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We’ve just uploaded Episode 4 of our podcast which is centered around sourcing lumber for furniture making. In reality, Mike and I both source our wood from all sorts of places. We harvest our own from the woods, use a lot of salvaged material, and also order from lumberyards. In our discussion, we go over the best way to store lumber for air drying (it’s simpler than you think).
You can listen to the whole episode above.
Links for this Episode:
Questions about this episode? We welcome your comments about how you source and store lumber...
A few quick things:
- First of all, Mike just completed a trailer for our new “Apprenticeship: Tables” video. This short trailer gives a quick walk-through of the chapters. You can check it out above.
- The press is almost done printing the “Tables” DVDs and so we expect to begin shipping them out very soon. Hang tight, folks. You should be seeing your DVD before the end of the month.
- We’ve received a number emails from folks asking about expedited Christmas delivery. While we don’t have shipping options listed on our website, if you really need expedited shipping service, please put in your order like normal and then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your order number immediately. We will check on the shipping difference and invoice for faster shipping right away. Our last shipment in time for Christmas delivery will be 24 hours from now: Wednesday morning. If you want to be absolutely sure to get your order before Christmas, do it now and email us for expedited shipping.
Thank you so much! Especially at this time of year our families are mindful of how blessed we are to have your support.
Podcast episode 3 is now up and can be listened to above. This time, Mike and I tackled one of the most common discussions we have with readers: how to get started on the hand-tool route. What change of mindset is needed to make the switch from power tools to hand tools? Should we be cutting practice joints? What are the biggest hurdles we encounter on this journey? We hope this episode is an encouragement to you to get into the shop to work with your hands. Have further questions? Leave us a comment and we’d love to help. Thanks for listening!
As I guarded our “Apprenticeship : Tables” video while it exported and uploaded (at rural Maine internet speeds, this can take many hours), I reflected on a phrase that Joshua and I have heard quite often as we represent M&T at various woodworking shows and events.
If you’re a hand-tool woodworker, you’ve probably heard it before. I’ll present the scenario: You might be giving a tour of your humble workshop to an acquaintance, or showing a little side table you made to some friends. You get a smile and some complimentary words. Further conversation uncovers the fact that you build using only hand tools. You sheepishly confess that you don’t even own a router.
The whole tone of the encounter changes, as if you’ve admitted to not having indoor plumbing or that you go without shoes during a New England winter. There may be a rueful shake of the head, a low whistle, and then (wait for it) here’s the phrase:
“That’s a labor of love, for sure.”
We, of course, know what they mean. They mean that we are quaintly idealistic, engaged in this outdated and labor-intensive pursuit – emphasis on “labor”. It is simply romanticism, a thing whose time has come and gone with the advent of the industrial age and, you know, AC power that comes right into your house. Hand-tool woodworkers work harder, not smarter, apparently.
The obvious answer to this statement is always a loaded one. It will either lead to a deep engagement about the whole mindset behind hand tool use, or will just awkwardly end the conversation.
“Well, it is.”
The last time I heard Joshua use this answer, it accomplished the latter. The man watched a couple more chops with the mortise chisel and sauntered off.
A couple of questions implicit in this statement might be drawn out by a more persistent individual. Questions that can engage our 21st-century culture with both a wide focus, and a narrow one.
(Wide) Is the whole point of technology to make life easier? And, are we better for it?
(Narrow) Why labor at something you don’t love?
The wide focus is more of a societal soul-searching. I’m not going to begin to tackle that one here.
The narrow one is better fodder for an individual’s rainy day thoughts. That’s where I’m going.
I’ve found myself digging into this one many times over the years. Rather than applying it to a current vocation or life decisions, I’m thinking strictly in terms of woodworking. Frankly, as we’ve said often, using a table saw or router table can be terrifying (and should be) . It wakes my kids up at night. It makes my basement workshop look like the surface of the moon.
Sawing by hand, as Jim eloquently expresses, is work. Rather than using nuclear or coal-plant powered machinery, though, I am cutting boards on pumpkin-pie power (‘tis the season). Those boards are surfaced with a 150-year-old plane that I bought for $9. There is a tactile connection to the work that using old tools (worn down by the hands of the past) and old methods brings. Technology may seek to offer a more precise surface, or make a process certain and predictable with a minimum of skill necessary. But at what cost?
Working wood with hand tools generates sweat. Sure, there’s labor involved. But we love it.
If you love this kind of work like we do, we think our new "Tables" video will be right up your alley. "Apprenticeship : Tables" is now available for digital streaming and the DVD will be shipping soon. This has been a long time coming, and we're delighted to finally have it out. Hope you enjoy it!
At long last, this “Tables” video is done and in our store. Mike has been laboring over this thing for a long time now perfecting each transition and tweaking each clip to get everything just right. I am blown away. It turned out better than I even envisioned. If you enjoyed watching our “Foundations” video, we think you will love this sequel.
This “Tables” video focuses on pre-industrial table construction. Rather than simply demonstrate each different operation of table making and its variations, we decide the best way to teach is in the context of a build. For this reason, I chose a table that has many of the construction variables one is likely to find in period work. The table is a pine “kitchen” table with tapered legs, a single drop leaf, H-stretchers, and a drawer. During the editing process, when we wrote down all the chapters and topics covered, Mike and I were surprised to see how much ground we were able to cover in this video. (No wonder it took us so long!)
Here are the time stamps for the video:
00:04:29 The Table Form
00:16:48 Stock Prep
00:52:04 Table Joinery
01:14:13 Tapering the Legs
01:46:47 Scratch Stocks
02:03:17 Turning Drawer Knobs
02:23:07 Final Assembly
02:26:53 The Drawer
02:37:32 Dovetailing the Drawer
02:55:07 Fitting the Drawer
03:05:07 Leaf Hinges
03:07:06 Rule Joint
03:08:01 Painting the Table
03:11:50 Burnt Shellac
03:19:23 Fastening the Top
03:21:12 Pocket Screws
03:23:29 Final Finishing Details
03:26:14 Leveling the Feet
You can purchase the new video here. The streaming version is available for immediate viewing (download option will be ready later this evening). The DVDs are in production now and we are expecting their delivery mid-December. We will ship them out as soon as we get them.
We are so proud to offer this video series and hope you find it an inspiration for your shop time.
Our new podcast episode is up and can be listened to above. In this episode, Mike and I discuss the relationship between tradition and innovation in our woodworking culture. This topic is near to our hearts and something we talk about often. Based on our interactions with readers about this over the past few years, this conversation touches on defining “tradition” and “innovation”, the advantages to one over the other, and how our individual and personal motivations for woodworking inform the way that balance plays out in our lives.
Theme Music by: Austin V. Papp and Jesse Thompson
Comments, Questions? Leave your thoughts below!
Sometimes it’s important to remember to not take yourself too seriously. It’s no surprise that we here at M&T are wildly passionate about hand-tool woodworking. We eat, sleep, and breathe this stuff and work hard to inspire others to “cut the cord” along with us.
It’s good to be able to laugh at yourselves sometimes too, though. Because of our reputation for being zealous for pre-industrial woodworking, we thought this spoof sticker would be a great way to have a little fun. As you may know, the classic “Kill Your Television” sticker epitomizes paranoid anti-technology fanaticism. The radicals that adopt this slogan swear that the downfall of modern society is catalyzed by mind-numbing tube worship. It seems, for them, that all modern ills can somehow be brought back to the television.
One could argue that the woodworking equivalent is the table saw. If ever there was a machine scapegoat for hand-tool enthusiasts to deride, the table saw would be it. They often point out the inherent danger of the tool and usually credit its existence for the degradation of skilled workmanship. This sticker was designed for these zealots.
In all truth, I do have a serious aversion to table saws and am happy I never have to use them. If you agree and would like to fly your hand-tool flag, let this sticker be it.
You can get yours here.
After ripping fifty feet of 6/4 Southern yellow pine by hand the other day I sat down to give my arm a rest and I snap a picture for social media. It wasn’t long before a friend commented on my post that there is, in fact, such a thing as electricity these days and I was welcome to use his table saw. Curiously, I had no urge to take him up on it.
I’m the first to admit that my shop is hand-tool centered, but not exclusive. I have a few machines for specific purposes - a powered lathe, drill press and bandsaw. The lathe and drill press I make no apologies for. I love them. I am sometimes tempted to equivocate about owning a bandsaw, but I find it very useful in processing green wood for bowl turning and the occasional resaw. Most everything else is hand work.
At Mortise & Tenon we are unabashedly about exploring the possibilities of hand tools and hand work. We try not to be pretentious. We know we don’t live in the 18th century and freely admit that we wouldn’t be able to publish as we do without modern technology, but at the same time we want to encourage people to discover the joy of pre-industrial woodworking and to understand that these tools and techniques aren’t necessarily as slow as we moderns make them out to be. If anything, pre-industrial woodworking is full of efficiencies we might readily overlook.
The fore plane is a great example of this sort of efficiency, but admittedly, the rip saw is not.
I’m generally not working to anyone’s timetable but my own, and I enjoy the exercise of ripping down boards when I’m not in a rush, but there are still times I look at a pile of lumber and sigh, knowing what’s ahead. Practice equals speed with many hand tool techniques, but this is one place where almost anyone will admit that hand tools earn their reputation as slower than their mechanical counterparts. Sawing is work, and no matter how ripped you are, ripping a pile of long boards, even with the sharpest of hand saws, is not as efficient as running lumber through a bandsaw or table saw. At least, not in the way that we generally think of efficiency.
Standardized tests train you to think in hours per person per units of work, and this kind of equation makes it feel like picking up a hand saw is the equivalent of wasting one of the above variables. This logic may make sense in professional cabinet shops today, and even in pre-industrial shops of centuries past, but if you’re not totaling person/work/hours to write out paychecks or feed your family, what’s an extra day on a project intended to last decades? And honestly, of all the things that slow most of us down (or keep us from finishing projects entirely), ripping stock by hand isn’t very high on the list.
In my workshop I’m rarely on anyone’s payroll, and I welcome the challenge of handling rough stock in this way. I enjoy the test of sawing to the line. I relish the meditative rhythm of the teeth through the wood. I like feeling physically tired at the end of the day, because after hours of other stressful pursuits, it feels good for the soul.
Ripping stock by hand may represent an “inefficiency” in some ways, but once I admitted that to myself and decided that I wasn’t at all bothered by the idea, it was a short path to finding joy in it. In any case, I’ll make up the time with the fore plane and that’s an equation I can live with.
- Jim McConnell, content editor
Mike and I have resisted for a while now (too many commitments already) but finally feel able to commit to periodic podcasting. You can listen to the first episode above and look for future installments here on the blog or at our SoundCloud page. Feel free to offer your feedback below. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
In this episode, we talk about the shipping out of our new Issue (#3) as well as the new book in our store: Zachary Dillinger’s With Saw, Plane & Chisel as well as two new stickers (one of which is soon to be revealed).
We then discuss the progress on our new timber frame workshop.
There is also an excerpt of our recent Ask M&T YouTube video “What is a Fore Plane?”
Because of a wind storm that knocked the power out this week (stalling progress on the Tables video edit), Mike and I have been working on sheathing the shop the past few days. We are just about finished with the first floor and we have one of the gable ends upstairs complete. This part of the project has been fun as we are able to work to carpentry tolerances rather than furniture tolerances.
This is no normal carpentry job, though. Choosing the right board for each spot has definitely made this a slower process because we’ve got all kinds of random lengths and widths (often tapering) to work with, not to mention the waney edges and ragged ends. We are also selecting the most attractive (and wide) boards for the more prominent areas in the shop. Needless to say, each board selection is the result of careful consideration of many factors before we do the custom shaping to fit the adjacent board.
We know we’ve still got a long way ahead of us until the shop is complete but each step is an exciting glimpse of it taking shape.
Mike and I just posted a new installment of our YouTube series: “Ask M&T”. In this video, we cover one of the most frequent questions we get online or at shows: What is a fore plane? Mike recounts his early struggles with hand tools using a little block plane to remove bulk material and eventually realized he was using the wrong tool for the job. What he needed was the coarse roughing tool called a fore plane. In this video, we explain why we believe this tool is absolutely essential for every hand-tool woodworker.
We then touch on the history of the terms “fore” plane, “jack” plane, and “scrub” plane and explain our preference for the wooden version. There is also some discussion about where to get them and what to look for.
The three key features of a fore plane are:
- 16” length (give or take a couple inches)
- Convex iron
- Wide open mouth
Enjoy the video and send us more questions for future installments!