Back at it

So I last left off the 100 project by finishing the Narra, Holly, and Bronze version (#3).  I believe that there is definitely an improvement over #2, and it’s heads and tails better than #1a & b.   But it also revealed that there is so much more to pursue.


I keep having to remind myself of what it is exactly that I am trying to do: make it better.  Make it more beautiful.  I still am adhering to the basic principles of simplicity, but I don’t think I’ve taken it as far as it can go (not nearly).  The big question is whether or not subtle changes get a big enough bang for the buck.  Or, do I need to step out of the current paradigm and really blow this thing up.  So, to explore these variations I have started with a 3D projection of the basic proportion that I have already come up with. 


This is drafted on 11x17 paper, so I will have copies made tomorrow and use this as a template to sketch as many variations as I can come up with.  I have no idea what this is going to reveal, but I’m kind of excited for it… It’s like an adventure, really. 

I did take this pencil drawing and recreate it in Illustrator.  I don’t know if I will continue with this or not.  Just keeping my options open. 

With copies in hand, I proceeded to draw multiple variations. 

o make a long story short, I settled on one design that I liked.

This sketch really doesn’t show just what it is I have in mind- but it has what I need for the next step: a full 3D perspective projection.  All of the elements HoE exist and I have amped up the surface shapes.  There is also an element that I am adding that is not shown in this drawing, but will be clearer in the full 3D rendering as well as in some mock up pieces that I have yet to make.  I like this design for multiple reasons, but one aspect is that it is sort of weird.  It's definitely different, but I believe it is, "good".  

So next up is the full drawing and the mock up pieces to illustrate a new… idea?

Posted on March 15, 2014 .

The Narra 100

I have fallen in love with Narra.  It's a lot like mahogany, but the color is bit more savory.  I'll definitely being using it again.  

The differences from the first, cherry/maple 100 are as follows:

The top is a lighter color that I hoped would make the shadows on the carvings pop more.

There are 3 iterations of, "100" instead of just one.  The reason for this?  I really don't remember my motivations other than I thought it would look cool.  

The top is also very low gloss, as there is a scratched texture on the entire top except from the carvings.  The idea here was again to create more contrast on the carvings.  

The entire box has a lower gloss finish.  It is simply dewaxed shellac and Liberon paste wax.

The end grain has a texture within the pins and tails.  Upon seeing it, and liking it, I thought it looked like brogues, as you would see on wingtip shoes.  Therefore this texture is now called, brogues.  

After the big deal I made about the, "horn" on each corner, this box has the horn knocked off.  I like it, I didn't want to, but I do and it will probably become a standard feature.

And last, I used bronze instead of steel on the lift tabs.  The tabs are thicker, but the design is the same.  

All in all, I think the box turned out great and is an improvement over the previous iteration.    

Now I am on to the next one, or two...

Posted on May 26, 2013 .

The second 100

With the 1st 100 complete, I was generally pleased.  However, there were a few details that I felt could be improved upon.  Enter #2...

The first thing I did not like about 100 #1 was the use of birdseye maple for the top.  I was in love with it during the build, but once the finish was applied, it became too dark and I believe it washed out the carving.  What came to mind was A) use a lighter colored wood, such as Holly, 2) add a texture to the overall piece (I don't like slick and shiny...), and C) use a lower gloss finish.  I really, really like(d) the way wood appears when it is freshly sanded to about 100 grit.  I love it.  So to make the improvement to #2, I am using Holly, I expanded the 100 to 3 iterations, I carved a little deeper this time around, as it creates more contrast with the shadow lines, I textured the entire panel using a variety of tools, and though it is not finished yet, I will only use either a direct application of wax, or maybe Danish Oil.  


The sides for the this box are made from Narra.  I've never used this wood before, but I really like the color.  I am not changing anything here, really.  Same mitered dovetails, crowned top edges, interior and exterior radii.  I am going to smooth out the horn on this box, though.  Once is all constructed, I am going to add a texture to all the end grain elements.  I want to mix the texture in the overall box, and I think using the end grain may add a neat visual.


Today I glued up the box.  I used Hide glue on the last box with great success, so I used it again on this box.  What a huge bonus that ended up being, as I screwed up the first attempt and needed to disassemble it.  Even though there was remnants of dried glue on both the pins and tails I was able to re-activate the glue, add more and then proceed with a successful glue up.  


While I wait for the glue to dry, I'll spend a little time working on the new Tap Handles for Arcadia Ales.  This is a really sharp looking handle and it just so happens that my cost is a tick under what China can do.  Buy local!

Posted on April 17, 2013 .

The Horn

As I was developing the, "Hierarchy of Embellishment", or HoE...  study of many different forms revealed to me that intersecting curved surfaces result in a unique edge that becomes an element of high visual interest.  (Wow, that was a mouthful!).  Yes, high visual interest.  So much so that I committed to getting that element into my box design.  Although you can't just add in pieces to acheive this, it has to come from within the basic form  (add-ons are very far down the list in the HoE).  

Through many sketched design iterations I was happy to stumble upon the elements of a crowned top edge and large radii on the corners.  The intersection of these curved surfaces occurs not only on the outside but also the inside corners of the box.  

The outside edge now creates a, "horn" so to speak.  I stared at these horns for two days absorbing, resisting, accepting, almost paring them away, and finally deciding to keep them.  

It was so amazingly tempting to knock that horn off with a file and create a flat edge all the way around.  I think that would look absolutely fine to do that, and I fully believe I will on some version of the 100 in the future.  But for now, this was planned to be from the begining and I do like it.  I certainly does catch your eye... it is an element of high visual interest, like it or not.  

Posted on January 10, 2013 .

Having Fun

I am having a blast working on this lid.  I am definitely one of those tool geeks that loves planing simply for the sake of planing.  So the opportunity to use a plane to trim the inlay plugs flush was as good as it gets.  Man I love planes and planing...

And then on with the carving.  This is quite a bit more challenging, but being my first time is yielding new techniques and it's going great so far.  Still a ways to go, but so far so good (as in no irreversible mistakes...).


Posted on December 18, 2012 .

Back to the 100

I love this box.  The progression has been so much fun to create.  It's been difficult, but exciting too.  I made a bit of a design change on the fly, once seeing the dry fit.  It clearly needed some accent marks, so I mocked up a few ideas and landed on using plugs as inlay.  This adds a little pop to the whole thing, continues the, "round" theme, caused me to move the engraving to the middle of the lid.  So this post is about how I went about adding the inlay and laying out the engraving. 

The inlay plugs are cocobolo.  I simply used a plug cutter to make them, then used a forstner bit to counter bore into the lid, installed them and planed them down so they are just proud.  I'll figure out if I want to go flush or leave them proud later. 

 Next I drafted, "100".  I marked the center of the whole, then marked the center of each 0.

I found the center of the lid and then two-way taped a shim piece with all three centers laid out.  From there I used a compass to layout the circles.  Then I made a scribe that I could put right in the compass so I could have crisp layout lines to chisel up to.


Begin carving.


Posted on December 16, 2012 .

The EDC...

... is done!  I created a page for it, please take minute and browse the photos.  I spent the rest of the weekend drafting the letters and new logo for the KBC.

Now I can focus solely on the 100 until it is complete.  

Posted on December 2, 2012 .

Lift Tabs

As I kicked around the idea of making a handle I stumbled onto the idea of making lift tabs out of stainless steel as something a little bit different.  The inspiration came from my Leatherman Skeletool and the theme of this box being that of a mans (or womans) Every Day Carry.  I liked the idea enough to make a model out of 1/8" wood.  The mockup looked great so I went ahead and made them out of SS.  To attach them I decided to insert threaded brass into the side instead of relying on wood screws.  I created a brushed finish on the top and bottom of the tabs and a polished finish in the holes and on the edges.


 The holes create a lot of visual interest, and the shadows look very dramatic!

The next post will be after the Tried & True Oil Varnish has been applied.


Posted on November 13, 2012 .

Back to the EDC

It's not uncommon for me to have more than one project going at a time.  It's not the most efficient way of doing things, but it is good to step away once in awhile.  This was the case with the EDC. I was struggling with making and installing the stainless steel corners.  Long story short, it's not going to happen- at least this time around.  Too many problems, too much risk, for not enough aesthetic gain.  

Fortunately I had a back plan.  Not even really a back up plan, but an alternative option instead of dovetails.  This option is mitered dowels.  A strong joint with lots of visual interest, some mystery in the, "how to", and... I just like it.

The first step after layout is drilling the corners.  I use a 3/16" end mill.

Then I make dowels, which is very time consuming, but I know of no other way to get Cocobolo dowels(!).  

Then the glue-up.  24 hours later and these can be trimmed and planed flush.  

Next up will making a Cocobolo handle with Stainless Steel attachments.


Posted on September 16, 2012 .

Progress, finally.

It has been a while since my last update.  To be completely transparent, progress came to a screeching halt after I completed all the pins, tails, and miters.  I also made a lid and bottom, then decided it was time for the glue-up.  It was 92 degrees in my shop and I was hesitant to glue up because there was SOOO much glue surface.  I was concerned that by the time I got all the surfaces glued up, the glue would be partially set and that the joinery might not go together all of the way.  Long story short, all corners locked up solid about 50% of the way home.  I had an emotional melt down and went home to nap.  I spent the next week cleaning and organizing the shop, gathering my wits and understanding what do next to avoid that again.  Now I'm back!  I am back to the same level of progress with new wood.  I need to make another lid and bottom, but I am close to glue up- again.  

Posted on September 3, 2012 .

Cutting Pins and Mitres

After cutting tails first, time to move onto the pins.  With the pins scribed, I continued to use the JMP to cut them.  It went smooth, as you will see in the photo below, with one pretty big exception:I laid out the pins as if I were cutting a straight-forward set of dovetails, but these are mitred on the top and bottom.  This means that the top and bottom edge of the respective pins are NOT to be cut through.  But, I laid them out to be cut and sure enough, I cut them.  I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to recover gracefully from this.  Because glue lines are going to be visible, I may use a different wood species to make it into an accent point.  I don't know, I'll think about.

Next up was to cut the mitres.  The challenge here is cutting the mitre on the crowned top surface.  The crown makes it very difficult to scribe, which in turn makes it difficult to line up the saw correctly.  Cutting them on the JMP is difficult because the surface you are cutting is face down.  You could get around this a few different ways, but no matter how I envisioned this, I figured that I was going to have to pare them to proper with a chisel and guide block.  

So, I made a little saw guide with the JMP.

This guide is easier to line up on the corner, it has a very thin kerf, perfect for the little dozuki. It worked great.

I then continued to chop waste, pare pins, and prepare for a, "soft" dry fit.

One barely assembled corner tells me that this is going pretty solid thus far.  You can get a feel now for how the inside radius is being formed (prior to the actual radius).  

I need to tune up the final fit.  Then I need to make a top and a bottom panel for this thing.  I have the design, but I'm going in to it with a little apprehension.  So, it may change some, but I am really anxious to glue this box up!

Posted on July 16, 2012 .

Cutting tails

A chisel sharp enough to shave with, a homemade bloodwood mallet, and the JMP produced the most crisp tails I have ever done.

Note that the top full tail is taller than the others.  This is to accomodate for the saw blade kerf when the lid of the box is cut off.

Backlit because it looks cool.

This is only 25% of the tails I need to cut.  The shop is 92 degrees right now. I'll be working on these throughout the week...

Posted on July 7, 2012 .

Mitered Dovetails

This past week, while I was preparing 1" stock for the full size 100, I stopped after laying out the tails to do some practice on the Joint Maker Pro.  This turned out to be a pretty good idea, for multiple reasons.  

The first good lesson re-learned was discovered during layout.  After scribing the thickness line, I began to scribe the 45 degree miter lines on the top and bottom edges.  One of the 45's didn't end at the right corner.  I was in a groove, nice flow just scribing away.  Eventually it dawned on me, and I verified with the scribe that the thickness was varying from piece to piece.  Not by much, but I apparently planed more off one end than the other.  Bad form.  This reminded me of Rob Cosman's video on cutting dovetails.  He makes the statement that, "this is a precision joint, and we need to be precise at all the steps".  He was so right.  And I'll point out that the attention to detail prior to laying out tails and pins doesn't usually get the attention it deserves in others' instructions.  Well played, Mr. Cosman, well played.  

The other finding was that my JMP was not in tip top performance shape.  Long story short, I ended up dismantling the entire thing to find a binding spot.  The JMP is not plug and play.  It requires patience and skill in setting up the saw, as well as patience and skill in using it- getting into a rhythm, knowing what's going on with the blade and the work piece as you continually work through it.  I've only crushed the teeth on blade so far...

But, it sure is nice.  Here is a shot of a small, mitered dovetailed box.  I really like Qtr Sawn White Oak (check out the end grain).

And check out how consistent and accurate the saw and operator in concert can be:

Posted on July 5, 2012 .


I have begun creating some lettering and logo ideas for the KBC.  I've been working on this for a long time, over and over again.  It's because I like it so much.  This first round is going to be what I first use on the letterpress that I bought.  Hopefully it will be here this week.  I'm happy with the, "KBC" that I have shown here.

As for progress on the 100, I had to take a step back this past week.  To tune up my skills on dovetails, I decided to whip out a few small dovetailed boxes to sharpen up.  Well, the JMP was a bit finicky and needed to be tuned up itself.  It is working great now, and I began cutting tails today.  I'll show you later in the week when the practice boxes are complete.  

Posted on June 24, 2012 .

The Standard 100

My previous posts have been about a version of the 100 I am calling the EDC.  The EDC is a scaled down version of the standard 100.  The EDC is alive and well, but I have hit an obstacle with the steel pieces.  It is still in progress, though slow progress.  So, I decided to get moving on the standard 100.  The dimensions are 9.875" x 15.75" x 5.25".  I am using cherry for the sides.  Square board becomes grooved board.

Grooved board becomes crowned board.

Crowned board gets chopped to length.

Mill (plunge route) 3/32" strip from top inside edge so that an interior radius can be formed after construction.

Reference drawing for dovetail layout (top tail is wider to accomodate kerf when removing the lid on the table saw).

Layout tails, marking waste.  

Up next, cutting the tails.  

After much deliberation, I purchased a Bridge City Joint Maker Pro in late 2011.  I was awed when I first saw this saw(what?).  I think it was around 2006 and I watched the videos of the JMP in action, staring as a mouth-breather.  

It's that cool.  

But, it's expensive, and you don't really need it.  So for 6 years I coveted, rejected, and coveted this saw.  Then I bought it.  I bought it after I got pretty good at cutting them by hand with a Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw.  After I learned a neat table saw (dado blade) trick for cutting pins from Jeff Miller, along with the rest of his instructions for multiple methods.  I could talk about this for a while, so I won't.  But I will share the process and results later.


Posted on June 11, 2012 .

Design first, then figure out how to build it

I've never really been fan of the saying in this title.  I had always been ruled by the worry that a weak engineering situation may be inherited because the aesthetic won.  This scenario certainly does come true, but you can't be deterred until you have exhausted all options for innovation.  

Case in point are these two curves I'll show you here.  

As it applies to the 100, after exhausting what I felt to be the proper edge detail, I dismissed my top choice because it was too hard to craft.  The specifics were to create a crowned top edge that meets with a 45 degree miter.  After scrutiny, it becomes clear the difficulty in crafting this joint so that the crowned ends meet perfectly.  This is further complicated when the joinery method is for dovetails.  If it were merely a butt/mitre joint then the crowns could be matched during glue up- but this is not true with dovetails, as there is no adjustment available to you once the pins and tails come together.  So I canned this crowned edge, until I realized the alternative (in this case, a chamfered edge) was not visually appealing.  

Now I had to figure out how to make it.  It took awhile, but I became OK with the method. Here are two photos of the crowned surfaces coming together without adjustment due to the dovetails.

This victory was very short lived, though, as a new problem became evident.  The interior radius is not congruent with the outside radius and was creating a problem as to what to do with the outside radius on the floating panel lid.

Attached is a drafted EDC 100 with four different options drawn on each corner.

To me, it was obvious and clear that the only option was that all three radii need to echo, as in the bottom left corner.  No question!  But, how do you do it...

I had envisioned a few ways to do it.  But it wasn't until I was in the middle of making the first EDC that it became clear on how to do it easily, with the least amount of effort and/or opportunity to do it wrong.  I'll take photos of that method when I actually do it.  For now, you get to see an alternate method.  Nevertheless, I think I was right in choosing this detail, I like it.  

Now, what you see are photos of crowned edges coming together, and an EDC with an interior radius.  But, you are not seeing what happens when I go back to the full size 100 and have to add the interior radii with the crowned surfarce.  Wow, that is going to be a very visually interesting point that will be very difficult to craft, but it will not get the credit it deserves because it will be passed off as, "simplicity".  I am excited to have that happen, though.  Because simplicity is a total illusion.  The illusion hides all the complexity, but it's there... oh man, it's there.  



Posted on May 6, 2012 .

Designing the 100

I love drafting.  The old way of doing it, with pencils (lead holders/pointers), eraser templates, triangles, etc.  Yep, it’s a little bit slower than CAD.  But, that slowed down action helps stop problems as they arise, creates fluid design evolution, and makes time for my slow brain to process info as I am creating those very lines.   I also have an iMac, Adobe CS5, and they help a ton, but it’s just not the same.


My board is, was, the lead design board from Massey Ferguson, back when they were in Detroit.  I bought it about 7 years ago for $75 from a guy, a former independent engineering designer, who was tired of it taking up so much space in his garage.  His wife was using it as storage.  There is a ticket stapled to the back of it for admission to the  Detroit drag races...


It’s a bad ass table.  6’x 4’, Mutoh digital track machine, I bought a vintage Vemco light for it and it tilts from 90 deg to 0 deg.  Awesome.


I have purchased a lifetime worth of drafting mylar from local Engineering firms that no longer use it and from eBay, so I should be good for a while.   My drafting teacher, Mr. Poprave, would be proud.


I mention this equipment because I do believe it to be integral with the evolving design of the new 100.  I made many sketches  (mostly while on airplanes) but when it came time to put them into what would become a working drawing, that design has had many details developed, changed, and implemented while drafting.  I fully believe that the design would be less evolved without the manual drafting process.    From this drawing comes the first working prototypes, usually made from poplar, that continue to refine the design before moving on to the final materials.  

Attached are a few photos of the design process to date.  The 100 is big and bad, but I have been distracted.  While making poplar prototypes of the 100, I had the idea for a themed version of the 100 to fill the bill, the need to hold your, “every day carry”.  So what you see here is me scaling down the 100 and adding features that carry the theme of high-end watches, knives, flash lights, and other.   Hence the repeated radii and steel components.  Check out the inspiration:

That's not a gap in my miter, by-the-way.  All four corners are air tight.  There is a lot of conversation to be had based on these interior radii.  Conversation for design's sake as well as craft and how-to.  That's the next post.
Posted on April 29, 2012 .