Author Topic: Spring 2 2010 Chapter Meeting Report  (Read 1549 times)

Bill Minnick

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Spring 2 2010 Chapter Meeting Report
« on: August 22, 2010, 02:18:57 PM »
Society of American Period Furniture Makers
Ohio River Valley Chapter
2010 Spring 2 Meeting
Brian Neeley's Farm, Lancaster, OH


On May 8 and 9, the Ohio River Valley Chapter held in Lancaster, Ohio another very entertaining and informative 2-day meeting. Approximately 31 SAPFM members attended from OH, MI, WV, KY, VA and PA. The chapter expresses thanks to Brian Neeley and his family for hosting the meeting and allowing the chapter to use their shop.

The Ohio River Valley Chapter was very fortunate to have SAPFM member Jeff Headley, owner of Mack S. Headley & Sons, a fifth generation working shop in the Winchester, Virginia area and Steve Hamilton, his business partner, in attendance to conduct the Saturday afternoon program. Jeff represents the fourth generation in his family building furniture. Jeff and Steve were traveling to the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Indianapolis to teach a weeklong class on building an 18th-century Shenandoah Valley tall case grandfather clock. They also offer a wide variety of workshop classes in their shop in Winchester. The chapter was fortunate that Jeff and Steve stopped to present a very informative program, and they even displayed the clock in Brian's shop.

As usual, the meeting started with the customary Show & Tell. We had several very interesting presentations, and everyone learned at least one new technique or woodworking tip.

Jeff and Steve's program focused on period furniture construction techniques. They emphasized how they use both hand and power tools when building period furniture. To illustrate period construction techniques, Jeff and Steve brought along several pieces of furniture that they use as teaching aids. Instead of being glued together, these knockdown furniture pieces uses drywall screws to hold the parts together and everything comes apart. They also brought several specialty jigs that they use to make furniture details.

Jeff started the program by explaining that period furniture uses basically six joints, and the key to successful construction is how these six joints are used. He also stressed that you must always take into consideration that the individual parts are going to shrink and swell. Seasonally wood moves and furniture shrinks every year a little more than it swells. Over its life, a furniture part can shrink up to a 1/4 inch. Over winter, furniture dries out because it's exposed to indoor heating. In May it begins to swell. When building furniture, you need to consider wood movement especially when you're fitting drawer fronts.

Jeff demonstrated a jig and shop-made scraper that holds and cuts the flutes into columns like those on the clock's hood. Although this can be done on a lathe, their shop prefers to use a wood jig to hold the column in place. The scraper blade, made from a used saw, cuts the column from the side. Multiple passes are made along the column until the final depth of the flute is reached, which is governed by how far the blade protrudes from the scraper holder.

Next Jeff assembled a holding jig used to cut and carve the reeds on a leg. When attached to the end of the workbench, the jig provides access to both sides of the leg to facilitate working with the grain. A router equipped with a shop-made saw blade cutter bit with a bearing on the shaft cuts the reed. Although the radius of the leg can vary, the bearing ensures a consistent depth of cut. Carving and backbent gouges are used to round the saw cut, and a shop-made scraper finishes the surface. Jeff hopes to manufacture and offer these special router cutter bits in the future.

The procedure to make continuous or stop-fluted quarter columns typically found on the case front corners was explained by Jeff. A stop-fluted column has a bead that intersects each flute. To make these flutes, Jeff relies on a shop-made holding jig and a scratch-stock cutter filed to the proper profile. Unlike the jig for the clock's hood columns, the scraper cuts directly above the column. The jig, shaped like a cradle, firmly holds the column blank. By pushing and pulling the scratch-stock cutter along the top of the cradle, each of the five flutes is cut.

Jeff demonstrated the benefits of a cabriole leg holder that was based on a design his grandfather developed years ago. This holder lets the user work from both sides, at various heights and at either 45 or 90 degrees depending on which of the two holes are used.

Jeff explained the construction techniques for making a pedestal table post and for attaching the legs. Although most posts consist of two pieces glued up, some are solid. While the pedestal post is still a square blank, Jeff cuts three notches for the leg tenons. Then he uses a table saw to cut off the corners, and a lathe to round the blank.

Disassembling a reproduction Thomas Affleck Philadelphia table with rope twist carved legs, Jeff explained its construction features. He pointed out a dovetailed rail with a shoulder that acts like a half tenon to keep the rail from racking. When making tenons, Jeff suggests chamfering the inside edges. The tenons will slide into the mortise like a wedge preventing the wood from splitting. The table's Marlborough feet at the bottom of each leg are glued on with the grain running with the leg. Steve Hamilton demonstrated how the gadroon edge on the table rail is carved.

On chests with fully exposed rails, Jeff recommends using a full dovetail. But on Winchester and other Southern period furniture where the rail is usually covered by a 1/4-inch-thick wood strip, a full dovetail is not necessary. A half dovetail is just as strong and takes half the time to cut.

Another one of Jeff's interesting tips is when using poplar for the secondary wood on drawers, chose white-colored poplar over green or purple. White poplar is harder and better for bearing surfaces. Green- and purple-colored poplar will wear much quicker.

A feature commonly found on Federal furniture is cockbead which protects the veneered drawer front from chipping off when the drawer is pulled out and pushed in. Jeff suggests not completely covering the ends of drawer dovetails with the cockbead. Set the cockbead in only 1/2 inch to 3/8 inch. Many non-Federal-style chests with solid wood construction still feature cockbeading because it looks good. On many New England period pieces, cockbead was applied to the case and not the drawers. This greatly complicates construction.

Inside a reproduction 1798 Winchester desk, Jeff revealed many of the thirteen secret compartments including several bill drawers. The desk's fallboard features a breadboard edge, which is mitered at the top. Jeff uses a router to cut within a 1/16 inch of the marking-gauge line and removes the remaining wood with a chisel.

To finish period furniture, Jeff recommends shellac, but strongly suggests spraying lacquer on top to protect the shellac from water spots. Normally, he only stains the inside of drawers, and he will not finish the inside of the case unless required by the customer.

Throughout the presentation, Jeff and Steve were very informative and did an excellent job answering the many questions the group had during their program. The Chapter really appreciates their taking the time to stop and present this excellent program on period furniture construction techniques.

On Sunday Tod Herrli, a SAPFM member from Marion, Indiana and a builder, teacher and expert on wooden planes, presented a very interesting program on sharpening plane blades. He focused on sharpening planes with hollow, round and complex profiles.

To start the program, one chapter member asked Tod to sharpen his dull Stanley 45 plane blade. Tod started the sharpening process by flattening the back of the plane blade using a piece of drywall screen placed on a plate of glass. He prefers drywall screen over silicon carbide paper because it will not choke with chaff like a paper-backed abrasive. At the grinder, Tod sharpens the plane bevel using grinding wheels that he has customized by rounding their edges. He uses 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4-inch wide course grit wheels. By using these narrow, rounded wheels, Tod can reach into the coves on the blade to grind them. The radius of the wheel needs to be smaller than the radius of the blade. He sets the angle of the tool rest to match the bevel angle. During grinding, Tod periodically dips the blade into a cup of water to cool it. When you feel on the back of the blade a uniform burr along the complete profile, you are done grinding. You return to the lapping plate and roll the burr back to the bevel side. A buffing wheel will remove this burr. When grinding plane blades and chisels, you should sweep them back and forth to compensate for irregularities in the grinding wheel surface. Frequently dress the grinding wheels and keep them clean. A properly dressed wheel cuts better, which reduces the buildup of excessive heat.

When using a wooden molding plane, you want a nice even blade projection that you can barely see. You grind the blade, put it in the plane, check it and if necessary regrind it. This is a tedious process, but it is necessary.

Tod's buffing station has two buffing wheels and he works without tool rests. One buffing wheel is cardboard and the other hard felt. He warned the group that a soft cloth wheel can quickly round over the edge. For a buffing compound, he recommends a chromium oxide abrasive embedded in wax.

Tod initially contacts the buffing wheel by bringing the heel of the blade bevel into the wheel. He then raises the tang of the iron until it contacts the cutting edge. To ensure that you are in contact with total bevel, flip the blade over and check for deposits of buffing compound or residue at the tip. If present this will indicate that you haven't reached the blade's edge. After working the bevel side, remove the slight burr on the backside.

If your plane is set properly with a razor sharp blade and a fine projection, you will get an excellent surface finish. Normally, Tod buffs his plane and chisel edges five to six times before regrinding. And he can buff an edge in 30 seconds. An excellent way to tell how well a plane is cutting is by listening to the sound of the cutting action.

In the final presentation, David Conley, Ohio River Valley Chapter Leader, discussed the Veritas Power Sharpening System. David demonstrated how the Veritas System sharpens a plane blade by using the two quick-change, dead flat platters and abrasive-backed discs. Changing platters automatically results in a 1 degree angle increase which produces a micro-bevel. To camber the blade, David applies more pressure on the outside edges. On his finest bench chisels and smoothing planes, David uses an 8000 waterstone to finish the sharpening process. David also sharpens his lathe tools on the Veritas Power Sharpening System. To sharpen a lathe gouge, he uses a shop-made wood jig to help roll the gouge at a consistent angle. When using waterstones to flatten the back of a blade, David suggests working the blade partially off the edge of the stone on approximately half the strokes. If you stay in the center of the stone, grit will build up on both sides, which will camber the bottom of the blade, and it will not be flat.

To flatten his waterstones, David uses a special truing stone to re-establish the flat surface. To ensure all areas of the surface are flat, David marks the waterstone surface with pencil lines. When the lines disappear, the surface is flat.

Once again the Ohio River Valley Chapter had another wonderful meeting with lots of fellowship. Most impressive was everyone's willingness to share their knowledge and experience. Special thanks go out to the presenters for preparing very interesting and educational programs. The next meeting (Fall 2010) will be at Dick Reese's Workshop in Centerville, Ohio (suburb of Dayton) on August 28 & 29. Check the website for details.
« Last Edit: August 22, 2010, 02:31:02 PM by Bill Minnick »