The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Monthly Archives: February 2016



It had been two weeks since I’ve woodworked, and truthfully I hadn’t planned on woodworking this past weekend, either. My little hiatus was once again due to the weather, and somewhat less due to the fact that I needed a little break. Still, I had some things planned, and the weather changed for the better, so I decided to get to them.

First thing was making a new tool rack for the left side of my workbench wall. That was easy, just a little time consuming, but the mission was accomplished, and now nearly all of my woodworking tools are hung up, visible, and out of the way. An added bonus was the removal of the chisel rack I had made to hang in my window. I hated that rack; not that it didn’t work; but making it was brutally tedious and the process honestly made me want to quit woodworking permanently. I didn’t throw away that rack, though. I kept it perhaps as a reminder of a lesson that it taught me: There are certain things you should build yourself and there are certain things you should purchase, and that rack was something I should have purchased.

Tool rack is finished…

Today brought with it the nicest weather we’ve had in almost 6 months. I wanted to make a piece of doll furniture with my daughter, but it turns out that she had an event scheduled with her Girl Scout troop (that is a solemn oath they swear). Instead, I prepped all of the material and sawed most of it to length. However, I want her to assemble it herself, so that part will have to wait for another time.

In other news, I came into a little woodworking fun money a few weeks back when I had a tip published in Popular Woodworking Magazine. I made a New Year’s “Resolution” to not purchase any new tools for at least 6 months, and I plan on sticking to that promise. But my resolution did not include used or vintage tools. I came across a Record 043 plow plane, the price was just $4.00 more than the money I received for the tip, so I purchased it. The plane arrived in surprisingly good condition, and for that I was thankful. There was a little rust, some grime, and a few paint marks, but otherwise all of the hardware was flawless and the irons were in terrific shape. I soaked everything in a citric acid solution this morning, ran some errands, and returned home to finish the scrubbing, which took just a few minutes to complete. I then turned my attention to the irons.

Plane as it arrived…

Disassembled parts…

The plane included 3 irons, which I’ll call 1/8th, 3/16th, 1/4 inch (they’re actually in metric but you all know how I loathe the metric system). I started with the largest first, because it seemed easiest. Generally, I sharpen free hand, but in this case I used the Veritas guide because it seemed it would be awkward otherwise, not to mention the fact that the iron had a very minor skew to it that I wanted to fix. Happily, the iron worked brilliantly. I stared with the bevel side using a coarse then fine diamond stone, 1000/8000 grit water stones, and finishing it with the leather strop. I then worked the back, which again was mercifully easy. It was a pleasure to sharpen the iron, and I was so excited that I decided to reassemble the plane immediately and give it a test run. The tool did not disappoint. Being that this was the first ever time that I’ve used an actual plow plane I was very happy with the results; in seconds I made a straight groove and the ribbons were flying. Adjusting the tool was easy on all counts. If I have one gripe it is the size. This is a “small plow” so I’m not overly surprised that it is, in fact, small. But it is a bit small for my hands, though nothing I cannot get used to in time.

Cleaned, assembled, and ready for action…

View of the cleaned up depth stop…

Record 043…

First test groove…

So the last task of the day was clean up, and that was easy. My new wall rack proved its worth in less than 24 hours. For whatever it’s worth, I’ve nearly maxed out the space in my garage for woodworking, and there is little more I can do. I have one other spot that I would like to toy around with, but otherwise I’m at the end. I’m actually pretty happy with the set-up for the most part. There are at least a dozen things that I would love to do, but that will have to be for the next house. I can live with what I have right now and that is all I can ask.

So this weekend back to woodworking turned out to be a decent one. I got my workspace better organized without getting frustrated, and I brought an old tool back to life. Maybe I didn’t make an heirloom piece of furniture, but at this point I’ll take what I can get.



Tiny Furniture

The last few weeks have been something of a brief woodworking/blogging hiatus for me. The week before last was bitterly cold, and the past week I spent taking care of some things around the house as well as making provisions to renew my connection with the Park Service. Fortunately I was able to speak with in person the park ranger who coordinates volunteer projects and he assured me that my services were missed and they would love me to begin working again. Not that I needed any affirmation, the Park Service appreciates volunteers of all skill levels, but it was nice to hear nonetheless.

Otherwise, I do have two woodworking projects ready to go. One is a wall rack for the left side of my workbench. I had mentioned in a previous post that I picked up the wood to make cleats and some small tool mounts a few weeks back. With the temperatures in my garage fluctuating the two boards warped pretty badly. So each day after work I turned them over and they would warp in the other direction. Strangely, after two weeks of doing this the boards are no longer warped, at least not warped badly. I also have the material all prepped and ready to make my “Paul Sellers” box to hold my shoe shining polish and brushes. Ironically I shined two pairs of shoes over the weekend, and considering that I call myself a woodworker yet my shoeshine brushes (some of which I’ve had for more than 20 years) were sitting on a bookshelf in our spare bedroom I was honestly ashamed of the fact that I never made a decent box to store them in.

But the real reason I am writing is because last night I read a post on the Lost Art Press blog. To be honest I’m not really sure where the post was going, but that’s not really my concern, but in it there is a mention of a woman who wanted to make doll furniture when she was younger and never got around to doing it. That struck a chord with me, because many times my daughter has asked me to help her make furniture for her dolls and many times I made excuses why I couldn’t. I feel pretty rotten about that in all honesty. There’s no reason I can’t spend a few hours making a dining room table with some craft boards for my daughter. More importantly, there’s no reason why she can’t help me do it. It’s not as if I’m going to be making tiny joinery. I’m planning on some glue, a little sand paper, and some oil finish.

One of my favorite quotations attributed to Benjamin Franklin is (paraphrased) “What good shall I do today?”. I honestly try to live my life by that motto, whether it’s doing a good job at work, or reading something new, or exercising, or being a better woodworker, (or getting better at World of Tanks). I always thought that ‘being a good father’ is implied in that list, but it really isn’t, and I should always be striving to be a better dad. I was ashamed of myself after reading that paragraph, and I should be. Whatever I may be, I’m not lazy. My daughter deserves better, and if I can’t make a piece of doll furniture with her that would not just make me a piss poor woodworker, it would make me a piss poor father. I’m not going to let that happen.


Why I didn’t woodwork over the weekend.

I had a rare three day weekend occurrence because of the President’s Day Holiday, yet I didn’t enter my garage one time. Why? Well normally a three-day weekend is a great opportunity to get in some woodworking without shirking my other responsibilities. That extra twenty-four hours can go a long way. But most of you in the western world also know that Valentine’s Day was this past Sunday.

For those of you who don’t know what Valentine’s Day is, it is a day to celebrate your relationship with your significant other. For most men, it means buying flowers, candy, and cards with loving poem’s written by some person you’ve never met to give to the love of your life. For most women, it means accepting those gifts and pretending that they really didn’t want them all with the not so subtle unspoken threat of swift retribution if they did not receive those gifts.

So I did not woodwork this past weekend. I love that woman, damnit. And I would never dare insult her by spending Valentine’s Day in my garage.

On another note. The past three days just so happened to be the coldest of the year. The high temperature yesterday was just around 20 degrees (-6 or so for all of you Celsius users) The temperature when I woke up on Valentine’s Day morning was -2 (-18 C). Some of you may remember that my garage is not climate controlled, and when it’s -2 outside it really isn’t very comfortable inside either. But for anybody to suggest that the only reason I didn’t woodwork this past weekend was because of the frigid temperatures you would be wrong! For anybody to say that I only refused to enter my garage because I didn’t want to freeze my ass off, and not because it was my wife’s special day is just awful. Get your heads out of the gutter!

So what if I never woodwork when it’s freezing outside! That has nothing to do with anything! Just because I had several projects all ready to go it doesn’t mean that the only thing that derailed them was the weather. I would never disrespect my wife that way! Would I?

I should have known better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Initial shaping started, wear plate filed down…

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

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

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

First real shavings…

View of the escapement area…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Support your not-so-local woodworker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A dovetailed box, and a tool to boot…

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

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

I grudgingly admit that gang sawing is a real advantage…

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

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

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

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

One of the tapped and threaded holes bored…

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

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

Escapement sawn out, front bevel in place…

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

Iron fitted flush and hardware installed…


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

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