Category Archives: Design

Tech Talk: Building Tradition with a Spokeshave

In April, Mary Elizabeth addressed traditional technology in one of our Tech Talk blog posts. Her post focused on hand planes, one of Mary Elizabeth’s (and my) favorite tools. The typical woodworker has at least four or five unique purpose planes (flattening, smoothing, shaping, profiling, etc.) of varying sizes – some so distinct from another that it is hard to reckon them to be in the same class of tools.

The spokeshave is ideal to shape this broadsword.

I was making a pair of replica broadswords for my son and grandson this week and – after preliminary cutting and shaping – had to refine the angles and surfaces of the swords’ blades. The right tool for this, in my mind is the lowly spokeshave and so I reached for one of mine to help me with this task. Evolving from primitive shaping tools like the draw knife and scraper, and considered to be a form of hand plane, the spokeshave has been around for eons in one form or another. Like all hand planes, a spokeshave may have a cap iron and a frog, is set up against the work with a sole , and slices off fine shavings using a fixed position blade that goes through the body. For me, that’s about where the similarities end.

Scrapers, spokeshaves, and hand planes.

I find that the spokeshave is much more versatile wherever practical, and, moreover, more tactile than typical flat-sole hand planes. This is in part because the motion is a pulling one using a set of handles at the side of the body (of course, there are many other planes that use a pulling motion). The sole may be flat, convex or concave depending on its function but, in either case, it takes practice to get the shave to address the surface for optimum effect. It also takes (and gives) a feel for the wood and the grain that is very special. When you have addressed the grain and surface well, long thin shavings feed out from the mouth of the unit with consistent dimensions, and the wood surface takes on a beautiful smoothness that is often ready for finish without any additional sanding or other surface preparation. The feel of that spokeshave slicing through the wood (as felt through those winged handles) is like no other tool I know.

Bill Howe’s presentation to the Atlantic Woodworkers’ Association in April inspired me to think about and use the spokeshave more and so I find I am increasingly going to it in projects of this nature – not only because it is an effective tool, but also because the feel of working with a spokeshave is extremely gratifying.  For me there is also a sense that I am working with an ages-old technology/ tool using traditional techniques – and that, in itself, is certainly appealing.

Replica broadsword.

In the current project, this sense of building and preserving tradition is even more enhanced since what I am making is a traditional weapon that dates back to the 6th century and which endured for centuries.  The broadsword was used in battle by medieval knights and was considered one of the knight’s most prized assets. For training and tournaments, rebated (blunted) and wooden swords were used to limit injury and so there must have been a time when wooden swords like this were being made to closely replicate the look and feel of their iron counterparts. I can imagine some 11th century woodsmith or swordsmith sitting down to a similar task with a spokeshave or draw knife to carve those same sword facets for a Lancelot or a Galahad.

Anon, with spokeshave at hand, I must away to this labor of love.

Playing for inspiration

Breaking a Creative Block

Last week I was working on a challenge quilt that was giving me trouble because I was way over thinking. I can almost hear some of you saying “Wow, that is not at all like you”. To which I reply, that there is no need for sarcasm.   So back to my point.  I started several times but rejected idea after idea for a variety of reasons – too complex, too simple, too uninspired (or uninspiring), too cliché (I know, what does that even mean?). Continue reading Playing for inspiration

Patchwork Stories

My Patchwork Story

I have mixed feelings towards making patchwork quilts.  I enjoy the history and tradition of the art and it does appeal to my perfectionist tendencies.  Ironically, these are the same things that can contribute to my more ambivalent feelings toward this type of work.  Sometimes the number of traditional patterns generated makes it feel harder to do something new or unique.  This, of course, is not true as talented designers are constantly created new approaches and new variations. Continue reading Patchwork Stories

WIP – Improv Quilting

Improvisation and Quilting

I don’t know if it is a new trend or just something that I have recently become aware of in magazines and online articles but I have been seeing more discussions describing ‘improv quilting’ as a style.  It seems to me that that it is more accurately described as a process than a style.  To me, it makes more sense to think of it as a way to create, try new approaches – and mix things up a little.

Continue reading WIP – Improv Quilting

Random Thoughts: The Satisfied Customer

 

This post was written by Stephen Parsons.

Why do we do it? Why do art and craft entrepreneurs put their products and reputation out there in the marketplace? Business objectives are different for each business owner, I guess, but some  would seem more important than others. But how important is profit as an objective compared to other – perhaps more altruistic – objectives?

Piper – apparent satisfied customer

While profit and the need to express one’s artistic creativity and passion are goals we might think at the top of the list, Continue reading Random Thoughts: The Satisfied Customer

WIP: Studio (re)Organization     

This post was written by Mary Elizabeth O’Toole

Organizing a creative work space can be a challenge.  Keeping it organized even more so. Even when everything has its place, there are often times when not everything is in its place. At any given time there might be projects in different stages of completion, tools that were recently used Continue reading WIP: Studio (re)Organization     

Tech Tuesday: Basic Photo Editing

This post was written by Mary Elizabeth O’Toole

Increasingly my quilting preference is realistic art quilts from photos.  Photography has been a hobby since I bought my first SLR camera in high school. We don’t need to discuss how many years ago that was. I have progressed from that first camera, a well-loved and well used K-100 Pentax work horse, through a series of digital cameras Continue reading Tech Tuesday: Basic Photo Editing

Tech Tuesday: The Laser

Today’s post is written by Stephen Parsons

In an earlier post we mentioned that we had bought a laser engraver from Gearbest – our first – to supplement some of the work in our shop, notably things like small engraving tasks and marking cuts for the band saw and scroll saw. Now that we have it together, I thought it might be a good time to bring you up to speed on our success (and challenges) to date. Continue reading Tech Tuesday: The Laser

Something Whimsical

Today’s post is written by Stephen Parsons.

People who are new to woodworking and those who view it from the perspective of an external observer may think of woodworking as being somewhat an homogeneous field of work. But there are many styles and perspectives of woodworking; what appeals to one woodworker may not particularly appeal to another. Continue reading Something Whimsical