I very much enjoy reading your blog Paul. I went to college to train as a furniture maker after I left school but was unable to find suitable work so re trained as a carpenter (don’t worry I don’t sharpen chisels with a belt sander) your blog is like a window into my dream job. I just can’t see how it could be possible I look on line for things that I could make in spare time , it just seems like there’s so little profit with the price of timber and a society that can’t tell the difference between Ikea or oak furniture land and craftsman made pieces . Any ideas ?
I think celebrate the freedom we have to live outside the box of educators and plan a career in spheres of creativity that actually defy many constrictive practices and extraneous input. Now we can move forward. Being self employed and in creativity also defies banks who treat you exactly the opposite and really don’t want you sitting on their office seat if you work as a woodworker. Anyway, being self employed takes guts, critical thinking, risk, initiative, entrepreneurialism and generally these essentials don’t fit people that give up. Now I’m not saying you gave up so much as perhaps the time was wrong and now it’s more right than it was then. You won’t find many successful businessmen or women teaching in educational establishments because they were successful but because they were not successful. Same in schools too often. Those that found their sphere of creativity and became successful live in realms that have nothing to do with money or, more likely, money happens as a byproduct to lifestyle craftsmanship. See, what banker hinges his bets on risk takers, free thinkers and those inspired by people like PS. People occupying these creative spheres defy quantification and yet the business world is made up of a massive section politics and economics cannot quite ignore. Join the team and enter the world of small businesses.
Remember this as you look forward to your future. Many colleges and woodworking schools may have something small to offer, but its usually smaller than they make out. You’re convinced (by them and others around you) that they are the gateway to your future and it may be true to some level but not for the reasons they and you might think. The qualification often doesn’t match the reality of real life and that’s probably in some measure what you discovered after going to college. You joined the ranks of many thousands and then you thought the problem was you or the circumstances. Fact is when you are young and inexperienced in life in the real working world of wood, which is not college, people, customers and businesses that might further engage take a lot of persuading to trust in you because they have very little to go off.
Colleges and schools do indeed make promises that rarely pan out in actual jobs or career paths for furniture makers as far as I have seen over the past couple of decades. Like many sources of misinformation they flounder all the more as they rely on ancient models. It’s mostly about bums on seats I am afraid and you pay for it. Now, before you give up, this then leaves me with a lot of hope because if anything this gives us face to face reality for our situation.
I doubt that apprenticeships will ever return in the fulness they once did except when craftsmen and women find a space in their workshop to add in someone who they believe they can help. That’s what I and others have done for decades. Often of course, to do this, we have to work outside of our comfort zone because trainees often take too much of our time for very little return. Make no bones about this. As I said I doubt that apprenticeships will be as available as they were in my day, not without some radical transformation in global economics back to more sustainable local changes we can live and work in and with. Now there is something you can believe in.
I have always liked challenges and when I made my mind up to be a furniture maker making pieces I decided many things not the least of which was that it was my responsibility to find and educate my customers, not to sell them furniture like a salesman. Generally customers find us because they are already on the lookout for something we have. Sales is not a nice job for a creative crafting artisan. I decided that years ago – decades. Soon, when you see you have a good product, you also see that there is no need to manipulate them or use any stories to bolster your case and that absolute honesty is essentially our responsibility too. We craftsmen and women should always make sure we have an honestly made product that never compromises forested lands resulting in deforestation, prices that are always just and fair, staff always paid appropriately according to skill levels and that the presentation of a finished item always represents appropriate quality according to price. My work always carries a lifetime guarantee that I will always repair a piece if the damage results from negligent workmanship or materials. I have never been back to a piece in 50 years that I can recall. I always stick to my estimates even when it costs me if it’s because of my own failure.
But above all of that, I have been a lifestyle woodworker as a furniture maker and woodturner and the emphasis here is lifestyle. Lifestyle for me means more than anything; that I came to a point where I chose to continue in my craft and that economics, social recognition, political movements and so on could not influence me to change. That means I no longer had the choice to do or be something else. I was going to make my craft work as a provision for me and my family even if that meant I would work twice as long for half as much as the expectations others might have as employees.
Though my life has changed somewhat over very recent years, 95% of my working life over a 50 year span has been as a producing craftsman. Even now I still make several pieces in any given month. My chosen and self imposed lifestyle of woodworking can always be applied to all crafts requiring skilled work as a lifestyles and this includes gardening for food and small animal husbandry, farming and market gardening. It’s not really to do with the costs of materials but educating our customers and elevating the meaning of craft so that they feel inclined to support a lifestyle.
Fair warning: If you read this blog entry you might end up with a dog that has decorative details.
If you build furniture of a traditional sort, you should consider owning some beading planes. While beading planes are (in general) quite common, furniture makers use the less-common small ones – usually 1/8”, 3/16” and 1/4”. These planes add shadow lines to traditional work that are sometimes lost on the modern eye.
The margin between backboards or bottom boards, for example, is much nicer if beaded. And any flat expanse is best broken up with a bead when you have drawer fronts and door fronts that are flush to their face frames.
Heck, bead those face frames while you are at it.
I couldn’t imagine building furniture without them. Beading planes are faster than a router or scratch stock and leave a beautiful, ready-to-finish surface without sanding.
The challenge, however, is finding beading planes that are a notch above firewood. This summer I hit several tool emporiums and inspected at least 100 beading planes that were sized for furniture. None was worth buying.
So if you can’t find vintage beading planes, you need to find someone who will make them for you. Phil Edwards at Philly Planes is one excellent source. And you might be able to talk Matt Bickford into making you some. Old Street Tool still isn’t taking orders.
So please take a look at the work by Caleb James, a chairmaker, planemaker and excellent craftsman in Greenville, S.C. I met Caleb in person for the first time in the spring, used his planes and placed an order for two beading planes to round out my set – a 1/8” and a 1/4”.
I’ve had the 1/4” plane for a while, and the 1/8” came today.
They are outstanding. Beyond outstanding, really.
Caleb isn’t taking orders for planes right now as he is clearing out a well-deserved backlog. But bookmark his site and watch for when he opens ordering again. Then pounce.
When your beading planes arrive, you’ll want to put a bead on everything. Even your dog.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Handplanes, Personal Favorites
This time of year we're preparing for Black Friday. In other words, we're pondering spending that time in the shop making things other than money. We hope you do too.
Doing a little warehouse cleaning this morning we found a few vises we set aside for a moment like this. And the when the moment is right...
1. Glide Leg Vises.
This is the previous version of the Glide, with the single Dymondwood knob, and fully machine handwheel. These are vises that may have some porosity to the cast iron hanwheel (very minor) or were used on demo benches. They are 100% functional and are just slightly cosmetically deficient on the handwheel. That's it. All other parts are brand new. We usually melt these down, but these are so close to being 100%, we're offering them for your benefit. Price is $300 with Crisscross Solo (add $40 if you want a Retro.) We only have two of these.
2. Classic Leg Vise Hardware Only SOLD
The hardware we used to take the glamour shots earlier this year. If anything, this is likely nicer than what you receive when buying new, since we already buffed out the parkerizing and oiled it up. It's a beaut. Price is $130. We only have one of these. If you'd like to pair it with a Crisscross, request that when you order.
And here's how to do that. Send an email to email@example.com stating what you'd like, including your shipping address, and we'll email you an invoice to pay. Simple as that.
My dovetails are always at their best if I warm up before sawing. But I’ll be honest – when I am pressed for time I have no patience to cut an entire joint, much less prep the wood for a practice set. So here are two things I do to get my sawing on track that don’t require extra material or significant time. Crosscut Your Rough Stock by Hand Even […]
The post 2 Ways to Warm up For Dovetails (Without Cutting One) appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.
Like most woodworkers I have a bunch of jigs kicking around the shop and like most guys my age I have firmly held opinions. As a reader I’ve seen more than enough articles about jigs for this and fixtures for that. As an author I’ve tried to steer clear of writing too much about jigs, although from time to time my name has appeared. To me, jigs exist to make certain tasks (usually repetitious ones that require a consistent degree of precision) safer, faster or easier. A really good jig will do all three of those things. Some authors are specialists in devising intricate solutions and some woodworkers get sidetracked into making jigs as their hobby instead of using jigs to make things. I am neither of those.
At right is my set-up for drilling the cup holes for Euro hinges. It’s a straight fence glued and stapled down to a piece of 3/4″ thick plywood. There is a rabbet on the fence that keeps chips of wood from keeping the edge of a door off the straight edge. The three pencil lines are my intricate system for placing the holes in the same location on every door. The center line is in line with the center of the bit, and the other two lines are an equal distance away. When I have the jig positioned where I want it, I lower the bit 1/4″ or so into the plywood base. The next time I need to use it, I lower the bit into the hole and clamp the base down to the drill press table. That puts the jig back in the right position without any fuss or measuring. All I need to do then is set the depth of the bit and I’m ready to go. In use, I line up the corner of the door to one of the outer pencil lines and drill. This is a pretty good example of my philosophy toward making and using jigs.
- Don’t expect a jig to give you skills or precision you don’t have. Simply put, if you can’t measure accurately, make parts to an exact size or put a square line in the right place you won’t be able to make a working, reliable jig; you’ll end up spending a lot of time without getting the desired results.
- If it takes longer to make the jig than it does to perform the task without the jig, you’re wasting time unless it’s a task you’ll be doing on a regular basis. Knowing how long things will take is an essential element of successful jig use. If you don’t know, you’re better off working without jigs for a while. When you find yourself in the midst of a repetitious task, you’ll start thinking of ways to make life easier and you’ll probably come up with a good idea.
- Good jigs are one-trick ponies. Universal and micro-adjustable take way too long to make, take up too much room to store and usually don’t work as well as simple, quick and easy. These are the kinds of things you’ll see in print and if you’re tempted, ask yourself how often you’ll be tapering legs and what range of lengths and angles you’ll be needing. Chances are pretty good that it’s a narrow range and for me it’s a lot quicker to make a new dedicated jig each time I’m faced with this task. It isn’t likely that you really need the T-track extrusion and all the gizmos that go with it.
- Make jigs from material you have on hand. A trip to the lumber yard or hardware store can easily wipe out the time-saving advantages of making the jig. The exception to this rule is to keep some 1/2″ and 3/4″ plywood, a couple of hold-down clamps and an assortment of fasteners on hand so that you’re ready when inspiration strikes. It still isn’t likely that you really need that T-track and all the gizmos that go with it.
- Put the jig together quickly, glue with staples or nails, a couple of screws or hot-melt glue work just fine. One of my uncle’s favorite phrases was “you ain’t making a grand piano here” and it applies to jig construction. Get the job done, but don’t get fancy with it.
- Don’t make a jig for an anticipated need, wait until the task is in front of you. That micro-adjustable finger joint jig that will handle any size material and any size of fingers might look tempting but will you ever really use it? Most woodworkers make finger joints once or twice an move on. If I had a nickel for every finger joint jig gathering dust in American wood shops I could probably retire.
- Use a minimal number of pieces put together in the simplest possible way and don’t bother to apply a finish other than some paste wax where things need to slide. As the parts list grows, the chances of making something that actually serves a useful purpose diminishes exponentially.
Jigs are essential in most shops, and I’m not against them. I am generally opposed to wasting time and my thinking is influenced by experience making things for sale. In that world, I only get paid for the time I spend making pieces of wood smaller, so jigs are only worthwhile if they enable me to make more pieces of wood smaller in less time.
The problem with the simple jigs I tend to use is that they look a lot like scraps. So I tend to keep them piled in one place and I also like to label them. When I’m feeling really clever I give my jigs a name, generally what the thing is good for followed by . . . Master and a number with a lot of zeros at the end.
Suzanne Ellison – artist, indexer, researcher and butt-kicker – made this for my office. It’s constructed using tools from Roubo’s “l’Art du Menuisier” plus a crow. There is no crow in Roubo to my knowledge.
Suzanne calls this crow “Cato.” Yes, after Cato Fong.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Personal Favorites
We’re already gearing up for the holidays and in this month’s issue of The Highland Woodturner, we released our Woodturner’s Holiday Gift Guide – full of tools, books, and other gifts that would be perfect for any woodturner.
This month’s issue also includes:
- Tool Review: Silky Gomboy Saw - Curtis Turner gives an overview of the Japanese Silky Gomboy Folding Saw and how even though it isn’t made specifically as a “turning” tool, turners can definitely find benefits in this tool to help them harvest wood for turning.
- Temple Blackwood goes over the turning process of belaying pins, while also discussing the methods he uses when putting on a live turning demonstration.
- Bill Rosener has a great turning project for storing all the crayons and colored pencils lying around the house that need an easily accessible and aesthetically pleasing home. Check out his turned Grand Piano Pencil Holder project.
- Phil Colson has a helpful tip for always being able to find your pencil in your shop!
- Rodney Miller, a disable veteran, shares his beautiful turned bowls and other projects in this month’s Show Us Your Woodturning.
All of this and more in our November 2014 issue of The Highland Woodturner.
The post Now available: The November 2014 issue of The Highland Woodturner appeared first on Woodworking Blog.
I have to admit it – I’m having a rough time in this relatively new job. Not my actual work duties, but figuring out what new technique or project I want to try next. I’m a beginner/intermediate woodworker in that I’ve learned enough to get myself in trouble, but I also have learned enough to know how much I don’t know. So coming to work every day and looking over […]
Ben Seltzer at Tools for Working Wood dropped me a line about their Cyber Monday sale. They will be listing nearly 300 heavily discounted items on their website on the evening of Sunday, November 30th. Items to be sold include discontinued products, tools bought as samples but never sold, items with small defects/issues, or items that were used as a demo, or for photography.
Ben says there are a substantial number of Japanese tools including a ton of new (but dusty) Japanese pull saws, several new Japanese dado planes (like the one pictured above), and a decorative Nishiki twisted-neck chisel (sadly missing its hoop). Besides Japanese tools, there are also NOS Stanley spokeshaves, Ashley Iles chisels, slipstones, and more.
Listings will appear on the Tools for Working Wood home page starting at 10pm-ish Brooklyn time Sunday, Nov. 30th. They expect there to be a lot of shoppers all at once, so to make it a little less frantic for everyone once you add an item to your cart you will have 20 minutes to finish shopping and check out, otherwise the item gets released for someone else to have a shot at it. Set your alarm.
(Disclaimer: I don’t get any kickback for this mention. The Christopher Schwarz ethics policy is in effect.)
While developing our hand forged holdfast we toyed with making one based on a holdfast by the Camion Freres company (see the CF holdfast, which we sourced in France, pictured below.)
However, the CF holdfast was just too huge to produce for a fair price, so we quickly ruled out using it as our model.
We did make one however, and we're offering it for sale. We usually don't sell prototypes of anything we make, but this is different, since our vise prototypes usually look like something out of Mad Max. This hand forged holdfast is a thing of beauty.
The CF holdfast reproduction (right) pictured with our Benchcrafted Holdfast prototype.
The CF reproduction works in 1-1/4" or 1-1/8" diameter holes. It takes a couple whacks to release in the smaller hole. The larger hole gives up its grip with usually one whack.
Price is $250 plus shipping. If you'd like to purchase, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and include your shipping address.
In the video the stock is 5" thick ash.
This is not a marketing stunt. Historically we offer free domestic shipping on all pre-publication orders until the day the title ships. And due to a busy bindery, “The Book of Plates” will ship to us on Friday, two days behind schedule.
So free shipping on “The Book of Plates” now ends at midnight EST Nov. 21, 2014.
The good news is that our warehouse is planning a dedicated assembly line to fulfill all of the pre-publication orders as soon as the book is delivered there. So everyone should get their book in plenty of time before Christmas.
Today I took possession of the only advance copy of “The Book of Plates” now that our box vendor has measured the final product and is busy making 2,500 custom boxes for the book.
In my total glee, I prepared a 10-minute tour of the book, which you can watch below. In it I show the different parts of the book and explain some of the challenges in bringing it to press.
I am quite pleased with the printing job. The resolution is outstanding and the paper is sweet. I think you will get many hours, days or weeks of pleasure pondering these plates or using the images to amplify the text.
In fact, that’s what I plan to do tonight.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation
I’m not seeking radio silence on the blog, but have been working on reviewing the edits for the manuscript and adding the necessary revisions, and selecting, editing, and captioning the almost 500 images for Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley. It is way less glamorous than it sounds.
I normally back up everything at the end of the day, but for some reason I had not done that since Saturday. So of course this morning was the moment my laptop fried. I mean sparks and all as I plugged in the printer USB cable. The geeks are trying to copy the hard disk, provided it did not get damaged. I will get their verdict in the morning. So, I am consolidating and duplicating files by the boatload using my indestructible but antique Dell 1525 with Windows Vista(!) and my three external hard drives (we do not have the connectivity required for Cloud backup).
At worst I will have to reconstruct three days worth of work. At best it will all be there. Either way I need a new laptop. It will not be another Compaq/HP.
Until everything gets resolved I will be a bit quiet.
One of the common questions I get regarding the upcoming exhibit of the Studley Tool Cabinet and Workbench is, “Will you take the tools out of the cabinet so I can see everything inside?” The answer to that is “No.” A second question is, “Do we get to handle the tools ourselves?” Apparently the folks who ask this question have never been to museums or artifact exhibits.
This is not to say that the visitor experience will be to view a static and lifeless exhibit. I’ll be making sure the exhibit is a rich and rewarding experience through a couple of avenues, one of which I address here.
One of the final tasks for the recently completed work session with the Studley tool Cabinet was to film a real-time session of me removing the entire collection of tools from the tool cabinet, one at a time. In doing this the video reveals every single tool in its place, and how that relates to the adjacent tools and the cabinet as a whole. This video will be running on a loop on a giant screen at the end of the exhibit hall at the Scottish Rite Temple in Cedar Rapids.
You can find more information and purchase tickets for the exhibit here.
The days pass fast with the class and already we are half way through with four days left. Last night we all ate Chinese at the Eastern Orient and today we completed the third project, so tomorrow it’s table making and all that that entails. The conversations we had were interesting. There is much soul searching for everyone because inside we all sense a lostness in our culture and it expresses itself with a definite search in the conversations for something we can identify as meaning. In many ways I feel contented with most aspects of who I am and what I do and this is because I found my calling early on in life. Others feel that too but not many. Perhaps as few as one in ten thousand people. Now even though I did answer the call in my mid teens, that doesn’t mean others didn’t influence me to forsake it or digress from it, but the strength of the call was indeed critical to my wellbeing and not just a sense of wellbeing. I always returned to my craft as a working artisan.
There is nothing wrong with lamenting that losses we know have taken place, but we must then seek to fill the empty place, the space of occupation, with whatever matters to us. With that which means something to us. You see, that’s what craftsmanship and craft work is. It’s not something just mere, it’s substance and meaning – substantial and meaningful.
John’s tool chest is going well with many finely cut dovetails in oak and mahogany from secondhand furniture pieces. The mahogany is stunningly rich and dark and I see why furniture makers loved working it so much. Watching John’s progress has been so rewarding for me. His skills and confidence are stronger now and he’s unwavering in every cut he makes. The saws and chisels glide through the wood it’s true, but it’s more than that. He never pretends at all, which is what’s refreshing in this day and age. Not needing to prove himself to anyone makes him such a free artisan. Realness is a gift you see. You don’t need to pick through things when friends are open with you, and that’s what has been so refreshing having him here. I sat watching John as I worked from my own bench. He cut dovetails as I cut mine. Atmospheric synchrony between workmen became common to me and I still own that right and will until I can no longer work the way I do. How you explain such a thing to machinists or people who only punch keyboards is not possible without tools and a workshop and a bench and other workers working on their benchwork. Is it some kind of rite of passage? Absolutely. There’s a rhythmic pulse to such work and a resonance many, no, most, will never know unless we take hold of things to make change. It’s a sort of private communion unshared in our new age of pretence and pretend, simulated virtuality and CNC guided mechanisms that so systematically destroy what we’ve felt throughout the last few days. You see I’m conditioned by what I describe, I’m conditioned to it and it’s a condition I truly love to be surrounded in because it has depth and meaning to me. It was woven and knitted into the very fibre of my being before anyone knew what my DNA was or that it even existed. As long as I pass it on two the ensuing generations I will never cease to hear it, to see it or to feel, smell and taste it. You can’t can it. bottle it, but it or sell it. It’s priceless.
Herein is rhyme, reason and rhythm.
I’m still working out the details of my teaching schedule for 2015 – there’ll be some new places. I think I mentioned before; Alaska, England, Indiana…and most of the usual spots; Roy’s place, Lie-Nielsen, Bob Van Dyke’s. I’ll have it nailed pretty soon.
One exciting new venue is right here in Massachusetts – local or semi-local people have always asked me where do I teach near home, and til now the answer was “I don’t.” Now I do. We’re in the midst of setting up the classes, workshops, etc that will be Plymouth CRAFT. And along with some food & textiles offerings, we’re ready to cut some spoons. January 17th & 18th; 2 days of green wood; hatchets, knives, spoons – what could be more fun? I’ll have hook knives, students will need their own straight “sloyd” knife and small sharp hatchet. I’ll send a list of possible suppliers..
Below is a link to sign up for classes; mine and others. If you’re from elsewhere, we can send you details about lodging and more…
Hope to see a full class of spoon-carvers!
UPDATE – WE HAD SOME WEBSITE PROBLEMS; AS FAR AS I CAN TELL, IT SEEMS FIXED NOW. THESE LINKS WORKED WHEN I CHECKED THEM MOMENTS AGO -