stevenbunn Sat, 02/14/2015 - 20:07

Baptismal Font Project

One of my long term projects is a commission to build a baptismal font for the Phippsburg UCC church. The church is celebrating it's 250th anniversary this year, and monies were set aside for several commemorative pieces of furniture to celebrate the anniversary. As an aid to myself, and to better visualize the design for the church committee overseeing the project, I decided to create a full-sized mock-up of the font. This allowed me to get a better sense of the mass and proportions of the design. Early work on the model led me to increase the diameter of the center supporting pedestal from 7 to 8-1/2 inches, as this gave the font greater visual impact. I increased the diameter of the top basin segment by the same amount to keep everything in proportion. I love the size and grounded-ness of the large built up base molding. The profile was based on molding profile found in an early New England church, dating to around 1720. It looks satisfyingly Gothic to me, and speaks to the traditional look requested by the church. I still need to create the octagonal ogee profiled top for the basin before presenting the font to the committee for approval or design changes. Even in plain pine with moldings only applied part way around the font, this is a nice looking creation.

stevenbunn Sat, 02/07/2015 - 09:01


Every month wood-working magazines feature another article describing the construction of a work-bench. The variety is astounding even mind blowing. Many of the designs are eye catching, and more than once I've almost, almost started to consider building one of these beauties. The thing that always holds me back is the reality that I have already built eight, maybe nine, work-benches in my life, and six of them are sitting in my shop. Enough is enough.


Then I read Steve Latta's article “Minibench Works Wonders,” in the December issue of Fine Woodworking magazine. In his article Latta describes building a small bench that clamps to the work surface of his work-bench. This raises the work to a more convenient height for doing intricate detail work on small work parts. I make a number of miniature Windsor chairs every year. And I often have found myself uncomfortably bent over as I carve the saddle of a miniature's seat on my regular work-bench or assemble the small chairs. Latta's design was not only appealing, it actually addressed a real problem I had not found an answer for myself. I copied the article and set it aside, concentrating instead on paying work. Still, the little bench had grabbed my interest. I found myself rummaging through  the scrap wood pile, looking for cut-offs that would be suitable for the parts Latta's bench required. My one design constraint was monetary. I wanted to build my version of the bench as cheaply as possible. Using scrap wood, and forgoing the purchase of an expensive bench vise, (the days of cheap Taiwanese vises appears to be a thing of the past) I built the small bench pictured here. I ended up spending less than $20.00. I limited my purchases to a set of Rockler plastic bench dogs and a length of 5/16-inch diameter metal rod, used to make the guide bars on the wooden vise.

 I added a Roubo style crooked planing stop to the front edge of the bench, and drilled ranked holes in the front legs allowing loose fitting wooden pins to be adjusted to support edge planing stock. Is this carrying things to far? Maybe. We'll see after I use the minibench a while.

stevenbunn Thu, 02/05/2015 - 08:29

We have had three snow storms since last friday, and it is snowing this morning as I type this post. As you can see in the picture, between my plow guy and the drifts walking out to the shop has become quite a chore. Luckily, we live on a hill top, so the wind has scoured the snow off the ground behind the barn. So my route to work now incorporates a detour around the barn. Have a good day.


stevenbunn Mon, 02/02/2015 - 16:13


Visitors returning to this site will notice that there have been a number of changes made to the website. I hope you find it easier to navigate and view. I knew I needed to update the site, but Andrew, my oldest son and web guru had graduated from college, and was working for MicroSoft. I dreaded the expense involved in hiring outside help, but my wife agreed that the site needed work and pushed me to get started.

I spent the early Fall pouring over the websites of those other chair-makers whose work I most respected and compared myself with. My site was fifteen years old, and hadn't been updated in a number of years. I was interested in seeing how my site compared to my competitors. What features attracted me most on a given site? How did that site's picture's quality, overall size and resolution compare to those on my site? How many different chair designs did the site feature? It was in some cases pretty depressing. Photos taken with an old hand held camera and loaded at ridiculously low .jpg resolutions to aid in quick loading times just didn't compare well against professionally photographed work. On the basis of photo quality alone I had to be driving away potential clients. I came up with a laundry list of improvements I needed to make to my site and sat down with the folks of Gopher Design. Gopher Design,, is a small family owned web design company, located here in Bowdoinham. I had first seen their work about five years ago when Jessica introduced herself at a local business meeting. I was attracted to Gopher's website designs because of their clarity, style and eye appeal. By the time I laid all my wants, must haves, and you can't cut this outs in their laps, I probably violated every aspect of their design aesthetic. They did a great job anyway and the result is pretty much exactly what I intended. Which is another way of saying that anything wrong with the site reflects on me rather than the designers.

The other thing I really wanted to add to my site was this blog. The body of the old site concentrated solely on chairs. It had no place to talk about the other things I make and love, tall-case clocks, wooden hand planes, period furniture and on and on. I have had great conversations with customers and other woodworkers by phone or email that would have been fun to share with others, but are now lost to time. I have a lot I would like to share. I hope as this blog evolves you will feel free to ask questions and express your opinions. More later. Thanks for dropping by.


stevenbunn Sun, 02/01/2015 - 16:48

One of the non-chair projects I have been working on this past year is a new Shaker work-bench. The bench was built so that I could take photographs to accompany an article I had written for American Woodworker magazine.

The article draft and photographs are now sitting somewhere in limbo at Popular Woodworking magazine. The article may or may not ever be published. Its a real bummer, but an interesting story.

I had previously written several other bench related articles which appeared in American Woodworker. My editor there, Tim Johnson, knew that I had in my shop a larger Shaker work-bench which was featured in a 1994 article in Fine Woodworking magazine. That was the first article I had ever written. Tim really wanted me to do an updated article describing the construction of a Shaker work-bench. He kept pestering me to do the article. But, I was reluctant because this committed me to constructing a completely new work-bench so that I could document the construction with photographs. This was no simple project. It was going to take a huge block of time out of my life, and practically speaking, who needs two, count them, two!! shaker benches in the same shop. I would never be able to turn around in the place much less have room to work. I love shaker benches, but still, what was I going to do with two? After a year of back and forth discussions I relented and agreed to write the article if Tim, and American Woodworker, would pay for the materials. He was hungry for the article and we came terms.


I submitted a draft of the article to Tim in November. Ordered material for the bench. And went so far as to take the month of December off from my part-time job as a cabinet-maker for Bowdoin College. I expected Tim to jump on the project right away, but he was busy shepherding five or six articles through the editorial process and trying to get them out the door for the next issue, and didn't have the time yet to talk with me. I, for my part, couldn't start construction until we had reviewed my suggested list of photographs and agreed on a final list of shots to go along with the text. So, I spent December kicking my heels and working on other things in the shop.


Tim finally called back the beginning of January. But before we got started, he said “I've got something to tell you. The magazine's been sold!” He went on to tell me that an entity named M+F Media, owner of Popular Woodworking, had bought out AW as well as a bunch of other magazine titles owned by AW's then current parent company. The staff was of course told, as always happens in take-overs, that everything was OK. AW would continue to come out and everyone's jobs would be safe. Typical lies that folks desperately want to believe. This is one of the reasons I work for myself. Tim and I got down to the task of building and photographing the shaker bench one step at a time. Because some shots are impossible to retake, or dummy up, Tim and his photo editor had to approve each shot before I could go ahead to the next step. This made an already lengthy project even more drawn out. Usually I heard something along the lines of, “Steve, image #23 is great, but could you re-shoot it from a higher angle?” Which was a polite way to say, “Dummy, go back a do it again.”


In February, Tim told me he was being laid off after the next issue of AW was put to bed. He promised that the transition between editorial staffs would be smooth and seamless. If only! Good-bye to Tim Johnson the best editor I've ever had.


The smooth hand over was a disaster. Major portions of the text were lost. Tim's notes, where he revised the order, and photo number, of each pose didn't get passed on. Since May of last year, three different editors has been responsible for the manuscript. And each time the draft has changed hands pieces get lost. In October, three editors, guess which ones, quit PW. Leaving my article in the hands of an editor who admitted she can not read blueprints. God help me!


I am to the point of walking away from the article. Despite promises of publication sometime in the future, I don't ever expect to see the thing in print. I'm now exploring the world of self-published e-books, you tube videos, and anything else, this blog?, that will help me leap over the editorial wall which separates the craftsman from the public. Did I mention the commission I have for a church's communion table? Out of one frying pan, editors, into another, church design committees. A topic for another day.


Its Friday morning in Maine. Snowing, and I need to go out and get a fire going in the wood-stove in the shop. As always, thank you for dropping by. Have a good day.