Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Legacy Redwood Project Continues

After a hectic Spring, I finally had a chance to tackle the first furniture piece from the legacy redwood project. The first "chunk" to be used was really more of a waste piece that was left over after all the larger pieces for milling were separated from the original round. It was a funny little triangular piece whose shape was complete happenstance. 

This piece had a big bark inclusion and had many large cracks and splits that precluded slicing it up. So, the task was to see what could be made of it as is. After playing around with various orientations I settled on a rather unconventional plan to use if tipped up on its point as a console table base. 

The real trick to this piece was to keep 70 lbs of wood and glass stable. You can see in this drawing that the original idea was to have a steel post inserted into the bottom of the wood. After more thought and consultation with my personal engineering guru, David, that idea was abandoned for an approach that involved a steel bracket that could cradle the slab and bolt to it. I had the bracket fabricated by local metal artists Paul and Forrest Cheney of Cheney Metals. The bracket bolts to the solid wenge base, and then attaches to the wood slab with lag screws.

Before the wood could be mounted in the bracket, though, the severe checking would have to be dealt with to stabilize the slab. To do that, I ran two 16" long screws made for log cabin construction all the way into the slab parallel to each side to bridge the major sections of the slab.

Once everything was secured, it was just a matter of adding a glass top, along with a steel rod to support the glass in the bark void.

With a good penetrating oil finish the figure really popped out, and this little afterthought of a chunk became a beautiful piece of furniture.

The biggest problem my client will have now is deciding which side to display. 

Stay tuned for the next installment as this project continues on.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Further Adventures in "Back to Basics" Woodworking

As I've said before, sometimes its good to get back to basics, if only to remind us how lucky we are to have the things we have that make our jobs easier. I've just returned from my fifth trip to Tanzania with a medical team from the Phil Simon Clinic of Huntington Hospital in Pasadena. Not being a medical type, my duties are generally infrastructure- and administration-related. Working alone, and with only hand tools, I've generally only had the time to build maybe a set of shelves, or a table, with the short amount of time available. This time, though, there was another team member along who was a general contractor, so things were looking up.  

My woodworking task on this trip turned out to be to make as many storage shelf units as I could in a couple of days to help outfit the dispensary building at the clinic we were working with in a small village called Kisongo, on the outskirts of Arusha. As with any project, the first task was to find some materials. And this time, that was pretty easy. It turned out that here was a lumber seller just about 100 yards from the building we were going to be working in.

With the help of Joyful, one of our drivers, translating for me, I was able to pick a batch of 1x8 pine boards, which the proprietress, Edith, was also able to have surfaced for me. And the best part was, they even delivered the milled lumber right to our door.

The biggest trick in designing the shelves was to figure out how to do the least amount of cutting, since it was all hand work, and the wood was still very wet, as well as the least amount of joinery. The first unit we made was a 16" deep unit for the main clinic room. It was strictly a board and batten affair, with screwed butt joints for joinery. As it turned out, not only was Dave the contractor interested in my Japanese hand saws (he's more of a large-scale metal fabricator guy), but several of the drivers, when they weren't busy translating, wanted to get in on the action, as well. In no time we had a little production line going with me marking and the guys cutting.

The cut parts came to me for drilling, and then we all got in the act during assembly.

In just a few hours, we were able to fabricate the entire 5' high x 5' wide unit. Then the next day, again in just a few hours, we fabricated two more single-board depth shelf units for the pharmacy room to organize medications.

In all, the six of us were able to make a significant contribution to the dispensary in a very short amount of time.

Our team (l to r): Mtili, Dave, Aron, Joyful, Albert, and me, with Woody, Dave's creation from  scraps, in front. Later on, since this room was being used for the pediatric clinic, one of our nurses, Ashley, even gave Woody a colorful makeover.

To find out more about the Phil Simon Clinic's Tanzania Project, check out their website or Facebook page.

My thanks to Michael Eastwood for several of the photos.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Legacy Redwood Project: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

After a flurry of activity in the shop at the end of the year, I finally got a chance to take the next step on the legacy redwood project. That entailed reloading all the big chunks I had cut back in November into the truck and taking them out to Dave Merchant's milling operation at Out of the Woods in Bonny Doon. 

Dave's got a great set-up, with several types of mills. 

The purpose of this trip was to remove the weathered outer surfaces of the chunks to try to assess how much sound, usable material the was in each one. My "smaller" chunks, the ones less than about 25" in width were sliced on a computer-controlled Woodmizer band mill - essentially a giant horizontal band saw.

The larger chunks that didn't fit on the Woodmizer were moved to his Lucas mill. This mill uses a large circular blade that can be rotated and used in both the horizontal and vertical positions. On these chunks, material was removed in roughly 6" wide pieces.

Now that each piece has a clean face, I can assess which ones still have significant rot, which will yield usable large-scale wood, and which might yield thinner panel material. Some of the pieces look pretty promising, with some really great burl figure, but others were a little disappointing in their extent of weather-related checking, and rot.

Stay tuned to see what develops ....