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Using proportions for design: it’s not a bunch of constraints

Giant Cypress - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 3:08am

One of the essential books that any woodworker should have is By Hand and Eye, by George Walker and Jim Tolpin. I learned how to use proportions for design from this book, and also from being lucky enough to hear George talk on this subject.

One of the common misconceptions about this approach to design is that it’s a bunch of rules and constraints. I’ve heard woodworkers say that they don’t want to use a formula for designing their projects. The reality is that using proportions to guide your design decisions is a quick and easy way to help you make something that looks good.

Here’s an example. I’ve made some legs for a stool, and I want to make some chamfers in the section between where the stretchers will go. In the picture below, there’s my leg, a chunk of pine milled to the same dimensions to serve as a prototype, and the ruler I’ll use for figuring out proportions.


First, I needed to figure out how far in the chamfers would go. I could try some direct measurements: 1/4″, 1/2″, 5/8″, and so on. But it’s not clear that any of those measurements would look good. What I learned from By Hand and Eye is that the human eye seems to be naturally drawn to whole number proportions. So I decided to start with 1:6 for my chamfer lines.

To do this, I used a technique to quickly divide the width of my leg prototype into even parts. I laid the ruler down so that the end was at one edge, and angled the ruler until the 6 cm mark lined up with the other edge. I made a mark at the 1 cm mark and the 5 cm mark, which made the edge of the chamfer 1/6 of the way across the face of the leg.


I struck some lines parallel to the edge, and took a look. It looked nice, but I wanted more chamfer and less midsection.


So I erased the lines, and repeated the process, only this time I used a 1:5 ratio. I divided the width of the leg into 5 using the same technique as above, and struck the lines again.


This looked real good to me.

The other proportion that I needed to figure out was the bevel at the end of the chamfer. For this, I tried a 1:8 proportion, dividing the length of the section between the stretchers into 8 parts, and going in 1/8 of the distance from each end.


I got luckier this time. A 1:8 ratio looked real good to me right off the bat. So I whacked away at the waste to get the prototype in the photo at the top. I was pretty pleased with the result.

The beauty of this method is that I didn’t have to use any math calculations. It’s not like I measured the width of the leg, divided by 6 and 5, and measured in that amount from the edge. All the layout was done without any arithmetic.

And this was also far easier way to decide where to place my lines for the chamfer than arbitrarily picking a measurement that might not look very good. That 1:6 ratio that I started with wasn’t terrible. It was just not enough for the look I was going for. 

So for your next design project, give this a try. It’s quick and easy, and not limiting by any means.

(Note: the link to the Lost Art Press website above is for convenience only. If you happen to buy the book, and you should, I don’t get anything from the sale.)

big bust.......

Accidental Woodworker - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 12:15am
The big snow storm didn't materialize. It didn't even come close to what the forecasters predicted. It snowed for a few hours but not heavily and then turned to rain. Mostly a sleet/rain mixture with lots of wind. If this stuff now on ground freezes, I'll be able to skate to work. When I shoveled my driveway, it was the heavy heart attack snow and I got to do in a pelting rain sleet mixture. Two wonderful hours in my life I want to forget.

My view looking out into my back yard. The expected snow was no where to be seen. It didn't start coming down for another hour or so.

setting up for mitering
not working
I am getting 45° on the cuts but they aren't mating well. The thickness of the two pieces is slightly off. There isn't anyway these two will close up tight and form a 90° corner. I cut off the bottom of the L and that evened up the pieces. I had already rough cut the miters and I then squared them off because I was going to butt joint them. One piece came out too short so the molding idea went south.

out with the old and in with the new
I'm scrapping the plywood and starting over with solid wood.  I'll make the first one out of pine (this is the only pine I have). On saturday I'll make a run to Pepin Lumber and get a few boards.

test run
I'm making a practice lid to see if I can make one without blowing out something. Planing the bevel and the flat on one edge is first.

rabbets are next
get a ridge
This rabbet was planed against the grain and I didn't adjust the 10 1/2 to plane on this side.

cleaned it up with the bullnose plane
done and with no blowouts
I don't see any problems doing lids this way. I thought I might have had a hiccup with the molding plane because one side was against the grain. I took my time on that and tried to keep my passes as shallow as possible. It paid off.

6/8 tongue and groove planes
I've had these for a while and my last outing with them didn't yield good results. I think it's time to try them again.

I didn't do any work on the irons
 I tried these right out of the box and the tongue and groove was toast. The two boards didn't mate together so I put the planes away.

they fit
This is something I should have done when I got them but didn't. I am learning that most molding planes I buy aren't ready to go right out of the box. I flattened the backs and sharpened both irons.

made the tongue first
The plane got a bit hard to push about 1/2 way mark on this board. I waxed the plane and that helped some but it was still hard for 1/2 of it. Looking back on it I should have planed the paint off rather then scrapping it.

plowed the groove

went through this knot like it wasn't there

The T&G fit is good and it just a few frog hairs shy of being flush.

it is a snug fit
A billion percent improvement over my last attempt. I think some of the other problems I solved with my other molding planes paid off here.

I was expecting more room underneath the tongue
Both planes bottomed out and stopped making shavings. Maybe on the next try I can extend the groove iron deeper.

decorative edges

3/8 astragal
bevel plane
This plane only does a bevel (chamfer). It is minimally adjustable and will bottom out. It has a spring line but I'm not sure what the true purpose of this plane is. This basically makes a chamfer and there were purposely made chamfer planes. I think this cost me $10 and it was one of the first molding planes I added to the herd. It will not plane against the grain nor will it do end grain. It worked making a chamfer here and I'll just have to wish on knowing the why on it.

5/8 tongue and groove
it fits
I don't have any 5/8" stock so I set these aside for now and moved on. I will come back to it if and when I get some 5/8 stock.

7/8" tongue and groove planes
These are the best made T&G planes that I have. All the wear surfaces have iron on them and this is the way I received them. Whoever owned them before me, took very good care of them.(I shined them up)

they match up
I bought these because eventually I plan on using 7/8" stock to make things. 7/8" was the thickness back then whereas 3/4" is now.  I don't have any 7/8" but I did try these out on 15/16" thick stock. They worked good with the T&G being slightly offset from center.

5/8" tongue and groove

one of these, or both don't belong to either plane
#1 and #2 grooving plane irons
Either of these two match up with the tongue iron. Both of them are too wide.

they are marked 5/8
next T&G planes - irons line up
These planes were sold to me as being 1/2" but they aren't.

I haven't done any work on the irons
where the size confusion is
At the bottom right on both planes I can see and make out a /2.   I can't find a trace of a #1 over the /. Up at the right below the step, is 5/8.  It is marked with the /2 and 5/8 in the same spots on the groove plane. I think this is why I was told they were 1/2" because the 5/8 was covered with grunge. I had to scrape the heel to see it.

half inch stock
This isn't a 1/2" T&G plane. The groove is too far over for this plane to be 1/2".

better centering of the groove on 3/4" stock
fits, not quite flush, and the groove is deeper than the tongue.
pretty close on the flush
It is slightly off center which I would expect with a 5/8" plane. The tongue is tapered and the bottom of the groove is slanted.It leans to the right and the boards didn't line up flat.

the iron end is square

the iron is twisted?
I noticed this when I was flattening the back. The back isn't square to the sides (the sides have a slight taper to them). There is a definite tilt to the right with this iron flat on the board. When it is inserted into the plane it is cocked and the business edge of the plane is slanted. That is why the groove bottom is slanted. I didn't think much of it because the groove bottom will never be seen nor would it effect the fit of the T&G.

This was my fun in the shop for today. I stopped to go shovel the driveway and that wore me out. After that adventure I spent the rest of day watching Richard Maguire's sharpening videos.

accidental woodworker

trivia corner
What are the only two words in the english language that contain all the vowels, including y, in alphabetical order?
answer - facetiously and abstemiously

Table Games

The Furniture Record - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 10:51pm

The genesis of this blog was a visit to Atlanta in February of 2012. I attended the Cathedral Antiques Show, which I think is the finest antiques show I have ever attended. Nothing but the best with prices and hors d’oeuvres to match.

A dealer there had a game table I had read about but never seen. It has a mechanism for table support that is unique. It was a gorgeous table with a high level of appropriate decoration. The dealer was anxious to show me the table and explain in great detail the history and construction of the table. It was amazing.

Only problem was that the show had a rather strict “no photography” policy. The dealer was sympathetic but was more concerned about his status as a dealer than my blog. That I wasn’t writing yet.

I finally found another table of this design at an auction a few weeks back. I can finally share this different table with you, my loyal reader.

But first, a prime on game table technology. The game table or card table for the purposes of this blog refers to a relatively small table with a folded top that opens to reveal a flat surface that is meant for playing cards or other games. There are many forms and variations of this table including:

The one-legged table:


The tabletop is mounted with a pivot off-center. To open the table, one rotates the top 90° and unfolds the top. There is usually a storage compartment beneath the top.

I have not seen a two-legged table. It could be that there is a trestle table with a folding top, but I’ve not seen it.

A three-legged table might be possible but, again, I’ve not seen one.

What comes close is actually a four-legged table:


There is a fourth leg but not where you expect.

In this implementation, the fourth leg pulls straight out of the rear apron to support the top.


A straight pull back, no hinges required.

A variation of this table:


has a drawer to support the fourth leg and the tabletop.

Then we advance to the four-legged table. This variation has a hinged or gate leg that swings out to support the top:

IMG_5468 - Version 2

One leg swings back to make magic.

This table needs two legs to make it happen:


All legs in.


Both legs are hinged and swing out to support the top.

(I was looking for through my library for a picture of this type table without luck. Then I went over to an auction Wednesday to preview on online auction and found this one being readied for the next auction.)

Let’s not forget the five-legged table:


Really a four-legged table with a plus one. I assume the fifth is hinged and swings back and catches the top. The museum wouldn’t let me play.

This is an example of the table for which I have been searching for these five long years:

English Queen Anne Card Table


This lot has sold for $400.

Description:   Mid 18th century, mahogany, mahogany veneer, shaped top with molded edge, opening to reveal felt lined interior, skirt with herringbone line inlay, cabriole legs featuring acanthus carved knee, raised on pad feet.

The side view led me to believe that I had found it:


An odd little gap at the back was a clue.

Using my spiffy camera with live view and rotating/swinging back I was able to shoot up and see what lay beneath:


There be folded parts.

There was a mechanism that unfolds and allows the back apron to fall back well over 18″ to support the top:


The apron unfolds to support the unfolded top.


(Almost) Fully deployed.


The view from below shows some structural details.

This view shows the board that slides in the groove to lock the back legs into place.


The horizontal board is pulled through the groove to lock the legs in place.

This blog has been five years in the making. Was it worth it? We’ll know when awards season arrives.

Picture This CV

Pegs and 'Tails - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 7:55pm
… where decay and fashion collide. Joyner-made late seventeenth-century chests of drawers employed pegged, frame and panel construction methods, adapted from coetaneous building technology. The four stiles extended beneath the base moulding, raising the carcase clear of uneven, damp floors … Continue reading
Categories: Hand Tools

How precisely do you have to crosscut to length?

Heartwood: Woodworking by Rob Porcaro - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 7:15pm
crosscut technique
A reader recently emailed me to ask the best kind of question – a simple one with broad implications. Using only a hand tools, he asked, how do you “cut several pieces of wood exactly to length.” He stated further that he wanted to make several pieces “exactly the same length.” There are really two […] 0
Categories: Hand Tools

Case Joints in SketchUp – Easy in 2017 Pro

Bob Lang's ReadWatchDo - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 2:53pm
How far do you go with details in a SketchUp model? That’s a common question and the answer depends on what you’re making the model for versus how much time it will take to add the details. In my work, … Continue reading
Categories: General Woodworking

Bringing Jonathan Fisher Back to Life

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 1:27pm

Editor’s Note: One of the many exciting books in the works at Lost Art Press is Joshua Klein’s book on Jonathan Fisher (more on Fisher here). Fisher was an ingenious American colonial polymath and woodworker who could fashion almost anything out of wood – a clock, a lathe turned by a windmill, his own tools, furniture for his town, convertible beds and on and on.

This project will be in our hands for editing soon and you’re going to hear a lot more about Fisher and Klein’s personal journey of discovery in researching Fisher. In the meantime, here’s a crazy story about the lengths Joshua is going to for the book.

— Christopher Schwarz


I remember talking with Don Williams about his struggles working on the H.O. Studley book, “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley.” He said the challenge was unearthing information about who H.O. Studley was. Don searched far and wide to understand the story of this man and his legendary tool cabinet. Studley left no paper trail of letters describing his work, little if any of his other woodwork has been identified and much of the research required extensive traveling. Talk about a complicated project!

When Don visited my wife and I in Maine a few years ago, I took him through the Jonathan Fisher house. As we walked around the house looking at artifacts, we discussed the fact that the Fisher story has the opposite problem. Fisher’s house (five minutes from my own) is full of furniture, tools, paintings, journals, letters, etc. The archives are brimming with tiny little notebooks full of 18th- and 19th-century script, most of which was written in a shorthand he developed at Harvard. There are boxes of drawings, historic photographs and archaeological findings. Digesting this enormous body of information in order to discern a cogent furniture-making narrative would be an enormous task. If Studley was about accumulation, Fisher is about distillation.

As I was writing the chapter about Jonathan Fisher’s barn workshop, I was presented with the task of bringing together all of these artifacts into one scene. I know them all so well and am so immersed in the journals that I could picture it in my mind. His “tool closet” of planes, his lathe in the background, the sheep in the corner, his bald head and the “grave” demeanor on his face. It was almost like I was there. The problem was to describe it to the reader. Although I explained the setting as best as I could, I realized that looking at photographs of objects was not going to be enough. I wanted the reader to see things in context.

To my knowledge, no one writing a historic monograph on a pre-industrial furniture maker has ever commissioned an artist to recreate a workshop scene. Usually, there just isn’t enough information to create such a thing. But because almost everything from Fisher’s shop is either extant or we have paintings or photographs of it, I knew it was possible.

Is it necessary? No. Is it awesome? YES!

Fortunately, I’m working with Chris and John on this book so, of course, they were game. I contacted my first-choice artist, Jessica Roux, from Brooklyn, N.Y. I’ve admired Jessica’s work since seeing it on the covers of Taproot magazine. It struck me right away because it reminded me of Fisher’s own balance of academic training and folk whimsy. Also, the way she uses color and texture reminded of the many 18th/19th-century workshop paintings we all drool over. Her aesthetic vision seemed just right for this.

When I explained the project to Jessica, she was interested. I expressed how important historical accuracy was and she assured me she was used to several rounds of back and forth with authors to make sure things were conveyed correctly.

With the green light, I assembled images of the tools, historic paintings and Fisher himself and sent them along with a rough compositional sketch as a starting point. Then the back and forth began. During the last three weeks, Jessica has been refining a sketch that Chris and I will approve before she creates the final image. The color will happen in a magical digital process I look forward to learning more about.

We hope this artwork will bring Jonathan Fisher to life for you as you read this book. His life was one full of beauty, drama and lots of wood shavings — I can’t wait to share this unbelievable story.

The manuscript will be in Chris’ hands in a matter of weeks. Stay tuned.

— Joshua Klein, Mortise & Tenon magazine

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

‘Roman Workbenches’ on Press

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 12:17pm


Brian Stuparyk at Steam Whistle Letterpress is cranking up his Vandercook proofing press today to print the 500 copies of “Roman Workbenches.” I spent some time with his this morning as he adjusted the press for the run – tracking down an odd squeaking noise and adjusting the rollers to get the right spread of ink.

Printing the four signatures for the book should take about a week. Then the pages head to the bindery in Massachusetts. We’re still on track for shipping the book in April (though crappy weather, a trucking strike or a mutant squid attack could always throw us off).

Our customer service line, help@lostartpress.com, has been buzzing lately with questions about this book. Here are answers to the two most common questions:

Question 1: Is there a waiting list if people cancel their orders or there are extra books available?

Nope. No waiting list. If we have extra books or unbound copies become available, we’ll figure out how to sell them after all of the 500 people who ordered the book have an undamaged copy and are happy.

Question 2: Are you going to print a standard edition that is less expensive?

We hope to. I’m off to Italy next week for some additional research. And I really need to get to Germany for some important sleuthing – probably in June. If these trips are fruitful, I’ll probably expand the book with photographs and the additional information.

I think these benches are fascinating and have a lot to teach us. But I also don’t want to end up insulating my house with unsold copies of “Roman Workbenches.” We have been taking a lot of financial risks lately (deluxe “Roubo on Furniture” for one), and so I’m in a cautious mood.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Norris Mount Cutting Knife

David Barron Furniture - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 11:37am

I bought this Norris mount cutting knife (made for Buck) ages ago as I really liked the look and feel of it.

The blade is sharpened at a very low angle to a spear pint on both sides of the blade, ie 4 bevels in all. I ground the bevels and finished off on water stones and it gave a super sharp point which was easier to achieve than I had envisaged.
Oliver Sparks made a small batch of modern high quality copies which can see on his Blog

The other end of the blade had been formed into what looks like a small 'split nut' screwdriver, not exactly sure what for. The picture below shows the construction with a central brass tube and flat sides which were bent over the wood of choice.
Time to use it!

Categories: Hand Tools

Breadboard Ends With Draw-bore Pins. Love ’em!

Paul Sellers - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 10:49am

I am often asked about breadboard ends on furniture. I think mostly because they do trim out flat tops and tables nicely and they also help to constrain tabletops to prevent movement such as cupping. The main issue mostly is that the width of wood expands and contracts across its width but so minimally in …

Read the full post Breadboard Ends With Draw-bore Pins. Love ’em! on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

3 “Rules” To Joyous Woodworking and Life

Highland Woodworking - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 7:00am

RULE 1 – Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Don’t sweat the small stuff. I have heard this saying over and over throughout my life. It always made a kind of sense to me, but had never become real to me until I stitched it together with the next two “Rules” .

Not sweating the small stuff could be taken as a polar opposite to what constitutes craftsmanship. The taking of the time and the effort to “sweat the details”. This is NOT how I choose to use the phrase here. I insist that a craftsman deliver their own, best effort, at all times and in all their projects. No corner cutting.

Rather, by embracing rule 1, it sets the stage for a woodworker to free themselves from fear. What I mean here is that in woodworking, and in life too for that matter, Fear is often times the major stumbling block to those good and satisfying things we wish to have in our lives. Fear is a barrier to attaining what we want in our heart, to accomplish.

Fear of failing, fear of embarrassment, fear of not measuring up to our peers. There seems to be no end to the number of things that we as people, let alone craftspersons, can convince ourselves to be afraid of.

By adopting a philosophy of “not sweating the small stuff”, we open ourselves to possibility.

Sure, all those things we convince ourselves to be afraid of don’t just go away. The chance that we might fail or be embarrassed surely do exist and may indeed come to pass.

The difference is, if we adhere to these three rules, and do so with genuine and honest effort, we can reach a place of Madcap Nirvana. That is to say, we just don’t care if we fail, we just don’t care if we do something embarrassing. We embrace the failure, we embrace the embarrassment.

A key element of Madcap Nirvana is redefining failure or embarrassment or other negative, fear driven outcome, as an outcome other than what we initially had hoped for. In embracing the possibility of outcomes other than what we initially had hoped for, we open ourselves to what is, rather than what should be.

Taking this a step further, it is in the acceptance and willingness to embrace what is, over what should be, that we can find avenues of creativity and discovery that would otherwise have been unavailable to us were we to remain fixed in the focus of what should be. Learning to operate in acceptance of what is creates an environment that allows the artisan savor each moment in the creative process fearlessly.

RULE 2 – It’s ALL Small Stuff

It’s all small stuff, and I can prove it…If you woke this morning, were able to open your eyes, see the dawn, wiggle your toes, stretch, feel the sun on your face, smell the lilac, walk to the kitchen and make fresh coffee… those things, are BIG STUFF.

Everything, and I want to emphasize this, EVERYTHING else is small stuff. The rest of your day is icing on the cake. Just realizing that having the ability to do those things I mentioned above, is reason enough to take the rest of the day as something to be grateful for, enjoy, and hypothetically would make the rest of the day something of a vacation day.

That is in spite of having to go to a job we dislike, or having to interact with people that leave us with a bitter taste in our mouth. We are ALIVE, and…and this is another big one… we are alive and have the ability to go out to our shop and make shavings or make sawdust.

What an amazing gift that is!

So if those dovetail joints don’t fit just right, or that board is not as square as you had hoped it would be….so what? So what if it looks like a failure?

It isn’t.

It’s a demonstration of effort. It is a celebration of our ability to take advantage of having opposable thumbs. It’s an example of a creative soul attempting something different. That alone makes the attempt worthy and worth doing. Everything else, just as in the example above, is gravy.


This rule sounds almost flippant, or as something said as a joke or tag line, but is actually the most important rule of the three.

I try every day to remember not to sweat the small stuff. I try every day to remember that it is ALL small stuff.

Am I successful? Sometimes yes…and…sometimes no…and that’s just fine.

Sometimes I forget that it is amazing that I woke up in the morning. Sometimes I forget to wiggle my toes. Sometimes I forget that each day is remarkable simply because I am alive to experience it. It’s natural. It is part of the human experience to live some days with less than monastic meditation and gratitude each and every moment.

However, on those days when I remember rules 1 and 2, I find that I enjoy, even the smallest victory, more vividly. I find that things seem to flow more smoothly. In those times when the inevitable mistakes are made, I try to remember to embrace them, and look for the lesson in them. Or look for the discovery in them. Or look for the creative method to manage, or even fix the mistake. If i’m faithful in this, I nearly always find what I am looking for.

Remembering these rules has absolutely changed the way I experience the world. I would be willing to wager that it may be a game changer for others as well.

I would say this though, take the three rules and make them uniquely your own. Don’t take my word for it. It is through the prism of an individual’s experience that these rules should be applied. Apply them to your own experience in a way that makes the “rules” yours.

Or not.

I submit them as an example of my own experience, and fodder for contemplation and consideration, not as gospel. It would be presumptuous of me to make the assumption that these three rules are universally applicable. They may very well not be. They are truth in my own experience of life, and it is my hope that they are in someone else’s as well.

John McBride is a professional woodwright, blogger, and writer, living and working joyfully and with abandon in Denver, Colorado.

The post 3 “Rules” To Joyous Woodworking and Life appeared first on Woodworking Blog.

Categories: General Woodworking

Creating in CAD: Variations on a Theme

Popular Woodworking Editors Blog - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 5:19am

Digital woodworking comes with a lot of moving parts: new hardware; new software; new methods and skills. But it’s the machinery itself that gets most of the attention. CNCs, Laser Cutters and 3D printers are all impressive machines. Watching them work, and the resulting precision, is the main focus of this new way of woodworking. With all that amazing machinery magically moving around, it’s easy to miss the most important […]

The post Creating in CAD: Variations on a Theme appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Categories: General Woodworking

A Slice of Pye

The Mortise & Tenon Magazine Blog - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 4:29am

Note: In celebration of “PYE” Day today (3/14), we’ve decided to offer Free US Shipping on all our “Craftsmanship is Risk” merchandise (i.e. Shirts and Stickers). Today and today only.

I must admit that I am a latecomer to the “Real Craft” conversation. Many words have been written and many ideas exchanged over what exactly constitutes craftsmanship. Is it simply the act of making an object “by hand” (whatever that means…)? Is it running a CNC router from your laptop? Is it the practice of only recreating traditional forms with traditional tools? It seems folks have some strong opinions on every side of this debate.

The term “craft” has always carried me back to my childhood. Back then, my mom and grandmother would occasionally engage in bursts of productivity on their sewing machines, creating a wide variety of marketable items: baby quilts, dolls, and Christmas decorations. We would gather them up and bring them to what were called, in central Pennsylvania, “craft fairs”. As I got older, I helped a bit with our product diversity, making painted wooden animals or cute little pine snowmen with twig arms. We often did quite well, and my portion of the sales was generally spent on baseball cards. Because of these experiences, I’ve long associated the term “craft” with sweet little old ladies in extravagantly embroidered sweatshirts and copious amounts of Spanish moss hot glued to bric-a-brac. That, and the smell of cinnamon. Of course, this is a very incomplete (and likely inaccurate) picture that illustrates the importance of defining our terms properly.

David Pye has long been THE go-to resource for defining terms when it comes to craftsmanship. Since he first published The Nature and Art of Workmanship back in 1968, Pye’s nuanced argument has been the foundation for any deep discussion on the philosophy of workmanship. He writes as a maker himself, a true master of turning and carving. Even coming from this pragmatic standpoint, Pye considers terminology and definitions to be of vast importance in this conversation. He relates this story:

“Tzu-lu said, If the prince of Wei were waiting for you to come and administer his country for him, what would be your first measure? The Master [i.e. Confucius] said, It would certainly be to correct language.” After Tzu-lu argues vehemently that this is a secondary issue in running a nation, Confucius comes back bluntly: “Yu! How boorish you are!” He then describes the importance of accuracy in defining terms. “If language is incorrect, then what is said does not concord with what was meant; and if what is said does not concord with what was meant, what is to be done cannot be effected…”

In short, if you and I don’t understand what our words mean, all conversation is essentially pointless. The Nature and Art of Workmanship, then, is Pye’s dictionary for craftsmanship and, in the words of John Kelsey, it “remains the only useful framework we have.”

So how did Pye define “craftsmanship”? Readers of M&T are probably familiar with the term “Craftsmanship Is Risk” – the reference to Pye emblazoned on the back of our new t-shirt and stickers. Let me say first what it doesn’t mean. The “risk” involved isn’t to the maker – you know, sharp edges are dangerous and all. Hand-tool woodworking is not some thrill-seeking extreme sport, like BASE jumping or Skyrunning (though that’s an interesting angle to think about…). Hewing a log barefoot isn’t considered “workmanship of risk” because you could lose a toe, but because “the quality of the result is continually at risk during the process of making.”  This is Pye’s definition of craftsmanship. It is inherently risky, because the end product can be destroyed at pretty much any time by the misuse of the unregulated tools of the craftsman.

This “workmanship of risk” is contrasted with the “workmanship of certainty”. Pye cites examples of mass production and full automation as the purest state of this form of making. “The result is exactly predetermined before a single salable thing is made.” The more predictable the outcome of a woodworking operation (i.e. working wood vs. machining wood), the farther we get from “craft”. “All the works of men which have been most admired since the beginning of history have been made by the workmanship of risk, the last three or four generations only excepted.”  Here is where craftsmanship implies tradition, as Joshua has postulated before in this post and in his follow-up clarification. Our forebears produced everything with simple tools and the skill of their hands.

In summary, I offer this advice: read Pye for yourself (he is worth the effort). Keep your edge tools sharp, take care in your work, and enjoy the relationship between yourself, your tools, and your materials.

And keep telling folks about the inherent risk of craftsmanship – they might drop by for a visit to your shop to see what you’re talking about.

~Mike Updegraff


Categories: Hand Tools

Wife: He makes everything into a wood pun.Me: This couch has such great lumber support.Wife:...

Giant Cypress - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 3:18am

the big snow storm eve......

Accidental Woodworker - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 3:14am
It looks like old man winter is going out with a bang. The snow level forecasted has dropped from 20" plus to 12 to 15 inches. Gee, that sure makes me feel better. There is also a blizzard warning in effect and I can't remember the last time I heard that one. The fun is scheduled to start around 0600 and run until Mother Nature runs out of the white stuff.

dry fit
The side rabbet planes are fairly stable and there is very little wiggle room in all directions. The skate is a snug fit in the bottom pine piece. There is little room for them to move side to side before they would hit the depth shoe screw or the cherry knob. The center divider is an 1/8" below the top of the front and the cherry knobs are exactly 2 frog hairs below that. I think that even if I turned the box upside down the planes won't come out of the bottom with the skate slots in them.

flushing the  tails
I'm cleaning the box up and I like to use the chisel to first flush all the tails and pins that are proud. Once I knock that out, I plane the 4 sides.

need two more shims
After I got the box planed, I found two more gaps between the pins and tails that I had to shim.

last one to fill
All my half pins came out crappy. Two of them had some huge gaps in them. (I consider this here a huge gap.) This was caused by me taking too many swipes with a chisel to clean them up. I should have left them as they came off the saw. Which is what I usually do.

sawing the last thin shim
won't be too fat for long
I've been watching Tage Frid videos on you tube lately and I saw him doing this. He was plugging a gap in a tail/pin and his shim was too fat. He kept hitting it with a hammer until it fit. This should close up this gap nicely. The hammer compressed the wood to fit and the glue will swell them back up for a tight fit.

partial gap to fill
This tail was missing a chip and it only went 1/2 way.  Can you see the plugs in the two top inboard corners of the top tails? The left one is easier to pick out and the right one is a pretty good match.

new pine lid
The box is made out of the bookcase I broke apart except for the 1/8" plywood bottom. The first rectangle in the front will be the new lid once I saw it out.

flattening a new way
First up I'm going to roughly flatten this board by first removing the hump on this side. After the hump is gone I'll remove the wings on the other side. Then I'll assess the board and move on from there.

knot or something funky here
I don't know what this is
If I plane across this going with the grain, the plane skims right over it barely taking a whisper of a shaving. It feels hard to the touch too. If I go against the grain, even at a skew, I tear out chunks of wood. There isn't any way I'll be planing a rabbet in this. This lid is burnt toast.

lid #3
I'm clear of the knot here, leaving me a board wider and longer than I need.

it's twisted
it's cupping
I removed the twist and flattened it. I set it on the bench and made a nature call. When I came back it had cupped this much. This is the lid and I don't trust this to not move any more than this. Lid #3 is toast too.

back to the old kitchen cabinet wood
I don't have any more big pieces of pine to use for the lid. I don't want to glue up two boards so I'm using the first choice I made.

planing the rabbets first
My last couple of boxes I made the rabbet around a 1/2" wide. This time I am making it a 1/8" wider than the depth of the groove. I used my 10 1/2" to make the rabbets which are the smallest ones I made to date. I didn't find these small ones anymore difficult than the others I've done.

just noticed this when getting the lid width
entry end
exit end
opposite side entry
opposite side exit
Both rabbets aren't square but at this stage that isn't necessary.  What I did good on was planing the rabbets flat and straight end to end. I left the pencil line and one rabbet sloped down and away from it into the the shoulder. That could have been a problem but wasn't.

After I planed down to the pencil lines, I squared up the rabbets. I started with the shoulders first and did the flats that go in the grooves when I fitted them.

bit of a gap
I think the chip missing on the left hand groove threw off my measurements. I got both flats sliding into the grooves.

starting to bind with a little more than an inch left to close
I planed a bit off both edges at the back and kept at that until the lid slid in and out freely.

blew out this corner
I can't seem to remember to back this up. This is the 4th lid I've done this to. Maybe I should plane the bevel on the end first before I do the rabbets or anything else.

any scrap will do
Kind of like closing the barn door after the horse got out. This scrap doesn't have to fit rabbet exactly, just as long as it held tight to the shoulder as I plane this bevel.

cleaning up the bevel
The 51 iron is either dull or it didn't like planing this wood. The bevel was all tore out side to side.  The 102 made it pretty.

will it work?
It looks like I have sufficient room to get the bead before the plane bottoms out. If there isn't, I'll be starting over again.

I had enough room
couldn't remove all of it
flushing the bottom
With this last planing step, all the woodworking on the box is complete.

forgot the thumb grab
Now, there is no more woodworking left to be done.

I like this gap
This looks much better and it is a close match to the groove on the inboard side of the bead.

one of the last boxes I made
 This one has a wide rabbet that runs in the groove. I can see two things to change with this. First is to close the distance and make the rabbet smaller. Secondly, doing that will make this a bit stronger. That is a thin rabbet that could easily be snapped off and broken.

made this the same time as the one above
I think I found my signature for boxes. Do a bevel with a flat on the front of the lid. Check.  Plane an astragal and a small rabbet. Check.  Round over the top end of the groove at the front and everyone will know it's something I made. Check.

warming up the OBG
glued the bottoms in place with the OBG
Rather than center them in the dividers, I got them both tight to the top and the center divider.

first coat tonight, second and last one tomorrow
branded and dated
After I get the second coat on, I'll spray a couple of coats of lacquer on this to seal it.

I got a late start in the shop today. My cataracts are acting up on me and they changed the prescription on my glasses. The doc said that they will do this but they aren't bad enough yet to rip out. Before I went to the shop I had to wait for the pupil dilator to wear off and that took 5 hours. 

accidental woodworker

trivia corner
What is a sporran?
answer - The pouch worn on Scottish Highlander kilts

Ulmia auxiliary vise

Heartwood: Woodworking by Rob Porcaro - Mon, 03/13/2017 - 8:55pm
Ulmia auxiliary vise #1812
Ulmia used to produce this auxiliary vise, model #1812. I first saw it many years ago on page 145 of my copy of the 1977 hardcover Van Nostrand Reinhold edition of The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking, where the author, James Krenov, commented that it is “well made and very useful.” I wish I bought one […] 0
Categories: Hand Tools

Time To Clean Out Some Duplicates...

The Part-Time Woodworker - Mon, 03/13/2017 - 3:22pm
For Sale - Stanley No. 3 Woodworking Plane - Type 9

  • Overall, the plane is in very good condition with no fault that will take away from it’s ability to surface stock.
  • It isn’t a collector’s piece, but it is a very good user.
  • There is about 85% of the japanning left on the body.
  • The blade has plenty of meat left on it.
  • The tote is solid, with good colour, and quite comfortable to work with.
  • The knob is comfortable, with good colour, but it does have a surface crack running almost its full length with some bits missing around it’s bottom, a common issue with these earlier planes because they lack the protective ring that were casted into the bodies of Stanley’s newer planes.
  • The frog is whole, has a properly working depth adjustment, and while stiff, a properly working adjustment lever.
  • The sole has some staining and minor nicks that a 110 year old plane should have.
  • The vertical edge of the sole’s heel has some roughness to it but it appears to be from the original casting.
  • The mouth is a little rough along it’s forward edge, again appearing to be a result of Stanley’s casting.
  • The keyhole in the lever cap also has some roughness to it, a result of some misuse in the past, but it does not effect the plane’s performance or useability at all.
  • This is a Type 9 plane.
  • Please view the photos of the plane to confirm its quality.

Selling price is $75 (CAN) firm.

I will charge the purchaser exactly what the Post Office charges me for shipping, with no additional charges for shipping materials or my time.

I will only accept PayPal for payment.

This phone was originally purchased to use as a cell phone dock, but the larger phone I am using now no longer fits it, so it is time to let it go, given I have a couple of them. I did use this plane a number of times after retiring its dock job, and it quickly became my go-to plane, rather than using a No. 4 or 4 1/2, manly because of its smaller size and lighter weight. This is a great little plane in excellent user condition.

Stanley No. 3 - Type 9
Stanley No. 3 - Type 9
Stanley No. 3 - Type 9
Stanley No. 3 - Type 9
Stanley No. 3 - Type 9
The Body is solid and has about 85% of its original japanning
Both sides and sole have been mildly lapped
to ensure they are flat
Both sides and sole have been mildly lapped
to ensure they are flat
Both sides and sole have been mildly lapped
to ensure they are flat
The mouth is rough from the original casting. There is a small
chip on its leading edge but it does not effect the plane's performance
The lever cap does exactly what it is supposed to do
The lever cap does exactly what it is supposed to do
The blade is close to its original length
and is free from heavy pitting
The knob has some issues, but none that effect its
performance. There is a surface crack on the
backside of the knob and as you can see
in this photo, some bits missing around
 the bottom, mainly due to no
protective ring in the body casting

This was the original purpose for purchasing
this plane - to use it as a cell phone dock.
It worked great!


Categories: Hand Tools

Spread Glue On Thick

360 WoodWorking - Mon, 03/13/2017 - 12:58pm
Spread Glue On Thick

A couple of weeks back, I wrapped up a three-presentation series on curved components. The last of the series covered bent laminations. (Other parts of the series discussed brick laying and stacked laminations.) Glue application is key. You have to spread glue on thick.

Bent lamination work is a bit more involved because you have to have a form to bend your thin laminations around or against. Also, you’re working with six to 10 laminations, depending on the thickness of your end part.

Continue reading Spread Glue On Thick at 360 WoodWorking.

‘Kids Today…’ (Oh Shut Your Pie Hole)

Giant Cypress - Mon, 03/13/2017 - 3:58am
‘Kids Today…’ (Oh Shut Your Pie Hole):

Christopher Schwarz:

[T]he only difference I see between [younger woodworkers] and the older generations is the younger woodworkers are apt to use materials in addition to wood – metal, plastic and ceramics. And they are more likely to adopt technology into the things they make – robotics, 3D printing, CNC, laser cutting.

I’ve found this to be true as well. A few years ago I gave a woodworking talk at Maker Faire New York. The demographic there definitely skewed younger than what I see at woodworking events, and there was interest in woodworking, but more so as a means to an end rather than a pursuit that was exclusive of using other materials. 

I used part of my talk to spread the woodworking gospel. At one point I mentioned to the crowd that even if one wasn’t particularly interested in making furniture, woodworking was a great skill to have, pointing out that If one needed to make an enclosure for their Raspberry Pi, wood was lightweight, strong, and easy to work with, and that it was much more fun than shaping aluminum plate or sheet metal.

I also remember that the number of woodworking representatives was pretty scarce there. There was me, Nicholas Phillips, Tools For Working Wood, Garrett Wade, and that was it. If the woodworking community wants more younger people to take up woodworking, maybe we should do a better job of going to them.

And there’s this:

One of the things that makes me nuts about woodworking shows is listening to older woodworkers complain about 20-year-olds and how they (among other vices) have little interest in woodworking.

This weekend’s Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event was no exception. What was exceptional is that I listened to much of this drivel while people in their 20s and 30s wandered around Braxton Brewing, used the hand tools and talked to the makers. (Emphasis mine.)

Maybe the older folks like their alternative facts.

side rabbet plane box........

Accidental Woodworker - Mon, 03/13/2017 - 2:31am
Had another good day and I got a few things done. Fell into the same rut this afternoon where I was doing the nodding game. This time I actually checked the inside of the peepers for light leaks for a short while. Went back to shop and since the idiot DST started this AM, I left the shop at 1700 although the clock said 1600.

The plan for today was to set the sink cabinet and call it a day. Tomorrow I have my annual eye exam and I was going to do that last cabinet after that. The sink cabinet went in lickety split for me so I did the last one too. The only hiccup was trying to find a stud to screw the cabinet backs into to. I drilled a lot of holes trying to find them.

From the corner cabinet stud to the first sink stud was 14 1/2" and the next stud was 15". The lone screw into a stud in the last cabinet was 16" OC .

I also had to shim the front of both cabinets up over a 1/2". I thought the floor sloped down into the middle but I was wrong on that. The floor is high on this wall and it slopes down and away straight into the opposite wall. Nothing in this house surprises me anymore.

typewriter desk has set up
This may be too small in the length. The keyboard is 18" and the desk is 24", I'm not sure if I'll be happy with so little real estate to move the mouse on.

side molding
the back molding
Undecided on whether or not to miter this corner or use a butt joint. Since I dislike miters, the butt joint may be the lead off batter.

the would be drawer fronts
After thinking about the drawers I nixed them. There is a 2 1/2" overhang to clear before I would see the inside of a drawer. The depth is roughly 10" so by time I get one made I won't have a lot of usable space. I still like the idea of drawers on this so I will keep this in mind for when I make the bigger stand up desk.

only three small glue blobs
This is a carbide tipped scraper that works wonders on removing dried glue. I cleaned up the poplar and the plywood without any tear outs on either of them.

flushed the back
There was a slight bump in the middle with the rest of it being flush. I set this aside because I didn't feel like mitering it. I'll pick this back up tomorrow after my eye doctor appointment.

plowing the lid groove
I spent about 20 minutes making test grooves to see how they lined up. This time I picked the one that lined up right on the pencil line.

I didn't try
The top of the groove is too close to the tail and in order to keep that nick free this would have had to been worked like the stopped groove. Went with plowing straight through and nicking the tail.

I did look at placing the tail out of the way when I did the layout but I didn't like the look. This is a situation where I think laying out the tails and pins over rides a groove running through it.

it is a small hole
Once this is plugged I think you would be hard pressed to pick them out.

laying out the center divider
The second line from the top will the width of the divider and the line on the pin board is the top of the dado.

sawing off the line and planing to the line
first dado done
it's taken me a while
When I first started making dadoes with hand tools I really struggled trying to master it. I still have an occasional hiccup but most the time now I get this. This is the goal I shoot for when I do them.

wee bit short
I thought I had carefully measured this and worked off my knife lines but I missed something. I'm not sure what I did wrong but I'm off the depth of one dado. I think I failed to add both dado depths when I figured out the length. The second one fit with no gaps.

plugged the holes
Along with the holes, I had to glue shims in two tails to close up gaps. I sent the box aside by the furnace to cook overnight.

holder for the side rabbet planes
I started out making this by sawing and then chiseling it out. That wasn't working to well and was taking a lot of time. It also wasn't coming out as clean as I wanted.

switched to plan #2
The first step in plan #2 was to drill a series of holes.

last step - use a coping saw to remove the waste
chisel work to clean up the slot
it fits
It is standing upright on it's own. I made the slot a 1/16" wider then the width of the skate at it's widest point. I was expecting this to be a bit on the tippy side.

don't need it now
I was planning on putting a U shaped holder underneath the knob to counter the anticipated tipsiness. Don't need to do that now but it is something I can add in the future if need be.

I can glue this back together and still use it. These aren't going to be subjected to any stress so even though it's pine, I think it is ok to use.

where they will live
I'll spot glue these in each side with hide glue. I made both of them an 1/8" shorter in the width and length than the divided space. I don't think wood movement will be a concern but it doesn't hurt to err on the side of caution.

found a lid
This is big enough to get a lid out of it. It is from my old kitchen cabinets but it doesn't match up with the pine I used on the rest of the box. I have more of the pine I used for the box and I may change this. I will take a look at this again when I plane and clean up the box.

accidental woodworker

trivia corner
Which US state has had the most tornadoes?
answer - Texas, Kansas is second and Oklahoma is third


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