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I should have known better.

Today I received a harsh lesson in a subject I thought I already knew quite well.

Because I had to work on Saturday, and because my family and I had a few errands to run, I did not complete my spoke shave until Sunday. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was/is that I spent nearly seven hours in my garage woodworking/cleaning up, and then went to the gym afterwards. I hate to sound like an old F*** here, but like most adult men who’ve been working all of their lives, I have back problems; in my case a herniated disc. On top of that, I have nerve damage in my right hand, which usually doesn’t affect my quality of life, but today that hand feels like tingly Jell-O.

So I should have known better to overdo it yesterday, in particular after the week of work I had just put in. But back to the woodworking.

The first task at hand was to cut the brass wear strip to size and attach it to the spoke shave blank, and for that I needed to make a jig. Let’s just put this out there; I hate making jigs. I like to think that I should be able to complete most woodworking tasks without a jig. I do understand that for many tasks a jig is, in fact, not only helpful but completely necessary, almost indispensable. So in this case the jig was actually needed to file a 45 degree bevel on the wear strip which would allow the shavings to pass through more easily. I also used the jig to hold the wear strip to bore and counter-sink the screw holes. The filing was easy enough, which was partly because I was using a brand new file. That file I purchased several years ago from a clearance bin at a Sears Hardware store for the insane price of .25 cents.
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Filing/boring jig…

I used a drill press to bore and counter sink the holes. And let me say again, this project probably could not be made without a drill press, at least most woodworkers couldn’t do it. I couldn’t imagine trying to bore and counter sink clean and accurate holes in a piece of brass with just a hand drill. As I said, some woodworkers may be able to do it, but I sure as heck couldn’t.

The next task was attaching the wear strip to the blank. The plans called for creating a shallow “dovetail” at 10 degrees, beveling the wear strip accordingly, and using that to hold the wear strip in place to set it and fasten it to the blank with screws. I considered doing just that, but I felt it a completely unnecessary step that could easily lead to error. Instead, I chiseled out the 1/16” recess at the recommended 4 degree angle, inserted the iron, used a business card to set the gap between the wear strip and the iron, taped it fast with some blue painters tape, and screwed it down. It took just about 15 minutes, which is probably the half the time it would have taken just to bevel and fit the wear strip into the recommended “dovetail”.

After the wear strip was attached I flied the screw heads flush and took some test shavings, as recommended. The spoke shave worked just fine, but the shavings were a bit thicker than I would like, but more on that later. I then began shaping the blank.

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Initial shaping started, wear plate filed down…

On this blog I’ve always advocated using whatever tools that you prefer. I’m not a zealot who pushed hand tools over power tools, or vice versa. As most of you who read this blog know, I use mostly hand tools because that is what I have the space for, but yesterday I would have loved to have had a band saw (and a belt sander for that matter).
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Some of the shaping underway. The round over was begun with a forstner bit…

Either way, I decided to use the bow saw I made back in December to do the initial sawing. The spoke shave kit came with a template, so that is what I used to define the lines. I was a bit unsure of using the bow saw, but what is the point in making a tool if you are going to be afraid to actually use it? The good news is the saw worked great, the bad news is that my uncertainty caused me to saw the first handle about a quarter inch from the line ( I was worried over how accurately the saw would track). My concerns were unfounded, however, as the saw tracked very well. So the second handle I followed the line very closely.

I first used a 5/8 forstner bit on the drill press to drill out the bulk of the round-over near the body of the spoke shave (before the saw cuts were made to be exact). To refine that I used a 5/8 dowel wrapped in sandpaper. The second arch of the handle was made with a series of saw kerfs and a chisel. I was tempted to use my spoke shave to finish the new spoke shave, I instead used a block plane, chisels, sandpaper (and dowels) to finish. All in all the bulk of the shaping took just about an hour to complete. I added a coat of wax and called it finished (almost).
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Top view…

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First real shavings…

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View of the escapement area…

So the first thing that likely contributed to my sore back was sharpening the iron. I’ll say this, the included iron was actually very sharp, but it was micro-beveled at the factory, which I didn’t care for. Secondly, it is A2 tool steel, which I really don’t care for. I spent 45 minutes regrinding and sharpening the iron, which is completely unacceptable. You can maybe blame my own sharpening technique or medium, but I also sharpened my other spoke shave, which is O1, in 5 minutes. I don’t see the benefit of A2 tool steel. It supposedly holds an edge longer, but if it takes 5 times the amount of time to get that edge then who cares?

As far as the kit is concerned, in general I liked it, but the assembly instructions were way too ambiguous (as is the case with nearly any instruction/plans when woodworking is concerned). For example, the instructions for the iron state that the mortise/recess should be deep enough for the iron the set just under the body. In reality, the iron should probably be recessed closer to 1/16th in order for more adjustment capability. In fact the instructions do mention something to this effect, but it’s on the last page. It would have been nice to know that when I was originally creating that mortise, and in this case I suppose reading the last page first would  have been the intelligent thing to do.

Another area of contention is the 4 degree bevel where the wear strip sits. According to the instructions that bevel should be initially created as soon as the blank is sized and marked. In reality, it probably shouldn’t be made until the wear strip is about the be fitted, as a mortise needs to be created there anyway for the wear strip to set in. The bulk of it is removed during the shaping process regardless. To my mind, creating it at the end of the process and not the beginning is more accurate, but live and learn.

Lastly, this tool supposedly offers “tool free adjustability”. The threaded adjusters, however, work just okay. When I removed the adjusters to sharpen the iron, I waxed all of the threads with furniture wax which helped a little (the threads were surprisingly smooth from the get-go). But this tool does not adjust nearly as easily as a metal shave. As of right now I have the shave set to take a finer cut, which is what I prefer regardless, as I see this more of a refining tool rather than a rough shaper.

The real question is will I make another? I think so, probably sooner rather than later. For this being just a  prototype, I am extremely pleased. Overall the construction process from start to finish probably lasted around 5 hours. Knowing what I know now, I could easily shave two hours from that, as meticulously following the instructions for making the blank took up nearly two hours on its own. I honestly believe I can make another blank in as quickly as twenty minutes now that I have one under my belt. Not that saving time is everything, but that part was one of the more boring aspects of making the tool.

In any event, the second aspect of this project that led to my lower back pain actually had little to do with the project itself. Originally, I was going to continue the project on Friday night after work, but my workbench area was quite frankly a big mess. I generally pride myself on the fact that I keep my work area clean and organized, but that wasn’t the case. The problem is I acquired some new tools over the past three months: the bow saw I made and the saw I purchased, the Superior handsaw that was given to me last week, the tools that my Father-in-Law gave me for Christmas, and now the spoke shave I just completed. I also had several non-woodworking related tools being stored on and around my bench area. So on Saturday afternoon as we were out and about running errands I picked up a 2ft x 4ft sheet of plywood and several dozen Shaker pegs to make another tool rack for the left side wall of my workbench area.

After the spoke shave was completed yesterday, I spent several hours cleaning up my garage, which included a lot of bending and lifting. I then did a rough lay out on the plywood sheet for storing the tools efficiently. At that point I finally called it a day. All in all I was in the garage from 10:30am to 5:15 pm without a single break. That wasn’t so smart after a 55 hour work week and three nights at the gym. I should have known better and now I am paying the price, but in truth it was all well worth the effort.

Support your not-so-local woodworker

I have a soft spot in my hard heart for the local restaurant. Maybe it’s because I like to support local businesses; maybe it’s because local restaurants hire local employees; maybe it’s because I have some understanding of the difficulties of operating a small business, or maybe I just like the fact that I can get an inexpensive meal and a decent cup of coffee at a place within walking distance. Whatever the case may be, I support local restaurants, and local businesses in general, whenever possible.

 As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, I don’t live in an area with a local, or even semi-local dedicated woodworking store. Maybe you would say that I whined about it, but I’m not here to argue semantics. So supporting a true local woodworking business is not really an option for me (though there are some antique stores close by that at times will have a few woodworking tools). Rather, I do my best to support woodworking related companies which I feel do a nice job.

The other day (on Twitter) I saw that Lost Art Press announced the pre-sale of: The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years. I pre-purchased volume one: Tools on the LAP web page. If you don’t know who Hayward is I cannot really help you very much, because I know very little about him myself. I know that he wrote and illustrated woodworking articles for many years starting early in the 20
th
century. I’ve read just a handful of his work, and that was whenever Popular Woodworking would post one of his pieces on their blog from time to time. Though I’m sure there will be some very good information in this book, it probably isn’t a book I really need to have. So why did I purchase it? The answer is two-fold.

Firstly, I consider this book both a woodworking book and a historical reference. I’m a real sucker for history books. I’ve never counted, but I probably have 50 plus books at home just on the American Revolution. I have volumes of the letters, articles, and writings of such people as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, etc. I’m also partial to biographies, tactical information, and the politics of the era, which I find most interesting of all. In fact, I even like to consider myself a bit of an expert on the subject. Now that I’ve tooted my own horn, I’ll just say that if you enjoy historical non-fiction you would probably enjoy my little library. And the Hayward book is a book I would like to have in that library.

Secondly, I like what Lost Art Press does, and if I see a book they are offering that I think may be interesting to me I will usually order it if I have the extra funds. Supporting small businesses is important to me, I work for a small business myself, and considering that I like woodworking, supporting a small woodworking business is even more important.

I’ve said before that I do not subscribe to any professional woodworking blogs (at least I don’t think I do). The only pro blogs I read are the Popular Woodworking editor’s blog (mostly for the chance to interact with the incomparable Graham Haydon), and from time to time, the Lost Art Press blog. I would in fact like to do a bit more reading of the LAP blog but I often just don’t get around to it. My support isn’t going to make or break any given company one way or the other, but I like to do what I can, because at the end of the day, many of these small companies are taking a big chance, in particular companies that specialize in woodworking.

It’s easy for me to sit here and say that a tool company, or a publishing company, should do this, that or the other. It’s easy to spend other people’s money for them. Rest assured, when I do that, it is with the best of intentions. As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I work for a small company, and I do know a little about the trials and tribulations of running a small business. I can only tell you that it is not easy, and takes a lot of hard work and effort. So when I get the chance to put my money where my mouth is, I make it a point to do just that. On that token, I’m not advocating or shilling for anybody. It’s your hard-earned money, not mine, so by all means do whatever you would like with it. I simply like to think if you are a regular reader of this blog, you will likely enjoy what I enjoy, so I don’t mind making a recommendation, from time to time.

 

A dovetailed box, and a tool to boot…

This past weekend I had planned on getting in a fair amount of woodworking. The weather forecast was looking good, with relatively warm temperatures that would help to melt the blizzard of 16′. Thursday night rolled around and I wasn’t feeling so hot. Friday morning I did something I rarely do; I called out of work. Saturday I wasn’t feeling so hot either, but two things happened that turned out to be fortuitous. Firstly, the tap wrench I ordered from Amazon arrived, and secondly, a friend of a friend gave me an old Superior crosscut saw that was in reasonably good shape. Those two developments spurred me into the garage to see what I could do.

The first thing I decided to attempt was to build one of the “Paul Sellers” dovetailed boxes that I had mentioned in a prior post. I had some scrap wood that I had prepped which was basically ready to go. I stuck strictly (okay, pretty strictly) to the videos I had watched: using all hand tools and sawing the dovetails tails first. Some of you may remember my disastrous attempt at tails first dovetails a few weeks ago. This time I did much better, but there was one speed bump.

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I grudgingly admit that gang sawing is a real advantage…

On one of the tail boards I noticed a very slight crack nearly smack in the middle of one of the tails. (the next box will be made with some decent boards) It was very fine and almost looked like a pencil mark. I didn’t think anything of it until I did the test fit. The joint was snug, as it should be, but when I knocked the box apart for glue up the little crack became a split about two inches long. I didn’t panic, or put my fist through the wall, I just sawed three inches from each board, re-sawed the tails, and thankfully they fit snugly in the pin boards I had already sawn. I had hoped to make it an all hand tool operation, but the bottom board needed to be re-sawn as well, so I reluctantly ran it through the table saw and got dust all over my wife’s car. I glued up the assembly, set it aside to dry, and turned my attention to something I hadn’t planned on in the least.

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My first “Sellers” dovetailed box. Hardly perfect, but not too shabby for my first attempt…

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After cleaning up the glue and a light sanding. Joints are pretty tight and the box was surprisingly perfectly square…

Last week I had mentioned the Lee Valley (Veritas) Spoke Shave kit I had purchased more than a year ago. I decided to give it a crack now that I had all of the necessary components to get going. I started by milling up a piece of maple to the specified size using the table saw and my jack plane. I then turned to the instructions for the procedure. As I had mentioned in another post, the instructions were not overly complicated, but they weren’t overly clear either, and the sequence of steps was not, in my opinion, laid out very well. I marked the blank as indicated, used the drill press to bore out the holes, and then came to the somewhat nerve wracking step of tapping out the threads. I had nothing to worry about, however, as that step was happily straightforward.

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One of the tapped and threaded holes bored…

On a side note, I have a drill press that was given to me more than 12 years ago. As far as drill presses go it is nothing special, and I don’t say that in a mean-spirited way. But things are funny. Not long after I received the drill press my mom’s husband gave me something called a “drill press vise” which I promptly put on the same shelf in my garage where I keep the paint, and I hadn’t considered it since. When it came time to bore the holes in the spoke shave blank I was wondering what I could use to not only hold the blank perfectly still, but allow me to move it without taking it out of registration. More than twelve years after the fact that vise popped into my head, I used it, and it worked brilliantly.

Continuing forward, I beveled the front edge 4 degrees using a block plane (as the instructions said to do) and scribed out the recess for the shavings to escape. The instructions recommended using a hand saw to make a series of kerfs, whacking them out with a chisel, and cleaning it all up with a paring chisel and a file, so that is what I did. That sequence also went pretty smoothly. I then had my first hiccup. The iron needed to be mortised into the spoke shave to fit flush. I achieved a perfect fit on one side, moved to the other side, had a minor slip, and left a little gap. It doesn’t matter in the least concerning functionality, it just bothers me knowing that it’s there.

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Escapement sawn out, front bevel in place…

The next step was fitting the iron to the adjustment hardware. Once again this was a bit nerve wracking, but it went smoothly. I was very impressed at the quality of the threads, as the hardware tapped into it very smoothly but solidly. The iron fit well, and I was able to take shavings on both walnut and maple easily. I left it at that, as it was getting late. The last construction step is to add the brass wear strip, and that step will likely be the most challenging, as the wear is fitted into 1/16 inch deep “dovetails”, counter-bored, then screwed and filed flush. It involves making a filing jig and doing some careful fitting. Thankfully the kit includes enough brass to make a second wear strip in case the first is damaged or miss filed.

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Iron fitted flush and hardware installed…

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So if all goes well I will hopefully have a new and fully functioning spoke shave by the end of next weekend. If not, I have a few more pieces of maple that will serve as blanks to start again. As far as that Superior hand saw I mentioned. I removed the blade and hardware and got it cleaned up nice and shiny. I did not get around to cleaning up the handle just yet. In any event, I won’t be posting any photos or writing about that process anyway. The most you may get is an “after” photo, because I can’t imagine anybody wanting to read the details of me scrubbing clean a saw blade, and I don’t want to subject anybody who is nice enough to read this blog to that drudgery. I’m a woodworker, not a sadist.

To touch the face of God

Thirty years ago, seven astronauts, seven heroes, seven Americans, lost their lives in service to their country when the Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed shortly after take-off. Like many shuttle launches, this one was broadcast on live television. Millions of Americans, many of them school students, witnessed the destruction of the shuttle as it unfolded, and millions of Americans witnessed first-hand the inherent dangers of space exploration.

Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe were all volunteers, men and women who gave their full measure of devotion to the endeavors of knowledge and discovery. It was once said that “Nothing is stronger than the heart of a volunteer.” And never were those words truer when it came to describing the men and women of the Astronaut Corps. It is tough for many people to imagine the courage and devotion and strength of character needed to be an astronaut. These brave men and women exemplified those virtues to the utmost degree.

Though the loss of the Challenger was indeed a disaster, and though in the weeks and months that followed many difficult decisions were made, America still committed to exploring the heavens and discovering the unknown. Through those dark times, when things were at their worst, America, as is often the case, was at its very best. The sense of wonder and pride in our space program did not diminish; it only grew in strength. Rather than shrink from the challenges that lay ahead, our best and bravest met them head on without fear or hesitation.

We all cannot be astronauts, but we can still honor the legacy of Dick, Mike, Ron, Elly, Judy, Greg, and Christa. It is rather for us to live our lives undaunted, to meet every challenge great or small head-on, to continue forward with that very same spirit of wonder and discovery in all of our endeavors. By living our lives to the fullest, by embracing the spirit of the volunteer, by striving to reach the unattainable, by remembering that “the future does not belong to the faint of heart, it belongs to the bold”, we can ensure that the sacrifice of these courageous explorers was not in vain.

Though the time for mourning may be past, it is nonetheless fitting to look back upon that day with sadness, as for many of us it will forever be in our memories as a reminder that sometimes we lose the best of us too soon; that sometimes, the intrepid spirit of our bravest cannot be restrained.

We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, that morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye, and slipped the surly bonds of Earth, to touch the face of God.

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Old and busted vs new hotness

One of the more hotly debated topics among woodworkers is the choice between purchasing a tool new or vintage. To me the debate is mainly pointless because in the end most woodworkers end up with a mix of the two. The real question is which tools should be purchased new, and which should be purchased pre-owned, and that is where I come in.

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to leave off items such as screw drivers and hammers, and stick with only the big guns: Hand planes, table saw, hand saws, chisels, and a handful of others. I understand that this topic has been covered ad hominem and in depth, and I likely have touched on it myself. This list, however, will be my definitive entry based on all of the experience I have acquired. What makes my list different? I have absolutely nothing to gain; I am not trying to make a sale or push a specific tool. I am only trying to help.

I’ll start off with the big three bench planes: smoother, jack, jointer. I own all three, with the smoother and jack being purchased new and the jointer being vintage. All three are excellent tools and I have no complaints with any of them. But if I could start over, I would do the exact opposite and purchase vintage jack and smoother planes, and a new jointer. Why? The jack and smoother planes are by far the most common hand planes on the vintage market. Often, high quality versions of each tool can be found easily for less than a hundred dollars. In fact, I’ve seen many nice examples in the $65 dollar range, which is less than a quarter of the cost of a new tool. Of course you will likely need to do some restoration on these tools, but these tools are the easiest of the bench planes to restore. A vintage jointer, on the other hand, can cost close to $200 for a decent tool, and that tool will likely still need some work. Good jointers are not as easy to find on the vintage market. And if one has twist in it’s sole it is near impossible to fix by hand. A high quality new jointer can be purchased for around $100 more than the cost of a vintage model, and it will come with a guarantee.

As far as panel saws, a rip filed panel saw is probably the best tool to purchase the vintage route. Rip saws are the easiest to re-sharpen for beginners (in fact, I would recommend practicing saw sharpening on a rip filed saw). And there are still a decent number of rip saws on the vintage market. As far as a cross-cut saw is concerned, I would purchase a good quality new saw before going the vintage route. Cross-cut saws are not nearly as easy to restore as a rip saw. It’s best to have a new saw that was professionally filed and set.

When it comes to back saws, I would stick with all new saws. There are still good back saws on the vintage market, but the problem is that they are often the same cost as a new model. In my experience, most decent backsaws on the vintage market are more “collector” tools than “user” tools. There are many high quality new back saw makers, and the price for them is generally reasonable enough to not even consider a vintage tool.

Purchasing a table saw either used or new is a tough call. You can get a good quality, woodworking table saw for between $600 and $1000. You can also go much higher, in particular if you go the Sawstop route (which I would never discourage). I’ve seen used, good quality cabinet saws cost between $300 and $500. The problem here is two-fold. Firstly, it is not easy to just eye up a table saw and know if it was abused. Electric motor problems are not simple to diagnose, and could crop up at anytime. Secondly, for the most part if you are purchasing a pre-owned table saw you will likely have to find one in your region, because the chances of finding a seller who is willing to take the saw apart and crate it up for shipping are slim to none.

Chisels I can go either route. I’ve seen some good quality vintage tools for a decent price, and I’ve seen some real junk. Luckily, it is not difficult to find good chisels both new and used, and it is easy to put together a mixed set.

Block planes are another example of newer is better. Almost every vintage block plane I’ve come across looks like it was used as a framing hammer. The good quality vintage tools are disproportionately expensive for what they are. I’ve heard some say that the vintage blocks are better, but I can’t imagine any being as good as my LN, and that tool was no more than many high quality vintage tools I’ve seen.

If you use a brace and bits, you want to go vintage. Vintage braces are a dime a dozen, inexpensive, and easy to restore. The same goes for vintage bits. Good quality new bits are expensive, and I’ve never come across a new brace that is as good as a vintage one.

Spoke shaves, on the other hand, I would only purchase new (or if you’re as stupid as me you can try to make a few). Every vintage spoke shave I’ve ever seen has been beat to hell. A new, high quality spoke shave is not overly expensive, and it comes with no worries. Are there good, vintage versions out there? Probably, but I’ve never seen one.

Joinery planes such as a router plane and a plow plane I would only purchase new. Here, I will name a specific brand and say that Veritas offers great tools, fully guaranteed, and very high quality. Vintage joinery planes that are in decent shape usually are the same price as a new tool. And trust me, when it comes to these tools, the newer versions are better than the vintage versions in every way.

The last tool I’ll mention is a high quality square. Once again, there are some good quality versions on the vintage market, and once again they are pricey. Good quality new squares aren’t cheap either. In this case I am on the fence, but if I had to choose one over the other I would probably stick to the new tool route. To name another brand, Starrett still makes great squares, and they are not much more in cost than their vintage cousins. As I’ve said with other tools, in this case you are getting a new tool that comes with a guarantee from the maker. You’re not getting that with a vintage tool.

I could mention tools such as a coping saw, marking gauges/knives, and so on, but I’ll stop here. My list covers most of the major woodworking tools, so I’ll leave it at that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m not an expert. But you can trust me that this list and the logic behind it is sound. Whether or not you choose to heed this advice is completely up to you.

 

Winter has come

Talk to an old-timer, and he or she will likely tell you about the great snowfall of nineteen-thirtysomething. That storm will often be “the biggest we ever got!” Well, I can say without an ounce of exaggeration that this past weekend we had the biggest snowfall I have ever seen. It was technically our second largest on record, the largest being January of 1996. While that 96’ storm was supposedly larger in a regional sense, this one was definitely worse. Officially we had just over 30 inches, but in actuality it was far deeper. There was no point that the snow was shallower than waist deep, and often it was nearly at my chest. After the plows came by, my driveway was blocked by a wall of snow six feet high and fifteen feet wide. Luckily I had Briggs and Stratton to help me out (Briggs is my right arm, Stratton is my left) and after three hours or so my driveway was dug out, and in another hour the majority of my sidewalks were clear.

So you would think that being snowed-in, literally, I would have had plenty of time to putz around and woodwork to my heart’s content. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I spent much of Saturday keeping up with housework and minor home repairs (hanging pictures, fixing shelves, unclogging that pesky stoppage in the utility sink, etc.) Sunday was broken up into two shoveling sessions, the first being my driveway, and the second being my sidewalk along with my neighbors car. I may be Captain America in training, but I ain’t Captain America yet, and after hours of shoveling the largest snowfall we’ve ever had, I didn’t feel like doing much of anything but watch the AFC Championship game. Still, my love of woodworking eventually kicked in, and I wandered into my garage on Sunday night to do some sharpening and prep the material for my dovetailed box project.

Like I thought, I had just enough material on hand to make two boxes, but only enough to make one lid. That isn’t a problem though, because I can easily stop at Lowe’s on my way home from work one night this week to pick up what I need. And I can construct the second box and just add the lid later. But to bore you with stock preparation isn’t why I am writing this post.

Last year not long after Christmas, Lee Valley was running a free-shipping event. I had received a Visa gift card for Christmas that had just enough money left on it to purchase the wooden spoke shave kit that they were offering. I had always enjoyed wooden spoke shaves, and the idea of making one seemed like a fun idea. The kit includes the iron, the brass wear plate, thumbscrews, templates, and a tap to make wooden threads. When the kit arrived I noticed that the instructions were fairly involved (but not what I would call complicated), and the list of recommended tools was a large one in the sense that if they weren’t already owned the cost would easily equal purchasing several made versions of a wooden spoke shave from makers such as Caleb James. Fortunately I had most of the tools at the time, but I was missing several small but important items, namely a 7/64 drill bit, and 82 degree countersink, and a tap wrench for holding the thread maker. I put the kit in a cabinet with the plan of getting back to it when I had the extra money to order the missing parts. One thing led to another and I basically forgot about it until I came across it last night. Ironically, I received an Amazon gift card for Christmas this year, and I had just enough left on it to order the missing parts I needed to make the spoke shave. So last night that is what I did.
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Spoke shave parts kit…

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A lot of tools for one tool…

This all leads me back to the “make vs buy”, “old vs new” arguments when it comes to woodworking tools. Conventional, old fashioned anarchist wisdom will tell you that making your own spoke shave will teach you invaluable lessons that you will find nowhere else. My own wisdom will tell you that the recommended tool list easily exceeds $250(not including a drill press), and that is if you aren’t purchasing high end tools. And to Lee Valley’s credit, that recommended tool list isn’t frivolous. The argument can be made that you don’t have to use a drill press, but I can tell you that it will be far, far more accurate if you do. And as everybody knows, accuracy is paramount when it comes to making a good woodworking tool. I highly doubt that any of the makers out there are drilling and tapping these holes with an egg-beater drill.

All of that being said, the tools on that list are all good tools to have, and many serious woodworkers will eventually obtain most of them at some point. I’m just trying to point out that making tools, even as a hobby, is serious business.

So in the upcoming weeks I am going to attempt to make a spoke shave. It may even be fun, and hopefully I will produce a nice looking tool that actually works well. But I can almost guarantee that unless you plan on making many spoke shaves, and possibly even selling them, it would be much more prudent to take your money and purchase that spoke shave from one of the fine makers out there who have invested in the proper tools and equipment to do it correctly.

All work and no play

I always like to think there is a method to my madness, and this weekend that method will be revealed.

The ‘arctic blast’ is finally upon us, and now the lovely and oh so intelligent weather people are predicting that we may receive more than two feet of snow this coming weekend. A few weeks back I oiled and wrapped many of the woodworking tools I use most often to store them for the next few months until the cold weather breaks. The winter weather in my region is either cold, damp, or both, and even in my garage the woodworking tools tend to take a beating unless they are stored properly (which holds true no matter what the weather when it comes down to it). I used DampRid in my garage, which helps, but otherwise I need to keep those tools under wraps. But,

A few weeks back I did break out a few chisels to use for practicing dovetails, which I’ve been trying to do at least four nights per week. I’ll say two things about the whole ‘dovetail a day’ practice regimen: it is a good way to keep up your skills, and it is a good way to drive yourself crazy. I’ve said before that the worst things you can ever do as a hobbyist woodworker is build stuff you don’t need and practice stuff you’re never going to use. And for the record, I’m not averse to practice. For years I played music and I played baseball, two activities that require a large amount of practice to be any good.

So to my mind practicing dovetails solely for the sake of practicing them is not necessarily a good idea. So that is why I actually did have something in mind from the get-go, and it comes from the Paul Sellers web page.
DSC_0007_1

Examples of dovetailed boxes…

Last month I watched a series of videos that Sellers presented detailing the construction of several different styles of small dovetailed boxes. The boxes are basically skill building projects, which is a good thing, but I can also use them, which makes them worth building. I have enough scrap laying around to build at least two of the boxes. Once could hold pencils, small fittings etc. And considering that I’m one of the few people (at least that I know) who still shines his shoes, the other box could hold my shoeshine brushes. An added bonus in all of this is that Sellers saws his dovetails ‘tails first’, so it will give me an excuse to work on that aspect as well.

So I’ll get to practice; make a few useful items, use up some scrap wood, and most importantly, have something to do while the temperature is frigid, the wind is howling, and there is two feet of snow on the ground.

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