Sunday, June 15, 2014

With alacrity and perspicacity

Might this commentary be written with cheerful readiness and a clarity of vision that provides deep understanding? In my father’s latter years alacrity and perspicacity were his two favorite words that he used at every opportunity. I think of my father today, just my second Father’s Day without one.

I will be forever grateful for the role model provided by my father. I do not take this lightly as I know many spend a lifetime in conflict over emotional damage and expectations laid down by a parent. He was not a cheerleader who thought his children could do no wrong but he was supportive of paths we chose that were quite different from his own.

 He was a conscientious objector to WWII. He never struck me. He worked quietly for social justice in personnel at the American Friends Service Committee.

By most measures he was not overly successful or particularly accomplished. He was a good tennis player and a good singer. He did not seek or make a large circle of friends. Having outlived most of his peers he will soon be forgotten.

But when he died a tearful nurse’s aide said to a member of the family, “He was the nicest man I ever met.” What an epitaph. To me this is something to aspire to. To have someone, anyone, say this about you when you are gone. That would be a life well lived.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Liquor Cabinet

I don't mind the long winter months as much as many do in my area because it means time for more concentrated efforts in my wood shop. The lawn does not need mowing, the garden lays fallow, the many outside chores of the warm months come off the to-do list. This winter's project was to make a wedding gift for my son and his new wife. Dylan is a part time bartender with a penchant for fine whiskey and Amy enjoys creating her own mixed drinks. A liquor cabinet seemed an appropriate gift.
I have been sitting on the idea of a pierced design for a panel for a long time, one like you see for the sound hole of lutes. The pattern I chose was a modified Celtic double knot which I thought fitting for a cabinet likely to hold Irish and Scotch whiskeys. I borrowed a scroll saw and spent several days cutting the patterns. I used small needle files to clean it up, and  then carved it to give a woven effect.
The panels are quarter sawn sycamore which displays fabulous figure. It's interesting that this wood is quite dull when plain sawn. I have had a large 36" X 30" half round standing in the corner of my shop for 14 years. I spotted the large downed tree at a frat house many years ago and a few inquires had some nice strong young men helping me load it into my truck. What fun to finally use it. I debated whether the busy figure of the wood would compete too much with the carving but in the end I like the look.

The curving lines of the door stiles is carried over from the side panels. It is common practice to edge glue boards together to get needed width. You can get 10" wide walnut but it is expensive and I didn't have any in my stash. In some woods such as oak this glue line can be almost undetectable but in figured woods it is more noticeable and I think less than pleasing. So this time I decided to accentuate the line with a narrow gap between the boards. I temporarily glued together the matched curved edges to facilitate cutting the dovetails and inside dadoes. Just prior to glue up they were sawn apart again and sanded.

I think these curving lines loosen up this piece, making it less formal. I like some organic feel to my work, some recollection of the source of the material. The hand carved door pulls have a surface treatment of gouge marks. Interesting to the touch and, once again,  more organic than something highly polished.
The interior includes a small drawer and a full extension pull out shelf of black glass, a place to pour your drink. Both of these elements needed a pull that was recessed or flush. A solution was found in two boards with knot holes carefully placed.

The back is ship-lapped slats that include the light colored sap wood. This wood is often discarded but I like using it in this way.

I have made many things of wood. Have I put in my 10,000 hours yet? If not, I must be getting close. It does not mean I don't make mistakes or that I am not clumsy in some efforts. But it does mean that I am able to give more thought to the look and feel of a piece than to the mechanics of its assembly.

This kind of project might be my favorite way of woodworking - following the muse with a loved one in mind.

I have posted a few more pictures that can be seen full screen at: