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The Seductive Power Of Hand Tools

Inside the Oldwolf Workshop - Fri, 12/09/2016 - 10:11am

There are many reasons I lean heavily into hand tool woodworking. Yes I have and use several stationary power tools, but there a word hand tools free me from and I love them for it.


With primarily a power tool mentality you fall into the activity of production and arrange your workflow accordingly. I set up the tablesaw for a certain cut and I want to make all the possible cuts using the same set up, the same measurements. To redial in precise measurements can be a big time sink.

Instead with my hand tools I can skip around the process of building with no real consequences. For example I built a small run of four little dovetailed pine boxes

I milled all the parts close using my table saw. This did help ensure all the sides were the same width and length. After milling I touched all the surfaces with a hand plane and started the process of building each box.

As a result of the space I have and the use of hand tools instead of doing things in production way. Say - cutting all my dovetails for all four boxes first THEN moving on to chiseling all four boxes joints to the line THEN grabbing all four boxes and   . . .  you see the cycle.

Instead I was able to take a single box from dovetail cuts to glued up carcass and start over again without creating any delay or errors by changing up my machinery.

Why jump around the process like this? For me that's a couple easy answers.

1. It keeps me fresh. I don't get burned out cutting dovetail after dovetail. When I do this I can see the quality in my work degrade over time but changing out operations allows me to tackle it with fresh eyes after a bit of a break and I believe my work is better because of that.

2. It keeps me involved. It's like the difference between hanging drywall and taping/mudding drywall. When you're hanging drywall your progress is evident, a half hour ago there was bare studs now there is something that looks like a wall - satisfying, with taping and mudding you are making small incremental differences that aren't as satisfying to the whole picture. Important but not as visually impacting. This trade off works the same. Throughout the day I can see nearly finished box carcasses pile up on the moving pad. I know I'm making progress and I can consider whether the most recently finished box is better or worse than the previous and try to perfect the steps on the one to come.

3. I don't lose time changing operations because I am the limiting factor. Because I'm the machine driving the tools I can just mark a line and saw a line and I don't have to worry about losing a set up or a measurement, Changing or resetting up a jig or configuration. If I had a small space with only a six foot bench this would be different, but as it is I can saw my dovetails in a moxon vice, grab the boards and move to a chiseling station to clean up to the lines, then move to a leg vice to cut the corresponding joint side before moving back to the chisel station, checking the fit, then moving to another area by the glue pot to stick things together.

I would never trade in my hand tools because of the freedom they assist me in achieving in the shop. it is so emancipating to mark a line and be able to saw or plane to it confidently.

Ratione et Passionis
Categories: General Woodworking

New Fanatic Membership Pricing

360 WoodWorking - Fri, 12/09/2016 - 7:16am
New Fanatic Membership Pricing

When Glen and I started 360 WoodWorking our primary goal was to give back to the woodworking community. We said right from the start that once we reached a certain level of membership (don’t ask, I won’t tell ya), we’d do something dramatic. Well, we’ve done it with our new Fanatic Membership pricing. And some will say it’s a change for the better.

Originally, we thought it would take us three to five years to reach our initial membership goal, but you helped us get there in just two.

Continue reading New Fanatic Membership Pricing at 360 WoodWorking.

Shop Update for 12/9/16: Sawing without a Saw Bench

The Renaissance Woodworker - Fri, 12/09/2016 - 6:46am

You Don’t Have To Stoop to Saw

This week I answer a question from Bob borne out of my Sawing class at Woodworking in America. Bob isn’t able to bend his knee or lean on it like we would while using a sawbench. He wants to know if there is an alternate method for accurate sawing that doesn’t require the use of his knee. Not only is there an alternative, sometimes the overhand method I show is the best method when working with thin or narrow boards.

I also talk briefly about my new dust collection set up and stiffening the mobile base I’m using for my Barnes lathe.

wia sawing class

Have You Seen the Sawing Class?

The sawing class I gave I Woodworking in America that spawned Bob’s question is available to watch in its entirety. So if you have nothing better to do with your life than watch a 2 hour long class on hand saw types, tooth geometry, and usage…then you might be my kind of person.
Categories: Hand Tools

Herb racks

Oregon Woodworker - Thu, 12/08/2016 - 7:53pm
Ralph is the undisputed king of holiday gift-making with his cell phone holders.  I don't come close, but we did do something a little different this year so the gifts would be from both my wife and me.  My wife grew herbs, I made small racks, we bought some bottles and she filled them with dried basil, chives, oregano, mint, sage, thyme and rosemary.  Everything was designed to fit in a USPS medium flat rate box.

The racks are nothing special, just made from half-inch white oak put together with rabbets and dadoes.  The joints are pegged with those Lee Valley 1/8" dowels I use often.  They are designed so that they can sit on the counter or hang on the wall.

I think handmade gifts are very special.  The person who gave it to you spent time making something for you, so there a real personal connection.

It's not too late.  You've still got two weeks.
Categories: Hand Tools

Intro To Hand Tools Downloadable Videos

Close Grain - Thu, 12/08/2016 - 6:27pm

7 parts. Nearly 60 segments. 12 hours of video.

I'm very pleased to announce that my 7-part course Intro To Hand Tools is now available in downloadable video form at Popular Woodworking Magazine's ShopWoodworking.com.

Each part consists of a series of segments, for a total of 12 hours of video instruction.

Learn how to use these and other hand tools.

Part 1: Welcome! is available for free on their YouTube channel. It covers general introduction, a quick summary of the tools, safety, and details about the types of handsaws and handplanes.

The remaining 6 parts are available for purchase at $4.99 each:
For a detailed guide to the segments in each part, see this blog post. There are nearly 60 segments in all.

This brief video shows what's covered in the course:

This is Part 1:

This 7-minute video is a free sample lesson on rabbetting, showing just a few of the methods covered in the longer lesson in Part 4:

Categories: Hand Tools

Stumpy Nubs Video Review — “SketchUp For Kitchen Design”

Bob Lang's ReadWatchDo - Thu, 12/08/2016 - 1:59pm
James Hamilton (aka Stumpy Nubs) has included a video review of my latest book “SketchUp For Kitchen Design”. Jim is the host/author/publisher of the online “Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal”  and you can read the latest issue (and start your free … Continue reading
Categories: General Woodworking

Dutch Tool Chest - in Spain! Part I

Toolerable - Thu, 12/08/2016 - 12:07pm
I was able to spend some quality time the last couple days in the office with a new project, a Dutch tool chest!

This project started a few weeks ago with a trip to the local home center on the bus.
Jonas says these wheelie bags are only for old people.
I haven't yet found a lumberyard nearby that I can get to without a car, so I am stuck with public transportation. I was able to get all of this lumber in my wheelie bag normally reserved for grocery shopping!

I'm lucky that this home center has such nice plastic-wrapped laminated pine. They are glued from long pieces of wood.
If you dig through the pile, there are often boards as nice as this!
I came to Spain with a limited tool set, and when I went to Denmark, I seem to have left my combination square at home in Munich. When I mentioned the problem to Jonas, he suggested using a piece of printer paper.
Testing for square with a piece of printer paper.
Even though I have a pair of saw benches, there are some operations that still must be done on the floor. Shooting these wide boards is one. I think I am getting used to shooting this way - marking a square line and planing to it.

With the two side pieces picked out and the bottom cut to length, I can plane the edges. I made one edge smooth on each side, then clamped them together to gang-plane them in the hope they will all turn out the same width.
Here is where I really miss my square, but the eye is pretty accurate when it has to be.
With that done, I can start dovetails. Last time I risked the death penalty by sawing them clamped to our brand new sideboard. Now that I have some saw benches, I'll try some less-risky (to my health) work holding.
I did buy a pair of C-clamps.
This is the first time I ever gang-cut dovetails. It seems to have worked. And, I am amazed I can cut dovetails with the same saw I use to break down rough lumber.
Gratuitous Dick saw shot.
These saw benches make a world of difference. Getting things off the floor makes it much easier to work longer and requires less ibuprofen.
Chiseling out the waste after coping. BTW, I love having sun light in the shop.
Having low benches isn't perfect, but with a bit of thinking about a workholding problem, most things can be solved.
Marking the pins.
With no joinery planes here, I wasn't able to plane a shallow rabbet on the pins. I had to forgo that trick. Cross your fingers!
Cutting the pins.
With the dovetails done, It is time to cut the grooves for the shelves. I used a leg from the broken safari chair as a saw guide.
Once again, A4 paper to the rescue!
The chair leg worked brilliantly, but it was a bit too tall for my Ryoba Dick saw. I solved that problem by removing the handle.
Sawing crossgrain kerfs for shelf dadoes.
It takes a light touch, as there are sharp teeth on both sides of this blade. With a bit of care it can be done.
This is how I sawed the dado.

Approaching the line.
Sawing that way works great. All that is left is to hog out the waste with a chisel and clean it up with a router plane.
Oops! I don't have a router plane. I guess do it all with a chisel!
The next step is to cut the angle on the side pieces. I then clamped them together, clamped the whole works to a saw bench and smooth the ends.
Aren't self-timers a great invention?
Glue up. I didn't have a clamp wide enough, so I just glued the snot out of everything and pounded it home with a mallet.
I thought it was a booger, but it's not. (You have to say that out loud for it to be funny.)
Now I get to try my new tapered drill bit to make pilot holes for Roman nails!
Pretty, isn't it?
Well, while I was trying to take this fancy shot, the eggbeater fell on the floor and broke the tip off of the tapered drill bit. I was able to finish with it, but that bit now likes to wander all over the place.
Not sure this art shot was worth it.
Mike Siemsen left a comment on my Instagram recomending I just cut the head off of one of these nails and use that for a tapered pilot hole drill bit. Great idea!

I've been thinking of ways to keep the lid and the front panel flat with battens. I don't really want to use screws on this project, so I thought I would make a test to see if I could clench these Roman nails to join two pieces of this pine.
It works brilliantly!
So that means I'll be clenching some nails on those panels.

That's all I have completed so far.
Well, it holds tools!
I was trying to figure out how to make tongue and groove or shiplap with no joinery planes for the back boards, and was inspired to spend thirty minutes making Paul Sellers' version of a rabbet plane out of construction pine. We'll find out tomorrow how well it works.
A Paul Sellers tool on a Christopher Schwarz tool chest.

Categories: Hand Tools

Divider Sharpening – 360w360 E.204

360 WoodWorking - Thu, 12/08/2016 - 4:00am
Divider Sharpening – 360w360 E.204

In this episode of 360 with 360WoodWorking the 360 guys talk about divider sharpening.

Join the guys twice each week for six lively minutes of discussion on everything from tools to techniques to wood selection (and more). Chuck & Glen, and sometimes a surprise guest, all have their own opinions. Sometimes they agree and sometimes they don’t, but the conversation is always information packed and lots of fun.

If you have topics you’d like to hear covered in future episodes, click here to send an email to the guys.

Continue reading Divider Sharpening – 360w360 E.204 at 360 WoodWorking.

Planing Stop in the Split Top Roubo

Benchcrafted - Wed, 12/07/2016 - 8:33am
A customer recently asked where to install his Benchcrafted Planing Stop in his Split Top Roubo, as the Split Top Roubo plans do not include the planing stop.

Here's where we recommend you install the stop: between the two dogs immediately to the left of the leg vise. You'll have to move the stop a little inboard (that is, a bit past the 2-3/4" we show in the planing stop instructions) to allow some space between the stop's stock and the dogs. We don't show any dimensions because your bench may be different. Here's the basic idea behind finding the right spot. You don't want to get the stop too close to the dogs, and at the same time you don't want it too close to the leg either so it doesn't end up behind your potentially-wider leg vise chop, making adjustment annoying.

Categories: Hand Tools

Framing the New Workshop, Days 8 and 9

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Tue, 12/06/2016 - 3:13pm
For most people, setting up a shop for the first time is largely a matter of adapting to the existing facilities.

Hideo Kamimoto, Complete Guitar Repair, 1975

I have so much work to do!

Today, I finished nailing down the roof sheathing and got some trim up on the fascia. I would have put up more trim, but the local lumber yard had nothing but junky 1x8 pine, I was a little disgusted by the selection.

The day started out partly sunny, the temperature was about 16 degrees Fahrenheit, by noon the temperature dropped to 12 degrees and a breeze came up making it too cold to work. Yes, there was a time in my life when I would framing in subzero temperatures, I work for myself now, no point in making work a brutal thing.

As I write this post, it is 10 degrees Fahrenheit with heavy snow. The forecast calls for subzero temperatures tonight with up to one foot of snow!

After getting the rafters up and into place, day seven, I got the sub-fascia up on the north and south elevations...

...the sub-fascia almost up...

and getting the the lookouts made on the east...

and west elevations.

Day eight I put down the 5/8 thick OSB roof sheathing.

This is what the shop looked like this afternoon...

I need to finish nailing all the wall shear, then 1/4 exterior plywood needs to be purchased, along with some ice and water shield and corrugated roofing for the roof.

Electrical wire needs to be pulled, outlet and lighting boxes located and nailed up, then there's insulation to put in. Did I mention the ten sashes that I will build entirely by hand?

Good thing I got my copy of Charles Hayward's The Woodworker today from Lost Art Press! I admit that sashes were much easier to make when I worked at Yosemite National Park, the workshop was equipped with a floor mounted mortising machine, an eight inch joiner, a twenty four inch thickness planer, a 3hp shaper and a dedicated tenoning/coping machine just for sashes. I like Hayward's description of how to make a sash, I look forward to the task.

Categories: Luthiery

Pennsylvania spice chest 8, outside of cabinet completed.

Mulesaw - Tue, 12/06/2016 - 2:08pm
Out here blogging takes longer time than building.
Not that I am such a slow writer, but just getting blogspot to open the page where I can actually write takes half an hour every once now and then.

But Brian Eve has sent me a tutorial on how to make my pictures smaller, so hopefully that should speed up the process of uploading pictures on the blog. Let's see about that. I remain skeptical until proven otherwise.

The crown moulding and the base moulding were difficult to mount. Mostly because I managed to make the box a little bit out of square, and on top of that I had to struggle with workholding for non flat pieces of moulding.
The front of the crown moulding was glued to the entire width of the case, and the two side pieces were just glued in the forward 2.5" more or less, and then got a few brads to secure them near the backside. Hopefully that will allow for a bit of wood movement.

The base moulding all attaches to a frame that was joined with mortise and tenons. So all the mouldings are simply glued to that frame. The frame is also where the legs are attached.

For the feet of the spice chest, I considered either turning some or making shaped feet. Spruce is not a super good wood for turning, plus I wanted to prove to myself that I could make shaped feet without a bandsaw or a jigsaw, so shaped feet it was.
The front legs were joined by gluing the miter. I didn't ad any reinforcements, cause they would also be glued to the sub frame anyway, besides there was no idea in pushing the difficulty of this to an extreme level.

The rear feet were left as a long block of wood (7.5"), so I could plane the shape for both feet at the same time.
I sketched the desired shape on the end of the feet, and used my moving fillister plane without the depth stop and the fence. The outside curve was a walk in the part to make, the inside curve took a bit longer and was cleaned up using a half round file with some coarse sandpaper wrapped around it.
When the shapes were planed on all the parts, I drilled a couple of holes to remove some of the clumsiness. For some strange reason, we have some incredible fine wood drills on board, approximately 1" and 1.25" in diameter. I used the 1"drill and the result was perfect.

After the drilling, I marked some angled lines that I sawed next to, and finally I eased the outside edges with a round file and a bit of sandpaper.

The feet were glued and screwed in place after I eyeballed their position.

Thanks to Brian Eve's trick, it only took 8 minutes to upload a picture :-)
Please note the very neutral and non disturbing background for my picture. I take a lot of pride in presenting my work so it looks the part. A key ingredient to this is to make sure that there is no clutter in the picture..

Outside completed.

Categories: Hand Tools

Jewelry Box #3: Finishing touches

goatboy's woodshop - Tue, 12/06/2016 - 11:36am


To finish things up with the jewelry box, I fitted the hinges and put my maker’s mark on the base so that I could apply the finish to the outside of the box.

I used my homemade shellac, but this time I applied it in several thin coats using a ‘rubber’, which is a pad made from a lint free cloth, carefully folded around some cotton wadding. The shellac can be added to the rubber with a pipette, and it goes off very quickly so several coats can be applied in an hour.

20161028_212740 20161028_215536

I finished with a light coat of wax, and the box was done. Time to turn the contents.


Having roughed out three blanks – walnut, sycamore and kingwood – I parted off and hollowed out the lids, sanded through the grits and finished with wax. Then I hollowed out the boxes, checking that the lids fitted snugly and, again, sanding and finishing with wax.

20161030_155024 20161030_214004 20161104_161922

I decided to burn a little image onto the top of each box to match the image on the jewelry box lid. Then I returned the lids to the lathe to sand and wax the outsides.

20161104_174203 20161104_184615 20161104_195631

Finally, I flipped over each box so that I could finish the bottoms.

20161104_204025 20161104_204047

So, there we have it: one jewelry box with three lidded box accessories…

20161107_184427 20161107_185500

…all ready to be packed up and delivered.


Filed under: Finishing, Pyrography, Woodturning Tagged: kingwood, lidded box, rubber, shellac, sycamore, walnut

Can a woodworker have too many tools?

The Slightly Confused Woodworker - Tue, 12/06/2016 - 6:43am

The spring and summer of 2016 has led me to more vintage woodworking tools (and tools in general) than the entire past 6 years combined. Last January I made the vow to not purchase any new woodworking tools. I sort of broke that vow when I purchased a bench grinder specifically for sharpening woodworking tools, but otherwise, I haven’t made a single purchase. That being said, I’ve shared on this very blog some of the many vintage tools I’ve come across during the past months. The good news: I paid little or literally nothing for all of them; the bad news: I have a lot of old tools laying around that need a lot of work.

So this all leads to the question: Can a woodworker have too many tools?

As of today, the mindset among the most influential woodworkers seems to be that too many tools is a bad thing. The arguments are compelling: they take up space, they take up time, they decrease the chance that a woodworker will develop proficiency in using a core set of tools, and maybe most importantly, they can be expensive (in particular if you are purchasing nothing but new tools).

Too many tools can also keep a woodworker from actually making furniture. Care for both new and vintage tools can be very time consuming (this includes power tools).  As of today, I have enough vintage tools in need of restoration to take me well into next spring. If I spent every Sunday restoring one of my vintage tools (that needs restoration) I estimate that the my next piece of finished furniture wouldn’t happen until sometime at the end of April, 2017.

The whole idea of woodworking is actually working wood, isn’t it? Tools can be fun, for sure, but tools are just a means to an end, right? The furniture, the end result of our toil, is why we woodwork.

So that still poses the question: Can a woodworker have too many tools?

After careful consideration, my answer is: F**K NO.

Categories: General Woodworking

Workbench Tool Trays – 360w360 E.203

360 WoodWorking - Tue, 12/06/2016 - 4:00am
Workbench Tool Trays – 360w360 E.203

In this episode of 360 with 360WoodWorking the 360 guys discuss the advantages and disadvantages of workbench tool trays – ok, mostly they talk about the disadvantages.

Join the guys twice each week for six lively minutes of discussion on everything from tools to techniques to wood selection (and more). Chuck & Glen, and sometimes a surprise guest, all have their own opinions. Sometimes they agree and sometimes they don’t, but the conversation is always information packed and lots of fun.

Continue reading Workbench Tool Trays – 360w360 E.203 at 360 WoodWorking.

Pangur Ban – The Scholar and His Cat

The Kilted Woodworker - Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:55pm
In the 9th Century, an Irish monk wrote a poem about his relationship with his white cat, Pangur Ban (Ban meaning “white” in Gaelic).  There are several translations. I like this one the most… (Translated by Robin Flower) I and Pangur Ban my cat, ‘Tis a like task we are at: Hunting mice is his […]
Categories: General Woodworking

Wood into Gold, and Other Tales of Transformation, Part 4

Eccentric Toolworks - Sun, 12/04/2016 - 4:57pm



And you thought Wagner’s Ring Cycle was epic…. How better to celebrate marriage than with Viking helmets and shattered wine glasses? In this fourth and final installment, the plan was to make my ring from whatever gold was left after making her ring. But alas, I did not have enough gold left to make a whole second ring. I had two choices. Buy more gold, or make my ring out of something else.

I had contemplated this possibility some time ago and already knew my answer. Being a blacksmith, I thought it would be cool to forge my ring from steel and to inlay a thin band of the gold into the steel. I may well have opted for this even if I had had enough gold to make a second ring.

[Brief aria for teutonic tenor]—“Ode to My Scrap Pile.”

I have a sizable collection of scrap metal that most people mistake for junk. Rods, bars, plates, blocks, coil springs, railroad spikes, lawn mower blades, etc, etc…. Whenever people help me move, I invariably have to make sure that no one tries to discard items from my scrap pile. It is hard to describe, but I have deep affection for my scrap pile. I have been hauling it around for quite some time. I like how it is all waiting to be turned into something new again. It seemed fitting that my ring ought to come out of my scrap pile.


A tiny part of my scrap pile resides in this bucket. My ring came out of this bucket.

Forging a ring is not as difficult as it might sound. There are different ways you can do it. You can bend a band of steel into a circle then forge weld it. Or you can punch or drill a hole, then enlarge the hole using a tapered rod called a drift. I did the latter. You just have to be sure to do things in the right order. For instance, if you need to increase the thickness of the steel, you must do that before creating the hole. Forcing a drift through the hole will only enlarge the hole—it will not cause the surrounding steel to become thicker. And even more generally, trying to work on the outside of the ring once the hole has been created will make the hole larger than you want. Therefore you must establish the basic exterior shape prior to creating the hole.



There is a very old blacksmith adage that goes:

“He that will a good edge win, must forge thick and grind thin.”

That adage can be found in Joseph Moxon and pertains to the making of edge tools. But it may as well refer to forging a wedding ring. At least for me. Sure, you could forge a ring so that the forged band is itself the finished product. But I had other plans. Plus I had never created a piece of jewelry like this, so I made sure to leave the ring a bit fat, so that I could sneak up on what I wanted.

After forging, I rounded the outside of the ring with files and beveled the edges. Then it was time to create the channel for the gold. I did that with a combination of chisels and a very thin file used on edge. The proportions and straightness of the channel I arrived at by eye, adjusting things here and there as I went. The trickiest part was undercutting the sides of the channel. I think my eyes are getting old. Even with magnification, I found it hard to see.


The sides of the channel are undercut in order to trap the gold when the gold is hammered into the channel. The gold will mushroom, creating a dovetail of sorts, mechanically trapping it. No adhesives are required.

Getting this exactly right was trickier than it might sound. It took me a couple of tries. For instance, I found it important to not make the channel too deep. For one thing, it wastes gold. But for another, a deeper channel means that the strip of gold needs to be taller, and when you hammer the taller strip into the channel, the force of your blows will deform the uppermost gold and not the deeper gold at the bottom of the channel. Therefore you don’t get good capture. The gold’s malleability can work against you a little.

Fourteen karat gold is probably not the best gold for inlay, either. It has very particular working properties. It is harder, because of its copper content, so it requires more force, but then it also work hardens faster than higher karat golds.

My solution was to very carefully craft the strip of gold in order to maximize the desired effect when force was applied to it. This is what I mean—instead of creating a perfectly square or rectangular strip, I created a beveled strip, like this:


A trapezoid, basically. The force applied with the hammer must go somewhere—a trapezoidal shape reduces the nonessential gold into which that force might have flowed. It guarantees that the gold at the bottom of the channel will spread into the undercutting.

It might go without saying, but it is important that the width of the gold strip match the width of the channel as closely as possible. Otherwise the gold’s malleability gets wasted spreading the gold into space that a better-fitting strip would have occupied in the first place.

[Aria for Nordic Shop Cat]

OK. All of this assumes that you have a strip of gold to work with. But the gold I started with was scrap just like the steel. Only it was in far worse shape than the steel scrap. The gold scrap was mostly dust and filings, with bits and nuggets thrown in for good measure.

A professional jeweler would melt this scrap into an ingot, then roll the ingot into a strip using a small but stout rolling mill. Well, I don’t have a rolling mill. If my shop cat Charlie were still around, this would have been a perfect job for him—to hammer the tiny ingot into a strip using his tiny hammer. But Charlie rode off into the sunset on that big beer truck in the sky some time ago. So this tiny smithing job was left to me.

My first couple of attempts at making an ingot yielded unacceptable results. This one I named “Gold Member.”


And this one, “The Turd.”


Then when I got an ingot worth forging, the seemingly countless cycles of work hardening and annealing made me realize that I was trying to work the gold too much like steel. I should have cast the gold into a shape that resembled the final shape as closely as possible. Screw the ingot.

Using an 8d nail as a pattern, I cast the gold into a long cylinder. From there it was a matter of drawing the cylinder out into successively narrower cylinders. To do that I used a series of successively narrower grooves that I filed into a block of steel (another piece from my valuable scrap pile, I might add), essentially creating a miniature swage block. I hammered the gold into one groove until it was as long and as slender as that groove could make it, then I would move to the next narrower groove. And so on.


The final step of course was turning the slenderest gold cylinder into the trapezoidal strip. That involved a lot of careful crafting. From start to finish the whole process was quite laborious and time consuming, nothing like what a professional jeweler would do. Such is life.

The final final step was to inlay that trapezoidal strip into the steel ring. The trickiest part of this was estimating where to cut off the strip in order for the end of the inlay to meet the beginning. I’m sure there is a way to calculate this, but I would rather just look and do.


This is what the gold looked like freshly hammered into the groove.

The final final final step was to clean up the inlay and ring with files and progressively finer sandpaper wrapped around small sticks. The inside of the ring also needed attended to. I left it until last. I had stretched it to just shy of my ring size with a drift. I used files and sandpaper to get the fit just right.


Here is the same edge cleaned up. I can no longer tell where the two ends of gold meet.

So that’s it. A wedding ring for her. A wedding ring for me. It was an interesting and meaningful project. So maybe it wasn’t as epic as Wagner’s Ring Cycle. I would take my wife over a boring valkyrie any day of the week.


Categories: Hand Tools

Log sofa reprised

Oregon Woodworker - Sun, 12/04/2016 - 4:00pm
More than two decades ago, I made two log sofas for our rustic cedar home.  We had hundreds of poles that resulted from thinning our douglas-fir forest.  I later developed a fairly unique style of building with logs, but this was my first attempt.  I didn't have a tenon cutter, so the joinery I settled on was to use a hole saw to define a circle on the side of a log and then chisel it out so that the joining log would fit into the hole.  If necessary, I trimmed the joining log to fit.  I used a 1" dowel as a floating tenon.  The resulting joints looked pretty good and were extremely strong.

That part I think I got right, but another part I got wrong.  At the time, I thought the logs needed to be very smooth, and this was before I got into hand tool woodworking, so I used an angle grinder with abrasive disks to smooth the logs.  Later on, I achieved much nicer results with a drawknife, deliberately leaving on wide flats and sections of the tree's outer layers beneath the bark.  This is rustic furniture and it looks best with a very natural appearance.

We used the sofas for years and then gave them to some friends.  They offered them back to us recently and my wife is very nostalgic about anything associated with our kids growing up, so I reluctantly agreed to try to refurbish and improve them for our family room.  Here is the stripped down skeleton:

The joinery is still solid and, with some accumulated scratches and dents, the sofas are in good condition.  The upper pole is across the back of the posts so the back will be angled to produce a reclined seating position.  I wanted to add a nice back to the sofa that would be more reclined, so I used a drawknife and a spokeshave to create a flat on the inside of the top pole.  I had some old poles to make the back, most about 4 inches in diameter.  To do this, I sliced the poles in half on the bandsaw.  It's pretty easy to do this by attaching a 2x4 to the pole with screws that rides along the fence.  By slicing all the poles exactly in half you get a nice, quarter-sawn face.  Then I just ripped out one inch thick boards.  Here's what they look like:

and here's the refinished sofa:

The templates are to to give to the upholsterer.  We are going to upholster the seat in a solid color and leave the back exposed.  There will be colorful, Pendleton wool pillows placed along it.
Categories: Hand Tools

Kendal Pop-up Shop

Steve Tomlin Crafts - Sun, 12/04/2016 - 12:46pm
From 5th - 10th December, I'll have an exhibition of my work along with craft demonstrations in Kendal town centre's pop-up shop on Finkle St. A perfect opportunity to get some special gifts for Christmas. Continue reading
Categories: General Woodworking

A New Kind of Advent Candle Stand

The Literary Workshop Blog - Sun, 12/04/2016 - 9:40am

It all started with a rat in the attic.  When we brought down our Christmas decorations this year, we found that the old advent candle stand I had built from pine some years ago had been gnawed all over by a rat and ruined.  So if we were going to celebrate Advent according to custom this year, I would have to make a new candle stand.


This was my original design, which I still find visually interesting but a little too bulky and angular. (We couldn’t find the right color candles that year, either.)  And while I do like pine, I feel that a nicer hardwood would be more appropriate for what I hope will become a family heirloom.

If you’re not familiar with the season of Advent, or with Advent Candles, here’s a brief explanation: Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas, and it is traditionally a time of both repentance and anticipation as we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus.  Repent, John the Baptist told the crowds, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  It is at once a more severe and a more hopeful message than the flurry of commercial activity that consumes us all this time of year.

We commemorate Advent by lighting candles each Sunday until Christmas.  The traditional Advent Wreath has five candles, arranged as you see above.  There are four tall, thin candles, one for each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.  Each Sunday has a different theme: first hope (a purple candle), then peace (another purple candle), then joy (a pink candle), and finally love (a purple candle again).  On the first Sunday, we light only the first candle; on the second Sunday, we light the first and second candles, and so on until Christmas day, when we light them all, including the large, white candle in the center called the Christ candle.

Now, a personal confession: the asymmetry of the traditional, circular arrangement of the Advent Wreath has always bothered my aesthetic sensibilities.  Four candles in a square, burning at different lengths, looks wrong to my eye.  And every year, I always forget where to begin lighting the candles.  (For the record, you start with the candle that’s caddy-corner from the pink one.)  Additionally, my wife asked me to make a narrower stand so that we could keep it on the table for the whole season and still have space for food.

I began sketching out different possible arrangements.  Eventually I lit on an elliptical design, with the Christ candle in the center and the other four candles lined up behind it.  Then it occurred to me that I had very nearly drawn the Icthus–the “Jesus fish” symbol that you may have seen on the backs of cars.  It’s an ancient symbol of Jesus that has probably been used since at least the second century AD, and it is even older than the symbol of the cross.  It seemed a fitting base shape for the Advent candles, so I added a tail to complete the design.

Advent Candle Stand 12-2016

I began with a 1″ thick cherry board I had left over from the table I built–a fitting choice, since the candle stand would go on that very table.  I planed them down just enough to see the grain direction clearly, then glued it up.  The dimensions of this piece are about 7″ wide and 13″ long.

Advent Candle Stand 12-2016

I planed the top smooth and leveled out the bottom so that the stand would sit flat and stable.  You don’t want a wobbly candle stand!

Drawing the design was a little tricky, but with the fish shape, all you really need is a single curve, which you trace out four times, flipping the paper each time.  I drew several on paper, cut out the one that looked right, and started to trace.

Advent Candle Stand 12-2016

I had to erase a few lines here and there, but this is what I eventually came up with.  The “football” shape that makes up the body is what I traced out.  I just followed my lines visually to add the tail.  The center will be cut out, and is just large enough to hold a standard pillar candle.  The top needs to be wide enough for the holes that will hold the candles without making the walls of the holes too thin.  It’s about 1 3/4″ wide all the way around.

Advent Candle Stand 12-2016

I used my bandsaw to cut the outside to rough shape, and I drilled small holes on the inside so as I have a place for the coping saw blade to start when it came time to cut out the middle.

I wasn’t sure what size to drill the holes for the candles.  The butt ends of most candles are tapered, so after measuring the candles’s ends and experimenting in some scrap, I decided to drill stepped holes.  I drilled about half way through with a 7/8″ Forstner bit, and then drilled the rest of the way through with a 3/4″ bit.

Advent Candle Stand 12-2016

I happen to have a nice reamer, so I reamed out the holes a little–even though the candles would have stood just fine in the stepped holes.  But after reaming the holes to ease the step in the hole, the candles go in a little easier.

Advent Candle Stand 12-2016

I cleaned up the band saw cuts with my spokeshaves, followed by a file for the corners and a card scraper. (As you can see, I’m writing this out of order.  But with this project, order of operations isn’t critical.)  I’d have to pay close attention to grain direction and cut only “downhill.”

Advent Candle Stand 12-2016

I sawed out the center with a coping saw.  Cherry is a hard wood, and this stock is more than 7/8″ thick.  I broke two blades before I finished.  I did manage to get a spokeshave inside to clean up some of the saw marks and fair the curves, but it was mostly file work.

I wanted this candle holder to have some visual depth, so I decided to under-cut the “joint” where the two sides of the body meet to form the tail.

Advent Candle Stand 12-2016

I made a stopping cut with the chisel and then pared into the stopping cut.  I had to go down pretty far in order to get the shadow I wanted, maybe 1/4″.  It was also important to make the cut slope down in a curve rather than go straight down.

Advent Candle Stand 12-2016

As with any carving, a razor-sharp chisel is critical to success.


With a spokeshave, chisel, and card scrapers I relieved the sharp edges inside and out.  There are a few uneven spots, but by this time it was Saturday night before the second Sunday of Advent, and I was already a week late.  The wood was smooth enough from the cutting tools, so I didn’t even take time to sand it.  A couple coats of paste wax are all the finish it required.


New candles would have been nice, but the old ones will do for now.  The Advent Candle Stand is now in the middle of the dining room table.

Advent Candle Stand 12-2016

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Tagged: advent, advent candle, advent candles, advent wreath, cherry, icthus, Jesus fish


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