The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Evil Empire

The humblest individual exerts some influence, either for good or evil, upon others

To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.

I visit Popular Woodworking Magazine’s web page/social media page probably three or four times a week, sometimes more. I’ve said before and I’ll say again that in my opinion Popular Woodworking has the best website of any woodworking magazine. For the most part, I check out the editors blogs, usually to see if something new is on the horizon, or if the topic seems interesting. Sometimes I’ll even leave a comment, most of the time it is something innocuous. Very rarely do my comments illicit a response. I believe there are three reasons for that: One, my comment wasn’t very interesting. Two, I’m not a “player” or big name on the woodworking scene. Three, because the people at PW really don’t care for me all that much. Whatever the case may be I’m fine with it. In fact, I just purchased the latest Arts and Crafts furniture book by Robert Lang through PW’s website. I love the style and I believe that Robert Lang has good taste when it comes to that particular form of furniture. I’ve said before that I don’t always see eye to eye with Lang on certain topics, but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect his work or his writing. I learned sometime around the age of 12 that just because you may disagree with somebody, or they may disagree with you, that doesn’t mean that you need to hate them. I probably wouldn’t have survived more than twenty years working in the real world if I didn’t come to know and understand that logic. Then again, I didn’t grow up in the elite, privileged world of journalism majors so maybe things are different on the right side of the tracks.

Anyway, the reason I bring up the PW webpage on this particular post is because at any given time on nearly every editors blog or social media entry somebody leaves a comment that bashes the furniture store IKEA. For my part, I’ve never even stepped foot into an IKEA. When my wife and I did purchase furniture, we did it from some local stores that were well respected. That being said, I have nothing against IKEA. Somehow, it seems that on the PW website IKEA is public enemy #1, or some sort of evil empire bent on destroying woodworking, whatever that may entail. I don’t know a great deal about IKEA and how they operate as a company. I do know that they employ well over 100,000 people and from what little research I’ve done it seems that they treat their employees fairly. I also know that IKEA’s furniture is affordable and at least manages to look okay, and for whatever it’s worth, their inexpensive furniture allows people who may not have a ton of money to have a decently furnished place to live. Evil bastards.

It’s not hard to pinpoint why the PW comment board, and sometimes blog entries themselves, are IKEA bashing central. At least in the four years or so that I’ve been checking out the PW webpage, former editor Christopher Schwarz made his feelings pretty clear concerning IKEA, and from what I can tell he doesn’t really care for the company all that much. That is perfectly fine and within his rights as an American, a consumer, and a writer, you can also say the same for any of the commenters. But I would like to point out that many thousands of people depend on IKEA to make a living, and quite possibly their families have a place to live and food to eat because of the business. I suppose, according to the logic of some, if IKEA was a one or two man outfit that produced furniture they would be just peachy, but because their are thousands of people working there the company just has to be… wrong. If you look at history, just a little, that logic will fall flat on its unfounded face. Remember, a company of thousands is made up of thousands of INDIVIDUAL people. They aren’t robots or drones just because of the large numbers. They are all people with lives and families who may just happen to need a job. You stupid fucking half-assed bullshit phony anarchists who don’t really know dick about the real world or the real struggles of the proletariat are sickening. If you want to have an opinion, do a little God damned research on the topic before you start repeating the opinions of one man like Mynah birds. For the record, I’m not bashing Christopher Schwarz’s beliefs, he can say and think whatever he wants, I and my opinions are nothing to him. And I’m also not saying that IKEA is a perfect company that makes perfect furniture. I’m just saying that a lot of people make a living working there and by most accounts they seem to treat their employees decently and pay them a fair wage. There are a lot of people around the world working for companies both big and small who can’t make that claim. There are even more who may not even have a job at all.

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Let’s say that I put forth all of my blogging energy into bashing Popular Woodworking Magazine, or Lost Art Press for that matter, just because I personally didn’t care for some of the things they do at those companies. Let’s say that I constantly reminded people how shitty Popular Woodworking is, or how awful the books that Lost Art Press publishes are. Let’s say that I then encouraged people to cancel their subscriptions, or to stop purchasing Lost Art Press books. Let’s even say that I made that the mission statement of every blog entry I posted from here on out. What would that make me? A vindictive fucking dick!

The reason I would never do something as heinous as that is because I actually do enjoy the work of both companies, but even if I didn’t I at least have enough respect and common sense to know that the people working there are doing their jobs to the best of their abilities and trying to make an honest living. I would never try to ruin a person’s job, or company, or reputation just because I don’t happen to like shopping there. I don’t particularly care for watermelons, that doesn’t mean I’m going to try to put watermelon farmers out of business, or spend my time bashing them on internet forums. What the hell is going on here? Grow up. I’m going to say this, and I really have no right, but here goes: If the only thing you can think of saying on an internet comment board is to bash IKEA, maybe you should keep your mouth shut. Read a book, or a newspaper, or better yet, get an original thought in your head. If you are all such individualists as you claim to be, why don’t you prove it by learning to think for yourselves.

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Castaway

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The other day I got into a conversation wondering if you were going to be stranded on a desert island and could only have fifty records, CD’s, etc. of music, which fifty would be chosen. I’ve always liked lists like those and I thought that it would translate well to tools. While I think fifty tools may be too many for the list, thirty sounds like a good number. There is no criteria for the tools, you can take whatever you like, but keep in mind that on a deserted island you probably won’t have access to electricity. So here is my list roughly from most important (to me that is) and so on down the line.

1. Axe-You can’t do much with out an axe, well at least if you are going to be taking down a tree or two an axe would come in handy

2. Bow Saw-Just like an axe, you can use this to take down a tree and also do some rough shaping.

3. Rip Saw-You may just want to turn some of that timber into boards.

4. Large crow bar-A little leverage goes a long way.

5. Hatchet-You might want firewood, and the ability to clear away branches and such without having to swing a full sized axe, and you may want to crack open a few coconuts, or hunt a wild boar.

6. Cross-cut saw- You can use a rip saw to cross cut I guess, but this will do a better job of it.

7. Spade shovel-If you want a place to live, among other things, you may need to do a little digging.

8. Leatherman tool-A pair of pliers, whittling, a general pocket knife. There is a reason these are issued to military pilots.

9. Brace-You are probably going to need to bore some holes into the wood you’ve been making.

10. Bits for the brace-Brace doesn’t do much good without the augers.

11. Sledge hammer-The need to make shelter is first and foremost. I suppose you could build a pounding tool on site, but I would rather have a 20lb sledge.

12. Claw Hammer-Not only good for hammering nails, the claw can be used for leverage as well as pulling.

13. Drawknife-Can be used for fine shaping as well as heavy stock removal.

14. Set of chisels-Let’s not get greedy, a four piece set should do for most tasks.

15. Heavy mortise chisel-We’re timber framing here, we may need to make some big mortises.

16. Jack plane-You can use the jack to dimension and smooth your boards as well as some jointing.

17. Sharpening stones-I prefer water stones, though oil stones might do better in the wilderness.

18. Combination Square-Once you get settled in, you might want your stuff to be straight.

19. Rafter Square-Hell, you might even get fancy and make a pitched roof. Also can be used as a saw guide, not that you need one.

20. Block plane-getting rid of sharp edges might be a good idea, and it works great in tight spots.

21. Backsaw-You will probably start making furniture once you are in the wilderness for a while.

22. Rasps-A handy tool to have around when your main medium is wood.

23. Nails-Maybe not a tool, but if I’m getting to pick I want 50lbs of cut nails.

24. Glue-I also want some glue damn it!

25. Diagonal cutters- You can cut rope, remove splinters, and if you happen to come across some THHN you can strip it.

26. Rope-A few hundred feet of rope would come in handy.

27. Chain-Some chain wouldn’t hurt either.

28. Tape measure-You could do without one, but having one would certainly help.

29. Flat head screw driver-You may not have screws, but it’s a good leverage tool, and could help with fitting pegs.

30. A sewing kit-I’ve had some type of sewing kit since I was a teenager. You can fix your clothes, or give yourself a stitch or two.

I’m sure I left at least a dozen things off, but I think with this set of tools I could manage to survive and possibly even have a few creature comforts. If there is something I should have added to the list please drop me a line and let me know.

Who is the Slightly Confused Woodworker?

I’ve taken way more grief over this blog than any amateur woodworker/blogger should. Part of me doesn’t care, and part of me wonders why the opinion of a lone amateur has managed to sometimes cause such strong feelings and reactions. I don’t consider myself a good writer, and when I say that I’m not fishing for compliments. If I were a good writer I would be writing professionally, or at least somebody would have asked me to write professionally. I’m just an average woodworker, but at that I think that I am pretty good considering the small amount of time I get to spend actually woodworking, and the small amount of training I have. When I was a teenager I was a pretty good baseball player, and for a while I kidded myself into believing that if I had put more time into it I would have been very good, like college scholarship/professional ball player good. As I got older I came to the realization that I would never have been a professional no matter how hard I had worked, but with woodworking I can say with all honesty that if I had more time to dedicate to the hobby, I would be very good at it. So that leads me to wonder how and why my opinion matters..to anybody.

So maybe some of you wonder what a guy like me does when he isn’t woodworking, or writing a woodworking blog, or insulting woodworking writers and burning bridges at every turn. At the same time maybe none of you are wondering that, but I will tell you anyway.

Firstly, I really hate to say this but there are some bad woodworking blogs out there. Maybe mine is one of them?? I’ve gotten more than my fair share of one star votes. But when I first started to read woodworking blogs it was because they were recommended by some of woodworking’s most respected writers. So when I clicked onto these blogs I was expecting some pretty profound and entertaining reading. Instead, what I got was: “Thinking about using cherry on my cabinet, or maybe butternut. Hmmm. Decisions decisions…” That’s it, that was what a woodworking writer recommended as a must read blog. Maybe it’s not my place to judge, but if that is your idea of a must read blog entry then maybe your other opinions might not be all that newsworthy either. So when woodworking’s most influential people urged the common amateur to get out there and make him/her self heard, I decided to do it by sharing my work, and sometimes questioning opinions that I felt were questionable. I didn’t really occur to me that most, if not all, of these people didn’t really want to have their opinions questioned, especially on an internet forum. I found that snarky answers, sarcasm, and good old fashioned insults were usually what you got when you happened to not be in agreement with the writer. That’s okay though, because I can be pretty good with sarcasm, and I can be really good with some good old fashioned insults. If you’ve ever been in a boxing ring, you will realize fairly quickly that it’s pretty easy to throw a punch, and sometimes even connect, but it’s not so easy when the other guy starts punching back. Whatever my faults may be, I know how to punch back….pretty hard.

With that being said, I am generally an average person. My philosophy on life is pretty simple, and that is to spend each day trying to become a little smarter. I am a family man and I believe that taking care of your family is the most important thing a man can do. I have a quick temper, though I’ve learned to think before I speak most of the time. I’m not religious, I don’t really believe in organized religion though I did go to Catholic school for twelve years. If you do find comfort in organized religion that is completely fine with me. I believe in God, or at least that there is a Creator of the Universe and everything in it. I do not smoke and I very rarely drink. I don’t believe in smoking. Drinking is for teenagers and college kids in my opinion. There are some out there who maybe drink to feel manly. I feel manly because I provide for my family, and the fact that I can still crank out sixty pushups even though I’m a forty year old guy who doesn’t really exercise anymore (okay, so maybe I am bragging a little). Before my head gets too big, my wife would tell you that the me of fourteen years ago when we first met would laugh out loud at the me of today. I am of average size. 5ft 11in tall and around 197lbs according to my last doctor visit which was a few weeks ago. My lower back isn’t all that great. I spend way too much time watching the Disney Channel. I read a lot. I work an average of 54 hours per week. I spend a lot of time working around my house. Today I hung a new address plaque, and here is a mildly interesting story: I actually made our original plaque from a small piece of Cedar right around the same time we remodeled our kitchen about nine years ago. Who said I’ve only been woodworking for a few years?? I like to work with my hands. I believe in buying American, at least North American, I even go out of my way to get American made pencils. I believe in supporting local businesses. I believe that the American heritage is slowly being lost to the detriment of the country. I believe that the Declaration of Independence is the most important document ever written, and that if we as a country and a planet followed it’s mission statement to the letter the world would be a far, far better place. I get way too worked up watching professional baseball. I could spend all day looking at tool catalogs. One of my dreams is to one day own a small farm, though I wouldn’t farm it professionally. I feel that many teenagers are listless and lazy because their parents are idiots. I feel that being a good citizen means obeying the laws, maintaining your property, and going to work. No, rules aren’t for fools. A fool doesn’t know how to follow a rule, or do anything constructive for that matter. I think littering should be punishable by jail time. Those who litter have absolutely no respect for themselves or anyone around them. I believe in heroes, and I believe that any person who puts his or her family ahead of their own needs is a hero. I believe that we all have a right to share and present our opinions as long as those opinions are well thought out.

Maybe most importantly, at least pertaining to this blog. I believe that the wealthy upper class of woodworking hobbyists, and in some cases professionals, have decided that woodworking is for them and no one else.

That is a small bit of insight into my mind. You can’t sum up a person, no matter how bland or boring, in just a few paragraphs. But at least you all may have a little bit of an idea of what makes me tick. And maybe, you might understand, just a little more, why I write this blog.

When trees attack!

As much as I enjoy trees, their look, their majesty, their dignity, and everything that they provide to the human race; they aren’t all that great when they fall onto your house. A few days ago my neighbor’s, and I use the term ‘neighbor’ very loosely, Ash tree fell into the back corner of my house. The trunk had rotted, probably eaten away by insects, and half split off and crashed into my mudroom. Fortunately, the mudroom is a separate room that is attached to the side of my house, and though it was damaged fairly badly, we only use the room for storage. Unfortunately, part of the canopy of the tree also hit the main body of my house, putting a hole in the roof, tearing off shingles, and also ripping my nearly brand new gutter from the house. There was also a good deal of collateral damage as well; a stone wall behind my house had a roughly ten foot section collapse, three very large and pretty Hostas that my wife had planted when we first purchased the house ten years ago were destroyed, and several other smaller plants were also completely annihilated. It was a large tree.

My neighbor, bless her, called me last night to inform me that her insurance company says that she has no liability in the situation and that I should handle it myself. I politely thanked her for calling and hung up. Because I’m a pretty smart guy, I already knew that and had already made arrangements with my insurance company and a tree removal service. I didn’t want to get into a discussion of legal responsibility vs. moral responsibility. Just as I am not really legally responsible to keep my yard in tip top shape, I believe it is the correct thing to do. Just as I am not legally responsible to pick up litter, I still do it whenever I see it. I am a good neighbor and home owner. Wait, let me rephrase that: I am a fucking outstanding neighbor and homeowner. My house is well kept, my yard immaculate, my sidewalks are clean, my gardens tended. My wife and I are quiet people, we don’t involve ourselves in other’s business. We are on friendly terms with most of our neighbors. Not to pat myself on the back too hard, but anybody reading this blog would be lucky to have people like my wife, daughter, and myself as a neighbor. There was a time when being a good neighbor meant something. Rampant liberalism ruined that idea. Now before anybody here accuses me of being Rush Limbaugh, don’t. I am neither a liberal or a conservative, I think all politicians are douche bags. I believe that all citizens have the personal responsibility of maintaining their property and everything on it to the best of their abilities regardless of what the law, any lawyers or any politicians have to say about it, and that includes pruning trees that really don’t look all that hot.

Now that my brief essay on moral philosophy is over with, I actually have some okay news. The other day the lovely, talented, highly intelligent, gracious, generous, and living proof that God is an Irish woman, Megan Fitzpatrick, posted free, downloadable plans for a Stickley #802 sideboard that I think looks like a great project. The not so lovely Christopher Schwarz wrote the article for Woodworking Magazine some time during 2009. Though the Harvey Ellis curve is a hair too dramatic for me, I otherwise think it is a great example of Arts and Crafts furniture, and I have the perfect place for it in my family room. I am a huge fan of Arts and Crafts designs, firstly because they look good in my home, and secondly because they are straightforward to build. I believe this will be my next project, though I will wait until the end of the summer before I start it; woodworking in the heat is not for me anymore. With the Stickley sideboard and the ever looming presence of The Hand Tool School I believe that my woodworking for autumn is set. Now if I can get my house fixed and keep any more of my neighbors unpruned trees from falling on it things will be alright.

Am I still a woodworker?

Saturday afternoon I found myself wandering the King of Prussia mall doing a little shopping and trying to escape the awful heat wave we’ve been going through. During my wanderings, I found myself in Sears checking out the tools. I have a some Craftsman power tools: a jobsite style table saw that I use for carpentry, a router, and a sander. I have no complaints with them and they do the job they are intended to do. I also have some Craftsman hand tools including a ratchet set, some pliers and wrenches, and a 24oz framing hammer and a 16oz claw hammer which I think are excellent tools. I have nothing against the Craftsman line whatsoever, though some woodworkers apparently do, at least if you believe the forums and certain magazine articles. What I was really checking out, though, was the tool storage. Having just finished my tool chest, I decided to check out what a comparable retail chest would have cost had I decided to purchase one rather than make my own tool storage. Again, I really like the Craftsman tool carts. In fact, I already own one.

About ten years ago I purchased a five drawer Craftsman tool cart with a small work top. The cart also has a power strip, a drill holster, a rack for screwdrivers, and a storage compartment underneath the top. I remember paying under $100 for it, which was a steal even then, and more so now because the same exact cart sells for $199 currently. If I wanted it to be a chest for my woodworking tools it would have held everything I had without an issue. An even better feature is the height of the cart, which at 33 1/2 inches just so happens to exactly match the height of my workbench. It makes a great extension to the workbench if I need it, though in all honesty that issue doesn’t always pop up, and the one time I desperately needed to extend my bench the cart wasn’t a workable option. Anyway, I found myself wondering if I should have just purchased a tool cart rather than spending a lot of time and effort making one. The cost of purchasing one wasn’t much more than it cost me to make one from scratch. Of course, in making one I was able to customize it to fit my needs, but at the same time there were so many different carts to choose from that I’m pretty sure I could have found one that would have worked for me. Lastly, the tool carts are all made of metal, and with my current one still working and looking great after nearly ten years in my garage, I already know that it will hold up. The tool chest I just completed is made from plywood and regular wood. It looks a bit nicer than a metal tool cart, and it certainly looks much more like a woodworking chest, but only time will tell if the chest will last over the long haul. So as I left Sears I found myself wondering if my attitude was a healthy one for a woodworker to have.

I hate to always make things about money. We all know that woodworking isn’t cheap and I’m not going to harp about it on this particular blog post. Many woodworkers will tell you that money isn’t really the issue but I completely disagree. When the Sawstop Legislation was being debated on all of the forums, I made the statement: If money isn’t an issue, the Sawstop proposal is probably a viable idea, if money is an issue, you won’t like it. The results were split down the middle, with roughly half of the people saying that money was the issue, and that was a lot of people, in the hundreds. So yeah, I think that a sizeable portion of woodworkers care about money. But money in this particular project wasn’t really the issue for me, though time was. I spent several weekends making a tool chest. I’ve said before that I don’t like shop projects all that much. Weekends are precious to me, I don’t get too many free ones. I’m of the mindset that there are certain things you should make, and certain things you should just purchase, tool chests and workbenches for example. Certain woodworkers prefer to spend much of their shop time outfitting their workspace with things like tool chests, workbenches, and a myriad of other shop made woodworking gadgets and work stations. That’s fine if that’s what you enjoy, but I would rather be making furniture, not tool storage. Nevertheless, I did find myself doing a little more work on the chest on Sunday afternoon.

It was again sweltering hot in my garage and outside on Sunday, but I decided to tough it out and add battens to the front panel, which I hope will help keep it from warping. I used a piece of Pine that I had set aside, ripping the pieces to width on the table saw and also crosscutting them, along with beveled ends. I gave the pieces a good sanding, used the smooth plane to clean the edges and face, and chamfered the sides with a block plane. I attached them to the panel with screws. I then took a few measurements and transferred them to the middle shelf of the chest so I could saw out the notches to allow the battens to fit inside the chest when the panel was on. I used a marking gauge to set the depth and sawed a kerf down each side. To remove the waste in the middle I used my router. I’ll be honest again and say that I don’t like routers; they are loud, messy, and can sometimes be difficult to use. I try to use a router only as a last resort. They are one of the few tools that I would not recommend, though I know there are some woodworkers who swear by them and do very nice work with them. Still, it did a nice job of cleaning out the notches and they are perfectly smooth at the bottom, which would have been very difficult to accomplish on plywood with a chisel, no matter how sharp.

Once the notches was cut out I did a test fit and everything went together nicely. At that I called it a day. I still need to install a rack or two, but otherwise this chest needs only to be painted to be called done. I’m still on the fence about the project. If you like making tool chests I would have no problem recommending it. If you would rather be making furniture I would suggest purchasing some sort of cart or cabinet. Making your own chest isn’t really saving you any money. I suppose I should feel some type of pride in my work, but the truth is I don’t. As I said before, the chest works just fine and I think it looks pretty nice, but I’m just not feeling the love. I think this is also the main reason I keep putting off making a new top for my workbench. I know I need one, I have the material, I just really don’t feel like investing all of the time and work into making a work surface. I have to wonder, am I one of the few woodworkers who doesn’t get off on making shop projects? I know that every woodworking magazine puts out a shop project special issue and they are usually big sellers, so I have to imagine that a large majority of woodworkers enjoy making them. I’m left wondering if this makes me less of a woodworker. Maybe it does, or maybe it means nothing. Whatever it does mean, I can’t see myself making another shop project for a long time.

Chamfering with a block plane

Chamfering with a block plane

kerfs are sawn

kerfs are sawn

Notches are notched

Notches are notched

Finished battens

Finished battens

On profoundness in woodworking.

I came across a post on Facebook today by a “popular” woodworking magazine that caught my attention. The post referenced a quotation that was supposed to be oh so profound (it is a good quotation for the record), and of course there was the ultra-hip, slightly out of focus black and white, or faux aged photo of an old tool, preferably photographed at a Dutch angle. You run into these every so often on the internet usually in a blog or woodworking forum. I personally believe they are mainly used by people who don’t have anything else to write. But the moderator posed the question: Is the author of this quote compelling us to buy more tools? One of the commenters felt that the quotation was saying that we, as woodworkers, have too many tools. Whatever…

From what I can see, one of the newer trends in woodworking is ‘too many tools’ bashing. It is especially popular among the so-called anarchists floating around the woodworking cesspool. I’ve always maintained that if you can afford it, and you have the space for it, and you want it, then go for it. Sure, there are probably woodworkers that own tools they really don’t need. So what? Does it really matter? The only thing I see in all of this is a bunch of lost people looking for something to cling to. First it was getting rid of the power tools and switching to hand tools, then it was traditionalism, now it is: If you own too many hand tools you aren’t a real woodworker. This is where we are…This is the state of affairs that the supposed leaders of woodworking have created. What the hell is going on here?

For whatever reasons, there are certain people who are looking to attach some kind of profound meaning to woodworking where there doesn’t need to be any. This need to equate woodworking with a metaphysical state of existence is in some ways baffling to me and yet it also makes a lot of sense. I personally believe that many current woodworkers who may be new or somewhat new to the hobby had never made anything, or really worked with their hands, until they started woodworking. Many of these new woodworkers were also of the mindset that working with your hands also meant that you probably weren’t all that smart or happy for that matter. So, in order to justify this new found happiness found in manual labor, some kind of deep meaning needs to be attached to it so the intellectuals of the woodworking world can sleep secure in the knowledge that even though they are doing grunt work, they are still smarter than the average Joe because of the deep significance of their labor. I personally think it’s insulting. The same way I think it’s insulting when somebody feels the need to tell woodworkers that they are using too many tools. I wish I had too many tools, I don’t, but I would love to be able make that claim.

I know, I’m back at it again, but I have me reasons. I’ve worked with my hands most of my adult life, the only profound meaning I need to attach to my labor is the fact that my wife and daughter have a place to sleep because of it, and I would bet that the woodworkers of yesteryear would mostly say the same thing. That isn’t saying that they didn’t care about their jobs, or the furniture they made, but at the end of the day they worked to feed their families, anybody telling you differently doesn’t know shit. That is what bothers me so much when you get people who say: “They would NEVER have used a table saw!” Yeah, they would have, because if their boss came into the shop, plunked down a table saw, and told them that they would be prepping their stock on it that’s exactly what would have happened, otherwise they would have been fired on the spot, bottom line, end of discussion. That is especially true of the shops of the 18th and 19th centuries, which were run much more strictly than anything we can imagine today. I’m simply tired of this “anarchist” bullshit. Most of today’s woodworking writers love to tell you how poor the state of “handcraft” is. They love to tell you that you must improve your skills in order for woodworking to continue forward. They love to tell you all this stuff, but they don’t seem to know how to show you the way to do it! They talk a huge game, but next time you read a woodworking magazine or professional blog, check out the actual content when it comes to learning technique/skills. On the surface it might seem like a good deal of information, but when you really look at it you’re getting ten paragraphs containing a lot of nothing. The God Damned Tips and Tricks sections of certain woodworking magazines contain more helpful information than the actual articles half the time!

So that’s it, that is my rant of the day. I’m pretty sure I probably covered this topic before, but I don’t mind repeating myself from time to time. As I was saying, I’m tired of every other woodworking blog and article telling me what tools I should and shouldn’t own to be a “real” woodworker; I’m tired of the piss poor content that most of these blogs and magazines put out, but mostly I’m tired of woodworkers pretending to be anarchists acting like dictators.

Is that a tool chest, or a dog house? Or, Patriot’s Tool Chest finished.

Last night after work I sprinted into the garage to get the lid and front panel of my Patriot’s Tool Chest cut and fitted. I wasn’t really in a rush, but it’s been raining for two days here, and though the humidity levels are ridiculous, the temperature was warm but not so hot as to make it unbearable for me to woodwork. I started with the front panel, and like always, I crosscut the board to length a bit oversized on my table saw with a cross cut sled. I then ripped the panel to width, also a bit oversized, and used hand planes to trim it to a nice fit, the jack plane at first and the jointer plane to finish it off. I then crosscut it to final size on the table saw. Finally, I attached the simple latch to hold the front panel to the chest. I only need to add two small blocks to the bottom of the lid to keep it from popping out. All in all constructing the front panel only took around fifteen minutes.

The lid cut and fit was not much more difficult, with the only difference being the bevel angle I needed to cut to match the chest angle. Once that was finished I set the lid on top of the chest, and the disturbing image of this much heralded chest design looking quite like a doghouse sawed neatly down the middle came to mind. I half expected Snoopy to come strolling through the garage door, hop up onto the chest, and fly off to fight the Red Baron. In fact, a little while later my daughter wandered into the garage, probably because my wife asked her to check up on me, and when I told her the chest looked like a dog house she started to laugh uncontrollably.

In the meanwhile, because the lid and panel were cut and fit so quickly, I decided to install the hinges. I knew that this would be the most challenging part of the build, not because hinges are all that hard to install, but because of the way the angles of the chest and lid met; there really wasn’t a place to set the lid easily and do any layout. The first thing I did was temporarily attach the hinges and use a utility knife to mark the location. I then used my trusty Spear & Jackson backsaw, my first real woodworking saw, to saw kerfs into the plywood. I tried to pare away the kerfs with a sharp chisel but the plywood wasn’t cooperating, so I dusted off my electric router and used that instead. The next task was cutting out some small notches on the lid itself to give the hinge pin a place to set. So like before, I temporarily set the lid in place, and marked the location with a utility knife. The paring here was much, much easier; my chisel was razor sharp and Spruce works very easily. I can now understand why White Spruce is used in building log cabins. I then attached the lid with a temporary hinge, masking tape, and called my wife in to hold the lid in place as I fastened it. The fit isn’t perfect but it is definitely close enough, and the lid closes nicely with no gaps. Last thing I did was attach a few eye hooks and some jack chain to keep the lid from falling all the way back.

For all intents and purposes the chest is now finished. I still am going to make a saw till, and a small tool rack, but those are simple to make and install. I placed most of my hand tools in the chest just to see how I fared and I wasn’t disappointed. Even without any dividers or racks there is plenty of space with plenty of room to spare for any future expansion. Even if the chest looks like a dog house split down the middle it does a good job. I’ll admit that maybe my proportions and not the design are more the reason that this chest looks like a Hollandse Herdershond should be residing in it rather than my tools. The real truth is that I’m not overly impressed with making shop projects; I don’t get the satisfaction from them that some do, though I do enjoy traditional tool boxes/totes. Later today, or tomorrow, I will attach some handles to the sides of the chest, nothing fancy. If I were commissioned to build this, or if it was being featured in a magazine, I probably would have gone all out with fancy wood, joinery, and some even fancier hardware. The way I built this project could be done by nearly any woodworker with a decent table saw, a few hand tools, and the ability to do a little lay out and accurate measuring. All in all it was a pretty fun project, and it does the job of holding my tools exactly how I want it done. The only thing left to do is to decide on the finish. The red, white, and blue color scheme keeps coming to mind for the lid, or at least the star made famous by Captain America. Still, I could always paint the whole chest bright red and call it ‘The Snoopy Tool Chest’.

wide spruce board

wide spruce board

Getting ready to plane

Getting ready to plane

The front panel installed

The front panel installed

Kerfs sawn

Kerfs sawn

marking for the hinge

marking for the hinge

Routed out

Routed out

My first woodworking saw, it was a gift.

My first woodworking saw, it was a gift.

Lid is attached!

Lid is attached!

View of the hinges

View of the hinges

Open for business

Open for business

Front compartment loaded with tools

Front compartment loaded with tools

Finished chest

Finished chest

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