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The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator

An aggregate of many different woodworking blog feeds from across the 'net all in one place!  These are my favorite blogs that I read everyday...


On Fractured Cutting Edges To Edge Tools – Part II

Paul Sellers - 7 hours 34 min ago

DSC_0042With one high end chisel sharpened to as near perfection as PS could gain, I pressed the chisel into pine wood for paring cross-grain and, moving across from one side to the other in swathes 1″ wide, cleared an area 1/8” deep 3” across from front to back and 4” long.


I then pared with the grain over the same area and then chopped 6 times hard onto the chisel edge with the same number of blows and equal force each time. The steel is new and specially formulated.

DSC_0022 2

One of the hardest things for a chisel edge is scraping it on end along the surface of rough grain. Students do it all the time at first, until I explain how much damage they do to their chisel edges. So, I then scraped the chisels tested across the surface of the same grain as shown and applying much pressure. I did the same to all the makers including an unnamed maker from the late 1800s. The end results was surprising. Once treated so harshly, the high end chisels fared more poorly than I expected. Instead of boring photograph showing results we tested the damage by seeing how high the chisels had to be elevated on the surface of the wood before the edge bit the wood sufficient to start a cut.


In my tests all of the chisels bit the surface after sharpening at about the same angle of presentation.


The above measurement show the chisel elevated to 2mm before the bite was effective.

After the pressure and hammer tests the low end Aldi chisel and the old chisels continued to cut without further elevation. The high end chisels that fractured much more had to be elevated by 12mm to even start the cuts. This effectively meant that the surface fracture on the edge was so cratered, compensation had to be made to make the chisel effective. The old chisel, having undergone the same treatment, needed elevating only 2mm. This chisel continued working for hours afterwards and I was cutting and paring oak shoulders across end grain and paring the faces of tenons the whole time for demoing to students.


I took an angled shaving with one of the chisels I had run through the test, a reputable maker sold by high end dealers in the UK and USA. This had faired quite poorly in the tests and this is what we got.


I then took the Aldi chisel that had gone through exactly the same treatment and pared the same surface and it gave me a clean surface.

DSC_0043 DSC_0045

Therein was my deciding factor. It wasn’t based on cost but work. The Aldi chisel proved to be the better chisel. Others looked more prestigious and looked nice on the benchtop. Its all about choice then.


This then does tell us that the relief on the underside of all plane irons bar none was a development based on practical application and not because science itself contributed much if anything at all. A man at his bench saw that a chisel needed elevating to the work to make it work and lifted the chisel slightly higher. When the chisel was too high he took it to a stone and honed it. Now some salesman from a distant office and of unknown background or perhaps a magazine says hone to 25.000 grit on glass covered with abrasive paper and we jump through all of legalistic hoops. The scary-sharp method is just OK to get those first sharp chisel and plane edges when starting out in woodworking, but its wow factor leaves a few big questions because it’s far from an economic or practical solution to good sharpening practice. At first glance it look feasible, logical, practical. It’s not. Abrasive films are extremely expensive long term and well worth the money for some applications, but for sharpening edge tools for woodworking in general I think it is obsessive at best. It’s all become quite silly. I would say the same too for steel makes and so on.


My research shows that fracture takes place the very second the chisel touches the wood; so much so the bevel edge top fracture and the flat face bottom or under-fracture fractures equally and at the same time. Most people don’t know this.


Immediately after sharpening, chisels with dead flat faces must in some measure be elevated to engage the wood.

DSC_0005 DSC_0004 DSC_0003

The less the edge fracture the less the incline needed. Within a few seconds of use, depending on the wood and the work type, the chisel elevation increases to effect a similar cut. It’s at this point then, when the rate of edge fracture diminishes dramatically, that we are given a practical working edge to chop, pare and plane with. The angle between the two faces forming the edge may well now be altered, increased as it were by fracture wear to around 40-degrees as both faces fracture along the edge equally.


Because edge fracture occurs immediately, we should be aware when we sharpen that it’s the diminished return that gives us the strength we actually need  for real work not temporary or prissy work. After a few minutes of use, newly made chisels by a major UK maker of chisels left me with a chisel that I could not cut myself with. But, that said and established, they are still sharp enough for 95% of general woodworking tasks surrounding furniture making. If you indeed doubt anything I am saying. Run the same experiments. Use any plane for a few minutes on a pine board with or without knots and remove the blade. Feel the edge and tell me the truth, as you (carefully) pull the fingers perpendicular to the edge, do your fingertips glide over the edge or does the edge catch ready to cut. Do the same trial with your chisels and you then see how the wood and the work affects the router plane cutter.

I made a facsimile from styrofoam to show an enlarged approximation view of what happens at the cutting edges of edge tools.

DSC_0023 DSC_0022

This post may seem to ramble between chisels and router cutters and bluntness, dullness, motives and so on, but for me they are apart of the same issue. Our world is all the more fractured into tiny bytes where media projects tiny informational pockets into our lives and there is really no conclusive result because everything is negotiable in a world of no absolutes. I can’t separate the cutters from routers from chisels and planes because of the various realities uniting them. Two flat faces set at an angle creates a sharp edge. The most practical angle for this to be used and restored and at optimal strength is 30-degrees. Knives and axes, chisels and planes all have angle around 30-degrees. This may vary with shearing-cut actions as on scissors and guillotines, but generally 30-degrees is accepted universally and this is because the material dictates.

The post On Fractured Cutting Edges To Edge Tools – Part II appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Chevy Migraine

McGlynn On Making - 11 hours 53 min ago

I’ve been stalled the past couple of days on the Chevalet.  The blueprints are missing the level of detail that I tend to put into plans.  It’s all stuff you can figure out, but I like to have a specific plan before I start marking out and cutting.

I have all of the “beams” glued up and trued for the saw support arm, and I was going to start with this joint here.  In the Chevys at school this was, I believe, a “triple tenon” joint, although that’s not called out in the plans.  Since my parts are different sizes as a result of working with the wood I have available, I needed to make some adjustments in the joinery here.

I thought this joint was my next step...

I thought this joint was my next step…

Because my horizontal arm is slightly thinner and wider than the plans, there isn’t enough meat to cut a through mortise and two half mortises on the faces, so I’m going to do a bridal joint.  But that got me thinking about the length of this vertical riser…

The horizontal piece I have is a little different in size than the plans too.  Crud.  Which means that the vertical adjusters on the ends need to be sized differently.  In short, I needed to re-design and build from the opposite end of this assembly.

I sat down at the computer yesterday and drew of the horizontal arm that supports the saw adjusters, and then drew those up too.  I tried to include the critical dimensions from the plans, I need to have the saw itself end up in the same position relative to the vise jaws when I’m done jiggering around with everything.  Once this assembly is done I can make the vertical member to ensure this is at the right height for the upright.  I’m going to make one more check of the measurements before I lay out and cut the two vertical adjusters and the horizontal piece.

My CAD mockup of the saw support arm, based on the wood I have and the hardware kit.

My CAD mockup of the saw support arm, based on the wood I have and the hardware kit.

Categories: General Woodworking

Workbench 2014 Base Day One

Inside the Oldwolf Workshop - 13 hours 16 min ago
Day one of the bench build started with a deep breath. I knew it would be a whirlwind of a build to get things done so I could get the shop back in order and return to working on the other things I have hanging over my head. Before a big day starts I like to stop for that deep breath and make sure I have my thoughts collected and a plan of attack solid in my mind. Later in the day, when I've fatigued some, and I may or may not be thinking clearly as I'm engrossed in a detail. I will be able to fall back on that mental list and check off the things accomplished and organize the next step.

The benchtop finished out at just under 3 1/2" thick by 22" wide and 12 foot long. Alone I could lift each of the beams to move them around the shop, now joined together . . .it's all I can do to flip it over on a set of saw horses. Moving it around requires applied physics. (levers and mechanical advantage)

Those who've seen the benchtop so far have asked about the holes already in the top, woodworkers have asked why I pre-drilled my dog holes in such a way. These beams came from inside a barn and it was obvious from where they were being used, and the variety of the sizes of beams around them, they had been recycled before, probably from another even older barn.

The barn I got them from was around 80 years old, I wonder how long the previous barn stood and how long it's been since these Fir beams were standing trees.

The holes in the beams must have been related to the joinery of the first barn. You can see evidence of the joinery in the larger leg beam as well. Big mortises 2" by 10" in size with a hole for a peg through the sides. Massive joinery with no apologies.

There is a cool bit of evidence the joiners who cut the mortise were human. You can see below the big mortise three holes were drilled, two of them are still filled with plugs. I was able to liberate one of the plugs before the beam was planed

Before planing you could also make out the remaining pencil layout lines for a mortise. They had drilled for the mortise and before chopping out the waste, rechecked the measurements, realized they'd drilled on the wrong side of their line, plugged the holes and made the new mortise correctly. I'm not sure what makes you check one more time between drilling and chopping, I'd like to assume a apprentice/master type relationship where the master or a journeyman checked the young lads work and found it wanting.  

I hand sawed the legs square at one end and found a problem to solve. I'm a good hand sawyer. I like to do it even, but I am human and that leads to small inconsistencies. These legs are too big to shoot the ends to achieve the same length so I had to find a reliable way to get repeatable consistency.

I've owned and used a tablesaw for nearly 15 years, I've never found a good enough reason to make a crosscut sled jig until now. I hate making jigs, but I decided it was the best way to accomplish the task with such heavy stock. I used the tablesaw's fence (with a spacer block) to set a consistent length of cut.

Some left over 1/2" plywood and an end of 1x6 and 2x6 joined to a couple oak runners and the jig was done. Now I guess I have one, so now I'll have to find a place to store it. Ughhh.

The results were very good. All four legs came out to the same dimension, and I was able to sort them into front and back legs and pick which one would be best for the eventual leg vise.

Getting the legs to length had eaten up nearly the entire day. I had enough time for one more task. Cutting the ends of the bench top square. I used the largest of my Benjamin Seaton Squares to square a line from the front face. I cut one end, measured down twelve feet . . .

. . . and cut the other.

Ratione et Passionis
Categories: General Woodworking

Another pochette

Finely Strung - 14 hours 3 min ago

A few years ago, I wrote about pochettes after learning about them from my friend Michael Lavelle, who had just made one. It was a copy of the famous Clapisson pochette made by Antonio Stradivari in 1717, with an intriguing variant – it had an owl’s face instead of a scroll. That instrument was bought by a musician from Belgium, which encouraged Mike to make another, as shown below.


pochette 1


Pochette 2


Mike’s second pochette is now looking for a good home. If you are interested, send me an email (info@finelystrung.com) and I’ll put you in touch with him. The price, which includes a bow and a case, is £850.

Kerfing Plane – More carving

Bob Easton - 15 hours 15 min ago

photo of leaf like carvings…and here’s the curvy side.

Next up: cut the saw plate…

Categories: Carving and Sculpture

Hello, from an English Joiner! - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Giant Cypress - 17 hours 22 min ago
Hello, from an English Joiner! - Popular Woodworking Magazine:

Graham Haydon makes an appearance in the Popular Woodworking Magazine editor’s blog. Hopefully this will be the first of many appearances. Graham’s got a terrific blog, as well as a fantastic YouTube channel. I’m looking forward to his future posts.

Has F & W Crossed the Rubicon?

The Furniture Record - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 10:26pm

I hear voices. Or I did. I’m better now.

I was sitting in my office this afternoon when I suddenly heard unexpected (and unwelcome) females voices coming from my laptop. I usually have many open windows and tabs, and on occasion, more than one browser. The female voices would start to talk for a few seconds, stop and then restart an arbitrary time later. One sounded like somebody named Kirby Johnson telling me about the only cream I will ever need. The other voice was an unnamed female starting to tell me that Britney Spears was starting a line of lingerie.

It took me a while to track down the offending tabs. Turns out it was the Editors’ and Chris Schwarz’s blogs from the Popular Woodworking website doing something called ad rotation, the practice of showing multiple advertisements in a single location on a web page. Seems that every 8 seconds or so, one of the eight ads on a blog page is replaced by another ad. For some reason, the offending ads kept getting in the queue and reloading.

I did a search for ad blocking software and was surprised to find that there were many more articles written about bypassing ad blockers and using the ad blocker to form a strategy for bypassing the ad blocker than there are about ad blockers themselves. Reading the articles leads me to believe that people with a second amendment level fervor believe that they have a right to place ads on our screens. I understand that there is a quid pro quo, you provide me with content and I accept that I must tolerate some ads. They have bills to pay and need to make a reasonable profit. But they also run the risk of alienating their readers and annoying us to the point that we believe that they content isn’t worth the assault.

I don’t blame the editorial staff at Pop Woodworking for this. I do not believe that they are the masters of their fates. They have owners. And the owners have owners. And those owners have investors. All are out to serve the investors. In May, 2014, F & W, the parent of Popular Woodworking, was acquired by the private equity company Tinicum Capital Partners LP. At around the same time F & W Media (formerly F & W Publications) rebranded itself as just F & W. F & W bills itself as a media and e-commerce company.

Doing some more poking around, I found the following in an article from Folio, a multi-channel industry magazine:


For F+W, the change is more representative of the company’s ongoing strategic shift into e-commerce. Not long ago, it was known simply as an enthusiast publisher in the craft, art, writing and outdoors markets, then called F+W Publications.

As the company expanded its commerce product lines—related third-party products, pattern kits, digital downloads, etc. F+W also began to de-emphasize its media designation, instead using its brands as a way to support communities and their product purchasing power.

One thing that reading the Columbia Journalism Review for 40 years has taught me is that media companies like to make money. It’s the American thing to do. Many of them run with margins that would make manufacturers cry. Editorial content is often viewed by top-level management as what is needed to keep the ads from running into each other and to turn readers into customers. The people at the magazine level care about what they produce and do the best they can to balance the needs of the owners with interests of the consumers of their content. It can’t be easy.

This explains why I get two or three e-mails a day from Popular Woodworking or Shop Woodworking. Offering to sell me stuff I already own. They produce more marketing than content. For a while I was getting roughly the same e-mail from American Woodworker. This has tapered off.

I have gone to Woodworking in America for five years. I usually register the day registration opens. Yet I still get three to five e-mails a week singing the praises of WIA and encouraging me to register. I understand the need for marketing; I just wish they would do it more intelligently. It might cost more but it would be far less annoying.

The voices have stopped. For now. It could be the ad blocker plug-in is working. It could be that there was a browser/Java error that caused me to get the ads. Or a server error. I just know I am enjoying the silence.

Epilog: I didn’t think I was going to post this blog. I wrote it as a catharsis, one of those that gets written and left in the drawer. Then Friday I got five e-mails from my dear friends and posting it became necessary. One of the e-mails was an invitation to subscribe. I am one of their premium subscribers and my subscription runs through November, 2015.

They should know that.

Woodworkers need to keep their cards close to their vests!

Oregon Woodworker - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 8:08pm
You probably think this is a joke because of the title, but I am actually sharing a tip I have found useful.  I always keep a deck of playing cards at hand in the shop for a variety of uses.  One recent one was when I was installing all of those pegs.  I drilled a hole in the center of a card and put it over the peg when I was sawing it off so I didn't make any marks on the workpiece.  Then I pared it flush.  Just that little bit of the peg sticking up above the surface let me get a nice clean surface quickly and easily.

I am fitting the drawers into the desk gallery and, based on my previous post, I want to make sure that I have at least .04" of room for expansion and that the gap is uniform.  You can do this by eye but, on a whim, I measured the thickness of a playing card and guess what:  it's .01 inches!  How convenient.  So now, I can just test the fit by inserting four cards above each side with the drawer closed:

I can also slide two cards in on each side of the drawer to test for that gap as well.  Isn't that neat?  One nice feature of cards is that they slide easily.  Basically, they function as feeler gauges.  Not rocket science I admit, but it really worked well for me.

Here's another use for them.  I have 3 blades sharpened at different angles for my Lee Valley bevel-up smoother.  A card folded over and taped makes a nice cover for the sharp edges of the blades that aren't in use.

I'd like to read about similar things you've found useful.
Categories: Hand Tools

a plain chair

Peter Follansbee, joiner's notes - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 5:28pm

There’s a bunch of stuff going on around here. I shot photos of the carved box with drawer project for a couple of days; then had to set that down for the back half of this week, so I could build one of these “plain” chairs. I built this one here at home, so there’s no photos of this work. Maple legs, ash rails, oak slats. If I backed up any further to take this photo, I’d be tumbling into a pile of who-knows-what…


rush chair sans rush

Time to trim the legs’ tops; then add a rush seat. I was trying to think how many tools it was – splitting tools; hatchet, drawknife, spokeshave, brace & bit, crosscut saw, mortise chisel – I used an awl and knife also. Maybe that’s it. If pressed, you could drop a couple of those tools…but I guess I should add the shaving horse, and a low bench for boring & assembly. 

This one is based mostly on Dutch paintings of the 17th-century; this style of chair was the first project I ever made when I was at Plimoth Plantation. Indeed, this one’s for them, too. Here’s one that has been in use there for many years:



I came to calling them plain chairs because of a reference in the Turners Company of London, about pricing for chairs, “plain matted” and “turned matted” – so if the difference is the turning, then here’s what an un-turned chair might look like. There’s a few surviving oldies around, but they are hard to date; and most did not survive. I have seen a few die out at Plimoth after 15-25 years. You can patch ‘em back together some, but sooner or later, it’s just easiest to chuck ‘em and make a new one. 

Typically I make them with low seats, best for working in, rather than sitting at a table. Like this photo Gavin Ashworth took when Trent, Alexander & I co-authored an article about such chairs in American Furniture. I think it was 2008. 

110 West 80 St-4R, NY, NY 10024 212 874 3879


Other stuff in the works – finishing up a bunch of baskets I started this summer, (there;’s some in the background of the top photo) finishing some hewn bowls also. Spoons as usual; and I just started cutting out stock for a chair different from anything I’ve done in nearly 30 years.  Next week I’m going to finish assembling the carved box with drawer -just received some quartersawn sycamore (plane tree for you overseas readers) for the lid. Wow. 

This weekend is time to photograph stuff for sale; mine & Maureen’s. She has added some new felted autumn stuff,  if you’re inclined, have a look. More soon both here & there. 




In Memoriam

Pegs and 'Tails - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 4:34pm
George IIFiled under: Distractions Tagged: George II
Categories: Hand Tools

New Tool Prototype

David Barron Furniture - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 3:31pm

This is something I've been meaning to make for some time, a small mallet from solid Lignum Vitae

Instead of the traditional design, I've used the bulbous teardrop handle from my chisel hammer and kept the overall length quite short.

It feels great in the hand, like a smooth pebble with attitude!
The crude mock up in beech and ash, fairly dense native hardwoods, weighs in at just under 6 oz, whereas the lignum version weighs 12 oz, amazing stuff!

Categories: Hand Tools

Yet another reason why I use Lightning Source-Ingram Publishing Group

Toolemera - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 3:11pm
Dear Publisher, At Lightning Source, we are committed to providing the broadest reach possible for your content and to make business as easy as possible for retailers, wholesalers, and other customers. Currently, Lightning Source has direct metadata feeds to a small number of retailers and wholesalers and a large data relationship with our affiliated company, Ingram Book Group. To improve accuracy, service, and efficiency, we will be consolidating all Lightning Source title feeds to Ingram Book Group, a part of Ingram Content Group. Ingram Book Group will be the data feed service partner for all Lightning Source wholesale business. Through...
Categories: Hand Tools

1800’s Archaeology Tour of Adam Kersh’s Cabinet Shop

Wood and Shop - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 1:27pm



In the above video I share an amazing archaeological tour that I recently embarked on into the archives of the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia.


Furniture reproductionist and historian George Lott discovered a priceless pre-Civil War cabinet maker shop in Rockingham County, Virginia. that belonged to Adam W. Kersh (1828-1905). This abandoned cabinet shop is a rare glimpse directly into the history of furniture and instrument making.


See the articles & videos from my previous woodworking tours with George Lott at the amazing Frontier culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia: Traditional Woodworking Tour: George Lott’s Shop at the Frontier Culture Museum (Part 1) Traditional Woodworking Tour: George Lott’s Shop at the Frontier Culture Museum (Part 2) Traditional Woodworking Tour: 1600’s English Furniture & Timber Frame Farmhouse Traditional Woodworking Tour: 1820s Tool Chest at the Frontier Culture Museum

And here’s a link to the Frontier Culture Museum’s Website so you can see how great it is.


Adam Kersh was a Virginian Cabinet Maker, Luthier, & Chairmaker who fought in most major  battles of the Civil War. He was not only a skilled craftsman, but also a veteran of most of the major battles of the civil war. He was also of German descent and a life-long bachelor.

Here is a link to the enlightening letters that Adam Kersh wrote to his family members from the Civil War battlefields.


Below you’ll see many of the photos that were mentioned in the video:


A very large foot-powered treadle lathe




Adam Kersh’s workbench and tools that survived the 1905 estate sale














The table that Adam Kersh used for finishing and painting





A foot-powered grinder shows that Adam Kersh was interested in keeping up with the technological advances of the bigger cabinet shops.





One of the violins made by Adam Kersh. He was apparently a talented violinist and was often engaged to play music for his fellow confederate soldiers during the Civil War.


This form was likely used to shape the body of Kersh’s violin’s:



Perhaps the most impressive tool that survived the 1905 estate sale, a Spiers Scottish Infille Panel Plane. See how much these planes cost now, at this eBay link.



Adam Kersh’s patterns are a rare find and teach us more about the process of fine woodworking. Tools were usually sold off at the death of a craftsman, but patterns were usually seen as worthless and therefore discarded.




This Kersh chair shows the woodworking skill that Kersh had gained over the years. It also shows us the layers of paint that were applied over the years.


George Lott is certainly a multi-talented guy. He makes and plays bagpipes. My heart grew fond of backpipe music while I lived in Scotland years ago, so George was kind enough to entertain me. Thanks George!



On Fractured Cutting Edges To Edge Tools – Part I

Paul Sellers - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 12:38pm

My thoughts are these. I am afraid we do tend toward living more obsessive lives thinking it’s this or that that makes us good craftsmen and women when in actuality most woodworkers we know don’t earn their living from the work they do in woodworking. This strange condition has created an equally strange dichotomy that then directly influences how we prioritise what we do to be woodworkers. If for instance we are 55 years old and retired with a half decent pension we might spend half a day sharpening a few chisels and know that there are no real consequences that affect other things and in those few hours we simply enjoy the freedom from the various constraints we once had to live with. On the other hand we might work two jobs, have a spouse and kids to be with during non-work time and  want ensure everything is done to maximise efficiency. Our personal circumstances are all diversely different and so too then the criteria we set ourselves for working wood.


One thing I see is that somehow, often, we might find ourselves proving to the rest of society that we are not just, well, ordinary when ordinary is actually a good place to be for any artisan. It’s respectful and honest, open and transparent and modestly humble – hopefully anyway. When you meet a true craftsman it’s almost always very humbling to watch him at his work. You always feel as though you invaded his or her workspace, albeit unintentionally and quietly. Very different than with entertainment guru woodworkers. It’s really a very rare experience if and when it happens to us and we treasure the moments. I suppose my thought is that we should leave the super-manhood, super-womanhood to politicians and actors, one and the same often, and get on with what we feel called to do with our hands. Some people say, “Just do what your passionate about.” Well, that’s not really always too realistic and it’s not so easy in today’s culture because it takes more a made up mind, not passion alone. Being passionate can be one of the ingredients to driving an issue, but not the whole and it doesn’t often pay the bills. People who say follow your passion should possibly review the word and reconsider whether determination might be better, or convictions or dare I say it without sounding old fashioned, your calling or vocation. Being practical does fit too and that’s what being a craftsman is about much of the time; resolving different materials into creative pieces to wear, sit on, sit at, lay on, lift from, place on and even ride in and fly in or listen to. Of course the list is unending. Being a crafting artisan is more about honesty and integrity than being a business person or a smart alecky bod trying to sell something only to make money and building a bank account. We artisans, we’ve mastered our craft and in addition have speculatively invested much time and energy and finance in our making and now we must sell or starve. We stand in the freezing weather and conditions no employee would for hours and days to make our business work. We’re not born salesmen but we must sell what we make. We didn’t make a hotdog from a can or flip a burger and add mayo and mustard and a piece of lettuce, we made something with our hands we feel has real value. We’re not managers but we manage. We do these things without a contract of employment and with no job description mostly because no one else could, would or even should do it. Craft shows tend to have a large  percentage of  ‘here I am, entertain me between meals’ people. They’re not usually looking for furniture or a hand made violin but interested passersby. I say all of that because somehow we crafting artisans, whether arrived or on our way, have started to become increasingly more fanatical about  sharpening and flattening our edge tools than actually mastering craft skills. Somehow it’s become something of a platform for performance and this leads me to what I want to try to help people see.

As I have said, we have become something of an obsessive bunch when it comes to the different elements of working wood; sharpness has become more and more obsessive. Now we are not talking about the violin maker seeking sharp levels for clear tone from the wood and who uses wood so soft, unsharp gouges and planes would bruise rather than cut the fine surfaces he strives to achieve. His standards parallel the levels needed for severing tissue by the surgeon’s hand, not the bench joiner chopping mortises and cutting a few dovetails.


It’s unfortunate that since the demise of ordinary craftsmanship we now turn to guru wood writers and not wood-wrights. Woodwrights  are no longer there to give us our information of course. It’s true too that the sources of information become more and more questionable. Three recent sources of information teaching on sharpening techniques I tracked back to tool catalog and online sales people selling products for sharpening. Most of the information they have is not new but regurgitated. Each phase of sharpening change marks another saleable product and so we see Japanese  water stones added to carborundum stones, Arkansas stones and Washita stones and then came diamonds and abrasive films, diamond paste and flattening stones. The list goes on.


We have survived the different gospels of scary sharp and micro-bevel methodology and are emerging to this very simple reality. As long as you start the cutting edge somewhere around 30-degrees and polish it out it will cut well. If you you sharpen to around 1200-grit it will cut most anything you need in woodworking. If you sharpen to a polished edge of around 15,000-grit you can slice the most delicate of materials effortlessly, but 98% of the time that’s far from necessary. What am I saying? I’m saying that we generally sharpen to task but often sharpen to a higher level because it’s not much extra effort. We all know after a few efforts at sharpening that the greatest effort comes at the start of the process when we have to regain ground to get through a fractured and dulled edge and back to a productive cutting edge. That said, it’s not a big deal, just a few extra strokes on the coarse diamonds gets you there. So, if that is the case, why do we sharpen to higher levels than are usually needed. Well, it is a fact that the more polished the two plains forming the arête for a cutting edge are, the sharper the edge is but the stronger the edge is too. As I said, the extra effort is worth the work because it’s so quick and effective. It’s not so much what we do to the edge to establish it but what we do to the edge after we have prepared it for work. Taking the chisel to the surface of the wood to work the wood begins an immediate process of edge reduction we now know is edge fracture but was once called wear. No matter the steel, edge fracture occurs at some level but some steels fracture more readily than others. What we often do not realise is that it is impossible to find a steel that both takes and retains an edge and at the same time has a level of durability we can rely on forever. All edges wear away by fracture and constantly need restoring. Not without getting into samurai sword making for ordinary work will find an edge retaining steel built to last more than a few hours. In the everyday of life, as a woodworker, we must understand that as soon as the chisel or plane is presented to the wood, edge fracture occurs to some degree. At first the edge fracture comprises usually small amounts of break out and breakdown. That is, in fractions of a second, within the first strokes and chops and pares in the wood, the edge we perfected has now been reduced. Surgery is no longer possible. But, in reality at the bench, we actually rely more on this edge-fractured edge to give us an actual working edge than we do or can the sharpest edge. The opening fracture is very small. Tiny. It is none biased in that it comes from the 30-degree corner we formed not the two facets as such. The facets are both strong and supported but not so the edge itself. The edges always fracture and guess what? It doesn’t really matter. In fact, in the imperfect world of sharpening we might want that to happen. In the imperfect world of sharpening we might even want the softer steels of O1. O1 has good edge retention, strength and durability rolled into one steel type. In the imperfect world of sharpening we can indeed rely on this one thing happening. Edge fracture does in fact give us the most practical working edge for most of our work. That said, continuing edge fracture results in a dull or what we used to call a ‘thick edge and we must constantly refresh the edge to continue our work. This week I did some tests on different steels old and new. It’s not at all scientific but the results did show that we do in fact compensate for edge fracture in the day to day of real work. Part II in this will be out tomorrow, to give you time to digest, so we can look at some of what we found.

The post On Fractured Cutting Edges To Edge Tools – Part I appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Short Notes on Lost Art Press Stuff

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 11:58am


Here are a few quick updates on things you might care about.

  1. “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” by Roy Underhill will ship from the printer on Nov. 10. So we’ll be getting that out in plenty of time for Christmas (whew). As I mentioned yesterday, the “Book of Plates” is a wee bit delayed at the bindery. So if you want that book for Christmas, please place your order as soon as possible.
  2. Sweatshirts are back in stock, except for the XXLs. Those will be in stock next week. As to sizes, take a look at the charts provided by American Apparel for the sweatshirt here. Some people are reporting they fit a bit snug. I haven’t found that to be the case, and I’m on my second washing.
  3. George Walker, one of the authors of “By Hand & Eye” is teaching a class at The Woodworkers Club in Rockville, Md., on Nov. 3-4. And there are a few openings. Want to be a better designer? Talk to George. Details here.
  4. Peter Galbert is depleting the world’s supply of pencils with his new book. If you want a peek at the illustrations, follow him on Instagram here.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: By Hand & Eye, Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!, Chairmaking by Peter Galbert, To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation
Categories: Hand Tools

Have coffee with me

Peter Galbert - Chair Notes - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 11:22am
This weekend, PBS will be airing the episode of Rough Cut that I made last spring here in Sterling. Tommy and the crew did a great job and worked hard to represent the craft of chairmaking. For some, it will air on Saturday morning, so coffee up, sit back and lemme know what you think. And rest assured, even if you don't like it, my Mother will love it.

Here are a couple more teasers for the upcoming book. I am just a few days from finishing all the drawings and am finally getting the hang of it (of course). The designer is working up some samples and it should be firmly in her hands in a week or two.
 Spending 3 days drawing drill bits can make one feel a bit odd.
 There are some images, such as the variety of leg styles, where surface quality calls for a slightly more rendered appearance.

Categories: Hand Tools

A woodworker by any other name…

The Kilted Woodworker - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 9:10am
If you haven’t yet stumbled across Darbin Orvar, then you need to step right… over… here. If you’re more of a watcher and not a reader, then do note she has a very active YouTube channel. One of her latest videos, which covers 15 uses for bees wax, is not terribly long, but so useful […]
Categories: General Woodworking

Studley Exhibit/Cedar Rapids Logistics Day 1

The Barn on White Run - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 7:50am

As I write this I’m in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for a few days of running around making arrangements for next Spring’s exhibit The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley (tickets available here).  In the company of Cedar Rapids native and vise-maker extraordinaire Jameel Abraham I made excellent progress finding the perfect shops to build the exhibit case bases and plexiglass vitrines.  Jameel took me to a plastics shop he frequents in Cedar Rapids, and the manager said, in essence, “Yes, we can make this case for you, but the guy you really need to be talking to is down in Iowa city.”  Since Jameel had other business in Iowa City, off we went.




The first stop in the Iowa City area was the cabinet shop Jameel had recommended for the base of the display cabinet and the platform for the Studley workbench.  It was the right choice.  Any shop that can do the sort of work they do is fussy enough for me.

Next we visited the plexiglass shop, and yes indeed he was the right guy.  We speced out the job and he has it on his calendar.  Another great thing is that the cabinet shop and the plexi shop guys know each other and have worked together in the past.


Our final stop int eh area was one of Jameel’s lumber dealers, and while he was doing his business I purchased some mahogany for the replica of Studley’s workbench I will be building to include as part of the exhibit.


I will be hanging a number of piano-maker’s vises from the replica, and they will be “touch-able” by the exhibit visitors.

Finding the perfect shop for the plexiglass work was one of my prime concerns, and it feels great to have it resolved.  Even though the cabinet work for the exhibit will be minimal and fairly simple, it was a real treat to visit a woodworking shop that makes exquisite cabinetry and architectural elements.

Woodworking Show This Weekend in Conroe, Texas

Heritage School of Woodworking Blog - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 7:15am

  Come join us this weekend for the Big Woodworking Show, Friday through Sunday October 24-26 in Conroe, Texas. Some of you may have noticed that the normal woodworking show that was usually in the spring in Houston got cancelled. Well, apparently there was some problem with the venue right at the last minute. But […]

The post Woodworking Show This Weekend in Conroe, Texas appeared first on Heritage School of Woodworking Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Skip the Planes and Get a Saw

The Renaissance Woodworker - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 6:49am

It’s exciting times these days because not a day goes by that I don’t get an email from someone just starting out in woodworking looking for advice. Invariably they are all a bit confused and daunted with the universe of tools presented to them to get started. Usually I get emails like this:

I have no tools and can’t really buy more than a couple planes to start where do I begin?
Which plane should I get first?
I have this plane and that plane, which plane should I get now?

It seems everyone is focused on hand planes. Maybe that is the marketplace telling them they need planes or the fact that there are many sexy looking planes out there now. This baffles me because I can think of no better place to start than with a saw. What is woodworking but taking big pieces of wood and making them smaller? Planes do this but in a destructive manner turning the board into shavings. A saw leaves you something left over and is a much quicker way of reducing a board to size.

Yes yes, planes smooth the surface and flatten the surface and they are necessary, but you have to start somewhere and mastering sawing will serve you so much better than mastering planing. Every stage of a build involves a saw and accuracy here only speeds up other tasks and sometimes even makes them unnecessary.

Stop Sneaking Up on It and Just Saw It

start with a sawThe fastest way to flatten a board is with a saw (or maybe an axe). Got twist in your board? Crosscut it close to final dimension before shaving away all that precious wood. Big cup? Rip it closer to width to get a flatter board. Even if you plane your board first, you will be sawing it to size later. Accuracy here can save you hours of work later. Rather than marking a line and sawing away from it so you can sneak up on the size, a good sawyer will saw to the line and clean up the cut with a few passes of a plane.

Or maybe no passes with a plane. For example, would you plane the ends and edges of a panel that was slotting into a groove for a frame and panel door? Would you plane the edges of a case back only to slip it into a rabbet then slide the case up against a wall? Would you plane the cheeks and ends of a tenon only to fit it into a mortise?

Those of you nodding ask yourself, are you planing those surfaces to fit or planing them to make them look pretty. If you saw it on the line, it fits from the saw and you can often skip the whole planing thing.

Joinery Should Be Called Sawery

When was the last time you planed a joint to fit? Was that because when you sawed it you left it a bit too wide or thick? I’m struggling to think of a joint that cannot be made with a saw and struggling to think of a joint that can only be made with a plane. Even the humble rabbet can be quickly made with 2 saw cuts vs multiple passes of a rabbet plane. The dovetail actually comes together better if you only use a saw. Same with a tenon. The nice, straight saw plate when well tuned and sharp will leave a dead straight surface that splits your line. At the heart of good joints is good sawing.

“The Rest is Just Scribbling”
-WA Mozart

I do realize that chisels and planes are necessary and joinery can be tough to make when you have a board that is rough and not flat. It would be hard to make dovetails without a chisel to remove waste between pins and tails (though good sawing with a fret saw can do it). Many will tell you that the secret to any project’s success is in the milling and stock preparation. I’m not going to argue that, but when you are starting out I think the new woodworker will gain more momentum and positive reinforcement by getting a saw and working on that technique first. One can always buy S4S lumber and relative dimensioning and fitting can joint together two board snugly even if they aren’t perfectly flat.

On the converse, being able to plane a board dead flat and square on 6 faces doesn’t mean a whole lot if you can’y use a saw to join it to another board.

So which plane should you buy?

One with sharp pointy teeth.

Which saw should you buy? I don’t think it matters, just get to sawing it will make you a better woodworker. Though if pressed, I’d buy a carcass saw

Eager to Get a Saw but Facing Sticker Shock?

Bad Axe Saw Restoration GuideDon’t overlook the thousands of vintage beauties floating around out there. Don’t be afraid of the work required to restore them. I find hand planes much more difficult to restore than a saw. Check out this outstanding guide to saw restoration that Mark Harrell at Bad Axe Toolworks put together. Truly this has everything you need to know.

Categories: Hand Tools


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by Dr. Radut