There are a lot of different opinions floated out about accuracy and precision in woodworking, and further, about how it applies in handtool woodworking. I’d like to take a few moments and help add some additional perspective from a toolmaker, and from someone who has also had a long career as a journeyman tradesman. This read is a little long, but I feel the perspectives will be helpful to us as we develop our craftsman skills.
I don’t want to overstate what others I’ve read are saying, but cumulatively I read a lot of woodworkers who write say things like: “wood has too much movement for a need to work accurately”. “Measuring is unnecessary, just match things up so that they are good enough”. I could go on, but I am sure we are all aware of what I am referring to.
On it’s face, sometimes these statements may be true, maybe only true for those who state them, but they can be precarious things to say in a context where the reason why is not well prefaced. Let me explain.
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Helping You Saw Better
Like anything, there are many approches to any woodworking situation. Sometimes there are solutions in search of a problem, and we can fill our benches and storage with gizmo’s like that, or we can seek out tools that bring a lot of utility for the space they take.
I have heard from many woodworkers over the years, and many tell me that they like the tools that allow them to go to work as directly as possible on the task they want to accomplish, without a lot of fooling around. Most all of the tools we offer are focused on helping woodworkers get as much accuracy and productivity as possible from the tools they already have, and can help you perform several tasks really well.
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Over the past several years I have received many inquiries regarding woodworking methods that are difficult to make safe. Believe me, being very fond of my fingers and their daily health is always in the forefront of my mind as a full time toolmaker.
Some of the most common questions have been regarding working with short lengths of stock, and thin stock. Both of these sizes of wood not only commonly put our fingers in the near vicinity of rotating cutters on many different power tools and shop machines, but are also such that the power tool or shop machine can grab them and remove control from the operator.
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Recently we have had some emails from woodworkers who have been having challenges with building their projects and having them come out square.
The biggest thing we need to realize about squareness is that we take it for granted, but when we really have to make something square, it is something that begins with wood selection, and evolves from meticulous prep work.
Our layout lines have to be drawn on stock that is already “right” in terms of squareness and dimension.
The joinery we cut and form into those boards must be as accurate as the stock itself.
Fitment will tell the tale. Errors when we make any become cumulative, and sometimes the only trick that works is to be right.
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Recently, a woodworker emailed us looking for a solution to a problem he was having with the alignment and fitment of boxes, drawers and carcass work such as blanket chests, bookcases and chests of drawers, using dovetails for the case and drawer joinery. He also mentioned his interests in small box making and again, enjoys dovetail joinery for those as well.
The Long Grain Shooter, shown in left hand.
The alignment and fitment issue was, that once the casework was assembled, his carcass or boxes were not square from top to bottom, and the joinery would either bind, go together under extreme stress, sometimes fracturing pins or would not sit square on a flat surface when the box or casework was placed on the edges, even though the dimensional widths of the boards were perfectly the same. All this was due to mis-alignment from un-square ends on the dovetailed boards. Continue Reading »
It’s one of those questions I get asked quite often, and interestingly, the answer is pretty succinct. Precision, safety and accuracy. But the reasons behind why we may want to shoot come from a lot of different woodworking situations, and these situations can usually be improved by using an accurate shooting board.
Having a shooting board can be a solution to many woodworking’s problems. What a shooting board does in it’s most basic form is create a chute for a hand plane to slide squarely (side to side, and front to back) to the work, and position a fence to hold the work at a specifically given angle, such as 90 or 45 degrees, so that the end grain of the work can be planed square and smooth. The finish result desired is the smooth finish and squareness front to back, top to bottom. Continue Reading »
We have heard from many left handed clients, thanking us for our attention to left handed tooling. We have offered nearly every right handed tool we make in a left handed version since day one, as well as with the introduction of each new tool we offer, and for the same price, either hand.
Call it a mission statement if you like, but I personally like helping woodworkers create, while achieving their personal best levels of craftsmanship no matter which hand they favor. Our tools are designed to help create fine craftsmanship with either hand, no matter which side you favor. We make a number of woodworking tools and jigs that are purpose-made to help unlock the creative process, making the tools you may already have, work even better and more accurately, by giving both you and your tools as much capability as we can in the process. Continue Reading »
Accurate cuts right off the saw are always nice, but that isn’t always reality. Sometimes we don’t need accuracy, other times getting it will make a woodworker break out in a cold sweat. Never the less, when you really need that magic to happen, you need it. Sometimes the boards are special, rare boards, with amazing figure. Other times they are just barely large enough for the project, and every saw cut has to be right on the numbers or the last board could be too short. It’s times like that when every cut counts.
Imagine for a moment what some of those crucial cuts are about. Sawing drawer fronts in a matched flitch? Figured boards book-matched where waste isn’t an option? Need to saw dados on target? Accurate angles in face or edge grain? Thick bench legs that match? (That’s a big cut!) Tenons, Finger Joints, Dovetails?
For a long time, I have wanted to develop a sawing fixture that offered great ergonomics, and high miter box like accuracy. I also wanted it to be widely capable of handling many sawing situations and allow the use of any saw, so that the right saw for the job could be utilized. First we developed the East / West Bench Hook, which allows the sawyer to do their best work, and then we developed a magnetic saw guide that helps maintain high sawing accuracy over a wide range of sawing situations, and as an added bonus, it also helps develop good sawing posture and muscle memory. Continue Reading »
Work to a line. Cut on the waste side of the line and leave the line on the work.
Supporting Tip: Mark which side of the line will be the waste side. The waste side is the part you don’t intend to keep.
This isn’t about measuring as much as it is about marking. Marking exactly that which we want to keep is the best way to assure things fit when we assemble our project’s parts. If we don’t observe this however, it can render our careful measurements powerless. The fitment of our work is what we honor the most. Continue Reading »
For some time now, we have wanted to add a shooting board for picture framing and moldings. It’s new for 2011, and it is available now.
Working with picture frames and moldings in general presents a special set of circumstances when mitering. Often, the bottom and back of the molding are the only surfaces that can be registered flat and square, and so they have to be the ones used when registering them against fences for cutting and shooting.
So it goes that if you can only orient a molding one way, which is on it’s back, a single chute shooting board will only be able to shoot half of the miter. The right hand board will only shoot the left side of the miter, and the left chute will only shoot the right side. A problem if you only have one chute. There are workarounds, but ehhh… They are often rife with as many problems as they hope to solve.
Enter our newest shooting board, the ‘Picture Frame Shooter’. A shooting board with twin chutes, independent, calibratable left and right hand 45-degree miter fences, with tall, removable fence faces to prevent breakout to the top of most plane blades. Continue Reading »