Tuesday, January 11, 2011


For the past 2 weeks we have entered the world of laminating, steam bending and veneering. Here are pictures from the steam bending demo. And, well, yes you steam a piece of wood and then bend it. It is all very Rube Goldbergesque: the steamer is this long box that is rigged up to a boiling lobsterpot with the top welded on and over a propane burner. The lobster pot is fed water from a bucket with a toilet float which is fed water from a hose attached to the bathroom sink. Okay..., never-mind.
A hot hot hot piece of wood is taken out of the steamer after it has had a good long shvitz and with great group effort, put into a contraption and bent around a form. There is plenty of scurrying, ratchetting, clamping, holding down the table which is heaving and bucking, etc. And then the wood may break or in the long run, unbend a bit so it isn't for all bendie furniture.

Laminating wood and bending it is for when you need it all to be to your will or as Tim Rousseau says "when you need to put the boot down". You glue a bunch of pliabe layers of wood together and bend it around a form, holding it with clamps or another form or putting it in a vacuum bag til it knows who's its daddy. There are a whole lotta gizmos involved and form making and jig making to make the forms before you even have bent a piece of wood that will eventually become part of furniture. My head feels like it is about to explode.

Then there is veneering, which is super thin pieces of wood glued onto a flat surface. The thing about veneering is, you have a wood surface which won't really move and you can create your own woodie look. But the best thing about it is this beautiful marquetry that can be put into the veneered surface. Here is the remarkable Craig Vandall Stevens demonstrating marquetry by making an oak leaf. It was fascinating and I can't wait to try it even though I have the sinking feeling that it may make doing perfect hand tooled half-blind dovetails seem like a walk in the park, can of corn, piece of cake. My new project is a walnut desk/table with a rounded, veneered top. I would like to put a small bit of marquetry in it. I was going to steam bend the legs and laminate the front apron and put in a drawer but we only have two and a half weeks left so ambitions are falling by the wayside, and honestly, I don't think I can cram that much more info into my head.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


School ended the week before Christmas for a break but many of us stayed to work work work. For me, it was challenging and ultimately rewarding. Enough people were around to help each other (okay, there isn't much I can help others with outside of being the required other in the building for using the machines) and a sense of ganging together was all apparent; our own li'l family, when most of the rest of the world was familying up. I got a list of what to do from Tim and Austin before they left and daunting as it seemed, to just march through it without having them to check my steps every inch of the way was weirdly good for me. I got downright brave, bold even. Made outrageous decisions. And, pretty much did a fine job. Not everything is right, but now I know for the next time. The idea that they won't actually be accessible forever and that I may be able to still make something is slightly more thinkable.

I did finally go home and in the 4 days cooked food, decorated tree, tended to poor Xmas day 24hr-stomach-bugged daughter and then got in the car and drove back. A big storm was nipping at my heels, but I made it before it hit big time.
We had only 4 more days to finish our 2nd project. 4 more days with Austin before he was not just leaving but moving out of state, far far away. 4 more days meant 4 days of such intense hunkering down on our work that it was... quiet, no chatting. Thursday late afternoon, Tim and Austin were so exhausted from our super intense drawing off of them they looked like bloodless vampire victims. Monday we start learning about bending and veneering. We start our last project which isn't to be strictly rectilinear. It is to have curves. The goddess emerges. The days are getting longer. A new year has been born. Oh, where was I...? Yes, we'll see what happens when a room full of linear thinking dudes is faced with unpredictable, soft, rounding shapes. Hee-hee.
Here is Austin on his last day, chewing on a stick I peeled for a possible pull for my cabinet. It was his last day...