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The Renaissance Woodworker

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So Many Projects, So Little Time...
Updated: 47 min 22 sec ago

Hand Tool Q&A Live: Shoulder Planes, Lathes, and Tool Cabinets

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 7:54am

Live Hand Tool Q&A

Thanks to everyone who came out and asked questions. Its always a lot of fun. Mostly I get questions about tools so I’m still waiting on someone to ask about a technique so I can actually do some woodworking in these events instead of just talking the whole time! I guess we all love tools right?

Lots of topics covered in this session from types of chisels, to tool chests, to pole lathes, and shoulder planes. I even spent some time talking about my experience working at a living history museum.

The Questions You Asked

  • 1:00 What I’m working on now in my shop
  • 7:05 How big can a panel be before warping is an issue?
  • 11:40 Halfback Saws
  • 15:20 What Screwdrivers do you use?
  • 16:00 Have you used a spring pole lathe?
  • 19:12 How did you come up with the slope of the Perch seat
  • 24:40 Tool chest vs tool cabinet?
  • 29:14 Socket chisels vs tang chisels?
  • 35:20 What is working at a living history museum like?
  • 42:20 Where to find good chisels larger than 1″?
  • 45:25 What is a Firmer chisel?
  • 48:08 Used a Hovarter vise?
  • 50:10 Spill planes?
  • 54:45 Use for a Skew Block plane?
  • 59:40 Advice on a small shop bench set up?
  • 1:07:06 Dust collection for the hand tool shop?
  • 1:10:00 Is space isn’t an issue how big would you make your workbench?
  • 1:13:29 Budget clamp recommendations?
  • 1:18:50 Most useful router plane blade size?
  • 1:20:22 Which size shoulder plane do I need?

Categories: Hand Tools

Perch Stool: Trimming Leg Tenons

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 8:15am

A Regular Old Bench Chisel

As posturepedic as having the leg tenons poking an inch out of the seat, I think it will feel better and look better once I have pared them flush to the seat. On the center leg this isn’t a major deal because the pommel creates a convex curve, but the back tenons fall into the scooped out area. Certainly if you have some carving gouges you can tackle them with those, but I find that a regular old bench chisel used bevel down and quickly and precisely pare them flush and beautiful.

RWW Live Next Week

Tune in to my YouTube channel next Wednesday, December 6th at 6 PM EST for an open Q&A. I like to call theses Hand Tool Brew & A because I’ll probably have beer!

The Hand Tool School is Having a Sale

Use the code “SAWNSAVE” at checkout
Categories: Hand Tools

Perch Stool Part 4: Glue Up

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 7:08am

You Did a Glue Up Live??

Hey who doesn’t like a little bit of danger and excitement in their life? Live streaming, talking and answering question while gluing up a project is the new pastime for the adrenalin junkie!

In this installment I went over how to bore the odd angled holes in the legs for the stretchers. I demonstrated a great technique that I’ve used for my last few Windsor chairs that was taught to me by Elia Bizzarri. This is the same technique you will see the other masters of the Windsor embracing as well. It involved imposing an arbitrary angle line onto the leg and then boring at that angle while positioning the layout line parallel to the bench top. It is highly effective and really precise.


It is not how I built my first 2 Windsors. For those I bored everything by eye while the chair was assembled. In fact it was this total lack of layout and measuring that drew me to the style and largely to hand tools in the first place. So during the live broadcast when asked what advantages this boring in the vise approach offered I stumbled a bit and in hindsight I’m started to question whether going with this “more precise” route is just overcomplicating things. I know I know I’m questioning the wisdom of guys who have built hundreds and hundreds more Windsor chairs than I so I must be missing something right?

I don’t know…

You Tell Me

What am I missing here? Why would this precise angle drilling method be better than just assembling the chair and boring everything in place? Certainly boring place really is best done using extension bits and such so some additional tooling may be needed, but it does seem much less confusing and certainly easier to visualize and anticipate mistakes than a situation where the leg is separate from the assembly. I sincerely welcome some thoughts on this.
Categories: Hand Tools

Perch Stool Part 3.5 Stretchers

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 6:28am

Size the Stretchers from Your Assembled Stool

In this video I figured out the sizes and turning profile for my 2 stretcher and I even lay those dimensions onto my template board for easier turning. However, I say this in the video and I’ll say it again. You must capture the dimensions for the stretchers from your own stool as they will mostly certainly be different. For that matter they will probably be different with every one of these stools that you build. So laying out the template once shouldn’t be an excuse to turn everything to that same size.

Have no fear though, there is a fair amount of wiggle room here since there are no shoulders on the tenons and if necessary some additional shaping either at the lathe or with a spokeshave can finesse an errant fit.

Let's Finish the Perch

    Next Live Broadcast will be 2 PM on Saturday 11/18/17

    I’ll be boring the holes for the stretchers, assembling the whole thing and cleaning up in preparation for finish.

Categories: Hand Tools

Perch Stool Part 3: Carving the Seat

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 8:41am

The audio is a bit low for the first 20 minutes as I review questions from last week, it gets much louder after that

Digging out a Hole for your Butt

I’ve discovered that this Perch seat is unlike the other Windsor seats I have carved in that I really don’t need a lot of extra wood around the perimeter to hold on to it since there will always be a flat around the back edge and the pommel. So I did go ahead and saw out the outer perimeter using both my turning saw and a regular hand saw to quickly cut away the excess. Because there is a lot of edge work done with the drawknife it is NOT necessary to spend a bunch of time perfectly refining the outer shape right to the line or cleaning up the grain. Save that work until the bottom chamfer is cut and you will have much less shaping to do.

carved Perch seatLayout is the key to making a seemingly free form task like this seat carving into a more controlled process. Boring depth holes and drawing a oval to define the bowl of the seat will help immensely. And keep feeling the seat and removing any bumps or inconsistencies that you feel as you blend the shape from the bowl into the leg hollows. As I say in the video, when done the hollows should feel as it they were scooped out in a single pass.

The carving of this seat perfectly illustrates the concept of “coarse, medium, and fine” where rougher tools do most of the work and more refined tools come back to blend and refine the shapes. In this video I only use the coarse and medium tools and in a future installment I will come back with a card scraper to blend and smooth all the shapes. That is my fine tool. Below you will find all the tools I used as well as some alternative tools that can work. Much of the dedicated Windsor chair tools can be very specialized and if you don’t intend to build further Windsors you may want to consider using alternate methods so you don’t have superfluous tools floating around your shop.

Tools Used in Seat Carving

  • Inshave: this is your rough removal tool, easy to hog out material and easily skewed to control tearing as your work across the grain with it. Available through Barr Tools
    • Alternative: a bowl adze or even a large carving gouge (40mm #8 sweep)
  • Travisher: your medium tool used for refining the bowl shape and blending the shapes through the seat. Much like a spokeshave but better the larger size makes it better at shaping larger surfaces. Available through Peter Galbert and Claire Minihan, Elia Bizzarri also makes a nice Travisher
  • Drawknife: your coarse (and medium and fine tool depending on your skill) for shaping the convex surfaces of the seat. Available everywhere from vintage to newly made, so abundant on the antique market you will trip over them. Lie Nielsen also makes a good knife though I have not used it personally.
  • Spokeshave: your medium tool for refining the convex surfaces on the outside of the seat. Available everywhere much like drawknives. I use several vintage shaves and newly made ones. My Boggs shave from Lie Nielsen leaves a super fine surface but I’m also very partial to the shaves made by Caleb James.

Next Live Broadcast

2 PM on Saturday 11/11/17

Let’s add stretchers and assemble the stool

Tapered Tenon Discrepancy

At the outset of this broadcast I talked about how the Veritas tenon cutters supposedly are designed to match the 12 degree angle of the Veritas reamer. Obviously that won’t match the 6 degree taper of the reamer I used yet I was still getting tightly fit legs and couldn’t see much different in the tenons I had cut vs my reamer. But if you look closely at this image you will in fact see and angle difference at the top of the tenon where the Veritas cutter formed a steeper angle as compared to the 6 degree cutter I used. So the moral of the story is to be sure that your reamer and tenon cutters match each other, or just turn your tenons on the lathe. Still I am surprised at how well my legs fit despite that difference in angles so it is obvious there is a bit of wiggle room.

Tapered Tenons???

tapered leg tenons
Categories: Hand Tools

Perch Stool Part 2: Legging Up

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 6:44am

I Laugh in the Face of Tapered Compound Angled Mortises

The process of boring the tapered mortises for the legs is a lot simpler once you just do it. You will hear lots of talk about rake and splay angles and resultant angles and sight lines. Some internet searching will yield any number of results on how to bore the angles using mirrors and lasers and by standing on one leg after 3PM on a Tuesday. The way I was taught during my first Windsor chair was much less angles and precision, and mostly eyeball and feeling my way through it. Even today with so much great instruction on the subject that didn’t exist 10 years ago I still find Windsor construction to be a very organic and forgiving style of construction.

I say all of this to urge you to suspend the questions for a minute and just bore some holes. Using the seat pattern that Peter Galbert so helpfully provided we know the location of the sight lines, the location of the holes, and the resultant angles. So grab a bevel gauge and an auger bit and go to it. Remember that the reamer can correct a lot of disparity that may result while you bore your holes.

Reaming Tip Not Covered in the Video

I neglected to talk about this in the video and frankly I got lucky when my workbench intervened and stopped my reamer from going any deeper. Remember that while you are reaming that you do want to maintain the diameter of the hole on top of the seat. The tenons have been rounded down to a minimum diameter of 1/2″
but if you keep pushing the reamer will widen the hole all the way through and you will have to drive your legs in so far that you will shorten the legs unnecessarily. So keep an eye on the depth of the reamer and if appropriate but a stop block underneath your seat to ensure you don’t widen the holes on the top of the seat too much.

Next Live Broadcast

12 PM on Saturday 11/4/17

I carve the seat so that it delicately cradles my posterior

Octagonal Legs?

Don’t want turned legs? How about tapered octagonal legs often found in Welsh Stick Chairs?
Categories: Hand Tools

How to Make Octagonal Tapered Legs

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 12:03pm

Tapered Octagons Are Just Planing to a Line

The Welsh Stick chair is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of tapered octagonal legs. If you don’t have a lathe and look longingly at the round legs on furniture thinking you could never accomplish those then perhaps you should consider making an octagonal leg. But that can look a little clunky. So why not taper it and get this cool pencil post look.

“But that looks really complex and hard to do!”

Stop whining Luke Skywalker and pick up a plane because this process is nothing more than planing to a line. Its easy and the hardest part is actually laying out the octagons and transferring the lines down your blank. In other words, its not the least bit difficult.

There are certainly other ways and other tools that can be used to do this same task. I find a drawknife to be super fast when hogging off the wood, and a spokeshave is a lot of fun to use to refine the facets. But using a hand plane offers a lot more control if you have never attempted a leg like this before.

New Lessons From The Hand Tool School Vault

    In this tutorial I mentioned a more detailed look at creating the initial square taper as well as a video on the Joiner’s Saddles that I used while shaping the octagon. There is also a good tip on using the saw plate reflection to your advantage while sawing. Make sure to check out:

Related Videos

Categories: Hand Tools

Perch Stool Part 1

Sat, 10/21/2017 - 7:56pm

Make this Stool Your Own

Here is part one of my Live build of the Perch Stool. If you are not familiar with this design it is essentially the bottom half of a Windsor chair and a great introduction to the wonderful world of Windsor. First, there are no bent parts. This gives us a lot of wiggle room with the stock needed. Certainly riven stock will make for a stronger stool but none of the turning are so thin that riving your parts is necessary. Second, since there is no steam bending kiln dried boards are just fine. Again, green wood would make this so much easier, but it isn’t necessary.

This means you can build this stool with lumber right from the yard. In this first part (and in the Campaign Stool I build a while ago) I show how to rive out parts from a regular KD board from the yard. I also talk about analyzing the grain so that perhaps you can skip the riving completely and know what you are getting into with your sawmill lumber.

Ignore My Sizes and Make This Fit You

I cannot stress enough how important the process of selecting the height and the leg lengths are. Certainly if you go with the dimensions in Peter Galbert’s drawings then you will get a stool that will fit most folks and if you are building this for other people then that may be the best bet for you. But put some thought into it rather than just following my sizes.

In this part I focus on the design aspects and then I move over to the lathe and turn 1 of the 3 legs using the pattern I created.

Parts for the Perch

  • Seat: 8/4 x 15 x 13 (glued up blank is okay too)
  • 3 legs, 2 x 2 x ?? You decide based on experimentation. My legs are 26 and 28″ long
  • 2 stretchers, 2 x 2 x ~15 (final length to be determined after we leg up the stool)

Next Live Broadcast will be 12 PM on Saturday 10/28/17

I’ll be boring the holes for the legs and carving the seat.

Leg Patterns

Visit Peter Galbert’s blog for a full details and video on this stool. Plus you get to watch a master at work!
Perch front leg pattern

Perch rear leg pattern

Categories: Hand Tools

A Better Way to Flatten a Board by Hand

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 8:37am

Forget the Process and Treat Each Board as Unique

I’m hesitant to even call this a technique or a method because it is the total absence of process that makes this milling approach so effective. In short, every board is unique so doing the same thing to flatten every board is folly.

Here is the Secret

Diagnose the high spots and remove only the high spots…then and only then do you start taking full length passes. There is no need to work across the grain or diagonally, only with the grain.

To add on to this, you want to spend more time checking the board with a straightedge than you do actually planing. Assume that every stroke you take with the plane is throwing it out of flat and so you need to check with the straightedge often so you aren’t creating a shape that will require even more planing to fix. The net result of all of this is a flat board with very little time spend planing and VERY little actual wood removed. So your 4/4 rough board is now 15/16 thick or you are making rip cuts right on the line and flattening and squaring the edge while removing only 1/32″ of wood.

This changes the game and makes milling a board by hand not a trial or hard work, but a quick and simple task that teaches you a lot about how that board will behave in all the subsequent steps.

New Lessons From The Hand Tool School Vault

  • If you have ever wondered or struggled with creating parallel edges or duplicate sized parts by hand then this 20 minute lesson may be just the trick to get you making your parts identical with a hand plane.
  • For a more in depth look of the Spot Planing Technique and instruction on how to build the planing stop I used in this live broadcast, check out my lesson on the same topic.
Categories: Hand Tools

Shop Update 9/29/17: Announcement of Upcoming Events

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 10:39am

Some Live Events Coming in October

perch stoolLast January I built a bookcase live on my YouTube channel using Chris Schwarz’s book the Anarchist Design Book as my model. This October 14th I will be doing the same thing but following Chris’ lead again and building a staked piece of furniture. Or really I like to think of it as a Windsor Stool or often referred to as a Perch. That will start at noon on 10/14 and I’ll be as usual taking questions as I build.

Next Thursday, 10/5/17, at 6:30 PM EDT is RWW Live. Its another open Q&A opportunity to bring your questions about hand tools and hand tool techniques. I’m open to answer and demonstrate anything so I hope to see you there. I will also be starting up an Auction to benefit hurricane relief in partnership with Ernie Stephenson of Grandpaslittlefarm.com. Ernie will be putting up a fully restored Jack plane and 3 blade kit and a 3 blade kit for those who already have a Jack plane. I will be throwing in a semester of choice to the winning bidders as well.

New Lesson From The Hand Tool School Vault

If you have ever wondered or struggled with creating parallel edges or duplicate sized parts by hand then this 20 minute lesson may be just the trick to get you making your parts identical with a hand plane.
Categories: Hand Tools

Identifying the Working Properties of Wood Species

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 6:20am

Wood, What is it Good For?

At last I’m finally getting around to releasing the second class I recorded at Woodworking in America in 2016. This was a 2 hour class that I really enjoyed teaching. I had a great group (full house actually) who really participated and asked great questions. It turns out woodworkers want to know more about wood. Who knew?!

This class isn’t about identifying unknown wood species, it is about using your existing species knowledge to identify the working properties of other woods. It allows you to branch out (hah, branch!) and use different woods while not walking into the purchase and ensuing project totally blind on how that wood will work. It all comes down to understanding the technical specifications that can be found on just about any species over the Internet. But really focusing on 3 specifications can get you really close to understanding a wood you have never worked.

I hope you enjoy, Wood, (good God) What is it Good For? I had a blast teaching it.

Categories: Hand Tools

RWW Live: Sharpening Bench Redesign

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 6:53am

Let Me Tell You a Story about a Sharpening Journey

I sincerely appreciate everybody who hung out with me live and asked questions. Sharpening is always a topic you can expect people to have confusion. And my tour and subsequent redesign of my sharpening bench is the perfect example of how we as woodworkers can overcomplicate what is actually a very simple topic. We live in a wonderful world now with many fancy gizmos and sharpening aids and when you are unsure they all look like game changers. I hesitate to say I fell into these traps as each method I used only added to my understanding of sharpening and what works for me and what doesn’t. I stress what works “for me” because I feel that it is a personal thing and often times the journey is what is needed to figure out what you need and don’t need. These days my sharpening regimen is very minimal and I look at it not as a task to be performed but merely a breath in the woodworking action. Sharpening is less event and process and often I don’t even realize I’m doing it. That sounds very zen but think about the last time you got into a groove on something and how you don’t realize how much time has passed nor can you clearly remember each individual task that you performed during that time.

Anyway, I’m waxing poetic now. I’m always open to more sharpening questions and stay tuned for the build of my new sharpening bench. If for no other reason than to see me use a track saw and maybe some pocket screws!!

The Questions You Asked

  • 1:40 Sharpening Bench Talk
  • 28:05 Sharpening Narrow Chisels
  • 32:17 Hand Cranked Grinder and the Wheel
  • 33:50 What’s a Good Brand of Rasps & Files
  • 37:14 Would you have been able to understand what sharp is without jigs?
  • 40:30 Why Do my blades go cloudy when changing stones?
  • 43:56 Sharpening a Router Plane blade
  • 46:34 Sharpening a Spokeshave blade
  • 49:43 Scary Sharp?
  • 52:20 Thoughts on Squares?
  • 54:18 Hand Tool School Orientation
  • 54:40 How do I sharpen drill bits?
  • 59:42 Experience with Irwin Auger Bits?
  • 1:01:42 How do I set rake and fleam when saw sharpening?

Categories: Hand Tools

Introducing Hand Tool School Orientation!

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 9:06am

Hand Tool School Orientation is the Perfect Starting Point

The started The Hand Tool School more than 7 years ago. In that time I’ve learned a lot about how woodworkers learn. I’ve learned a lot about the concerns and questions they ask when first getting started with hand tools. And I’ve learned a lot about which tools are good to start with and which only confuse and hold back the skill development.

So about a year ago when I looked at my Semester 1 curriculum I realized I need to go back and create a prequel semester that hit on some fundamentals and did everything to get the woodworker over the analysis paralysis and building stuff. Stuff they really want and need for your new shop.

beginning workbenchLike…a WORKBENCH!!! My god woodworkers just can’t get enough about workbenches so I gave in and built another one. But then I went on to build several more projects for the bench and for the new tool collection. I then developed a series of 101 style lessons to supplement all of this and what I came up with is the perfect entry point to hand tool woodworking. An orientation of sorts to a lifelong journey of plane shavings and chisel scars.

Welcome Hand Tool School Orientation.

Check Out Hand Tool School Orientation
Categories: Hand Tools