Thursday, January 22, 2015

Welcome to my new blog

Since this is my first posting, I thought it might be appropriate to have a little introduction to the intents and purpose of this blog. 

My first goal is to use it as a platform to share my research and interests in medieval art as it applies to furniture and the decorative arts. The second is a way to showcase new projects as I create them in my shop. 

I am a full time professional cabinet maker who does custom work for clients. Not all projects I do will be posted here, but ones which I feel pertain to the theme of historical recreations and inspired pieces will be posted here, as they progress. I generally (in fact so far, have never) copied a piece outright, but rather, as an artist and designer myself, I look at pictures which give me inspiration, and add my own creativity to it, trying to put my mind set into the appropriate historical context. One example, to show what I mean, is this picture which I found on the web this summer.
This little shelf was the germ of inspiration for my hanging shelf below
I liked the general shape of the sides, and though i was looking at candle boxes, i decided to make a hanging shelf based on this overall form. The following pictures give an idea of the whole process i go through in building something. I will explain the process a little as the pictures progress.
A plank of Carpathian Elm is chosen for size, fit, and grain.
Planing follows...
planing the side pieces
Most people do not know that originally a "table saw" was a saw like this, one for cutting out 'tables' as in round circles. I was not concerned about planing all the saw marks away on this, as it will be carved anyway.
The pieces were cut out with this saw, in German we call it a Fuchsschwans, which literally means a fox'es tail.
After the sides were cut out, the edges were smoothed up with a spoke shave and files, then the carving began.
Carving the bead around the edge of the sides. The entire side was sunk 5 mm to achieve the bead.
In the same way the other parts were selected, cut out and planed.

Cutting and planing parts, there is that table saw again. I use it to cut almost everything which is curved
The lower shelf then wanted a nice finished edge...
The caveto edge was carved with a gouge
Both shelves were joined with stopped sliding dovetails.
I was lucky to have found a dovetail plane which would work for this shelf, most of the time i have to cut them with a chisel. I score the shoulder with a cutting gauge first though.
Then the tricky part begins, If the slot is too loose, using the joint will be pointless, too tight, and one will never get the thing together. To allow for movement of the timber, i do not glue these.
A rebate is cut out with a back saw, (Steffen; your Xmas gift would have done well here!) then the waste is removed and the angle is cut back with a chisel. 
I was a bit over eager to see how this would look finished, as this was my first time i had worked with this elm. (i had been wanting to use some for years, but never could find a sawmill which had some. Five years ago a tree blew down near my house, so i had it cut up, then i finally had some material, i just had to wait for it to cure.)
The wood takes a rich reddish brown colour with some linseed oil. 
I fit the basic unit together before i got around to carving the top and bottom rails. Sometimes i get too eager to see some progress.
Sides and shelves fit together, again, these are unglued sliding dovetails so dis-assembly is easy.
I made a template out of rosin paper to lay out the shape of each piece. The design for the carving, though, was done free-hand.
Lots of curves to cut here, but the saw worked like a champion.
Nice afternoon light really shows off carving well...
I started carving this around four in the afternoon and worked until 6, the following day i worked on it most of the day, and this was where i was about 5 in the afternoon. This elm carves nicely but tends to be a bit gritty and dulls the tools faster than i would like.
Eventually everything came together...

This whole project took about one week to finish (for me that equals 80+ hours)


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  2. Utilizing blogging platforms like this is a good way to showcase your talent and promote your product is a good strategy. Anyway, your DIY cabinets look really good and their designs are certainly historically inspired. Good luck with your business, Johann!

    Nathanial Thorton @ VDB Ventures