On my post from the other day I made the comment “…and if I do have a legacy of some kind to pass on, I want it to be the furniture I’ve made and not the tools I bought.” Before I go on I will say that generally I don’t dwell on my posts or comments for all that long a time; if I did I would be writing a lot less than I already do. My philosophy on writing is to convey my thoughts as naturally as I am thinking them. I spend very little time editing my posts though I do sometimes have to format them to WordPress, which usually takes just a few minutes. So when I did make that comment I didn’t necessarily think too much about it after the fact.
A funny thing happened, though, on Saturday morning while I was flattening my workbench top; the comment I made actually popped back into my head. At first, I wasn’t necessarily sure what got me to thinking about it, but then it had occurred to me that I had watched part of the movie ‘National Treasure’ the night before and I had thought, for whatever reason, that Thomas Jefferson would much rather have the Declaration of Independence be his legacy rather than the pen he wrote it with, as interesting a collectable as the pen may be. I’m not sure why that thought occurred to me, but it did nonetheless.
I had once asked the question on this blog: If some sort of disaster was approaching and you as a woodworker could save only one thing, would it be your tools, or the furniture you’ve made? Nearly everybody that answered was of the mind that their tools were much more important to them than their furniture, and if they had to choose between the two the tools would win hands down. The reasoning there being that you can always make more furniture, but the tools are much harder to replace. I agreed with that logic nearly whole heartedly, but when it comes to my woodworking “legacy” I find that I’m of a completely different mind. But the question does beg to be asked: When I shuffle off this mortal coil, do I want my legacy to be a tool set or the furniture I’ve made?
I can only speak for myself, but I truly hope that when I die my legacy is the furniture I’ve made and not just a tool set, otherwise I look at that as a failure on my part. To me, while buying and learning to use a tool set is an important part of becoming a woodworker, it will be the furniture that I made that people will hopefully remember. But here again, I am wondering how others feel about this. Would you as woodworkers rather have your tool set, or the furniture you’ve made be the heirlooms of your time spent woodworking?
I read a comment on a woodworking forum last night stating: “I wouldn’t take a Sawstop table saw if you gave me one for free!” Or at least that’s what it said in paraphrase. That got me to thinking. If Sawstop offered to give you a free table saw would you take it? No strings attached, no cost, nothing, just a free saw out of the goodness of the company’s heart.
Or lets say you really love your current table saw and wouldn’t want to give it up, so Sawstop came up with a free adder to retrofit your current saw with their safety technology; let me stress free of charge. Would you take that offer?
I’m curious to find out the answers here, because there is a lot of backlash against Sawstop and many claim that price has nothing to do with it. So please feel free to comment and let me know what your reasoning is either way. Thanks.
This one’s for all the woodworkers who are happy to be on the disavowed list…
Am I the only woodworker that thinks most woodworking plans suck?
Before I start, I will be forthright and admit that I often don’t follow woodworking plans, at least not to the letter. When I start a project, I will usually draw up a rough sketch with the dimensions I am looking to achieve and go from there. However, some of my sketches are not fully original and are sometimes based off pre-existing furniture and/or from already published plans. It is during those moments that having plans with at least some degree of certainty would really come in handy. Unfortunately, most woodworking plans are very, very vague; as in “What?”. Lately, I’ve been looking at and making chests, firstly because Kate Upton is hot, and secondly because I recently made several and my wife wants me to make another. While making a box may sound pretty straightforward, it sometimes can be a little more tricky than would be thought. For instance, attaching a lid to a box is not always easy, or at least not always easy to do it correctly. One plan I looked at for a blanket chest simply said “mortise the back for the hinges and attach the lid when the case dries.” Another plan didn’t even make mention of attaching the lid at all! It just assumed that the reader would figure out a way to do it. I don’t know about any of you, but the reason I subscribe to and read woodworking magazines is to pick up helpful little tips and tricks for performing tasks such as attaching a lid to a blanket chest. No offense, but an article on making a piece of furniture probably should contain information that will actually help you make it.
Am I the only woodworker that thinks the “Roubo” workbench is a huge waste of wood?
My own experiences with workbenches is not all that extensive. I’ve used the benches at the handful of woodworking classes that I took over the past few years, and I’ve messed around with the benches at tool shows and woodworking stores whenever I had the chance. When it came time to make my own bench, I built one based on the “French” workbench. For the record, it’s been a good bench for me, and for a while it was the only frame of reference I had for a bench that was made specifically for woodworking. As far as I was aware, most woodworking benches were similar to my own, and after taking a few classes with benches that were like my home bench, the nature of workbench design was a topic that I stopped giving a lot of thought to. Then, I attended a Lie Nielsen handtool event which for some reason had a Veritas bench present among all of the Lie Nielsen tools. For whatever reason, I went over to the bench with a board, saw, and a hand plane and messed with it for a few minutes. The bench worked just fine, which was surprising to me considering everything I had read about work benches with “thin” tops and legs. The Veritas bench was only half the size of the bench I have at home, yet I noticed no difference in how I used it. It got me to thinking that I could have made a bench similar to the Veritas at home in half the time and using much less wood. Now, the Nicholson, or “English” workbench has been popping up on woodworking blogs and forums and it seems right up my alley. It is easy to construct and uses half the material of a French bench, and from all appearances looks like it would have no problem doing anything that a larger and heavier bench would do. As for lighter benches “jumping around” during use; I just don’t buy it. At 205lbs, I am neither small nor weak, and I’ve never had a bench “jump” while using it unless I purposely made it happen. I think most of those movement claims are very exaggerated. If you are making a 200lb bench move while you are using it, whatever you are doing will also make a 300lb bench move. If you are that worried about your bench moving, stick it on a rubber matt instead of making it a foot thick; you’ll save a lot of time, money, and wood.
Am I the only woodworker that thinks tools are becoming overvalued?
I’ve slowly come to the realization that amateur woodworkers are overvaluing their tools. What do I mean by this? It seems to me that more and more we are being sold on the value of tools; which tools to buy, how to care for them, how to store them etc. and less regard is given to the actual furniture we are making. How many times do you read stories about “the old time craftsman” and how he lovingly stored and protected his tools and passed them on to his son when he retired. Know why he did that? Because his tools were his livelihood. The old time craftsmen sold all of the furniture they made, they didn’t get to keep it and in general they wouldn’t even be able to afford to purchase what they were building. I would bet that if the woodworkers of yesteryear did keep the furniture they made those pieces would have been even more lovingly cared for and passed on from generation to generation than a tool set.
I’m not blameless here; I fell into the same trap; I found myself becoming a tool worshipper and not a furniture maker. Being a tool worshiper doesn’t mean you have a lot of expensive tools or even a lot cheap ones. A tool worshipper woodworks to use tools, not build furniture. A tool worshipper worries much more about the sharpness of his chisels than the usefulness of his current project. A tool worshiper spends more time on his tools than he does on projects, period. Like I said earlier, look at the plans in a woodworking magazine; they are often afterthoughts, but an article on sharpening a saw will have a dozen detailed photos and drawings of the process.
I’m not trying to undervalue tools, but I am trying to put more value on what I make. I woodwork to make things, not play with tools. Don’t get me wrong, I like tools, I enjoy owning them and caring for them, but I like making things more. At that, I say own as many tools as you can afford and use them all, just try to remember why you have them. I’m not trying to tell anybody what to do here; do whatever you like. But I want to make furniture.
Last month (February) was a rough one for me. The temperature rarely made it above freezing, and I missed six days of work because of illness, and when you add in another three missed days because of snow you get a lot of missed time. A lot of missed time means a lot of missed money, and a lot of missed money means very little woodworking. At the moment, I cannot afford to purchase any material, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t be woodworking in the near future. I have some rough sawn Walnut that’s been waiting in my garage for some time to be planed down and made into something. I have a surface planer, but I try not to use it in the house because of the noise and dust. The problem is my lawn has been covered in snow for three months, and I don’t plan on running my surface planer while standing in nine inches of slush. Call me a puss, but I don’t fancy getting shocked. I’ve been doing electrical work for a long time, and nowhere does it recommend running a motor while standing in water, GFI protection or no. Still, there are a few things I need to do this weekend to get ready for woodworking season.
The first thing I need to do is flatten my workbench top. I don’t worry about workbench flatness all that much, but mine is in pretty sorry shape. I noticed it when I set the tool box on the bench top last week and it started to wobble. I checked it with a piece of angle iron and it has a pronounced crown, but I can fix that pretty easily. I also need to add some more dog holes for my holdfasts, currently the bench has only four and I would like to add four more. I also need to add the base for my Kreg Clamp. I have a Kreg Clamp and I love it. It’s made by Kreg, the destroyer of traditional woodworking. Kreg: the company that makes everything too easy. I love the thing. It’s not as versatile as holdfasts because it needs to have a base recessed into the bench top, but it does a great job of holding whatever is clamped into it. I will then do a little more sharpening because it’s “a gateway skill!” Well, I don’t like buzzwords, and I think that much of the time they are used by one person repeating another person because it’s easier to do that than to think for yourself. I sharpen my stuff because if it’s not sharp it doesn’t work, and if you need somebody to tell you that then it’s quite possible that woodworking may not be something you want to do.
Lastly, the toy chest I made last fall developed some cracks. I knew it was going to shrink a little, but I didn’t expect it to split the way it did. It didn’t split at the joints, but across the entire length. I made it from Pine that probably needed to dry a little more, and when the temperature dropped in a hurry and stayed that way it was too much for the wood to handle. I’m still going to keep it for now because it’s in no danger of falling apart. At the same time, once I get a replacement chest started I’m going to cut it up and see if I can reuse some of the wood. I didn’t finish it except for some wax, so I may be able to get some useful boards out of it.
So all in all it was a rough winter. I have no money, little material, it’s still frigid outside, and it doesn’t look like things will be improving any time soon. After all of this I’m thinking of converting to Anarchy after all. From where I’m sitting, they have all the wood, all the tools, and all the money.
Okay, so you got ‘The Craft’ tattooed across your lower back. You picked up your entire tool set for a six-pack of Piels. You’re workbench top is as thick as the walls of a bank vault. You’ve taken apart your entire tool set and reassembled it as you see fit, and your new best friend is a black smith from Saskatchewan who hasn’t made anything for a customer in years. You’ve officially become a Cool Woodworker. But if you think that all of this, impressive though it may be, is enough to actually keep you in the promised land you are in for a very rude awakening. See, becoming a Cool Woodworker is really only half the battle; remaining a Cool Woodworker is not guaranteed, and can be difficult for those who don’t know or understand all of the rules. That is where I come in.
For all of you Cool Woodworkers who just got into the club, and are now worried about keeping your membership, I’ve managed to put together some more research on the elusive Cool Woodworker, and I’ve come up with a few more helpful tips and suggestions that should keep you in the inner circle for years to come.
Rule #1- You must hate Ikea.
This one is easy because it takes absolutely no thought, effort, or basis in reality. You simply must hate Ikea, and that’s it. Why? Doesn’t really matter, just hate the place and you’ll be fine. You don’t have to ever go in there; or know what it is, or even know what they sell; you just have to hate it. That’s it. Easy.
Rule #2- Insult Norm Abram whenever you get a chance.
Like rule #1, this one is fairly easy too. Though the New Yankee Workshop has been off the air for nearly five years, insulting Norm Abram is still held in high regard among Cool Woodworkers. The good news here is that because baseless, straw man type insults require almost no intelligence, many woodworking writers excel at them. So all you really need do here is read a professional woodworking blog from time to time and agree with those insults. It doesn’t take much effort on your part, just add to the mix an insult about Norm’s Boston accent, or his brad nailer, and you will be just fine. If you find yourself feeling bad about degrading another human being and his work for no apparent reason, don’t. As most Cool Woodworkers already are adept at running down what people do for a living, you too will eventually learn to harden your heart for the sake of the craft.
Rule #3- Be rid of all your tools.
This may sound completely preposterous, and to most non Cool Woodworkers it is. Nonetheless it must be done. As a new member of the club, you must be wondering why you spent all of that time finding the expensive tools that you spent so little for and then completely refurbished to your own superior specifications only to cast them off like garbage. If you are wondering just that, don’t worry; it is quite normal; most intelligent people would be wondering the same thing. The trick here is to turn off that part of your brain. A Cool Woodworker uses few, if any tools to woodwork with. How? My research on this one is so far incomplete, but trust me when I say that it is accurate. The Cool Woodworker Illuminati do not take kindly to woodworkers who have “too many tools!” It is very insulting to them, so don’t do it! Instead, cast aside those anchors and work with the bare minimum, and then remember to cast dispersions on any woodworker who doesn’t behave like you do.
Rule #4- Be prepared to defend the Cool Woodworker higher-ups to the death.
Cool Woodworkers feel a very close kinship with the leaders of their movement even though they more than likely have never met them or even spoken to them. At that, a cool woodworker should always be prepared to speak for his or her leaders ex cathedra. For example, a reasonable person might mention that he read a particular book and didn’t care for it, and another reasonable person may agree or disagree without much fuss. On the other hand, if a non-Cool Woodworker happens to not care for a book or blog post by a Cool Woodworker leader, it will be your job to vigorously defend your leader as well as do your best to insult and deride the opinions of all non-Cool Woodworkers in disagreement. In this instance, you will also be required to speak directly for your leader, even to the point where you can claim to know exactly what he or she would say if he or she were present. If need be, you can also quote verbatim the inner thoughts and feelings of your leader even if you never actually heard those thoughts spoken aloud. Use your worst judgment, and you will do fine.
Just like becoming a Cool Woodworker takes a lot of hard work, so too does staying one. Be prepared to make baseless insults. Be prepared to present yours or your leaders opinions as fact, and most of all be prepared to develop a smug self assurance and superiority complex that normal people would consider arrogance and you will do just fine. God speed my friends.
When I completed my tool box project a few weeks ago I posted some pictures on Lumberjocks. One of the commenters mentioned that while the box looks great for transporting a decent amount of tools, it didn’t seem as good a solution for a home woodworker to keep his or her tools stored and ready to use. I would have to say that I agreed with his opinion. If I were a woodworker with a larger garage or dedicated workshop, and I also had a larger set of tools, The Dutch tool box probably wouldn’t be the way to go as far as a permanent tool storage solution. I personally believe there are much better methods for the home woodworker to store stuff. If my garage were bigger and set up a little differently, I would think that a wall mounted rack or stand alone tool cabinet would be the best way to go about keeping my tools stored yet well organized and close at hand. Some people prefer tool chests, and while they look great and hold a lot of tools, I don’t think they work as well in a smaller workshop, and they also force you to either dig through them, or remove all of the tools you think you may need before hand. I think a dedicated wall rack and dare I say, a tool tray on your workbench, are much better ways to keep all of your tools nearby yet out of the way. So why build a Dutch Tool Box?
Firstly, the box was fun to make. It uses dado, dovetail, tongue and groove, and nailed joints, so if you are looking to practice your joinery and still make something worthwhile it is a good project to start with. You can also make the tool box with power tools, hand tools, or a combination of both. It’s also fairly easy to build, and if you aren’t as good at sawing dovetails as you would like, you can either use the box as practice, or make the case itself using only dado and nail joinery, which would be nearly as strong and somewhat easier to put together. It holds a nice amount of tools; nearly every hand tool I own is in mine except for a some of my hand saws, and if you don’t have an overly large tool set(and don’t plan on any massive expansion) it will probably be all that you need for most of your basic hand tool storage for a long time. Another good thing is that the tool box is easy to modify, and you don’t need to follow any strict plans. It is easy to take the basic layout of this box and customize it to whatever you want. With all that being said, would I build another, or recommend another woodworker making one?
There are a few things I would change; I would have made mine a little wider, around 3 inches or so. The height and depth are fine. I also would change the way the lid sits. The most difficult part of the construction is attaching the lid flush to the angled back. I had thought about squaring off the back and attaching the lid to the level section, but that little overhang would have possibly interfered with removing chisels from the rack. Once the case was already assembled, I didn’t want to take a chance and end up making a huge mistake. If I ever build another one, I will incorporate the new lid into the design. I changed the depth of the front compartment, making it around two inches deeper than the original plan in Popular Woodworking, and I’m glad that I did, as the added depth allowed me to put my gouge chisel and files in the tool rack. Had the depth been shortened, the chisel rack would have been less useful. I also used decorative cut nails to fasten the front panel, as well as reinforcing the dado joints for the shelf. I think the nails look great, and to pat myself on the back a little, mine is the only Dutch tool box I’ve seen with that feature. The bottom compartment is a little shallower than the plans call for, yet it has not interfered with anything I’ve tried to put in there. I had some reservations about the weight when the box is fully loaded. I put it on a bathroom scale and it came in at just under 112 lbs without any of my joinery saws. I have no trouble picking the toolbox up and moving it where I want, though I wouldn’t want to carry it up and down a staircase all day.
So all in all I’m glad I made the tool box. It was fun to build and offered a little bit of a challenge without being overly difficult. The box is small enough to keep out of the way and not take up too much space, yet large enough to hold nearly all of my hand tools. I think it is a good project for a new to intermediate level woodworker. If you have nice sized garage, or a dedicated workshop, I would again recommend making a wall mounted tool rack right above your bench, or a stand alone tall cabinet that you can keep nearby. Either one of those does a great job of tool storage, and will have enough room so you never outgrow them. For the smaller work shop, this tool box is a good choice, and if you take woodworking classes it is a nice way to transport your tools as well as show off your handy work a little. So I say if you are thinking about building a Dutch Tool Box then go for it. Even if you don’t plan on using it you can always give it away as a gift, or you could just go to Sears and buy one of their roll around tool carts. I have one and I love it.
Tonight I had planned on writing about my recently completed tool box project, what I like about it, and what I would change if I were to build it over again. But, I had a long and tiring day at work, and I don’t feel that I have the energy to write a somewhat entertaining and coherent blog post right now. Still, I am at the computer and of the mind to at least write something. So rather than tax my mind and actually think, I’ve decided to do what a lot of other woodworking blog writers do and just blindly repeat what I’ve read on some professional blogs. So here goes nothing…
Sawstop sucks. I buy my tools used. Don’t buy new tools. New tools suck. Lie Nielsen is the best. Lie Nielsen is overpriced. Amateurs don’t deserve Lie Nielsen tools. Amateurs should purchase the best tools they can afford. You have to purchase from a Lumberyard. Real Woodworkers rive their stock. Real woodworkers don’t use power tools. I hate power tools, but sometimes I use a table saw. You have to read the Anarchists Tool Chest. I only use three tools. My rasp is hand hammered. I hate Ikea. Ikea makes everything out of particle board and cheap veneer. Ikea is killing craftsmanship. I’m an anarchist. I call my tools ‘pointy things’. Home Depot sucks. Ikea sucks; I said that before. Ikea sucks. I’m on a hand tool journey. Moderns are stupid. Moderns are lazy. I call people Moderns. I left a comment on so and so’s blog and he replied so now we’re best friends. Steve Gass should be tried for treason. My tool set cost ten dollars. My shooting plane cost five hundred dollars. My workbench is a foot thick. Only buy hardware from a blacksmith. Amateurs suck. Amateurs must save the craft. Amateurs can’t sharpen. Your chisels suck. Amateurs suck. I call woodworking the craft. What you are doing is bad for the craft. What I am doing is good for the craft. The Kreg Jig sucks. The Kreg Jig is bad for the craft. The Kreg Jig is everything that’s wrong with woodworking. I’m a process oriented woodworker. I woodwork to preserve the craft. The craft is in danger. Norm Abram sucks. I never watched the New Yankee Workshop. The New Yankee Workshop is bad for the craft. You have too many tools. You don’t use the right tools. You shouldn’t be using that brand. Real woodworkers don’t use those tools. Buy this tool. Buy that tool. Don’t buy here. Buy there.
Wow! That was easy. Having somebody else think for you really is fun! Who would have thought that you can write an entire blog post without having one original thought? I’m a changed person. I’m thirsty; where’s the Kool Aid?