I am pleased to announce that “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” by Roy Underhill has arrived in our Indianapolis warehouse and is shipping out to customers as I type this.
Our warehouse has set up a special line in its packaging department to fulfill “Calvin Cobb.” If you ordered your copy before today it will be in the mail to you by Friday. (Administrative note: Some customers will receive two notifications that their book has shipped. Please do not be alarmed. You will receive the correct number of books – not twice as many as you ordered. It was a small computer snafu.)
If you haven’t yet ordered “Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” you have 17 more days to do that and receive free domestic shipping. After Nov. 29, 2014, shipping will be about $7. Also good to note: Orders made now will make it to their destination for Christmas.
The book is $29 and can be ordered here.
This morning I drove the 100 miles to our Indianapolis warehouse to pick up some copies and it was well worth the drive. The book – every bit of it – is impressive. The matte dust jacket looks fantastic, the interior printing job is crisp and even the cloth headbands on the spine match the cloth cover and internal stamping. I think you will be impressed with the physical product.
As those of you who have already read the electronic version of the book know, you know the story is great fun to read.
Thanks to everyone who worked on this crazy project – from Roy who signed on for a wild ride, to editor Megan Fitzpatrick, designer Linda Watts and cover illustrator Jode Thompson.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. For our international customers and those who buy our books through other sources, such as Lee Valley Tools, Henry Eckert and Lie-Nielsen Toolworks (to name a few). Their books are en route, but we have no information on when they will arrive or when those vendors will begin selling them.
Filed under: Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!
Dear Drivel Starved Nation;
For those of you that follow this Totally Awesome and Worthless Blog, you know that one, you need to get a life – you should be in your shop making something. Oh wait, you are at work…
Second, I am a huge fan of crowned edges in woodworking.
A crowned edge can be used in many ways and in my opinion, almost always more beautiful than a dead square edge. You can read about the proportions of this edge treatment here.
This week we will open the pre-order window for the definitive set of crown profiles for the HP-10 Foxtail Convertible Plane and the kit appears below;
We learned much over the years with the HP-6 Mini Multi-Plane and not the least of which was all the boxes that accumulate in your shop. With the HP-10 Crown Kit, there is only one box and it holds all four profiles (whether you acquire one or all four), both hones and will have a space for the included tube of diamond paste. We are doing this so you can remove the high density foam insert and design a cabinet to house the coming profile kits over the next four years. At some point we will also make the exact same size foam insert for the HP-6 sole and iron kits so you can have a home for them as well.
The two aluminum hones are dual sided and will allow you to hone a 5 degree micro bevel in short order using diamond paste on all four profiles. The angle to the hone for the micro bevel is 30 degrees and it is really easy to do completely by hand. However for those with disabilities or unsteady hands, you can use a honing guide as well.
As of this writing, it looks like we will make HP-10 bodies every two years so if you are thinking about adding this plane to your shop, we have a small inventory remaining from the previous production run.
A visitor to our showroom recently asked me if you use the crown plane to remove all the wood from a square edge and the answer is a definitive NO! You always remove as much material as you can with a block or bench plane and use the crown plane for the last four or five passes. This keeps your crown iron sharper much longer.
My next post will feature images from the wood invitational now appearing at the Bellevue Arts Museum – it is an incredible exhibition of creative woodworking.
I've just completed a batch of videos for YouTube, the first is a video on the tool chest we will be making at Bridgewater College in July for the New English Workshop http://www.newenglishworkshop.co.uk/
There aren't many places left so if you're thinking of booking don't leave it too long!
For some reason I enjoy hand sawing, especially ripping. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t tiring. When you get tired your technique suffers and a good cut can go back very quickly leading to a lot more work later one with a hand plane. I have come up with a simple tip to pace myself but also add a little more accuracy over a long rip when my technique can break down due to fatigue. I hope you enjoy this tip.
Today’s Chips ‘n Tips winner is Mark Greene. Mark chose a Lie Nielsen dovetail saw from my list of prizes.
If you haven’t registered to win yet, then visit my Chips ‘n Tips page to do so. I give away something with every tip I produce.
As I write this, I have just completed my longest day of driving ever. I turned the ignition key at 7.30 this morning, well, yesterday morning to be technically accurate, and exactly 16 hours and 999.4 miles later, I turned it off. That’s the distance from Topeka, Kansas, to my Fortress of Solitude in the Virginia Highlands. Three refills of gas, four chili cheese-dogs from Pilot, a handful of celery and carrots and two apples, and here I am.
If I could stand up straight I would have a bit of a strut.
Little did I know last year when I agreed to make a presentation to the Washington Woodworker’s Guild it would be the day following this trip, but I am not about to shirk my commitment. They are my woodworking peeps, after all.
Now, on the the hard part of tying up all those loose threads from Henry Studley’s apron.
Seeing furniture in the flesh is much better than looking at photographs or drawings. A visit to a museum is good, but seeing furniture in context, in relation to other pieces and in an appropriate interior is better still. The Roycroft Inn and adjacent campus, Elbert Hubbard’s utopian community, offer that in abundance, and if you are fascinated with the Arts & Crafts period of the early 20th century, a visit to East Aurora, New York should be on your bucket list.
The inn, originally opened in 1905 and restored in 1995, offers the opportunity to enjoy a meal or spend the night surrounded by the best examples of the period in furniture, metalwork, glass and architecture. When you step into one of the public areas, dining rooms or guest rooms, it is like stepping back one hundred years to when the Arts & Crafts period was the height of fashion.
If you like the furniture by itself, you’ll enjoy it more when you sit in an original Stickley morris chair, look out the window at the garden and enjoy coffee and conversation surrounded by murals, exposed wood construction and art glass lighting. At the Roycroft Inn, you are surrounded by the real thing and invited to make yourself at home.
Elbert Hubbard was one of the leading figures of the Arts & Crafts period, best know for his writing and publishing. In 1895, he sold his interest in the Larkin Soap Company and founded the Roycrofters. His skill in promotion and marketing had put him in a position to cash out and retire while in his mid-thirties. Some of the most commonly used marketing strategies of the 20th century, such as offering premiums with products, “cutting out the middle man” and celebrity endorsements are ideas that originated with Hubbard.
Extremely successful at marketing and salesmanship, he saw himself as a writer and philosopher, and the main focus at Roycroft was publishing. He traveled to Europe, enrolled in Harvard and wrote a few books before returning to East Aurora, about 20 miles east of Buffalo.
He set up a print shop and book-bindery modeled after William Morris’ Kelmscott Press. He wrote several books titled “Little Journeys” and founded two magazines, “The Fra” and “The Philistine”. An essay in “The Philistine” in 1899 called “A Message to Garcia” struck a chord with the American people, sold millions of copies when reprinted as a pamphlet, and enabled Hubbard to expand his campus and businesses. Hubbard was also popular on the lecture circuit, often setting out to tour when cash was needed for one of the many enterprises at the growing Roycroft campus.Success Begets Growth
In 1901 A new stone building was erected for the printing operation, and the original print shop became the Roycroft Inn. Around this time, several other buildings were constructed to house other crafts, including a furniture shop. There is also a Chapel that was originally used for community meetings and a powerhouse that suppled electricity and steam heat to the Campus. The woodworking operation at Roycroft originally supplied furniture for the community and the inn, and pieces were offered for sale through a printed catalog.
Roycroft furniture was nicely made, and the designs were typical of the period without being direct imitations of other makers. The easy way to identify a Roycroft piece is the presence of either the Roycroft orb, or the name itself carved in a prominent place. This type of branding, the forerunner of today’s Nike “swoosh,” is also one of Hubbard’s innovations. Construction was generally of quartersawn white oak, stained in shades of brown.
The feet on Roycroft pieces often have some detail, either tapering to a bell shaped foot (known as a Mackmurdo foot) or with a carved recess above a curved foot. The influence of English Arts & Crafts designers, as well as Medieval and Gothic designs is seen both in Roycroft furniture and in the interior and exterior details of the buildings.
In Hubbard’s writings he talks about hiring local carpenters to build the buildings at Roycroft, then keeping them on to make furniture. When the buildings were furnished, pieces were then made for sale. Hubbard never designed any furniture himself, and never made that claim. No individual has been clearly identified as a Roycroft furniture designer, and it is likely that the cabinetmakers collaborated with artists and designers at Roycroft to work out the details of specific designs.
Roycroft was never a major player in furniture production of the period. Bruce Johnson’s book “Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Furniture” (Popular Woodworking Books), which is now unfortunately out of print, tells the story of the furniture industry at Roycroft in detail. Elbert Hubbard’s main focus was on printing; the print shop had the largest and best equipped facility on the Roycroft campus, and printing and bookbinding brought in the most revenue. Works in copper, glass and furniture (and for a brief period, pottery) were also produced, but in smaller shops with fewer employees. Work in these secondary crafts was well done. The Roycroft woodworking shop, however, was tiny in comparison to Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Workshops a few hours away in Syracuse, New York.
In 1904, as work on the Inn began in earnest and in hopes of establishing a foothold in the furniture market, a three story building was erected to house the woodworking shop. Machinery was located on the first floor, powered by a generator in the basement. The second floor contained a bench room and assembly areas, with finishing and storage of completed projects on the top level.
Hubbard’s marketing philosophy of selling direct to the consumer through catalogs may well have limited the growth of the furniture shop. At its busiest, there may have been as many as a dozen workers. For most of its active period, however, as few as three or four cabinetmakers was the norm. Roycroft furniture is not as common as that made by the major companies active in the period.
Hubbard and his wife Alice both died in the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. Hubbard’s son Bert took over management of the various Roycroft enterprises, staying active until the great depression.What’s in the Roycroft Inn Today
Many of the original furnishings in the Roycroft Inn were produced by one of the Stickleys, with pieces from both Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Workshops and L. & J.G. Stickley, the company headed by Gustav’s younger brother Leopold. Today, the furniture inside the inn is a mix of old pieces and current reproductions. Most of the originals are in the lobbies, and most of the new pieces are in the dining rooms and guest suites. It’s a nice collection, and pieces see daily use. It’s a refreshing change for the furniture lover; no velvet ropes and no “do not touch” signs.
In the period between the 1930s and the 1970s, the inn and the other buildings on the campus saw various uses and several owners, none of whom were successful in the long run. Much of the original furniture was sold locally along the way. In the 1970s the inn was purchased by an owner committed to restoring the property. Part of that owner’s effort was tracking down and purchasing original pieces of furniture that were still in the area.
In 1986, the campus and the inn were granted status as a National Historic Landmark, and a major restoration effort began. Restoration of the inn was completed in 1995. Several of the other buildings have also been restored. The second print shop building, the copper shop and the Chapel across the street from the inn look as if they had been transported from the English countryside. The front facade of the inn is in the Prairie style, and the interior is a pleasing blend of exposed beams, wood panels and floors and other elements that were popular trends in the early 1900s.
The Roycroft Inn began as a single building, the original print and bindery shop. Between 1901 and 1905, additions were made to the original structure. Two wings are added to the front and back of the building, connecting it to a three-story structure that contains the hotel lobby on the ground floor with guest suites above. Both wings are now dining areas, with the front wing open to the air and a garden area in the space between the wings and the hotel.
Behind the rear wing is an additional dining room, and there is a small dining room behind the lobby of the original building. A bar is to one side of that lobby. It all has a definite feeling of a building that grew rather than one that was completely planned at the outset. It works, but it can be confusing to the first time visitor. Plus, some of the dining areas are far removed from the kitchen; the serving staff gets their exercise.
There are two entrances to the inn. One is to the original building, a few steps up from the stone wall that separates the sidewalk from the street. The second entrance is at the opposite end of the building, around the corner facing a parking area. Beyond each entrance is a large room. These rooms are of particular interest to woodworkers and furniture collectors.
Inside the door at the street entrance, the room has groups of side chairs around circular tables. In the center, two L. & J.G. Stickley prairie settles with paneled sides and backs face each other across a modern cocktail table. To the right, the wall has windows that open to a central garden and is anchored with a brick fireplace at the middle.
To the right of the fireplace is a high-back bench and to the left is a grouping of two Gustav Stickley bent-arm Morris chairs with an art-glass-shaded lamp atop a circular table placed between them. These chairs have numerous small spindles below the arms; a style that was short-lived, but the latest thing in 1905. On the opposite wall are more groupings of chairs and an elegant tall clock, custom made to celebrate the restoration of the inn.
At the far end of the room is a stairway, flanked by arched openings to a small dining room beyond. At the top of the stairs is another room, currently set up as a private dining room, and stairs to a private suite above. At the top of the stairs are carved newel posts and a wonderful view of the room below, as well as the exposed beams with glass lanterns hanging from them. The upstairs rooms have served different purposes as the inn has grown and evolved.
Beside the Morris chairs at the far end of the room is a handsome glass door Roycroft cabinet, and there are several side boards and serving tables where the transition is made from the lobby to the connecting wing and the large dining room behind it. Today this wing is where breakfast is served. At the far end of the wing is a paneled vestibule with doors leading to the hotel lobby, and to the garden area between the wings.
The hotel lobby was originally used as a performing area for music, or for Hubbard or a visitor to speak from a raised platform. Today it is arranged in several discrete seating areas, with a massive Roycroft table in the middle of the room. Upon entering the room from outside, the check-in desk is to the right and a massive partners desk to the left. Above the paneled walls are murals, with windows on three sides of the room.
Two of the windows have built-in seats, surrounded by a nice assortment of chairs from several makers. There is also a variety of interesting occasional tables throughout the room, including L. & J.G. Stickley “encyclopedia” tables and round tabourets. Near the doorways are sideboards, desks and serving tables. As in most areas of the inn, it takes a while to take in everything that is there. It’s easy to focus on one piece and miss several others nearby.
At the end of the room is another seating area, by the windows that face the street. Here you’ll find a spindle side version of the prairie settle, a nice Roycroft drop front desk and a most interesting Morris chair. This chair, made in the woodworking shop across the street about 100 years ago is wide enough for two to sit in cozy comfort. Throughout the inn are original pieces that see daily use, a testament to the longevity of this style of furniture.
The large table in the middle of the room is an interesting variation of a hay rake table, with an additional leg in the center of the long top. The end stretchers are bow-shaped curves that join the legs with pegged tenons. The square legs terminate in bulbous feet, a detail that softens the imposing appearance of this piece.
Many of the doors in the inn have mottos carved in them, and there are carved plaques with pithy sayings in the main dining room and in the lobby in the original building. Hubbard was fond of these short quotations, both in coining them and in using them. In rooms with exposed beams in the ceiling a plaque hangs from each beam.
The hallways leading to the guest suites are also home to several nice original pieces. Between the lobby and the elevator is an original “Little Journeys” bookstand, complete with a set of original books. These stands were one of the bread and butter items of the woodshop; made to knock down for flat shipping to catalog customers. Near the elevator on the first floor is a hall tree with a full length mirror, and the elevator lobby on the second floor is home to a Stickley bench and a Gothic style chair.
The guest suites have been returned to their original appearance, and are named for luminaries of philosophy and English literature. Upon entering the room, there is a sitting area ahead and a large tiled bath to the side. Beyond the sitting room is a bedroom with a small nook equipped with a desk. The bedroom and nook have windows across the outside wall, and there are also windows between the front and back rooms of the suite. The suites are compact, but comfortable and functional. Staying overnight adds to the experience of visiting the Roycroft Inn. Plan on spending a couple of days because there’s enough to see to make it worthwhile.
A PDF version of this free presentation is available, Click Here to Download (file size 10MB, no video content)
Click link below to view individual images from this slide show.
Last week my Wood Talk co-host, and good friend, Shannon Rogers posted on Facebook that he was seeking a little help from the masses to compile information on visiting lumberyards.
In a nutshell he’s looking for tales of the good, the bad, and the WTF?!
Shannon’s Facebook request:
“Need some lumber stories. Bare your shame, voice your anger, and share your triumphs. I’m trying to assemble a baseline of common confusions, misunderstandings, frustrations, etc centered around a trip to the lumber yard or buying lumber in general.
You can expect a thorough video series that will hopefully address them all. I’m still not sure whether The Renaissance Woodworker will host it or J. Gibson McIlvain Company but it will be comprehensive and ideally eliminate some of the fear and frustration that comes with buying wood.
I’ll even throw in some plywood stuff. Ready? Go!”
We all have them, and I know to some degree or another we’ve already shared them with each other, but that’s no excuse not to dust them off and share again.
My own personal struggles have always centered around misunderstandings about the grading system, and determining boardfeet in material thicker than 4/4 (something I still wrestle with from time-to-time…but then I just ask Shannon, and when he stops laughing he explains it to me.)
So please take a moment to send your story to Shannon either by clicking on this link to send him an email, or head over to his Facebook page and leave a comment there.
Cyber Monday: All around our office and warehouse are boxes of tools that for one reason or another aren't on the website. So on Sunday November 30th at 10:00PM(ish) Brooklyn Time, we are putting all this excess stuff on line for a massive Cyber Monday Blowout Sale. Over 200 items will be available! For the first time. you will be able to put something in your cart, and have it reserved for you for 20 minutes or so to give you time to shop some more and then check out. After the 20 minutes, if you don't check out, the items will be removed from your cart so other people can snag them. My big project for the next week is writing the software to make this reservation system work. So details might vary in the final execution. But it's a fair system so two people can't buy the same thing only to have one person disappointed.
Diamond Sharpening: For the past year, we have introduced a new product every week. In the past weeks. DMT diamond sharpening products has been a big new category for us. After years of being on the fence about diamond sharpening I am working on testing and figuring out a sequence of stones to get a great edge for a minimal cost. So far I don't think diamonds are great for the final finish, but they certainly do a fine, fast job of roughing out an edge and staying flat. I'll have a real how-to soon.
Festool: New stuff from Festool will be coming out on December 1st, with pre-orders starting (we hope) next week. The big new tool is the Festool Vecturo Oscillating Multitool, which is a Festool branded Fein Super Cut tool. The Super Cut, which is the top end of the Fein Multi-Master tool, is very popular, and the Vecturo cutters will be interchangeable with the Supercut Tool (not the regular Multi-master). The Big Festool innovation will be several versions of cutting stops that will also fit the Super Cut Tool. The attachments will be available separately for Fein Supercut owners.
Also new from Festool this fall is the return of the Toolie - a wrench with all the metric Allen and screw keys you need for Festool. A hose attachment to give you a third hand, And drawers slides to turn any cabinet into a SysPort.
We will have full information and be ready for pre-order next week or so. Stay tuned for more details!
The picture above, which has nothing to do with any of this, is of one of my favorite new products - our set of mini colored pencils (see photo above). They are cute, portable, and a great stocking stuffer. It even comes with a sharpener, an eraser, and it fits in a wallet. Some people use them in pencil holders - which sounds like it might be a fun lathe project.
About ten years ago, I had the privilege to talk to Click and Clack about a question I had about my car. It was a great experience, and an enduring memory.
Tom Magliozzi passed away last week. That’s going to be a big piece of radio silence to fill.
(I meant to post this remembrance earlier, but it took me a while to find this audio file.)
Brother Cadfael has been distracted lately with thoughts of participating in the ongoing Dovetail Tool Swap on Lumberjocks.
Background: Apparently the lumberjocks community does these “swap” events a couple of times a year. The premise is simple; you sign up to make a particular thing, you have a few months to get it done by a fixed deadline, you mail a picture to the moderator and they tell you who to send your widget to. In return you get something back. They recently did a saw swap, and there were some pretty nice saws built as part of that event.
I’ve never participated in one of these “swap” events, and I’m not yet participating in this one. Yet. Most likely.
But it’s fun to think about what I might make. Ya know…if I was participating. I’ve looked at more marking knives, marking gauges and dovetail saws in the past week than I have in a long time. For fun, I thought I’d model a small chisel for chopping and paring dovetails. It had to be something most guys could make with tools they’d have on hand — no forging or machining allowed. It had to look good, and be able to chop as well as pare. Here is what I came up with:
The business end is ground from a 1/4″ square O1 tool steel blank, and it’s probably the hardest part. The handle is styled in the London pattern, but with a retaining hoop on the back. The brass fittings are made from common brass tube and a small piece of 1/8″ sheet brass…like the one laying on the floor of my metal shop…which is just a coincidence. I don’t have any O1 steel anywhere. Really.
I even drew up some plans so *you* could build one. Please build one, and send me a picture so I’m not tempted.
In the above video you’ll learn how to make a simple dovetailed tool box that I designed a couple years ago for Christmas presents for my two sons. This is a great starter project for anyone wanting to get started using hand tools…and a great place to store your hand tools!
In the video I reference my dovetail tutorial videos (in case you need a tutorial). You can find it here at this link.
I designed this dovetail tool tote to be cut from one pre-dimensioned 1x8x8 tulip poplar board, which can easily be found at your local home center (like Lowes or Home Depot…here’s what I bought). Want advice on how to choose your board? See my video “How to Choose Lumber for Woodworking“.
Obviously you can use other types of wood. If you want to learn how to dimension your own board from rough lumber, refer to my tutorial for squaring boards.
A 1x8x8 board’s real dimensions are 3/4″ thick x 7 1/4″ wide x 8′ long. Of course, you can make this dovetail tool tote any size you like. Here is the cut list for my panels:
- Two longer boards: 3/4″ x 7-1/4″ x 18″
- Four shorter boards: 3/4″ x 7-1/4″ x 10″
- The handle just needs to be longer than the assembled box, and can be cut from the leftover wood.
- 1/4″ thick wood for the box bottom. If you can’t find real wood this thin, then you can easily find small 1/4″ plywood panels for a good price.
After you’ve joined the rectangular box together with dovetail joinery, then you can take it apart and glue on the angled top. You would then cut the handle and mortises, plow the grooves, cut the bottom, and finally glue it all together…don’t worry, the video covers it all.
TOOLS THAT YOU’LL NEED
Even though I’ve written a nice hand tool buying guide (here), I’m still often asked for links to the tools that I use in my videos, so here is a list of tools that I used (or mentioned) in this video:WORKBENCH:
- Lie-Nielsen Low Angle Rabbet Block Plane
- Vintage Stanley No. 5 Jack Plane
- Vintage Stanley No. 4 Smoothing Plane
- Vintage Stanley No. 7 Jointer Plane
- Vintage Stanley No. 45 Combination Plane
- Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw
- Lie-Nielsen’s thin plate 16″ Tenon Rip Saw
- Lie-Nielsen cross cut back saw
- Chris Yonker’s 12″ bow saw on ebay or a simple coping saw like this.
- Vintage Disston No. 16 Cross Cut Panel Saw
- Vintage Disston No. D-8 Rip Panel Saw
- Vintage Millers Falls Miter box and miter saw
- Robert Larson Coping Saw
- Starrett 6-inch combination square
- Veritas Wheel Marking Gauge or Veritas Dual Wheel Marking Gauge
- Marking knife (chip carving knife)
- Crown No. 106 20-Oz Beechwood Mallet
- Small Cross Peen Hammer (to adjust plane iron)
- TEKTON 3165 16-oz. White Rubber Mallet
I have been in the process of migration from mostly power tool woodworking to mostly hand tool woodworking for several years. For the foreseeable future anyway, I don't intend to use hand tools exclusively. I call myself a "traditional woodworker," the phrase Jim Tolpin used in the title of his book. This means being hand tool centric but using power tools as limited adjuncts. Paul Sellers does much the same. Since I started with a fairly complete power tool workshop, this has been a paring down and refocusing process for me. The big step was selling my table saw and I must say I haven't missed it at all. I'm glad it's gone.
I have taken my remaining power tools and moved them into a corner of the workshop, the large ones on mobile bases. When I want to use them I get them out one at a time and then put them away. This discourages use, but I still want to pare down to a minimum set of power tools over time. I categorize my power tools like this:
- tools that I really want to keep:
- Laguna 14" SUV bandsaw
- Festool Tracksaw
- Makita cordless drill
- Worksharp (for major reshaping/sharpening, not honing)
- Shop-Vac with Dust Deputy
- tools I like having but could do without:
- lunchbox planer
- floor drill press
- tools I have because I already own them, they're old, aren't worth much and they are useful for carpentry, but I could easily do without and wouldn't consider replacing:
- Multiple corded drills, sanders, angle grinders, power plane, jig and circular saws etc.
- air compressor/nailers
There is a glaring omission from this list because I don't know where to put it: my router table. Next to the table saw, a router table is the essence of power tool woodworking: a screaming, dust-belching, potentially dangerous, mechanical antithesis of hand tool woodworking. I feel guilty every time I use it, but use it I do. Why? Because it's fast, efficient, economical and easy to use. I have made a fair number of dados and rabbets with hand tools now, but sometimes it's nice to get'er done. I learned from Paul Sellers that you can in fact produce many profiles using ordinary hand tools quite easily: roundovers with a smooth plane for example. I need to get into scratch stocks. I cut dovetails by hand (though I do sometimes cut box joints with the router). The big thing holding me back is this: Matt Bickford suggests that a basic set of molding planes includes "a half set of hollows and rounds (9 pairs, 18 planes), a pair of snipes bill planes and two rabbet planes, 5/8” and 1.” From him, these cost $4,500! I know, I know, you can pick up vintage sets and restore them, and if I ever run across a decent set at a reasonable price I probably will. On top of that, I've gotten to the point that I can sharpen chisels, gouges and plane blades fairly well but I am not all that anxious to take up learning to sharpen all these shapes.
What to do? In the short run, I'm keeping the router table. For one thing, I am going to be making a set of kitchen cabinets. In the longer run I think I'm just going to forgo profiles that I can't make without molding planes and give up the router table. As I have thought about it, I'm not really into these profiles anyway. I have the Lee Valley plow plane and both of their router planes. The rabbet plane is on my wish list. If I feel remorse when the router table is gone, there's this. Five pages of profiles!
This weekend I had a wonderful opportunity to take a plane making class with Scott Meek of Scott Meek Woodworks. Scott designs and crafts fabulous wooden hand planes and was going to be teaching us his process for making a wooden smoothing plane. We started off the class by going over some differences between wooden planes and metal planes before heading to our benches and opening up the wrapped pieces of wood that Scott had brought us.
Part of our discussion at the beginning of class, and a topic that flowed through the entire weekend, was the idea that when you have the opportunity to do so, you should purchase the best tools you can. Scott gets a lot of flak on the internet because his planes cost quite a bit of money, comparable to a Lee Valley or Lie Nielsen plane and sometimes even more expensive. You might think, looking at them, that the money is not worth it, or that they are overpriced for what they are. After taking a class from Scott, and seeing everything that goes into making his tools, I think they are worth every penny.
Scott is obsessively attentive to every detail of his planes; each one is painstakingly handmade by him, all by himself. The only thing he doesn’t make by hand is the iron and the chip breaker. He is a craftsman, like many of us, and he puts the same effort and attention into his planes that we devote to our bowls, or our furniture, or our boxes.
When you buy a tool like a Scott Meek hand plane, or a Lie Nielsen chisel or plane, or a Woodpeckers straight edge, or some other tool brands that are made to last, you aren’t buying just a tool, you are buying something that is designed to last a lifetime and beyond. The plane I made in Scott’s class will be with me for the rest of my woodworking life, and because of that, the expense, spread out over so many years, is worth every penny to me. I could go on and on about tools and such, and I might in another post, but for now, let’s move on to the class at hand.
We made our first cuts and started work on truing the bed angle, sanding the wear ramp and creating the slot for the chip breaker to fit. Once we had those steps taken care of, we moved over to truing up the faces of our cheeks. We broke out the power tools once again and trued up the cheeks. All throughout the process we discussed tool choice and alternate methods of doing the various steps and then we worked on flattening and sharpening our blades. Scott was an excellent instructor, taking time to work with each of us and answer any questions we had. He worked at our pace and moved us through the steps with ease.
After getting our cheeks all cleaned up, we set them up with the internal plane parts and began our first dry assembly of the plane. Using screws and clamps we got the plane dry fit and assembled and ready to set the cross pin. Scott went over his method of crating the pin and discussed some other ways of creating the tenons for the pin; my favorite alternate method being turning the pins. However not having a lathe handy at the time, we cut the cross pins using Scott’s method and moved on to positioning the hole for the cross pin. Once we had the cross pin cut, the hole in the cheeks and everything lined up we were set to get the plane glued up. We took some glue, a whole mess of clamps and some handy dandy Scott Meek branded glue spreaders (also known as business cards) and got our planes all glued up. After the glue up we ended the first day of class.
Day two of the class came on early, we hit the ground running and worked hard through the day. We walked into class and un-clamped our glue ups right away. Once we had the clamps off, we started cleaning up our squeeze out and getting things ready to start making our wedges. Scott went over designing the wedge and shaping it before we cut it out on the band saw and shaped it on the orbital sander. All the while as tools were in use we each took turns working on our sharpening skills as well.
Once we had our wedges, we worked on truing the sole and the cheeks so that we could begin opening the mouth of the plane. The mouth opening is one of the most intense and crucial parts of the process, and ensuring it is done properly can be a bit nerve wracking. One of our class members, Shannon, had the mouth of his plane open up on the Jointer as he was truing the sole, this was a nerve wracking moment since he didn’t know if it opened up too far or not but he got lucky and the mouth opened up perfectly for him. Shannon was the first to take shavings with his new plane.
We broke for lunch and once we were back some of the class finished opening the mouths of their planes while others got to work on shaping the bodies. Scott discussed his design aesthetics for shaping the planes and we got to cutting, rasping, sanding and making the planes our own personal creations. This was my favorite part as it allowed us to truly shape the plane to our own hands.
I will tell you all, that first moment you make shavings from a tool you created with your own hands is indescribably good. Pushing that plane across the wood and watching it work the way it is supposed to fills you with pride. You made that, and it works exactly like it should. The class was absolutely wonderful, I learned a whole bunch, and found a love for the hand tools that are the root of the hobby that I am so passionate about. Scott was an excellent teacher, patient and understanding. He worked with the four of us to make something amazing. We all walked out of that class with a skill we had not come in with, and a tool we could use to make even more. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, as a woodworker, the classes that I have taken at Highland have been indispensable to my growth in this hobby, and this passion. Highland offers the opportunity to learn from masters of the craft, opportunities that you really can’t find anywhere else. If you get a chance, and I recommend you do, take a look at the class calendar at Highland. It is filled with amazing learning opportunities to elevate your skills to the next level.
Matthew York has been a woodturner since 2004 and has been interested in woodworking since he was a teenager. He currently lives in downtown Atlanta and has a small shop in his basement. He is an avid woodworker and is always available to talk about the craft. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at fracturedturnings.com. You can also follow him on twitter at @raen425
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As my hands seem stronger than ever and my lungs fill and exhale with the pressures of planing and sawing, I catch myself as I reflect on my work training new woodworkers to become truly skilled and competent. Very few courses offer what we have given these past 25 years. Imagine making a dovetailed box within a few hours of finding out the difference between a marking gauge and a mortise gauge or a tenon saw and a gent’s saw. Imagine knowing that sharpness comes in a few minutes at the bench with a few short lectures and that your hands are but hours away from mastering the same skills I have used for 50 years. I’m talking about a fully dovetailed box with rounded edges and not a single trace of machine work in the whole. Recessed solid brass hinges that have no gaps and an heirloom quality project to boot. More than that, you then make a wallshelf unit with through dovetails and then go on to make an oak table and thats nine days. Also, it’s not just a box or a shelf and a table. All of that translates into box making, big and small, book shelving and even dining tables and more. That’s what will happen as I close this year with yet two more Foundational courses and 8 more online broadcast videos that will go to thousands of people around the world. The courses are about full yet again. There may be one or two places left but that’s all. I’m gratified by the support we have gained over the decades and now as we plan the 2015 schedule I’m gratified all the more by invitations from around the world to spread the good news on other continents too. The 2015 classes have been well received too. I am looking forward to meeting you when you come from Israel and New York, from Sweden and Denmark and Switzerland too. Thank you for booking your bench spaces early.
Our year has seen tremendous successes too many to number and we embrace the prospect of a new year ready to unfold. How you measure success in my line of work is not by the bottom line at an accountants pen or a spread sheet but by the number of people who we feel have been transformed in the way they think and work and live their lives. Consistently throughout this year we have managed yet again to debunk myths and mysteries and false statements and claims. Yes, all this is true, but more than that we have equipped a new generation of people who love the idea of working with wood to become real woodworkers on the different continents of the world. In India I see many of you searching for peace and a simpler way of providing for your families and you tell me that our video teaching has helped you to better understand how to make changes for an alternative lifestyle working wood. You say you now are better able to question false hopes and aspirations and search out real ways that you can master skills and establish yourselves as skilled craftsmen and women. These are success stories for me. In the USA and Canada you say that you are now wring with your sons and daughters in the evenings in the workshop and on the weekends you are building projects you never dreamed that you might. You’ve unplugged some of your machines and left them that way for months. Your are splitting and riving materials and making joints that look as though they were made by an ancient crafting artisan. This is how my accountancy measures success. You can’t really buy this because it isn’t for sale and it cannot be bought. It’s whole new way of erudition and I see fruit in people’s lives that they know was well worth the investment of time and finance because, quite simply, it changed them.
As I work towards this weekend and the start of a new class of foundational woodworking my hear begins to sing inside somehow and for some reason. Why is that? Why after 25 years of teaching over 5,000 people to work with their hands do I feel the same as I did all those years ago. Well, let me tell you. It’s because I have learned that I can change the way people think about woodworking. It’s because I prove you can live and work successfully in an unplugged shop with compromising quality and by delivering skilled craftsmanship to men and women. My pulse beat pounds and my heart races as I just think about these things. One by one people get off the conveyor belt and discover what they were searching for when they began woodworking 20 years ago and couldn’t find it. Now they sharpen their saws and there planes and chisels. They split tenons to lines with exactness and cut the mating parts of dovetails one by one and put them together knowing that they will be married for one hundred years.
The projects we make are major for foundational work because we feel we can press people to a level that they feel they accomplishing good standards of workmanship as they learn. Look at the boxes and the shelves and then look at the people’s faces. It’s all about relationships. That’s how I measure success!