Saturday, February 26, 2011


Yea I know I have a problem

I have a few of them, but the most disturbing is my affliction to hand tools

my collection is now worth more than my car, I have more planes than years to my life, and more saws than I have chairs in my house

my most problematic problem is my lack of foresight, coupled with my reliance on 3-d design software

my first thought the day I discovered Google sketchup, Damn what a great tool, and it has been, the scale of work I can imagine has not only found no end, but has augmented the visual designs beyond anything I could have sketched on paper

Great piece of software yes indeedee

but it doesn't tell you if a wine bottle will fit through the opening you've created

I spent the day (another snow day here in the great white north, yippee!) learning to use my bowsaw

it wasn't easy, I broke a string trying to find the tension, couldn't start a cut to save my life, had to figure how to secure the piece while leaving clearance from the bench, and what stroke best suited both the saw and the material. Once I found it, lookout, it cut through that 4/4 walnut like Sweeney Todd through one of his victims, I mean crap, it was close to band saw speed!

within three hours I had all ten front rack stretchers rough cut

a quick run from the draw knife and a bit of spokeshave magic and I was ready to cut tenons

after three months cutting hard maple, this walnut was like balsa, the former being close cousins with alabaster, the latter smooth and buttery, I didn't have to re-sharpen a tool all day

having a smidgen of energy left and a couple hours before Arielle would be home I figured, what the hell, let's cut out those neck nooks (well, what would you call them?)

using what foresight I DO posses I trooped through the (hey this shit wasn't here when I came IN the shop) foot of snow to check the dimensions of the entire range of bottles already overflowing from our completely inadequate (the whole reason I'm putting myself through this torture:) winerack. back out to the garage with a much better (you know, I'm pretty sure I measured those damn things before) understanding of how big a wine bottle really is. laid out a few (five) nooks and cut out with my new BFF coping saw. Figuring I hadn't had enough strenuous exercise today (I WILL feel this tomorrow) I rasped and filed the nooks to a hair's breadth of perfection, laid out the two pieces on a nice square surface and thought, Huh, how'm'I gonna get a wine bottle through there.


should have seen that coming, it was all going so smooth

I don't even know now whether I can change the design subtly enough to not affect the balance, I'm not sure whether this computer has enough memory to allow such a change, hell at this point we'll see if my sanity can even hold out.

damn snow days!

Friday, February 11, 2011


It all seems a little silly, three weeks in the shop, in the freezing (mostly sub-freezing) cold, bundled up so you can't put your arms down (just think Randy from Christmas Story) sawing wood that at eight percent moisture is more likely eight percent ice. Planing wood so temperamental you have to hone your plane irons every ten to twenty minutes, boards that started out at 4/4 are a little closer to 3/4 now. Sweat does freeze to metal and skin freezes to ice even when it's made up of sweat. But if you use the tool long enough it warms to your hand, becomes comfortable, true again...
or is that just the frostbite talking?

All this work for a board that looks like you got it at the B.O.R.G. store. It's really kind of a downer...

But then it becomes yours again, mark those tails...

use them saws...

learn a few new tricks from some guy who started something called the Schwarz Effect...


don't forget where you started...

and don't be surprised how fast you can do joinery by hand!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

snow day

Thank you Mother Nature! A nice change of pace, in the form of a day off. Of course it's not a day off when there's a big project in the shop.

but I should have heeded those cryptic words from the guy at the woodworking store "hard maple, by hand, god help you, boy"

For the last few evenings I've been battling this wood, every combination of planes in my arsenal. I could get a great surface on the straight grain parts, but when it came time to do cathedrals or figure, a tiny nuclear bomb would go off beneath my iron.


tear-out, big honkin chunks of wood, so deep a dark shadow had begun to descend. I started to dread this stuff, even considered breaking my vow to do this one all by hand.

There's a small planer at work, if I just take really tiny passes, it'll be OK

but deep down I knew this was a lesson, Yoda P. Miagee was staring me down, that lethal pair of chopsticks poised at the ready. So I read up, tried the books, they just said sharp iron, tiny mouth, try working perpendicular to the grain. I tried the web, same thing. And then low and behold the answer, on a popular chat room someone said hone often, know what sharp really is. Rather skeptical (they're sharp, I'm sure of that) I trekked through the blizzard back to the (now nice and toasty warm) shop and honed all the irons (I'm not stupid, not ALL of them, just the ones I needed: Smoother, low angle Jack, and Fore.)

Then I hit it again, and it hit me, that's it!

Every thirty to forty strokes in hard maple and the edge is more like a ball peen hammer, nail the wrong spot and a rock hard wedge jams in the throat and releases itself from its arborial abode, with a rending sound of splintering storm damaged limbs. But freshly honed there's little sound at all but a faint swish, the fibers part and a glass surface appears. Now that means disassembly, a minute's honing, reassembly, tuning, fine tuning, back to work for another ten minutes, then all over again. The pratice of this little dance has led to an intimate understanding of the geometry of all these tools, I know a volume more than I did yesterday.

The real satisfaction is the accomplishment, master is proud.