Correction on “software”

Last night’s post has been bugging me when I used the term “software”. I may have been a little over zealous with this word and I don’t want to appear to be something that I’m not.  I think the internet already has enough of those.

It’s an excel file I’m working on. In my eyes it behaves like basic software and the code I’m writing for it which I know is easy stuff for developers is not so easy for me. So that’s why I used the term software.

No, no one wrote to me and asked about it, it just weighed heavily on my mind.

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Thickness,Width,Length or L,W,T?

As the internet has brought the world closer, we’re realising that we have not-so-subtle differences after all. We may speak the same language but we don’t spell exactly the same. We don’t use the same terminology of certain words, nor the same measurements, nor even how we write it down in our cut lists. It is as if we are an entirely different race that has no brethren bloodline at all.
Let me give you one example. Lumber in the US means milled timber and timber in England and its conquered nations referred to as the commonwealth refer to timber as milled timber, in fact Lumber is seldom used in England or any commonwealth nation except for Canada. Let me give you one more; in the US you would say 2×4 but in Australia you would reverse it and say 4×2.
I can live with all of that but what I find difficult to live with is the reading order of the US version T,W,L (Thickness, Width, Length). I don’t know about Europe as I have no cut lists from there but I know here in Australia and I suspect England to be the same we write L,W,T.  Now that makes sense.

American Version

46-49_ToolCabinet.indd

Australian Version

oz_cut-list
I’ve tried doing research on the topic to find out the history of why and came up empty. So my take on it is this and correct me if I am wrong. The timber/lumber yards felt they did not need to read to L,W,T because that was not the order they were working in. All they needed to know was the thickness and its width, the length was the least of their concern.  So I believe somewhere along the line some dumb arse followed the timber yards and changed what was unnatural for cabinetmakers to adopt but adopt they did.  I have tried adopting the US method and I seem to get confused every time because in my mind I’m reading it backwards.  Think about it; Do we ever thickness first? No, it’s always the length, then width. Maybe in the machine world they thickness their timber first, but in the hand tool world unless your a gym junkie you wouldn’t.
This has become an issue for me since I’ve written this software called Project Price Estimator. I started this at the beginning of last year and got side tracked and have just returned to it. I was looking at the cut list and ordered it as L,W,T but I thought the US would struggle with it written like as I struggle to read their way of writing it. The thing is I don’t know if I will ever release it to the public but it’s so cool and I know you would love it and use it everyday.  This software is the most honest bloody software on the market. I’ll give you one example, it doesn’t calculate you buying a gallon of finish, it calculates on the amount of finish used on the project at hand and the same is applied to glue, screws, nails and other fixtures including your workshop expenses like electricity, phone, rent etc, and at the very end of it all it tells you how much your build is worth.  How many times have you asked yourself and your partner what’s it worth? Well now you’ll know.
Let me know what you think of my theory.  There has to be a reason why they changed the order around.

P.S. Issue IV is currently WIP (Work in Progress) I’m not sure of it’s release date due to work commitments.  More on it closer to it’s release.

Not my last book after all!

Remember, a few posts ago when I said this is my last book I will ever purchase, well I wrong and foolish to think so. There is another that comes highly rated titled Woods in British Furniture Making 1400-1900 by Adam Bowett.

I discovered this book when I read the latest post at the Lost Art Press by Kara Gebhart Uhl about another book written by Richard Jones on Timber Technology. The title of the post is The Highlights and Lowlights of writing about trees and woods, here is the link if you want to read it. As a new writer I could very much relate to it, many times I felt like just giving up. As it turns out I’m not the only one battling with words, constant errors and mental blocks.

As I scrolled through the comments, I saw Christopher Schwarz recommended link on Adam’s book.  After spending a little time on the net researching more about it my desire to read it grew exponentially and I believe it will be one of those books that will be referred to regularly throughout my lifetime.

The book isn’t cheap at US$180 and will be the most expensive book I will have purchased, but I think it will be worth it.  I have found this book selling at US$128.34 at Potterton Books in the UK. I don’t believe they are shipping to Australia though as I cannot locate it in their shipping destinations.  Nevertheless there are others out there who are willing to ship Australia.

I will leave with a review of this book by Christopher Pickvance who is a Professor of Urban Studies at the University of Kent, Canterbury.

Woods in British furniture-making 1400–1900, an illustrated historical dictionary
Adam Bowett Wetherby: Oblong Creative Ltd. in association with Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, 2012. 360 p. 620 ill. ISBN 9780955657672 £110.00 / $180.00 (hardcover)

The author is well known to furniture historians as the author of two major books on English furniture and many articles, and since 2010 as editor of the journal of the Regional Furniture Society. His extensive knowledge of furniture, and reputation for challenging established views based on documentary and scientific evidence, especially microscopy, give one high expectations of this new work.

The study of furniture has taken a social turn. Broad stylistic currents, their international spread and their reflection in catalogues of furniture designs are still relevant but today the focus is on the social relations of production and consumption, e.g. the makers (their training, employment situation, tools and materials, and social lives) and their clients (their life styles, how furniture was placed and used in the house, and the meaning given to it.) Bowett argues that furniture-making is a manufacturing process and that the availability of timber is one factor affecting what woods furniture is made of, along with price, suitability, appearance, preference and fashion.

The book consists of an Introductory essay, an introduction to botanical names and statistical sources, the main dictionary, Appendices showing timber trade routes, lists of the Latin names of the woods included and their geographical distribution, photos of 149 wood specimens, a bibliography and two detailed indexes. It is hardbound and printed on ivory matt-coated paper. Of the 500 woods covered about one third grow in the Americas.

The book is set out as a dictionary and each entry discusses the names used for a wood over the centuries (a major task in some cases), its habitat, geographical distribution, physical characteristics (colour, hardness, etc.), involvement in trade, and its uses in British furniture. The entries range in length from a brief paragraph to extended essays (29 pp on mahogany, 13 on walnut, 11 on cedar, 10 on deal and oak, and 9 on wainscot).

However, some of the entries go well beyond this. Many discuss the use of woods for furniture outside Britain, and for uses of woods beyond furniture, such as for tool handles, nutcrackers, woodcuts, drinking vessels, shipbuilding and dyeing.  The use of lignum vitae for mortars is omitted. On the other hand, there are numerous entries where there is no known use in British furniture, or where the only recorded use is in cabinets made to show off the diversity of woods.   The author’s policy is to start from a maximal range of woods and then ask what, if any, uses they have had rather than to start from those where there is clear evidence of use in British furniture. This expands the scope of the book and provides baseline information for future furniture wood analysis. It also increases the value of the book to readers interested in furniture in the US and elsewhere.

The book is more than a ‘dictionary’ in another sense too. A major theme in all entries concerns imports and exports. In this respect, Bowett presents what amounts to a separate book on the historical timber trade, drawing on available statistics and on his identification of wood names. Here the focus is on tariffs and subsidies, European wars and alliances, British colonial policy, etc. The author’s PhD research on the mahogany trade means we are in expert hands. He is able to debunk myths such as that the expansion of mahogany imports followed the wiping out of European walnut trees, and one gains insights into shipping economics, e.g. in the 18th century sugar was a more profitable cargo from the West Indies than mahogany, and imports of the latter depended on capacity not needed for the former.

The folio format of the book and the triple column layout of the text makes it very easy to use and footnotes are at the bottom of the page. The 620 photos are of exceptional quality and many of them are of unfamiliar items. My only reservation is that by placing softwoods in a separate short section the author places botanical precision above the reader’s convenience. Not all readers will realise that hard and soft do not have common-sense meanings (e.g. yew is a softwood, lime is a hardwood) and some woods are split between the two categories (e.g. types of cedar).

The intellectual base of the book consists of a) the Kew economic botany collection of wood samples where the author spent two years on a British Academy fellowship, b) historical sources such as customs records, landowners’ records and furniture inventories, c) an extensive literature from the 16th century onwards via the appropriately named Holtzapffel’s 1852 Descriptive Catalogue[II] to Hinckley’s 1960 Dictionary of the Historic Cabinet Woods[iii], d) microscopic analysis of woods used in British furniture and e) the author’s familiarity with a very extensive range of pieces from famous houses to private collections. A great virtue of the book is that Bowett makes one aware of the limitations of these sources. The Kew collection itself is a moving reference point as botanical classifications change and species are renamed. All historical sources reflect prevailing ‘practical’ rather than scientific usages which may be inaccurate: Bowett repeatedly criticises ‘trade’ names which are more to do with selling than describing. He points out that trade statistics under-record generally, lump many woods together as ‘unclassified’, and record ports of origin of ships rather than places of origin of cargoes (and that some ship owners avoided high tariffs by shipping via low-tariff ports). Lastly, there is the inability of microscopic analysis to always distinguish between certain woods (e.g. American white oak/European oak, poplar/willow and pear/apple/hawthorn). There are thus intrinsic limits to the accuracy of a book like this. But on all these questions Bowett guides the reader carefully through the quagmire of past and present confusion.

There are a few minor slips: conflicting dates are given for the round table at Winchester Castle (p 166) and the statement that boarded chests in England start around 1400 (p 166) ignores the Bury chest from Durham Cathedral and those shown in Geddes in her Medieval Decorative Ironwork in England.[iv] Bowett uses a mistake by Cescinsky about the source of satinwood imports to refer to him as the ‘source of many misconceptions about furniture and furniture woods’ (p. 217). Given Cescinsky’s strong contribution to the study of early oak, including in his Gentle Art of Faking Furniture,[v] this is an undeservedly sweeping comment. Lastly, some sources cited in footnotes do not appear in the bibliography, e.g. Cross and Laslett on p 34, Chinnery’s Oak Furniture on p.120.[vi]

However, generally this is a quite exceptional book in every aspect, from its intellectual conception to its superb production. The author proves an impeccable guide to the material he surveys. The breadth and depth of treatment means that the book will appeal to those interested in every aspect of furniture-making in Britain and elsewhere and in the world timber trade. This is a definitive work which will be used for decades to come.

[i] Adam Bowett, English Furniture 1660 – 1714 From Charles II  To Queen Anne  1 (Woodchurch: Antique Collectors Club, 1999) and Early Georgian Furniture 1715-1740

[ii] Charles Holtzapffel,  Descriptive catalogue of the woods commonly employed in this country for the mechanical and ornamental arts (London:  Holtzapffel & Co, 1852)

[iii] F Lewis Hinckley, Dictionary of the Historic Cabinet Woods (New York: Crown,  1960)

[iv] Jane Geddes, Medieval Decorative Ironwork in England (London: Society of Antiquaries, 1999).

[v] Herbert Cescinsky, The Gentle Art of  Faking Furniture (London: Chapman and Hall, 1931)

[vi] Victor Chinnery, Oak Furniture (Woodchurch: Antique Collectors Club, 1979)

 

 

Let the new year begin

It’s 2018 in the Asia Pacific, whilst the new year hasn’t yet arrived to the rest of the world.

I went to bed early and slept in till 8. I put the kettle on and opened up one of my favourite books Roubo on Marquetry. I’ve given up smoking some 3 months ago, the withdrawals are still there some days worse than others. I’ve gained 10kg (22pounds) in the process and because of this my woodworking is a lot harder. My focus will be to lose weight and gain extra muscle. My other focus will be life planning.

  1. What are my goals and passions and what I hope to achieve with them.
  2. What’s steps do I need to take to turn a dream into a reality.
  3. Most important of all, will these goals better the lives of others including my own.

This year will be a year of productivity and enlightenment without extravagance. God willing it will be a good year.

Happy New Year to you all, I hope 2018 brings you better health and brings much prosperity in your lives. I also hope 2018 is the beginning of the end of corporate monopolisation and that small to medium size businesses flourish.

Time to reflect on your achievements.

The year is drawing to a close once more, and it’s time to reflect how I spent my time. I sit back and ponder on how rocky and trying this year has been for me. Besides battling life’s daily challenges, I’ve accomplished in starting up a hand tool woodworking magazine. This was for me a most difficult and rocky journey. So many hurdles to jump and brick walls to smash. I did what some said couldn’t be done.  Someone higher up in the food chain of corporate slavery said with a smug look on his face as he eyed me up and down. “Who are you to start-up a magazine?”  My reply was simple and truthful without an ounce of arrogance in it. “I am me.” So I did it and it proved to be very successful. The feedback I got was it’s informative, educational, inspirational and unbiased which is what a magazine should be.  I am not a journalist and therefore cannot write like one, but I’m still able to get the message across and thousands of readers are gaining the benefits in terms of knowledge and mental stimuli, which is what I hoped for.  I have many great ideas and projects I would like to make and publish in future issues, but as always I’m struggling with finance and even when I do charge $5.00 for an issue it still won’t be enough to leave my job.

I designed the HANDWORK t-shirts, they are 100% cotton, very comfortable to wear and is of good quality, but the black is expensive.  Not much I can do about that. Even though I got no interest in them and that being due to not having a fan based following, the response I got from people in the streets was astonishing. People eyeing the words “handwork” looking at the wooden jointer with curiosity and a sense of pleasure in their stare. This was an eye opener, and I did not expect it nor was I doing any marketing research. It proves that people are are sick to death of this plastic, mass producing society and are yearning for a release from it. They want to return to the simpler way of living, but have no clue how physically demanding that life is.

I also bought my last book I will ever buy again. I’ve realised I have a lot of books and I can’t fit anymore in my bookshelf and my drawer, besides I really don’t need anymore. I’ve read through most of them and will reread them all again because reading a book once is never enough to gain a true understanding.  You will be surprised how much information you miss and it’s a good refresher.

Materialistically I haven’t done so well, but in terms of knowledge and skill I have gained more in these last 12 months than I have in 25 years.  I’ve chosen this craft for myself as long as God permits me to continue down this path. I will continue to pass this knowledge onto others as long as they’re willing to listen.  I always wanted to keep the magazine free, but I just don’t have the income, resources to cover it all. I don’t lust after wealth, I just need it like you do to survive. If heaven dropped a mountain of gold in my lap, I would spend my days researching and doing, but most of all helping others in need.

Merry Christmas to you all, be safe these holidays and have a very happy and prosperous new year. God Bless and take care. Peace.

Project-Shipwrecked Pen Box

My friend William’s 50th was coming up, and he was also celebrating his graduation. Huh, graduate at 50? Yup. He has several degrees and among them masters. Now he can add a law degree to that list.

So, as we all do I “Binged” the net for inspiration. I looked for boxes and a judges hammer and Gavel. I wish I had of taken photos of the hammer, next time when I go around I’ll take it and post it on Instagram. Anyway, I stumbled upon none other than the wood whisperer’s jewellery box. He took this design from someone else while he was still learning the craft. I thought this is great and settled on that. I didn’t make too many changes as I was pretty happy with it.

I have plenty of scrap lying around as I’ve recently become a hoarder of wood due to increasing costs. I used Silky Oak for the lid and base and American Black Walnut for the sides. This Walnut hasn’t been Kiln dried properly and is the biggest SOB to work with. But since I have it and paid through my backside for it, I might as well use it despite all the difficulties of working with it.

The box measures 9 1/2″ x 3 1/2″. The lid’s thickness ranges from 3/4” to 1″ and this is dependant on whether you want a curved lid or flat. The sides of the box are mortised and the inside of the base routed or in this case chopped out.

Mark used machinery to make his box while I, as always, will only use hand tools. I had to make only one slight adjustment to make up for any hand inaccuracies. Mark would use a table saw to cut a large dado where the item would rest and he would then clean up the bottom with a straight bit router. This meant that the floor of the dado would be flush with the tenon. So, what I did after sawing the sides and chopping out the bulk of the waste was to stop short about 1/16 above the tenon to create a small shoulder with my router plane. As long as the shoulders are crisp and square this would eliminate any unsightly gaps that would have been sticking out like a saw thumb had I followed Mark’s machine methods.

Mark used barrel hinges I had none and used in its stead brass 1/8″ rods I have plenty of and inserted them both in either side.

I finished the box off with Antique Oil, I’ve become very fond of this oil recently.   All in all I enjoyed the project thoroughly and am currently making more. One for my mum, my little one, then my niece, my brother in law, friends and so forth.

So in the few past days I’ve taken an interest in box making. You don’t need a lot of materials on hand to work with, which means it’s not cost prohibitive. You work with various exotic pieces learning and understanding the temperament of each species. You also don’t need a lot of tools nor shop space to make boxes. You most definitely don’t need machinery to make them either.  However, besides all those materialistic things, for me the biggest draw I have towards them is the challenge. You may look at a box and say wow that looks beautiful and simple to make, but looks are deceiving. The challenge is, there is high levels of accuracy involved, one mistake and that’s basically it, it’s over, you’ve ruined your box.  The pieces are small, so some clamping can be challenging. Your tools must be super sharp as it should be with any project, but in this case you need to keep them super sharp, so there is no mishaps when working with your joinery.

I think making boxes is a teacher and a test of skill. Without a doubt you will learn to hone them to much higher levels. Imagine taking those newly honed skills on every project irrespective of what the project size is. Imagine this new high level of accuracy and insane cleanliness you have developed in your work becomes second nature and all this gained just from making boxes.  I think I will explore this some more. This may be the training I have been looking for.