Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Techno Ya-Ya!

You Won't be Disappointed...

What more can be said. I recently shipped off four old 'beaters' to Mark Harrell of TechnoPrimitives.com. There Mark will clean, sharpen and over-haul any old hand saw you may have. The four I sent were your typical garage sale variety, old worn-out, dull and bent.With,in some cases, 50 years of rust and dirt caked on. Mark was very quick and professional to get back to me with a diagnostic of the issues needing to be addressed and a quote to cover the repairs. Another fast turn around and here they are back in my hands. I can't believe they're the same saws I shipped him 'nor can I believe it took me so long to send them in the first place!
A full size rip saw, a smaller scale cross cut and a second 20" Rip. The fourth unit I sent was beyond repair but the three that came back perform better than the new panel saws I've purchased over the last two years...I won't mention any names but did Blog about replacing the handles on them! So with that I strongly recommend that you send that old nest of saws you've been looking at up there on top of the tool cabinet under the fine layer of dust, you won't be disappointed.
And seeing as I never did hear back from the Wenzloff guys after a couple of e-mail inquiries and watching their waiting list run from 16 weeks to 24 to 40 to...
Well you get the picture; fellas you can take me off of your list...my hand saw problems are over!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Progress Report

Things are moving along quickly these past few weeks, projects are coming together, designs are being discovered, adapted and constructed...work is good.
The made by hand inspiration is becoming a reality. The sideboard I designed back in September is finally being delivered this week. My clients will hopefully be as excited and delighted with the finished piece as I am.
'A hand made-modern, mixed medium-urban sideboard'...there Google that! The carcass is Walnut from a local wood mill and supplier, the glass shelves and door panels were cut by a great little glass store just North of the Danforth on Broadview ave. for anyone that knows or is in the area...You can't miss it, they have a beautiful Stained Glass sign over the sidewalk a couple of blocks up. The aluminum started as two solid plates of 1 1/4" thick aluminum plate...140 lbs. I had this pair of monolithes cut and brushed at another company in the greater GTA. www.rciwaterjets.com. Thanks Rob. The interior LED fixtures came from EUROLITE, a local business with an incredible selection of high-end fixtures. www.eurolite.com
The hinges and door pulls are from Lee Valley Tools.
I consider this design to be a continuation from the last 'hand made modern' entertainment cabinet in its evolution and joinery. Both are Walnut but that is purely coincidence. My two clients decided the wood species separately. I thoroughly enjoyed the design challenges this piece offered and while working with the different elements I couldn't be happier with the completed results.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Working wood...lots of it!

Half way there...

Well it's been an incredibly busy few months since the summer came and went. A few custom pieces of furniture designed and commissioned. The bulk of my time though has been spent on my book. Writing, designing, constructing its been an incredible journey thus far. I should apologise to my frequent readers for not keeping things up to date here. I'm usually good for a new blog every few days but lately it seems there aren't enough hours in the day. That said, I'm finally into the 'project' chapters and am very excited with the turn-out thus far. My hands, legs and shoulders are getting quite a work out, dimensioning a few hundred board feet of lumber all by hand! Good for the soul. The first project chapter is a small side table out of Ash which was a real pleasure to work with hand tools; the second is a bookcase with glass doors in Birch-Flame Birch. Now I don't know if anyone out there has ever had the opportunity to work with a highly figured wood like this Birch but what I can say is this: if these trees don't grow out of the Devils garden then I don't know where they come from! Reversing grain every few inches, tear out occurring with my sharpest Smoothing planes....well, isn't that just lovely.? Hey, gotta remember, it's good for the soul;now if Robert Johnston can get things done how should I?
Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Low-Angle and So Much More...

For Hand planes?
Who would have thought?

What you see here is the Veritas Low-Angle Block plane-yet so much more. To start off I replaced the standard blade with a heavy-duty 1/8" thick, 50 degree iron. To that I added a secondary bevel bringin' this little baby just under 55 degrees! Amazing!
That's somewhere in the 'York Pitch Ballpark" (Galoot, Galoot)

"But wait there's more...much more!"

From there I added these incredible 'after-market' style wooden front knob and rear tote. Incredible! These elements combined with it's adjustable front mouth and we have ourselves a plane to be reckoned with. It kind of morphed into a quazy-miniature smoothing plane somewhere in the #3 range, if we were talking Bench planes...I use this when all my other planes fail, difficult grain and tear out be damned!

"And that's not all!"

Flip this thing back into the low-angle block and you can remove the front shoe and add a chamfer guide.
"Stop it! You're killing me!"
Seriously folks, this is one crazy-little doggy of a hand plane, with so many accessories it's enough to drive you wild...So you say, how does it perform as the low-angle block plane it was designed as?
I can't say really, I haven't put down my low-angle Lie-Nielsen Bronze long enough too find out!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Taming of the Skew

Lie Nielsen vs. Veritas

A couple of years ago I wanted to order a left handed Skew Block Plane from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks in Warren, Maine so I called their Canadian representative, Rob Cosman. At the time Rob informed me that the left handed version was back-ordered and said he had a right handed model available. He assured me it didn't really matter if I had the left or right model because it would always depend on the grain direction when planing a rabbet if I needed a specific orientation of hand plane. Trusting Rob knew what he was talking about I went ahead and ordered it. He was right, no big deal that it was a right handed version, it exceeded my expectations and has been a pleasure to use these last few years. Late this summer Veritas introduced their Skew Rabbet Plane also available in a left or right handed version; I decided that those times when my right-handed Lie-Nielsen would tear out wood grain when planing against the grain I would order the new Veritas left handed model. It arrived quickly and well packaged as all of my Veritas tools have. Sharp and ready to go I was surprised at the size of the plane.
Now that I have one of each I'll compare what I think are the advantages and dis-advantages of each one of these models. First up,
The Lie-Nielson Skew Block Plane:

When this plane arrived in my mailbox it was ready to work right out of the box. Finely casted bronze with a comfortable front knob in Cherry. The plane set up quite easily and even though it was a right-handed model it felt quite comfortable in use. I decided to add a longer fence to the existing bronze one that came with the plane and the folks at Lie-Nielsen had already tapped out a couple of holes just for this purpose. The plane comes with a nicker that's great for scoring a line just before your cut which seems to help a great deal at eliminating any tear out. I find the size of this plane suits my hand very well but one problem I do encounter while using it is it can sometimes wander away from the inside edge of a rabbet while in use. I'm not sure exactly why this occurs, I try my best at keeping it firmly registered against the side of the work being planed however it still can wander just enough to leave a bit of material on the inside corner. I wonder if the Lie-Nielsen had a second post to support the fence would it correct this problem? This small left-over material is something I'll correct by finishing off the cut with my small shoulder plane. Not a big deal but one negative against. Another item is the Lie-Nielsen model has no depth adjustment or fence. Again, not the end of the world but a depth stop would be handy when you want to cut to a certain depth and no deeper. I would not hesitate to recommend anyone purchasing this hand plane or any other models from Lie-Nielsen.

Veritas Skew Rabbet Plane

I'll start of with saying one of the obvious differences you'll notice right away in these two planes is size. This is not a one handed tool. Perhaps this entire article is a little 'apples to oranges'...I know the Lie-Nilesen is technically a block plane and the Veritas clearly is not. So why bother comparing? Why not.
The Veritas came sharp right out of the box, great except that the front edge of the bottom fence and the front leading edges on the depth stop were also sharp enough to tear out some wood grain while in use. This I quickly fixed by taking a few light passes with a small file and finishing up with some 320 grit wet/dry paper. Problem solved but still my first experience with this kind of thing from Veritas...perhaps this one was made on a Friday? I also find the Veritas a little bulkier which makes set up and blade adjustment a little tricky. I'm one who likes to see down through the throat of my plane while I'm taking a shaving however the Skew Rabbet design makes this almost impossible to do while standing over it working. The design is aesthetically pleasing, it seems to have some extra 'contours' molded into the body just above the mouth and throat area. I'm not sure if these are there to aid in handling however, I found that they created a kind of 'catch all' for shavings and needed to be cleaned out after every other pass. Some advantages I found on the Veritas are these: The double pole for the bottom fence keeps things super straight and performance at cutting down a 1/4" Rabbet in Walnut was effortless. (once I rounded over the sharp edges and finely tuned the set-up) The large front knob is also extremely nice, they also put it on an angle or skew. Having the depth stop is also great for the reasons I mentioned earlier. Another big difference between these two planes is the over-all blade set-up. This is more of a bench plane and features a bevel down blade while the Lie-Nielsen has the blade bevel up. This again is neither here or there except this: The Lie-Nielsen can be used in all sorts of planing scenarios, simply remove the fence and you basically have a nice big block plane. That said the veritas is pretty much dedicated to what it was made for. Hey, we are what we are...So with that can I say I prefer one over the other? No not really, in my perfect plane world my Skew Plane would be about the size of the Lie-Nielsen, have all of the same features it has but borrow the depth stop, the angled, slightly larger front knob and the double pole system for the fence, from the Veritas model and I think it would be 'damn near perfect'. I'll also suggest if you've been thinking about purchasing a Skew plane either one of these fine tools are far more than standard or adequate. They each have a few pluses and minuses but hey, nothing is perfect. In my shop the great thing is this; I needed a left handed model and a right handed model...so do what I did and get one of each.

Monday, November 3, 2008

One Mans Treasure is Another Mans...

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

A few weeks ago I was walking along our street here in Toronto and noticed this old wooden door on the curb side of a neighbours house. They were throwing it out so I decided to take it home. I'm just finishing off a modern sideboard for a client here in the city and once completed I'll be starting an exterior door for a Heritage property in an old area of town. This will be a great point of reference when building my clients new door; at the very least I'll be able to dissect it and see how things were done in years gone by. Once I have it apart I'll re mill the lumber into some smaller pieces to use in some project down the road. Reduce, reuse and recycle...It just makes sense. (The Beagle in the foreground is Sally, our first born)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Shooting Down the Planes

A Natural Progression

Sometimes I'll meet fellow woodworkers who don't yet utilise a shooting board in their workshop arsenal. In my mind I think that they don't fully understand how much this simple appliance can help hand tool users accurately perform tasks in woodworking. This article is not about the shooting board as much as it's about my personal journey through the stages of shooting board hand planes. Let's begin...

A few years back I made myself my first shooting board, at the time I had a nice old Stanley #5 Jack plane; it's 14" long and at just under 5 lbs it made for a great shooting plane. It had been given to me by my father who acquired it from my grand uncle, John Pier; he probably bought it new some fifty-plus years earlier. When I got it it had the usual signs of good use, some light surface rust, a small crack in the tote and some dirt and grease. I took the plane, cleaned and oiled it, flattened the sole and replaced the iron and chip breaker with Ron Hock replacements. I also replaced the original knob and tote with some aftermarket Rosewood replacements. This thing shined like a new dime and worked like a dream. One cold, early morning in February I was about to begin trimming a few shavings off of some nice birds eye maple when it fell to the cold, hard cement floor of my then un-heated shop. As my stomach turned, I was afraid to look down...cracked. Completely in half at the throat...the old cast body was no match for the cement of my garage-turned-wood shop and I felt like I was going to need a psychiatric evaluation. Well, to make a long story longer I decided to try my hand at plane making. I had recently read The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking by James Krenov and was looking for an excuse to make a, what has now become known as the 'Krenov style plane'.

I modeled the overall dimensions of the wooden bodied, dedicated shooter after my old Stanley (RIP). The new plane turned out to be in the 14" length by 2 1/4" wide. I used a nice piece of quarter sawn white Oak harvested and milled close to my home back in Cape Breton and to add even more protection/armour I laminated a piece of Jatoba to the sole creating a versatile shooting/Jack plane. I also used the Jatoba for the wedge and cross pin. Again, using a custom Ron Hock chip breaker and iron, I was quite pleased with the results. Well at least for a few days...it turned out that even in my attempt to make the plane sides accurately square to the sole I missed my mark a little. The plane functioned perfectly as a kind of Jack/Smoother, but as a shooting plane it just wasn't up to snuff. So on to brighter days. The spring time came after that long, lonely winter and I decided it was time to replace the old #5. I did some research and discovered a modern replacement that not only would be an ideal shooting plane, it by far exceeded my good 'ol buddy Jack.

The Lie-Nielsen # 5 1/2.
Amazing, simply amazing. What more could be said, this thing arrived right out of the box ready to work. It's just over 14" long and weighs in at a whopping 7 lbs. As a dedicated Shooting plane I've been quite happy using this tool day in and day out. Sometimes while smoothing larger panels like the top for a trestle table I built last year, I would re-adjust the mouth and actually use the 5 1/2 as an over sized Smoothing plane. Again the performance of this plane excelled and for jointing short boards, ideal. You won't ever regret owning this heirloom quality hand plane. And with that I say, "Why stop there?"

Bring out the IRON MITER...

That feeling of revelation or better said, awe inspired-mouth hanging open, dumb-foundedness I sensed all those years ago when I finally decided to build a shooting board came flooding back this past week when my Lie-Nielsen # 9 arrived from their head office in Warren, Maine. To finally know and truly feel what a dedicated Shooting plane is like was really something special. This thing smokes! Seriously, if you were ever half considering but couldn't justify purchasing a 'dedicated' hand plane like I had been doing for the past couple of years and finally want to make the plunge, I say go for it. You will not be disappointed. While all of the other planes mentioned in this article performed from adequate to quite well, this is the real-deal. Effortless and consistent. The blade adjustement controls perform like a finely tuned race car and the body and workman ship-a true master piece. What more can be said...I'll still use the 5 1/2 as a (to quote David Charlesworth) 'Super Smoother' and the Krenov style wooden plane still finds it's way to the workbench on ocassion; but the Iron Miter, this #9 will be from this day forth my Shooting Plane.
My dedicated 'Shooter' and cement floors be damned! Cheers.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sanding Planes

This is a shot of a few 'sanding planes' I made over the past year. They're a great shop made tool that puts a little pleasure into the dreaded task of sanding. I'll do all I can to leave these things sitting on my shelf; smoothing plane, card scrapers etc...but when all else fails and you need to turn to sanding, these can be a pleasure to use. Dress 'em up to suit your needs and away you go!
For a more detailed description of how I made my sanding planes you can check out the current issue of Fine Woodworking Magazine, November/December 2008 Issue No. 201
Me and my sanding planes were chosen as the tip of the month in their Methods of Work section!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Veritas® Surface Clamp

Every once and awhile a new tool comes along and once you have it and use it you ask yourself "How did I ever get along without it?" Enter the Veritas® Surface Clamp.
I've been meaning to write a short post about it for awhile now but have been so busy as of late I simply forgot. I've been using it for the past three to four months and can say it's probably the friendliest, most useful work bench aid/jig I've ever owned. Anywhere you can drill a 3/4" hole you can use this clamp. I've always struggled with holding work to the front apron of my bench but not anymore. I drilled a series of holes along the front apron, horizontally in line with the screw holes on my shoulder vise. Now, anytime I need to clamp a work piece to my bench, I simply clamp one end into my shoulder vise and catch the other with the surface clamp. Likewise, whenever I use my shooting board or any of my other bench jigs, the clamp does an amazing job at keeping things in place. It's quick to use, effortless to install and something I can honestly recommend to anyone who has a work bench and uses hand tools. You can purchase the Surface Clamp from Lee Valley Tools. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Handmade Portraits

Wood Mosaics

Tara Young just sent me a link to this short film she recently produced on an amazing craftman in Spickard, MO. Robin Tucker creates incredible wood mosaics and his unique lifestyle is featured in this very well made video. Enjoy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Secrets of the Leg Vise Revealed!!


If you watch very closely at the 0:11 to approximately 00:13 second mark, you may just see for yourself the secrets finally revealed of the traditional leg vise. So, this is what the 'experts' were talking about, in all of the fancy magazines all of this time!
Seriously though...Imagine working wood in this way; relaxed, focused and at perfect ease with the wood, the tool and the joinery. Incredible...
We all can learn something from this, regardless of the work you do.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Or Hector, as some may know him...

This small oak tree was featured in an earlier posting a little while back. I planted it in my garden back on Cape Breton Island. Two tiny saplings were a gift from a friend who passed away suddenly this past week. When I was very young he and my father would take me on long hikes, deep into the heart of the Island fishing trout from fresh mountain streams. This is not a goodbye, but until we fish again...peace.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More on Sharpening

Where two planes collide...

That says it all doesn't it? Two planes, the front bevel of a blade, and the back; these two surfaces meeting...well, almost meeting. No pressure, right? My previous post showed a couple of tricks while using the Veritas Honing guide on Sandpaper and Glass, this time I'll cover my entire sharpening process. To be honest, since I've moved to my luxurious basement shop I've been using water stones. My last shop out on the Coast wasn't heated so water stones were never an option. I do however still keep my sand paper on glass for honing and dressing my card scrapers. I'll cover that method in the future but for now, let's begin...

Wet Grinding

To establish the bevel of a cutting tool I use a slow speed wet grinder. Mine is manufactured by Jet and has served me well for the past few years. I like the wet grinder over a dry one for a few reasons. Number one: there's no way in hell you'll ever burn an edge on this machine and two, it has a nice tranquil watery sound when it's running...kind of like a cool mountain brook. (just kidding) The Jet model has a speed control and a torque which I find extremely useful. To begin, I'll clamp the iron into the jig/holder which came with the unit. A quick set-up and we're off...I apply moderate pressure here and work the edge back and forth so not to wear one side of the wheel more than the other. A minute or two and I'm done. Take it out of the jig and dry it off. A quick look to see how you've done and we're on to the water stones.

Water Stones

I use three different grades of water stones; all by Norton. These cut really fast and are a pleasure to use. A 1000 grit, a 1000/4000 combination stone and finally an 8000. I decided to go with the 1000/4000 combination stone because I want to keep my stones dressed before, during and after every use. Before starting I'll take my 1000 stone and dress it with the 1000 side of the combination stone. Then while I'm using it I'll continue to dress it every few minutes. This will ensure you're stones stay flat; the most important point when dealing with water stones. I like to check the bevel to confirm I'll be setting up my honing guide properly. In this case I'm sharpening my Iron from my jointing plane which has a 35 degree bevel. This is a high angle that takes care of difficult grain and leaves very little if any tear out. The whole stone dressing thing is something I picked up from Rob Cosman, he has a great sharpening video out that's worth watching. One aspect where I differ from Rob is he free hands when sharpening and I'll use a honing guide. I've sharpened without the guide but feel that sometimes I'd get small discrepancies in my bevel...the honing guide is reliable, easy to use and doesn't take much more time to set up and use. If you can reliably sharpen by hand and achieve favourable results every time, than do it. If you're like me though and may wander off a little while trying to establish a main bevel, secondary bevel and finally a micro-bevel on your edge, then use a guide. David Charlesworth address this point on using honing guides quite well in one of his books...I believe it's volume two.?

Honing Guide set-up

The Veritas® Mk.II Honing Guide is a great jig for repeated, reliable sharpening. First time users may have a slight learning curve with it's set up but once or twice and it'll be second nature. Once I've determined my bevel angle I'll take the registration jig that comes with the tool and set it for this 35 degree, high angle bevel. One other nice thing about this jig is you can do high angles, standard angles as well as back-bevels with a simple adjustment. So now we have the desired angle we can slide the registration jig onto the main body of the guide and lightly tighten it. When doing this part there's small registration lines so you can set it to the desired width depending on what size blade your sharpening. In this case it's just over 2". Next, flip the jig over and slide your plane iron in. The registration guide makes it error proof to square up the iron and establish the proper length protruding from the guide. Tighten up the blade clamp knobs and we're ready to go. One other point to mention is before you start, double check the micro-bevel knob; make sure when starting on your 1000 grit stone it's in the 12:00 position. Then after each stone grit you'll go from 12 to 3 to finally 6:00 finishing on the 8000 stone. This is what establishes the standard bevel, a secondary bevel and finally the third micro-bevel which at that point will cut the hair off of your arm! Let's begin...

I splash a bit more water on the stone after I've dressed it before beginning. Apply moderate, consistent pressure and gently move back and forth over the 1000 grit stone. Be careful when you first touch the Iron to the stone you don't dig into it. I always like to begin by placing the edge of the Iron at the top, furthest point of the stone and gently draw the guide back towards my body. Then on the first couple of push strokes I'm careful not to rock the jig. A few passes and you'll start to feel the primary bevel becoming established. The water will actually start to grab the tiny edge and suck it into the stones surface. A minute or two at most and I'll grab my combination stone and re-dress the surface using the 1000 grit side. Rotate the stones frequently while you work checking the bevel often. Another minute or two and we're done. Again before putting the 1000 grit stone back into a water bath, dress it quickly with the combination stone. Next I'll insert the combination stone, 4000 grit side now, and adjust the micro-bevel knob to the 3:00 position. Now we're gently working on this secondary bevel. A minute and we're done. Again, dress the stones and move on to the 8000 grit. This final stone is quite soft and should be used with great care. The same procedure applies but I try to take some extra precautions while using it. Before I start I'll again reset the micro bevel knob to it's final position at 6:00. This creates a tiny micro-bevel that when properly done will scare you; this is really sharp! Another minute or two is all that's needed to establish this final bevel; when complete, carefully remove the Iron from the jig and dress the stone again. Another small splash of water and we can hone the back surface of the blade.
Moderate pressure and even strokes up and down the stone will insure desirable results. I constantly flip the stone end for end and redress often. Flattening the back of a new blade may take up to 10 minutes like this. Keep re-applying water, turning the stone over to wear both sides and try to use the entire surface of the water stones.The Iron I'm working on today has already been properly flattened and only requires a few seconds to cut-away the tiny burr left behind from the previous steps. When I can see my ugly mug in the reflection, I'm done! Time to put it to work. Carefully dry the Iron and insert it back into the body of the plane being sure not to catch the edge on the way. This final picture shows some shavings from a piece of Walnut. These are end grain shavings! This is really sharp and the entire process I've just described took no more than 4 to 6 minutes at best.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tool Tip

Veritas® Mk.II Honing Guide

If you use a sandpaper on glass sharpening method you're well aware of the process involved in maintaining the sandpaper. From often changes to tiny tears due to ripples created when tiny pockets of air get trapped underneath the paper. I've discovered a few tricks to help eliminate these 'bubbles' between the paper and glass and generally highten the odds of achieveing great sharpening results.
The first step when applying the paper to the glass is being sure the glass is completely clean and free of any small dust particles. I generally rub a small amount of mineral spirits over the glass with a clean shop towel, this not only gets rid of small amounts of dirt and grit it penetrates any of the sticky residue left behind from the previous adhesive backed paper. Once you have the glass clean, cut your paper to size and apply a small drop of water with a little dish detergent in it. Just a drop is all that's needed to allow the paper to move around ever so slightly while applying. Peel off the paper backing and apply. The best way to get rid of the air bubbles from underneath is with a burnishing tool of some kind; this is where your honing jig comes in handy. What better way to get rid of these little pockets than to use the heavy brass roller that comes standard on the Veritas® Mk.II Honing Guide. Just tip it back a little so the front lip is clear and, while pressing down firmly push any air out from each edge of the sandpaper.

Oncet the paper is applied, it's time to sharpen. I always like to add some oil to the paper, this will quickly work itself into a slurry when you start to wear off metal from your iron. Clear machine oil is available or you can try using household baby oil available in every drug store around. To reach favourable results I find a good amount of downwards force is required on the blades leading edge. To achieve this and maintain stability, I will often turn the honing guide around and draw it towards me, not unlike the motion of using a Japanese hand plane. This will allow you to use your thumbs for added downwards pressure and gives you a lot more control over applied sections of the Irons edge. IE: honing a slight camber into the outside edges of a smoothing plane. The Mk.II is a sure fire way to get favourable repeated results when sharpening and these couple of tricks can get you closer to that perfect edge.

Remember, it can never be too sharp!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Watch this

From the ashes of industry rises the machine...

An intricate hand-cranked machine made entirely of wood and glue (no metal or other materials). He has made several other wooden machines, but calls this latest one his crowning achievement. Del is 71 years old. Incredible.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The good, the bad and the...

New Hand Saws

I ordered a couple of new hand saws a few weeks ago from Tools for Working Wood, a great company with a nice web site. I've ordered a few items in the past and have never had an issue, professional across the board. Since relocating here in Toronto, I've been using only hand tools for my work. Great. No worries, until I needed to cut a curve in the base of a small set of night stands I was working on. Oh-how I longed for my band saw, back in my old shop on the coast. It would certainly make quick work of this small project...So what did I do? I ordered the Gramercy Tools 12" Bow Saw; a sweet little saw, made in the USA. "Ah, just the thought of it brings a tear to my glass eye..."
So while I'm at it I decided I also needed another Rip saw. Seeing as my two old antiques are just that, old antiques, I felt it to be a just purchase. ( I'm actually on the waiting list at Wenzloff & Sons for a custom Cross-Cut and Rip saw; I think they'll be ready sometime in the year 2053 but that's a whole other story. )
So in my despair to get a new rip saw I ordered the 28" Pax saw from TFWW. So two saws arrived and I tear into them. If you read my earlier blog on making new tool handles you'll know that I don't particularly care for the Pax saw handles. I find them large for my hand and to be frank, rather unattractive. So I take out the Rip saw and put it aside to get into the Bow saw. A nice little box within it a well made hand tool, nicely wrapped up in green tissue it was like someone had given me a Christmas present. All it needed was a cute little bow on top. So here I am admiring my new saws and decide the first thing in order, to make a new handle for the Pax...and what better tool to use to cut out the shape? Yup, the bow saw.

Cutting out the Shape

So to make a new handle I selected my wood, walnut in this case, and traced the handle from my old Disston. I did a quick read through the instruction booklet that came with the bow saw and after tightening the tension on the blade (which was loosened for shipping) I went at it. What happened next in my mind was really incredible; this fine little saw cut so fast, clean and effortless I wondered why it took me so long to ever get one. Beautifully balanced, no chatter or binding, just gentle strokes through the 4/4 walnut. The entire saw handle took no more than 10 minutes at most. So now here I am, a familiar place where I know the process. I took out my brace and 1" auger bit to complete the curves of the handle. No problems so far. Some filing and shaping, a little sanding and carving, voila! Done except to cut the kerf and drill the screw holes...so again, I turn my attention to the Pax. At this stage I think back when I was making a new handle for my Pax cross cut saw.I simple took the handle, not at all unlike this one, and unscrewed the Pax handle, removed it, lined up the two and with my awl, marked the screw holes...easy right?

Oh Pax...what have you done?

So just to recap and get things clear in my own mind, I'm standing there with my newly made walnut handle, I take hold of my screwdriver and gently start to back out the brass screws. At this point I notice the Medallion on the side of the Pax handle is sitting proud...no big deal I thought, must be something underneath...I'll clean it up when I remove the handle. So first screw, second screw; down through to five all of the screws come out. I squeeze the blade of the saw into my shoulder vise and make my first attempt to remove the handle. No luck..? I get a little more aggressive and try the whole wiggle-waggle-back-and forth approach...still nothing, not even a squeak. I place a wood block on the heel of the blade and gently at first try tapping to loosen the handle. O.k. at this point I'm starting to realise something is not right. Did they glue it on? No, couldn't be. That would be just plain ignorant. Some more prying, some hitting and then on to some down home whacking! Come on, this should come off...what if I just wanted to do a quick tune up, cleaning or sharpening? Saw handles are meant to be relatively easy to remove, no?
Then it happens, you know the blinding white light, ears start ringing, sweaty palms...I grab the biggest, meanest, ugliest chisel my tool box had to offer and split this thing open like a fresh brook trout in August. I didn't like it in the first place, but admittedly didn't want to destroy it either. So there I am, cracking and splintering the shiny new handle off of my nice new Pax rip saw...
(that's Pax right? I did mention it was a Pax right?)
So like Indiana Jones discovering artifacts under the sands I see the problem. It seems this saw, during manufacturing must have assembled the wooden handle onto the blade and then drilled through the whole lot with a dull bit. The metal burned and charred through creating a kind of sleeve that mated into the opposite side of the wood.!@$%^&*(!!!"":{
If you look closely at the pics you can see what I mean...bad, shotty workman ship....that's just the way it is. Now I have to get out some files and flatten out the dimples of burnt metal left behind to irritate me to no end. (At least this was how I felt at the time.)
All calm and clean now, me and the saw that is, ready to trace the screw holes onto my new handle, drill them out and install the screws. No worries, at least the metal is un-damaged and seems to be well sharpened and straight. I breeze through these steps and give the handle a quick coat of oil. I didn't spend too much time on the sanding this time due to the fact that I have work to do! Boards to rip and kids to feed...so perhaps a little rough I'll get to it sometime in the future when I don't have four orders to finish. So here I go, putting things together, first screw, second screw...then I get to the medallion; I had forgotten about the way it had been sitting on the original handle. hmmmm.....crooked as a cats...again, the light starts to come back....I'm having an incredible hulk moment and want to throw the whole thing into a dumpster somewhere. How could this happen? The shiny little medallion, like a signature, carefully placed into the finished saw to say
" made with pride by..." I just don't get it at all. What happened in the two years between saws? My cross cut I purchased from Lee Valley Tools seemed like a nicely made hand tool, other than the handle simply didn't suit my hand...two years later, this poorly made piece of...I digress. I put the handle on and went to work.
It cuts pretty good and my new handle is comfortable. I left the crooked medallion sitting proud of the side to remind me to call Mike Wenzloff again...You really do get what you pay for.
Hey Schwarz, I guess you're having an 'I told you so' moment right now...Cheers!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pushing Ink...

New Woodworking Book

I've been writing my Blog here since late February and can say I truly love to write almost as much as I enjoy wood working. Great.
Well it seems my key-board tap-tap-tapping is finally paying off...
I've just signed a contract with Popular Woodworking Books to write a full length book on building furniture using hand tools!
It will feature six new designs I'm working on, from a small side table to a full sideboard. All will feature different design elements complimenting hand cut joinery for hand tool users. Frame and Panel, Mortise and Tenon as well as dovetailing and other hand tool skills will be addressed.
My manuscript will be complete in the early new year with a release date just in time for the following Christmas.
If you enjoy my blogs here, it'll be this times a thousand...Stay tuned for more...

Friday, July 25, 2008

When the city seeps in...

On Design

Three weeks to the day; the time it took for the city to seep in. I recently met a great couple and they asked me to design and build a piece of furniture for their home here in Toronto. The only two guidelines they had for me were to use a darker toned wood and attempt to incorporate some brushed aluminum into the piece. They already have a piece of furniture with an aluminum, decorative inlay and brushed aluminum door pulls. I immediately thought about the aluminum aspect of the piece. As soon as I blended mediums I knew it would have to be more than a simple accent.
Clean straight lines, aluminum and glass, what else says Urban living like this?
I've always been a fan of the more minimalistic approach to design; the modern movements and European influences. The over-all dimensions were a given due to the space requirements where the piece will be living. A kind of sideboard/cabinet with three sliding doors was my first instinct; but once the pencil went to paper things changed. Things always change from those first initial thoughts to design and then on to construction. Pieces evolve in a natural way, an ordinary process coming round full circle. Ideas seem to blend through the realities of joinery. One thing I want to maintain in the piece is a hand crafted look while still reflecting the machining of this metropolitan landscape. The aluminum aspect was decided on. Two 1 1/4" thick pieces of solid aluminum plating, cut and rounded by means of water jet. These two monoliths will make up the stand/ or legs of the unit; while the wooden carcass will fit perfectly inside the two larger cut-outs in the top portion of the plates. The wood at this point is still un-decided although I keep thinking PAU FERRO (Santos Rosewood) a dark bodied hardwood that will compliment the hand cut dovetailed box which will make up the bulk of the piece. The cabinet will be divided with two solid panels, isolating three separate spaces within. The doors are another design/construction reality altogether. I know I wanted to have sliding doors but now feel they'll eat up too much interior real estate. I decided on hinged doors incorporating glass panels. The first obvious choice for the door joinery would be a kind of frame and panel. This of course would be the obvious choice; and who could ever be satisfied with that? What I've come up with is a three sided, 'open~frame' and panel; the inside edge of the frame being only glass while the outside of the door solid wood. Full mortise and tenon joinery on the corners, with a kind of suspended glass panel within. A design challenge indeed, but one that will pay off in the final showcase. The interior will also feature glass shelves, securely sitting on Bronze ,threaded support sleeves. A real nice touch to allow the shelves to be adjustable to suit the contents later on.
Again, the initial impression would be three doors to match the three spaces, but now I'm thinking on off-setting the aluminum legs and making one larger middle space, incorporating two doors for it and then carry on with two slightly narrower side areas flanking this first mid-section. Designs can change, re-arrange and why not let them? Sketches and diagrams will only show so much to the hand caressing softened edges of exotic hardwoods later on. At this stage of the game, anything is possible, never limit yourself before you even leave the starting gates. Design for the impossible, dream the unimaginable and then finally settle on the realistic. Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

New Digs

Movin' to the City...

Do you remember the story about the city mouse and the country mouse? Seems these days I'm feeling like one of their offspring. So here it is, my new shop; my new 'hand tool shop' to be specific. It's a small space in the 11' by 11' range, in the basement of my new home here in Toronto, Ontario. My wife and I with our two young children have relocated to the largest city in Canada. Why? Well, why not? That's not the point here anyway. What is the point is that my old, Cape Breton shop, with it's ample space, sun drenched bench room, machine room and loads of wood rack space is 3000 kilometers away and I'm here with this dark, slightly damp, a little better than 100 square foot shop space to call my own. Sounds like a nightmare, no? No. Change is good. Change is healthy. This small space, smack dab in the heart of the city, with it's urban decay lingering just outside my door; will be a place to create. A space to design and delight, to sharpen and saw. My workbench, most importantly made the great trek. My tool chest, full of my most prized possessions came too. All is well in a world of un-predictable circumstances. My future here in the city is unsure but my work shop is getting ready for a marathon of activity. As well as my workbench and tool cabinet I have my slow speed, wet grinder, my saw bench and my array of clamps. Some glue and some oil, a sharpening station ready to fly. I also have just outside of this photo's gaze is about 1000 board feet of lumber, rough milled and dimensioned, all waiting to be hand planed and joints cut, assembled into some new shape and design. Cherry, Ash, Walnut and Maple; Angelique, Poplar, Butternut and Birch. All of these species like my extended family making the plunge into this grey and unclear area of our life. I've been designing new pieces that will become a reality here in this small space. Side tables and book shelves, showcase cabinets and side boards. All to be transformed into tangible objects, ready for a new home somewhere in the not so distant future. My new digs....Welcome, watch and wait.

Friday, June 20, 2008

"I saw the future today..."

White Oak ~ Quercus alba

"A man who plants a tree, is a man with foresight"
Someone once said that to me and I've always remembered it. This is a shot of a little White Oak I planted last year. I've already started planning what I'm going to build with it too. Some nice quarter sawn stock for an Arts and Crafts style Rocking Chair. Why not right? I'll be about 150 years old when it's time to start milling!