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I’ve never been to a woodworking tool swap meet. I’d bet that there are quite a few woodworkers who can make the same claim. Unfortunately for me they just aren’t very common in this area. I have been to flea markets and garage sales, and sometimes you can get very lucky and find a few tools at a reasonable price that are in good condition, or in a condition that at the least makes them worth purchasing and saving. But even a more experienced woodworker, one used to owning new or newer tools may not know exactly what to look for, and that, among other reasons, is why I enjoyed The Naked Woodworker DVD.
I purchased the DVD partly out of curiosity, and partly from the recommendation of woodworker Jeff Branch, whose blog I’ve been following for several years. Including shipping, the two discs cost me $27.00, which is less than what I would pay to take my family out to breakfast. The DVD(s) arrived yesterday, and last night I watched the first disc, which focuses on finding used tools worth purchasing and restoring them to working condition, and this morning I watched the second disc, which details the construction of a pair of sawhorses and a woodworking bench. I enjoyed watching both, and I learned more about woodworking because I watched them, which I call a success.
What did I like? Firstly, the host, Mike Siemsen, is a likeable guy; he’s real, he’s a real woodworker, and like all good workers you pick up a few good tips and tricks just by listening to him and watching him work. The discs aren’t overly produced with a lot of annoying music and slick cut scenes, which frankly bug the hell out of me. Secondly, the tool restoration is real, and Siemsen shows real world restoration from old to working tool in real time. It’s quick, painless stuff. For instance, Siemsen shows how to file-sharpen an auger bit. Strangely, I learned how to do that during my electrical courses, and I have a special file that is made just for the task. Siemsen makes mention of the tool, but shows how to sharpen the auger using a basic file that he picked up at the tool swap.
Personally, I was most impressed with the segment on sharpening handsaws. I use just three woodworking saws, and two of them have never been sharpened. It’s not that they don’t need sharpening, but the fact that I am afraid to ruin them in the attempt. Siemsen shows how to joint, sharpen, and re-set an old hand saw using tools he picked up at the swap meet, with plenty of close-up shots that show a lot of detail during the sharpening process. Siemsen demystifies the process and makes it seem much more reachable. For me, it is the clearest instruction on saw sharpening that I’ve ever seen.
Disc two shows the construction of a pair of saw horses and a Nicholson style woodworking bench. Here again, Siemsen shows the entire process and how these essential pieces of shop equipment can be made quickly and effectively. In fact, Siemsen points out that in building the bench and the horses, you also get some good sawing practice in the process, AND, he shows that the joints don’t have to be absolutely perfect, just serviceable. The workbench is particularly impressive, as he builds it with less than $150 in lumber, and without any modifications it is a perfectly good workbench for any style of woodworking. Even more impressive is the manner of construction. Because of the modular nature of the assembly, this bench can be made by an absolute beginner, as well as a seasoned vet, and it could be used by both. Maybe most importantly, the bench can be modified to suit your liking. For instance, the bench is built without vices, which can be expensive. If I were to build the bench (and I just may do that) I would add a leg vice, which can be done for around $50, yet the addition would change the construction process very little. In fact, a leg vice could easily be retrofitted later. This bench is a real workbench, one that could work for a lifetime of woodworking.
These DVDs are marketed towards beginners, and at that they are a great starting off point. But they are also good resources for experienced woodworkers that may just be getting started in hand tools, or an experienced woodworker that is just entering the used tool market, or any woodworker that doesn’t want to spend a few grand building, or purchasing a good woodworking bench. The Naked Woodworker is being offered by Lost Art Press, and there is a link to that site on the resources section of my blog. For under $30 (which includes the cost of shipping-did I mention that?) you get some great tips, and you learn how to truly build up a real woodworking tool kit without breaking your bank account. I, for one, am glad I purchased it.
Just yesterday I received my copy of Christopher Schwarz’s video How to Super-Tune a Handplane after waiting only 7 years for it. Actually it wasn’t that long but the truth is that I had forgotten that I placed the order. So today after finishing my bookcase project (finally); I opened it up and watched it at the computer. My first thoughts: Pretty Damn Good!
The room the video was filmed in looks like a storeroom deep inside the hull of a World War 2 era battleship, but the camera work, lighting, and sound quality are just fine. I won’t get in to any plot twists or spoilers here, I will just say that this video by far has been the best and most straightforward instruction in fixing up a hand plane, both old and new for that matter, that I’ve come across. I’ve seen and read more than my fair share of methods of tuning up a plane to get it to perform at an optimal level and not one of them as been nearly as concise as this video. Period. In fact, not even close. Schwarz demonstrates, on camera, a top to bottom clean-up/tune-up of an old smoothing plane. There are no wacky gadgets needed, no expensive tools, no flux capacitors, just some basic cleaning equipment, sandpaper, a flat flooring tile, and of course whichever sharpening method you may prefer. Pretty simple, but very effective.
As I said, I don’t want to get too deep here because woodworking videos aren’t necessarily easy to review. These aren’t feature films, I can’t tell you that at minute 37 Jessica Biel struts around in her underwear. I can only say that as far as woodworking videos go, this one delivers exactly on it’s promise. After watching it I felt that I had learned a great deal. Most impressive to me was the fact that the entire tune-up, from old plane to finished product, was shown. There was no “okay, after a few hours of this you end up with this!!” No! We get to watch the whole process unfold as it is happening. Sure, a few parts were compressed and I’m not complaining. I for one didn’t necessarily need to watch the parts of the plane soak in a cleaning solution for thirty minutes in real time. But the actual meat and potatoes of the plane tune-up are shown basically un-cut. That, I think, is the what really sets this video apart. Even better, say I wanted to go in to my garage and follow Schwarz’s instructions to the letter, the only thing I was missing on his “parts” list was citric acid, which you can get on the cheap at just about any large supermarket or hardware store. He really does show you how to do it with basic equipment that most woodworkers would have in their shops. Finally, the plane that he works on in the video ends up looking and working great, leaving no doubts that his simple methods really do the job. It’s very impressive.
So I would give this video 4 out of 4 stars and have no problem recommending it to any woodworker. Even if you aren’t necessarily a handplane user it is a great resource for under thirty dollars. I will give Chris Schwarz a lot of credit; I don’t always agree with his philosophy on woodworking but he always does his best to put out a quality product, be it a book, magazine, or woodworking video. He delivered here and I’m glad that I purchased it. Chris Schwarz may be a Facist Anarchist, but he put out a pretty damn good video!