Sunday, August 30, 2009

Am I Doing This Right?

I was invited to participate in the "Boring Cat Fight" at the WIA Conference in October and compete against Megan Fitzpatrick and Heather Griffin to see who can bore a 3/4" plumb hole in a piece of pine the fastest.

Sure, I said. How big a blow to my ego can it be? The problem was, I had never bored a hole by hand before, so I figured I'd better practice.

This old, junky piece of lignum vitae has been laying around the shop for years, so it became my test piece.

I didn't do too badly but only 85% of the holes were plumb. Ugh. I'm going to have to do better than that if I want to save face.

So I've started doing push ups to increase my upper body strength and so far I can do about 30 in a minute.

But they're only the one-handed kind. I still have to work up to the two-handed version.


Megan, Heather, and whoever else decides to go head-to-head in the boring competition—you have nothing to worry about. Believe me, I'm no threat.

Handcut Dovetails Class

Five enthusiastic people attended the handcut dovetails class I taught yesterday and by the end of the day everyone had joined at least one corner.

Some speed demons cranked out more than one, but all did very well, and hopefully left with an interest in woodworking with handtools.

Here's how the class proceeded:
1. They watched the handcut dovetail video I made as an overview.
2. We checked chisels for sharpness and I showed them how to sharpen them on waterstones if they wanted to sharpen their own.
3. We practiced sawing straight lines.
4. They learned how to mark their boards with cabinetmaker's marks and I explained grain orientation.
5. We talked about the difference between 1:6 vs. 1:8 ratio, how to set them on a bevel gauge and why you would use one over the other.
6. I demonstrated how to mark the depth of cut with a marking gauge, and then saw and chop the tails. Then they did this with practice boards.
7. Next, I demonstrated how to transfer marks to the pin board and saw and chop the waste. I also showed how to use a chisel to make a shoulder in which to set the saw blade. This works well when you saw away the outside pieces of your board, be it pins or tails. Then they worked on their own pieces.
8. They learned how to bevel a board by marking the depth with a marking gauge, lay out the field with a combination square and pencil, and remove the waste using a block plane and bench hook.
9. I showed them how to use a shooting board and how to make a finger pull with a knife and gouge.
10. I also explained the use of a drawer jig to clean up the corners.

The photo of the assembled corner is not my work; it's one made by a student who had never made dovetails before. And this was his first attempt!

A couple guys who work at Woodcraft, where the class was held, stopped in several times to see the progress. There is something about watching people work with handtools that is captivating.

We talked about pins first vs. tails first and I explained how to transfer the marks if you cut pins first. I told them that the most difficult part is trying to balance the pin board while you're marking the tail board, but that I had seen a jig in a magazine where two boards that are joined to make a 90ยบ angle could be positioned in front of your pin and tail board so you can clamp the pin board in an upright position. I said that this would not work with protruding pins and tails.

Well, here' s what they came up with to remedy the problem. The last two photos show their idea of moving the jig to the inside of your workpieces instead.

This not only allows for protruding tails, it makes it easier to transfer your lines, since there is more space between pins (and therefore, more room in which to insert your pencil or marking knife) on the outside of your board.

Nice one, guys!