My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #89: Back to the Shop!

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 08-31-2010 01:36 PM 4438 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 88: Monday Ramblings and Customer (non)Service Part 89 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 90: Losing LJ's For A Bit Really Made Me Appreciate it Even More »

Sometimes I am just like a child. I guess that age has nothing to do with maturity, does it? Here I was yesterday, doing what I was supposed to be doing (drawing) and my partner called that he got off of work early. By early, I mean it was about 2pm. He asked if I wanted to head to Bernie’s and re-saw that wood we got on Friday (I guess he is a child, too!) and it took me about half a second to answer YES!

I have been thinking about all those beautiful wood pieces since we got back and wondering when we would be able to get it re-sawn and to the point where I can bring it here and use it. In Digby where Bernie lives, they are having their annual “Wharf Rat Motorcycle Rally” this weekend starting Wednesday which will bring over 15,000 people to the small town of 4,000. Although I enjoyed it when I lived there on main street and could observe most of the activities from my front window, I really had no desire to go near that town at all this time. There are two roads to get into Digby and both of them are one lane each way. For the first few years, I was able to take the secondary road in if need be, but I am sure that people have caught on now and it will be tedious at best to get there. Staying as far away from it as I possibly could was a better plan.

So I called Bernie at the lake and asked if he minded if we spent a couple of hours in the shop and he said of course we could. He chose not to come though, as it was one of the warmest days that we have had so far this summer and wanted to stay and go for a swim.

We arrived at the shop around 3:30 and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was cooler inside the shop than outside. We immediately went through our inventory and decided which pieces we would work on. There were so many beautiful ones to choose from! We had some Padauk, Grey Elm, a large, thick chunk of Basswood which I wanted to use for some segmentation, some Purple Heart, Sapele, Incensio and I also brought back a piece of the Pau Amarillo so I could run it through the planer. There were also a few pieces of Bird’s Eye Maple and Walnut and Brown Maple that we were running ‘low’ on. So we had our work cut out for us.

Most of the boards were about 3’ long and anywhere from 8-12” wide. We were able to split most of them so I got at least a half inch piece after planing and also some thin 1/8” stock for ornaments and such. We kind of set up a production line so we didn’t have to change the measurements very much and got to work. My partner worked on the table saw and the band saw and I was stationed at the planer.

I love planing wood. It is one of my favorite parts of woodworking. It fascinates me to see the beautiful different figures of the grains exposed. Since we bought most of our wood rough-sawn, putting each species of wood through the planer was like unwrapping a package and seeing a beautiful gift unveiled. I know it sounds dorky, but it was so much fun!

I plane wood like I router – taking very small passes. I find that especially with the exotic wood that I use, it is far better to take small passes than larger ones and there is little, if any tear out. Bernie just had his blades sharpened and the planer was purring like a kitten. Much of the wood was so smooth it was almost shiny, and the curls and figures of the grain looked so cool. My head was spinning thinking about the new projects that this wood would eventually become. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

This was the first time I worked with a couple of these woods. The Grey Elm had an extremely beautiful grain. It was fine and smooth and the color went from light sand to a bright gold in spots to a medium brown in the middle. It looks as if it will be great to scroll saw and should hold up pretty well to many of the details that I like to put into my designing. I have a particular project in mind that I want to try it with. It seemed fairly easy to cut and although I haven’t looked at where it is on the Janka scale, I think it will be a nice addition to my arsenal. I also liked the look of the Sapele, which is new to me. It has a caramel color almost like that of mahogany, but seemed a bit denser and the grain was quite wavy on the piece I have. I can’t wait to see it with a finish on it. I also haven’t worked with Padauk in many years – probably over ten. The piece I have it brilliant and fiery and although I know it is very hard, I think with the proper blade in the saw it shouldn’t be much of a problem and certainly strong.

I can’t wait to have my own full shop. One day I will. Some days I feel so limited having only the scroll saw as my major ‘tool’, but for now that is how it has to be and it is fun to dream of all the wonderful boxes and things I will be able to make when I have all the necessary equipment to do so. It gives me something to look forward to and to work for and it is a nice goal to dream about. ;)

We worked quite efficiently and finished up in a couple of hours. When I looked at the pile of beautiful wood in the back seat of my car, I realized just how efficient we were. By 6:30 we had the shop clean and swept and were headed out to the lake where Bernie and Ellen had a nice supper waiting for us. The weather was beautiful and the lake like glass. We ate outside and there were no bugs or annoying critters and the lake was quiet and peaceful and we talked about band saws and our trip to Halifax and had a nice relaxing visit.

Bernie takes great pleasure in people sharing in his shop. We had brought a band saw book which we just purchased at Lee Valley on Friday and were showing him some things that we could use to adjust his saw and make it perform a bit better for him. He was genuinely happy that we had such a good productive day there and he smiled quite a bit when we were talking about everything. I think in some ways, to him I am like the son he never had. (He has one daughter who has no interest whatsoever in woodworking) He is a great mentor and a wonderful teacher because he shows you how to do something and he moves on and lets you do it. He doesn’t hover over you telling you if you are right or wrong. He lets you make your own mistakes and learn from them and doesn’t chastise your for them. He only speaks up if you ask him or if there is a safety issue involved, as I believe he thinks that experience is the best teacher. I am very fortunate to have him and Ellen in my life.

So today I will be back to drawing. It looks as if it will be quite warm again, so I want to get my walk in early before it gets too warm.

The little apartment is full to the brim of treasures waiting to be made in the form of all of that beautiful wood. Already I know it will be a wonderful winter.

I feel so rich! :)

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

10 comments so far

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3072 days

#1 posted 08-31-2010 01:53 PM

Your very fortunate to have a friend like Bernie and I know that you feel blessed to have his and his wife’s friendship. I hope that can one day have your very own shop, too, and I know that you will because you’re a very determined young lady and you deserve it. Thanks for the post.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3508 days

#2 posted 08-31-2010 02:09 PM

what a wonderful post this morning sheila..a wonderful day you certainly had..nothing like unwrapping wood on the planer…i am the same way..when i first discovered antique southern heart pine…it was the same…very brown and not easy to see…since it had a light coat of white or pink pain on it…and when it came out the other was wow…such rich fantastic im really glad you had a wonderful day…ending it with a dinner with such wonderful friends is perfect…i awoke early myself with some ideas going through my head for a project that is going to turn into a long running series …cant wait to show it when its really excited about it…now if i could only get my blades back from the guy who is sharpening them…lol…im on the verge of going crazy without my saw and planer…wont do it like this again…have a wonderful day…..grizzman

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View SPalm's profile


5325 posts in 4087 days

#3 posted 08-31-2010 02:40 PM

I agree with the wonderment that you find in re-sawing and planing wood. I am always amazed at the grain that shows its face. These are the simple things that a lot of people can just not understand.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View ellen35's profile


2739 posts in 3637 days

#4 posted 08-31-2010 03:00 PM

I feel like I am with you on this trip… your writing is so vivid.

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 3127 days

#5 posted 08-31-2010 03:57 PM

Hi Shiela,

Before I posted a blog, I was enjoying reading your blog and my mind is imagining how you are working with those delicate wood species doing the planing.
Last weekend, I started SPIRAL DESIGN to be constructed. (I have the blog next yours) I was supposed to surrender with the spiral design I made to make it in flesh and nevermind posting however, I was inspired with your blog today. Your determination in doing those difficult design inspired me to continue. Everyone in the LJ has something in common…. the love on the woodwork each of us is doing…. Keep it up and thanks as always,

-- Bert

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3241 days

#6 posted 08-31-2010 04:22 PM

Sheila, I agree with you and Steve. There is nothing like taking a gnarly old piece of wood and planing it to reveal the beauty underneath. Another one that gets me is when the wood really comes alive when the first coat of finish hits it. Two presents in one. The gift that never stops giving.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3047 days

#7 posted 08-31-2010 04:40 PM

Do not worry about sounding dorky for your feelings towards the wood. I have never found anyone close enough for me to meet in person that has a love for wood like I do. Therefore, when others are around I get some mighty funny looks. I can feel and stare at wood grain for a long time and just get lost on the grain. It’s relaxing. My wife has caught me on very large pieces leaning across it and just feeling it’s smothness and taking in the different textures and colors (even once or twice running it across the cheek of my face). She says it looks like I’m getting ready to make love to it. I also love the feel of fresh sawdust moving between my fingers. There’s different textures depending on species and the size of the dust particles. Anyone who doesn’t believe there’s a difference between fresh and old sawdust or species, just make different piles according to species and when it was cut and “play” with it. There’s a difference.
I’ll stop there. Just believe me Sheila. You are not the only one who has a connection with the wood. So, don’t worry. Some of us others feel the same way. Wood is beautiful. Wood is elegant. Sometimes, wood is even sexy.


View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3320 days

#8 posted 08-31-2010 09:25 PM

thank´s for a wonderfull blog Sheila you realy are a fantastic writer I almost
thought I was standing right beside you in the shop :-)
and you are not the only one who has that feeling about wood
but I think the best part is (except from the smell of wood) when I applye the first layer of finish
and the wood pops with all the beautyfullness of colour and grain

have a great day yourself Sheila

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9237 posts in 3125 days

#9 posted 09-01-2010 12:19 AM

Thank you again for the nice comments. I agree with you Martyn and Dennis – that first coat of finish is always amazing. I am eager to experiment with different finishes with these new types of wood. I find I am less and less satisfied with just spraying a coat of poly finish on these beautiful pieces of wood. It just doesn’t do them justice.

I have really liked the oil because it penetrates and really becomes part of the wood. I like the physical process of taking the time to finish things properly. It seems a shame to take all that time cutting and then not give the same amount of attention to the finish. It is like doing half a project.

I am looking forward to learning the different processes and sharing what I learn with others. There are so many times I see beautifully cut fretwork pieces with crap finishes over them. It is just a shame and I have been guilty of it too. :(

I also just love all the steps of working with the wood. Even the smells sometimes although I know some are toxic and I shouldn’t be breathing them. I find the cocobolo smells somewhat like coconut. I wonder if that is why it is named as such. It was interesting to smell all the different fragrances of the many types of woods yesterday (even through the masks). I think sometimes we forget that wood is a living and breathing organism.

Anyway, I am glad you enjoyed sharing my day with me. I enjoyed bringing you all along! :)

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3223 days

#10 posted 09-01-2010 03:29 AM

Hi Sheila, I right there with you although you can’t see me, you described me to a T! I love the wood graining effect and the smells of it. The very best odor I ever smelt was from Tulip wood. This is a very hardwood that has sort of red and white striping throughout the wood. The odor was very perfumy, not overpowering but very evident in it’s sweetness! I only had a small piece and made several items with it, can’t remember what but I did have enough to make a couple of handles for a homemade carving knife that held a fantastic cutting edge. I could have carried a piece of tulip wood block with me and look silly sniffing at that all day long! I think you are a normal wood worker who loves wood and only another wood worker can appreciate how you feel towards wood.

Keep writing and sharing and I’ll keep reading and enjoying your words.

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

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