Hey, Rake!

I left home yesterday for a two-week business trip, and I’m already missing my workshop. (Okay, so I’m missing my wife and kids, too!) Maybe this is a chance to update the blog with some recent work.

With a functional (if not yet painted) tool chest, it was time to pick back up on a neglected project: my hay rake table. I know, I started this project well over a year ago. Let’s just say the cobbler’s children may finally get new shoes this fall.

The hay rake stretchers came together relatively easily. I was pleased with the way the legs came together with the stretchers.

The base is now nearly complete. I need to complete the scroll detail at the ends of the top bars that support the tabletop, and join those to the legs.

I’m tempted to embellish these scrolls with more detailed spiral carvings, since they already suggest the volutes of an Ionic column. I’m really torn here: I’d been looking forward to adding carving to my work, and the minimal carving to define the scroll went very quickly. I worry a bit that an overtly Classical reference would seem a little out of place on an Arts and Crafts piece. It could work, especially in the context of the volutes on a Windsor chair.

What do you think? Stop with the scrolls as they are, or continue to carve a more intricate volute?

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Stop The Chamfers

I have to confess, I let the hot, dry days of summer become an excuse, but no more. Sunday I wrapped up the stopped chamfers on my Hay Rake table.

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Much of the grain I was working was too curly for the drawknife, leading to tear-out. I shifted to my spokeshave (and on the long stretcher, the jack plane) to waste away material, following up with my block plane for the finishing strokes. I found that the rhythm of wasting away material followed by planing or shaving to a line worked well for much of the work.

The smallest of these chamfers, however, were short enough that not even a spokeshave would work – these chamfers were just a little longer than the length of the spokeshave sole, leaving no room for travel. These chamfers I formed entirely with carving gouges.

The cove detail at the stop is less flamboyant than the lamb’s tongue, which seemed fitting for this design, which pays homage to farm life in the English countryside.

These are not the semicircular coves you’d get from a router. Instead, they are oval, a shape you could only achieve by hand. I was pleased with the result.

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Here’s a close-up of marking out the cove shape. I use a 3/4″ No. 6 sweep carving gouge to connect the stop point on the arris with a point along the chamfer gauge line about 1/2″ back, creating an oval-shaped cove.

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With little room for travel, there was no point in using a spokeshave here. It was all hand-carving with the No. 6 and a 3/4″ No. 3. Here, I’m almost finished.

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And here’s the final chamfer.

Stopped Chamfers by Hand

I’ve been cutting stopped chamfers by hand today on the hay rake stretchers. I’m taking it slow, focusing on process (an approach that serves to keep me out of my head).

stopped chamfers

After an hour or so of experimentation, I settled on this technique:

I start by marking the stops in pencil and the edges of the chamfer with a cutting gauge. I then hog off the bulk of the material with my drawknife, using chamfer guides to limit the depth of cut.

The drawknife is leaving some chatter on the workpiece, so I leave some material at the stops. I use my block plane to clean up the chatter. To define the curves of the stops, I turned to my carving chisels. My 3/4″ No. 6 sweep chisel does a nice job of defining the curve.

stopped chamfers

I settled on the first method I found that gave me repeatable results, but I’m sure there are other methods out there. What methods have you found success with?

Note: I’ve uploaded the full-sized photos for clarity.

Hay Rake Table: Some Mid-Project Reflection

It’s been nearly two weeks since the end of my sabbatical and my return to part-time woodworking. Even though my project isn’t complete, it seems like a good time to look back.

Over the past six weeks, I’ve learned some great things. I learned that I like the feel of old tee shirts, preferably at least ten years old. I learned that my daughter is old enough to mow the lawn, and she does a good job of it.

I also learned quite a bit about my woodworking practice, and what I can improve for the next project, and that’s what I want to focus on in this post.

I haven’t completed my hay rake table, but I’m pleased with my progress. The table top is glued up; the stretchers and legs are milled, mortised, and tenoned, but not yet assembled. Next up is to chamfer the legs and stretcher pieces. I also need to make the breadboard ends and inlay the splines, and of course apply the finish.

stretcher

I gained a great appreciation for my local lumber dealers. Had I been working with store-bought lumber, I likely would have saved a considerable amount of time spent planing. I didn’t anticipate the amount of twist I would encounter in this wood, or the extra boards I would plane when I encountered defects in other boards.

On the other hand, I discovered some time-saving work methods as I went that will make the next project more efficient. For example, it finally hit home that by ripping a wider board close to final width, the twist in the board becomes easier to manage. (For the ripping operation, it worked well to follow a chalk line on my bandsaw, knowing that I would joint the edge by hand later.) It was helpful that I’d decided on a table top composed of four 10″-wide boards.

Given that decision, I suppose I could have taken my lumber to my dad’s shop and used his 12″ jointer, but I tend to make large, expensive wedges on powered jointers. I’m sure some coaching would sort out that tendency, and as coaches go, I’ve been fortunate to have my dad to learn from. However, the results I achieve by hand and the satisfaction I get from the process are what keep me at it.

Three weeks is the longest stretch in which I’d worked consecutive full time in the workshop. Working full time is much different from the evening and weekend work I was used to. For the three months prior to my sabbatical, I’d been woodworking in the mornings before work, which forced me to think in ninety minute increments.

The ninety minute mark is not an arbitrary measure for me. Ninety minutes turned out to be the amount of time required to accomplish a meaningful unit of work in the shop. Less time and I found that I didn’t have a chance to get into the flow of the work. More time, and I either wasn’t getting enough sleep or I was showing up late for work.

One of those ninety minute tasks I’m looking forward to is applying a coat of finish. For the finish, I’m leaning toward Tried and True Original Wood Finish. On my sample piece, it imparted a warm glow that should contribute nicely to the character of this project.