Thursday, December 24, 2015


A while ago, during my Master's degree, I saw a fellow student using a drawknife to shape the legs of chairs. I admired her competence and the elegance of the tool. (See some of her pieces here.) 

A friend of mine has inherited many tools from his grandfather. When I saw the drawknife, I asked if I could borrow it. I soon realised that it is a tricky tool to master. Even a very slight change in angle can change drastically the way the blade bites into the wood. I tried to make the same stroke multiple times, and each time had a different result. Partly because of my human error, partly because the action of the blade on the wood also depends on the direction of the grain within the piece. 

It worked fairly well to taper a dowel; there were only a few times when it grabbed more than I would have liked. When I started using it to soften out the edges of my rectangular pieces, there was more trouble. I found it worked well in a certain direction, but as soon as I turned the piece around to do the other side, it would grab and splinter the edge. 
I think it depends on the way the piece was cut. In the picture above, you can see that the fibres are angling outward against the direction that I was pulling the drawknife, so it's obvious that splinters would happen much easier.

To finish rounding the corners, I ended up using a rasp, which is much easier to control.

Le poids de l'hêtre

The title of this post is a play on words. In French, Milan Kundera's book 'The Incredible Lightness of Being' translates to 'L'incroyable légèreté de l'être', and the word for beech wood is 'hêtre' which of course sounds exactly the same.

So, I guess I don't really need to explain- beech wood is not at all light. It is hard and heavy, but very nice to work with. It planes beautifully, responds predictably to filing and sawing, doesn't warp, and holds an edge well. I can see why it is a favourite for furniture making. Now I just need to improve my sawing skills!

I have a new toy (well, a new tool...): a Japanese saw. I like it because the blade is tall but thin, so it acts as a guide for itself. It makes straight cuts easier. I'm trying to make a chair out of beech wood so it has been very useful for cutting tenons.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Spoons 2 and 3

Although walnut is beautiful when polished, I am questioning whether it was the best choice of wood for spoons. I find that as soon as I get the spoon wet (i.e. eat something with it) there are tiny fibres that come out from the surface, making it less smooth. I have put many coats of oil and rubbed a mixture of oil and beeswax onto the surface, but it still doesn't seem to be completely waterproof. I think I'll test out beech for my next spoons.