I drew this landscape while taking a Conservation Biology Class in Highlands North Carolina. The class was two weeks long and lasted all day. I learned a lot about native plants and ecological relationships and went on many hikes in the Highlands area. The drawing is 3.5 x 5.5 inches on a nice cream colored paper that was in my Moleskin sketchbook.
At the suggestion of my wife, I have begun to paint watercolors with the added constraint of a time limit of about 20 minutes. This self imposed time limit will prevent me from getting too bogged down in the details. These three paintings are done on 4×6 inch Canson cold pressed watercolor paper. I use Sennelier water colors, a brand favored by the French Impressionists. The first two pictures are flowers in the yard and the third is a view of the mountains.
Today I finished building and applying the oil to this walnut end table, which took about two days total to construct. For the first time I used drawbored mortise and tenon joints, which eliminated the need for clamping when attaching the aprons to the legs ( click this link for more info on this type of joint http://www.finewoodworking.com/SkillsAndTechniques/SkillsAndTechniquesArticle.aspx?id=28508).
The board I used for the top is from Asheville Hardware, they have a pretty good supply of unique boards and domestic and exotic lumber as well as a nice tool selection. It required a few butterfly inlays to stabilize the crack that extends about 2/3 the length of the board. I didn’t mind the crack in the board because about 1/3 of the surface is highly figured walnut crotch, where the tree forked into two trunks. This has the effect of producing a somewhat holographic surface, due to the irregular growth patters and criss-crossing wood fibers.
The top is about 23×18 inches and about 1.5 thick with a beveled edge and the height is about 26 inches, with each leg tapered on the inside faces. I finished it with a natural and nontoxic linseed oil and beeswax finish available from http://www.triedandtruewoodfinish.com/
Metal card scrapers are fantastic tools to use when smoothing a surface. The flexible carbon steel rectangle is about 1/32 of an inch thick and utilizes a small rounded over hook like edge that is burnished onto the sides of the scraper. A scraper works like a standard hand plane in that it removes thin shavings of wood from the surface of a board. It takes many hours of practice burnishing, but once the skill is learned, hours are saved that would have been spent sanding.
A card scraper is especially handy when tackling highly figured wood like this piece of walnut I’m using for a table top. In figured wood, the cells have grown in many directions and the angle of the cutting edge is constantly changing as it moves in relation to their position. A typical hand plane takes too large a cut and would tear out the surface of this board (leaving a gnarly, rough surface), but a scraper takes such a small cut that this tear out is minimized.
Another benefit of using a scraper is that the amount of dust produced is minimized, which is especially nice on a wood like walnut, which has particularly noxious dust. One also saves money on sandpaper.
A well tuned scraper produces light thin shaving like the ones below. If dust is produced then the scraper isn’t working properly. It is very satisfying working with a scraper, and the surface left is very smooth, only requiring light finish sanding.