excerpted from Derek Jones’s forthcoming book, “Cricket Tables.”
Simplicity, necessity and ingenuity are the three key principles for making cricket tables. This traditional three-legged table exists in a variety of forms and woods – no two are the same. So making them follows an organic process – your tools and materials dictate your approach and your cricket table’s final form. Jones introduces the form, then teaches you the simple skills to create a variety of everyday furniture with a few basic hand tools and easily sourced materials.
It’s no coincidence that every new paragraph in this chapter refers to the concept of a reliable datum, and if you prepare stock and build items on your bench it makes perfect sense for that piece of equipment to be flat. Level is also good but not nearly as important as flat. As this chapter is about establishing habits that result in better workflow, I’m not going to explain blow by blow how to flatten a benchtop; that information is well documented and easy to find. What I will say is, make sure you make it part of your regular workshop housekeeping regime. You’ll find it nigh on impossible to plane something flat if your bench isn’t that way first, and as for assembling anything square? Forget it.
Regular check-ups are the key to a healthy benchtop and with a square-edged straightedge, you just place it on edge and look for gaps between the benchtop and the straightedge. Hopefully that’s fairly obvious. Now let’s assume you’re using a plane to flatten your benchtop. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to make sure your plane is also flat before making any adjustments? Fortunately you’ve got the right tool for the job but this time rather than rely on a visual inspection you can introduce one of those senses I mentioned earlier, touch, and for that you’re going to need a set of feeler gauges. You can pick up a perfectly adequate set for less than $5 or pay 10 times that amount for a precision ground set but for woodworking, “adequate” is all you need. Feeler gauges are thin strips of metal calibrated to specific thicknesses, contained in a wrap-around case. A good starter set might include blades from .002″ (0.05mm) up to .036″ (1mm). To use them, you select a blade to slide between the straightedge and whatever it is you’re calibrating where there is a gap. Note that you may not be able to see the gap itself.
To check the sole of a metal-bodied plane for flatness set the lever cap pressure as if you were about to use it and then retract the blade. Similarly, if you’re checking a wooden-bodied plane, set the wedge and blade to a pressure suitable for use. Turn the plane upside down and support as much of the body as you can. Unlikely as it sounds, a large plane such as a No. 7 can flex if only supported at each end. Shorter planes are less likely to, but supporting it close to the middle will give you the best reading. I wouldn’t recommend clamping your plane in a vise unless you are absolutely certain the jaws come together either parallel or with a top edge bias. If you’re comfortable with this, be sure to position the body low down in the jaws so the force is being directed through the sole and not just across the sides.
Now place the straightedge along the length of the sole and look for any gaps. Having a raking light helps. If you can see light between the two, select the nearest-size feeler gauge and see if you can wiggle it into the gap without causing the straightedge to move. Keep inserting thicker blades (singularly and not stacked) until you meet with resistance that’s likely to topple the straightedge. The only place where a gap is desirable is directly behind the mouth. Anywhere else and you have a problem. Readings will vary depending on the size of plane you’re testing but an acceptable reading for a No. 5 jack plane can be 0.002″ without seriously affecting your work. The same reading on a longer plane suggests that it is flatter given that the deviation is spread over a longer distance.
It’s worth mentioning that in engineering terms what you’ve carried out is pretty crude compared to the checks carried out in a commercial manufacturing facility. In truth, there’s little comparison – but for woodworking and for less than $120, what you’ve achieved is perfectly adequate but more important, repeatable.
Katherine just posted a big load of Soft Wax 2.0 today in her etsy store. And Bean is clearly happy about it?
It’s hot, but Katherine knows how to ship the wax in the summer. The lids have an internal seal, and she cinches them down extra tight during the warm months. Then she wraps them in bubble wrap and plastic tape. Then in a folding box.
Instructions for the wax are below. You can watch a video of how to use the wax here.
Instructions for Soft Wax 2.0 Soft Wax 2.0 is a safe finish for bare wood that is incredibly easy to apply and imparts a beautiful low luster to the wood.The finish is made by cooking raw linseed oil (from the flax plant) and combining it with cosmetics-grade beeswax and a small amount of a citrus-based solvent. The result is that this finish can be applied without special safety equipment, such as a respirator. The only safety caution is to dry the rags out flat you used to apply before throwing them away. (All linseed oil generates heat as it cures, and there is a small but real chance of the rags catching fire if they are bunched up while wet.)
Soft Wax 2.0 is an ideal finish for pieces that will be touched a lot, such as chairs, turned objects and spoons. The finish does not build a film, so the wood feels like wood – not plastic. Because of this, the wax does not provide a strong barrier against water or alcohol. If you use it on countertops or a kitchen table, you will need to touch it up every once in a while. (I have it on our kitchen countertops and love it.) Simply add a little more Soft Wax to a deteriorated finish and the repair is done – no stripping or additional chemicals needed.Soft Wax 2.0 is not intended to be used over a film finish (such as lacquer, shellac or varnish). It is best used on bare wood. However, you can apply it over a porous finish, such as milk paint.
APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS (VERY IMPORTANT): Applying Soft Wax 2.0 is easy if you follow the simple instructions. On bare wood, apply a thin coat of soft wax using a rag, applicator pad, 3M gray pad or steel wool. Allow the finish to soak in about 10-15 minutes. Then, with a clean rag or towel, wipe the entire surface until it feels dry. Do not leave any excess finish on the surface. If you do leave some behind, the wood will get gummy and sticky.
The finish will be dry enough to use in a couple hours. After a couple weeks, the oil will be fully cured. After that, you can add a second coat (or not). A second coat will add more sheen and a little more protection to the wood.
Soft Wax 2.0 is made in small batches in Covington, Kentucky. Each glass jar contains 8 oz. of soft wax, enough for about five chairs.
Along with hopefully enough copies of all our books and most of our tools (everything we have in stock), we’ll be bringing a bunch of Lost Art Press Woobies to Handworks 2023, and will include them with every purchase until we run out. I am not counting them…but I think we have about 280 in the box.
We will also have about 1,000 Lost Art Press postcards…or so I’m assured by the printer! Those will be free until we run out to whomever visits our booth and wants one.
We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at Amana Colonies September 1-2; it’s been a minute!
p.s. If you’re attending and haven’t yet registered, please take a minute to do so now (it costs you nothing to register – and you might just win a fabulous door prize)!
This is the first stick chair that I’ve built entirely with red elm. It’s a bit extraordinary that this chair exists because the species (Ulmus rubra) is rarely found in commercial lumberyards around here. Plus, finding enough straight and clear sections of red elm to make the sticks, legs and stretchers is unusual.
But I got lucky. My regular lumberyard got a small load of red elm from a mill in northern Indiana. I bought every bit of it, except for a couple boards with structural defects. (I have just enough of that wood to make a second comb-back in red elm, which is in-process now on my bench.)
Red elm is pretty much a perfect wood for making chairs. It is lighter in weight than red oak, but because of its interlocked grain it is impossible to split. That means that the pieces can be thin and incredibly strong. The downside? It’s a bear to work (but worth it).
Red elm also has incredible luminosity – like ash but with a browner tone.
This comb-back chair is set up for dining or keyboarding, with a back that tilts back about 12°. And a seat that tilts about 6°. It’s an all-around comfortable chair, though I wouldn’t call it a lounge chair.
The seat is 17” off the floor. The overall height is 41”. Like all my chairs, the joints are assembled with hide glue and oak wedges, so the joints are strong but can be easily repaired by future generations. The chair is finished with a home-cooked linseed oil/wax finish that has no dangerous solvents. The finish offers low protection, but it is easy to repair by the owner with no special skills or tools.
Purchasing the Chair
This chair is being sold by silent auction. (I’m sorry but the chair cannot be shipped outside the U.S.) If you wish to buy the chair, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org before 3 p.m. (Eastern) on Thursday, Aug. 24. In the email please use the subject line “Elm Chair” and include your:
First name and last name
U.S. shipping address
Daytime phone number (this is for the trucking quote only)
Shipping options: You are welcome to pick up the chair here in Covington, Ky. I am also happy to deliver the chair personally for free within 100 miles of Cincinnati, Ohio. Or we can ship it to you via LTL. The cost varies (especially these days), but it is usually between $300 and $550.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. The next chair for sale will be painted with linseed oil paint and sold for a fixed price at a drawing.