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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...
More tail makers than pin makers
Of course there are always more pins than tails, that goes without saying, but does the tail wag the dog? In the overall scheme of things I might reason that in over 97% of cases, woodworkers cut the tails first and make the pins follow. So in this case, the tails predetermine that pins follow the tail in like fashion that form always follows function in the real world of non-fantasy craftwork. I am constantly reading (and being told) that there are two ways to cutting dovetails and people are always telling me there are many ways to do this or that and that there is no one right way if both ways work. As a kid I learned to ride a bike backwards sitting on the handle bars and steering with my body between my hands on the handle bars. Both ways worked. When someone cuts one dovetail joint dovetails first and then their second dovetail pins first, they might asses the two methods to be equal. My view is that a person might want to cut a hundred or so using each method so as to become proficient and then ask themselves which is their go-to method. Therein might rest the truth and even an absolute. In my experience most woodworkers who never mastered the art made maybe one or two dovetails and failed. The joint was loose and they gave up because of their own unrealistic expectations of that ever evasive illusion we call perfection. Hating any kind of failure, they instead substituted their developing the skills needed and resorted instead to using a router, dovetail bit and dovetail jig. They donned their gladiator kit, bought into the extractor system and became firm believers that the router system was the superior way and therefor the only way to go. One drawer later and after many hours of setup, they put it away and never used it again.
These are the projects we made through the woodworkingmasterclasses.com series two months ago. Some students in last week’s nine-day Foundational Course workshop (just completed Sunday) found themselves surprisingly ahead of those who had not yet discovered this teaching resource.
I make several dovetail joints in a week as a matter of course either for making or teaching. Mostly both. Probably about 20 at least. I have done that most of my life, but let’s say I only did it for half of my working life as a woodworker full time. I always work a six-day week without exception, so that translates into 1000 dovetail joints a year if I take two weeks off. On a most conservative level then, I have made 25,000 dovetail joints over the past 25 years. It’s actually more likely I have doubled that and I can say that the only time I have favoured pins first is in repair or restoration of previously completed work where pins already existed. I think that if someone wants to cut pins first and prefers that method then they should stay with it and enjoy it. Teaching both methods has value too.
Have I ever used a router for cutting dovetail joints?
Never. Two people have told me that to be a teacher true to my cause I should have at least tried it once. One was a magazine editor and the other a woodworking teacher who taught machine only methods. It doesn’t take me too long to determine what takes skill and brings peace and what is quite dull and uninteresting. It’s kinda nice to be able to say after 52 years since I picked up tools that I never cut a dovetail by machine. A close friend of mine, a highly skilled professional hand tool specialist, still laments the day he made a dresser with 8 drawers in it using a router and dovetail jig for the first and only time. He was instructed to get the price down by his bosses and he was slow but good.
I think ofttimes it is true that we stick to the first method we were taught and indeed if you sat under one woodworkers instruction you might adopt his method even though it might be the least popular of the methods available. Of course we all know that that’s not necessarily the best or right method, but hopefully we will be open to considering other methods, try them, and make a decision responsibly. I did look at a router one time to see if that was where I wanted to go. I am as much an expert in machine woodworking as I am in hand tools, so that wasn’t an issue, and I indeed use a router for some tasks, about once a year I suppose, but routing when it’s unnecessary or it substitutes for developing skill is not an option for me. There I draw the line. Now, having said that, it is not too late for anyone to master the skills and in reality this is indeed so much easier than you might think. Today I sharpened 18 dovetail saws in 42 minutes ready for the next dovetail class in three weeks time here in the USA. From this time on I have just decided that students can bring their own tenon saw and file and sharpen their own personal saws. I will teach them this, I will teach them to cut dovetails and they will have the skills for the remainder of their lives. How about that!
The question of awls and knives came up several times in referring to the previous post on tails and pins in dovetailing. Awls used for marking out dovetails has become an issue with traditionalists and lines left in across the tails accepted as a relevant witness of tradition seems well accepted. I have seen this throughout my life in looking at old joiner and cabinet maker’s tool chests and some marked all the way across with a round semi-pointed awl while others used a knife wall. Still others used a knife and some used a cutting gauge. Awls were simple tools in general and a lot more accessible in the pre-pencil age when layout was with a steel marker. The awl was of course the obvious choice but not for neatness but more practicality. On building super structures such as timber framed buildings and large doors , door casings, paneling, frames and such, what’s called a scratch awl in the US and a striking awl in Great Britain was the method of marking out for joinery and identification of components. Chisels too were used for this type of marking.
Different books and articles expose the calibre of craftsmen past. Some woodworkers prefer a more puritan approach and thereby lay claim to traditionalism over our more modern expressions where dovetail and pin shoulders are cut within the recess to distinctly separate the boundaries of the recesses from the remaining material. This clean-shaven look to dovetails is therefore rejected in favour of retaining tradition. Whether that’s the right thing is of course individually appraised. I would most likely not do this as it is no quicker than simply pacing the knife wall with the knife really. I teach and use the combination of pencil followed by knife so that temporary marks laid on with the pencil can subsequently be delineated with the permanent knife-cut shoulder lines I need for perfecting my work. This was how I was trained and indeed many craftsmen from my era. Replicating an early piece for museum work in say a series, I might indeed preserve the authenticity of method and use a gauge or a striking awl or knife, but in my everyday work I find the knife line definitive and uncompromising.
Cutting dovetails takes practice to deliver quality work. Last week we taught another nine-day Foundational Course and that included making the Shaker candle box I first taught back in 1988. The class was full with 18 people making the box and for the main part, all of the dovetailed boxes were the first boxes everyone made. I have to say that most of the boxes were very well made using my methods and that each corner improved, with the last corner being the best. This is an important record for the students in that the box itself is secondary to the skills taught and subsequently mastered. I would not teach the awl or marking gauge method because of tradition though we do often discuss this as a historical consideration. I am often amused by visitors who pass through my workshops, look at the dovetails and say something like, “I cut dovetails once in school,” or, as happened last week, “I cut a dovetail by hand once. I just felt like I had to do just one so that I could say I had done it, but then I used a router after that.” He, as with many machinists, felt like that was the step to more advanced methods using machines when in reality he never reached any level of perfection or skill but of course substituted for the discipline that would have made him highly effective. I read another passage where the author talked about the experience of cutting a few dovetails as though that somehow qualified as a badge of merit. Describing the process as not that difficult, I realised that most people really fall short in discovering the art and craft of woodworking because they are always looking for something new and more stimulating. A bit like a a kid in a toy shop. A friend of mine once went home from the workshop I had just taught on dovetails and came back six months later to make a coffee table with dovetails in the construction. His dovetails were so perfect they amazed me. I asked him about them and he said he had gone home and his wife said they didn’t have the money but they need twenty Christmas gifts for relatives. They decided to make Shaker candle boxes for each present and that’s what they did. He said that by the time he had made the twenty boxes he had the process down. So, there are just six months left to Christmas.
This highly provocative issue is a regular question for me and I usually avoid the controversy. I might be guessing here, but I would say that from my personal experience, most woodworkers who actually made their living from furniture making and woodworking in general cut their tails first. of course everyone is entitled to their opinion whether they are right or wrong. It’s a strange new world this world that changes with each typed symbol that others occupying the globe read, judge and pass opinions on as though just opinion alone somehow mattered. Many write that there are many ways to cut dovetails after they tried but two methods and then then made two or three dovetails before realising that there may be many methods to make the cuts, but that there are not but a couple of methods to sequentially cut them, if you see what I mean. Distilling out the fiction of pluralism just a tad takes out the excesses of verbiage and leaves you with actual task that we woodworkers who ‘do’ woodworking do. Generally, you either cut a pin or a tail first. Which ever one you choose first means that the other quickly follows. Because a small minority of people cut pins first, I take it that the tails is the better, more practical way forward, but I don’t discount that the ‘other’ method works preferentially for some people.
I cut pins first only because I made a mistake. I don’t need to throw away a piece of wood that’s already fitted with dovetails to a previously made corner. The adjacent dovetailed effort may have failed because a piece of wood split wrongly or something and so I then cut the new tail piece from the existing pins. This is logical and resolves the issue. Like many things in life I have a choice of just two ways to do some things. I can walk forwards and see the future or I can walk backwards but not see where I am going. I cut tails first because cutting from the outside on push strokes using my native western-style saw means the outside fibres are supported as I push into the main body of wood. (That’s also the reason I don’t use Eastern-style saws too.) This means that I don’t get broken fibres on the visible outside corners of my dovetails (very logical, really) and so, when I press my dovetails together the corners are in tact and the dovetails look pristine. If I cut the tails from the pins I must then cut from the inside toward the outside face of the joint and the risk is that the crispness I seek can be lost. Aside from that, every craftsman I ever worked with, that guided me through my formative years to become a craftsman, cut their dovetails before they cut the pins. I never met a practicing craftsman from my youth who cut pins first. Knowing both ways means that repairs can be made when something goes wrong. Add into the equation that it is extremely difficult to cut half-lap dovetails accurately using the pins-first method, it makes sense to cut tails first as a matter of course. Understand that though we call through dovetails common dovetails, it is relatively more common to cut half-lap dovetails than through or common dovetails.
Today was the fifth day of challenging work but progress brings new confidence, a few jokes, some kickback to absorb the changes and a sense of genuine wellbeing that’s hard to match on a computer keyboard. The days past fast now we all have the second project done we are ready to tackle the oak table. We dished out legs for surface planing and most everyone went straight to the diamond plates to sharpen up their number four Stanley planes. Some already have it. They have followed my training on the woodworkingmasterclasses.com coursework and have also followed this blog’s structured teaching that emphasis simple methods that really work. It’s really neat knowing that they understand the methods we teach and have incorporated them into their lives for better work and close-to-the-core elements of our Real Woodworking Campaign. Accuracy has always been key to what we teach and that goes along with the techniques that simplify what’s become more complicated year by year.
Today, seeing the shelving units come together, means we have crossed one more bridge toward true simplicity in that we can cut accurate housing dadoes as quickly as most machine methods and with an accuracy that parallel some very sophisticated equipment. Throughout these US courses we use the Veritas router for jobs like this. This tool knows no equal when it comes to dialling in the exact depths we need for dead accurate housings such as the ones we use in making bookshelves. Stanley and Record once held the market but now the more refined makers have become well established in just about every continent. I get emails from mainland Europe asking me which router to buy. Veritas has become my stock answer.
We have an awareness of family here in the classes as people often talk about their families and especially their children. Snoopy came along to supervise Richard’s work here a couple of days ago. We took the picture to show how inclusive family ties need to be when someone comes away from the family to take a course like this. This blog helps keep people informed and secure at some level and so I enjoy passing on the fact that every single one of those who came is really doing exceptionally well in their achievements no matter what they may say to you. The dovetails all came out. For some it was a breeze, for others a struggle. The important thing is that a box was made and so too a shelf replete with dovetail joints, mortise and tenons and housing dadoes and all of this using no more than my Three Joints and Ten Hand Tools methodology I first taught back in the late 1980′s. Not much has changed but we have all grown into woodworkers and that’s a great move forward.
Beyond the projects, tools like scrapers are front burner issues now that we’ve progressed to using oak. Sharpness is key to good work and accuracy is impossible without surgical sharpness at the cutting edge. By the time we are done they will understand sharpening saws to task, how scrapers overcome the wildest grain and that planes cannot plane some woods no matter what they tell you at woodworking show sales areas. At the end of the day they will know exactly what they need to know to work wood. The next few days are critical in my endeavour to change their lives and deindustrialise their lives to find new balance and self worth.we shut mass-manufacture out at this point in time. We all like that. Peace partners with hand tool methods and harmony reigns.
Here are a few answers to recent questions:
Which glue do use mostly?
Any PVA works well for me. I haven’t found a great deal of difference between the makers and they all certainly work fine. There are specialist glues for plastic laminate and such, but we are talking about glues for wood. No I don’t use polyurethane glues in general.
What’s the liquid in the spray bottle you use on your diamond plates?
I use inexpensive glass cleaner. That’s not window cleaner by the type of glass cleaner sold as auto-glass cleaner. I buy it from the Dollar Store in the US or the Pound Shop in the UK. It’s safe, keeps the stones from clogging guaranteed and usually costs no more than a dollar or a pound.
I was wondering when and how much will cost the 1 month course you’re making in UK. From your website I saw it’ll be somewhere in 2014?
Our dates are not set yet because we have an extensive three month program coming later in the year. We have put everything on hold to invest our efforts in a concentrated effort to change the way we apprentice people. Our 2014 dates in the UK are undecided but we will be working on that in the near future. We do have one major month long intensive course starting in July here in the USA and that seems to be gaining much interest so we are looking forward to that.
We will be adding more questions in the general blogs in future. We are also planning to make more comments on the magazine and catalog content by the different magazine publishers and catalog companies in the US and Europe. If you have issues you would like me to look at please feel free to send them on but make certain to give good reference details.
Sometimes there are classic designs that somehow defy time. This is of course an Arts and Crafts design I make in my classes. I just saw a beautiful chair design on the back of the latest Fine Woodworking magazine and it made me conscious of just how many designs have come about through the decades and centuries. We were talking about the simplicity of Sam Maloof’s design today in class and indeed the simplicity of making what is essentially a simple design that’s as simple to make as the design itself. Why is that? Well, the design replaces the use of traditional mortise and tenon joinery with all of the complexities surrounding compound angles it takes to make shouldered tenons corresponding to tapered front-to-back seats and places the seat-to-leg joinery on the side in a neat arrangement that recesses the seat into the leg and the leg into the seat. This virtually eliminates the limits normally associated with tradition and allows a more free-flowing shape that defies that tradition altogether to allow a free-form expression in three dimensional beauty and grace. John Cameron, the maker-designer, shadows the work of other designers (as we often do, perhaps most times unconsciously) to develop his own distinctive lines and presents us all with the challenge of creativity.
A classic design chair, good or bad, can stand the test of time with and without joinery
In the flea markets and car boots of the world there are thousands of chairs that retain the structure of the most used joint in the world. I see them wherever I travel with hide seats and woven seats, solid wooden seats carved to shapes corresponding to the human form and as flat as a pancake. They can indeed be monotonously dull and uninteresting until you consider their origins and the work that went into these complex pieces that somehow defy the impossible stresses and strains we expect them to withstand in the day to day of life. The point in all of this is to say that there are still new designs that occasionally hit the streets from time to time that I predict may or may not be up there with Hepplewhite or Adams but will be recognisable as 20th century designs of note, with authors recognised for their awareness and distinctive approach to working wood.
I also thought another article worthy of note beside Jonathan Binzen’s above was Chuck Bender’s article on Wharton Esherick. Of course we can’t all travel to every venue supporting our inheritance of woodworking designers and so the articles are of real value to us. I thought that Chuck conveyed me right into the heart of this designer’s front room studio in the way he wrote the article. It was for me a lovely article and one I would like to keep and read over from time to time. Chuck is a working craftsman teacher and we shared a little time on the Woodworking Show’s circuit this past three months of winter. We chatted as he a carved a ball and claw foot one day and I will add some pictures when I find them. This article was in Popular Woodworking.
A New Nine-day Workshop Changes the Lives of More People
Tomorrow we will be on the 4th day of our nine-day Foundational Woodworking course here in Upstate New York. When I arrived two weeks ago the trees were in bud and now with outspread leaf a green tinge softens the rays, goslings rest on the edges of the pond and the swampy woodland beyond is vibrant with spring life.
Since the success of the pervious two-day workshop we have started out latest course. The correlation between woodworkingmasterclasses.com course work and the class hit me more today than ever before. Some of the guys jumped in for the extra at-the-bench instruction with me and they are producing impeccable work as an extension and continuation of what they have learned through the online broadcast the masterclasses brings. More and, more emails pour in and I am sorry if I have missed any as we don’t have wifi at the school proper and during classes I don;t travel around much at all to get it. You are all so encouraging so please keep them coming and remember to join us on Facebook too.
I have so enjoyed the class and as I always feel this way my expectations are usually high before, during and after the classes. Expectations are sometimes unrealistic in the early days of workshops like this. I think that that’s because often we might find ourselves living in a microwave world of woodworking where skill levels have been dumbed down by using low-demand skill-less methods. At first things can indeed seem a little daunting but then, on the fourth joint, the thousandth plane stroke, something suddenly registers and a perfect union of heart and soul and mind and effort suddenly results in what we hoped might be truly achievable.
The energy is always visceral and contagious. Two logs in a fire equals a synergy, 20 people who love even the thought of woodworking cannot keep the energy levels down. Sparks ignite from one side of the workshop to the other. Students walk from one bench to another and they share a short exchange before resuming work. We eat lunch outside and guess what we talk about. You guessed it. Everyone has a story and we all listen. Wood, tools, technique, methods of work. A failure, a success a new shop, an old shop, back to the shop. We are off again. Sometimes we are totally engrossed to the preclusion of all else. At other times someone laughs and everyone laughs. It’s shared time even when pockets of frustration seem to almost win for a moment. Suddenly the tide turns and successes follow one by one and then, looking around the shop, a bunch of benches are glued up and left overnight to dry.
Of course to me the box is pretty immaterial. I like to think of the skill they now have. The working knowledge of the plane working for the first time. Feeling the saw cut and the vibration they were robbed of for years. The sense of accomplishment they have that was never there before they picked up their chisels and planes freshly sharpened for the workshop. from here on they sharpen their own planes and chisels. from this day on they will never look to another for how to sharpen them. It’s theirs. It belongs to them. They paid for it in their effort and time. They didn’t substitute developing skill for any easy alternatives because they wanted to know that they could take the pressure and become skillful. You can’t can it or sell it but you can share it with a few friends and people you are training side by side with. That’s success.
Of Course They Do – and Exceptionally Well Too.
Today I read an article that stated that, “We invented iron quick-release vises, which won’t hold much of anything relating to woodworking.” Bemused by this, I wondered why it was said and then I wondered why hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of woodworkers used something that didn’t, according to the author, “hold anything relating to woodworking”. The quick release vise has indeed stood the rigours of testing for a century now and has sold over any other vise ever invented. One of the most noted was of course the Record quick-release vise.
So, I too have used quick release vises for 50 years now, and one of them was almost 50 years old when I got it. My Woden vise opens to a massive 16″ and it too is about 80 plus years old.
I simply don’t want anyone to be put off using cast iron vises that offer quick release options, absolute dependability, functionality and solid safe holding through and through. All of the ones I have used lasted, work effectively, save much time and can be installed in under an hour for a lifetime of use.
…determines the outcome
It’s said that the one who frames the issues determines the outcome. With frame saws that may not be so predictable and so I found myself drifting with thoughts of frame saws these past few weeks and the thought crossed my mind that rigid plate steel saws like the ones developed in Britain and further developed in the USA by people like Henry Disston might seem to be a more advanced methodology than say the mainland European frame saw. It struck me then that thin plate was the demand of craftsmen for finer work such as dovetailing and small tenons used in furniture making and so on, but that the plate envisaged was actually too thin for a push-stroke saw without some way of keeping the saw plate from buckling under the forward thrust between hand and wood. Hence the addition of brass or steel splines that allow thinness and rigidity in the same tool.
Thick and thin plate
Thicker plate seemed to be preferred in Western makes of ‘freestyle’ saws as the saws were not pulled into the stroke but pushed, and that then required slightly thicker steel plate. To counter some of the weight and retain strength, Western makers came up with the taper-grind that removed about one third of the weight without compromising rigidity. This also enabled a change in direction for alignment if needed and even a curved cut to a certain degree. Of course thicker plate stock meant more effort and energy in the cut. Adding a rigid back, be it steel or brass, gave rigidity to thin stock and so the Western-style tenon saw was born for finer joinery and furniture making work. In recent years we have seen the Western world adopt Japanese saws and so there has been another trend toward pull-strokes. these saws work well too, but because they are more difficult to sharpen, over time we have seen yet again another substitute with the arrival of the disposable pull-stoke saws mass-made by various giant tool companies. And that’s the kind of saw most people buy today.
Differences do exist between types
A huge difference between push and pull stokes is that the pull-stroke saw almost demands a vise and bench to pull against, and whereas the push strokes work really well on saw horses, pull strokes are indeed more problematic; having the whole earth countering downward pressure from above is a whole lot easier than pulling against your own strength in the same motion. Accuracy too becomes an issue between the two. Which one is backwards seems to me a matter of the culture you are raised in and programmed by.
Mainland Europe’s frame saw
Though of course Britain has long since had a variety of frame saws, most of those in the furniture maker’s arsenal are turning saws. Isambard Kindom Brunel and Samuel Bentham were indeed the first ones to create the vertical frame saw for slabbing trees into boards and this method was used up into the early 1900‘s in some regions of Britain. The frames were huge and so too the blades. It wasn’t so very long before we saw the continuous bandsaw blade we know today.
Frame saws old and new
In mainland Europe and later on in North America, frame saws of every size were used for everything from limbing and logging to fine dovetailing and shaping for violin necks and so on. Many modern-day woodworkers like Frank Klaus use frame saws in their everyday work and on an added note Joel Moscowitz of Tools for Working Wood came up with a most stunning development by simply extending the length of a common coping saw blade, refining the cut, and adding the components for making your own turning frame or bow saw. Joseph uses one he made from the kit parts for all of his shaping work in making violin necks and bodies. It makes a really fine tool. Made using the same cross-beam and stem structure, with tourniquet tensioning to a thin blade pulled taut by the pressure on strings traversing the length of the saw, the saw has a handle and pinion that allows the user to turn the actual blade during a cut, so that the blade can readily follow curved sections in similar fashion to a coping saw.
The advantage of the frame or bow saw is that push and pull stroke both work as and if necessary and for some applications this can prove greatly advantageous. The steel can be super-thin and you don’t need a whole lot of width to the plate for most work. For this frame saw I used a very functional metal cutting bandsaw blade generally used in a hand held power metal-cutting bandsaw. The bimetal steel quality is really excellent and the aggressive non- or negative-rake to the front of the teeth cuts wood along the grain quickly and effectively. Because of the size of the teeth, I can also cut cross-grain with smooth efficient cutting too and so I found that this bow saw can cut small tree limbs and dovetails with equal alacrity and leaves a very smooth cut. I also found that I could rip along the grain or at a tangent, so this answered my quest for a saw that could be used for a range of tasks far beyond those that I could get with a regular handsaw or tenon saw. Of course I am not suggesting that it replaces either. I think that the frame hinders certain tasks that are easier with the British-style saws, but for under $5 I have a saw that adds new dimension to my woodworking and also gives me a saw I can hand to a young woodworker that will give a measure of bandsaw capability without the dangers of a bandsaw machine.
Simply made in half a day
Making the saw is not complicated, even though my two jointed intersections may at first seem intimidating. This is a functional saw and making one is constructive and enjoyable. On Monday evening this week we had a hands-on workshop making this saw with friends and staff at the Maplewood Center woodshop. I made one complete in about four hours, but I also taught it and took two hundred pictures for my how-too as well. By the time the evening was over we had made eight bona fide frame saws that not only worked but worked exceptionally well. Here are the first dovetails I ever cut with this particular frame saw using a metal-cutting bandsaw blade as the blade. Eleven year old Isaac made one too, alongside his dad, David Ashdown. This is just another step toward getting children back into the woodshop. I think too that this is a good step for others who might be intimidated by machine bandsaws. It’s not exactly the same purpose or intent, but it means people are equipped for certain types of work without the inherent dangers machines inevitably bring.
Evidence of work and functionality
Here are my finished dovetails. I also cut a mitered haunched tenon that followed the gauge lines perfectly. You may take an hour to get used to the lightness of the saw and the nuances of flexing to task rather than forcing the saw.
A new series
I am about to do a series on spoons, spatulas and other shaped items and this saw helps me span the huge crevasse between hand and machine methods for those who prefer not to use machines and those who simply cannot use them.
I have been traveling the different states in the USA for several months now, teaching and training. I taught two courses last month in the UK New Legacy School at the Penrhyn Castle workshops and that was the fulfillment of our ongoing vision to expand the horizons of woodworking everywhere.This coming week we hold the same two workshops at the Maplewood Center for Common Craft here in Upstate New York. Beyond that there is always much more going on too.
From Local to Global
My two-day introduction to woodworking is much more than the name itself really implies and though I know that for many this course is set to change their lives, to describe it as a life-changing course may seem a little over the top. In reality, this and the upcoming 9-day workshop has actually changed the lives of literally thousands of woodworkers worldwide, so why should I be reluctant to call it anything less.
The Month-long Workshop
In just a few more weeks we will be holding the last month-long workshop we will be holding in the USA. On this course we take a handful of enthusiastic woodworkers with only minimal experience in hand tool woodworking to transform the way they think about and work with wood. It’s hard for some to imagine, but they will build three complex projects from three different wood types. They start first by building a coffee table like this one using solid North American Oak. The table is quite a challenge in that we incorporate the use of dovetails and mortise and tenon joints to create a truly heirloom-quality piece.
The class is limited to 15 people and at the time of posting this we have 10 spaces available. Click here to book.
A Cabinet Makers Tool Chest
The second classic is a tool cabinet maker’s tool chest from Pine or mahogany. In previous years we have made this piece from woods like Eastern White Pine European Redwood and whereas the attendees have a choice between the two woods, we thought some might like the hardwood version and may change its function to be used somewhere else in the home. This is also the piece we will be featuring in the next upcoming series in a couple of weeks time. To find out about our online broadcast go here woodworkingmasterclasses.com and follow the prompt to subscribe, which is free and costs nothing for many featured films that pass on techniques such as how-to-makes and in skills issues.
A Craftsman-style Rocking Chair
The third piece is something of an iconic Arts and Crafts piece that replicates an inspired design I developed from the Craftsman-style furniture era. This is again a piece I see as critical to anyone who wants to master the skills of chairmaking and enter the realms even professional woodworkers find intimidating. This rocking chair is very much a scaleable piece from which the makers can adapt and alter for other chair types such as office and dining chairs.
upcoming schedule is fairly radical. As you know I work hard to pass on my woodworking skills as a generational gift to counter past and current trends that have so undermined the future of young craftsmen and women in the USA and Europe. My sabbatical does not translate into a year off but more a year different. My decisions do affect you and so so I want to appraise you all of the changes we envision so that you can make plans accordingly.
One (maybe two) More Nine-day Foundational Courses this Year – Book Early
There are still spaces available in the June 22-30 Foundation Course in Upstate NY. Click here to book
If the demand is there, we may be able to offer one more nine-day workshop this year. There is always a tendency to wait to book until the last minute, if we do the class it will be in October but in order to make the progress we need to make we must have a cut-off date after the month-long class. Contact us as soon as possible to let us know if this October class will be in demand.
Apprenticing 8 Woodworkers From Around the World
Later this year we will be taking 8 young people under the age of 30 and over 18 years to spend three solid months making about 50 pieces of furniture between us. This series of pieces will go on exhibit in the UK as exemplary works of art created by studying artisans. The goal as always is to enter core realms of real woodworking and furniture making and so we have decided a minimalist path works best for establishing true skill only possible with hand methods of work. We will use one machine only during the three months and a range of different hand tools to convert our stock too useable rough-sawn sizes. We have chosen the Laguna 16” bandsaw from Laguna USA for one of the machines and are considering three UK or European types for a second bandsaw.
Beyond Our Local Reach
We also have other strategies planned for training in other world regions including Africa and India. The vision we have takes much time for planning and this is the reason for some necessary shifts to our short and long term ambitions. Does this mean that we are not continuing our work in the US? Not in the least. We started almost 25 years ago and we still have work to do, but by current necessity classes will be restricted for a season. That said, it does seem that after the July/April Month-long I will not be teaching in the USA for at least 12 months. Our visionary work to progress woodworking on every continent now continues expanding through the different series we film for woodworkingmasterclasses.com. Woodworkingmasterclasses.com has become an essential arm to our efforts in the real woodworking campaign and has enabled us to reach audiences on a much expanded level. Your involvement enables us to make further progress by that support you give and so as we train you in the traditions of hand work, we are able to take what we develop for you and take it to needier continents too.
Because of all this, I plan to teach only this one upcoming month-long workshop as described above, which will be on a first-come first-served basis. If you or anyone you know is interested in this hands-on workshop, please let us know as soon as possible. You can call me directly on my cell phone 518 260 5320 if you have questions, or email Joseph@hisbench.com. Beyond that you can book your bench space directly on the NL website here.
Over the weekend
We finished two workshops this weekend and I will spend time getting ready for the upcoming class starting this coming Saturday. It was a special weekend really. Nick Richards finished his Timber Framing workshop and everyone took away their trestles made exclusively using timber-framing methods and M&T joints of different types with them. The weather was so beautiful we kept all doors open and let the gentle breezes pass on through. I got to make friends with the guys Nick was teaching too as they came in the shop to see my class and we sat for lunches together too. Of course mortise and tenons are all scaleable and so we cut the same joints in furniture making but we adapt techniques and tools to suit size and task. The accuracy they strove for in making the trestles was impressive. Shoulders dead square in both directions and then the draw-bore peg pulling the shoulders permanently tight. The bracing gave absolute rigidity to the whole and when they came to lift them, being green wood, it really took two to hoist them into the back of the trucks and trailers.
Saying goodbye always has mixed feelings somewhere between satisfaction and separation. Everyone shook hands and hugged and went on their way with their trestles in tow. The workshop was made all the more powerful without machines subbing for developed skill and so too the sense of accomplishment is always heightened because of the physical demands it takes to work wood by hand. So, I think we will all look forward to meeting again somewhere in the future.
As the real woodworking campaign continues gaining success from one phase to the next, I find more and more people becoming creative in realms they never thought possible. My two days passed in a heartbeat. Much faster than I thought they would and before I knew it I was sitting on a bench by the pond getting my journal up to date. I think we gained so much and of course the thing that makes the workshop so interactive is of course around the bench Q and A time. You could say that this is somewhat predictable but, really, it’s not at all. Every question may have the same inquiry, but then it’s often asked differently by different people. This makes the time really proactive and one day I may get to recording the questions.
Pretty usual early on is the time spent on sharpening. I just read a book on sharpening that someone put our recently. I thought it was funny because the intro said in two sentences that the task was remarkably simple and then made the whole procedure more complicated by presenting analytical facts and scientific data that totally changed what is essentially simple and straightforward. How many books we need on sharpening I don’t know. perhaps I should write one too. Six pages should do it. There was no new revelation in the book and I couldn’t really recommend it. There is nothing new under the sun I suppose. We spent time demystifying the misinformation on planes and planing, joints and making joints and of course this is all preparatory for further workshops whether they be at the bench live with me or through our Online Broadcast with Woodworkingmasterclasses.com.
Judging by parting comments we did hit the mark. The goal of course being to inspire and make free. I think the mysteries were debunked for sure. The joints came out well and some needed a little more practice, but they are now ready for the next phase in their training. This two day workshop really works well so I was glad to see its success so well received. I closed with the last picture as I walked to my apartment for rest.
I was glad to see these USA domestic made clamps offered in the Veritas catalog so I ordered a couple to see if they were the same quality as the ones I knew from many years back. They are! As with any tool or piece of equipment, with quality you can almost always see it before you touch it. As many of you know, I really like the lighter weight aluminium brings to clamps and if joints are well fitted, rarely do you need anything heavier in joinery in general. Between the US school and the UK we have about 150 such clamps in varying lengths, but the ones we use are much thinner aluminium; actually about 1/16″ thick instead of the 1/8″ of these new ones. We stuff the imported clamps with a stiffener of wood and this radically improves the rigidity, but a real flaw with the US Harbor Freight imports (less so on the UK models) is that the heads do occasionally break. Frustratingly, they always of course snap mid-glue up.
The Universal Clamp Corporation models I have used would not break or even flex hardly, even with unnatural pressure applied to them. The do cost about double, but the convenience of longevity and good local and domestic economy is important. I also like to look back on my equipment and value it, whatever it is, for its many, many years of service.These clamps are that sort of equipment. I think you must buy what you can afford. I would like to gradually shift to replace the clamps for the higher quality even though the clamps imported are guaranteed for life. For the furniture maker and joiner, these clamps make much sense. Two things struck me about the Universal clamps as you will see from the images. The import knockoffs have a much smaller locking mechanism that translates into damage in the registration dents if you apply too much pressure. Of course if you know this the you will not be too excessive and they work fine. The second point is the distance between the indents. The thicker alluminium allows for closer registration points for the lock to register.
One thing that we furniture makers would make much sense of would be a snap on extension. The old Record cramps were available with extensions and simple pine passed through that locked another 2 or 3 feet on there for longer reaches. We relied on these for large frame joinery like window frames and doors and such.
Easing through the day in readiness for tomorrow a few great things happened. Yesterday a company called Legacy Logistics in Philadelphia received my call to see of they could get my hand tools from their storage to the woodworking school so I could use them tomorrow for a class. They said immediately that they could do it. At 9.45 am this morning they said that they were almost there and wanted to make sure we were able to receive the pallet. These were the tools that I traveled with over the three months of the Woodworking Shows. It felt really good to know that FedEx was also in the driver’s seat as they pulled up to the front porch.
I managed a few moments in Nick’s workshop through the day and it was then that I noticed an old timberframed building that will make a new structure at the Maplewood Center. The old hand hewn beams were lay right next to new sections that Nick had prepped for a garage building to be built nearby. I thought it was neat to see the old against the new and see the same joints being used.
In the workshop I really liked the fact that there is a domestic US engineer tool maker making hand made woodworking tools for woodworkers and that they make inshaves and draw knives and some of the finest timber framing chisels I have seen. We should support these guys at Barr Specialty Tools in their endeavor so here is a link I think is worth holding onto.
These guys are really wrestling through their mortises with Barr’s chisels. They sharpen really well to a keen edge and have great edge retention so they are tough to boot. The class was really going well throughout the day and I was glad to see their progress. Soon they will be undertaking projects of their own and I know one granddad there that plans on building a timberframed play house for his grandkids.
The post Getting Ready for Tomorrow’s Two -day Discovering Woodworking Class appeared first on Paul Sellers.
Timber Framing Workshops for Everyone
The significance of timber framed structures throughout Europe and the USA cannot be denied when it comes to man’s quest for surviving seasons of harshness with store-housing crops and overwintering livestock and much more. Throughout the USA, hundreds of thousands of these structures survive as examples of workmanship and a way of life we may never see at such significant levels again, yet here at the Maplewood Center for Common Crafts the traditions of timber framing continues. As old structures deteriorate, are dismantled for tax reduction and so on, workshops at a New York venue counter cultural shifts in a strategy that ensures the skills it took to build them don’t die out.
This week the Maplewood Center held a three-day timber framing course I felt privileged to watch and photograph and I could sense first hand the preservation and conservation of what I can only describe as the art and craft of timber framing. The students followed traditional patterns of timber framing as they watched professional timber framer Nick Richards take them step by step to build a working timber framed trestle from 6×6 framing timbers. The joints are of course draw-bore mortise and tenon joints full width and 2” thick. Using the same traditional tools and methods goes beyond just making good joints. Nick explains the reasoning behind the joints, recalls their historical value to worklife of past eras, the importance of using well-defined methods of construction, their relationship to full-sized buildings and how these students can indeed take the skills and apply them to their future work in structures they build.
Seeing the camaraderie is important to me. Woodworking on this scale is somewhat different to my own sphere of furniture making yet many principles and skills are readily transferable and certainly cross from one sphere of working wood to another. Drawer bore methods, layout procedures, and joint making procedures are but methods for making. Beyond that we have chisel and saw sharpening, patterns of workmanship, tool techniques and much more. Nick discusses sourcing woods and which woods work best for framing structures. The Q & A time is of course incredibly valuable for equipping students with the right knowledge and information when they return to their home region. The interaction between students and teachers develops a dynamic of its own as they progress to new levels of confidence using hands-on methods and tools some may never have used before. I felt visceral levels excitement that sparked new levels enthusiasm throughout the timber-framed workshop we were receiving instruction in too. Nick was the framer who built the timber framed buildings used as workshops here at the Maplewood Center and this includes the massive woodworking workshop that hosts the New Legacy School of Woodworking next door.
All in all there is a lot going on at the Maplewood Center. Nick will be holding another three-day Introduction to Timber Framing September 20-22, 2013. I suggest that you sign up early as class size is generally limited to six students per workshop.
Watch out for an upcoming blog about the Maplewood Center. They have other courses scheduled to help you be creative in traditional crafts.
I sat in Marty Macica’s small shop and considered the unpretentiousness of a man who is my friend. I asked to see his guitar and he pulled the case from the corner of the shop and we opened the clasps jointly. Last month I saw a work he had just completed and I was impressed by the humility of his work. Unpretentiousness is, as I have witnessed throughout my life as a working craftsman, the quality of a man at rest in his sphere of expertise. He no longer needs to prove anything about himself that somehow validates him; his work far surpasses any criticism others might offer. Whilst others go about life seeking the approval of others, the craftsman rests in realms of reality that many people never know. A man, a creative man, a working man, considers the work his hands make, comes to a place in what he makes, no matter what he makes, knowing that the quality of his work is good. He seeks no validation by sales or amounts or prestigious clients. When I am with Marty, I feel that rare sense I can only describe as ‘belonging’. It’s a man at ease in his craft as an artisan maker. He found a calling, responded, entered into it and eventually knew his calling by answering every dimension of it with his whole being. His tools, his creative workspace, his sphere of creativity, accepts the limits of self-discipline others might slough off or give up on. Marty has mastered his craft as a violin maker. His workmanship is superb.
Teaching his craft
Marty was excited in that he is about to enter new realms of teaching his craft of making beautiful instruments like this to others. You cannot keep art and creativity at this level hidden in silence and I feel grateful that Marty is about to enter those realms all craftsmen should eventually enter in order to preserve their craft. This coming September 14, 2013 at the Maplewood Center, Marty Macica will be sharing from his 30 years experience as practicing maker the essential elements of what it takes to build a hand made guitar. Places will be limited to 25 attendees, but he will be offering this in future workshops as his schedule permits. This intro-workshop is thankfully a prelude to subsequent workshops he will be offering on building instruments, so if you have ever wanted to build your own guitar, this is the place to get started.
I must say I do feel a gratitude that this master is about to launch courses for others to glean from and perhaps begin building their own guitar under his mastery and tutelage.
This is indeed a course for any guitar enthusiast whether they plan to build a guitar or simply want to better understand their personal instrument. I think every guitarist can understand so much more from knowing just what it takes to build fine instruments and I know for myself that I always learn so much from just being with Marty and watching him execute complex tasks by hand.
I also confess another perspective I like. There is not a single machine in his shop. No thickness planers, jointers, table saws, bandsaws, belt sanders and so on. This guitar is utterly hand built using only hand methods several of which Marty has developed through three decades of building everything from violins and cellos to violas and mandolins; instruments for which Marty is particularly famous.
This week I sat with Marty as I always do when I am here. We talked and shared some unique time together and I always wish I had thought record our different exchanges for others to hear. We may make a recording for woodworkingmasterclasses,com down the road so you can see what I mean.
Sitting in the quietness of the shop, as Marty and I discussed technique and tools and wood, I watched one of Marty’s sons whittling a character figure from some Balsa. I noticed his dexterity with his knife and saw just how much he was learning about grain. There is no other method for this in-depth understanding of wood and that’s why I encourage us all to engage young people this way. How old is he. He’s just ten I think. I remember my own sons doing the same at about the same age and I thought of how real this all is. My boys are all grown men know, but they can all work with wood, make furniture, make instruments and build whatever they choose too. My new book will be on teaching young people to work with wood. It’s a curriculum for parents, children and young people. Perhaps we can see ways for getting our craft back on track. I know that with Marty being willing to share, it makes it all the more easy for us. Please visit Marty’s website and blog and tell me you don’t feel the hand of the craftsman in it here.
The post Interviewing Marty Macica – A Master of Stringed Instrument Making appeared first on Paul Sellers.
When I visited Highland Hardware last month I picked up several things I wanted to test out and one of them was a bottle of the Titebond Liquid Hide Wood Glue from Titebond. Straight off the bat I must say I was a little surprised that I liked its liquid-gold resinous look. I also liked the consistency of the liquid, exactly the right viscosity for application and it of course worked well with the spreader-spout as I could give a thick or thin spread depending on the pressure and angle of presentation. This makes application easy end efficient.
I grew up on and off with hide glue. My dad boiled it on the cookstove and glued anything and everything made from wooden components together. Violin makers still use hide glue in making traditional instruments like violins and cellos and also for repairing them. Why is that? Simple really; these instruments must be repairable. Were it not for animal hide glue there would most likely be no Strad’s, Guanari’s, Amati’s and dozens of others from the past near half a millennia. Instruments like this rely purely on glue to hold all of the components together. There is only one joint that connects the neck to the main body on these traditional bowed instruments. Remarkably, joinery is an unnecessary and unwanted element and might render an instrument irreparable were it not for the unique quality hide glue offers the repairer-maker. Unlike most all other glues, hide glue is readily split along its glue-line if and when necessary. This characteristic then allows maker-repairer to separate the components by shock-splitting along any glue lines, often using no more than a thin knife tapped with a hammer to split one part from another. Titebond glue allows this perfectly. Though to any average woodworker it may seem strange to see such a thing as a positive feature, all of the violin family of instruments need to be dismantled from time to time to repair any part that gets damaged. These repairs often take place from the inner part of the instrument toward the outside simply because most points of damage comes from the outside faces into the inner chamber, forcing the wood into the chamber. Other repairs use what we call patches. Bits of wood fitted and shaped over a puncture or damaged area and pared down or carved inside to reduce parts that might adversely affect the movement or passage of air in the cavity. Beyond even that, instruments may well need different types of modifying and even ‘voice’ changing by reshaping. This is mainly possible on the inside surfaces only, as the outside surfaces are fully and acceptably shaped, body-filled and finished to completion with polished out ancient pigment and varnish. Some of the advantages I speak of can indeed be applied to furniture and antique repair too. Boxes have glued bottoms and lids that can repaired using the same methods. Chair legs and frames can be dismantled this way too.
Two Tests of Methods
My tests took two traditional methods; one, I glued and clamped two parts in a vise, two, I rub-jointed two components and left them without pressure and no clamping whatsoever. Rub-jointing is simply planing two meeting edges straight and near square and then applying glue. One of these two parts is rubbed from left to right, back and forth, against the other several times to expel air and remove any excess glue from between the two surfaces.
After 24 hours I could not break the joint by upper body pressure and indeed I could pull the workbench around the shop with just that thin band of glue a thousandth of an inch thick. On the other hand, I quickly and easily separated the two parts with a sharp whack on a carefully placed chisel on the joint line. The break was crisply clean with no trace of fractured wood on either of the parts. The second test on the small, clamped-in-the-vise pieces couldn’t be parted using hand pressure and that was obvious, but they did split-part beautifully in similar fashion using a 1” chisel and a swift whack with the chisel hammer. The parting was clean, clean,clean and had equal glue to both surfaces, which showed that it was the glue itself that split under shock-splitting pressure.
Good for Wood?
Does all of this mean that liquid hide glue cannot be used as a general purpose wood adhesive? Of course not. As with any adhesive, Titebond liquid hide glue must stand the test of time and that may take a few more years Hide glue has been around for millennia. Most furniture over a hundred years old will most likely be held together with hide glue and that statistic means hundreds of millions of pieces. The glue is something of a gap filler and even imperfect surfaces can be glued with a strong line. The makers recommend clamping and that’s fine, but my tests showed that there was no discernible difference between clamped boards and simple rub-jointed joints. They both separated with the same pressure.
Old Glue for Old Work – and For New
For furniture restoration, this glue gives us a ready-to-go glue that I find highly suited for all types of furniture repair and I would not hesitate to use it on any old pieces. The glue cures over several hours and as it was in times past when we used hide glue only, the glued assembly is best left overnight – twelve hours minimum. Cure is important to achieve maximum strength. I found that the glue was still fairly rubbery after three hours, typical of the old boiled hide glue too, which means that the glue did grab, but could still slide for a while if left unchecked. Open time seemed to me to be about 1/2 an hour, plenty long enough for all assembly procedures and certainly an advantage in complex glue ups. My next tests will be with veneers using both the veneer hammer and veneering using bag press methods.
Hard and Brittle When Cured and Set
I like the hard set of animal hide glue and always have. This liquid hide glue has the same hard set and that means that it can be readily scraped, filed and sanded and these methods leave only minimal trace on the wood itself.
Nice Just Looking At It
I remember the first time I saw animal hide glue drip and run from a joint my dad made. Hot from the pan, it first ran in like candle drips, curtaining and then culminating slowly into deep amber globs. The image is impressed on my mind. Apart from the above, I felt that this glue pleased me with a sense of peacefulness in the same way clear honey has that immeasurable quality that defies description. It’s the nearest substance I have ever found to seeping pockets of resin from sun-warmed European Redwood pines in summer heat. Try some.
Tomorrow I arrive back in New York and I am looking forward to the two upcoming workshops. With two full classes again (same in the UK), this promises to be a time of growth and change for about 40 woodworkers from across the USA and Canada. In my line of work as a teaching maker, I find more people than ever in a constant quest for learning and self-improvement in the use of hand tool methods and techniques and that really excites me. I also see more people than ever who are prepared to start at the very beginning to make certain that they have the right foundation on which to build their future. I think that traditions really count. It’s taken some time to transform the way adverse influences dictated change. For instance, did you you know that every woodworking joint, and I am talking about true joints here, has been around for centuries and that whatever we might consider new is often nothing more than an adaptation from something old and traditional. The same is true of woodworking tools such as planes and saws, scrapers, spokeshaves and so on. Most tools are centuries old too.
Over the next three weeks, during these hands-on, at-the-bench workshops, we will discuss a wide range of issues surrounding change and at the end of these two courses, people will be able to decide exactly what methods they want to use based on their increased knowledge and experience.
A Two-day Module for Every Woodworker
This coming weekend is a weekend of discovery. It’s a special time when we dismantle many myths and mysteries surrounding woodworking that for over half a century have created great confusion. Learning to sharpen tools using methods and techniques passed down for generations has preserved the elementary skills that work effectively. We combine the best of the past with more modern technological developments as a strategy that preserves and protects sustainability without compromise.
The Three Joints and Ten Hand Tools
25 years ago I developed a woodworking strategy based one simple theory. I saw then that with three joints and ten hand tools you could make just about anything from wood. This coming Saturday 20 students will join over 4,000 men and women who have learned exactly that.. They will make the three joints with some other variations and discover for the first time exactly what lies behind the real power of hand tools. At the end f the weekend they will know not only how to use their tools but, more importantly, how to sharpen and adjust them for optimum performance.
Next Week’s 9-day Foundational Course
The following Saturday we begin our 9-day Foundational Course that further unlocks the confusion and not only transforms the way people work with wood but unites them with traditional methods that work as well today as they did for craftsmen throughout the centuries. Three modules demolish many false assumptions that hand tools don’t work that well when in reality they often do the job better, faster and more efficiently. As we build boxes, bookshelves and tables, students discover new levels of confidence and feel more in control of their work. This is a fast-paced course that really works for everyone who wants to develop true skills in the art and craft of hand tool woodworking. I just finished the same course here in the UK and this is what people said about the class:
For me it was the first nine days of a lifelong course. These days exceeded my expectations. The whole time I felt nothing but grateful for just being able to be there. And I learned an enormous amount – not just about the various joints, but also aboutct concentration, discipline, and perfectionism as the clock is ticking. There is truly no substitute for hands-on directed learning, at least not for me. Just wish it could have been 30 days instead! We’ll see…
I start the coffee table tomorrow. I am not worried for a moment that it will come out any less than perfect.
At the end of his nine day foundation course, Paul Sellers wrote that his students had learned more about using hand tools in nine days than they would otherwise have learnt in months or years. After experiencing this first hand, I think he’s absolutely right. He not only teaches you how to make three essential wood joints, but also inspires you to work with concentration, care and confidence. There’s no pussy footing about here: he demonstrates a joint, or a step in making a joint, and sets you to work. At the end of the course each student makes their own box, bookcase and table – about three days per project. Each project showcases one of the joint types so that by the time the project is complete you’ve got a lot of practice in getting it right. Accompanying this is Paul’s wit, sense of humour and general good nature, which makes you actually want to work hard. Paul also demonstrates how you don’t need many tools (or need to pay a fortune for them) without any fancy jigs. I do my woodworking some evenings during the week, and in the weekend, so nine full days of woodworking was a new but fantastic and intense experience. Although I was mentally and physically tired after each day, it was a ‘good’ tired feeling.
I had watched some of Paul’s video’s online, so it was a bit surreal walking into the school the first time. His video’s are actually filmed at his workbench right in the school. He teaches just like he does on his video’s, but with some essential differences: he’s right there to answer any questions, provide additional tips, critique your work and he drives you to work hard and with confidence. A nice touch is that Paul updates his blog regularly during the course and it’s great to see the pictures and read Paul’s reflection of how things are going on a daily basis.
The setting for the course (Penryhn Castle) is great. I would advise using a car to get to and from the course, although there is some public transport and fellow students helped out those without a car. The nearest airport is Liverpool, which is about an hour and a half away. There are plenty of places to stay in the area (B&B’s, hotels, caravan parks, cottages etc).
Paul started the course by saying “this course will change your life” and he was right. I have left the course with a new set of skills, a different approach to woodworking, and the inspiration to carry on and learn more.
I have been excited to present the various woodworking series with woodworkingmasterclasses.com over the past year. Already the range of projects has become fundamental to the various training sessions members and subscribers undertaking. The resulting projects we have made in just six or so months is phenomenal and the YouTube freebies have been expansive too. Judging by the overwhelming response to my personal and increased emails I get, I feel that this past year was a major breakthrough in our efforts to train the new-genre woodworker.
More filming this week
This week the filming concluded the latest Coffee Table series and I am sure that the technical creativity it takes by film editors means many days of edit to get them ready for the remaining weekly presentations they offer. Meanwhile I got to situate the table in the living room in White Cottage, Llandygai where my wife happily greeted the new arrival.
When we started the training we made a tool carrier from pine. This covered wood preparation, tool choices, accurate layout and many practical techniques most woodworkers had never seen before. We used size through housing dado joints to make the carrier and it proved a very practical course. Beyond that, as part of our free film offering for subscribers to woodworking masterclasses, we came up with projects and techniques that prepare the way for the projects we would build.
The clock-making series
Reinforcing the first of the three joints, ten hand tool message we’ve taught for over two decades, we created the hanging wall clock and introduced the stopped housing dado joint, which everyone enjoyed greatly. I went on to create some other examples to inspire members with and also encourage people on my blog with too.
New enthusiasm is in one sense the emotion that ensures success to new woodworkers facing a seemingly awkward task. The different projects created a success we knew could work but could only be proven by the result in those who actually completed the first box-making course. This has prepared us for the larger dovetailed project which is making the upcoming tool chest.
Innovation still evolves
Woodworking masterclasses started producing in-depth video instruction to update everyone on just what it takes the get the edge you need. Our micro-bevel saw sharpening proved innovative for western sharpening and highly effective in strengthening the tooth and providing a keener, longer-lasting edge to the teeth of western-style rip-cut saws. It did create great interest and so what I have learned through many years of working is now being used on each of the five continents.
Drawings prepare the script for films
All of the projects I made as are advancing strategy for teaching and training began with a drawing of some kind. Line drawings, sketches, orthographic projections. These drawings became our script as it were. We planned and made exactly what we presented to camera a few weeks ago. It is made completely using the hand tool methods we have shown throughout our filming.
As this course continued expanding, so too the woodworkingmasterclasses forum has become increasingly more valuable to its members and the interactive exchanges have resulted in a wealth of informative contribution beyond the expectations of everyone.
We just spent two more days filming, which for me is making too. Carrying the coffee table home yesterday was one of those rare satisfaction moments when you just made something completely by using your own hands and set the finished article in its place. I say rare because we actually live in a culture where 90% of people no longer actually make something in the way I am talking about. Oh we read about making something, even write about it. We blog and discuss issues on forums, spend hours discussing an issue that’s really quite simple and thinking about it; even plan on doing it someday, but that illusive moment when we actually decide to go do it can be what I am talking about. Last week I taught a nine day continuous class to a group of enthusiastic woodworkers. I also made a couple of knives and a mallet, a frame saw and restored a couple of planes and saws. I skipped mowing the grass but finished filming making an oak coffee table for the latest woodworkingmasterclasses.com series we’ve been doing. Often, when you are filming, you end up making two or three parts because you want to show several techniques as alternative methods. That extends the work time many fold and can make the day and the workout quite long. I suppose for me, and I have blogged on this recently, sanity in a somewhat insane world is making something you love making. Getting off the fast track, the conveyor belt, the not so free freeway for even just one hour can transform and renew your mind in ways a keyboard in a virtual world and a flat screen never can. Got wood? Buy a gouge, carve a spoon and change a life. It works!
Recently I posted a blog on making one of these using a tablesaw to cut the recess walls and removing the waste using a chisel and hand router. It was fast and efficient and the holder works just fine. The appearance is less pleasing however. Here are the steps to making one with clean and definitive walls using hand methods I think that you should enjoy. My wood is mere pine, which works just fine and lasts well. I have a couple of these that are now 15 years old. The only thing I did that is important is I let the wood sit in my shop to acclimate. That way, any curl became obvious and I could flatten if needed before I cut the recesses. The method will also work just the same with plywood of you prefer.
I started by laying out the recess positions in the board having cut my board to 11 1/2” long (length of grain) and 9 1/2” wide. The wood was 7/8” thick, but thicker or thinner works fine, but not less than 1/2” I suggest.
Measure a 3/4” border around the board and then lay the plates against the line to establish the position width of each recess. Equidistant the centre plate in the mid section and get the width. This should be 1/2” from the two on ether side, but plates vary a little in size so best to use the actual plate rather than a measurement.
I make in incised cut with a wide chisel into the knife walls on the waste side of the recess.
I know use my chisel bevel down to chop-cut across the board as shown. This splits the surface fibres and allows me to readily remove the waste.
With the bevel down, I chisel out the waste, estimating my depth at about 3/32”. I want my final depth to be about 1/8”.
I use my hand router to remove the remaining waste wood using my wooden hand router. You can use an all metal router too, but the wood spans all of the recess walls and doesn’t mare the the narrow dividing surfaces.
First I ran two parallel lines along the long edge at 3/4” in from the edge to the first line and then 3/4” to the second edge.
I ran a tenon saw along the first edge to a depth of 1/8”.
I cut just inside this wall with the tenon saw to establish the second wall to the same depth of 1/8”.
I fitted my recess stop to the groove with the hand plane.
…and clamped it in the vise until dry.