Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Lumber update

Three weeks ago when I last wrote, I mentioned that it was warm enough to work outside in a T-shirt. That has all changed now. We have had some real cold weather since then, and a nasty storm last weekend which saw heavy, wet snow blowing horizontally. The wind was strong enough to wreck the raincap of the workshop flue pipe, so I spent a couple of hours yesterday getting that fixed.

The green wood that I was working on is now all stickered in the storage area. It is between the dust extractor and the shop, so returning air is passing over the wood. I am also cracking open the adjacent window so that the woodstove will suck fresh air in too, to help speed the drying process. My moisture meter only gives readings below 20% moisture content but yesterday I found one piece that was just beginning to give a reading. It seems to be drying quicker than I would have anticipated. Before then I was getting an idea of the moisture loss from a block of wood balanced on an old kitchen scale. It has dropped from 4lb 8oz to 4lb.

As well as the sawn lumber, I also bought a lot of the slab wood. This all had to be cut up into smaller pieces, or rough turned on the lathe to make bowl blanks. That all took some time, but it is done now and I can look forward to having plenty of relatively cheap material to work with next year. There are still two large pieces out in the yard ready to be cut up and roughed out into salad bowl blanks. I hope to get that done soon before it starts to split.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

The business of woodturning

There is more to being a woodturner than working at the lathe turning out beautiful hollow vessels. Today was quite atypical of my working day and actually seems worth writing about!

I was on the road at 7am in someone's truck, on the way to fetch that lumber I had cut on Monday. Apart from heavy rain on the journey out, everything went well. The logging truck that was blocking the forest road had just finished loading so we didn't have to wait long. My lumber was still there too! Having lived in high crime areas in the past, rural Nova Scotia takes some getting used to. The loading was heavy work, but it didn't take too long. Then back to the foresters house where he has a big pile of burls for me to pick through.

We were back to my shop within four hours and the rain had stopped. Unloading was a breeze with a dump truck! But the wood was quite dirty, having been sawn in the woods, and was covered in sticky wet sawdust. So I decided to hose it all down to clean it up. The oak was already staining from contact with the steel saw blade, and maple develops blue stain if it stays damp for too long, so I think that cleaning it up is a wise move since the surface will dry so much quicker. It was a lovely warm day, 18'C, and a strong wind was drying the surface of the wood quite quickly. We don't get many T-shirt days in November, so it was nice to be working outside.

That green lumber was heavy though, so I was glad to take a break from my labours. At 2pm I had to go and meet a business advisor from Pictou Regional Development Commission. I am thinking about changing the name of my business, and I wanted to talk it through with someone to see if its a totally crazy scheme or not. It was a very useful exercise, and she is going to do some research on my behalf. We met at my local library which has office space available, a very useful facility that several organisations use as satellite office.

After that I returned home to find the wood quite dry, so I carried it all into the workshop and stickered it. I still have to trim the ends of the boards and endseal them to prevent them from cracking. Then they will be stickered in the storage area until they are air dried (<18% EMC), at which point they can go into the kiln or dry room, but that is months away yet.

Then it was time for a quick walk with the dogs. They had missed their morning walk since it was dark when I left home this morning. But we only had time for a short walk before I headed back to the libray again. This time it was to meet delegates from the C@P Summit which is taking place in Pictou. Although not strictly a business meeting, I had supplied the conference with bottle stoppers for the delegates goody bags, so I wanted to help out in return.

Tomorrow I still have a bunch of smaller pieces of wood to sort through and process, but I think the really hard work is done.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Busy, busy, busy

I can't believe it's been nearly a month since I last blogged! But it has been craftshow season. That and a short notice order for personalised bottle stoppers has kept me pretty busy. But that is all behind me now. My last show was last weekend, and I delivered the bottle stoppers yesterday morning. The rest of the day was spent in the woods getting some hardwood lumber sawn to my specifications. It was a glorious day considering it is the middle of November.

The fellow who owned the logs had a friend with a portable bandsaw mill come and cut the wood. Those machines are pretty neat. Most of the log handling is done by hydraulics, turning the log to the required orientation and clamping it in place while the bandsaw makes a one-eighth cut along its length. By mid afternoon I had several hundred board feet of maple, oak, white ash and black cherry stacked ready for collection. I have someone with a truck lined up to go collect it with me on Thursday. I just hope its still there!

Today I have been tidying up the shop, moving things around to make space for all this green lumber. My usual drying procedure involves air drying in the shop, then out to the solar kiln, then back into the dry room to get it down to its final 8% moisture content. Its quite a bit of handling, and could probably be made more efficient. Maybe oneday. In the meantime it keeps me fit.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

World Rainforest Week

Continuing my search for information I have found a few websites worthy of note.

Eco-portal.com has a whole section on forests and forest destruction. Not only does this site have a good directory of relevant websites, but also a sidebar full of links to current news items.

The Rainforest Action Network website is a valuable source of information. And did you know that this is World Rainforest Week? This year they are focussing on Indonesia and encouraging a young persons letter writing campaign against Georgia Pacific.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Working with exotic woods - a dilemma

Most of the wood used in my shop was grown in Nova Scotia, and some from elsewhere in North America. A very small percentage though are exotic species, mainly from South/Central America and Africa. It is this last category that causes me some misgivings. Whilst it is very pretty wood, and very popular with customers, I do wonder what impact my use of this wood is having on the forests where it grows.

Some say that properly harvested woods help save the forest because it makes the local people see the value of the wood and leads to sustainable management practices. Surely this is better than burning the forests to make way for agriculture, which the local soil can only sustain for a few years. Also I have read in the past that large quantities of these timbers are used for low-grade applications such as construction (often for shuttering which is later discarded) and pallets, so does my contibution metter? Getting a balanced picture of the situation is not easy, but I think it is reasonable to conclude that rainforests are becoming seriously depleted.

Over the next few days I plan to investigate some of these issues, but in the meantime you can help save the rainforest by visiting The Rainforest Site and clicking the Save Our Rainforests button. Sign up for their daily email reminder service by following the Remember to Click link.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Why is this bowl so expensive?

That question was asked of me today about a very nice bowl that I took to the craftshow. One of the biggest hurdles many craftspeople face in their marketing is educating the public about the value of their work.

I must say straight away that this piece was turned from a very unique piece of wood, in that the branch had made a complete U-turn as it grew. This has resulted in some interesting figure and a bark inclusion right into the center of the bowl. This was one of those pieces of wood that are difficult to mount on the lathe, and not without risk once it starts spinning due the 'defects' hidden within.

The natural edge around the rim of the bowl not only adds to the interest of the piece, but also requires considerable skill to turn. As the wood spins on the lathe, the handheld tool is alternately cutting wood then air, making it want to bounce around. Much skill is needed to overcome this and ensure that the tool doesn't jam in the wood. This is most definitely workmanship of risk, and a moments inattention can lead to the work being totally ruined, or worse.

Then there was the skill that went into identifying the unique features of the piece of wood, designing a form to suit these features and then working skillfully to overcome the challenges that woods of character often present. This bowl is most definitely a one-of-a-kind piece of art that took a lot of skill to make. In my opinion it is worth every penny I am asking for it. Until the day that a customer agrees with my opinion, I am quite happy to keep this piece in my studio to admire myself and as a talking point for visitors. It certainly drew many admiring comments today.

Friday, October 17, 2003

A windfall

Hurricane Juan left a trail of detruction in its wake as it passed over Nova Scotia. One casualty was the arboretum at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College.

A friend of mine who used to work there was kind enough to salvage some Honey Locust for me. The lumber looks quite interesting, and I am looking forward to being able to turn it. According to my Textbook of Wood Technology, "it has many desirable qualities such as attractive figure and color, strength, and hardness but is little used because of its scarcity". One of its traditioanl uses was for wagon wheels.

testing email delivery

This post is just to test an e-mail delivery feed via YahooGroups.

Hopefully readers will be able to get this blog delivered by email by signing up at groups.yahoo.com/group/thechipshop/.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Salt and vinegar?

The chips have been flying in the shop today as I try to turn dibbers. I say 'try' because the power has been a bit iffy due to the high winds. Its not easy when the lathe keeps stopping and starting. I guess I should get some practise on a pole lathe.