Okay, that’s the first time I ever used an emoticon, and I feel dirty.
But it looks a lot like the silly grin that’s been pasted on my face for the last three weeks or so.
I took a week’s vacation, spent some much needed time in the shop, and went back to work more or less content. Usually it’s hard to go back to work after vacation, but I got some things done, made some sawdust and nice, thin shavings, and thoroughly enjoyed my time in my favorite place on the planet; The Bronze Oak Leaf shop.
I am not typically the kind of guy that likes to build small, crafty-type things. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of woodwork, it’s just not my thing. For whatever reason, I tend towards the larger, more complex pieces of furniture. Just personal preference.
However, lately I’ve done a few small projects, and have really enjoyed the quick turnaround that comes with smaller-scale work.
This box was a nice exercise in dovetails. A small knick-knack-y thing.
This stool was fun, took a little more time, and turned out great.
This was a weird little project my brother demanded. It’s called an Inkle Loom. No kidding. I can’t even say that out loud because it makes me feel gay.
Anyway, I was spending smaller amounts of time on smaller projects, and having a ball.
The most fun I had, though, was building a couple mallets for use in the shop.
I saw St. Roy building these on his show, and I loved them. He made it look so easy, and really, it is.
I had so much fun building the one from white oak that when I found a scrap of walnut left over from the (ahem) loom, I saw that it was the perfect shape for a mallet head. Maybe not the perfect species; you want a heavy, dense piece of wood for that; but it was the perfect shape. And pretty. A small amount of sapwood mixed with the usual beautiful brown tones of walnut.
Its odd shape (it tapers from top to bottom) meant that I had to surface it from the rough with a jack plane followed by a smoother. Even better. My sharp #4 made the walnut shimmer a shiny delight in the sunlight. It’s not a heavy, joint-coaxing hammer; it’s better suited for light taps on the chisel.
I shaped the handles first with the bandsaw, and then with a spoke shave. I went with a traditional hammer-handle shape with a swell just below the center of the handle. It’s the most comfortable grip to use. I then beveled the tops and bottoms of the handles and all corners of the heads with my trusty block plane.
It really was the most fun I’ve had in the shop in awhile.
And I can’t stop gawking at them. I put a nice heavy coat of linseed oil on them, and let it soak in for a good while before wiping of the excess. As expected, the oil made the white oak a beautiful, rich, deep golden oak color, and made the walnut a deep, rich brown. The word “brown” doesn’t do the true color of walnut justice.
I plan on making a few more; maybe with more modern methods, maybe not. I chopped out the mortises with a chisel, and any other method just seems wrong.
Either way, I spent a few evenings after work in the shop with the music up loud, the flip-flops on, and my attention 100% focused on what I was doing. That’s a trifecta that is rare enough that when you can get it; you take it.
I actually just took a picture of the mallets, sat down, got comfortable, and started thinking about this post, when I looked up and saw this. I chuckled to myself, snapped the pic, and wondered at how comfortable and content I felt at just that moment.
This is the stuff dreams are made of, kid.