Who am I? Why am I here?

I've been a professional woodworker for over a decade, the past few years of which I've spent as Cabinetmaker at Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta, Georgia. I also teach woodworking classes, mostly at Highland Woodworking.


I'm writing this blog to try and show what can be done with very basic tools in limited space. I have a huge shop with big machines at work, it's true, but for my own personal projects I work in borrowed space: half of a two-car garage.


I also hope to write occasional posts about why I'm a woodworker: the pleasures of working and the beauty of the material.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Handplane Jig for Ladderback Chair Leg Tapering



Here's another hand tool jig. This one is more specific than the dovetail paring jig I showed in the last entry, because it's built to help with one particular step in one particular project. I use it to turn tapered square chair leg blanks into tapered octagons when I make the ladderback chair developed by J. Alexander and Drew Langsner. The dovetail jig can be used for joints of different thicknesses and widths, and I can even picture myself using it to fair up tenon shoulders. But this leg-tapering jig is so specific that I doubt it will ever be used for anything but this project.

First I'll show about making and using the jig, and then I'll explain my thinking a little bit.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Robert Ingham's Dovetail Paring Jig

I've been thinking lately about hand tool jigs for very specific operations. If you've used hand tools much, you've learned about the value of jigs for often-performed, generalized operations like making a square end on a board with a bench hook and/or shooting board. I'm thinking about more specialized jigs that don't get used for every single project, but come in handy for guiding a tool along a carefully limited path to produce consistent, accurate results. This baseline paring jig for dovetails is a perfect example.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Buying an Old Unisaw


If you're getting into woodworking because you want to build cabinets and built-ins for your house, your version of the thousand-dollar shop could be centered around the tablesaw. I have danced around this topic for a while because although I do have a tablesaw, it isn't one I would recommend for cabinet work: it's underpowered and has a very small table which tilts to make angled cuts, so is not safe for breaking down big sheets of plywood.

The saw as I found it when I visited the pre-auction inspection. There was no play in the arbor bearings, no major rust, and the inside was not caked with old sawdust: all good signs.



Recently that changed, when I had the chance to get an old Delta Unisaw for an excellent price.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Make a Chopping Block for Green Woodworking




If you want to get started in woodworking on the lowest possible budget, I recommend what's called “green woodworking” or sometimes “greenwoodworking”. I've talked a little about this already, in this entry about the chairmaking class I took at Country Workshops last summer, and this entry about gathering some ash for my next chair.

One thing you will find handy if you want to start carving spoons and/or bowls from green wood is a chopping block, so you'll have a stable surface for shaping with an axe.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hock Kitchen Knife Kits

I just put the first coat of finish on this guy:
If you've done much messing around with hand planes, you'll probably recognize the logo. If not, finish reading this and I'll try to start you down the path to enlightenment.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Planing Small Irregular Pieces of Wood

Just a quick post about using two-sided tape in a pinch.




The workpieces in question are a pair of scales for a kitchen knife I'm giving to my son. They're oddly shaped, so my bench vise couldn't hold them, and too thin to hold that way anyway. The ends have been cut off too far from square to use my Time Warp bench dogs; the force of planing would rotate them away from behind the dog and they'd just slide across the bench.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Attitude

Here's a great essay about Larry Hagberg, a blacksmith employed by the New York City Parks Department.

In general, what he says about making by hand is obviously backed up by his many years of direct experience and thinking. It confirms much of what I think about the inevitability of woodworking's (and blacksmithing's, and other crafts') survival: the crafts will survive because making stuff is a huge portion of what makes us human.

But there are two great quotes, from his answers to the last two questions in the interview, that I want to highlight here:

 In the old days, when we got tired and couldn't hold the hammer anymore, we would duct tape it to our hand and just keep working.

I remember a few moments like that from when I was younger, and learning a new woodworking skill created such an ecstatic buzz that my surroundings faded away, time ceased to exist, and gradually even my body felt peripheral to what the hand, eye, tool, and wood were doing.

At the other end of a working life, Hagberg has this to say about retirement:

I heard about so many guys who retire, especially when you do a hard job, you can't just move to Florida and live on a golf course. You're a working guy, that stuff'll kill you. All of a sudden you stop doing what you're doing and it all veers to the right and downhill.

Amen, brother. I'm nearly 20 years behind you, but already I feel the truth of what you're saying in my own body, and see it happening (both ways) with my older friends and teachers.