I've never been one to engage in the bloodsport that is the handtool-vs-powertool debate. We each come to the craft from a different perspective, with varying objectives, and with specific limitations on our time and budget. I have as much respect for the woodworking Samurai who shapes each mortise with a chisel, as the one who creates the flowing lines of a rocking chair with a keen eye and a bandsaw.
So it was only a matter of time before I embraced the Festool Domino (btw, I get nothing from Festool; I pay their cosmically stated rate on every purchase.)
And while I have no intention of of adding to the long list of breathless reviews for the tool, I have found that it works quite well in my shop where hand and power tools work side by side. I call it my Domino Work Triangle and I think that it is a good system for repetitive tasks such as attaching aprons on small tables, inserting slats in arts and crafts pieces, and constructing rails and stiles in frame and panel construction. You may already take a similar approach for slip-tenon joinery.
1. A Mitre Saw on the Bench
One of the happiest days of my woodworking life was when I exiled the chopsaw from the studio and sent it to the garage. Rough stock is cut to length with an old Disston, surfaced, and then cut to final length on my renovated Stanley mitre box. It rides in the tool tray, has an adjustable stop, and generates a tiny amount of dust. When stock is marked with a knife you can get very accurate, square cuts.
2. A Mitre Plane in a Shoot Board
A truly perfect joint requires that each edge be square and true. As the Domino creates the perfect internal bits of a mortise-and-tenon joint, you are left to focus on creating a perfect fit between the shoulder and its mating piece. Never has a tool that feels like such an indulgence proved to be so necessary. It is astounding. Because it weighs in at something like eight pounds, it glides through 2"x3" white oak end grain with ease. The shoot board attaches to the other end of my handtool bench and doesn't interfere with the mitre box. A few swipes takes me to the knife line.
3. A Domino on a Festool Work Table
In for a penny, in for a pound. With a couple of commissions looming and several ideas for spec pieces in my head, I just didn't feel like building anything else for the shop. I laid out the money for the mft system and I have no regrets. This third leg of the triangle sits to the right of my bench and is light, strong, and provides another dead flat worktop for the Domino. I know Fine Woodworking just did an article about jigs for the Domino, but I just clamp the work to the top and let it rip. Instead of referencing off the top plate, I often use the bottom of the tool riding on the worktop. On small pieces this provides more stability.
It goes without saying that this combination of kit comes at a price. It does save me a great deal of time and allows me to spend most of my mental energy on design and details -- and design and details are reasons why someone commissions a piece of custom furniture. But even if you are just building for yourself, there is something elegant about working with tools that do their jobs well and make your time in the shop successful and rewarding.
Yesterday was one of those days in the shop.
I had a few hours I could devote to woodwork, so I decided I would work on another pipe. As I began shaping it, I went to re-adjust the handscrew that was clamping the workpiece, and the whole thing (wood, pipe stem, and handscrew) fell to the ground, shattering the stem.
Not having time to assemble another stem, I decided to look in on that bit of dogwood I had salvaged a few weeks ago. I figured it would still be wet enough to carve into some woodenware. When I picked it up, however, I found it full of bug holes! So I treated it with some borax and set it aside for something “rustic.”
It’s something I can do quickly and confidently, though not without thinking about it. My tools and materials rarely let me down. This one is pecan–not easy to shape, but very strong and durable in use. This one is a narrow stirring spoon.
It’s all probably just as well. A recent spate of weddings has depleted my stock of wooden spoons, and need to build up my stock again.
What about you? What do you do when disaster strikes in the shop? Do you plow ahead, switch to something else, or just walk away?
The Sunburst fireplace is finally installed and painted. Here are the carvings just after I finished carving it. This was carved in poplar.
Here is the finished fireplace:
Unfortunately the photo is a little small, but it shows the general finished look. The customers are happy!
I’m going to write up my Connecticut trips backwards. The 2nd stop was to a Friday afternoon demo at the Yale University Art Gallery’s Furniture Study. What a spot. Readers and students often want to know where they can see period pieces in person. The Furniture Study is just such a place.
These are the works that are not on display in the museum, but are there specifically for study. Tons of them. Over 1,000 items maybe.
You want to see some Guilford, Connecticut carved oak chests? Why not see 3 of them together – then you get to see what’s common, what’s idiosyncratic…
This one they had pulled out so we could look at it in detail; I have only generally studied Connecticut furniture, so it’s fun to look again at these. They are large, heavy stock – the stiles are over 2″ thick, by close to 4″ wide. Note the side top rail, how it has no relationship to the front one. Most often the top rails are equal in height, but they don’t have to be. The linen is not going to leak out of the chest.
I always refer to these chests as prime examples of the use of a scratch-stock to produce the abbreviated moldings above the panels here. A plane would not be able to get the full profile then blend out and in so quickly. This molding was scraped – we just don’t know what the tool looked like, nor what it was called. I’ve been working lately on carving these designs, they are so simple, but very effective too. Maybe 20 minutes of carving? Notice the nail holes in the panels – not from a now-missing applied molding – the beveled framing means there was no molding applied; so I think it’s to fix the piece to the bench for carving. Didn’t see those when I was there, just picked them out in the photos.
The till lid detail is nice; I usually put the pintle/hinge pin way out on spine of the till lid. Here the joiner shifted it about an inch or more in from the edge. Makes boring the holes for it easier; might make the whole thing simpler. I had done some like this years ago, then forgot it. So next time I make a till for a chest….
It goes on & on. I had wanted to concentrate my carving portion of my demo on these patterns – they are quite simple, but I like the result a lot. Some go for this understated approach to 17th-century carvings; unlike the “every-blessed-surface-carved” approach of my usual inspiration.
Let’s not forget these drawer fronts – always picked on because they show what can happen!
If you are in the area some time, contact the folks there through the website – once you start looking around, you’ll have a hard time leaving. My thanks to the staff there for such a nice visit.
|Removing bloom from varnish|
|Readhering loose marquetry|
|Aqueous cleaning to remove soiling|
|Structural repair of joinery|
All wood splits, some more than others, but it all splits. It even splits when paid professionals try to make it not split. This is good news for those of you wanting to snuggle by a warm fire, but not such good news for connoisseurs of split-free wood. And, it is especially bad news for anyone wanting to make a round table top out of a slice of tree.
It seems easy enough to just slice a cookie, or coin, or round, or whatever you want to call it, off the end of a log and use it as a table top, but it rarely works out. The problem (especially when swimming) is shrinkage, and in the wood realm it’s uneven and unproportional shrinkage.
I talk to customers a lot about this uncomfortable subject, and even though it isn’t pleasant, someone has to do it. As woodworkers, it is critical to understand how wood shrinks (read an earlier post about shrinkage by clicking here), and as customers it is important to understand the limitations of wood.
Drying quartersawn lumber is easy, relatively speaking, and almost always produces wood that doesn’t split. Drying flatsawn lumber without splits is more difficult, but if the ends are sealed and the lumber is dried at a slow, consistent pace, it can be done reliably. Drying round cuts from the end of a log, however, is a totally different story, and almost always results in split wood, and not just a small split, but usually large, unsightly, unrepairable and often devastating splits. So much so, that I tell customers I will cut rounds for them only if they take the milled pieces directly from my sawmill as soon as they are cut. That way I can prove that I had nothing to do with them falling apart – they do that all on their own.
It all goes back to the way wood shrinks and the way it does so unevenly. As wood dries, it shrinks twice as much with the rings as it does from the center. When viewing a log at the end (not a round cut off the end of a log but an actual log), this produces cracks that resemble spokes in a wheel. Sometimes there are larger cracks mixed in with the smaller ones, but they are always in multiples. The end wood wants to split, but since it is attached to a log which is holding it in place, the end cracks with many smaller splits to even out the pressure.
If that piece is cut from the end of a log all bets are off. There is no log holding things together, so the end result is usually one large split that relieves all of the pressure at once. With wood that is known to split easily, like oak, the round cuts will not only have large splits, but will often just break in two or more pieces.
Here are some examples of dried wood cookies. All of these were cut from the end of the log when the wood was wet and then air dried slowly in the shop. They are all about 18″ in diameter and 2″ thick.
So, now you know that the cool round table that you were planning to build is probably going to split if you do nothing about it, but can you do something about it? Well, maybe, kinda, sorta.
One way I know to work, from personal experience and from other local sawyers, is to cut the rounds at an angle. This will reduce or completely eliminate the cracks because the stress is going more up and down than in a circle, but it will turn your round table top into an ellipse. And, while a piece that stays together is probably better than a piece that falls apart, an ellipse is not always acceptable. I personally expect to see a round piece of wood when you tell me it was cut from the end of a round log, and find the ellipse shape a bit unnatural.
Another alternative is to remove the pith (center of the log). Removing the pith can stop the devastating splits, but it obviously puts a hole in the piece of wood, and it is still a gamble because it is hard to tell from tree to tree how much pith needs to be removed to stop the splits from happening. A larger hole is better, but at some point the missing wood in the center will demand creativity, and perhaps more wood or glass to make a complete top.
The last and most widely used solution is to use a wood stabilizer like Pentacryl or PEG (polyethylene glycol). Originally developed to stabilize wood from archeological sites, Pentacryl works well to stabilize all kinds of wood from punky wood to crotches and will help with wood cookies. It works by replacing the water in the wood and keeping the cells at their original size, even when dry. Know that while Pentacryl will reduce and often eliminate cracks, wood cookies are by far the most difficult to dry and may still crack.
Pentacryl is not perfect. It works well, but it is expensive at $60 per gallon and adds a yellow tint to the finished piece. And, wood cookies which could normally be dried relatively quickly need to be dried extremely slowly. So slow, in fact, that thicker pieces could still take over a year to safely dry.
PEG is applied like Pentacryl, but has drawbacks that make it less than perfect too. Like Pentacryl, it is also expensive and the resulting wood surface may not accept the finish of your choice. It also takes extra time to apply and may require additional equipment to make it work correctly.
The bottom line is that you can make a table out of a round end cut from a log, but you’ve got to be prepared for failure and/or be prepared to throw plenty of time and money at the problem. I still steer away from cutting wood cookies and do my best to direct customers away from them as well. And, if I do end up cutting wood cookies for a customer, I literally cut and run.
Jose Ramirez III, Things About the Guitar, 1990
The following advice is for those who want to make a classical guitar in the Spanish tradition. I do not make steel string guitars, I am not interested in them, but, perhaps, some of this advice can be used to help you succeed in making a steel string guitar.
#1: Buy the following books:
Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology, by Cumpiano and Natelson, click here;
Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall, click here;
The Guitar Maker's Workshop, by Rik Middleton, click here.
And you must buy every book written by Roy Underhill. You will learn so much about hand tools from him!
Read them from cover to cover several times before you start to make a guitar or buy any tools.
#2: Buy The Naked Woodworker with Mike Siemsen (click here).
Buy all the tools needed to build his version of Nicholson's work bench. This DVD will also help you when you go to purchase other tools for guitar making. Remember, you will need a work bench on which to build your first, second, third, etc., guitar!
This DVD is another "must" for your education!
#3: Keep the tool list simple.
Buy only what you need.
Stick with hand tools for your first guitar or two, hand tools are much quieter than power tools, but can bite as badly.
Safety should always be your first concern.
Click here to read about my list of tools for guitar making.
#4: Pick a guitar to make.
Click here to see some plans that are available from the Guild of American Luthiers.
I suggest that you make the guitar in Guitarmaking for your first guitar.
Do not deviate from the instructions in the book, you can do that on your second or third guitar.
Or you can pick a historic guitar, such as the 1912 Manuel Ramirez guitar that was used by the great Andres Segovia (click here for a video), and use the instructions in Courtnall's book to build it, but no matter which method you chose you must follow the method to the letter and remain true to whatever guitar you pick!
#5: Here is where I am going to get into trouble from the cyber wood working world.
Do not visit any forum on guitar making!
Forums are a waste of time, you should be in your shop making a guitar.
Do your own research on guitar making! Read every thing you can get your hands on and then spend time in the shop working on guitars!
Many would be guitar makers express their opinions on guitar making in those forums and that is just what they are - opinions. Then the professionals weigh in and it gets messy.
Remember this: your goal to is make a guitar that a guitar player will play and use. Very few professional guitar makers are professional musicians.
Tico Vogt playing one of my guitars
#6: After you have made two or three guitars start researching how the traditional Spanish guitar was/is made. Or maybe you will buy into the school of making where every guitar should have a double top with lattice bracing.
#7: When you have completed your first guitar, do not take it to a professional guitar maker for a critique! A guitar maker will not buy your guitar, only a guitar player will buy your guitar!
Players/performers are the ones who will tell you if the action is too high, if the guitar is too quiet or too boomy, they are your best critics!
#8: Perhaps the best piece of advice I can pass along is produce, produce, produce.
#9: You can ignore what I just said and hie yourself to the nearest guitar making school.
I know that Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colorado has a great program, click here to learn more. I know that there are other such programs through out the nation.
One reader told me that he was able to find a guitar maker who was willing to teach him how to make a guitar, that is another great avenue to proceed on!
Better yet, get a grant so you can go to Granada, Spain and study with Antonio Marin or John Ray or Antonio Raya Pardo! Learn how to make a truly Spanish guitar!
A guitar is a romantic creation.
#10: You must live, eat and breathe classical guitars! That means you must love them and that is all you want to make! Money should be of no concern to you, think not of making a living at making guitars! The only thing that matters is that you make them!
#11: If it were easy then everyone would be making guitars...
Now, turn off your computer or other device and get yourself into the work shop and make something!
Here is a wonderful phenom, Leonora Spangenberger. She is only 11 years old!
This Rapier Block showed up in my shop one day, thanks to my LJ friend Poopiekat.
Rapier is an English made plane. I always thought it was a Stanley knock off, but this is a little different. The plane is much heavier than a similar Stanley. The cutter tightening nut is solid and much heavier.
The cutter (marked “Best Sheffield Tool Steel) is harder and thicker than a similar Stanley. It works extremely well.
I debated repainting this. I still may in the future. But for now, it rest along side my other block planes. At the ready, but unlikely to be uesed.
In some Victorian books on woodworking, the author suggests that if you don’t have a shop you could use a chest of drawers as a woodworking bench, tool chest and shaving collector. I’ve not seen an occurrence of this in the wild, but it is an interesting idea. Recently, Will of Texas sent me photos of his tool chest, which is based off a slant-lid desk with banks of drawers […]
I’d planned to go to the office/shop today (Saturday) to work on the personal project that’s been a millstone ’round my neck for months – a kitchen island/microwave stand. But I’ve got a bad case of the chest and sinus crud; the very thought of sawdust makes me cough (even more than I already am). And that’s OK (well, the staying home part – I’d rather not be ill), because […]
Both modern-day makers of the router plane, Veritas and Lie Nielsen, sized their planes to the same or similar footprint of the Stanley #71 and Record 071 plane. Both makers omitted including the depth rod accessory and adjustable shoe for attaching to the arched front of the plane as in the early make of the plane prior to 1900. Obviously the original maker felt that there was an important enough need for this in the improved model so you may want to consider this when you are looking for a hand router. I have used both types without problems but I do like the depth gauge rod for different applications from time to time and also the ability to use the adjustable shoe for the edges of boards and such. Lie Nielsen offers a flat soled router plane and the split soled model emulating the Stanley version of the 71, but of course this means buying two models. Its easier to add the wooden sole and of course costs almost nothing whichever plane or maker type you buy. Having said that, there isn’t provision for screwing a wooden sole to the plane but I surmise that you could use the slot used for adjusting the fence. I would use cheese- or dome-head setscrews and thread the wooden board to do this.
The repeat of the text from the Stanley #71 Router pamphlet from my previous blog yesterday is added because I reproduced a drawing with keys to identify the components parts to the plane.
Stanley router plane No 71
For surfacing the bottom of grooves or other depressions parallel to the surface of the work. There are many applications in pattern making, cabinet work and in fact almost all kinds if woodworking that call for these tools.They are particularly practical for routing dadoes for shelves, stair stringers or where pieces of hardware are to be recessed into the surface or edge of a board, such as large hinges or lock strikes, etc. It is not possible to show all these, but the user will discover places where the tools will prove their value.
CUTTERS-Cutters are made of high grade quality steel and are hardened and tempered. The shanks of the cutters are graduated in 1/16ths for 1″ which makes it possible to reverser for duplicate work and for approximate depth adjustments. Three cutters (N) are furnished, 1/4″ and 1/2″ router cutters and a (3 piece) “V” or smoothing cutter. Cutters are adjustable and depending on type of work can be held on front and back of cutter post (D) by means of clamp (H) and clamp thumbscrew (G).
VERTICAL ADJUSTMENT OF CUTTERS-To adjust cutter to desired depth, loosen thumbscrew (G), turn adjusting screw nut (B) up or down on adjusting screw (C), and tighten thumbscrew.
SHOE-A shoe (F) for closing the throat is provided for use on narrow work if a closed throat is practical and is fastened to depth gauge rod (A) by means of the shoe thumbscrew (E).
DEPTH GAUGE ROD-This rod (A), fastened by means of thumbscrew (O), may be used to control the depth of each cut, preventing the cutter from taking an excessive cut which would be inconvenient. For example, a cut 1/16″ deep can be cut repeatedly while still allowing the cutter to be set for the final depth of cut. One end of the rod is of small diameter for following in a small groove.
FENCE-An adjustable fence (L) is provided for use where the cutter is to run parallel to an edge. One side of the fence is designed for straight work while the other side is for curved work. Fence may be fastened to either left or right side of working face of plane bottom (K) by means of fence fastening screw and washer (M).
KNOB-The two hardwood knobs (J) are fastened to plane bottom by means of knob bolt and nut (I).
Schematic of Stanley #71 Router plane.
Router plane on wide housing.
The photo shows how to rout openings wider than the plane bottom (should read wider than half the plane bottom). The attachment of a flat board to the plane bottom is the simplest way to span large openings. The plane bottom is provided with screw holes for attaching such boards as necessary.
Here is shown a common job in home construction where this plane can be used – routing the stringer for the step and riser of a staircase. The other pictures show a stopped dado and a routed shape for an inset.
I’ve been grabbing little snatches of time this week, making progress on the Marquetry Chevalet. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to show for it. Lots of dimensioning 8/4 rough sawn stock and laminating it to make thicker beams.
Generally, my parts are thinner than what is shown in the plans. By the time I get the 8/4 stock flat and glued up it’s not thick enough. I don’t think it’s a big deal really, certainly not worth the waste to add another layer of 8/4. I hope. We’ll see…
I have all the parts for the beam to support the saw glued up, and the parts for the saw frame itself rough dimensioned and “acclimating”. I need the horizontal beam for the saw support done to finish the work on the front upright. And I need my 14 year old to get out of bed so he can support the end of the upright while I cut the S-curve on the bandsaw. And to do his homework, wish me luck…