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I’m a loser

I was informed yet again by my wife over the weekend that I spend way too much time woodworking. I don’t see it, as I usually only spend a few hours per month “on the job”. But my perceptions doesn’t really matter all that much, as I am speaking about how my wife perceives my time spent in the garage. Couple that with my health, which hasn’t been all that great lately, and it makes a compelling case.

Now, this is hardly the first time I’ve heard this, but it was definitely the most venomous. In my defense, I do not drink, smoke, gamble, or do drugs of any kind. I have no vices to speak of unless you would count woodworking as a vice, which maybe it is. I do not play sports any more, even golf. I have one other leisure activity, which is reading, as well as writing this blog, and from what I gather my wife isn’t very happy that I do those things, either.

The one thing that truly bothers me is the tool set. If I were to give up woodworking what should I do with it? While I don’t have a large set of tools, I do think it is a nice one. I thought that shrink wrapping the whole toolbox and storing it in the attic might be a good idea, but I don’t know how well they would hold up, as my attic hits 125 degrees in the summer and near freezing in the winter. Another idea I have, which I think is a good one, is donating them to a kid in high school who could use them. I would still keep any tools that I made myself, and the two wooden planes that I’ve purchased recently.

The power tools and workbench would be easy. I really only have one power tool that takes up any space, which is my table saw. Other than that I have a jigsaw and a router, both of which take up little room and are rarely used to begin with. My dad would take the table saw and workbench in a heartbeat, so they would definitely go to a good home.

Those of you who read this blog on a regular or semi-regular basis know that I’ve been through this before. You also probably know that I enjoy woodworking and writing about it; I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t. But I don’t want to be in an unhappy marriage, and if woodworking is the cause of that unhappiness then I have to cut it out of my life. I’m not saying that I will never woodwork again. If and when I get older, I will theoretically get more free time to go along with my old age. So God willing, 20 years from now I may just be one of those old coots that I always talk about who attend all of the woodworking shows so happily. Who knows? It could happen.

For the benefit of Mr. Dick

It has come to my attention that some people out there don’t like when I happen to disagree with one of their woodworking idols; in this instance Paul Sellers. I’ll say this again, for the record: I like what Paul Sellers does, I think he is a great woodworker and a great teacher. I DO NOT agree with everything he says. In fact, there are quite a few woodworking professionals that I like but don’t always agree with: EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

I don’t always agree with everything that everybody says. I don’t always agree with the Federal Government; I don’t always agree with paying $15 to park at a public venue; I don’t always agree with the salaries that professional athletes make; I don’t always agree with my wife. Does all this mean that I hate all of these things and I am trying to destroy them or “tear them down”. No, it means that I think for myself and I have an opinion, and sometimes my opinion is that they are dead wrong.

I don’t know everything I will be the first to admit, but neither does anybody else. There is very little new under the sun, and we are all standing on the shoulders of those who came before us in many instances. So to make the assumption that any one person is the end-all, be-all final say on a topic is just foolish. And to believe that same person’s opinion is fact is also asinine.

I think for myself, I have an opinion; that is why I write a blog about woodworking. If you don’t agree with my opinion I don’t care. If you want to tell me that you don’t agree with my opinion I’m happy to listen. But nobody is going to convince me that there is a perfect woodworker out there whose methods and opinions are beyond question. If you feel that person or persons exists then I’m happy for you. The best thing to do in that situation may be taking all of those lovely thoughts and feelings about this particular person or persons and putting them into a blog of your own.

Doctor Robert

When I was an actual musician I used to pride myself on the rather small rig I used to play live. It was very simple: a direct box, a compressor, an EQ, and a tuner, to go along with my speaker and head. When I first started playing live I used a much larger rig, but that got old real quick. There wasn’t much fun in breaking down a boatload of (sometimes heavy) music equipment and loading it into a beat-up van at 5am after playing music and drinking beer for 9 hours. But the pride I felt wasn’t necessarily because of the small size of my set-up, but because I had managed to achieve a very good sound.

I spent the first year of my “live” career tweaking my guitar along with the compressor and the EQ. I had a very specific sound that I wanted, and it took a lot of trial and error before I found it. I knew guys that would walk on stage, plug in their bass and start playing. Sometimes it sounded okay, but most of the time it didn’t, no matter how much talent they had. I didn’t want to be that guy, so I continued to work at it whenever I got the chance. I knew that I had found success when other bass players, some fairly well known in the area, would approach me after a gig and asked to check out my rig. But that didn’t mean that I always was a bare-bones type of musician; I had many musical toys to play with at home, and I would spend hours recording songs, playing the keyboards, and adding every whacked out effect I could think of to the mix. It was fun. I like to believe that woodworking and music are similar disciplines. There are the tools you need to get started, but there are also the tools you want just to play with and have a little fun, just like in music.

About a month or so ago I had contacted Josh Clark at Hyper Kitten inquiring about a moving fillister plane. Josh informed me that he didn’t have any good examples in stock at the moment but if he came upon one he would contact me. So I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email last week from Josh showing me two planes in good condition and both reasonably priced. I chose one, Josh mailed it to me to inspect it, and I liked what I found, so I decided to purchase it.

I’ve wanted a moving fillister plane ever since I’ve been watching Roy Underhill. Of course, there are several ways to make a fillister without using a dedicated plane, but there is something about the look of the plane that I’ve always loved. Ordering it for me was a no brainer. It arrived in good shape, but in need of a little work. I removed every part of the plane that was removable and gave it a good cleaning. The one disappointment was the plane iron. There was no pitting or rust, but it appeared that the previous owner sharpened it with a grinding wheel of some kind. I don’t believe in grinding wheels, in particular if you really don’t know how to use one properly. The good news is that the back was flat with just a slight hollow. I began the honing process using a 1000 grit stone, though I probably should have used the 220 grit. In any event, I did manage to get a nice, and very sharp edge on it, though it took some time. The bevel of the iron could still use some work. Luckily, whomever the poor sharpener was, he at least didn’t screw up the front of the bevel, and his poor grinding was restricted to the back where it isn’t much of an issue. Still, one of these days I will really go at it and do a full regrind, by hand of course.

Plane as it looked out of the box

Plane as it looked out of the box

The iron, nicker, and corresponding wedges

The iron, nicker, and corresponding wedges

Plane after a good cleaning

Plane after a good cleaning

Dado width adjuster after a cleaning

Dado width adjuster after a cleaning

While I was at it, I also completely removed all of the brass from the plane, depth stop, depth stop adjuster, and the screws, and gave them a good polishing as well. I also sharpened the nicker and gave the wedges a light sanding and cleaning. I finished it all off with a coat of wax. On a side note, I removed the width adjuster to check out the sole. The sole was flat, but it did have some gook and grime on it, so I decided that I would give it a light sanding. I placed three sheets of sandpaper on my table saw: 100 grit, 150 grit, 220 grit, and proceeded to give the sole a nice clean-up. When I finished, I found something a bit scary; the wood on the sole looked absolutely beautiful. I then gave it a coating of linseed oil and it looked even better. I know that it is some sort of blasphemy to take the patina from an old and beautiful plane such as this one, but I am really tempted to do just that: sand the whole thing down, and re-coat it with the oil, and make it look brand new again.

Whatever I do, I’ve found that being a plane doctor is pretty fun. I’ve enjoyed taking these old tools, cleaning them up, fixing what I could, and putting them back to usable condition. Not that there is a whole lot to it, you only need a plane that was well made in the first place, the ability to sharpen, a little mechanical aptitude, and a little patience.

I’ve also found that the wooden planes I have worked with have been much easier to rehab than the old metal planes I’ve come across. While I still can’t call myself a traditionalist by any stretch, I am a huge wooden plane fan. My success so far has made me consider purchasing some more old wooden planes and attempting to fix those up as well. Fortunately, they are still available, and the cost is usually reasonable. Over the next few months I can see myself doing more and more of this type of work. As of today, the doctor is in.

You know it ain’t easy.

Just like many things in my life lately, my woodworking over the past few days has been disjointed. Before I completed the door for the little built in cabinet I made for the garage, I decided to do a little work on the dado plane I picked up from Ebay.

The first act of restoration was taking the plane apart. Thankfully, everything looked good, though the screws for the depth stop mechanism were definitely not original to the plane. I did a little bit of work on the wedges by laying a sheet of 220 grit sand paper on my workbench and giving both of them a light sanding/flattening. I then cleaned the plane, first with mineral spirits (very lightly), and then some linseed oil, getting it in all the nooks and crannies. While the plane dried I cleaned the depth stop mechanism with Brasso. The turning knob shined up brilliantly, but the screw itself took a little bit of work, as it had many, many years of dust and grime on it. I probably spent a good 15 minutes on the screw alone, and while it is not shiny, I definitely got it clean. Finally, I wiped off the linseed oil and applied a coat of paste wax. Next step was the iron.

Cleaned up plane

Cleaned up plane

Before I did anything, I flattened both the tang on the iron and the knicker using a ballpeen hammer, which was easy enough. I then cleaned the iron with some camellia oil. I spent a good 15 minutes flattening the back with the 1000 grit water stone. The back was reasonably flat to begin with, but I wanted to be certain. To hone the actual bevel itself I used a Veritas honing guide, which works well on skewed irons. That part took around 25 minutes, as I worked very deliberately. I wanted to get it as perfect as possible so future sharpenings would go more smoothly. Happily, I managed to achieve a really nice edge, and the old blade held up beautifully. With that, I called it a job done. I didn’t really touch the knicker other than the tang, as I am not all that sure how to sharpen them.

Sharp iron

Sharp iron

Saturday morning I started and completed the door for my built-in. I ran into a bit of a problem; the boards I set aside for the rails were not really long enough. I was shooting for a one inch long tenon, with a quarter inch stub. After squaring the boards and cutting them to usable size, I only had enough length left for about a 5/8 inch tenon, which I suppose is better than nothing. Either way, there is nothing much to report on that job, as it was basically a small bit of trial and error, measuring, sawing, and some handplaning. In fact, here is a good tip for making a tongue and groove joint on a table saw: Always make the tongue/tenon first, then use the tongue to set the fence of the table saw to make the groove. It takes a bit more work than setting up a dado stack, but at the same time eliminates the trial and error process of setting up a dado stack to begin with.

Finished door with pull

Finished door with pull

The last job of the day was hanging the door. Hanging a door sometimes isn’t easy, but I found a little trick that sometimes helps. Before I assembled the door and glued it, I mortised the hinges into hinge side stile and hung it onto the cabinet. It is much easier dealing with one 2 inch wide board rather than an entire door (this works well on a smaller door, but on a heavier door it may not work as well due to sagging) After I had a nice fit I glued up the door, checked it for square, and let it dry over night. This morning, I installed a pull ring and re-hung the entire door. The fit is nice, but not perfect, but at least the gaps are even, and the door opens and closes smoothly.

With this project finished I probably won’t woodworking much for the rest of the summer. Hopefully if all goes well over the next few weeks I will get started on making my smooth plane. Otherwise, I don’t plan on building any furniture. This project wasn’t very difficult, but that is a relative term. I’ve yet to build anything out of wood that was simple, even if the design itself was. This project was no exception. For what it’s worth it was fun, woodworking usually is, but it definitely wasn’t easy.

I’m the Rabbet!

A few days ago I purchased a ½” wood rabbeting plane from Ebay. The item looked to be in good condition from the photos, the seller had an excellent reputation as far as Ebay is concerned, and the offer of $45.00 and free shipping I felt was very reasonable, so I took a chance and ordered it. The plane arrived last night-FYI in just 2 days-and has thus far exceeded my expectations. The plane is clean with no rust, the depth stop works smoothly, and most importantly, the iron is in fantastic shape at first glance. Though the iron looks like it hasn’t been sharpened in some time, it is clean and the edge is very straight. I am just guessing, but I think that whomever originally owned the plane only sharpened using a stone and not a grinding wheel of any kind. I’m not a fan of grinding wheels for sharpening, so to me that is a big plus.


I don’t know much about wood plane rehab, but I plan on giving the iron a good honing, removing the depth stop and cleaning it with Brasso, and giving the body a light cleaning with mineral spirits, followed by a coat of linseed oil and a few coats of wax. I checked the sole and found it very flat, so I will not touch it unless I notice a problem during use.

I purchased the plane because I like wooden planes, and because I would like to start making rabbets by hand when possible, in particular when it is only a small section. So this is basically just an experiment, and one I don’t feel badly in attempting because at worst it will only have cost me $45.00. I saw some nice deals on other planes as well and if all goes well I’ll order another. Funny, though I am hardly a traditionalist I seem to like wood planes better. I have no explanation, other than the fact that I like them. Who knew?

I’m selling my table saw

I’m not.

However, I spent about an hour Sunday night reading woodworking blogs. I would say that between 15 and 20 of those blogs were fairly new (all amateur) and many featured a woodworker about to sell his table saw. Now it’s not my place, but I am wondering why.

Don’t misunderstand me, if another woodworker doesn’t want to use a table saw it means little to me. The way I see it, there are a handful of really good reasons to stay away from a table saw: Safety, dusty, noisy (not always, depends on the saw), and they can take up a lot of space. But most of the blogs I read last night seemed to imply that the table saw was keeping them from doing good work. I’m wondering how that conclusion was reached.

It’s been my experience that having a poor tool isn’t all that helpful, but never has one caused me to do bad work. If my work is bad, and sometimes it is, I can’t really ever recall the tool being the blame, in particular if the tool was in working order. Maybe how I used the tool caused some problems, but that is another matter. A dull chisel will do poor work, or a table saw with a defective motor or rip fence, but that isn’t necessarily the fault of the tool.

So I’m hoping that if a woodworker out there reading this blog is also considering selling his table saw because he or she feels it hurts the work being performed, if you don’t mind I would like to hear your thoughts on why. Thanks.

Fixing a Hole

Because I had a little bit of free time on Friday night after work, I got a little bit of a jumpstart on my built in cupboard project I started last week. The first task was to place the cupboard in its soon-to-be home and mark out the portion of the wall to be sawn out. I then used a drywall saw to cut out the hole and make a huge mess in the process. The next task was installing the back of the cupboard, which was a simple piece of 1/4″ thick Baltic birch plywood, which I cut on the table saw. I installed the back piece with a little glue and some brad nails. I then installed the semi-finished cupboard in the hole. I possibly could have installed the face-frame before and then installed the cupboard in one shot, but that would have made it more difficult to shim. So I installed the case with some finish nails, added a new 2×4 header to the wall, and called it a night.

Plywood back installed

Plywood back installed

Shimmed and ready to go.

Shimmed and ready to go.

I had work yesterday morning, and things to do in the afternoon, so the face-frame portion of the project had to wait until this morning. For the face frame I once again used Pine, ripped to 3 1/4″ wide, except for the bottom piece which was only 1 3/4″. To take away the tooling marks I used the jack plane set very lightly, as I didn’t want to change the dimensions any more than necessary. I then gave the boards an overall sanding 150/220. When they looked satisfactory I double checked the boards to be sure they were square, because I used pocket holes to assemble the frame, and while pocket hole joinery may be dead simple, if the boards aren’t square then it doesn’t mean a thing. I assembled the frame on my workbench, hung it with just one nail, checked everything to make sure it was even, and then finished the installation using finish nails.

A small pile of shavings. I must not be a real woodworker.

A small pile of shavings. I must not be a real woodworker.

Face frame installed

Face frame installed

It holds stuff

It holds stuff

The last act of the day was filling the cabinet just to see what it can hold. For not being very large it holds a nice amount of stuff. I don’t really have any specific plan for the cupboard, it was really just an experiment. Because I didn’t have enough wood to make the door frame, it will have to wait until next weekend. That will be a bit more challenging, as it will involve mortise and tenon joinery, as well as fitting panels. I would also like to add a small cap to the top of the frame. I can’t be anything that sticks out very far, but I do want to differentiate between the cupboard and the rest of the wall with a border.

Considering that the wall isn’t very even, and covered in bumpy drywall, the cabinet fits nicely. I think it will look even better once the door is in place. One thing I probably should have done differently was leave off the adjustable shelving and just uses dadoes to hold the shelves in place. The cabinet really isn’t tall enough to need adjustable shelving, and it was a bit of a waste of time to put the holes in. Otherwise, I am happy with how it is shaping up. Next weekend I should have little problem getting the door built and installed. I will then be able to call this project finished and move on to making my smoothing plane.


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