The Return of the Lighthearted Woodworker

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted!  It’s been a pretty intensely busy year filled with lots of adventures. So forgive me if I haven’t taken a breath to blog about them.

So what’s been keeping me so busy? 

- Well for one my wife and I, along with our very close friends, opened a cheese shop on Labor Day. Signed a lease June 1st and I spent the summer being a carpenter and general contractor in order to transfer the space from a clothing store to a cheese shop. More on that in a future post.

-Work– just like the rest of you– I have have a day job, that often turns into a night job

-Life.

But I have managed to get some woodworking time in:

- I built most everything in our shop: reclaimed wood walls, stud walls, counters, shelving, butcher blocks, doors, etc . etc., etc

-I finished a tool box I had started in a  hand tool class

-a couple of never ending shop projects

-just last week took a field trip to the George Nakashima house with the NYC Woodworkers guild

-finally a good shop cleaning!!

In my travels for the cheese shop……

-I found an awesome old tool chest that I plan to use in our apartment

-found a Stanley #50 1/2 mitre box for $10 that I plan to restore.

- picked up a great old tool box on the streets of Brooklyn that I now use to store all my chainsaw parafanalia down in the yard.

- went dumpster diving in Brooklyn and found some great old Douglas Fir beams.

- scored some beautiful reclaimed barn wood from a friend.

I’ve decided I would like a small bench in Brooklyn, to satisfy my woodworking cravings during the week. So I’ve been designing and started building a joinery bench. So look for more on that.

So life is full, and never dull. 

Look for more here– The Lighthearted Woodworker has returned.

Incarnations of a Reoccurring Dream

As with all dreams I’ve had a lot of incarnations of my dream shop, and lots of ideas to mull over in my head.   What tools would I want to put in it? How would I use a Roubo type bench?  How much space do I really need?  With all this new space maybe I’ll take up blacksmithing as well!  I’ll need a welder!  Wow– I need more power!  Windows!  I want lots of natural light!  But most barns don’t have a lot of windows. Hmmm.  We don’t have a garage now, but we now we need a three car garage (in order to house the dream sports car and dream pickup truck)! Dust collection in the floor of course (thank you Vic).  So many things to consider.

This rarn seems about the right size and general shape

This barn seems about the right size and general shape.

I’ve spent hours over the years staring at spots in the yard- sighting and plotting out ideal locations for a barn.  I believe I’ve landed on the perfect spot:

Potential Barn Sight

Potential Barn Sight

So many things to dream about!  It can keep you up at night!  This one I can conceived one night in bed:

The Concept Shop!

The Concept Shop!

Before that I had a friend help me with some basic design ideas I had and figured that would get my juices flowing,  without my sketch-up skills slowing me down.  Here are some of the designs he helped me create:

Barn Frame 1

Barn Frame 1

Barn Frame 2

Barn Frame 2

Barn Frame 3

Barn Frame 3

These certainly gave me a model to play with and be able to consider space.  Probably the thing I gained the most from this exercise was to realize I don’t want or need a full second floor. The third garage door makes the building a littler grander than I would like. And while I like a modern spin on traditional design, I would most likely go with a more traditional design.

What do you think?  What version do you like?  Leave a comment below.

A Guy Can Dream Can’t He?

The weather in the northeast and much of the entire United States has been unreasonably cold over this winter.  I have several small electric heaters in my tiny basement shop, and finally found the motivation to finally rewire a 220 heater I had and now I can get it quite toasty in there.  But that was nearly all the work I got done in the shop the past few weeks, outside of a good cleaning and assembling some Christmas goodies.

So I decided to stay in by the wood stove, work on my sketch up skills and design my Dream Shop!

We have talked about building a barn on the property for almost as long as we’ve owned the house.  In fact, when we were looking for houses, we really were looking for barns that could be converted into a home (thank god we did not do that!).  We own 10 wooded acres, we’ve attempt mini-farming and a barn only seems natural.  Thankfully my wife has always been on board that this barn would also be my wood shop.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with barns and timber frames.  Being from New England we’ve had our fair share of amazing barns dotting the countryside. There is something so incredible about these structures.  Although built primarily to house livestock, feed and farm tools these buildings have come to represent so much more than that.  When you stop and think about went into building a barn, entirely hand built by a community, with engineering skills past on from generation to generation.  Then think about the amount of trees that needed to be forested and moved, to the milling and joinery, to the actual raising.  Each and every structure is an amazing feat.  I could go on and on about barns…..in any case what better place to create a shop than within a timber frame barn?

I’ve gone over and over in my head what the best design for a barn/shop would be.  Our property is on a hill– so a bank barn certainly seemed to make the most sense.  I knew approximately the size shop I would want and that I wanted room for a 2-3 car garage, something we do not have right now. I also want to keep the size in scale with our house and the property.  This helped dictate many things and I started pulling together research of barns that would fit the bill.

Barn Research

Barn Research

I say all of this as if I only started thinking about this idea few weeks ago, but the truth is I’ve dreamed about this for years. I love my little shop, but it is incredibly ‘cozy’.  I’d love to be able to spread out and work on larger projects someday.

I drive by barns, sometimes stopping to snap some pics, and try to imagine how that would look on our property and if that would fit our needs.  I’ve sketched out tons of ideas, but it was not until recently that I studied a barn that I drive by constantly and is about a mile and a half from my house.

BarnUndermyNoseThis barn really seems to fit the bill!……….

I’d love to hear about your Dream Shop, leave a comment below.

Stay warm and stay tuned for more on my Dream Shop!

I have to admit, I have a serious vise.

Hello, My name is Chris, and I’m….

Hold up!  Not that kinda vice!!   A fantastic 115 year old Sheldon Vise.

After hearing the Schwarz talk about his Sheldon Vise at a Northeastern Woodworking Show a few years back I decided to start trolling the interweb for this Schwartz approved devise.  After all, if it was good enough for him, it might (just might) meet up to my standards.  I didn’t have a whole lot of luck at first, so I set up an alert on ebay.  Sure enough, my patience paid off and before long I was the proud owner of a rusty old piece of iron!                                                 Wahoo!

My rusty iron boat anchor.

My rusty iron boat anchor.

I am always interested in the history of the old tools I come across. After acquiring a tool such as this, I immediately hit the google machine to see what I can find, (especially when I have to wait for a delivery!).  In the case of the Sheldon vise I did not find a ton of information, I did, however, find a lot of people asking for “what kind of vise is this???”

In any case, what I did discover was that:

E.H. Sheldon, began his career as a woodworking teacher and was always looking for ways to improve the learning experience for his students. That passion led him to invent a rapid-acting vise, which was quickly followed by benches and eventually a line of laboratory furniture and furnishings for the school market.

1898 E. H. Sheldon builds and sells a rapid-acting woodworking vise he invented while teaching manual training in Louisville, KY.

1900 – 1910 Sheldon begins building benches to accompany his vises when manual training and domestic science are added to the curriculum of many schools.

Initial production is handled by a Chicago woodworking shop, but the high-quality product soon results in more orders than the supplier can produce. Sheldon sets up his own factory in a Chicago loft.

1911  The company is moved to Muskegon, Michigan in response to an offer of larger manufacturing facilities.1

US Patent 656,793 - Woodworkers Vise

US Patent 656,793 – Woodworkers Vise

I must say I was on the fence about how to approach old tools. There are two schools of thought on old tools:  collectors and users.  Part of me wanted to be a collector, to restore the tool meticulously to its original state, but the practical side of me looked at all the rusty old tools I have sitting around and determined that I was in the user category.  My decision was certainly influenced by Derek Olson’s restoration of his mitre box.  A perfect balance of “restoring for use”.  BTW, If you have not checked out Derek’s blog, you are missing out and should stop reading this and go over there!   I had read enough about restoring tools and figured this was a perfect opportunity to give some techniques a try.

I decided electrolysis was the way to go.

I got a plastic bin and wired up some rods in order to surround the vise.

I got a plastic bin and wired up some rods in order to surround the vise.

 Leave it to me, I had just thrown out an ancient, inherited battery charger I had never used.  So I acquired a new charger.

Leave it to me, I had just thrown out an ancient, inherited battery charger I had never used. So I acquired a new charger.

Add a little Arm & Hammer to the H2O...

Add a little Arm & Hammer to the H2O…

The positive is attached the rods and the negative attached to the tools.

The positive is attached the rods and the negative attached to the tools.

...and what do you know about that it actually works!!

…and what do you know about that it actually works!!

The results are pretty remarkable.

The results are pretty remarkable.

While I didn’t find a ton of information on the vise I did constantly refer back to a blog post by Megan Fitzpatrick about the installation of her Sheldon vise.  The base is angled and can be a bit tricky to install.  Thank you Megan!

vise 20

After reading Derek’s blog I did make the decision to give it a coat of black acrylic.

I added some suede to the inside of the face

I added some suede to the inside of the face

vise 21

Installed!

Grips great and can really hold a work piece.  Not bad for a 115 year old tool!

Thanks for stopping by the shop.

Source: 1 http://www.sheldonlabs.com/meetus/our-story/

My problem with Woodworking in America!!

That’s right!  You read correctly!

I attended Woodworking in America 2013 this past weekend.  This was my second WIA. It’s been a few years, but I have to say I thought perhaps things had changed since I last attended.  But no, same as before.

Allow me to explain.

I started Friday off by attending a class called Timber!  by Roy Underhill.  Roy had an 8’x 24″ log that he turned into a square beam right in front of our eyes.  While he did break a sweat, he was able to keep up his classic witty repartee.  Naturally he used nothing but hand tools: an axe, an adze, a froe and a mallet.  Who owns these tools??  Roy used his regular “camera tricks” to make it look easy and to make matters worse he make it look like sooo much fun!

Roy

Roy

Next attended Peter Follansbee‘s class on carving wooden spoons.    Boy, again  with a guy who can split a log with his froe and carve up a spectacular utensil in no time, all while telling amusing antidotes and make it look so easy that apparently even I could do it. Don’t be fooled though, Peter “cheats” and uses green wood.  Oh sure, green is easy, Peter! I’ve been struggling a lifetime with hard, dry wood, not to mention dull tools.  Oh, and if I had a hand made knife made from forged steel and made my own handles I bet I could make it look that easy too.

Peter

Peter

I needed a break and headed down to the marketplace.  They really needed to trim down the number of vendors!  Who has the time to spend with all these amazing toolmakers? Not to mention the amount of woodworkers roaming the floor? You can hardly move one booth without running into someone and spending thirty minutes in chatting about tools wood or just sharing a laugh.  Who has time for this?

I spent the end of the day at an online forum of bloggers, the people who keep me entertained with woodworking content throughout the year.  Sure it sounds great to put a face to a screen name or an avatar, but its entirely another thing to spend three nights swapping stories and sharing libations late into the night.

The gurus of the online woodworking community.

The gurus of the online woodworking community.

BeerSaturday morning I popped around to several classes, unable to make up which one I wanted to attend and then spent the afternoon with Chair Maker Peter Galbert in his class “A Windsor Chair, From Log to Living Room”.  I have to say, I feel a little sorry for Peter.  He spent the entire afternoon giving away all his secrets of how he builds his beautiful windsor chairs.  Step by step, he demonstrated how he uses his froe, splitting a log, shaping and steaming it into the arms, creating the seat and the spindles, even his tricks for alignment and assembly.  Another one who made the building process seem fun and attainable. Peter- pretty soon everybody will be building Windsor Chairs!!

Peter

Peter

So what’s my beef with Woodworking in America?  I left Sunday with a rush of enthusiasm that I could hand hewn enough logs to build a barn, carve a kitchen full of spoons and fill my house with Windsor chairs.  Of course, in order to do that I am going to need a lot of new tools!  Oye.

As if that weren’t enough I had intended to take a nap and catch up on episodes of Dexter on my plane ride home.  Instead I found myself reading “Home Building and Woodworking in Colonial America” cover to cover (I picked it up while chatting with Joel from Tools for Working Wood).

Now do you see my problem?

I guess my biggest problem with Woodworking in America is I need to wait a whole year for WIA14!

The "new" tools I picked up at a tag sale this morning for $12.

The “new” tools I picked up at a tag sale this morning for $12.

A penny saved is…..well, perhaps a finger saved!

I attended my first Woodworking in America back in 2010, and had an amazing experience.  I learned a ton in the classes, enjoyed strolling the marketplace and of course hanging out and bonding with so many fantastic woodworkers.

So the next year I was determined to go again. Although it would be tight, I had saved the money to go, but then a little thing called ‘work’ got in the way and I had to change my plans.  Luckily I had yet to sign up or make any travel arrangements.  Pretty bummed, I decided to take the money I had saved to go to the show and put it to good use.  I decided it was time to start saving for a new table saw.  I had my eye on a SawStop for some time but couldn’t see spending that much money on a tool for myself (instead of on my kids). Just about all of the large tool purchases I have made have been bought entirely though some other means:  thank you Amex points!  My Powermatic 14″ bandsaw, for instance, was literally bought from my coin bucket (something we have done for years!  We bought an antique bed years ago, with $600 worth of pennies.  It’s amazing how it adds up!). And so my SawStop savings began.

Jump ahead a year, and once again I was determined to attend WIA.  Work had been good to me and I was able to afford the trip.  I did not procrastinate and I booked the conference, the flight and a hotel several months in advance.  But the weather had other plans, Hurricane Sandy came barreling into NY that week, wreaked unbelievable havoc and my flight was therefore cancelled.  Our family was safe, and WIA was the least of my worries.  I was grateful to the folks at WIA for their understanding and reimbursing my funds (which went straight into the saw bank).

The Saw Bank!

The Saw Bank!          (The cheap saw in front was to cut the top off.)

The kids and I broke it open shortly after that to see how sweet our pot actually was and to see where we stood.  Kids love counting money, BTW!  I have to admit, I didn’t drop just my coins in the bucket.  There were plenty of days where bills were shoved in, days where I didn’t eat lunch or I had some per diem left from a business trip or I would just wanted to feed the beast!

Teaching my kids some math!

Teaching my kids some math!

So, it  added up, but I had my eye on a 3hp Contractor saw and the pot was not deep enough yet.

Nearly a year passed and the kids and I cracked open the “safe” once again.  I had been even more diligent about stashing money away and it paid off.  This time I had not only enough for the SawStop, but the accessories I wanted.  Wahoo!

So it took a few weeks before I was ready to order it.  I wanted to give the shop a really good cleaning and rethink some things.  This saw was going to take up a much bigger footprint in my tiny shop.  I also needed to add a 220v outlet, and I’ve been in the middle of several other big projects around the house.

Goodbye old friend!  You were quite good to me as I grew as a woodwoodworker.  the good news is your are going to a good home, with some good friends.

Good-bye old friend!  You were quite good to me as I grew as a woodworker. The good news is your are going to a good home, with some good friends.

Wow! My tiny shop looked huge without a table saw in it.  I did have a minute where i thought, maybe a nice Roubo instead...

Wow! My tiny shop looked huge without a table saw in it. I did have a minute where I thought, “maybe a nice Roubo instead…”

Finally I bit the bullet and ordered the saw I had saved up for for so long.  It took just over a week to come into my local Woodcraft over in Springfield MA.

I took the day off and went an picked it up.

I took the day off and went an picked it up.

The only time I ever threw my back out was the day I tried to put my old saw together by myself.  Not again.  This time I had the assistance of my friend David, in return --he got the old saw.  A great deal for both of us!

The only time I ever threw my back out was the day I tried to put my old saw together by myself. Not again. This time I had the assistance of my friend David,  in return –he got the old saw. A great deal for both of us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So last weekend I finished assembling the Sawstop after saving my pennies for two years.

 

And next weekend I will be attending Woodworking in America after waiting for two years!

 

I can’t wait to take classes, stroll the floor and of course hang out and bond with some great woodworking friends.

Thar' She is!!

Thar’ She is!!

Thanks for stopping by the shop.