Monday, February 22, 2010

Charles Rohlfs at the Carnegie Museum of Art

Being a fan of the Arts & Crafts movement of the late 19th-early 20th century I was very excited to notice a Charles Rohlfs furniture exhibit at the Carnegie Museum on my way home the other day.

We attended the exhibit this weekend and we found it to be stunning, It is definitely a must see for woodworkers and fans of the decorative arts of that period. I knew the Rohlfs name and had some familiarity with his style from several books that I own but pictures don't really do his work justice, especially the carving work and the pierced work. The carving with the wood grain is powerful and sensual and the pierced sides simultaneously concealing and revealing interiors creates a dramatic and beautiful effect.

Do yourself a favor and see The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs in person. The exhibition closes April 25th.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Neo-18th Century?

Well here we are buried up to our eyes in this snow in Western PA. Some of us without power, most of us having gone not to far from our homes, especially those of us who live within the Pittsburgh city limit where snow removal has been abysmal.

All of this being cooped up got me to thinking about the past and the slower way of life they must have had. It also gave me time to be in my workshop and spend time working on my hand tool skills. I'm tending toward using hand tools more and more in my woodworking. I find it more comfortable and enjoyable, the noise reduction is welcome and hand tools certainly don't spread the dust as far, and in my small shop being able to keep the material stationary and have the tool move make the shop seem twice it's size.

All of this has me re-evaluating what machinery is "Earning it's Keep" in floor space and sunk cost. For instance my table saw with router table... I'm considering doing without. This is not something that I would have even considered 2-3 years ago. I thought it was an absolute staple of the shop but I find I'm using it less and less. Most cross cuts I've been doing with either my power compound miter saw or a handsaw or hand miter box. Many rip cuts are beyond my ability to provide infeed and outfeed space so I've been taking up either my circular saw or my 5.5 ppi 28" hand rip saw.

One might think the quality of my work has suffered due to these changes but I find that it has improved as I am forced to slow down and pay close attention to my cutting and planing. Plus now that I'm planing most every piece before assembly I'll take the time and make sure that each piece fits well instead of making due with the off the saw surface and my glue-ups have certainly improved.

Now don't get the idea that I'm ditching all of my machinery, the band saws are staying as are the lathe, belt/disk sander and drill press. But I'm starting to look at my portable planer and 6" jointer since I'm tired of the snipe on the planer and my hand planes give me a finer surface and more capacity, actually any capacity.

I'm not really advocating that anyone switch to what I am doing, I'm just talking about what works for me in my small basement shop and is currently increasing my enjoyment of woodworking.