Building a 3-legged milking stool…with hand tools!

Woodworking had been taking over my thoughts for a few weeks this past month. Everyday after work, I’d rush into the wood shop only to become somewhat frustrated and overwhelmed. Our latest project assigned by our class instructor, Sterling, was to build a 3-legged milking stool. Easy enough was the thought that first came to my mind (especially after seeing Sterling’s sample stool), but the reality of building the stool (with hand tools mind you) was totally different.

We were given rough milled 13x13x2″ poplar (for the seat of the stool), and 3 legs of poplar that were roughly 2x2x8″ for the legs. The first step in the process was to square all of the boards. Luckily, I got quite a bit of practice in doing this when doing the try square project (which I wrote about previously here.) Once the boards were squared up, we were off, marking the stool in such a way to understand placement of the legs, angles the legs would splay out, and dimensions of the mortises.

then we sawed, chiseled, and hammered away:


Too many hours in the shop later, I ended up with this:



I was able to get the tenons to fit into the mortises, however there were still gaps between the edges. To add a bit of flair, highlight the flaws (I wanted to prove that I indeed made the stool entirely by hand of course), and impress people, I added a few wedges of walnut on the edges of the tenon to fill in the gaps.

Overall, I appreciate the aesthetic of the stool, and I think that this idea for a first major beginner project was good. I learned a lot of techniques, I only wished I’d have had more time to work on it. As you can see, there is a bit of wood tear out around the mortises (this can obviously be fixed with a bit of surface planing), and the bottom of the stool shows the edges of the mortises (ideally, the area around the tenon would hide this part). But, I suppose that is why God made wood putty 😉







In the end, despite all the imperfections, I’m rather proud of my stool, because I made it mostly by hand, and because it is an awful lot of work. I’ll likely go back into the shop soon and sand down the edges, and plane away the tear out to make it more aesthetically pleasing.
Now, I only need to find something to do with it, since I don’t see myself milking cows again any time soon. 😉

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Woodworking 101: Handtools, try-squares, and try, try again

I don’t think I realized how much of a ‘builder’ or ‘tinkerer’ I am since I left grad school. Now that I’m transitioning out of doing my own research and doing things with my own hands, I find myself jonesing to make and build. I think it is a part of my nature, my mother even tells me so by recounting stories from my childhood where I would spend hours building puzzles, making art, and playing with Erector sets. I’m older now, yet all of this still excites me. Strangely enough, my engineering job keeps me away from doing much tinkering, so I decided to branch out…

It all started when months, after living in an apartment with hardly any furniture (I’ve put off buying any because IKEA puts me off, and the fine furniture I admire puts my wallet off), I thought it might be nice to build furniture of my own. I naively signed up to take a woodworking class at the Oregon College of Art and Craft; it was a 10 week class focused on hand tools, and taught by a really passionate instructor, Sterling Collins (you can see his professional work here). The class started off slow (at least in my own mind), I mean, we did spend an entire class learning how to sharpen chisels, but I’m glad I got to get started in the craft with hand tools as opposed to power tools. I feel like I was able to gain a solid appreciation for the craft, an intuitive feel for the wood, and I think there is something beautifully primitive in being ‘one with the wood’. Don’t get me wrong, it is tough work, my arms got quite the workout initially, but over time, this was an incredible experience.

Practicing sharpening chisels.Way more important than I ever would have thought!

One of things I really enjoyed about the class was that we actually made a try-square (a measuring device)…by using our hand tools! It was challenging to get the angle to be flat and a perfect 90 degrees, but it was such an accomplishment when all was said and done. I learned how to use a saw (it takes more skill than you’d think), how to carve a mortise to a tenon, and how to put pins in for added stability. 




Finally, I used a coping saw to add a bit of flair to the end of the try-square. This try-square was made after this model. I’d been reading a lot of literature on hand-tools (what’s worth buying, techniques, etc), and Chris Schwarz books and ethos have really spoken to me. He has written much on the beauty of making one’s own tools and he is a strong advocate of using hand tools. He is apparently visiting Portland in April, I’m hoping to find time to make it to one of his workshops!

Until then, I suppose I’ll admire my finished try-square 🙂


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February Sweater

My latest selfish knit has been the Bedford sweater designed by Michelle Wang. I liked the simplicity of the raglan pullover, the texture of the reverse stockinette sleeves, and the right twist stitch pattern coupled with the tweed yields an interesting fabric.

I used the Brooklyn Tweed Shelter yarn in Stormcloud. The sweater grew by ~20% post-blocking; I’m not happy with the size of the jumper post-blocking since it is now baggy on me (and fit perfectly before blocking). I suppose I have finally learned to not only knit gauge swatches, but to ALSO block the swatch before calculating gauge. With my OCD tendencies, I may end up deconstructing the sweater entirely and re-knitting it so that it fits me perfectly, or the sweater will be resigned as my weekend yoga/errand sweater since it is rather comfy as it is.





Guess I’ll have to put my needles away for a while… I doubt I’ll have much time for knitting next month.

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Hello sweets, I hope you’re having good laughs today and that you have a great weekend.
This morning I found out that I’m going on a surprise weekend getaway to the coast. I haven’t yet checked out the Oregon beaches, so I’m excited to breathe in the scent of the Pacific Ocean…and spend the weekend in a yurt!

Yesterday evening, I finished sewing up some softies made of actual woolen felt and stuffed with wool batting. My friend Rose owns a natural fiber shop a few blocks from my apartment and I decided to take the plunge and get myself involved with yet another crafty hobby. I love the colorful and playful look of the toys, and the fact that they are made of wool fiber adds a touch of warmth to them.



I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s day!



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Winter cowl

During the snowstorm last week, nearly everything on the block was closed. Fortunately, the local yarn shop was open. I lingered in the shop longer than usual and found myself drawn to a luscious chunky alpaca. The fiber feels like butter in my hands and when knit up, yields an incredibly drapey fabric. I picked up a skein of sunny yellow as well as a skein in ombre grey. I made a cowl by casting on 30 stitches and used a basic fishermans rib/brioche stitch the entirety of the scarf, alternating the two colors every couple of rows and used a kitchener stitch to graft the ends together to form the cowl.





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The January Sweater

The first weeks of January can sometimes be difficult; the holidays have passed, and along with them, the romance of early winter. The weather is cold and dark, and we feel cultural pressure to make resolutions in an effort to craft better versions of ourselves.

This year, I decided to do a bit of selfish knitting. I’d been seeing the gorgeous owls sweater designed by Katie Davies and decided to kick off January by knitting the classic yoke pullover. The garment is knit circularly with no seams from hem to underarm (on both body and sleeves), then the sleeves are joined to the body and worked in the round for the remainder of the sweater. Finishing involves using the kitchener stitch to join the underarms to the body. I like this construction method because it allows for both the ease and convenience of circular knitting as well as the structure of seams in areas where they are very much needed (armholes — regular stress points for the fabric). I would traditionally have used the DPN method to make the sleeves individually, however a friend from my knitting group graciously taught me the two-at a time on two circulars method which I enjoyed.

I used Jamieson & Smith Aran in gingersnap. I love the woolly and rustic nature of the Shetland fiber.




Now, to move on from the mindless stockinette pullover…


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Mon Poupette

Since moving to Portland, I’ve met several people who espouse Waldorf-style education.

Waldorf pedagogy distinguishes three broad stages in child development, each lasting approximately seven years. The early years education focuses on providing practical, hands-on activities and environments that encourage creative play. In the elementary school, the emphasis is on developing pupils’ artistic expression and social capacities, fostering both creative and analytical modes of understanding. Secondary education focuses on developing critical understanding and fostering idealism. Throughout, the approach stresses the role of the imagination in learning and places a strong value on integrating academic, practical and artistic pursuits. After doing a bit of research, I think the method is too loosey goosey, however, I think Waldorf is onto something when it comes to the types of toys children should play with.

I happened to stop by my LYS here in Portland and saw a bunch of Waldorf dolls – a form of doll used in Waldorf education. Made of wool and cotton, using techniques drawing on traditional European dollmaking, its appearance is intentionally simple in order to allow the child playing with it to improve or strengthen imagination and creativity. For instance, it has no facial expression. Its legs and arms are flexible, allowing natural postures.

Traditional Waldorf dolls are made from cotton interlock knit fabric and wool stuffing. They are often entirely natural. Typically the trademark long hair of a Waldorf doll is made of mohair or boucle. Some doll makers use alternative hair material such as wool, rayon, and cotton. The facial features of a Waldorf doll vary with the maker. Most Waldorf dolls have small suggestions of noses, their eye and mouth colors are generally varied with each doll. After seeing the dolls, I thought it would be cool to learn how to make a jointed one. So I did!











Now, to sew some clothes!

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Sweet tidings

Being that today was my last full day spent in Bloomington, I had a lot of stuff to catch up on; cleaning the house, packing up things to take for the summer, and wrapping up projects around town. You may recall some of the pottery I had taken up earlier last month…I managed to finish up those projects and pick up my glazed pots before heading out of town. They turned out surprisingly well.

Prior to glazing the pots, I had the pots bisque fired. I actually quite appreciate the look of clean clay.

In the evening, some friends hosted a good-bye potluck. I ate for dessert.

And now, for some new adventures!

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Cooling off

Hello Darlings! Sorry for the lack of recent posts… I’ve gotten a bit in over my head at work with an upcoming publication in the works and other realities in life to deal with.

Anyway, when I went home to visit my folks for the Christmas holiday I did a bit of reading, went to neat grocery stores (I love Trader Joe’s and Central Markets) with my parents, and finally got around to finishing a sweater I began knitting in November of last year!
I think it turned out marvelously.

The sweater was knit up using Shelter yarn from Brooklyn Tweed in Stormcloud. The yarn is a woolen-spun 2-ply worsted weight yarn made with Wyoming-grown wool from Targhee-Columbia sheep and is spun in the New England village of Harrisville.  I really appreciate that the entirety of the skein is made in the USA.

The yarn does seem to break if pulled too tightly (during bind-offs and sewing), but is sturdy and lofty when all is said and done. I would only knit another sweater in this because the color palate is stunning and unlike any other yarn brand on the market.

I’m still on a bit of a knitting kick. There’s something comforting about lofty wool gently sliding between my fingers and a cup of tea nearby. Hopefully I’ll find a bit of time here and there to get another project going.

In the meantime, I’m spending time in lab, running some final experiments on my current project, and listening to this song by Phoneix on repeat.

Phoenix – If I Ever Feel Better

Stay warm my friends,

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