Saturday, 25 February 2012


A simple word. The act of giving, without really expecting anything in return. It's a simple concept too, but not altogether common today. But today I was treated to a big helping of it and I have to say that being on the receiving end, it was a pleasant and humbling experience.

A while back I met Tim while demonstrating Windsor Chair making techniques over the course of a weekend. Then just recently he came to spend an evening with Pete Galbert and 50 or so others watching Pete describe and demonstrate his amazing chair making techniques. In fact Tim also had the foresight to commission Pete to make him a 'Perch' from Fijian Mahogany while he was here.

So when Tim emailed me last week asking if I would like a volunteer to help me with my renovations at the cottage, well I was a bit taken aback. Of course I said yes, then went through in my head what I thought were a list of things that may be of interest to someone offering some help. Tim promptly emailed back, pretty much just saying that he'd be happy to help with whatever needed to be done.

And so today he did. I shot down to the hardware store yesterday and bought a ute full of sleepers and cypress posts and today we put it all together in the form of a 2 level wood rack at the back of the new workshop. Nothing flimsy here, with 200 x 50 ( 8"x2" ) sleepers every 400mm (16") it should support all the wood I can fit in it, without a problem.

Next week I'll take a trip down the farm and pick up a pile of Stone Pine ( Pinus Pinea ) that I milled up about a year back. That will see out the roof of the rack, with a few sheets of iron on top.

Hot and dusty work, with the temp hitting 35c (95F) in the shade, but we broke the back of it and had a good chat about all things wood, chairs, growing up on the farm and a few things in between! We've even tee'd up a impromptu chair-making class in the very near future, where hopefully I can re-pay the favour.

It was a real pleasure to have Tim here and reaffirms that despite the ups and downs of life,
there are still some truly decent and generous people out there. Thanks Tim!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Continuous Arm Bending Strap

This morning I received a request from Tim in the U.S. regarding the bending strap I use to bend the crest or bow for the continuous arm windsor. This new and improved strap is result of using the original, which was essentially knocked together to get us through the first class we taught on the chair and then went on to serve us faithfully for another four full classes, bending countless dozens of crests.

That strap, a bit of packing strap welded to some square tube cut in half and with a few screws here and there to add grip was the result of a good friend Pete Mc Curly giving some good advice and suggesting the strap to control the breakages and delaminations that were occurring.

At that point I had hand shaved 23 crest rails to shape in one day and steamed them, only to lose all 23 to some form of breakage. Demoralising to say the least. With the new strap we had immediate success and went on have a 95% success rate.

What was also immediately apparent from that day was that "we weren't in Kansas any more Toto" or Tennessee, where we had steam bent white oak crest rails with Curtis Buchanan with spectacular ease, not even the slightest hint of failure and certainly no strap.

So while we don't have the beautiful ring porous hardwoods of the Americas' ideally suited for bending, we do have beautiful timber in it's own right and we just have to learn how to tame it.

As is widely known the strap essentially changes the point of neutrality in the piece from the centre, where there is expansion of the timber on the external side and compression of the timber in the internal side, to the very back of the external face, forcing the entire piece to compress instead. Now while this is nothing new, the issue with the continuous arm crest is bending the piece in two differing planes whilst maintaining that compression. This must also occur in good time so as not to allow the piece to cool.

So this is what we came up with. A 2 piece strap that contains the primary bend of the back and then allows the secondary bend to occur whilst maintaining the overall compression of the piece. To achieve this the shaped piece or blank is fitted into the main body of the strap.

The secondary straps are then placed into the clamping portion of the strap at the point where the taper occurs from the thicker back to the thin hand hold. The bolts are then tightened into locating holes, clamping the secondary straps into that curve. The serrations on the underside of the clamping pad grip the piece and limit slippage ( See below ). This has now taken care of the compression of the first bend of the back.

To contain the expansion of the handholds the secondary straps have stop-ends attached which simply house on the end of the blank. Pressure is maintained on the strap when the secondary bend is being performed to ensure that the stop-end remains in place and contains the expansion.

The reason for stainless steel? The strap is fitted to the piece before steam bending and is put into the steam box. There is simply not enough time to fit the strap to the hot piece after steaming and it would cool too quickly. The stainless has eliminated the staining from the original packing strap metal, leaving a blank which requires less cleanup afterwards.

Having said all that, there is still no substitute for clean riven or sawn, green, straight grained stock. The bending strap is a great aid, but it is not a cure-all. Unsuitable species, grain run out, branch inclusions or other defects will almost certainly result in a failure of some sort, strap or not.

As for dimensions, the strap should be fitted to the bending form you make. Mine is setup for an overall crest rail blank length of 1490mm ( a fraction over 58.5 inches ). The over all length of the main strap is 860mm ( 33.85" ). The secondary straps should be custom fitted to the length of your handhold. The bolt down clamps should just be large enough to accept the blank and the clamping pad.

My bending form is sitting at the bottom of a large pile of stuff while I set up my new shop, but when I get to it, I'll post the dimensions for those of you who'd like to make one.Any other questions or dimensions, please ask! Hope this is of some help. Here's Pete Galbert's thoughts on the strap.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Blackwood in the Otways

Over the last few years I've spent a lot of time talking about the unique attributes of a Windsor Chairs and what sets them apart from your usual arm or side chair.

Those conversations inevitably revert back to the origin of the material, the way it is rived and shaped and ultimately the selection of the tree or log that those riven parts are taken from. Essentially making the chair from the tree. Jennie/John Alexander's famous book explains the process perfectly, but in essence dead straight grain is what you're looking for.

Just after Christmas Carl Karacsay rang me and offered an opportunity to head into the Otways and salvage some freshly felled Blackwood. This was no ordinary outing though, we were lucky enough to be collecting stock or offcuts that had been milled by Murray Kidman, one of the last timber workers in the Otways licensed to selectively log trees in this wonderful part of the state. Murray is well known as the supplier of exquisitely figured Blackwood and Satin Box to Maton Guitars.

As well as the figured stuff, he chases some lovely straight grained stuff for guitar sides. Perfect turning blanks for legs and arms! It was also a chance to get Pete Galbert into the bush to see some Australian chair timbers.

Here's Murray's sawmill. Yes, he is the sawmill. With his trusty 880 Stihl, Murray mills guitar sides and backs with the skill of a surgeon. No 'Alaskan Mill', no marking, no measuring just decades of practise and technique. How good is he? Below is a 6mm sliver Murray shaved off the side of one flitch. There would be few that could mill as accurately freehand on a bandsaw!

Not bad eh?

Here is a pile of freshly cut Blackwood neatly stacked on the stump it came from, free of dirt and any other impurities. Oh, and the Horse? Murray's Rhodesian Ridgeback.

And when it comes to low impact, this is about as low as it gets! All lugged out by hand. In this case a decent lump of very sort after Satin Box.

And a bit of sight seeing on the way. Victoria's 12 Apostles.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Good things in small packages

February again. Another birthday has come and gone and we are comfortably easing into our country life more and more each day. Tom is off to Kindergarten 3 days a week and I get to enjoy walking home with him from the cottage to our rental place each night after working all day. Small things, but happy times. Busy at the cottage every day now until we move in. But I couldn't think of anything else I'd rather be doing than working on our future home.

Wonder why it's taken me about 18 years to work out that I really missed living in the country? Oh well I guess they say that to climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first......

Two new openings for French doors at the back of the cottage. Framed nicely by the solid beam and posts. Lisa has even got the first of her fruit trees in. She has chosen Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples, mulberries, white and yellow nectarines, Beurre Bosc pear, lime and of course a lemon tree! Should be a great fruit salad in a year or so.

Here' s one of the mortices all done and in situ. The pegs are Ironbark, they started out as 40mm square stock that had been out in the elements for years, so by the time they were split and shaved down to 16mm (5/8") I just managed to get one peg per blank. I reckon I could have almost sharpened them and nailed them in, they were that hard!

This little guy showed himself as I dug out some rubble from an existing trench in the back yard. It's said that the first sign of decline of an eco-system is the loss of amphibians, so hopefully this bodes well for our little back yard! Anyone know what sort of frog he/she is?

And last but not least, here's my first pork sausages from my new sausage attachment for the Kitchen Aid, Tom and Lisa's great birthday present to me. The recipe is my Dad's from when he used to make them en masse for dozens of Melbourne's best restaurants.
Anyone who samples them says they are the best pork snags going around and I'm firmly in that camp. As you can see they're that good I had to make a rissole out of the leftovers! Washed down with a bottle of local cider from Harcourt. The small things are often the best....

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Full circle.

It's funny how you hear things about family, distant or close that seem to resonate with you. A friend who had built an entire stone building/shed, once told me that years afterwards he learnt that an ancestor was a stone mason. He was sure that this was why he chose to build with bluestone, despite never having laid so much as a brick beforehand. Now those of you who know me, know that I'm not exactly pre-disposed to the paranormal or such stuff. Hocus pocus I say.

The name of this blog, Rundell & Rundell? Well as well as being our name, it is what Lisa and I intend on naming our business and shop when we build it, here in Kyneton. A connection to the past? Yes, my distant ancestor was Philip Rundell, first of Rundell & Pickett fame and then onto the famous ( in some circles! ) company, Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, who were silversmiths and jewellers to the Royal family. Pretty obvious choice and besides,  I think it's got a nice ring to it.

So fast forward to our trip to the U.S. I find myself standing amongst the treasure trove of tools in Patrick Leach's garage. The best of every antique tool, but my eye just keeps being drawn back to his large bucket of carpenters or framers slicks. For those who are unsure, a slick is a chisel on some serious growth hormones! I choose one, a Whitherby, 3 inches ( 75mm ) wide and well over a foot ( about 400mm I reckon ) long, before the handle.

Of all the other tools I pack to ship back home to Australia, the slick and my beloved Stanley 608c are the only two I can't bear to part with and I pack them in my suitcase.

So what, you say?

Well, when I turned the new handle for it about a month ago, I must have stared at it for weeks, just waiting for the chance to use it. I must have picked it up a hundred times and felt its weight and heft.

I then get my chance, forming the mortices and tenons on my timber frame for the cottage. I even post about it on this blog.

A good friend, Leigh emails me and comments on Jan 30th,
Quote "The construction in Kyneton looks as though it is progressing well.  A three inch slick is a real shipwright's or bridge builder's tool - I am sure it is very satisfying to see it do its job! " Un-quote.

Again, so what?

Yesterday, I travelled up to Bendigo with my Dad, his brother Stan and my cousin Craig, Stan's son. Stan took us to see the grave of my Great Great Grandfather, Joshua Upcott Rundell. Stan had found the unmarked grave site from original records and maps of the cemetery, had placed a plaque on the grave and re-layed the original hand made bricks which outlined the grave, but were found sunken under  ground.

So as we are standing there, I turn to Stan and ask,"what was his occupation?"
"Bridge builder," says Stan.

Sitting here tonight I search the records on the net for Joshua's father, William Rundell, born around 1787. His occupation? Look down the bottom.

  • Name: William Rundell

  • Given Name: William

  • Surname: Rundell

  • Sex: M

  • Birth: 1787-1788 in Maker, Cornwall, UK

  • Christening: 20th Jan 1788 Maker, Cornwall

  • Death: 1875 in Devonport?, Devonshire?, England?

  • _UID: E71687A6021B4BD3B9C090A6F21184C96496

  • Change Date: 5 Apr 2010 at 10:25

  • Note:

  • And where did Joshua Upcott live? Sutton Grange, he owned the pub there. Sutton Grange is just over 30 mins drive North of here. And I thought I really had no previous affiliation with the region. 

    Turns out it wasn't just my carpenter Grandfather, Charles' blood coursing through my veins. That slick has been waiting for me for the longest time.

    Friday, 3 February 2012

    One down..

    With a sigh of relief the first of the big macrocarpa beams and two posts were man ( & woman ) handled into position today with the help of Lisa and my ever reliable Dad. With Tom supervising too, of course.

    It made such an immediate change to the feel of the room and reenforced the vision that I have had for the little place since we first bought it. I can almost imagine the view through the back doors and out towards the green back yard with maple, apple, pear and birch trees planted along the fence.

    Here's the pencil pine post that will support the next beam. This came from a farm in Gruyere, up past Coldstream and was just right for the job. I will ratchet strap the whole frame together on the weekend and peg the joints together. Another good excuse to get back onto the shavehorse too, to shave the pegs. That should close up the small gaps and tighten up the whole deal.

    And while I messed about fitting the mortises, good 'ol Dad did the unenviable job of pulling up the cracked and damaged floor boards in what will be the master bedroom.

    Turns out they had been 2nd hand way back when, when they were originally put into this little place. But they were too far gone to keep with most of the tongues split off and some gaps up to 5mm across. Pity.
    I'm seeing a lot of that in the house, now that we have it back to bare bones. Very old studs in one part of the house that had definitely been used before. Full of holes and black as tar. Original split wood stumps under the house. All the signs of a house built during the depression when times were certainly tough and nothing was wasted. Isn't funny how we've managed to come full circle with regard to re-cycling, but for a whole other range of reasons?

    The new roof is the next big job. No colourbond or zincalume here. Traditional galvanised iron, which laid right, will definitely outlast me. And I get to work again with Jim Carew from Koo Wee Rup, the Master Plumber I did my apprenticeship with. They say he hails from Snowy River up by Kosciusko's side....... or so he reckons anyway.