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Reader Marcello Kozik sent us a fantastic video of guitars being made on Roman workbenches in Brazil. Take a look at all the ingenious ways the bench is used – including resawing.
Be sure to watch to the end when he plays the guitar.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized, Workbenches
It’s always fun to see the new books arrive. Popular Woodworking Books’ latest release “Simple & Stylish Woodworking: 20 Projects for Your Home” officially releases in mid-April. It’s a compilation of small projects that make great home accents. Selected from the archives of Popular Woodworking, these projects allow you to learn new skills and get in some practice on smaller scale builds before committing to a larger piece of furniture. The […]
In January I became the very proud owner of an 18 mm pairing chisel made by the legendary Master Akio Tasai from Sanjo, Niigata. I have been eager to get my hands on one of these ever since I saw David Charlesworth discussing it on one of his Lie-Nielsen videos. He said something along the lines of: “This is a chisel made by a gentle by the name of Tasai and it gives me tremendous pleasure each time I look at it.” In that regard I cannot agree more with David, it is an absolute joy to use and look at.
Due to their considerable price and an unfavourable exchange rate, I have been confined to dreaming about one rather than buying one for several years. That made it so much more special when I finally got to handle a Tasai. As you can see, it comes in a pretty box decorated with Japanese gibberish (to the bovine amongst us anyway).
I have not come across a better made tool in all of my woodworking journey. As per usual for traditional Japanese chisels, it is made up of two distinct metal components. The back (or so-called mirror side) is composed of extremely hard blue steel that is especially made for Master Tasai. The rest of the chisel is made up of a much softer multi laminated steel. It is this Damascus style laminate steel that creates the aesthetic appeal of these chisels.
Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of the so-called “Ura” on the mirror side, but it is basically a very slight hollow that is meant to decrease the time spent on sharpening the chisel. Given this nifty design element I thought it would be a breeze to sharpen. That turned out to be a fantasy. It actually took a lot more effort to polish the back that anticipated, but I am sure the ura will speed up subsequent sharpening sessions.
As I said, this chisel looks impressive, but it’s true worth comes to the fore when it engages with wood. I made a few test cuts on the shoulders of these huge tenons. The shoulder lines were marked out with a knife so it was simply a case of feeling the cutting edge into these tracks and leaning on the chisel. It literally glided through the wood and left a superior polished surface in the end grain.
I have since used the chisel on African hardwood and it does not seem to shy away from the confrontation. If anything, it performed better in the hard stuff.
That then concludes my review of this work of art that happens to be quite a useful tool at the same time. I would say it is worth a lot more than what you find on the price tag.
Master Tasai, I am not worthy!
I watch a lot of sharpening videos and I read just about every single post I come across to find some nugget that will make me rich. So far it hasn't happened. I am still learning so much about sharpening that my head hurts. I thought that I had it down pat but each time I sharpen something, be it a chisel or plane iron, it is a learning experience for me all over again. I am accumulating a lot of experience and it doesn't look like I will ever be able to say I know enough and I now can do this by rote. In fact when I do it by rote, I usually end up OTL (out to lunch).
Some observations I have gathered in my sharpening education. Firstly, it seems that you have to do your sharpening by hand. No jigs allowed. Sharpening by hand supposedly brings a freedom that you lose once you put a tool to be sharpened in a honing guide. Free hand sharpening is quick and allows you to get your edge and get back to work. It seems you lose all this with a honing guide.
What of the people with arthritis? What do these people do in this situation? I am one of them and free hand sharpening means I don't do any woodworking if I do 2 or more sharpenings. My fingers hurt too much after. However, if I use a honing guide I can sharpen all day long and be relatively pain free when I'm done.
Honing guides are something that have been around for quite a while. I have never seen an old catalog that had page after page of different models for sale. But I have seen singles in old catalogs dated as early as the 1850-60 time frame. So even where free hand sharpening ruled, there was someone trying to reinvent the wheel.
Sharpening isn't a fun thing to do. If you do enjoy it I think your brain cells are oxygen deprived somehow. Sharpening can be monotonous, messy, and royal PITA to do. Sharpening involves a certain amount of time that we would rather devote to working wood. Giving up that time for these dance steps isn't easy.
I think time is the crux of all sharpening methods. With all I've seen and read I haven't seen anything to make one method or one type of sharpening medium stand out from the crowd. What I see and hear is this way is quick, or it is the most efficient, and it takes almost no time to do it. You'll get the sharpest edge you have ever gotten.
What I don't hear is if you use these stones you can shave the peach fuzz off an atom. If you use my patented method your edge will stay sharp until Halley's comet comes around again. No way, no method, no person has said anything about sharpness lasting. No one says that this is the one and only way to get a super duper sharp edge that will last forever.
Instead what I see and read is about the ruler trick and micro bevels. You have to sharpen on this water stone and diamond stones are utter crap. Only ceramic stones will give you a scratch free bevel. And if you use brand XYZ you must be a professional woodworker. Just look at my bevel under an electron microscope. See how the atoms are spinning counter clockwise? You only get that if you use the scary sharp system free hand. If you don't, they don't spin as fast and the edge won't be as sharp. All these tricks, micro bevels etc to me are geared toward saving time and not necessarily for getting sharp.
Putting all this aside I think of what Tage Frid said about woodworking. I'm paraphrasing but he said I don't care if you used your teeth to make it, it's the finished piece that matters. I think what he said applies to sharpening too. How you sharpen or what you use to sharpen doesn't really matter. Are you able to plane and chisel wood easily and cleanly once you say the edge is sharp?
The old masters didn't have the mind boggling choices for sharpening that we have today. When I look at the furniture that they made then (1700-1800) and what they had to use to keep their tools sharp, I am in awe of what they accomplished.
My take on sharpening is I know it is going to take time. I will have to stop whatever I'm doing and I know that I'll be spending xxx amount of precious time not woodworking. I will do it with the method that has been working for me and giving me results I like.
That is the crux of sharpening for me. Freehand or with a guide doesn't matter. You choice of sharpening medium doesn't matter. 1 micron shavings or thick ones doesn't matter. What matters is the sharpness you get from your efforts and if that works for you.
To me getting a tool sharp is just that. The main focus is getting the edge as sharp as I can and have it last as long as it can. Time is secondary to that. My skill level at sharpening will dictate how long I need to do it. With each outing I'm gaining experience and the time factor is decreasing. So put on some music and sharpen that pile.
What is alloyed with steel to make it stainless?
answer - chromium
I go to all these auctions so you don’t have to. As our fearless leader says, “Believe me”. It’s not always enjoyable but it is necessary. I do what must be done.
Take an auction from the fourth quarter of 2016. The weather was miserable and I didn’t want to go. But I knew I must. And how was I rewarded? I walked in and this is the first thing I saw:
An end view provides you with important construction details should you want to make one of your own:
I did see one of the nicest gout stools I’ve seen in a while:
I will be saving the examination of this book for a time in the future whenI will compare it to the original 1917 volume as to form and content:
Finally! After days of applying finish and buffing, these two staked dining tables are finally complete! This project started as a simple idea from the “The Anarchist’s Design Book” for two easily moved “knock-down” tables. That simple idea became a wealth of experience and learning. I truly learned a lot while building these trestles and the accompanying tops.
I fashioned a new gauge for laying out tapered, octagonal legs.
A good bit of experience was gained at the shaving horse making the twelve (plus two spare) legs.
I also gained some experience effecting repairs when things didn’t go as planned.
I even “aged” some hardware for the first time.
My finishing techniques also received a workout.
Stamping texture and wood burning.
Surfacing with the uzukuri.
Finally applying the linseed and oil top coat (look for an upcoming post on that).
Anyway, on with the dog & pony.
The spare table will live most of its life as a work/craft table. To enhance that function I drilled a hole and added a Lee Valley lamp bushing at one corner to hold an articulating lamp. I still need to get a desk blotter to round out the look and utility.
Here is a look at the fender washer and wing nut arrangement that secures the tops to the trestles.
The other table will live its life as our main dinning table.
When a large gathering calls for it, the spare will be brought in to give us a little over thirteen feet of dinning surface. I think we can get fourteen people seated in this configuration.
We can also arrange the long edges of table together and easily seat ten people.
Notice anything missing from the above photos? Yep…seating. So my focus will be shifting from tables to seating. I’m thinking a combination of benches, stools and chairs is the way to go. Before diving into the seating though, I’ll have a short detour in lathe making.
Until then, these old folding chairs will get us by.
I doubt that anyone who knows me well would use the adjective “sentimental’ to describe me, but I have to admit that I got a little misty thinking about all of the family gatherings and holidays that will be spent around these tables in the years to come.
Thanks for taking the time to look. I hope you enjoyed it. Even better if I somehow inspired you.
The opportunity to be listed as a subscriber in the deluxe version of “With All the Precision Possible: Roubo on Furniture” ends at midnight tonight. After midnight, that door is closed.
During the last few weeks we’ve received some pushback about the price for the deluxe edition. It’s $550, which includes domestic shipping (international shipping is extra).
I know this seems a lot for a book on woodworking when birdhouse books can be had for $20. Here is our perspective on the price.
We wanted to offer the book, which represents thousands of hours of work during the last 10 years, in a variety of ways so everyone can benefit from it. You can buy a pdf of the book for $27.50. It has all of the information contained in the other editions of the book. The standard edition of the book is $57, which we think is a bargain for what you get. This standard edition is 472 pages, printed in the United States, the binding is sewn for long-term durability and the paper is bright and thick.
Finally, there is the deluxe edition. We are printing only 1,000 copies of this edition. It is offered in the original 11” x 17” size – same as the original Roubo books from 1774. This deluxe edition is printed to the absolute highest standards using the best materials we could find.
And yes, it’s $550.
For a book collector, that is a laughably low price. Vintage books (and high-end modern editions) that are $550 are at the low end of the spectrum. I gladly paid $2,000 for a vintage copy of Felebien (in French). And I routinely spend $500 to $1,000 for 19th-century books from England on carpentry and joinery for the Lost Art Press reference library.
What John and I sought to do with this book is give you a “period rush” – an inexpensive look at what high-end publishing is like. We both had that rush in 2013 when we received our copies of the first deluxe edition of “Roubo on Marquetry.”
When the truck dropped off the copies at John’s house in Fishers, Ind., we slashed open a box and each pulled out a copy. We each slid it out of the slipcase and then opened it. For the next 30 minutes we gaped at the copies in John’s garage. Honestly, unless you are a book collector, this book is unlike anything you’ve seen.
I know the above sounds like a hard sell. It’s not. We’ve sold only about 30 percent of the press run. So we’re going to have this book on hand for the next few years. If you can’t afford it now, maybe you can afford it after you sell that extra spleen you have hanging around.
But mostly, we’re just happy that we were able to offer this sort of book. Maybe it will take another year for us to break even on the project. That’s OK. But I know that everyone who buys this book will get more than they bargained for – from the authors, the publishers, the pre-production staff and the printers and binders on the front line.
This is as good as it gets.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Roubo Translation, Uncategorized, With All the Precision Possible
Jim Moon has informed me that he is bringing his remarkable replica of the H.O. Studley Tool cabinet to Handworks in Amana IA. The ensemble will probably be exhibited in the Amana Furniture Shop near the booths of SAPFM, Mary May, and Mike Siemsen. It’s a great location, allowing for much greater access by the attendees and greater safety and security for the collection.
As if you didn’t need any more reasons to attend the best tool event on earth.
First off, nice going to those who pitched in to help that Vermont school teacher with the fundraiser to buy spoon tools. They met their goal quite easily, I think thanks to you blog readers here. These on-screen connections can be alienating sometimes, but at times like this one, it truly is a community feeling. I really do appreciate the feedback I get from this blog, it means a lot.
Tomorrow I’ll deliver this chest with drawers to the Fuller Craft Museum for the exhibition about Plymouth CRAFT. http://fullercraft.org/event/living-traditions-the-handwork-of-plymouth-craft/
I did the bulk of the last-minute junk last week, and a good thing too. Just been knocked out with a flu-ish thing for 5 days. All 4 of us have had it in various forms – so it’s felt like a long time since we’ve had our heads above water.
After watching all the bowl turners at North House a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to come home & turn bowls. But instead, I turned drawer pulls in white oak.
The drove them through the hole I bored in the drawer front, and split the tenon with a chisel.
and drove an oak wedge into the resulting split.
Here is the wedged tenon, just prior to trimming.
These pulls are about 1 1/4″ in diameter.
I made some adjustments to the drawer runners. These things are always fussy…they fit into notches in the stiles, and often I toe-nail through them into the stile. You can see one of those nails out at the rear stile in this shot:
Here you can see one of the drawer runners in the drawer opening above, and the groove in the drawer side below. When all goes well, this is a nice way for a drawer to slide. Especially these heavy oak drawers. There will be a pine panel behind these drawers, but that will have to wait til the exhibit is over. Mid-June I think. After Greenwood Fest…
Tuesday 7th March 2017 Designing yet another piece. How it happens In most cases a design begins with perceived need. I tend to isolate my thoughts to a space in a room where I feel what I want to design will be a part of. I find that that’s a more logical place to start but …
When starting in woodworking I couldn’t afford a good set of trammel points. I had my grandfather’s set, but it didn’t lock down well. Then one day woodworker Troy Sexton showed me how he drew large arcs and I realized that I already owned an effective trammel. Troy uses a yardstick (or meter stick if you are metric). Then he bores holes at all the locations where he wants to […]
Since I do a fair bit of hand-resawing with my vintage carpenter’s saws and my pair of c.1800 4-foot frame saws and their little brother I made a few years ago it was a natural fit for my work bench activities.
It took me a couple years to actually get down to making some kerfing planes for myself. My starting point was this derelict partial plow plane that was probably in a box of tools I picked up somewhere along the line. I had added some new arms for the fence as I thought about making the plow plane usable, but since I didn’t really need another plow plane I eventually just let the carcass languish in my spare tool bin.
When looking at Tom’s kerfing plane I thought this plow plane body just might be the starting material for a try at cobbling one together myself, just to see if it really was a useful as Tom said it was and I hoped it might be. If so, I would concentrate on making some good ones to integrate into my work in The Barn.
Stay tuned as I take you down the path of creating a new, useful addition to my tool set from something probably destined for the wood stove. And, where I went from there. Thanks to Tom’s insights, creativity, and evangelistic fervor he has transformed part of my work.
The traditional way of learning to carve was via an apprenticeship. Some kid who thought, or whose parents thought, that he had some talent for sculpture would be apprenticed at age 14 to a master carver. Ideally, seven years later the kid would be able to carve well enough and fast enough to make a living. Very talented youngsters, such as the young Grinling Gibbons, even had sponsors pay for their training. Amateur carving became a popular hobby in the 19th century, when shorter working hours made hobbies possible and the Arts & Crafts movement made craft hobbies attractive.
When I was a young woodworker, you could study carving in three ways:
In person at a class:
When I studied at the Craft Students League, carving was always a popular course. In-person craft classes provide the opportunity to for a teacher (and your classmates) to observe you carving and suggest ideas and techniques to improve. It's certainly the best means of instruction. But nowadays many carving programs (like the Craft Students League) have closed, and realistic carving and decorative architectural woodwork have decidedly gone out of fashion. Longer work hours may make evening classes difficult, even if you are lucky enough to live near a class. One-time workshops and seminars can be treats, but they don't have the regular weekly practice that a local class can have.
From books and magazines:
This is a fine way of learning and still has tremendous value. Carving magazines are a great source of ideas and designs, overviews on tools, and written instruction. They fall short, however, because a picture or drawing, even a before-during-and after picture, cannot always illuminate the particular misunderstanding a student has on a specific area. I had that issue myself with lettering. I went back and forth over one paragraph and I still did not get how to do serifs without breaking off a bit. Obviously the writer (Chris Pye - who is and awesome writer of instructions) missed the particular situation that a thickheaded student could miss.
From videos -- VHS and television shows back in the day, and in the modern world, DVDs: DVDs are the best of the video presentations. You can see the project being made, and things that are hard to understand on the written page can be easily demonstrated. Professionally shot and edited videos, traditionally 45 minutes or longer, are expensive to make (and so their cost must be recouped) and generally designed for linear watching on a computer (or old school DVD player). Increasingly this is not how people consume "content" - viewers expect to be able to find short videos focusing on particular issues that can be watched on a phone or tablet.
But here comes an entirely new method.
A couple of years ago, Chris Pye set up a subscription website to teach carving. The site now offers several hundred videos, all short. You can watch them in a curated sequence, or individually to answer a question, or randomly to see what's up. This is how I sorted my serif problem. I just watched the snippet I needed on serifs and I was done. I didn't have to wait for a DVD to arrive in the mail, and I could watch it at my bench until I got it.
I realize the obvious rejoinder to the idea of subscribing to a service is, "Why would I pay for video when I can get it all for free on YouTube?" This is a valid point. There are three main advantages to subscribing rather than viewing on YouTube.
The first reason is coherence. If perchance you were to wake up one morning and have a burning desire to make a nameplate, you might type "how to carve letters into wood" into YouTube. You would immediately get a list of credible videos. Some might be good, but most topics get a mix of good, off-topic and waste of time. You could probably muddle through and learn a bit.
But this isn't what really learning carving is about. It's a question of coherence. A good teacher will want you to understand sharp tools, which tools, lettering fonts, basic technique, and then more complicated approaches. The whole point of a website devoted to teaching carving as taught by one person is to get the benefit of your instructor's worldview and best practices. You get the sequence of lessons you need to really master the breath of a skill, and -- because all the lessons are taught by the same person or school -- the approach is consistent. YouTube, for all it's many wonders, gives a platform for every approach and method on the planet, and consequently it lacks consistency and depth. I am learning to carve the Pye way. It's not the only way to learn, there are several excellent sites on learning to carve via subscription. But as I know from previous experiences, Pye's approach really speaks to me, and with each video and my practice, I am slowly building forward. I am not learning every possible way to do something, but one way, that works and can expand.
The second service that you get with a subscription is that you can ask questions. If you have a problem you can email Chris and get answers.
Third reason is one of support and belonging. By supporting a teacher's subscription service, you enable more videos to be produced. The money goes straight to the teacher and goes a lot further. Because there is a revenue stream, production values are professional, and the topics covered can have both breath and depth. And at the same time you are belonging to something. The school of carving that Chris has established, even though it's virtual, has a style and a method, and you now have studied and learned in the same way as all his other students. If you get together for a reunion, you can sing the old school songs and understand and support each other's carving in a way that schoolmates can. And as a matter of fact, that's why I periodically write about his site. I am learning to carve; I really like his approach; and like a good alumnus, I want to give something back so I work the old school tie into all the conversations I can.
N.B. The videos in this blog are from several sample lessons Chris has put on YouTube.
“Popular Workbenches” is often suggested as a title revision for the magazine, given the number of workbench plans we’ve offered over the years. And it’s true that we have published a generous number of them – but every one is different! And given that a worksurface of some kind is integral to any workshop, well, it’s a perennially important topic. So in this post, just for fun (and to procrastinate […]
One of the essential books that any woodworker should have is By Hand and Eye, by George Walker and Jim Tolpin. I learned how to use proportions for design from this book, and also from being lucky enough to hear George talk on this subject.
One of the common misconceptions about this approach to design is that it’s a bunch of rules and constraints. I’ve heard woodworkers say that they don’t want to use a formula for designing their projects. The reality is that using proportions to guide your design decisions is a quick and easy way to help you make something that looks good.
Here’s an example. I’ve made some legs for a stool, and I want to make some chamfers in the section between where the stretchers will go. In the picture below, there’s my leg, a chunk of pine milled to the same dimensions to serve as a prototype, and the ruler I’ll use for figuring out proportions.
First, I needed to figure out how far in the chamfers would go. I could try some direct measurements: 1/4″, 1/2″, 5/8″, and so on. But it’s not clear that any of those measurements would look good. What I learned from By Hand and Eye is that the human eye seems to be naturally drawn to whole number proportions. So I decided to start with 1:6 for my chamfer lines.
To do this, I used a technique to quickly divide the width of my leg prototype into even parts. I laid the ruler down so that the end was at one edge, and angled the ruler until the 6 cm mark lined up with the other edge. I made a mark at the 1 cm mark and the 5 cm mark, which made the edge of the chamfer 1/6 of the way across the face of the leg.
I struck some lines parallel to the edge, and took a look. It looked nice, but I wanted more chamfer and less midsection.
So I erased the lines, and repeated the process, only this time I used a 1:5 ratio. I divided the width of the leg into 5 using the same technique as above, and struck the lines again.
This looked real good to me.
The other proportion that I needed to figure out was the bevel at the end of the chamfer. For this, I tried a 1:8 proportion, dividing the length of the section between the stretchers into 8 parts, and going in 1/8 of the distance from each end.
I got luckier this time. A 1:8 ratio looked real good to me right off the bat. So I whacked away at the waste to get the prototype in the photo at the top. I was pretty pleased with the result.
The beauty of this method is that I didn’t have to use any math calculations. It’s not like I measured the width of the leg, divided by 6 and 5, and measured in that amount from the edge. All the layout was done without any arithmetic.
And this was also far easier way to decide where to place my lines for the chamfer than arbitrarily picking a measurement that might not look very good. That 1:6 ratio that I started with wasn’t terrible. It was just not enough for the look I was going for.
So for your next design project, give this a try. It’s quick and easy, and not limiting by any means.
(Note: the link to the Lost Art Press website above is for convenience only. If you happen to buy the book, and you should, I don’t get anything from the sale.)
|setting up for mitering|
|out with the old and in with the new|
|rabbets are next|
|get a ridge|
|cleaned it up with the bullnose plane|
|done and with no blowouts|
|6/8 tongue and groove planes|
|I didn't do any work on the irons|
|made the tongue first|
|plowed the groove|
|went through this knot like it wasn't there|
|it is a snug fit|
|I was expecting more room underneath the tongue|
|5/8 tongue and groove|
|7/8" tongue and groove planes|
|they match up|
|5/8" tongue and groove|
|one of these, or both don't belong to either plane|
|#1 and #2 grooving plane irons|
|they are marked 5/8|
|next T&G planes - irons line up|
|I haven't done any work on the irons|
|where the size confusion is|
|half inch stock|
|better centering of the groove on 3/4" stock|
|fits, not quite flush, and the groove is deeper than the tongue.|
|pretty close on the flush|
|the iron end is square|
|the iron is twisted?|
This was my fun in the shop for today. I stopped to go shovel the driveway and that wore me out. After that adventure I spent the rest of day watching Richard Maguire's sharpening videos.
What are the only two words in the english language that contain all the vowels, including y, in alphabetical order?
answer - facetiously and abstemiously
The genesis of this blog was a visit to Atlanta in February of 2012. I attended the Cathedral Antiques Show, which I think is the finest antiques show I have ever attended. Nothing but the best with prices and hors d’oeuvres to match.
A dealer there had a game table I had read about but never seen. It has a mechanism for table support that is unique. It was a gorgeous table with a high level of appropriate decoration. The dealer was anxious to show me the table and explain in great detail the history and construction of the table. It was amazing.
Only problem was that the show had a rather strict “no photography” policy. The dealer was sympathetic but was more concerned about his status as a dealer than my blog. That I wasn’t writing yet.
I finally found another table of this design at an auction a few weeks back. I can finally share this different table with you, my loyal reader.
But first, a prime on game table technology. The game table or card table for the purposes of this blog refers to a relatively small table with a folded top that opens to reveal a flat surface that is meant for playing cards or other games. There are many forms and variations of this table including:
The one-legged table:
I have not seen a two-legged table. It could be that there is a trestle table with a folding top, but I’ve not seen it.
A three-legged table might be possible but, again, I’ve not seen one.
What comes close is actually a four-legged table:
In this implementation, the fourth leg pulls straight out of the rear apron to support the top.
A variation of this table:
Then we advance to the four-legged table. This variation has a hinged or gate leg that swings out to support the top:
This table needs two legs to make it happen:
(I was looking for through my library for a picture of this type table without luck. Then I went over to an auction Wednesday to preview on online auction and found this one being readied for the next auction.)
Let’s not forget the five-legged table:
This is an example of the table for which I have been searching for these five long years:
English Queen Anne Card Table
Description: Mid 18th century, mahogany, mahogany veneer, shaped top with molded edge, opening to reveal felt lined interior, skirt with herringbone line inlay, cabriole legs featuring acanthus carved knee, raised on pad feet.
The side view led me to believe that I had found it:
Using my spiffy camera with live view and rotating/swinging back I was able to shoot up and see what lay beneath:
There was a mechanism that unfolds and allows the back apron to fall back well over 18″ to support the top:
This view shows the board that slides in the groove to lock the back legs into place.
This blog has been five years in the making. Was it worth it? We’ll know when awards season arrives.