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This is a collection of all the different blogs I (try to) read.  A whole bunch!  If you have any comments or suggestions feel free to use the CONTACT page to get a hold of me.  Thanks!

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.  



here come old flat-top

Peter Follansbee, joiner's notes - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:01pm

Boxes. we use them around here for everything – textiles, papers, stuff in the kitchen like candles, batteries, phone chargers, books, collections of shells & bones, who knows what else… I’ve made lots of boxes like these. Lots.

I hate the phrase “think outside of the box” I often think of the song “Little boxes, little boxes” and of course, “a box of rain to ease the pain…” (whatever that means)

I finished one of these desk boxes for the video (it will come out when Lie-Nielsen puts it out, is the answer to “when will it be out?”) last week. I have another 2/3 done. I have to shoot it for real soon…but these two quick shots give you an idea of what it looks like.

done box

done box inside


BUT while we shot that process, I added in some “regular” box stuff too. So in that case, I built this medium-size oak box, with pine lid & bottom. Maybe 15″ wide, 12″ deep. 6″-7″ high. (the blog title is to distinguish this box from the slant-lidded desk above)

here come old flat top

flat top side


And then there’s the Alaskan yellow cedar box I made while teaching up there.

yellow cedar

ayc detail


I’m over-run with the things, I’m going to photograph some, and post them for sale soon. Meanwhile – there’s several chances for students to come learn how to make your own.

First is a 2-day version – in this Lie-Nielsen class, we’ll bypass splitting the log into boards and go right to carving, then joinery (rabbets & pegs) – it’s coming up in early June. We have spaces left, so if you have just a little time, this is a good choice. It will be a small class, so we’ll have some chances to get some details in…  I brought up some outrageously good white oak last week – I might even make another box just because the wood is so good.

The full-blown, split-the-log-make-the-boards-then-make-the-box version is a 5-day class.  In England, it’s happening twice – July 13-17 in Warwickshire College then the next week, July 20-24th at Bridgwater College in Somerset. I’m hoping to get out & see some oak carvings while in England, it’s been a while since I was there. 10 years…

carved pulpit detailcarved pulpit detail

Back in the States, the full-bore class is happening in October at Marc Adams’ school – Oct 19-23. My first visit here…

“Here come old flat-top, he come groovin up slowly…”

In between times

Peter Follansbee, joiner's notes - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 5:17pm

It’s coming up on a year since I left my job as the joiner at Plimoth Plantation. While I was there, I often taught workshops during my vacations and other time off. Lie-Nielsen, Roy Underhill’s place, CVSWW, Country Workshops – but in that format, I only had a few weeks (or weekends) each year available to travel & teach.

froeMatt riving w Plymouth CRAFT last weekend


When I announced I was leaving the museum, I got offers to come teach in various places, in addition to the usual outfits. When I arranged my schedule last winter, I had no idea how it would work – on paper it seemed fine, once or twice a month, travel to teach. One long, maybe one short class each month. Now I’m in the midst of it, and while it’s great fun (Alaska! Are you kidding?) what I didn’t compute is the time between to unpack, decompress and then turn around & get ready for the next one.

matanuska trip

I’m not complaining, just saying “here’s why there’s little on the blog these days…”

I was thinking, I’m home now for 3 1/2 weeks, before I head down for to Roy’s. Except this coming weekend I’m at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, then next weekend I have a one-day presentation with the Plymouth CRAFT group, then the weekend after that, I’m back at my 2nd home this summer – Lie-Nielsen for making a carved box. THEN, I have to hit the road & go to North Carolina!

mortising from on highConnecticut Valley School of Woodworking

The plan is to do some woodworking tomorrow & shoot some pictures. I’ll let you know what happens.

How am I supposed to get some birding in? I haven’t even had time to ID this warbler from Maine…


Ending Radio Silence – The HO Studley Tool Cabinet Exhibit

The Barn on White Run - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 4:17pm


After almost a week of silence, due to my consuming activities with the life-changing dream-come-true HO Studley Tool Cabinet Exhibit, I am back on the, er, air?  Over the next couple of weeks I will be reminiscing about the exhibit, but there is something you can help with.

I was sorta busy all the time since mid-week last, and actually managed to not photographically document my activities very well.  Especially the public hours of the exhibit when I made over two dozen presentations to the roughly one thousand friends I was able to share it with.  So, if you were there and have a *few* pictures you could share with me, please drop me a line here.  Pictures of demonstrating the guts of the tool cabinet or of the docents interacting with with visitors or visitors studying the collection intently would be especially appreciated.  Also pics of the LAP booth/tables where the book was sold, or where Jason was selling tickets and polissoirs at Handworks.

Your selfies? Not so much.

Stay tuned.

My Last Planes.

David Barron Furniture - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 4:01pm

In the last year my tool sales have doubled, so something has to give. I took my last six bench planes to Handworks and they were gone in a few hours. I won't be making any more.
In the past seven years I've made about 800 planes, it's a shame it has to end.

But all is not lost. I've long been an admirer and user of the HNT Gordon planes from Australia and a few months ago I started selling their spokeshaves and shoulder planes. I now have in stock their palm smoother which is a very handy little plane for small areas and rounding edges. Some of the stock features beautifully figured gidgee, first come first served! Price £99.

I also have on order their high angle block plane and jack plane which should be here in a few weeks.

Categories: Hand Tools

SAPFM’s Mid-year Conference Looks Crazy Good

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 3:27pm


Though I can’t attend the mid-year conference of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers in Knoxville, Tenn., next month because of family obligations, I urge you to check it out. The program, which runs June 11-15, is pretty fantastic.

Check out the full listing of events here. Of course, the historical stuff is great, including the house tours and inspections of period pieces, I am most interested in the presenters who are discussing the nitty-gritty how-to.

At the top of the list: Al Breed. You might not find a better living, professional cabinetmaker today. His work is as good as I’ve seen. And he’s a great instructor. Al will show how he veneers curved surfaces and might have time to show some of his carving as well.

Don Williams (you know Don, right?) will be there to step back into the finishing realm after finishing up the exhibit of the H.O. Studley tool cabinet and workbench. Don’s true passion is on historical finishing methods. Just ask him. No, strike that. You don’t even need to ask. Just stand near him and it will all come out.

Don will show his methods for making new finishes look old. Expect cool chemistry stuff.

And then there’s Jeff Headley and Steve Hamilton, who will show how to construct a Shenandoah Valley Tall Case Clock. Even if you have no interest in clocks, do not miss a chance to see Jeff and Steve work. These guys are fantastic, smart and hilarious. I’ve seen them present about five times and could go another 100 times.

There’s tons of other stuff going on during the four-day weekend, so check out and get registration information here.

And if you aren’t a member (I am), please consider joining. It’s a great group of dedicated woodworkers.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Personal Favorites
Categories: Hand Tools

Workmanship of Screwing up (2)

McGlynn On Making - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 12:02pm

When building furniture it’s pretty common to have a series of operations that together will make the final component part.  As an example, the legs for the table I’m building involved first prepping the rough sawn stock, then making the stepped mortises, adding in the square holes for the ebony plugs, cutting the indents in the bottom of the legs, shaping the tips of the legs and finally doing the inlay and finish sanding.

Rough Stock

Rough Stock

Mortises all cut

Mortises all cut

Leg indents & shaping of the bottom

Leg indents & shaping of the bottom



At any step in the process it is possible to make a mistake, and some of these mistakes are difficult to recover from.  Careful work and some specific techniques can help prevent mistakes.  Skill and experience help, and techniques like carrying an extra part along in the process can help.  In making the legs I had enough stock for two extra legs, so I was able to quickly recover when I put the mortises in the wrong place on one leg by making another replacement leg from the extras.

Sometimes mistakes still happen, even with skill, experience and careful work.  When cutting the slots on the inside of the skirts for the top attachment buttons I had a serious problem.  The spiral up-cut bit I was using was (apparently) not tight enough in the router.  On one of the skirts it pulled loose and climbed through the skirt effectively ruining the skirt.  I could try and fix it, or make another skirt.  I chose to repair it by drilling a shallow hole with a Forstner bit and putting in a face grain plug.

Here is the problem, the router bit climbed out of the tool and broke through on the front of the part.  I've already drilled one hole for a face grain plug, after it's installed I'll drill an overlapping hole to cover the rest of the slot.

Here is the problem, the router bit climbed out of the tool and broke through on the front of the part. I’ve already drilled one hole for a face grain plug, after it’s installed I’ll drill an overlapping hole to cover the rest of the slot.

Completed repair

Completed repair.  You can just barely see this when you look closely.  I think once the table is finished and assembled it will be invisible.

I don’t know what the moral of the story is, other than stuff happens when I’m in the shop.  And I’m probably not the only person that has things go wrong.  It’s what happens after that matters, both in repairing the mistake and learning from the mistake.



Categories: General Woodworking

Improve Your Hand Tool Skills with One Thing

The Renaissance Woodworker - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:48am
ovolo moulding plane

Moulding Plane clogging? Just sharpen the blade

I get a lot of questions about hand tools. When you get past the “should I buy this or that” or “what should I get first” questions and get down to the usage questions where a woodworker is struggling with a tool or getting uncertain results, invariably they can all be answered the same way:

Go sharpen your blade

Sure there might be something else at play and those noble and patient folk who spend time restoring old tools to use may have a variety of other things awry. I’d be willing to bet that even with a broken handle, out of flat sole, and tar and feathers still trailing off the back of Ole Stinky Pete the mining carpenter’s best plane, it will work with a freshly sharpened blade.

So you’re not getting shavings with your fancy new smoothing plane? Go sharpen the blade and be amazed what happens. Getting tear out from your tight mouthed, 10 lb infill plane with the GPS positioned 55.467 degree bed and built in Atomic clock? Go sharpen the blade. When the blade is so sharp it glides through the wood, there is little force placed on the fibers to make them want to tear or crumble away.

Are you struggling to saw a straight line with that rip saw? Go sharpen the blade and be amazed at how straight it cuts because you’re not forcing the teeth through the wood and introducing deviation along the tooth line.

Do your dovetails have gaps? Go sharpen your chisels and be amazed how the chisel cuts right on a line without crumbling fibers.

Can't get a clean hole or the bit stops cutting?  Go sharpen the bit.

Can’t get a clean hole or the bit stops cutting? Go sharpen the bit.

In fact any question relating in any way to after market upgrades to a tool or guide to ensure accuracy should first be set aside until the current blade has been sharpened. The fact is we live in a wonderful age of beautiful hand tools manufactured with more precision and love than perhaps there ever has been. We also are a society of gadgets and gizmos and solutions so innovative as to shock and amaze. We firmly believe that our woodwork will be better if only we had more features. We focus on features! Saw tooth geometry is like some mystical alchemy that once unlocked will create the Midas sawyer whose every cut is lined with gold. But if you augment that geometry with a custom handle and a hang calculated with a sextant during a harvest moon on a Tuesday in August while standing on your dominant leg with a scrap of the Schwarz’ woobie tightly grasped in your hand, all your sawing dreams will come true.

I’m purposely being glib here obviously and I myself own some beautiful saws and planes and chisels that have many of these additional features and “bling”. But you know what? Many of these additional features only help to cover up when a blade needs to be sharpened.

Straight saw cut

Can’t cut a straight line? Sharpen the saw.

A tight mouth on a plane and a closely set chip breaker can indeed control tear out but they will also make a dulling blade cut like one that is sharp because they force the shaving to break and restrain the wood fibers that want to tear away. A saw going dull will still cut true and cleanly when a rake angle or optimal hang angle can compensate for the additional effort required to drive that less than sharp tooth through the wood.

The additional features fool us into thinking we work better with them and are the secret to our success. Ironically we have even found features to fool us with our chisels.

What could possibly stand in the way of a simple beveled piece of steel? It either cuts cleanly or it doesn’t. Well the steel itself of course. As new kinds of steel hit the market manufacturers rush to tell us that this steel will cut cleaner and longer and with less morning after remorse. Maybe this is true to some extent because I must admit some of the modern steels are pretty impressive with how long they hold an edge. But this also makes us lazy, thinking we can dovetail an entire chest of drawers without sharpening.

Which brings me back to my original point. Go sharpen your blade, it will fix any problem you’re having.

But am I sharpening right?

Sigh…that’s the rest of my inbox in a nutshell. Come back tomorrow and I’ll address that can of worms then.

Categories: Hand Tools

Shop made Fidgenian Frame saw – part 1

Je ne sai quoi Woodworking - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:47am


The next traditional saw on my list to build is a frame saw. You might remember that I have completed a 12″ bow saw and a 700 mm Roubo-esque cross cut bow saw already. After some research I decided to use Tom Fidgen’s (The Unplugged Woodshop) design as inspiration for my version. Tom is an icon of note as far as I am concern and that was enough reason for me. He produced two excellent videos on how he built his frame saw (see the link profided if you are interested.

For this project I chose Kershout (Pterocelastrus tricuspidatus) which is ridiculously hard with a specific gravity of > 1 (it sinks in water). The third picture show the end grain of a small piece. I tried to count the year rings and got to about 120. This gives you an idea of how slow it grows and why it is so dense.



The usual lamination process I have to endure to make up stock with appropriate dimensions.



The rough stock before work started.



Living in Africa means I have to cobble together my own hardware for the saw. A scrap piece of mild steel angle iron seemed to fit the bill. As you can see I am no welder, but we all have our little problems.




My shop built Jack plane came in handy to square up the parts.




I have been struggling to saw off smaller pieces of stock like this perfectly square. Since I received my holdfasts I tried this approach and it improved my accuracy immensely being able to see the two lines you are sawing. You then flip it over and repeat on the other side.



Dual tenon design, ala Mr. Fidgen.




I like making a small notch with my chisel to start the crosscut saw.



My shop made bow saw removed the waste between the two tenons.



Dual tenons necessitates dual mortises.




Now the fun part will start. Shaping the saw will be the topic of the next riveting installment in this series.


Snakes And Wood In The Unlikeliest Of Places

Highland Woodworking - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 7:00am
You just thought I screamed when I saw the baby possum.
When I looked up and saw this snake skin in the un-likeliest of places, I immediately froze.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Our practice doesn’t include exotic animals, but I knew enough about snakes to know this one wasn’t alive.  Still, I was instantly terrified.  I knew, at some point, its live owner had been here and could still be lurking.  Maybe even right here!

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Our practice doesn’t include exotic animals, but I knew enough about snakes to know this one wasn’t alive. Still, I was instantly terrified. I knew, at some point, its live owner had been here and could still be lurking. Maybe even right here!

Standing on a ladder, it reminded me of when I worked in microwave communications electronics.  Our teachers always told us, “It’s not the big voltage that will kill you.  You’ll be careful around it.  But the little voltage, if you let your guard down, will startle you, make you jump, and you’ll inadvertently throw yourself into a high voltage circuit.”  I could just picture myself seeing a real, live snake and falling off the ladder in response:
“What killed ol’ Jim?” asked one mourner.
“A nonpoisonous snake.”
In the March, 2015, issue of Wood News Online we published a tip designed to save you space while making the most of scraps of wood you want to save. The gist of the tip was to use the area between ceiling joists for storage.  By arranging materials appropriately, you can store anything from big-enough-to-fit to small-enough-to-sit-on-top-of-the-big-stuff.  Of course, there’s a practical limit to how small you really want those smallest pieces to be, yet, it’s ultimately a personal decision.
For example, I have some redwood that came from the sign that stood in front of our veterinary practice for 24 years, until Hurricane Katrina knocked it down.  I’ve made some projects out of that wood that are priceless to me.  Not everyone is sentimental, much less about wood, but I am, so I have saved some pretty small pieces of that redwood just in case I have some use for a tiny bit of it somewhere.
As you can see, some of these redwood pieces are really small, some are really rotten, but every scrap holds a memory, and stands a chance to be fitted into a project someday.

As you can see, some of these redwood pieces are really small, some are really rotten, but every scrap holds a memory, and stands a chance to be fitted into a project someday.

The 2x12 redwood boards that made the rails of our pre-Katrina Animal General Hospital sign were planed, sanded and glued up to make this simple, rustic headboard.  The engraved phrase came from a Delta Airlines SkyMall catalogue advertising a needlework project.  I wrote down the expression while on a flight to see our grandchildren, and kept it tacked to the shop wall for years before finding the right place to use it.

The 2×12 redwood boards that made the rails of our pre-Katrina Animal General Hospital sign were planed, sanded and glued up to make this simple, rustic headboard. The engraved phrase came from a Delta Airlines SkyMall catalogue advertising a needlework project. I wrote down the expression while on a flight to see our grandchildren, and kept it tacked to the shop wall for years before finding the right place to use it.

My Grandson Charlie’s stool was made from cutoffs of the same 2x12 redwood.

My Grandson Charlie’s stool was made from cutoffs of the same 2×12 redwood.

This sign hangs in the automobile-parking area of our garage, which shares space with the woodworking area.  There’s a story that goes with the inscription underneath, but that’s another post.

This sign hangs in the automobile-parking area of our garage, which shares space with the woodworking area. There’s a story that goes with the inscription underneath, but that’s for another post.

Likewise, I have some oak tongue-in-groove flooring with an interesting backstory.  My wife bought some really cheap bedside tables from the “real wood” store, but she needed more top surface on hers.  The best I could come up with for short-term use was an old lauan panel I’d attached to some 2x4s with a picture-frame molding around it.  It was so ugly that Brenda covered it with a red cloth, awaiting a suitable and appropriate top for her “real wood” chest.
That task dwelt on my honey-do list for a long time until, one day, I got the idea to go to Lowe’s for some oak flooring.  I could just glue and nail it to a substrate, attach the top, and with a little sanding and some finish Brenda’s new table surface would be ready to reveal itself to the public.
At Lowe’s, I looked around, but I couldn’t find any oak flooring.  Third in line for the attention of the Lowe’s employee on duty in the hardwoods department, I waited, only to hear him say, “Oh, we don’t carry that.” “Oh, well,” I thought, I would just have to find out who does.  Then, I heard a sweet female voice behind me, saying: “Excuse me, sir.  I don’t mean to butt into your business, but I heard you asking about oak flooring.  I have some.  Does it have to be new?  My husband and I salvaged it from one Katrina-flooded house to use in another Katrina-flooded house.  If you would like to come by and look at it, just call me.  Here’s my address and my cell phone number.”
Now, this lady didn’t know me from Adam, yet she stood there with her little six-year-old daughter beside her, giving me her address and phone number, like it was 1946.  There is still a little trust and innocence in the world!
We met, she showed me the old floorboards, and I knew I had found a treasure trove.  “Take whatever you’d like, but we still need about this much,” she said, motioning to a small portion of the stack. Well, “stack” might be a little generous.  “Pick Up Sticks,” the child’s game, comes to mind when trying to describe the way the boards had been haphazardly thrown into the old garage.
I did some selecting as I went.  Some were curved along their length.  Many were twisted, and I do mean wickedly twisted.  Some were cupped.  Because these two homes were so close to the Bay St. Louis, MS, beach, they were probably underwater for days after Katrina’s winds were gone. Even the best pieces would require a good bit of milling. But, OH!  The character!  Worm holes, termite holes, nail holes!
This is what the oak flooring looked like before cleanup and milling.

This is what the oak flooring looked like before cleanup and milling.

Trying not to be greedy, I took about the square footage I thought I’d need for a big top for Brenda’s side of the bed and a small top for my side, plus about 50% for waste, plus about 15% for miscalculation. There were still a lot of boards left.
I could hardly contain my eagerness so I began to unload, sort, and stack as soon as I arrived home.  Decades of grit filled the grooves and clung to the tongues, so each piece needed to be steel-bristle-brushed by hand before machining.
As soon as the first board came from the planer, I knew I had some epic wood.
And, this is what those ugly boards turned into!

And, this is what those ugly boards turned into!

And a problem….
“How can I possibly put boards this beautiful atop a 1/4-inch-thick ‘real wood’ table?” I asked myself.  The obvious answer was, “I can’t, it would be an insult.”
Thus were born the oak bedside tables in the accompanying pictures. It took several forevers to cull enough boards for the top to make it reasonably flat and produce acceptable joints.  Grain-matching was out of the question, so I just tried to keep adjacent boards from clashing.
As you can see from the abundance of clamps, keeping this panel flat was a challenge.  Stiff, square steel cauls helped.  A glue with more open time would have helped, too.

As you can see from the abundance of clamps, keeping this panel flat was a challenge. Stiff, square steel cauls helped. A glue with more open time would have helped too.

As nice as it would have been to have solid wood for the sides, there just wasn’t enough material to make panels, but we are fortunate to have a good hardwood plywood dealer close by.  I didn’t think it would be possible to stain to match, so I just tried to coordinate.
When home center plywood just won’t do, it’s great to have a source for really good hardwood plywood.  No voids, no patches, no blemishes.

When home center plywood just won’t do, it’s great to have a source for really good hardwood plywood. No voids, no patches, no blemishes.

To make the top appear thicker I glued up a 10-inch-wide panel from cutoffs, then cut four strips and glued them along each edge, with a full-width board across the front.
Alan Noel taught me his wool-waxing technique via email.  CLICK HERE to read Alan’s column on wool-waxing.  The technique is as simple as applying wax with 4/0 steel wool and yields a surface with unbelievable smoothness.
The project gets Brenda’s seal of approval.  Like me, she’s sentimental, and using wood with a story for these two tables makes them all the more valuable.
Brenda was pleased with the final result.  A smaller, matching unit is on my side of the bed.

Brenda was pleased with the final result. A smaller, matching unit is on my side of the bed.

Oh, and the original “real wood” bedside tables?  They became rolling stands for our oscillating spindle sander and stationary mortising machine.  With drawers to hold accessories, they do a pretty good job.  I have mobile bases on every tool in the shop.
Not calling for heavy-duty function, these “real-wood” cabinets are up to the job of holding the oscillating spindle sander and stationary mortising machine.

Not calling for heavy-duty function, these “real-wood” cabinets are up to the job of holding the oscillating spindle sander and stationary mortising machine.

Thanks to the rigid portable bases that always fit because you determine the dimensions, they are very stable when in use, and just the right height.  CLICK HERE to purchase and find out more about them on the Highland Woodworking website.
As the backs of the units are several inches from the backs of the drawers, they just seemed to cry out for the space to be utilized for storage, so I attached some pegboard.  I haven’t found a use for it yet, so I tell myself it stiffens the thin “real wood” carcass.

As the backs of the units are several inches from the backs of the drawers, they just seemed to cry out for the space to be utilized for storage, so I attached some pegboard. I haven’t found a use for it yet, so I tell myself it stiffens the thin “real wood” carcass.

And, the snake skin?  I had to use a pair of pliers to pull it down.  I couldn’t bring myself to touch it.  Trying to figure out how he got there with no ladder, I inquired of a colleague whose practice includes a lot of exotic animals.  From a closeup of the skin he said it was probably a rat snake; we have a lot of them around our house.  He also sent me a link to a video showing just what good climbers snakes can be.
Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home. Questions and comments on woodworking may be sent to Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

The post Snakes And Wood In The Unlikeliest Of Places appeared first on Woodworking Blog.

Categories: General Woodworking

The importance of being in person

Giant Cypress - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 3:18am

I’ll be the first to admit that the internet has been invaluable in helping me learn about woodworking over the years. I know that without the internet, I could not have found out about Japanese tools to the extent I have been able to, and the internet has been invaluable for me to learn about more general woodworking information as well. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that the internet has been a game changer in terms of making it easier for folks looking to get into woodworking today.

Even so, one thing that will always remain true about woodworking is that this is a physical activity, in the sense that we work with real objects, using tools to shape wood and other materials to make our projects. Woodworkers are constantly drawing inspiration from other woodworking projects, and these days Google image searches seems to have taken the place of Chippendale’s design catalogues.

Photographs can only get you so far, however. The way an object is represented in a photograph depends on so many things: lighting, the choice of lens and focus point, the angle of the shot, and so on. And although access to photos can be invaluable in terms of providing a broad overview of other woodworking projects, sometimes you have to see the object in person to really understand how it appears in real life. 

My first encounter with this was a few years ago when I went to Woodworking in America in Pasadena. I went to that particular WIA because I had the chance to see Greene and Greene furniture in person. I like Arts and Crafts furniture, but I’ve always liked Stickley more than Greene and Greene. I thought that the design elements found in Greene and Greene furniture were a bit ostentatious, what with the ebony pegs sitting proud of the surface, and inlays that also protruded from the wood.


I thought all these things until I saw a Greene and Greene chair in person. And then I realized that the photos I had seen of Greene and Greene furniture all lied to me. Whether it was due to the angle of the photo or the lighting, the photos of Greene and Greene furniture I had seen all exaggerated the degree to which the ebony pegs and inlays were proud of the surface. Even the photo I took above makes the contrast between the inlay and pegs and the background wood look more pronounced than it is in real life, and I wasn’t trying to do that. I came away from that WIA with a new appreciation of Greene and Greene furniture, although I still like Stickley better.

At the top of this post is a photo of bench planes made by Old Street Tool, taken at Handworks 2015. You can get a lot of information about these planes from looking at the photo, but there’s so much about them that you can’t tell, from simple things like how the mouth is configured, because you can’t see the mouth from the angle of the photo, to more tactile things like how the handle feels in use, which you will never get from a photo.


Seeing the Studley tool chest this past weekend was a very similar experience. Like many woodworkers, I’ve looked at the poster, looked at photos, saw Norm explore the tool chest on video, and thought that I had a good idea of what the tool chest was like. When I saw it in person, I realized how wrong those impressions were. All those photos and video did not compare to looking at the tool chest in real life. There are aspects to Studley’s design and execution that can only be appreciated in person, walking around this three-dimensional object, and seeing it for real.

Not to mention that the live shared experience with lots of other woodworkers is something that the internet cannot replace, even with internet-based methods of communication like forums, social media, and text and video chats. 

It’s sometimes asked whether making a trip to see an object like the Studley tool chest is worthwhile. (After all, $25 is a lot of money.) It can be argued that there are already plenty of photos of that object. It can be said that this is mainly a social event, not an academic one. One may decide that they would rather look at something else; maybe Frank Lloyd Wright is more their cup of tea. But if the argument is made that there is zero value to seeing an item like this in person because there are alternative ways of getting that experience, although I don’t often state things in absolutes, I would say that that idea is completely and demonstrably wrong. And it will continue to be wrong as long as woodworking is about making physical objects that live in the real world.

table roughed out......

Accidental Woodworker - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 3:06am
I'm a no balls, no blue chips type of  guy when it comes to doing things. One thing that has been always consistent with me is that I'm in or out and once I choose, I don't waver or regret. I usually don't hesitate to jump into the unknown with both feet. I do draw a line in the sand with bungee cord jumping. But with the table top looming as the next big thing on the hit parade, I've been hesitant. And I've been giving into left field excuses for not doing it.

Joe McGlynn has been posted a few blogs (here) about risk and workmanship. He is risking ruining 1 or more legs with doing inlays. Me, I'm risking turning a table top into kindling. Both of us are balancing doing an unknown act against the risk of getting it correct. It's been a very long time since  I dragged my feet on doing something like this.

I have two long rips and two cross cuts to make on the table top. There isn't a safe way to do it on my tablesaw so that isn't an option. I also don't have a circular saw to do these with a guide so that means I'm using handsaws. This is the first time that I'll be attempting to do such a long rip.  I've done long crosscuts before but 7' long rips done reasonable straight and square is a new thing for me. And I have to do a second rip reasonably parallel to the first one. But before I did that I did some busy work.

ran an errand first
I went to Staples and they sell chalk. I looked first in the aisle with the pens and pencils but came up dry. They keep in the aisle with the crayons and other kiddie stuff. I bought 2 boxes for 99¢ each. I stopped at Wally World on the way home and checked the crayon aisle and found just colored chalk for 47¢ box. They sell the big sidewalk art chalk too.  This haul should last me for a while.

cauls are off
The table stayed flat-ish. The hump that was there on thursday shrunk and is now a hollow. There is about a 32nd plus of a dish in the middle. With a table top this wide, I think once I have it secured with the buttons it won't be noticeable.

boards are still proud
This is the up side of the top and circled slashes are where the top still needs to be flushed. The other spots with the chalk are cross grain rough areas. I want to concentrate on getting all the edges of the boards flush. I'll deal with the other problems when I scrape and sand the top later.

stuffing for the hole
This hole goes all the way through the board - top to bottom. That would be too much to fill with epoxy.

cherry shavings and hide glue to the rescue
I put a piece of blue tape on the bottom of the hole. I then stuffed it about 3/4" full with cherry shavings and hide glue. I'll fill the rest with epoxy dyed black. I dealt with two other holes the same way.

chipped knot
I fiddled with the table length measurement and I can't saw this off. I'll fill in the divot with black dyed epoxy too.

These two boards and one on the other end have big snipe pockets on them. These aren't going to present any problems because I have enough length that I can cut them off.  But even if I couldn't I would have been able to hide them in the bread board ends.

top all flushed up
I repeated the top dance step on the bottom. I had to first scrape off all the old glue. I learned the hard way - dried glue will chip an iron. The bottom just got flushed up for now. I don't think I'll be doing anything else to it. I'll do the outside edges even though that won't be readily visible but you can feel them.

The #4 did the bulk of the flushing and I used the block plane to finesse them.

first coat of shellac on the base
The shop dust sticks to the paint like iron filings stick to a magnet. It sticks to the shellac too but with the shellac I can wipe the dust off. The dust is very difficult to get off of the paint.

flipping the table
I don't have the ceiling height to flip the table top at the workbench. Flipping and moving it involves first putting it on the deck. The side shown is going to be top. The opposite side is the bottom that I just flushed up.

get one end on the bench- making sure this is the side to be worked and push
ready to rip
I've been procrastinating about doing this for most of the day. I kept thinking of excuses about not doing it today but tomorrow. That risk thing was weighing a bit heavy on me. One thing I decided to do was saw off the sapwood on both sides. I couldn't think of anyway to keep it and end up with a square table top.

3/4 of the way done
It took me about 9 minutes to saw this 7' long rip but that also included a lot of breaks.  With no breaks, I think I could have sawn this in about 4-5 minutes.

helping hand
I didn't want this to fall as I got to the end of the cut and break off a chunk there. The clamp held this end up as I completed the cut.

cut on the opposite side
The top will finish out to about 38" wide. I measured over and made a mark at 38 1/2" at the bottom and top. This measurement isn't carved in stone and the 1/2" is a fudge factor for straighting and squaring the length.

the top is skewed a bit
opposite cut done
Both of my rips came out pretty good. They aren't perfect for being straight or plumb but they are close.

two offcuts side by side
It was the taper cut that drove the decision to remove the sapwood. Depending upon how much I remove when I plane the edges straight, I may end up with a small sliver of sapwood on both edges.

first cross cut done
This cross cut saw is hard to keep on the line. It wants to track to the right and I had to fight it all through the cut. I think the set on the saw is causing it to pull to the right and I'll deal with that later on. I switched out the saw to do the opposite end cross cut.

few degrees off plumb
My rip cuts were closer to plumb than my cross cuts. I didn't do an end to end dead nuts squaring of the edge but just a quick clean up.

risk part one is done
I have the table top sawn to rough length and width. The first risk is done and the second one will be doing the tenoned bread board ends.

I picked two
The long edge on the left is my long reference edge. This is the straighter looking than the right one. The bottom reference edge will be squared off the left side once I get it planed straight and square.

I'll be doing that tomorrow. All of this I had planned on doing tomorrow. I did it today because I only have about 24 some odd days before I have to deliver this.

accidental woodworker

trivia corner
What is poliosis?
answer - graying of the hair

Been busy

Flying Shavings - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 1:35am



Coming in to land

Busy bee

Honey bee busy on a butter burr next to River Wharfe, Strid Wood


Mending benches at East Riddlesden Hall


Extensive oak baord replacement with a couple of them.


Need a rest from this woodworking now and then.


Snack sandwich at:

Holden Clough Nursery


And a break sitting on the ramparts of Clitheroe Castle, Lancashire watching Jam Factory doing their stuff.


Made seven of these beggars – all sold I’m afraid, but more 2″ thick milled sycamore available for to plane up for more


Spring busting out in Strid Wood.


I’m so small …


… have to eat my lunch with yellow blusher ‘srooms foraged on the way to work and cooked with improvised spatula in cold-pressed linseed oil.


This should be the other way up …


It was a leaning alder next to the river we felled this Winter.  Felled using the dog tooth cut, dog tooth at left, letterbox centre, gob at right.


… milled the main stem into boards.

Photo0348Using them on my stall – here at Otley Show last Saturday.  The shrink pots & spoons are John Mullaney’s – sweet.


New line – garden tool scrapers.


Monks hood by The Wharfe – garden escapes?


Tooled oak for an hotel breakfast servery.


Been to London too – row of cottages – Halifax Road conservation area, Forest Hill.


She’s busy too, solitary mining bee – onwards, onwards.

Flying Shavings

Categories: Hand Tools

The Other Tool Chest of Note in Cedar Rapids.

The Furniture Record - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 10:26pm

After visiting the H.O. Studley tool chest in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, I found myself with nothing to do. I knew I was going to head back to Hand Works 2015 in Amana but not until later in the day. I was there all day on Friday and was tired of crowds. Things should clear out by 3:00 PM or so.

After considering my options, I decided to see if by chance there were any antiques shops in town. As luck would have it, there were. Enough to keep me busy for a few hours.

In one handsome Victorian turned overstuffed antiques shop, I found another tool chest. This one is smaller and at $55, more affordable.

The tool chest (not) of my dreams.

The tool chest (not) of my dreams.

Do not be too quick to dismiss this chest. It does have some professional quality features. Like an English pattern layout square:

Just like Chris Schwarz makes.

Just like Chris Schwarz makes.

A European style smoothing plane:

Who needs  E. C. Emmerich Primus Planes?

Who needs E. C. Emmerich Primus Planes?

And an assortment of o other useful tools:

The distinctive blue color applied to the tools will assure that you will be taking home all your tools from your next class.

The distinctive blue color lovingly applied will assure that you will be taking home all YOUR tools from your next class.

It’s all there. A wooden mallet. A pair of slip joint pliers. Zig-zag rule. Abrasives. I know the screw drivers will work equally well as chisels or pry bars.

Not as nice as the Studley but how many tools do you really need to fit piano keyboards?

Medieval Claw Hammer

Inside the Oldwolf Workshop - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 9:38pm
There is always debate and controversy over the "form" of a tool as it passes through history. This stained glass window is from the Sainte Chapelle in Paris France. Built by/for King Louis IX to commemorate his heading off to crusade (the 7th Crusade) and to house the very valuable relics from the Passion he'd managed to purchase from Byzantium.

The window was created around 1240 - 1250 AD. It shows Christ carrying the cross through Jerusalem and a man standing by, hammer in hand.

The hammer obviously has a claw, not unlike a modern hammer. Almost looks like an Estwing brand.

I find that interesting. . .

We have to be careful about what we think we know about the past. Those old boys were pretty smart.

Ratione et Passionis
Categories: General Woodworking

Getting connected

Paul Sellers - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 8:15pm

PICT0380_2I started making things from wood with nails to hold the pieces after seeing my dad clutching a handful of 4” ovals making me and my siblings a go-cart from an old mahogany table. Clenching the pointed nails now protruding over and sending them back seemed the cleverest thing to me and two three-foot pieces gave use a five-foot chassis in a matter of a few hammer blows. Two cross members, one fixed and one pivoting on a bolt in the centre held two sets of pram wheels and I knew freedoms I’d never known before. No, not on the the four-wheeler! It was the hammer and nails, my introduction to woodworking and the power of nailed wood.Making a Cello 2 (70) PICT0016_14

From there my go cart made frantic trips to the bottom field and the tip (city dump) where the trucks lined up filled with thee worlds rubbish. Loaded with everything from old wardrobes to new offcuts of plywood I loaded my cart and wheeled it home and my dad and I nailed stuff together to make ‘furniture’ for the house. I’d found two cans of gloss paint, light green and pink and he taught me to paint too. From these all too brief encounters I became the happy maker of things from wood and the painter of things from wood. At fifteen I entered into my apprenticeship and 50 years later I’ve made hundreds of thousands of hand cut dovetails, mortise and tenons and many more joint types; possibly as many or even more than any man living. I’m not claiming that, but it’s possible in today’s world were machines have indeed taken over.DSC_0011

This last week I watched different people being trained or who I had trained working in my workshop and thought how amazing to have seen 5,500 people standing at my benches being transformed and changed to think differently about wood. I remembered some of how it began and seeing men standing with sons waiting by a bandsaw ready to cut out shapes and wondering why. DSC_0015I took them to my workbench and introduced the mallet and the chisel and a tenon saw and suddenly the line and queueing stopped and the fathers and sons engaged in the real work of real woodworking and real relationships with wood and one another started developing. These are the ways that young people become woodworkers and fine furniture makers. DSC_0002Dad’s engage with their children when they use hand methods that, yes, they have dangers, open doors at the right age in the right place just when it’s needed. DSC_0020What I teach today began with a handful of dads trying to connect with a generation that many are losing all the more to two thumbs tapping smart bits of glass and plastic in pretend worlds everyone would have seen for what to really is at one time. When some pursue dreams of wealth and prosperity, others discover their hands were made to create something real. Relate to the real world, reconnect when their little and one day you’ll make a go-cart with them or a cello. DSC_0017 2One day you’ll see them making coffee tables as wedding gifts for their brother’s wedding gift, wooden spoons, mallets and workbenches for a living and a guitar, a violin and a cello they can play. No matter how good the computer and the the smart phone apps, they are not smart enough to compete with what I enjoyed in watching my sons around me in the workshop for these past 30 years.

The post Getting connected appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Hand Tools vs Power Tools for Beginners

Popular Woodworking Editors Blog - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 4:53pm

Do you start a kid (or kid at heart) down the woodworking rabbit hole via hand tools, power tools or both? The more time I spend teaching woodworking, observing students learning and contemplating the woodworking teaching process, the more I’m leaning toward the idea that power-tools should be eliminated, or drastically reduced – particularly for young woodworkers. I am not against power tools at all. In fact, I’ll only give […]

The post Hand Tools vs Power Tools for Beginners appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Categories: General Woodworking

Burdens, Research, and Answers.

Inside the Oldwolf Workshop - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:51pm
I know if you're following me in any variety of social media, it looks like I'm simply hanging out with Don Williams and the Studley Tool Cabinet and Workbench. . .

you'd kinda be right about that.

But I'm also using my downtime from docent duty to focus in the laser on this little medieval book of mine. After all a few weeks ago I gathered some incredible research and I'm ready to start filling in the initial framework.

There is still more research to do along the way, but yesterday evening I had a small but satisfying break through.

The bed shown in the Morgan Bible has been an issue for me since just after identifying the thirteen instances it shows up.  Why is it so problematic?  The bed clothes hide most of the bed in nearly all the instances. The best you get to see is the feet.

It's a little maddening in the fact that it doesn't show anything much for me to work from. But research is magic. Tonight I was reviewing my notes and I found a trail to follow. Under my research on beds I'd written "Famous example from Chartres" Offhand I wasn't sure what Chartres was.

The power of the internet is great and soon I'd found that Chartres Cathedral is a medieval Gothic cathedral built near Paris France around 1194 and completed around 1220. It is nearly complete in it's original state, almost untouched by hardships. And the stained glass windows are exquisite. In a stained glass window panel called the Charlemagne panel. There I finally found a solid answer.

My research has concentrated on other illuminated manuscripts, now I'll have to spend some time with stained glass windows as well. It's a heavy burden. . .

Close in geographic proximity. Falling very close to the span of years in which the bible was made,
The bed without the bedclothes is fairly close to what I was picturing in my head and planned out on paper. Still, I wasn't close enough, I'll start the measured drawings again from scratch once I get back to my drafting table.

A lot of those who've studied the Morgan Bible note how the artistic interpretations inside are different from other manuscripts at the time. The popular speculation is they were actually mural painters, based on recollections of similar murals that had been painted at the time and preserved until the 20th century.

I have a different speculation. Not possessing the advantage of witnessing the murals, I see similar artistic quality and work in the stained glasses of Chartres Cathedral and Sainte Chapelle.. What does a stained glass artisan do when the work is light? or they cannot travel for a while to work on a new cathedral? Settle down for a bit and work for a Scriptorum creating manuscripts.

I wonder if the idea has been entertained.

I will have to leave it for the moment though. For the rest of the day I get to help pack up and wrap up the Studley Tool Cabinet, Workbench, and all the tools for it's return journey to the owner. Yet another burden. . . .

Ratione et Passionis
Categories: General Woodworking

Colorado Engelmann Spruce Tonewood

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:26pm
The most dramatic tree of your first trip in the Rockies will almost be the Engelmann Spruce.

Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Western Trees, 1953

Just arrived, two sets of Engelmann Spruce guitar tops!

I purchased these tops from Simeon Chambers out of Highlands Ranch, Colorado. I have heard good things about the tonewood his sells, so I decided to see that for myself.

Click here for his website and better yet, click here for his eBay store.

The order arrived within three days of placing it. Mr. Chambers did include four pieces of brace wood, enough I think for the transverse bars and fan bracing!

As you can see the wood is gorgeous, Mr. Chambers states that this wood is comes from trees that were killed in a forest fire back in the 1940's.

I want to pair one of these tops with curly hard maple back and sides...oh, so much work to do!

Categories: Luthiery

Another Way to Hold a Guitar Body with Two Holdfasts and a Box!

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:11pm
Without some way of holding the work, a workbench is hardly more than a table.

Scott Landis, The Workbench Book, 1987

A deadline is fast approaching and I have at least one more French polish session to do on the bearclaw Sitka spruce/granadillo guitar for Kyle Throw, an up and coming young classical guitarist in Denver, Colorado.

The trickiest part about French polishing a guitar is where the sides join the heel, you have to really smash down your polishing pad to get the shellac in the corner of the junction. And you can't work the area too much at a time or you will soften the shellac you just put down.

A bench mounted vise holds the guitar by the head stock or neck when I French polish, one problem with this is I have a limited view of that junction. Really, I can't the bench light just right to reflect off the shellac so I can see how much I am putting down.

Boards cut and ready to go!

I decided to remedy that problem today, I decided to make a guitar body holding box that can be mounted to the bench apron.

I got this idea from Scott Landis's The Workshop Book. Turn to page 31 of his book and you will see a photo of the workshop of Jeffery Elliot and Cyndy Burton. In the photo you see Jeff working on a guitar that is being held in a box.

Smart idea!

There was a handful of ponderosa/lodgepole pine boards in my other workshop, just right to make the box. No plans needed, I figured two inches wider and deeper than the guitar box. The rest I "eagle eyed".

Kyle's guitar swaddled in bubble wrap

A battery powered drill, some screws and the box quickly went together...

I marked the location for the holdfast holes and drilled them with my trust Stanley brace and Irwin drill bit...

and the hold fasts, well, um, hold the box tightly to the bench apron.

In this above photo, the redwood/Indian rosewood copy of a 1961 Hernandez y Aguado guitar sits well in the box ready for more alcohol/pumice pore filling.

The beauty of holding the guitar in such a box is the quick access to the sides on either side of the heel joint. It means a better job of French polishing!

Now, get out to your workshop and make something!
Categories: Luthiery

Damn The Plumbing Kicked My Ass

I'm a OK guy - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 1:39pm
The headline says it all. After two days and I'd guess $200USD the plumbing is finished. BTW, I missed the estimated number of trips to Ace and Home Depot by at least a dozen. In the end I did it the way I wanted to from the get go, using PVC instead of the crap they sell for sink install. PVC is cheaper (less than $20USD for the whole install), easier, and with no slip joints there is zero chance for leaks.

Some day I will learn.

On to making drawer fronts and a small wall cabinet.


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