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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...


In Search of the Perfect Wax Finish

Popular Woodworking Editors Blog - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 3:53pm

My four-decade-long desire to identify, understand, replicate and develop new analogs to historic furniture-making materials has led me on some interesting quests and situations. Included in these would be learning a lot about tropical insects whose “sweat” is the foundation for the most amazing finish ever (shellac); studies of sausage casings, artificial skin and corneas as I tried to (successfully) create a convincing alternative to tortoiseshell for my own Boulle-work […]

The post In Search of the Perfect Wax Finish appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Categories: General Woodworking

Factory Fiddle Scroll

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 2:28pm

Nothing special about this.  It's a typical ca. 1900 "factory fiddle", probably from Germany.  Labelled "Antonius Stradiuarius ... 1736".

I liked seeing the facets.  Hastily carved, by someone who had carved a few, and was just trying to make a living.  After that, the scroll itself has seen some use over the years.

Interesting character, I'd say.

Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

Customer projects

David Barron Furniture - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 2:21pm

First we have a very nice little box made for one of mini smoothers bought at the last Yandles show. Adam's wife and mother said it should be admired rather than used so this is a great compromise, returning it to it's little box after a work out!

The alignment board above was Lawrences first project with the guide. As I suggest in my video he left the legs over long in case things didn't go right at the first attempt, which they didn't. However his second attempt looks bang on, very impressive!
Categories: Hand Tools

More on Router Planes – Part II

Paul Sellers - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 1:36pm

Part II

DSC_0128The 071 or 71 router plane has several uses but the primary use of this specialised plane is to guarantee the depth of different types of recesses. It’s the essential tool of hand tool users and surface trims just about everything from inlay recesses to housing dadoes and levelling depths of sliding dovetails and the cheeks of tenons.

The tool comes with additional accoutrements as you can see above, enabling different functions for the plane’s use. DSC_0095The fence fits to the underside of the plane and is two-ended. One end of the fence piece gives a parallel squarely rectangular edge to the fence and the opposite side end a two-point contact fence that facilities turns on the edge of curved work. The fence is adjustable and locks into two square grooves running each side of the blade along the sole. DSC_0106Loosening and tightening the setscrew into the sole secures the fence for use. It’s best to use the fence when running the blade along a narrower recesses to keep the plane square and parallel to the wall of the work if necessary.DSC_0089

Because of a horseshoe shape in the sole that splits most of the forepart of the sole into two halves the plane sole is effectively useless on narrow sections of wood. On such narrow work, with no fore part before the blade, running grooves trips the plane forward because there is nothing to stop the plane from tilting in the direction of the cut when the cutting edge of the blade grabs the wood. Stanley developed an additional unit that locks a post stem into the body of the plane which then holds a shoe to align an auxiliary section level with the sole to fill in the gap between two halves of the sole.


This piece then rides the edge of the board along with the flat of the rear of the plane. DSC_0093In addition, the depth rod that holds the shoe can be used alone inside a groove to align the blade and prevent the cutter from digging into the walls whilst at the same time restraining the plane from digging any deeper than  fractional increments. This effectively works as an additional sole depth guide for grooved work and the rod itself has two diameters, one for wider grooves and one for narrow ones.DSC_0085

We often use both the fence and the depth rod and shoe in conduction with one another to ensure accuracy in the work. The depth rod used alone can follow the rim of inlay recesses to guide the narrow cutter or the smoothing cutter around shaped work too.

Adding a Wooden Sole

It’s quite common to add a wooden sole for general work because sometimes the metal sole on wood tends to mare the surface of the material being worked. DSC_0127Wood on wood works best and makes the sole smooth and free of fence grooves, screw holes and so on that tend to grab shavings that can further mar the surface of the work too. When working wide recess areas, wider than half the plane sole width, we use an auxiliary sole to extend the base so that the router plane can traverse the surface area and be used to trim the recess perfectly to depth. Making an additional sole piece also enables us to use the plane without the additional shoe on narrower work (Pic above). The plane operates more smoothly with the wooden sole.


To make the wooden sole choose section of wood  12mm (1/2”) thick and to a size that suits the task in hand. DSC_0112Bore two holes 1” in diameter  38mm (1 1/2”) on centre and remove the excess with a rasp or chisel.


Screw the base to the sole of the plane by passing screws through the sole into the base piece.

Sometimes, often, router planes bought secondhand have lost the parts you need to have the plane fully functioning. Adding the wooden sole means you can also screw fences or guides to the sole. This also works well.

The post More on Router Planes – Part II appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

On the Importance of the Studley Tool Chest

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 12:38pm


During the last five years, I’ve had more than my share of intimate contact with the famous H.O. Studley tool cabinet. And so wherever I travel I get asked this question: “What’s it like?”

So I lie.

“I hate it,” I say. And then I talk about how stressful it is to unload and load all the 245 tools from such a precious artifact without dropping them or harming the chest.

The truth is, my encounters with the chest have changed both me and my woodworking. (And I’m sure that Don Williams, the book’s author and team leader, and Narayan Nayar, the photographer, would concur.)


The chest mocks us. It is a piece of craftsmanship and design that is virtually faultless, no matter how close you get to it. It’s an experience you don’t get from looking at the poster of the chest or a picture on a screen. It is something that is best experienced in person.

If you start with your eye about 2” from the chest you can see that the interior surfaces are exquisite. The inlay is seamless. The grain has no defects.

As you step back, you can see how each grouping of tools is organized. They are stepped and scaled in an orderly fashion, some of them looking a bit like a military formation.


You step back again. And again. Until it is at the back of the room. At no point does it become imperfect.

We are finishing up our shooting and filming of the chest (and Studley’s workbench) this week for the forthcoming book “Virtuoso.” I promise the book will be incredible on every level we can manage. But what I also recommend that you – as a craftsman – make a pilgrimage to see the chest in person in May 2015 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Details at www.studleytoolchestexhibit.com/.

It will humble you, as it has me. And it will inspire you to be a better woodworker or toolmaker. The only reason not to go is if you are already a better woodworker than H.O. Studley.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized, Virtuoso: The Toolbox of Henry O. Studley
Categories: Hand Tools

If Bad-Luck Brian were a woodworker

The Slightly Confused Woodworker - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 12:04pm

By now, just about everybody with a computer and internet access has seen or heard of the “Bad Luck Brian” meme. Bad luck Brian is a hapless lad with a bad yearbook photo that can seem to catch a break. I have to think that poor Brian may have once or twice thought about giving woodworking a shot, so here is my take on that very idea. Some of them are obvious, some a bit more subtle.






Categories: General Woodworking

Drawer slips

Trial and Error - Woodworker - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 11:33am

I’m preparing the pieces that will be needed for the drawers in the lingerie chest I am making. The drawer sides are very thin and to cut a drawer bottom groove in it would make it very weak. Instead, I’ve opted to include drawer slips – a piece of wood glued to the side to effectively thicken the drawer side where the grove is located.

Record 043 plow plane groove Chamfer on drawer slides Sawing a drawer slip Drawer slip

I began with a board just longer than my drawer sides and wide enough to cut 12 drawer slips. For each slip I completed the following steps:

  • Plane the board flat.
  • Create the groove (I used a Record 043 plow plane with a 1/4″ blade).
  • Marked the thickness of the slip and the chamfer limits with a marking gauge.
  • Chamfer to one side of the groove – this will be the side seen in the drawer bottom in use.
  • Riped the slip from the board with a big rip saw.
  • Planed away the saw marks to leave a good surface to glue to the drawer sides.

Further reading: Popular Woodworking has two articles available that cover drawer slips by Chris Schwarz and Glen Huey.

Filed under: Drawers & dressers, Projects Tagged: drawer, Record 043 plane
Categories: Hand Tools

Work on the desk resumes

Oregon Woodworker - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 11:15am
It has been so long since I posted about this project that you may have forgotten it.  If you want to, you can refresh your memory by clicking on the Desk topic to the right.  After talking several times with my client/son, the design of the gallery changed somewhat.  At 12" high, the cabinets are shorter and have only one drawer with an open space above them.  My son felt that this would give him the most flexibility, although I am still thinking about providing for a removable shelf midway in one or both.

You will notice that the drawers are made with wide finger joints that are protruding.  I had originally wanted to make this desk in the Greene and Greene style, but my son rejected that as "too ornate."  I think he was reacting to all the ebony plugs, so I decided to sneak in some Greene and Greene influence with these drawers.  I have always admired how they look, especially after seeing them in person at the Gamble house in Pasadena.  

These fingers will be pillowed in the familiar style.  I think they will be in keeping with the style of the desk, the through tenons in particular.  Like the rest of the desk, these are made from rift sawn white oak, which I have really grown to like.  It is somewhat plain, but I think it will provide a nice contrast with the highly figured desktop and draw the eye to it.

I hesitated for a long time about what joinery to use.  In many respects, half-blind dovetails are the logical choice, because neither the top nor the bottom of these will be visible.  However, I finally decided that dados and rabbets would be more in keeping with the style of the desk.  I know some of you will be skeptical about the strength of these joints, but I will write a later post about why I believe they are stronger than commonly assumed.

Just to make sure, the joints are reinforced with 12 riven pegs in each cabinet.  There will also be a half-lap back on each cabinet which my design will cause to be very rigid.

I made these drawers based on the way Paul Sellers made those in his tool chest.  The sides stick out beyond the back so they cause the drawer to be supported when fully opened, a nice feature here so the drawer won't inadvertently fall out onto the desktop or drag across it.

This picture gives you the idea.

Another advantage of this design is that it provides a convenient place to install stop blocks so that the front of the drawers are precisely aligned with the front of the cabinet when fully closed.  Maybe this was obvious to you, but it was new to me and it works very well.

Categories: Hand Tools

“Handwork in Wood” – Wood Hand Tools, Part Nine: Pounding and Holding Tools

Heritage School of Woodworking Blog - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 9:45am

The following comes from William Noyes’s 1910 classic, Handwork in Wood. See the whole Handwork in Wood series (so far) here. More to come. Pounding Tools The hammer consists of two distinct parts, the head and the handle. The head is made of steel, so hard that it will not be indented by hitting against nails or the butt of nailsets, punches, […]

The post “Handwork in Wood” – Wood Hand Tools, Part Nine: Pounding and Holding Tools appeared first on Heritage School of Woodworking Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools


Northwest Woodworking - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 7:46am

Dream all you like. Think about what it would be like to be skilled in a craft. But skill is gained only by work. Mastery comes after years of study, the rewards through discipline & sacrifice. Sigh.

Quality work does not come through an afternoon’s study. It is the work of a lifetime. And why not? What great skilled worker learned their craft in a weekend? What musician became masterful in a few hours of study?

It is this very process of learning your skill, of practicing your craft that is the goal. Never reachable, always worth striving for. Quality is not perfection. It is real, it is actual, and changeable as we learn more, as we discover more about our tools and about ourselves. Begin.

1-USFS Bass carving GR

Categories: Hand Tools

Quick, Easy, and Great-looking Turned Christmas Ornaments – Part 3 -The Christmas Tree Light Bulb

Highland Woodworking - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 7:15am

In the most recent issue of The Highland Woodturner, I gave the step-by-step instruction of turning a wooden snowman ornament. In Part 2 you can find out how to turn a wooden bell ornament here on the Highland Woodworking blog. Finally, here in Part 3 I will turn a wooden Christmas tree light as seen below.


Making the light bulb ornament follows the same steps as the two earlier ornaments: mount the blank, use the template to lay out the parts, mark off those lines with a parting tool, and start shaping the bulb. See Figures 1 through 4 below.

Figure 1  -  Use the bulb template to mark the sections of the ornament

Figure 1 – Use the bulb template to mark the sections of the ornament

Figure 2  -  Use a parting tool to make shallow cuts at each marked line

Figure 2 – Use a parting tool to make shallow cuts at each marked line

Figure 3 - Use a spindle gouge to shape the bulb...

Figure 3 – Use a spindle gouge to shape the bulb…

Figure 4 -  Taper the bulb just like the tree lights from the 1960's

Figure 4 – Taper the bulb just like the tree lights from the 1960′s

I’ve found the skew is quite useful in the small curve at the top of the bulb (Figure 5). Once the bulb is shaped to your satisfaction, use a parting tool to waste away material on the socket area.

Figure 5 - Use a skew at the top of the bulb area (a gouge will also work, of course)

Figure 5 – Use a skew at the top of the bulb area (a gouge will also work, of course)

Figure 6 - Start cutting down the socket area of the ornament

Figure 6 – Start cutting down the socket area of the ornament

Figure 7 -  Take the socket down to around 3/8 inch diameter

Figure 7 – Take the socket down to around 3/8 inch diameter

If you have a fluted parting tool (Figure 8), it is excellent for cutting small beads that simulate the threads of the bulb’s screw connector. If you don’t have one, a skew can be used to cut sharp threads with a V-cut, or a small gouge can be used.


Figure 8 – A fluted parting tool


Figure 9 – Use the fluted parting tool to cut the socket

Figure 10 - After shaping the bulb and socket

Figure 10 – After shaping the bulb and socket

Apply finish and wax

Figure 11 – Apply finish and wax

Finally part off the ornament (Figure 12). I’ve drilled the hanger holes on the drill press for the bulb ornaments, as discussed above, so with a drop of glue, the hanger can be screwed in place. (Figure 13)

Figure 12  - Part off the light bulb ornament

Figure 12 – Part off the light bulb ornament

Figure 13 - Put a drop of CA glue on the hanger hole, then insert the hanger

Figure 13 – Put a drop of CA glue on the hanger hole, then insert the hanger

The Christmas tree light bulb ornament is finished!

Figure 14 - The completed bulb ornament

Figure 14 – The completed bulb ornament

CLICK HERE to return to the October 2014 issue of The Highland Woodturner.


The post Quick, Easy, and Great-looking Turned Christmas Ornaments – Part 3 -The Christmas Tree Light Bulb appeared first on Woodworking Blog.

Categories: General Woodworking

Quick, Easy, and Great-looking Turned Christmas Ornaments – Part 2 – The Bell

Highland Woodworking - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 7:00am

In the first part of this article, I showed how to make a Christmas tree ornament shaped like a snowman (see Figure 1). In this part, I’ll show you how to turn a bell ornament (Figure 2).


Figure 1 – The Snowman Ornament


Figure 2 – The Bell Ornament

Ornament Sizes

Figure 3 below shows the size of the blanks for the bell ornament, and details the location of each major division of the piece.

Figure 4 - Ornament Sizing

Figure 3 – Ornament Sizing

If you, like me, are making lots of these ornaments for Christmas gifts, I suggest making a sizing template for each ornament (Figure 4). This makes it much faster to lay out each new blank when you’re ready to turn it.

Figure 5 - Templates for the 3 Types of Ornaments

Figure 4 – Template for the Bell Ornament

Preparing the Blanks

Part 1 of this article has more detailed instructions on preparing the blanks for the ornaments, so I won’t repeat them here.

For the bell ornaments, cut lengths of 1 ½ square spindles to 3 ½ inches; for the bulb ornaments, cut lengths of 1 inch square spindles to 3 inches. Mark the ends for center, mount them between centers, and rough them down to round. On one end, cut a ½ inch long tenon to fit whatever chuck you’re using.

You may wish to drill a hole for the hanger right now (Figure 5); it’s easier to do it now, rather than waiting until the ornament has been turned and doesn’t have a flat surface to sit on. Remember that for the bell and bulb ornaments, the top of the ornament is on the chuck end, so the hole needs to be at least an inch deep (to account for the tenon which is parted off).

Figure 6 - Drill a hole for the hanger on the top of the ornament, either before turning (shown) or after

Figure 5 – Drill a hole for the hanger on the top of the ornament, either before turning (shown) or after

Making the bell ornament

To make the bell ornament, take one of the bell blanks and mount it in the chuck. Then use the bell template to mark off the parts of the bell (Figure 6). Use a parting tool to cut in a half inch or so at the first line (in the waste area) to mark the end of the turning (Figure 7)


Figure 6 – Use the bell template to mark off the sections of the bell ornament

Figure 8  - Use a parting tool to delineate the top of the ornament

Figure 7 – Use a parting tool to delineate the top of the ornament

The bell ornament is laid out so that the bottom of the ornament is toward the tailstock. After making shallow cuts at the marked lines, I start by working on the bottom, cutting a shallow curve across, going in about 2/3 of the diameter, and then, right in the center, turning a small “bump” (Figures 8 and 9), which is the clapper of the bell, just visible below the bell’s body.

Figure 9  - Using a spindle gouge, start a shallow curve on the bottom (rightmost) part of the bell

Figure 8 – Using a spindle gouge, start a shallow curve on the bottom (rightmost) part of the bell

Figure 10  - Cut in about 2/3 of the diameter, to leave a rounded "bump" on the bottom

Figure 9 – Cut in about 2/3 of the diameter, to leave a rounded “bump” on the bottom

With the clapper shaped, move left to the body of the bell. Using the spindle gouge, begin cutting a slope from the bottom edge to the marked line to the left, which is the top edge of the body. For a decoration, leave a raised flat area at both the bottom and top edges of the body.

Figure 11- Start turning the body of the bell

Figure 10- Start turning the body of the bell

Figure 12  - Slope the body from the bottom (right) to the top (left)

Figure 11 – Slope the body from the bottom (right) to the top (left)

After shaping the body as desired, move left again to the crown of the bell (between the waste cutoff and the body). Turn a large bead in this area.

Figure 13 - Begin shaping the crown of the bell

Figure 12 – Begin shaping the crown of the bell

Figure 14 - This is turned as a rather fat bead

Figure 13 – This is turned as a rather fat bead

Using a narrow parting tool or the toe of a skew, cut a couple of very shallow lines at the top and bottom of the body, and use a burning wire (a length of steel wire with a small handle on each end – homemade of course, although you can buy them) to burn in two dark black lines for decoration (Figure 14). You might want to increase the speed of the lathe up to 1500 or 1900 if you’re having trouble getting a burn. Be aware, you’ll get smoke, as shown in Figure 15.

Figure 15 - Burn a line at the top of the body

Figure 14 – Burn a line at the top of the body

Figure 16  - And burn a line at the bottom of the body

Figure 15 – And burn a line at the bottom of the body

Unless you want to do more decoration, the bell ornament is ready for finishing. As with the snowman ornament, put on a coat of friction polish with the lathe off, polish it with the application cloth, put on some wax with the lathe on, and polish it with the wax applicator cloth (or paper towel).

Figure 17 - Apply a friction polish…

Figure 16 – Apply a friction polish…

Figure 18 - …and a coat of wax

Figure 17 – …and a coat of wax

Part the bell ornament off (Figure 18), and in the same manner as the snowman ornament, attach a hanger on the top.

Figure 19  - Part off the bell ornament

Figure 18 – Part off the bell ornament

Figure 20 - Be sure to catch the piece as you part it off

Figure 19 – Be sure to catch the piece as you part it off

(If you haven’t already drilled the hanger hole, you’ll have to do that first, of course.) If you’re mass-producing, however, set the ornament aside, turn all the other bells, then drill all of them for the hanger.

The bell ornament is finished!

Figure 21  - The completed bell ornament

Figure 20 – The completed bell ornament

CLICK HERE for Part 3 - The Christmas Tree Light Bulb (seen below)


The Christmas Tree Light Bulb

The post Quick, Easy, and Great-looking Turned Christmas Ornaments – Part 2 – The Bell appeared first on Woodworking Blog.

Categories: General Woodworking

Do You Feel What I Am Saying?

The Workbench Diary - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 4:48am
This is NOT what I do

Here's a quick tip:

When setting the depth of cut on your bench plane irons, a number of folks recommend sighting down the sole to eyeball the protruding edge. People especially like this with metal bodied planes with the adjusting knob. In my experience I have found this difficult to do with an degree of accuracy. The way I was trained (even on metal bodied planes) was to rely on touch rather than sight. I was taught to use the gentle brushing of two fingers to feel the set iron depth. You can even easily tell if the iron is skewed. I find this gives much more feedback than my eye. Quick, simple, and easy to do in the low lighting of period shops. Give it try.

THIS is what I do.

Let know what you think. Have you tried this method?

Categories: Hand Tools

Bench Design; What's In A Name?

Inside the Oldwolf Workshop - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 9:11pm
With the help I received getting the bench top done, I had to make some decisions on what I wanted from the bench and I had to decide now. The longer the benchtop sits and waits the better chance it will warp, or fall on the floor, or be confiscated by the underwear gnomes. (It's a side business for them)

Noah building the Arc at his workbench. From the Maciejoski Bible circa 1250AD.

What I need the bench to do is easy. Workbench Whisperer Chris Schwarz has a list of ten rules for workbenches that lays out everything you need to know. Really, it's everything. trust me, if it's not on the list then forget it.

Want to cover the ankles of your workbench with lace so the sight of it's slender ankles doesn't unduly excite the men-folk? Your answer is on that list. . . trust me.

My issue is in all the names. There are so many names, and fads, and trends when it comes to workbenches. Sometimes it's like hearing the well off doctors at work talk about their cars.

"What kind of workbench do you use?'

"Oh, I'm into a standard Roubo now, but I may upgrade to a split top next year."

"Have you seen the specs on the Nicholson? I understand it's back in vogue again."

"Did you see Jim was still planing on a Holtzapffel. . . that's so ten years ago."

As I reflect on it, I find it a little over the top. I don't remember my grandfather's workbench having a name, It was his workbench, it did what he needed it to do or he modified it. It wasn't a near and dear thing. It was a workbench, a tool, a place to work. Sentimentality need not apply.

But there is sentimentality for an old bench. I have enjoyed the hours I've spent working at the one I'm using now, but I can do better and I've grown as a woodworker, so much since I built the first bench. I need better. As I make the decision moving forward on my new workbench, I try and take the lessons I learned from my last bench and step forward.

The only name I've truly considered is Dominy.

On display at Winterthur Museum is the preserved remains of the historic Dominy Brother's workshop. Included is a 12 foot long workbench. It's that correlation in length that has made me think about it.

In the end, I'm not that interested in a twin screw vise for my workholding. I have a moxon vise that does that better (hmmm another name). I like a leg vise myself but I like the sliding deadman a lot especially considering the 12 foot span. The trouble is every picture I can find of the Dominy bench is obscured by the rest of the museum and that damn tall clock case.

Then I saw this bench, called "The Workhorse," from Richard Maguire, a man who makes traditional workbenches for a living, and it seems like the right configurations. Mine will be a little different yet. I want a traditional saw toothed plane stop. and I'm not so sure about a tail vise. I don't have or use one now.

In the end I say, forget the name, figure out what you like and name it yourself.

Ratione et Passionis
Categories: General Woodworking

Saw geeks rejoice…

The SawWright - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 5:51pm

barley 003

Simon’s new book arrived a couple weeks ago…to say it was worth the wait would be the most incredible understatement. How saws were made, how handles evolved, the history, the marks, the references….its all there. Oh praise be!

I asked Simon how people can purchase it and he said that he prefers people contact him directly to order a copy. Email him at barleys@mac.com. For $70.00 USD he’ll ship you a copy anywhere in the world.

You’re welcome. :)


Categories: Hand Tools

Big Sky Rejuvenation

WPatrickEdwards - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 4:11pm

Looking South on Lake Ennis from my neighbor's land

My father's family arrived from Germany around 1908 and settled with the rest of the Germans in Wisconsin.  My great grandfather was a simple carpenter, and worked with his hands all his life.  Not finding the jobs in Wisconsin, he left the family behind and hopped the train West.

When the train stopped in Whitehall, Montana, he looked out the window and saw the smoldering remains of what had been the main block of businesses in town.  The entire block had burned down the night before, and he understood that there might be work soon to rebuild it, so he set up shop.

For the next 20 years he operated a mill and sash shop, and sold construction lumber as the Interstate Lumber Company.  His shop had a large painted sign on the front, which reflected the philosophy of the day, "A Square Deal."  In the center of the shop stood the prize piece of woodworking machinery, the Crescent Multi Woodworking Tool.  This belt driven tool was a large single chunk of cast iron, weighing nearly half a ton.  It included a 36" band saw, 16" jointer, 12" table saw, and a hand operated mortising chisel, all driven by a leather belt running under the floor.  My job, when I was very small, was crawling under the floor and lubricating the bearings of the belt.

You can imagine why I am not that interested in using power woodworking tools after that.

In any event, as I was born in Southern California, the visits to Montana were annual and rather short, depending on the weather.  I am not interested in snow.  However, I love the smell of the mountains, and the open sky and fishing.  I also love finding deer, minks, sandhill cranes, rabbits, owls and other wildlife wandering around the property.  Not so much the beavers...who think my creek is their swimming pool.

The Miller Cabin, after 90 years

Fortunately, my family had the good sense to purchase a couple acres on a lake, 60 miles from Whitehall, to set up a vacation cabin or two.  Actually, there are three cabins, all from the 1930's and still furnished with all the furniture, dishes, wood stoves, guns and fishing rods, and vehicles from that time.  Really a simple "turn key" operation.  The first cabin was a simple building, which was built inside the workshop in Whitehall. Then it was taken apart, placed on a Model T flatbed truck and driven over the dirt road to Ennis, where it was put back together.  It is a wonderful cabin, completely wood inside, with all the conveniences of "modern" life, except plumbing, and insulation.  I helped install electricity in the 1960's so we could have a refrigerator and lights.

I have enjoyed these cabins with my family and friends for the past 60 years, and find it essential to return there for a different "perspective" on life.  Like Walden before me, I find solace in the simplicity of life, when you live off the land.  Chopping wood, getting water from the artesian well, catching fish, and just watching the environment as it changes over time is a full time activity.

Each year there is a lot of timber which needs clearing, as the weather is fierce and the trees are old.  Last year and this year I lost two of my largest willow trees, and it took a fair amount of time to clear out the wood.  I must admit, I am rather good with a double axe.  I really enjoy using it to cut wood.  It is such a different aspect of woodworking from the usual job I have, cutting minuscule pieces of exotic hardwoods with a 2/0 jeweler's blade.

Nice Chain!  Need a Pull?

Reliable Transportation since 1946

There are also several vehicles which are waiting for us and ready to go when we arrive.  The best one is a 1941 Dodge Power Wagon, which was built for the medical corps during the second War.  This truck was purchased by my great uncle in 1946 and refitted for mountain camping purposes.  I learned to double clutch on this truck and it is a wonderful thing to drive...anywhere you want.  It has been on top of all these mountains around the cabin many, many times.

There is a bit of culture shock when I return to my workshop.  It soon wears off, as I begin to get back in the "groove" of work.  The good news is that I am constantly reminded of where I came from and it keeps me humble as I work on the wonderful things which compose my life's work.

Cooked on a Wood Stove

Categories: Hand Tools

And the ‘Practical Woodworker’ Winner Is…

Popular Woodworking Editors Blog - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 3:20pm

Congratulations to DBell, whose comment on my giveaway post last week was chosen randomly from among all respondents. He or she is the lucky winner of a set of the four-volume paperback set of “The Practical Woodworker.” — Megan Fitzpatrick

The post And the ‘Practical Woodworker’ Winner Is… appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Categories: General Woodworking

Making a Joiner’s Mallet

The Literary Workshop Blog - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 2:59pm

My current joiner’s mallet is over six years old and is starting to show a little wear.  I’ve had some pecan wood drying in my attic for a year now, and I decided it was time to bring it down and make some mallets with it. I have a 3″X4″ thick piece just for the heads, plus a nice 1″-thick piece for the handles. Both have a little spalting in them, but the wood is still perfectly sound. I’ll be able to get three mallets out of this stock. 

Mallet Making 10-14 - - 1

Mallets come in many sizes, and two of the three I’m making will be fairly big. All the striking faces will be 3″ square. The heads themselves will be somewhere between 3 1/4″ and 3 1/2″ tall. The heads of the two big ones are about 5″ long at the bottom, and the smaller one is about 4″. The striking faces are angled at about 5 degrees.

The handles were cut out at 15″ long, but once they are nicely fitted, I can trim them back if necessary.  I want a handle that is about 10″ long underneath the head, and I want to leave about 1″ sticking out of the top.  The handle blanks are 1″ wide at the bottom and 1 1/4″ wide at the top.

For joiner’s mallets, just about any tough hardwood is suitable: hickory, pecan, ash, white oak, beech, elm, hard maple, osage orange… the list goes on and on. You just don’t want anything that’s easy to split. (I would not use black walnut or mesquite, for example.) And when the mallet does finally give up the ghost, it takes only an hour or two to make another one.

I do like Roy Underhill’s approach to making a joiner’s mallet, and my method is almost identical. I’ll point out a couple differences in a moment.

After squaring up my stock, I rough-cut the parts out on the bandsaw. (That’s the first departure from St. Roy!)

Mallet Making 10-14 - - 4The handle on a joiner’s mallet can be attached in a variety of ways.  Some are turned and wedged into a round mortise in the head.  Others are attached with a square or angled mortise.  In this design, which I owe to Paul Sellers, the entire handle is tapered and is inserted through the head.  The more you use it, the tighter the head gets wedged in place.

Like Paul Sellers (and unlike Roy Underhill), I like a rounded top to my mallet heads. If the top of the head is flat, the top edge is an acute angle, which is naturally weak. Rounding the top off is an extra step in the process, but it seems to keep the top edge of the mallet face from splitting out. Ideally, that top edge should be a slightly obtuse angle.

Mallet Making 10-14 - - 2

I sketched the curve freehand, cut it out on the bandsaw, and then smoothed the surface with a smoothing plane. I start planing at about the last half inch of the surface, then work my way back slowly taking short strokes. With care, the result is a nicely rounded surface.

Laying out the mortise on the head is a little tricky. It’s best to use the handle itself as a template for the angle.

Mallet Making 10-14 - - 3

I mark the width of the mortise on the bottom, then lay the handle across the head. I measure from both ends to make sure the handle is centered, then trace my layout lines. It’s a little precarious, but it does work.

Mallet Making 10-14 - - 5

The result is a slightly angled mortise.

Then it’s time to actually cut the mortise. If you’re using good, tough wood (as you should be), it’s not going to be terribly easy any way you cut it.

Mallet Making 10-14 - - 6Roy’s advice is spot-on. Use a brace and bit (I used a 15/16″) to bore out the center of the mortise. Bore in from both sides. It’s a lot easier than trying to turn a big bit in a 3″ deep hole.

Then it’s just a matter of squaring up the mortises.

Mallet Making 10-14 - - 9

I took small bites with my 1″ chisel, but I did also resort to a couple narrower chisels for the final clean-up. A 1/2″ chisel is much easier to drive into tough wood than is the 1″. You want the ends of the mortise straight and clean–no under-cutting! (A rasp or file can help clean up from the chisel work.) The sides, however, can be undercut a little to allow the handle to pass in cleanly. You want it wedged up against the end grain on both ends of the mortise. Once the mortise is squared up, the handle can be planed to an exact fit.

Before you insert the handle into the mortise, relieve the corners.  If you’ve cut everything accurately, the handle should stop a little short of where you want it. Then you can just plane the handle down to fit where you want it.

Mallet Making 10-14 - - 10

In dry weather, a head can creep up the handle, but when it gets humid again, it will jam onto the handle and will become impossible to remove. That’s a good thing, ultimately. But that means you want to leave a little extra handle sticking out of the top.

But before you get the handle irrevocably wedged into the head, you need to shape the handle. This is my favorite part–all spokeshave work.

Mallet Making 10-14 - - 11

Now, if you just rounded over the corners, the handle would want to slip right out of your hand when you used it. So some shaping is in order. It’s difficult for me to take a good photo of the process, but the above layout lines will give you a good idea of how to proceed. You want to begin right up where the handle meets the head, in case you need to choke up on the handle. You also want to leave a bit down on the bottom to prevent it from leaving your hand mid-swing. The most important thing is that the handle fit your hand comfortably.

Once the handle is shaped to my hand’s liking, I round over both the top and bottom of the handle, just for looks.

Now, while you’re at it, relieve all the other corners on the mallet.

Mallet Making 10-14 - - 14On the striking faces, make an especially big roundover, at least 1/4.”  If you don’t relive these edges, they will relieve themselves in short order.

The result looks something like this:

Mallet Making 10-14 - - 15

Now for the big finish.

Mallet Making 10-14 - - 17

I thinned some safflower oil about half-and-half with mineral spirits and gave the heads a good soaking. (Safflower oil won’t go rancid like most other vegetable oils. Mineral oil would also be a good choice.) Once you stop seeing the bubbles rising from the wood, the head has absorbed about as much as it’s going to. This will add some significant weight to the mallet, so do this only if you want the extra heft. Otherwise, just use a top-coat of oil or wax over everything. Or leave it completely unfinished.

After the long soak, both head and handle got a top-coat of Danish oil, mostly for consistency of color. Pound the handles in, and we’re ready to do some heavy chopping.

Mallet Making 10-14 - - 18I’m keeping the one in the middle for myself.  The other two are going to live in other woodworkers’ shops.


Tagged: angled mortise, Danish oil, joiner's mallet, mallet, Paul Sellers, Roy Underhill, safflower oil, spalted pecan, spokeshave

I met the North Carolina Woodworkers at WIA 2014

Matt's Basement Workshop - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 1:00pm

It’s not hard to say that woodworkers are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. In fact it’s probably one of the easiest things to prove if someone doesn’t believe you. As it goes amongst woodworkers, I’d have to say the folks of the North Carolina Woodworkers group are at the top of that list.


If you were at Woodworking in America 2014 you probably couldn’t help but notice some of the kids in attendance running around with a lightsaber (not actual light for a blade, but a plastic tube with a flashlight…but the other would’ve been cool too) that lit up and had a wooden handle they turned themselves.

Or when you passed by the back wall in the far corner of the market place, there was an amazing walnut chest with something like 20 unique drawer faces that was up for auction. If you were there and you saw these things, that was because of this group.

Rather than tell you myself what the North Carolina Woodworkers like to do when they gather up the group and head out for an event, I’d prefer to let them tell you themselves thanks to the folks at Highland Woodworking.

If you’re interested in learning more about the North Carolina Woodworkers group visit their website by clicking here.

Or if you’re in and around the Klingspor’s Woodworking Shop Woodworking Extravaganza October 17, 18 2014 in the Hickory Metro Convention center look for them, they’ll be there having just as much fun as when I saw them and they’ll be dragging all of their toys out with them too. Tell them Matt said “HI!”

Help support the show – please visit our advertisers

Categories: Hand Tools

Questions Answered – What Are Pointed Blades for on Router Planes

Paul Sellers - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:25pm


Hi Paul,

I have a question. I noticed when you use your hand router, from what I’ve seen anyway, you’ve always used a cutter with a square cutting edge. Some router cutters come to a more pointed edge and I wondered why you don’t use those? And what are they used for? Wouldn’t using one with a pointed edge be a bit risky when finishing off like a housing dado because I figured the edge could cut into the walls of the joint. I don’t know why I was curious about this but I was. Felt like one of those if-it’s-not-broke-don’t-fix-it things to me, but I figured there must be at least one situation where maybe a pointed cutter was better.

DSC_0229Winter May


At first glance this might look much more specialised than it really is and though it might be handy, it’s not necessarily essential.

DSC_0217The cutter is what was described as the smoothing cutter in the original Stanley leaflet accompanying the plane back in the 50s and 60s. Two things manage the cutter in the wood; one, the spear point bevels to each side of the centre of the cutter effectively bring the underside of the cutting edge to a level cut and so offset the relief angle of the underside of the cutter. This means that the two cutting edges are levelly present along the cutting edge in relation to the surface of the wood and so smooths the level evenly.


The angles presentation either side of the centre of the spearpoint also provide a sheer cut to the cutting edges and by manipulating the plane to the grain encountered the user can effectively gain optimal advantage in just about any grain.


The end result is a level and smooth cut, which effectively improves on the cut provided by the square edged cutters and is ideal in some situations such as inlays for instance.

Generally 95% of work comes from the square edged cutters satisfactorily and so it’s not necessary to install a spear point.


Visually considering the appearance of the cutter it does look as though in actual use the spear point might dig in to the walls or surface being refined but that is not the way at all.


The drawings below show the diamond point and the angled presentation of the cutter to the housing dado or work surface. 

DSC_0231 DSC_0230

The post Questions Answered – What Are Pointed Blades for on Router Planes appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools


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