sábado, 21 de fevereiro de 2009

Wood Turning-start simple

It is very relaxing and reasonably easy to turn wood, there is the the advantage that it can be quite profitable: uses very little timber, needs very few tools and little workshop space. In fact some of the best timber for turning is in reality the wood that is not wanted for furniture making: has too many knots or twisting grain for the cabinet maker to resolve for construction, while for the turner, this is perfect, in that it is this decorative grain which can be exposed and enlivened by turning. The smallest objects, using tiny amounts of timber, can be sold for reasonable amount of cash. I was with friends in Italy, near Arrezo and Cortona, when we came across a shop selling furniture and bowls. The lady inside the shop was in fact Canadian, married to an Italian furniture maker, whose work was on show in the shop.

My friend has always liked and collected 'Treen' ware, he prefers the smallest pieces and these do require the most care and detail, I think much like dolls house furniture, the size facinates people and they can put the piece into the hand and admire the skill that made it.

The craftsman had chairs and tables, of high quality, for sale as well as bowls and many turned fruit wood 'fruits', minature apples and pears that opened up like small 'pill' boxes. I asked the lady about her husband and why he was not selling his goods, she remarked that he prefered to do the turning and had lost interest in furniture making, however she pointed out that his small workshop was but a stones throw down the street, so we upped sticks and went in search of him. Finding his workshop in a small lane, he was there working on some turnings, along with his cat ( I have some affinaty there for when I worked in the London Docks, I had shared my bench with a cat and her four kittens, unmoved by the sawing and router above her). On chatting about work it appeared that he had got fed up with negotiatig with customers over design and price of furniture ( I know the feeling only too well, the customer is nearly always interested in the price and time it takes to get the item) and that now he has hia wife to seperate the trading of work and he finds he makes far more money, for less work time, by turning wood.

There are a few basic hints with turning, although it is impossible for a blog posting to give much, other than a genaral flavour of the work and then let you go in search of books on the subjct, apart from anything elase, wood turning is as personal as any other craft and it is when you have an idea of the direction that you wish to go, that help is more productive. The Amazon site, for books, is one easy way to get the type of book that you would like, especially if you are not living in a city or near a good technical book shop.

It is best to have a lathe that suites your requirements and that it is strong and very well fixed to a firm flooring, vibration is a way to frustration with turning, it is so much easier to turn on a lathe which is robust. Make sure that the height is correct for you, it needs to be comfortable and you need full control of the chisels. The height is possibly best when the centre of the lathe is at the height of your elbow when you are standing vertically.

The other thing is to buy good chisels, quality helps in keeping the sharp edge and stopping bending and flexing of the steel. It is well worth buying a variety of different chucks and tail centres, they are of great help in allowing you to vary the type of turning that you may wish to try. Remember that most of the tools that you will buy are going to last you at least twenty years, so try to give them some thought and expense, it will repay in short time and allow you to consentrate on turning the wood and not over coming the problems that the tools are giving you.

If you are intending to do repetative work it is worth your while buying a number of measuring tools and possibly a few attachments for the lathe, such as the sizing attachment for a parting chisel and for bowel repetition, there are several bowl cutters that will cut out the waste for a large bowl, whilst giving you the centre as one piece to re use, as a smaller bowl.

sexta-feira, 20 de fevereiro de 2009

Designs and the Finished article

For the designer the drawing is the product of his/her mind sifting through experience and creating a style that can be constructed. No good having a nice idea if it is not possible to create or cannot serve the purpose that it is supposedly meant for. I must admit to not being a fan of some of the modern, and well known, cabinet makers ( one of the British royal family springs to mind) who produce highly expensive furniture that to all intense and purposes as only decorative use. Here are a collection of sketches showing the ideas before the final working design have been produced, thay are not as it were initial sketches , I am sure there would be lots of paper before hand, but they are certainly the sketches at a point when the idea has matured to form a clear vision of the finished article. I have found that I need to do sketches in order for me to think my way through the construction, it is also helpfull when trying to make an estimate of timber for pricing. The very act of putting pencil to paper allows the designer to go through a construction process and evaluate the possible problems.

This drawing of a steam packet deck chair, reminds me of one that I used to own and made several copies of it for friends and theatre, it uses very little timber, is very strong and folds neatly, as well as having, in my opinion, a very elegant appearance ( although this drawing is not probably the best illustration to support this). One of the copies I made also had a foot rest as part of it, this folded under the seat and had two small folding legs.

Veneers and their legacy

This example of veneer work is from the reign of George I, it is a bureau made with Burr Yew and Plum-wood cross-bandings( common to use local timbers and yet create an exotic effect), the Burr Elm interior with its small drawers will have kept its almost origional colour. Circa 1720
Wood and me
This is a copy of an article I wrote some time ago on my other blog, but I am going to include some scans of the making of veneers and the use of them. Veneers have been in use for thousands of years, it was a way of making resources stretch and also getting a more decorative cut from wood. When made in a formal through and through cut, timber can lack vitality and loose reflective qualities which the side grain has, end grain tending to absorb all light( therefore the need to fill grain before polishing, unless you wish to use this deffinition in your work)
Early tools for cutting veneers were in reallity the hand saw, it was only possible to cut fairly thick pieces and at the same time there was a huge degree of wastage with the saw removing almost as much as the veneer that was left. a multi bladed saw was then adopted to ease the problem of regularity in the cutting and then much later, the use of a knife on the still moist trunk, allowed for very much finer veneers and eliminated waste that the saw produced. In modern times veneers have become more widely used as a structural timber in there use for laminates, their decorative use is still prominant but in a more regular form. It is this regularity that the modern architect and designer wishes to use for display and grand schemes, the individual craftsman can therefore gain if he/dhe adopts the approach of buying from small scale producers such as Crispin's in london, used by me for many years whilst i lived there. For restoration work I have always cut my own veneers, using the bandsaw with a fine toothed blade.

Veneers have also been used in various forms as marquetry or inlay, the Dutch and French styles being most obvious and abundante. In Brazil it is very difficult to find good illustrations of this fine cabinetry, they tended to use basic skilss and as most work that was produced and still exists today, is from the mid 1700's, the style is simple colonial Portuguese, heavy and decorated with carving, there does not seem to be samples of veneered work, just od pieces with some inlay. The heavy humidity that the South of Brazil has, can probably take the blame for this, also the craftsmen that were sent from Portugal to Brazil were predominately carpenters for the construction of churches and imperial houses, not used to fine cabinet work and not therefore passing on a tradition for the future. This is, in Brazil, now only too clear with the lack of trained craftsmen for restoration work of any kind and the nations lack of interest in wood as a decorative material, they do not seem to have any feelings for the timber that grows here in abundance. It is almost a slash and burn approach, wood is cut to clear space for farming ( beans, sugar cane or maize) and for building land.
Click on the illustrations to get larger imags and read the small text.
There are various ways that the industry uses to cut veneers, but it is not always possiblr for large trunks to be optimised for the inner beauty as they are fixed to a machine and then the macine will gradually feed the wood to the blade. In plane cutting the tree is debarked and then knots are drilled out, plugged and the tree is spun on a large lathe whilst the long cutting blade is gradually fed at what ever rate is required to get the best cut and the thickness required.
When the sides , drawer fronts or doors of cabinets are curved, it can create some problems for the craftsman to apply even pressure when gluing and cramping. The traditional methods can be used instead of the modern air bag. This was a method much like that used in casting etal objects, were a box was constructed of sufficient size to take the piece to be veneered and filled with fine sand. The sand would be poured into the box and gently vibrated to level it off but not compress it, the best height would be to get the object levelled at slightly above the sides of the box, allowing for the depression upon cramping. The veneers are cut and taped ready for application, the sand is slightly depressed with the object so that the craftsman knows that the surface is in full contact with the sand. The sand in the box can be well pre-heated before use so that it allows the veneer to completely adhere to the object with air getting trapped( with all veneering it is necessary to apply pressure to the centre first and then spread the pressure outward, this can be done on flat work with curved battens )
Wood or plywood is applied under the box and on top of the object, if this is also curved on its inside, a bag filled with warmed sand, can be placed between the ply and the object, the glue is applied to both surfaces and paper can then be lais over the veneer to stop glue seeping through the pores in the veneer, the object is placed onto the depression already made in the sand box, timber is placed over the object, and slightly curved battens are then used to take the cramps. the whole is then left for at least a full day, better to wait longer, before the cramps are gently and mathodically, removed and the object allowed to breath and dry. It is possiblr to glue the veneer and the carcase seperately, allow the glue to set and then apply the veneer with a hot iron, but this requires care as the heat will distort the veneer, the glue becomes molten and the moisture can make the veneer shrink in an uneven way. This is more of atechnique when restoring small pieces and the individual piece cannot be dismounted for cramping. It can be a lot easier with some chairs, to dismantle completely in order to do repairs, when this is the case the joints can best be removed by injcting hot water into them and allowing the joint about 15 minutes for the glue to soften. Also the application of heat with an electric hot air gun will aid the glue melting.

I suppose I should spend some time on talking about wood as it as been part of my families history and mine, for the last 28 years of my career has been spent learning something about its nature and its spirit, mind you I am not one to go hugging trees, their beauty is certain and the idea of them having thoughts is well, absurd.
Please if anyone is to be hugged its your friend, neighbour, mother, father, brothers, sisters, bank manager(if you have difficulty getting a loan) but trees no. There is however one attribution that I think does work for family and trees and that is possitive thoughts and patience, it is also very much what you need if you wish to have a career using timber for making objects or just growing timber.
I have had quite a few assistants in the past and see them virtually all struggling to make wood into furniture, I have to tell them that the only result from a battle with the timber is that they will lose. Like a lot of things in life one day you discover that its not such hard work as you once thought, bending to the needs of the timber and designing accordingly, making ajustments in response to pieces of timber that is front of you, even some exceptions like the steaming of wood to bend it for chair or violin making still requires the cabinet maker to select the correct grain and pay attention to its density and brittleness, not all timber can be steamed bent and still be strong.

The illustration of various timbers is perhaps easier for me if I give the link here to John Boddy Timber, they are a family run business that I have used for more than 20 years and have great faith in the fact that they are truelly concerned at buying timber that is replenished and will not buy from dealers that rob the world of lumber. http://www.john-boddy-timber.ltd.uk/species_az.htm

Wood is hard, fibrous, lignified structural tissue produced as secondary xylem in the stems of woody plants, notably trees but also shrubs. This tissue conducts water to the leaves and other growing tissues and has a support function, enabling plants to reach large sizes. Wood may also refer to other plant materials and tissues with comparable properties.

Wood is a heterogeneous, hygroscopic, cellular and anisotropic material. Wood is composed of fibers of cellulose (40% – 50%) and hemicellulose (15% – 25%) impregnated with lignin (15% – 30%).[1]

Wood has been an important construction material since humans began building shelters, houses and boats. Nearly all boats were made out of wood till the late 1800s, and wood remains in common use today in boat construction. New domestic housing in many parts of the world today is commonly of timber-framed construction. In buildings made of other materials, wood will still be found as a supporting material, especially in roof construction and interior doors and their frames and exterior cladding. Wood to be used for construction work is commonly known as lumber in North America. Elsewhere, lumber will usually refer to felled trees, and the word for sawn planks ready for use is timber.

Broadly, there are two methods by which timber can be dried: (i) natural drying or air drying, and (ii) artificial drying.

Air drying

Air drying is the drying of timber by exposing it to the air. The technique of air drying consists mainly of making a stack of sawn timber (with the layers of boards separated by stickers) on raised foundations, in a clean, cool, dry and shady place. Rate of drying largely depends on climatic conditions, and on the air movement (exposure to the wind). For successful air drying, a continuous and uniform flow of air throughout the pile of the timber needs to be arranged . The rate of loss of moisture can be controlled by coating the planks with any substance that is relatively impermeable to moisture; ordinary mineral oil is usually quite effective. Coating the ends of logs with oil or thick paint, improves their quality upon drying. Wrapping planks or logs in materials which will allow some movement of moisture, generally works very well provided the wood is first treated against fungal infection by coating in petrol/gasoline or oil. Mineral oil will generally not soak in more than 1-2 mm below the surface and is easily removed by planing when the timber is suitably dry.

Kiln drying

The process of kiln drying consists basically of introducing heat. This may be directly, using natural gas and/or electricity or indirectly, through steam-heated heat exchangers, although solar energy is also possible. In the process, deliberate control of temperature, relative humidity and air circulation is provided to give conditions at various stages (moisture contents or times) of drying the timber to achieve effective drying. For this purpose, the timber is stacked in chambers, called wood drying kilns, which are fitted with equipment for manipulation and control of the temperature and the relative humidity of the drying air and its circulation rate through the timber stack

Kiln drying provides a means of overcoming the limitations imposed by erratic weather conditions. In kiln drying as in air drying, unsaturated air is used as the drying medium. Almost all commercial timbers of the world are dried in industrial kilns.

A tree grows by a system of transporting the water and minerals in the soil up the trunk to the leaves and there are many changes that occur in the movement of this water with its solution of minerals.

The basic principle is called osmosis.

When water evaporates from the mesophyll cells of a leaf and diffuse out of the stomata (transpiration), the cells involved develop a lower water potential than the adjacent cells. Because the adjacent cells then have a correspondingly higher water potential, replacement water moves into the first cells by osmosis. This continues across rows of mesophyll cells until a small vein is reached. Each small vein is connected to a larger vein, and the larger veins are connected to the main xylem in the stem, which in turn is connected to the xylem in the roots that receive water, via osmosis, from the soil. As transpiration takes place it creates a "pull" or tension on water columns, drawing water from one molecule to another all the way through the entire span of xylem cells. The cohesion required to move water to the top of a 300 foot redwood tree is considerable.

Water is primarily "pulled" upward due to the cohesion of water molecules within the xylem tracheids and vessels. Like a steel wire, the chain of water molecules is literally pulled through the plant's vascular system, from the roots to the leaves. As water molecules move out through the stomata into the atmosphere, they are replaced by new molecules entering the roots from the soil. Since the water in xylem ducts is under tension, there is a measurable inward pull (due to adhesion) on the walls of the ducts. It has been estimated that only about one percent of all water molecules transported upward are used by a tree; the other 99 percent are needed to get that one percent up there. Water molecules must literally grow with the plant in order to form continous chains within the xylem tubes.
  1. Free water: The bulk of water contained in the cell lumina is only held by capillary forces: it is not bound chemically and is termed free water. Free water is not in the same thermodynamic state as liquid water: energy is required to overcome the capillary forces. Furthermore, free water may contain chemicals, altering the drying characteristics.
  2. Bound or hygroscopic water: Bound water is bound to the wood via hydrogen bonds. The attraction of wood for water arises from the presence of free hydroxyl (OH) groups in the cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin molecules in the cell wall. The hydroxyl groups are negatively charged electrically. Water is a polar liquid. The free hydroxyl groups in cellulose attract and hold water by hydrogen bonding.
Tangential boards (crown, plain or flat sawn) are used extensively for beams and joists. They are stronger when placed correctly edge up with the load in the tangential axis. These type of boards suffer from 'cupping' if not carefully converted, seasoned, and stored properly. Annual growth rings form an angle less than 45 degrees.

Radial boards (radial, figured or quarter sawn) are typically cut on 'the quarter' and produce a pattern of the medullary rays especially in quartered oak. Such timber is expensive due to the multiple cuts required to convert this board. The radial face of the board is slightly stronger and stiffer than the tangentially face but the cross section and condition of the timber has more effect on strength. Annual growth rings form an angle greater than 45 degrees.

Crown sawn is obtained by sawing tangentially to the annual rings. It is also referred to as 'Plain Sawn' or 'through and through'.

Rift sawn is the cut which falls between crown and true quarter sawn. It is straight grained and in oak, does not reveal any 'silver ribbon' grain features. Quality floor boards are prepared from rift sawn timber because it wears well and shrinks less. Annual growth rings form an angle between 30 and 60 degrees.

Quarter sawn boards are radial cut from the centre of the tree. It produces the distinctive silver ribbon effect (in oak) across the whole board. Annual growth rings form an angle greater than 45 degrees. True quartered boards producing the best features will have the angle on or very much closer to 90 degrees.

'Figured' - is the cut between 'rift' and 'true quartered'. It has varying degrees of 'silver ribbon' (in oak) showing through but not the full figured effect found in true quarter sawn boards.

Different species have their best features enhanced by choosing the best cut appropriate to their species.