Monday, May 17, 2010

This Guy Teaches?

I had an excruciating experience on Friday at the mortise and tenon demo. I had every intention of showing the lookers on some techniques for perfectly executing this essential piece of joinery, instead I spent most of the demo showing people how to fix all of the botched joinery I unleashed upon the crowd.

Nothing like a little self torture to start the weekend off right. I mean, botching something that I have repeatedly done to more than satisfactory results? Yeah, embarrassing doesn't even begin to cover it. But all in all, the joint , no matter how horrific it looked, was dead square! I guess that's enough to not sell all of my tools, after all as they say, if it were easy everyone would be doing it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dovetails 101

Ok, here we go, this is absolutely the one topic I spend the most amount of time fielding questions about when it comes to joinery. So I am going to try and simplify it to it's barest bones, which is how I teach dovetailing. The one thing that I eliminate from teaching this joint is the one thing that hangs everyone up when they attempt it on their own. The "rules"! Yes ,take all that you have read or any videos that you have replayed a thousand times, and just throw that away. Once that is done it will all be much easier,trust me, as we proceed the rules will be come more or less suggested guidelines.

First, this post will focus on the most important part of dovetailing, tools and specifically saws. You can learn all the techniques in the world and it doesn't mean squat without a good, no, great dovetailing saw. It is the one tool you must be willing to throw a pretty fair chunk of dough at, because bad cuts make bad joints and and good cuts make you a little lightheaded, in a good euphoric way of course. It should be filed for rip cutting as most cuts are end grain cuts. The number of teeth is going to depend on the thickness of the stock you will be cutting. 18 to 20 ppi for cutting 1/2" or thinner stock and 14 to 16ppi for 1/2'' or thicker. That is just a suggestion, I myself tend to cut multiple thicknesses both thick and thin . Both of my dovetail saws are filed 14 ppi and do just fine .

A good saw will make you a good sawyer, and fortunately there are several phenomenal saw manufacturers to choose from. Here are the names of saw makers worth checking out
  •  Bad Axe
  • Veritas
  • Rob Cosaman's saw
  • Adria
  • Lie Nielsen
  • Wenzloff and Sons
  • Gramercy
  • Medallion
  • Eccentric Toolworks
Quite frankly a saw from anyone else not on this list will probably be money wasted, and if any saw maker not on this list is offended just send me one of your saws so I can drive it around the block a time or two Chances are I have tried your saw and am again sticking with the list. Now if you can get a good vintage Disston or Wheeler Madden, that is a whole other blog post altogether. I will tell you that my two saws are an Adria and a Lie Nielsen, both are excellent saws but completely different even though they have 14ppi filing. The Adria is smooth as silk with a shorter plate, while the Lie Nielsen is very aggressive and kick but with a longer plate. I am actually going to purchase a third finer toothed saw for handling strictly thinner material, a Gramercy or Wenzloff Kenyon.

This is all for today as I will start the actual dovetailling in the next post. I just needed to stress the importance of this "saw thing".

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tool Review: Festool TS 55

Ok, for quite some time now I have managed to resist drinking the Kool Aid that is better known as Festool, or Festool Aid as I have come to describe it to my students.However for those of us with an extremely limited workspace it is a temptation that haunts my mind to the point of feeling like needing to go to confession, or counselling to some point.

So here I am, new owner of a Festool TS 55 track saw and just as I had feared it is simply "Awesome"! I got the saw and accessory kit that had clamps (my only complaint is that clamps are not included) miter gauge, track connetors and so on. You could only imagine the horror as the saw cut cleanly and accurately through every type of material I threw at it. Also appalling was the fact that I can take it anywhere with ease, especially handy on job sites. I was equally depressed at how absolutly genius it was to be able to cut a bevel on a piece of stock directly on the line the bevel needed to occur with no guess work.

So I have nearly retired my worn out contractors saw that is taking up so much valued space in my so called shop. You may ask why all of the negative connotations regarding a tool that is destined to make my work more productive and enjoyable. Why? Now I have to buy more Festool stuff! Maybe a router, or, No! A Domino,or...............

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Let's Have It !

As I continue to ramble on various topics I may not always hit on a subject that you are interested in. So if you want me to concentrate on a specific technique, tool, or anything just tell me. Feel free to post topic suggestions in the comment section below and I will be glad to do what i can to write about it.

I am starting a series on hand cutting dovetails with many many photos to go with it. I am going down to the shop as we speak to start, so be looking for it in the next couple of days! Thanks to those who visit this blog. I would like to get more interaction with you guys so let me know what you need!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tool Review: Lie Nielsen No.7 Jointer Plane

With a myriad of hand planes available for doing various tasks, there are really only two bench planes that are essential to working  a board,.a  No 4 smoother and No 7 jointer plane.

While smoothing planes are available in hoards by many manufacturers, jointer planes are not as accessible, at least ones of decent quality. Of all the No.7's I have played with one stands alone. Lie Nielsen.

Yeah I know, all of you wood enthusiasts will say " Well for that kind of money it better be good" which is a misconception. I have tried jointers that were just as pricey that did not perform as well, not even close. LN gets a bad rap for what they are charging for their merchandise, but more times than not, the criticism comes from those who have never held or used one of their products.

Fact of the matter is high quality steel, meticulous castings (I have done foundry work, it's difficult!), precision machining coupled with intense quality control makes for a tool that goes from the box straight to the board, and the No.7 is no exception. The components were incredibly crafted and dead flat. The A2 steel blade was razor sharp, but I will replace that with an O1 blade. (Just a matter of preference!).

Now the goods! See through shavings were possible immediately, and with a mouth adjustment I could take monster cuts with no problem. A very weighty tool, which is exactly what you want in any bench plane to reduce the amount of pressure needed to get the job done therefore reducing fatigue.

I tested it on American Cherry and Quarter sawn White Oak. While it excelled in the Cherry in all directions, I did experience a little tear out in the Oak, which is to be expected with a figured wood. This is just a matter of honing a higher bevel, or getting a fifty degree or higher frog from LN. My choice would be to get a toothed blade to tame gnarly woods, also available from Lie Nielsen.

At $425. one may shudder to put that kind of cake on one hand tool. But for true hand tool woodworkers, that is a mere pittance for one of the most important bench planes, or dare I say essential tools period. Not to mention the fact that it is an heirloom quality tool that I hope my kids will enjoy long after I hang up my proverbial woodworking apron!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Practice Makes Furniture?

Usually one of the first questions by beginning students is " How do I get skilled using hand tools?". Which for someone starting out, dreaming of the day that all of the endless time creating mounds of wood shavings, is the first thing you must do.

I generally try to make it fairly simple. Most of woodworking involves one thing, cutting wood! Simple, right!
OK, now the majority of " cutting" is done with two tools, chisels and hand saws.Still with me? A lot of instructors will tell people to draw straight lines on a board and saw repeatedly, which is great. Exercises such as that are good, but get old fast.

So to hone your skills and not be bored, cut joints! All of the practicing is for what? To be able to do joinery, I start my Fundamentals of Woodworking class with cutting Mortise and Tenon joints, and then on to Dovetails. And most of those students are beginners or novices with hand tools. I continually tell them to " fail miserably" and be proud to do so!

The key to attaining the required skills to build anything is this.
Don't get discouraged and be patient!
Butcher dovetail after dovetail, and blow out mortises, but keep some of them as a comparison and you will be surprised how quick your skills will develop

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Omissions and Revelations

OK. So recently I was given quite a brow beating via e-mails and comments regarding some hand tools that in my opinion stand out from the rest of the pack. There were several, what about this saw, or this plane, and a couple of particular chisel brands that were blatantly omitted. so let me clear a couple of things up. I did recommend the Veritas saws, but did not elaborate the fact that they perform as well as most of the premium name saws at half the price In fact, I often recommend them to my students. Now Adria, Lynx and Garlick saws all performed well, but not quite as well as my Lie Nielson. The Wenzloff saw I tried did not cut like my LN saw, but I have been told that they will put any rake, set or fleam I want , so I could probably get a saw from them that would kill mine.

I did not however have a Grammercy saw when I made my suggestions, but if you know enough wood workers someone will probably have one, as luck would have it I was able to sample one.
I must say that it is a curious saw, very light in weight with one of the best grips ever!
I am not a fan of fine teeth, but this one was still very aggressive and impressive.
I have been thinking of getting a second dovetail saw lately, and this may well be the ticket!

Now the revelation! One of my blog followers asked " why not Ashley Isles chisels ". To be honest I had only become aware of AI in the last six months or so, and it was through a Christopher Schwarz review. I also got several e-mails asking the same. OK, OK enough I said, so I managed to secure a set of their round back dovetail chisels.

Ever have one of those " How did I not know" moments? Yeah, every time I pick up an AI dovetail chisel I can't figure out how I did without! First off they are beautiful to look at with the awesome Bubinga handles. ( my favorite wood ) They reek of precision, and are very light with phenomenal balance. I have never pared any joint with the accuracy and control that these allow. Truly the best chisels I have in my arsenal.( still keeping my Sorby's though )

So apparently it's in the steel! While all the buzz is in A2 tool steel, which gets as sharp as sharp can be, they are difficult and time consuming to sharpen. And we all love endless wasted time sharpening, don't we? The Ashley Isles chisels are 01 oil hardened steel. What does that mean?
It means the steel is just a little softer than A2, so they sharpen and hone considerably faster and can be ground to angles more suited to paring operations. ( think low angle block plane)

I am listening to what you are telling me (you know who you are ) or I would have never even considered to try the Ashley Isles, and to boot they are very well priced. Now there is only one problem left. Where am I going to get the cake to replace my existing chisels ( 53 and counting) with AI stuff, which are available through Tools for Working Wood.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

When In Doubt......Rout!!!

Most of my posts to date have been of the hand tool variety. Which by all means is a critical aspect of working with wood. So let us plug in!!!

Pick a power tool, any power tool! What one tool can replace a shop full of stationary equipment?
Router Baby!! If you can't do it with a router, you can't do it, plain and simple. Don't give me that look! This is my one and only woodworking absolute and take from someone who has ten plus routers, and can always use another.

Still not convinced? "Well allow me to retort!" (I think Q. Terantino gets a quarter for that)

Dovetails? Done!
Mortises! You betcha
Tenons. Yep.
Slotting! Groovin!
Rabbits? Hollaaa!!!
Dado's A go,
Moldings. Uh-huh.
Sizing panels, Yes!, even sizing panels! I know very Billy Mays like, but let's call it like we see it, the router is the proverbial veg-o-matic of power tools.

Now, a plunge router is always a good starting point. Very versatile, but can be top heavy for certain tasks. I would suggest a fixed base/ plunge base combo kit so all of your "bases" are covered.

As brands go, I don't know what to tell you. I literally have one of every brand! But do check out Bosch, Milwaukee, older Porter Cable, and if you can stomach the price tag (worth twice the price!) get a Festool !

Now go forth and rout!...and don't look back. You won't be sorry!!!!