Author Topic: Spring 1 2012 Chapter Meeting Report  (Read 1514 times)

Bill Minnick

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Spring 1 2012 Chapter Meeting Report
« on: August 12, 2012, 10:09:29 PM »
Society of American Period Furniture Makers
Ohio River Valley Chapter
2012 Spring Meeting in March
Rio Grande University, Rio Grande, OH

On March 24 and 25, the Ohio River Valley Chapter held a very enjoyable and informative 2-day meeting at Rio Grande University in Rio Grande, Ohio. Approximately 50 SAPFM members from OH, MI, WV, KY, IN and PA attended. The chapter thanks Eric Matson, SAPFM member and head of the Fine Woodworking Technology Program at Rio Grande University, for hosting the meeting.

As usual, the meeting started with the customary Show & Tell. During this session, everyone learned at least one new woodworking tip or technique.

Allan McNeel presented a program on profile scrapers. He started his presentation by demonstrating how to sharpen a card scraper. For a card scraper to work correctly, you must have two flat and polished face surfaces and a flat and polished edge. Then the edge is rolled to form a burr. Instead of using oil or water stones, Allan likes to use diamond mini-hone sharpeners to flatten and polish the surfaces. Allan suggests using a burnishing tool or a chisel handle to roll over the edge and to draw out the burr, in other words, form a hooked edge.

When doing a lot of scraping, the blade can heat up and burn your thumbs. Allan suggested attaching a promotional refrigerator magnet to the blade to block the heat buildup from reaching your thumbs.

Allan also demonstrated sharpening a goose-neck scraper. He polished both faces with the diamond mini-hone sharpeners. For the outside edge radius, he attached a small piece of wood to the diamond mini-hone sharpener to keep it 90 degrees to the face of the goose-neck scraper. Unlike a card scraper, after the edge is sharp, Allan and others in room stop at this point and do not put a burr on edge.

Several members brought profile scrapers that they made and a lively discussion on how they built them followed. To cut the profile into a metal blade blank, chainsaw files were recommended. One member uses very thin metal cut-off wheels to remove the bulk of the metal when cutting in the profile.

When using a profile scraper to cut across the grain, Allan suggests taking very light cuts and stopping a little short of the final profile. The profile is finished with carving gouges.

Next George Walker presented a program on how to design period moldings for case furniture. Over the last several years, George has studied at length the underlying principles of traditional designs. He believes furniture with good proportions will be appealing whether the piece is contemporary or period. Good proportions are the key to good design.

George enlightened the group on the early history of Greek and Roman architecture. Palladio, an architect active in the Republic of Venice in the early 1500's, wrote The Four Books of Architecture, which he based on measuring classic orders in different architecture all over Italy. Palladio is widely considered the most influential individual in the history of Western architecture. Chippendale, Sheraton and other famous designers of furniture were all strongly influenced by Palladio.

George discussed how sizing, multiple parts, complexity and facial angles contribute to a properly designed crown molding, whether for an interior room or for a piece of furniture. Well-designed crown moldings are normally based on the architectural classic orders that have evolved over thousands of years. The crown molding on top of a period cabinet was most likely based on the cornice on top of a classic structure, which was based on the classic order. Many early cabinetmakers applied the principles of classic order when designing their furniture, but often they would alter the design to suit their personal tastes.

Based on classic order in interior architecture, the cornice in a room would be approximately 1/18 the height of the overall room. Because a lot of period furniture was based on classical proportions, the cornice on furniture would be 1/18 the height of the overall piece. Once again, if the cabinetmaker didn't like the results, he would adjust this proportion. It was common practice to adjust proportions by 1/6 the size either up or down.

On crown moldings, the most common and dominate features are convex and concave shapes. The concave shape (like a cove) gives an attractive shadow line at the top. George stressed that shapes must work together. You don't want to put a convex shape next to a convex shape or a concave next to a concave. You need to mix them up.

Often times, to make a molding look right, a flat horizontal surface like a fascia/fillet is used to separate the curved parts of the molding. This is referred to as punctuation because it signals the end to one part and the beginning of a new part. To determine the size of a fascia/fillet at the top of the molding, the cabinetmaker would divide the top portion into five parts with the top part determining the proportion for the fascia/fillet. If it appeared too heavy, he would divide it by six parts. This technique to determine the size of its fascia/fillet also applied to the bottom portion of the molding.

George then discussed curvature and how we visualize curves. To help illustrate this, he asked the group to do a few exercises drawing circles and curves with a compass on a sheet of paper. George stated that the following simple curves are found everywhere in period furniture: half, quarter, and one sixth of a circle.

George explained facial angle by stating it is how far the molding gets tipped in or tilted out from vertical. At eye level, a molding should be almost vertical; below eye level, moldings need to be tilted in; and above eye level, moldings should be tilted the other way. If moldings are not tilted properly, a person will not see it correctly.

The group found George Walker's presentation fascinating and full of helpful design recommendations. George is in the process of writing and publishing his first book on classical design. Many in the group are eagerly looking forward to reading more on this intriguing subject when the book is released later this year.

On Sunday, Brooke Smith demonstrated how to hand cut dovetails. He started his talk by warning the group not to let hand cutting dovetails intimidate you. You'll make mistakes and cut some ugly dovetails, but don't be afraid to try.

When laying out and marking dovetails, Brooke uses an X-acto knife instead of a pencil. He strongly recommends indicating the waste areas by marking the area with a pencil. He then cuts to the scribed line with a hand saw. All angle cuts going in the same direction are sawn at the same time. Brooke then switches and does all the lines angled the other way.

Normally, Brooke cuts tails first then pins. But he says the ease of marking out the mating piece determines whether he cuts tails or pins first.  For example, if he is dovetailing a small drawer, he will do pins first. He explained that if he did the tails first, he wouldn't be able to get his knife into the tiny opening and successfully mark the pins. Brooke likes to use a band saw to remove the bulk of waste. He begins by cutting straight in next to one of the hand-sawn lines. When he gets close to the baseline, he changes direction and curves toward the opposite corner stopping when the blade hits the opposite saw line. He backs out the band saw blade and repeats this technique from the other side. Then he nibbles out the remaining center section until only 1/16 to 1/32-inch of wood remains before the base line. This technique is most effective when you have very small dovetails with small openings. The remaining wood is removed with a chisel.

On half-blind dovetails, he explained that to remove the waste, you basically cut down with a chisel and then cut in from the side to remove a small wedge of wood. You continue to repeat this procedure until all the waste is removed. Brooke likes to stay 1/16 inch away from the scribed lines. By staying back from the scribed line, you avoid compressing the wood fibers with the chisel thus damaging the line. He then carefully pares away the remaining 1/16- inch of waste to the line. Brooke likes to use a 1/4 or 1/8-inch chisel held at an angle to reach the line in the corners. You can also grind a skewed edge on a chisel or use a skewed carving chisel to reach into this area.

When gluing dovetails together, the long grain faces are the only ones that matter for joint strength. When initially cutting furniture pieces to size, always keep the off-cuts which can be cut into small taper wedges that can be used to patch any gaps in the dovetails. Match the grain direction of the piece being repaired, add glue and tap them into place. A wide chisel will cut the patch flush. For those in the group that had not cut dovetails by hand, Brooke's presentation was certainly a confidence builder and a motivation to give dovetails a try.

Once again the Ohio River Valley Chapter had another outstanding meeting. Most notable was everyone's willingness to share his or her knowledge and experience. Special thanks go out to the presenters for preparing very interesting and educational programs.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2012, 11:26:57 AM by Bill Minnick »


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Re: Spring 1 2012 Chapter Meeting Report
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2012, 06:22:20 PM »
Thanks for posting the report and the photos.

Please be sure to let us know when George's book will be availablel I could really benefit by learning more about those design subjects; the moulding elements, proportions and sizing were really imteresting.