The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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A little bit jumpy.

Before I get into the topic of this post, I would like to preface it by saying that I have been working with and around machinery for most of my adult life. That list includes construction equipment, printing presses, pipe benders, wire pulling machines, fork lifts and earth movers. Of course this list also includes power tools for woodworking. All of the equipment I listed could and can seriously injure or even kill.

Lately, while woodworking, I have been exclusively using hand tools. This has not been a philosophical decision. The projects I have been working on are generally small, and because my daughter has been with me ( I will not use a power tool with her in the vicinity), and because I could just as easily crosscut a few boards by hand, I have been avoiding the table saw. But over the past weekend I broke out the table saw for the first time in quite a while, and truth be told it may be a long while before I break it out again.

Last year my father-in-law brought me some hickory and ash logs from his property in upstate Pennsylvania, so I split them into smaller pieces and set them aside to dry. When inspecting them on Saturday I deemed them dry enough to use, so I decided to further prep the wood (namely the hickory) into smaller billets to be used as handle stock for some antique farm and logging tools that I have been attempting to restore. This prep work consisted of a lot of sawing and hatchet work, and I don’t recommend it if you are working under any kind of time frame because it is a long and arduous process despite what anybody will tell you. Regardless. I ended up with four “sticks” roughly 2 ½ feet long and 2 or so inches square. I planed them down mainly to get a flat reference face (this wood will be shaped into contoured handles, so there is no need to start off with a perfectly square board), and rather than spending another hour rip sawing and cross cutting, I decided to use the table saw to get all of the wood to uniform size. That is when things got weird.

The first thing I wanted to do was cross cut the boards to uniform width. I have an Osborne EB-3 miter gauge, which I feel is a top of the line product, and it has never given me any real trouble. It is accurate, and safe, and I feel comfortable using it. The blade on the saw is new and sharp. So I set the blade height, and decided on an off-cut of around 2 inches just to be sure to remove any funky end wood. So I began a process I have completed thousands of times…My first off cut shot across my garage like a rifle shot. I turned off the saw, checked the blade height-which was right where it is supposed to be-and got back to work. The second off cut, which was the other side of the same board, did not shoot across the garage again, but it wanted to. Instead, it seemed to “tug” the board into the blade slightly, and I believe the only thing that kept the board from being pulled laterally any further was the fact that my miter gauge is lined with 60 grit sand paper just for the purpose of keeping the wood from shifting. At this point, I unplug the saw and check the blade-it is tight and sharp; I check the miter gauge and it is 90 degrees to the blade (not that it should have mattered in the least but I checked anyway) I even checked the voltage at the receptacle that the saw is plugged into-121 volts. So I chalked up the missile launches to the dense hickory board and began again.
The next 3 boards yielded generally the same results: flying wood, pulling boards, and overall chaos. After the boards were sawn to length I was planning on ripping them to width as well, but by then I was becoming worried. I have always had a very healthy respect for all machinery and I am always very cautious when using it, because I’ve witnessed several gory incidents as well as surviving a few near-misses myself. But this was the first time that I can ever recall being afraid to use a table saw.

At this point I decided on some more detective work. I went back to the blade, which is a brand new 40t combination blade, a Diablo from the Depot. While I don’t consider the Diablo blades anything special, I have used them in the past many times without incident. Nevertheless I doublechecked it, and found no wobble, the teeth were nice and sharp, and as I said before, the height was set where I always set it, with the gullets approximately 1/8 of an inch above the cut. Hickory is a hard wood, very hard, so I decided to cross cut a piece of scrap pine to see the results, and while it did not shoot across the room or bog, something definitely did not feel quite right. So I re-checked the Hickory; there were no wild grain patterns or large checks, and while the boards likely have more moisture content than a kiln dried board you may find in a lumber yard or home center, they were definitely not openly wet or even damp.

However, one area of concern did crop up, and that was the throat plate on my table saw. The plate is wider than it should be, and perhaps an offcut just a few inches long will dip, even slightly, due to lack of support, causing it to touch the revolving blade, possibly shooting it back? I have always wanted to make or purchase a zero clearance throat plate, but because I use the table saw so little I haven’t considered it much lately. So to test this theory out I cross cut a scrap board so that much of the off-cut would be supported by the table and the results were improved, though I still seemed to feel a slight tug that I had honestly never noticed before until that day.

Here’s the thing, not too long ago I came to the conclusion that I am probably going to sell my table saw. I don’t use it much, but more importantly it takes up a lot of space. At the same time a table saw can be a useful tool to have around. I know that I can work without it, but I also know that there are times it will be greatly missed, in particular on those days when I need to cut a few dozen dados. I’m not sold on the notion of “all handwork, all the time.” Once again, I have nothing against it, I just don’t have the free time for it; I woodwork for fun, not as a crusade. Yet, I haven’t really used the table saw in earnest this entire year, and we are heading into September. Either way, for the first time in my life I did not feel comfortable using a familiar tool. It’s worth the $25 investment to add a zero-clearance throat plate, but that may not be the issue, and that issue may be a problem with the saw that I cannot necessarily identify without a true expert checking it out for me.

If I add a new throat plate and I still don’t notice a difference I can only see two options: sell the saw and put the money toward a band-saw, or sell the saw and put the money towards a Sawstop Saw. For the record, this is not a commercial for Sawstop. I’ve used a Sawstop saw a handful of times and I think highly of them. I don’t know if they do any more to stop kickback on crosscuts than any other saw will, but I do know that if that kick back causes my hand to slip, or jerk, or what have you, and my hand happens to touch the blade in doing so, I have a far better chance of not sustaining a serious injury. Yet, even if I sell my saw and get top dollar for it, the money raised would still be less than half of what I need. I can get a nice bandsaw for half the cost of a Sawstop, and bandsaws, in my opinion, are a far safer option, perhaps the safest option of all when it comes to sawing wood with a motor.

When it comes down to it, I’m not a kid anymore, and I’m not a professional woodworker. Maybe my months long lay-off from the table saw has me somewhat gun shy. Maybe my reflexes aren’t what they used to be, and I have definitely had some issues with my hands and fingers, so maybe that is the problem. Whatever the case may be, I was honestly rattled this past weekend, and that is no way to woodwork, and until I figure it out, the power switch to that table saw is remaining in the “off” position.

A mysterious crate..

For most married men, an age-old question seems to be: ‘What should I get my wife for her birthday?’ Considering that my wife is already the girl who has everything (let’s face it, she hit the proverbial jackpot when she married me!), I usually struggle every year to find a gift clever enough to convince my wife that I actually put some thought into her gift. So this year I went a completely different route, and I’m glad I did.

My wife enjoys to read, though we have drastically different tastes when it comes to reading material ( I wouldn’t be caught dead reading some of the stuff she reads, but oh well). Rather than just purchasing a book for her, I wanted to make the gift of a book more of an experience, and that is why I decided to try the Mysterious Package Co., which specializes in some really out of the ordinary stuff. Without giving away too much information for those who may be receiving a gift, from the MPC in the future-the surprise is a huge part of the experience-you choose a package from the company web page, and the recipient receives a series of mailings featuring packing hay, old newspaper clippings, creepy introduction letters, haunted diaries, beat-up shipping crates, and demon-possessed statues (it all depends on which story line you go with). In any event, the box that contained my wife’s gift was pretty intriguing, and my wife nearly destroyed the lid in her zeal to pry it open. I really loved the vintage Indiana Jones , Ark of the Covenant like appearance (the crate the Ark was stored in, I mean), and since she’s received it I’ve built several different versions of it.

mysterious pkg

A mysterious package…

 

box lid repair

The mysterious lid repair; it was in 3 pieces…

 

box interior

The box interior..

As you can see in the photos, the box is of simple construction, so it can easily be made with hand and/or power tools. I used only hand tools because my daughter wanted to participate, and she was responsible for the stencil print, which put her personal touch on the project. And for good measure I used pallet wood from my company warehouse (I refer to this wood as Danish Pine). The pallet wood had me a little concerned, because it’s pretty common to find old nails and stones embedded in the boards. Thankfully, I have several hand planes from my restored “collection” which were given to me, so I wasn’t overly concerned in using them. That being said, I hardly treat these tools like second class citizens, because I spent a great deal of time and effort restoring them. I am just saying that I am not the type of person who would use his $300 LN jack plane on a sketchy piece of pallet wood- in factI should have taken some photos of the unfinished wood, because it was pretty rough.

On that note, I just so happened to set free a fair amount of hand tools over the past month. It was much more quick and painless than I thought it would be, yet I still have a whole cabinet filled with hand planes.

finished box

My version of the mysterious box…

 

stenciled box

Finished box, one coat of wax, and my daughter’s stenciling added (guess what her favorite TV show is…)

Anyway, the box sizes were determined by the wood I had available, of which I had a decent sized stash. I sawed the boards to rough length and width, used a smooth plane to square the edges, and used a block plane to shoot the ends. I smooth planed a great deal of the roughness from both faces of the wood, though I truly did attempt to leave a few small rough patches to complete the vintage look we were trying to achieve, but considering the boards are all from pallets and were fairly warped/bowed to begin with, simply flattening them enough to be usable removed much of the roughness regardless. I probably could have left the faces of the box rough sawn, but because we were adding stenciling, and I wanted to apply a protective finish, I decided that a smoother surface would work much betters.  To finish off the appearance I glued on some battens to the box sides, which my daughter chamfered with a block plane. Dimensionally the box is approximately 11 in x 5 in x 4 in deep, the wood thickness around ½ inch (I say around because it varies).

The lid for the box featured in the photos was also constructed with pallet wood, which I believe is a hardwood (I’m guessing oak, but that is just a guess). I butt jointed two pretty nasty boards together and left them dry overnight. After they were dry I sawed them to length and then used a scrub plane for the initial flattening, as those boards were by far in the roughest shape of the lot. I then smooth planed the panel, once again attempting to leave the box somewhat “unfinished”. Lastly I used shoulder plane and sanding block to create rabbets so the lid would recess into the box, which really helped to lighten the overall appearance.

The joinery for the boxes is mainly butt joints and cut nails. The only place where I got a little fancy was the for bottom of the first box I made, where I used ship lap joints, and the only reason I did that was because I want to save as many of the wider boards as possible for future boxes, so I pieced it together with smaller cut-offs. Any box with stenciling will receive coat a of shellac and/or some paste wax, more for protection than to enhance the appearance. If you ever plan on adding some type of ink stenciling to a box (we used heavy duty magic markers), I would suggest waiting at least a few days for the ink to dry and really seep into the wood. In fact, I would wait up to a week. Thankfully, I attempted a practice run on a scrap board, and the ink smudged somewhat when I applied BLO, so I knew for future reference to wait at least a few days before applying any type of finish.

This was a fun and relatively easy project, though using all hand tools made it somewhat time consuming (mainly flattening the boards to make them usable). I completed two boxes so far and repaired the original, which as I mentioned was damaged when it was opened. I currently have enough pallet wood left to make at least two more boxes, and I have in inexhaustible supply constantly coming into my company warehouse. And I think making boxes from several different pallets could make them a bit more interesting.

Yet,  not sure if it would be better to purchase pre-surfaced boards and add my own touches to change the appearance (beads, chamfers, different widths etc.) Because while I did enjoy all of the hand plane work, I don’t want to spend the entire summer flattening pallet wood for hours on end, in particular because the hot and humid weather is now in full swing. Still, I’ve already prepped more boards which are generally ready to go, so I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll have a few more of these boxes finished in the next few weeks.

B’s & PT’s

It’s been a bit of a while since I’ve blogged about woodworking, but I’ve decided to take a bit of time to let you all know what I’ve been doing.

To quickly sum up, I’ve been using my pointy things to make boxes from bits of wood. The backstory is a bit long and convoluted, so I will save that bit for another post. In any event, it has all been very therapeutic; I sharpen my pointy things, get some bits of pallet wood, clean up those bits, and make boxes out of them. The nice thing is there is very little measuring involved, if the bits of stock are small, I make itty-bitty boxes, if the bits are larger, the boxes are a bit larger. My pointy things don’t care; it’s all wood to them.

I understand that this post is a bit brief, but I had just a short bit of time to compose it. Hopefully my next bit is a bit longer, and explains my new obsession with boxes a bit better. Until then, I’ll keep my pointy things pointy and my bits of wood bitty.

 

The Purge

I am at the point in my woodworking career where I have too many tools. Did I just say that? The guy who has always said to have as many tools as you like as long as you can afford them and store them…Yeah, I did, but it’s not what you think. I have not been woodworking nearly as much as I would like lately. And, the woodworking I have been doing basically requires a block plane, a spokeshave, a saw, a hammer, and a few chisels.

I have very seriously been considering selling off a good portion of my stuff to create some much needed space in my garage. The workbench already has a home if I go through with this (and I have an unassembled one ready to go if and when I ever start seriously woodworking again). The table saw will be a bit harder to move, both on the market as a for sale item, and physically, as it is large and heavy, but first things first. Some of the tools already have local buyers, some I will sell on eBay, and If I may be so bold, some I may just be posting right here on this blog. I hate to solicit people who just happen to be reading my blog, but rest assured most of my tools are of very good quality, and my prices will be more than fair.

Before I go, I just want to stress that I am not ending my woodworking “career”. I will still woodwork, and I will still restore an old tool or two on the rare occasion, and I will still blog about what I am doing But we all know that woodworking takes a lot of time (at least for a person of my skill level).  I’m pretty sure my family feels somewhat abandoned by me (working six days a week and spending what little free time I have engrossed in hobbies will do that to a family), so I have to do whatever it takes to fix that problem.

I had no problem ending my brief return to music this past week. This will be a little more difficult, but it needs to be done. We need the space, I don’t have the time, and I would feel better if those tools were being used by people who will appreciate them and put them to work.

Keep on keepin’ on.

It is very likely that I could fill three or four blog posts with my comings and goings of the past few months. I’m not going to do that at this time. I will mention, briefly, that as far as woodworking is concerned, I’ve been building quite a few different small boxes, some out of “good wood”, some out of pallet wood, and some out of reclaimed stuff. They are all experiments, mind you, but experiments to an end. I have what I feel is an interesting little story detailing a box I am repairing, as well as a box that I soon hope to be building which I will hopefully detail in an upcoming post, sooner rather than later. Otherwise, I’ve also been experimenting with using wood “from the log” and I also hope to write a few posts on that subject as well.

In the meanwhile, I finally got around to reading the Anarchists Design Book. I’m not going to review it because I am not trying to be critical one way or the other. I liked it, and that is enough said. I found myself gravitating more to the boarded furniture/staked stool areas in the book because to me they were the most useful items. Overall, staked furniture is not my thing. I have nothing against it on any level, I just don’t see a fit for it in my house, and I feel it has its limits. When checking out staked furniture on the internet, in particular staked tables, they all looked pretty much the same, and maybe that is the idea in building staked furniture.  I suppose if you are going for an overall theme, such as making a staked living room set, that is fine, but I am one of those people that likes a slightly haphazard look (just a bit mind you) when it comes to the furniture in my house, and that is probably because nearly all of the furniture in my house I built myself, and the pieces I didn’t came mostly from inheritance or antique stores.

One part of the book I did find interesting was the idea that in the past, ornate, high-end furniture was made for the ultra-rich, and that the average person could not come close to affording it.  In essence that was the overall theme of this blog several years ago. I had always found it rather ironic (and I still do) that the actual furniture makers of the 18th and 19th centuries (not the shop owners but the guys doing the construction), the guys that quite a few amateur woodworkers worship today, were working men in every sense of the word, and in reality, they couldn’t even afford to purchase the very furniture they were making with their own hands. There is even a greater irony in that today furniture making, once very much a working-class profession, is now a hobby dominated by the upper-class. There is something to be said there, and if I haven’t before said it, I’m not going to now.

Otherwise, I will keep doing what I am doing. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been doing a bit of experimenting with working straight from the log. It has led to a lot of understanding when it comes to wedges, mauls, and axe sharpening. And, more fittingly, it led to the restoration and new-found usefulness of a tool discovered in an old shed, given to my by my father in law. But, I will save that story for another day.

Can’t you hear me knocking?

The first woodworking hand tools that I ever purchased new (intended for furniture making..) were from Traditionalwoodworker.com. I ordered a marking gauge, and if I remember correctly, a 1/2 inch chisel and a mallet. I still have those tools and they work as well as the day I first received them. As time passed, I ordered more tools from Traditional Woodworker on occasion and they always seemed to me to be a good company to deal with.

So yesterday evening I went online to order a large auger bit (oddly, not for a woodworking project in the furniture making sense) and one of the places I checked was Traditional Woodworker. Let me correct that, TW was one of the places I attempted to check, because I could not find the web page. I did some more checking and I could not seem to find any indication of the site being changed, or revamped, or simply shut down. Furthermore, I checked some forums and for the time being nobody else seems to have heard anything one way or the other, either.

So I’m writing this brief post just to see if any body has heard any information regarding the whereabouts of the Traditional Woodworker online tool store. My searches have turned up absolutely nothing. I’m hoping that somebody out there who happens to see this post may have heard something and if so, could please let me know what you turned up.

Thanks

Boycott?

***NOTE*** I slightly altered the title of this post to reflect what a commenter pointed out to me…

I try to never interject politics with woodworking. Why in the world would you need to attach a political ideology to the hobby of woodworking? Nonetheless, this post is about politics, so I urge you to please not read it if you would rather be reading about dovetails and tool restoration (I mean this sincerely, not as a half-assed attempt at reverse psychology)

Anyway, if you are following American politics lately, you are likely noticing a lot of division, protests, and in some cases, out right anarchy. As far as protests are concerned, I will only say that they almost never work. They are generally poorly organized and incoherent acts of aggression that ultimately degrade into physical violence and destruction. And almost always protests do little more than further anger their target audience, which is maybe what they set out to do in the first place. If you want to tell me that protests change the world I will disagree and tell you that you are wrong. And if you believe in psychology, which I do, I will tell you to research the psychology of protests/protesters (which is easy to do especially with the internet) and you will read that at their core all public protests violent outbursts that nearly always further alienate the protesters with those who do not agree with them. Even more so, public protests often tend to push people away who may have been “on the fence” when it came to the cause being protested. And the psychological make-up of protesters is even more disturbing, but I’ll leave that to anybody reading this post to research on their own if they care to do so.

Boycotts, however, are something I can get behind. Boycotts are personal, they can make a difference (hurting a company’s bottom line always seems to open up some eyes), and they can be facilitated without breaking windows and physically assaulting old people. There are some companies I have boycotted for a long time, and others more recently. For instance, after some of the events which unfolded last summer, I no longer watch or attend professional sports, and that was something I had done for my entire life.

Boycotts seem to be all the rage right now, but just like freedom of speech, a boycott swings both ways. Less than a week ago I was about to take some of my hard-earned money and purchase a woodworking product when I happened to read something disturbing on the company web page. I am not going to name that company (yet) but I will only say that it was a thinly veiled attack of not only our current President, but far more importantly, our political system. I have had my issues with every single person who has held the office of President (including the current one) since I’ve been old enough to understand how the American political system operates. But I’ve always respected the office and our government. Even more to the point, whoever wrote what they did seems to have very little understanding of how a Republic functions, which really makes me question their intelligence. And I certainly don’t want to give my hard-earned money to stupid people whenever I can help it.

Sadly, another company that I’ve dealt with since I’ve made woodworking my hobby has also used their influence as a forum to push their own political agenda. Once again, what they are doing is perfectly within their rights, but I don’t want to see or hear a political diatribe, subtle or no, when I’m trying to purchase a woodworking item. So from now on both of those companies will no longer see a penny of my business. Attacking a politician is one thing-though it should not be done on a retail company’s webpage IMO-but attacking the American political system and questioning its validity is something I will not tolerate, because I believe our system is still the best option when considering the thousands of years worth of failures of countless other political systems.

You may have noticed that I have not named those companies, and that is because I believe that boycotts are a personal thing, and I am not trying to influence anybody one way or the other. BUT….I wrote this post for a reason. If I do happen to see another woodworking company attempt to use their business to influence the political decisions of their customers, or undermine the American political system in general, I will do anything in my power to encourage others to not purchase their products, and at that I will be naming names. That “power” may not add up to much, but if a bunch of morons blocking traffic and setting fires can supposedly change the world, I’m more than confident that I can as well.

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