Saturday, January 31, 2009


I was curious about the work of George Nakashima. It wasn't what I expected. I was anticipating something with a stronger influence of traditional oriental forms. Especially after I had learned that he was taught Japanese joinery techniques from an old master while in an internment camp. What I found was nature meets sixties modern. I like some aspects of his work, the natural form being one. In many cases, the use of a rather uninspiring tapered round leg (reminds me of Danish modern) seems to clash with nature. Some might view this clash as contrast, but it reminds me of cheap sixties magazine tables from the Blue Chip Stamp store (yes, I am old enough to remember that stuff). Consider this piece:

Slab Coffee Table w/magazine shelf, Nakashima, 1957

More vintage work can be found at the Moderne Gallery

However, some pieces are effective for me such as this one:

Side Table, Nakashima, Date unknown (probably about 1965 as this was made for Nelson Rockefeller’s Japanese House at Pocantico. An existing Japanese Style complex was redone for Nelson Rockefeller at Pocantico in the mid 1960s)

So why is the side table more effective than the coffee table? The interaction of line and form. The tops of both tables are very similar, slabs with angled ends. However, it is the choice of support for the top that makes the difference. In the side table,the forms of the support are highly referential to the top. In the coffee table, the legs are so formally disconnected, mechanical even. In the side table, directional nature of the support complements that top; vertical for angular contrast and horizontal for balance. The coffee table legs jut out at odd angles; they are not at peace with the top. The formal tension combined with the angular tension overwhelms the piece. I think that Nakashima may have been able to get away with the formal components if he had chosen to insert the legs on pure vertical line to the horizontal orientation of the top.

I made some wood dye!

Hey, there is a fun show at the San Jose Museum. All sorts of wonderful things made of cardboard. They are pushing the Frida photographs, (also on display, I like Manuel Bravo's, b&Ws,) but I say, the cardboard is where it's at. I enjoyed the cardboard clouds, the "curvy chair and table" and the "survival vest" most, but then there was the one with the pipecleaners... just go, you will be happy like me.

Not really furniture...

So this isn't quite furniture, but it seems that Bay Area based artist Reuben Margolin's kinetic sculptures use a lot of woodwork and similar processes. I just thought this was a perfect example of the power of woodworking as a prototyping language... see the entire make tv episode here :

Friday, January 30, 2009

I made a handout for Monday's demo.

In this case, I will give you a handout so you can pay attention to the demo without taking notes. Please read before Monday's class. I will make copies for everyone.

Shannon Wright

Woodworking 168
Project 1: Sample Joints
We are using 5/4 (Five Quarter) Poplar boards, 16 feet long.

Milling Your Wood on the Jointer and Planer

What you need:
Starrett combination square (never drop one of these!!!)
Two jointer-specific push sticks
Key to unlock the jointer “on” switch
Pencil for marking
Safety glasses or face shield

1) Cut a 36” length of poplar on the radial arm saw. Let’s save all the 48” pieces that remain, for another project.
2) Use the combination square to “square up” the fence of the jointer.
3) Set the infeed table to remove between 1/32” and 1/16”.
4) Assess “grain runout pattern”, cup and bow of your piece of wood, and joint one face using two push sticks designed for the jointer.
5) Move your whole body with the wood—do not stand in a fixed location and lean forward.
6) Put the letter “j” in pencil on the jointed face so you can identify it later.
7) Joint one edge of your piece of wood, considering the grain runout pattern to avoid tearout. Keep your wood very tight against the fence and do not rock the wood. Mark it with a “j”.
8) Measure the thickness of your wood at each end and set the thickness planer to 1/16” less than the thickest dimension
9) With the jointed side down, assess the grain runout direction by looking at the edge of your board.
10) Place your wood, with the jointed side down, into the planer. You will need to give it a solid push to engage the infeed rollers. Remove your wood as the rollers feed it out the other side.

Ripping Your Wood on the Table Saw
What you need:
Rip blade
Push stick
Yellow anti-kickback roller
Phillips-head screwdriver
Table saw arbor wrench
Starrett combination square
Safety glasses or face shield

1) Check that the power is off at the circuit breaker
2) Remove the table saw insert, then remove the nut and washer from the saw arbor and put the rip blade on, with the teeth facing you, making sure not to bang the blade against metal.
3) Put the washer on and tighten the nut.
4) Replace the blade insert
5) Raise the blade as high as it will go, and place the Starrett square tight against the right side of the blade. If you see light at the top or the bottom, adjust the blade tilt wheel below until no light is visible. Lower the blade.
6) Bring your wood up against the blade to set the height of the blade. Raise or lower the blade until it is ¼” or one carbide tooth’s height above your wood.
7) Lock the lock knob on the blade-height adjustment wheel.
8) Bring the blade guard down over the blade.
9) Attach the yellow anti-kickback rollers to the mounting plate and tighten the screws with the Phillips-head screwdriver. It should be situated immediately behind the blade guard.
10) Pull the rip fence away from the blade to allow you to place your wood under the yellow anti-kickback device. Adjust the pressure until it puts up good resistance, but will not require excessive force to push your wood through.
11) Move the rip fence to set it at 3.5 or 4” (dependent on the width of your board.) To do this, loosen the lock lever, bump the fence over with the heel of your hand until the crosshair reads the desired number on the ruler. Lock the fence-lock lever.
12) Adjust the yellow anti-kickback device side-to-side until it is in approximately the middle of the intended cut. It MUST be located to the right of the blade, or it will defeat its purpose.
13) Remove all wrenches and tools from the work area
14) Turn on the power at the circuit breaker.
15) Put on a face shield or safety glasses.
16) Make your cut. Then cut another piece the same width with the remainder.

Proper Form When Ripping Wood on the Table Saw

Make sure no-one is standing or walking behind you.

Stand to the left of the rip fence and slightly to the left of your piece of wood.

Don’t focus your eyes on the blade, but on the juncture between your wood and the rip fence.

Direct solid pressure forward and into the fence.

Never take your hands off your piece of wood; it can and will kick back at you.
When the end of your piece of wood is fully on the table, you may pick up your push stick, without letting go of the wood.

Keep the push stick close to the rip fence and push your wood ALL THE WAY PAST THE BLADE. If you stop pushing before the wood is past the blade, your wood can and will kick back at you. The anti-kickback pawls on the “splitter” will catch your wood, but you don’t want to make them do their job.

Do not attempt to push the “scrap” piece (left-side piece) of wood past the blade. Only push the piece that is against the rip fence.

Do not allow fellow students to “help” you by pulling your wood through at the other end. You are the only one who should be performing this operation. Helpers cause misunderstandings and dangerous situations.

Turn off the saw as soon as you have pushed your wood through.
Let the blade come to a complete stop before collecting your wood.

More wonderful Wood!

I don't have the craftalien's name for this work, but I included the source. How schnizzle is this?It is a bathroom out of my dreams by Takumi Company of Seattle. Can we talk a bit about how to dye wood with the natural/traditional plant dyes? - The other source below, "Craft house Mana" aka. nifty- is a homey site but has some interesting pix of lathe made items as well as dye recipies and techniques. Sorry I can't post an active link-I am computer challenged. But then I'm only a Squerl

Thursday, January 29, 2009


As mentioned under a previous post, if you attach a photo found online, you must credit the source/ identify the artist, name of the piece, date, etc.

Link to the fact sheets

Ok, here is a link the the fact sheet PDF.

Link to Fact Sheets

It is pretty big (~7 mb) and slow to load.

Wood Fact sheets

Years ago, I collected a number of "Fact Sheets" from Good Ol' Southern Lumber. I have collected them into a PDF and if I can figure out how to put the PDF to the web, you can grab a copy. If I cannot figure out how to put it up, I'll make a disk.

Links, and David Jackson

By the way, folks: to make a link to another web page, don't just paste the address in-- that won't function as a link. You need to highlight a word (like someone's name, or whatever, ) then click on the green frog head above (if it's not a frog head, someone please tell me what it is!) and paste the address in after the "http://" in the line. That will make a working link.

Also, I have emailed David Jackson in the unlikely hope that he might have plans to come to the Bay Area this semester, in which case we'd like to "nab" him for a demo or a lecture, in exchange for one of our not-too-mindblowing honoraria that we can offer through the school gallery.

Good article

Good article Stephen on the Tansu/Shaker comparison. Thanks for the http:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tansu Book

It looks like the book by David Jackson is on Google Books

google listing

Well, at least part of it can be viewed.

Left handed woodworkers

So I am looking for info on left handed and woodworking. Not, much on the tool side other than most tools are right handed, but here are a couple of bits of info:

"A left-handed individual was more likely to sustain an amputation both at home and at work. The left-handed were more likely to have a dominant hand amputation than were the right-handed (70% compared with 51%). These data suggest that left-handers have an amputation risk factor 4.9 times greater than that of right-handed people."

These were taken from "Is being left-handed a handicap? The short and useless answer is “yes and no.”"

Maybe they need to add a question to the shop test:
_____ I am left handed. 1) True 2) False

1 is disqualification.

Sample Blog Post

Okay, so I used Laura's discussion with me about Japanese tansu cabinets as a starting place. I googled "tansu construction" and found a site that mentioned David Jackson. (Just googling "tansu" will mostly bring up just stores selling tansu-type furniture.) Well, David Jackson was one of the instructors I TA'd for back in 1993-94 when I was in grad school. I wasn't sure it was the same David Jackson, so then I googled his name. It is the same guy--he is a tansu restorer now.
And he has written a book about tansu. A bit more looking showed me that we will have to find the book to really learn much about the joinery and other technical aspects of tansu-making. I looked in the King library to see if we have the book. There are two copies, one stolen, the other possibly not stolen! And since I accidentally searched by keyword rather than title, I also found a video, which we can maybe watch: Kyoto Joinery.

This is a screen-shot I took of the library search. Click on it to see it bigger.
So, then I went back to searching under my original search, "tansu construction." I found lots of stores selling tansu, then an article in Popular Woodworking magazine about how to make a tansu cabinet. Their picture, though, looked like an Americanized version of tansu, less elegant, more like a hybrid of a tansu and some American cabinet. Not interesting.
I think finding the library book and then going from there, would be wise.
Another search I did, while thinking about Martin Puryear, was "Sierra Leone traditional woodworking." Because I've heard so much about Martin Puryear's having learnt a lot of his woodworking skills while in the Peace Corps there. Well, I found nothing except for a strange YouTube video about Sierra Leone craftsmen making furniture with crude tools and no electricity. At any rate, what I want the class to know is, it's probably going to be wise to use your web searching as a means to "find cool stuff", and then you will want to check out books on that cool stuff to get any real information, or to see a proper body of any artist's work.

Hello all: Here is a journal article that may have some good information pertaining to the class, specifically the material itself. I was checking out some of the artists our prof. (Shannon,) mentioned and found some really amazing images and examples of Japanese joinery and carpentry in general. Here is the type of room I would like, of course the floor would have to open up to contain all my art stuff neatly arranged in beautifully crafted boxes. Cabin fever due to rainy weather is no problem either- just take a rest in your custom covered bench and let the rain beat a haiku on the roof. Pick some leaves off the tree and boil them. You may invent a great new wood dye. I love everything about trees! - Squerl

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Invited Authors

Hi Folks
you should all have received an invitation to become a blog author. Let's set some guidelines for blog posts here.

First, how to do it: click "New Post" at the top of the page. Write what you want to write, and click on the landscape icon to add pictures. All images must be credited to their source. To add links, highlight a word or phrase and click on the green frog-head-looking icon. Paste the URL into the window that comes up, and the word or phrase will turn into a link.
Put your name, or at least your first name, at the end of the blog entry so I don't have to figure out who you are from some wacky gmail name.

Blog etiquette: use professional language as you would if you were writing a paper. So, no text-messaging contractions, no expletives. If you disagree with what someone has said, let's discuss it in class. The blog should not become a forum for arguments. (I'm imagining such an argument in Woodworking class: "Routed mortises are far superior to chiseled mortises!" "No, chiseled is much better!")

Okay, we can discuss the details further in class. Technophiles, feel free to add useful blogging advice for the class at any time.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Check these out!

Crazy Benches, Wow!!!
Nothing to it except thinking ahead, I swear.

Thanks, whoever you are that commented on the first post...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Spring 09 Woodworking Class!

Let's start with an inspirational picture of woodworking put to good use:

Oliver van den Berg, Cameras (Installation view: "Made in Germany", Kunstverein Hannover) 2007. Courtesy: Kuckei + Kuckei, Berlin.

Of course, if I'm going to show you this I'd better give some lathe demos this semester.