LONNIE BIRD CHAT
February 28, 2004 [EDITED]
Ellis: Good evening, everyone. We're fortunate to have another well-known woodworker with us tonight for a special guest chat.... Lonnie Bird. Lonnie was one of our contributing editors at AW in the 90s and now he is the author of four books on woodworking.
Ellis: Hi Lonnie.
Lonnie_Bird: Hi Everyone!
Ellis: Welcome to WoodCentral's chatroom.
Ellis: Lonnie is busy getting ready for another season of teaching at his school in Tennessee.
Lonnie_Bird: We start classes at the end of March.
charles: what do you teach?
Lonnie_Bird: The first class is a two-day class on dovetailing; followed up by a two-week class on buildling a tall case clock.
charles: do you have a website?
Ellis: You can visit Lonnie's website at www.lonniebird.com to read more about Lonnie's teaching schedule.
charles: ok got it
Carole_in_VA: Lonnie, I just finished your Bandsaw book and have ordered my saw. But I am confused as to what features to look for in a fence. Any suggestions? Or do I even need one for ripping and resawing? Will a straight piece of wood clamped to the saw really work?
Lonnie_Bird: Yes, a straight piece of wood will work. I first find the drift angle of the blade and then clamp the fence to the table at the drift angle.
Carole_in_VA: Great! That will save me some pennies! Thanks.
Lonnie_Bird: When resawing wide stock to make veneer, I use a tall fence that I've made from plywood
Carole_in_VA: Do you use a point on it?
Ellis: How thick do you saw your veneers? And, do you face the stock on the jointer between passes?
Lonnie_Bird: I only use a point when resawing a curve. When resawing flat stock I prefer to clamp the fence to the table at an angle which corresponds to the drift angle.
Ellis: Our guest tonight is Lonnie Bird, author and woodworking instructor.
MichaelP: Lonnie, How do you attach molding to one of your pieces of furniture?
Lonnie_Bird: I saw veneers 1/16" thick. After each slice of veneer I face the stock on the jointer.
Ellis: Thanks, Lonnie.
Lonnie_Bird: It depends on whether or not the grain in the molding is parallel to the grain in the case. If the grain is parallel, I apply glue to the molding and the miter.
John_Weber: Lonnie, I've been setting up my shaper, just added a power feeder, and really enjoy your shaper book, thank you for all the ideas and information.
Lonnie_Bird: If the molding is crossgrain to the case, I apply glue to the miter and to the first 2-3" of the molding beyond the miter. I typically will allow the rest of the molding to "float". If necessary, I will use a single screw from the inside of the case to attach the trailing end of the molding.
Lonnie_Bird: Hi John--Did you have a question?
John_Weber: No, not really, just thanks, anything you would have liked to add since it was published or anything you left out?
Ellis: Lonnie, how did you get interested in 18th Century furniture?
jake812: I just finished painting a large bathroom cabinet with an oil based paint. This is the first time I have painted wood and now a week later it still *stinks*. Anyone with experience on how long to expect this?
MichaelP: Lonnie, Is there ever a situation when you use nails to attach molding?
Ellis: Lonnie is having some trouble seeing our questions on his screen. Hang with us, folks. I'm relaying the questions by phone.
Lonnie_Bird: Yes, I sometimes attach very small moldings with small cut nails. The nails hold the moldings securely and still allow for small amounts of wood movement.
Ellis: Our guest tonight is Lonnie Bird. He's working on an answer to my question about his interest in 18th century furniture.
Ellis: He says he doesn't know much about your paint question, Jake.
Lonnie_Bird: Growing up in Virginia I had a lot of exposure to period furniture through trips to Colonial Williamsburg and various museums. There was also a local furniture maker who specialized in period furniture.
Doug_in_WV: Open the window Jake
MichaelP: Lonnie, How long have you been teaching woodworking?
Carole_in_VA: Where in VA are you from?
Schwim: Lonnie, what are your thoughts on sharpening with abrasive paper?
Sam: Lonnie, when you block the inside of bracket feet, which way do you prefer to run the grain . and why
Lonnie_Bird: I lived in Danville and also in Norfolk. I attended college at Old Dominion University. After graduation, my wife and I moved to Ohio where I taught furniture making at a small college.
Lonnie_Bird: I make bracket feet without the block. Antique bracket feet are typically just a decoration, the case is supported by the thick glue blocks behind the feet. Instead, I make sturdy bracket feet which support the case and require no glue block. I miter the front feet with a spline and dovetail the back feet.
Doug_in_WV: Did you study woodworking in college or pick it up on your own
charles: which species of wood do you prefer to work with
Sam: Thanks, so the suport block is not attached to the foot?
Lonnie_Bird: I've sharpened with abrasive paper backed up by plate glass. It works quite well. The downside is that you can only find abrasive up to 2000 grit. My preferred method for sharpening is Norton Waterstones.
Lonnie_Bird: I learned in the shops that I worked in for a number of years. I also picked up a lot on my own.
charles: have you evere made musical instruments?
Lonnie_Bird: No, I've never made any musical instruments. I did make an electric guitar for a friend once, but I don't think that qualifies!
Moses_Y._: Carving things like knees on cabriole feet and shells on drawer fronts look difficult and time-consuming; are they as difficult as they look?
Carole_in_VA: I see you are offering a course in AutoCad. Is that waht you use for your design work?
Lonnie_Bird: No, I don't really use a support block. The foot supports the case piece.
Sam: Thanks Lonnie, getting clearer now
Lonnie_Bird: No, carving isn't nearly as difficult as it appears. If you can chisel out a recess for a lock or a hinge, then you can carve.
charles: what could you recommend as practice for carving?
Lonnie_Bird: I prefer to work with black walnut and curly maple. Black walnut is easy to work and can be finished a number of different ways. Curly maple grabs your attention when it's finished to pop the grain.
charles: black walnut is nice
Lonnie_Bird: Yes, I use AutoCAD extensively for design work. It allows me to draw quickly and make quick changes and modifications to a drawing. Once you've tried AutoCAD, there's no going back to pencil and paper!
Lonnie_Bird: A good place to start carving is with a simple shell or fan.
Carole_in_VA: I just can't seem to grasp the program...I have used other drawing programs but that one floors me.
crackerjack: how long does it take to get Auto Cad starting from no knowledge of it?
Lonnie_Bird: You may want to take a look at my book entitled, The Complete Ilustrated Guide to Shaping Wood.
Lonnie_Bird: I've used both AutoCAD and AutoCAD Lite. The only difference that I've seen is that AutoCAD Lite doesn't have 3-D capabilities, which you don't really need for woodworking anyway.
Moses_Y._: I used to swear that I can draw faster on paper, but after really studying and most importantly using AutoCad, I have to agree that I won't go back to drawing on paper; the computer is not only faster, it is mathematically perfect and more fun.
Lonnie_Bird: Although there are many commands on AutoCAD, you really only need to learn a few commands to create drawings of your woodworking projects.
Ellis: Lonnie, I know you do your own versions of original 18th Century furniture. How do you decide where and why to change the original designs?
charles: which commands do you consider most important?
Lonnie_Bird: Although many 18 C furniture pieces are beautifully designed and executed, most can use an improvement in the proportion or curve of a leg or molding. It is very satisfying to design furniture of your own within the parameters of the 18 C style.
Ellis: ...and do you ever substitute more modern methods and materials?
Carole_in_VA: Lonnie do you use the golden ratio in your designing?
charles: golden ratio?
Lonnie_Bird: I will sometimes substitute a modern screw, for example, but I don't use biscuits or dowels or plywood. For the most part, I stick to 18 C construction, mortise-and-tenon and dovetails.
Lonnie_Bird: Yes, I use the Golden Ratio as well as Fibonnacci numbers and ratios of whole numbers. For example, if you take a look at some of the furniture on my Web site, you'll find the Golden Ratio if you study the pieces.
charles: what would you use to close in the back of a case
charles: if not plywood
MichaelP: Do you use secondary woods? If so what woods do you use as secondary woods?
Lonnie_Bird: I use poplar as a secondary wood. If the back of a case is large, I typically use random width boards that are fastened into a rabbet with cut nails.
MichaelP: Why do you use cut nails?
Ellis: What kind of clock movements do you recommend for your reproduction tall clocks?
Lonnie_Bird: I use cut nails because the tapered shank holds extremely well and because they give an authentic look to the piece. You can purchase cut nails from the Tremont Nail co.
charles: can cut nails give more problems such as splitting the wood?
Lonnie_Bird: The backboards are always shiplapped. If the backboards can be seen (such as through a glass door) I shape a quirkbead next to each shiplap for decoration.
Lonnie_Bird: I use clock movements from Green Lake Clock Company in MN.
Carole_in_VA: What is a quirkbead???
Carole_in_VA: I am a new ww so be patient! LOL
Lonnie_Bird: The shank of a cut nail is typically rectangular and I position the nail so that the long portion of the rectangle is parallel to the grain. If the wood is hard, I'll predrill.
MichaelP: Do you have a favorite piece of furniture to build?
Lonnie_Bird: A quirkbead is a 1/2 round shape next to a shallow groove.
Carole_in_VA: OK...I just know that as a bead. Learning the terminology here.
Moses_Y._: Lonnie, do you think you could get burned out on wood? Do you have other hobbies?
Lonnie_Bird: Not really. I enjoy building tables, casepieces, and chairs. Chairs are without a doubt the most challenging. Casepieces are really just dovetailed boxes, embellished with feet and moldings. I recommend that people start out by building simple tables.
Ellis: Lonnie,what is the difference between hard and soft curly maple?.
Lonnie_Bird: The difference is that the curl is often more pronounced in soft maple.
JohnP: Lonnie, any favorite "tip" that you like to pass on? (That is, if possible to pass on in this format.)
charles: do you supply the wood for your courses?
Lonnie_Bird: I enjoy woodworking immensely and really don't get tired of it. However, I enjoy getting outdoors with my family.
Greg: Is "sugar" maple different than the two mentioned by Ellis?
Ellis: Sugar maple is hard maple, Greg.
Lonnie_Bird: I can't think of a favorite "tip."
Lonnie_Bird: The tuition for the courses covers instruction and consumable supplies. Each participant must bring his or her own handtools and lumber for their project.
Ellis: What kind of finish do you use on your period furniture reproductions?
Carole_in_VA: I notice that most of your classes are sold out already. How soon does one have to register???
bh: Lonnie - what do you think about living in East Tennessee? I'm a missed placed Vol living in CHicago & I sure miss it!
Lonnie_Bird: I typically use shellac as the final finish. If the surface will receive a lot of use, I'll finish the top of a table with varnish.
Lonnie_Bird: Although most classes are sold out, there is still space available in several courses, including Joinery, AutoCAD, and Woodworking Essentials. For a list of available classes, take a look at my Web site (www.lonniebird.com)
Ellis: How important is the shaper in a small shop?
Lonnie_Bird: East Tennessee is a beautiful, mountainous area for people who enjoy the outdoors. Come on down and we'll serve you some grits!
Lonnie_Bird: No, you don't really need a shaper for a small shop; a large router table will suffice in most cases.
Carole_in_VA: Do you hand cut all your dovetail and MT joints?
Moses_Y._: If you had a pile of money, would you buy a shaper just to play with it?
charles: and what kind of saw works well to make dovetails?
Carole_in_VA: Sounds like you are looking for an excuse to buy a shaper, Moses! LOL
Lonnie_Bird: If you have the money, a shaper is a great machine to have in your shop. Get some good training, though, before you turn it on. Shapers have a reputation for being dangerous.
Moses_Y._: Actually, I already have one, and did a job to pay for it; it's just that the question shaper versus router comes up a lot on the forum. Thanks for the reply, Lonnie
Lonnie_Bird: I hand cut all dovetails; machines just don't give you the "look" that I'm after. I cut most mortises with a hollow chisel mortiser. I cut tenons by hand if they're complicated and by machine if they are simple.
MichaelP: Do you surface plane with machines or hand tools, or both?
Moses_Y._: Do you use a coping saw to remove the waste in dovetails, or just chop it out?
Lonnie_Bird: For many years I used a Western style dovetail saw; however, I switched to using a Japanese "Duzuki" saw about a dozen years ago.
Greg: Lonnie, which of your pieces do you sell more frequently than others? chairs, highboys, chests, etc
charles: do saws that cut on the pull stroke fundamentally work better?
Lonnie_Bird: I use machines to mill rough lumber to size. I have a 16" jointer that I use for flattening lumber before planing. After the lumber is milled, I use hand planes to smooth away the planer and sawmarks.
Carole_in_VA: What's your favorite plane for smoothing?
Lonnie_Bird: I make a couple of kerfs into the waste with my Dozuki saw and then I chop it out with a chisel and mallet.
Schwim: What chisels do you like?
Lonnie_Bird: I sell more casepieces than any other form of furniture. However, these days I spend most of my woodworking time teaching and writing.
Lonnie_Bird: I'm finishing up a tall case clock which will be featured in Fine Woodworking Magazine in a couple of months.
Lonnie_Bird: I have several planes. I use a #604 Bedrock for most smoothing. When smoothing Tiger Maple, I use a Lie-Nielson 4 1/2 with a York pitch.
Lonnie_Bird: Yes, I feel that the saws that cut on the pull stroke work better for fine work because the kerf is smaller.
ceyman: Will step-by-step instructions and/or measured drawings be available for the clock?
Lonnie_Bird: My favorite set of chisels is an old set of Stanley #750 socket chisels.
Lonnie_Bird: Yes, the clock article will include drawings and instructions on how to build the piece.
Ellis: Any more questions for Lonnie?
JohnP: Goodnight all. Lonnie, thanks for sharing your time with us.
Carole_in_VA: Just a big Thanks for joining us!
charles: yes thank you very much
Lonnie_Bird: Goodnight, John.
MichaelP: Thanks for all the information. Good night.
Doug_in_WV: Thanks Lonnie please come back some time
Moses_Y._: Time flies; thanks for sharing with us Lonnie.
charles: goodnight all
Neal__San_Jose_: Thanks, Lonnie
AndyL: Thanks for spending time here this evening Lonnie, it was insightful and inspiring for me.
Lonnie_Bird: Thanks Ellis, for having me on. Thanks everyone for joining in.
Sam: Thanks Lonnie and Ellis, Let's do this again
Schwim: G'nite and thanks
Ellis: Thank you all for being here with us tonight. Lonnie says he had fun and will be happy to come back again. Nite all!