Archive for the 'Layout Strategy' Category

Oct 22 2010

The Craftsmanship of Dick Proenneke

Several years back, PBS, Public Broadcasting, began showing a few videos that have been produced about the life of Richard L “Dick” Proenneke. (1916-2003) The titles of these videos are: “Alone in the Wilderness”, “Alaska, Silence and Solitude”, and “The Frozen North”. Most people who have seen any of these, have more than likely seen Alone in the Wilderness. This video is of footage shot mostly by Dick himself, with his 16 mm Bolex camera, and the narration is writings from his journals in the book, “One Man’s Wilderness”.

proenneke1.jpgRichard L. Proenneke Photo

For most of us, this was our introduction to Dick, and his life. It is one of the only films ever made that shows the process of making a cabin in the wilderness, using only hand tools. It is a real gift.

Dick was a man whose life took him to a lot of places and exposed him to a lot of things, and those things may have been instrumental in helping shape his abilities for life in the wilderness. Born and raised in Iowa, he joined the US Navy and was a Navy carpenter, a rancher, diesel mechanic and heavy equipment operator.

He originally went to Alaska to start a cattle ranch, and wound up commercial salmon fishing and working as a mechanic. He spent the final years of his working career in and around Kodiak Alaska at the naval base there, until a work accident nearly cost him his eyesight. His life in the ranching business probably helped him understand nature and wildlife on an intuitive level, and his life as a carpenter and mechanic probably prepared him with the self-sufficiency needed for the next phase of his life. He retired at age 51 to Twin Lakes, living as a naturalist, nature cinematographer, and scientific observer in the remote Alaska wilderness. Continue Reading »

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Aug 19 2008

The Foibles of Tape Measures. The Best, and getting the most from one.

For the average user of a retractable tape, there can be some usages of a tape measure that unwittingly reduce its accuracy. Basically, many people are not even aware of these details. I did say usages, but there are also problems inherent with the way a tape measure is made, that for fine work, render it a tool which is not always the best tool for the job. When we ask a tool to wear too many hats, it fails to do as well by us as we may think it should. It is good to know what some of the weaknesses are so we can learn to accept what are and are not good practices for the tape measure.

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It may seem funny to have thought about tape measures as much as I have. As a life long woodworker, and over 25 years of civil construction and surveying experience, I have literally worn out a bunch of measuring equipment from using these tools all day every day. After using tapes in dirty environments where I took well over 100 measurements a day, daily and weekly, I have learned what I value and what has risen to be the best for me. I am just sharing what I have learned with you.

When you are buying a tape measure, there are several available features that you can consider. For shop use, furniture making and cabinet making, you will rarely need a long tape, but the long tapes have features that enhance accuracy. They come with 1-inch wide tapes, which are easier to read for eye relief, harder to distort and are more rigid. Often the 1-inch tapes include more rivets on the hook, which lend themselves to resistance to wear and stretch. Unless you need a shorter tape for handy reasons, I recommend the bigger tape just for its added stability. Continue Reading »

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May 03 2008

The Challenges to Squareness

Yup. The Challenges to Squareness.

You didn’t actually think this was going to be easy did you? Well, it isn’t always, but I think the endeavor of overcoming some of these challenges can make things better, especially if you like taking good to great. Knowing what some of the issues can be, and how to overcome them when and if they arise, can help our results better match our desires.

We learned in The Constructs of Squareness article that geometrically speaking, a right angle is 90 degrees, and if it isn’t 90, then it isn’t a right angle. Everything can be represented perfectly on paper, in CAD drawings and in theory, but in building, milling, and manufacturing there are a number of factors, which can affect the quality of accuracy. Some we have to accept, some we can learn to work with, and knowing the difference is how we approach closer to fine, if fine is the goal.

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Things that affect the accuracy we use to build do vary. Goals, philosophy, materials and tooling all play a part.

Goals affecting accuracy are often production oriented, cost oriented, or what the intended use of a final product is. If the Goal is to build a doghouse, it needs done quickly, and the price of materials and labor needs kept low, then, the accuracy of squareness need only be relative. If the goal is to make a jewelry box, where scale is small and appearances will be highly scrutinized, then the accuracy of squareness becomes much more important, because the philosophy behind jewelry boxes is seeing how far craftsmanship can be taken. Close tolerance fit and finish is a very large part of how this type of work will be evaluated. Continue Reading »

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Apr 29 2008

The Constructs of Squareness

Published by under Layout Strategy,Metrology

The prevalence of the right angle in engineered structure is probably second only to the straight line in order of importance. Engineered structures in wood are often using plane geometry to help describe and document what they are and how to build them.

Much of the way we think about civil engineering, architecture, woodworking, and even some metalworking, call it flat work if you like, is based on previously understood, maybe even taken for granted, notions about geometry.

Every line that goes in a given direction without variance to that direction is straight, all points that lie upon a line, line segment, or ray can be thought of as congruent. At any point on a line, another line, line segment or ray can intersect, begin sharing a common end point, and create an angle.

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There are four ways we look at angles… The most basic angle is the right angle, the angle of 90 degrees, which when measured, corresponds to a quarter of the 360 degrees in a circle, or some thing other than a circle that circuitously begins and ends at the same point. The other ways we describe angles are of angles smaller than 90 degrees which are “acute” and angles larger than 90 yet smaller than 180 degrees, which we call obtuse. If the angle is greater than 180 and less than 360 degrees we call it a reflex angle. When working in terms of squareness, we are only concerned with the 90 degree, or right angle. Continue Reading »

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Apr 06 2008

The Utility of the Straightedge

Precision refers to the amount of dimensional accuracy or incremental refinement used when something is made, and can be attributed to the quality of the layout, workmanship, or machine set up.

Accuracy refers to the confirmation of dimensional tolerances.

Dimensional tolerances differ with the various types of projects a woodworker will commonly undertake. The set up of shop machines and precision hand tools often requires the precision of accuracy to be at the thousandth of an inch level, however most woodworking projects require accuracy at a level which is commonly referred to by fractions, and is often referred to in the 1/32nd (.031) to 1/64th (.016) range.

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The quality in our craftsmanship is inherent in our understanding of these constructs, and our personal stake in setting for ourselves, a level of tolerances. These tolerances are the differences between woodworking, and fine woodworking. Continue Reading »

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Mar 23 2008

Using Cross Dowels for Knockdown Joinery

The big thing about using steel cross dowels for knock down construction is that your layout must be absolutely meticulous. I have, and continue to use these a lot in jig construction, but there are a lot of other great applications. cross_dowels.jpg

While a lot can be done with these, a common application is for use in workbench base construction. Real life happens. People move, circumstances change. Sometimes the dream shop in the basement relocates to a garage or an outbuilding. Many of us cannot build a bench with the certainty of knowing it will never need to be easily transported to elsewhere at some future point. This makes the use of steel or brass cross dowels a wonderful option. Continue Reading »

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Mar 15 2008

For Layout and Marking, Chalk is cheap!

Layout work is a tedious and exacting part of woodworking. We select boards for size and grain orientation. We hope this is in part, the “art” of our work that separates our project from that which is good, to that of greatness.

We sharpen our tools and skills, we buy accurate measuring and marking tools all with the hope of accurately conveying our vision. We go to work and accurately lay out the work, checking, and double-checking everything as we go to assure we have everything right. Continue Reading »

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