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The new roof on the Electric Horse Garage is complete. The electricity is in and flowing. The last bit of the puzzle (the ductless HVAC) will be installed on Monday.
That means we move the big machines next week, and I can begin the next chapter of my life.
Some details: Ignore the weird red trim on the front of the shop. That isn’t how it was supposed to look, and I’ll fix that next week. I also have to install some floor sweeps for the doors and hang the interior lights (LEDs). Oh, I have to assemble the 18” band saw. Build a mobile base for the mortiser. Finish the restoration of the old Powermatic drill press.
And touch up the paint inside. Repair the weird hole in the floor (can you see Zuul down there?). Trim and fill the weird pipes in the middle of the floor. Get some heavy anti-fatigue mats for the floor.
Shops are never done.
— Christopher Schwarz
As the internet has brought the world closer, we’re realising that we have not-so-subtle differences after all. We may speak the same language but we don’t spell exactly the same. We don’t use the same terminology of certain words, nor the same measurements, nor even how we write it down in our cut lists. It is as if we are an entirely different race that has no brethren bloodline at all.
Let me give you one example. Lumber in the US means milled timber and timber in England and its conquered nations referred to as the commonwealth refer to timber as milled timber, in fact Lumber is seldom used in England or any commonwealth nation except for Canada. Let me give you one more; in the US you would say 2×4 but in Australia you would reverse it and say 4×2.
I can live with all of that but what I find difficult to live with is the reading order of the US version T,W,L (Thickness, Width, Length). I don’t know about Europe as I have no cut lists from there but I know here in Australia and I suspect England to be the same we write L,W,T. Now that makes sense.
I’ve tried doing research on the topic to find out the history of why and came up empty. So my take on it is this and correct me if I am wrong. The timber/lumber yards felt they did not need to read to L,W,T because that was not the order they were working in. All they needed to know was the thickness and its width, the length was the least of their concern. So I believe somewhere along the line some dumb arse followed the timber yards and changed what was unnatural for cabinetmakers to adopt but adopt they did. I have tried adopting the US method and I seem to get confused every time because in my mind I’m reading it backwards. Think about it; Do we ever thickness first? No, it’s always the length, then width. Maybe in the machine world they thickness their timber first, but in the hand tool world unless your a gym junkie you wouldn’t.
This has become an issue for me since I’ve written this software called Project Price Estimator. I started this at the beginning of last year and got side tracked and have just returned to it. I was looking at the cut list and ordered it as L,W,T but I thought the US would struggle with it written like as I struggle to read their way of writing it. The thing is I don’t know if I will ever release it to the public but it’s so cool and I know you would love it and use it everyday. This software is the most honest bloody software on the market. I’ll give you one example, it doesn’t calculate you buying a gallon of finish, it calculates on the amount of finish used on the project at hand and the same is applied to glue, screws, nails and other fixtures including your workshop expenses like electricity, phone, rent etc, and at the very end of it all it tells you how much your build is worth. How many times have you asked yourself and your partner what’s it worth? Well now you’ll know.
Let me know what you think of my theory. There has to be a reason why they changed the order around.
P.S. Issue IV is currently WIP (Work in Progress) I’m not sure of it’s release date due to work commitments. More on it closer to it’s release.
I build my chairs in a way where glue is only a minor player. And after a stupid mistake yesterday, I now get to test how effective my strategy is. Before I pull my pants down and tell you how I messed up, here’s the set-up. The stretchers and legs of my chairs are built so they are in tension (I do this by lengthening the tenons in the stretchers […]
I am a panda. Or a great ape. Or any of a number of animals - I'll choose the cute ones - whose terrain is disappearing and are therefore endangered. Tut- tutting or telling me how cute, chubby, and fun to watch I am doesnt help much. "Oooh, check out that guy with the hand tools! Amazing!" Neither does lip service. On the face of it, our government agencies all love manufacturing and makers. They love to have maker initiatives, training, etc. They are even happy to make a small, zoo-like zone of a few blocks where manufacturers who already exist can try to still exist. But protecting the actual wild environment is another story.
Most of the energy in encouraging manufacturing in NYC is focused on "Maker Spaces," which are always well-intentioned and sometimes actually awesome. But the problem is that these spaces, much like a breeding sanctuary, is that it is not a real substitute for an improved wild environment. What happens to a fledgling business after you "graduate" from a maker space? If you have a prototype, you will probably will outsource your production to somewhere with enough affordable real estate to encourage manufacturing - a place that sometimes feels like anywhere but New York City. And what if you want to expand your business? That probably means not New York too. All the investment in maker spaces, incubators, and other startup support may pay off - but not for the people of the city.
Cabinet shops, which are TFWWs retail life blood, are dying in NYC. Many landlords don't want messy businesses. Even in neighborhoods with industrial zoning - places that are zoned for mess and noise - the trend is to try to rent to offices and commercial ventures. Even if the business does actual making, their primary work is clean and silent. Offices and design shops have a far greater density of people than a woodshop, and so higher rents are easier to achieve. And of course once your tenant is a fancy office, it will want like-minded businesses for neighbors, not a company with a screaming table saw or spray booth. And once a landlord realizes that it can get more per square foot by skirting the industrial zoning requirements rents shoot up. Even if the space is available for a cabinet shop, the cost might be unaffordable.
Now I should mention that not all landlords are opportunists who bought property that was discounted because of its use restrictions but now are trying to evade their responsibilities. ( See my blog from a few weeks ago about Industry City). There are a many landlord - and thankfully mine is one (My landlord has been incredibly supportive of what we do and truly fights for continued manufacturing in NYC) - that really want industry to succeed. There are bunches of reasons for this. The first is that many people, my landlord and others included, want a city that is diverse. They recognize that not everyone is a web designer or a stockbroker. We have thousands of electricians, plumbers, carpenters, cabinet makers, machinists, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, and a range of other craftspeople and tradespeople who need a place to go to work, like being in the city, and most important, make the city far more interesting and full of ideas than it would be without them.
Let me give you an example:
Once upon a time, on West 22nd Street in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, a tinsmith named Harry Segerman had a business two doors down from my grandparents luncheonette. Harry mostly made tinware, and later stainless fixtures, for the restaurant industry. In the years following WWII, Chelsea (nowadays an exceedingly trendy and expensive neighborhood) was a fairly rough part of town. A few blocks west were the Cunard Docks; the buildings were a mix of low rise housing and garment industry factories.
The area was inexpensive to live in, which attracted bohemian artists. Some of them wandered into Harry's shop and were enamored by the idea that you could take metal and bend it into interesting shapes. Harry, who was encouraging by nature and very interested in art, helped helped a lot of these artists make work in tin. Some artists took it a step further and developed expertise in sculpting with sheet metal because of his support.
On paper, this interaction is what cities do best. Art and crafts (and commerce) happen when a big city is a melting pot of ideas and skills. But it won't happen - and we will be the poorer - if New York City becomes solely a consumer of real things, instead of a designer, maker, and consumer.
It’s the practicality daily woodworking brings: exceptional practicality! A question is raised quite often about dovetail sizing. Is there a formula woodworkers use, an industry standard? Because we don’t always make them often enough we can find the issues surrounding sizing and proportion confusing; pin size in relation to dovetail sizes would indeed be simple […]
|Lee Valley arrived|
|also got some 1/2" feet|
|I am falling in love with this gadget|
|off the deck|
|bought 4 more|
|McMaster-Carr came it|
|about one inch shorter than the ones that came with the plow|
|don't fit in the fence (haven't drilled them out yet)|
|back rod fits - the front one won't go through all the way|
|won't go through trying to turn it by hand|
|still no dice|
Sorry Steve but I bought 10mm rods. Now that this is kicking my butt, I realize I should have taken your advice and bought the 9.9mm ones. These rods are supposedly smaller than 10mm but not enough.
|new file for my school in June|
|back rod is dead nuts|
|front rod is not|
|sandpaper wrapped dowel|
|rods fit the main body|
|tapped it through the fence on one hole|
|....... that didn't work|
I can get another fence but I'm not sure that I want to. I don't have a warm and fuzzy about the front fence rod being out of square. None of my other plows are out of square like this. This is why I want to see what other owners of this plane have before I decide what to do.
This was good spot to shut the lights off even though it wasn't 1700.
Did you know that entomophagy is the practice of eating insects?
The time I get to spend around these individuals is like plugging my car battery into the electrical output of the Hoover Dam. A little shop weary. Running tight on ideas or answers. Generally uninspired. A little visit and some shop talk, or any talk really, and I'm reinvigorated.
This past November I had a visit at my shop from Don Williams and his wonderful wife. We all chatted for a bit as I gave them the grand tour a Le Chateau Oldwolf. consisting mostly of my library and drawing studio and the workshop outside. Don has become a trusted voice in my world, I look forward to every correspondence with him and just treasure the opportunities to visit in person.
After catching up we headed over to visit another person I have infinite respect for. We dropped in on Mark Harrell at Bad Axe Toolworks so Don could see the impressive goings on. I really had a treat as I was able to step back and listen to these guys parse the details of Roubo and the historical saws represented in L’Art Du Menuisier. The thing I really took away from the exchange. The possibility of a revival of the full size frame saw and turning saw as staples in the workshop.
I know I'm an hand tool, old world craft geek, but I'm more than a little proud of it.
Then in December and again just this past week I was able to go down for a couple workdays in the shop of Tom Latane. For me this is so much fun because A; Tom's shop is an amazing place to stand, much less work in. A wood fire in the forge and you get that real, I don't know, romanticised, whimsical feel that is inspiring and conducive to good work. and B: I usually leave behind the projects I'm neck deep in in the shop and choose something different, usually carving, to work on. Something I'd like to get done but there's no rush, something mostly for me.
This time I got to make a new friend in a Blacksmith named Michael Fasold who was teaching himself how to cut dovetail joints, with Tom and me helping (maybe hindering) the process. He's teaching a class on forging an early american thumb latch gate handle at the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center in Minneapolis. I wish I could make the trip to take it.
There are many others out there I have to find some time and place to meet with. Being around other like minded people really opens up the spigot on the creative flow. If you're not experiencing this you should try and remedy that. Take a class, join a club if you have one nearby, stand out on the highway with a sign in one hand and a jack plane in the other.
Maybe we just need to get someone to oversee the creation of a Woodworkers Platonic Dating App. . .
Maybe not. I have too much current in my creative juices for my own good right now. :)
Ratione et Passionis
“Poets and painters have found in trees material for their art. If Gainsborough had been less successful as a portrait painter he would have given us some wonderful trees. As it is, in his few landscapes he has shown trees which are full of a kind of romantic vitality, springing full of life from the soil. Constable filled his great canvases with them, showing them in all their morning freshness as the kindliest feature of the English landscape. John Crome of Norwich painted trees with all the care which Gainsborough gave to portraits of fashionable ladies. In fact, his picture of the Poringland oak is a portrait. It shows all the physical details, the strength, stability and balance of the tree, and he has shown also its spiritual quality, something upstanding, fearless and ancient, which makes the bathers at the edge of the pool seem like mayflies of a day. It is just thise sense of reality, this glance at the transcience of human life, which the Frenchman, Corot, manages to evade. He found dreams among trees, but he casts a veil between himself and them as if he feared their strength, painting an ethereal beauty which had its roots in dream soil and not in the good earth.”
— Charles Hayward, The Woodworker magazine, 1936
As the depths of winter set in out here in the mountains I decided to do something about the problem of early fading light, especially in the great room of the barn’s main floor. On a typical January day I lose direct sunlight by about 3:30, and the darkness creeps in from that point on.
I decided that a big hurdle to solving the problem lay in the fact that the two oversized doors to the barn were visually solid, and that a solution might be to pierce them with large panes of glass. Fortunately I happened to have just one such piece of glass leftover from the original construction a decade ago. It is a piece of salvaged thermal glass from an unremembered source but it was sized as though it was made for the task being contemplated and it seemed as though the project would be easy to undertake and complete.
So I did.
Since I was using the panel of glass essentially as a piece of sheathing the “framing” of the new window was a simple batten screwed to the door so that the panel would have someplace to seat. After the batten frame was in place I sawed out the opening for the window, lifted the new pane into its seat, and added some more temporary battens to the rear side to hold it in place until spring time when the warmer weather will allow me to caulk it in place permanently.
Until then I am enjoying both the doubling of the external light present in that work space, and celebrating the fact that this was one project that turned out to be as simple and quick as I had first imagined. I would like to find another panel the exact same size for the other door, and will keep scouring the salvage yards until I do.
For now, I simply enjoy being able to work in the great room until almost five o’clock.
I went to another world the other day. Attended part of Americana Week at Sotheby’s in New York. I was there to give a talk, but I got to see some great oak furniture offered for sale this week…and got to see some friends and colleagues I haven’t seen in quite a while. Here’s the link to the auction listings; http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/2018/important-americana-n09805.html#
Auction previews are great – unlike museums, here you can open stuff and peek inside. Lot #723 is a New Haven wainscot chair that has people all excited. (Some of these photos I shot hand-held in the galleries; the best ones were given to me by Sotheby’s)
A detail of one of the arms.
and of the carvings; I need the detail shots because I’m going to make one of these chairs this year.
I got to look this chair over with my friend Bob Trent – and neither of us had ever seen a groove like the one cut in the outside of the stile
I saw this box in 1998, now lot 727, on another research trip with Trent. And as soon as we started looking it over, we realized it was part of the group of boxes and chests by William Savell and his sons John and William from Braintree, Massachusetts. Even though we hadn’t seen this particular pattern before.
Many things connect this box to the others – square wooden pins instead of nails to secure the rabbets. Gouge-chopped accents here & there are direct quotes from the others. And the scribed lines above and below the carving; with diagonal chisel cuts zig-zagging across the box. Maltese cross punched inside the zig-zag.
Here’s the side of a related box at the MFA in Boston. You can see the zig-zags clearly here.
Jn Savell box, side carving
The box now at Sotheby’s again – look especially at the area outside the arches –
Now from a chest at the Smithsonian – this exact same motif outside the lunettes from the top raillunette, William Savell Sr 1590s-1669
and above & below the opposing lunettes is a pattern from the panels on these chests – look at the very bottom of the panel:panel, joined chest, c. 1660-1680s
Then back at the box front –
I don’t know what’s the story behind these till trenches. If it’s a till w a drawer, why does the vertical notch extend below what would be the till bottom? There is no hole for a till lid…
Inside, it stops just short of being labelled “This end up”.
Lots more stuff in the sale; a Boston chest of drawers, walnut and cedrela
a chest with drawers, Wethersfield, CT
And – me. Poor Mark Atchison gets no glory for all the hard blacksmith work he did back when we made a slew of these cabinets. Trent had us make this one as a gift to his friends Dudley & Constance Godfrey – and now a foundation they started is selling it, and several of these items as a fund-raiser for educational programming at the Milwaukee Art Museum… I didn’t do the coloring…
Every weekday until the February 1st opening of Issue Four pre-orders, we will be announcing one article from the table of contents here on the blog. If you have yet to sign up for a yearly subscription, you can do so here.
From time to time, wonderful anomalies turn up in the furniture record and the corner cupboards from the Swisegood School of cabinetmaking (early 19th c. North Carolina) are no exception. These cabinets are renowned for their peculiar drawer construction, each employing a single board steam bent at oblique angles to form both the sides and back.
While kerfed steam bending was ubiquitous among coffin makers of that time, it seems to be unparalleled in cabinetmaking which left me scratching my head a bit. Where did this technique come from? Why don’t any other cabinetmakers employ this solution? How hard would it be to replicate?
These were the questions swirling around in my head as I trekked out to the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem, NC to see this furniture first hand and later as I stood at my workbench trying to replicate the process. It wasn't all smooth sailing, but each "failure" along the way taught me something valuable about the process, and I feel as if I ended up re-discovering something unique and potentially worthwhile. This article is a chronicle of my journey into the world of the Swisegood School of cabinetmaking, and an open invitation to try this distinctive technique in your own workshop.
- Jim McConnell
You can reserve your copy of Issue Four here.
I was having so much fun looking through Brian Derber's new Violin Making book, trying familiar things in different ways, that I forgot I was making a Hardanger fiddle and not a regular violin. I woke up one morning on the weekend, suddenly thinking about those different, overlapping Hardanger f-holes, how high they were, when, dang! I have been arching the middle section as normal. I quickly laid out the ff's and determined that I had, for me, gone too far. Maybe someone who had made Hardangers before could see there was enough wood left, maybe not. For me, I needed a fresh start.
So, I joined another set of spruce halves on Monday. On Tuesday, flattened the inner surface, then traced the outline, sawed it out, cleaned it up a bit and took down the edges, leaving the piece nice and fat in the center.
The new top is at top in this photo, the previous version below, with typical f-holes drawn in place. I can salvage that top for a new fiddle. The overhang is still a little wide, and if I'm careful with the corner blocks, using the same mould, I should be in good shape, even a little ahead on that one.
Wednesday, I pondered over the Hardanger holes, using a few resources I've gathered up. Not much really on the placement of the holes themselves, so I did the best I could, closed my eyes, and plunged a few holes.
Today, Thursday, I started cutting wood around the arc of the stems. Trying to follow Salve Håkedal's nicely illustrated tutorial.
Last year’s class was so much fun that I was delighted to be invited back to teach saw sharpening again this year at Lie-Nielsen’s beautiful headquarters in Warren, ME. If you’ve ever wanted to sharpen your own saws, I can’t think of a better way to start learning. Lie-Nielsen has a well-deserved reputation for being first class hosts, and this is sure to be no exception.
Over the course of two days, I will cover the basics of saw tooth geometry before moving on to practice filing both rip and crosscut teeth. The cost for the two day workshop is $275.
Saturday & Sunday, June 9-10
9:00 – 5:00 (Saturday), 9:00 – 4:00 (Sunday)
I’m a fan of having my tools out and at hand in the workshop. It’s easy enough to mount the saws to the wall, whip up a chisel rack and tuck the planes on a shelf, but the small items rarely have a good spot to sit – so they end up on every horizontal surface, in the way and subject to being knocked around or, even worse, onto the […]
In the January 2018 issue of Wood News, Ernie Stephenson writes an in-depth article on how to carve a plane tote and make a used plane feel new again.
“Totes on a plane go through a lot of dynamic stress. Additionally, the wood in these old tools often contains a lot of skin oil and grime from years of use. Repairing them can often be an exercise in futility. Additionally, you can carve a tote that will fit your hand, that will later make a tedious smoothing job downright pleasurable. A specially carved and turned tote and knob can also be a source of pride sitting in your toolbox.”
Don Weber has been a friend to Popular Woodworking for a long time. His knowledge of traditional woodworking (and blacksmithing, as the photo above supports – props to photographer Al Parrish!) has appeared on our pages, in our videos and we’ve been privileged to have him in personal appearances at events over the years. Watching him set up and use his shop-made treadle lathe, or discuss the strengths and stresses involved […]
I was pleasantly surprised while watching David Charlesworth's latest DVD on making knuckle and rule joints to find him making use of a pair of Philly Planes Hollow and Rounds! Yes, he used them to cut one of the joints and it was great to see the planes being used by his expert hands.
As with all of David's instructional videos, he goes into great depth to show you how you can achieve excellent results - highly recommended viewing, not just for my planes :)
Available from David Charlesworth directly, as well as Classic Hand Tools and Lie Nielsen.
This is an excerpt from “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years: Volume III” published by Lost Art Press.
This type of dovetail sometimes creates a difficulty because of the length of the joint. It is, of course, essential that it grips throughout its length, and the usual fault is to make it tight in some parts and slack in others. The practical process is dealt with here.
In its simplest form this joint consists of a plain groove with either one or both sides at the usual dovetail angle cut right across the wood, and a joining piece cut dovetail fashion to fit, as in Fig. 1. It is a thoroughly strong joint and is satisfactory for many jobs, but suffers from two disadvantages. One is that the dovetail necessarily shows at the front edge; the other is that, since the one piece has to slide right in from the edge, it is awkward to make a joint that is tight enough to be strong, yet free enough to slide across. The wider the joint the more awkward it is.
Tapered Dovetail. To overcome these drawbacks the stopped and tapered dovetailed housing shown in Fig. 2 was introduced. It is extremely handy for carcase work, and forms a strong fixing for shelves and similar parts. Its special use is in tall structures in which the ends might be inclined to bow outwards. The dovetail effectually prevents this, yet it is entirely concealed by the stop. Note that the top cut (which is cut in square) is at 90 deg., whilst the taper is formed beneath. The dovetail is formed on this sloping cut. It will be realised that it is really a bare-faced dovetail and that the bare face is at the top. In this way the shelf is bound to be square.
When marking out the joint, square across the sides the over-all thickness of the shelf, cutting in the top line with the chisel and the lower one in pencil. Then mark in the tapering line with the chisel. The depth of the stop can be marked with the gauge (keep the gauge set so that the shelf can be marked with the same setting.)
Cutting the Groove. The sides of the groove have to be sawn in, and many workers find a difficulty in using the saw because this cannot be taken right through. There is no difficulty, however, if a recess is cut up against the stop as shown inset in Fig. 3. Chop it with the chisel to the same depth as the groove and work the saw with short strokes, allowing the end to run out in the recess. One side of the latter must be at the dovetail angle, of course.
To form a strong joint it is clear that the saw cut on the dovetail side must be at the true angle and that it must agree with that of the shelf. Fig. 4 shows how this can be assured. A piece of wood is cut off at one end at the required angle, 78 deg., and is held down on the wood with a cramp or screw and the saw held against the end as shown. Before fixing it, however, it is generally advisable to make a few strokes with the saw upright. This saves any tendency for it to slip owing to the angle. In any case the usual practice of chiselling out a small sloping groove is advisable (see inset in Fig. 4).
The preliminary removal of the waste is done with the chisel, this being followed by the router. If this is held askew it will generally be found that the cutter will reach right under the dovetail slope—unless it has an extra high pitch, in which case the chisel will have to be used to reach beneath.
The Dovetail. In the case of the dovetail on the shelf the simplest plan is to gauge in the depth and cut a square rebate with the saw and rebate plane. Form the taper (also with the plane) and then cut in the dovetail angle with the chisel. It will be realised that the preliminary saw cut is deep enough to reach to the dovetail depth. If the work is done with the wood cramped down on the bench, a spare piece of wood with the end at the correct angle can be used as a guide, as in Fig. 5. Adjusting the wood away from or towards the work will enable the chisel to take up the true angle. In any case, it is intended purely as a guide. The advantage of the joint will become obvious when it is fitted, because it is loose until driven right home when it at once becomes a tight fit throughout its length. It should make a close fit, but over-tightness should be avoided as this tends to force the ends out of truth.
— Meghan Bates
Sometimes, I would have to grind the bevel again. That is something that should not be necessary if I was using a honing guide. I have been making my first run with the guide on an 80 grit sanding belt before hitting the coarse diamond lately. That is grinding the bevel (if necessary) and giving me a burr quickly and with minimal fuss. Again, not what I expect from using a honing guide. It's supposed to be repeatability that is it's #1 selling point.
|did this first|
|bad pic of a pitted edge|
|I did 3 chipbreakers|
|4 1/2 and 5 1/2 irons|
|4 1/2 and 5/12|
|setting the iron in the honing guide|
|time to see if I was right|
|got my burr|
|I still like looking at shiny bevels|
|the iron from the new #4|
It took one more run on the 80 grit before I was satisfied with the coarse stone work. I had gotten a shine that filled the whole back. I didn't have this problem again using the other two diamond stones.
|back flattened, working on the bevel|
|got the end square|
|I'm happy with the back of the #4 iron|
|the back of it looks better than the front - almost no pitting|
|the lever cap has a chip|
|pit stop for home maintenance|
|missing a valve handle|
|I lost the handle years ago|
|gluing up the cabinet|
|still playing with it|
I've been having a tête à tête with Pat on this. I have tried a few of his ideas but so far there hasn't been any dancing in the streets of Mudville. He brought up the point that something is causing the fence to move but what is it. That is one thing that I've been looking at now.
Did you know that Pierre, South Dakota is the only one syllable word state capitol? (Pronounced as PEER)
Click here to read my article in Furniture and Cabinetmaking Magazine about a weekend workbench featuring my favorite knockdown joint, the Tusk joint. This was one of my favorite builds to date, because it was a project with one of my favorite instructors at Pratt. Steve brings a whole lot of laughter and knowledge into the shop, and I love designing projects and building with him.