Rob Gorrell - Folk Artist

Get your lanterns now. It will be dark soon.

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An update to my pole lathe.

Traditional woodworkingRob GorrellComment

Poler lathe issues  

Using a pole lathe, or more accurately a bungie lathe in my case, is a lot of fun.  It is quiet, safe and creates less dust than a power lathe.  Now I don't think I would want to work at one all day for production, but it is a great addition to my human powered tool workshop.

I first built this pole lathe a year or so ago. It was about the third lathe I had built and the first that actually worked.  However, I built it similar to a modern style lathe. The lathe sat in the corner for a long time waiting to be used.  I spend some time on a great website for those wanting to turn green wood with human-powered lathe and other green woodworking techniques, the Bodger's Ask and Answer.   It turns out that I needed to make some changes. For one, the bed of my lathe was too low. If your pole lathe is low like mine was, then you work all hunkered over and out of kilter, leading to a sore back.  According to the regulars on the Bodger's forum the lathe centers needed to be "a little below nipple height".  I found that adding risers to the lathe so that the centers were indeed nipple height made the lathe much more comfortable to use.

Another issue that came up was that as the lathe sat in the corner waiting it also dried out and shrunk more than expected. Rob Gorrell pole lathe 2

This shrinking allowed the wedges for the poppets to go in too far. It also made the tool rest out of alignment with the centers as can be seen in the two pics so far. I had been making do with some temporary shims but decided to add a thin layer to the bottom of the poppets and tool rest. I also shortened the tool rest base so that the cord would no longer rub against the rest, creating friction.  When you are the power source friction is a bad thing. It saps energy away from the tool, and you.Blog-pole-lathe-2

Blog-pole-lathe-3Now that I have made these improvements the lathe is working much better.  Now I need to learn how to turn.Blog-pole-lathe-1

The next improvement to the lathe will be a better foot pedal and a proper tailstock feed handle. More on those later.

History of the Big A$$ Beer Drinking Chair.

Painted Folk Art, Rustic FurnitureRob GorrellComment

One of the first questions  people used to ask me at crafts show was "Can I put this outside?"  My answer was always yes. Because, you can put your dining room table outside if you want to after all. The next questions were usually will it rot and will it get bugs. Again the answers were yes. This may have killed some sales, but was true. Then I would tell them that their dining room table would rot and get bugs outside also. In my experience the maple  and willow furniture that I made would get a little wobbly after two or three years in direct weather and would be in bad shape by five. However, under roof the furniture would last a long time. Just how long became apparent the other day when my wife and I tried to figure out how old the "Big Ass Beer Drinking Chair" that sits on the front porch was.  I got to digging in the files and found that it was made in 1997 or 1998. Here is a pre-digital scan of the chair in 1998. Man did I need to get a better camera and learn how to use it.We used the chair around the yard and on the porch for several years.  By 2005 it was showing some wear. We had been soaking it once or twice a year with a water sealer to preserve the chair. Here is the chair on the porch in 2005.

Well, by this time even water sealer was losing out to bugs and nature. The bark had held on longer than I thought it would, but was coming loose. We stuck the chair out in the yard on the bricks to let nature take her course with the chair. At some point we dry brushed some white paint on the chair, because as the glorious Dolly Parton says, "a good coat of paint makes any old barn look good".

At some point we just painted the whole thing white and put it on the porch. I don't know when that was, but there have been several coats of white.  One leg is a little short now and I need to replace a piece in the back, but the chair is still functional and will hold you up while drinking a beer or whatever.

 

Why did I write this rather pointless post? Not sure. I guess I was just surprised that the chair has lasted this long.

Making a large wood tankard.

UncategorizedRob Gorrell5 Comments

Each time I make something in my shop I try to improve on a technique that I am learning, and often try to add a new skill along the way. This time I decided to try my hand at making a wooden tankard.  The tankard I made was based on an 1808 example that was found in Denmark.

Right off the bat I could see that adding the handle was going to be a challenge. In most examples I have seen the handle is an integral part of the body, with a stave and handle being made in one piece.  If you are planning on using metal bands this creates a problem as there is not simple way to get the band installed because of the closed loop of the handle.  In this image of the original tankard you can see that the handle is made in two sections which would make the banding much easier.I tried to get in touch with the person who originally posted this image but have not heard back yet.  It would be great to find out more about the original. You can also see that the maker opted for wood banding. But I have not tackled that challenge yet.

I am skipping past splitting and roughing in the staves to show what happens if you read your angle gauge wrong.  When I use this gauge I have to remember that the 10 reading equates to a 10" radius, not a 10" diameter, which is what I wanted. I think I will make a new gauge that is layout in diameter numbering so that I don't make this mistake as often.

After re-jointing all of my staves to the proper angle I was ready to raised the vessel. After raising the sides and making some fine adjustments to the angles I made it to this point. You might notice the adjustable pipe clamps. I end up using these when I don't yet have a proper band the right size handy.  Not something you would do a living history event, but works well when no one is looking. Once all the joints looked good it was time to trim the top and bottoms to get the body of the tankard ready to croze.There was a good bit of scorp and spokeshave work to be done to get the body nice and round and ready for the croze and bottom.  A good cooper would be much closer to a finished shape at this point, but once again it is apparent that I am not a good cooper yet.  It is important that the inside of the bottom be very close to round or the bottom will not fit correctly.

The next photo is of my crozing tool that I made at Tiller's International, and the croze (bottom groove) that was made with the tool.

Up to this point this project moved along reasonably well. Making the handle and lid was, well, interesting.  Maybe in a later post I will do another and show more details.  The high point was that I got to use my newly acquired Stanley 45 to make the groove for the locking mechanism to ride in. The 45 takes some tinkering to get set up and ready, but it sure is fun to use.

From here there was much filing and sanding to get the lid and handle finished.  Numerous "opportunities for future improvements" were found during this project. I ended up with a functional lid, but is not graceful by any means.

But in the end I ended up with a tankard that is fully functional and will be useful at our living history events this fall.  There will definitely be a Tankard 2.0 to build on the  results of this project.  But, as Jethro Bodine is famous for saying, "All great artists must suffer". Except for him that meant skipping breakfast.

The finished tankard.

Variations on a Parisian street sign.

Folk Art, Painted Folk Art, Traditional woodworking, WhittlingRob GorrellComment

The Carnavalet Museum in Paris has a fantastic exhibit of trade signs made up of original metal signs saved as many sites in Paris were being torn down to make way for new streets and buildings.  One of my favorite signs was this all metal sign of  a trumpeting angel.  I have no information about the actual original use for the sign. To me she is a kick-ass messenger trumpeting some important message to passers-by.  I feel like the branches she carries might be some sort of olive branch, symbolizing the possibility of peace and joy.   I thought about this sign many times after we got home and eventually decided I wanted to make a folk art carved sign inspired by this street sign.  I wanted to combine some different materials such as copper, steel and wood to create my own version of this great antique sign.

I started out with a basswood blank and cut out the blanks for the wings and body of the angel.  I'm not much of a carver, so the carving is pretty basic. I was going for some sort of loose quilted look.  You can see where I planned to attach the wings and cape later on.

After I carved and sanded the wood parts, and put the parts together, it was time to base coat the angel.  I started with a sort of light mustardy color.  I did not want this piece to end up all dark right off the bat, so I did not antique the paint layers very much. This photo was taken early on in the painting process. And yes, I know the head looks a little Cro-Magnon at this point. Shelley helped me get it looking a bit more human before the sign was finished.

And yes, that is an awesome post vise.

I created a sort of flowing cape from some salvaged copper next and fastened it to the body behind the wings. The original sign had another apron of sorts in the front but I decided that I did not like the way it looked. So I left if off. 

It was at this point that I ran into a problem, the hair. In my mind I wanted to sign to have hair inspired by the way some girls wear their hair in big loose style like this (as a guy I guess I really don't know what the style is called, but this model is very pretty).

  My technique was to curl sections of wire and glue a number of them into the head of the angel.  Well........it did not exactly come out as I imagined. It looked more like a victim of a bizarre accident with an extension cord.  We worked on it later on in the project and got the "hair" under control. It isn't what I envisioned, but at least it is not demonic anymore. The foliage on the original sign was flat and cut out of the metal sheet with the rest of the sign. I wanted to give the sign work shape and movement with a copper garland.  It took a while to cut out all of the leaves, shape them on the mandrel and solder them to the twisted copper wire stems. I am happy with the way it came out in the end.  In fact, after seeing how the foliage came out I decided that I wanted to leave out the hanging sign that the angel was holding in the antique sign.  The trumpet is also copper as was pretty simple to work out.

The remainder of the project involved the wavy metal banner that supports the angel.  Rather than try to figure out some way to hide the bars that attach the angel to the banner, I decided to make them a prominent part of the design. Since it was a nice day when I was working on this part I used my smaller outdoor forge.  This required some creative fire management to get the large banner supported during the several heats needed to work up the banner and straps.  The hanging bars are attached to the banner with hand hammered copper rivets.

So at the end of it all we ended with the angel sign shown below.  I think it still needs a little work here and there to really finish off the project. The next project in this grain will be a scrolled metal wall bracket to support the sign outward from a wall.