Tuesday 14 April 2015

happiness is...

...shaping wood and metal in a way that machines cannot.

It is also designing and making in a way that is not hampered by the limited capabilities of machines or mechanical processes - or ones understanding of them.

Design first, then figure out how to do it.

This was a fundamental idea when I was in school. We were taught how to design first and then educated on the various tools we had at our disposal to see that design come to life. At the time, there were no computers used in design - we did everything ‘by hand‘ (with the exception of the darkroom and other photo-mechanical tools). We made scale drawings, scale mock-ups to test if our ideas on paper would fit with the real world. We would go back to the drawing board and tear pieces off our mock-ups to make changes. It was an incredibly tactile experience - and I think a tremendous amount of exploration and learning happened during that process. There is something about feeling the materials with your hands, the texture, the weight (visual or physical), and the interplay of the various pieces as you tried to coax them to work together. It was pure heaven.

And all that is missing from the computer.

I spent an hour this morning shaping some African Blackwood. I drew some layout lines, grabbed my favourite files and rasps and started shaping. Watching the scratches and shadows told me when my curves were right. Flip the piece around and do the same thing to the other side - then compare the two sides to make sure they are symmetrical. Not mathematically symmetrical - visually symmetrical. Reach for a finer file once the coarse shaping is done and refine it down further - checking the highlights, shadows and negative spaces often. 

It was an hour of pure happiness.

Of course it doesn’t hurt that spring is finally here, the sun is out, the shop door is open for some fresh air, and Schism is turned up to eleven on the stereo.

Life is good.


Blogger Jeremy said...

Excellent post, computers are so bad for my designs, it's just so hard to get those free flowing curves out of it and stay away from straight lines and simple arcs. Does these pics go along with the previous? If so then it should be really interesting reveal at HandWorks.

14 April 2015 at 13:22  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Jeremy,

Glad the post struck a chord with you. The pics do go with the previous post... I am not sure if I will be able to wait until handWorks to show it off... I am pretty excited about it.


14 April 2015 at 13:46  
Anonymous Narayan said...

Your experience matches mine. The designers I miss working with the most are the ones who worked in print. That said, as much as I miss that era, I am consistently inspired by the creativity of younger, digital-only designers and artists. They simultaneously make me value and enjoy my "old school" skills more while giving me comfort that the next generation of creators have a broader horizon of possibilities to strive for.

14 April 2015 at 14:24  
Blogger Bartee said...

Great post. 11 is always good...

14 April 2015 at 14:24  
Blogger Richard Wile said...

Up to 11 and snap the knob off!!

14 April 2015 at 15:38  
Blogger Peter McBride said...

Hi Konrad,
what an inspirational post...
I find that many folk looking at handmade articles seem to react to them positively without knowing why.
Over the 40 years I've hand made jewellery, what has become obvious to me is that when a maker knows how the viewer looks at a piece, the design can be used to encourage an automatic and unconscious flow.
When that flow is in pleasing direction, and is satisfyingly resolved in the viewers mind, they just seem to love the design.
Other factors completely separate from the design can influence some people, and the most influential force I know is the price ticket.
I don't want to denigrate the wine label reader who will spend money and actually taste the description, because they are another group who support makers.
However, when a maker feels they have got it just right freehand, I describe it as like dancing on a tight rope. Risky and rewarding.
I find that as I look at your plane designs, my eye wanders back and forth, and does resolve itself in a satisfied way on a featured element in the design.
Articles made on computer controlled machines, making a design reduced to the simplest of curves, surely must be no more than a reflection of the machine that has made it.
Peter McBride

14 April 2015 at 18:19  
Blogger Paul Bouchard said...

I was admiring the planes you set up for Tools of the Trades and couldn't figure out how you're able to carry the line of a curving chamfer from metal into the wood without marring one or the other. Particularly inside of the front bun of the coffin smoothers; they're pretty complex curves and it's hard to imagine that you're able to get the metal part perfect before starting on the wood.

15 April 2015 at 00:30  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey Narayan,

I think what I am lamenting a little bit is that I wish the tactile experience I had in school was still being taught. I suspect there are many students out there who are kinetic learners - and learn by using their hands more thoroughly than by reading about it.

I have met many younger designers and makers who are very inspiring... I just wonder if their skills and enjoyment might increase with a tactile component as well.

A good conversation for HandWorks!


16 April 2015 at 21:23  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your post. Interesting observations about comparing jewelry to planemaking. There is a lot of overlap in materials and working within a somewhat pre-determined space. There are expectations about jewelry the way there are about planes - and deviating can be immensely rewarding - and challenging.


16 April 2015 at 21:27  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Paul,

The easiest way to explain the chamfers and wood blending together is to ignore the fact that they are 2 different materials. Ignore the joint between them and treat them as a single element. I have said it many times, but metal is just a strange wood with strange working properties... that somewhat simplistic and maybe even naive notion affords me all sorts of processes and techniques that just seem to work.


16 April 2015 at 21:29  
Blogger Konrad said...

Ah, Richard... that is what happened to the knob on my receiver!


16 April 2015 at 21:30  
Blogger John said...

One of the things that makes us human is that we are conscious. But our consciousness is what makes us aware of and afraid of things. This creates anxiety and depression. When we can train our conscious on something that connects with all our senses and focuses on the present activity we can feel joy. It seems to me that this is what you were doing when you worked on the plane. Next comes a few dance steps.

18 April 2015 at 23:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am betting we will se reveal pictures here on the site before Handworks. Keep your eyes open.

18 April 2015 at 23:46  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks John - that is a perfect description of what happens... minus the dance steps of course!


19 April 2015 at 19:30  
Blogger Doug said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Konrad. Very thought provoking. See you in a few weeks in Amana.


21 April 2015 at 12:43  

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Thursday 9 April 2015

new plane for handworks

(the attic before moving in)

It has been a bit of a scramble the last two months. Pre-renovating our attic, two slow moving, but very exciting woodworking-ish projects plodding along, one heck of a cold winter, and a new plane in development.

(mock-up with Mahogany sole and sidwalls and Walnut infill)
 The new plane is another customer driven request/‘throwing down of the gauntlet’ project and I am really excited about it. I am hoping to have it completed for HandWorks next month. It will be a bit of a run for the roses... but everything has been coming along very nicely, so I think it will be done in time. I will post photos of it once it is done... I don’t want to get too ahead of myself in case I screw something up!


Anonymous Martin said...

Hello Conrad,

Good to see your new posting this morning after a few months of silence. It made me wonder if you had started working on the book you've hinted at... But being involved in an ongoing renovation project myself for the past 4 years (along the dayjob, spendig time with my family and some first fumblings with planemaking in my sparetime) I fully understand that "pre-renovations" Always take a lot more time than the casual by-stander would think:-)
Kind regards, Martin

10 April 2015 at 02:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What happened to Nathan Green?

11 April 2015 at 00:13  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

are you holding back on us Konrad?

11 April 2015 at 00:14  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sounds like somethings cooooookin

11 April 2015 at 00:15  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Martin,

Thanks for your patience. Time has a habit if flying by, and the older I get, the faster it seems to go. The renovation was not too serious, but was a fair amount of work for all of us. It is amazing how emptying one room (or in our case, a whole floor) results in the rest of the house swell to the point where it barely functions. Other than the improved living space, the next best thing was it forced us to evaluate the 'stuff' we were keeping and decide what to keep, what to donate to a local thrift store, and what to toss.

best wishes,

11 April 2015 at 07:03  
Blogger Konrad said...

Things are cooking, and I am holding back somewhat... for a big reveal and Nathan Green has not been forgotten - just part of a bigger picture post I have been picking away at. Hopefully soon...

11 April 2015 at 07:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the new tool is a block of wood? i don't get it.

12 April 2015 at 00:43  
Blogger Kevin Brehon said...

Does the mahogany sole mean an all-bronze shell?

12 April 2015 at 09:32  
Blogger Konrad said...

The blade is wood too... cool eh?

12 April 2015 at 12:21  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Kevin,

The Mahogany sole is just to simulate the 1/4" thick steel sole - I figured if I am going to go through the trouble of doing a mock-up with a different sidewall material, I may as well go all the way and do the sole too. In hindsight, it is the best way to do it - it revealed a lot of information about how the shaping on the leading edge of the mouth will look. In for a penny...


12 April 2015 at 12:23  

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