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The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator

An aggregate of many different woodworking blog feeds from across the 'net all in one place!  These are my favorite blogs that I read everyday...

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General Woodworking

The Auto-Regulator

James Watriss - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 5:58am

From January to July I worked ridiculously hard to develop this case prototype, and the associated process, to house the clock known as the Auto-Regulator. The creator of this particular clock has designed it to be the first atomic clock for home or office, so it's kind of a big deal.

This project was a monster on many fronts. There were many jigs to work out, many issues I hadn't foreseen, many, many late nights, and a lot going on at home, to boot. I haven't blogged since April because, quite plainly, I was fried, and had no time.

That's been getting better, so I'm back. In coming weeks/ months I'll go through the project from start to finish, and explain how it all came together, and how it's led me to where I am now.

Categories: General Woodworking

Alf Sharp in the Shop

Popular Woodworking Editors Blog - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 5:15am

This week we have the pleasure of working with Alf Sharp in the Popular Woodworking Magazine shop. Alf is a woodworker with one foot in period work and the other planted firmly in the realm of studio furniture. He’s also the 2008 Cartouche award recipient from the Society of American Period Furniture Makers. (A visit to his web site is time well spent.) Under the pressure of hot lights and […]

The post Alf Sharp in the Shop appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Categories: General Woodworking

Ken Hawley, MBE 1927-2014

Tools For Working Wood - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 4:00am
Ken Hawley MBE, probably the most important figure in modern tool history passed away on August 15th, 2014. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ken and his work, Ken ran a hardware store in Sheffield starting in the 1940's. To have a little interest in the store window he put a few old tools on display. Over the years people, retired craftsman, widows, etc, would stop by and offer their no longer used tools to Ken. He became a collector. Then, and this is what is so important he started collecting, not so just the tools that were made in Sheffield, but the tools that were used to make the tools. As the tool making industry of Sheffield began to collapse Ken collected whole workshops of tools and records. Without him all of this history would have gone to the dumpster. Pattern books, catalogs, patterns, mother planes. Everything. As he got older Ken's collection was assembled into a trust, and now is part of the Kelham Island Museum.

Ken was also an enthusiastic evangelist for tools. If you had a question he was prepared to dig and find you the answer. I only met him once. On a trip to England in 2000 he made time in his busy schedule to sit with me and show me some of the collection. He answered my pretty simple questions without smiling at my ignorance. When I asked about file making, he took me down to the shop where he had a file-making setup and showed me how easy it was to actually cut a file by actually cutting a file. Then, when I mentioned that my specific interest was in English steel or infill planes he apologized saying that in Sheffield there just wasn't much. However, from deep in the collection he handed me a shoebox of what he had. It took a few minutes but I realized what he handed to me was a set of patterns, templates, and jigs from the workshop of Arthur Price, the last of the traditional infill plane makers. It was really something.

Ken's collection of tools and equipment has been fortunately preserved and will educate and illuminate toolmakes for generations to come. This is one enormous and important legacy. But we not only lost a really wonderful person we lost a lifetime of all the knowledge he collected and was so generous in sharing.

Our condolences go out to his friends and family. He will be missed worldwide.

N.B. The picture of Ken is from the Hawley Collection web site.

the joined chest project, part the next

Peter Follansbee, joiner's notes - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 4:18pm

back to the week that was…when we attempted to make 10 or 11 joined chests in no time at all. Knuckleheads. 

after all the riving and hewing; we hauled some of the stock into town to begin the task of planing it into boards. I’ll just bop the pictures in, then add whatever I can remember about it. Here’s Steven planing just like I showed him…



Roy was astounded at the amount of shavings produced by working green wood

shavings pile up

roy & shavings






One of our un-named students works in a pointy building on the east coast, and to help him out, Roy put up surveillance cameras throughout the classroom..

woodwright cam

A broom wouldn’t do it, so Roy got out a pitchfork…

roy & shavings 2 roy & shavings 3



Elia couldn’t stand the idea of sending those shavings to the landfill, so we piled them in his truck.

off they go


We did get further along eventually; chopping mortises, over & over & over again. 



Then plowing grooves, cutting tenons, test-fitting. 






There was lots of documentation, 

it's horrible


until the last couple days, when I lost track of all – I spent 1/2 of the last 2 days with a checklist, “do you have all your muntin stock?” I never did get it all straight. it’s hard to keep track of 250 piece of oak that all look pretty much the same. 

Then one day Steven emerged from Ed’s store upstairs and everyone ran to his bench like it was Xmas morning – “whaddja get?” – so we had a show & tell…

xmas presents

Just another week at the Woodwright’s School…


For those keeping track, some spoons and things for sale tomorrow…including this new piece: 


spoon rack



Frank Klausz Woodworking Workshop Tour

Wood and Shop - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 4:18pm


In my above video I share a recent visit that I made to the newly finished woodworking workshop of Frank Klausz. Frank is a world-renowned cabinetmaker and teacher who received his training in his father’s pre-electrical workshop in the mountains of Hungary.


Before you ask, look at the bottom of this article for a list of all the tools that Frank mentioned in the video.


When I first arrived at Frank Klausz’s home I was warmly greeted by Frank, his wife Edith, and their Hungarian hound. After a quick tour of the exquisite furniture and trim that adorned their quaint country home, we had a very nice conversation about Frank’s upbringing in the remote mountains of Hungary. He was tutored by his father and grandfather in the traditional craft of using hand tools to build furniture, because electricity had not made its way to that part of the Soviet-controlled region of Hungary. As he spoke, I could picture a small candlelit workshop perched on the slopes of a picturesque eastern European mountainside. The Klausz men only used a handful of tools in their shop. “We only used a few hand planes, five or six chisels, and some handsaws” he emphasized.

Frank and his wife Edith then related their story of their courtship before they came to the United States. Edith’s eyes glowed as Frank related his side of the story. He told her that he would marry her after he returned from his military service. He paused. Then a smile came to his face as he recalled her response nearly 50 years earlier “what makes you think that I want to marry you?” I looked over at Edith and a smile stretched across her face.


Well, apparently she waited for him and married him, and after emigrating to the United States they had several children. They eventually left the bustle of New York for the quiet calm of the New Jersey countryside. He opened “Frank’s Cabinet Shop” where he worked for years, until retiring 3 years ago. Because Frank is one of the few unbroken links to traditional hand tool woodworking (other than books) he has become somewhat of a celebrity among woodworkers. He has traveled extensively to teach classes & seminars, and has been featured in many woodworking magazines and popular video recordings, like these classic videos.


Frank cleverly turned this old water tank into his dream workshop. In our off-camera conversation he related how the water tower used to service fountains for the mansions of business tycoons of the late 19th & 20th centuries.


Frank wanted to build a workshop that also doubles as a gathering place. A place to sit and chat with friends on a cold winter night while the wood stove burns away. I was immediately impressed by how clean and organized his workshop was. He seems to take great pride in his space and in his tools, especially his plum-bob collection.


Frank was especially fond of the amazing natural light that his skylight windows spread around his workshop. I have to admit that I felt a bit jealous, coming from a basement workshop.


He gave me a tour of the 3 beautiful European-style workbenches that he built over the years. His autographed dovetailed vices were eye catchers:



He was very adamant that woodworkers should build a solid workbench that will last for generations. He is also of the opinion that tool chests are for traveling, but tool shelves are for a workshop. He loves the convenience of grabbing hand tools from the wall-mounted cabinet that he built. He said that it was the backdrop for most of his woodworking videos:


I was immediately impressed by Frank’s down-to-earth, practical, and modest personality. He’s a far cry from the book-educated academic woodworkers of our day. When I asked him about his favorite hand tools I was a bit surprised by his response. I was expecting him to pull out some rare antique handplanes or a special handsaw passed down from his grandfather.


But Frank pulled out new tools made by quality manufactures. His absolute favorite tool is a Lie-Nielsen No. 4 Smoothing plane. He was so impressed by the improvement upon the old Stanley Bedrock No. 4 design. Although he loves the old tools, Frank isn’t trying to appear as a “purist” or a “tool snob” who only uses rare antique tools. He loves how some new manufactures are improving upon the best designed tools of the past. Frank is a real cabinetmaker who values innovation and features that make the job easier.


He’s something of a tool innovator himself. He is very well known for his creatively-designed “Waterstone Pond” which is used for sharpening chisels and handplane irons. I have to admit that the first Woodworking DVD that I ever watched (I checked it out from the library) was Franks “Hand Tools” video. I first saw the this waterstone pond in that video, and have wanted to make one ever since. I found a PDF of the 1996 article, available for download here.


He told me a funny story about a time that he built his Waterstone Pond on Roy Underhill’s The Woodwright Shop television program. Because the program has to be filmed all with one take, no breaks can be made for mistakes; the camera keeps rolling. Roy noticed that the joint that Frank was showing was messy, so Roy grabbed Frank’s arm and quickly yanked it around so that the close-up camera would see the nicer joint on the other side. Gotta keep up appearances!


One thing I was looking forward to seeing in Frank’s new workshop was his huge wall of molding planes (as seen in his DVDs). I’ll admit that I was sad to learn that he had sold nearly 600 molding planes after his retirement from full-time cabinet making three years ago. In his endearing Hungarian accent he asked, “why would I ever need that many molding planes?” A very practical man indeed. Still, I wouldn’t mind owning 600 molding planes.


Frank took me over to the cherry coffee table that he was finishing up for his daughter, who lives nearby. I can tell that he finds his greatest workshop-joy building heirloom quality furniture for his posterity, and he said that they love receiving the furniture. I can tell that it is furniture that will be around for his great, great, great grandchildren to inherit.


I felt honored to listen as he instructed me on how he carefully builds up his Waterlox oil finish. Frank wouldn’t let me go before having me film his dovetail demonstration. After all, “that’s what I’m known for” he said. That video will be posted next week, so subscribe or keep checking back!


Frank also wanted to show me a huge molding plane that he built for a magazine article. The editor wanted Frank to create a large molding for the story, so naturally Frank was going to use hollows & rounds to make the molding. “No” replied the editor. “With one plane”. So Frank had to build the beastly handplane. Frank insisted that we film this giant in action. I was thrilled to do so! I’ll share that video very soon as well.


I felt so fortunate to be welcomed into the dream workshop of a man who has been instrumental in preserving one of my favorite things in the whole world: traditional hand tool woodworking. Thanks Frank!


I know that I’m going to get a lot of requests for a list of Frank’s favorite tools that he mentioned, so I’ll save myself some time by listing them here:




Stop the Watermarks: Don’t Cook!

Popular Woodworking Editors Blog - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 1:55pm

A friend recently asked me about the creeping white haze on the wooden cabinets over her stove. I told her the problem was caused by actually using the stove; she needed to quit cooking. That was an unpopular suggestion (she has two young boys, one of whom is reaching the hollow-leg stage of food consumption). So plan B: Reverse the problem, then stop it from happening again with a new […]

The post Stop the Watermarks: Don’t Cook! appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Categories: General Woodworking

Making wooden ladders

Steve Tomlin Crafts - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 10:25am
Wooden builders ladder made by Stanley ClarkThis month I was invited by the Heritage Crafts Association to take part in their efforts to preserve the craft of making wooden ladders. I travelled down to Northampton with fellow greenwood worker and HCA chair Robin Wood to learn to the craft of making ladders from Stanley Clark who made ladders until the trade ceased in the 1960s. Continue reading
Categories: General Woodworking

The plane maker

Rundell & Rundell - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 7:48am
So a day or so after being in Virginia, then Tennessee and North Carolina, we headed South again in to South Carolina and to the home of Caleb James. I'd first heard of Caleb through Pete Galbert's blog. Then again when I found that Caleb was doing the drawings for Curtis Buchanan's Comb Back and Continuous Arm Chair plans. 

One look at the Danish furniture and cord weaving produced by Caleb and it's clear to see why Pete was so impressed with Caleb's ability. 

So when I was talking of my trip further South, Pete suggested a visit to Caleb would be worth the miles.

He wasn't wrong. Jeff and I arrived late morning and were shown down to Caleb's basement workshop by Caleb's wife Tracy. No dark undercroft here though. It's a light filled timber lined long room looking out to the greenery beyond. It's quite an inviting space. 

As with a fair few other American chair makers I've met, it was interesting to see where our paths had crossed, both with Curtis and Pete. But it seems to be a familiar trait in this field with people I've met recently and has been the case as far as I know back to the early 1980's and no doubt prior. Whether that original contact was someone like Drew Langsner, Dave Sawyer or another pioneering worker of wood, it's amazing to see what a definitive effect it has on an individual's life and not just their career. It's a great thing.

What did surprise me in a way was that despite Caleb's obvious natural talent for making chairs, it appears that he is going to focus primarily on making hand planes. Well to be a little more precise, it surprised me until I looked into his tool chest and saw this.

A few moments later after asking if I could try a little coffin shaped smoother, it was clearly obvious why Caleb should concentrate on planes. They're awesome. Comfortable in the hand and beautifully detailed and proportioned. So good in fact that the smoother came home with me. 

Here it is today being used to tidy up the spindle deck of a Windsor chair I'm making

There's evidence of a good deal of forward planning too, as neatly stacked piles of beech abound in the workshop,

Most destined for the sets of moulding planes that Caleb is rapidly becoming well known for.

Caleb also spoke of his thoughts of potentially running classes in his workshop in future, teaching the making of Danish styled furniture and of course planes. A no brainer in my book. To spend a few days learning what Caleb knows would be good value for money in anyones language. We finished our visit with a culinary highlight of the trip, a mexican lunch prepared by Tracy, which was that good I would have taken a picture of that too, if it were not for good manners!

I also learnt that Caleb and Tracy have relatives in Australia. I hope they drop in and visit next time they're in my neck of the woods.

Categories: General Woodworking

Do you want to know a secret?

The Slightly Confused Woodworker - Tue, 08/19/2014 - 3:16pm

There are certain things in life that are exciting just because they are taboo, from tobacco, to alcohol, to women. I never thought that woodworking would make that list, but for me it has. A few months back I had picked up a few Ash and Bubinga boards with the intention of turning them into a smoothing plane over the summer. Of course, my woodworking plans were hijacked by an angry wife waging her own jihad against me and my hobby. But, over the course of an hour or so this past Sunday morning I managed to sneak in a little clandestine woodworking while my wife was out.

Like a member of the French Resistance, I kept up the front of being a fully capitulated citizen of my house, completely accepting the loss of my freedom, and fully okay with the enemy occupation of my dreams. Secretly I raged inside, ready to woodwork at the first given opportunity, and to remind myself that even though I was a prisoner, my heart could not be swayed. So when the opportunity arose I seized it!

Unfortunately there isn’t much else to tell as I did not get much accomplished. The Ash board I am working with is remarkably straight-grained, flat, and square, and there was very little I needed to do in order to prepare the wood. I sawed the “frog” board at 45 degrees, and the ramp board at around 60 degrees using my table saw. Because the wood is in such good condition, the saw cuts came out perfectly, and I needed to do nothing else but lightly sand both ramps using a sheet of 150 grit sand paper on my table saw bed. I then took the Bubinga board which I am using for the cheeks and cut it in half with a backsaw. I decided to end it at that, as I want the newly sawn wood to sit for at least a few more days before I mess with it again.

a future plane

a future plane



It’s surprisingly easy to make a functioning hand plane out of wood. Of course there are levels to how highly functioning that plane will be, and that part lies in the skill of the maker. But just about anybody can make a jack or scrub plane. The most difficult part for me will be making the recess for the cap iron nut. On the last plane I made I did it with a chisel and a router plane, and though it turned out just fine it took quite a while to fine tune the recess to where I wanted it to be. This time I think I will define the rebate with a chisel, remove the bulk of the waste with an electric router, and clean it up once again using a chisel.

I also plan on attempting some fancy curves. The last two planes I made work just fine, but they have a utilitarian look to them. I think this time I would like to try something new. As of now the plane sits at just over a foot long. After all is said and done I’m hoping for a plane 9 inches in length. If all goes well I should have the recess cut out and the plane glued up this coming Sunday. The fancy curves will have to wait until the following week. That is unless the gestapo my wife finds out.

Categories: General Woodworking

Can You Smell It?

Popular Woodworking Editors Blog - Tue, 08/19/2014 - 2:18pm

For the last couple days, there’s been an odd and slightly offputting scent lingering in the air wherever I go (and yes, I’ve showered). I’m pretty sure it’s the ripe smell of panic. It just hit me that Woodworking in America is less than three weeks away (Sept. 12-14 in Winston-Salem, N.C.). In my brain, the conference is still months from now. In reality, it is fast upon us. I […]

The post Can You Smell It? appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Categories: General Woodworking


The Barn on White Run - Tue, 08/19/2014 - 12:22pm

Periodically to take a break from sitting and writing, I get out of the recliner and hike up the hill to spend a little time puttering in the barn.  I am getting much faster at writing over time — I penned the thousand-word introductory essay for the new l’Art du Menuisier: The Book of Plates in about two hours, but still it is simltaneously exhilarating and tedious.  Since I know I have to get back to work to stay on track, my times in the barn are short and the activities brief and episodic for several more days.


In addition to periodically loading the solar wax melter to purify more beeswax I grab a scrub plane to continue the flattening of a maple slab I glued up several winters ago.  It is destined in short order to become a Roubo-hybrid bench in my barn studio, perhaps even under the east bank of windows.  The “hybridization” of the bench will be in the form of another Emmert K1 vise, a tool I consider unsurpassed in the bench world.

The 18″-wide maple slab was out-of-flat by more than a quarter inch and I do not own a power planer that large and the darned thing is just too heavy to take to a friend’s shop where a planer that large sits.  A few minutes of scrubbing here and a few minutes of scrubbing there adds up, and now the slab is flat enough to start laying out the legs.


Ten feet away my old Roubo bench I built for my conservation studio at the Smithsonian, where the climate control was perfect all theim time,  developed a 1/2″(!) crown once I moved it to the unregulated environment on the south side of the barn.  I will also will be taking a whack at that as a vigorously physical respite from writing.

Another fortnight or less and the first draft of VIRTUOSO will be done.

Pondering Details – or Outlay for Inlay

McGlynn On Making - Tue, 08/19/2014 - 7:21am

Last weekend I worked through most of the design for an Arts & Crafts bookcase, to the point where  I’m pretty comfortable with the scale, style and proportions.  I think the joinery is going to be rock solid.  I have some concerns about getting the sliding dovetail to work properly, and about getting clean through mortises, but otherwise the construction is relatively straightforward.

What’s missing?  Aside from some spectacular and unusually wide Quartersawn White Oak planks, I need to sort out the accents that will make this piece “pop”.  I want to have inlay on the back splashes (at least) and a subtle but coordinated stained glass design for the doors.

Most craftsman furniture had relatively simple, abstract geometric inlay designs.  My understanding is that these are generally attributed to Harvey Ellis.  There is even a place (Mission Furnishings) that reproduces these designs in veneer sheets to glue down to a substrate.

There cabinet doors with veneered "inlay" (marquetry, really) panels

There cabinet doors with veneered “inlay” (marquetry, really) panels

Many of these designs were vertically oriented, fitting onto door stiles, table legs or chair slats.  That’s a small conundrum, as the area I want to decorate is horizontal.  There are a couple of “textbook” Ellis designs for horizontal areas, like this one:

Original Ellis' design

Original Ellis design

And others that could certainly be adapted.  The veneered panel seems like a simple approach, especially if I could click on a web page and have a canned design delivered that I just need to glue down — but it’s not as satisfying.  I also want a design that will coordinate with whatever I do in the stained glass for the doors.  I also know that I’ll  be dying this piece, and the idea of masking the inlay to keep it from getting colored isn’t a satisfying feeling.  I can just see the dye leaching under the masking stencil and ruining the inlay.  Ick.

Another Ellis design

Another Ellis design

There is another factor, which is that a lot of Greene & Greene furniture had delicate inlay designs using wood, shell and metal, and I want to learn how to do that myself.  I’ve been greedily gathering videos, images and articles for a while, and I’m eager to try this out.  William Ng has taught a class on G&G Inlay in the past, but I don’t see it on his 2015 schedule (rats!).

Detail of inlay drawing from the Thorsen house

Detail of inlay drawing from the Thorsen house

Some of the G&G inlay was silver wire and shell and relatively simple design, like on this table and chair from the blacker house.  The weaving vine and petals on the leg are obvious (if not completely clear), but you will need to look closer to see the matching detail on the table top.  In fact, I want to make this exact table as a practice project to learn inlay. (I wonder if my wife will let me get away with that before the bookcase?)

One example of G&G inlay

One example of G&G inlay

Other Greene & Greene inlay was significantly more complex, like this example from a desk done for the Pratt house in Ojai, Ca.  The tree was inlaid in different species of wood, left proud of the surface and carved.  I love the organic feel and the Japanese influence of the design.

Detail of an inlaid desk done for the Pratt house

Detail of an inlaid desk done for the Pratt house

My understanding of the process is the the individual pieces are cut out and then either singly or as a unit scribed onto the surface which is then excavated with a tiny router bit and chisels.  The inlay is then glue into place, and either sanded flush or textured.  Obviously any dying would have to be done before wood was inlaid, although metal and shell could be done before dying.

I found a video that demonstrated the process of doing a flush inlay nicely.  I’m definitely going to buy a tiny router base for my Foredom tool and give this a try soon.

I still don’t have a handle on the inlay design to use on the bookcase, but I’m staring at lots of stained glass and inlay designs (and pottery, tile and textile patterns) looking for inspiration.  Once I get a better bead on where I’m headed I’ll add some designs to my CAD model and see how it feels.  For now I’m going to watch that video again…



Categories: General Woodworking

I Like Wall Boxes

The Furniture Record - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 8:40pm

I like wall boxes. It could be because they are things I can afford. Or things that I can make quickly. Or I just might like wall boxes. A few months back I walked through the local antiques mall and noticed the dealers there also had a fondness for wall boxes.

There was this rather large one:

This box is a bit more complex than most. Click to see details and a different views of the knobs.

This box is a bit more complex than most. Click to see details and a different views of the knobs.

All these boxes have rather interesting knob. Like this smaller one:

Smaller, simpler wall box. Feet indicate it might not technically be a wall box. Click to see the square knob.

Smaller, simpler wall box. Feet indicate it might not technically be a wall box. Click to see a square knob.

Here is a smaller box with interesting details:

Box has interesting, carved ornamentation. Click to see the faceted knob.

Box has interesting, carved ornamentation. Click to see the faceted knob.

All these are possible future projects. Eventually.

This piece made me think it might be contemporary:

Something from Bassett?

Something from Bassett?

until I looked at a drawer:

A Knapp joint. Covered in a previous blog..

A Knapp joint. Covered in a previous blog..

This means is was most likely made between 1890 and 1900. Not contemporary but not ancient.

Who made it is not a mystery:

It's a Paine. From Boston.

It’s a Paine. From Boston.

And a  gout rocker.

And a gout rocker.

Click HERE to see the entire set on flickr. Lots of interesting stuff in this one.

17th Century Woodworking, Peter Follansbee

The Craftsman's Road - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 5:09pm

Click here to subscribe on iTunes
Click here to subscribe on Stitcher Radio

On this weeks episode of the Craftsman’s Road Podcast we talk with Peter Follansbee .  Peter has specialized in 17th century woodworking, and is the author of ‘Making a Joint Stool from a Tree’, and many other 17th century woodworking related books. He has been featured in Popular Woodworking magazine, and teaches classes all across the united states. Peter just recently left Plymouth Museum after twenty years to venture out on his own. Check out up-coming classes on Peters web site(click on the above link),  let him know you heard him on the podcast.

Categories: General Woodworking

Logo .. hmmm ..

She Works Wood - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 6:45am
Here’s the latest mock up.  Still trying to decide if I like it better.  Thoughts?
Categories: General Woodworking

September is the time to make a carved oak box

Peter Follansbee, joiner's notes - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 6:37pm

This fall I’ll be teaching a class at Heartwood in making one of my carved oak boxes; and this might be the best shot yet at this class. The class size is small, about 6 students. As of right now, we are short of that number – we could use a couple more, so you could sign up and get in on a chance to delve into this subject in greater-than-usual detail. The class is Sept 22-26. The fall is my favorite time of year… 

We’ll be riving, carving and assembling boxes such as this:

carved box 2011

carved box 2011


Maybe this is the class to finally fit a till inside their box!




The setting is out of this world – I often get asked “when are you teaching in Massachusetts?” and this is my one-and-only right now. But it’s not eastern-MA with its congestion, noise, strip-mall mentality; this is bucolic western, far-western Massachusetts. It’s at the Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts in Washington, Massachusetts. Those of us out in eastern MA have to look Washington up, because  we’ve never heard of it. It’s that nice. It’s all uphill for me, Washington in in the Berkshires, near the highest point of I-90 east of South Dakota. I live on the Jones River, about 15 feet above sea level.

I was a student in a timber-framing class there in 1984 – Will Beemer dug out a photo to prove it. Bottom center, head down, arms up. skinny, scruffy me. 

PF at Heartwood

Here’s more about the school – it’s quite a place.


Here’s the photo tour of the place: 


Fall in the Berkshires – I’m bringing my binoculars too. Come join us.



Tools that inspire

Design Matters - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 3:44pm
Note how the mechanism clamps to the beam via a wear plate

Note how the mechanism clamps to the beam via a wear plate

I’m a tool user – not a tool collector. However, I do have a soft spot for antique dividers and drawing tools. When some old buzzard moans,  ” They don’t make em like they used to”  it’s hard to find a better example than vintage drafting tools. Today I picked up these late 19th century German Silver trammel points. The detail is amazing.  Like many of these tools the craft of making them grew out of instrument making, so there’s a lot of crossover with watchmaking, surveyor, and navigation tools. Note how they clamp on the beam and DSCN3693have a wear plate to grip without marring the wood. I also like the design in the turnings. I can almost imagine that pattern in a table leg. Anyone have experience polishing German Silver?


George R. Walker

Back To The . . . Whatever.

Inside the Oldwolf Workshop - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 9:40am
By most people's definitions, my wife and I are both trained artists. Our relationship started in the art room of what used to be, a progressive looking high school that paid a lot of attention to art and technology classes. (Sadly I know this is not the case any longer) Together and apart, we've taken more formal "art" classes than most people who graduate with an "art" major. 

It seeps into my woodworking some, but truthfully neither of us have made much use of this training other than raising our girls. We've consciously tried to bring them up to be imaginative creators and makers with pragmatic roots. There is a lot of drawing, painting, and sewing that goes on in my home. The sense of this has ramped up recently as I've been more visibly drawing myself Sitting at the drafting table, doing illustrations of joinery and other concepts to accompany the book I'm working on. 

You can read more about it HERE

My activity has seemed to spur more drawing activity by the girls, and some light arguing about who gets to use the Drawing Board. Our portable drawing board is 24" x 30" edge glued maple boards with oaken breadboard ends and a handle screwed to one side. It's a holdover from our art room days and we only have the one. One board and three daughters is problematic. 

The old soldier drawing board. It's been around a while.
Two of the three girls had birthdays coming up, we purchased new sketchbooks, drawing pencils, and kneaded erasers and I built some new drawing boards. One for each, including the non birthday girl. 

I picked up a section of 1/2" sanded plywood from the box store. Searching through the pile I actually found a show face that had a some curly figure to the grain. Back at the shop I cut the ply into three blanks 17 1/2" x 11 1/2", then I used the table saw to cut 1/4" x 1/2" rabbets all around the border. 

I ripped down some 1" thick black walnut into 1 1/4" wide pieces. planed them flat and smooth and plowed grooves to accept the lip of the plywood'e rabbet. 

I mitered and fitted the walnut into frames around the plywood. glue into the plowed grooves and some finishing brads to hold the frames in place. 

You may wonder why I used 1" thick frames and 1/2" ply. In essence the rabbet acts as a bare faced tenon and provides more strength to the joint, but it also leaves a slightly less than 1/2" recess in the back of the boards. With a couple of wide rubber bands,(a common accessory to drawing boards) they can easily place a sketchbook and maybe a tin of pencils in the recess and carry the whole thing by the handle where ever they want. 

I finished the boards with danish oil and a light furniture polishing wax and added a single screen door handle to one side. 

A fun little weekend style project that my girls will use for many years. How much better does it get. 

Just one more decent sized shop distraction to handle and I can get back to the medieval furniture I've immersed myself in lately. 

Ratione et Passionis.
Categories: General Woodworking

Four-squared Boards

Woodworker's Edge - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 6:25am

2M4A2095I needed a single board for a project that I’m building in an upcoming issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. The only surface I need to look good is the front edge which faces the front of my cabinet. With no milled lumber available other than a few natural-edge cutoffs, I laid a straightedge on two of the cutoffs to remove the natural edges, made cuts at a band saw, jointed the edges and glued the two boards together to make one. A great method to stretch lumber on a project.

As I assembled the pieces, I thought back to classes in which I’ve taught woodworkers proper milling techniques using machines. Step one is to flatten a face. In my system, step two is to use a thickness planer to create a parallel face. For some woodworkers, step two is to square one of the edges while at a jointer, but I disagree. If you square an edge, does that edge remain square as you flatten the second face, especially while flipping the board end-for-end during the milling process to keep the exposed surfaces at equal moisture content? There’s a chance that it doesn’t – if your board rides up on an elevated edge of the planer bed, or if a small chunk finds its way under one of the corners as you send the piece through the planer, you could change the squareness of that edge of the workpiece. That makes step three, for me, to then create an edge that is square to both faces. It’s at this point that I often run crossways of students in the class.

Many woodworkers feel that it’s necessary (step four) that you rip the board at the table saw. Is it? The answer is that it depends. If you’re simply joining two or more boards in a panel glue-up, it’s not important that the boards are ripped into a four-square configuration. Why waste the wood. Make your step four at the jointer. In fact, one of the best techniques for hiding seams when assembling panels is to cut a board for a better grain match, which removes the four-square measurements from your board. If however, you’re preparing a board for use in your project, then make your step four at a table saw. You need to think through operations and not simply be guided by a set of rules. We all know that rules are to be broken.

If you’re preparing your lumber using handplanes, you need to go about the work differently. You also need to answer a question for me – what the hell is wrong with you? Milling lumber is grunt work. Use a machine for the grunt work and use your handplanes for finish work. C’mon man!

Build Something Great!


Categories: General Woodworking

How to Cut a Dado Joint with Hand Tools

Wood and Shop - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 3:01am


In my above video I show how to cut a simple dado joint with basic woodworking hand tools. What is a dado joint used for? A dado joint is used for securing shelves inside cabinets or book shelves.



Even though I have a nice 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 in this video:









In the dado video I show these basic steps:

  • Use a marking gauge to determine the distance of your dado joint from the edge of the board.
  • Hold the shelf piece against the other board, and hold the workpiece down with 1 or 2 holdfasts
  • Scribe the shelf piece onto the other board with a marking knife. This ensures a tight fit. Make a pencil mark so you’ll remember which edge goes into the joint.
  • Remove the holdfasts and shelf board then use a marking gauge to mark the desired depth of your dado joint: Approximately 1/3 – 1/2 of the way down.
  • Use a marking knife to create trenches for your backsaw
  • Use your cross cut back saw to cut close to your final depth
  • Use a bench chisel (smaller width than your dado joint) to pare out waste, but not all the way to your final depth.
  • Use a router plane (like my Stanley No. 71) to clean up the bottom of the dado joint and bring the joint down to its final depth.
  • Fit the shelf piece


This is a very simple way to make a dado joint and it’s faster (if making a couple dados) than setting up and shimming a dado stack on a table saw!





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by Dr. Radut