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.

cwf1.jpgColonial Williamsburg Photo

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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Nov 21 2010

Cordless Tool Charger Safety: Put your Chargers on a Timer Circuit.

Published by under Shop Electrical

Rechargeable tools ultimately need recharging. Most chargers will recharge batteries in less than two hours. Ordinarily we don’t give this process much thought, trusting that the charger will do what it is designed to do, provided we are using only the proper charger for the battery that we are charging. It seems to have been designed to require little oversight from the end user. Simply plug the battery in, and after a while, it is recharged and ready for more work.

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What happens after the battery is charged depends on the brand, style of charger, type of battery, and other things that are too hard for most people to keep track of in a mix and match world. Some chargers shut off, some change modes from fast charge to maintenance mode. Usually the battery is recharged safely, but there have been issues and product recalls on these devices. Continue Reading »

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Nov 18 2010

Safety and Mindfulness, It’s a mind/body process.

Published by under Safety

Safety is something we should keep in mind always when we are in the shop. The same is true for hobbies and vocational tasks. While I realize there is an established woodworking safety week established in early May, the prime time for most woodworkers to be in their shops is right now, because the holidays are upon us and many are working hard to complete the hand made gifts they want to give to loved ones this year.

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Right now seems like an excellent time to remind us all about being safe in the shop. 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”.

proenneke1.jpgRichard L. Proenneke Photo

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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Apr 24 2010

Surface Prep and Finish, Thoughts and Observations

Published by under Finishing,Planing,Sanding

Recently a great question was asked about finish surface preparation for stains, oils, and coating type finishes with hand planes. It was regarding the finish a plane leaves, if sanding is necessary, and which grits are appropriate. It’s a great question. Let’s explore the options.

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In many woods, a planed surface will leave a surface quality similar to that of 600 grit finish smoothness, and without burnishing the wood surface. Sanding in this case may not bring much to the table.

Occasionally there are grains that are just too difficult to plane successfully, and so you must sand. Continue Reading »

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Apr 04 2010

The Care and Feeding of Granite Surface Plates in the Shop

Published by under Metrology,Sharpening

Granite Surface Plates are the world standard for flatness in any shop. There are a number of places you can get them and the pricing on these tools varies widely. It is important to note that for most of us, they needn’t cost more than necessary.

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There are a lot of great things to know about them, but there is one thing that is really important to touch on first off.

The grading of Granite Surface Plates is of importance to the woodworker. Please have a look Continue Reading »

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Mar 24 2010

Woodworking Haiku

Published by under Thoughts & Musings

 

Staring at woodgrain
chatoyance dances with light–
the beauty revealed.

~ ———————- ~

What hath brute strength wrought
where finesse has shown cunning?
wisdom, woodworker.

~ ———————- ~

Ponder gnarled grain
twisting, turning, catching light
the path is simple.

~ ———————- ~

The least resistance
sharpness is known to coerce
wood can only sigh.

~ ———————- ~

Sunlight on woodgrain,
Second line jazz New Orleans
such vivid splendor!

~ ———————- ~

Cabriole Bossa Nova
They dance so free standing still–
Femininity.

~ ———————- ~

The Roubo stands strong
Awaiting the woodworkers–
Imagination.

~ ———————- ~

Finesse in silence
unneeded wood whisks away–
Sculpture revealed.

~ ———————- ~

Ying and Yang of wood
Who is the master of which?
Contest never over.

~ ———————- ~

The sharp rasp quickens
woodgrain tamed beneath its grasp–
shaped beauty springs forth.

~ ———————- ~

Inspire yourself
listen, the wood beckons you–
now make some shavings.

~ ———————- ~

Drill Pressed counterbores
Wood chips disappear to vac
Get back to work now. 😀

~ ———————- ~

Continue Reading »

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Feb 23 2010

Usable Hand Tool Storage? Thank Mr. C.A. Jewett.

Walt Quattro is a really cool guy who has a really cool used record store in Waterbury, CT that <looks right, looks left> secretly doubles as a vintage tool store. <but please, keep that to yourself, eh?> 😀

Walt’s place is Brass City Records and Tools. Those who know Walt know that he is known to drop into a tool forum with a song lyric that doubles as a riddle that somehow describes his latest tool prowl. Please click here for one of Walt’s riddle answers. Walt’s posts are always a great time and he is great to trade with! So as usual, I like to make a habit of going over to his site to look around, because it is always changing. Me? I am usually late to the party but eh… you know how it goes. His site changes a lot as some of you know. Early birds get the worm, fair is fair. Walt knows this and it works that way to shop with Walt too.

Well anyway, Walt’s haunts are the flea markets of New England, where many a tool he finds are straight out of the heart of where the industrial revolution took place. He is also centrally located near where many of these tools were originally made. These are the tools that helped bring that revolution, and are now sought after by many of us who don’t want those tools to become just another historical footnote. (Thanks Walt)

It happens that Walt has a cool link on his site that points to Pat Leach’s (of Superior Works fame) supertool.com site, that I have looked at many times over the years. While we all seem to discuss tool cabinets around at various forums on the net pretty frequently, I don’t recall seeing anyone really discussing this one for a pretty long time. It is worth a visit, or for some of us, a re-visit.

jewett_chest.jpgPhoto Courtesy Pat Leach

It is C.A Jewett’s Patternmaking Chest. It is worthy of discussion and so let’s, shall we? Continue Reading »

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Nov 23 2009

The Case for Long Grain Shooting Boards

Shooting boards are very handy for fine trims that clean the rough sawn edges left by saws, power tools and shop machines, so the wood is looking it’s very best, and even made as accurate fitting as can be. But even as we do this most commonly on end grain, end grain is not the only place on a board that can benefit from the use of a shooting board.

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There are a number of things a woodworker can classify as delicate work. It can of course mean short in length or width, thin stock, veneer, inlays, book matched pieces, and even working with tone woods. Luthiers commonly join book matched boards for stringed instruments, and these boards are very fragile.

There are also the occasions where using a power tool or a shop machine may not be the safest way, or the most accurate way to accomplish a task and so we are left trying to come up with an alternative method for accomplishing the fine work we need done. Continue Reading »

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Aug 18 2009

Musings from the left side of the Table Saw.

Bet you were thinking I was going to associate woodworking with left hemisphere brain functions. Well, depending on how you think of it, woodworking is probably a craft that uses both sides of the brain, so possibly, maybe.

But actually, I was going to touch on some thoughts and problem solving on the left side of the blade. Table saw that is. It really is the unaddressed side of the machine.

I am a hand tool user, and advocate. Heck, I even make hand tools, but I am also a blended woodworker. For those unfamiliar with the term, a “Blended Woodworker” is a woodworker who espouses both the finesse of hand tools, and the production of power tools and shop machines.

I make no bones about it, as each of us should follow the woodworking path that makes us feel content. Whether you are a power tool woodworker, a blended, woodworker, a hand tool woodworker, and even perhaps a collector, it’s all woodworking and that is a good thing! Whichever way you are doing it, your doing it right for you. That is all that matters.

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Many with table saws are faced with various challenges. Cut quality and safe practices are always ones that weigh heavily on the mind, maybe even the left-brain. Those who have the space and desire, enjoy a large cabinet saw with a 60 inch fence set up, maybe an outfeed table that will accommodate full sheets of plywood. The rest of us may not need a saw that takes that much space, and so we opt for saws with a 30 inch fence system, or maybe even less. Continue Reading »

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