Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The most beautiful tool in the world

As you'll recall from a previous episode, I called Drew at Country Workshops and ordered a carving axe made by Gr?nsfors Bruks AB . Drew told me that it was out of stock worldwide and he wasnt sure when it would be coming in. I was patient and willing to wait until they came ?across on the boat. Only a few days later Drew called back to let me know that the folks at Gransfors had inventory and were going to ship him some axes, and was I still interested... Oh hell yes.
After about a week I got an email from Drew that my axe was in the mail.

Then it showed up in the mailbox a few days later. 

In these days of service desks and salespeople who know less than nothing about what they are supporting or selling, its nice to know that there are places where quality is still the primary objective.
I love going to the weekend Farmers Market to get produce, smoked meats and baked goods direct from the people who produce them. There's something special about someone who stands behind their products, literally and figuratively.  
That was one of the most amazing things I saw in visiting Japan: the daily market where all the growers brought their products straight from the farm to the market. One day at the market, my mother-in-law bought pickled veggies from one vendor, then found another vendor down the way who had better looking vegetables at better prices. He bought mom's pickles form her at full price and sold her some of his, with a reminder to come to his stand first next time.

So my new axe came in the mail, and as I opened it I expected to find a high quality tool.
Here's what I found in the box:
It was beautifully crafted, forged and finished with a razor sharp edge I could see myself in, a handle that looked and felt like it had been chip-carved to a fine finish with just enough texture for a good grip. Here's a little look at their forging process.

As I looked at my axe, I turned it over and saw the initials on the poll, KS. My axe had been forged by Kjell-?ke Sj?lund. The booklet that comes with each axe has not only care and feeding instructions, but a list with the initials and names of all eleven smiths in the shop and a group photo of all their employees.
It is a rare thing these days that anyone makes something that they are willing to sign and stand behind. So, Kjell-?ke, we salute you.

As I drive around these days I'm always on the lookout for anyone doing tree work so I can scam some limbs and trunk chunks from them to have green bowl and spoon blanks.

Next step in the quest is to finish shelves along one wall of the garage to make some floor space so I can start on some projects.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

So the Swedish carving axe is on its way from North Carolina.
I've been thinking about what to do for a carving workstation.
What I arrived at is a hybrid of an original shaving horse, with the Bowl Dogs from the Country workshops video. First very bad attempt at sketchup...
Each end is 2x12s on end 18" tall, stacked 11 thick (16.5"widex11.5" deep for each). The beam is three 2x6x6' long stacked together for each side with a 2x6 space at each end. The beam is bored from the top for round dogs and holdfasts, and through the sides to mount moving parts.
One end will have a seat fixed to it, the other end will be used as an ax carving stump.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Back to it.

After taking time to get my knee fixed, get my knee better, get back to work, start getting back in shape, work some more, put the garden in, start planning a major bathroom remodel, and get addicted to crack, I mean pinterest.com, I realize I haven't done anything with the wood carving in a while.
I broke down and ordered an axe today. Everyone needs an axe.
I went back and forth between ordering from my local medium-box chain woodworking store and going out of town and dealing with Drew at Country Workshops.
I decided to go to Country Workshops. After a lengthy and pleasant conversation with Drew about the various bevels and options available, as well as the knives I was already using and other topics. I decided to stick with the axe I originally wanted, which is, alas, backordered from Sweden. About 5 minutes later, Drew called back to let me know one of the diamond hones I ordered with is out of stock and recommended a suitable replacement. Where has this kind of customer service gone?
So I wait patiently for the axe to arrive sometime this spring. Then I can start chopping up larger chunks of wood.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Thats the ticket!!!

After much thought over what to do about a shaving horse, I had come up with a set of functions that I wanted to build into the horse, and a general set of modifications to work out to some existing designs to get what I wanted.

Then I saw a video on The VIllage Carpenter about a course taught by Jogge Sundqvist on Swedish carving techniques. If you watch carefully there are several designs of what they call "Bowl Dogs".

The Bowl Dog first appeared in The Country Workshops Newsletter #3, at the course that Kari attended and filmed, there was a test drive of multiple designs. Upon inspection, Gene Faasse's effort is functionally almost identical to what I was wanting to do. His approach to the tail clamp was nifty. The only thing missing is the ability to adapt in the function of the traditional shaving horse.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Time to make the shavings

Serendipitous timing indeed. I stopped off at the local woodcraft store to pick up thumb protection and a few softwood carving blanks.

And when I got home there was a box from Ragweed Forge with my new knives. These knives all come from the knifemakers in the town of Mora, Sweden. Mora is apparently a lot like Sheffield in England. The first association anyone has with it is tool-making. The new knives are (l-r in front) short and long Sloyd knives, hook knives: single-edged closed, double-edged open, double-edged closed (hook knives are used to carve the hollows in bowls and spoons), and in the back is a drawknife used for debarking green wood. When they say these knives ship sharp, they mean SHARP. The only thing in my shop thats sharper are a few chisels and plane irons that took me a couple of hours each to get that sharp.
The first order of business will be working on the softwood blanks i got today to work out a proper handle for kitchen spoons. This will be an exercise in both learning the tools and working out the "perfect sponn handle.
Spoon handles seem to come in two basic shapes: round pencil and flat. nither one is comfortable for repeated use. I have a few ideas to work on, we'll see.
So if I wake up from surgery with a new bionic ACL in my knee, I'll have something to pass the time until i can go back to work.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Moving ahead

After looking at tools and techniques, the Swedish carving techniques for bowl and spoon making seem the way to craft for me.

I found numerous makers of Swedish carving knives, and have settled on a good basic set from Ragweed Forge. A large and small straight carving knife and a set of the three hooked knives listed as specialty carving knives.

If I get on well with those I may (after I win the lottery) move up to a set from Pinewood Forge. Either that or the metal working bug will grab as well and I'll start forging my own.

Friday, February 3, 2012

What to do, what to do...

This process of getting back into woodworking started with wanting cool power tools to rapidly make mounds of sawdust and shavings.
Then I decided to incorporate more hand tools into the work. Then all hand tools.
I finally settled on carving bowls and spoons as my path to craft.There's a connectedness to the wood and to the process of forming the piece.

been thinking and designing in my head. I spend a lot of time, A LOT, designing in my head. I have spent weeks in past revisiting things every day or so until the final design becomes clear to me.

Next project is building a shaving horse. I have several options,
1. I have plans from Lee Valley/ Veritas for their shaving horse.
2. The horse of a different color by David fisher. If I build one of these I have some ideas for mods to turn it into a general purpose seated workstation. Quite frankly as I've gotten older, ok... Old, when I stand for a long time my feet hurt and My knees get stiff.
3.I also have some ideas for modifications to the shaving horse to make it a multifunctional seated workstation.

Slight kink in the plans, after hobbling around for a while on one good leg, my new best friend the orthopedic surgeon is sending me off for an MRI on the less functional knee.
I may be functioning on more sedentary projects for a while.
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