So here it was, the grand show, after months of internet hype we turned the corner and expected to see them queuing down the road to get in. No queues, were we in the right place?
We saw the WIA sign and downstairs we went, straight up to the counter, paid our entrance fee and in we went. What a surprise, the show was not very big, just 60 stands.
After I'd recovered and we started going round things got a lot better.
Above is a picture of the JDS Multi Router, a fine piece of kit, solid as a rock and built beautifully. With the multiple adjustments it would suit chair makers, particularly for small runs. At $2,695 it's not cheap and that doesn't include the stand and you have to supply your own router!
Below is the amazing results achievable with the Epilogue laser machine. Not really appropriate for your average woodworker with prices starting at $8,000 rising to $40,000.
Now this is much more like it, old fashioned fine quality branding irons. Available in manual from £75 through to electric heated from $235. Rick used to cut the designs by hand but now uses CNC which is a lot faster. They are best used in a drill press or fly press if you have one and the results were very good. They also have a charm that no laser cutter could match, I will be investing in one of these.
Next up was an unusual little sander called the Sand Flee. It is a very solid machine with a single rotating drum peeping through a flat aluminum table. It is really only designed for smaller work like box making but made very quick work of cleaning up the sides of dovetailed boxes. The work needs to be passed over the drum at a fairly even speed to get a consistently flat finish and the protrusion of the drum can be adjusted by altering the table height. It cost around $650 (from memory) and for the right type of woodworker I could see a great benefit.
Below is the Noden Adjust A Bench which I'd seen adverts for in the woodworking magazines. It was easy to use and felt very solid. For me I do a lot of work seated at my bench and I find an adjustable stool far quicker than an adjustable bench! However as a second bench I could see a lot of merit especially for glue ups with a height range of 28 to 45 ". The standard price of $430 for the end frames seems reasonable with $160 extra for the heavy duty castors. Another extra is a pair of brackets which allow one of the rails to be replaced by brackets to allow you to sit at the bench, glad to see I'm not the only one who works like this!
There was a hefty slice of tool porn at the Blue Spruce stand. I got all but one of the woods and even Dave Jeske didn't know what the last one (second left) was as this was a customer special. The standard of workmanship was faultless and they are lovely chisels to use especially for dovetailing.
Here's a sneak preview of a forthcoming knife design following the sloyd style.
The fit in the hand was very nice and I can see one of these coming my way when they are released.
Fellow planemaker Scott Meeks had a good selection of planes on display and set up for customers to try. They felt very comfortable and with nicely sharpened Hock blades, worked very well. It was good to see he has moved from round cross pins to flat bottomed ones which will hold the blade much more securely.
Mark Hicks from plate11.com has been making these benches for a couple of years now and does a fine job. After introducing myself, he said 'I'm making your bench for Hand Works!' which was a very pleasant surprise. I had asked if I could borrow a bench to demonstarte on, I didn't think it would be that grand.
The hardware is from Bench Crafted and works like a dream. This was the first time I had a chance to try both the new double lead screw as well as the criss cross clamping mechanism, they are both superb. The ship wheel handle also works very well and I don't see how this vice could get any better or easier to use, except maybe with a remote controlled motor (oppps that's let the cat out of the bag!)
The very graceful looking tool below is a travisher made by Claire Minihan which worked as nicely as it looks.
It's great to see a female woodworker and tool maker in such a male dominated field and especially one so young. She used the tool skillfully and quickly. I find the most useful tools come from users rather than designers.
And lastly some pictures from the Brian Boggs stand. Perhaps a surprise to see a woodworker selling his wares at a woodworking show and yet apparently 20% of his sales come from fellow woodworkers. I own one of his chairs which is daily use in my office.
The chair below is new and has an elongated back with a very striking black and white weave, very nice.
My son relaxing in one of his outdoor rockers. When you see the quality, comfort and price tag of these chairs I'd be very reluctant to leave it outside!
the curvacious bench was another beauty and the chair on the right was designed for guitar playing. When you sat in it the curves just hugged you. Brian is a man who has spent decades perfecting his craft and it shows.
My son spotted a knife show was also being held this weekend so we will be back tomorrow, he'll be upstairs and I'll be down, there's a few stands I haven't got to see properly. The show may be small but it's well worth a visit.
The table is held together with a pair of lower and a pair of upper rails. The previous post shows the through tenon attaching the lower rails to the legs. The rails are held together by a cross over lap joint.
Making a joint like this requires me to carefully lay out and think through how it fits together. The number of times that I have cut this joint on the wrong side is embarrassing. Today with care I was able to do it in one shot. A little blow out on the bottom of the joint which will fortunately be hidden is the only problem.
With the Joint fitting properly the rails could be shaped using a chisel and spokeshave.
Using materials in the sharpening process that cut fast, while retaining a flat sharpening surface is good criteria. This is why powered sharpening gear uses a platen beneath the abrasives, otherwise we would have no reference for our work, and desired results would be difficult to achieve with repeatability. While messy aspects of sharpening can not be completely eliminated, what if we could minimize them?
The mess and clutter of the ensemble that is sharpening gear, along with the associated set up and clean up of the process, so it works well is also in the equation. There is only so much space to begin with, and the mess becomes part of the inertia that causes us to wait longer than we should to sharpen in the first place.
Or we have precious little space to begin with, so we would have to stop and set a process aside in order to make space for sharpening, then do that, clean up and stow before resuming the woodworking process.
It isn’t any wonder why we avoid sharpening until the last minute, even as that makes the task as difficult to accomplish as any can be.
I don’t think it really has to be that way. I’ve developed some different ways of thinking about the sharpening process and some tools that help fit them. They reduce sharpening effort with no cost to edge quality.
Remember in my first post on sharpening I shared: “Keeping the edge sharp takes very little work”? It”s true. What this means is once you have a sharp tool and you begin work, keep it sharp while you work. It’s a change of thinking process.
We plane or chisel for a short while, say 3-5 minutes and begin to notice the pushing of the tool is offering more resistance. Now it is time to restore the tool!
The process to restore doesn’t take long or an abundance of gear or effort, just the right gear, and the right evaluation of the edge and application of sharpening process.
I have found that using a dry honing process is best for use during woodworking. The mess is minimized. Stropping with a compound that matches the steel of the tool and the required level of sharpness in the strop is the best fit.
Strops when mounted on a flat substrate will provide sharp, accurate edges. the right leather matched to the right compound can easily exceed the 8000 grit, 2 micron tipping point required for pairing end grain pine. We generally accept the 8000 grit, 2 Micron sharpness at the sharpness minimally required for working soft woods, while many hardwoods will work fine with a lesser degree of sharpness.
It is also worth noting that sharpening to 16,000 grit or 1 micron can help us retain sharpness longer, if the time spent working to 1 micron does not exceed the benefit while working wood. If it takes longer to accomplish than it takes to dull then the benefit is lost. It is another evaluation we each must make from experience. Our tools, sharpening gear, and the wood varieties we work all play a part in this decision.
There is another benefit from stropping, and that is edge retention due to less failure. Failures when examined with microscopy have shown edges with a groove cut from coarse abrasives, that has not been adequately polished out is often where a failure often occurs. The constant stropping with fine abrasives effectively polishes these deep cuts from grinding away, leaving a very uniform edge. Remember the edge is formed by two planes that intersect, and smoother surfaces are stronger.
This begs the question, though we can jump from 1000 grit or 16 micron to 8000 grit or 2 microns, should we? Would there be a benefit to retaining edges if while working up to our final target sharpness, if a little time spent at some intermediate grits be beneficial? My observations tell me there is, but it is quick and easy, as well as clean and less expensive to do some of these steps on a strop.
For abrasives to help us get there while stropping Chromium oxide’s green crayon is just a start. CBN and Diamond pastes, emulsions and sprays can be used through the full spectrum of sharpening from grinding, honing and polishing and on a number of substrates.
Here we are focused on the sharpness maintenance needed for our best work, so the realm from 4 to 16K grit or 4 to 1 micron is key. (we can even hone much finer if we like) At the middle to high end of this realm, a wire edge is not formed during the hone or polishing process, this is fine work and not much material is being affected en masse. It is worn off as we strop. So using this as a dry process at the bench means we do not even need to disassemble a chipbreaker from an iron every time we strop.
We can work with our chisel or plane for a while until we begin to notice the dullness begin to mount on the tools. They will offer us resistance as feedback. That is the indication to go to the strop and hone the edge for say 15 to 30 quick strokes before returning to work. it doesn’t take long or much, and if we keep our promise with that process, it’s promise to us is that we will not have long rebuilding sessions to sharpen our tools.
I found that if I could create a sharpening station that allowed the woodworker to use the best, optimum sharpening media at every level of the sharpening process, and the gear they already have, it could help them do sharpening easier now and even better later as they develop their kit.
If the sharpening station could be small enough to be versatile yet not overwhelming in size or difficulty to use, then they could just use it as much as they needed with ease. It could be brought to the bench without taking too much space for just long enough to perform it’s work, then moved off the bench so that woodworking could continue.
I found that by honing and polishing with dry abrasives, the woodworking process suffers the least amount of interruption.
Pop the levercap, remove the blade or blade and chipbreaker assembly. The assembly does not need to be disassembled. Hone and polish, then replace the assembly into the plane. Replace the levercap and test your shaving. Adjust as required and return to work. Simple enough.
If the sharpening station needed reconfigured to go to a medium or coarse grit, this could be a quick change situation so they could just get on with it without too much extra to overcome. Magnetic work holding allows this to take just a few seconds. So we make different styles of “top”, which holds a sharpening substrate that we call Strop tops, though not all are strops, to help manage that, and we have some more goodies in development we’ll be bringing out soon.
So in a relatively small footprint, in our smallest model, almost as small as a single average sized bench stone, we offer a sharpening station which can offer quick change sharpening media, with flat accurate surfaces that stay that way, so the honing can be quickly performed and the woodworking can be the main focus.
With the ability to remain fully configured and be removed to a place nearby so it can be quickly brought back to the bench for another quick honing session. Staying sharp is now really pretty painless and easy, and reduces the need to perform the grinding and rebuilding sessions to the point where it is easier to do them on sandpaper and glass that to resort to coarse stones.
In my personal experience, while working with edge tools as I do daily, I have stropped without using any stone at all for well over a month or two at a time, and usually only resort to coarse grinding when an inadvertent edge damage needs repair. I have some edge tools that have not seen anything other than a strop in a few years.
Maintaining sharpness is key. Quicker, easier, less mess. Removing the barriers to sharpening: No moisture, no constant flattening, less mess, less effort, less time consuming, handy to do where you are.
Don’t be fooled. It still takes active effort with efficient sharpening strata and good technique to maintain your edge, but if we develop good analytical skills in regard to sharpness, and focus on using what works best for the sharpening situation we are in, we can benefit from a maximized sharpness from the least effort. We just have to commit to sharpening frequently as we use our tools.
“Keeping the edge sharp takes very little work”.
If you haven’t taken a moment to look at our new Magstrop Sharpening Stations, please Check them out at Magstrop.com
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So I finished my first experiment with inlay yesterday, the end result was OK — not a good enough effort for an actual furniture project, but then my first dovetails weren’t ready for prime time either. (no snarky comments about my dovetails please!)
Thinking about the effort, there were some ergonomic problems that made this more of a struggle than it could/should have been. For both the sawing out and the excavating steps, some means of clearing the dust is a must so I can see the layout line I’m trying to work to. When I was sawing I got by with puffing the dust away, doing my Thomas the Tank Engine imitation (“I think I can…”). That worked, but I was on the verge of hyperventilating, to say nothing of it stretching my ability to do more than one thing at a time.
Another problem was working height. I had that sorted out OK for the sawing with the v-block setup I made, but I didn’t really have anything worked out for the routing step.
And finally the lighting was an issue, especially when routing out the cavity although it was an issue with sawing too. My eyesight has never been what you would call good, and as I’ve gotten older my prescription won’t work up close. I wear multi-focal contacts, which lets me get by for most things, but I still end up needing reading glass for detail work in the shop. And a 5X Optivisor for this kind of work. Sigh. I remember painting the buttons on cast lead Napoleonic solders that were only 3/4″ tall in high school.
So here is what I’m doodling as a solution, a bench riser that incorporates solutions for most of these problems.
Figuring in the height of my workbench and stool, I need a 12″ lift to get the work to the right height. The v-block for sawing will be removable, with a steel sub plate to attach it to the underside of the riser top and a fixture to hook up a shop vac. I haven’t figured out dust collection for the excavation part yet, although I have a couple of ideas about that. The choices are either a different base for the Foredom that includes dust collection (like the MicroFence Micro Plunge base), or if I can get the kinks worked out on the base I have I’ll make up a positionable hose holder.
The lighting I know what I want to do, but I haven’t found an affordable solution. What I want is a pair of gooseneck lights that attach to the sides of the riser, like the ones below from MSC. They have screw bases, a 30″ flex arm and a 700 lumen halogen bulb. But they are $130 each too. I want a $20 solution.
I think something like this would solve most of the ergonomic problems and make the inlay process go a lot smoother. I don’t plan to pursue this immediately, but certainly before I do anything with inlay again. In fact, the next time I try to do inlay it will be on a real project, so I’ll want to make sure it comes out as nicely as I can possibly do. Probably fairly soon, but today I have a box of glass that arrived that I need to turn into the panels for the Thorsen cabinet.
Started cutting the Tenons today to match the mortises on the legs. Through tenons so it is worth taking extra time to ensure they are tight. Used the saw for the cuts with a router plane to clean up and ensure a good fit.
My favorite part of through tenons is shaping the exposed end. I do this with a #4 plane and a file for final smoothing.
When I’m done with the sides a chisel makes short work of chamfering the ends. The grabbing the same file I give them a final smoothing.
When I was a much younger man, I made extra money to help support my young family by “moonlighting” in flatwork concrete construction. A big part of the work was breaking up and removing old concrete slabs. On many projects I worked with man named Slim. Slim was a tall, slender black man who was seventy years old. He was gentlemanly, soft spoken and had been a laborer all of his life. And, at seventy, he would continually outwork men who were half his age.
On one project, Slim and I had to break and remove some especially old and thick slabs. I started breaking with the maul. (For those of you not familiar with the term, a maul is a sixteen pound sledge hammer, not a tool for the faint of heart.) I was swinging away with this thing like a man trying to ring the bell at the county fair or put a home-run over the center field wall. After ten minutes (or less), I had to sit down and rest. The cycle of equal amounts of work and rest continued for about an hour. Finally Slim said to me, “son, you keep this up, I’m afraid you’re gonna drop dead. Let the hammer do the work.” “What do you mean, let the hammer do the work?”, I asked. “That thing weighs plenty. Just lift it up over your head and let it fall. The weight alone will break that slab. And, if you’re gonna work all day, pace yourself.”
Roald Renmaelmo recently told me that the Norsk Folkmuseum had just put some videos on Youtube that I would find interesting. The first one I watched was two carpenters hewing beams. It is all about “pace”. Slim would smile in agreement.
The Folkmuseum has posted a number of videos that are well worth watching, if you’re interested in traditional craft. And be sure to visit Roald’s blogs at http://www.hyvelbenk.wordpress.com or http://www.skottbenk.wordpress.com.
Remember, you can run one mile or walk ten.
I have been told that a bridge on one of the approaches to the Picnic site may be closed for construction. The map below shows some alternate routes.
It’s shaping up to be a beautiful fall day, so I hope to see some of you there!
I am pleased to announce the availability of replacement brass barrel nuts for the older Stanley planes. These nuts are manufactured from high quality brass bar stock and are a direct replacement for the OEM nuts.
With this addition to my product line I am now able to offer complete mounting hardware sets for all vintage Stanley bench planes.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and feel free to leave a comment.
Wrapping up my Adamstown travelogue, I offer a refresher course on painted chests. There are several styles of painted chests that can be divided into four major groups. First is painting for the sake of painting, much like you paint a house:
Next there is the decoratively painted chests. Often religious, cultural or ethnic themes are portrayed. Some are celebratory, weddings, births. Some are just decorative:
They ya got yer faux wood grained, often done to make the chest seem to be made from a better wood. Possibly to make it look veneered.
Then we move into the abstracts, starting with imaginative wood graining and quickly moving on to things I don’t understand and might never. Wood graining on mushrooms.
And then there is this one I like but don’t get:
I had this earlier blog on painted furniture, “As Close to Easter Eggs as I’m Going to Get.”
And my legendary Flickr set of Chests.
If there are any discrepancies between this and previous blogs, rest assured that this blog is correct. It just goes to show how much I have learned and how much smarted I am now.
I live in a house that was built in 1860. My shop is in a “carriage house” that I suspect was built sometime between 1900 and 1920. My guess would be that the structure was built for “horseless carriages” and replaced the original stable. It’s a large structure with a second floor apartment that, very likely, was home for a driver in an earlier, grander time. I’ve worked in this shop for more than a decade now and it still surprises me that very few visitors have ever noticed the “hidden treasure” that resides next to the west wall. In fairness, it may be that I’ve managed to keep it buried under various tools and supplies. But it’s worth a look.
Clearly, someone who resided here in the past, was involved in some serious woodworking. This is a bench that was built for joinery and it’s been here for a long time, a very long time. The bench is 126″ long, 18″ deep and 32″ high. The top is a single slab of 3″ thick white oak. A pegboard (hopelessly stuck in place) leg vise is attached on the left side. A 12″ wide “stretcher” runs diagonally from the left front leg to the right rear. The stretcher has helped maintain the top as “straight as a string” in length. However, over the last century the slab has cupped (crowned, if you prefer, as the work surface is convex).
The stretcher is fitted with two tiers of planing supports. These are large dowels that can be moved forward when additional support is needed. Unfortunately, some of the support rods have been cut short, rendering them useless.
Though I use the bench now for a place to support a grinder, filing vises and storage containers, it could be put to work, jointing long stock in a heartbeat. With any luck, this bench will be around for another century. I guess I could clean it up a little bit. But it’s got an awful lot of “character” just the way it is.
I got some new business cards the other day. I’ve been ordering through Print Place the last few times and have been happy with the results. They get printed in Texas and get here pretty darn quick. I use GIMP to design them according to the specs on the site and I get to see a digital proof of both front and back before it goes to press. I definitely prefer no coating on the card. I tried the gloss coating once and hated it. I thought it looked tacky. Uncoated is classy. They don’t offer super thick paper or letterpress printing (both of which I want someday) but the card looks decent as is. Besides, 250 double sided cards shipped to your door for $25.00 is hard to beat. If you’re looking for decent budget business cards, download GIMP and then order through Print Place. I think you’ll like it.
Got two days free in Southern California? Wanna see a guy make a campaign trunk by hand?
There are still seats available in my two-day presentation for the San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association seminar this Saturday and Sunday.
I’m building a dovetailed campaign trunk from start to finish – including all the hardware – and talking about a wide variety of hand-tool topics, everything from sharpening to hand joinery to not bleeding on the wood.
The seminar is Saturday and Sunday at Francis Parker School, 6501 Linda Vista Rd. San Diego, CA 92111. The seminar starts at 8 a.m. Saturday. You can still register here online.
All attendees receive a copy of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” (signed in thumb blood) and the book’s companion DVD.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Woodworking Classes
The day before going to the show we had a good look around Old Salem, which lived up to the recommendation, thanks David.
This was a Mennonite community originating from Eastern Europe. Although the many properties have been for the most part rebuilt, it's been very well done. This is the Two Brothers house which featured some wonderfully executed double dovetail on an amazing scale.
This was the Single Mens house, the single woman's house was just across the green, so not as bad as it sounds!
A fine German bench with a dog leg vice, a very useful thing. Notice the angled support leg, doing the job without getting in the way. I have one of these on the to do list, I must remember that feature.
Another fine old bench with a leg vice and angled legs for maximum stability.
There seemed to be beautifully executed dovetails everywhere, even the stretchers of this stool had them!
And some more with a crazy angle and pins as skinny as you like.
This was the most enjoyable building we visited, the gun smiths shop. We had a fascinating history of the gradual transition from the European ways to new American ones. He also had plenty of well supported opinions on more recent topics such as US gun laws, health and social security. I tried to coax him a couple of times into working on the gun stock behind him but to no avail.
Here's a couple of antique guns (do not touch jobs!) the one at top was the more fancy with plenty of brass inlay and additional shaping. The wood was curly maple which replaced the more traditional maple of Europe. His hand made reproductions of these guns started at $3,000 which I thought seemed quite reasonable, that is when he got round to doing some work!
Anyway with appetite truly whetted it's off to the show!
After the aborted first attempt at excavating the inlay cavity, I decided to try again. I applied a couple of coats of shellac to seal the wood, hoping that it would make the layout lines more visible — it didn’t. Or at least not by much. I followed the same process as last time — glue the inlay down with Duco cement, trace around it with a fresh Xacto knife, pop the inlay off and excavate with the mini router.
The hardest part of the whole inlay process was accurately excavating the cavity to fit the inlay into. I expected it would be sawing the parts, but I was wrong. What made the inletting difficult (aside from the fact that it’s 100 degrees in the shop) is a combination of tool problems and ergonomics.
I’m having issues with the mini router base not holding it’s position and a few other small issues. I’ve been emailing with William Ng, and I’m sure he’ll get it sorted out for me.
The ergonomics are a little more of a problem. I didn’t have a good way to get hold the part at the right height, I didn’t have a good solution for clearing the chips so I could see the line, and the lighting was bad. I made do, and I have an idea for how to make that better next time. In fact, I think between getting the tool and ergonomics dialed in I’ll have a much better result and more relaxing time of it overall.
The actual process of inletting was a matter of “hogging” the bulk of the waste out with a 1/8″ bit (if you can consider it “hogging” with a tiny router bit). I tried to stay about 1/16 off the line as I was hogging out. Then I switched to a 1/16″ bit and snuck up on the walls, watching for my scribed line to disappear. Sometimes the line would disappear, but when I looked closely the surface where the wood was scored would come off, but lower in the cavity the wall would still be sticking out. So the process included a lot of fine tuning until the inlay seemed like it would snap in.
After a couple of rounds of back-and-forth fine tuning (and the requisite amount of overshooting the line, and only a moderate amount of swearing) I had an inlay-shaped cavity I thought would work.
I filled the bottom of the cavity with Superglue and pressed the inlay in. The little base had broken loose from the main part, which wasn’t a problem.
I put a sheet of waxed paper over the inlay, added a caul and clamped it in my leg vise for two hours. It was with a fair amount of trepidation that I pulled it out to check. I was surprised at how deep the inlay was in the wood. I’d sawn the veneer about .125″ thick, and only routed the cavity .075″ deep, but it was almost flush. I think this was from sanding the back of the inlay assembly to remove glue, I’ll have to watch that in the future.
I started flattening this with 100 grit glued to some plywood scraps. 60 grit would be better, the 100 loaded up pretty quickly. I had to sand the inlay flush, sand off the glue, shellac and paper.
Once that was done I checked for any pinholes and gaps and filled those with Superglue.
So I’ll give myself a C+ for effort on this. It’s obviously got some problems when you look at it up close, although it isn’t a complete disaster. The problems I see are almost exclusively with the excavating of the cavity. A little neater job on that, and this would be presentable. I can see some problems with the sawing too, but surprisingly then almost disappear in the finished piece. And I’d I’d inlayed this into a dark wood the gaps around the edge would be nearly invisible.
Before I do this again I need to get the router base sorted out, and set up better ergonomics for the process. Tomorrow if it isn’t too hot I might finish the Thorsen cabinet…