Saturday, February 27, 2010

Don't Poison Yourself, Stupid - Wood Shop Safety

Now we all know about the poisons that are around the typical woodshop. The stains, the lacquers, the sealers, the thinners, the strippers, the occasional exotic wood. And most of us, hopefully, have enough sense to use masks, or respirators, or gloves, or to otherwise protect ourselves.

This isn't about any of that.

This is about a much more insidious poisoning.

Now I clean my shop, 3,4 sometimes 5 times a week. Sometimes I feel like my job is sweeping, not woodwork. But we all have that nook or cranny or shelf in the back or way up high that we just never seem to get to.

Well in my case that shelf is on the top of a pallet rack about 12 feet high. Hence, the reason I never get up there. But last week I needed a box from up there. So feeling like a 10-yr-old monkey, I climbed up the side of that pallet racking, reached up there threw the box off and dumped 5 years of dust in my face.

Now we don't really think of dust much when it comes to poison. But let's think about what's in this dust. Yes, I now use the carb-green sheet goods like the rest of the state is required to do. But 5 years ago, let's face it, it was all formaldehyde, insecticides and god knows what else they put in that stuff.

But that's just the obvious stuff. Remember this is 12 feet up. And since I'm not storing sawdust, this is all micro-fine. You know the 1-3 micron range. The stuff they tell you, "wood causes cancer". So, yeah, there was old sheet goods, but how much of it was also oak and walnut (tanic acid) or 10 or 15 exotics: lacewood, ebony, bloodwood, ambonya all the stuff that will give you severe skin rashes. Yeah, they've all been in my shop too. Not to mention, anything that leaves as a fume lands somewhere and sawdust, we all know, is great at absorbing those things. So not only did I get all of the wood and whatever comes in that, but all of the residual chemicals that they soaked up for those five years.

So what was on that top shelf? Cancer, in powder form.

Now, anybody with common sense would have suggested, "Hey, use a mask" or "Hey, get a respirator". Yeah, I have both of them in the shop. No, nobody suggested it. No, I didn't think of it. After all, I only see this shelf about once every five years, "How bad could it be? All I've got to do is get a box down."

And so it's been four days of a sore throat so bad that I'm reduced to eating just one small meal a day. Hacking up parts of my body I didn't know I could live without. Eating cough drops like they are paying me an endorsement. Missing a day and a half worth of work and feeling my strength at about 50% loss.

Hey stupid, learn from the idiot who came before you.

Put your mask on, and clean that dusty old corner before you inhale that corner.

A few of my Favorites on Etsy!

Just a few of the wonderful things I've found on Etsy. Let them know you found it here!

Be sure you click on The Keep - this little picture doesn't do it justice.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Feeling Special - Mission Dresser Featured

WHOO HOO!! I got featured on this wonderful blog!

Well my Mission Style Dresser was listed on their Friday Favorites!

It's always nice to get the recognition. Please visit her blog to see ME! and more items she liked!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Repair Job Tips - Fix it right or fix it twice

What's wrong with this picture?

If you say it's that it is in 50 million pieces you're wrong. What's wrong is that someone who didn't know what they were doing tried to fix this first, at least tripling my labor.

For another example, I had someone call me panicked because his house cleaner had broken his wife's favorite mission style desk. He was in a panic and I had him bring it right over. Four hours later that damage, and some other problems he didn't know about were fixed and he was on his way and had the piece home before his wife ever knew. All because he didn't try to do it himself first.

Most of the time, repairs aren't my favorite thing. It's not easy to take something back to its original condition when it's something made in the last few decades. For antique pieces, add in problems like materials have changed and tools have changed and techniques have changed.

These nestling tables were a lot of work but I actually did enjoy it. As I took it apart to fix the damage, we discovered that someone had replaced two missing portions with just wood putty.

We couldn't even tell it was wood putty at first because these beautiful rosewood tables were dyed black! It took quite some time to delicately remove the dye first. The missing sections had to be re-carved out of rosewood.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Greening Blues

I was reading an article today about a company out in Arizona that has done some very Green projects. Using water-based finishes, formaldehyde-free items, recycled, reclaimed and salvaged products.

But the article brought up an important issue. To quote the article: There are several new products that Clark says she would like to incorporate more into her architectural woodwork projects.

Last I checked, a 4x8 sheet of 3/4" think bamboo plywood is $300 a sheet, making it 9 TIMES more expensive than the typical sheet of oak plywood used to build your furniture. At this point products coming solely out of Asia are at a high price point, but items where the raw material comes from America, ships to Asia and then is shipped back to America as a final product are basically dirt cheap. Why are our natural resources so cheap and disposable and there's aren't?

They go on to offer a suggestion: . . . until demand lowers the price, it is unlikely for now, she adds.

I think this is backwards. If the price lowers, the demand will go up. There is all of this funding for greening coming out of the government. Instead of using it to reward a large company for switching from paper cups to ceramic mugs in their break room, how about using it to subsidize some of these innovative, sustainable products coming onto the market. Lowering the price will bring the product to more and more companies, and the raised demand will help to keep the price down.

While we wait for this to happen. There are ways that our industry can go green without going broke.
Surprisingly enough, woodwork is a very green industry.

Here are some of the things already happening in our shop and many around us:
  • We use low-VOC (275, lowest in the Country). In California, EPA laws are stringent. My fellow California woodworkers will know that "stringent" is me being kind.
  • Many local suppliers are LEEDS certified. We are hoping to get our certification soon.
  • 90% of our waste is sawdust. We do our best to use up every part of the wood. There is a pile in the shop of off-fall that is often dug through to be used as part of other jobs, and anything not used gets given away as firewood. (Cherry makes a wonderful campfire.) .
  • In the last 6 years, we haven't bought a single rag. We recycle old clothes and linens from our home instead.
  • We rarely generate any paperwork - other than the necessary receipts/ invoices. Much of our work is done on the phone or in e-mails.
The next step can be to look to the local area. Trees are everywhere. And many get pulled out for different reasons. Too many of those end up at the dump. This is a wasted resource that can and should be tapped.

Unfortunately, I'm finding that local tree removal companies aren't as willing to work with me as I would hope. They are more willing to pay the dump and waste the resource than to let me take the tree. It's really discouraging to know that it's often the more basic green ideas, the ones that don't cost as much, the ones that could save everyone money, that are the least used.

Hopefully I'll be able to report back about some companies that are willing to work with us in a mutually beneficial way.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

More about the Master's Project

I recently got a question about my Master's Project. So, I wanted to clarify a little bit.

Its for a Masters Appointment. This is "the light at the end of the tunnel".

18 yrs ago I met "my" master, Carl ( now deceased) who started me on this path. He was a certified master Coo coo Clock maker from the olde world, indentured servant school of learning. I have done my best to follow the system he laid out for me all those years ago & now it has come time to build my Masters Project.

When I am done it will be presented to a couple of recognized standing masters ( I am fortunate enough to know 1 personally & have met & made arrangements with 2 others).

If I get 1 nod of approval I'm a master in standing next to them - if not , I never will be. Its a make or break all test. If I pass this final test I believe I will be the first such appointed master since WWII.

My time is running out - the only CERTIFIED master I know is in his early 90's, if I don't do this soon the opportunity simply wont exist anymore to be passed on to anyone. In a sentence : I'm struggling to preserve an extinct tradition.

What I'm working on

Well work is moving along this week.

I've got a few trophy jobs in house - and thankfully the rain is holding off so I can get a finish on them.

In the meantime I've finished another cane:

The mesquite, a rich brown wood, runs all the way through the walking stick to ensure stability and strength.

The bloodwood and fiddle back maple serve as a vibrant contrasting accent at the knob.

The pictures just don't do this beautiful item justice. The true colors are deep and rich with a wonderfully polished gleam.

Includes a non-slip rubber tip at the end that has been installed.

It stands a approximately 33inches.

I'm also still working on some of the Heart Shaped jewelry boxes (see finished one here).

Here are two that haven't had the silver started on them, but that have been cut down and turned into a rough shape. Those odd ends are to for putting it on the lathe.

It's hard to imagine that something like that comes from something like this rough manzanita block.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A very "Green" Drafting Table

The drafting table is completed!

As mentioned before, this was built so that I can have a space to work on the design of my Master's Project. (see below)

This is made, primarily out of spare wood from around the shop. Even the butcher block top.

The top was a butcher block (Northern Soft Maple) from a home (where we built the replacement). The "I" of the legs was shop scrap left over from building that replacement butcher block.

The cross member, foot rest, was a fall off from a production built butcher block used for the island in the same home. Also Northern Soft Maple

The Fiddleback Maple of the pencil lip on the front of the table was from my personal stash. I try to pick up any in the lumber piles at my suppliers when I'm lucky enough to find a figured piece.

The back and front connector of the legs were a remnant from a large mall job a friend had. These are pieces of maple that were rejected for their grain, on a job that wanted straight grain.

The African Mahogany "/" of the legs were a remnant after a large job of trophies.

The four hand turned pins were random maple scraps from my firewood pile.

Two pieces of All-thread that were donated from a friend who was replacing lighting, are set at the back with hand turned Mahogany handles (also from the trophy remnant above).

The drafting arm itself (Bruning) was given to me by my high school woodshop teacher when the high school disbanded the drafting class. Sadly, the other 29 drafting arms in the class were left to rust and sold as scrap metal along with the desks. Worse still, I kept in contact with my wood shop teacher until he no longer remembered his wife, due to severe Alzheimers. A dear friend, sorely missed.

Because almost all of the parts were either kept from being discarded, left over from jobs, or donated, it was a very green job and in the end it cost $10.70 to build this. Well that was the price of the hinge and some copper plumbing end caps.


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