Believe it or not, but I am a fairly humble person. I think it is due to my working class (i.e. poor thug) background. Though I may be humble, I also am pretty intelligent, and I like to believe that I am rather perceptive, and I have good taste when it comes to things such as woodworking blogs.
About a year or so ago I began reading a woodworking blog (or maybe it wasn’t even technically a blog yet, I don’t exactly remember all the details) that I enjoyed immediately, and I felt had a lot of potential to be great. Maybe it’s because I could relate to the guy writing it. We’re both roughly the same age, we are both too young to have grey hair, and we both enjoy woodworking and writing about it. Admittedly, this gentleman is a far better woodworker than I am, but that doesn’t stop me from comparing myself to him.
However, I would like to set all narcissism aside as this blog post isn’t about me, but rather about woodworker Graham Haydon, who now will be a contributor to Popular Woodworking magazine (or maybe more-I don’t know for sure). I was extremely happy to read his first contribution to the PW Editors blog this morning, and I hope to read many more. Graham is a highly talented woodworker and writer, good on camera, and though we’ve never met, he seems like a hell of a nice guy. So I would like to be one of the first to welcome my English Brethren and wish him the greatest success. If his current body of work is any indication, I think we will be seeing some great work coming from Graham Haydon, and I’m happy to say I saw it all coming. Hail Britannia!
Last week a coworker asked if he could borrow one of my handplanes to add a back-bevel to a new door he had installed. I figured that my #7 would be the best tool for the job, so I inspected it to make sure the iron was sharp before I lent it out. I noticed that the plane had a bit of a neglected look to it. It was a little dusty, there was some grime on it along with a few spotty patches, and I also noticed that I hadn’t ever cleaned up the handle of the plane like I had planned on doing. The truth was that I hadn’t used it in a while, and it was about time to reintroduce myself to old #7.
My friend returned the plane letting me know that it had worked perfectly, and I gladly took it back, like finding an old friend again. I decided that I would give the plane a good cleaning and work on the handle a little over the weekend, so that’s what I did. On Friday night after work I took the plane apart, removing the tote and knob, the frog, and every screw and washer. I soaked the frog and all of the hardware in WD40. There was quite a bit of grime on the plane, a combination of oil, dirt, and wood dust. So on Saturday morning I filled a bucket with soap and water and gave the plane body a good bath, scrubbing every inch of it with the brush I normally use to clean my car’s tires. Once I was satisfied with the outcome I wiped the plane dry, used some q-tips to clean out any of the threads, and then wiped the entire body with oil.
I used sand blocks on the iron, cap, and chip breaker, removing any build-up and polishing them up. When finished I oiled those parts as well. I let the hardware soak for one more night, and early this morning I cleaned the parts with an old tooth brush, as well as filed away any burrs that I could feel. With those parts clean I turned to the plane handle.
The handle didn’t necessarily look all that bad, but I had always planned on getting it back into shape. Firstly, I wiped the handle with lacquer thinner, and found it much dirtier than I had thought it was. Then I hand sanded it with 100/150/220/320 grit paper. I added one heavy coat of boiled linseed oil, wiped off the excess after a few minutes, and then let it dry for about six hours. After it was dry I added a coat of paste wax, letting it set, then buffing it off.
I have to say that I’m very satisfied with the outcome, and I’m glad I took the time to do the clean-up. The only disappointing part is the front knob. When I first purchased the plane the knob was in rough shape, so I removed it and sanded it down, and wiped it with three coats of polyurethane. While it didn’t look awful, it did darken the knob. Next weekend if I get a chance I will see if I can get the same results as I did with the handle.
In other news, Lee Valley was running a limited time offer for a small set of carving chisels, so I bit, spent the $60, and ordered them in. I don’t do much carving, almost none really, but the set seemed to be a good value, and considering that I had only one carving chisel, it would be pretty difficult to become any better at it without the correct tools. The set was advertised as already “sharp”, but in reality are simply “not dull”. I don’t own slipstones, so I will have to make do and learn to sharpen them on the fly with what I have. The handles are overly lacquered, and if somebody lit a match near them I wouldn’t be surprised if they went all Gaylord Fokker and burst into flames. But, they seem to be very well made, and the steel appears to be of good quality. Furthermore, the chisels arrived just three days after I placed the order. I wouldn’t have cared if they had taken two weeks to come in, but, that quick ship time does show me that Lee Valley has top-notch customer service. I’ve spent many years dealing with tool vendors as part of my job, and Lee Valley has been among the very best of the lot time and time again.
I also picked up some maple and bubinga which I hope to turn into a block plane or two, one for myself and one for a Christmas gift. At that, I believe that I have decided on my next project, though I won’t get into any details for fear of jinxing it. I’ll just say that it’s a small, but nice piece of furniture.
By now, just about everybody with a computer and internet access has seen or heard of the “Bad Luck Brian” meme. Bad luck Brian is a hapless lad with a bad yearbook photo that can seem to catch a break. I have to think that poor Brian may have once or twice thought about giving woodworking a shot, so here is my take on that very idea. Some of them are obvious, some a bit more subtle.
Just around six weeks ago I began lifting weights for the first time in nearly ten years. While I’ve always tried to keep myself in decent shape via walking, push-ups, sit-ups etc. This is the first time I’ve adhered to a strict routine in that ten year span. This isn’t a new fad for me; it’s actually something I’ve planned on doing for quite some time, but issues with my lower back had always kept me from starting anything in earnest, and when I was finally ready to begin this past spring, I ended up with a few nagging health issues that weren’t fully resolved until the end of the summer. Here is the funny thing, and here is why I bring this up on a blog post. I’ve strangely come to realize that the disciplines needed to improve physical conditioning are quite similar to those needed for woodworking. More strangely, I’ve found that since I’ve been lifting weights again the itch to begin a new project is becoming greater and greater.
Like woodworking, lifting weights can be quite humbling. I’ve made some real strides in the past six weeks, but just when I think I look like Captain America, I see a seventeen year old kid next to me who actually does look like Captain America. But youth isn’t everything (though I certainly wouldn’t mind being seventeen again). Age has brought experience, and patience. And like woodworking, there are more than a few methods to lifting weights. There are those who lift weights in order to look great, using exercises that isolate individual muscle groups in order to achieve the effect. I, on the other hand, do something called a total body workout. A total body workout is the idea of working all of your muscle groups, from largest to smallest, using exercises that overlap those groups accordingly. I like this method because if done correctly it will yield a greater overall strength, rather than just an appearance of strength.
Twenty+ years ago I could lift weights for a few weeks and look great. I’ve found as I’ve gotten older that looking strong and being strong are two different things. Strictly adhering to a regimen has brought me results that are more lasting, and though they came more slowly, the foundation is much stronger. It turns out that enjoying the process has yielded a greater benefit. Rather than trying to just look like Captain America, I am trying to actually become stronger, and in turn hoping that the end result will have a look that matches the effort. The point of all this being: I’ve found that I want to apply these same principles to woodworking.
I’ve always hated the phrase “Process Oriented Woodworking”. I have to think that most hobby woodworkers already enjoy the process otherwise they wouldn’t be woodworking in the first place. Not only that, enjoying the process does not necessarily make you a better woodworker. In the past three years I’ve built twelve pieces of furniture for my house, which does not include workshop furniture/appliances such as workbenches, tool chests and toolboxes, or the actual tools I’ve made. I’ve also made several built in closets and cupboards. The point being that I’ve made a lot of furniture, and I’ve improved at it greatly, but that improvement is limited to what I’ve been making-I’ve only gotten better at making the same things I’ve been making.
I can build a serviceable book case or table fairly well. I’m not saying it will be museum quality, but it will look nice and will work well in my home; there is something to be said for that. But, I’m planning on starting a new project this weekend, and I don’t know what that project will be. A few months back I picked up the material for an Enfield Cupboard. I am still going to build that cupboard, but I already know that I can. I want to make something that I’ve never made before. I’m going to start small, a pencil box, a desktop book rack, a portable writing desk. But I’m going to challenge myself by using unfamiliar woods, different joinery, maybe even a little inlay work. I’m going to take my time by working on these projects without a schedule. I’m not going to care when I finish, as long as I do finish. I’m going to make the most of the limited time I have to woodwork with. Lifting weights has taught me one important thing-do it correctly, challenge yourself, take your time, don’t settle for mediocrity, and you will improve by default.
In short, I’m going to become a process oriented woodworker, and I’m going to change the definition of what that phrase means.
I was originally going to write a post concerning something I read on another woodworking blog about a pencil being “the most important shop tool”, that is until I read just happened to read a tweet from the WoodWhisperer. I just found out that Glen Huey, Chuck Bender, and Robert Lang will soon no longer work for/at Popular Woodworking Magazine.
Those three are the main reason I’ve kept up my subscription in the first place. While I don’t personally know Glen Huey or Robert Lang, I’ve been fortunate enough to take some woodworking classes with Chuck Bender, and I can say that I learned more from him than any other source, be it a class, book, or magazine. I also am a fan of Robert Lang and his love of Arts and Crafts furniture. Though there were some things he wrote that I didn’t always see eye to eye with, I enjoyed nearly every project he built that was featured in the magazine.
While I won’t speculate on why this happened (the last time I did that I was emailed to death by quite a few people), I will say that in my opinion this doesn’t bode well for the future of the magazine. When your entire editorial staff is dismissed-whether or not they quit or were asked to leave I don’t know-I can’t see how it can be spun as a good thing for the publication. I was on the fence about renewing my subscription, so I will wait in see what is in store for the magazine before I make any decisions.
In any event, I sincerely wish all three of those guys the best of luck. I hope that I they don’t disappear from the scene as far as the world of woodworking media is concerned. Wow, maybe woodworking really is dying.
I subscribe to a good number of woodworking blogs, with nearly every one of them being written by an Amateur. I enjoy reading about what other woodworkers are building, and their opinions on the subject. That being said, I don’t know if I have a favorite. I used to enjoy the Lost Art Press blog and at one time considered it my favorite, but for a long time I stopped reading it, mainly because of some of the comments/commenters. Since that falling out, I’ve read few, if any professional’s woodworking blogs.
My question to the readers of this blog is: What is your favorite woodworking blog? And, if you feel so inclined to tell me: Why is it your favorite? I really only ask for one reason, and that is I am always looking for new material to read, and I like to think that if you are reading my blog, then we probably have at least a little in common, and that includes what type of woodworking blog we enjoy. So I would appreciate any feedback. Thanks.
Last month I needed to order a few items from Amazon.com. My order total fell just a bit short of free freight, so I added Alex Bealer’s book ‘Old Ways of Working Wood’ to the list, which only cost me around $2.00 after taking into account the deletion of the freight charge. The book sat untouched since it arrived, but a mild bout of insomnia on Saturday night led me to pick up the book and read it, which I did in one sitting-almost cover to cover. As far as woodworking books go, it was okay. I’ve read better, and worse. But something did surprise me, or rather, something didn’t surprise me.
‘Old Ways..’ was published in 1980 I believe. In literary terms, thirty-four years is hardly a long time, but it was written by a member of the G.I. generation. So we do at least have a perspective which is 3 generations removed from today. With that being said, Bealer’s views on hand tool/traditional woodworking are very similar to quite a few acclaimed new books that I’ve read over the past couple years. In fact, you could say that those books are almost identical to Bealer’s work. The message in ‘Old Ways’ is no different than in several “must read books that blew me away!” Here is the truth: There is no new woodworking information, it’s all been said before many, many times. While furniture may change in style, the way it is built has not really changed in hundreds of years. We, as woodworkers, are using the same joinery and virtually the same tools that have been used since the 17th century. The moral: There are no new woodworking books, and there haven’t been in a long time.
Would I recommend Bealer’s book? Not really. It’s not bad, but I liked Roy Underhill’s ‘ The Woodwright’s Guide: Working wood with wedge and edge’ much better, and both generally contain the same information; Underhill’s book was more fun to read. As far as woodworking books are concerned, I don’t know if I can see myself purchasing another new technique book. The older books are generally less expensive, and contain the same, if not better, information. While I’m all for supporting new authors, I do expect at least some new information, not information that has been rehashed over and over again for more than three hundred years. So while my “discovery” was hardly shocking, it did leave make me wonder about the future of woodworking books, as in, how many times am I going to read the same old thing in every new book?