Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Unplugged Woodshop

Hey reader-

thanks for stopping by.
I'm afraid I haven't had much time to update this blog lately but I have been busy on my website

If you'd like to follow along with current projects you'll find me there.


Friday, September 21, 2012


PM-V11. Sounds like a new music video station, no?
I know I’m a little late on this post but I wanted to share my two cents about the new steel alloy from Veritas. So what is PM-V11?
PM refers to the process known as powder metallurgy, whereby molten metals are atomized into small particles, which cool and harden into a fine powder that is then heated under pressure to form an ingot.
So what’s an ingot?
An ingot is a material, usually metal, that is cast into a shape suitable for further processing.
This mixture of metals combined into a proprietary alloy, yields a steel with a very fine, uniform grain structure that is much more durable than steels produced using ordinary manufacturing processes. So, what does all that really mean to hand tool users?
Blades made from PM-V11 are highly resistant to dulling yet are as easy to sharpen as A2 tool steel and blades made from PM-V11 will hold an edge up to two times longer than one made of A2.
I was given a PM-V11 replacement blade for my Veritas bevel-up Jack plane last Spring and can say that I was absolutely blown away. If you frequent these blogs you’ll know I generally prefer O1 blades over A2. Why? I always felt I could get a sharp edge in less time than on an A2 iron. In use, I never found issues with my O1 irons dulling any more quickly than an A2. Well all that has changed since using the PM-V11. Seriously. What a difference. I was able to polish a fine edge without any difficulty and found the longevity of the edge was much longer. That’s an understatement. I found the longevity of the edge to last MUCH-MUCH longer!! We’re talking EverReady bunnies over here! This sh**  holds a serious edge!
I use water stones for 90% of my sharpening needs and the PM-V11 was just as easy to resharpen once dull.
Now I’m not saying you should run out and replace all of your irons with PM-V11 tool steel but, in the future, whenever I have the option when buying new, I’ll choose the PM-V11 steel every time. It really made a noticeable difference.
For my everyday, go-to planes, ie: Jack, low-angle block and Smoother, I will make the investment and change them over to PM-V11. The time I’ll save sharpening for me, justifies the expense.
Lee Valley offers replacement blades in PM-V11 for most of their existing planes.
If you’d like to find out more information on the new PM-V11 tool steel and read extensively about all of their test results,
go to www.pm-v11.com
and for replacement blades for your favorite Veritas planes check out: www.leevalley.com


Friday, September 7, 2012

What did I miss?

Piper and I in one of the oldest Sugar Maple stands in North America. About an hour North of our home on Cape Breton Island.

It’s been awhile…after two amazing months out East I’m back in the city and finding my way into the familiar routine of urban life. The summer was busy but we did manage to get a little down time. July was spent finishing off 8 more chapters for the new book and with a final deadline at the end of October, I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I’ve had more requests for classes over the last few weeks than I ever have before. Lots of people interested in working wood with hand tools. Well, you’ve come to the right place! My plan is to resume a steady class schedule once the new book is complete so please be patient and I’ll start making dates for early November.
The new projects are all coming along as planed and every week I get more excited to start sharing them with you. A year in the making and believe me, it’s tough not only to focus on one thing for that long but, not being able to blog about what I’ve been up to is killing me! -; )
I hope/think/pray? it’ll be worth the wait. It’s been a pleasure working with the folks at the Taunton Press and as soon as I get the word, we can start previewing some of the work. Until then I have a few more ideas and projects to complete so I’ll say thanks again for waiting and I hope you’ll be as excited about the new projects as I am.
Back to the bench….

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

In The Balance

” The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price has been forgotten.”  Benjamin Franklin

Well in case you haven’t heard, Veritas has released their new line of Bench Chisels. I first laid my eyes (and hands) on them back in 2011,  while visiting the Lee Valley Tools head office in Ottawa, Ontario. After a year of anticipation, I finally have a set that I’ve been putting through their paces and wanted to finally share my thoughts with you. I’ve read a few reviews and comments already on the inter-webs and thought I’d throw my two cents into the mix. This review may seem a little late but I wanted to actually work with these things for a while before giving any opinions.  I think that’s a pretty important step to take before spewing opinions around the internet, don’t you?

These things are FLAT.

The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up one of these chisels is the weight of them. For their size, they’re extremely light. A good thing in my book. The second thing you’ll notice is they’re balanced. Let me say that again, they’re really, really balanced! That point is probably the most important thing with any hand tool- how does it feel in hand? How does it feel while in use? These things simply put- feel great. From paring and chopping to fine tuning joinery, I find these chisels an absolute joy to use.
The standard set comes in O1 tool steel and that suites me just fine. I personally prefer O1 for it’s ease of sharpening. Some will argue that in laboratory tests, A2 steel will hold an edge longer. While that may be true, I don’t work in a laboratory! I’ve never found a noticeable difference in wear between the two except as mentioned, when it comes to sharpening. I prefer  O1 tool steel but if you often work with dense exotic timbers and need a tool that will hold up longer in the hardest woods, then  you’re in luck. Veritas will be producing these things in a ‘powdered-metallurgy steel known as PM-V11™ – a tough, wear-resistant alloy that retains its edge longer when used on dense, abrasive woods, yet sharpens as easily as A2 steel.
And speaking of the steel, the chisels come to you absolutely flat and when I say flat, I mean FLAT!
‘… flatness tolerance of ±0.0005″ (half of one thousandth of an inch!)
Half of one thousandth of an inch? Well then, that should do it, eh? In fact, these things are so flat they they’re actually a little sharp on the edges. If I could say anything negative about these chisels it would be just that. The outside edges should be ‘broken’ a little before use. Nothing more than a gentle rolling across a stone or a rub with some sand paper to ease the edges. Maybe this is something Veritas will address in the future? I asked about the sharp outside edges (or lands as they’re called in Galoot World) and was told it’s due to the extensive lapping process carried out during manufacturing to insure these things come to you absolutely flat. Fair enough.

Baked Maple...mmmm.

The handles are made from hard maple that goes through a high temperature, kiln-baking process that eliminates almost all moisture content and caramelizes the sugars in the wood. Oh how Canadian, chisels with maple syrup handles~;) But seriously, the handles feel great in use and that’s the important part. Aesthetically,  they look fantastic and I for one was happy to see a Veritas tool made from a Domestic wood species instead of their instantly recognizable, Bubinga handles and totes. They have small flats on the handle sides that feel great in hand. The blade to handle connection is an innovative cross between a tang and a socket-like ferrule. This makes for a perfect union between the two and you won’t have to worry about loose chisel handles anymore. Something I couldn’t say about ANY of my other chisels.
So, if you’ve been thinking about purchasing a new set of chisels and want something that will last a few lifetimes then I think it would be hard to beat the new chisels from Veritas. The full set of five is priced at just under $300. That is an extremely reasonable price to pay for a set of premium hand tools that will no doubt become extensions of your arms.
Already, they’ve become my go-to chisels and I think they were well worth the wait.

Size compared to some of my other chisels.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Spring Classes Wrap Up

Well it’s the middle of June and that means that the Spring Class Session is over. Thanks to all my students who spent some time with me over the last few months in the wood shop. From beginners to experienced, young and old, Mothers, daughters, sisters and well, a bunch of guys! It’s always a pleasure to share the knowledge of wood working.
I’ll be offering classes again in the Fall so drop me a note if you’re interested in attending. I’m finishing up another book project this week and will be taking some time off for some much needed R & R on the East Coast. Stay tuned…

Monday, June 11, 2012

Teak Legs From Burma

I was thrilled to receive a letter from a reader in Burma this past week who made a version of my side table – Skinny legs and all… In case you don’t know, Burma is in South East Asia and lies between Bangladesh and Thailand.The table was made from reclaimed Teak with a local wood called Pinkado for the drawer fronts.

Ashley writes:   “In this country there are only a limited range of timbers available for woodwork and, if you buy from a local supplier, would likely come from some bit of old growth forest and be unsustainably (and possibly illegally) logged.  To get around this I work with a British guy who has set up a small scale furniture production business using salvaged timber and local workers.  His is another story but he has an amazing set-up and produces excellent furniture using mostly hand tools and traditional joinery techniques.  They even re-size all their boards – which come from old buildings being torn down – by hand, using planes they make themselves!  Very old school.  So that’s where I get my reclaimed teak and pinkado.”

I think artisans here in the West may sometimes forget just what a luxury it truly is to be able to walk into a local saw mill or big box store and purchase any number of wood species. This letter reminds me to be thankful for all we have!

Ashley writes: “the table took about 100-120 hours to build over a four month period, which includes a modest amount of stock preparation.  It also includes practice joints on scrap wood as I had not tried several of the techniques and had never built a drawer before.”

The table is finished with Teak oil.
I love what he did with the design by simply eliminating the upper apron thus changing the over-all appearance of the piece. This version has almost a mid-modern feel and I think he did an incredible job.

Ashley writes: “I made a few design changes – most notably dropping the front rail, but stuck to the essence of your design.  And, of course, i did it all with hand tools.  I must say, at the beginning i didn’t think my skills would be up to it, but it worked out OK (my wife likes it which is all the praise i need!). Thanks for the inspiration.”

Ashley, I really should be the one saying-thanks for the inspiration! It’s  amazing to see readers finding ways to make these designs  their own. This is probably the best example I’ve seen to date. Thanks for sharing and I encourage other readers to share any projects they may have tackled over the course of the last three years since Made by Hand was published. I love seeing variations on the designs and hearing from readers from all over this truly amazing planet we share.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A New Review

I just received the new issue of Wood News Online, the monthly newsletter by Highland Woodworking. I always like reading this newsletter as it’s been full of great information. The new video series, The Highland Woodworker has also been great to watch. Only two episodes in but it’s a great show…and free if you can believe that! The first episode was with Roy Underhill and the last one featured Brian Boggs and Ron Brese. Great to see these guys in action and get a glimpse into their work shops.
I was surprised to see a new review for my book- Made by Hand at the top of this new issue and thought I’d share it here.

Made by Hand: A Delightful Journey into the
World of Hand Tool Possibilities

by J. Norman Reid
Delaplane, Virginia

Working wood by hand is becoming increasingly popular. What’s the attraction? Perhaps it’s the elimination of noxious dust, the satisfaction of building something beautiful entirely by hand, achieving closer tolerances than are possible with powered machines, or working quietly and achieving a deeper intimacy with the wood that’s our medium of expression.
Whatever the reason for choosing to work with hand tools, Fidgen’s book is a diverting introduction to working wood by hand. Written in a highly accessible style, more like a conversation with a woodworking friend than a beginner’s manual, Fidgen explains the essentials for setting up a hand tool shop—basic tools, sharpening, constructing key appliances, processes for design and construction—then progresses to six innovative and beautiful projects, each building on skills developed in constructing the previous ones.
He begins with tools: layout tools, cutting tools, hand planes, special-purpose planes and tools, and chisels. He gives an introductory discussion of sharpening, urging the use of honing guides to assure consistency in the shape of the cutting edges.
Next he covers several appliances to guide and ease handwork: bench hooks, miter hooks, shooting boards, winding sticks and workhorses or, as he calls them, shop ‘bents.’ For each of these, Fidgen discusses and illustrates their construction—perhaps these will be your first handmade projects—but provides little information about their use.
He next progresses to processes of construction. Included are making a cut list, selecting wood, planing, sawing, cutting dovetails and making mortises and tenons. Readers will find these sections interesting and useful, though more detailed treatments are available elsewhere.
The second half of the book consists of six projects that build on each other and so are intended to be undertaken in sequence. The first is a cabinetmaker’s tool chest, a small handheld case to carry hand tools to a job site or store them in the woodshop. Following that is a hanging wall cabinet featuring half-blind dovetails, sliding dovetails, a pair of inside drawers and a single-board door. Third is a side table that bears hints of the Shaker style but is clearly modern in design. This project employs six different joints and is intended to stretch your hand tool skills one step further. The next project is a charming small bookcase that features through tenons and front doors with mullions backed by Japanese paper. After that comes a cabinet with six drawers and a door on the left side. The final project is a hunt board or sideboard with sliding panel doors.
The book concludes with a gallery of some of Fidgen’s other work that is intended to inspire other possibilities with handwork.
The large-format, beautifully illustrated book is accompanied by a 45-minute DVD that gives a personal overview of the tools Fidgen employs in his hand tool-only workshop. Introduced by a song, “Working Wood,” written and performed admirably by Fidgen himself, the DVD contains recommendations and tips on selecting, buying and what’s essential for getting started with hand tools.
In sum, I found this book a pleasure to read. For the armchair woodworker, it’s a delightful journey into the world of possibilities. For the beginning hand tool worker, it provides enough information to get you started. The experienced hand tool enthusiast will already know much of what he presents but may find the review enjoyable and the projects inspirational. In short, there’s a little something for everyone here.

Happy Bang-7 Day

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

New Offerings from Veritas

Veritas Small Plow Plane with 1/2-in. cutter and conversion kit installed.

One of my favorite, and most used tools has to be the Small Plow Plane by Veritas. I reach for it on almost every project I make and just recently, Lee Valley has come up with a few new additions to make this already great tool even better.
Veritas has introduced a series of Tongue and Groove blades along with a complete line of large size cutters. Up until this point the sizes ranged from 1/8-in. up to 1/4-in. Great for drawer bottom grooves and small scale cabinet work but this new line extends the range all the way up to 3/4-in. They’re available in A2 tool steel and only took a few seconds to polish and put to work. A simple conversion kit that easily installs on the existing plane make it possible to use this new, larger line of cutting irons.
This past week I’ve been making some moldings for one of the projects in my new book and if you’ve ever made moldings you know that the bulk of the work happens before you ever touch a molding plane. A series of grooves and rabbets are created to remove the bulk of the material before the hollows and rounds refine the profile. Just this morning I used both the new 1/2-in. cutter and then the 1/4-in. T & G to establish the profile on a piece of walnut. Once complete, it was quick and easy to define the shape with my Hollows and Rounds.
The change over from standard plow plane using the conversion kit was quick and easy with excellent results.

Bottom of Plow Plane showing 1/4-in. T & G cutter.

If you’re someone who would rather create your grooves with a hand tool instead of on a router table or table saw, then the Veritas Small Plow Plane, along with this new line of cutting irons will fill all of your grooving needs.
To make the deal even sweeter, Lee Valley is offering a discounted, introductory price until June 18th so get ‘em while they’re hot~

Sunday, June 3, 2012

30 Craft Market

Hey folks,
I just received an email about the 30 Craft Market in Peterborough, Ontario and thought I’d pass it along for any Ontario readers.
These are the details-

Vendor Call:
 Saturday, Dec 1st, 2012. 12 – 5 pm
All items must be $30 or less, and, handcrafted.
Booths are $30.
This may be a great opportunity for some of the local crafters in the area to get out and sell some wares.

Friday, May 18, 2012

In the Field

Field Notes- National Crop Limited Edition

So before I even begin, let me say this post isn’t really wood working related. This is just me venting some thoughts on how cool I think Field Notes are.
Field Notes?
C’mon- you know.
Those little pocket ledgers that people, who still remember how to use writing utensils can sometimes be seen using away from their home office or place of work. The place you jot down ideas or sketch little sketches. Maybe a mental note or two, a doodle or really, what ever. Grocery list? Cut list? Hardware list? Sure, they all work.
So yeah, I think Field Notes are cool and this latest edition is the cat’s a**.
A product both I and my 6 and 7 year old kids can enjoy. My daughter already told me she wants the Neon Summer  Camp pack. That alone is reason enough to mention it.

Throw one in the tool chest.

My latest order is the National Crop, limited edition series. ” … a custom-boxed set of six notebooks paying tribute to America’s top six crops; corn, soybeans, hay, wheat, cotton and sorghum. ”
( yeah I know what you’re saying, what the hell is sorghum?)
Well not only did I get the six ledgers, but they come in this great little box with a badge and a poster and thrown into the parcel was a Field Notes calendar for the wood shop wall. Sweet!
Well, that’s all I really wanted to say- Field Notes. They’re cool.
Back to the bench!
This last shot is a little pocket, wood working book a friend gave me a few years back.
It’s  books like this that inspired the brand. I keep it close, just like my Field Notes-Cheers!



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Workshop Appliances

Workshop Appliances

I think anyone who uses hand tools on a regular basis would benefit from some simple work bench appliances. Whether you build your own or purchase them, they really make a difference in the wood shop.
A shooting board. The most effective way to trim the ends of stock, 1-in. and under. You can sneak up on a fit that is almost unachievable for any power tool. 1/1000th of an inch if that is what’s required. A simple jig that will elevate the precision of your work.
A shop made miter box. In recent years there has been a lot of wood workers seeking out antique miter boxes on the inter-webs. Reclaiming and refurbishing vintage models when really, a basic miter box can be made with three pieces of wood. Another invaluable tool for the wood shop.
A bench hook in all its simplicity is probably the first appliance you should have. For holding work or again for small miters, the bench hook is never far from my bench top.
A miter-shooting board. A luxury? Not at all. Again, an accurate way of trimming cabinet parts and fine tuning moldings.
I spent the last few days making the four mentioned appliances for a gentleman in the Ottawa area and thought I’d share the results. Nothing fancy, no special attachments or Space age materials. Just some cabinet grade cherry plywood for the bases with some quarter sawn cherry for all of the hardwood parts. A shooting board with miter attachment, a miter-shooting board, a miter box and finally a bench hook.
I’m packaging them up this afternoon and they’ll be en route to their new home where I hope they’ll assist a hand tool wood worker in his journey through working wood. Cheers!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Two is better than one.

Veritas Dual Marking Gauge

When I first starting using the new, Veritas Dual Marking Gauge late last fall I wasn’t sure how often I’d actually use both sides of the gauge at once. Up until that point I used a single type gauge. Through the first week in use I generally used only one of the adjustable rods and it wasn’t until I made it a mental point to try using both rods that the fog lifted.
Two is truly better than one. Once I trained my brain to think about the dual settings I found myself using them both all of the time. Well at least whenever it was called for in the work.
For stringing, this thing is the cat’s meow. Set the desired width and scribe both sides of the line. Perfect.
For grooves and dovetails as well as most of my mortise and tenon work, the dual marking gauge is the way to go. It saves me a step or two and with all things  that need to be measured, that saved step usually means one less step to make an error.
The gauge has a large reference surface that makes scribing lines easy and effective with large brass screws to lock things in place.

Optional Shaft Clamp

Just recently, Veritas introduced a small accessory to this already excellent tool.   The optional shaft clamp. This little clamp slides over the rods and will lock a setting in place. This was extremely useful just the other day when I was setting some stringing into a few furniture components. The stringing was all the same width but the offset from the edge changed.
The shaft clamp held the width of the cutters in place while I adjusted the offset from the gauge body. Nice!
It’s always the little details that make good tools great and Veritas has done it again with the Dual Marking Gauge and optional Shaft Clamp.
Try one out for yourself and you’ll wonder how you ever got along with only one!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Count on it...

The more I do woodworking the more I realize I’ve developed a kind of compulsive obsession to count…I mean I count almost everything!
Maybe it started at a young age first learning to play music? Of course you have to count. Count in a tune, count how many measures etc… But here I am, 40 years old and I find it occurs with almost every aspect of my wood working. For instance when I sharpen an iron or blade I count each stroke so I don’t put the cutting edge out of square.
When I’m boring a hole using a brace and bit I never use a depth stop so instead I count. I count the turns for the first hole and then I know how many revolutions I need to make the rest the same depth. I catch myself counting when I’m hand planing-especially smoothing. Two passes on this side, two more on that. Even sawing I find myself counting. I think I may need a therapist!
Do you count while you work?
or is it just me~; )
I wonder…

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Soundtrack of Life

When people ask me what I do for a living I tell them I’m a wood worker…sometimes. Sometimes I say I’m a musician. Sometimes I say I’m a Dad. Sometimes worlds collide and I’m able to do a project that mixes mediums and over the last few months that is sort of what occurred.
I was asked by the fine folks at Fine Homebuilding.com to write six original scores for some new online video features they’ve recently produced. In between chapters for my new book and wood working classes, I managed to write and record the pieces and I’m thrilled to be able to share them with you. The video’s are available here, at the Fine Homebuilding website and represent the 2012, Fine Homebuilding HOUSES Award Winners. Jump over to the link and take a look at some incredible home designs and architecture.
Ranging from remodels to new homes,  best-energy smart homes and retirement there is something there for everyone.
Colin Russell has produced some fine video’s and the back ground music isn’t that bad either!
Check it out when you get a few minutes.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The English Woodworker

I just received a letter from Richard Maguire in the UK and thrilled to report he has joined the online blogging community with his new blog The English Woodworker.
You may remember seeing a guest blog here last year about one of Richards incredible workbenches. Richard is also a hand tool ‘connoisseur’  and if you haven’t been to his main work bench site I recommend you check it out.
It’s a website I frequent for inspiration so I’m happy he’ll be blogging away on a regular basis to share more of his work with us.
If I was any closer I think I’d have a Maguire bench of my own!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Not to be Outdone

After seeing her big brothers magic wand we made last week, my 5 year old daughter Piper decided she needed a little magic of her own.
We followed the same basic steps, from spokeshave to sandpaper, saw to finish.
She chose an off-cut of aromatic cedar for her wand due to the ‘pink’ tones of the wood.
Another fantastic day in the wood shop~; )
Avada Kadavra!

Monday, April 2, 2012

New SketchUp Guide

As you probably already know I’m a huge fan of sketching…by sketching I mean with a pencil on paper! But that is only the first step I take when designing custom furniture. I find that once ideas are quickly captured on paper, it can be helpful (and fun) to refine those ideas in a program like SketchUp.
If you’ve been living in a cave for the past decade and have never heard of SketchUp, then let me say that it’s a free product from Google that offers users the ability to design and create on their computer. ’3D modeling for everyone’…
Now being the neanderthal that I am, I’ve had a hard time using it and my learning curve has been, shall we say, longer than the average. ; )  I was convinced I had some disposition or mental block because I know dozens of wood workers who use this valuable tool day in and day out without any problem. So that said- I received a promo copy of the new  guide for woodworkers by David Richards and after watching the online video content, I immediately felt like a veil had been lifted from my laptop. I can see the light! Dave takes the viewer through a series of video clips and with easy to follow instruction, he walks the user through the process of using SketchUp. Geared towards the woodworking community, it demonstrates the steps needed to design and ‘build’ a small cabinet from start to finish with lots of extras along the way.
If you’re like me and have some shortcomings with the program, or if you’d like to start with a great foundation course on it, then check out this new release from the Taunton Press. You can do a video download for only $12.95 or purchase a DVD for $16.95. That’s about the price you’d pay to go see a movie and instead you’ll be getting an invaluable learning aid for this helpful design tool.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Making Magic

My seven year old son Nelson, recently watched the final part of the Harry Potter movies. He’s a bit of a book worm to say the least and ever since watching the series, he has been determined to make a magic wand. Yesterday, we spent some time together in the wood shop and now young Nelson has his wand.The experience from my point of view, was magical to say the least.
To begin, he shaped a piece of curly maple using a spokeshave and then smoothed the form with some sandpaper. We held the thin piece of maple in place with some elevated bench dogs I recently made for holding work up off the bench top. He then cross cut the stock to length using a fine razor saw and after a quick rub of oil/varnish he was ready to make some magic.
Another young wizard is ready to take on the world~ Expecto Patronum !

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

A spokeshave forms the curly maple.

Sanding blends the shape.

Cross cut to length.

  Expecto Patronum !

Friday, March 23, 2012


Well it seems the heat wave we’ve been having here in Ontario is finally ending and temperatures are going back to the normal seasonal range. Winter to summer is starting to feel like the norm around here. I took this picture in the back yard yesterday while my daughter, Piper and I had our lunch outside. Spring has definitely sprung! To be honest, we’ve already had smog warnings here in the down town area. Gotta love this city living eh? It makes me want to get to the Coast that much sooner.
Yesterday in my backyard.
I meant to post this earlier but the weeks are flying by-
For Ontario readers, you have a few opportunities to get your hands on some of your favorite hand tools-
First is the Lee Valley Tools, in Store Hand Saw Event taking place today and tomorrow. 23rd and 24th. It actually started yesterday but as mentioned, I’m late in posting~sorry.
The second is the Lie Nielsen Hand Tool Event on March 30-31. This time around they’ll be in Stouffville, Ontario at Century Mill Lumber. Another great opportunity to get some of those tools you’ve been thinking about purchasing and trying them out beforehand.
Around the web, today is the day when Tools for Working Wood will be launching a new/old magazine.Work Magazine – An Illustrated Magazine of Practice and Theory was originally published on March 23,  1889. To celebrate the anniversary, Joel at TFWW is making these classic prints available online. I’m looking forward to checking it out and if you’d like to do the same go here to download.
Well, that’s the news for this Friday, March 23 and I’m off to the wood shop to make some shavings. Cheers!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Marching On...

“Slayer of the winter, art thou here again? O welcome, thou that bring’st the summer nigh! The bitter wind makes not the victory vain. Nor will we mock thee for thy faint blue sky.” – William Morris

Shop made,high angle smoothing plane tames this difficult birds eye maple.

This past week I had three people ask me if things were alright and I hadn’t fallen off a pier somewhere-it’s been four weeks since my last post?  Yikes~ Beware the ides of March, indeed!
I’ve been plugging away around the shop, working through the new book projects and can honestly say I’ve been enjoying every minute of it. It seems everything I write is book material these days and I haven’t found the time to blog. My apologies to you the readers who frequent these pages. All I can say is that the projects are coming along really, really well and I hope you’ll be as happy as I when the finished product is complete.  Some shop made tools, some workshop appliances and of course the furniture projects. What I’m most excited and proud of at this point  is that all of the furniture projects are designs you won’t find in other publications. Fun projects that are both useful and inspirational and things you don’t see everyday. To be honest, I was tired of seeing the same kinds of projects appearing in wood working books and magazines- a blanket chest, a chest of drawers, a hanging cabinet, etc…Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with any of those examples but let’s face it, there’s been enough ink spilled on that sort of project already and I wanted to offer something fresh and well, different. These designs reflect my own personal style and will showcase the passion of working wood by hand.
I’m a little over a third of the way through and on track for our release date for December 2012. This time through I’m not only photographing the steps but also filming the process and will no doubt be spending my summer editing hours and hours and hours of footage that will be available to compliment the book. I’m not exactly sure at this point how everything will unfold but can say you’ll be able to access this footage and it will be a huge help for anyone interested in this body of work.
Well, that’s the news and again my apologies for the lack of posts over the last month. I’ll do my best to keep things updated as I go. With that, time to get to work.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mitre Shooting Board

Its been a very busy week here in the wood shop. Some shop made tools were at the top of my list both new book projects as well as a few made out of necessity. A furniture project that incorporates a mitered box with splines to hold a drawer is next on my list. It’ll eventually be veneered but the long grain miters is the reason for this new, ‘old’ bench top appliance. Mitered boxes are usually  manufactured on a table saw but here in the Unplugged Wood shop I wanted a method for making them accurately and efficiently with hand tools.
I came across an article online that was originally written for Woodworker Magazine in 1964- Mitre Shooting Board by K.G.Wells shows a great design for a shooting board with end ramps cut at 45 degrees making it perfect for cutting long miters with a hand plane. I made a Donkey’s Ear for my standard shooting board a few years ago but find its better suited for end grain work on pieces 2-in. square and under. This appliance will be dedicated for small, mitered box sides and small cabinet components.

This afternoon I made a quick version of the Wells design and thought I’d share it with you. You may be able to find the article online if you Google the title and authors name.Here is a diagram from the original article. I didn’t follow the exact specs of the pieces but used the diagram for reference.
To begin, I dimensioned some 3/4-in. cherry plywood for the base and cut a small, shallow groove about an inch in from one edge with my plow plane.

a small groove is cut into the plywood bottom board.

The end ramps are made from some 2-in. solid cherry cut down to about 1 5/8-in. These 45 degree miters are critical and should be carefully executed.

main end ramps are mitered on a bench hook.

a block plane refines the slope.

I used some 1/4-in. plywood for ‘packing’ as Wells describes it. This lifts the work piece being mitered off the bed and away from the plane blade.  This thin plywood is glued to the main 3/4-in. plywood base and is carefully fit between the two outside cherry ramps.
The top-guide is made from some stable solid cherry stock and is again mitered along its length. To begin the miter, I use my Jack plane and removed the bulk of the material. I fine tune the angle with a block plane being careful not to plane down past my scribe lines. The top ramp is pre-drilled and attached to the end stops.

a Jack plane removes the bulk of the material.

a block plane refines the angle.

The shooting board is assembled and put through some tests. I’m happy with this design and strongly recommend this bench top appliance to anyone that wants to build mitered boxes or cabinet components. Cheers!

assembled and ready for a test drive.

the dedicated Miter plane works well with this configuration.
front view showing plane on ramp.

a quick sample of long and end grain miters.

Friday, February 10, 2012

American Pattern

American Pattern Beveled Edge Chisel     
In the Autumn of 1949, a pattern maker named Ashley Iles began making and selling tools in a small workshop in Sheffield, England. Today, the family run business is still making and selling finely crafted tools in a factory now located in Lincolnshire.
I had been shopping around for a quality set of bench chisels without wanting to break the bank and this set I purchased at Tools for Working Wood fit the bill to a tee. They have nicely shaped and very comfortable Bubinga handles with a brass ferule. The overall lengths are between  7 1/2″ – 9 1/4″.
The first thing is the name, American Pattern. This seems to be due to the handle being shaped much like a popular Stanley butt chisel that used to be available. Already owning a few paring chisels, I wanted a small chisel that had finely tapered edges and wouldn’t kill me when flattening and polishing the backs.
I did spend some time flattening the backs but they really weren’t that bad straight out of the box. About 5 minutes per chisel brought them up to a suitable polish and I was ready to go to work.
A good size for general purpose use in the wood shop.

Polishing the backs.
I bought a set of six and added two more ‘in between’ sizes to bring the collection to eight. A good choice for anyone that wants a well made, well balanced butt style chisel.
A set of six costs just under $150. That is an incredible price for a hand tool of this quality. I’ve been using them all week in a variety of different applications and hardwoods and so far they’ve lived up to all of my expectations.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

There must be something in the water.

I recently volunteered on my sons Grade 2 class visit to the ROM and a funny thing happened.
The ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) is a spectacular way to spend a day if you’re ever in Toronto. The big-draw no doubt are the dinosaur displays but for some reason, on this day, the group I had wanted to keep moving past and we ended up making our way through areas I had never been before. When I first moved back to Toronto, a family membership to the ROM was a must and it  quickly paid for itself during that first year. I thought I had seen pretty much all there was to see but on this trip, while trying to keep up with three 7 year old boys, I discovered a new wing full of antique furniture.
The boys and I shared a common interest and our pace slowed as we walked through the seemingly endless galleries of hand crafted furniture. How did I miss this? Maybe it was new?  Starting with ancient forms and Gothic displays we worked our way through history and gazed at literally hundreds of examples of furniture from every imaginable era. Nelson, kept telling his group  “This is what my Daddy does.“  That was worth the price of admission right there! ; )
As we worked our way through the displays I was keeping one eye on the boys and one eye on the pieces so I really didn’t have time to stop and read the information offered for every one. I was more worried about loosing one of my group members and the ROM is a pretty big place. Anyhow, short story longer…I was making my way through and while lots of pieces were interesting, nothing really jumped out at me until I spied this small book shelf. Nothing too fancy but well made with some interesting inlay on top.

As someone who is always sketching furniture ideas I often ask myself what it was that drew me to the piece in the first place. Why did it catch my eye?
I was drawn to this piece more so than any other we had seen. What was it that captured my attention?
Was it the overall proportions?
Was it the wood species?

Was it the two drawers placed at the bottom?
Perhaps it was the inlay work?
I snapped a couple of quick pics with the ‘ol iPhone…

I’ve been designing some inlay and string work on a couple of the pieces in my new book and absolutely loved the style on this piece. It’s funny, out of all the pieces in the galleries made by wood workers from all over the world, through all the ages  of furniture making it was this one that caught my eye.
I wondered where it could have come from and took a moment to actually stop and read the information card.

Halifax, Nova Scotia! What a small world it is… go figure eh?
There must be something in the water.