Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stick Furniture, part I

OK, Blogger, I am seriously annoyed with you. Your unspeakable user interface deleted my entire last post. So I have to put it in all again from scratch. Your wonderful autosave feature autosaved the last word I typed in. And only the last word. Maybe you can split the blame with Firefox, but I wish you would stop fiddling with designer templates and get what you have working properly. I would trade every "improvement" you have made for the ability to insert an image where the cursor is! And don't tell me it's JavaScript's fault.

End of rant. Grrr. Anyway, stick furniture is furniture made out of branchwood, as opposed to stuff riven or sawed out of trees. I have loads and loads of alder that I accumulated when I cleared out the pasture. So, I thought, why not make a stick stool? Start simple, I thought. A stool. Four legs, eight rungs. How simple can you get? Now, you can find alder in any shape you can imagine, except straight. No such thing as straight alder. But that's OK, I thought. It will be artistic. Furniture as nature designed it. Guggenheim, here I come. Alder Fantasies. The next Alaskan dream!

So I hauled some alder from my brushpiles, cut four legs and eight rungs, onto the shaving horse, peel, and shave the ends of the rungs to a very tight fit on a hole drilled with a 15 bit. I think that's 15/16 inch in RGU, about 24mm. So assemble two legs and two rungs. Tap them in with a homemade mallet. You will find they only go in so far. So, as Darth Spader might say, "we have ways of making rebel rungs fit."
This is the torture rack. The Geneva convention says nothing about alder, so tough luck, Alder. Clamped to the trusty Workmate is a pipe clamp, acquired for a couple bucks at a yard sale (the pipe was a found item). I should make a fixture to hold the pipe in the workmate. Mañana perhaps. Anyway, you put the stool in the pipe clamp and turn the screw firmly. There is a wonderful scritch sound, and the rung slides about 5mm into the hole. Repeat with the other rung. Try to keep things square. I didn't. Bad on me. We learn, though.

To the right of the torture rack, we have the orange-topped story stick. This is a stick which records leg lengths, rung lengths, hole heights and diameters. Once you have built a stick, you need no other measuring instument. Big time-saver. Also to the right, two more legs awaiting torture.

Next episode in the tale is related in part in the post entitled "Invasion!" The kids wanted to help. So I had them peel and shave the remaining rungs. They were too loose a fit. I know, I should have checked. But with eight kids loose, just you try supervising anything! Anyway, the next step is to assemble (mallet) and rack the whole stool:You rack the thing until it is square. In stick furniture, there are no right angles and no straight lines, so it's all eyeball. The picture is of the second stool I made using the lessons learned from the first (and without kids to distract me).

Credit time. The racking procedure is covered in Mike Abbot's Living Wood book and Jennie Alexander's How to Make a Chair from a Tree DVD. Google them. Mr Alexander recently changed his name; formerly John Alexander; Google may not find anything under Jennie.

So what became of the first stool? Well, we put a top on it, and two little girls carried it off to their clubhouse!
It did not occur to me at the time, but an adult stool is perfectly adequate as a little girl's clubhouse table.

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