Archive for the 'Skill Development' Category

May 12 2012

Improving the Bench Hook for Sawing.

We’ve all used them; the venerable old Bench Hook for sawing. They do the job, sure, but they also have limitations for many situations. Plastic miter boxes too can have their limitations. Height is one and guide wear is another. The pivoting miter box with saw is a cool looking gizmo, and some work well.

The down side of good miter boxes that come with a pivoting saw is that the best ones came down the pike a century ago, and even then they were not all created equal. Many create as many conundrums as they were meant to resolve, the good ones take a lot of effort to find, and there is one saw for cutting everything with them. One saw for all crosscuts does not work well for all situations.

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I’ve wanted to develop a Bench Hook that would be a good companion to our shooting boards for some time now, and quite a few of our customers have expressed a want for one as well. My criteria for such a tool was all about the capabilities. I wanted more flexibility, and to remove some of the limitations of the common mitering fixtures and improve the ergonomics of sawing for the woodworker. This required that I take a different approach than the traditional route, and to a degree the sawyers skill is a bit more in play, but I feel the overall gains were worth it! Continue Reading »

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Nov 11 2011

Tip: Work to a line.

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 »

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Jun 05 2011

Where High Quality Matters.

Woodworkers often ponder what matters to produce the highest quality outcomes in woodworking. Defining quality is the key. It is a combination of tooling and technique to be sure. There are times we can save money; there are times we should invest for the long haul from the beginning. It isn’t always about money as much as it is about how far we want to take our outcomes.

Here are some considerations for bringing high quality to woodworking. Continue Reading »

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Nov 26 2010

Getting High End Craftsmanship From Hand Tools

In The Craftsmanship of Dick Proenneke, we looked at how Dick took a number of hand tools into the Alaskan wilderness, and used them to homestead and create all the things he needed to live and survive. It was rustic carpentry from available timber that was felled, seasoned and milled by hand on site. We all got to look over Dick’s shoulder as he showed us how these tools could be used to create most of what would be needed to make a comfortable home and live well in a remote area.

Dick wrote that what he had accomplished was good enough for “rural work” but in reality, he was a very talented user of hand operated tooling, and knew what he could accomplish with the woods he had access to and the kind of durability he needed from them. Rural work did not mean he quit refining the quality of his workmanship, it meant he built the way he did so as to provide utility, endure hard use and inclement seasonal conditions.

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Hand tools are also very highly regarded as the go to tools for fine work. Work on pieces where tolerances are exacting, or the sizes of the pieces are so small or thin where powered tooling would make it difficult to work safely or accurately. Continue Reading »

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Oct 22 2010

The Craftsmanship of Dick Proenneke

Several years back, PBS, Public Broadcasting, began showing a few videos that have been produced about the life of Richard L “Dick” Proenneke. (1916-2003) The titles of these videos are: “Alone in the Wilderness”, “Alaska, Silence and Solitude”, and “The Frozen North”. Most people who have seen any of these, have more than likely seen Alone in the Wilderness. This video is of footage shot mostly by Dick himself, with his 16 mm Bolex camera, and the narration is writings from his journals in the book, “One Man’s Wilderness”.

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For most of us, this was our introduction to Dick, and his life. It is one of the only films ever made that shows the process of making a cabin in the wilderness, using only hand tools. It is a real gift.

Dick was a man whose life took him to a lot of places and exposed him to a lot of things, and those things may have been instrumental in helping shape his abilities for life in the wilderness. Born and raised in Iowa, he joined the US Navy and was a Navy carpenter, a rancher, diesel mechanic and heavy equipment operator.

He originally went to Alaska to start a cattle ranch, and wound up commercial salmon fishing and working as a mechanic. He spent the final years of his working career in and around Kodiak Alaska at the naval base there, until a work accident nearly cost him his eyesight. His life in the ranching business probably helped him understand nature and wildlife on an intuitive level, and his life as a carpenter and mechanic probably prepared him with the self-sufficiency needed for the next phase of his life. He retired at age 51 to Twin Lakes, living as a naturalist, nature cinematographer, and scientific observer in the remote Alaska wilderness. Continue Reading »

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May 12 2009

Shooting Boards and they’re Red Hot!

Shooting Boards and they’re red hot, yes we’ve got em’ for sale!
Thanks belongs to the early bluesman, Robert Johnson, for inspiration on the blog title here.

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Here’s a photo of a pair to draw to. The shooting boards, shown here in left and right-handed models. You could almost call them V-Twins, but darn it, somebody already thought of that…

Back in late March 2009, I revealed I was going into the woodworking tool business, offering high accuracy shooting boards with calibratable fences, which can be fixtured from 2-7 positions depending on the model. Woodworkers found this very interesting! I want to take a moment to say thank you to all who have purchased one. It has been a warm and well-received response from the woodworking community.

We continue making shooting boards and now offer about twelve different models as well as many other tools in our product line. Additionally, we have created a number of accessories for our shooting boards, making them the most accurate, well-rounded and capable shooting boards available anywhere.

Click Here for detailed Features and Specifications.

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Left-handed shooting boards are available in every shooting board model we offer and have been since day one. All our accessories work with left hand models, and when Lie-Neilsen makes the LN-51 available as a left hand shooting board plane, we are ready to offer that option as well! Continue Reading »

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Mar 29 2009

Introducing a Shooting Board from Evenfall Studios.

One of the coolest things about hand planes is the finish they leave behind. We have all seen the finish quality they are capable of free hand, but when you put hand planes on jigs, a door is opened and passed through where clean, straight, and angular accuracy becomes something that is hard to obtain in any other simple way.

Yes, I am talking about shooting boards.

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Whether you are hybrid with machines and hand tools or hand tools only, shooting boards are one of the gateways to fine woodworking. Sure there are many gateways, but the shooting board in its different configurations provides the cleanest edge and end grain cuts to the finest accuracies, the most spectacular fit and finish, and it puts this capability in the hands of any woodworker.

I have always enjoyed making and using woodworking jigs, and have made a number of shooting boards over the years. I have thought about many different designs for a long time. Most often, the average basic shooting board is a single function tool that becomes inaccurate with wood movement.

I’d have one that did this, but not that, and wish I had one that did something else, but that soon became a stack of inaccurate single function shooting boards, and most of us don’t have the space for that. It’s true; there are some very specific types that are meant to cover specific uses. Others are great for general work, but the worry over wood movement and long-term accuracy causes some folks to question how much energy to put into the making of their own.

I decided to design a line of shooting boards that truly are precision tools, using a main design that encompasses the many qualities that I felt most woodworkers would most desire and need in a shooting board. Reinforcing as many strengths as I could and using only the best materials while diminishing the weaknesses where possible. Offering them affordably to woodworkers who are interested in shooting boards that can each cover a lot of fine woodworking situations with very high accuracy, yet may not want to build one of their own.

While we do offer quite a few different models, they are all very capable and accurate. They run from mindful of tool budgets to full on capable while addressing the woodworking needs and various planes available to the woodworker. To purchase one of our Shooting Boards, just click the “Store” button in the top menu above. Continue Reading »

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Aug 19 2008

The Foibles of Tape Measures. The Best, and getting the most from one.

For the average user of a retractable tape, there can be some usages of a tape measure that unwittingly reduce its accuracy. Basically, many people are not even aware of these details. I did say usages, but there are also problems inherent with the way a tape measure is made, that for fine work, render it a tool which is not always the best tool for the job. When we ask a tool to wear too many hats, it fails to do as well by us as we may think it should. It is good to know what some of the weaknesses are so we can learn to accept what are and are not good practices for the tape measure.

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It may seem funny to have thought about tape measures as much as I have. As a life long woodworker, and over 25 years of civil construction and surveying experience, I have literally worn out a bunch of measuring equipment from using these tools all day every day. After using tapes in dirty environments where I took well over 100 measurements a day, daily and weekly, I have learned what I value and what has risen to be the best for me. I am just sharing what I have learned with you.

When you are buying a tape measure, there are several available features that you can consider. For shop use, furniture making and cabinet making, you will rarely need a long tape, but the long tapes have features that enhance accuracy. They come with 1-inch wide tapes, which are easier to read for eye relief, harder to distort and are more rigid. Often the 1-inch tapes include more rivets on the hook, which lend themselves to resistance to wear and stretch. Unless you need a shorter tape for handy reasons, I recommend the bigger tape just for its added stability. Continue Reading »

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May 03 2008

The Challenges to Squareness

Yup. The Challenges to Squareness.

You didn’t actually think this was going to be easy did you? Well, it isn’t always, but I think the endeavor of overcoming some of these challenges can make things better, especially if you like taking good to great. Knowing what some of the issues can be, and how to overcome them when and if they arise, can help our results better match our desires.

We learned in The Constructs of Squareness article that geometrically speaking, a right angle is 90 degrees, and if it isn’t 90, then it isn’t a right angle. Everything can be represented perfectly on paper, in CAD drawings and in theory, but in building, milling, and manufacturing there are a number of factors, which can affect the quality of accuracy. Some we have to accept, some we can learn to work with, and knowing the difference is how we approach closer to fine, if fine is the goal.

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Things that affect the accuracy we use to build do vary. Goals, philosophy, materials and tooling all play a part.

Goals affecting accuracy are often production oriented, cost oriented, or what the intended use of a final product is. If the Goal is to build a doghouse, it needs done quickly, and the price of materials and labor needs kept low, then, the accuracy of squareness need only be relative. If the goal is to make a jewelry box, where scale is small and appearances will be highly scrutinized, then the accuracy of squareness becomes much more important, because the philosophy behind jewelry boxes is seeing how far craftsmanship can be taken. Close tolerance fit and finish is a very large part of how this type of work will be evaluated. Continue Reading »

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Apr 22 2008

Edge Tool Sharpness and Flatness, The Fast Track.

…Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Honing. 😀

Ok, this is a little longish, but there is no substantial way to provide a sharpening primer in a sound bite. I’ve tried to write about what will work well overall, without getting too focused on too many particulars in any sharpening media. No matter which way you choose to go ahead with sharpening, this advice should be helpful to you overall. It’s a reasonable primer that will put you on the road with usable sharpening skills. So grab a snack and a drink, and settle in for a bit. If you really want to learn to sharpen, reading this will likely be worth your time. Your Questions and Comments are invited as always!

When it comes to sharpening, abrasives are abrasives the world around. They may have particular idiosyncrasies you need to pay attention to, but they all abrade metal. Once you choose the abrasives you feel will work best for you, you will establish your own routine for working with them. All paths are means that will lead to a similar end. Waterstones, oilstones, ceramics, particulates, sandpaper, various styles of machine sharpening etc. The steel does not care; the abrasives don’t care either, as long as the grit equivilents of abrasiveness are appropriate to the goal. Sharpness.

For the sake of this discussion, I am referring to the abrasive grits, as they correspond to the grits common to waterstones. I do this simply for the reason that waterstones are very popular, but I am in no way advocating that waterstones are the best abrasive. Most all abrasives will sharpen, and it is up to the end user to investigate the pros and cons of the various abrasives to determine the best paths for themselves. For cross-reference please refer to this cross reference chart to derive the equivilent grit for the media you choose.

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It is important to keep in mind that the goal of sharpness has stages.

Coarse grits are for grinding, heavy material removal, bevel forming, flattening. Initial flattening and bevel angle forming are the biggest jobs and to aid getting the job over with, the coarsest grits should be used to get the bulk of these tasks done.

Fine grits are for honing and polishing. Once you have established bevels and flatness on the backs, you will want to polish it. Removing coarse scratches in steel with finer ones is what creates finer sharpness. Sharpness actually is where the intersection of the two planes formed by the bevel and the back meet. The finer they are polished, the sharper they will be. the act of creating the wire or feather edge happens when the bevel side of the iron or blade is abraded until the dullness has been honed away. This is required to establish a fresh edge on the tool, and can be done with any number of the different honing or grinding grits.

It is up to the sharpener to determine how dull the tool is, and select the coarseness or fineness of abrasive grit needed to restore the edge to sharpness the fastest way. This means, it comes down to how much steel needs to be removed on the bevel side to form the wire, or feather. You must determine the condition of the edge, and the fastest way to restore it. If only a lttle honing is needed to restore the edge, don’t select coarse abrasives when you begin. If a lot of honing is needed, don’t select fine abrasives when you begin, but realize you will have to polish all the way up through the grits to the fine abrasives to restore the sharpness.

It is important to get a feel for the finish your honing equipment will give you as a finish result at each stage of the work. It will aid you to learn to evaluate what is needed, where to start, how long to hone, and when you have reached what was needed. Knowing this simplifies the task and helps you save time. This is experiential– it is learned by using the sharpening tools you have on your edge tools. It is getting to know one another. Call it sharpening intimacy if you will. Continue Reading »

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