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!

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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.

Cradle Pegs

When I was designing the cradle I went back and forth about what I would use for the though tenons.  I really like the look of through tenons and found quite a few options I responded to, but they were all linear spikes that didn’t feel right with the curves of the cradle.  I decided I needed to come up with a curved, or rounded tenon.  I also wanted to create one that would be easy to take in or out when the time came.

Sketchup was certainly my friend on this project:

Sketchup

My Sketchup helped me realize the head needed to be curved.  My sketchup skills however were not going to allow that!

Once I was happy with the design I needed to approach the one tool in my shop that I had yet to even come close to perfected–the lathe!

I started by glueing up two pieces of walnut.

I started by glueing up two pieces of walnut.

Cradle peg02

Next I headed to the nearly unused lathe to start to rough my stock

Next I headed to the nearly unused lathe to start to rough my stock

Based on the lines I roughed in--the pegs actually began to take shape.

Based on the lines I roughed in–the pegs actually began to take shape.

Cradle peg05

As I got closer, I cut the pieces down in order to create a smooth curved top for each.

As I got closer, I cut the pieces down in order to create a smooth curved top for each.

Dance of the Wooden Soldiers

Dance of the Wooden Soldiers

Next I headed to the band saw in order to cut the pegs  cleanly in half.  I don't use these wooden clamps often  enough, but sometimes they really come in handy!

Next I headed to the band saw in order to cut the pegs cleanly in half. I don’t use these wooden clamps often enough, but sometimes they really come in handy!

and then there were eight...

and then there were eight…

I had the cutest of shop assistants help me sand each of them down.

I had the cutest of shop assistants help me sand each of them down.

I laid each tenon out in order to trace out the mortise.

I laid each tenon out in order to trace out the mortise.

Cradle peg13

This made for a snug fit!

This made for a snug fit!

I must say this was really the 1st project that I had created using the lathe.  I am no turner (yet), but can see how the lathe and what I can create with it will begin to be in integral part of my designs and woodworking experience.

Thanks for stopping by the shop.

The World’s Most Expensive Dowels!!

Yesterday I took the afternoon off and headed up to our house to do some projects in my shop.  I had some sanding to finish up on the loft beds I’ve been building, I built some drawer spice holders for my brother and I made some dowels from scratch.

The drive up the parkway is beautiful. The temptation to speed is great.  But given all my tickets, I usually set the cruise control and glide along. Usually, but traffic was flying. You know the theory about if you drive with the traffic you won’t get pulled over?  Well that was just disproven.  Speed trap+ 20 cops + 80mph = another ticket.

But more on that, back to adventures in woodworking…

I designed some dowels into my latest project and was quite proud of myself, for incorporating a new technique, new to me at least.  But it is funny how we absorb information.  Part of me had it in my head, that I had somehow come up with it on my own.  Anyway, I finally took out the Lie Nielson Dowel making plate I had bought last year (it was was one of those purchases that I added on to an order and thought “I really need this!”) dusted it off and made a little jig.  I struggled a little bit as my pieces weren’t small enough, and I ended up breaking a few.  So I did what all good modern woodworkers do, I hit the internet.  Googled Lie Nielson Dowel making video and there popped up Marc Spagnuolo and his video on Drawboard Mortise and Tenon.  Damn!  How do these ideas get in my head!!!  Oh right.

Back to the bench I cut my maple pieces down to a more realistic, manageable sizes.  I then broke out my block plane and took the corners off.

dowel 1

Next I cut those pieces into 6″ lengths. I learned earlier that a longer piece has a greater chance of breaking as it gets hammered in.

Dowel 3

I used my leather bound mallet to drive the pegs through the holes and voilà!  I made a dowel!

Dowel 5

Proud of myself, I emailed my wife to show her pictures. She responded back: “The worlds most expensive dowels!”  She was right,  by the time you add up the 280 miles round trip worth of gas, the speeding ticket, the lawyer to get out of the ticket, and of course all the tools I “had to have”, well yes I guess those are some pretty expensive dowels.

Dowel 4

Did I mention I also built a spice rack?

Spicerack

Said Spice Rack.

Here’s another great video on dowel making and a nice jig.

Thanks for stopping by the shop.

Pay It Forward: Get Woodworking Week

It goes without saying that I love woodworking and spending time in the shop.  But with a busy work schedule and an active family it’s not always easy to escape to the shop. Sometime I need a little push to get going (especially If I didn’t clean the shop last time!).  Well Tom Iovino started Get Woodworking Week a while back to get us all motivated to get into the shop!

GWW13

I love my shop and the arsenal of tools I’ve been able to collect.  I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to afford a wide variety of toys tools.  It recently occurred to me while reading some forum post that not everyone who wants to “Get Woodworking” can.  Perhaps you are in school, you’ve been laid off, or well, tools just aren’t in the budget.  I’d like to help.

My father recently gave me some tools out of his garage.  There is circular saw, a jig saw, a hand sander, two drills and a hand saw.  The sort of things you might pick up at a garage sale.  These aren’t exactly Festool, but it will get you going.

Tools

I’d like to offer these to an aspiring woodworker, free of charge, to pay it forward.

Send me a note letting me know why you, or someone you know, could use some startup tools.  I don’t really want this to be a contest, I just want the tools to get into the hands of someone who needs them and will use them.  I’ll post your email here, but keep your last name between us.

All I ask is that you eventually build something for someone (to pay it forward) and send me a picture.  I will also throw in a $50 gift certificate to Woodcraft to sweeten the deal!

I’ll cover the shipping, but I have to limit this to the folks in the US.  I’ll choose someone Feb. 11th!

What do you say?  Send me a note below & Get Woodworking!