Claremont Designs


Leave a comment

Catching Up With The Shop… And One New Piece

It’s been 995 days since I’ve posted anything to this blog… kind of embarrassing, but I’m guessing that I’m not the only one that has taken such an extended break from updating.  Although the title of this post implies that I’ve only created one new piece, that’s not really accurate.  But time spent making Edison Lamps has monopolized most of my shop time.  Originally the lamps were supposed to be made between making other items, and only if someone found me on Etsy to buy.  Since that original thought I’ve sold about 80 lamps.  Consequently, the other pieces coming out of the shop have slowed significantly…

Earlier this year, I finished a new entertainment center.  You can see pictures of that piece in this post.  It is built of solid cherry and has 2 major pieces.  The main body that supports the stereo equipment and the turntable is just a large through dovetail case.  For those reading this that mainly know my lamps, this is basically the body of an Edison lamp (but a lot bigger).  The dovetails are visible when you are viewing the piece from above or the side.  They don’t do anything special in the function of the piece, so they are largely form over function.  There is some function in there too though…  The dovetail is great for ensuring a 90 degree angle in the corners, and it is much stronger than other joints than I can use.

The second major feature of the piece is the mortised and tenoned exoskeleton (14 mortises and tenons to be exact).  The legs, bottom box support, side rails, and top rails are all made from different size pieces of cherry.  The legs are the largest at roughly 2 inches square.  The rest of the pieces are slightly smaller.  I wanted to use different sized pieces on the frame to create interesting shadow lines when looking at the piece and to give the piece a sense of depth.

The original concept was that I would build the box and the exoskeleton separately.  Then I would be able to slide the box into the exoskeleton.  It wasn’t that simple, but let’s just pretend it was…  This is one of those times that an extra set of hands in the shop would have been nice.  Overall this was a fun piece to build, and it gave me a chance to try some new techniques [some by design (knife hinges) and some out of necessity (carved door pulls)].

Up next in the shop…  As you might have guessed, more lamps.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC


3 Comments

Setting the Depth of the Top Reveal on an Edison Lamp

Selecting the depth of the reveal is partly for aesthetic reasons and also for a simpler build out process.  I hinted at these reasons in a prior post about updating the Edison lamp prototype.  Probably the first 5 versions of the lamps I built were similar to the prototype.  Since then, I’ve set the Edison lamp top about an 1/8th of an inch lower.  It’s a minor change but it has significantly reduced the number of times that I’ve had to rebuild a lamp – frequently the corner of one of the pins would chip out when routing the channel for the top.

By lowering the top a fraction of an inch, I’m able to route the front and back of the lamp without using a plunge cut.  On the sides the plunge cut is still required.  Basically what I’m doing is dropping the lamp side down on top of the router bit.  The photos below show the result of the plunge cuts.  The first photo shows the result of two plunge cuts and a little clearing between the cuts.  Technically a single cut on each side would be more than enough, but I’ve taken the belt and suspenders approach.  To make sure that I don’t extend my cut too far, I clamp a stop block to the router table fence.

From there I’ve flipped the side over and drawn lines on the top of the lamp sides.  The lines are shown in the second picture below.  I align the marks with router table fence where the cuts start and stop.  In the picture the left side of the piece is complete.  From here I repeated this process of plunge cuts and marking the sides on the right side of the piece.  Finally I remove the stop blocks, plunge the piece over the existing cuts and then route the piece between the plunge cuts on each side.

This whole process takes maybe 15 minutes to complete properly, but any missteps can result in having to start the entire build over again.  Thankfully by dropping the top a fraction of an inch, the number of rebuilds has dropped to zero.  Final picture below shows the end result – the latest single bulb koa Edison lamp to leave the shop.

IMG_0022 IMG_0025 SONY DSC


Leave a comment

What Does Handmade Mean? Please Ask…

So I’m a little late in writing this post… I guess that “late” is a relative term. In one sense I meant to write this 2+ weeks ago when I took the photo below. At the same time, I think that the topic is more timely than ever. And timely in the sense that it won’t be answered here, tomorrow, or frankly anytime soon.

If it’s not clear to people that occasionally read my blog posts, I sell things on Etsy. I don’t sell everything on Etsy, but I do sell some items. And I definitely consider them “handmade.” Etsy marginally mentions the term handmade on their site, but I would guess that in the consumers’ mind, the term “handmade” is much more prevalent. That’s okay; I’m not trying to say it is bad…

But it is a different context than I think some people consider… For me “handmade” has meant many things. In some case it might mean literally that it was built by hand. Or should it mean that it was created with tools that require no power? Or maybe somewhere in between as long as there was a human touch at some point? For some people, handmade means that there are flaws that should be excused… This is where I’m most conflicted… When you are dealing with real world supplies, there are defects. You may want it to be 100% perfect, and that is possible…

But frankly if you are building to enough scale that you can’t reach out to customers to ask if you like a certain look to a piece of wood or not, that means you are not handmade…

I don’t mean this in a negative way. I mean this in a descriptive way. Many of the designers that I admire don’t adhere to this mindset, and I don’t ascribe any lesser value to their designs. But I do assume that there wasn’t a human helping to guide every crucial design decision…

So there is my long convoluted description of what handmade means to me… it only took 4 “paragraphs” and I don’t pretend that it is crystal clear as a result… My only request is that if it means something to you as a buyer, please ask the people you are buying from what “handmade” means to them… In some cases you will be more than willing to do business with them. In other cases, the exact opposite holds true…

Anyway back to me (because everything must eventually come back to me)… The photo below is for an end table that I’m building. It is essentially, 3 through dovetail boxes with a floating top. The photo shows one of the last steps in the process… before this step I cut and joined the 3 through dovetail boxes shown in the picture. Although, the boxes were made with same jigs and lumber of the same dimension, they were not identical within 1/16 of an inch…

What’s happening in the photo, is that I’m clamping the three boxes together so that I can ease the transition from one piece to the other… It was definitely a handmade piece (in my terminology). Each piece wouldn’t be perfectly identical… In fact I would eventually round over the corners of each piece, so they couldn’t match perfectly. For me exact duplication, would mean that it was machine made. But if near duplication might mean that it was made by hand and matched to the clients’ needs… That’s what I was doing here… Ultimately, I sanded all of the joints of the boxes flush in the photos. That doesn’t mean that I did everything by hand, but it does mean that I was there with tools controlled by hand that did not depend on mechanical accuracy to get the final look.

20130710-220520.jpg


Leave a comment

Finishing the Ambrosia Maple Box

In a recent post, I was showing how to flatten an ambrosia maple board with a strategic cut before employing the jointer and planer.  Since then I have finished assembling the box.  As with the Edison Lamps that I make, the box features through dovetails.  The ambrosia maple has such dramatic coloring that it is crucial that the box is cut all from the same continuous piece of lumber.  I made passing reference to wrapping the grain around the corner in that previous post.  The photos below show why that is so important.

From a woodworking perspective this box is nearly identical to the Edison Lamps that I’ve been making, but there are a few differences.  The minor differences are the lack of holes for a lamp cord or a dimmer switch (this piece will be illuminated from the inside by a string of battery powered LED lights).  The major difference is the top of the piece.  On an Edison Lamp, I take a 1/4″ thick piece of lumber for the top of the piece.  In this case, I replaced the wood top with a sheet of rice paper (same concept that is used in shoji lamps).  Because I could anticipate this being used as a modern table centerpiece, I didn’t want the rice paper exposed.  I wanted to be able to clean this piece without worrying about ruining the paper.  As a result, I sandwiched the paper through two pieces of glass that I had cut at the local hardware store.

I still really like the concept, but I’m not positive I like my approach to the rice paper.  As of right now, everything looks like it will work just fine, but I’m not sure I love the quality or coloring of the rice paper I used.  And by sandwiching it between sheets of glass, it can’t ever be replaced.  This one will be permanent as-is.  For future versions, I think I’ll keep the glass on the top to protect it / keep it easy to clean, but I’ll find a new way to install the paper.

The photos below were taken in my shop before a first coat of finish was applied.  Usually, I do WIP photos at lower resolution, but I do like the ambrosia maple, so I kept this full resolution.

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC


Leave a comment

Overcoming a Bowed Ambrosia Maple Board

Building unique pieces is fun. The “unique” part of that statement can be defined in many ways. Sometimes it’s the design. Sometimes it’s the raw material. Sometimes it’s the finish. In this case it was definitely the raw material. I’ve always really liked the look of ambrosia maple; actually I’ve always called it spalted maple, but it seems like everyone has been more specific recently with the term ambrosia. Plenty of other places on the internet describe the ambrosia aspect, so I won’t bore you with stories of beetles…

On the last trip to the lumber store there was a really nice looking piece of ambrosia maple that everyone seemed to be ignoring. It wasn’t priced outrageously. It wasn’t abnormally short or narrow. But it was badly bowed. The board was ~40″ long but about 1/3 of the way down the board, it was bowed about 1-2″ (I’m probably exaggerating for purposes of the story). No one wanted it because it would be difficult to use in most applications. The photo below shows how large the bow was.
SONY DSC

I don’t mean to imply that I have some magical fix for the board, but I was able to use the board with a strategic cut around the bowed section. I was building a box and was able to locate the primary cut just to the side of the worst part of the bowed section. After cutting the boards they weren’t instantly flat. They still required more work (couple of passes over the jointer and through the planer), but the waste from this one board was minimized. The photo below shows the 2 boards now “flat”.
SONY DSC

I decided to make a variation on the Edison lamps I’ve been making so many of. Actually, this “lamp” will be the opposite of an “Edison” lamp. Rather than featuring the light bulbs that give those lamps their unique look, this lamp will just have a sheet of rice paper sandwiched between 2 pieces of glass. The interior of the lamp be wired with strings of LED lights powered by a battery – great news for me (no light sockets, wiring, switches, etc.) – all of the time consuming steps of the Edison build are avoided. This will be my modern take on a shoji lamp.

When doing the dovetailed boxes, I insist on getting at least the front and sides of the box out of one continuous piece of lumber. The primary reason I do this is that I want the grain to wrap around the piece. In the case of highly figured lumber (e.g., this piece of maple) it is even more important than ever. You can see in some of the photos below how the grain and coloring will wrap around this piece (side note: I’m not sure why, but I decided to keep my new cherry napkin holder in the photo). If all goes according to plan, I should be getting this piece into the finishing phases next weekend. Hopefully, all of the effort associated with this bowed board will be worth it.
SONY DSC

SONY DSC


Leave a comment

Finished Peruvian Walnut Edison Lamp

Just a quick post here for the latest Edison lamp to be finished. I’ve actually got another 5 that just need to be wired and photographed, but I don’t have the time right now to do the wiring. And this isn’t exactly the right time of day to be photographing the lamps. Between the wrong time of day and it being overcast in DC, the photographs weren’t coming out great. Even had to break out the flash for a few pictures. Those photos probably do the best at capturing the color of the Peruvian walnut. The color is incredibly dark and rich. The grain is pretty straight and uniform. Maybe I’ll try again on a bright sunny day to get a couple better photos of the lamp.

20130519-190309.jpg

20130519-190357.jpg

20130519-190529.jpg

20130519-190836.jpg

20130519-190921.jpg


Leave a comment

Another Mother’s Day Weekend In the Shop

I promise that I love my Mom, but I have spent yet another Mother’s Day weekend in my shop.  All of the good sons and daughters spending time with their mothers means that the traffic on 95 is pretty light and the shop is that much easier to get to.  For this weekend, I focused on finishing up my second workbench and finally starting the finishing of a project that isn’t a lamp.

The workbench is a pretty straightforward project.  I already had the base of the bench from a prior piece of furniture.  Building the top takes a few weekends; not super difficult, but time consuming.  It’s not the best piece I’ve ever built, but it has already made my shop much more efficient.  That project was finished on day 1 of the weekend.

Day 2 was spent finally getting a new cabinet ready for finishing.  I’ve had the majority of the cabinet completed for weeks months.  I’ll miss having it as something to rest my sanders on, but it’s time to get this one out of the shop.  In the photo below it is sitting on the new workbench after being sanded to 120.  I eventually sanded it down to 220, but before the final sanding I wanted to fit the door to the cabinet.  The only challenge that I came across was the length of the screws for the hinges.  Ultimately, I had to snip off the tip of each screw, so that it wouldn’t protrude from the side of the cabinet.  The proportions may look a little off to people, but this is a purpose-built piece of furniture.  The cabinet will sit in an opening between a wall and a desk.  The door is design to swing open beneath the apron of the desk.  The large opening above the door is going to be completely concealed by the desk, so it will store items that I don’t need to access.  The top 2 shelves are for computer equipment, and will sit at or above the top of the desk.

Before leaving the shop, I finished the sanding and applied a first coat of boiled linseed oil.  One more weekend and this one should be done…

case