Sacks, Chests, Jigsaw Frames, Kitchen Cabinets, Stair Carvings, Cherubs, my work continues to be varied...

Much has been going on both in the workshop and out of it for the last couple of months. Lots of good collaboration with the guys at Thomas Philpott Cabinet Makers ( who I share the workshop with and some interesting work of my own.

First up is a project for my daughters bedroom, she asked me to make a set of plywood shelves to go in the corner of her room, next to an existing set of shelves. I decided to make these as a set of boxes that would stack on top of each other, both to create an interesting non-uniform layout and so that I could still fit the pieces I needed to cut on my machine. In the three pictures below you can see how these were cut, assembled and then finally situated and in use. The parts for these were cut out of two standard sizes sheets of 12mm plywood.

Something I referenced in my last update is a sculpture I’m currently working on. This has moved on slowly but surely with a lot of hand-shaping as you can see in the first two images below and many hours of hand-sanding to get it to a beautifully smooth finish. I have now started to french polish this and will add a rope around its neck to complete it hopefully in the next week.

One of Tom’s clients asked him to make some chests to go onto their barge, he asked me to carve a shallow curve into the top of these. Below you can see in the images that I cut these both out of single quite large (for the CNC) piece of glued up Sapele. In the last image you can see them with a single coat of oil (and some settled dust) waiting for subsequent coats of finish.

Another job previously referenced in this journal was a set of jig-saw puzzle frames, made for an artist to create a unique way to show their work. These were cut from 25mm MDF and then sealed and sprayed to give a smooth white finish. You can see these individually and then assembled in the images below.

Last year I cut a number of pieces for a Gothic inspired kitchen we’re collaborating on, these then had to be stored away as the client wanted a number of others things doing for his house and the kitchen to be done last. I’m please to say we’re finally back to working on the kitchen, so I’ve been pulling out the previously cut parts and trying to remember how I made things and how they were intended to be put together. The first of these were the pillars you can see below. These are 80mm square section solid white oak with walnut inlays for the quilted sections and the shallow pyramids. For some of these I had to cut a side inlay as well as the front, you can see in the second image below the delicate operation to do this that requires 3 setups due to the length of the components. In the last image you can see how good these look finished and with a coat of oil. I’m really looking forward to seeing the whole kitchen installed.

The cabinet doors shown below are another part of the same kitchen. These are quite complex assemblies with 6 CNC cut parts and then a number of other components to finish them. The part I most like on these is an overlapping arch, to make the design work I designed a nice joint to allow them to slot together and still have the decorative grooves running through them to house a walnut bead. In the first 6 pictures below you can see how these were cut, how they go together and then the initial assembly. The way this joint worked with minimal hand fitting was extremely satisfying, especially as I designed these months ago and had to rely on the fact I’d done it correctly… In the last 3 pictures in the block below, you can see the parts for the lower section of the interior of the doors and single and double door partly assembled. The moulding in this part of the door will also have a walnut trefoil shape added at its point then everything in the frame will be backed with a brass mesh to complete it. They are going to look amazing.

The guys have also started work on a major renovation for another client. The first part of this that I got involved with were the stairs. For the newel posts and spindles Tom wanted 90 degree v-grooves cut on all four sides. The newels would have been unwieldy to get on the CNC machine to setup accurately and to also support them, so I made an MDF jig that could be used to hand-route these into each side. You can see this in use and the result of this operation in the first 3 images below. The pointed end of the newel was shaped with hand tools not on the CNC. The second three image below show the spindles. These were done on the CNC using an MDF jig with a stop to line them up and a piece to clamp 10 spindles at a time in place. Once secure I cut straight grooves across them,released them, rotated each 90 degrees and repeated. This worked really well with a set of ten taking around 40 minutes to cut.

Another part of the same staircase were some carvings to replicate a piece of decoration from an existing set of stairs in the same building. In the first picture below you can see the original at the top and my first test carving. Once we were happy with how that looked I made edits to the layout so that for each of the stair treads we had a coherent design based on the original that fitted its length, rather than just have it short or chop it short. This is a real benefit of using CAD/CAM to make something bespoke, that the model can be adjusted and re-worked before carving. In the rest of the images in the block below you can see the carvings being finished, assembled and oiled on the already built stair components. These have been installed now and I’ll look to get a photo for my next update.

In my last update I showed images of some decoration we’d created using a cherub head, again based on an existing carving. This is now being re-purposed to add decoration to some square blocks in the library Tom previously built for the client. To make the head fit the square shape and make sense I created a feather pattern and added a chamfered edge. Below you can see the two prototypes being cut and the results with a single coat of oil in context sat on a block the size of the ones they’ll be attached to.

Finally for this workshop update a few random items that do not really group together that I’ve made within the last couple of months. The first image is an Iroko sign for one of Tom’s customers. The second image are two of around twelve panels I made to match existing ones that decorate the window frames on the front of a clients house. The third image is 20m of Egg & Dart moulding stacked up in bundles that will become door frames for the interior of a customers fireplaces at some point in the future. The fourth image is a really nice texture cut with a 1” ballnose that will be the centre of a table (topped with glass). The fifth is the platform number from Harry Potter cut in stone coloured Corian and painted for my daughter. Lastly is a small carving I made as a gift for the incredible illustrator Chris Riddell ( who we saw at the Hay Literary Festival last month. This is based on his own image of himself from the Art Matters book he illustrated, I love this book and use it to reset my mental state when I start to mistakenly think I want a normal job again… Until next time.