Saw Song

Well, Christmas is over and now I can take a breath and relax.  This holiday season has been insane, which is why I haven't posted anything in over a week.  As it turns out, having a child whom has never experienced Christmas before is, in fact, a big deal that everyone you know wants to witness.  We had a great holiday and my daughter was spoiled by everyone, the way it should be I suppose.


Slip Stitch And Pass

First a note:  I have been concentrating on sharpening a lot lately (this entry is no exception), well, I promise some actual woodworking is coming very soon.

Sharpening, however, I feel should be one of the first skill sets a woodworker learns.  I am still learning to sharpen, and every time I learn something new I see a world of possibilities open.  Sharp tools are easier to control, can take more precise cuts and are generally safer to work with.  Tools like plane irons, chisels, saws and carving tools are easy to sharpen once the basic concepts are understood.  As with any skill, perfect practice makes perfect execution and the right set of stones (sharpening stones that is) will aid in that practice.  


Gimmie Shelter

I have seen a lot of old buildings gutted and renovated/restored over the years.  Whenever I enter one of these buildings I make it a point to pay strict attention to the craftsmanship and methods used in its construction.  When I say "old building" I mean buildings older than 1900, some that date before 1800 and a few older yet.  My time in the military offered me numerous opportunities to view everything from barracks and family homes to historic wooden and masonry construction in several overseas countries.  I could never understand why I got so many befuddled looks while crawling through framing members and poking around attics and foundations with a flashlight.  Apparently, inspecting construction joints at close range that have been hidden in a wall for two and three hundred years makes you a weirdo.

I personally find many of the details in old buildings beautiful, and sometimes, the ones that are hidden are even more beautiful than the adornments on the outside.  This may be why I like the Greene & Greene style so much, as they used a lot of their structural joints as adornment by making them out of exotic materials, finishing them to a high degree and leaving them exposed.  I think obsession is a dirty word, and my wife uses it a lot when I start talking about wood joints at the dinner table.  I also think "one sided conversation" and "I get bored when you talk" are dirty words, maybe she just swears a lot.  

Modern timber framing is one of those practices which still uses a lot of traditional framing techniques, just like many of those in the surviving old homes I inspected.  I have tinkered with some small scale timber framing but building a house is another story.  Unfortunately, to construct a timber framed home you have to have space and money, both of which I am currently short on.  Fortunately, I have a friend who just so happens to have been planning one of these for a long, long time.  The cabin he is constructing is modest as it is a vacation property for some "out of the way" wooded land he has.  He is sending me photos of his progress on dates when I can't be there to help out.  His most recent set reminded me of some joints I had seen in a cabin last year while in Oregon that dated to the 1860s.  They are of housed dovetails he is cutting for floor joists and when looking at them I feel like I am on the beginning end of a piece of history.  They are gorgeous. The photos are from his cell phone so I'll take some others the next time I'm up there to show some of the details and how they fit into the sill plates.

Cutting The Shoulder 

Housed Dovetail

These are of a "commander" (big ass mallet) he made out of some cutoffs which is used to tap the joints together or apart.  This one will also likely be bound around it's perimeter with an iron band to keep it from splitting apart over time.  

Shaping The Handle

Commander To Be Commanded



Other People's Videos. 
I got an email recently from Highland Woodworking about a video series they posted on their YouTube Chanel called "Reclaiming Our History."  This video was created by Mr. Lee Tigner of Early American Furnishings and is part of his overarching goal to connect people with our colonial American history through the furniture he makes and the material he uses to create his pieces.  These videos are available on his YouTube Chanel here: Lee Tigner YouTube, but I wanted to post them here because I think what he is doing is such a great concept.


To See The World In A Grain Of Sand

Variants of sandpaper have been around since 13th Century China where they used natural gum to adhere shells, sand and seeds to parchment.  I have also found several references to shark skin, pumice, equisetum hyemale, and several other abrasive materials being used to polish and sand the surfaces of wood and stone.

The nerd in me (okay, so all of me) got all excited when I found out that the concept of sandpaper turned out to have been around for centuries before the first real mass production of "glass paper" by John Oakey in 1833.  There were even written warnings for counterfeit glass paper being sold on the streets of Paris in the mid 1700's.


The Best Way To Predict The Future Is To Create It

That quote, by Peter Drucker, sums up what companies like Shapton and Spyderco are doing for ceramic sharpening and honing materials.  Through research and development, ceramics are becoming amazingly versatile in both shapes and grades.  The relative hardness of this material, when properly manufactured, allows for its potential use in sharpening, honing and shaping any metal available in the marketplace today including hardened carbide teeth.


Raspier Than Tom Waits

I have been working on rebuilding an old crosscut saw.  I wanted the handle/tote to have all those sexy curves and nice rounded edges that have started to make a well deserved comeback on handsaws.  I don't own a spindle sander so I went with the next best thing, a Shinto Saw Rasp and a woodworking Microplane.  Well, it's better than using my teeth I suppose.


Check Out My Package!

Making misleading titles, as it turns out, is a fun new hobby.  I recently got my package from Lie Nielsen, they didn't have what I wanted on hand at the handtool event so they shipped it to me free of charge.  I got the box before Thanksgiving (shipping was prompt) but, unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to photograph it or get it written up until now.


Gonna Pull This Timber 'Fore the Sun Goes Down

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I got to have fun on someone else's dime, so it was pretty much like any other weekend...  One of my oldest friends and his father are building a cabin in the woods.  See how I made something innocent sound like something disgusting?  In all seriousness though, they are actually constructing a timber frame cabin locally that we'll take apart and reassemble at its final location.


Essential Oils

Okay, so this sharpening video took slightly longer to record than expected.  It also ended up being a much longer video than expected, it's three parts so get a cup of coffee or a snack...or both!  I like history, especially obscure history that is both hard to find and has to do with the origins of little known or forgotten objects.  The first half of this video covers a small portion of the history of oilstones, and it turns out that American oilstones have a truly interesting history.


Ahhhh The Good Old Days

Imagine the logging industry in the United States in its earliest days.  Loggers were felling trees that were potentially over a thousand years old. It is no wonder that we find so many old homes, especially in the North West made out of beautiful lumber, so beautiful in fact that it is now common to salvage it to make furniture.  Picture ripping a 2x4 out of your wall and saying "wow this would make a beautiful coffee table!"  I recently received some photos from a friend of mine in an email which are below.  I have no idea where these photos came from but they make my heart skip a beat when I see them.


We All Have Our Vices

I am willing to confess that I have a vise vice.  Whether it's used for boring boring, to pare some pear, to plane some plain grain or to beat the guy who keeps making stupid wordplay jokes, a vise is a good tool to have on hand.  A vice is one of those tools that you don't often think about until you really need one.  You also don't have to take a lone loan to get one (Last one I promise).


Right in the Shorts!

I have decided to make the "Short Tips" videos a regular item on the PHW blog.  I can cram a lot of good information into a short video which is good for watching over your morning coffee, or in the bathroom, or really, anywhere now that we can watch videos on phones, tablets, and soon to be watches... I knew if we just waited long enough Dick Tracy would come back around, just like slap bracelets and leg warmers!!

This video gives a couple quick pointers on hand honing a chisel bevel and the use of a higher grit waterstone.  For a much more detailed look at waterstones check out this video Waterstones Part 1.


Water, Water Everywhere!

Whetstones are one of the oldest methods of sharpening tools.  "Hone slates," similar to modern day portable whetstones, have been found in and around Roman ruins and were used for swords, knives, stone-working tools and woodworking tools.  Hone slates may have used many cutting fluids, oil, water, spit, or nothing (dry), whichever was readily available ("nothing" is almost always available).  Initially just as common, were large grinding wheels which became more and more prevalent throughout the years.  These wheels often used water as a cutting and cooling fluid (if any was used at all).


The Many Ways to Skin a Cat!

As you are no doubt aware there are many different ways to sharpen metal tools.  If you were looking for actual cat skinning I'm sure there is a blog somewhere else for that.  I have a couple of videos (part 1 and part 2) that cover many sharpening methods in overview.  I will be making a detailed video for each method discussed over the next couple of weeks.


Lunch Break!

Saturday afternoon I was able to pry myself away for an hour or so to attend a local Lie Nielsen Handtool Event!  It was, as they always are, a great time.  If you have never been to one, I'd definitely recommend attending one of these events.

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa...

I know I promised sharpening videos today, however, the one I had planned to post was not saveable by any means of editing, simply, it was just terrible.  I am re-filming with the help of my wife, as soon as she stops laughing at my first attempt, and I should have it posted before the end of the week.  In the mean time I am posting two "Saw Tips" (see what I did there?) videos.


Daylight Savings Time

Well, here it is again, Daylight Savings Time.  "Fall Back."  At least it's not "Spring Forward!"  Why does an hour seem to throw my entire life off kilter?  I had hoped to post the first sharpening video today, but, excuse...excuse...excuse...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  Sorry, I fell asleep there for a minute.


Grind It.

When sharpening plane irons and chisels it is important to remember some basic angles.  These guides are just that, guides.  I recommend experimenting with these angles some to determine what angles work the best for you in the types of woods in which you typically work.


The Pink Jersey

Forgetfulness, it seems, is a rather common condition.  I am one of many sufferers of this infectious disease.  Perhaps it is the ever spreading sleep deprivation that we as Americans seem to enjoy, or the adult ADD that comes along for a ride on the tired train.  Maybe, it is that we are constantly distracted by a million "necessary" technologies in our every day settings.  Or, it could be the hundreds of separate ideas and thoughts racing through our minds at any one time.


Sharp [Shärp] (adj.)

I feel it is only proper to start this the way every other high school/middle school paper should start...or at least mine did...


We got nukes, we got knives, sharp sticks....

There is something about a truly sharp edge honed onto the side of a piece of metal that has fascinated mankind since he first discovered the ability to anneal copper during the 5th and 6th millennium BC.  Prior to the annealing process (heating metal to increase strength and hardness) most tools were stone, bone and sticks.  Metallurgy paved the way for a rapidly growing culture to begin using more durable metal tools for farming, construction, hunting, and warfare.  Of course the most important thing to come out of this new found technology was the ability to make the tools themselves!  Making tools...obviously more important than being able to hunt dinner faster and way cooler than being able to conquer your neighbors village because they still use sharp sticks rather than swords.


Universal Soldier...No Need for Dolph and Jean-Claude

It was either that or "Jack of All Trades."  Be glad I made the Universal Soldier reference, your day is now better.  Now for something on topic..  When I first started renovating my home I needed tools.  I knew a lot about tools, or so I thought.  I bought tools upon tools each for its own specific purpose.  A sliding compound miter saw for cutting all those complicated miter cuts, a set of pneumatic nail guns and a compressor, some beater chisels, mostly tools to slam and jam studs together to make walls.  I soon had a garage full of rough carpentry tools, but when I went to build my first piece of real furniture or do some detail work on the house I found that I didn't have the proper control over the tools at my disposal.  It was a bit like using a bulldozer to open a bag of peanuts...which I have done, and let me tell you not a peanut survived.



Living in Maryland means that I get to constantly wage battle against that ever present adversary...RUST!!


It's Log, It's Log...It's Big, It's Heavy, It's Wood

I have been wanting to mill some of my own lumber since it dawned on me that wood comes from trees, and hey, I know where some trees are growing AND I own a saw (or ten)!  The only drawback this provides is that while beautiful lumber grows all over the Eastern Shore, people tend to get upset when you show up unannounced and start cutting down trees in retirement communities.  Not that I have ever done that, but can you imagine?



Henry O. Studley.  You know, the guy with the amazing tool cabinet.  I can not express in words how excited I am about Christopher Schwarz' new collaborative effort with author Don Williams on cataloging, photographing and researching Mr. Studley's tool cabinet.  The book is titled “Virtuoso: The Toolbox of Henry O. Studley.”

I, like many other woodworkers, have been fascinated by this magnificently crafted altar to his tools.  I am equally as interested in the tools themselves as I am interested in the box construction.  Mr. Studley used beautiful materials and exacting skill to craft this monument to hand tools.  He also made many of the tools in the box, which is something else I'd love to learn more about. 

The reason I am looking forward to this book's arrival is because it details all the nooks and crannies (great now I'm hungry) of the box, something that to date has been a mere dream of many craftsmen.  Christopher Schwarz has been doing a brilliant job chronicling the work on his blog at Lost Art Press.

Check out the Henry O. Studly toolchest-o-rama on Mr. Schwarz' "Lost Art Press" blog here:

Lost Art Press Studly Toolchest Blog Entries!!

When the book comes out I'll post a review as soon as I can read it and get a reasonable impression.  I'm a slow reader, but at least there will be pictures!  Really, it could end up being a cat calendar and I'd give it a good review as long as there were some of Mr. Studley's tools in there.  What does that do for my credibility...wait...what credibility?

Thanks to Fine Woodworking for this poster print, it's my computer background

The Camera Adds Ten Pounds...

A quick note about photography on this site.  I typically use one of three cameras for photographing projects.  I am a Canon fan, there I said it, I like Canon because that's what I have used since film cameras roamed the earth.  Since this isn't a photography blog I won't get into the debate of Canon Vs. Nikon Vs. Leica or whatever, although I would love to own a Leica of any sort.

The three cameras I will likely use for stills and video are a Canon D5 Mark II, a Canon G12, and on occasion my phone (Droid X2).  Unfortunately, I have used my phone for several recent projects as I wasn't planning on blogging the photos.  I will try my best to use one of my other cameras to photograph projects, materials, or anything I am going to post simply because the detail will be better
Adjustment Nuts On Some Beater Planes

If you would like to see additional photos or details of something I have posted just let me know and I'll do my best to get them.  Additionally, I will obviously ask permission and give credit for any photos posted that are not mine, otherwise, they will all be shots I have taken

I am also learning SketchUp (as well as some other 3D software), so when I figure out how to post the SketchUp models of projects and templates I will put them on the site.
Antique Japanese Chalk Lines


Begin, Be Bold and Venture to be Wise...

I often find myself putting off something that I really feel I'd enjoy because starting something new is inherently a pain in the ass.  The harbingers of my procrastination are the (often steep) learning curve associated with jumping head first into something I know nothing about, the all too prevalent fear of failure, and usually just a lot of work up front. 

Normally, when find my way to starting whatever it is that I have put off until tomorrow, I find that it was way easier than I thought and more fun than I'd expected.  This is what keeps me trying new things.  I'm hoping this blog is one of those things...

I decided to start this blog after my wife told me to stop being such a baby and just give it a try.  She is usually very good at nagging me until I pull out my hair pushing me out of my comfort zone by gentle prodding; this venture is no exception. 

I am a Civil Engineer by education but, "amateur woodworker, toolmonger and lover of things hand made" is probably a better description even though it is a terrible title.  By nature (and nurture I suppose) I am a jack of many trades and a master of none; don't you hate cliches?? 

I hope to steer this blog along my usual drunken path littered with varied types of projects, tips, videos, photos and mistakes (hopefully to learn by?), and fuel it with other peoples wisdom, direction and guidance.  If everything goes well there should be some learning involved in there somewhere, mostly by me, but hopefully also by those who aren't afraid to melt their eyeballs by reading my blog (hey, you have two right?). 

Well...here goes nothing... or something...  Thanks for reading.

Some projects I'll be blogging about in the near future... or whenever I get around to it...that's the future, right?!?
Stairs to Somewhere
Chainsaw Milling a Black Walnut Tree
"Renovating" an Old Warranted Superior Handsaw