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Why build one when you can build two!

After a quick detour this weekend to participate in the Turn for the Troops event held at Woodcraft stores, it was back to the garage to try to make some progress on the chess table.

I started to turn the post for the chess table.  As planned, I decided to use some 4x4s leftover from building a cat tree about four years ago. The wood is good and dry, and more importantly, is the right size to work with.

Unfortunately, the grain was not with me and I had a lot of tear out.  After rounding the blank, I defined the recess for the legs, the tenon for the top, and the half bead that defines the top of the post.  The next step was to shape the stretched s-curve that is the main body of the post.

This is where I experienced significant tear out of the grain.  The wood wanted to splinter if I looked at it the wrong way.  Combine that with the substantial hardness difference between the early and late wood and I ended up with a bit of a ditch partway between the top of the legs and the bottom of the half bead.  This meant that the s-curve would either end up being much thinner than anticipated, or I would have to start over.

A thinner post would substantially change the look of the piece, so I decided to start over. In light of the problems turning the particular species, I decided to see about acquiring some hard wood.  I managed to secure some ash 3×3 blanks that I’ll be turning down for the finished table.

However, I still had a generally intact post that would be a shame to waste.  A quick browse through the wood pile revealed some red oak boards that have been hanging out for a few years.  These were just the right width for a  second set of legs.  I won’t be making this one into a chess table, but it will be good practice before working with the main project.  This will just be a traditional candle stand.

After cutting out the legs and putting them to the spindle sander, I returned to the problem post.  I turned half-beads at the top and bottom of the problem area to divide out the higher areas.  The bottom was then turned generally flat.  The top part was turned into shallow curve toward the tenon.  Finally, the problem area between the two was lowered and given a slight outward curve.

Three incised equally lines spaced incised lines were added to the center and burned with some maple.  I ended up with a generally nice shape for the second table post.  The burning is probably unnecessary as I think this will be painted when all is said and done. This was sanded to about 320 grit.  Sanding this wood leaves an interesting undulation as the soft early wood (the light grain) wears away faster than the late wood (dark grain).

I’ve already cut the oak legs out. The pattern I cut out using Pixelmator and some MDF is getting a workout. They just need a bit more shaping. Then comes the dovetailing. More later.

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Skew your View

I’ve been turning the post for the chess table inefficiently.  I’ve generally done one step at a time on the post: bringing to round, turning the tenon, cutting down the area that will receive the sliding dovetails, etc.  Unfortunately, I bungled the layout and won’t be able to use it in the final table.

Since all wood is good wood (so far), I decided to use this piece as a chance to practice skew work.  Long planing cuts were the first place I practiced, cleaning up the long sweep from the widest part to the neck before the tenon. There are a few knots in the piece that give off a great Christmas tree smell every time I hit them. What is most amazing is that even those knots feel perfectly smooth after planing cuts with the skew. This is a very versatile tool.

The initial surface left by this was great, even in the fir.  Next, I wanted to be able to turn some coves and beads.  As this is an area that I’m not particularly comfortable with (skew catches are no far), I decided to see about getting some instruction on the tool.

Luckily, I have an on-call turning instructor called YouTube that is always happy to provide some one-on-one-million teaching assistance.  I found this excellent video from CraftSuppliesUSA: The Skew Chisel with Allan Batty.

After watching the video, I had a go at a few beads, v-cuts, and more planing cuts. I couldn’t quite get the feel for beading with the skew, achieving both catches and tear out. That means only one thing: time for more practice is needed.