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April 2014
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Which is more difficult: Being a great musician or being a great woodworker?

Because I spent many years studying, practicing, and playing music I’ve always compared it to other hobbies and professions on a scale of difficulty. Now that I am a hobby woodworker, I naturally compare woodworking to music. I spent many years playing in working bands, I took many lessons, and many college courses and even with all of my knowledge and experience I know that had I continued on with music I would still have a life time of learning and practicing to go before I could call myself a “master”. I don’t know how good I was honestly. I was good enough to play in bands, to record, and to play at most of the bars and clubs in the Philadelphia area. I was good enough to get paid for what I did, and I was good enough to teach it. Yet, I also know that there were countless thousands who were/are better than I ever was or would be. That fact never bothered me much, as I can say the same about woodworkers.

As far as the poll is concerned, I’m not looking for any one particular answer because I don’t have one myself. I honestly don’t know if music is more difficult than woodworking. This I can say, at my musical height, I practiced nearly every day at least a few hours, I took two lessons per week, and I generally practiced with one band or another two or three times a week. If I woodworked now as much as I practiced and played music then I would be a far, far better woodworker than I ever was a musician. Yet there may be woodworkers out there who are fantastic without having to work at it just like there are some musicians who are so naturally gifted that it comes easily to them without much work. I don’t believe it-music and woodworking both require muscle memory, which is something that requires practice no matter what your natural talents- but it could be true.

So if I had to choose I would say that being a great musician is more difficult than being a great woodworker. The reason I say that is because I know there are thousands of “weekend warrior” woodworkers who make world-class, professional level furniture. I don’t believe there are thousands of hobby musicians who are making world class music in their basements on the weekends. I’m sure there are exceptions to that, but I personally believe the ratio by-far favors hobby woodworkers. Still, that’s just the opinion of one person, and if anybody out there has any feedback I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

Plant stand continues

Something extremely disappointing happened to me last week that I didn’t mention on the blog. While prepping the wood for my plant stand I discovered that a good portion of it wasn’t usable. There was some rot, and bad checks, and worst of all twist. Rather than throw it all in the trash; it’s still Walnut; I salvaged everything I could and stacked it neatly on the small rack I have in my garage. In fact, I had planned on taking a photo of it for the blog and seeing if anybody could come up with a good project for it. But with the Walnut not an option I wasn’t too sure what to do about the plant stand that my wife has been asking me to make-I really don’t want to purchase any material at the moment, and at the same time I don’t usually keep much laying around. So I did some searching in my scrap pile and found that I had enough clear Fir to make the stand legs, and bottom stretchers, and I had enough clear Pine to make the top stretchers as well as the table top itself. I still need a board for the bottom shelf, but I will worry about that when the stand is ready to be assembled.

Today saw the most progress of any other during the project. I got all 16 mortises laid out, the tenons are all sawn, and the top is finished. The tenons were the most time consuming part of the day. I used the table saw to define the cheeks of the tenons, but I sawed them with a hand saw. I’m not sure exactly why I do it this way, because there really is no advantage one way or the other, but it’s always how I’ve done it, and it seems to work. For accuracy I saw the tenons two boards at a time, which seems to help make sawing easier, and it speeds things up a little. With all sixteen tenons sawn I started on the top.

To make the top I glued up two boards, using the jointer plane to make a tight glue joint. I don’t know why, but when I did the glue up last week I had some trouble getting a good joint. The iron was certainly sharp enough, but the board did not want to plane properly. In any event, I did eventually manage to get a tight joint, and today I used the smoothing plane to clean it up. Before I went any further, I used the table saw and cross cut sled to produce the finished size: 16×16. I then planed the edges clean and used the random orbit sander, 220 grit, for a final light pass on the top.

The last operation of the day was laying out the mortises. Before I started I marked both the legs and stretchers with a cabinet makers triangle just so I didn’t screw up royally. To mark the mortises I used the tenons of the stretchers to size them, and then used a marking gauge to lay them out. Because I don’t have a mortising machine, I will chop them out with a mortising chisel. I suppose I could use a router, but on a soft wood like Fir the chisel will do just fine. So by next weekend the joinery should all be ready to go. I will only need to at the beading and the stand will be ready for assembly.

At first I was a little worried about using Pine and Fir together, but I think they will do fine. Both are softwoods and the material is nice and clear with no warp or knots of any kind. I wish I could use all Fir but I just didn’t have enough. I had even considered buying a 2×8 and milling the material from that, but that could be hit or miss, and I doubt that I could find a piece that was clear enough to make furniture from, at least not without searching through hundreds of boards to find it. I may regret that choice when I stain this project. I’m hoping that the gel stain that I used for my end tables does a good job of evening out two slightly dissimilar woods. I will have to do a test run at first, and maybe use some conditioner on the wood. If I don’t post any photos, you all will know it turned out.

marking the tenons

marking the tenons

sawing the bottom stretcher tenons

sawing the bottom stretcher tenons

Trying to be precise, and I need to shave

Trying to be precise, and I need to shave

Set up for sawing the cheeks

Set up for sawing the cheeks

Moulding Planes

I like moulding planes-I even used the British English spelling. Believe it or not I have two, both beading planes, neither of them work all that well. One of those planes I picked up at a flea market, the other was given to me years ago before I started woodworking. At the moment, they are both sitting in a cabinet in my garage. Both are beyond my skill to repair (and maybe beyond repair, period), but that doesn’t stop me from keeping them around.

So if and when I need to add decorative details to furniture, I generally use an electric router. I’ve said before that the router is my least favorite power tool. They are loud, very messy, and quite frankly they can be dangerous. BUT, I can pick up a high quality profile router bit for less than a fifth of the cost of a moulding plane. Am I making this a power tool vs hand tool post? Not at all. I am making this a cost of tools post, because a set of moulding planes costs about as much as decent used car. A woodworker can purchase a good router and a smattering of common profiles for under $500.

What is my point? Good question. I think you should use whichever tool you like. If you like moulding planes and you can afford a set then more power to you. I would love to own a set, myself. In fact, I was just about to purchase a book on them just because I’m the type of guy that enjoys being filled with somewhat useless general knowledge. But for the foreseeable future I will continue using an electric router, which is why I went out of my way to refurbish my old router table. Yet, I’m still disappointed with a few things I read just last night as I was looking to order my book. It seems that using an electric router rather than moulding planes is detrimental to fine woodworking according to more than a few influential people.

I’m not angry; I’m not raving mad; I’m not ready to go on a tirade; I don’t need to pound my heavy bag for twenty minutes to release my aggression. I’m just disappointed. I’m not disappointed in the opinion, as it were, but in that some people don’t get what I’ve been saying for the past two years. These people continue to wonder why I write what I do even after writing an article or post that excludes the vast majority of woodworkers. I’ll be the first to admit that maybe the vast majority of woodworkers don’t even care, but I do. At the same time, I’m not trying to censor anybody-write whatever you like, that’s why the internet exists. But I am going to offer a rebuttal, because I think that what you think is wrong, and I think that your opinions are what is “detrimental to woodworking” and not the fact that woodworkers are using electric routers.

Asking for a Re-Blog

Originally posted on HarsH ReaLiTy:

I have never asked for a reblog before, but if you have the time and wouldn’t mind reblogging or sharing this I would personally appreciate it. I have decided to really go for this and try to provide some sort of marketing/blogging consulting to those wanting the help and willing to pay. It might sound silly, but there are plenty of authors, photographers, bloggers, and entrepreneurs that are horrible at marketing themselves.

I cannot guarantee views, comments, or sales. I can guarantee for a contract a subscriber number increase. The rest is really up to you. I follow a business model which I have shared HERE which shows that I use 33.3% of my time gathering followers, 33.3% of my time writing, and 33.3% of my time interacting and socializing. That is how I blog. Many people can’t afford the time to “gather followers” or don’t know how. That is…

View original 32 more words

Making a plant stand day 2.

Last night I did a little more work on the plant stand. I sawed the joints using a saw, I planed the edges with a plane, and I did some sanding with sand paper and a sander. It’s coming along. It was another satisfying afternoon filled with inoffensive woodworking. I didn’t take any pictures because, you know…

Making a plant stand.

I’m making a plant stand for my wife. I’m making it out of wood and I’m using joints to hold it together. Today I prepped the stock and glued up the top. I didn’t take any pictures because, you know..

Before I go…

Before I go, I would like to say; Buy good tools. Build whatever you want. Be proud of what you make. Have fun. Don’t listen to narrow minds. Keep your own mind open. Read good books. Live for the present. Speak your mind. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Don’t take shit from anybody. Don’t be afraid to get into a fight, and if you do, land the first punch. Sweep the leg. Do it for Johnny! Do pushups. Do your job. Be good at your job. Keep your chisels sharpened. Question authority. Be honest. Have integrity. Have morals. Be true to yourself. Don’t be a phony. Don’t be kiss-ass. Don’t be a suck-up. Take care of your family. Love your wife/husband. Love your kids. Be happy. Enjoy what you are doing. Avoid people that keep you from enjoying what you do. Have good manners. Be polite. Be firm. Mean what you say. Say what you mean, and leave no misunderstandings. And, don’t be afraid to stir the pot sometimes; If you don’t, everything ends up getting stuck together.


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