The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Spring cleaning, and an apology.

Yesterday we finally had a bit of decent weather; not that it was warm, it snowed the night before, but at the least it wasn’t freezing. I took the nicer weather as a sign that spring is finally springing, so I decided to not only clean out my garage, but the yard as well. It was an all day job, starting at 9 am and not ending until nearly 5 pm. But I managed to get a lot done, most importantly I managed to make my workbench area a lot less cluttered. Much scrap wood, old cans, broken items, and stuff I generally had forgotten existed was either thrown away or donated to goodwill. I’m not finished yet, but I came a long, long way, and my garage should be much more suitable to woodworking when I begin my next project.

As far as woodworking is concerned, my cleanup and reorganization accomplished two things that I had been wanting to finish for more than a year: I was able to move my stain cabinet to the workbench area, and I was able to get my woodworking hardware (nails, screws, handles, knobs, brackets, etc.) organized and into one location that is easily accessible right from my workbench. I even managed to squeeze in a little woodworking during my clean-up. Firstly, I finished the small screw driver rack that I started, and secondly, I got the material for my next hand plane cut roughly to size..

Stain cabinet in place. Right side of the workbench de-cluttered and organized.

Stain cabinet in place. Right side of the workbench de-cluttered and organized.

An apology…

I started making a screw-driver rack a few weeks back from some scrap Walnut I had laying around. It was a good excuse to mess around with my hand-tools, and when my new ECE rabbet plane arrived it was a good excuse to put it to use. Before I go on let me say that my little screw driver rack is barely worth noting but for two reasons. The first reason is that I used my drill press to drill out the holes. Yes, I have a drill press. The tool was given to me twelve years ago and I barely use it. I have nothing against using a drill press, but this one is just not accurate enough to use in making furniture. It’s okay for drilling out a line of holes, or some light sanding, but the table is too wobbly and the depth stop not reliable enough for intricate work. The other reason is my smoothing plane.

Walnut board cleaned up.

Walnut board cleaned up.

First in War, First in Peace, and First in laying out a corner radius.

First in War, First in Peace, and First in laying out a corner radius.

Holes drilled out.

Holes drilled out.

My drill press

My drill press

A coat or two of linseed oil.

A coat or two of linseed oil.

I have one of the new Stanley Sweetheart #4 smooth planes. I picked it up on Amazon roughly three years ago for the ridiculously low price of $91. It is a good tool that is well made and attractive. My only problem with it is the same problem I have with other smooth planes, and that is the fact that I think smooth planes are overrated. I’ve written about this topic before so I won’t get into it again at the moment. At the same time, just because I felt that way it didn’t necessarily mean that I dislike the tool. Whenever I sharpen, I always give the #4 iron a few passes over the stone just to keep it razor sharp, and I usually take it apart once a month or so, as I do with my other bench planes, just to oil and clean it. Yesterday I used the #4 to clean up the screw driver rack boards both before and after assembly, and I also used it to prep the maple and bubinga I am using to make my next handplane. It was the first time since I’ve owned the tool that I used it for more than a few minutes and I have to admit that it was a joy to use. I was able to take fine and full-width shavings with little effort. Of course the sharp iron helped big time. Nevertheless, it was a joy to use a well-made tool exactly the way it was meant to be used. While I still don’t worship at the altar of the smooth plane, I’m at least at the door of the church. So I have to be forthright and admit that my bashing of the #4 was off-base, and I apologize to those who may have disagreed with my original assessment.

Fine maple and bubinga shavings

Fine maple and bubinga shavings

This could be a hand plane in a few weeks.

This could be a hand plane in a few weeks.


  1. Jeff Branch says:

    Nice looking photos of the things in your shop. I loooooooove my #4, but I don’t have a #5 which I could actually get more use from. I’m interested in your future plane…

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks Jeff. The plane is going to be an experiment. I’m going to size it in between a block plane and a smooth plane and see how it does.
      I will write a post about it when it’s finished.

  2. bloksav says:

    I know the feeling of a wobbly drill press.
    Mine is a shitty model bought in Aldi. The table is OK but the shaft assembly has got so much play i it, that it precision is not possible.

    I think the screw driver rack looks very good. Mine is just a piece of square aluminium tube that has been drilled. Not nearly as elegant as yours.

    The stain cabinet looks really nice too.
    It seems as you spent the day very wisely. Decluttering and organizing brings such a nice feeling with itself at the end of the day.


    • billlattpa says:

      I am about 90% finished. I’m going to try to wake up very early on Saturday morning to finish the clean-up/reorganization. In a few weeks I will once again be volunteering at Valley Forge Park for at least twice a month, so I would like the garage to be all ready to go for woodworking when I start my next project.

      There is nothing more frustrating when you go to start a project and you end up spending hours just getting organized. I hope this once and for all eliminates that hassle. I was able to get rid of a lot of unnecessary clutter as well as get many of my tools and hardware right at the bench area, not to mention clearing out about 3 feet of space on each side of the bench.

      Next step is a chisel and plane rack right at the bench. I still plan on keeping my tool chest, but I would like a place to keep everything within arms reach while I’m working rather than going in and out of the chest. The tool tray helps with that, but it can’t hold everything.

      As far as my drill press, it was given to me by my father-in-law when I got married. It is okay for general work, but the table just will not stay square to the work. I’ve tried many fixes, like lock washers, shims, and thread lock, but it still has play in it. Every time I’ve tried to make mortises with it they end up out of square, so I just gave up. While I wouldn’t mind having a new, stand-alone drill press, there are many other tools I would like to have first, so getting another is way down on my list.

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March 2015



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