Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Woodworking in America--registration open!

For the August conference on Furniture Construction and Design, you can register Thursday, April 30, at Noon EDT.  Don't wait!  This will fill up fast.

Click here to see the schedule.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fort Frederick Market Fair

If there had been events like this when I was in high school, I might have been more interested in American history. As it was, the history professor/football coach whose teaching style consisted of "Read chapters 1 & 2" while he worked on his strategy for the game just didn't cut it.

The 15th Annual Market Fair at Fort Frederick, whose website does not do it justice, was so much fun, we considered going back again today.

135 sutlers in period costume, and at least as many reenactors who were merely camping, pitched rows of white canvas tents that filled the grounds surrounding the fort.

Handmade knives, pottery, tinware, furs, muskets, furniture, treenware, leather accessories, and period clothing were sold by makers who were dressed as colonists, frontiersmen, Indians (some very scantily clad—my mom was thrilled), and Highlanders from the time period of the French and Indian War.

I snapped a photo of two men in Scottish Highlander attire for Ethan—a woodworker who loves kilts. Ethan, I want you to know that I was forced to listen to a naughty Scottish joke in order to get this photo for you.

A Crocodile Dundee look-alike knife maker and other head turners were everywhere. One lady pulled a heavy wooden cart, which was loaded with her wares.

Now, maybe it's just me, but if you're going to be a reenactor and you can wear any outfit or pretend to be any historical person you want, why would you voluntarily choose to be "Ox Cart-Pulling Lady"? Seriously. If I were to be a reenactor, there would be some kind of crown involved.

I met several woodworkers, one of whom was Brian Graham, of Patapsco Valley Woodwright, who builds and sells furniture and handtools and sells antique tools (I bought three handplanes). He worked at a shaving horse that he had made from tiger maple.

Another furniture maker, Dennis Bork, of Antiquity Period Designs, Ltd., set up a double size tent as a showpiece for his cupboards, writing slopes, bed, tables, chairs and other beautifully-made pieces.

Ralph Aument of Fort Augusta Woodworking displayed sawbuck tables, settles, chests, and other pieces and showed me some of his antique tools, including a strap hammer and brace from Colonial Williamsburg.

Richard Toone, of Living History Shop, makes authentic campaign furniture. Some of his pieces can be seen at Monticello, Mt. Vernon,
Yorktown, and the Smithsonian. Richard talked to me at length about joinery methods and historical facts about his furniture. My partner had to drag me out of his tent.

I think my history teacher would be proud.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Welsh Stick Chairs Book

I believe this book, which was written by John Brown, has been difficult to find at a low price. So if you've been looking for it, the latest edition is now available for $20 at Country Workshops.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What's On Your WW Bucket List?

A Bucket List refers to things you want to accomplish before you "kick the bucket."

There are only two things on my woodworking bucket list—projects that I feel I must build.

Number one is a Frank Klausz style workbench. This will be a real challenge for me, but I consider it a rite of passage to build my own bench, and Frank's seems to meet my needs (minus the tool tray). Plus, it's pretty.

Number two is a multi-item project: reproduction handplanes like the Moisset plane pictured at right and 18th c. Dutch planes with decorative carving.

That's it! What's on your woodworking bucket list?

The Moisset plane photo is from The Art of Fine Tools, by Sandor Nagyszalanczy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mules and Adzes

According to Roger B. Ulrich's book Roman Woodworking, adzes have been around since the Copper Age and are one of the earliest woodworking tools.

Those with flat and curved blades were used in Roman times for hollowing logs, flattening boards, and shaping both furniture elements and ribs for boat hulls, and more.

I bought mine, a curved bowl adze, from Drew Langsner of Country Workshops.

Drew teaches classes at his facility on carving bowls and spoons based on Scandinavian techniques. He also describes the process in his book Country Woodcraft.

You can shape bowls on a chopping block or low bench and use the adze for roughing out the inside. A hewing hatchet is effective in shaping the outside, while spokeshaves, drawknives, and gouges clean up the choppy surfaces.

Other resources for learning about spoon and bowl carving: Wille Sundqvist's book Swedish Carving Techniques (yes, I did pay that much) and youtube videos (there are scads).

So what about mules? My other purchase from Country Workshops was plans to build a Shaving Mule—a smaller version of a shaving horse that uses elements from two different designs.

Although the compact size appealed to me, the main selling feature was the wide, adjustable, upholstered seat.

I'm not saying that I'm a prima donna who demands comfort in all her activities, but if Barcalounger ever develops a line of bicycles, I might be more inclined to exercise.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Getting Crafty

You don't have to be a clean freak to want to keep your assembly areas glue and stain free.

I saw this in a friend's shop and decided to add it to the outfeed table on my table saw.

It's just a roll of craft paper suspended on a dowel beneath the work surface but it saves clean up time whenever I glue up a project.

A small dowel pin keeps the large dowel, which can only be removed from one side, from falling out of the shallow hole in the opposite leg of the outfeed table.

And it's inexpensive, because I reuse the same area of paper until it becomes badly tattered from too many glue ups that turned into sticky situations.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I bought this workbench a few years ago from a family that had been using it as a kitchen island. I told the owner, who was clearly unimpressed, that I was going to use it in my woodworking shop.

And up until now, it still hadn't been put to the use for which it was built. Instead, it was a flat surface on which to dump everything that was cluttering up my main workbench.

But with all the storage units I've been building lately, it's finally cleared off.

This is not an ideal workbench. It's not easy to use clamps along the front edge and the backsplash is an obstruction. Presumably, the recessed section on the work surface is a tool tray (or in my shop, a shavings and sawdust reservoir), which I find unnecessary.

And by the looks of the disparate drawer fronts, it's had a few cosmetic repairs. I don't know how many different wood species complete this bench, but it's a patchwork of patterns.

There is plenty of storage, with sliding tool trays in the main drawers and a set of cubbies and small drawers on one end.

Two things I love about this bench: the near-perfect condition of the top and the design of the vises. The rectangular wooden arms provide a flat, non-marring surface on which to place your workpiece when you tighten the vise. And wooden screws are just cool.

The three metal screw-arms that work each vise on my main bench will leave indentations if they touch your workpiece.

The first thing I did was remove the backsplash. And since the workbench had to be placed with the left side close to the wall, I removed the door that enclosed the little cubbies so they could still be accessed. Finally, I added a piece of old chestnut to cover the tool tray—a species similar in appearance to one of the woods used in the drawer fronts.

Some might not approve of a bench being altered, but I did save the two pieces that were removed, and the chestnut is only tacked down with small nails in case the next owner wants to restore it to its original condition.

It's been patched up, pulled apart, and rebuilt over the years, but it's once again experiencing the joy of being covered in plane shavings; it smells like sawdust instead of tarragon; and instead of wearing pizza stains, its patina will continue to darken naturally. As it should.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lathe Storage

Martha was at it again this past week and turned her attention to the mess beneath my lathe.

I'm fascinated with old tool chests that have sliding trays so I decided to build a simple plywood and pine version of one.

The two trays are sized so that they completely bypass one another which allows me to reach for a tool in either one at the same time. They are also removable and can sit on top of the box while the lathe is in use. Beneath these trays are three open bins.

I used spacer blocks in positioning the runners that support the trays to ensure that they ran parallel to one another.

Two handles were added to the top so the lid would slide without racking.

The handles themselves are a simple design made with a moulding plane and block plane. I first plowed a groove to create a track in which the moulding plane could more easily be navigated.

A rat tail file was used to produce the concave recess on the ends of the handles and a sandpaper-wrapped dowel was used to clean up the profile.

It's a super simple storage box, or if you think like my partner, a 19th c. coffin. That's what she says it looks like. meh.

On another note: sorry
to have to use word verification with the comment application for a while. I've been getting a plethora of comments from an asian spammer that links back to asian porn sites. And that doesn't make the cut for my PG rating.

Monday, April 6, 2009


In routing the grooves for some shallow tool trays, I ran into a problem with the edge of the board tipping off the workbench due to the downward pressure of the plane. Because I was working with wood that was thinner than the depth of the plane's fence, the edge of the board had to extend beyond the edge of the workbench.

Using a holdfast was not an option (without some finagling) because it would get in the way of the fence rods, and my dog holes are not lined up in such a way that I could use the end vise.

Geez, if only there were a way to secure the board from underneath.

Aha! Carpet tape (which has adhesive on both sides) to the rescue. It worked great. The only potential problem is leaving the workpiece stuck for too long. That would give the tape more time to latch onto the fibers which might tear when you remove the board. So don't leave for vacation mid-routing.

It worked so well, in fact, that I intend to try this trick when planing really thin boards.

In short: carpet tape now has a permanent place in my shop.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Making Martha Proud

Let's face it: the more storage units you build, the more surface areas you have on which to work.

At least that's the way it is in my shop, where any flat surface becomes cluttered with tools and other items which have no designated cubby or drawer to call home. This can make woodworking frustrating when you're constantly shifting piles from one surface to another.

Not only that, but if you're wasting time searching for a tool because it's buried under a stack of sandpaper, you're not doing what you want to be doing—building stuff.

This spring marks the 5th anniversary of having my shop built and I've decided to release my inner-Martha Stewart and get more organized.

So I opened a can of Martha on an eyesore masquerading as a light duty sharpening bench. Without shelves, the area was cluttered, inefficient, potentially hazardous, and downright unsightly.

I used some of the pile of pine to create a small cabinet, with one shelf, and four bins that effectively hold everything from the jumbled mess that had previously inhabited the space.

Storage units don't have to award-winning and can be made relatively quickly using simple joinery. But the time you invest in constructing them will make building your show-and-tell projects more enjoyable.

Now if only I could develop the same desire to tidy up my house.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Track II Spokeshave

A brand new tool company mailed one of their products to me to try out. It's not on the market yet; they are just testing it with focus groups.

It's called a Track II Spokeshave and it operates the same as a regular spokeshave, but with the twin blades, it works even better.
The front blade is designed to lift the fibers from the beard, I mean board, while the second blade trims them clean for a baby smooth finish.

Not only that, but it comes with a spray can of foaming wood conditioner that you first apply to the surface. This helps lubricate the fibers so they're not chafed by the shearing action of the twin blades.

It's a remarkable bit of ingenuity. I give it two thumbs up!