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Chris Schwarz's Pop Wood Blog
Machine guards are supposed to protect us from harm, but there are times when they can turn against you. The worst injury I’ve ever received from a machine was cutting my hands on the anti-kickback pawls while installing my table saw’s guard. Yesterday I ran into trouble on my jointer with disastrous results. The collar that controls the height of the guard vibrated loose. The tip of the guard contacted […]
If you design furniture or work a lot with curved parts, it’s difficult to function without a “drawing bow.” This simple jig – a stick and a string – allows you to lay out precise and large curves with only two hands. Before I could afford a commercial one (Lee Valley Tools makes an excellent one that I recommended in my 2017 Anarchist’s Gift Guide), I made my own. While […]
Metal-bodied planes require so little maintenance (aside from sharpening) that it’s easy to forget that they do need some love every year to work smoothly. Recently I borrowed a friend’s smoothing plane to demonstrate a cut and was struck by how easily her iron adjusted. It was like silk. I thought my plane was in good shape, but I was way off the mark. So as soon as I delivered […]
If you’ve ever used a hand-cut rasp or a hand-filed saw you know how their tiny imperfections from handwork make the tool cut smoother. When it comes to making chairs, the small handmade imperfections are what give it its strength. If you build a lot of casework, I am sure you are grunting in displeasure. Accuracy makes all your pieces go together easily and tightly, right? Well in chairmaking, that […]
Popular Woodworking Magazine has just a launch a new podcast that…. Wait, wait. Where are you going? Give me a few moments to explain. Look, we know the woodworking world has enough podcasts. So when Scott Francis decided to create “The Afterlife of Trees,” a lot of the discussion was about what the podcast wouldn’t be about. It’s not shop talk. It’s not answering the questions of listeners. It’s not […]
For the June 2018 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, I’ve built a folding and adjustable bookstand that is assembled with copper rivets and folds up to a neat package about the size of smartphone. It’s a quick and fun project that uses shop scraps and regular shop equipment. The result is great for reading, cookbooks or even holding your iPad while watching movies. It can be scaled up or down […]
A friend in Utah needed a new kitchen and interviewed some cabinetmakers to do the job. My friend wanted dovetailed drawers, but one cabinetmaker said he had “something better.” What could be better? “It’s glue and super-high clamp pressure,” the cabinetmaker said. If you apply enough pressure, he said, the joint will be so strong that the wood will fail before the glue. So no joinery. Just glue and clamp […]
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 […]
Here in the Midwest, we seem to have a lot more Buckeyes who are people (it’s the nickname for Ohioans) than actual buckeye trees (Aesculus glabra, sometimes called the horse chestnut). In fact, I’ve lived in the range of the Ohio Buckeye tree for most of my adult life and have never seen it for sale. It’s not a popular tree for many reasons. Its leaves and nuts are poisonous […]
The post My First Experience with Buckeye (Aesculus glabra) appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.
All the sharpening systems out there work, but I have a favorite: Shapton Pro Series stones in #1,000, #5,000 and #8,000 grits. Shapton Pros cut fast, stay pretty flat and don’t have to be soaked beforehand. As I sharpen three to five times a day, those are important qualities. Recently there has been turmoil with the supply of Shapton stones to the United States. In the end, the U.S. distributor […]
I resist making jigs like I resist going to the dentist. So when I do break down and build a jig, it’s going to be something with a dial indicator and lasers. No, that’s a lie. It’s going to be something dirt simple but solves my difficulties completely. I build a lot of chairs with spindles that run between the seat and the armbow. The best way to drill the […]
When dealing with round tenons, you have an important choice about their shape. Should they be tapered (like a cylindrical cone)? Or straight (like a dowel)? The engineering answer seems obvious: use a tapered tenon. This form of joint gets tighter the more you use it, like a Morse taper on a lathe or a drill press’s chuck. But the historical answer is more complicated than that. When you look […]
I’m in the final stages of setting up a new workshop in Covington., Ky. It’s my seventh (!!) workshop. I could probably write a book on the process, but instead I think I’ll sum it all up here. During the last 20 years I’ve visited and written about some of the most impressive and modest shops all over the world. From a home shop with a remote-control crane (that shop […]
One of my long-time obsessions has been with chairmaker Chester Cornett (1913-1981), a traditional Eastern Kentucky chairmaker who moved to Cincinnati later in life and turned to making mind-bending chairs. Trained by his family in green chairmaking, Cornett made hundreds of chairs and other pieces of furniture during a time in the 20th century when the world was turning to manufactured goods. After serving in World War II, Cornett moved […]
The post A Great (and Free) Read on Chairmaker Chester Cornett appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.
I use a lot of arched shapes in my work. They are a pleasing geometrical construction that can be used in doors, on the ends of bookshelves or on the bases of chests (I particularly like them on the ends of a six-board chest). For the most part, I use three types of arches. And to be honest, that was because I didn’t know the geometry for other forms. Recently […]
I’m not easily riled. But if you want to get me worked up, then make a casual comment on a piece of woodworking that you’ve never built or dealt with. Case-in-point: I’ve been using a metal planing stop (as shown above) for more than 12 years. It is the foundation of everything I do at the bench. Yet, if I ever show its teeth in an article or on the […]
Every year with this gift guide, I recommend one tool that is just a little more expensive than the others but is definitely worth the money. This year it’s the Lee Valley Cast Masons & Engravers’ Square. This is a new item in Lee Valley’s catalog, and the minute I saw it, I ordered one. This well-made tool excels at scribing lines that are parallel to the edge of a […]
The post Anarchist’s 2017 Gift Guide, Day 11: Masons’ & Engravers’ Square appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.
If were being honest, woodworking would be a lot more difficult in the winter months without O’Keefe’s Working Hands. I have a container of this at my workbench and by my computer. It is the only thing that keeps my fingers moving smoothly over my tools and the keyboard. I know there are a lot of other hand-care products out there. I’ve tried many of them. But I keep coming […]
The post Anarchist’s 2017 Gift Guide, Day 10: O’Keefe’s Working Hands appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.
Building furniture without a dedicated workshop or even a workbench has always been a challenge. While there are lots of ways to get around the problem, one of my favorite is what is called the “bureau-shop.” This is where you transform an old chest of drawers into a complete hand-tool shop for light work. The top of the bureau is used as the benchtop (more on that in a minute). […]
I love wooden tool handles. Their only downside is they break and need to be repaired or replaced. If you prefer to repair your tool handles, the inexpensive Clamptite tool is your best friend. The Clamptite is a bit difficult to explain to people who haven’t used it. Basically, it is a device that can pull a wire tight and then cleverly knot it around an object, such as a […]
The post Anarchist’s 2017 Gift Guide, Day 8: Clamptite Tool appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.