The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Tables neverending, and a book review too…

My lower back was acting up this weekend. It hasn’t acted up in a while and during that time I was happy. This past weekend was a different story, and I knew that anything remotely strenous I did would have sent me over the edge into the magical land of back spasms. This left me in somewhat of a sticky situation. My second table was just about finished, and I knew that whatever I did I wanted it ready to be stained on Sunday morning. So I took a chance and decided to finish the work and hope for the best.

I started by making the drawer. It was a simple task and finished quickly, as I had the parts cut already and it only needed to be assembled. I built it in the same fashion as the drawer for the first table, with cut nails and glue. The hard part, as usual, was fitting the kickers for the drawer. I had to plane each down, first with the Jack plane and then the smooth plane, in order to get the fit I wanted. That is easier typed than done. It took around twenty minutes to get it right, which is a lot of planing and fitting and planing and fitting. I can also proudly say that I ended up with two pretty nice and dimensionally even boards. I checked my work with a combination square and found a nice flat surface. I attached them to the table with glue and clamps. I then sawed some cleats to be used for attaching the table top. I drilled the pilot holes and counter sink holes with a hand drill, but once it came to actually attaching them to the table I used glue and my little cordless Dewalt. It was a two-hand operation so the little eggbeater wasn’t an option. While the glue was drying I sanded the outside of the drawer box. I very nearly made a big no-no and planed it with the smooth plane until it dawned on me that the drawer was nailed and not dovetailed. The last thing I wanted to do was introduce my plane iron to a cut nail. Cut nails have no place meeting plane irons; they should just stay in their own neighborhoods where they belong.

So while the glue was drying I also did a little work on the top. I planed the edges with the smooth plane for finish and also took a few very light passes on the top just for good measure, so it came as no surprise when I left a plane track. It was very minor, but rather than try to plane it out I used a random orbit sander to knock it down. Once I had the top finished I removed the clamps and waxed the runners and kickers, and also the drawer sides, as they wont be finished with a stain. The drawer opens slickly with no rocking or sticking, like a banana peel over greased ice. In fact, it was almost too slick, because when I picked it up to bring it into the yard I tilted the table a bit and the drawer nearly flew out and popped me in the face. So with the slick drawer finished I screwed in a stop point on the runners so the reveal would be the same as the sides. The difference between this table and my hall table is that the drawers aren’t supposed to be hidden, so I didn’t make a big effort to have the drawer sit and look just like one of the aprons. There is a gap on each side of the drawers for both tables, roughly 3/16th of an inch. I was shooting for 1/8 but I am satisfied because the drawer fronts took a bit of trimming to get them where I wanted. With all of that finished, I attached the top to the base using pocket screws in the cleats I had added. With that I was done. Both tables are finished now, though only one has a finish on it. I’m frustrated but there is nothing I can do. My shop time for the weekend was limited, and with my back already hurting I didn’t want to push anything. With rainy weather expected here for the next few days I am shooting for Friday to get the finish and poly applied and hopefully call these tables complete.

Mess made from making a kicker.

Mess made from making a kicker.

Table top clamped to the leg vice

Table top clamped to the leg vice

Finished drawer box and runner system

Finished drawer box and runner system

Side view

Side view

2nd table fin'

2nd table fin’

Last night, while resting my back, I decided to do a little woodworking reading. I’m sadly at the age where a book can’t have the profound influence it would if you had read it as a teenager. My days of reading A Catcher in the Rye, or the Great Gatsby, or anything by Hemingway and becoming inspired are gone. Not that I don’t love to read, I still read all the time, but it’s not the magical experience it used to be. I’ve yet to read a woodworking book that has really blown my mind. I’m hoping that book is out there somewhere, but I haven’t found it just yet. Most woodworking books don’t seem to offer a lot of new information. I’ve found that the content of most woodworking books has been repeated either in a different woodworking book or a magazine at some point, or vice versa. I still think they are valuable, but I usually start reading as a skeptic.

The book I was reading last night is The New Traditional Woodworker by Jim Tolpin. I’ve had the book for over a year and I actually did already read it. It may be the only woodworking book that made me angry after I read it. My anger wasn’t directed at the book, or the author, but at the reviewers of the book. Many big names in woodworking called it “An apprenticeship in a book” or “Must have addition to your woodworking library.” After reading the book I had to completely disagree with just about every review. Again, not because it was a bad book, but it wasn’t nearly the book it was made out to be. So last night I decided to give it another try, and came away with nearly the same conclusion I had after first reading it.

The book is billed as an introduction to hand tool work, in particular if you are a woodworker who is transitioning from power tools. Toplin first makes the claim that hand tool woodworking is much less expensive than power tool woodworking. That’s debatable, but okay. My only gripe with that statement is the nice color photo of Tolpin’s hand tool wall in his shop shown in the book, which shows easily $20,000 in tools. I don’t know about you, but if I had $20,000 I could set up a nice power tool shop with money to spare. That being said, I don’t want to make this about power tools vs hand tools. I’m through with that. Those of you who read this blog probably have noticed that I use handtools much more than the powered version. My table saw and possibly random orbit sander are probably the only power tools that see a significant amount of use in my shop. You’ve also probably noticed that every tool I’ve purchased over the past 10 months has been a hand tool. I say all of this just to point out that I’m not biased one way or the other. I am just trying to back up my statement, the same way Tolpin probably should have done when he made his tool cost claims.

I had one major problem with this book. The book has some very nice photos of Tolpin’s shop. In it Tolpin has a high-set joinery bench, and lower set planing/traditional bench, and an even lower assembly bench. If you’ve read my blog before you will know that I am a big advocate of such a set up, especially the assembly bench, which is something I would love to have considering my back situation. The benches all look great and seem to be well constructred. So what is the problem? There isn’t a plan for one of them in the book! Tolpin gives some rough dimensions for the benches but that’s about it. For a book billing itself as an introduction to hand tool woodworking and setting up a hand tool shop it needs those plans. Maybe the author assumes that the reader already possesses basic knowledge of bench design if he/she is reading a hand tool book. If that is the case I think it’s a big assumption to make.

The only other real gripe I have with the book is the section on tools. There are nice color photos of a large assortment of woodworking handtools, from saws to chisels, to planes. Each section has a description of each tool and what it’s used for. That is fine but there are precious few photos of the tools in action. I would have liked to see more photos of the joinery associated with each tool. You can get nice color photos and explanations of what a tool does in any decent tool catalog for free. Another area where the book falls a little short is in the sharpening section. There are six pages dedicated to sharpening, about half photos and half text. The explanations of the sharpening techniques shown just aren’t concise enough. I have a book dedicated solely to sharpening; maybe a lot of woodworkers do. Again, perhaps the author assumes that as a person interested in hand tools will automatically have some type of sharpening system in mind. Another big assumption to make if that is true. Sharpening may be the most important skill a hand tool user needs to obtain, but it is glossed over a little too quickly for my taste.

Though I have some complaints with the book it also has some good points. The projects section is excellent. There are several shop projects designed to be made by hand including a face planing stop, a nice pair of bench hooks, and an edge planing stop. These would all be very useful shop additions as well as projects that most beginners could complete fairly painlessly. Another nice shop project is the pair of sawbenches that Toplin uses. They are well designed to be used in conjuction for ripping, the first set of it’s kind that I’ve seen. Also included, among other projects, is a saw sharpening vice and a small tool tote. I think of everything in the book the projects section is the most thought out and worthwhile.

Overall I can’t call this book a must read, but I wouldn’t call it worthless either. In my opinion, the descriptions of the tools are for the absolute beginner, and yet the book assumes that a beginning woodworker has no need for workbench plans of any kind, especially when the benches shown all seem to be excellent. That and the lack of action photos knock one star and a half off of this book. Still, the projects section makes up for some of the lacking chapters. My advice for a new woodworker reading this book would be to pick up the Lee Valley woodworking catalog and read through that, and then go on to the projects in The New Traditional Woodworker. Of everything, they make this book worth owning.

The super-terrific and sweet woodworker.

In an effort to make my woodworking blog as inoffensive and homogenous as possible I have decided to change my writing style a bit for this particular post as to mimic some of the more acclaimed and well regarded woodworking blogs out there. I’m nothing if not adaptable. It is my hope that my new style will be more easy to digest and much less controversial than some of my posts in the past.

So tonight after work I decided to put a little more work in on the second table starting with the kickers for the drawer and the cleats to attach the table top. I sawed the cleats to length with a carcase saw. Then my daughter used the hand drill to drill the pilot holes for the table top. We laughed and smiled because it was fun, but we didn’t laugh too hard so as not to offend anybody. Later, after we were done smiling and laughing, I took a few passes with a smooth plane, drilled pilot holes in the cleats and glued and screwed them to the underside of the table. We watched the glue dry and smiled the whole time. When the glue dried we laughed. It was another satisfying day of woodworking. I like to woodwork.

Okay, I’m really sorry, even I can’t read this and I wrote it. Next post I’ll be sure to write something that causes at least ten people to accuse me of slander and the bringer of death to the religion that is woodworking.

Special Guest Blogger!

I’m pleased and proud to announce that in the current issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine I have another tip published. In honor of that, and also because I was going to woodwork when I got home from work today but instead cut the grass, I’m also pleased and proud to announce that fictional Dutch woodworking instructor Yodel Vanderschnooten has agreed to write a short entry to my blog. For those of you who don’t know Yodel, he is an evil, fictional, alleged Nazi collaborator, and traditional woodworking instructor from the Netherlands. He was born to a Dutch father and a German mother near the village of Schmerzen Leiden in northwest Germany and spent his childhood in the Netherlands. At the age of nine he apprenticed in the Großes Übel school of woodworking located in an unknown section of the alps. He is currently 94 years old and widely regarded as the most traditional woodworker on Earth. So without further adieu.

There are some that have accused me of great acts of evil in my life. To those I say: You don’t know me! You weren’t there! But none can say that I am not a traditional woodworker! KEIN! Not one woodworks like me anymore; nobody dares! They have tried, but they have all died. I do not cry for them, though. They were weak. Now I listen to you Dummköpfes argue: Power tools or hand tools! Modern or Traditional! New tools or old tools! Lamman! All of you. Do you not realize that you will never be as traditional as those from the past? You will never make furniture as well as they did! You are all on a pointless journey that will end in bitterness and pain. Why do you all not just pack away your tools and watch the New Yankee Workshop with that Norm and his strange ways? Niedrig!

Many have come to me and asked: “Yodel, please do not kill me, and could you help me become a traditional woodworker?” I could never help them before. But now I may be able to. Many have said that we will never woodwork as well as the woodworkers from the past. They say that we moderns will never develop the skills that woodworkers once possesed. They say that we moderns have no real skills compared to those of the past. I say that they are right!! We never will be that good, so why try?!? We purchase old tools in the hopes that it will help us woodwork like the men of old. Why stop there?? We should just purchase old furniture and be done with it. There is still much old furniture in the world, why should we not use it? Is it not a waste to have it sit in attics and antique shops while we woodwork at home making nothing but junk compared to the great work of the past? Our work sucks! Es ist Abfall!! Give up you Verlierer!

Now, when students attend my class, I simply give them a listing of antique shoppes and garage sales in the area. There they can see first hand the furniture that they will never be skilled enough to make. There all of their hopes and dreams will be destroyed. I tell them that they are fools for trying to woodwork and enjoy themselves on their day off. How dare they! So my advice is: Give up woodworking, purchase an antique, and watch your vile reruns of the New Yankee Workshop on the internet. Also, if you give my name at Mina’s Antiques on Elm Street you will receive 10% off of your purchase!

Yodel Vanderschnooten is a former woodworking instructor who now gives out directions to antique stores.

I like him; I’m a bad parent; I’m sorry, and gel stain.

I like him…

I want to say, for the record, and hopefully for the last time, that I like Christopher Schwarz. I own several of his videos and several more of his books. I think he is a terrific woodworker and writer. I don’t agree with everything he says; that does not mean that I hate him. I bring this up because I was again contacted by somebody who did not like my “biased” comment about Mr. Schwarz. The comment: I don’t see myself acquiring all of the tools on the Schwarz’s list in the Anarchists Toolchest because I don’t think they are all necessary. That was it; just an honest and harmless opinion. I’m not sure how it became a biased opinion. The truth is I really enjoyed the Anarchists Toolchest. Chris Schwarz seems like a really nice guy. Maybe he doesn’t care for me, and if I met him he would throw coffee in my face and tell me to F off. But unless that happens I’m going to continue to think he is a nice guy. I don’t even agree with my wife half the time and this is a woman to whom I’ve been married for ten years. I swore an oath in front of family and friends and a few people I’ve never even met to love her and protect her and honor her. We disagree all the time; it doesn’t mean that I hate her. Maybe some people need to be made aware that you can disagree with somebody yet still respect them. I’ll even take that a step further and say that you may not even like somebody but you can still respect them. I think Christopher Schwarz does a lot of great things and is a credit to woodworking; sometimes I just don’t agree with him. That’s it; I don’t hate him. You can all sleep well tonight knowing that fact.

I’m a bad parent…

Yesterday afternoon it was nice enough outside that I thought it would be a good idea to get my tables finished. My wife applied the stain to one while I worked on the other. I had the drawer finished and was ready to install the top when I realized that I had no screws to attach the cleats for attaching the table top. My daughter was in our yard, happily driving her little electric jeep in all of the flower beds, and I told my wife that I was going to run to the hardware store and pick up some screws. My wife felt the need to point out that it was a lovely day out and what we should have been doing was taking my daughter somewhere to have fun. Right then and there I knew that my woodworking for the day was over and my tables were not going to be finished. I also realized that my wife had a point. My little girl is five. It’s not like she can just hop in the car and drive to a friends house when she is bored. So I cleaned up, got myself cleaned up, and took my daughter to a playground. We disagreed but came to a common understanding, see, that can and does happen.
On a side note, I’ve sold off much of my music equipment over the past year. It seems my wife is a little upset at this, she actually mentioned it again last night. When I asked her why, she couldn’t seem to understand how I could just stop doing something that I had done for such a long time and also give up something that I was pretty good at doing. I explained to her that once our daughter was born I simply didn’t have the time needed to dedicate myself to continue to play at a high level. My wife, bless her, doesn’t really understand the dedication it takes to playing an instrument and being a working musician in a band. She doesn’t really much understand the dedication needed when it comes to woodworking either. I don’t fault her for it, it’s just something I have to come to terms with. But I admit that she had a point.

I’m sorry…

I’m sure most of you are aware of the Paul Sellers controversy that rocked woodworking to its very foundations. I also hope you are aware that the statement I just made is tongue-in-cheek. I personally can’t put the words ‘woodworking’ and ‘controversy’ in the same sentence, not really. Anyway, Sellers made a statement that you cannot be a real woodworker or craftsman if you use power tools. Some people were offended by it. Truthfully it didn’t bother me very much. At least he was being totally honest. That was his opinion, right or wrong, and he didn’t hide it behind any innuendo or double talk. I can respect that and agree to disagree. So last night I was having a little trouble winding down after a long day so I decided to check out some woodworking videos on You Tube. One of the first that popped up on the search cue was Paul Sellers making a shooting board. I decided to give it a try and watch it. Though I only vaguely knew who Paul Sellers was before the gigantic, earth-shattering controversy, I had to figure that he was a pretty good woodworker. The video confirmed my suspicions. Not only was it entertaining to watch Sellers work, I managed to learn a great deal in a short amount of time. He was likeable enough and did a great job of explaining everything he was doing without overexplaining it. There was nothing I didn’t like about the video. Sellers even managed to get in a few minor digs at power tools and it didn’t bother me in the least. Like I’ve said before, I use few power tools myself. My take on the subject is you should use whatever you like. Sellers likes hand tools, he is highly skilled with them, and his video was excellent. That was enough for me to gain respect for him. I can’t recall ever saying anything bad about Sellers, but if I did I apologize.

Gel stain…

The Hall Table I made a few months back had some blotching on it that really bothered me. I think the blame is partly the fault of the wood, and partly the fault of my prep work. So when I began making the two end tables I’m hoping to finally finish at some point I decided to give gel stain a try as the finish. My research on the stain concluded that gel stain provides a much more even finish, especially on hard to finish woods like Pine. I also took an extra long time in the prep work on the tables. I sanded with 3 grits and used the smooth plane on all of the legs, stretchers, board edges, and even a few light passes on the top. I’m extremely happy to report that the stain worked beautifully. The finish was very even and very warm. I’ve noticed on many oil stains they don’t really pop until you apply a clear coat. With the gel stain, the color is very warm and clear in itself, and it seems to me that a couple of coats of wax would be enough to make the table “shine”. I will probably do one more coat to darken the color a bit, and I will add a gloss, wipe-on polyurethane because these tables will see a lot of use. In any event, I am sold on using gel stain for the foreseeable future.

IMG_1067[1]

First coat of gel stain

First coat of gel stain

The Birth of an Artisan.

When a word gets used too much, it starts to lose its meaning. I think ‘artisan’ is becoming one of those words. There isn’t a product on the market, from pizza to bandanas, that doesn’t have the ‘artisan’ adjective slapped on it anymore. I wonder what the criteria is for an object to earn the ‘artisan made’ title? Is it simply because it was touched by human hands? Maybe that’s enough, but I don’t know the answer. When I make furniture, I don’t consider it it artisan made. I don’t think of myself as an aritsan at all. Not that I’m all that good to begin with, but even if I were I wouldn’t feel comfortable using that title, not just yet. The truth is, the word artisan denotes a different image to me. It denotes an upper-class mentality for a working class profession. It conjures images of poor Irish and Italian immigrants, my ancestors, who were treated like dirt by the American aristocracy. It brings to mind the brutal working conditions and near slave-wages that they were paid for their skills, those men who laid the bricks and built the homes and businesses of the rich upper class. They weren’t called artisans then, though their work certainly merited the title; they were nothing more than laborers paid a pittance by ungrateful clients who used them until they were no longer useful to them, and so they discarded them like so much trash, until it was time to fight the wars. While I can’t call myself a history expert, I do know a little about American history, especially the history of the Irish and Italians who came to this country at the turn of the 20th century to find a better life. So all of that architecture and masonry work and furniture we like to look at fondly with admiration and recall a time of highly skilled craftsman laboring happily away not for money, but for pride, ought to be given a little more respect and retrospect. Somebody did get rich from all of that skill and labor, it just wasn’t the guys doing it. It’s not all about money you say? Yeah, actually it is, cause if it wasn’t, those ‘artisans’ would have and should have been rich, yet the vast majority of them weren’t.

So here I am, a 3rd generation American, who will soon be 40. I’ve decided that somebody got it right when they said that we should be living more like artisans and less like consumers. I can’t speak for everybody, just myself; we all have our own crosses to bear, and just like I won’t put myself in the shoes of a long dead craftsman and pretend that I know what he went through, I’m not going to try to insinuate myself into the lives of the average amateur woodworker and tell him or her how to do it. But I am going to make it a point to be a credit to woodworking as a hobby. That means doing things to completion, honing my skills, caring for my tools, and building quality furniture. I’m going to try to become an artisan and change the way the word is perceived, by myself and others. Because like I said, the guy who said this in his book not so long ago is on to something. Maybe I am doing it for a different reason than he, but that doesn’t really matter. I’m tired of the cheapening of the work of people’s hands; it’s been going on for way too long, not only in this country, but the entire world. I want to hone my skills and ability to the point where its value cannot be measured in money, though I would love to gouge some rich prick because I took the time to learn how to do something that he is too “smart” to learn, and I don’t mean that in a furniture related way, just as a general priciple.

Maybe I’m on the verge of a mid-life crisis, but if I am it’s with good intentions. But it’s time people like me, like us, are admired for what we do. It’s time that hard work and skill are held in high regard rather than pencil pushers and hedge fund architects. I want to make my ancestors proud by not relying on the corporations and big wigs that paid them a criminal wage for their hard-earned skill and knowledge and their hard work. Though they are long gone from this world, I want to be the legacy of their labor. I want to earn the title that they were denied, for, and in honor of them. Maybe one day, many years from now, a relative of mine, possibly a grandchild, will be having dinner at a table that I made, or maybe putting away clothes in one of my dressers. Maybe one day somebody will ask my grandchild about that furniture that was handed down because it was so well-made, and maybe….just maybe, my grandchild will say, “My grandpop Bill made that years ago. He made all kinds of furniture; he was a real artisan.”

Answer the question!!

Earlier today I was reading a post on another blog about a question that a woodworking teacher asks his students before each class. The question was in paraphrase: “Would you rather build furniture that was technically perfect but with a plain or unflattering design, or would you rather build furniture that looked really great but wasn’t necessarily technically perfect, as in perfectly tight fitting joints etc.?” I think it’s fair to say that just about every woodworker, amateur and professional, is striving for both. At the same time, there are going to be compromises in every build, at least there are in mine. There may be details that were planned on that never make it because of costs, or skill level, or whatever. So the real question may be: During a build what would you rather compromise, technical perfection or design perfection? For me the answer is easy; I would rather my furniture look great above all else. I don’t care if my ship lap joints on the back panel are a hair wide, of if the top of my bookcase has some planing marks. If it looks good and is sturdy that’s good enough for me. The author claimed that the students in the class all wanted technical perfection over design perfection. That answer doesn’t surprise me in the least. Though I haven’t taken a whole lot of woodworking classes, I’ve taken enough to be able to gauge the type of people take them regularly. Broken down generally, the classes usually have two types: people who are there because they want to learn about woodworking, and people who are on some kind of mission, for lack of a better word. I’m not sure what that mission is. Sometimes it drives them to be better woodworkers; sometimes it drives them to become pompous asses. But either way I think the second group, for the most part, are those that put technical perfection above all else when it comes to their woodworking projects.

The way I see it, if you are an amateur, you can’t go wrong either way. Maybe an amateur wants to learn the technical aspects of woodworking before he/she starts learning about design. Or maybe it’s just about making furniture simply for how it will look when it goes in the room it’s meant for. If the instructor is asking the question in order to get a feeler on what type of students he has, that’s fine. But, if he is asking it as a philosophical question then I don’t believe it’s a fair question to ask, unless you are asking people who are already professionals. The way I see it, a pro needs to really accomplish two things when he is woodworking: satisfying his customers and making a profit. At that point, a pro has to make decisions concerning the build. He may have to cut a few corners or compromise a few elements in design. He may have to make some of the framing with pocket joinery rather than mortise and tenon joinery. While I can’t say for sure exactly how a professional furniture maker runs his business, I do know a little bit on making a profit, and the three rules are: know your product, know your competition, and know your customer. That’s what the pro is up against, in any venture. In order to survive, a professional woodworker needs to woodwork in such a way that earns a profit, bottom line. I think there are some people that may not fully understand that concept. That is why I have nothing against the way that professional woodworkers woodwork, especially if it’s the guy or gal who is running a small operation. He needs to do what he has to in order to survive. If he found some sort of specialty niche where he can woodwork however he likes then that is just great! If he has to run his shop like a full-fledged assembly line that shouldn’t bother anybody, either. Should someone tell him that he is simply ruining woodworking because he decided that the drawers on the cabinet he is selling have lock rabbets rather than dovetails? Should that same someone also tell him that he’s just not going to be able to pay his mortgage this month, or maybe buy his kid a pair of shoes because a handful of people decided that his woodworking just doesn’t fit into their mold? I’ve asked this question before and I’m asking it again. And before I forget, this post is NOT aimed at the writer of the article. I liked the article and I thought it was an interesting post, and it elicited the bevy of typical responses I see on that blog. I did not comment on it because I do not comment on those posts anymore. I’m not calling into question the author of the blog; I’m just posing a philosophical question. So there is no need to report anything back to the warden, but if somebody wants to do it I don’t give a shit.

Once I said that I thought amateur woodworking was in a great state. I guess it still is. We are in an almost golden age of hand tool making. We can take high quality woodworking classes on the internet for goodness sake. It looks and sounds like everything is coming up roses if you have the time and desire to woodwork as a hobby. But I think there is one problem and it could be a big one. Some rather influential people who teach and write about woodworking are asking hobbyists to behave as if they are professionals. Maybe there are some hobbyists who want to do that and more power to them. But there are also some who are just looking to have fun on the weekend. I, for one, don’t think it’s beneficial for the loudest voices in the woodworking world to scream their personal beliefs into the ears of some guy who wants to blow off a little steam in the garage on Saturday morning. Telling him, or her, that he needs to carry on the tradition or woodworking could be destroyed may not be the way to go. It’s kind of like telling a guy on his first flying lesson that he needs to make an emergency landing with a 747. Who is to say the tradition is always correct? Not me, I’m conceited but I’m not pretentious enough to make a whacked out claim like that. Some people are saying it, though. I don’t know if the people who are making the big woodworking decisions are necessarily doing a good job. There’s almost a “the world isn’t big enough for the two of us” mentality when it comes to woodworking anymore, and I’m not just talking about hand tools vs. power tools. I don’t know the answer but I know it isn’t berating amateurs into people who are afraid to pick up a chisel because they aren’t doing it traditionally. When it comes down to it it’s nothing but a bunch of pretentious bullshit. I know I’ve said it time and again before, but I’m going to continue bringing it up every time it’s brought up until I figure out the motives of those who are saying it. Abracadabra Holmes!

Shop projects are a comin’

I’ll be working a little bit more by hand these next coming months. I’ve talked about the Hand Tool School and that’s a big part of it. Another motivation is the photo I posted of the wicked cool bruise that the table saw gave me the other day. I have to give myself some credit. I think it took some guts to share my injury story and show the photo, shirtless no less. The photo depressed me a little. Here I am, turning 40 in just a few months, and I used to have a pretty nice build at one time. I can’t lift weights anymore, not really, because of the issues I’ve had with my lower back, and I don’t have the time to exercise properly everyday, my work day starts at 5am and doesn’t end til usually around 6 pm. I am on my feet a alot, and I still feel pretty strong, I just don’t look it. So I think doing a little more hand work will get me a little more exercise. As I was saying in my last post, if a project comes along that captures my eye I will probably start it and that will mean the table saw is back in action, but at the moment I’m not considering that. I know the Hand Tool School has projects as part of the on line classes, and I believe some of those are shop projects. So I’m pretty excited to be getting the garage working more like a workshop.

I have the boards basically ready to go for my new workbench top. I’m hoping that I have a little help for that one and it won’t be a big ordeal. I also have some nice, old Walnut that was given to me by a friend that is currently in the rough. I have it stacked in my garage on a rack. I’m planning on using it to build a saw till, which is part of the Hand Tool School’s course, and also us it make a holder for my hand planes. Jonas Jensen sent me some photos of the holders he uses for his planes and I will probably base my design on his. My wife, who came through for me with two large wall cabinets, also managed to secure a pantry that I am planning on converting to a giant tool box. I will admit that I am not a big fan of shop projects in general, but they are usually small and a bit less refined, therefore I can work on them without devoting every waking weekend minute to woodworking, which I’ve been doing a little bit too much of lately. I can work on these projects peacefully and not have to worry about how the finish is going to look (linseed oil all the way!), or if they will be damaged because they’ve been sitting unfinished in the garage for too long. I liked the Dutch Tool Chest from the Lost Art Press blog, but now that I’ve gotten my hands on this giant pantry that project is way back on the back burner.

I think my final shop project will be some cosmetic work on the garage. I started on it a while back and things came up and I never continued it. I even have some of the material, boards to make trim and mouldings and tongue and groove panelling that I was planning on adding as sort of a wainscoting. I may even get started on that this weekend if I can get my tables ready for finish. Even better news, at least for me. I am pretty sure I’m going to order a few more new tools this weekend; I have some money that is burning a serious hole in my pocket. I may even put a poll on this blog and see what the vote count might be.I’ll say it again: three months ago I was dead in the water, now I’m three tables later and I have so much stuff going on I have to invent time to finish it.

****You can see the Dutch Tool Chest on the Lost Art Press blog. I don’t feel comfortable adding a link to that site. Thanks.****

****I added a link. I hope I don’t get sued.****

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