Saturday 31 October 2009

Mystery Rosewood update

Here is what is left. I feel quite proud of the fact that there was this little waste from that great piece of timber. The box has quite a few small pieces that would be suitable for wedges and other small plane parts. I think there is one piece that will make a killer wedge for a mitre.

(The killer wedge piece)

I am also reminded of an incredible A2 jointer I made several years ago - infilled with mystery Rosewood. Here are a few detail shots.

I have two panel planes left to make - one 16-1/2" and the other is 14-3/4". The rear infill on thees planes will look just like this. I can’t wait to get started on them.


Blogger Unknown said...

Hmmmm, beautiful Scraps Konrad, think there's a pen in there some where??


4 November 2009 at 11:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh jeeze, Konrad.

I thought for sure you were going to offer up that box of "scrap" to some derserving, budding toolmaker ;) haha

-Ryan C.

4 November 2009 at 20:40  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Jim,

Not sure - maybe. I will check.


4 November 2009 at 21:02  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Ryan,

Oh man, if you could see all the boxes.... :) Almost every visitor leaves with something from various scrap boxes.


4 November 2009 at 21:03  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Ryan,

Oh man, if you could see all the boxes.... :) Almost every visitor leaves with something from various scrap boxes.


4 November 2009 at 21:03  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Friday 23 October 2009

825 herring bones later

The herringbone flooring is now prepared. The QS white oak was supplied in three different lengths - 17-1/2", 35" and 52"... give or take a quarter inch. These dimensions were then cross cut on a dedicated sled to produce pieces that are 16-1/2" long.

After that - I needed to cut a dado in the ends to house the tongue. This was also done using a cross cut sled. The flooring is 3/4" thick with a 1/4" x 1/4" tongue and corresponding groove. The dado in the end is not really functional - it just needs to provide enough clearance for the pieces to fit together properly. I chose to cut a slightly over sized dado - just under 5/16" x 5/16". I used a stacked dado head in the table saw. Here is the setup.

I have several different cross cut sleds - some for cutting dados, others for various types of cross cuts. I used a small cross cut sled as a base and then built a simple but accurate jig to fit within the sled. Above is a photo of what it looks like.

And a top view.

And a shot of how the flooring piece was oriented for the cut. I chose to reference the bottom of the flooring instead of the top. Slight variations to the top will be sanded down once the floor is installed... the bottom is a fixed surface. In hindsight, the flooring was so consistent in thickness, that it likely didn’t matter.

I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly everything went. I broke the slot cutting into smaller bits - batches of 100 pieces. I would do 100, take a break and work on some Lego with the kids, do another 100... stop for some lunch. It worked out very well, and all the pieces were done over the weekend.

Here is a screen shot of the scale drawing. There is a pesky offset to the room - you can see it along the bottom edge of the drawing. This posed a bit of a problem with regards to the patterning of the herringbone. The solution was to remove a single strip of the border along the left bottom edge. If you look closely, the border changes from 3 strips to 4 strips in a few places, but I don’t think this will be noticeable once the room is done and the furniture is in. Well... now you all know.

Confession time. I wrote this post last week and have been sitting on it. Jill and I decided to bring all the herringbone flooring into the livingroom to let it sit (but really - I needed my workbench and shop space back). We made about 4 trips and had about 250 pieces in when for some strange reason, I decided to sit on the floor and see how everything fit together. I made a jig to help start each new row and used this to put a few bones together.

“left side, right side, left side, right side... this is looking wicked!”

Next row.

“wait a minute... where did that tongue come from - this doesn’t fit?”

“ what the... I need a slot in the other end too?”

“maybe there is a left hand piece and a right hand piece?”

So I went to the computer and did a search. Found a Bob Vila video showing how a herringbone floor is installed. Within the first minute I hear “...there is a groove on all 3 sides.”

I walked downstairs with my tail between my legs, dragged out the 250 pieces we already had in the livingroom, and cut another 825 slots in the other ends. Better now than after the first row is installed I suppose.


Blogger Unknown said...

I can hardly wait to see this, beautiful design!!

23 October 2009 at 18:19  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Jim - I can hardly wait either. It has been a long time in coming - but most of the mess is done and I am finally about to do the woodworking side of it.

23 October 2009 at 19:03  
Blogger David said...

I can't hardly wait ether... this look like a crazy floor project to me... But to you...(not to my self: the guy make infill plane by hand)it's a piece of cake!!
it will look great!

23 October 2009 at 22:10  
Blogger Unknown said...

Bet the shop was amazing to work in, love the scents from qswo!

24 October 2009 at 09:27  
Blogger raney said...

I can't tell you how good it is to know you make the occasional error! That floor is going to be absolutely incredible.

24 October 2009 at 10:11  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi David. Thanks for your confidence... after the fiasco with the forgotten slot... I am a little more worried:)

24 October 2009 at 12:37  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Jim,

The shop did smell pretty amazing... but sadly, my focus shifted to mind games to keep me alert and encouraged when cutting the second batch of 800 slots. Not to mention my hands got pretty sore:)


24 October 2009 at 12:38  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Raney - oh boy... if you only knew! Tones of errors all the time and all over the place. The trick is getting good at masking or fixing them. Thankfully this one was an oversight/miss instead of an error.

Fingers crossed.

24 October 2009 at 12:39  
Blogger Unknown said...

Is there a place where people like us can get help? This looks like something I would dig myself into! If you were me, you'd be shopping around for big oriental rugs at this point. ;-)

26 October 2009 at 17:50  
Blogger Konrad said...


I have come to realize this IS the help for our affliction. If we didn’t have stuff like this - our brains would explode.

Funny thing... already have the Persian carpet - bought it for the space before we started:) Does this means I have it really bad?


26 October 2009 at 18:14  
Blogger Art said...

That Herringbone diagram hurts my eyes. I'm a bit surprised you went through the work of setting up that diagram.

Are the outside pieces going to be oak also, or a contrasting colour?

And I'm late to the blog so I hope this wasn't covered before... the firewood box looks very cool, but I'm mystified at why you're boxing in all the rest of that "dead" space in the corner? I know you need clearance for the ducts, but there is still lots of space -- no built in bookcase/shelves going in there?

Art Mulder

29 October 2009 at 10:48  
Blogger Konrad said...


The herringbone hurts your eyes because it is a large scale moiré pattern. The diagram was drawn in Adobe Illustrator, and took very little time. It is an invaluable tool to use for simple layouts like this - and the print out makes for a great document to have on the work site. I am a firm believer in mock-up and this is as close to a mock-up as I can get.

The outside pieces are going to be quarter sawn oak as well.

The “dead space” is there because of fire code - and to make room for ducting, and because sometimes, dead space results in something looking better in the end. I don’t mind giving up the floor space if the end result is worth it.

29 October 2009 at 11:53  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Saturday 17 October 2009

The last of the Mystery Rosewood

This is a very sad “first” for me - using up the last bit of a particular species of wood. I have been slowly eating away at this large piece of unidentified Rosewood... aka Mystery Rosewood. There is a precious little bit remaining - the photo above shows what is left. I do have a set roughed out for an A5 and an XSNo.4 that are not spoken for. And I still have to rough out an A1 panel from the above piece. Whatever is left over is all there is.

Below is a photo of the original piece - the one on the far right (along side three amazing pieces of almost quartered Honduran Rosewood).

Here is a detail shot of the rear infill of an XSNo.4 infilled with Mystery rosewood.

And another shot of the entire plane along with another interesting example. The XSNo.4 in the foreground is infilled with some very old East Indian Rosewood. It has been quite some time since I have worked with East Indian and it was a real treat. I am surprised East Indian Rosewood does not show up more often in old tools - it is a wonderful material.


Blogger mckenzie said...

Those are stunning works. I'd love to see more of your shop. I noticed we have the same planer, great machine.

20 October 2009 at 13:49  
Blogger Unknown said...

Amazing Konrad, I understand the emotion, incredible wood, you have done it so proud with your skill and gift of respect.

20 October 2009 at 22:13  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks T&G. Not a bad idea - maybe I will take a few shots once I have it cleaned up a bit. Right now it is a little over run with quarter sawn white oak. I also have a General 880 - another great machine.

21 October 2009 at 22:28  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Jim. It is a funny thing how attached one can get to a piece of wood. I just came in from the shop after roughing out some more infill sets for various customers. I was cutting into a very large piece of Brazilian Rosewood and I must have flipped it 300 times to make sure the first cut would be just right. Thankfully - it appears it was as everything is working as I had hoped. It has taken quite a while to grow accustom to splitting open a 50lb piece of Brazilian Rosewood! I still get sweaty palms.

21 October 2009 at 22:33  
Blogger David said...

I wish I would be the owner of one of these plane with this amazing wood!
You have to keep one for you!
Love your work!

22 October 2009 at 17:49  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks David.

I am hoping there will be enough left over so can make myself a small plane. It may be 4-1/2" long... but I really hope there is enough left.

22 October 2009 at 18:03  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Saturday 10 October 2009

French polish

A few people have asked if I could give a tutorial on how I apply french polish. But before I do that - I think a little explanation of why I use french polish is in order.

Wood clarity.
Of all the finishes available to me - french polish does the least damage to the overall color and clarity of the wood. Oil is a sure fire way to darken Rosewood to oblivion and all the color and vibrance that makes rosewood so stunning is killed. Oil also kills East Indian Rosewood, turning the vibrant purple and red tones into mud. Oil does not affect Honduran Rosewood as much, but it does darken it. I do use warmed double boiled linseed oil on boxwood and then a coat of paste wax. For some reason - that finish seems a perfect “fit” for boxwood - and the darkening is not a bad thing.

French polish will wear with use - and I don’t mind that because as your hand rubs the finish, it will burnish the remaining french polish and wood to a similar luster. It is also a welcome part of the planes patina - its story if you will.

French polish is also a very pleasing tactile finish, it has a bit of a sheen to it, but not a plasticized look.

Not to mention it is a fairly safe finish.

Ok. On with the show.

I sand all the infill pieces to 600 grit. I start at 220, then 320, 400 and finish with 600 grit. A fellow planemaker once suggested the reason I use french polish was to avoid having to be particular about sanding. I just said “hmmm”. The above photo shows the inside surface of the front bun without finish applied.

Here is the kit. The white(ish) piece on the bench is foamcore which I use to test the mixture of the french polish and the mineral oil. I used foamcore because the surface is very smooth and not absorbent... and it was lying around from my design days. The shellac in the mason jar is a 2lb cut - roughly. I mix my own shellac using super blond flakes. I write the date of mixture on the top of the jar and a few months in, will add a splash of shellac thinner to compensate for evaporation. The film canister holds the rubber and the clear bottle with the white lid is drugstore mineral oil.

The rubber is made up of two pieces of cloth. The piece on the left is a 2-1/2" square of 100% cotton bedsheet (no really - it is an old bedsheet). The other piece is some other cheesecloth like fabric... but it is not cheese cloth.

I fold the cotton into thirds and then thirds again, place it along a center line of the “cheese cloth”, fold the cheese cloth down, then each side over. This is the rubber. It is flat for a reason - it lets you get into corners and is quite flexible and agile.

This is the grip I use. The section of the rubber at the tip of my thumb is held to the edge of the mason jar of shellac. I tip the jar until the shellac touches and charges the rubber. There is a small pool of mineral oil to the right of this brown spot. I touch my finger to the mineral oil and then transfer this drop to the rubber.

I place the rubber on this brown area (created over the last 8 years) and start circling it around. What I am looking for is a vapor trail. I want to see the alcohol flashing off just behind the rubber. It is kinda like the tail of a comet. When the trail is continuous as I go round and round - it is properly charged (at least for what I am using it for).

This is what a charged rubber looks like.

Very quickly, and with a fairly light touch, wipe the surface of the wood. There should be enough shellac and oil mixture to change the color of the entire surface of this front bun. You have to be quick and keep things moving - if you pause, the rubber will stick and will make a mess of things. As a point of reference - the inside of this bun should take about 10 seconds to apply a single coat.

Here is the surface after the first coat.

A few other points. I apply two coats a day - no more. This gives the shellac enough time to harden a bit and the next coat will not soften and remove too much of the previous coat. This process of softening the previous coat is what makes french polish so repairable. A little bit of the first coat is softened during the second coat and this is what allows french polish to build and fill the pores of the grain.

The flat profile of the rubber is what allows me to get into the corners on the front bun of a panel plane for example. The bun of a panel will take about 4 charges of the rubber - one for each side. After about the 6th or 7th coat, there is usually a little bit of oil on the surface of the infill so I don’t always need to put a drop of mineral oil on the rubber for the remaining coats.

Some woods like Ebony, African Blackwood and Honduran Rosewood build quite quickly because their pores are so small. East Indian rosewood take a bit more time. On average - I apply about a dozen coats to each plane.


Anonymous JeffB said...

Most accounts I have read on how to french polish recommend using olive oil and recommend against using other oils (including mineral oil) due to additives they might contain. Something about those additives possibly interfering with the finish. I guess that hasn't been your experience? Any specific reason for using mineral oil versus olive oil?

17 October 2009 at 15:02  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Jeff,

A good question. Joe Steiner taught me this method which he learned when he worked for a guitar maker “in his youth” (as he expresses it). I seem to recall Bob Flexner wrote about french polishing in Popular Woodworking a while back, and I am pretty sure he was using mineral oil as well. I have not had an issue with it (still using the original container of mineral oil). Maybe I got really lucky and chose one that did not have additives? I will look into it - thanks for the comment.


17 October 2009 at 15:07  
Blogger Cody said...

Wow, beautiful work Konrad. I tried to use french polish on pear years ago and had nothing but grief, I never managed to get a streak free finish. I'll have to re-visit it sometime.

I was thinking about you and Cory awhile back. I'm enrolled in an architecture program in Edmonton and have a design class that is oddly challenging. We spend most of our time drawing geometric shapes and objects using negative space, etc. It's so abstract and subjective, and sometimes the criticism from the instructor includes phrases such as 'it's not magical enough'. What the?

18 October 2009 at 11:03  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Cody,

It took me quite a few planes to get this process right... and I am not sure if it will translate into a furniture sized project... I suspect my rubber will be woefully inadequate (that is a curious sentence).

Are you doing critiques in your design course? I found that process to be the most challenging, but also the most valuable. The next time your instructor asks for something more “magical”, ask him or her for an example of what they consider magical. Seriously. If they are truly qualified to be teaching, they should be able to present you with an example of what they are talking about. And something that directly relates to the project at hand. If you are doing work with negative and positive space and he shows you a BMW 2002 as something magical... I would not call him or her qualified. This is one of the big challenges with design - articulating what exactly is “working” or ”not working” with a particular design. It is really easy to say this sucks, that is ugly... but being able to explain why within a design language is a whole different thing. And takes time to learn - but when you get there - it is really amazing.

Best of luck with it and I am sure you will look back on it in a few years very thankful for it.


18 October 2009 at 11:17  
Blogger David said...

Great post Konrad. Thank you for sharring your method of work! I don't know if you ever tryed a product sold by LV cald French Polish under the LV brand? I have to try the real stuff one day it alwayse facinated me but alwayse been scared to try!
Tahnk you again!

19 October 2009 at 18:48  
Anonymous Narayan said...


You do "magical" things with Brazilian Rosewood. Seriously, though, you do, and though I also like the boxwood pieces you've churned out, the Brazilian rosewood planes are still my favorite. Two of them in particular, in fact...

@Cody: part of the challenge in talking about design is finding language to articulate qualitative observations. And as Konrad says, don't be shy about asking a critic to tease out their language a bit and give examples. The exercise is important not just to get feedback on your designs, but also to give you the skills to talk about your designs and other designs.

19 October 2009 at 19:35  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi David,

I have not tried the premixed(?) french polish from Lee Valley... although the super blond shellac flakes I use are from LV. French polishing planes certainly took some practice and I hope it will translate into success with french polishing furniture.


19 October 2009 at 20:25  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Narayan. I think the magic is the Brazilian Rosewood... but I am happy to accept some responsibility for it.

Thanks for the additional advise for Cody. Cody - check out Narayans blog - and the photography in particular.


19 October 2009 at 20:34  
Anonymous Kerry said... use no pumice whatsoever, yes? And very, very little shellac, no alcohol only rubbers, no shellac-saturated rubbers to which "only three drops of a two pound cut is applied with the left hand, four drops of alcohol with the right, a sign of the Cross..." Interesting. Thanks.

9 November 2009 at 09:21  
Blogger JW said...

Hi Konrad,

I think you'll find that french polishing furniture isn't so hard. For sure, a larger rubber is needed, but the basics we learned at North Bennet are basically the same. I've used mineral oil regularly without issue. I also have tried raw linseed oil and been pretty happy with it. I do use pumice, too, but I also use a pumice/BLO paste to burnish and fill and burnish the surface before I start with the shellac.

The biggest part of the learning curve is developing a feel for the shellac, and it sounds like you have. (looks like it, too! Holy Cow!)

After a while I was laying in thicker base layers and basically forcing them to cooperate with a much thinner, but wetter, mix, and a more liberal use of oil. Final coats are just like you describe, but for more porous woods where I was more interested in filling the grain, I started with a thicker mix. I consider it a good "quick and dirty" method, and it helped me develop test pieces pretty quickly when I started messing with dyes and such, in conjuction with amber shellac.

More if you're curious...

Gorgeous floor, btw.


15 November 2009 at 11:56  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home