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.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

IWFS 2016


Today I attended IWFS 2016 just a few stops down MARTA from where I lay my head at night. Here are a few photos and a few thoughts.


Approaching the Georgia World Congress Center from the closest MARTA station. I had to chuckle at the obvious out-of-towners who piled onto my train car at Five Points, quite wary of their reputedly dangerous surroundings. When I attended my first IWFS in 1998, I was the same way. I thought my adopted town did a good job of welcoming the visitors today. 


I don't think there's any one spot where you can see the entire expanse of either Building A or Building B. This was the closest I got to an overlook. In this shot you're seeing about 5% of one of the two halls. If you walked all through the whole venue without stopping, it would take several hours. And it's packed. And it's loud - - after all, machinery is being demonstrated all over the place!



I was struck by the fact that some of the vendors who made their names selling traditional machinery like bandsaws, tablesaws, jointer/planers, etc. now have booths totally dominated by CNC equipment. That was the case with Laguna, which had a couple of dust collectors and bandsaws off on the periphery, and Felder, which had a few more non-CNC machines (including the awesome 16" Format 4 jointer/planer), but still were both clearly there to sell CNC.




Kreg was there to unveil new products that we can't have yet! They have revamped their slide installation jigs, and I can tell you they'll be in use in my cabinet classes as soon as I can get a pair.


Kreg also had a very promising-looking jig for doing Euro hinge holes with a handheld drill. When I was told the price I asked "That doesn't include the drill bit, does it?" It does. And the drill bit is carbide. Again, I will have one of these for my classes to try out ASAP.


This makes sense too, why didn't they think of it before? Starting in November, you'll be able to make your own Kreg pocket hole plugs in scraps from your own lumber, so your holes can be concealed with matching wood. They wouldn't let us try it ourselves, but the samples they had on display were fantastic.



What would a woodworking show be without a bit of carnival huckster action? It slices! It dices! It makes julienne fries!



Of course the Stiles guys were doing their own huckster routines too, just hawking higher-priced goods. It's not a product, it's a relationship!


Why so serious? It's only a sander.



Keep the damn robots behind glass.


I heartily recommend you take a look at this video, which I find fascinating and horrifying. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAmyZP-qbTE Yes, I know it's a parody.


Edgebanding.


Many of the new pieces of equipment have touchscreen rather than levers or wheels. Equipment operators are flying by wire these days.


A gigantic dust collection system that dominated several rows of booths.



Another sander.



Rikon was there with what looked like a new jointer-planer, no doubt sourced from the same factory as the Jet and Grizzly versions; I happen to like this color scheme better. They also had a 24" bandsaw which I hadn't seen before. Perhaps they've had it a while already and Highland doesn't carry it?



Plenty of software suppliers were on hand.



Lee Valley/Veritas were there with the same display they have had at every show I've seen them at, ever.


 One nice change since I had last seen this booth is that they give you a chance to feel all their knob and tote offerings side by side. The differences are quite subtle, but real. Walking away, I thought of how many other hands had grabbed those knobs, and it gave me the willies. Maybe Veritas should offer hand sanitizer.


Makita's cordless sliding compound saw. Am I the last person to learn about this? Makes sense to me, but I am committed to a different brand of cordless tools for family reasons.


Today was also the first time I saw the Bosch "REAXX" system in the wild. Carry it home for slightly less than the equivalent SawStop.


I couldn't get close enough to actually see the demonstration. People seemed impressed though!


The student furniture is always among my favorite things to visit.




This chair seemed to be the most proficiently executed of all the pieces. Great design, flawless workmanship. Not very groundbreaking, not very flashy, but it was my choice for "best in show" because the design will fit with almost any decor and the workmanship is inspiring.




Why would you go to the car show without kicking the tires on the Ferrari? If I won the lottery I would have a shop full of Martin equipment. My student Mike and I talked to one of the salesmen about the big shaper. A good guy, with lots of experience running Martin shapers and lots to say about them.

I have been to IWFS in boom years and bust years. This year wasn't really either, but the place was packed with people who seemed like they were there to either spend money or make serious decisions about mid-term spending.

Not shown in photos: Lignomat had a small, low-key booth but I got to speak with a charming employee who knows more about wood and drying it than I ever will. My favorite new CNC maker is Axiom: their smallest unit has cast iron table and frame, and all three axes of movement are via ball screw, not stepper motor. I have a fascination with ball screws. You should too. Byrd Tooling is always fun to visit; everyone working in that booth seems like a down-to-earth, small-town person even though they know they're all rock stars in the woodworking world. I had big doubts about Blum's motor-driven door openers and slides, but they are just plain seductive in person. And Knape-Vogt: I always thought of them as second tier. Their booth today changed my opinion.

I'm very glad I went, even though I left with aching feet and knee. The day was inspirational and I got to meet a couple of old friends. This industry is full of good people working very hard to get good ideas out to us makers. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Test Driving Chris Black's Router Plane



Yesterday's mail included a package from Chris Black in North Carolina. Late last week I realized I have been thinking about getting a router plane for a long time, but never pull the trigger. Looking forward a few months, I have some projects in mind that involve lots of dadoes in pine or poplar, so I called Chris. In addition to the tools he makes for sale, like an awesome birdcage awl and the best sanding block (seriously, when my partner saw it she tried to steal it!) Chris usually has a small pile of really nice old Stanley and other equivalent tools that he's restored for sale. I called him up and asked what he has on hand.

Turns out everyone and his siblings have been asking for router planes lately, so Chris has decided to make his own wooden version. He offered to let me have a look at his “Mark II” prototype. I sent some money by PayPal, he shipped it, I received it. I like it!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Backlighting Helps Prevent Finishing Flaws

No, not black light. BACK. As in, if you put a work light behind the surface you're applying finish to, at roughly the same height as your eyes or perhaps a bit lower, that light will reflect off the wet finish into your eyes, so any spot that you've missed will show up darker, and any little piece of sawdust or hair will distort the liquid surface of the finish and distort the reflection.




Try it! you'll see a difference right away.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Kiln Rebuild in the Works?




This weekend I had a chance to visit my friend Reed on his farm about an hour's drive from here. Reed has been everything from an advertising art director to a publisher to a woodworker. Before I started my present job at Fernbank Science Center, Reed and I built some cabinetry and furniture projects together, and we also built and operated a solar lumber

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ian Kirby's Sharpening with Waterstones

In the time I've been writing this blog, I have shied away from doing book reviews, because I want this blog to tell you what's going on in MY shop. But sometimes, what's going on in my shop is that I'm reading, to help jog my memory about a technique or construction method or tool setup that I want to use. For me, woodworking and reading about it have always been paired activities which make each other more interesting and rewarding. It's about time I shared some of my thoughts on a few books, blogs and magazines.


I
Some Books I Like

In 1998 and 1999, Cambium Press (later taken over by Linden Press) issued four books by Ian Kirby: The Accurate Router, The Accurate Table Saw, Sharpening with Waterstones, and The Complete Dovetail. These books are physically different from typical woodworking books, with a smaller format: 6 by 9 inches and 140 pages, compared with 9 by 12 and around 200 pages for most woodworking offerings from publishers like Taunton, Sterling, Fox Chapel, Popular Woodworking; and other titles from Cambium/Linden. So they're half the usual size, but also half the usual price, at $14.95. I like them all, and they're among the books I recommend students in my classes read.



The illustrations are all

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Metal Taps for Wood, and Studio Lighting Redux

This post is an update to this one from 2012, about jury rigging an adjustable light stand from an old tripod & hardware store parts. Since then I have discovered the wonderful photography site strobist.blogspot.com, which provides a crash course on building and using a portable studio lighting setup for still photography. The strobist site does a great job of finding and recommending affordable gear that's also easily portable. I wanted another light stand, but I hadn't run into another cheap old tripod at a garage sale, so on Strobist's advice I used one of my Christmas gift cards to buy the LumoPro LP605 portable light stand from Midwest Photo Exchange, along with a swiveling head so my stand would be capped by a cold shoe.


With the stand and cold shoe in hand, I saw that it would be easy to adapt one of the light holders I made before to be held in the cold shoe. Click through to see how I did it:

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Drying Wood in the Microwave: or, the Cursed Spoon




Three rounds of 30-second exposures in the microwave oven, with a few minutes outside in between to cool off, will dry most spoons enough to be ready for finish sanding and oiling. And that would have worked for this spoon too! But nothing about this spoon was easy. It probably shouldn't even exist. It resisted being created at almost every step of the way. And I refused to listen.