Touring Tim Rousseau’s shop

August 19, 2009

tool cabinet

Tim’s collection of shiny hand tools

At the summer’s start, my classmates and I fumbled our way around the workshop under the watchful eye of local furniture maker Tim Rousseau. Alongside Brian Reid, Tim taught the two week “basic woodworking” module of our 3 month course, patiently guiding us through machine safety, tool sharpening, lumber selection, hand-cut joinery and finishing. In need of some Tim time, we drove to Appleton for a tour of his quaint country workshop.

rousseau workshop

Brimming with natural light!

rousseau jointer

Examining Tim’s Italian jointer/thicknesser/slot-mortiser combo

With a few months of woodworking under our belts, we could genuinely appreciate the flow and flexibility of his shop’s layout, the caliber of his refurbished machinery and the humble nature of his craftsmanship. Plus, the dude keeps some big pigs!

rousseau pigs

Bacon anyone?


Table television

August 16, 2009

standing table

Folks think it resembles a fifties TV set. My inner mid-century modernist thinks that’s neat-o.

vintage rca tv set

Will Johnny finish his tubular piece? Stay tuned for next week’s big season finale!

Turning on, tuning in, dropping out

August 14, 2009

lathe woodturning

If your phone rings while you’re at the lathe, and you don’t hear it, does it make a sound?

On Monday morning, I began turning four tapered table legs at the lathe. When next I looked up, it was dark outside…and it was Wednesday. Turning wood, I found, is deeply absorbing and strangely addictive. Nestled in the back corner of our shop, all my tiresome worries and obligations shed away with the endless spray of maple shavings. But the lathe is no place to zone out – it demands constant focus and precision. Like meditation, a peaceful mind is only achieved once you’ve honed in on the rhythm and the repetition of the task. Sad that the summer’s end approaches and anxious for what comes next, the lathe’s steady whir was a welcome new tempo.


The Satterlee building’s lathe

Philosophy aside, my process began with four rectangular “blanks” – blocks of wood milled perfectly square and to my legs’ length. I turned these blocks into cylinders using a roughing gauge (the caveman club-like object I’m holding above), always cutting downhill – in this case from left to right. Having predetermined my desired taper, I cut down to the leg’s thinnest diameter with a pairing chisel. I then utilized a freshly sharpened skew chisel (thanks Mason!) to make my money cut, a slope gradually narrowing from 1 1/2 ” to 3/4”.

To clean up any remaining bumpiness, I used 100, 220 and 320 grit sand papers, sanding quickly across the wood to avoid any scratching. Maroon and white scotch brite pads were then applied to create a buffed finished. Lastly, upon Brian’s clever advice, I burnished the spinning legs by lightly pressing on a hand full of their own shavings. It’s the circle of life…and it turns us all.

turned tapered legs

The finished product

Get bent!

August 10, 2009


Brian Reid bends it like Beckham using a hot pipe technique

Last week was awash with fascinating demos on bending and laminating wood. Our third and final project calls for curves — students are encouraged to build a demi-lune table for the well-rounded range of techniques it demands. Instead, I’ll spend these final weeks crafting a bent and laminated hat rack and turned legs for my entry table. Way cooler than a Demi Moore table or whatever you call it.

Expect more pictures of steam-bending and laminating next week when I build my hat rack…

steam box

Our campus steam box

iron bending

Iron bending a strip of wood

This summer’s soundtrack

August 8, 2009


Music has kept me level through the summer’s many ups and downs. A sample of songs currently on heavy rotation:

Young Adult Friction – The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

Teenager – Camera Obscura

Lonesome Swan – Glasvegas

Sex On Fire – Kings of Leon

Man In The Mirror – Michael Jackson

A race to the finish

August 2, 2009

glue up

Austin Matheson, our teacher/glue-up guru stands behind my piece

This past Friday, our 6 week long case piece project technically concluded. Perhaps our designs were overly ambitious (and the swimming conditions overly awesome) but at the end of the day, not a single student had completed their piece. Class hours are from 9-5, but most of us are in the shop 14 hours a day. I wouldn’t say we’re going mad from lack of sleep, but we’ve definitely had our moments. The other day, for instance, I became a bit too attached to my piece. Fortunately, I was able to unclamp my hand and complete my glue up. Now if only I could glue my dignity back together.


Here are a ton of pictures from the busy week…


Before applying finish, I quickly power-sanded the inner surfaces. Personally, I’m partial to hand-sanding as those motorized machines can cause you to skip around the wood unevenly.

shellac finish

Afterward, I “prefinished” the inside of the case. I applied three coats of shellac, sanding down finer and finer between coats. Now it’s at least 15x softer than a baby’s booty.


Since my top drawer needs a surface to rest upon, I glued on some thin cleats or “chicken strips” as Austin prefers to call them.


Geez Johnny, way to be a clamp hogger.

Lobster roll in Lincolnville

August 2, 2009

lobster roll

Greetings from the Center for Crustacean Craftsmanship…