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Click here to read my article in Furniture and Cabinetmaking Magazine about a weekend workbench featuring my favorite knockdown joint, the Tusk joint. This was one of my favorite builds to date, because it was a project with one of my favorite instructors at Pratt. Steve brings a whole lot of laughter and knowledge into the shop, and I love designing projects and building with him.
Every weekday until the February 1st opening of Issue Four pre-orders, we will be announcing one article from the table of contents here on the blog. If you have yet to sign up for a yearly subscription, you can do so here.
Soon after I proposed an article to Mortise & Tenon about making and using a straightedge I got a mild to middling case of cold feet. How, exactly, was I going to come up with enough material to fill more than a paragraph about this subject? After all, I’m just talking here about an implement than need do nothing more than find the shortest distance between two points! You don’t even need a straightedge to do that: Ancient Roman artisans simply “stringere linea fibra” (stretched a linen fiber) to accomplish that task.
A string line, however, severely lacks the convenience of the straight edge. The trick, though, is to make the latter properly. After all, a straightedge isn’t just a straight stick - it's a precision layout instrument. It didn’t take me long to realize how much unpacking I’d have to do to deal with the ins and outs of making this deceptively simple tool out of wood. Not only would I be addressing why a trued line is important to our design and layout work in the first place, but I would need to explain how to make it so it would reliably tell that truth.
Suddenly I’m immersed in telling how to select appropriate species; which way to orient the stock’s grain direction; why certain shapes are better than others; and what kind of finish is best. And I haven’t even got to talking about how to actually make the thing and true it up. Now I’m not so sure they’re going to be able to give me enough room in the magazine!
Editor’s Note: We absolutely did have room and the whole article is excellent! Can’t wait to share this with you readers!
You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here.
Here is my set up for routing the 4 mm grooves for the drawer bottoms. My shop made fence has a couple of Mag Switches which lock it down and is fitted with the super accurate Flip Stop system. The two stops are to limit the travel for the left and right hand drawer sides. All the cuts were referenced from the bottom edge, as were the dovetails when the pins were marked.
The grooves all cleanly routed, you can see the stopped cuts. The back of the drawer (at bottom) has two light cuts each side which established the right height for the drawer bottom to slide in. I didn't cut this off as the bottom edge was used to mark out the tenons.
Here is my router table / spindle moulder which I used quite happily with a very small 4 mm cutter, despite the fact it only runs at 8,000 rpm instead of the 22,000 rpm recommended by manufacturers for small cutters. I find it grabs less, has never left a burn mark and I've never had a cutter break. I bought this a few years ago after using one at Andrew Crawford's workshop.
Here are the tiny through mortises and corresponding tenons for the back, cut and fitted.
Now it's time to reduce the backs to size and finish off on the shooting board.
The last thing to do before gluing up the drawers was cutting the wedge slots. As the tenons are just 5 mm square I used my finest Japanese saw to leave the smallest of kerfs. All I need now are 32 tiny walnut wedges!
I learned many year ago that there are going to be problems when finishing. The simple saying that the difference between a woodworker and a great woodworker is that a great woodworker knows how to fix their problems is every bit as true when it comes to finish work. Learning a great finish fix is key to making your project look its best. The more weapons you have in your arsenal, the better your projects will look.
Recently I was invited to speak about the HO Studley project to the Frederickburg (VA) Woodworker’s Guild. My friend SteveD was my host and a grand time ensued.
While at Steve’s I got to see a bed frame he had been working on in recent weeks, and about which we had corresponded regarding the finish being used. This bed was commissioned by the organization that is recreating George Washington’s childhood home near Fredericksburg. Much of the recreation is based on rigorous and ongoing archaeology. The Washington family domicile being readied for the public is all new construction, but there is solid evidence that it is a very faithful interpretation of the original.
Steve has been commissioned to create a number of beds (and perhaps other pieces?) for the site, and this bed is a stunning one.
The audience at the Guild meeting was large and enthusiastic, Steve said it was about twice normal. And you gotta admit, the tale of Henry O. Studlew is a compelling one. The group meets in a semi-industrial space which suited me just fine.
The audience was very attentive and engaged, asking excellent questions throughout the presentation and staying after to discuss all manner of Studley and Roubo topics. They promised to invite me back, and I look forward to that event.
I did do a bit though, some leather working with Laura, where we made a couple of belts for some of her friends as Christmas presents, and I started clearing out a bit too, but that is an ongoing project.
During this clearing out, I found the base of a model ship that my dad had found some years ago. I initially wanted to throw it out, but I decided to ask Asger if he would like to make a project out of it.
He wanted to paint it, and then later the plan is to install a mast and a boom and probably make a sail to go with it too.
He settled for some dark blue paint, and due to the low temperatures in the shop, we just gave int one coat and then left it to dry for the rest of the home period.
Suddenly one day, he asked if he was old enough now, to cast tin soldiers on his own?
I said that I thought he was, and helped him to fire up the propane torch (which is technically more butane than propane in Denmark).
I have kept all my molds for making tin soldiers from when I was a child. And we purchased some new molds when the kids were younger. Those new molds were mostly for casting fantasy creatures like orcs, elvers and goblins etc.
Asger cast a bit of everything from cannons to horses and soldiers to some orcs, and he had a great time doing it. There are plenty of ways that you can hurt yourself while doing it, but it is also a way that you can show you child that you really trust him/her, and allow them the thrill of doing something that is exiting for them knowing that it is a bit dangerous.
And it is a thrill to open op a mold and see a perfect figure emerge that has until now only existed as some molten metal in a ladle.
Something that is very important to the children is the fact that the figures they cast look exactly like the ones that I can cast. Despite all my years of skill and knowledge (there isn't much of that btw..)
this is one place where they can make a product just as well as I can.
|#4 plane parts|
|highly visible line|
|cleaning/de-greasing the plane body|
|I thought this was rust|
|underneath the frog is the 2nd spot|
|under the tote is the 3rd spot|
|the #4 iron|
|stoned a flat on the back of the chipbreaker|
|this is difficult for me to sharpen|
|Record 044 skate|
|see the shiny areas at the toe|
|this is what Sparks was talking about|
|back one is half a frog hair off square|
|front one is dead nuts|
|no movement at all now|
I tried to buy new rods and a 10mm drill bit from McMaster-Carr but I am dead in the water with them. I emailed them 3 times requesting a password reset and I didn't get it. Both my trash and my spam folders were/are empty. On the 4th request, McMaster-Carr said that too many attempts to access my account had been done so the account was locked. I tried two more times today and I still haven't gotten a reset. I emailed them directly and I'm waiting to hear back on that.
|I set it on this|
|my coarsest diamond stone|
I didn't get the glue up of the cabinet done but maybe tomorrow. I am going to try and glue it up without any fasteners. I rehearsed a dry clamp up a couple of times and I think it's doable. The joints all come together easily and are tight and even.
Did you know that Congress established the US Military Academy at West Point in 1802?
Here in the Midwest, we seem to have a lot more Buckeyes who are people (it’s the nickname for Ohioans) than actual buckeye trees (Aesculus glabra, sometimes called the horse chestnut). In fact, I’ve lived in the range of the Ohio Buckeye tree for most of my adult life and have never seen it for sale. It’s not a popular tree for many reasons. Its leaves and nuts are poisonous […]
The post My First Experience with Buckeye (Aesculus glabra) appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.
Pre-orders for Issue Four open on February 1st. If you’ve already signed up for a yearly subscription, you’re all set. If you haven’t yet subscribed and prefer to purchase each issue individually, remember that the free shipping offer is for pre-orders only. Also, when the Issue Four pre-order window closes after Wednesday, April 4th, the pre-order brown paper wrapping with tradecard will no longer be available. If you want to make sure to never miss this special wrapping, the best way is to sign up for a yearly subscription and select “Auto-renewing Subscription”.
Every weekday beginning today, we will announce one article from the Issue Four table of contents here on the blog. Stay tuned. There’s quite a mix of articles this time!
Without further ado, the first article we’re announcing is the one I put together about restoring wooden bench planes...
In 1937, Walter Rose wrote, “I do not think the tools such as were used in the days of my youth can be surpassed. Even admitting the excellence of the modern tools that are used by hand, the old joiner’s affection remains for the old style of tools. He feels a spirit of affinity in a plane made of warm beech that does not seem to exist for him in cold hard steel.”
If you’ve been paying close attention the past few years, you know I am a wooden plane convert. Even though I was trained on high-quality metal-bodied handplanes, I decided to switch over to old wooden planes a few years back. What started as a curious exploration, turned into a revelation. There are many reasons that I wouldn’t trade my wooden planes for any others and, although I discuss many of these in the article, my main focus is on selecting, restoring, and using these planes. This article is about as practical as they come because my goal is to empower you to dig up one of those crusty old planes in an antique store and tune them back into glorious use again.
In my view, it’s a shame that people seem to be intimidated by these simple blocks of wood with an iron. It’s like they think that there’s magic involved with tuning them but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In this article, I lay out the simple restoration steps that anyone can follow. I cover a handful of the most common adjustment problems and how I solve them quickly and easily.
Tuning an old wooden plane rarely takes me more than an hour. This is something you can do and so I hope this article inspires you to dive in. If you are intrigued by the idea of hand-tool-only woodworking but only have hefty, metal planes to slug around, you should hear me out. Wooden planes (especially fore planes) are game-changing.
You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here. Stay tuned for the second article announcement tomorrow…
En route back to Shangri-La following our excursion into deepest Flyover Country we stopped to see the progress of things at Lost Art Press. Mrs. Barn had never seen the new World Headquarters and since they were within a mile of our route, I checked to make sure we could stop.
As usual Chris was hard at work in the shop and on the shop, but he took a few minutes to visit and relax.
During that brief visit I sat in the Mother of All Stump Chairs that Chris has been chronicling. I cannot say I could sit there for an entire evening but it was more comfortable than I expected and looked pretty cool too. All I needed was a bearskin vest and a grog of mead and I would have looked right at home.
We also toured the new machine room emerging from the renovation of the carriage house out back, and Chris had just hung and caulked his hand-made doors before we arrived. I definitely approve.
I join Chris in celebrating the establishment of the new headquarters, and even his dream of living in this vintage high density neighborhood. He likes having neighbors nearby, I like having neighbors on the other side of the mountain.
…How Could They Get It So Wrong? Periodically we just get it wrong! Oh, Axminster, why did you stop so short for a ha’p’orth of tar? No instructions on the scraper set up, wrong cutting blade bevel angle, single cutting edge not two? The box claims, “Superior Trade Quality” and then “Woodworking Planes” and the […]
Editor’s Note: Richard Jones, the author of an upcoming book on timber technology, takes us back to the 1970s when he learned a valuable lesson in sharpening while in training.
A perennial subject in woodworking magazines and forums is that of sharpening techniques. No other furniture-making topic seems to generate so much tedious verbose nit-picking and circular bickering in woodworking forums, along with the publication of innumerable “sure-fire” and “infallible” methods in blogs, YouTube videos and magazine articles. For somer reason, most of these espoused methods for achieving a sharp edge on a tool seem to take an inordinate amount of time and require a large array of bits and bobs to do the job. I sometimes wonder if the process of sharpening is the main objective of the exercise for the people who describe them rather than the means to working wood effectively.
Naturally, the subject is of interest because blunt tools aren’t much use. Preamble to many of these articles often causes a wry smile for they bring back memories of my initiation into the “dark” art. Many authors make points about those who struggle at it and possess a workshop full of dull tools. Conversely, it is sometimes said that those who can do the job tend to be fanatical about grits, slurries and bevel angles.
My experience is that there are really only two types of people when it comes to sharpening:
• Those who can’t.
• Those who can.
In the first group, those who can’t, you’ll sometimes see every sharpening system known to man arrayed around their workshop gathering dust. They have fancy grinders, oilstones, water stones, ceramic stones, diamond stones, guides, pieces of sandpaper, jigs, etc. And yet, just about every edge tool they own is chipped, dull and mostly useless.
In the second group, those who can, I haven’t observed much fanaticism about slurries, grits and bevel angles. In all the workshops I’ve worked in the only concern is to get the job done. It’s a case of, “Plane’s blunt – better sharpen it.” Dig out the stone, sharpen the blade, shove it back in the plane and use it. The equipment is minimal: a grinder, a stone of some sort and lubricant, a few slips for gouges and the like, and, perhaps, a piece of oiled leather charged with a bit of fine-powered abrasive for final stropping.
Going back to the 1970s, when I trained, learning how to sharpen tools was undertaken within the first few days. I don’t now recall precisely the order of my instruction, but it went something like this: I was handed a plane by the cabinetmaker I was assigned to and told, “Get that piece o’ wood square.” I’d done a bit of woodworking at school so I had a vague idea of what to do. I fooled around with that lump of wood for 20 or so minutes and got it something like square – all this under the watchful eye of the crusty old guy and his ever-present roll-up hanging out of the corner of his mouth.
“OK, I’ve done that,” I said. “Now what do you want me to do?”
I was told to hang about for a minute whilst he picked up his square and straightedge and proceeded to scrutinise my handiwork. This was followed by a non-committal grunt and some desultory foot sweeping of the plentiful shavings on the floor – the wood was probably only about 90 percent or so of its original volume.
“Now sonny, let’s do the next job,” he announced. “Pull that jack plane ye’ve bin usin’ apairt and let’s have a look at the iron.”
“Hold the iron up so’s ye can see the cuttin’ edge,” he instructed. (He was a Scot.) Again, I did as I was told.
“Now, can ye see it? Can ye see the line-o’-light at the shairp end there?” He wheezed as he tapped a line of ash onto the floor and stood on it. He was referring to the shiny reflection visible when cutting edges are dull.
“Aye,” I said, after a little eye squinting and other pretence of intelligence.
“How shairp does it look to you boy?” he enquired.
I thought about this for a moment or two, seeking the right response to my tormentor – for I hadn’t really got a clue what he was talking about. I finally replied rather hopefully and a bit brightly: “Pretty shairp, I’d say.”
He laughed out loud, and hacked a bit. “Dinnae be the daft bloody laddie wi’ me son. If ye can see it, it’s blunt. I could ride that bloody iron yer holdin’ bare-arsed to London and back and no cut ma’sel’. Get o’er here an’ I’ll show ye something.”
You can probably guess. Out came the oilstone from his toolbox and quick as a flash the iron was whisking up and down the stone, flipped over, the wire edge removed, and finally it was stropped backwards and forwards on the calloused palm of his hand. You could shave with it. I know, because he demonstrated how sharp it was by slicing a few hairs off his forearm. On went the cap iron and the assembly was dropped back in the plane. This was followed by a bit of squinting along the sole from the front whilst the lever and knob were fiddled with and that was it. He took a few shavings off a piece of wood and it went back in his toolbox. It took, oh, a few minutes.
“Now son, that’s a shairp plane. It’s nae bloody use to me blunt. Ye may as well sling a soddin’ blunt yin in the bucket fer all the use it is to me,” he explained with great refinement. “I’ve plenty mair o’ them in that box, an’ they’re all blunt. Ah’ve bin savin’ ’em for ye. There’s a bunch a chisels, too. Let’s get ye started.”
For what felt like forever I sharpened his tools for the one and only time I was allowed to under his rheumy-eyed and critical stare, and things gradually got better. After a while he stopped telling me what a “completely daft stupit wee bastud” I was, and a bit later he started offering grudging approval. I had to sharpen some tools more than once because he kept on using and dulling them. When I’d done the lot we stopped and surveyed the day’s work.
“Aye, nae too bad fer a daft laddie’s fust effort,” he commented darkly, sucking hard on his smoke. “I think ye’ve goat whit it takes. Time’ll tell, sonnie. Remember, ye’ll never be a bloody cabinetmaker if ye cannae even shairpen yer frickin’ tools. Lesson over. Dinnae ferget it.”
— Richard Jones
Federico Calboli asked this question via email:
Assuming I could impregnate a dai with resin (making it impervious to moisture and harder wearing), would that be a good idea? I presume it is too much trouble to do all the time by everybody, but assuming one could do it I can only see advantages. What am I not getting (aside from ruining the mystical zen connection with the universe)?
This is an interesting question, and I haven’t seen anyone try to do this with a Japanese plane. Resin-impreganted wood certainly seems to work well with other tools, like the chisels and mallets that Blue Spruce Toolworks makes. I think resin-impregnating a dai could certainly help with stabilization, but I think the rationale fails in two ways for this particular application.
First of all, it assumes that the process of reconditioning a dai is long and arduous, so that it’s worth looking into ways of making it easier. I’ve found that conditioning a dai is pretty easy once the initial set up is done. Also, the amount of conditioning of a dai for regular woodworking processes is not nearly as involved as what most people think of, which is for Japanese planing contests.
Second, I think the resin impregnation will make the dai behave worse in terms of locking the blade in place. The blade of a Japanese plane is held in by friction and the wedging process of the blade into the side grooves. One of the reasons Japanese oak is used for this purpose is that there’s a springiness to the oak that allows it to compress enough when tapping the blade to lock the blade in place, but then it can spring back to its original shape when the blade is retracted. The resin is sure to interfere with these properties of the dai.
Having said that, if anyone has tried this, please let me know how it turned out.
|laying out for a rabbet|
|using the LV rabbet plane to make them|
|made a test rabbet in some scrap|
|wee bit proud|
|took the tape off|
|looks good now|
|glue foamed up and closed up the hole|
|clear and clean top to bottom|
|see the whitish line|
|I can make noise now|
|dry clamping run|
|getting my size finalized|
|it is a bit proud|
The crappy looking piece of oak plywood I was going to use for the bottom is toast. On the top piece I had the factory edge to work off and the on the oak one I didn't. What I had with that was four hand sawn, out of square edges.
Since I was going to lunch with my friend Billy who retired last year, I decided to get a new piece of plywood. Added bonus is that Billy lives right next to a Lowes. I stopped there after I brought him home after lunch.
|left the saw set|
|dry clamp with the top and bottom in place|
|it is self squaring|
|got the brass adjuster knob off|
|the threads are good|
|I had a replacement stud|
As of now I am planning on one large drawer and a sliding tray on the bottom with a door. I think I can get everything in the cabinet that I want too.
Did you know that in Boulder City, Nevada gambling is not legal?
All the sharpening systems out there work, but I have a favorite: Shapton Pro Series stones in #1,000, #5,000 and #8,000 grits. Shapton Pros cut fast, stay pretty flat and don’t have to be soaked beforehand. As I sharpen three to five times a day, those are important qualities. Recently there has been turmoil with the supply of Shapton stones to the United States. In the end, the U.S. distributor […]
I'm super excited to announce that I've been asked to start contributing to Marc Spagnuolo's Wood Whisperer Guild. The plans for my first guild project are on pre-sale now. This is an expansion of the Oak Writing Desk project I built with Jonathan Schwennessen at Homestead Heritage in Texas for Furniture and Cabinet Making Magazine Issue 248 last year. Click here to view and purchase: https://thewoodwhispererguild.com/product/writing-desk/ Marc will be flying up to the farm to document our first video plan project together, and it promises to be a fantastic time and a wonderful build. I'm really excited to share in an in-depth, detailed, well-documented manner more about the projects I take on.
If I only knew how easy it is to fix [insert problem], I would have done it years ago. The problem is not the problem in need of a solution: the drawer that needs planing or the joint that needs re-tuning or the door that needs to be built. It is turning my attention to this issue at hand that is the problem. It is getting me to slow down long enough to turn and face it. It is turning the battleship that is my attention and then moving forward.
Usually when I do, I find a solution, I dive into the work, I may make a couple of mistakes and fix those and get the job done much faster than all the complaining about how much work there is to do. If I slow down long enough to focus on the issue, it oftentimes gets fixed in a jiffy.
Now turning that battleship, that’s the trick part. But so satisfying when I do.
When a spent a couple of days with box maker Andrew Crawford a few years ago he highly recommended the head mounted Optivisor for seeing more intricate work. He used the model 5 with a magnification of x 2.5 and a focal length of 8". After buying one I found I needed to go so close to the work it was difficult to use at the same time as working, so I went in a drawer. I finally decided to buy a different lens, the model 3 with a magnification of x 1 3/4 and a focal length of 14" and what a difference! It is ideal for dovetails and allows effortless accuracy.
It had a nicely designed adjustable headband and is very comfortable. It can be worn over existing glasses if needed.
Quality is not cheap, but for anyone struggling to see their baselines clearly or just wanting super accurate results, this is a great aid.
Some sharp tails, this board is just 2" wide.
While visiting Mark Harrell recently our conversation returned to a topic we had engaged in previously, namely that of the repertoire of saws in an 18th century Parisian workshop. Whatever they had, Mark wants to try to make it.
The literary evidence is pretty clear that the workhorse saws in these shops were frame saws for much of the heavy dimensioning (ripping) work and bow saws for the rest, including joinery. (Roubo makes no references to back saws) We might tend to see bow saws as a northern implement, coming from Scandinavian and Germanic traditions, but Roubo places inordinate emphasis on their use and utility in the Paris of his time.
The variations within this theme are many, but at present I am trying to brainstorm about adapting Roubo’s images and descriptions to the tasks of a workshop in 2018. I am starting from the premise that the saw plate Mark developed for the frame saw should serve equally well in a bow saw with the plate fixed parallel to the plane of the frame. With that in mind I have been noodling the designs and begun replicating at least one of a pair of Roubo bowsaws (the other being a compass or “turning” saw, so noted as having a shallow blade that can both follow a curved cut and be rotated in the bow handle for greater facility) in time for demonstrating at CW next week.
Hoping for success. Wish me luck.