Mt Zion - Andrew Brant

Andrew Brant

Writing from Andrew Brant on Woodworking and Craft

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Ceremonial Bowls

This weekend I got very into making ceremonial bowls. I finally felt like I had gotten around the corner in turning and after about six bowls that were really special for Ashley and I, I put a new blade on my bandsaw and cut up as much as I could into blanks.

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I honestly forgot how good a woodslicer resaw blade was. I only have a tiny 10’’ bandsaw, and the old blade had just been used up and was a finer set, skinner blade. After putting on the widest, roughest set resaw blade sold for this machine from Highland Tools I realized I was cutting through my thick blanks like butter. It had been stalling out at about 1.5’’

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I made about 15 blanks, and did them as a batch - drilled the hole for the screw chuck all together, rough turned all tougher. Luckily all this is very dry wood already. It means more sanding to finish it, but for now it means they’ll be pretty much done as soon as I’m done.

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And the end results of everything I put together. I’ll compost the shavings and the wood will be for a barbecue with Ashley when she gets back home

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After a long, long love affair with my old 35mm camera - the same one I used in high school - I started to realize that film wasn’t best suited to me and my medium. So I got a new one. In-process progress shots are hard to shoot and light is never perfect, so I need the leeway to take dozens and dozens until I get what I’m trying to show.

Also, it takes much better videos, and I can still use all the old lenses from my Dad on it with a small adaptor

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This week I also worked on a few different waxes. One recipe that is tougher, and good for furniture tops. Plus another that is 100% food and kid safe, for these ceremonial bowls and kids toys.

What I’m going to offer is this same wax for sale on this website and along with furniture commissions. The one question I always get asked is how to maintain the wood on anything I sell, so I wanted to develop my own formulas that is exactly what my pieces need. Even I get confused in the finishing world, I think this will really give people confidence that when they buy an heirloom piece they can take care of it for decades to come.

I’m still working on making it soft enough to be easy to use by playing with the proportions - but as it is, I love it. I finished all my bowls in a version of it.

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Pollisoirs. What are these, tiny brooms?

Yes, yes they are.

They are tiny brooms wrapped super tight. I got two sizes from a family run broom company, and they are amazing. According to Don Williams at The Barn on White Run . It was in Roubo, but not described very thoroughly. So he had some made and experimented with what they could be used for, and they are amazing.

One thing that really looks good on wood is called ‘Burnishing’. After you sand or scrape or plane down as far as you can go, wood is still a soft, spongy, organic thing underneath. What you can do is press a piece of something hard, like a very smooth metal rod or a piece of bone or even paper bags on it and it will compress the fibers, and give the wood a nice solid look. I’m still not sure what it is, but when you don’t burnish the wood can look a bit grey, especially dark woods like walnut.

The pollisoirs then do exactly that. The one up close is the one I used for bowls - it has longer, looser fibers that are perfect for getting in every nook and cranny of a bowl .

I load it up with the wax I made, and apply to the bowl while it is still on the lathe. This lets me push it in, and let the lathe do the work of moving the piece around. Tada.

It’s like the heavens opened up above me. Like I’ve been missing something for years.

The bowls I made are up for sale on the store. They came out really special, and I really love them. They are sacred objects for holy items.

Andrew Brant
My first sewing machine

 

Up until now, I’ve had one shameful secret - that I didn’t know how to use a sewing machine. I was familiar - my family has owned Brant's Clothing in Missouri for exactly 100 years this year, where my brother and father sew every day.  My mom is an accomplished fabric artist herself and makes amazing quilts, with a lifetime of all kinds of other projects from clothes to fabric art. I bet every single day at least someone is sitting behind a sewing machine. 

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I’ve known how to sew by hand, having done cross stitch art with my mom when I was young, and learning basic repairs. I’ve made countless supply trips to Missouri Sewing Machine for supplies, I’ve sewn on patches, I’ve sat behind the register pulling thread out of this or that a million times. But I never knew how to use a machine. 

 

So a few months ago, I decided to change that. I got a good, heavy duty Singer that I’m told could sew leather, and @wadulisiwoman brought me to a fabric store to get the rest of my kit. My dad gave me some pointers. And this weekend, she and I sewed tougher a new curtain / door to our office with some fabric we picked out together, replacing whatever cheap one I bought when I first moved in. 

 

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Like building my own furniture, or making my own food, it appeals to the anti-capitalist in me.  Not having to buy something that was made with exploited labor, and instead use that productive capacity to make something for ourselves feels like a small act of rebellion. It’s simple - it’s a curtain! - but it’s also the stepping stone to more elaborate projects.  No, I don’t intend to make all my own clothes from old flour sacks, but being able to maintain what I own and make what I need where I can isn’t just about tradition, or being frugal, but enjoying the fruits of my labor in an immediate way. It also means I am no longer limited by what’s at Target, or what’s on Amazon - ethically dubious but sometimes necessary.  And while I love nothing more than commissioning custom work from friends and local artisans, there are some things (like a curtain) where that might be a bridge too far. 

 

 

I think I’ll make a tool roll for my chisels next, and a few more curtains are on the way. Thanks to Ash for the patience teaching me how to get started. Now I’ll never have to say ‘I’m the only person in my family who can’t use a sewing machine’ ever again 

Andrew Brant
Timber Framed Sliding Dovetails
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After the Dutch tool chest class at Lost Art Press, I really wanted to finish up my Roubo workbench.  It was amazing to actually work at not just one proper Roubo, with proper holdfasts, leg vises and the like. 

I already had the top laminated up, and last weekend I flattened it by hand, with a scrub plane, a #4 Stanley and a #5 low angle plane. 

This weekend, it was time for the legs.

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I realized on my practice piece that I did not have a saw deep enough for these joints, so I used my band saw. I would have loved to have used a big ole bad axe Roubo Beastmaster, but I didn’t want to wait, and I also wanted the accuracy on my first go. i mostly wanted to do it this weekend. 

It worked ok! I got it done but there will still be a lot more cleanup than I was expecting. This little benchtop band saw doesn’t have a lot of power against this end grain, and I need to learn to set it up better

 

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Once I made all the bandsaw cuts, I took it back outside to cut the tenon cheeks with a crosscut saw. Not just because the sun was out, but even just on two saw benches the weight of this bench really makes it so much better to work on. It just doesn’t move.

 

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Chiseled the ends out.  I was able to take vertical strike along the base line and split the grain on the way down. I may try this on my regular dovetail, since I’m still having trouble coping out the waste perfectly. Chiseling is amazingly intuitive to me. 

 

 

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Repeat three more times, and good to go!

This feels a lot more like timber framing, which is kind of awesome. A friend who works the trail crew in the Sierras visited a while ago, and my “tiny little tools” were cool and unique to him. It’s fun to work with such massive size in softwood. And after Megan Fitzpatrick’s class, I’m a hundred times more confidant to make journey, especially dovetails.