Sunday, March 2, 2008

Bench, part 2

It was really a matter of sculpting, rather than all the woodworking that I've done so far. After the first side, I got the hang of how the walnut was cutting, and I realized that cutting in the herringbone pattern was the easiest for reduced chipout, as well as being aesthetically pleasing.

After I got the sides shaped how I wanted, I started in on the seat. I wanted a scooped seat, dished out on each side, with a "hump" left in the center.

This left me with a couple of hard choices to make. I liked the rough handsculpted look of the sides, but I wanted to grind down and smooth out the seat for comfort. So, while I had the grinding wheel out, I decided that the sides were too rough. Too many chipouts, and rough cuts, and I started in on grinding it smooth.

But that left just the armcaps rough, which looked wrong. So I had to put the herringbone pattern back.

And that left all the square edges, which I started to attack with a drawknife, with some difficulty. The problem with the drawknife was two-fold; the first was the blade thickness (or thinness rather) and second the changing direction of the grain in the middle of the curve. You can cut a nice slice from the high point to the low, but you can't cut from the low to the high without digging in and tearing out. At first I blamed my drawknife problems on the cheap and thin knife I got at first, so I sent off for one of the beefy knives I've seen.

Unfortunately, the thicker blade only solved some of my problems. The grain still didn't want to stop splitting if I cut it the wrong way, but I could get a nice smooth cut now if I paid attention to the grain. And so I shaped the armrests, and the leading edge of the seat, with a little help from my block plane in some of the trickier areas.

After I got the shape right, that left me with smoothing and sanding before putting the finish on. One of the nice things with the rustic look I was going for (and the sharpness of the tools used to get there) was that sanding was only going to be minimal. The drawknife cuts were as smooth as if they were sanded, and the low points from the gouges were just as smooth. That left the seat, which needed a lot of sanding after the abrasive wheel to smooth it out, and all of the remaining flat sides.

The finish is a danish oil, liberally applied. I couldn't polish the "rough" areas very well, so I just had to wipe it on and off as best I could and let it dry. The seat and the armcaps were polished after each coat, about 4 coats worth, until it was smooth and glossy.

The final touch, is the plaque on the bottom with my signature, name, and date laser engraved on it.

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