When I heard about this book my first thought was, “Why hasn’t this been done before?” Hock Tools has benefited greatly by the renaissance of hand woodworking tools, skills, instruction and advocacy. Much of that thanks belongs to the efforts of Popular Woodworking magazine and books. That encouragement and the advent of the internet gave woodworkers access to arcane knowledge. Many of you picked up and carried the hand tool torch to a new era of hand woodworking.
Even so, many woodworkers continued to cling to a handtool-dismissing power tool catechism they learned in high school shop, eschewing the hand plane whilst pledging fealty to the jointer.
Marc Spagnuolo’s Hybrid Woodworking does a brilliant job of reconciling the power-tool/hand-tool divide. Marc has gained some fame in the woodworking community as “The Wood Whisperer” with his website of valuable content about all aspects of woodworking. Now he’s offering a peaceful settlement in the ongoing “conflict” between Normites and Neanderthals. Hands across the workbench. Or something like that.
In his very friendly, witty, conversational style Marc finally answers that burning question: When to Use Which to do What? I for one have never advocated that any woodworker go all hand-tools. I understand the efficiency of properly applied power. Roughing, dimensioning, making multiple blanks — power tools are the go-to answer. But for fine work, precision fitting and a surface finish that you simply cannot get with power tools, Marc helps you select the hand tools to balance the power tools and suggests when to use which. This book will make a great gift for anyone looking to expand his or her woodworking tool kit and experience.
This is a complex profile moulding plane featuring a 7/8" ogee profile just like I showed off in a prior post. It is a side escapement plane and is a very functional size. A 5/8" size is quite useful as well for general work. This should give you an idea of how to produce the other sizes if you follow the same principals of layout.
I highly recommend forming the profile of the sole before doing any of the other layout and cutting. It makes sure that the mouth is located at exactly the right spot. If you do it at the end then you may remove too much material getting the profile shape just right and then have a very wide mouth.
By the way I always cut the profile on a complex profile plane first whether it is a moulding plane or bench plane such as the raised panel bench plane. This is the opposite advice I recently saw in the article for the raised panel plane from Popular Woodworking. Try it both ways and you will see it results in a much better plane cutting the profile first.
CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE DOWNLOAD PAGE. (Click on the download button in the upper right corner of the new page to begin download.) These are offered as a free download intended for non commercial / personal use only. These are copyright protected.
If I made any errors anywhere in the plans please let me know so I can update them.
Randy Wilkins – the blogger behind The Designer’s Assistant – is giving away four Lost Art Press titles as he culls his collection of duplicates. Read this blog entry on how to enter the contest. And be sure to check out the rest of Randy’s blog. He’s a set designer for films and has built some very cool stuff.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Uncategorized
We wanted to post today simply to rear our ugly heads and say hello! As many of you will have noticed our blog has been extremely quiet (or completely silent?) these last few weeks and we’d like to say a quick ‘sorry for not posting’ and ‘don’t worry, everything is fine!’.
In fact everything is very good. This little lull should soon be seen as the calm before the storm. We’ve been working away at all manner of thoughts, bench building and planning as it has been necessary for us to completely reorganise ourselves.
4pm yesterday we found out that our plans are definately going ahead. Please bare with us and get ready to join us in the Next Chapter…
Richard and Helen
Make a Joint Stool From a Tree is a great underrated book. A how-to seeped in history. Jennie Alexander, a co-author along with Peter Follansbee also did a video on chairmaking many years ago called Make a Chair From a Tree which I found long, but comprehensive and very interesting.
We Sit Together is a small charmer of a book. I wrote about it and an exhibit based on the book here.
Identifying American Furniture is a must have book for anyone interested in furniture - making or collecting, and is a wonderful stocking stuffer.
Exercises in Wood-Working is a great book for those of you who want to learn woodworking using hand tools and can benefit from a structured series of lessons.
I still think that The Joiner And Cabinetmaker, which I had a hand in getting to press, is one of the best books on learning to do woodworking. The reason is that it is a story, a narrative about learning to be a joiner. I think the projects make eminent sense for a beginner and the story gives everything context.
Chris Pye's Woodcarving Course & Reference Manual is the book I am using as I learn to carve. I'm getting better by the way - and having paced lessons is really good for me.
We stock a lot of books, some I think are must haves, some that may not be a first choice for a beginner, but as you get more interested in producing good work these are books that should find their way into your library. In this age of the internet where so much information is available free one important thing you get from a book is a coherent narrative. The author has made editorial choices on how to present information over the length of the book and that to me makes it far easier to learn.
Here are a bunch of more books that are not on the list above that you can learn from:
To Make as Perfectly as Possible
By Hand and Eye
With The Grain
We expect to have one or two more titles available in the coming days or weeks. I've also left off the list a few charmers like Pocket Tree Finders by Nature Study Guild which are great stocking stuffers and other titles which I can't think of now (it's Tuesday night just before the blog goes live and with all the talk of Black Friday and Cyber Monday I feel that I have to mention some products for the holidays but it's not like the marketing analysis committee has been working on this list for months. Actually the best part of working in a small company like ours is that we get to pick stuff we like - remember "staff picks" at the bookstore or video store - when we had book and video stores run by people? This is what this blog entry is really about.)
(Originally written Apr. 4, 2010)
Right now the top is completed, and I have the base glued up and attached to the top. One of the last things I needed to do before flipping my workbench over is to make the groove to receive the upper tenon on the sliding deadman. Originally I thought about this in terms of being a deep groove, as it is 5/8” wide and needs to be 1-1/2” deep. So I thought about using some sort of plow plane, except that none of the planes that I have that would be suitable for this task will make a groove that deep. Then I started thinking of this less as a groove, and more like a really long mortise.
I used my Japanese plow plane to establish the sides of the groove. The groove is 5/8” wide, and the plane cuts a groove 1/4” wide, so I did one side and then the other. You can see a video of the plane in action here.
After the sides were established, the groove was about 1/4” deep. It needs to be 1-1/2” deep when its done. To do the rest, I tried a few approaches, but the most efficient seemed to be to use a 1/4” mortise chisel to continue the grooves that the plane left. I chopped down at the far end of the groove so that it was at final width and depth, and then started working back along the tracks left by the Japanese plow plane, first one side, and then the other. There was one section of the groove where I tried drilling out the waste with a 1/2” brad point bit and cleaning up the sides, but this seemed to be easier overall, and not much slower.
Here’s an in-progress shot of the groove.
This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s actually not as bad as it may seem. The key, I think, is that by establishing the end of the groove, I gave the chips someplace to go as I chopped, which makes mortising go much faster. As a result, I can work back going about 1/4” at a time, and it takes me about 5-10 seconds of chopping to drive the mortise chisel down to the depth that I want. This goes by much more quickly than it sounds.
Of course, a router would be faster, but what’s the fun in using that? In the end, it will be way cooler to say that I made this groove by hand. Stupider, maybe, but still cooler.
Plus, I don’t have a router. Not the electric kind, anyway.
After finishing the chopping. I used a router plane to finish leveling out the bottom of the groove, checked the groove with a straightedge and square, and pared the sides of the groove to make sure that they are the correct width and square.
Here’s the final result, along with the tools that I used during this process.
Between this and making the 1” wide mortise and tenon joints for the stretchers and leg-to-benchtop joints, I’ve done a lot of mortise making. This is what I learned while doing all this chopping:
- Again, I think the key to making the mortise chopping easy is to first give the waste somewhere to go. Either work on one end and make it full width and depth, or simply drill out a hole at the end of the mortise to give you clearance. It’s surprising how much faster the chopping goes once you’ve done that.
- When chopping, many light hammer blows is easier, and not really that much slower, than a few big hammer blows.
- It seems that the conventional wisdom is that chopping the mortise takes a lot of time. Actually, the final paring and checking the sides of the mortise for square probably takes up just as much time.
- Whenever I was having trouble with making the mortise, without a doubt the problem was either a tool that could be sharper, or I thought something is square when it really was not.
- It’s unbelievable how useful a big wide 2” chisel is. I’ve put a 2” wide paring chisel on my shopping list.
A great gift idea for the woodworker who appreciates using handtools, especially one who steers clear of the din, dust and and danger of power tools, Tom Fidgen brings us The Unplugged Woodshop: Hand-Crafted Projects for the Home & Workshop.
Tom’s previous book, Made by Hand, Furniture Projects from the Unplugged Woodshop, was Popular Woodworking Books‘ best selling title in 2010 and I predict that The Unplugged Woodshop: Hand-Crafted Projects for the Home & Workshop will easily contend as another best seller. Tom has packed this book with useful how-to instructions that walk you all the way through a compelling variety of beautiful, useful things — from a sawyer’s bench to an architect’s table to a hand plane to a library card catalog — all using historic hand tools and age-old, tried and true techniques along with Tom’s latest tricks and tips. Treat yourself or someone you care about to the intimate pleasure of using hand tools with exquisite results. The journey is the destination and the journey need never end. Unplug!
Please if you have the downloaded book I encourage you to please delete the file.
I spoke with Rene at Astragal Press (the publisher) and apologized for my naive assumption that it was out of copy right and no longer going to be reprinted thus allowing the website that I won't mention to distribute the book. My sincere apologies to everyone including the author for sharing the link to the site as I would never encourage anyone to infringe on a copy right.
On a positive note Rene said that even though they do not have an exact date to have the book reprinted they do have it in the works and it will again be at a reasonable price unlike what you see on sites that resell the used books. You can call and put your name on the list of those that are interested if you want an update when it gets ready for sale.
Again, I apologize.
NOTE: The original post was removed so as to stop any misdirected readers. I am attempting to remove that blog post from another site that reblogs my posts. Thanks for your patience while I try to extract my head from my rear.
It’s that pesky gift-giving season again. Wouldn’t we look forward to it a lot more if it came around every four years? It’s an idea that may take some time to catch on…
Meanwhile, if you find yourself in need of a gift, I’d like to share three new books that have recently crossed my path. Any woodworker on your list can look forward to these books! I’ll present them in three consecutive posts. This is the first:
While you may know Bob Lang as Popular Woodworking’s Executive Editor, Bob is also the woodworking community’s authority on using Google’s incredibly useful 3-D design software SketchUp. Among his many other excellent books on Arts and Crafts and Craftsman furniture he has written and taught extensively on SketchUp and how to take advantage of it for your woodworking projects. Extensively researched and written, this SketchUp book, as do all of them, takes full advantage of the pdf format with clickable links and embedded videos (50 of them!) that thoroughly illustrate each topic. Learning to use SketchUp can be daunting, but with clear, accessible writing, Bob takes you by the hand up the learning curve. Through well-presented step-by-step exercises he clearly illustrates the ins and outs of SketchUp, one of the great pieces of software available to 3-D designers. This is an amazing offering at $34.95 for download. And Bob has the disc version on sale for $39.95 with free shipping until December 1! Highly recommended!
Seeing as my ticket was non-refundable, I felt obligated to reschedule the ticket for a later date. After some figuring, Julia and I finagled a way to buy her a ticket, get care for Eden, and plan an extended version of the trip.So last week Julia and I spent five days down in NYC, New Haven, CT, and Philadelphia. I won’t bore you with a lot of small details but here’s the summary:
Day one: Eleven hour Greyhound bus from Bangor, ME to Port Authority in New York City. Hopped on train to Montclair, NJ to get Thai with our friends Marisol and Will and then we crashed at their place that night.
Day Two: Took the train to meet up with John Coffey, furniture restorer (and an astute furniture connoisseur) at the Met Museum in NYC. John took us through the exhaustive American Wing and led us through at our pace. We both felt like we were racing through the exhibits but barely got through the whole thing in time to leave. If you haven’t been yet, the place is enormous.
One of the cool things we saw was the case room. This had a lot of the furniture not on display in rows in glass cases. There was one chest of drawers set up in an “exploded” view. All the joinery was disassembled and exposed to show how these things are put together. It was a smart display. It was wonderful to finally meet John face to face after the past few years dialoguing in our professional listserv “Groop”.
From the Met, we hopped on a train down to Philly to stay with our friends, Lauren and Ryan. Had an excellent dinner and lots of laughs before bed. These people are a riot. Julia and I hadn’t laughed that hard in a while.
Philly at night.
Day Three: Julia spent the day with Lauren and the kids and I borrowed a car to drive down to The Winterthur Museum. After driving in circles for way too long, I finally got decent directions and made my way to the Brandywine Valley in Delaware. Absolutely stunning… Picturesque rolling hills everywhere. When I arrived at the Museum, I spent some time in the new Philadelphia furniture exhibit waiting to connect with Greg Landrey. The exhibit was delightful. I was particularly interested in the “Regional Characteristics” display comparing details on New York, Philadelphia, and Boston pieces of the same form. It was great to see them all together for comparison.
Just as I was subsumed in the gallery, Greg Landrey came over to find me to give me a tour of the Dominy shop and the Conservation Department. Greg was incredibly generous with his time in an already busy day. I am very grateful for his willingness to share with me. (And thanks to Freddy for connecting Greg and I!)
Shots of the Dominy shop.
Some of the extant Dominy pieces with the patterns mounted next to them!
I also took one of the house tours. Winterthur has always been hyped as the “Mecca” of American furniture collections and I was not sure if it would live up to that hype. All I can say is that it far exceeded my expectations and it was the highlight of the trip. I had never seen anything like this before. The house is made up of 175 opulent period rooms assembled into one building and was more than fully furnished. To say DuPont was an obsessed collector would be a radical understatement. I was nothing short of astonished during my time at Winterthur.
After I arrived back at the house in PA we went out to get yummy greasy food at King’s Corner. Old Rasputin and Fish and Chips. What more could you ask for?
Day Four: Left PA on an early train headed up to New Haven, CT to visit the Yale Furniture Study. We were blown away again at the generosity of the staff. Eric Litke gave us an hour and a half of his day showing us through this delightful collection. This one is cool because it offers something a little different than the others: all of the pieces are organized by form in long rows. This gives you a really great sense of the progression of change in design over time. Also of note was that it was mixed high style pieces right alongside “middle class” pieces. (Or as in the Sack system, it had “Good”, “Better”, and “Best” examples.)
Beautiful Dunlap carving
Original surface "mahoganized" maple chest.
After the Furniture Study, we met up with my friend Jim Young to go the Yale University Art Gallery. (More furniture!) You would think after all this museum time I would be tired of looking at Historic American Decorative Arts. Nope. I wish I had more time to look a little more closely. We crashed at Jim’s place that night.
Make no mistake: This one's Nancy's.
Day Five: Early train to NYC to walk around Chelsea, etc before catching our bus back to Maine. Two more food recommendations: 1. UR Cup Coffee in Chelsea. (Went on a recommendation. Incredible.) 2. Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. It’s a gourmet hipster burger joint. Pricey but worth it. We were even able to pick up a Mast Brothers chocolate bar there. Never heard of these $9.00 bars? Well I never thought I’d honestly believe it but they are worth the nine bucks. It changed the way I think about chocolate. I’ll be able to afford one about once a year but… dang, they’re good.
Fat squirrels like fast food.
Caught our one o’clock bus out of Port Authority and made our way back home. The bus ride wasn’t exactly comfortable but what can you expect? Made it home by 2:30 am Saturday and snuggled our son before collapsing into bed.
Talk about a full trip. Friends, food, and furniture. As I write this post on Sunday evening, Julia is passed out on the couch. It might take us a little while to fully recover from this one. Rest is in order but oh my, I can’t wait to get back to these places.
The December 2013 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine recently came out. In this issue, I wrote a piece for the Arts & Mysteries column in which I talked about choosing woods based not just upon their looks, but for the application and the ease with which they are worked. Well, on the heels of that article, I’ve recently found myself working with a couple of kiln dried species that I specifically suggested be avoided if possible, ash and hard maple. Working with these two kiln dried woods has reminded me once again why I typically try to avoid the dried versions of woods this hard. In my defense, they’re intended for very high stress applications, so I need their rigidity and strength. However, that doesn’t make them any easier to work with.
Some time back, I timed myself ripping a 40″ length of a 4/4 board of black walnut. It took me about 2:00, give or take. For a similar sized piece of white pine, I’d expect it to take about half that long. For this similar length of 8/4 hard maple, it took just over 13:00. Same saw; same sawyer. But it took almost 7 times as long.
You may have seen the podcast “Flat & Square” where I timed myself facing a piece of walnut about 10″ wide. It took about 5-1/2 minutes to surface one side of that wide board. The maple, again, took about 13:00, for a face a bit longer than the walnut board, but about 1/3 of its width. Once again, same tools, same craftsman, much more difficult material.
Finally, there’s the mortises. Two 3/8″ thick through mortises in 3″ hard maple. Let’s just say they took a bit longer than the same sized mortise in pine. The Ray Iles mortise chisel worked like a champ though. It was ready for more after these two maple mortises, no sharpening required.
The mating double tenons took much longer as they had to be much more precisely fit since maple does not compress nearly as much as a softer species. After some paring here and there, they were finally “persuaded” into position.
The final result was certainly worth the extra effort, since, as I mentioned, these are high stress items where rigidity and strength were much more important than workability and appearance. But working these timbers made me ready for a nice piece of Eastern white pine.
Ok, so do you have a card scraper sitting around in your shop collecting dust? If you do, don’t think you’re alone. I’ve talked to a large number of woodworkers across the country that are in a similar boat. I’ll provide you with some easy to follow instructions that will hopefully make the card scraper one of your go-to tools from this day forward. Oh, one caveat… The quality of steel in your scraper can absolutely make or break this success. I know first hand, as I had a card scraper in my shop early on, and no matter what I tried I just couldn’t get it to work properly, or if it did, it would only last a few strokes. I finally decided on a whim that I’d buy another card scraper, just to see if it was me or the scraper. Well, I’m sure glad I did, because the second one worked like a charm. I’ve even gone back to the original one (yep, I still have it for times when I want to dig in and do something I wouldn’t really want to do with my good scraper) and applied the same techniques, but to no avail.
When you first get a card scraper, the likelihood is that its edges will be similar to when you buy a new handplane. Not too bad, but certainly not to the level where you get your best results. The first thing to do is to file the two long edges of the scraper. I use a scraper file/burnisher made by Glen-Drake, which provides great results and helps make it easy to accomplish. Before getting started, I made a spacer block the same thickness as the distance from the file surface to the outside edge of the handle (see photo below). Make sure you test your spacer by placing the file on it, while the handle is on the bench. I put a light source behind the block and made sure no light was leaking through towards the handle or the end.
In the photo above, I have the handle of my file resting on the workbench surface and the file clamped in my bench vise. When clamping, I hold the scraper against the spacer so it is the same height above the bench. With the scraper at this height, it’s simple to keep a flat and square surface on the scraper edges. All you have to do is keep the handle of the file on the bench while moving it down the scraper surface with light pressure. One little trick I use is to coat the edge with black Sharpie so I can tell if my file is taking material equally across the edge of the scraper. One other thing I do is hold the file in a similar position to that in the photo, rather than trying to move it down the scraper from the tip of the file to the handle. The way I hold the file tends to have less chatter on the scraper, so less junk to remove later.
Above is a photo of the scraper’s results if used immediately after filing the edge. As you can see, it’s mostly dust, but there are little “almost” shavings. I thought it would be nice to have the comparison between this stage and the final surface.
The next step is to knock down any burr that either previously existed, or is now there from the filing. Depending on the type of stones you have, softer being a bigger deal, I sometimes use the same file with a pass or two to remove the burr. This is simple and quick. Another option is to use a diamond plate or even a hard 1000-grit stone (like the Shapton Glass series). After you have eliminated or at least reduced the burr, it’s time to hit the stones. Place a thin ruler on one edge of the stone so that side of the scraper is lifted ever so slightly, placing your efforts at the opposite edge. This focuses the work where needed, rather than basically working the whole surface of the scraper. Work on your 1000-grit stone first and then move up to 8000-grit or 10000-grit. The end result should be a very narrow polished band at the edge (hard to capture with a camera), on all four long sides of the scraper.
Next, make a wooden block (unless you have a piece of high density plastic, which I like better) that is almost as tall as the scraper is wide, and make certain the edge of the block you use is square to the bottom surface. This is to support the scraper on the stones when up on edge. Again, use the same 1000-grit/8000-grit stones, but make sure the scraper is oriented as if you were drawing a diagonal on the stone, and push as if moving straight down the stone. With the scraper angled to the movement it helps prevent creating a groove in your stones. If the scraper was oriented straight up and down the stone, the grooves would occur readily and by the time you finished, would be substantial. As usual, work each grit until the scraper has a consistent surface (a dull grey on the 1000-grit and a polished surface from the 8000-grit).
Now you’ve finished the prep work, so it’s on to creating the cutting edge. Well, that’s really not exactly true. The cutting edge is already there and you can test this if you’d like. It’s not as aggressive as it will be after the next step, but it will take a shaving. Just remember that the angle at which you engage the wood is different.
Lay the scraper flat on your bench, along the edge, and carefully move your burnisher up and down the wide surface at the edge. If you don’t have a burnisher, a carbide router shank will work, but be careful you don’t accidentally cut yourself on the router bit. This is done on all four edges. **Since I’ve been using the ruler trick on my stones, I’ve omitted this stage and the scraper behaved equally as well.
Clamp the scraper again in the bench vise and get your burnisher. I usually run the burnisher down the edge, holding it level with very light pressure. I then drop the handle side down ever so slightly and again lightly run it down the edge. I stop when I’m probably around 5 degrees, and it’s surprising at just how little pressure is required on these passes. If you’ve never tried it like this before, give it a shot with just the amount of hand pressure you might apply when shaving. Very light, as you don’t want to dig into your face/leg (men/ladies).
Below is a photo of the same piece of Walnut as in the second photo, which shows the shavings the card scraper produced after going through the full sharpening/burnishing techniques. Decent results after just a little bit of work!
It is also very surprising at just how a little burr does a better job and will last longer than if you create a large burr. Part of that is probably obvious when you think about it, as a thin piece of metal sticking further out is more likely to bend with similar forces.
I hope this helps anyone that has had trouble in the past or for those who have never tried a card scraper before. When you get used to doing the steps it’s usually not more than about 5 minutes to be back to making shavings. If you have trouble getting a cutting edge or keeping one, it may just be the card scraper isn’t of good quality, so just upgrade to a better one and you’re off to the races.
Thanks for checking out my blog and let me know if you have any questions or comments.
|Red and White oak cabinetry by Hawkeye Carpentry.|
“To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Marquetry” is now available for download in the Lost Art Press store. The cost is $19 and the file is in PDF format. Click here to order.
International customers can order the download by sending $19 to email@example.com via PayPal; a download link will be sent to you.
We chose to use the PDF file format because of the graphics-heavy nature of this book. So far, we have yet to find an ebook conversion service that can provide a file that we think is acceptable. We will keep looking.
As always, all of our files are completely free of “digital rights management” hoo-ha. No passwords. No keys. You can even extract pages from this PDF. The reason we can do this is we have an honest customer base; fraud has been almost insignificant.
I hope you enjoy Roubo on the go in your portable device.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation
As editors, we search our two web sites (popularwoodworking.com and shopwoodworking.com) constantly for information for the online extras portion of all articles and most columns – the information, we hope, is both relevant and interesting. While searching the sites, I often come across books, articles and DVDs that have scads of interesting information, including tips … Read more
Nice Odate-style Japanese toolbox by chiisai-fukurou, who makes this clever observation:
The advantage is that I can use the lid like a small workbench which is quite handy from time to time
I did not think of that, even though I’ve used my toolbox as a work surface before. Just click through to see the photos.
Then, there’s this:
I want to make a second smaller toolbox from Kiri/Paulownia soon to accommodate my saws and some small stuff because this toolbox is too heavy to take my tools to friends and because I have too many tools
Seriously, who ever has too many tools?
I Coined the Phrase ‘My Creative Workspace’ for a reason. I felt that because of machine industry giants and the machine-only culture invading our lives over several decades, we lost the significance of an inner eco-climate environmentally dedicated to hand work and hand tool methods. We indeed lost a culture. This advocacy almost destroyed those elements I considered critical to the wellbeing of craft and the art of handwork. Today I see light at the end of the tunnel. It’s amazing to me today to see so many embracing much of what almost became a lost art. No, it is not merely some notion of nostalgic preference. My work in my blogs will show that. I am interested in progress as long as it considers the well being of people in their workspace whether that be at home or where they earn their living from. Culture has indeed shifted and it’s culture that defines who we are, what we say, how we dress and what and how we make. The future is critically important to all of us and to the near generations born to replace us as crafting artisans and not machine parts pushing buttons. Therefore, no, I am not looking at many professionals working in woodworking as the standard to attain to to, emulate or indeed use as role models. I am looking at you; gifted and caring amateurs who pursue their passion to master skill and become creative woodworkers in your own right. Today I think we have a sustainable alternative to what was developing and we should continue our research to develop growth and pass it on.
The picture above shows the results of a month-long workshop and what happens when you share your creative workspace with others for a season.
Through the years I have developed many workspaces from scratch, constrained in almost every case by four walls but mostly by the sphere of my own limited form. For hand and machine woodworkers using hand tools they anchor is always the workbench and I have blogged extensively on this here. Using the workbench ad relying on it for multi-tasks soon becomes automatic. In almost all cases the bench gets shifted incrementally to a position in the shop where it relates to everything around it yet never denies its supremacy to all in its centrality. The inch-by-inch shunt and shove sets the position to several key elements, predominantly the tools you work with and the support materials that we use in the making of our projects; glue, sandpaper, nails and screws, pens, pencils, paper and patterns. Depending on the space we have. These elements are best positioned near to but not crowding the place we work in. Many are surprised to find that in my home shop my creative workspace is a mere 8’ x 12’ space with a ceiling only 7’ from the concrete floor. My wood is stored between the ceiling joists and my machines are on home made dollies that move easily in and out of play as needed. In so confined a space I use these very minimally because of the dust they create. If I could I would separate these machines from the space I work in, but I still perform most of my home work to hand power even though the machines sit there inactive.
In the Penrhyn Castle workshop where I do most of my daily woodworking I am restricted by my personal sphere of limitation. I have created elements that work for me and improved them as I developed them. Shelves, tables, tables on wheels and cupboards all house my work, my equipment and of course my tools. In New York I have the same elements and wherever I have lived I have had something so similar to what I have now, most would scarcely see any difference.
Many have criticised me for having a drawer on the work-side of my bench. Claiming the inconvenience of clamped stock in the vise sufficient reason for not having it there but somewhere else. But for me, the occasional irritation is like swatting a mosquito in relation to the created universe around me. The nuisance factor is so minimal I put up with it and get on with it.
Some criticise my aprons on the bench being so wide you can’;t clamp stuff to it. Of course you can and you can do this very simply, quickly and effectively. When you do. the work is rock solid. Some criticise my not having dog holes in the apron and legs. If I found need for them I would do it. frankly, I never saw dogs used in aprons and legs until more recent years and no one I ever worked with anywhere ever used them. So I find little need for such things. My vise will hold everything. I don’t mind a little slippage that needs vise adjustment some times throughout the day. Usually that’s my fault for not tightening sufficiently at the get-go and not any flaw with the vises I use. I like the freedom a bench unfettered gives me in my work. I do like some other workbenches too, but I have found what I like and what works best for me. I hope others will discover the simplicity of the bench.
When it comes to bench dogs I do understand that people like pulling out useful dogs and holdfasts. The best holdfast in the world was developed by Joel at Tools for Working Wood. Its a pristine piece of equipment and had I one here in the UK I would find a spot for not simply because it is so nice to use but its simplicity as a single piece tool has a beauty all of its own. If you live in the USA or Canada, get one. You won’t regret it. I used to own a Record holdfast with the screw-down mechanism but I didn’t like it too well at all. Someone gave it to me and I kept it around. As anyone knows who knows me, I rely solely on a clamp secured in the bench vise for my working. The blogs I have written show different situations for all around woodworking using this type of mechanism. Now here is a thing. If someone were to develop a clamp-in-the-vise system with simple apps they could really have something.
I think this thing is important for us all. I will be adding more soon.
This week I’m building a version of these folding campaign bookshelves for the “Campaign Furniture” book. I made slight changes to the original Victorian design – incorporating some features that I spied in some other folding units.
The result is – I hope – a more stable set of shelves.
I’ve built several sets of backless shelves such as this – they were common during the Arts & Crafts period – and there are lots of little things you can do to make things start stiff and stay stiff. (No blue pill required.)
These shelves are surprisingly small: 24” high, 22-3/8” wide and 9-1/2” deep. So even if my first unit is a failure, It won’t take much wood to build another one.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Campaign Furniture
Today I came to the unfortunate conclusion that I probably will not be starting any new projects until the New Year. Firstly, with Christmas approaching money will be a little tight, and that means no stock, and no stock means no new projects. Secondly, it is unseasonably cold and it is supposed to remain that way for the foreseeable future. I’ve learned the hard way that woodworking in a cold garage is nothing more than tempting fate, with yourself and with your project. The silver lining of this cold, dark cloud is that I already know what I want to build in the coming months. Considering the fact that at the end of last year I was mired in woodworking doldrums, this could be a good sign.
My first project of the new year will probably be my wife’s blanket chest for the living room. Though I just completed a chest, it is far too big to work where my wife wanted it, so we will use it as a toy chest for my daughter. Though I kid around about it sometimes, I really do want to make my wife happy, and this chest is something she has wanted for quite some time. For the chest design, I will go the more traditional, floor chest route. I’m thinking of basing my chest on the classic six-board designs seen in The Pine Furniture of Early New England. I will use traditional cut nails for the joinery, and it will also be a very good excuse to use my new Lie Nielsen tongue and groove plane.
Though I’m not sure what the building order may be, I would like my next furniture project to be the Stickley #802 that I’ve been wanting to make for months. I’ve been searching the internet for real world examples of the table and after seeing several woodworkers build some really nice examples, I am even more excited to get the table made. As I was saying in my last post, all nice furniture has a place in your home, and it’s up for us as woodworkers to determine that place. As far as the #802 is concerned, I know of at least three spots in my house right now where the table would look great, and if that’s not enough of a reason to make it then I don’t know what is.
The other project I want to build I’ve been considering for some time, and I finally found the inspiration to start planning it. A few weeks back I happened to watch an episode of The New Yankee Workshop online. The project Norm build was an Arts & Crafts style entryway mirror. Though there a few minor details I would change about the design, overall I think it would work well in our entryway. For months I had been considering making an entry mirror, but I could never find a design that really caught my eye. I’m happy to say that I finally found one that I like.
What else would I like to build next year? Furniture wise that is it. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but for the time being we are really not in need of any more furniture. Well, I would love to make a bedroom set but a project like that is way out of my budget. So with only two or three projects in the hopper for next year it sounds like a dull new year on the way…Not really.
In my last few posts, I’ve been writing about tools and my workbench, among other things. I had mentioned that there really are only a few more woodworking tools that I am interested in purchasing. That is true, I can really only name a handful of tools that I would like to buy, but there are also several that I would like to make. I think I’ve found a way to bridge the gap between larger furniture builds and the cold winter, and that is making some woodworking tools. For instance, last year I made a block plane in our spare bedroom; I only needed a flat sheet of plywood and a few hand tools. Though it was cold both outside and in the garage at the time, I hardly knew it. A few years ago I wouldn’t have considered making my own tools. I was still a rookie then, and in retrospect that was probably a good idea, because to make nice tools you already need to have a few nice tools, not only to build with, but as an example of what you are striving to make. Since then, I’ve found that you have to be really talented to make a world class tool, but making a serviceable tool isn’t as difficult to do, and is also good practice. The little refinements in a shop made tool: shaping a handle, flattening a plane sole, aligning a dowel, etc. are all great practice for making furniture, and for practicing design. Best of all, you can make your own tools generally much cheaper than purchasing them.
I am hoping to complete four tools next year: a smooth plane, a shoulder plane, a mid-sized carpenters mallet, and a brass hammer for setting plane irons. The good news is that I already know exactly what designs I want to make. Unlike my jointer plane, which I made on a wing and a prayer, I have plans ready to go for each one of these tools, though that doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t modify those plans; that is part of the fun.
So those are my goals for next year. I’m not sure if I will accomplish them all or not, but I feel better for having set them. Whatever happens, if I do accomplish all I want to accomplish, I think it will be quite a feat. I believe I am up to the challenge, but we’ll see. A lot can happen in a year, and it is my hope that a lot does happen in my little garage workshop.