W. & S. Butcher


Shop Fun with Scott Grandstaff


The Gunboat

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Well, my buddy Dave needed a shelf.  I don't usually take on large scale projects. You all know my shop is small and my tools are small and my standard philosophy... hey, the Hope diamond fits right in your pocket!

But he's my friend and nobody else was going make this happen.

What he actually needed was a counter/vanity and it had to fit into a bathroom and certainly nothing off-the-shelf was going to do.

It needed to be custom designed and fit to go with the rest of the room, which was already fitted out with the big rolled edge clawfoot tub and jaunty little pedestal sink, and please their taste, Dave and Lisa both.

It had to fill the corner and compliment the fixtures, a pedestal sink and clawfoot bathtub and answer the needs of a bathroom. Access was going to be somewhat limited to the far side with the tub in place, so one large open shelf was the perfect thing. More drawers or covered shelves with doors would have been too crowded.

If you want a truly wonderful American wood to work, with some interesting character, you will be hard pressed to top western black oak. It cuts a dream with both hand and power tool alike, and it actually smells good while you do it!

Most oak smells like the bottom of a catbox, at best, when you work it, but western, which is actually closer to chestnut in hardness, smells vaguely sweet. Oak that smells good?? Imagine that? 

It carves delightfully too, tearing out less than practically anything I ever worked. You can sometimes even work against the grain and get away with it! It was never available in commercial quantities though, so you never saw it at Ikea, K-Mark, Costco, Home Despot or any other dreck-a-torium where the mass crass and cludgy tasteless accumulate. Possibly specialty lumberyards that are supplied by small western mills is about your only hope.

Except at Davy's place. Dave has been operating a mobile dimension sawmill some 30 years, on and off. You remember these? The original Volkswagon engine powered, big round blade mills that debuted in the early 70's?? Well Dave's is newly restored now and tuned up and looking fine. But its a veteran. All around the place is the cream of 30 years sawing, in big unit stacks. Planks and beams and even some 16/4 slabs, 3' wide!

It may not be easy to get normally, but if you need some bring a large trailer and cash, I'll give directions and contact info.

Well this thing is big. Real big. Nearly 200 pounds of big. Parts of the construction beat me like a rented mule, horsing it around. Its solid 8/4 and 6/4 stock for the horizontal and vertical surfaces. Smashed fingers from the weight were looming at every turn.

The giant bullnose were cut with a drawknife, rank set jack plane and my big honkin coopers shave.

No shaper cutter made is this big, even if I had one and wanted to use it. But that big shave, slightly skewed, lit into the end grain like it was paper! Big rolls falling away with every stroke.

You guys all know the size of my bench by now. So this is what it looked like when first set up.

Notice how it makes a full sized face vise look like a tinkertoy?


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