Apr 30 2015

Tools for Creativity, Productivity, Art, and Fun

Some of the fun of being a toolmaker, is getting to be a woodworking evangelist. Talking with woodworkers and listening to what they hope to do in woodworking. Stories of wishing it were easier to make something, but oh for the lack of this tool or that. I understand. I always enjoy hearing from clients who have had their tooling we custom made for them awhile and to hear how it has made the different things they wanted to make possible, and easier.

Some of the things that have been shared with me are interesting. Epiphany level stuff a lot of the time. On the shooting board equation I recall things like; “I have thousands invested in hand planes, but I am also expecting high accuracy from a quickly made jig from scraps. I’m finding that doesn’t work a lot of the time.” “I’m on my fourth shooting board now, and I am just tired of trying to get or keep accuracy.” “I want to make intricate things with small parts, but my machines seem too risky to use for that.” “I have so many ideas, but my tools don’t seem to be able to get me close enough to accomplish it.” Making a high accuracy shooting board is harder than it seems.”

On the topic of Sharpening, I’ve listened. I hear things like: “I know I should sharpen more often, but it’s a bother, and so messy.” I spend so much time having to maintain my water stones that I hate to use them”.”I just wait to sharpen until I can’t get my tools to work anymore, because working is way more fun.” “I have such a small shop, there’s just no room to sharpen and have it be easy.”

Yes, I have listened, and thought really hard about what I could do to help make woodworking easier and more productive where I can. The fun for me is finding ways to improve upon these things. Helping make a fun activity, even more fun! I do this every day, and it is still brings a great feeling when things come out as planned and hoped. That’s inspiring! The tools I make and offer to you are some of what I have done to improve our woodworking outcomes and processes, but rest assured I’m still musing on this and working on better ways to get there.

Relative humidity is local, and while it can be the devil in the details, the up side is that we have studied the issue and can refer to documentation that can help us plan for it. Furthermore, when our boards have reached the same relative MC, they will move together, so close fitment on many kinds of joint can be engineered for use with long grain or radial grain movement to minimize the issue and the close tolerances will remain close seasonally after fitment. Shooting your parts so they match and fit well makes sense.

Most of the pretty wood is expensive. Even the not as pretty wood adds up. When you sum up all the board feet in a project and include the extra for waste, there can be some serious outlay. Add a few projects together and you easily surpass the price of a set of tools. Now take the process further. Consider the care required in using flitches and book matching. If the joins are not square or matching, it’s disappointing. Joinery layout requires accurate layout and cuts to get proper fitments and alignments.

It’s not the measuring as much as it is just about having square, straight and flat. The craftsmanship of risk increases as we get closer and closer to the finish line. The later a mistake is made, the more work must be re-accomplished in order to recover. After a while, it begins to make sense to have a shooting board or two in the shop that is accurate, and of the quality as good as your tools are. Even an old sharp tool meets this need. Trust me, It will take your skills even further if you let your imagination roll.

Ultra Plus Shooter

Our Shooting Boards offer a lot of versatility. You can shoot ends and edges to nearly any angle, and you can thickness small and thin work on the shooting board with our planing stop. We give you control over shooting thickness to about 1.75 inches. If your plane iron is sharp you can assure yourself of accuracy and you don’t have to risk the workpiece or your flesh to a machine. If you think outside the box of traditional shooting, this opens up a large subset of possibilities. Think about it.

Back on sharpening, it’s a given. High Quality Craftsmanship is predicated on the sharpness of the tools. Why wait until the tooling is so dull that the work quality is at risk? It’s because the traditional way people learn and think of sharpening develops a mindset that sees sharpening as laborious and difficult.

If there were three things that would make us better sharpeners, it would be accurately recognizing the dullness present. Choosing the appropriate abrasive to meet that stage of dullness directly, not more or less. Then forming the habit that this feedback loop is performed (e.g You gotta do it) way more frequently than traditionally applied. This is true no matter what the tool or sharpening media.

It bears repeating. If you just sharpen when you sense tools getting dull, it won’t take long and you’ll be back to the fun part. The more you do this, the easier it gets and more in tune you’ll become to the process. You’ll find it easy, and will take little time at all.

Magstrop One Sharpening Station

When it comes to applying that method, that routine, some forms of sharpening media lend themselves to making that easier than others. This is why I developed the Magstrop Sharpening Stations that offer quick change multiple-abrasive versatility, in a dry sharpening media that allow a sharpening session to be done quickly and with less hassle. The photos show leather strops, but they are held magnetically and in seconds this could be any grit scary sharp on flat glass. It’s only a couple seconds to change. Either way, we need a flat surface that will remain flat and reliable as we sharpen frequently. No water required. If we can hone dry, we don’t have to separate chip breakers from the iron as often, and our setups stay put. Less fussing and down time.

Small size lends it self to quick and easy. Surely you can make temporary room on the bench for a sharpening station that is about the same size as a stone, Yes? Make a little space, pop up a bench dog to hold the station. Stop for a minute, and whisk it back out of the way and back to work with a sharp cutting edge. Easy Peasy.

The upside is that you can use small scraps safely with low risk to harm of the part and yourself. You can get more intricate in your work, you can make things you didn’t think you could. You could break rules and color outside lines. You could sharpen up and be done way before you know it, and fall in love with having really sharp tools. You could make cool stuff and be happy you did! You could do this with old tools you hope to upgrade and then upgrade and still find the tools we offer to remain as applicable to your work. You may become more artistic and push yourself further than ever.

You might surprise yourself. It’s a pleasant surprise!

Tools for Creativity, Productivity, Art, Fun. It’s all in the mix of why we make.

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