Archive for Fine Woodworking Magazine

The New Studio

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2014 by johnwiggers

It has been almost a year since we moved out of our old facility to set up shop in our new studio. The previous post tells some of this story.

There is no question that a tremendous amount of work goes into moving a woodworking shop such as this, because the effort involves not only the transport of many tons of heavy machinery but also the moving and storage of tens of thousands of square feet of wood.

Some significant preparation had be done, ranging from 3-phase electrical work to pouring reinforced slabs to take the weight of some of the heaviest machines.

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A copper penny from 1967 was embedded into this concrete slab, because that is the year our family business was established. The thirteens in the date are a lucky coincidence, because 13 is a lucky number.

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The process of growing our shop smaller also compelled us to come to terms with almost 50 years worth of paperwork and old records that were stored away in a 40′ container. I personally spent several weeks sorting through box after box of documents to determine what could be shredded and what was worth keeping.

Old job cards, drawings and related project information we decided to keep because, quite frankly, I enjoy having a historical record of all the custom work we have done over the years.

Some long forgotten bits of family history also surfaced in the course of doing this purge, and I was especially surprised to find the original copy of my father’s cabinetmaker’s certificate from when he graduated trade school in Holland.

At one end of the studio we set up our Casati veneer guillotine and Italpresse hot press.

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This SCM sliding table saw has always been a work horse in our shop. The precision of this machine remains phenomenal, even after many decades of use.

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Smaller machines such as this 900 lb. vintage Poitras bandsaw were mounted on heavy duty Shop Fox bases, to make them mobile and, thereby, more versatile.

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Kevin’s bench is set up in a brightly lit corner, and a ‘Great Wall of Clampage’ has been created along one side. Although Bessey clamps have always been used predominantly in our shop, I truly had no idea how many we owned until they were all gathered together in one spot.

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My own bench is surrounded by windows on two sides, with additional light coming from a large skylight located above.

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My built-in desk from the old shop was reconfigured to fit the new space. The desk is made from Narra, and this wood actually comes from some of the very first trees to be sustainably harvested on the Solomon Islands in the 1990s. (The FSC was doing a beta test of its standards there at the time).

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Fitted into the credenza behind my desk is customized storage for my collection of Fine Woodworking magazines.

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The left side of this bookcase is actually a secret door that provides access to the hardware room located beyond. Of course, now that I’ve blogged about it the door isn’t much of a secret any more.

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A narrow annex located on the far side of the building was converted into a dedicated area for wood turning and tool sharpening. Our vintage (pre Delta) Rockwell lathe seems right at home here, and it seems to bask in the glow of the light from the massive window.

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We were recently asked if moving into this smaller studio has meant giving up some of our ability to do complex and finely detailed work. My reply was that the only thing that has changed is the physical size of our shop. During the planning stages of our move we made it our priority to ensure that our reputation for doing fine quality work was not going to be compromised.

To illustrate this point, the photo below is of a custom dining table that was delivered from our studio a few months ago. The top is polished Macassar Ebony, and it was made in one piece to a length of approximately 144″ long. The inlays are a combination of brushed and polished stainless steel.


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Clean Shop = Oxymoron ?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 4, 2011 by johnwiggers

Last week, just before the start of the long weekend, Kevin and I gave the workshop a thorough cleaning. What started as a simple sweeping of floors and emptying of garbage cans soon snowballed into using the ShopVac to vacuum dust out of all kinds of nooks and crannies.

Three hours later the shop looked magnificent, although in all honesty I don’t think we got it clean enough to ever grace the pages of Fine Woodworking magazine.

That got me to thinking that having a clean shop and having one that produces actual furniture might be two totally different things. After all, as any woodworker knows you often have to do little more than think about using a woodworking tool in order for it to start making a mess.

Every time the latest issue of Fine Woodworking comes out I find myself feeling just a little inadequate at how the shops featured in the magazine look perfectly organized and pristine to the point of rivalling the surgical cleanliness of an operating room.

I am well aware that these are photos are prepped and staged for marketing purposes but, still, I can’t help but wonder why MY shop can’t look like this all the time. In practical terms the only way to achieve this would be to never use the tools at all, which defeats the whole purpose of having a workshop in the first place. Hence, the oxymoron.

For now I’ll just look forward to walking into a clean shop in the morning, so we can start messing it up all over again.