Day 2 at Kelly Mehler's School

We looked at 18th c joinery at Kelly’s shop for day 2 for our examination of 18th c cabinetmaking tools and techniques. We started the day with an off the top of my head rant/furniture style history lecture. Instead of the normal art history approach, I talked about furniture structures, how they changed and how they didn’t. We did a style CSI on one of my pieces.

WIth a cup of Jim’s fantastic fresh roasted coffee (yes one of the fellows here roasts his own coffee and has been supplying us daily- how cool is that?) we began our day examining saws for joinery. It felt a little like what I would imagine Popular Woodworking’s shop would feel like: We had just about every hot new saw to try; LV’s new dt, lots of Wenzloff saws, a couple Gramercys (no carcass though Joel- better send one to Kelly post haste!) lots of LN products and of course my saws.

After saws we looked at chisels, focusing on my reproduction firmers, but we also had many other chisels including Joel’s Ray Illes chisels (which I have still not had the chance to undo Joel’s abhorent sharpening and try them sharpened “properly” (I can here Joel’s blood pressure increasing from Kentucky).

After lunch I did some demo joints. My original plan was just to apply the techniques and tools we had examined thus far. But at the last minute I made a course change and possibly not for the better.

Mortise and tenon and dovetail joints are simple, basic building blocks we use to make 18th c furniture. But in practice, they can become more complicated. I decided to throw caution to the wind, not necessarily a great idea with 9 students weary from Kelly’s catered gourmet lunch, and chose the most complicated incarnations of these joints. I cut the half blinds on a tiny lipped drawer. The problem I encountered stemmed from my poor stock preparation. I didn’t want to use any fitting planes- no rabbets or fillesters or plows, because they weren’t on the schedule for that day.

The mortise and tenon joint was the corner of a frame and panel, grooved (got out the drawer bottom plow for that), molded with a gouge and scratch stock, and coped with a gouge. That turned out a bit better than the dts, tho my stock prep was not much better.

We finished the day with a cocktail party in the cottage next to the shop that Kelly usually reserves for visiting instructors. It’s filled with Kelly’s handiwork and furniture. The party seemed to revive the weary woodworkers and hopefully prepared them for a busy final day.

Adam

5 thoughts on “Day 2 at Kelly Mehler's School

  1. Jeff S.

    I guess we need Joel to chime in. I am just going by the sharpening treatise on his website. I did forget the honing step, for which he gives 4 reasons as to why it is necessary.

    Adam, do you hollow grind your mortising chisels before honing? I have always heard that it was a no-no on mortisers because it weakens the tip, but re-establishing a flat new edge is a pain without some new-fangled Makita/Lee Valley yuppie grinder.

  2. Adam Cherubini

    Maybe we can get Joel to respond.

    As far as I can tell, Joel rough grinds a hollow 25 degree bevel, then grinds a 35 degree bevel, and puts that tool directly to work sans honing. I could be wrong. In Joel’s hands, the mortising chisel is little more than a pointy crow bar, so this is acceptable to him. I, on the other hand, hone mortise chisels like every other tool and use a technique that maintains that edge. Then again, I also hone turning tools, which many pro turners recommend against.

    Adam
    P.S. I find 35 degrees an unacceptable bevel angle. My homemade firmers are no higher than 25 degrees and I have 20 degree chisels in my kit. My mortisers are 30 degrees max. But they are also stropped which may make that angle a bit higher on the microscopic level.

  3. Jeff S.

    I second the request for further expansion on the sharpening question.

    I would have guessed your approach would be fairly close to Joel’s which I understand to be about as no-nonsense as it gets. Hollow grind => Medium India => Translucent Arkansas all with no guide.

    P.S. And thanks for the trip report!

  4. Jerome Bias

    Sorry about the molded and coped mortice and tennon challenge, that was my idea. You did an amazing job with that one. It took a little while to do, but it was worth the time. You answered a number of questions that I have been puzzleing over for a while now.

    Saws Saws and more saws. I have never seen so many variations on a dovetail saw before. It was really cool. We were able to try saws with drop angles, various tpi, progressive pitch,…

    Yes, I’d like to have Cherubini tenon saw with a hint of positive progressive rake and touch of increasing tpi, to go please.

  5. Randy Klein

    Oh, please expand on this topic:

    "(which I have still not had the chance to undo Joel’s abhorent sharpening and try them sharpened properly"

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