Monday, March 30, 2009

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Woodworkers Safety Week isn't for another few weeks, but it's never too early to talk about shop mishaps.

You know how it is when you buy a new tool—you want to try it out right away.

Such was the case with the antique handsaw I bought from Tom Law and the sloyd knife I bought from Del Stubbs.

My jeans took the hit from the knife and saved my thigh from what surely would have been a cavernous gash in my leg requiring a freakishly huge number of stitches.  And the poor little 5 board stool that I absconded from the house to use as a sawbench bravely endured the cold bite from the wickedly sharp crosscut saw.

Friends, tragic events like this can be avoided.  Before you use your new tool, inhale 10 deep breaths, play an Air Supply CD, maybe take a candlelit bath with rose-scented bath salts and loofah.  

Do whatever is necessary to quell your I-just-bought-a-new-tool-and-have-to-try-it-out-NOW! hysteria.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stone Age-Style Spoon

My first attempt at spoon carving resulted in a piece of dinnerware befitting of Fred Flinstone. Chunky, lumpy, and dino-sized.

In my defense, I didn't have any green lumber so I grabbed—what else?—a gnarly piece of cherry whose grain pattern looked like a Jackson Pollack painting.

Plus it had a few knots.

Nonetheless, I bullheadedly worked on this ornery piece of wood until I sprouted a few blisters on my hand.

During this time, a chunk of dry silver maple soaked in a tub in an attempt to soften the fibers and make it easier to carve.

The second spoon went more smoothly and the straight grained, semi-softened maple was much easier to carve.

I rough shaped both blanks with my new BTF (Best Tool Forever)—a hewing axe—and a slojd knife at my outdoor bench.

The cherry was too hard to cut with hook knives, so I secured the blank in a simple jig: a long v-block with two stops at either end of the workpiece. Then I hollowed out the bowl with spoon gouges. The hook knives worked great for final clean up.

The decorative elements on the maple spoon were carved with a gouge, chip carving knife, and stab knife.

And after finishing the second one, I hope I've moved up to the middle ages.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pile of Pine

You know how sometimes your eyes are bigger than your stomach? How you know you shouldn't eat several pieces from the bottomless bread basket at a restaurant, then order appetizer, side salad, main course, and dessert, but everything looks so tempting you can't say no?

Then you experience growing pains in your stomach.

A similar thing happened to me when my friend who works for Volunteers of America let a few of us in on some free offucts that had been donated to the organization but which didn't sell. They needed to get rid of it in order to make room in their storage unit. No problem, I'm always happy to help a buddy.

So my friend, Scott, and I took his truck to the VOA site and started sifting through piles of plywood, mdf, pine, and a few pieces of hardwood.

Most were small pieces, but as woodworkers we can always talk ourselves into reasons why we should not pass up free wood—it's just too tempting. Surely we can find a use for it, otherwise, it will just end up in some landfill, right?

By the time we finished rifling through the piles, we had completely filled his truck with lumber.

I chose mostly pine, which we unloaded outside my shop, and he headed home. Later that week, after I had stowed the wood in my shop, Scott came over, walked in, looked around with a puzzled look on his face and said "Is your shop getting smaller?"

He didn't know what was different, he just knew my shop seemed to be more "stuffed."

And so it was—my eyes were bigger than my workshop and now I'm experiencing growing pains.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Brown Auction and Tool Sale

Another show for those of you who missed the Patina auction.

This one—the 34th Annual Tool Sale & International Tool Auction—is in Camp Hill, PA on April 3 & 4.

The dealers' show will have approximately 60 vendors.  Admission is only $3 [I think] but free if you have an auction catalog.  

I plan to attend the dealer show on Friday and might show up for the auction on Saturday. Maybe see you there! Be sure to say hi. :o)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Patina Report

My friend, Scott, and I arrived for the tailgating at 6:30 a.m., a cruel hour, and hustled from seller to seller looking for bargains.

If you go in future, be sure to take a flashlight and wear long johns. It was very dark and colder than a [insert mom-in-law's colorful West Virginian metaphor that would garner this blog an NC-17 rating].

Nonetheless, my first experience at the Patina Spring Auction and Dealer Tool Sale was great fun: tools, tools, tools, and a surprise glimpse of the flash known as Saint Roy.

Roy seemed to be on a tear to buy tools and I spied him on more than one occasion flipping open his billfold. With ninja-like prowess I snapped a few pics, but unfortunately the camera was on the wrong setting, hence the fuzziness. (Or maybe it was just that Roy was moving too fast?)

One guy, who told me he owns 700 saws, overheard me asking Tom Law about his handsaws, of which I know very little, and took it upon himself to escort me around to all of the tool dealers who were selling saws, including a very expensive panther saw ($750).

I asked Tom to help me choose a crosscut saw and he said, "You know how to choose a saw? You pick it up and feel the 'hang'. If it feels right, it's the right saw for you."

So I found two that were not at all pretty but felt absolutely perfect in my hand. Scott asked why I chose such short ones—24" and 18.25"—that his own are quite a bit longer. They just seemed "right", I told him.

Yesterday I tried them out and in using the longer of the two at a saw bench, discovered that it came within an inch of hitting the floor on the downstroke. At my height, I would not have been able to use a longer saw. Turns out Tom's advice was spot on.

Other items that came home with me were a snipesbill plane ($28) and three books ($24).

Will I go next year? Absolutely. I'll be the one wearing the down snowsuit and mukluks.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

1923 Woodworking Video

Heinrich commented with a link in the Spoon Carving Knives post of (presumably) Swedish woodworkers from 1923 making clogs, a spoon, and a chair—using basic handtools in a rustic setting.  It is well worth watching.

I was amazed to see how fast these craftsmen zipped through the process of their trades using crude benches and few tools....and was even more amazed that they had all their fingers.  You can even pick up a few woodworking techniques from them--I did!

(Thank you for the link, Heinrich.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Spoon Carving Knives

The nice UPS lady delivered a much-anticipated order this week: spoon carving knives from Pinewood Forge. They arrived securely packaged—two in hard foam and one in a birch bark sheath—and they are absolute beauties.

Del Stubbs made, from left to right in the top photo, 1 3/4" Hook Knife, Regular Slojd Knife, and #1 Open Sweep Knife (for larger spoons and ladles). The handles fit very comfortably in your hand and the blades are extremely sharp!

Del studied spoon carving in Sweden with Wille Sundquist, author of a hard-to-find-at-a-decent-price book on Swedish carving, and returned to the states to make his own set of tools.

On his website, you will find tons of links to spoon carvers, techniques, and video tutorials. You can also find a number of videos on YouTube of carvers who start with a log and, with hewing hatchet and knife, make a dinner spoon.

I know exactly what I'll be doing this weekend. ; )

The carved spoons below are photos from Del's website.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dovetailed Shelving Unit

Spring fever has prompted me to try to get more organized in my shop. This means building a storage unit for the moulding planes and other tools that have been making their home in cardboard boxes.
Pine is the wood of choice--it's inexpensive, smells good, and makes you feel like a champ when you handcut dovetails.

I already covered dovetails in an earlier post but here are a few additional comments.

The shelves are nothing fancy, but they do provide a nicer place in which to park my planes.

I decided not to add doors, even though they would help to keep dust out, because I love to visit other woodworkers' shops and see their planes in plain view.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sharpen Like A Painter

As an art major, I learned:
1. The only thing a group of fledgling artists requires for amusement is a camera.
2. It's best to keep classroom blinds closed if your live nude drawing class happens to line up with the windows of the frat house.
3. Start with broad brush strokes, work the entire canvas, and leave the details until last.

So now I have an axe, or rather hatchet, to grind.

Apparently, a quarter century later, I forgot all about lesson #3 and immediately set to polishing the cutting edge of the hewing hatchet I recently purchased on ebay for $25. I did this without first working the entire blade with coarse grit stones in order to establish the correct bevels.

Focus on the details first, and it will take you forever to finish your project. What if Michelangelo instead of first establishing the painting's overall structure with broad strokes, decided to start with God's eyelashes and continue his masterpiece with that level of detail throughout? He'd have been lucky to finish his beard, let alone the entire painting.

Hewing hatchets should have a flat side and a beveled side. The flat side cuts against the workpiece and the beveled side slices the offcut away.

I had noticed a slight back bevel on the flat side and ground some of it away, but not enough to keep the blade from deflecting off the piece of wood I was chopping.

According to Peter Follansbee, who I consulted when my polished, but incorrectly sharpened blade wasn't working well, the back bevel needs to be completely removed. Also, the front bevel should not be rounded as it is on my hatchet; it should either be flat or hollow ground. Peter flattens his with a coarse, diamond grit sharpening plate he bought from Drew Langsner at Country Workshops, and then sharpens the edge with oilstones.

An interesting discovery on my hatchet is the original price found on the bottom of the handle. At just 29 cents, the original owner got a heck of a return on investment.

Given the current state of the economy, maybe investing in hatchets will enable me to retire early. Now that paints a lovely picture, doesn't it?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Making & Mastering Wood Planes

Good news for those of you who have been unable to find David Finck's authoritative book on making Krenov-style handplanes at a less than exhorbitant cost.

David has announced that the book will be published by Hickory Ridge Press with an estimated release date the end of March and will be available for purchase at Woodcraft, Highland Hardware, Lee Valley, and David's site.

The new cover price is $24.95. Quite a bit less than the current rate [for a new copy] of $120+.