Friday, January 18, 2008

VERITAS Jointer Plane

After I 'Scrub" the rough stock down removing and twists or warps I move on to my Jointer Plane. This is the tool of choice to follow with. It will remove all of the highs and lows from the surface of your piece. Again my Jointer is made by VERITAS here in Canada. This Jointer is unique in the fact that its blade is set ‘bevel-up’ on a 12° bed and when combined with a 25° blade bevel, it creates a cutting angle of 37°. I mostly use this plane with the optional 38° Blade, combined with the 12° bed angle, creates the so called 'York' pitch, perfect for dealing with difficult grains in hard wood and the result is almost no tear-out. Another great feature of the VERITAS Jointer is the adjustable throat plate. This makes it super simple to close up the throat so you can take a real fine shaving. Another factor to consider when using any Jointer Plane is the size. The VERITAS is 22" x 2 7/8" and weighs 7 1/2 lbs. A big plane to handle, but once you get it going, the extra weight of the tool itself helps to keep it moving along through the wood. I also wax the sole every couple of minutes with just a standard block of Paraffin to help reduce friction.

Recipe Box on Stand

This piece is a Recipe Box with Birds Eye Maple Body, Black Walnut doors and drawers with a Quarter Sawn Oak stand.

The Oak for the stand is locally grown and milled featuring through mortise and tenon construction with Walnut wedges. The cabinet sides are held together with dowels while the drawers are through dovetails. The hardware is cast Bronze, giving the piece an Asian inspired feel.

One Drawer Side Table

This small side table is constructed with traditional hand cut joinery. It features a Walnut drawer front and aprons.
The table top, legs and drawer pull are in Cherry.
The legs are mortise and Tenon joinery with the drawer made with half blind dovetails. The drawer interior is Poplar with a scratch beading on the top and bottom all done with hand tools only. The detail shot shows the under side of the table top with a bevel on the bottom giving the top a lighter feel. The finish is a hand rubbed oil and varnish mix.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Side Table in Cherry

Side Table in Cherry featuring Birds Eye Maple Drawer fronts, Butternut sides and Poplar drawer bottoms.
This small side table is a Shaker inspired design. It has tapered legs giving it a delicate feel. For a small table it boasts plenty of storage; five drawers all with half blind dovetails cut by hand. The table is designed to stand the test of time, the interior webbing features mortise and tenon joinery as well as dovetailed rails, Bridle Joints for the runners and half lap joints where the kickers meet the apron at the back. The legs are also mortise and tenon construction.The pictures show the piece ready for hand rubbed oil and varnish finish. The drawer pulls are going to be cast Iron. I enjoy playing with different wood species as well as mixing materials in a small piece like this.

VERITAS Scrub plane

To start off with saying ‘Hand Planes are the most used tools in my workshop’ would be an understatement. I use them at the roughest stage of the milling process all the way through to the final smoothing stages of finishing.

To begin the process of milling rough lumber the first plane used is the Scrub Plane. Mine is made by VERITAS here in Canada. The Scrub plane is the tool of choice for major stock removal, the first step when flattening rough stock. A scrub plane is not usually used parallel to the grain, but at an angle of about 30°. The blade edge is ground with a 3'' radius, so it can take an aggressive cut. Speaking of the blade or Iron as we call it, the Scrub plane has a real thick iron that helps eliminate any chatter. When you first hold the VERITAS Scrub the first thing you'll notice is the narrow width of the sole. This actually helps alot when aggresive planning is desired on rough stock. The only negative thing I found about the VERITAS Scrub is the tote. ( which sadly seems to be the case with most of the VERITAS line.) Very under-shaped, and not at all comfortable. I removed mine soon after I purchased it and re-shaped it. This actually turned out quite nice and gave the tool a sort of custom feel. I mean no one else will ever have one exactly like it!

Hand Saws

Once I decide on a project the first step after the wood species or individual planks are hand picked from the lumber rack, the first stage of dimensioning the pieces is to rough cut them to length. This of course is done by hand using Hand saws. I examine each plank looking for checks or knots, I eye down the lengths to see any warps or twists, and then once the piece has been carefully studied I cross cut it to size. I use a panel saw made in England by Pax Handsaws. First developed in 1776, Pax handsaws have a reputation for quality and performance. The alloy-steel blades are taper ground and breasted to reduce binding and the teeth are all hand set and sharpened. Some other hand saws in my collection are Western Style Saws made by Lie-Nielson Tool Works USA. Known as back-saws, they have a Solid Brass chamfered back that provides some extra weight in an other wise delicate hand tool, giving superior rigidity for a straight cut with less binding. The three back saws I have in my collection range from a 15 TPI Dovetail Saw, a 14 TPI Carcass Saw, and finally a 13 point Tenon Saw that I tend to use with a miter hook atop of my workbench.

Hand Tools...

I get asked a lot about what hand tools I use, where and why I choose a certain tool over another and who some of my favorite makers of hand tools are. If you’re thinking on buying, using or just simply enjoy reading about hand tools and the philosophy behind them, this blog may be of some interest to you.
“Tis only he that has no credit to lose that can afford to work in this style.”
~No. 6 Henry Hollister, from ‘The Shaker Legacy’
Let me start by saying that I try to use hand tools before power tools and as I get more experience using hand tools I hope to someday be able to walk into my shop and not have any need for power at all. Maybe a stretch, but certainly a goal that keeps me focused. Using hand tools is like any other skill set one can acquire, ‘practice makes perfect’. Experience on a day to day basis will reward you with a feeling of pride knowing that what you’re creating is from your hands alone. To be able to take a piece of rough lumber and dimension it, shape it and finish it all with only using hand tools is quite an amazing feeling. Keeping in mind this method is certainly not for everyone, I do believe that even if you only use power tools, developing some skills using simple hand tools will make you a better wood worker all around and help to develop perhaps some different or unique ways of appreciating wood.
“A tree is our most intimate contact with nature.” ~George Nakashima

I don’t try to use one species of wood exclusively like so many other wood workers may find the need to do. What I do try to accomplish however is to use the right piece of wood for the project at hand, a species that may compliment the form. In boat building it could be a Mahogany with Oak and perhaps an Eastern White Pine. In furniture making it can range from a highly figured Maple or Birch to Cherry, Walnut, Butternut, Hickory, Poplar or Ash, and whenever possible I try to use locally grown and milled lumber. The whole ‘Grow Your Own’ philosophy really appeals to me on a number of levels. I also try to support local business and purchase my lumber locally as well as bringing in rough stock in the 5 to 8 quarter size range.
While working wood it doesn’t matter if I’m building a traditional style sailing boat or a small intricate dovetailed box, the woods we all use must start its journey with the same basic treatments. What ever species you use or if you bought it ‘air’ dried, ‘kiln’ dried ‘solar Kiln’ dried, from a ‘green’ space or directly from some Black Market Lumber Yard, once the wood is in your shop, in your hands then now you must wait. We must wait for the wood to get to know its new surroundings. Let it lay-back, take a load off and relax a little bit. Then and only then, once it’s comfortable in it’s new surroundings will we be able to work ‘with’ it, together in some kind of harmony, tool steel and wood fiber, muscle and limb, we’ll transform it and perhaps transform a bit of ourselves with it in the Wood-Working processes.
“When we discover what wonderful things our eyes and hands are as they seek fine lines and use sharp tools, when we listen to wood and not just use it, then cabinetmaking can take on a new meaning.” ~James Krenov


i agree simple hand tools will make you a better all around woodworker, but even more importantly they will give your work design as well as construction.
take care,

Tool Storage

Besides a Work Bench, I think a real important item in any shop is tool storage. Now don't get me wrong I throw my Routers and Drills, Jig Saw and Circular Saw on a shelf, out of the way under the out feed table in front of my table saw. Nothing fancy, just somewhere to look when I need to build something outdoors somewhere. But my hand tools are another story. They deserve a little spoiling. These are the tools I'll be passing on to my children in fifty years with my finger prints worn into the totes and handles. These are the fine quality tools that are irreplaceable. They deserve a good home and a custom made tool cabinet is the answer. I store all of my hand planes, chisels, carving tools, lay out tools, drilling tools and a few small jigs i.e. pocket hole hardware. Since this picture was taken I've changed things up a little bit. I store my Panel Saw on a custom made cleat on the side of my Tool Cabinet with my three Back Saws on a rack above my Bench. They used to fit inside but have since been evicted due to some new special purpose hand planes I've purchased over the last six-months. The Tool Cabinet is located directly next to my Work Bench keeping things close when I need them.

Lumber Storage

My trusted Palomino Saw Bench
Buying your lumber in rough form, letting it sit around your shop and then with as much lead time as possible, rough milling it to over sized dimensions for a specific project.
The longer the better for this stage. Three to four weeks I find is acceptable, then finish off when you start your project by bringing your pieces to size.
You probably noticed the "two" benches...this is the short version of a long story. After going back and forth with, should I build a bench or buy a new one for a few months I finally realized that I didn't have the luxury of time to build a Work Bench. I decided my time was more valuable building boats for paying customers and Fine Furniture between that. After lots of searching trying to find the best Bench for the buck, I decided on this European style Cabinet makers Bench from a very reputable company in New York. I had it shipped via Fed-Ex Freight and when it finally arrived ( three weeks later ) it was badly damaged. I phoned the company and they immediately shipped me a new replacement Bench and said they would be in touch about picking up the damaged unit. Weeks passed and the new Bench arrived, ( no damage thankfully ) but no sign of getting the old one out of my someone small shop. Finally a phone call from the company again saying they were going to 'abandon the bench' Well it didn't take too long for me to re-build it and try to repair the damage. The result is a great second work surface which one vise that works great and the other less than ideal. But hey, where else can you get two for one Work Benches?

Shop Talk

New Bench Room
Shop Talk.
I live and work out of my home here on Cape Breton Island.I own and operate a one man boat shop where I build traditional style Wooden Boats. Lately however business has slowed to a grinding halt. This however doesn't strike fear into me for I use the down time between builds to work on custom Wood Working projects. You can check out the boat building side of things at
My shop is located in a small garage that was here when we purchased our home. It's about 20' by 20'. I've since added a bench room on the rear of the building that's an additional 12' by 16'. This extra room enabled me to have a machine room in the old garage section and a new bench room in the new. It also helped to have a bit more wood storage space as I can never seem to have enough of that! The room has two large South facing windows and one Eastern. This is a real life saver for me. It enables me to enjoy not only a great view of the area around my shop but makes for all of the natural sunlight I need to work. My wood storage is on the North wall, floor to ceiling. I've installed some heavy brackets to the wall studs on 16" centres. This area allows me to keep on hand about 1200 board feet of lumber, getting used to the smell of my Bench Room and becoming 'climatized' to it's current residence. I really think this is a crucial step to Fine Wood Working.


This is the place where I'll discuss some of the wood working projects I've been designing and building. From wood species to joinery options, shop talk and tools used. Check back often to see what I've been up to.