Looking Back at a Fast Year

Either this year moved too fast or I slowed down. Whatever the case, one thing I know for certain is that I got around to doing much less this year than in previous ones. This was mainly because of health issues.

But then the year wasn't a washout either. I did get a few things done, learnt a lot and developed methods of work to make woodworking easier and more pleasant.

2018 Projects

Boxes
I made six boxes this year, all of them dovetailed and finished with Shellac. Obtaining decent quality hardware in small quantities was a challenge but I did make a few interesting discoveries in the alleys of Old Delhi. White Ash and Padauk are fast becoming my wood of choice for box making; they make for an interesting natural contrast and take on Shellac wonderfully.

Box made of Padauk and Teak

A Pencil box of Padauk and White Ash

Two boxes made of Ash and stained


Beech Table
Beech is an extremely hard wood with a tendency to cup and twist. Planing Beech by hand is often hard work. I was not too fond of this wood but after seeing the kind of finish it takes I have changed my mind. In the ultimate analysis I would say it is a handsome wood. Masculine with a subtle character. This summer I struggled between bouts of ill health to make a simple study table for my wife. It looks and is tough and seems just right for her corner.

Beech study table

Overhead Cabinet for the Study
After completing the table, I struggled for a few weeks to make an overhead cabinet to go with the table. This was not too difficult and only the finishing took time. I also made a pen box to complete my wife's study.
Overhead cabinet made of plywood and painted

Ash Cabinet
White Ash is also emerging as a favourite and I used this to make a floor standing cabinet with doors and a drawer. I used white Maple for the top and the drawer front. This was the first time I had used Maple and loved the creamy gentle wood. Plan to use more of it for next year's projects.

Cabinet made of Ash and Maple


Wall Cabinet
I had got hold of some kind of exotic African hard wood last winter and thought it would make an attractive cabinet door. Built this for a doorway and filled it up with cans of stain. A drawer was added later but I haven't gotten around to take a photograph of the completed item.

Wall Cabinet

Misc Projects
One is always having to make little jigs, accessories and such things for the workshop and the house. They don't take much time and are very satisfying. Both these projects, the sawhorse for my plywood cutting and the Neem chopping board for the kitchen were useful additions this year.

Neem chopping board

Sawhorse - usefiul bugger

About half a dozen projects in various stages of completion are cluttered around the house and stairway. I can never stop asking for more work table space and time. At times it feels like walking under water.

There are several reasons for the slow pace of work. The first is a small workbench, the second, problems related to milling and third the finishing process.

As of now I have a smallish workbench on which I must do everything, from milling to assembly. I have taken to do most of my finishing outdoors but even then, workflow is restricted since woodworking projects have to go through several stages, some of which can't be hurried such as glue ups. One solution would be to make temporary tables on sawhorses.

Milling everything by hand is not feasible and owning large and potentially dangerous planers of the type we get here is not an option either. I get my wood rough milled at a local timber yard. This means I have to drive up and down, carrying as much wood as possible in my car. Then, given the rather unsatisfactory quality of the milling, I have to spend hours and days to plane them.

Finishing is a very satisfying but slow process. Hurrying things doesn't help. I usually finish my projects with Shellac or Polyurethane. Shellac is somewhat faster but both these finishes require longish curing time before the final rubbing down can be carried out. This means at any point of time I might have several projects in the finishing line. This demands space and time.

The good thing about this year is that I have learnt to slow down, sort of flow with the stream. I have also learnt that time is life's greatest gift. It should be savoured not squandered.

Indranil Banerjie
22 December 2018

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