COD Progress Report

Posted November 18, 2015 by D.B. Laney
Categories: Uncategorized

With all of the demands of retirement and grand parenting, there’s been scant time available for work in the shop.  But I’m happy to report that I have been making some progress on the small chest of drawers that has been occupying an exponentially large area for far too long.

Cross banding of quarter sawn white oak (hey, it’s what I had laying around) has been let into the drawer fronts.


BTW, If you want to learn about all sorts of banding and inlay techniques, go to my friend, Jack Plane’s blog,  He’s just put up a blog on herringbone inlay.  Great stuff.

The drawer fronts were rabbeted (or rebated, si vous préférez) in order to accept a cock bead.  Strict traditionalists will scold me as I’ve opted not to do a full width (equal to drawer front thickness) top bead. So be it!  It’s not a museum job, ultimately, I’m going to put a TV on top of this thing.


Now starts the tedious job of making and fitting up drawers.  Saws and chisels on the bench.  There’ll be no discussion of dovetails joints here.  Goodness knows, there’s been more than enough said about that!



My dear wife asked if I thought this project would be done by Thanksgiving?  “Maybe by Christmas”, I replied.  However, I did not specify a year.

A “Must” read for furniture builders and designers

Posted October 30, 2015 by D.B. Laney
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

I’ve owned a copy of Franklin Gottshall’s book, “Reproducing Antique Furniture” since the 1970’s.  I have others as well.  Anyone who has ever been serious about building Period furniture is, very likely, familiar with Mr. Gottshall’s work.

Several weeks ago I was visiting with my friend, Les.  He pulled out a book that he had recently purchased and, after giving me a few minutes for perusal, asked me what I thought of it.  Well, to say the least, I was shocked.  First it was a book by Gottshall that I was totally unaware of.  Second, it was unusual, in that it was crammed full of useful information.  The title of the book says it all; “How to Design and Construct Period Furniture.”

gottshall book

First published in 1937, the book sets forth fifty-six design rules that deal with everything from proportion and ornament to the use of color.  It also offers test questions to allow the reader to determine if he or she has a real understanding of the rules being applied.  The second part of the book contains descriptions of the various characteristics of the major groups of period furniture.  But what immediately jumps out at the reader when he or she begins thumbing through the book is the amount of graphic information presented.  Dimensioned line drawings representing the “envelope” of tables, seating, casework and accessories in each group.  And, by the way, this is information that is sound and applicable to any type of furniture design, not simply Period work.

I know that not everyone share’s my bibliophilia (a disorder that can leave one destitute, rather like the love of fine tools).  But I must say that this is one of those books that falls into the category of “got to haves” for anyone serious about furniture building.

And, just so you know that Mr. Gottshall was pretty darned good with his hands as well as his head, you may want to give this little exercise a try.  It’s copied from his book, “Reproducing Antique Furniture”. The challenge is, once the block is cut and squared (with hand saw and hand plane, of course) to dimension, it’s chisel only (okay, maybe a mallet as well). You’ll be a better woodworker for your effort.




Don’t go off on a tangent, Wooden balls can improve your spindle turning skills

Posted October 25, 2015 by D.B. Laney
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

Not to boast, but I consider myself a “pretty fair hand” at turning.  The type of turning that I’m the most fond of is between centers, spindle work.  While it’s great fun to turn free style bowls and the like, spindle turning, especially making multiples, i.e. furniture legs, requires a very disciplined approach. And, it takes practice to develop and maintain good spindle turning skills, bead, cove, fillet, bead, cove, fillet, etc., etc., ad infinitum.

Several years ago I read an article by Alan Lacer about turning Bocce balls.  You might ask what Bocce balls have to do with spindle turning?  My answer is this.  Most of the spindle turners that I know will agree that turning truly spherical beads is one of the most difficult things to do.  Most beads, when examined, tend to be parabolic or begin as an arc then run off on a tangent.  It’s tough to produce a truly rounded bead.  So, it seemed to me that concentrated practice at turning spheres and understanding the relative geometry could only help.  And the upshot is, it does.

After rounding the stock, I laid out a circle and gave myself some gauge lines to work from.


Then I shaped the basic ball.


After I parted the ball off, I made a wooden cup to fix into a jaw chuck and put a cup in my tailstock.  I chucked up the sphere with the “poles” perpendicular to the bed and began to turn those surfaces round. Spindle and tailstock alignment are very important.


My goal when turning is to finish with tools, no sanding, burnish with chips only.  That said, if you zoom in on the above photo, you’re going to see sanding marks, lots of sanding marks.  This is a tough exercise, even for a reasonably experienced turner.  Before I forget to mention it, a parting tool and skew were the tools used.  This is great practice for mastering the skew!

If you’re up for a challenge, give this a try.  Thanks Mr. Lacer.


Sucked back in

Posted October 24, 2015 by D.B. Laney
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: ,

I’m retired.  I revel in the fact that I no longer have to deal with deadlines.  No meetings to attend.  I do what I want, when I want.  But every once in a while I allow myself to be sucked back in to the workaday world of restoration, nice guy that I am.

A good friend called me several weeks ago and said that after searching for months, he could find no one who could repair a large French door installation in his home built in 1836.  I told him that I’d take a look at the project and if a friend of mine was available to assist I’d give it a “go.”  Well, my friend and fellow restoration carpenter, Chad (of Woodchoppin’ fame) said he could lend a hand for a couple of days, so we jumped on the project.

Sash work is probably my least favorite thing to do.  It’s finicky work at best.  Handling big sashes full of brittle old glass is always tricky, especially when frames are severely damaged.


The repair involved “scarfing in” new stock to rebuild the stiles.


The next step was to manufacture and fit a new bottom rail into the frame.  This required a “slip” mortise and tenon so we could avoid having to completely dissemble the sash.  Thank goodness for my old Stanley 45.  After searching through boxes of router bits, I found that the only profile which matched the existing one was the sash iron from the 45.



After a little “finagling” (and the judicious use of small amounts of Durhams Water Putty), the sash was back together, ready to be re-installed and stand up to NW Ohio weather for another fifty years.


I’m headed back to the shop, back to retirement.  And please, no more sash work!


Winston Churchill’s opposed thumbs

Posted October 11, 2015 by D.B. Laney
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: ,

Ask any number of people what it is that separates human beings from the “lesser” animals?  You’ll, very likely, hear answers like: Our ability to use language and communicate with one another; Our sense of self; Our ability to solve problems; et cetera.  I maintain that what sets us apart is the simple fact that our thumbs are set in opposition to our fingers.  This evolutionary development has allowed us to reshape our environment throughout the course of human history.  While the “lesser” species must content themselves with an existence that is harmonious with their environment, the human species has always been compelled to reshape the natural environment and many of the individual ingredients therein.  We are driven to create, to build.  Why?  Because we can.  Because we have opposed thumbs.

Even the biggest “brainiacs”  are compelled to express this overwhelming need to be physically creative.  Some may find fulfillment of this need by doing something as simple as “crayoning” in some adult coloring book.  Others may draw or paint.  Some may work wood, “throw” pottery or engage in sewing.  Intellectual activity is simply not enough to give full vent to our “humanness.”

Consider Winston Churchill.  Few men in the modern era have intellectually and politically impacted the world around them more than Churchill.  Whether you agree or disagree with Churchill’s politics and tactics, no one can deny that his “bull dogged” determination helped the Allies win WWII.  So, did Winnie have the same need to physically express his creativity?  Indeed he did!  How?  By laying bricks!


Apparently, Churchill became interested in brick laying while a young man at his family home of Chartwell and was schooled in the trade by several local brick masons.


Mister Churchill thought so highly of his craft, that he accepted the invitation to become a member of the Bricklayer’s Union.

trade union membership

This last photo leads me to conclude that even skilled bricklayers can sometimes find it difficult to “butter the ends.”


So along with your eyes and ears, take good care of your thumbs.  You’ve only got two.  And, remember, they’re what really make you human.


Chippendale Chair Set – Collaboration to completion

Posted October 2, 2015 by D.B. Laney
Categories: Uncategorized

Seven years ago, my friend Les received devastating news that he had been diagnosed with head and neck cancer.  The medical team told him to “get his affairs in order”, indicating that they were not very hopeful about the outcome.  Well, after surgical procedures, chemotherapy and massive radiation, Les has been cancer-free for several years.  Fortunately, he proved the medical team wrong.

At the time of his diagnosis Les had been working on a set of Chippendale chairs, two arm chairs, two side chairs.  When I asked what it would take to complete them, Les pointed out that “all of the tough stuff was done”, meaning that all of the compound mortise and tenon work was complete.  So Les, Scott and I pulled them out of the pile, identified all of the components and agreed that this should be one of our next projects to complete, during our weekly get-togethers.


Above are the four chairs, dry fit.  The little Spanish footed table has been sitting around the shop for quite some time and will doubtless be the subject of future posts.  Structurally, the chairs need center stretchers and the arm chairs will require the manufacture and installation of  stumps and arms.  But Les was right, most of the tough stuff is done.  The splats are pierced and carved and the crest rails will be terminated with a simple, graceful knuckle.  The material is birds-eye maple (get out the kerosene for carving).


Future posts on this project will feature carving, fitting, assembly, finishing (staining, glazing, lacquering) and upholstery.

Knowing that the three of us working together are “as slow as molasses in January” (due to being side tracked by discussions on materials, methods and funny stories), I suggested that we should establish a goal for completion.  Certainly Christmas would come much too soon to get all of this work done, so I proposed that we use St. Patrick’s Day as our date.  Les looked at me and simply said, “what year?”

It’s good to remember that this is an endurance race, not a sprint.   Much more to come.

Post and rung high chair – a different approach

Posted October 1, 2015 by D.B. Laney
Categories: Uncategorized

Les and I started the High Chair project a number of months ago.  We decided to take two different approaches to fitting and assembly.  The first method was the exclusive use of hand tools.  The second was the incorporation of fixturing that allowed for the use of power tools.  My hand tool version was completed first.  I opted for a finish that resulted in a “new chair” built in an old fashioned manner.  My grand children have christened it with a number of foodstuffs and it has proven to be quite robust.

Copy (1) of 004_1

Les decided to give his chair a distressed finish and the result is a piece that looks like it’s right out of 17th or 18th century.  He used a fairly straight forward method of applying oil paint, then wiping to produce wear areas.  A simple method used to create a spectacular result.


Whereas I had elected a simple square seat plan which simplified the rush weaving process, Les “upped the ante” a bit with a trapezoidal plan and arms angled upward aft.  It’s a great look.

I’ll post a “final” photo.  But be patient.  Remember we work slowly.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 304 other followers

%d bloggers like this: