Sunday, February 14, 2021

Making an anatomic breastplate for Gustavs horse

I like to work a bit in leather occasionally, and leatherwork gear is even easier than woodworking gear to bring onboard a ship. From before my dad got really ill, I had purchased some leather meant for making a breastplate that I had seen, and Gustav and I had measured his horse to get an idea of the size of the piece. I had made a sketch and sort of left it all due to making a coffin and all that followed.

This time due to the pandemic, I have had to stay 10 days in quarantine in a hotel in Norway. I have a hard time expressing how much I dislike sitting idle in a hotel room, so before heading out, I had made a bunch of leather straps ready and found my sketch so I could sit in the hotel room and do a bit of leatherwork. 

I had brought some basic tools with me, and a piece of 1/4" plywood, so I had a place to do cutting without damaging the hotel furniture.

A thing that I didn't bring was something to polish the edges of the leather after assembly, so I'll make some sort of polishing disc when I get onboard and then make the edges look really nice too. At the moment they look a bit dull.









All of it mounted and laid out on the bed.


Saturday, February 13, 2021

Making a tabletop from a slab of beech

A couple of years ago I was asked by a friend to go and see one of his neighbours who had a tree cut down in their front yard. 
It was a massive blood beech and he asked me if I could use the tree for the sawmill. I really wanted to, but there was no way that I could move it if I bought it, so I respectfully declined, telling him my reasons to do so. Instead he offered if we could make a trade. He would get the trunk of the tree moved to my place and then I should make a table out of it for him, and I could keep the rest of the wood.

I agreed knowing that it would not be a lucrative deal, but what the heck,  I like making tables, and it was some serious wood to get delivered to my door. 

So a week or so later he had a truck with a crane coming and picking it up and dropping it of at my place.
I milled the largest part of the trunk and stacked it. I had informed him that it would take around 2 years for it to dry enough for me to start making anything out of it, and he was cool with that.

Last fall well before my dad got ill, I decided that I might as well get to it and build a Barnsley hayrake table for him. He had told me that I could make a table that I would seem fit and the material was just perfect for that.

Before starting out, Mette (smarter than me) suggested that it might be a good idea to call and ask them again if they had any requests in the size of the table. I thought it was a stupid idea but did as she suggested, and the guy and his wife were really happy to hear from me and were really interested.

I showed them the slab and the discussion started. It is always interesting when people suddenly realize that they can decide on height length finish etc. 
They asked if I could make the slab wider which I told them would be a shame since it would be impossible to hide, a bit more discussion and they agreed to think about the length of the table.
 A few days later they called back and the man said that his wife and the kids wanted a metal undercarriage, and he was the only one that wanted a hayrake system, so since he was outnumbered they just wanted me to make the slab ready for a tabletop. 
I was glad that they didn't try to make me feel obliged to make a set of metal lags since I normally dislike those on slabs. A lot of people seem to think that a table is just the tabletop, and then it doesn't matter what kind of legs or undercarriage is on it. I see it a bit differently.
The good thing was that it removed at least half of the work that I needed to do.

I started flattening the back first, using a jointer with a scrub iron. Then the slab was flipped over, and I did a little bit of work on the top.

It was Friday, and Gustav had invited a couple of friends over to have a couple of beers which was ok with us since they were going to sit in the man cave and wouldn't be disturbing us.
I told them that they could go through the workshop instead of waking up the horses constantly, but I kind of got to regret that part. 
Someone who I guess had a little bit too much to drink obviously wanted to show one of his friends that he knew what different tools were for. (Gustav did not witness it, other wise he would have stopped it all)
So the next morning when I wanted to start flattening the top a bit more I noticed a couple of holes, and surprisingly next to the holes were my awl.. He had first hacked it straight in probably 3/8" and then he had done the same plus wiggled it around to make the hole larger. Needles to say I got furious.
I tried to put some water on the marks and see if they would close a bit, but the problem was that they were in a low spot of the tabletop already. 
I calmed down a bit for probably 20 seconds (the time it took me to plane a couple of strokes more).
Then I could see that the same kid had wanted to try Gustav's batterypowered circular saw!
And he had chosen to do that with a 1.5" deep cut sort of 1.25" into the side of the tabletop. I was speechless at that point. I called Gustav and he was of course as sorry as he could be, and I tried not to blame him, but I was angry. But I knew that I could cover it up so it wouldn't be a deal breaker, just a pain in the neck.

As soon as everything was relatively flat, I installed breadboard ends. That was especially important in the wide end since it was a Y shaped trunk, and there wasn't much point in flattening it if those pieces could move independently from each other.

A lot more of flattening, and it was time to install some butterflies too, those were made out of elm since it is what they had wanted.
There were a few places where there were rotten knots and those places received a piece of elm too, as did the circular saw mishap.

Some sanding and I treated the oil with a linseed oil/varnish blend thinned a bit with some turpentine.

The slab ended up looking really good, so I might have to make one for myself at some point.


106" long, about 40" down to 28" wide, 2" thick


The dark spot on the edge left in the picture is where the saw cut was made.

Before finishing.

Using my recently acquired Ohio 08 jointer

Removing the bulk of the material with a router.

live edges and a breadboard end

Still a bit of work left.



Installing butterflies

Moving on

 Right now I am nearing the end of a 10 day long Covid quarantine in a Norwegian hotel. Lots of time to think and contemplate over different things.

I have been looking at my blog a few times, and it has made me sad every single time because it reminds me of my dad.

So I have decided that I just need to start writing something, to make sure that the first post that will meet me isn't one that will make me sad.

Since my dads passing away, my older brother and I have started clearing out our childhood home, It is tough to do, but luckily we have tried and succeeded in making it a cozy thing by making sure that we get coffee or tea and something to eat whenever we are down there.

My parents both loved collecting antiques, so there are loads of stuff, and since it is mostly all really nice stuff, we can't just throw it away. We would like to give some of it to charity shops, but due to the pandemic, they are all closed, so that kind of sucks.

We have sold some of his tools, and that was actually easier for me than I had imagined. I guess mostly because my dad gravitated from using tools to collecting maybe 25 years ago, so since he didn't have a regular go-to set of tools it wasn't too hard selling some of them. We managed to find some youngsters who wanted to learn about woodworking, and we sold a bunch to them, actually cheap, but I know that my dad would have liked for the tools to go back into circulation again.

I still managed to do some woodworking at home, also related to the clearing out. I made 6 large glass door cabinets that will be used for storing nails and screws etc. They are hung on a large French cleat in the room where the metal lathe is. It is a project that I discussed with my dad before he died, and the glass doors are extra windows from the old windows at my parents house. (As usual I forgot to take any pictures of them).
They are made with adjustable shelves, and have a total height of 75", the width is 27.5" and the depth is 7.5", so there is a lot of storage in the 6 cabinets all put together. 
I didn't do any fancy joinery or anything with the cabinets, I decided that they were meant for storage and they were simply glued and screwed together and the wood was thickness in the planer, but I could live with a less than perfect surface. I intend to paint them white at some point, but it has to be when the temperature is not below freezing anyway.

My long term plan is to do a bit of clearing out in my shop as well, and throwing stuff out that I never use. Also I would like to use the shop as a workshop, and then I can use these cabinets for storing stuff instead of keeping it in the workshop. 

Having to clear out also prompted me to start doing the same in the barn, and I have already made a lot of progress, there's still a way to go, but at least I have started, and that is the main thing.

Mette riding Bent in the forest


Saturday, December 26, 2020

RIP dad

I would like to say thanks to all the very nice and comforting comments on my last blog post. 
Normally I try to answer all comments, but as you can probably understand, my mind was a bit occupied.

Monday the 14th of December we had a meeting with the doctors from the hospital, and they told us that there was nothing more that they could do. 
So later on Monday my dad was transferred from the intensive care department back to the neurological department where they would keep him covered with morphine so he didn't have any pains.

Since he was now officially dying, it was possible for all our families to come and see him, so I called home with the sad news and told Mette and the kids that they should prepare themselves and that they should drive to Aarhus so we could all say good bye to my dad.

We gathered around my dads bed one family at the time, and we sang a few songs for him. He looked just like he was sleeping, and he was breathing calmly.

We then said good bye, and Mette and the kids drove home. 

I stayed in Aarhus at my brothers place, and we went back to the hospital from eleven to one o'clock in the evening before going back to his place to sleep.

The next morning we went back, and we could hear on my fathers breath that it was not getting better at all. So we sat and comforted each other and held my fathers hand till he passed away.

The next days I used to complete the coffin, and I brought it with me home to my parents house where we would plan the funeral with the priest and the undertaker.

Building the coffin brought a lot of tears to my eyes, but it was still a very good experience, and I thought a lot of my dad while building it. Most of the hand tools I used for the build were given to me by him, and I even made the pins first as he liked. When I had to drive a screw into the wood for holding the handles, I only used 1st gear on the Makita. My dad didn't like it when people used 2nd gear for driving screws, as he believed they would loose the feel and drive the screw too long into the wood. So to honor him, I did it the way I knew that he would like.

I spread a 4" thick layer of the shavings from the thickness planer over the bottom of the coffin, and then covered these shavings with a linen sheet.
I filled a pillowcase with shavings too, and put that on top of the mattress.

The lifts for the handles were turned from my parents old sycamore tree, and Gustav turned some small plugs that would be used to secure the lid. These were made of sycamore, apple and hornbeam. 
On the end of each of the small plugs I burned either JJJ or 3xJ as my fathers name was Jens Jørgen Jensen, and he often joked that some kids he knew when he was a teacher had called him "triple J"

On the lid of the coffin I had made a cross that was inlaid with ebony. After sanding it and turning the rest of the lid grey, I reasoned that it was probably better to plane and scrape it all once more which I did.

Finally I gave the coffin a couple of layers of shellac, and I had to accept the fact that the build was over.

We held the funeral service Tuesday the 22nd, and though the pandemic made it somewhat different compared to what we would have liked, it was a good funeral and it gave us all peace.

Jens Jørgen Jensen
26-05-1943
15-12-2020

Ebony inlay

Shellac finish

Triple J

Complete with handles

RIP dad

Decorated with Scandinavian flags 




Saturday, December 12, 2020

Making a coffin

Since my last post, my dad has been through a lot.


He was transferred from the nursing home to a hospital and back and forth a couple of times. Until at last the hospital admitted that they didn't know what was wrong with him, and had him transferred to a university hospital in Aarhus (Skejby hospital). He was assigned to the neurological department, and they were optimistic in the beginning that they would be able to sort it all out and get him back on his feet again. 

About three weeks ago, he slipped into a coma, and he was moved to the intensive care department. He was attached to a respirator, but he has stayed in a coma ever since. 
Last Monday my older brother had a meeting with the doctors, and my younger brother and I participated via a telephone. 
The doctors admitted that they didn't know what was wrong with my dad and that they were running out of ideas about what it could be. And while the clock was ticking away, the damage on his brain as they could assess via MR scans had worsened.

They said that they would give him a week more of treatment/trying to find out what is wrong with hi, and if no progress/luck, they would switch to palliative treatment. 

With that information I applied for a leave from my ship, and headed home to be with the family.
Due to the pandemic, my older brother is the only one who is allowed to visit my dad as long as he is in intensive care. If they move him into palliative care it should be possible for us all to come and visit him and say good bye.

In order to keep my thoughts at bay, I have started making a coffin.
I hope and pray that he won't be needing it for long, but I am beginning to feel less sure about it.
The coffin is made out of pine, and every time I cut or plane a board, the smell reminds me of when I was in the workshop with my father as a child.

I am not rushing the project in any way, and there is a great deal more sighing from my side during the process compared to whenever I normally make a project.

Take care y'all








Monday, October 19, 2020

Making a handrail for my dad

My dad was in a bad car crash last year. For some inexplicable reason he suddenly found himself in the wrong side of the road, and with an oncoming truck, it is a miracle that he managed to swerve the car to the right, so that instead of getting hit head on by the truck, instead it smashed the left side of his car.

He was incredible lucky to survive, and he had remnants of orange paint on his jacket from the truck, so a few more inches and he probably wouldn't have made it.

He was hospitalized for some time, and they discovered an internal bleeding in the skull, but the doctors believed that it was so small that it would stop on its own. He ended up getting pretty much back on his feet, and all was fine until the summer.

During the late spring and the summer his balance got gradually worse. And it culminated when my ship was going to Aarhus for the Tall Ships Races. My dad wanted to come on board and see the ship, but he got ill while waiting for us to berth, so I went to the first aid station and picked him up. When we walked the short distance to the ship , say maybe 250 yards. I became aware that he was constantly pulling to the left. I supported him and was afraid that there was something wrong, since it was like he had absolutely no power or control over his left side.

When we got to the ship, I got the doctor to check up on my dad, and he couldn't really find anything wrong, so we all decided that he was perhaps just tired and needed a nap to sort of digest the incident with getting ill and getting help from the first aid helpers of the arrangement.

A couple of hours later I woke him up, but he was confused and not better. So after consulting the doctor again, we decided to call for an ambulance. 

With the help of the police, the ambulance was able to get through the massive crowd of people to where our ship was berthed, and he was then taken to the hospital. 

At the hospital they first gave him some pain killer to ease of the fever that they discovered that he had. They then did a scan, and it turned out that the bleeding inside the skull hadn't stopped after all as the doctors on the other hospital had expected. So they kept him for a couple of days to get him ready for an operation to relieve the pressure on the brain.

They drained approximately a quart cup of blood out from inside his skull. No wonder that this treatment did a lot of difference. Now he could suddenly feel the left side of his body again.


Over the last two months, his health has suddenly started to deteriorate again. He lost his balance and his appetite and has begun to become a bit confused. He had a scan, but according to that there is no signs of an internal bleeding in the skull again. He has been checked by his own doctor and he is going to a specialized department at the hospital this week and seeing a neurologist next week. So I really hope that they will be able to find out what's wrong with him.

He now has such a bad balance and health that he has been temporarily assigned to a nursing home to keep him out of harms way by falling at home and maybe breaking an arm or a leg. This just happened over the course of one week. 

He voice sounds like he is drunk when I call him on the phone, and it is really not a good sign as far as I know.

A week or so before he was assigned to the nursing home, I visited him to help him mow the lawn and clear the trimmings from the hedge that he and his neighbour had cut a few days earlier. He had fallen a few times at that point, so we decided to make a hand rail for the stairs leading from the scullery (back door) and into the kitchen. 

It struck me as a bit sad, since it was the first time in ages that I did some woodworking in my fathers shop, and now I was suddenly making a handrail because he is getting old. 

It wasn't a super fancy or striking elegant piece of work, but I had to make do with what I could just find, and besides I had come down to visit him and talk with him, not to immerse myself in some high end woodworking. We found a piece of dry ash that could be made into a nice handrail, and my dad had a couple of brackets for attaching a it to the wall. 

It worked great for that coming week, and I really hope that he will get well again so he can return to his own home and then continue to use it for many years to come.

The remnants of my dads Renault Clio

Rounding a piece of ash

The installed handrail


Friday, August 21, 2020

Making a Roorkee chair with Laura

Two years ago Laura started making a Roorkee chair in the workshop.
She hasn't lived at home all the time, so getting the chair completed has taken a little more time than originally planned.

Before going back to sea this time, I asked her if we shouldn't try to make it a goal to complete the chair so she could bring it with her as she was moving to go to university.

She agreed and we found all the parts from the chair.
We were pleasantly surprised to find out that she had completed the turnings of the legs, so the only woodwork left was to turn the stretchers, drill some holes and make some tenons and finally do a little bit of work on the back pieces and round over the top of the legs.

The wood used were some scraps of whitebeam that I had left, and while it isn't a particularly beautiful species with elegant grain, it sure is the most sturdy species I know of. So there should be very little chance of the stretchers breaking on this chair.
Laura liked that the wood was so uniformly white and pale, so when we started talking about what leather to use, she decided on the plastic coated candy apple red leather that I once got from my dad.
It is originally from clogs production, so that is why the plastic coating is on it.

Her thoughts about the contrasting leather is that very often in kindergarten, chairs would have a contrasting seat or leg etc. to create some visual interest for the children, and she thought that it would be fun to make the chair stand out a bit more compared to using veg tan leather for the straps etc.

I didn't have enough of the red leather to make a seat and a back from it, but she wanted those parts to be made out of canvas anyway, so the leather was only going to be straps and armrests.

We helped each other with the seat and back, and I instructed Laura in how to do the riveting which was needed for mounting all the buckles to the straps.
In very short time she became really good at it, and the for each piece that was completed, the chair looked more and more like it should.

Once it was all assembled Laura was thrilled, and the chair looked just like she had imagined.
Again I was amazed at how great a project it is to make a Roorkee. It is really difficult to mess it up, and even small irregularities won't be noticed when it is assembled.
She proudly brought the chair with her to Aarhus where she is going to be studying. And since she also brought one of her campaign book cases, it looks right at home in her room!

Laura's Roorkee chair.

Have chair - will travel

Riveting indoor.

And then we moved into the shop..
to keep the noise out of the living room.