Hand Tool Shelf

I built another project for my hand tool nook in the apartment. Naturally needed a place for small tools and accessories.  I made a hand tool shelf, out of cherry, to hang above my petite Roubo.  This is the second project I’ve done completely with hand tools (with the exception of milling the boards).

As with all things the idea developed in my head for quite some time, but I did draw it out and made some adjustments, such as loosing the center drawer.  One thing I did not really do, surprisingly, was to figure out where each and ever tool was going to go. Something I slightly regret, but overall I am very happy with the design.

As much as I needed a shelf, I wanted to create a project to challenge my hand tool skills and joinery.  I decided the carcass would be held together with dovetails,  the shelves would get rabbets (or grooves), the dividers would get stopped rabbets and the drawer fronts would get rabbets.  A little bit of everything, but only if it was appropriate in the design.

Box Details

It wasn’t until I was nearly done that it occurred to me to add rare earth magnets to the size to house my dovetail saws.  I may add a few small magnets to the bottom shed to hold my marking gauge and similar items.

Hand Tool Shelf - 4Hand Tool Shelf - 5

Next up, a bow saw from the Tools for Working wood kit.

Roubo’s Apartment Workbench, part deux

I could have built three benches in the time it took me to finishing blogging about one.

I attempted to use hand tools as much as possible, but given my skills, not to mention my patience, I certainly used a combination of hand and power tools.

Here are the details of the build. I figure a picture tells a thousand words, so perhaps I’ll start doing more pictorial blog posts for builds.  Let me know what you think about this format.

Apartment Bench 1Apartment Bench 2

Apartment Bench 3

Apartment Bench 4

Apartment Bench 5

I went back and forth about how I wanted to integrate a Moxon vice.  I decided I wanted to have it permanently mounted to the front of the bench,  a choice that I have been very happy with.  I needed to install a locking nut within the sliding dovetail joint in order to allow the bolt to lock.  Pretty proud for coming up with this one on my own and it worked like a charm.  It should be noted that I did not install the Moxon vice until I got thru the tight apartment doors in Brooklyn.

Apartment Bench 6

Apartment Bench 7

Roubo Bench - 1 (1)

Packed for the trip to Brooklyn!

The Complete Encyclopedia of Spill Planes

This weekend I did a few small projects. Nothing really,  I turned a handle, I milled a few boards from firewood and I played with my spill plane.

My wife bought me a Veritas Spill Plane several years ago and I’ve only used it once, so it was time to break it out.  I added a tiny bench hook that kept it from sliding around. 

Spill pic - 4

Ready to light our six burner Garland stove.

What’s a spill plane you ask? If you are interested you can explore more about spill planes here:  The Complete Encyclopedia of Spill Planes.

Nah… I’m just kidding….. I did a little of googling and came up with the same three sentences.  

In essence– a spill is a long, straight curl of wood that was used to transfer a flame from a fire to a stove or a lantern, before matches came along in 1860.  Seems simple enough. Easy to light and easy to extinguish. 

Spill pic - 2

Apparently the name “spill” comes from the way the wood spills out of the plane as its cut, curling as it exits. 

Spill pic - 1

Of course like everything else in woodworking there are a variety of designs. The best examples I found can be seen here at the Tool Shed.

Spill pic - 1 (1)Also in my research I discovered others are able to make much tighter, cleaner spills than me. What else is new??

What could be better?  A woodworking plane that isn’t even used to build anything– except maybe a fire.

For more info check out these videos:

Give me Liberty or give me Tools!

This summer I made the pilgrimage to Liberty Tools.

I had to drop my son off for camp in Portland, Maine.  I was by myself so I figure I’d trek a little further north and check out the hand tool mecca I’ve read so much about.  I’ve gotten more into hand tools lately and thought I would see what I could find.

Liberty Tools - 5

My brother has a place in Maine, so I’ve made the trip to Lie Nielson, stopped in at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship and enjoyed all that Maine has to offer.  I figured there would be some quaint place along the way, a place by the road to grab a killer lobster roll, perhaps do a little antiquing, ya know– Maine stuff.  Well not so much.  I love a road trip and  I am always up for an adventure,  but this place is out there!  As always the anticipation was enough to keep me going.

Liberty Tools - 8

After turning down a nondescript road I finally arrived in Liberty. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.  There are approximately five buildings in the town, two of them belong to Liberty tools.  I started out in there main building, an old general store I presume.  It has that old antique store summer smell to it and is jam packed with tools!

Liberty Tools - 7

It is overwhelming at first and your not sure where to start.  It had never occurred to me but woodworking tools are just a portion of the inventory.  Every trade seems to be represented.

The really stunning part is to stop and think for a moment at how many jobs these tools have done.  How many houses, barns, shelters, furniture,  vehicles, toys….wow, the stories these tools could tell!

Liberty Tools - 4

I love this stack of saws.  So beautiful.  Its fun to think how many people owned each saw.  Were they handed down from father to son, borrowed from a neighbor,  spent all of its time in one trade-man’s shop, abandoned in a barn?  What caused all that wear and tear? Each one has so many stories.

Liberty Tools - 3

As you wonder the shop, it fascinating to pick up an odd looking tool and wonder “Hmmm,  now what was this for”

Liberty Tools - 6

But I have to be honest.  As I meandered through the shop I grew rather disheartened. I had hoped to find a few woodworking braces,  a set of tiny awls and perhaps a small treasure.  Instead I found a massive assortment of well used tools.  Tools that showed more than their age, but rather battle scars from a century of use and abuse.  I was on search for a tool that I could proudly bring home, take apart, remove the rust and restore to a working tool on my bench.  I came home (almost) empty handed.

Its not that those tools can’t be found, especially at Liberty, or don’t exist anymore, it’s that someone else has come though and beat me to it.  I got real sense of what pickers and Ebay has done to a place like Liberty. Perhaps its even financially good for the proprietors and they’re thrilled to see a professional buyer come through the doors and walk out with a truck load of profitable antiques, but for the rest of us, the scavengers looking for a bargain, its a little disheartening. Someone has beaten us there.

I’ve been hesitant to write this, because I don’t want to spread anything negative about a mom and pop establishment, one of the last of its kind for sure.   Perhaps it just wasn’t my day.  After all, as with any antique hunting, its always hit or miss.  So if you find yourself in that tiny corner of the country, by all means, take the time to stop in.  I am sure I will again.  Perhaps we can beat the pros to the next pile of treasures!





Roubo’s Apartment Workbench pt. 1

Now I have not confirmed with The Schwartz  but I do not believe Roubo ever made it to this side of the pond. If he did he probably would have moved to Brooklyn, with the rest of the French hipsters.

I’d like to think that if Roubo had lived in Brooklyn he would have designed his now famous bench to fit in his apartment.  You see space is a premium in NYC. My “garage” (which is a mortgage payment alone) is down the street and shared with 100 other folks,  and my landlord would not take kindly for me building a shop in the basement of our eight unit apartment building.  So its no woodworking during the week in Brooklyn. 

Now I am fortunate enough to spend my weekends upstate at our house in the woods, where I’ve built a tiny shop in the basement.  However,  during the weekdays, in the city that never sleeps, I find myself very envious of others who can steal a few minutes after work and spend time in the shop.  

Then it occurred to me that I might be able to carve out a corner of my home office for a little woodworking.  I presented this idea to my amazing and supportive wife, who agreed on one condition: we renovate the office, rethink the space, add some closets and make some desk space for the kids.  We’ve been in our apartment for 24 years and the room had not been touched in nearly 14 years, so it was time. 

So it got me thinking of what I wanted. Space was still a challenge, but as a designer I have always thrived on having restrictions.  The truth is I just wanted a space the I could spend an hour on a project, perhaps tune up some old tools, sharpen some handsaws and work on some smaller scale projects.  With NYC apartments you become very intimate with your neighbors, whether you like it or not, so hand tools was a no brainer. A quiet neighbor is a good neighbor!

Even in my upstate shop I don’t have the space for a proper workbench. Perhaps if I started from scratch, but not anymore. So I was merely observer at the height of all the Roubo bench building frenzy.  

woodworking bench shannon joinery - Google Search

As a Hand Tool School member I admired Shannon’s Joinery Bench.                       This seemed perfect.

Shannon’s Joinery bench was my inspiration.  The size was certainly compact and would give me a solid workstation. I headed to the google I found a few variations. 

I liked this one in particular.

Forgive me-- I cannot find the owner to give due credit!  Please let me know if you know the owner!

Forgive me– I cannot find the owner to give due credit! Please let me know if you know the owner!

I have certainly been intrigued by the Roubo joinery and I have a certain affinity for building items sans hardware. So I decided to adapt the Roubo design for my needs: which really just meant the size.  24×36* seem to do the trick. Naturally I over researched it, looking at different bunches and techniques.  Finally I turned to Schwartz’s French Workbench DVD.  Straightforward and just what I needed.roubo workbench schwarz - Google Search

*In the end the top was 24×32 as it had to fit thru the narrow hallway and a turn into the narrow doorway.

I headed to sketch up and drew up some options. As stated some measurements were dictated, so the height was the only question . I knew I wanted a Moxon vice, but when not in use storage would be an issue. So I decided to integrate it into the front. This certainly made me think about the overall height of the bench. After all, the whole point of the Moxon was to raise the piece higher while cutting dovetails.

Apartment bench -

My final sketchup drawing. Very helpful in this case.

After overthinking it I landed on 33″ high.

Based on this design I found:  I started considering what other storage options and accessories I could bring to the table (pun intended).  This guy went all out. I decided to keep it simpler, in the Roubo tradition, adding two shelves and a tool rest attached to the back. I wanted to finish it this year! 

With measurements and a cut list in hand I headed to my local lumberyard, Ghent Products.  I wanted the stock to be as beefy and the Schwartz/Roubo described.  I found some beams that were 16/4 x 7″ by about 10′. Of course they were on the bottom of a massive pile, so I had to be ‘that guy’ and ask the yard guy to forklift all the smaller, inferior wood out of my way. 

These massive beams took up room in my shop for nearly a month.

These massive beams took up room in my shop for nearly a month.

I had no misconceptions that they would acclimate to my shop in this short time but rather that’s sometimes how often I’m able to get back into the shop.

All in all it took me about six months. That certainly does not translate into man-hours, but it does give you an idea of how often I am able to get into the shop. Now that its done I thought I’d share the build with you.

So without further adieu….check out part deux…..

My once in a lifetime afternoon in the shop of Sam Maloof.

A few weeks ago, when I was in LA,  I snuck out of work one day and drove down to take a tour of the Sam Maloof house.

I was very excited to be in California and to have the opportunity to go down and tour the house.  I read up on the tour and it occurred to me that they mentioned nothing about the workshop.  Hmmm.  So I decided to email them and see what the deal was.  I explained that I was a woodworker from NY and was very interested in taking a peak at the shop.  I quickly received an email back from Kiristine who runs the tours at the Maloof house.  She pointed out that there was one day a month where woodworkers could come for a day and get a tour of the shop.  I explained that while I was still going to be in LA for the next opportunity, I was going to be working that day.  To my amazement she emailed me back and said one of “the boys”,  Larry, would be around that day and could show me the shop.  How awesome is that?

I arrived and for the first tour at noon.  I met Kristine and she told me to come find her after the tour ended.  The grounds are pretty are amazing by themselves, but the tour of the house is really something else.  You really get to walk around a true artist’s space. Nothing over the top or pretentious, just the setting of a very talented artist, with a keen attention to detail.  It’s a pretty magical place. 

After the tour Kristine took me back to meet Larry.  

For those of you who don’t know Larry and John, affectionally known as “the boys” were the workhorses of the Maloof shop. They received the rough pieces from Sam and put all the finishing touches on them from shaping to sanding to finishing.  Every piece went from Sam to the ‘boys’.  While Sam was the visionary, the ‘boys’ were the craftsman. Together they created the most amazing American furniture at an outstanding rate.

Larry White met us at the door with welcome arms.  He first showed me his space where he has begun to set up shop, he told me he recently retired from the shop, but that he was planning to use this space for his own work.  He then took me into the shop.  The shop where Sam and the boys had create decades worth of furniture.  The shop isn’t huge or glamorous, or particularly tidy.  It’s a working shop.  But it’s not the shop that’s special, its the wood and the history.  As we walked around Larry was kind enough to reminisce, telling me wonderful stories, as pieces in the shop would jar a memory.  He’d stop and investigate a template on a table, still curious about what was being built.  Great fun figuring out together what the other boys were creating.  And the templates!!!  Every piece has a template that hangs around the walls of the shop, all dated and labeled (in Sam’s writing) for the piece of furniture, as well as the particular part.  What a unique thing, to have the original templates.  Even after Sam’s passing, his legacy continues and grows as orders are still being filled.  Few crafts offer that ability.

It’s hard for me to articulate the joy I got from my time Larry spent with me.  Just being in Sam Maloof’s shop was an incredible experience, but to have someone like Larry take so much time to just share his time and stories with an aspiring woodworker such as myself is, well, humbling.

I had driven down from Hollywood where I spend my days working with the ‘hottest celebrities’ and most notable people in show business, and all I wanted to do was stay with Larry and learn more about the superstar Sam Maloof.

Woodworkers are the kindest folks.

No pictures at the house *From Larry's site

Thank You Larry!