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Another class concludes today and then in another short week’s time I hold my last foundational course for this year. Nine more woodworkers are freed from the constraints of mass-making because they now know sharpness to levels they never knew before. Truth sets people free and when you know it you know it. When the bank tellers trains they only ever touch real notes. After months of handling good notes, a bum note touches their fingertips and it feels so slightly different but it’s enough to stop them. Looking at the note further the note looks and feels the same. You see inside they know what they know what they know and they cannot dent that something feels different. That’s the nature and reality of truth. No matter what, my students now know what sharp is. They’re free indeed and their newfound freedom is for a lifetime.
Class finishes today
I have taught this class and other similar classes to over 5,000 new and seasoned woodworkers who came from worldwide destinations. That is, I have personally stood within a few feet of each of the 5000 persons I have taught. The course is mine. I developed it in its entirety and pushed it through to the point that it became the springboard into more advanced levels of woodworking where people began making their own boats, canoes, violins and cellos and guitars. Many became furniture makers in their own right. It’s provided the rite of passage from the unknown to the known, from the amatuer to the professional and most woodworkers I have known discover a whole world of real, and I mean real woodworking as opposed to simply machining wood.
This week has been a week of reflection for me. Reflecting on the woodworking culture and the work I do as a 65-year-old maker come January 4th 2015. The work I do has become so second nature to me that most things I do I do automatically and even without any conscious thought at all. In fact, thinking would for certain disrupt the fluidity of movement to my work and for sure the speed with which I generally work. Mental gymnastics have no place in the measured steps I take throughout a given day and so This is what I pass on to my students working a short distance from me or standing and sitting around my bench as I work or teach or just chat.
This week was very inspirational for me. I think perhaps one of the most inspiring ever. Its not hard to put my finger on what it was. The full class of men seemed to know no barriers. From day one they related to one another without the usual social fetters and competitive spirits I have always had to dismantle over the years. In some ways they seemed more like children in that they sponged up the information, asked genuine questions without allowing intimidation or self consciousness hinder them. The whole nine days have been pure harmony and personalities blended in seamless continuity every second of every day. Seeing the parts come together, I mean the joints mostly, and hearing the banter between benches, seeing them care for one another and the general repartee and such made me all the more grateful that we host these classes in my workshop.
Boxes and shelves and now tables are about done. Today we glue up the final parts and at mid afternoon most of the students will be done and probably ready to leave to be reunited with their normal life. By tonight they will have pretty much mastered the planes and chisels, saws and scrapers, spokeshaves and much more sufficient to never feel ill-equipped again. I love this thought. The thought that they will for the rest of their lives be able to chop mortise and tenons and make near perfect dovetails with a handful of simple and inexpensive tools they can but and restore from eBay for under about £150. They will never be under the illusion presented by sales reps and catalogs again. They now know exactly what to takes to work wood. Their confidence levels are about a thousand time more than they were a few days ago and half of them I predict will become serious woodworkers and some may even earn their living from it sometime in the near future. Imagine that. Now that’s success. Another thing I am grateful for and ever conscious of is that seven of them came from distant countries. Even language didn’t separate the camaraderie that permeated the days and evening we spent together.
I very much enjoy reading your blog Paul. I went to college to train as a furniture maker after I left school but was unable to find suitable work so re trained as a carpenter (don’t worry I don’t sharpen chisels with a belt sander) your blog is like a window into my dream job. I just can’t see how it could be possible I look on line for things that I could make in spare time , it just seems like there’s so little profit with the price of timber and a society that can’t tell the difference between Ikea or oak furniture land and craftsman made pieces . Any ideas ?
I think celebrate the freedom we have to live outside the box of educators and plan a career in spheres of creativity that actually defy many constrictive practices and extraneous input. Now we can move forward. Being self employed and in creativity also defies banks who treat you exactly the opposite and really don’t want you sitting on their office seat if you work as a woodworker. Anyway, being self employed takes guts, critical thinking, risk, initiative, entrepreneurialism and generally these essentials don’t fit people that give up. Now I’m not saying you gave up so much as perhaps the time was wrong and now it’s more right than it was then. You won’t find many successful businessmen or women teaching in educational establishments because they were successful but because they were not successful. Same in schools too often. Those that found their sphere of creativity and became successful live in realms that have nothing to do with money or, more likely, money happens as a byproduct to lifestyle craftsmanship. See, what banker hinges his bets on risk takers, free thinkers and those inspired by people like PS. People occupying these creative spheres defy quantification and yet the business world is made up of a massive section politics and economics cannot quite ignore. Join the team and enter the world of small businesses.
Remember this as you look forward to your future. Many colleges and woodworking schools may have something small to offer, but its usually smaller than they make out. You’re convinced (by them and others around you) that they are the gateway to your future and it may be true to some level but not for the reasons they and you might think. The qualification often doesn’t match the reality of real life and that’s probably in some measure what you discovered after going to college. You joined the ranks of many thousands and then you thought the problem was you or the circumstances. Fact is when you are young and inexperienced in life in the real working world of wood, which is not college, people, customers and businesses that might further engage take a lot of persuading to trust in you because they have very little to go off.
Colleges and schools do indeed make promises that rarely pan out in actual jobs or career paths for furniture makers as far as I have seen over the past couple of decades. Like many sources of misinformation they flounder all the more as they rely on ancient models. It’s mostly about bums on seats I am afraid and you pay for it. Now, before you give up, this then leaves me with a lot of hope because if anything this gives us face to face reality for our situation.
I doubt that apprenticeships will ever return in the fulness they once did except when craftsmen and women find a space in their workshop to add in someone who they believe they can help. That’s what I and others have done for decades. Often of course, to do this, we have to work outside of our comfort zone because trainees often take too much of our time for very little return. Make no bones about this. As I said I doubt that apprenticeships will be as available as they were in my day, not without some radical transformation in global economics back to more sustainable local changes we can live and work in and with. Now there is something you can believe in.
I have always liked challenges and when I made my mind up to be a furniture maker making pieces I decided many things not the least of which was that it was my responsibility to find and educate my customers, not to sell them furniture like a salesman. Generally customers find us because they are already on the lookout for something we have. Sales is not a nice job for a creative crafting artisan. I decided that years ago – decades. Soon, when you see you have a good product, you also see that there is no need to manipulate them or use any stories to bolster your case and that absolute honesty is essentially our responsibility too. We craftsmen and women should always make sure we have an honestly made product that never compromises forested lands resulting in deforestation, prices that are always just and fair, staff always paid appropriately according to skill levels and that the presentation of a finished item always represents appropriate quality according to price. My work always carries a lifetime guarantee that I will always repair a piece if the damage results from negligent workmanship or materials. I have never been back to a piece in 50 years that I can recall. I always stick to my estimates even when it costs me if it’s because of my own failure.
But above all of that, I have been a lifestyle woodworker as a furniture maker and woodturner and the emphasis here is lifestyle. Lifestyle for me means more than anything; that I came to a point where I chose to continue in my craft and that economics, social recognition, political movements and so on could not influence me to change. That means I no longer had the choice to do or be something else. I was going to make my craft work as a provision for me and my family even if that meant I would work twice as long for half as much as the expectations others might have as employees.
Though my life has changed somewhat over very recent years, 95% of my working life over a 50 year span has been as a producing craftsman. Even now I still make several pieces in any given month. My chosen and self imposed lifestyle of woodworking can always be applied to all crafts requiring skilled work as a lifestyles and this includes gardening for food and small animal husbandry, farming and market gardening. It’s not really to do with the costs of materials but educating our customers and elevating the meaning of craft so that they feel inclined to support a lifestyle.
The days pass fast with the class and already we are half way through with four days left. Last night we all ate Chinese at the Eastern Orient and today we completed the third project, so tomorrow it’s table making and all that that entails. The conversations we had were interesting. There is much soul searching for everyone because inside we all sense a lostness in our culture and it expresses itself with a definite search in the conversations for something we can identify as meaning. In many ways I feel contented with most aspects of who I am and what I do and this is because I found my calling early on in life. Others feel that too but not many. Perhaps as few as one in ten thousand people. Now even though I did answer the call in my mid teens, that doesn’t mean others didn’t influence me to forsake it or digress from it, but the strength of the call was indeed critical to my wellbeing and not just a sense of wellbeing. I always returned to my craft as a working artisan.
There is nothing wrong with lamenting that losses we know have taken place, but we must then seek to fill the empty place, the space of occupation, with whatever matters to us. With that which means something to us. You see, that’s what craftsmanship and craft work is. It’s not something just mere, it’s substance and meaning – substantial and meaningful.
John’s tool chest is going well with many finely cut dovetails in oak and mahogany from secondhand furniture pieces. The mahogany is stunningly rich and dark and I see why furniture makers loved working it so much. Watching John’s progress has been so rewarding for me. His skills and confidence are stronger now and he’s unwavering in every cut he makes. The saws and chisels glide through the wood it’s true, but it’s more than that. He never pretends at all, which is what’s refreshing in this day and age. Not needing to prove himself to anyone makes him such a free artisan. Realness is a gift you see. You don’t need to pick through things when friends are open with you, and that’s what has been so refreshing having him here. I sat watching John as I worked from my own bench. He cut dovetails as I cut mine. Atmospheric synchrony between workmen became common to me and I still own that right and will until I can no longer work the way I do. How you explain such a thing to machinists or people who only punch keyboards is not possible without tools and a workshop and a bench and other workers working on their benchwork. Is it some kind of rite of passage? Absolutely. There’s a rhythmic pulse to such work and a resonance many, no, most, will never know unless we take hold of things to make change. It’s a sort of private communion unshared in our new age of pretence and pretend, simulated virtuality and CNC guided mechanisms that so systematically destroy what we’ve felt throughout the last few days. You see I’m conditioned by what I describe, I’m conditioned to it and it’s a condition I truly love to be surrounded in because it has depth and meaning to me. It was woven and knitted into the very fibre of my being before anyone knew what my DNA was or that it even existed. As long as I pass it on two the ensuing generations I will never cease to hear it, to see it or to feel, smell and taste it. You can’t can it. bottle it, but it or sell it. It’s priceless.
Herein is rhyme, reason and rhythm.
To use the dogs
By preparing the edges in the usual manner of two boards side by side and face to face in the vise, plane the edges jointly.
You can create a long but very shallow camber, a slight taper from the centre to one outer edge, or two straight edges in readiness for glue up. Hollows don’t work with timber dogs alone but you can add a clamp or two to the centre section and still save on clamps.
With the edges prepped according to desire, glue along one edge.
Now start the dog on one side piece, squeeze the edge together near to the end and penetrate the opposite piece with the other pin. Drive the dog into the wood. The pressure from the driven dog will open the opposite end considerably but hand pressure readily pulls the two parted pieces back together.
Turn end for end and start the second dog in the same way.
Pull the adjacent board close and start the second end of the dog. Place on the edge of the bench and tighten the dog, alternating end to end until the joint fully closes.
Leave to dry until the glue is cured.
More on using them tomorrow.
They are not really used much any more but at one time they were a mainstay in the workshop of many woodworking trades ranging from boatbuilders to furniture makers and joiners to coopers. That said, they are very handy to have around and well worth making half a dozen.
Some timber dogs were 2 feet long and some as small as 3/4”. Mostly they were blacksmith made, but now the trade is not generally available to us so we can make our own from flat bar stock as I show here.
The best use of the dogs is to glue up boards and use the dogs to apply pressure from both ends of the boards. This transfers pressure along the glue line. Generally, though not always, we make an allowance to compensate for the material we lose in leaving holes in the endgrain. That’s when the end grain will be visible after construction is completed. The picture below shows what I mean.
In a previous blog I showed how these dogs worked best if there was a slight camber to one or both meeting edges of the boards being jointed. It doesn’t need to be a camber but just a shaving to give a taper along the edge of one or both board edges. Either way works fine.
If you are concerned about end grain shrinkage on the outer edges along the edge grain then I wouldn’t unless you are using green wood or wood that has a higher moisture content than you should be using. If the wood shrinks at the ends faster than the mid section can release its moisture it can cause an issue, but, as said, this is usually the result of inadequate drying or seasoning in the first place. When moisture levels are around say 8-12% there should be no issue. Conversely, if moisture intake at the ends is heightened because of location, kitchen or bathroom, a hollow along the joint line can certainly cause issues as the mid section can’t absorb moisture as fast as the ends. Whichever way you go, remember to advise your customer or the recipient of the piece not to leave the piece near to a heat source which can also mean a window in full sun, heating radiators and fire stoves and hot air blowers for central heating.
Making the dogs
To make the dogs I used some O1 steel, but mild steel will work fine. In my case I made the dogs from 3mm x 25mm x 62mm (1/8” x 1” x 2 1/2”) long rolled bar stock.
I laid out my cut lines on the bar before cutting to length. That way I have the extra length for holding on to for the bulk of the work. The scriber in the end of the stock of the combination square works well, but you can use any sharp steel point. I also used a marking gauge for the long depth line, to keep me parallel.
The drawing above gives my recommended cut lines. Notice that they don’t come to a point as yet. I draw out the tips between two hammer heads but make sure you take safety precautions such as safety glasses.
Sequence for layout lines.
I used a centre punch to pinpoint the position of drilled holes to the two internal corners.
I used a 5mm (3/16”) twist drill to drill out the corners.
I first used a junior hacksaw to cut along the angled pins.
I used a coping saw to turn the corner.
I then cut out more waste to facilitate the extra width of the hacksaw blade…
…and cut along the length with the hacksaw again.
I drew out the steel points from both outside faces and the inside edge of the pins. They don’t really need to be sharp. Thats up to you.
Drawing out lengthens the pins by 1/8″.
You can forget the drawing out and file to a near point if you prefer to.
Today I demoed hard. I didn’t sweat in a polo shirt but I was breathing harder after five minutes of full-stroke ripcutting. I carried on more. In the UK it’s less easy for me to sweat no matter how hard I work, run, ride or whatever. Anyway, then I planed hard and breathed harder still as I waited for the blood pumped to regroup in my arms and the lungs to keep the pumping going. This never happens on the tablesaw and the planer or the bandsaw for that matter. In fact I never get a workout on any machine at all that I can think of nor have I ever. It’s the same with so called power tools and I never got a workout with a chainsaw or a skilsaw or a jigsaw. Remember that they’re called ‘power’ tools because they don’t need your power at all. In fact I get more of a workout with a coping saw than any of these except there is a little weightlifting involved in lifting and placing them to task for a fraction of a minute every so often; and perhaps a little pushing them to task as they do the cutting. I say all of this because I next told the students that there was nothing at all wrong with breathing heavy from hard work nor was there anything wrong with machines either. That it was indeed exceptionally good for me to get the workout from hand tools. Good for the heart and diabetes, the senses, the sensing wellbeing, the spirit and the spiritual wellbeing. All in all I personally feel better with upper body exercise like this much more than I do with running, skipping, jumping and so on. My heart pumps hard like this a dozen times a day in any given day.
I went on to say that there is nothing wrong with sweat and sweating, showering after work rather than before you can go to work seems good to me too. We all agreed and went back to work, but then this evening I received this letter I thought you might like to read so asked if I could post it for the benefit of the common good.
It is mid morning here in Wyoming and I just returned from the cardiologist.
In several of your videos you talk about getting exercise while working the wood or “real woodworking.” I wanted to share a brief real life story to give support to your exercise being part of working the wood. In November 2012 I had a major heart attack and again in October of 2013 I had a second major heart attack. The result of the two left me with only 65% heart function. I went through the regular heart attack recovery rehab both times, except after the second heart attack I returned to hand wood working. I went back to the doctor this morning for a full run of tests and the doctors were surprised that my heart function is now at 90% plus. They wanted to know what I had been doing to improve so drastically. I told them of the wood working, mainly using the plane (no 4 and 41/2). They asked me more details and I explained just what working the wood entailed. The three heart specialist from the University Of Utah Cardiology determined that it was the working of the wood that had increased my heart function to where it is today. I feel better and stronger now than I have in the last 40 years. So Paul, keep telling people about the exercise we get while working the wood. Now you have some medical evidence to support what you have been and are saying about the benefits of working the wood.
You know, even if I was wrong in what I have felt for years about hard physical work – and I’m not – just doing it yourself brings with it that sense of wellbeing you cannot buy. It’s always worth doing it yourself because no one benefits more than you do.
The post Strong Heart Recovery From Woodworking With Hand Tools appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.
In 2007 I met John Winter and he came to my house over a number of days to build his workbench with his dad. His dad is a paediatrician and was working at the hospital in the town near where I live. John came into the castle workshop at 18 for a year to apprentice and learn woodworking and he’s now a man of 21. He’s a fine craftsman. His work is exemplary as is his passion for knowing woodworking. I sit often at my bench and watch him as he works and I see the birth of a skilled and knowledgeable woodworker. Beyond that he’s become a close friend to me and others he works with, a capable furniture maker and an excellent and knowledgeable teacher. His future is now ready to unfold in his own workshop in Patagonia and before the year ends he’ll start new things no one knows anything about yet.
I have enjoyed having John here and I am certain that is obvious, but what made him different to say apprentices I trained years back? When I first took an apprentice it was to help him become what he had no knowledge of but had always wanted to be. His dream was to become a furniture maker and that’s what he became. Stephen was not the easiest apprentice trainee. Probably because he was older and more set in the ways he wanted to do things. As soon as he learned anything from me he thought everything originated from him and as soon as he learned enough he left and started his own business. I was still glad that he was able to start on his own and that he at least worked with me long enough to learn furniture making and indeed he too became more than competent and I taught him all he needed to become the furniture maker he’d dreamed of becoming.
You see, on the one hand it’s been good from time to time to see someone grow away from you for the wrong reasons, but all the better to see someone come to maturity and grow into their place of ultimate responsibility with you and away from you. On the one hand there is often disharmony and then on the other perfect peace. John and Phil have both brought peace into my otherwise high self-demand life. When they come into the workshop I feel settled at them both being with me. I hope that they feel the same way I do.
As we worked on the class today there was for me a peace throughout the day. The students are from Israel and Brazil, from the USA came three more and then another from Belgium. The rest are from the UK. It’s been very peaceful and even though I apply substantial pressure I feel for the one thing I value the most and that is peace and understanding. I think we all feel the same way about learning a craft; that it’s high self-demand that makes it work. No one really ever stops until I call a launch break. Hot coffee is always welcome but no one stops to chat until a phase or step is completed. This maximising of intense training has borne good fruit in that boxes dovetailed all fit and fit well. For most of them these boxes are their very first. Who knows, perhaps they will become furniture makers too, in their own right of course.
I did get two sets of the Llidl chisels, 8, 13, 18 and 24mm, and used them in the demonstrations I did today for the students. They are indeed one and the same as the Aldi set and they take and keep the same keen edge that parallel or exceed the best chisel sets available today. In north European redwood, tough stuff I have in stock, they kept their edges in chopping dovetails, paring and other operations throughout the day on one initial sharpening. The price is the same at £7.95 for four found in Aldi stores. The names of course have been changed to suit the supermarkets chain brand name. These are long-term chisels and could be temporary gap fillers until you find ones you like the looks of, or they can be your lifetime chisels, the ones you reach for every time you cut dovetails or mortise and tenons. They have been out for a couple of weeks in Lidl stores but at least now you will have two sources to buy from in Europe and the UK, which will likely mean you can find them four times a year. They were still in Thursday so just thought you might want a set if you’re in the UK.
Working on the toolbox build
Yesterday and today we filmed making the toolbox for the start to the New Year series to start 2015 with. I have a feeling that this could be as popular a series as any we have done so far and as far as conservation goes it’s important to me as it means hundreds of them will be made over the coming months. If you follow me as I build this toolbox you will see that the patterns used offer a simplicity and ease in the making that will inspire you to want to build one too. This toolbox is really more useful for storage and transporting tools and that’s where this type truly comes into its own. The functional size makes it neat and useful and of course the insides can be customised to the tools you use for different aspects of your personal woodworking. I think it’s the kind of box you might want to make two or three of so that the tools are indeed totally accessible. I have more toolboxes, chests and so on than I care to number because of the number of tools I have collected through the years, but soon we will work out how we want to let one or two of them goto new homes.
The filming went well because of the behind the scenes guys that do indeed make it all happen. It’s a workout for me to take off 1/4” from 12 square feet of wood even if it’s pine but exercise is of course good for me and it gets my heart pumping for an hour or two every day. Though I do exercise diligently, I find it boring, but when it’s work related I can muscle for two or three hours and feel as though I am accomplishing something so much more.
My stock is now milled to thickness and that generally means that I planed and jointed all of my boards by hand, planed the edges and endgrain square with scrub planes, a #4 smoother and a #5 jack. I did use some wooden planes and of course these are much lighter and easier to use than metal-soled planes anyway.
In the morning I will lay out the boards for dovetailing the corners using different methods for each corner to make the videos more interesting and to show some of the historical methods used that made dovetailing the corners of a box like this so fast. The fast method means one corner will take about 20 minutes so we’ll show how that is done; and, no, it’s not the coping saw method.
As I said, we will be unpacking the methods and the madness behind making strong yet lightweight and transportable toolboxes. Weighing in at around 12.5 Kilos (30 lbs), this box is one of the most useful because even when filled with tools it can usually be lifted by two people.
As my hands seem stronger than ever and my lungs fill and exhale with the pressures of planing and sawing, I catch myself as I reflect on my work training new woodworkers to become truly skilled and competent. Very few courses offer what we have given these past 25 years. Imagine making a dovetailed box within a few hours of finding out the difference between a marking gauge and a mortise gauge or a tenon saw and a gent’s saw. Imagine knowing that sharpness comes in a few minutes at the bench with a few short lectures and that your hands are but hours away from mastering the same skills I have used for 50 years. I’m talking about a fully dovetailed box with rounded edges and not a single trace of machine work in the whole. Recessed solid brass hinges that have no gaps and an heirloom quality project to boot. More than that, you then make a wallshelf unit with through dovetails and then go on to make an oak table and thats nine days. Also, it’s not just a box or a shelf and a table. All of that translates into box making, big and small, book shelving and even dining tables and more. That’s what will happen as I close this year with yet two more Foundational courses and 8 more online broadcast videos that will go to thousands of people around the world. The courses are about full yet again. There may be one or two places left but that’s all. I’m gratified by the support we have gained over the decades and now as we plan the 2015 schedule I’m gratified all the more by invitations from around the world to spread the good news on other continents too. The 2015 classes have been well received too. I am looking forward to meeting you when you come from Israel and New York, from Sweden and Denmark and Switzerland too. Thank you for booking your bench spaces early.
Our year has seen tremendous successes too many to number and we embrace the prospect of a new year ready to unfold. How you measure success in my line of work is not by the bottom line at an accountants pen or a spread sheet but by the number of people who we feel have been transformed in the way they think and work and live their lives. Consistently throughout this year we have managed yet again to debunk myths and mysteries and false statements and claims. Yes, all this is true, but more than that we have equipped a new generation of people who love the idea of working with wood to become real woodworkers on the different continents of the world. In India I see many of you searching for peace and a simpler way of providing for your families and you tell me that our video teaching has helped you to better understand how to make changes for an alternative lifestyle working wood. You say you now are better able to question false hopes and aspirations and search out real ways that you can master skills and establish yourselves as skilled craftsmen and women. These are success stories for me. In the USA and Canada you say that you are now wring with your sons and daughters in the evenings in the workshop and on the weekends you are building projects you never dreamed that you might. You’ve unplugged some of your machines and left them that way for months. Your are splitting and riving materials and making joints that look as though they were made by an ancient crafting artisan. This is how my accountancy measures success. You can’t really buy this because it isn’t for sale and it cannot be bought. It’s whole new way of erudition and I see fruit in people’s lives that they know was well worth the investment of time and finance because, quite simply, it changed them.
As I work towards this weekend and the start of a new class of foundational woodworking my hear begins to sing inside somehow and for some reason. Why is that? Why after 25 years of teaching over 5,000 people to work with their hands do I feel the same as I did all those years ago. Well, let me tell you. It’s because I have learned that I can change the way people think about woodworking. It’s because I prove you can live and work successfully in an unplugged shop with compromising quality and by delivering skilled craftsmanship to men and women. My pulse beat pounds and my heart races as I just think about these things. One by one people get off the conveyor belt and discover what they were searching for when they began woodworking 20 years ago and couldn’t find it. Now they sharpen their saws and there planes and chisels. They split tenons to lines with exactness and cut the mating parts of dovetails one by one and put them together knowing that they will be married for one hundred years.
The projects we make are major for foundational work because we feel we can press people to a level that they feel they accomplishing good standards of workmanship as they learn. Look at the boxes and the shelves and then look at the people’s faces. It’s all about relationships. That’s how I measure success!
Finishing the Toolbox Series
In the next few days I will finish off the toolbox series.
This has been a popular series that clears up the simplicity of making one of the lightest, strongest and most easily made toolboxes. The videos will be out in the new year through online broadcast via woodworkingmasterclasses.com too.
On different tenon saw handles – getting the angles right or less
There is a lot out there on this subject and with so many angles posed throughout the age of misinformation, which of the tenon-type saws do you really, really need? We look at the whole to help you understand the dynamics between the relationship between teeth and handle angles and then the work in hand.
John Winter Closes His Apprenticing Year
Is he ready for the new future in his home state of Patagonia? We’ll be discussing his thoughts and interviewing him to understand his perspectives.
How Many Tools Do You Really Need? Less and More Than You Think
I just made a set of these for my oilstones. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to redo them now because I look at yours and then I look at mine and then I look at yours and then I need new boxes that look like you made them and not me!
I’ve heard one should soak their oil stones in their preferred honing oil before using them and then let them sit in a puddle of it in the box when not using them. Most of mine came from garage sales so my honing oil is likely the first oil they’ve seen in 30 years, and I didn’t soak them, I just oiled profusely when I sharpened and if the stone soaked up the oil, I added more. It might be yet another myth to be busted, but how would that work with boxes like these?
An unfilled sharpening stone looks like this – dry!
And a filled stone looks like this, oily!
The better quality stones are factory-filled which means they were left in baths or in some cases pressurised containers to force oil into them more quickly and then set aside to allow all excesses to drain off before packaging and shipping out. More inexpensive stones are dry and that means they must be soaked in a light machine oil in a tray or bucket. Whatever you saved in buying a cheaper stone is then lost in buying in the oil. It’s fine to oil non-filled oil stones profusely as you say, but the factory-filled stones need so little oil once filled I think its worth the extra cost.
I have now finished my box and coated it with three coats of coloured shellac to match the original colour of the old table as it was. Shellac isn’t affected by Three-in-1 oil, which is my preferred honing fluid, so adding finish helps to keep things clean with a quick wipe with a rag. Most any finish will work, water-based poly or indeed oil-based poly too. Shellac is fast to dry and less problematic to apply than most other finishes. I used dyes mixed to match the colour I needed.
The lid should be fitted so it’s slightly loose for quick and unhindered removal. I finished the box inside as well as out. People often use the term lubricate the sole but the oil is float off swarf from the stones surface and keeps the cutting surface from clogging which is what happens when you use the stone without oil or honing fluid.
Apply a small puddle of oil to the surface and start honing back and forth.
When you reach the edge and feel the burr you can flip the stone over for a finer surface if its a combination stone with two abrasive grits.
When done, wipe off the oil and the swarf ready for stowing.
Here is the finished box.
The post Oil Stones and Boxes, Factory-filled and Finishing appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.
I have always wondered why it seems more and more that we have adverse concepts about standard coping saws when they are so efficient and effective in use and they are one of the easiest and lightest of saws to use. I have given my now five adult sons a coping saw to work with from being about three years old with never an issue of workability and they shaped and cut everything from cutting boards, spoons and spatulas to cello, violin and guitar parts for about 25 years or so without issue. Compared to other saws they cost almost nothing, with new ones like the Bahco or Eclipse costing somewhere around £10-20 new and even less secondhand. That’s so little for a saw tool that could not wear out in a lifetime of full time use.
In more recent months I became intrigued by some developments that took my interest more through the comments people made and were making than the concepts of coping saws themselves. It seemed that suddenly, once again after a century or more of use, that coping saws didn’t really work. That’s according to recent comments.( I suppose perhaps they were ignorant workmen who knew no different.) One person says that most coping saws don’t tension the blade sufficiently and therefor the blade feels as “floppy as a steel hotdog.” This type of statement inevitably paves the way to promote something else rather than the truth. It’s far from true unless you buying something low-grade. Another source says that the saw weighs only two-thirds the weight of a regular frame saw and that means less fatigue on the body if you use it all day. Two things to consider here. One, do you plan or even consider that you might use a small frame saw like a coping saw or a jewellers saw all day and, two, we are talking the difference between 8 ounces and 12 ounces or 226 grams and 340 grams respectively. Roughly the weight of say a small- to medium-weight chisel so I think it’s OK to have a little weight to add balance to a saw like this, especially when it’s so light weight to start with.
In both cases here the saw they want to promote costs a massive £120 (or $180 USD) to any UK buyers. Now that’s a chunk of change and so I asked myself whether this choice came from common sense. Yes, if you want to, go ahead and spend the money on a high end saw, but to dis what’s been around for centuries (and the hundreds of thousands of craftsmen that used them too) and put heavy priced burdens on those looking to make an educated purchase seems inappropriate but more and more common. My suggestion is to let common sense prevail and carefully weigh everything in the balance. Ordinary coping saws work really, really well and are just great for even discerning craftsmen.
I’m in my 50th year of using an Eclipse coping saw most every day of those 50years. About 15,000 times. I suppose some might justify paying a high price for a tool that comes with better engineering and so on, or just that the price is immaterial, but to most people price can be and is of course prohibitive and any influential leader can indeed mislead people to believe one tool doesn’t work or work well. Perhaps there is some reason they have to dissuade people from buying something that has worked perfectly well for a century for hundreds of thousands of woodworkers and metal workers.
The Bahco coping saw is an excellent make of saw that’s got good spring steel for the frame and takes the 6 1/2″ blade common to all coping saws. The Zona blade fits all 6 1/2″ coping saws.
I have been searching for good coping saw blades since the demise of the older Craftsman make blades I had used for almost three decades. This has now been resolved for me with the Zona coping saw blades. Even though made in the USA the price with shipping is not prohibitive at all for those of us in Europe and the UK. I bought 40 blades for £21 ($33USD) inclusive of shipping and ordered on the 2nd November and received them at my door in the UK on the 8th November. I got blades I wanted not what was available and was as impressed by the quality of cut I got from the blade as I was with the four-day delivery with door to door of 4,500miles.
Someone else wrote that the general coping saw buckles under pressure, but, once again, I have never found that to be the case at all if you buy a halfway decent maker such as Bahco or Eclipse. I doubt anyone could cause a saw to do that but I wanted to prove my case for those searching for a coping saw.
I installed one of the new Zona blades and cut through some thin 6mm (1/4”) thick sapele stock. The blade sliced easily and very smoothly into and though the wood with the extra fine 24 TPI blade installed in both Bahco and Eclipse coping saw frames.
I then cut through some tight shapes with the same blade and used 21mm (13/16”) sapele and got exactly the same results as I did with stock 1/3rd the thickness.
Here I upped the ante and used the same blade to cut the straight and tightly curved shape you see from 68mm (1 3/4”) oak with no buckling at all and with a very satisfactory speed all the way.
So, all in all, you don’t need to spend big bucks on a frame saw unless you want to. Buy good blades from Zona, very inexpensive in the USA, who have 15, 24 and 32 TPI. You won’t be disappointed.
There is no issue for smooth and effective cuts with a common coping saw as long as you have good blades.
I made an oilstone box and used old mahogany from the table I dismantled. I only needed two pieces 3” by 10” long and 7/8” thick. I’ve made many before and all of the ones I ever saw had lines of holes from the snail of the brace bit the carpenters used to remove the bulk of the waste wood. It was a tradition but I never liked that method much. The idea was to bore down to a fixed depth and then chisel out the waste. Bit rough but the outcome worked fine.
I laid out the perimeter with a knife and square and a marking gauge to line out the cut lines for the 2” width of the stone.
I chiseled into the knifewall to make the wall deeper and to guide the perpendicular chops for the ends.
Then I chopped vertical cuts from one end to the other.
The stone is just under 1” thick.
I pared the sides and ends until the stone fit snuggly in its new housing.
I fitted the stone snug and tight enough not to slip but easy enough to tap free.
The underside has scallops to the midsection to allow the stone to kinda squat on the benchtop. Often they are shaped like the one here.
I pencilled a depth line to make certain not to go through the bottom and scribed lines to the shape I wanted. Pretty traditional.
I used a tenon saw to cut either side of the middle of each half.
I stopped just shy of the depth line.
Then I went across with the hand router to remove the waste but I went down in shallow stages so as not to gouge but pare cut.
I used a chisel bevel down to scallop the ends.
I used a card scraper to clean up the transition.
Once the main shaping was completed I used a spokeshave to emphasize the countered area.
I chiseled a more incised cut to the centre section kerf.
The box lid goes through the same housing treatment.
The majority might not like this but traditionally we drove to pins into one end of the stone box…
…and clipped them off wight the pliers.
The remaining nubs barley protrude but these prevent the stone from slipping in use. It works well.
It’s interesting to see how you use moulding planes for moulding things like tabletops and so on and I really enjoyed watching how you moulded the picture frames, but they don’t seem suited to working on end grain. Is there a strategy like special skewed irons or what else can you do to deal with end grain using moulding planes? Scratch stocks, skewed irons and what about say one of the combination planes like the #45 for moulding too?
It’s funny how many people think moulding planes don’t work too well on end grain and no one really knows where this came from. For two centuries most moulds we see on end grain came from moulding planes and not scratch stocks. In some cases it’s true that there are sometimes issues with moulding end grain, but the cases are more remote than general and mostly related to softwoods and soft-grained woods. It’s not usually a problem in hardwoods but in softwoods the compression between hard and soft aspects of the growth rings side by side on the endgrain can be a problem. Soft-grained woods are hard to mould on end grain but easy enough along the grain. I think people pick upon that and think I’m cheating when using pine to make the moulding look easy. There are facts that make functionality practical and effective so this is what you should know.
1: All of the softwoods in the softwood genre are more problematic but far from impossible to shape. Sharpen up often and shoot for top levels of sharpness with no half measure. If possible use a light knifewall or even staggered knifewalls between the corner and the extreme width of the cut. These serve as stop cuts, which prevents undercutting the main body of wood as the fibres are severed before the iron.
2: Skewed irons do indeed assist in the endgrain profiling of wood and especially so on softwoods as they slice- or pare-cut at a skewed angle. Many softwoods have little difference between the hard and softness of the growth rings, Eastern white pine, for instance, but when the pines are soft they grain compresses and often tears under pressure of the forward thrust.
3: Most hardwoods, mahogany, oak, walnut, cherry, maple and so on, will mould well using moulding planes as long as the irons are sharp and kept sharp by frequent honing throughout.
Unsanded mould from the plane
4: Moulding planes self sharpen. By that I mean it’s incorrect to lift off the plane on the returning back stroke as some people do and say. The plane stays in contact with the mould the whole time. This saves multiple realignments at the start of the cuts when you land the plane each time. The second benefit that’s generally overlooked is that the moulded stock hones the bevel on the returning back stroke and this keeps the edge sharper for longer, which I find is the same with all planes by the way.
5: Scratch stocks will work generally but mostly we use scratch stocks for curved work such as oval mirror and picture frames, carriage doors and such.
6: Moulds start with almost no material being removed and gradually, with each successive stroke, the surface cut increases until the final level is achieved with a full width cut that followed the whole profile. So, the cut starts easy and finishes hard.
7:The famed and abandoned multi combination planes were a poor substitute for moulding planes dedicate d to task and shape. The idea was that the combination plane had most of the cutters you might need for moulding, rabbeting and grooving wood. The latter two worked well but the moulding cutters were generally a dead loss. What Stanley Rule & Level never could compensate for was the loss of matching sole that followed the profile of the iron as the cut progressed. That being so, the material had no compression before the iron on the forepart of the lane over the width of the mould by a sole and so the grain would lift in the cut and tear. Now I am not saying these planes didn’t work some of the time, but they were unreliable on the commercial side. They are fiddly and awkward to set up and time is money on the shop floor so that’s why we have so many of them in good condition!
Obviously you cannot plane through-cuts without back up on endgrain profiling in much the same way you can’t always have free cuts on moulding machines such as spindle shapers and routers. I usually clamp a continuing section of wood to carry the plane through and prevent the speltching (blowout US) as shown.
With sanding and a coat of finish the profile is perfect.
Oh, just in case. It is harder to mould end grain, physically I mean. It’s more of a workout and takes more effort than going along the grain.
Making a narrow strip clamp for laminating.
This clamp is as quick and simple to make as it gets, it works really well and costs pennies or scraps alone to make half a dozen to exact size a project.
In this case my project is around 4” and so I use wood 6 3/4” long. This allows for 1” either side of the recess, the width of my stock wood to be clamped and the wedges made from 3/4” stock. Pine or some other softer, straight-grained wood is ideal, but almost any wood that splits will work.
First cut lines one inch in from each end across the board and at a depth equal to or slightly deeper than the thickness of the stock to be glued up. In my case my stock is 5/16” thick. I saw down the lines and then pare out the waste to just above the gauge line I made.
Now I route down to the final depth with the router to give the evenness I need to seat my material against.
For my next step I simply spit my board into sections. These could be as narrow as say 3/4” and need be no wider than 2”.
I could saw them for neatness if it bothered me but usually `i will throw these in the fire for warmth because they are made from scrap wood and custom sized to my work.
Making the wedges
Now I make my wedges. For this I need only a few sets or pairs. My wedges are 2” long and I cut them as shown from basically a 1 x 2. The angle is not critical at all, longer wedges work better than shorter, stubbier ones because they slide more easily.
The wedge cut stops on 2” but I crosscut slightly longer so the two pieces remain together.
Now I mark (for you to see, otherwise I just eyeball and split cut) and split my wedges with the two halves still together along the 5/16” lines.
All the wedges are approximately the same size and the angles the same also so any two will work together.
To set up for wedging I choose my boards for position and grain orientation and then insert the wedges alongside to the last piece, make adjustments for alignment and slide the wedges against one another until light pressure causes the glue to come from the joint line.
In this case I laid three clamps on the bench spaced as best I could gauge and the flipped over to apply the other two. Tighten as best you can with the tap of a hammer if possible, otherwise finger pressure is enough.
The post Laminating Thin Stock – Clamps From Scraps That work appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.
Hello Mr Sellers,
I have followed your blogs recently on the bevel-up jack planes and have seen some people say that adding a 50-degree bevel iron instead of the 25-degree bevel iron allows the plane to take care of difficult grain. If this is so, why don’t you just add the blade as an accessory and just use the one plane?
I’ve answered this in the recent past but it comes up often enough to give an answer again. The question makes sense in theory but in practice it’s a little disingenuous on the part of plane makers and salesmen and women to suggest that the bevel-up planes don’t have issues beyond just slipping in a different iron to take care of those issues. In the history of plane making, bevel up planes are not new or even especially innovative. Let’s face it, if you’re a tool making company you need to keep coming up with something new to sell, otherwise your company loses its edge in the competition. It’s no different for companies today and one company jumps through a hoop and you quickly see how all the others copy and follow up with something similar, hence the plethora of companies jockeying for their slice of the BU plane market. It’s not that there was a demand for this type of plane in answer to one of our woodworking life problems, more that someone somewhere found a niche market and others jumped in for their slice of the action. A few wood mags and writers got the same press release did their usual new product test and write up, and before you know it the same information is written up around the globe as if one man wrote them all. Fact is copy and paste took away a great deal of initiative and individualism entrepreneurs were once famed for and that’s why all the online stores look and smell the same.
It’s a fact that the bevel up planes and even jacks have been around for well beyond a century or two but were used for trimming wood fibres differently than is being espoused today. As a general smoothing plane or even a jack plane, bevel up planes never quite gave the guaranteed confidence craftsmen needed in the day to day of planing. In fact it’s as true today as it was two centuries ago that the only time a bevel up plane truly comes into its own is when the plane is used to cut across the long axis of the grain at an angle as in trimming mitres and planing end grain and then any angle in between say zero and 90-degrees. As soon as this plane hits grain at an angle that rises up towards the cutting iron the plane loses ground rapidly and when using any wood it’s inevitable that grain will, in any given surface, rise up somewhere to catch the cutting iron and lift before the iron can actually get to the wood itself and cut the surface. It’s in such cases that the grain surface tears as if wrenched and ripped from the surface and it’s this that so gives such dreaded nervousness to any and all woodworkers whether present or past.
When it happens the surface is usually badly marred and the root of the problem is usually deep and often irreparable. Usually the fibres that are torn jam, turn and become sandwiched between the wood surface and the sole of the plane and the force of the plane stroke yanks the strands along and out of the wood being planed. This can happen also with bevel down planes but much, much less so for the reason associated with the cap iron mostly. I haven’t altogether understood why makers never came up with a combined lever cap/cap iron lever cap that could replace the cap iron and offer the same dynamic as the cap iron does to the bevel down planes.
The addition of a few degrees to the cutting iron whether bevel down or bevel up does make a difference to the cut and to the wood in some very specific cases of grain configuration. What it does not take care of is the kind of grain that rips from the body of wood in the way I am talking about. Wild swirls of reverse and spirally grain, crotch grain and the like will indeed generally yield to a steeper angle of presentation and this is when we reach for a plane once made to offer an alternative to the general 42 to 45-degree bed. This is called the York pitch. The York pitch presents the blade to surface fibres in such a way as to more sheer-cut the conflicting arrangement of fibres misaligned in some areas of wild and varied grain smoothly. Usually this grain is heavily compacted in grains such as crotch grain, burrs and burls, knots and surrounding knot areas or areas adjacent to knots and so on. We often call such areas of this type of grain ‘short’ grain, as the grain rises rapidly toward the surface and seems almost to be standing up in misalignment of fibres as if disconnected from the general long grain strands or cells we might more generally know wood to be. Curly grained wood such as is found in maple, oak and, perhaps generally to a lesser degree other hardwoods, is a mixture of staggered interruptions of short grain that rises up and falls away in quick succession. The steep York pitch takes care of grain like this quickly, but this is not the grain we know to tear out when we surface plane wide boards of wood.
I suppose it might be good to realise few plane makers will be self critical of a problem as I have described and find it best not to mention the problem at all. It’s only natural when you think about it. It’s not after all really the plane that’s the problem but the wood itself. The problem is that the problem won’t just go away so we at the cutting edge and cusp have to make the planes we use work for every situation if possible. For those of us involved in real woodworking and making wood work at the business end we have a different view of things and we must balance out the planes we rely on, find out what they do best and understand where and when to rely on them. Whereas I occasionally hear from people who swear by the BU planes and how they never use anything else, for me, I have not found that at all to be the case. Usually those who make such statements use their planes on a very limited basis or within a very limited sphere of woodworking. Instrument making for instance or perhaps guitar making. I could indeed rely on a bevel up jack for 99.9% of guitar making. For furniture that would be the opposite. 99.9% of all of my work would come from a bevel-down bench plane alone. Thats said, I like owning both bevel down and bevel up jack planes and apply them to their best use. There can be no doubt that you can fine tune either plane to take pristine shavings off in adverse grain situations, but really, it’s unrealistic for me to earn my living making furniture were I to spend the time it would take to spend such time on a single plane. At the end of the day, the only tool that takes care of any and all grain configurations is the #80 cabinet scraper. When the grain rises up against me, it’s this tool alone that quells the foe.
The post Questions Answered – York Pitch Only Answers One Problem appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.
I had a mixed day yesterday trying to wrap my mind around a man I met at a car boot sale. I bought this table from him for £10 and took it into the castle to strip down, measure, draw up for records and to replicate and restore. He said that last week he had a nice big mahogany table and broke it up for firewood. Said he gets them all the time. I said I’d gladly buy them from him so he said he’d bring some next week. it’s a tragic thing to burn wood from our excesses but people have no knowledge in the seas of mass information and less so today than ever it seems. You see it’s not that the information isn’t there it’s that in the mass of information we can’t process it because we can’t pay attention to so much of it. John is using old mahogany for something he’s currently building and of course I can always use good wood like that.
I made some coaster sets from off cuts of my last tabletop and that project came together well for me. Another Christmas gift for someone but also an upcoming short series for Woodworking Masterclass online broadcast shortly. We’re trying to get you ready and in the Christmassy mood. John made a lovely box for a wedding gift as you know but he also made a lovely sliding lid box for my wife’s birthday present.
Currently he’s in the middle of building his tool chest from oak and mahogany to take back to Patagonia with him when he leaves.
This week I ordered a new name mark (not really called stamps) to retire my old one after 50 years of stamp marking my personal tools. John, Phil and I restore old tools each week and of course we accumulate a lot that way. It becomes all the more necessary to have positive ID and we want to make certain our tools are all stamped properly as we keep accumulating from different sources.
Working on the coaster sets and other thin wood sections.
Clamping thin wood for wider sections or laminations of different woods for colour and texture often doesn’t work with large clamps because of pressures in the wrong places. Small, narrow, thin stock often posses the greatest problems and whereas there are several products ranging from elastic bands made from inner tubes to bungies and wedged string, there’s a certain confidence that comes when you see the joints close with something perhaps more obviously mechanical.
These ‘clamps’ are quick and easy to make and use. In a matter of minutes you can have your wedges and cross beams made and be on your way. Flipflopping them from face to opposite face on longer lengths gives opposing counter pressures that stagger and distributes more even pressure in the overall glue up.
With multiple strips like the one shown I found it best to true the edges square rather than using the normal edge jointing methods where you plane the jointed edges together so that out of squareness is compensated for when the two edges are brought together. That way then the parts are interchangeable, which gives the necessary versatility when choosing grain colour and orientation of grain etc.
Eleanor and I are working on plans for a woodworking workshop aimed at behavioural change through craft work for next March here in North Wales. We feel that input from the craft world like woodworking can impact present cultural trends with an alternative that would give opportunity and provide a vehicle for change.
Many of you have asked me about this knowing that I planned to continue the series.
If you purchased my book Working Wood 1&2: the Artisan Course with Paul Sellers, you know that in that book and the accompanying DVDs I stated that I would be adding further publications to this first series.
The publisher of that work, Artisan Media Ltd, and I, parted company in April 2012. However, I now understand that they plan to continue the series with the future release of a book and DVD series entitled Working Wood 3. You might wrongly assume that this or any other continuation of the series by the same publishers might be my continuation of the course I started in Working Wood 1&2.
This is not the case. I am not the author of this book, Working Wood 3, or any other upcoming works for this publisher.
I am telling you all this in the hope of preventing any confusion.
I am dedicated to releasing new content in book and DVD format but will be doing so through a different publisher.
Christmas in the US starts after Thanksgiving Thursday for the busiest shopping day of the year (USA), but for those of us living around the rest of the globe making gifts and decor begins when we find half a day to do it. To give you a heads-up we made this video for Woodworking Masterclasses last year and thought you might like to see how making beautiful stars from hand-made thin stock can be easily done with dead-on accuracy. These stars make stunning gifts for family trees and table decor too and scraps cost nothing to make them.
Here is the link to the YouTube video for stars above. I hope that you enjoy this one!
You may also be looking for unique Christmas gift for friends and relatives and the YouTube series on making the wall clock is fun series too, especially at the gift-giving end of it. Here is the link to the first one we did via Woodworking Masterclasses last year.