What is My Style

I was talking with someone recently about what I do and mentioned furniture making. This other chap, who was getting into woodworking himself, asked what style of furniture I make and then went into what he knew and the different styles. In the world of furniture making you have a variety to choose from: Craftsman, Victorian, Queen Anne, Shaker, etc.

It even still has the pencil lines from the additional work I mean to do, someday.

Furniture should have a useful purpose. It should invite the user to use it and it should be tough enough to handle that use. It shouldn’t be ugly but if it has to be, the; it should have tight joints and show care/craftsmanship in construction. Ornamentation should be meaningful and tell a story. The piece above might be ugly but it’s a simple phone stand I made out of a block of wood that sees daily use with zero fear of breaking.

Recently I made a bed for my youngest and carved a flower, butterfly, and hearts into the headboard. They were things she liked, described who the bed was for (a 4-year-old princess) and were simple. The rest of the bed carried on the simple theme but was also built to withstand WW3.

I told my friend I wasn’t sure how to label it. What does it mean to have a particular style? Usually it’s as simple as just having plans to follow or a simplification of the design process. Sometimes it’s about skill level (a beginner isn’t going to start with Queen Anne style ), or just what matches the furniture in your home.

So my style would ideally be simple, durable and meaningful. That sounds canned, like language you’d expect in marketing materials for a piece of crap from Wal-Mart. Maybe the simple portion of it, there’s just not the right weight behind the word. I’ll keep noodling it.


Locking Joints

Whenever I read a how-to article, the common refrain is “can’t ever have too many clamps”.
This, again, is where we can look to the past for a solution.

A little thought into joinery would eliminate most of these clamps

For 95% of woodworking history, metal was ridiculously expensive and clamps were wooden wedges or even specifically shaped branches used to hold work while you worked. Craftsmen had to think of other ways to lock joints together. During much of this period, glue was either non-existent or not relied on for much more than a temp solution.

With many modern techniques, the idea is to use modern glue to hold the two pieces of wood together. The woodworker of today soothes themselves on the knowledge that the glue line is stronger than the wood around it. Clearly, nothing will happen that could cause that glue line to fail.

So then they are encouraged to continually hoard clamps of ever increasing complexity and cost as if they are canteens of water in the Sahara.

In this example, I am joining the wood using mortise and tenon joints. Basically, think “Tab A into Slot B”. This is a great joint in that there are a whole lot of directions that the joint will never move in. For modern woodworkers they will use glue alone to ensure the joint doesn’t move in the one direction it can move in.

The problem is that you can’t guarantee that the joint won’t move in that direction, even just a little. With glue only, once that joint moves a little, you might as well not even have anything holding those joints together. This is where a simple pin of wood can save the day.

In order to move, this joint has to break several pieces of wood.

On these joints, the glue can fail all it wants, but the boards will stay fastened together until the wood itself rots apart. In today’s throwaway society, being able to use something for generations, just because the builder thought like an old-timer, has tremendous value.

Sometimes, you can even use these dowels to make an artistic statement. Note: this isn’t my image, I grabbed it off a Google Image Search so I can’t attest that they are functional dowels. Some folks use trickery to hide screws, but this proves the point well enough.


Remodeling on a Whim: Bathroom Update Part 3

And so it comes, the conclusion to the Bathroom Remodel series.  At least for now.  I still have a bit of trim to stain, finish and install but as of now, we have a fully functional bathroom!  The trim is coming this weekend where there is no kids and no Lady Friend.

In the picture of the previous post, you can see the drain plumbing for the sink sticking out of the wall.  You might think, “Hey, that’s sticking out a ways into a small room, might want to remove that.”  Your thinking would be smart.

Early Sunday morning, I went to squat down to check out the floor and sat on the drain pipe.  It turns out, PVC is not that sturdy if your putting weight on it and SNAP, I suddenly had to figure out plumbing (which I hate).  So I studied the broken off piece and it said it was inch and a half pipe so I trekked back over to Menards in Clive there and got the pieces of plumbing I needed and proceeded to start in on the floor.

Since there was quite the smell of stale urine when I pulled up the old floor I figured I’ try some odor neutralizing tactics.  The night before I sprayed the floor good with Lysol hoping to kill any bacteria or mold growing and by morning the floor looked like new so now to ensure any remaining pee smell was gone I dumped a box of baking soda on the “plywood” and brushed it around to get it everywhere I could.  With that done, the laminate laying begins.

With a laminate floor, it “floats” on the sub-floor.  That means that there’s nothing that directly attaches it to anything else, just the sheer weight and friction keep it from going places.  Now, that means it will move a tiny bit and to control that sound (along with provide a moisture barrier and some degree of insulation) you place a sheet of plastic  under it.  Well, a sheet of plastic is probably a bit simplistic.  There’s various ones for sound/moisture/insulation benefits and they are a bit more pricey than your regular sheet of plastic.

Since this was a bathroom install, went with the product rated for moisture and cut and laid it to fit.  From there the Mohawk laminate was easy enough to lay and, even using a hand saw, easy to cut without significant chip-out.  When I cut it, I went for the tightest fit I could get around the edges.  Reading around it appears you do want some space for expansion and the like.  We’ll see how it holds up.  First few days its going well though.

Toilet and vanity install went great, along with the mirror and parts of the trim.  No issues, took the drawers and door out of the vanity and installed the handles, again, no issues.  Then there was the plumbing.  Have I mentioned I hate plumbing?

My guess is there is 1 1/2 inch outside diameter and inside diameter pipes.  I bought the OD pipe and needed the ID pipe…pro-tip: when dealing with something that you have limited knowledge in, bring the old parts into the store with you.  At the very least, you can compare the two.  I finally did this on a different day and got the pieces I needed and got it working.

So back to Sunday, I installed the faucet and went to hook up the water lines but didn’t get one of them fully seated and locked in and proceeded to waterboard myself when I tested the connection.  Have I mentioned I hate plumbing?

But now I feel confident in saying I can remodel half-bathrooms and that is one of the reasons I love doing work on my house.  Granted, I haven’t had a weekend of doing nothing in ages, but each project is a learning lesson so I can make the mistakes in my own home, learn from them and apply those lessons to customers’ homes.  Plus I get a clean, modern looking bathroom for a fraction of the cost.