New Project (and an old friend)

Things have become more busy than I'd prefer, but then, like cooking on an electric stove, it's always either too hot or too cold and hardly ever "just right".

Some months (is it so long?) ago I, and perhaps a dozen other local woodworkers, were invited to take part in a small show organized by our local Arts Council: "100 Mile Furniture". It seemed comfortably far off at the time — July 2011 (2011?? It didn't even exist. Thus do grasshoppers and butterflies distinguish themselves from toiling ants and contributors to pension plans.) Anyway, whatever we entered for the show had to be made from material (presumably wood) that came from within a hundred miles of Saltspring. (Yes, Canada is a wholly metric country, but "160 Kilometer Furniture Show" doesn't have the right ring to it. Anyway, we're not metric, not really.)

I spent several months trying to decide what to make, but couldn't come up with anything that excited me - and if it didn't interest me, it's hardly likely that it would interest anybody else. Then it was suddenly this year, and even more suddenly Spring, and then late Spring. Oh well, there was always a chair - I have a notion of making a set of ladderback ash dining chairs (with arms), rush seats, and short shallow rockers to allow one to lean comfortably back from table on two legs; but chairs come in sets, and chairs need tables, and it was all too much - and not all that exciting anyway. Plus I don't have any more rush until this summer's harvest. (Definitely a 100 Mile (160k) qualifier - it grows less than ten miles away.)

On the other hand, what is "furniture" anyway? In the long history of the word it could have described any personal belongings, the "harness, housings, trappings, &c. of a horse", mental preparation, door hardware, "something to fill or occupy a space (especially well-bound books intended to fill and adorn bookshelves)", and, of course the "predominant sense" of "movable (functional) articles in a room, house, &c."
So......"furniture" could quite legitimately be taken to mean something 1: movable, 2: functional, 3: be found in a room or an etcetera, and finally, have a possible connection with well-bound books.

Result? The 100 Mile (160 Kilometer) Standing Book Press.

I did these full size drawings to give both myself and a visiting party of local book-arts enthusiasts an idea of the   thing:


The dimensions are: bench height, 36"; platen dimensions, 18"x19"; lift (maximum distance platen to table): 24"; table height 30"; overall size: (HWD) 72"x24"x20".

As for materials, I originally intended Garry Oak, but couldn't come up with more than 2" thick stock. Then I thought: how about Douglas Fir? - a decent, serviceable strong wood, definitely 100 mile, why not? The fir would do well for the framing — old-growth vertical grain naturally (well, it needs using up, doesn't it?) — as well as the drawer fronts. The side and back panels could be something different........? I have a notion that one shouldn't mix hard and soft woods (i.e. conifers and deciduous), so yew seemed a good idea for these. The pressing surfaces.......? maybe Garry Oak, function trumping aesthetic theory. The much anticipated 2.5" wooden screw and its accompanying nut would do well in Arbutus (madrone), which could be laminated to reduce possible warpage.

Progress to date:


All framing components have been cut, morticed and tenoned, or dovetailed (upper and lower drawer rails). The yew for the panels (R) has been cut to size, and is awaiting some form of fielding. The drawer fronts (back L) are roughly cut to length; drawer runners and kickers as well as the drawers will be made after the frame has been assembled.

The press has now been put aside for a few days to mature, and an old friend has come out of dusty hiding: the bass. Ed and his friend Julia are here on a short visit, and the bass is something that Ed & I work on when he is here - although, as I think I mentioned elsewhere, I'm going to have to push it along a bit if I don't want my children to come across it as they sort the workshop out at some future time.........
Anticipating the visit I found what looked like a suitable piece of figured Western Maple for the ribs while hunting round Westwind for 100 Mile wood. It was a large hunk, and we probably need only about 5% of it for the ribs, but hopefully they were in there somewhere, as indeed seemed to be the case:


I should say right now that I know absolutely nothing about stringed-instrument making beyond what is to be found in "So You Want To Make A Double Bass" by Peter Chandler. This remarkable book not only has bass-making instructions, but also illustrations of a number of classical basses, for which full size plans are available. 

Anyway, Chandler recommends quarter-sawn maple (ideally with the striped figure above) for the ribs, and above (in situ) are the requisite five pieces after band-sawing and thicknessing to just a bit over one-eighth of an inch - sorry, 3.5mm - which is as far as I dared to take them on the planer. (It's truly distressing to "just make one more pass", and see fragile shards of fractured wood shooting out of the planer's innards.) The ribs above have been further reduced in thickness to about 2.3mm (0.9"). How we did this is another story.