Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shaping Wood

Away with you Straight Edges

This past week I've been working on a bench that is destined for my dining room on one long side of the trestle table I built last year. The lawn furniture my kids have been sitting on up until this point has been re-possessed...hee-hee; you think I'm kidding...
I'm using reclaimed Angelique for the main bench carcass and frames with some Mahogany off cuts for the top cross slats and hand rails. After spending my winter building cabinets, frame work and square straight surfaces, the arms on this bench offered a nice change of pace for me. Nothing straight, gentle flowing lines and all done by eye with spokeshaves, gouges, rasps and scrapers. It's a great place to be, shaping wood without any sense of structure; free form sculpting, a little off of here, a bit more of a sweep there. Liberating indeed!
I use Veritas spokeshaves and have been for the past few years; I originally purchased them when I was building boats and have found them to be extremely easy to set-up and work with. The flat bottom and curved sole were both used in this project. I haven't had a chance to try the Lie-Nielsen/Brian Boggs spokeshaves but would be interested to hear what people think of them. I'm sure being designed by Boggs and manufactured by LN they're superb. It's mostly the weight of the tools I'm mostly curious about, the Lie Nielsen models seem to be bronze and look like they'd have a bit more weight to them...something I think would be a real asset to the working of the tool.
I find this to be one of the more enjoyable elements of wood working-this shaping wood. The bottom frame pictured has bridal joints in the corners and the horizontal pieces are just sitting for now. I'm going to fasten them with only dowels so in a few years as my children grow and get taller I'll be able to take out the bottom cross piece and lower the sitting height of the bench. These bottom cross pieces were an after thought to raise it up to 3 and 4 year old height. A place for children to sit is also what inspired the flowing arms...a little gentler on the head when they bang into it! I'm gearing up for another long haul of projects and am going to try to bring some more of these techniques into my cabinetwork; a blend of sweeping frames and square, structured carcass'...I've been designing some new pieces that will easily blend these two design features...stay tuned.


  1. Tom, this sure looks like a very interesting piece. The arm rests specially. I relly like the flowing lines.
    But what I really like is the saying on your bench: "Work makes life sweet"
    I couldn't agree more. Nice touch.

  2. Thanks for the comments Regis...
    I'm always scribbling little thoughts and quotes, measurements and ideas all over my bench top. I tend to resurface it twice a year so I always have a clean slate 'round the corner.
    I remembered that quote from a few years back...a hand tool catalogue that came in the mail. The story was really nice, grass roots door to door tool salesman, selling European tools in America... I don't recall the name now thought I'm sure I still have the catalogue. It was his quote, written in German and translated. Maybe someone remembers?