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Fine Woodworking hit the mark with articles this month

A New Monthly Series
Some times you don’t know if a magazine is going to deliver content worth reading and of course we all read articles for different reasons and draw from content differently. We have from time to time chosen to debunk claims expressed in articles as fact when they have indeed been no more than fictional imaginings and for the main part most people gain more insights to balance out the imbalances. We recently posted articles on articles we thought worthy of merit and everyone seemed to enjoy that and so periodically we will be reviewing different magazines for content worthy of note, whether good, bad or merely indifferent. As long as this has value to you we will continue. Magazine of the month this month comes from the Taunton Press advertising periodical Fine Woodworking. I have read four US magazines to arrive at my month’s magazine choice.

Two articles in Fine Woodworking this month (issue number is 234 July/ August) struck me as interesting. Actually there were a couple more too, but these particular two had points I found quite noteworthy. Thomas McKenna wrote one of the articles which was about a Bombe chest made by furniture maker and teacher from the North Bennet Street School, Dan Faia. The other was a small tool chest made by the art director from Fine Woodworking’s own staff, Michael Pekovich.

A difficult journey to bombe chests
The first article was truly inspirational not because it isn’t pretentious so much as the sheer complexities surrounding the project and the workmanship Dan Faia brought to the table in his making this specific piece. Dan has made furniture for about 20 years. I thought his work exuded an aspirational quality and so I just had to encourage others to take even a glimpse into A Journey to Bombe, written by Thomas McKenna, managing editor at Fine Woodworking.
[lightbox link=”https://paulsellers.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2013/07/Image.jpg” thumb=”https://paulsellers.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2013/07/Image.jpg” width=”0″ align=”left” title=”Image” frame=”true” icon=”image”]I read the article through and through because I was interested in what the take might be and the first thing I noticed was how little information there was with regards to the actual bombe build. The article more explained the development of bombe chests through its US history and though it showed no input from other historical sources I thought it interesting to see some of the images showing methods Faia developed to make the piece become a physical reality.
As is fully expected from Fine Woodworking, the quality of the photography was typically creditworthy throughout and this was attributed also to Thomas McKenna who captured hand techniques and and hand and body positions very effectively. As I said, the article was aspirationally encouraging and though I might like to have seen drawings from the past types to show changes alluded to in the article or some of Dan Faia’s art work that brought about the newly developed piece, the article was made lengthy at eight pages by the prodigious use of photographs that did indeed paint a thousand words.

Making a tool box
The second article was interesting too. Michael Pekovich created a sort of traveling tool box for his essential tools. A kit box if you will, to contain what he needs when he is demoing at different venues; so that the tools are not rolling around in a “canvas” tote. I particularly like toolboxes and chests and because we are about to launch our own online presentation to build a larger version on woodworkingmasterclasses.com I thought others might want to consider sizes before they build.
I thought it a little ironic that so much machine work was involved for sections that were quicker and easier by hand but that’s just me.
One or two concerns I had!
There was one consideration I wondered about which was the fixed-point lid where no expansion or contraction takes place in relation to the main box body itself. Because of design choices, the box itself will be frequently expanding and or contracting as atmospheric changes alter the width of the box from front to back throughout the coming years. At a width of over 12”, this aspect of the box will generally expand or shrink somewhere between 1/16” to 1/8” in either direction depending on the season’s changes and indeed regional differences outside of its typical environment. Because of the chosen grain orientation, this box will do that unless of course it’s kept in a climate controlled environment–something not typical for us woodworkers. In this case the fixed points of the lid frame, i.e. the fixed distance between the hinge line at the back edge of the box and the point of the lock mechanism, do not expand or contract but minimally, a fraction of the main box, so if and when the box does move, there’s a high risk that the closed lid might well bind the lock’s hooked mechanism in either direction when the box moves. Whether through shrinkage or expansion, this can effectively lock the box and make access very difficult or even impossible. But the answer is to simply consider this when you come to choose your locking preference if you indeed a lock is needed at all. The type of lock chosen has little wiggle room, so even small movements can cause a problem. A hasp and staple often works best and this would go with the heavy handles he chose too.
A second point not to distant from the first is the drawers are fixed in length too. It doesn’t say how the drawers are fitted into the reveal and so they could be slightly recessed from the front face. If they are flush, then the box can expand and leave them recessed, which would look OK, but if the box shrinks, the drawers will protrude and that would be different. It’s best to undersize the length of the drawers and put stops behind the drawer front. That will eliminate that problem.

Shellac and its merits
There was another article I liked and I think this is because it reflected my own views on the merits of using shellac as a much-maligned but truly excellent finish for just about any woodworking project. Mario Rodriguez is a gifted long-time woodworker and author and this article really pegged it in extolling the virtues of shellac. This is a definitive how-to for shellac users. Full of practical advice, informative as to application and uses, colour, cut, surface prepping, coat build-up and more. I think that it’s worth tucking this one away if you are only an occasional user and don’t get used to the methods as a full time maker might.

3 comments

  1. BrianJ says:

    Just picked this issue up yesterday, will be interesting to read through with your perspective in mind. Never used shellac, always been a fan of Danish oil for a natural look in the past. The cabinet scraper article is another I will read closely, I just bought one but I have pages 294-301 in another book I will reference as well ;)….

    • The cabinet scraper article is very questionable and makes some strong statements that need correcting so I will be posting on that too. It is actually more an advert for an alternative burnisher by the maker and author it seems.

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