Friday, July 31, 2009

2 Housings for Scratch Stock

There are benefits to making both small and large housings for your scratch stock, including making multiples of each.

The small body is merely a block of wood with a kerf, threaded insert and thumbscrew, and it takes about half an hour to make. The small size fits comfortably in your hand and can be used with just one hand. You are, however, limited in the size of the profile you can make since the scratch stock is only supported on one end.

Conversely, the large body can hold a longer piece (larger profile) of scratch stock, because the "arm" supports it along its entire length. Two drawbacks: you need to use two hands with this housing, and the fence (the part that rides along the edge of your workpiece) is not as wide as the one on the small body. The larger body also takes a little more time to make, but is still very easy.

With both housings, you can alter the shape of the fence to match a set curve. You can also bevel the fence on the large body so you can follow any curvy edge.

Making sure the threaded insert is seated squarely in the small body is the trickiest part, but there are methods to ensure it's done accurately (search online for "installing threaded inserts"). I just used a T-wrench and went very slowly.

Now back to making multiples of each. Once your scratch stock is positioned perfectly in a housing, you don't want to remove it until your project is finished. But in the meantime, you might need to add a different profile with a different piece of scratch stock to another project. Rather than remove the original scratch stock and risk not being able to reposition it, just make another housing.

It's the same idea as using multiple routers while working on different jobs at the same time. And how many routers do we hybrid woodworkers have? Mine amount to all the digits on one of my hands. (Hint: I still have all my fingers. Knock on wood.)

If anyone finds an error in the illustrations, please let me know so I can correct it and repost. You can experiment with the position of the screws on the larger body— another arrangement might work better for you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Social Networking

I started this blog almost 2 years ago because I wanted to find "my people"—those who love to work with handtools. (Also because my partner, in a desperate attempt to free herself from listening to me drone on and on about woodworking, begged me to.)

In the process, I've made lots of friends, connected with people in other countries, been directed to places, links, and adventures I might never have discovered otherwise, and learned a ton of new things.

Then I joined Facebook and Twitter and made even more friends and contacts.

As advertisers and marketers are scrambling to find effective ways in which to make use of social networking, many of us have experienced immediate benefits.

Fellow blogger, Rob Giovanetti, The Tatooed Woodworker, recently decided to distance himself from blogging and the entire woodworking community because of some very nasty emails he had received. Several people wrote him to reconsider.

And then it hit the Twitterdom.

Twitter was ablaze today with people in support of Rob, including people who had never read his blog. Twitterers passed his link to their followers and they passed it to their followers, and so on and so on.

Consequently, Rob has been getting lots of positive comments on his site and I'm hoping he's feeling the love.

Social networking is a lot of things (including the reason I spend too much time on the computer). You hear about the latest tools, see others' projects, learn new techniques, get ideas, share information, and as long as you avoid lightning rod topics like politics, religion, hand tools vs. power tools, and the reason for the nib on a handsaw, you can find a fabulous community—your people.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Frontier Culture Museum

Even on a rainy, dreary day, the Frontier Culture Museum is a fabulous place to visit.

What a cool concept for a museum: on several acres, you walk along an undulating path from one century to the next, from one country to the next, each building authentic and filled with some original pieces, but mostly fantastic reproductions.

The farmhouses were brought here from each of the countries that represent the immigrants who settled in this section of western Virginia—England, Germany, and Ireland. Another village is currently under construction which represents the 4th group—the Igbo tribe from West Africa.

Within each of the houses are knowledgeable interpreters who tell you about the people who might have lived in the home, their customs, what they were experiencing in their native country that
prompted them to move to America, how they survived and made a living, and the ways in which they influenced their new neighbors.

On every day but Monday, the interpreters are dressed in period costumes. And throughout the year, the museum hosts special events.

We spent 4 hours on our self-guided tour, and because of the rain, we had the entire place to ourselves. That is, the two of us, and all the farm animals.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Woodworking Advice

Believe me, I do know how bad this kuksa is starting to look. And I also found out—the hard way—that you should carve the inside of the bowl first.

So right now, I'm trying to figure out how to get Robin Wood to come to the states so he can teach me how to carve one of these correctly.

We're leaving for vacation tomorrow and I'm taking this gumpy, misshapen piece of wood and my carving knives with me.

And as I'm trying to learn a new skill, I'm reminded of a pearl of advice from the man who taught me lettercarving: Walk away while you're still having a good time. If you wait until you're frustrated, you'll never go back to it.

I think the drive through the spectacular Shenendoah Valley to our destination will be the perfect walking away experience.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

David Savage

David Savage, British designer and furniture maker, gave a seminar at the Black & Decker University in Maryland today. B & D hosted the free event, where we attendees gave opinions on prototypes, test drove tools, ate pizza, won giveaway items (I won a 17-piece drill bit set) and heard some engaging presentations.

According to David Savage:
Speed + Skill = Craftsmanship.

He also believes designs should be understated—that details should be discovered, not blatantly obvious.

His is a shop with several craftsmen, some teaching and some being taught, and all making one-of-a-kind projects. If David needs to build a small production run, they construct a prototype and one final piece in the shop and then enlist the help of nearby workshops, with whom David has a close relationship, to make the remaining pieces in the order.

As you might notice in his designs, David likes movement—fluid, lively, rhythmic, "calligraphic" motion. He also uses nature as inspiration, as shown in two of his tables: one that resembles petals on a flower and the other resembling a sunflower, with the chairs representing the petals.

The second photo shows how one of the apprentices shaped a wavy table apron. By using shims as fences for the rounding plane, he was able to control the path of his cuts.

David loves to meet with his clients, preferably in their homes, where he can see where the piece will be used. This way, he ensures that the furniture fits perfectly in its final environment, complements surrounding pieces, and interacts with light sources.

He discovered that clients would rather view his pencil sketches when he presents designs rather than computer-generated ones, which they view as too mechanical. Sketches, they say, represent craftsmanship.

David said that sycamore, ash, cherry, oak (on its way back into popularity), and yew and walnut (both difficult to acquire), are common species used in British-made furniture.

He relies mainly on polished shellac or oil and wax for finishing. However, he also uses a technique called a "scrubbed" finish where hot water, bleach, and a bit of soap are used with a heavy bristle brush to scrub the tannins away from the wood, leaving a pale-colored, lightly-textured surface.

David showed us slides of work from other British furniture designers/makers, including John Makepeace, who he believes is the most influential craftsman in Europe.

It was enlightening to see how things are made "across the pond" and I was delighted to witness a friend from my woodworking club, an insufferable heckler, being put in his place by our speaker. Good on ya, David!

You can view much better photos of David's work on his site. The above shots were taken of the slides he presented, so are not the best quality.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wild & Wonderful Camping

I'll be right up front—I don't "do" camping.

But it's not for lack of trying. We had a camper when I was a kid and we stayed in every KOA campground on the east coast, all the way up to Nova Scotia. But whenever it came time to have our meals at a picnic table, I'd opt to sit in our pop-top VW to eat. After all, a bug might drop out of a tree and onto my sandwich. And I wasn't willing to hazard that kind of risk.

And camping is just so....uncomfortable.

So when my partner, a true nature-lover, suggested we go tent camping 10 years ago, I figured I'd give it the ol' college try.

She set up the entire site—built a fire, pitched the tent—while I swatted flies. I did, however, bring matching dinner plates and napkins.

When it was time to turn in for the night, I took one look at her miniscule dome tent—not big enough to cover an ant hill—and thought I might hyperventilate. But I never let on how much I was suffering.

The next time she suggested we go camping, I offered to buy a new tent. Okay, she said. So I bought a 3-room tent, complete with parlor and ballroom. It was sweet. She was not happy, though, as it took a long time to set up.

A few years ago, we planned a trip to the mountains of North Carolina. Hey, I said, instead of camping, how 'bout I spring for a cabin for us. Sure, she said. So I made reservations at a lovely log cabin complete with vaulted ceiling, jacuzzi, and bidet.

Next week, we're attending her family reunion at Lake Sherwood in Wild & Wonderful West Virginia. Her family will pitch tents, cook over campfires, and sleep on the ground.

And we'll be staying at a nearby hotel.

This camping thing just gets better and better!

So what's all this have to do with woodworking? Well, I'm taking along my carving knives and will attempt to make a kuksa, while sitting on a log, fireside. At least maybe I'll give the impression that I'm an outdoorsy gal.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Swedish Wagon Maker (1932)

This link was sent to me by Jonas Andersson--thank you!

The video shows a Swedish Wagon Maker making the parts for a wagon wheel. Notice that he seems to be using regular chisels and gouges (short-handled) on his lathe, how quickly he shapes the spokes with hand tools between huge pinch dogs, and how he applies glue to the tenons. Very cool video. Enjoy!

In case you missed the other film on Swedish woodworkers (posted earlier), click here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Landis Valley Museum, Revisited

We headed back to the Landis Valley Museum yesterday, mainly to see a new baby lamb and to enjoy the grounds in nicer weather than the first time we visited.

The gardens were blooming, the vegetables were growing, the sheep were sleeping, and my camera was snapping.

A giant loom was on display in one of the outbuildings and I'm always delighted to find ornamental details even in massive, practical machines like this one. As craftspeople, we just can't help ourselves, can we? Why have a plain, straight beam mortised into another one, when you can decorate the joint and edges with ogees and stopped chamfers?

On the grounds are a tavern, gunsmith, blacksmith, and tinsmith shops, a large barn, Victorian homes, a log home, and other structures which include a collections center and agricultural center.

In the agricultural center, behind glass, are several woodworking tools: goosewing axes, handplanes, and a handsome workbench with multiple drawers, a sliding deadman, and leg vise.

The planes and bench in particular were in excellent condition. One plow plane was stamped "E.W. Carpenter / Improved Arms & Handle / Lancaster" and looked like it had hardly been used.

In another historic building—the tavern—we found that the guide had just finished cooking his mid-day meal in an open hearth, so the room smelled like fresh-baked bread. But he wasn't sharing.

The Landis Valley Museum is a fun place to visit. Just make sure you've eaten lunch first before you reach the tavern, or your stomach will be rumbling like a Conestoga wagon on a country road.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tool Holders

Or: What to do with a few scraps of wood and a few hours of unexpected free time.

When I designed my tool cabinet about 7 years ago, I carefully arranged sketches of my handtools on gridded paper.

Well, needs change, priorities change, and minds change, so my half empty cabinet looks a bit different than the original design.

When faced with a Sunday afternoon with nothing to do but weed the flower beds—a most egregious task—I decided instead to make a couple tool holders for my dovetail and tenon saws and my little mallet.

The saw holders are simple—just a block of wood that matches the shape of the inside of the handles, and little turnbuttons to keep the saws from sliding off the blocks of wood.

The mallet holder mimics the shelf that holds the chisel rack.

Also pictured are two Mag-Bloks (which work extremely well) that I bought from Lie-Nielsen to hold gouges and floats.

So after I made the tool holders, I looked around to see what other handtools needed to be hung in the cabinet. Shockingly, and to my utter dismay, I found that everything—everything!—already had a home in some compartment, drawer, or shelf.

And we know what that means, don't we?
Time to go tool shopping!