O.P.V. Hotrodding A Tote

Other Peoples Videos

For some reason, we have created a culture over the last fifty or so years that is terrified of voiding warranties.  We all seem to be afraid to tamper with stuff from the manufacturer, as if they are watching over our shoulder or as if their product is so perfectly designed and engineered that any tweak will ruin it forever.  I say rubbish.  This has gone as far as manufacturers (ahem...apple...cough) sealing their products or using proprietary fasteners to hold them closed.  This unfortunate mentality often spills over onto tools (power tools included) as well, especially when we pay top dollar for good ones.  I wouldn't hesitate to sharpen a dull blade or flatten the sole of a plane, so why then would I flinch at fixing a tool that hurts my hand?

If a tool is uncomfortable in the hand I find myself hesitating to use it, or not using it as it is intended which makes working with it more difficult.  Why not then, adjust it to fit properly?  The video below was one I was planning to shoot until I watched Mr. Paul Sellers do it better than I ever could.  The music is a little dramatic for woodworking, but the information contained within is golden.  New tools, and many old tools for that matter, scream for modification, refinement and a little tweaking (true tool collectors avert your eyes).     If you are squeamish about modifying an antique tool to fit your hand, pick up a new one and tweak the hell out of that little guy.  Handsaws with wooden handles are a great place to start.  In order to make the handle modifications worth your time you'll need to get one with a decent saw plate and something that can be sharpened.  Many new saws have hardened teeth, which makes them an enormous pain to sharpen but lets them stay sharp for a very long time.  Here is a "2 pack" of stanley saws with "resharpenable" blades, the handles are horrible but that can be changed.  They also have a pre-made "hang hole," as if hanging a saw from the handle somehow hurts the saw.  If you like the hardened teeth you can always tweak a handle or replace the plastic ones with a home made tote and just swap the plate for a new one later if it gets too dull to cut well.  

In any event, here is a great video covering the tweaking of a saw handle made by Mr. Paul Sellers (his entire instructional DVD line is excellent).  I should like to get my videos to this quality some day, but first I'll need to organize my shop.


Finish Something.

Like a lot of woodworkers I know, when it comes to finishing a project (as in applying a finish) I have a bad tendency to tune out.  I use a lot of wipe on poly, salad bowl finish (General Finishes brand), paint, or wax because they are easy and go on quick.  I had never thought of applying finish as a "fun" thing to do...until I met Mr. Don Williams.

It isn't as if Mr. Williams suddenly made the process of applying finish entertaining (it is after all, the literal precursor to watching paint dry), he simply provided some insight into traditional finishes that made them entirely approachable and had some results that were anything but boring.  

Just Beeswax


Thorough Thoreau...Part 2

Puzzles can be fun.  As a child, however, I got bored with flat cardboard puzzles easily (I sported a very limited attention span).  The puzzles that kept my interest were the three dimensional interlocking ones, oh, and Legos.  This last weekend, I got to partake in the assembly of a monster puzzle... and it was awesome!

Oak Timbers In Housed Dovetail Form


Over Romancing The Stone.

I have always suspected that we (modern folk) tend to over-romanticize our predecessors a bit.  Before I go any further, I must state that I intend no disrespect to those talented craftsmen who have come before me.  In fact, I hold the the artisans that paved the path for modern woodworkers in high esteem.  I do feel though, that they were a lot more like you and me than many people want to believe...and this is where I will loose some readers forever.
Some Tools Of Old, Ready To Come Home!


Woodworking In America 2012...Part 1

I have finally done the impossible.  I managed to persuade my wife and daughter to come with me on an entirely woodworking-centric getaway weekend.  This may be the first step down the slippery slope that my wife has long feared.  My woodworking addiction has now spilled over into our vacation time.  Their accompaniment, however, has allowed me the pleasure of enjoying my weekend nearly guilt free!  Cincinnati offers them loads to do while I sip from the vast font of knowledge spewing forth from the mouths of the masters (get my geek on in woodworking classes).



Other Peoples Videos

Hold tight, this one is purely out of left field... Luthiers fascinate me.  Many folks in the woodworking world know Mr. Jameel Abraham of Khalaf Oud Luthiery and even more famously Benchcrafted.  His skill has caught the attention of Popular Woodworking where he is a contributor and one subject of their special 200th issue.  His oud work is beautiful, and you can watch some videos about his scroll-work and oud construction at his Khalaf Oud Luthiery Blog.  His attention to detail is evident in all his work, to include his Benchcrafted vises for sale.  I will be covering an installation of the Glide Leg Vise and his Tail Vise soon (hopefully very soon now that I am able to clear out some of the workshop).

I would love to make a musical instrument some day, specifically a violin (even though I don't play).  Something about these instruments just speaks to me, they are so simple, yet amazingly complex.  Plus, there is a whole new world of handplanes involved...miniatures!  Another on my list is a piano, although the number of parts, its sheer size and the cast iron plate makes it a bit intimidating.   Professional luthiers, however, are a breed all their own.  I stumbled across this video while searching for something totally unrelated, but I found "The Violin Maker" to be enthralling.  Mr. Zygmuntowicz, the violin maker in the film, has the right attitude toward being a toolmaker.  He is, after all, a toolmaker.  He makes tools which professional musicians use to create their artwork.  I appreciate his dedication to his customers, and his attitude toward being available to his musicians in order to provide adjustments and customization at their requests.  Well crafted handtools, in my opinion, are very much like his violins in that they allow people to create and make things unrelated to the tool itself.  Tools are in fact dynamic, they become like a living thing in the hands of craftsmen and unless they are used and cared for they will rust, crumble and deteriorate.

Enjoy the video from Mr. Dustin Cohen.


Thorough Thoreau, Part 1

An Old Family Property, Very Old
 When projects that have been long dreamed of begin to materialize into reality, I become the cliched "kid on Christmas morning."  Last weekend I was privileged to have been invited to accompany one of my oldest and best friends up to set pier foundations for his timber framed cabin.  This was the first of what will hopefully become many working weekends constructing this potentially amazing retreat.  This weekend was devoted to providing a strong foundation upon which the cabin will rest.


Free Books!

Instructional books are some of my favorites.  I have always been one of those people who enjoys a well written textbook over the most recent Harry Potter.  I am also a very slow reader (slow in general I suppose), so I like to get the most out of my time spent buried in a book.  My home library of woodworking and machine shop practice books has been growing at an alarming rate over the last four or five years and finding space to put all of those informational goldmines has become...interesting.  Additionally, paying for these books (or anything else) sometimes makes me cringe.  That is why I put in some research time trying to find free resources for woodworking and machine shop knowledge (aside from your local library, of course).
Relaxing Light Reading
"Minimum Design Loads For Buildings And Other Structures"



Last night I made a useless thingamabob.  The object itself has no real value or use (aside from it's weight in aluminum), however, the process that required making it was priceless.  I am still brand new to the world of machining, and as such I require a seemingly insurmountable amount of practice.  Fortunately, it turns out that machine work is awesome.
Well... It's A Thing.
Making this little doohickey didn't take long, but it gave me some practice in turning a diameter to a very tight tolerance, turning a curve, using a cutoff tool, and adjusting the lathe speed to get a decent finish on the material being turned (in this case some scrap aluminum).  This also gave me the mental warm-up I needed to turn a valuable part for a super top secret mystery project I am making (from brass bar stock).  I liken this practice to cutting warm-up dovetails (the 5 minute or 3.5 minute variety) before a day in the wood shop.  I find that on days I don't warm up with a simple task, I make more mistakes, simple projects take me longer and it takes me longer to get into the groove.  Just like playing sports, warming up is an important part of performance, as it gets the mind and muscles ready to perform the task at hand.  Additionally, little successes (the kind you get when making something very simple) have the habit of giving one the confidence to try something a little harder.

For me, cutting dovetails is a great warm-up for working with many different types of material.  The precision required for making tight dovetails gets me in the mindset for machine work or even working with masonry, but working with the wood itself sets me up for other woodworking projects.  Turning stuff on the lathe, metal or otherwise, is something of another mindset.  That is why when I'm turning I find it better to turn a practice piece before I get into the real work at hand.  It would probably have been beneficial to turn something useful as my practice piece, but hindsight is 20/20 and I kind of like having this useless trinket in my pocket...maybe I'll use it to crush Aspirin or squash peas?

As for the secret project, here is a glimpse at the first piece.  There are only 9 pieces to this tool, but what it will allow woodworkers to do should be awesome!  I'll have more info coming shortly.

Top Secret Project Part #1


Short And Curlies...Shavings That Is...

I don't own a set of M.S. Bickford molding planes...yet.  Fortunately, for those of us molding-less neanderthals out there, other options for simple molding profiles exist.  Scratch stock is a perfectly cost effective way to produce beautiful, well defined profiles in all manners of hand made trim.  This method for applying decorative treatments to moldings has been around for a long, long time and making a scratch stock tool is incredibly simple.


Pillow Talk

Proud wooden plugs with pillowed ends are a decorative hallmark of Greene & Greene style furniture.  Usually these plugs appear in ebony, but they serve the same purpose in any contrasting hardwood.  The wood for the plug should be good and hard so that the end polishes up nicely, and so that it appears to actually hold the joint together.  I have had mixed success introducing these stylized plugs into other furniture designs (other than G&G and arts and crafts).  I like them in incorporated into some Japanese styled furniture, likely because the G&G style mimics so much of the Japanese styles, and they are dynamite in certain exposed joint/rustic timber frame styles and even some ultra modern pieces if they are used appropriately.

Tapered and Pillowed Jatoba Plug


Working Vacation?

There is a stereotype about Americans that shines a light on our addiction to work.  The stereotype was explained to me by a friend from Honduras and it went something like this, "you (Americans) work too much and don't take vacations, and when you do they are either lame (think "Wow!  The worlds largest ball of string!") or they are plagued by a fat guy in an American Flag tee-shirt searching for a McDonalds in the Caribbean."  When I personally think of a vacation my mind wanders to Europe in the winter, the American North East in the fall, or the American North West just about any time of the year.  When my wife thinks of a vacation she thinks of the beach in the summer, or the Sahara in July, or Death Valley in August (sense the trend?).  The last couple of years we have compromised (read: I caved) and we have gone to the beach in the summer.  Being the amazingly wonderful mediocre husband I am, I typically oblige by kicking and screaming.  It's not that I hate the beach, or fun for that matter, it's just that the beach is hot and humid in the summer and I get bored and uncomfortably hot very easily.  That's why this year, I planned ahead.

Packing For Vacation!


Worksharp...That Is All.

I have managed to blow the dust off my camera and get my butt in gear just enough to start making videos for the PHW Blog again.  There will be some slow but steady improvements to the video set in the coming months (lucky for me) to include a way to heat and cool the space which will make it much easier to shoot more videos in a shorter amount of time.  Currently, it is hot enough to melt lead in the workshop and as such, sitting in front of large lights for an extended period of time while I film gets unbearably hot (read: sweaty and smelly).  Once things cool off a little it will also be possible to start some additional larger projects in the shop to include the promised joinery bench (months ago) and the Roubo monster.

This video is a combination overview and review of the Worksharp 3000.  Upon first borrowing this gadget from my father in law (he didn't mind the extended borrow time...I promise!) I wasn't sure I was really sold on its operation.  I filmed an initial overview which wasn't very favorable.  I held off on posting the video long enough to try some accessories and get some practice with the Worksharp.  Once I was able to get a rhythm down, and figure out its idiosyncrasies, I found out just how versatile and useful this tool can be.  This little guy is basically electronic sandpaper sharpening.  It does have some drawbacks which I cover in the video, but all around this tool excels at sharpening and honing chisels and plane irons in a fraction of the time many other tools take.  I hope the video is informative and useful for anyone who owns a Worksharp 3000 or is considering a purchase.   Enjoy, and thanks for watching!

Set the video to HD!


Time Machine

I recently had the pleasure of looking through about 2000 old family photos.  The photos were from my father's side of the family, members of which were historically farmers.  A surprising number of the photos were from the late 1800s and very early 1900s.  Because there were so many photos, I was able to quite literally watch some people grow up and have families (including my father).  Within these time machine-esque photo albums I was also able to watch certain home grown projects take place like a rather extensive homestead addition and the construction of a garage and barn.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find that they had photographed some of the local industry, to include the photos below of some of my family members at work hauling and milling lumber for various projects. 

A Great Uncle Handling Horses For Some Loggers
Check Out Those Wheels!!
This reminded me that taking photos of a project during its construction can sometimes be an invaluable tool.  I have started taking more photos of my projects than I used to mainly due to the creation of this blog, however, those photos have come in handy for other reasons on several occasions.  I was recently working on some Greene and Greene style finger joints for a newel post in my home and in being able to look through some photos of a similar project I did last year I was able to recreate and tweak the process of constructing them in order to get the joint completed in a timely manner.  On another occasion, some photos I took of our house before I put up drywall helped me make sense of some odd readings from a stud-finder (obvious stud joke intended).

Unfinished Jatoba Test Fit
Test Fitting A Newel Post Base

A Nod To Greene and Greene
Finger Joints
Yet another reason I have started taking so many photographs, is that they are now free to develop!  With the use of my handy dandy digital camera (no film!?!), I can take thousands of photos and store them on a hard drive to be retrieved any time I deem necessary.  I can even bore my family to tears with digital slideshows of my projects right on my television!  One last benefit to taking lots of photos is that some day in the future people can look at through this little digital hard drive time machine (assuming that we still use similar digital formats) and say, "HA! Look at that idiot, I'd never cut a joint THAT way!"

Milling Lumber 1952 - Mr. Schwarz Eat Your Heart Out,
That Is A 6" Slab Of Fir!


No Escape

Other People's Videos

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "The purpose of life is to live it, to taste the experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience."  She was a wise woman indeed.

We will all pass on one day, and I feel it is good to remember that eventuality.  It is good to remember our mortality, not because it is a terrifying fact, but because it can cause us to do something meaningful.  Keeping in mind that we are all born to die helps me to focus on the bigger picture and to put life's little moments, good and bad, into perspective.  We weren't all meant to paint the Sistine Chapel, sculpt David, theorize about relativity, or solve world hunger but we all leave something behind.  

In my mind, it makes sense to try to leave something lasting and useful.  I think about this every time I make something, "this will likely outlive me, so how do I want to be remembered?"  Frequently, I know about half way through a project that I am in fact creating a failure, however, sometimes it surprises me and turns into a success.  The successes are what I strive for, and with enough practice in a new task I find I can achieve them more frequently.  In fact, the morbid truth of fleeting life has always nudged me to venture into the necessity of the unknown.  To a fault (ask my wife) I have a primal urge to constantly try something new.  I even get regularly bored with the way my furniture is arranged (yet another perturbation of my wife).  This is why I love making things, especially tools, with my hands.  There is constantly something new, some new material or set of skills to be learned when making tools.  They combine metal and wood (and occasionally many more materials) and a variety of skills in a neatly orchestrated and often elegant package.  

When I came across the video below I couldn't help but think how perfectly it aligns with my beliefs about tools.  From the potential of helping the economy with job creation and stabilization, to just simple self satisfaction Liberty Tool has got it right.  The shop owners and employees of this institution will be leaving a legacy much further reaching than I'm sure they can even imagine.  On another note, Etsy has produced a lot of similarly themed, excellently filmed and edited videos.  Their "Handmade Portraits" videos are all worth checking out.  Enjoy the video.  


When All Else Fails...Read The Instructions

Often, as I learned growing up, instruction manuals get tossed into the trash pile upon unpacking.  I used to be one of the many subscribed to the idea that instructions are for sissies and halfwits.  Most of the time I am able to flub my way to success, however, after a life of struggling with new machines (and breaking a few) I have changed my tune.  

Over the last many years, I have become one of "those people" who read the manual and attempt to follow the directions (but only when said directions are actually readable and in English).  Fortunately, I am not alone.  There are many hobbyists and professionals out there whom are not only readers of manuals but are willing to publish their old ones.  Hard to find machine manuals, instructional manuals, wiring diagrams, and how-to books are just as fun to find as the old tools themselves.   

As I come across manuals that I can scan or turn into a digital format (or sites with well organized similar references) I will publish them on the Instruction Manuals page (located in the page list on the right hand side of the blog).  If you have a scanned manual you think is worth sharing please let me know and I'll see what I can do about posting it on the manuals page.  Right now, I have a Foley manual uploaded which covers sharpeners, setting machines, and the manual retoother along with several excellent reference sites with downloadable manuals.  Happy reading!


Sawdust And Scraps

Some wood scraps find a second home in the smoker, some in the fire pile, some become shims or braces, and yet others are fated to become sawdust to soak up grease and oil.  I try to put scraps to use quickly so they don't eat up more space than they are worth in the shop, however, there are invariably some scraps that just take up residence.  Some of those permanent scraps are in fact little glass specimen jars of various species of sawdust.
Brazilian Cherry Sawdust Anyone?


Here, Hold This...

Donald Porter, the V.P. of British Airways once said, "Customers don't expect you to be perfect.  They expect you to fix things when they go wrong."  This is a great model to look toward for any business looking to provide a form of customer service for their product.  I have had a bout of non-existent customer service as of late, for some rather expensive pieces of equipment that are currently out for service.  It is one thing when a mechanic or company only half does their job, but it is another when the customer is expected to pick up the slack.  Just when I began to lose faith in the worlds ability to actually provide a product that works (or help when it doesn't) along came Garrett Wade's Parrot Vise. 


All Up In My New Grill

Okay, so modern parlance is not my forte, and hip slang references to elaborate teeth are hard to come by.

Filing an entire new set of teeth by hand on a saw plate can be a very tedious and slow process.  My most recent saw restoration project was a brief reminder of this tedium.  This saw required me to file the teeth off of the plate entirely and file new ones in their stead, as the original teeth looked like they came from the mouth of a meth addict chewing limestone bubble gum.  Once the right pitch was filed in, sharpening the saw was cake.  This is why I have been searching the back alleys and speakeasies for a decent mechanical Retoother.  Foley or Foley-Belsaw and Burr are of course often the popular answers to this common problem.

The problem with these machines is that they are difficult to find intact.  They require ratchet and carrier bars which guide the saw through the machine and allow it to cut the appropriate teeth per inch, but the bars are almost never with the machines if the machines even operate in the first place.  I considered a fly press with a triangular cutter to punch the teeth, and with a little jig I could cut the saw to any pitch required.  Unfortunately, even a well worn antique fly press lies on the pricey side of the tool kingdom.  This is why I was so excited to find a manually operated Foley Retoother with a bunch of ratchet bars for sale in Colorado.  Apparently, no one wants the manual machines (why use meat power when electrons do the work?) so they tend to be less expensive.  I actually prefer the manual machine as I can pay special attention to each tooth being punched.  With a little machine work, I can even get this little guy to do progressive pitched saws, although I tend to agree with Mr. Andrew Lunn on the topic of progressive pitch.  

Foley Manual Retoother


There's Nothing I Can't Handle

Sometimes life gets crazy and out of control but that is no reason not to cram in a little woodworking here and there (it's like Jell-O!).  Between the day job, reorganizing the shop around my new power sources, and completing a bunch of "honey-do" (non-negotiable) projects, squeezing in time for some personal projects has been a little difficult... but nothing is impossible.


...Give Us The Tools And We Will Finish The Job.

I found some spare minutes laying around in the evening this weekend and I immediately snatched them up and put them to work finishing this long overdue saw handle.  I was very happy with the finished product...well, with one exception.


A Big Disston

Doing work in the evenings (after the J-O-B) outside in a neighborhood often requires a certain concern for one's neighbors, especially when saws, hammers and other noisy tools are involved.  This is another reason I love handtools, they are quiet.  I recently had 6 - 6x6s to cut to size along with some other minor cuts to make for a small outdoor area I am constructing. I made every single one without plugging in a single tool and while still listening to the spring birds singing in the background.  I did sweat a little, but that's not really a concern (except for my wife who has to smell me).

Disston Champion-Toothed Buck Saw


Waiting for Godot...errr An Electrician...

Cleaning the shop is not in my top ten list of fun things to do with my weekend.  In fact it is in a separate list right after touching old band-aids on the sidewalk.  But, I will admit that when the job is finished I feel much more organized and productive (cleaning the shop, not touching band-aids).  This weekend, I had the perfect reason to clean up and clear out some old shop junk, I had my electrician (father-in-law/master electrician) coming to help me put in some new outlets, additional lights and wire up some 220v machinery that has been collecting dust.  While I have a deep rooted love for meat powered tools, the efficiency, capability and cool factor of many electron powered tools assures them a spot in my shop.

I have been using lots (and lots) of extension cords to run most of my powered equipment, and some small task lights...until now.  We had been trying to schedule time to get the wiring done for a very long time, however, with busy conflicting schedules it seemed like it may never happen.  Now I can finally (and properly) use the dust collector, bandsaw and a couple other cast iron paperweights to their full potential (well, as far as my limited ability can take them).  I must admit, I was a bit like a kid at Christmas after we finished the wiring, it was....energizing (HA, see what I did there?)!!  Fortunately, I planned for a rather large electrical service to the garage (ahem..shop), which I'd recommend to anyone planning shop space.  More power means more room for electrical expansion and versatility, even in the smallest shop (and more tools!).

My Electrician Hard At Work?
All that cleaning got me thinking about my shop layout.  I have made efforts to put everything I can on wheels or castors so I can shift equipment around within the limited footprint of the shop, but upon cleaning the shop I found that I still had a lot of things stored under shelving on the floor.  The next movement in the shop will be to get as much stuff up off the floor and organized onto shelving as possible.  Having the floor clear makes for easy cleaning, a much neater appearance, more legroom at the bench and more space to move around.  I'd recommend this small step to anyone feeling cramped in their workshop, use your walls and ceiling space (if available) for storage and keep the floor open for...well, everything else!


Cosmoline....Keeps My Rifle Clean

Cosmoline has a long history of helping to prevent rust from sneakily encrusting itself on pricey tools and equipment while also keeping people busy cleaning it up.  There are a bunch of methods to clean this gunk off of metal parts, one of the best (in my humble opinion) for small intricate parts, being a little dish soap or simple green and hot (emphasis on hot) water followed by an immediate light coat of oil or paste wax.  If you don't want to use water, which I often prefer not to, I have found that a quick soak in an orange oil cleaner like goo gone works quickly and efficiently.

To clean the bandsaw table shown below, I simply soaked a couple of lint free cotton cloths in goo gone and then directly applied more to the heavily-Cosmolined areas and it cleaned up with minimal effort.  One very important thing to note, however, do not apply goo gone (or its counterpart Goof-Off) to rubber, plastics or an automotive style paint job.  These products have a tendency to turn rubber into tar, plastic into a warped cloudy mess and it will cloud up clear coat on an automotive paint job resulting in a rapid urge to hurdle the bottle at something breakable.

Needless to say, I might need to buy this stuff by the gallon as it cleans just about anything and doesn't smell like kerosene.

Goo Gone Applied Directly To The Table
A Little Goes A Long Way

Clean And Ready For Use!
This Worked Great On Heavy Grease
On The Milling Machine


Death, Taxes, and Mosquitoes

When attempting a new technique or learning to use a new machine or tool I have found (the hard way) that, for me, the best way to learn something is to go directly to the source.  If, which often happens, a grizzled old technician, a salty carpenter, or a cranky machinist cannot be found, an old weathered book is often the second best source (plus you don't have to pay it in whiskey).  Antique technical manuals are rather easy to find on sites like eBay, or out of the way antique stores.  Some of the best tidbits come from books before WWII, and especially pre-1914.  There was, in fact, a rather large contingent of 'do-it-yourselfers' before the widespread automation of large manufacturing facilities.  The large community of DIY patrons led to many well written and illustrated how-to books.  Books for John Q. Hobbyist, coupled with many excellent textbooks in print for trade schools and shop classes makes for a veritable cornucopia of antique instructional books available today (if you look in the right places).

Another nicety of older texts is that many were printed prior to labels on hair dryers warning one to keep them out of the bathtub, meaning that they were printed prior to a sue crazy mass public.  By putting (much of) the onus of safety on the reader, there are sometimes important details about a procedure or technique that might be otherwise be omitted or adapted to a less effective method nowadays.  As yet another bonus, old books often come with little gems of the past stuck between their pages, as was the case with my 1885 copy of "The Complete Practical Machinist."  I was reading through some pages on machining when I came across an unrelated newspaper clipping tucked between the pages.

I'm not sure of the date of the clipping but its contents were rather timely.  It was unusually warm on the East Coast this winter and Spring started very early, so the local bug (specifically ugly, blood sucking, annoying, disease mongrel, mosquitoes) population is exploding.  Mosquitoes around here are as certain as...you guessed it...death and taxes.  I hate these incessant little beasts and they are thick as pea soup in the evening when I do  lot of work outside (to escape some of the summer heat). That all being said, this old-timey tincture might be worth a try, assuming I can find all the ingredients and nothing in it leads to immediate cancer or causes my leg to fall off or something.

Colonel Fox's Fly Dope Recipe


I Have A Serious Problem

I have openly admitted to my friends and family that I have a problem... I am addicted to tools.  Part of the allure tools hold over me is the investigation behind their existence, history and operation.  I especially enjoy the search for antique tools, because learning how they work coupled with finding all the inevitably missing bits and pieces is (to me) akin to solving a murder (without all the messy paperwork at the end).  My most recent search has led me on a journey into the dark, greasy underworld of metalworking.


No Time To Die.

other people's videos

I promise the power sharpening videos, handplane videos, and hand saw videos are coming.  I totally scrapped the first set of power sharpening videos as they were just too hard to watch.  I shot them over the span of two weeks and they had evolved into a poorly cobbled together, incoherent mess.  Additionally, I was able to spend a lot more time with the Work Sharp lately, and I would have been forced to recant most of my video review (as it turns out, it is a great machine...for some things).  For me, running the blog and making videos is a bit like flying a plane while it's being built.  I am having to learn this digital media front while I am creating with it, and from time to time my beautiful souffle turns into a pile of fish flavored pudding.  Then there is the management of my man made, over-watched,  stress inducing nemesis - time - that bastard keeps running out on me.  So, enough with the lame excuses an on to someone who actually makes great videos.

As promised and repeated, when I post Other Peoples Videos, I they will be worthwhile.  This set of two companion videos will not disappoint.  The individuals featured in the video are Mr. John Neeman (blacksmith/bladesmith) and his friend Jacob (carpenter).  This set of friends has created a company, out of Latvia as best as I can tell, that creates hand forged tools from soup to nuts in a small traditional workshop.  Their website is under construction but the link is www.Neemantools.com.  The tools they create are beautiful, and (seemingly) more importantly, rugged and functional.  Old world techniques and mind sets combine with some modern technology (look for it in the chisel video) for some functional art.  This inspires me to make something great, hopefully it does the same for you.  Enjoy.

John Neeman Tools


The Four Tops

We went to my in-laws house for Easter Sunday and, on a semi-related note, I managed to get my wood lathe up and running the week prior.  What, you ask, does a lathe have to do with Easter?  Nothing.  This yearly family gathering simply proved to be a perfect time to make some "practice with a purpose" items for some well behaved children and some rowdy adults.


Plugging Away

In preparation for my daughter's first birthday party, my wife insisted I finish some projects around the house.  Apparently, it is considered (by some) a faux pas to have only half of a stair railing completed, missing baseboard, and a half finished entertainment center as the backdrop to a social gathering.  So, I put on my serious face and my overalls and got to work.


World Wide Woodworking

Several months ago, I thought I'd try my hand at submitting something to Popular Woodworking for their End Grain Contest.  As it turns out, I should have just posted my first try here.  The articles that were selected should be great reads, and I can't wait to get the magazines in the mail to check them out.  I haven't given up hope for a published article though, it just seems that I'll need a lot more practice before anything I write is actually readable (and without a toilet joke).   So, if you are inclined toward self torture, feel free to check in from time to time and watch progress happen!  The article I wrote is below if you care to give it a quick read. 


Stickin' It To The Man

Stick, or site building furniture is not one of my favorite activities.  Usually, building a piece of built-in furniture in place in a finished (semi-finished in my case) home or office is messy, crowded and very inefficient.  There are, of course, a number of ways to make this process a more amicable venture.  One method I have found to be useful in this situation is limiting my power tool usage indoors.  I try to make as many cuts and stock preparations as possible outdoors or in the shop, and those that really need to be cut indoors get handtool treatments.
A Last Minute Decision Means Cutting This One Inside The House


It's Just A Board With A Nail In It...

I have almost completed the ubiquitous/obligatory power-tool-beater-bench.  It isn't pretty, it's not elegant, and it certainly is not an heirloom piece.  It is, however, rock solid and sturdy enough to dance on (I may know from experience) and it should be perfect for everything from hammering away on some metal to setting up cuts on the radial arm saw.  At this point it merely needs some holes drilled into the top and front to accept several pipe clamps and needs some work with a forstner bit to allow me to install the Leigh Hold Downs.


Work It

Yesterday, I found out (through absolutely no research on my own behalf) about a brilliant new magazine that is being released to anyone with a computer...for free!  Penned in pure wit, WORK magazine - a comprehensive do it yourself journal - is being released in a downloadable version by the generous crew at Tools For Working Wood.

Okay, so perhaps I have used the term "new" a little too loosely.  In truth the magazine's first issue will be new to anyone born in the 20th century (or the 21st for that matter).   WORK magazine began its distribution in 1889, and in just the first issue (re-released today) there are detailed instructions on everything from making a kaleidoscope, to building a jig that turns a lathe into a tablesaw, to fretwork, to making a battery.  The illustrations are very well done and are thoroughly detailed and annotated.

The plan for releasing the magazine is to keep with the original distribution schedule.  They plan to release one 16 page journal a week, they will all be free and downloadable.  I downloaded and read the first issue on my iPad without issue, with the exception (of course) of my wife accusing me of being an unproductive layabout while reading.  The text is clear and the quality of the scan is excellent.  If you are someone who enjoys making things, out of wood or otherwise, I would recommend downloading this and giving it a thorough read.  If you find that you cant get into the text, the Victorian Era advertisements at the end of the publication are worth the download alone.  Click the link below to be directed to the download page for the magazine.

A Good Read For All Ages!


The Shining

I'm still working through the minutiae of renovating an antique handsaw for a friend and I am really enjoying this process (so much so, that I have managed to drag out something that should have taken me a couple of days into several months...).  In fact, if I can get this process down to something accurate, timely, repeatable and affordable there may soon be a sales area on this blog for some restored and PHW original tools and parts.  Part of this saw renovation was replacing the terrible existing handle on the saw with something more comfortable, but I wanted to save the saw nuts.


Environmental Upgrades

Last Thursday evening I was in the shop when suddenly my world came crashing down around me, rather literally.  I was at my workbench working on several projects, all in varying stages of completion, when I heard what sounded like someone throwing a drum kit down a flight of stairs.  I had the loading bay doors open (okay, it was the garage door) and a stray cat found its way into the shop.  It must have jumped up on something or maybe sneezed too hard, because it caused a Rube Goldberg style collapse of everything I had so perfectly stacked and strewn about.


To Everything There Is A Season

Many moons ago I tried my hand at some woodturning.  I am not normally one to give up on something easily, but my first attempt at this skill was so bad that I put the tools in a dark cabinet with a shaking hand hoping to forget the travesty.  The poor piece of cherry I mangled on the lathe looked like I had torn it from the mouth of a hyperactive rottweiler.  Part of my problem was that I had no instruction on the lathe.  I approached turning like I had approached so many other hobbies, I just picked up the tools and went to work.  For better or worse, I enjoy self teaching.  Often, I find that making my own mistakes, correcting them and working at my own pace is a good way for me to learn.  This attempt at woodturning, for me, was not one of those instances.


Chiseled Features

Several years ago I purchased a set of eight WoodRiver brand bench chisels from Woodcraft.  WoodRiver has started to produce some very well designed tools at budget prices, especially when they go on sale.  They have produced chisels, handplanes, screwdrivers, awls and other tools and I'm sure they have more in the pipeline.  This set of chisels was on sale for almost half price and when I saw this set on the shelf I thought, hey, half price chisels, that's almost as good as half priced burritos!  Plus, there were eight of them which included a 3/8" and 5/8" chisel which I was sure I needed.


Little Brown Jug

I love my antique pump (push bottom) oilcan.  This is one of my favorite tools, and for no apparent reason.  This tool isn't embellished, it doesn't have aesthetic design lines and its built strictly around function.  Simply put, this tool shouldn't be beautiful. It has developed a wonderful bronze patina from years of use, it keeps an oily sheen all the time and but most importantly it works every time.  I have filled this little guy with mineral oil and I use it for everything from oiling sharpening stones to accurately applying oil to small moving parts, handplanes, and and even oiling stuck nuts (it's not that funny...stop laughing).


Testing...Testing...1. 2. 3...

How sharp is sharp enough?  I have several methods I typically employ to test woodworking irons.  There are obviously many ways to test the sharpness of a blade; this video covers a couple common methods that I find are hit-or-miss, coupled with a few that I find work for me every time.  If there is another method you’d like to see, aside from anything involving my own blood, let me know and I’ll try to post a quick instructional.  
Thanks for watching!


Make. Haste. Slowly.

"Ancient Chinese Proverb," and my father in law's life mantra.  I have learned volumes from my wife's father in terms of initial planning and slowing down when I work in the shop.  Occasionally, though, I catch myself slipping back into my old habits.  Whether it was lack of sleep (teething baby), or just lack of user head space (brains), I made a mistake this weekend so heinous that it caused me to check and assure myself that I had at least put pants on that morning.

Realizing that my pants were in fact where they should be, I turned my attention back to the ugly atrocity at hand.  I had managed to not only mark, but to happily cut (probably with a stupid grin on my face) several dovetails totally backward, you might want to hide your children's eyes from the horrific images below.  I was re-marking these when I decided I'd better own up to what I had done.



Swan Necks?

I really enjoy timber framing tools.  Maybe my fascination has something to do with the enormous, almost novelty size of timber frame tools compared to the chisels and gouges I typically use.  This might be akin to my alternate fascination with tiny espresso cups... okay, I just like to pretend I'm a giant.

Fortunately for me, H.O. Ibbitson & Co. and Richard Melhuish Ltd. forged some wonderful, similarly designed swan neck mortising chisels a long, long time ago.  These were one of those finds that had me all giddy because I had been looking for one to restore for my friend as a Christmas gift, and here were two together!
H.O. Ibbitson & CO. Swan Neck Mortise Chisel

Richard Melhuish Ltd. Swan Neck Mortise Chisel


Portable Magic

"Books are like portable magic" -Stephen King

I have finally had a chance to finish reading the Christmas gift I received from my sister.  I was excited when I opened this set of books "Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking: Special Limited Edition with DVD Profile," produced by Taunton Press.

There are three books and a DVD in the set:
"Book 1 - Joinery"
"Book 2 - Shaping, Veneering, Finishing"
"Book 3 - Furnituremaking" [sic]
"DVD - Tage Frid, A Fine Woodworking DVD Profile"


Handplanes: An Introduction

This is an introduction video for a new series I will be putting together on handplanes.  The PHW Sharpening Series will continue on ad infinitum, as there are always new tools to sharpen and new ways to sharpen them (especially if I get another two or three jobs to support my habit...wait...what? I can quit anytime I want!).  The in-depth handplane videos that will follow this introduction will cover a wide swath of information.  Just a few of the videos I am planning include:

Detailed instruction on individual planes, to include several specialty planes
Fettling (tuning up) and cleaning new planes
Restoring planes, including re-japanning and making minor repairs
Making totes and knobs
Japanese style planes
Powered planing methods
Shooting boards
Making a wooden bodied and an infill handplane
Making a metal bodied handplane

I will try my best to give focus to these videos in order fill them with relevant information without making them ridiculously long and un-watchable, so... I guess that means I'll have to start with the next one?  Wish me luck.

Here are the Stanley Plane links I mention in the video:
Stanley By Numbers
The Superior Works - Patrick's Blood and Gore

Also available on my YouTube Channel here;  PHW YouTube Channel

The preview frames I get to choose from for these videos on YouTube are always so great... Elvis impersonation anyone?


Love Is In The Air?

Love was not an original tenant of the feast of St. Valentine until Chaucer wrote about birds unexpectedly mating on "Seynt Volantynys Day" in (or around) 1382.  In fact, nothing is really even known about St. Valentine including which martyr he actually was (there were apparently many named Valentine).  Due to some miserable experiences on previous such holidays, I have never been much of a Valentine's Day celebrator (fortunately for me, neither is my wife).  I decided that this year I would give new meaning to this vastly overrated "holiday."

Love is still part of my New Order of St Valentine's Day or N.O.S.V.D. (okay, so the name needs some work), but this isn't the sappy cartoon hearts, gross chalk candy and creepy naked cherub love that surrounds Valentine's Day now.  The concept behind N.O.S.V.D. is the love for hand made objects and the tools used to make them.  


The Improbable Woodworker

I was recently reading an article in the February issue of Scientific American about the impracticality of a cheeseburger.  The article's author, Mr. David Wogan, sites a blog entry by Mr. Waldo Jaquith in which he attempted to make a cheeseburger from scratch.  Apparently, what he found was that not only were the ingredients harvested or slaughtered at different times of the year, but that it was extremely expensive to produce each ingredient from raw materials (including growing the delicious veggie toppings).  This got me thinking about the "ingredients" or materials we as woodworkers often use in our projects.


Developing Developments

Because I have a lot of sharpening information scattered throughout this blog, and a lot more on the way, I figured it was about time to consolidate it all into something loosely resembling a reference page.  I titled it "Sharpening" because I couldn't come up with something witty and hilarious without losing my intent of serious content.  I have a link to the "Sharpening" page now on the right hand side of the home page.  The idea is to have this reference page evolve as the information it contains does.  It will also become a template for similar reference pages for many other individual hand tools, power tools, and the techniques involved with both.  Please feel free to leave comments or email me if there is something else you'd like to see or even if you'd just like to leave some feedback.  As always, thanks for reading!


Two's Company

Well, the news has been released about Woodworking In America 2012.  There will be two conferences!!

Follow this link for the Popular Woodworking article: WIA 2012 Announcement

They are planning the first in Pasadena, California on October 12-14 and the second in Cincinnati, Ohio/Kentucky (it's at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center) on November 2-4.  Personally, I think two conferences, one on either side of the country (roughly), is a great idea which may end up reaching a larger audience in the long run.  I wonder, though, if this will reduce the community gathering aspect and sharing between the different styles, practices and views of woodworking across the country?  Left Coast woodworking design and styles are often rather different than some here on the Right Coast and this conference seems like one of the larger opportunities for a lot of those ideas to get exchanged and discussed.

I will definitely be attending one or the other this year (my wife has signed my permission slip) and I'll provide photos, videos and hopefully post an interview or two on the blog after I return home from the conference.  Cue dream sequence music... maybe the committee will have some sort of collective awakening and have a conference in Baltimore or DC in 2013!


Angle Of The Dangle

For a long time I have used a protractor, a small piece of wood and a marker to find angles on my chisels.  Well, the protractor, which I have had since elementary school, finally bit the dust (both literally and figuratively on my shop floor). I thought about making some blocks of wood with varying fixed angles cut into them to measure the angles on my blades, but these wear over time, are of varying precision, and eat up space on a shelf.

When I was looking for the Veritas Grinder Jig, I found several different styles of "angle finders" on the market. Most of them were just fixed angles that you slide the blade into to approximate its angle.  These work well and are very simple to use, but I wanted something I could use to measure an exact angle like my protractor, you know, for those times when 33 degrees works differently than 35 degrees.  This is why I decided to spend slightly more and get this Pinnacle Angle Gauge.

The gauge works, effectively and simply.  It is very accurate and is a high quality build.  I am very happy with it so far, and recommend it if you are in need of something similar.

Anodized Aluminum Angle Gauge 15-45 Degrees

Just Slide The Bevel In Against The Measuring Arm

It Rests The Gauge On The Bevel
Move It Accordingly To Also Measure Microbevels