Monday, November 5, 2012


Decided to try my hand at carving some bowls using juniper. Results so far are very good. I'm trying really hard to emulate Scott Shangraw's bowls, but he's way more advanced than me. If I can get to be half as good at carving, shaping, sculpting, and finishing as he is, I'll be happy.

The bowl above has two coats of Watco Danish Oil "Natural" on the outside. The inside will be left "raw" so the aroma of the juniper can be enjoyed by all.

Plan to do a lot more carving on the last one. Also need to fill the voids, probably with turquoise and epoxy, but not 100% on that one.


Awhile back, I posted a photo of a log. Not just any log, but a log received from a friend. Didn't quite know what to do with it at the time.

Well, the bug bit, and I cut the log into two pieces right down the middle. This log is said to be walnut, but after cutting into it, I'm not so sure. Doesn't really look like walnut, doesn't really smell like walnut. But the grain sure is pretty. Here's the two bowls I'm making:

Gonna have to make a base for the one above because it's just too tippy as is (a piece fell off as I was working the wood, and it affected the balance of the whole thing).

Shaping, grinding, sanding. Shaping, grinding, sanding. Could go on and on about the shaping, grinding, sanding but won't. This is a lot harder than I thought it would be, but certainly will be nice when done. I'll post on Facebook when they're finished.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tweakin' my router planer

Found I had to tweak my bigger router planer a bit more in order for it to work as well as I wanted it to work. The slabs I’m doing right now were too long for the regular planer, so had to get out the really long rails once again.

Problem with the setup I had already used was the sled didn't ride the rails as nice or as easy as I’d hoped they would, even with using some wheels/casters as guides. Got some enclosed ball bearings for Christmas and decided to give those a try.

Had to add a spacer to accommodate the bearings so they’d ride on the inside of the rail. One obstacle out of the way, a couple more to go.

The next thing I decided to change was the fact nothing was really holding the rails in place except their own weight. Made for some pretty wishy washy planing. So decided to use the existing pipe stiles to get an even width on the rails.

Once all four of the pipe stiles were inserted and the rails were placed up alongside them, the width was even steven all the way along the 16’ length of the rails. But the pipe stiles stood proud of the rails by about 4 or 5 inches which wouldn't allow the sled to pass beyond their location. Next step was to either go buy shorter pipe stiles or figure out something else. Chose the latter. Took some big eye bolts and opened the eye to accommodate a 1/2” pipe. Put it into the side of the table, and dropped the pipe stile down into the opening so the “stub” held the rail from moving in toward the other rail.

Sorry the image is way fuzzy. Gettin’ so excited to use this thing, my hand musta moved as I snapped the picture. I’ll try to get another one for the next blog post to give a better idea of what I’m talking about.

Anyway, this last tweak worked great! Kept the rails from moving any at all, and the width between rails remained very constant. Ball bearings helped immensely, but need to make one that runs on top of the rails, too.

Couple more minor modifications, and it should be where I need it to be.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My First Try at Butterfly Inlays

Don't know why the "intimidation factor" was so very high with trying to make butterfly inlays, but it was. It took a very long time to work up the courage (if you want to call it that) to actually dig into this project. Waffling between just buying the templates online and taking the time to draw out and then cut out home grown templates took me a mind bogglingly long time. My final decision was to try to make my own no matter how bad the results turned out to be.

Start with a couple of pieces of cottonwood rounds to turn into wine racks to start with. Both had some real nice cracks that would work really well as a test for these butterflies. Problem was, one of the pieces fell apart before any butterflies were cut. So, the focus of this post will be on the second cottonwood piece.

But, first, a pattern had to be cut in a piece of cardboard. The hardest part of this step was getting the angles right. The pattern below is of four different sizes cut out of a piece of cardboard.

The next step was to transfer the patterns onto a piece of masonite.

After cutting out the patterns, this is how they looked. I really thought I was getting somewhere now.

Tried one cut with this template and got a slap right up alongside my head. The masonite was too thin - couldn't even use it. Luckily, I had some scrap left over plexi-glass from a previous project, and was able to transfer the masonite template to the plexi-glass.

Using my handi-dandy hand held scroll saw, the first template was done. It wasn't a masterpiece of precision, that's for sure. But, with the kind of rustic look I go for in my projects, this was better than being perfect. Gave it more character, I think.

It was exciting to try this out for the first time. The results weren't so exciting, though. The "waist" of the butterfly turned out to be way too small - not nearly enough strength to withstand the pressure of expanding cracks in wood.

Back to the drawing board. With a little more trimming into the angles of the template, I finally had the strength in the butterfly necessary for a strong joint.

After clamping and weighting down the piece so it wouldn't move while routing, I finally and successfully made my first butterfly.

A grand total of four butterflies for this piece - two for the front, and two for the back. The rest of the void will eventually be filled with epoxy resin. Haven't decided yet what to add to the epoxy resin - turquoise, brass shavings, or something else.

Overall, I'm very happy with how this turned out. Wasn't as difficult as I'd convinced myself it might be. Will be using this technique in other projects from now on, too.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


This is a very slow project. A long time ago, a tree root system jumped out at me and begged to become a functional art sculpture.

This piece, with its "tentacles" going off in all directions, reminded me of the "Kraken" from Pirates of the Caribbean, and that's how it got its name.

It sat in the shop for a long time after getting cleaned up. Today, I applied the first coat of gloss spar varnish. Bout' knocked my socks off! The color darkened considerably, and just popped!

Sorry about the photo quality. I'm learning how to use a different camera, and need to adjust the quality for indoor/outdoor conditions.

"Kraken" was so dry, it soaked up almost 1/2 quart of the spar varnish. Guess that'll give me an excuse to run to Ace Hardware tomorrow and do some window shopping along with the varnish purchase.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Please, PLEEEEEEEASE, remind me to never again.....

Can't remember if I posted photos of the root system I recovered from a Douglas Fir tree that was too close to my shop for comfort. This system looked like a tabletop in the making, so I decided to dig around the root and pull the tree over instead of cutting it off at ground level. It took a major effort to do that, plus a bunch of neighbors and friends to get in on the felling when it took place (sorry, no photos of that feat of ingenuity). Using some chains and a "come-along" winch, we were finally able to drop the tree over in exactly the spot we wanted.

That was three summers ago. Here's the system aged and ready for cutting.

After scraping off as much dirt as possible, I worked on removing as much bark as possible, too. This is the result.

Ya just never know what you're gonna find inside something like this, though. After making my initial cut in which everything went according to plan, the going got a lot tougher. The chain started smoking like crazy, so I thought I'd dulled it to the point it would need sharpening. Off to the shop I went.

Came back the next day, and began the rest of the cuts, and the same durn thing happened. Couldn't believe how much smoke that chainsaw was making. I thought for a second the wood in the root was catching on fire. Katherine was watching from the house, and she even mentioned how much smoke that thing was putting out.

Well, after getting all the way through on just one cut, I found out the reason why it was smoking as much as it was. See those dark spots in the center of the wood slabs? Those are a mixture of resin from the tree and dirt that had grown up inside the heartwood. Shoulda known. I think I mighta ruined a chain by going through this concoction, and could have ruined the chainsaw if I'd kept going at it any longer than I did. I'll still be able to use the one center slab for a tabletop if I dig out the resin/dirt combo and fill the void with something else.

This one gets filed in the "lessons learned" department.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Wood Gloat - Part 2

Finally got around to slabbing some logs into "cookies" in preparation for them becoming something or other. Was given these pieces over a period of time, and decided they needed to be out of the weather or they'd go bad. These are the results.

This first photo is of Green Ash. Very, very heavy, and I've never seen heartwood like this in any kind of Ash.

This photo is of Honey Locust (or so I'm told). Some really nice grain in these pieces, but very stinky to work with.

And, finally, some Douglas Fir. These are smaller rounds, but should turn out really nice in a project.

So, does anyone have any ideas on what these should ultimately become? I'm thinking of clocks or maybe even jointing them together and making tabletops.

Would you leave the bark on, or take it off?

Gonna have some fun with these!

Wood Gloat, Part I

Went to a neighbor's bi-annual party this Saturday, and one of the boys asked me if I wanted a hunk of wood. Thought to myself he must have picked something up on their property and though it might be cool. Told him I'd look at it to see if it might be usable. We walked to his truck, and there in the back was this slab that is just screaming to be made into some kind of a tabletop.

Basically, all this one needs is a good sanding, some TLC in some spots that have been filled in with something (not sure what it is), and, voila - a tabletop. This thing is between 4' and 5' long and has some beautiful grain.

Katherine says she wants in on this one. I agree.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Handy dandy "little log" slabbing jig

Thought I'd share this for anyone out there having trouble figuring out how to slab smaller logs. This little jig works great for me. This time the log was heavy enough and stable enough just positioning it right that I didn't have to secure it any more with screws into the ends. Bracing and chucking were enough.

The log is walnut somewhere between 2' and 2 1/2' long, and I'm thinking eventually it might become a bowl.

 Using my 20" bar on the chainsaw meant I'd need to go down through the log from one side, and finish the cut from the other side.

On this log, I decided to lop off a "top" and a "bottom" in order to perhaps make a bowl out of it later.

And, after I was done with the walnut log, I still had enough poop and vinegar left to slab a smallish cottonwood log I had in the shop, too. Not sure what these will eventually become. Ideas, anyone?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Got frustrated - tried something new.....

Awhile back, I posted about some coasters I'd been making with Aspen leaves. Tried all different stages in the season for the leaves, but, without fail, somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of them turned out to be useless for me. They'd dry and either curl up or turn brown:

 No matter what the method, they weren't about to cooperate. So, decided to spray paint them instead. Decided to try copper and gold as colors. Turned out really nice. The paint dries fast and, so far, seems to be holding the shape of the leaf intact.

The photo below shows five of them "curing" with one coat of epoxy (just did these today). Four are mounted on pine "cookies", and one is mounted on a juniper "cookie". The green one in the photo was one I'd done earlier that turned out ok after one coat of epoxy. but one little dimple was left above the surface, so now it is undergoing coat number two. Will also need to give each of the others another coat, as well. Unless I actually route out a leaf shape and put them down into the depression, these leaves never lie completely flat even after pressing them between the pages of books for awhile.

This last photo is of some aspen leaves that were painted a metallic red. Waiting for them to cure, and to see if they'll be usable, too.

Just trying what I hope will be some interesting variations.