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When my first book, “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use,” was released, I played a game that many first-time authors play. I looked for my book on the shelves of any bookstore I visited. After a few years I gave up. I’ve never seen the book for sale anywhere except online. But I do have something else that I’ve decided is better: Hundreds (maybe thousands) of photos […]
When I joined the Popular Woodworking team I had 14 years of editing and publishing experience. My woodworking experience was a bit more lacking – let’s say… level zero. But, I was eager to learn and Megan knew it. She asked me what I wanted to build first. I think the first thing I told her was a grandfather clock. Only not just any grandfather clock – my clock was […]
With the long-term desk and workbench projects finished, I took a few hours to do what I normally do after finishing big projects; clean the shop a bunch, and bring more assets on-line. One of the prominent additions was my mondo water wheel for grinding and sharpening.
Since moving one of the tools whose inactivity I noticed the most was my 16″ water wheel, given to me by a farrier friend who had no use for it. It had been set up in my basement shop of the old house but I just never took the time to do any more than get it moved and in place in the barn. I was always so busy that I never set aside time to get it working again.
Part of this procrastination was that I had mis-placed the gearing sheaves to bring the wheel speed down to my preferred 100 rpm with the wheel turning away from me. As you can see from the picture, I did find that rig and dug out the motor so now it is up and running perfectly.
In the picture you can also see the rod with the diamond dressing stone for surfacing the wheel when necessary (attached to a jig, laying under the machine).
One pretty remarkable feature of the wheel is that the axle is linked to an arm-and-cam assembly that moves the wheel about 1″ from side to side when in use. Sometimes I have this hooked up, sometimes not. I just depends on the task at hand.
Obviously I did survive without this machine for three years, but I must say that since getting it back up and running I seem to use it at least once a day. Since I mostly camber my plane irons by hand on a 220 diamond stone I thought I could do without it, but I might have been wrong. I still camber my irons by hand, but there seem to be a multitude of tasks requiring a slow turning giant water wheel that hogs off material in a hurry.
Before I can complete the expanded edition of “Roman Workbenches,” I have to build a reproduction of the bench I saw at Saalburg this summer – the oldest surviving workbench I know of (about 187 A.D.).
I took complete measurements of the intact bench during my visit and I will reproduce the bench as best I can, right down to the unusual dovetail-shaped recesses in one edge of the benchtop.
What I won’t be reproducing, however, is the bench’s waterlogged, black and shriveled appearance. When wooden objects were pulled from the wells at Saalburg, Rudiger Schwarz says they were well-preserved. But as they dried out, the objects distorted a bit.
The original bench was oak and was perhaps rived from a trunk, according to Peter Galbert, who studied my collection of photos of the Saalburg bench this July.
My bench will be red oak from a slab cut by Lesley Caudle in North Carolina, who supplies wood for slab workbenches (read all about that here). Will Myers dried the wood and has roughed out the slab to its final dimensions.
I’ll pick up the slab next week and begin building the bench – the remainder of the work will all be by hand. I’m juggling two other projects currently – a walnut backstool commission and a dugout chair – so my progress will be slow at first. Despite this, the work should go fast. One of the great virtues of Roman workbenches is they take only a couple days of work to build.
So unless something goes haywire, this revised book should be done by the end of 2017.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. We still have a 28 copies of the letterpress edition of “Roman Workbenches” available. Once these are gone, they are gone forever.
Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized
In this episode of 360 with 360WoodWorking, Bradley McCalister shares his views on woodturning, including a bit of his history and the path he traveled to become a woodturner, his opinion on why working on a lathe has grown in the past decade and what trends are showing up in the craft at this time. Then we turn the discussion to how to get started woodturning – his answer may not be what you expected.
|2 came in today|
|2 1/2" hook and eye|
|what I was worrying about|
|found some #6 oval head brass screws that fit|
|tried the replacement screwdriver|
|A Paul Sellers cabinet|
|it works well|
|started with the small drawer|
|chiseling off the dried glue|
|planed the slips flush|
|repeat the same steps for the large drawer|
|the fit of drawers didn't change|
|had enough plywood for the bottoms|
|large drawer is square (small drawer too)|
|I have a slight gap at the front|
|bottom is solid|
|where are the brushes|
|bigger gaps on the small drawer bottom|
|this will be my glove drawer|
|sawed out both finger holes|
|go cart at the top and a Rolls at the bottom|
Who were the opening and closing acts at Woodstock in 1969?
answer - Ritchie Havens opened and Jimi Hendrix closed
Everyone has a desire to do something, to be something, to be someone. You may not know this, but you have completed the third task the day you were born; You, are Someone. Everything else has a long steep hill that needs to be climbed to achieve it.
Your desire to achieve this must match your discipline, but the problem with us all is that we want it yesterday.
You can’t have it yesterday nor today, but with every step you take towards it, you will earn it tomorrow.
Life is a giant staircase, you look up it and you think this is too hard, it’s too much work, but you don’t get it. Life is hard and challenging and life loves to throw obstacles at you and many people fail to meet those challenges and work around those obstacles and fall into depression. They seek the bottle for relief or take antidepressants.
Brothers and Sisters these are excuses and excuses are lies. It’s the easy way out to self destruction.
Obama once said “Pick yourselves up and dust yourselves off.”
Climb those stairs one step at a time, don’t look up and never look down but concentrate on each step and work towards the top. You will never transform yourself if you don’t inconvenience yourself. “No pain, no gain.”
Pick up a square and draw a hundred lines, now pick up that dovetail saw and rip a hundred lines.
Do you get it?
Plane that wood until its flat, plane that edge until its square, then plane it out of square and do it all over again until there is nothing left of it.
Set up goals you want to achieve today and work on nothing but those goals and I guarantee you at the end of that day, you will achieve your goals.
Free yourselves from the shackles of bullsh*t, don’t let the naysayers tell you, you can’t earn a living from the craft. Don’t let your minds talk you out of
what life has to offer. It’s all there in front you, you need to reach out and grab it.
Empower yourselves by being the best you can be. Never ever give up, always work hard towards your goals and give back to the community. Help one another, teach one another and serve one another.
This afternoon a replacement waterstone came in the mail and I took it out for a spin.
I find honing an edge to be a relaxing experience and a form of active meditation. These days I do most of my honing freehand so there are no jigs and gizmos to deal with. I like waterstones because I get a lot of tactile feedback on what is going on between the steel and the stone.
I like feeling two surfaces gradually becoming a single, sharp edge.
A blade becomes sharper and I become more relaxed.
Today, birds and birds. This first one in American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) – is going to get painted on the outside, then carved through the paint.
This tiny one, split out with the guidance of Dave Fisher, is birch – I forget which one. No paint, just carved today. Some spoons getting finished up in preparation for this weekend’s Lie-Nielsen workshop – full this time. More spoon carving classes to be announced through Plymouth CRAFT soon.
Then, some photos plucked off the card. Down river:
Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus ) I assume juvenile male turning to adult. The female doesn’t usually show the red, I believe.
yellow warbler. (Setophaga petechia) they are quieter now than in the spring, so I just happened to notice this one skulking around.
Let’s start with a confession. I did stuff around with some of the photos in this post. It is the first time that any of JNSQ’s photos have been altered, as far as I can remember anyway.
The previous posts in this series can be found here.
In this edition we will take a look at some of the joinery and the first phase of preparation of the top for finishing.
The first bit of joinery I attempted was to fit a small block to the top of each leg construction. It will be the point that fix the centre of the leg to the centre of the top. All the other connection points will allow for wood movement, but these two will not. This means that the top will be able to move freely with changes in humidity, but the centre will remain fix to the centre of the legs. I think this is called a T-bridle joint. One feature of my Langdon mitre box and saw that came in handy here was it’s ability to set the depth of cut. Obviously you can simply do this by hand, which would also be much quicker. Where the mitre box might have an advantage is when you need to do heaps of these joints with the same dimensions. In this case it was an opportunity to work out how to set the mitre box for a job like this. That way it will be easier next time.
A router plane works well for the cheeks of the bridal section. It was a bit of a challenge to hold such a small piece while cutting the cheeks to depth. The solution was two dogs and a Veritas gadget. That could be a good name for a progressive rock band or a retrogressive gin mill (Two dogs and a Veritas gadget), come to think of it.
Next up were the slots in the top of the legs.
The two aprons are also jointed to the legs by means of T-bridal joints. Here I am marking the exact location of the shoulders using the leg.
That was followed by the same sequence involving the mitre box, router plane and careful chisel work to perfect the shoulders.
So then on a crisp and bright winter’s Friday morning I started to flatten the bottom side of the top. Seeing that it is the first table top of this size in Kershout that I am doing by hand I thought that the bottom side would provide an ideal opportunity to work out which method works best. The major challenges posed by this top are the schizophrenogenic nature of grain and the extreme hardness of the wood. As every self-respecting JNSQ Woodworking reader should know by now, we deal almost exclusively with feral boards from the ancient Knysna forest. Each of the trees that the boards for this top were sawn from would have been over 500 years old.
If you deal with wood like that it is my opinion that one has a real responsibility to do the best possible job of allowing the story of the tree to be told. In my estimation that means a delicate balance between careful surface preparation and leaving certain imperfections that relates to the history of the piece of wood. George Nakashima’s immortal oeuvre of work (which inspired this design) lends itself perfectly to getting the most out of feral hardwood such as what I chose for this top. How much and which imperfections are left to tell the story is of course in the eye of the beholder.
Anyway, I started experimenting with various different tools to see what might work best in flattening such a challenging top. The techniques I tried included a belt sander, a low angle jack plane with a toothed blade, a standard no.3 smoothing plane (45° frog) with a back bevel of 25° creating an effective pitch of 70° and a shop made fore plane with a blade pitched at 50° (aka York pitch).
The belt sander has always been one of my least favourite tools. It makes noise, it is all over the place and seems to be the best possible tool to turn a flat surface into the famous Valley of a Thousand Hills. What I found was that it is less harmful in such hard wood, but still not an option if you are aiming for a superior surface. The low angle Jack plane (12° bedding angle + 38° micro bevel for an effective pitch of 50° and a tight throat) worked diagonally to the grain clearly had the measure of the wonky grain, but would have taken too long for what would suffice for the bottom side of the top. I did not aim for a perfectly flat bottom side.
Next up was the back-bevelled smoothing plane. It worked even better (in terms of finish) than the low angle plane, but was difficult to push due to the high effective pitch and therefore even slower at removing material. It is also important to mention that this strategie seize to be effective in difficult grain when you try to take a fat shaving.
So I rolled the dice and tried the shop made fore plane (50° effective pitch) diagonal across the grain. It wreaked havoc in a semi controlled sort of way. This particular blade has a fairly substantial camber and it took no prisoners in the process of removing the necessary material in a timely fashion. In the pictures below you can see the characteristic scalloped appearance of a surface smarting from such treatment.
This is one of my attempts at manipulating the photos to highlight the pattern left by the plane.
The wooden plane in the picture below enforced the above damage. Of note in the picture is the bottles of water I consumed during this arduous labour of bellicosity.
Here we have an example of a part of the history of the tree that is often neglected to be told. Yes I know some of you will think I have lost the plot. Probably something along the lines of: “The #%$@&* hippy has been smoking too much pot.” The reality for me is however that the wood I in my collection have all sorts of imperfections and it would be impossible to create anything of reasonable size without these imperfections exposing themselves. I have therefore made peace with having to incorporate imperfections and try to design in such a way that the eccentricity of the stock enhance the aesthetics of the piece I am building.
Here are a few more tweaked pics with an array of tools that were used to tidy up the bottom side of the top.
Then finally it became time to employ some of the lessons learnt on the bottom side to the face side of the top. It took me three full days of planing at 45° to the grain with a toothed blade in a low angle jack plane to get the top as flat as I wanted it. The two pictures below were taken after the first day.
The dogs on my assembly table came in quite handy during this brutal process.
The toothed blade created these beautiful patterns in the areas that were approaching flatness.
This was the end of day two.
Once the entire (well almost) face side were in the same plane I removed the bulk of the rhombi left by the toothed blade using a no. 112 scraping plane. It was the first time I used this particular tool for a huge job like this. I prepared the blade the way that is recommended by my woodworking icon David Charlesworth. In my case a 45° main bevel, 50° polished micro bevel with a 75° burr set up in the plane with the blade leaning forward at 20°. The plane is an absolute joy to use when set up like this. You have to make sure you take very thin shavings of course. Some sanding with my shop made sanding planes took care of the rest of the rhombi.
While grappling with the rhombi I took short breaks to tidy up the cracks in the top. They all had lots of loose splinters of wood and other ancient bits of debris inhabiting their depths. This task was mainly accomplished by using a very old pocket knife that used to belong to my grandparents.
At this stage I shaped the curved ends of the top. As you can see I marked out two lines using my fingers as a fence. These lines guided the removal of waste to create a very gentle yet quite wide bevel. Once the bevel were established, the end grain area were rounded off ever so slightly using the same technique. My no. 9½ Stanley block plane did most of the donkey work and was then followed by a low angle smaller block plane, which was in turn followed by gentle sanding.
When I got a bit tired of the top I continued to chip away at the last bits of joinery.
Once the two aprons were fitted to the legs with very precise bridal joints, I started working on the massive beam that connects the legs at floor level. The Witpeer beam was laminated and squared up more than a year ago. It gave the wood a very generous time frame within which it could settle all possible disputes the fibres might care to raise (so to speak). It turns out that a very dense laminated beam like this stayed pretty much dead straight in all it’s dimensions, but managed to go out of square by what appeared to be a full mm. That was fixed by hand planing a face side and face edge perfectly square with each other and using those reference surfaces to square up the others with my electric planer.
I transferred the inside measurements of the joinery from the aprons to the beam.
Using the above reference point I took the beam to the Windsor leg to mark out the exact location of the other side of the fairly complex stopped bridal joint (my own name not necessarily correct terminology) which will marry these two structures.
This is how far I got with this joint at present.
It was now time to break in my precious polissior that one of my favourite woodworking personalities and über craftsmen Don Williams (of The Barn on Whiterun fame) sent me earlier this year. That entailed rubbing the heads of the grass/straw on a rough piece of scrap wood and tidying up the appearance on a spindle sander.
I can thoroughly recommend reading Don’s article on this epic tool from the past.
I used the Polissior to burnish the top after perfecting the finish with gradually increasing grid sander paper on a orbital sander. I went all the way to 600 grid and did two rounds of wiping the surface with a damp cloth to raise the grain before sanding it back down with the 600 grid. You can see the effect of the burnishing in the pictures below.
Aoife helped me to apply a tung oil/turpentine mixture. We kept the surface quite wet for 30 minutes by reapplying the mixture where the wood absorbed it and then wiped it down with a clean and dry cloth.
As you can see it was one of those unbelievably satisfying moments in woodworking where the wood rewards you for months of painstaking elbow grease. Kershout is simply one of the most beautiful species of wood on the planet. I want to reiterate that there were no pigment added what so ever. This is what it looks like after tung oil mixed with turps were applied!!
The top will now rest for two weeks before we will apply beeswax with the polissior. Stay tuned my brethren!!
I dropped off my boxes prior to the show beginning and as usual was humbled by the wonderful that had arrived already.
The show is on from Saturday 19th August until Monday 28th August and there are 76 makers represented with over 300 pieces on display, so it's a good days visit.
This magnificent burr brown oak table has an unbelievable mechanism for making it smaller and is worth visiting the show on its own, just to see it demonstrated by the maker George Johnson.
Here is the centre of the table in its smaller size, wonderful!
A few weeks back I began a rather involved project that has legs that have stop-flutes. After posting about my shop-made scratch stocks, I hoped to do a majority of the work using a router with a fluting router bit only to clean and straighten up the flute portion with the scratch stock. The bead area had to be fully scratch-produced.
As you can imagine working with a router bit and a couple of scratch stocks, the surface of my stop-flutes needed to tweaked to be smooth.
Deep Discounts on 3 Print Titles – Building Arts and Crafts Furniture, Make a Windsor Chair and Hand Tool Fundamentals
We’re clearing off a shelf in the warehouse for new titles, and as a result, have three good books (the print versions only) available right now at a deep discount. The first is “Building Classic Arts & Crafts Furniture: Shop Drawings for 33 Traditional Charles Limbert Projects,” by Michael Crow. Right now (and only at shopwoodworking.com), it’s $7 (75 percent off the cover price). I think we mis-titled this one; it […]
|planed with the 4 1/2|
|this was the side with the big gaps|
|no problems at all|
|flushing the bottom batted next|
|I did the top yesterday|
|drawer fits except for the last 3'4"|
|this top side gap isn't as large|
|right side of drawer|
|the other side is the same|
|fits and it is up against the back wall|
|used this yesterday on the small drawer - hooked it at the back and pulled the drawer open|
|need four more spacers|
|did the big drawer first|
|this one was bit tricky|
|large one curing on the tablesaw aka a horizontal storage surface|
|steel wooled it but......|
I settled on how I'm going to attach the lid to the box. I wasn't particularly fond of using a wooden pin nor was a metal one giving me a warm and fuzzy. This box is pine and over time the pin will elongate and oval out the pin hole. I ordered some parts from McMaster-Carr for the box and while I'm waiting for them to come in I can get the finish built back up on the box.
|one more coat on|
|one of 5 came in|
What US City sits aside the Miami River?
answer - it isn't Miami, it is Dayton, Ohio
After so many good suggestions offered I almost chose one until this one came to mind.
The lost scrolls of handwork
I also like quirks and beads and at the workbench but the lost scrolls of handwork is like the forgotten handtools which is exactly what we are trying to revive.
Let me know if you like it. I've already reserved the name but haven't paid for it yet.
Tune-up your think melons and caption this painting.
The painting is 17th-century and by an unknown Italian artist. The companion painting featured unclad blacksmiths.
Filed under: Historical Images, Personal Favorites
Last week en route home from Mordor on the Potomac I had the good fortune to visit Steve Voight, music composition professor by day, planemaker by night. I became acquainted with Steve in the past couple of years and have come to enjoy immensely his company and his passion as a gifted craftsman fashioning wooden bodied planes in the style of 18th Century English hand planes. At one point in his life Steve was a skilled machinist and that attention to detail has carried over into this new chapter of life, in part teaching students how to construct music and also providing us with exquisite tools to construct furniture.
We spent a couple of delightful hours discussing woodworking in his charming, spare, beautifully bright garret studio above the kitchen of his (and the lovely and delightful Mrs. Steve’s) house. Tell me those windows and the light accompanying them does not instill some jealousy. Go ahead.
I continued my admiration of his products, and noted with anticipation some new items coming to his inventory soon. We also discussed the possibility of him making some custom tools for me soon. Cross your fingers.
The money time was the hour or so spent with him demonstrating the method of setting up a double-iron plane to get the most superior results. I know how to sharpen tools pretty darned well, but his tutorial on setting the second iron was an eye-opener to me.
Steve’s first step confirmed his facility as a sharpener as he tuned up his iron in about 30 seconds.
Thus far I’d been setting my chip breaker around 1/25″ from the tip of the cutting iron but learned that my spacing was far too great, and the best setting is somewhere in the territory of .006″-.010″. Steve starts his set-up by resting the tip of the cutting iron on the bench and then placing the chip breaker on top of a .010″ feeler gauge leaf.
Then he brings it home with the resultant spacing between the chip breaker and the cutting iron being nearly invisible.
Setting up the plane itself with eyes way better than mine, Steve showed me the results.
He explained that a properly sharpened and set double iron plane almost literally shoots the shaving out of the throat. I was surprised that they did not curl, they were straight wisps of gossamer wood (this one was a bit heavy and rippled, but photographing him work is a challenge because his motions are so confident and rapid).
Who knew? Well, not me!
Steve definitely gave me something to think about and aim for, which makes our time together invaluable.
How to Repaint Numbers & Graduations on a Steel Ruler: Restoring John Walters’ Rusted Starrett Ruler
After finding a rusted old Starrett ruler in a ‘Free stuff’ pile left by a neighbor, I decided to restore it and repaint the numbers and graduations. First, I placed it in a tray and covered it with a 20% vinegar solution for an hour or so. Then I scraped the ruler with a bread clip and #1000 grit wet-dry sandpaper to polish the surface. After washing and neutralizing the […]