…kittens, by Abbott Handerson Thayer
… kittens, by British landscape artist William Collins
Collins was often praised for his ability to capture light, and this painting is full of subtle and nuanced light, but it’s that wee, timid kitten that makes it wonderful.
The Stray Kitten, 1835, William Collins. Image from Wikiart.
It is several months since the last update on this project, and there are reasons for that. Some have to do with the project itself, some do not. One of the reasons that are directly related to the project was that I had difficulty finishing the knife stands because in the cold weather the boat lacquer that I have decided to use for finish took an absolutely inordinate amount of time to harden properly. So prepare now for a really long post about how I made the wooden stands for these knives.
The original plan was to make all woodworks from jatoba and black locust, thus making the stands from massive hardwood. But since I have made the handles from the rather rare and precious applewood, I had a very limited supply. Especially when it came to the spalted wood. So I stood in front of a decision – should I try to make the stands match the handles or not. And I have decided to give it a try and make matching stands. Which means getting a lot out of a little.
First I started by cutting the cores of the future stands out of some scrap spruce wood, of which I have an overabundance. Where I needed a thicker piece, I have simply layered and trimmed the thinner ones until I got the size that I wanted, with a generous amount of wood on both sides of each blade, especially for the stands where two blades were meant to be next to each other.
This was the first time I have used expanding PU glue. PVA glue would have difficulty to set in my workshop, even with heating. This glue did harden within a few hours enough so I could safely take it indoors for the rest of the curing process.
After these cores were glued and cut to the final size, I have sanded all flat surfaces. Not very thoroughly, just enough that I do not get my hands full of splinters.
And since I had to do with what little of the precious wood I had, I have decided to use thin boards/veneers for finishing. I have cut approx 5 mm thick slices of the wood on my bandsaw and with a bit of luck, I did get enough of each of the three types of wood that I have used for the handles to cover the stands. Mostly. I could have cut even thinner veneers, like 2 mm, but 5 mm did save me a bit of work later on.
Most veneers were cut with the grain, but I have also cut several pieces across the grain. Those I have glued on the end of the softwood cores and only after that I have cut the slits for blades. For each blade a cut just as deep as the blade is wide, so each knife has a slot fitted exactly to it. I took two passes on the circular saw for each slit since I have cut them about 1-2 mm wider than the blades are, so the knives come in and out really easily without scraping the sides. That way at least I hope the probability of something getting stuck to the mirror-polished blade and scratching it later on in the stand should be reduced. I could not of course make the slits too wide, because then the point could get stuck in them.
Wherever veneers had to be put side-by-side, I had to carefully fit them together so the seams are as small as possible. In one case I also had to change the design of the stand since I did not have any veneers long enough and I did not want to link veneer strips lengthwise. Two strips beside each other do connect almost seamlessly and even when they are visible, they do not disturb. But a clear line across the grain or the pattern in the spalted wood would surely look at least odd.
To fit the veneers properly all around I had to first glue up two opposing sides, trim the excess, grind it to flat, and only then I could glue the other two sides. Trim and sand again and I got finished building blocks for the final products.
There were some minor problems – the spalted wood was soft and got chipped – so I had to fill in some places with resin mixed with sawdust and/or offcuts.
Then there was a lot of sanding. It made me glad to have a hand-held belt sander. I will probably have to buy an orbital sander too if I am going to make more of these.
Since the resulting pieces had very sharp edges which would not look very well in combination with the rather rounded handles, I have decided to round them significantly. I did not use a router, although I do own one. Instead, I have just sanded all future edges down with 60 grit sandpaper over a soft sponge until they looked right, and then I have polished them.
In one of the stands, the pieces were connected by big enough flat surfaces that I could reliably clamp it all together during curing, but int two of the pieces had to be connected by relatively small areas and at an odd angle, so I have used a piece of wood to drill holes for dowels to prevent the parts from shifting during the glue-up.
And here they are, fixed to small boards for stability and handling during the paint job. I have decided to use boat lacquer for the stands because infusing such big pieces with resin would be very, very expensive. I did not expect it to take as long as it did though.
After the first coat with highly diluted lacquer the grain and fungus patterns popped up on all pieces quite significantly. I have left it dry for two days and then gave it two more coats with diluted lacquer in two-days intervals to stabilize the soft and spongy wood as much as is possible. And after that, it was five-six more coats with undiluted lacquer, with a few days wait and thorough sanding between each coating. When the last coating was drying, I got tangled up for several weeks with other works, mainly in the garden, and only this last week did I get round to do the last hand sanding. I sanded the pieces in increasing grits up to 1000 and there I did stop because I wanted them to have the same satin finish as the handles.
I have modified my buffing compound for the stands, but it is still perhaps a bit too hard. It did buff the pieces nicely though, so I cannot complain. Too much. I did achieve my goal, which was to make the stands reasonably similar to the knife handles. There is a bit of difference in color because the handles are thoroughly infused with resin, but I do not think it is a problem and neither does anyone who has seen it so far (about 7 people).
And this week I finally got to the last step in this rather long project – making the stands to actually, well, stand. Out of the three, only one was big and heavy enough to be stable – the one from mostly healthy wood. For the other two, I did not have enough material to make them with a wide enough base, so I had to fit them with legs. I have considered several options and I have decided to go with a 6 mm stainless steel pipe. Aluminum would look cheap and brass would clash with the visible stainless steel tangs on the knives.
To drill the holes safely and at a proper angle, I have first made a little board that could be fixed to the stand at the angle I wanted it to be in one direction. In the depicted case, the board is at the angle the leg is supposed to be when viewed from above. Into that board I have drilled a hole at an angle it was supposed to go into the stand. Then I could fix this board to the stand by the simple method of copious amounts of paper masking tape and drill the hole safely and at the correct angle.
By the way, I did not do any measuring or sketching for this. The “correct” angle was established by eyeballing.
With that, I was still not done with this piece of wood. I have trimmed one end of it at the angle the leg will touch the ground and used that as a guide to filing down the end of the pipe flat-ish.
Gluing the legs with epoxy was pretty straightforward after that and they were already mostly – although not perfectly – flat against the plate.
They did need a bit of sanding to get them perfectly flat, but not that much.
And that is the project almost finished. All that is left is to sharpen the knives and make pretty pictures. Hopefully sometime soon. You can see here that I have also already begun the next batch of knives. Yup, that is how long it took for the lacquer to harden, I have managed to grind and harden ten new blades in the meantime.
The next – and last – post in this series will be pure cutlery porn. This is one of those rare instances where I think I have done a good job.
It is very rare that I get an opportunity to take a picture of male black redstart. I see them all the time, but they are restless and they never come to the feeder. This one was moving around the feeder, although he did not eat the seeds – he used the surroundings for vantage points to spot insects in the grass. And he stayed a few times in one place long enough for me to take a picture.
That last picture gives me the impression of an old grampa looking disapprovingly at me. Something about the line between the black and grey feathers above the eyes gives him that look.
… flowers, by Joshua Reynolds
A herm is a square pillared statue topped by a bust, and Hymen is the Roman god of fertility and marriage who sits atop this particular herm. The ladies are Barbara, Elizabeth and Anne Montgomery, daughters of Sir William Montgomery, who were known as the Irish graces.
It’s been a while since I’ve been around, but I thought I’d pop in to say hello and let you know what’s up. Several weeks ago, Mr. V had a health crisis that’s kept me busier than usual. A lot busier, and I admit that I’ve been feeling stressed, exhausted and depressed. We’ve come through the worst of it, for now, but it’s left me feeling behind in just about everything, with worry nibbling at the edges of my days. Add to that the lingering grief of losing Jack, the fact that my best friend has moved to Nova Scotia and the continuing isolation of Covid, and it becomes a recipe for getting stuck in a not-so-good place.
It’s always been my vision to provide a positive type of blogging. This channel is full of serious writers who provide important content that I value, but what I have to offer is simpler. I want to share my vision of the beautiful, simple things in life that nurture us and give us reason to continue the fight for equality, justice and a livable planet. I think that has value, and I hope you do too. So, today I am kicking myself in the ass and saying enough of the feeling sorry for myself. It’s time to stop and lookup.
It’s Springtime, and tender green plants are being born. Colour is creeping into the grey landscape left behind by winter, and leaves are painting in the spaces between bare branches scratching at the sky. There’s a riot of green trailing streamers of red and yellow tulips, blue forget-me-nots, purple violets and pale blossoms of apple and plum. I’ve thrown open my windows, and the passing breezes bring in the sweet earthy scent of spring.
I’ve taken stock, and now it’s time to take a deep breath, count my blessings and with intention, begin again.
Dandelions in the vegetable patch are a nuisance, but in the lawn, they are a delight to see. For me anyway. They bloom soon after snowdrops and narcissuses and continue to do so well into the fall. Thus they are an important source of food for bees, butterflies, and all other kinds of pollinators.
This is not the first dandelion of this year in my garden, but it is the first one with multiple blossoms opening at once. Unfortunately, there were no insects to be seen anywhere right now, although I did see bumblebee queens scouting the garden for nesting places.
It’s a fabulous shot from the camera of Avalus, who says
PZ’s post (Pharyngula) https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2021/04/07/spider-deaths/ reminded me of a photo I took last weekend.
Tiny spider eats really big spider, somehow this really surprised me. I wonder how she was caught. The photo does not really give the bulk of the prey justice.
That’s a great capture, Avalus. I apologize for the delay in posting it.