Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Toolchest from Hartford

Last night I received a letter from Greg in Hartford, CT. Greg just finished a version of my cabinetmakers tool chest and I wanted to share it with you. The tool chest is made out of walnut and maple with a simple finish of Danish Oil. He didn’t add any holes for extra work holding appliances but said he would wait and see what his needs will be as he gains more experience in wood working. That makes perfect sense and is probably some good advice for others planning on making a tool chest of their own. -; )
Cheers Greg and thanks again for sharing!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays

Wishing you all health and happiness in the Holiday Season~
Let’s raise a glass to the New Year and all it brings!

Tom Fidgen @
The Unplugged Woodshop

PS. Did Santa have a Roubo? ha- see you in 2012!!

; )

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Everything Old is New Again

 Once again Joel Moskowitz’s blog over at Tools for Working Wood has got me extremely excited.
( that just sounds wrong but please, humor me )
Joel posted a link to an absolutely gorgeous 1869 Franz Wertheim tool catalog that had been acquired by Princeton University and has been digitally scanned and is available for the world to see.
Joel documented his trip to Princeton in an earlier post and had me intrigued then by the catalog he mentioned. Not enough to actually go to New Jersey myself but pretty interested all the same! Head over to the TFWW web site and have a look. I spent the last hour pouring over the hand drawn images and one of them in particular caught my eye. On page 16, Fig. 117 shows a saw that looks a whole lot like a kerfing plane I’ve been using for the past few months. I blogged awhile back on an earlier version I made which is nothing more than a moulding plane style tool with a saw blade captured within the block. Since then I’ve made several versions and one looks like a plough plane with an adjustable fence very much like the saw/plane in the Wertheim tool catalog from 1869.
Just when you think you have a new idea eh?
Oh well…The good news is what ever that tool was originally used for, my modern version works really well at establishing a saw kerf in your stock. This is extremely helpful when making precise saw cuts. ie: making shop sawn veneer.
The other good news is that I have a chapter on making and using my version which I call a ‘kerfing plane’ in my new book!
I’m a sucker for these hand drawn catalogs and Joel keeps bringing them to our attention. Good on him! -Thanks Joel.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Speaking of Sketching

Last week I noticed on Joel Moskowitz’s Blog over at the Tools for Working Wood website he had a pdf. for Isometric Drafting Paper available for free download. I meant to mention it when I saw it but totally forgot until today when he blogged about it again. Isometric drafting paper is a great tool when sketching out forms and you want to give 3D perspective to your drawings. I downloaded the file last week and will print it off as needed.
I won’t bother rewriting what Joel already said on the benefits of sketching and isometric paper but encourage you to go over and read all about it for yourself. While there make sure to check out the new 2011 mini catalog and Work Magazine. It’s a beautiful, 16 page, hand drawn catalog that looks like something out of a museum book store. Just in time for the Holiday Season of gift giving eh? Nostalgic to say the least, I’m such a sucker for this stuff. Hand drawn and well written, go see for yourself. (and make sure you defrost the credit card before hand)  Cheers!

Monday, November 28, 2011

2B or not 2B

That is the Pencil

Remember you’re grade school teachers saying you’d get led poisoning if you didn’t keep your pencil out of your mouth?
Well, they lied.
In 1564 an enormous deposit of graphite was discovered in Borrowdale, England and pencils have been made from this non-toxic material ever since. Up until that point however, writing implements were indeed made of led and would carry a justified warning of ingestion but once graphite was discovered the scribbles became much more user friendly and I’d guess a bit  tastier as well.

Originally, thin sticks of graphite were wrapped in string to keep these brittle implements from constantly breaking. Not long after, hollowed wood was used and the pencil as we know it was born.
The first massed produced pencils came in 1662 from Nuremberg, Germany (go figure) and once the Industrial Revolution took hold, pencil manufacturers were coming out of the wood work.
In North America, early settlers depended on pencils being imported from over seas. That was until 1812 when William Monroe, a Concord, Massachusetts cabinet maker started making the first pencils in the new world!
A cabinet-maker eh? I’m not at all surprised. Why? And why really all this talk today of pencils?
Because this is where the creative process begins. With a pencil in your hand.
It isn’t at the work bench and it sure as hell isn’t in front of a computer. It’s the ghost of inspiration waiting inside an empty sheet of paper and these simple tools, graphite sticks wrapped up in cedar, carefully sharpened and eager to bridge the gap. From that first spark of inspiration out from your imagination and into a reality on the page in front of you. That’s a good place to begin. It isn’t always easy to get there but like sawing dovetails or sharpening plane irons practicing every day will help.
I’m at the beginning of my book and thought I’d share those fun facts about this invaluable tool we so often take for granted.
Do you have a pencil and a sketch book? You’d better get one.
Stay tuned…

Thursday, November 10, 2011

and so it begins...


It’s November 10th, 2011 and I have some exciting news to share.
I’m happy to say I just signed a new publishing deal with none other than the Taunton Press. The company that brings us Fine Woodworking Magazine, Fine Home building, Fine Gardening and Fine Cooking.
I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to work with a world class establishment regarded as the leader in it’s field for more than 30 years.
The new book will be jammed packed with new projects for both the wood shop as well as the home. From shop made hand tools to furniture design and projects there will be something for everyone.
In these challenging and uncertain times I feel fortunate to have the chance to write this, my second book on hand tool only, wood working and look forward to getting started and sharing the process as I go.
Some more good news is we’ll be filming the entire process this time around and the web site will be undergoing a few changes as video content and pod casts become available as I get into the work.
The new book is scheduled for release in time for the Holidays, 2012 which is a little more than a year away. It’s going to be an exciting 13 months and I welcome you to join me through the process.
To all of my readers over the last 4 years I thank you and say stay tuned for much, much more.

‘Inspiration for hands-on living’


I like the sound of that!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dear Matt,

water stone slurry.


I get asked fairly often What inspires me.
what books I read, what blogs I follow.
To answer in detail about my source of inspiration you’ll have to wait until my next book is finished but for now here’s some dialogue between a reader and I this afternoon.

From Matt.

Hi Tom,
I would like to start by saying that I have thoroughly enjoyed your book over the past two years. It has completely changed my view of the craft and inspired me to begin using hand tools. Like you and many others I began with power tools because that is how almost all of the books and publications are focused. But, as I’ve started to learn about hand woodworking and the relationship with the material, I think I’ve become a true convert. It is just so much more enjoyable to not have the dust collector running with a respirator on and ear plugs in!

I can say that I really enjoy the pieces in your book and can’t wait to work my way through them. But, where do you find design inspiration from? I know this is a highly subjective question. I can say that for myself, there is nothing more inspiring than nature. For example, fall leaves, a lone tree proudly standing out in a field, a small stream running through the woods. These things are beautiful, but because of the way I think, I’m not really sure how to harness this inspiration and put it into the projects that I’m working on. I can say say that in the basic form, I enjoy shaker furniture with its clean lines and simplicity, but I also enjoy the Greene and Greene style with its curves and natural forms.
I would like to know if you could recommend any books on design, or share some of your knowledge with someone that has very little experience in that side of woodworking. I would thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to come to Toronto and discuss design with you, but as a university student without a car, that isn’t possible at this time. However, if you could point me in the right direction, it would be appreciated.
Thank you,

my reply:

very cool- thanks again.
this is pretty much what my next book is about- so your timing is perfect.
no coincidence-; )
I find my days are spent reading about the ‘politics’ of craft and sometimes not enough about the pure inspiration.
seriously, from the changing leaves outside my window to a reissue 25th anniversary copy of Blade Runner and everything in between!
what I’ve read lately and would recommend?
always all the Krenov but that almost goes without saying !
seriously, I pick them up every week.
If you’re after actual pieces and tangible shapes then try the Museum websites.


They have everything documented. I love the resource they offer.
If you’d like to read about the ‘reason’ and ‘thought process’ of design try David Pye…the Nature and Art of Workmanship. it can get heavy pretty quickly but that’s a good thing sometimes !
I’m currently reading a book on Wabi Sabi as well as the Unknown Craftsman by Bernard Leach and I can’t put it down.
Living in down town Toronto is pretty sweet for designers as well. I can’t walk outside my door without having the option ( and sometimes not ) of having design and art flashing every where I look.
That said, even in a forest with no one around for miles it can be easy to see the beauty in the things around us and somehow through that process we are inspired to work..from there the rest is grey skies…the shape are like songs, no idea where they come from- they fall out of the sky….but without going too far off track, in the day to day we as a society of people need to start making the harsh decisions and look for the ‘good stuff’.
that’s the real secret.
all the best with it and feel free to write with questions as you work down the crazy path of hand tools and splinters.
this is honestly what I love to do and don’t mind talking about it one bit !

Sunday, September 18, 2011