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The Renaissance Woodworker
Wood, What is it Good For?
At last I’m finally getting around to releasing the second class I recorded at Woodworking in America in 2016. This was a 2 hour class that I really enjoyed teaching. I had a great group (full house actually) who really participated and asked great questions. It turns out woodworkers want to know more about wood. Who knew?!
This class isn’t about identifying unknown wood species, it is about using your existing species knowledge to identify the working properties of other woods. It allows you to branch out (hah, branch!) and use different woods while not walking into the purchase and ensuing project totally blind on how that wood will work. It all comes down to understanding the technical specifications that can be found on just about any species over the Internet. But really focusing on 3 specifications can get you really close to understanding a wood you have never worked.
I hope you enjoy, Wood, (good God) What is it Good For? I had a blast teaching it.
Let Me Tell You a Story about a Sharpening Journey
I sincerely appreciate everybody who hung out with me live and asked questions. Sharpening is always a topic you can expect people to have confusion. And my tour and subsequent redesign of my sharpening bench is the perfect example of how we as woodworkers can overcomplicate what is actually a very simple topic. We live in a wonderful world now with many fancy gizmos and sharpening aids and when you are unsure they all look like game changers. I hesitate to say I fell into these traps as each method I used only added to my understanding of sharpening and what works for me and what doesn’t. I stress what works “for me” because I feel that it is a personal thing and often times the journey is what is needed to figure out what you need and don’t need. These days my sharpening regimen is very minimal and I look at it not as a task to be performed but merely a breath in the woodworking action. Sharpening is less event and process and often I don’t even realize I’m doing it. That sounds very zen but think about the last time you got into a groove on something and how you don’t realize how much time has passed nor can you clearly remember each individual task that you performed during that time.
Anyway, I’m waxing poetic now. I’m always open to more sharpening questions and stay tuned for the build of my new sharpening bench. If for no other reason than to see me use a track saw and maybe some pocket screws!!
The Questions You Asked
- 1:40 Sharpening Bench Talk
- 28:05 Sharpening Narrow Chisels
- 32:17 Hand Cranked Grinder and the Wheel
- 33:50 What’s a Good Brand of Rasps & Files
- 37:14 Would you have been able to understand what sharp is without jigs?
- 40:30 Why Do my blades go cloudy when changing stones?
- 43:56 Sharpening a Router Plane blade
- 46:34 Sharpening a Spokeshave blade
- 49:43 Scary Sharp?
- 52:20 Thoughts on Squares?
- 54:18 Hand Tool School Orientation
- 54:40 How do I sharpen drill bits?
- 59:42 Experience with Irwin Auger Bits?
- 1:01:42 How do I set rake and fleam when saw sharpening?
Hand Tool School Orientation is the Perfect Starting Point
The started The Hand Tool School more than 7 years ago. In that time I’ve learned a lot about how woodworkers learn. I’ve learned a lot about the concerns and questions they ask when first getting started with hand tools. And I’ve learned a lot about which tools are good to start with and which only confuse and hold back the skill development.
So about a year ago when I looked at my Semester 1 curriculum I realized I need to go back and create a prequel semester that hit on some fundamentals and did everything to get the woodworker over the analysis paralysis and building stuff. Stuff they really want and need for your new shop.
Like…a WORKBENCH!!! My god woodworkers just can’t get enough about workbenches so I gave in and built another one. But then I went on to build several more projects for the bench and for the new tool collection. I then developed a series of 101 style lessons to supplement all of this and what I came up with is the perfect entry point to hand tool woodworking. An orientation of sorts to a lifelong journey of plane shavings and chisel scars.
Welcome Hand Tool School Orientation.Check Out Hand Tool School Orientation
Restoring a Vintage Hand Saw Starts with a Straight Saw
While I was filming some lessons for my soon to be released Orientation semester at The Hand Tool School, I took a break to work with Niles Krech of Kennebec Saws to film a saw sharpening video. Niles has been sharpening saws for a while and learned under Matt Cianci. For the past year he has been restoring hand saws almost exclusively for Hand Tool School members and he has become THE expert on the subject in our community. It seemed only appropriate that while I had him in the shop to take a few minutes to ask him some questions about saw sharpening and restoring some of these great old saws back to life.
The Guide to Dog Hole Placement
Where do I put my dog holes? “That depends” is usually the answer I give and that probably frustrates more than it helps. So seeing as I just built a new workbench myself and had to ask myself this question I thought it was time to come up with something more definitive. So I present my foolproof, secret to success Dog Hole Placement Guide!
Want to know the sound of one hand clapping? Announce that in a room of strangers
Download the Dog Hole PDFClick the image to download the PDF diagram to help you place your first dog holes. Remember that you want to have your holdfasts in hand first so you can measure their reach. Also be sure to measure the post of your holdfasts to determine the hole size and if you are unsure about the grip, test bore some holes to determine if any counterbore is necessary to facilitate holdfast grip. I’ve found very few instances of needed to counterbore the underside of a bench for holdfasts and I’ve tested a variety of holdfasts in benches from 2 to 6 inches thick.
Having a Beer and Talking Hand Tool Techniques
I had so much fun with the last open question live session that I decided to do it again. A bit shorter this time and I think I will definitely do this more often since there seems to be no end to the questions. Again I’m sorry if we ran out of time before I got to your question but I’ll be going live again in 2 weeks. I did have some sound trouble at the beginning thanks to my own hubris and not checking my settings. Sorry about that and you can use the time stamp below to skip past it.
The Questions You Asked
- 9:58 Skip to the good quality sound
- 10:55 What screwdrivers do I use?
- 13:04 How to cut fretwork?
- 20:13 What screws do I use?
- 24:18 Favorite and worst woods to work?
- 28:48 and 42:43 Where to get center bits?
- 29:37 How to cut a curved, gooseneck style moulding and scratch stocks?
- 32:56 Clamps & Clamping
- 38:07 What Song plays at the beginning of this video?
- 39:32 What is in my apron pockets?
- 44:05 Have you ever become disillusioned with hand tools?
- 46:35 Hollows & Rounds and their irons?
- 48:43 Do I use hollows & rounds to make custom mouldings?
Enter the Lightning Round
OMG thanks so much for everybody who came out and asked questions. That was a lot of fun and as expected there wasn’t nearly enough time to get to all the questions. We talked about a lot of hand tool stuff from sharpening to tongue & groove joinery to smoothing planes and panel saws. I think I probably should do more of these open format sessions because there seem to be many more questions out there.
The Questions You Asked
- 3:40 A Lumberyard Story
- 7:08 Square Dovetail Cuts
- 12:47 Best Bits for Braces
- 18:30 Using a Combination Plane for T&G joinery
- 26:44 Where to get Auger Bits & how to sharpen them
- 33:11 Sharpening narrow chisels without skewing them
- 44:44 How to cut a T&G joint without a plow plane
- 49:00 What is the best smoothing plane
- 51:58 What is a good mallet to use
- 58:06 Where do you get leather for vises
- 1:00:00 Whats a good way to get my tools tested and sold
- 1:02:00 How flat does the sole of your plane need to be
- 1:04:15 How to sharpen a timber slick
- 1:06:30 Uses for a Stanley #80
- 1:09:28 How to know when a saw needs to be sharpened
- 1:10:30 Panel vs Hand saws
- 1:15:16 How to correct a saw cutting a curved kerf
- 1:18:20 How tall is my joinery bench vs my workbench
A Few Tools I’ll Be Testing
This week I’m really just trying to get my wits about me after being out of town for a week. But I wanted to tease you with a few new tools that have come into my shop that I’ll be testing in the coming months.
Brian over at BearKatWood sent me a tiny dovetail saw that I have really enjoyed playing with on some recent overlay half blind dovetails. I’m looking forward to using it more in the future and will report back on how it stacks up.
Shawn at Wortheffort Woodworking sent me the prototype of his convenient sharpening appliance and I’m really excited about this, well, convenient sharpening set up. It uses 2 fine grits of sandpaper and a leather strop on a dead flat aluminum base. Very cool fit and finish and perfect for me this summer as I’ll be heading backto Maine in August and it will be great to take along such a simple and all inclusive honing tool.
Take a look at Shawn’s introductory video on this appliance
RWW Live is Next WeekBe there next Thursday night, 7/6, at 9 PM EDT where I’ll fire up the live stream and be answering questions. I haven’t done an entirely open format Q&A so who knows what will happen. Maybe we will end up talking about Charles Ives and what a truly visionary composer he was, or perhaps we can discuss the merits of click bait in your B2B marketing campaign, or maybe some woodworking stuff too!
Construction Lumber and Just a Few Tools
What is the best beginner workbench? Wow, that’s a loaded question! Its one I get all the time. Usually I tell beginning woodworkers to hold off on building a bench right away because they don’t know what they don’t know yet and a workbench isn’t actually needed to get started.
For example, I’ve built a few things in the garage of my in law’s place in Maine using a sawhorse and a rickety table. But the time has come to build a proper workbench in that space. This workbench is designed to be possibly the first bench that a new woodworker would build. Though it could also end up being the workbench you use for many years as it is rock solid and highly functional. It is built using just construction lumber, 7 boards to be exact, and just 4 tools.
The beginner’s workbench should be simple to build, yet highly customizable for the future. It should be a rock solid, blank chassis that doesn’t require a lot of lumber or tools to build.
Its a straightforward built that introduces the new woodworker to some key concepts while not sweating the details that could make this project drag on for months and months. While hardly a new design, I think the approach I took to it could enable the brand new woodworker with no tools and no bench to actually get started building and come out of this experience a better woodworker
Full Build Coming Soon...Semester .5 at The Hand Tool School will be a back to basics course designed to speak to the brand new woodworker who has no tools and has possibly never picked up a saw or plane.
It will consist of a few introductory lessons and then many applied lessons in the course of building 3 essential projects for their shop. Its in production now and scheduled to be released this Fall. Watch this space or subscribe to my email list to be the first to hear about it when it become available.
Shift Your Weight Forward and Saw Between the Bench
This week I’m answering a claim that I’m “using my sawbench wrong” by talking about how my sawing technique has evolved over the years in my own work but also through teaching other woodworkers through The Hand Tool School. But how I used to use my sawbench is very different today than it was even 3 years ago.
To let the saw do the work you have to first get out of its way. This means body mechanics are so important. Working at the right height is a first step and that’s why a saw bench is helpful. But you are only halfway there unless you setting up with the right body position for a true cut and maintaining that position throughout the entire cut.
The secret to sawing accurately with any saw is letting the saw to the work.
Here’s Some More Hand Sawing Stuff