Twin Cradle Series, Part 3.2 : Failures and Fixes

-Through Tenons; Mortise failure/solution

It was not until I went to cut my mortises that I realized I should have laid these out and cut them before I cut my board into an oval, with no straight edges to register a cut. To make matters worse, the mortises were angled at 12 degrees to receive the headboard and footboard.

Attempt at chiseling out the mortis

Attempt at chiseling out the mortise

It was my intention to use a chisel out the mortises. I started on one and failed. In hindsight, I am not sure what I was thinking. It took me forever and I ended up with blow out on the bottom despite my best efforts. Ugh.

The result of my chiseling = Blow out on bottom side

The result of my chiseling = Blow out on bottom side

Plan B: Drill holes for my saw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then went to plan B. I drilled out holes and rough cut the mortises with my skill saw. This seem to do the trick, at least at this point of the process. I then went in with my rasps and snuck up to my layout pencil line. At least I thought I did, there were places that I ended up over compensating as I was trying to dry fit the pieces.

Perhaps overkill: I used my jig saw to cut the mortises.

 

 

 

As my hand tool skills have refined since, I believe I would now go in with a small saw, perhaps a keyhole saw.  But my Jig saw certainly kept me moving.

 

 

 

**If you’re reading this and nodding your head (up or down), I’d love to hear your feedback on how you would approach some of the tasks I struggled with.  As with all things woodworking there are infinite ways to skin a cat, and we can all learn by sharing our experiences.

Knot The Right Epoxy Fill

I love me knot….

I am a huge fan of knotty pine, and I am always looking to see how I can incorporate the knots into my layout. I have not, however dealt with the knots properly, until now, well almost.

How beautiful is this–Knot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I have more knot knot jokes, but I will save them for another post.)

 

Ugh. Nice Job, Genius.

 

 

The 1st ‘epoxy’ I purchased was from the local hardware store.  It was a grey paste. I am not sure what I was thinking as I applied it. Did I really think this was going to sand out and look anything different than a cement patch? And yet I proceeded.

 

 

Obviously I was not happy with the outcome. I moved on, but I tried another epoxy, this time a clear product (makes sense, huh!).

 

 

Better luck, but I still wasn’t thrilled with how it sanded out.  I need to try West Systems Epoxy and spend a couple hours experimenting with it.

 

 

Thanks for stoping by the shop. I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts on how you might have approached things differently!

The Do’s and Dont’s of Yesterday; Divide and Conquer

I recently picked up a 1st edition copy The Do’s and Dont’s of Yesterday by Eric Sloane at a flea market for a buck.  I have always been a huge admirer of his writing and his amazing paintings and illustrations of the american landscape and the folklore that created it.  His work has always spoke to me. For as long a s I can remember I have enamored with barns.  The massive shapes, the intricate joinery, their varied uses.  Truly one of the most beautiful and honest forms of architecture.  Eric Sloane chronicles so much from the working past of our country, through his art of barns, tools and anecdotes.  In this book,  he highlights the latter.

While this book is a quick read and more of a coffee table book, I thought it would  be fun to share some of the Do’s and Dont’s as they pertain to woodworking.  As the sub title suggests, they really are a Treasury of Early American Folk Wisdom.  Enjoy.

Do divide anything into any number of parts by using a ruler. By simply slanting your ruler and still using the inch measurements, you can get even more accurate measurements than using arithmetic.  For example, it seems difficult to divide a board ten and three-sixteeenths wide into six parts. But by slanting a one-foot ruler from one side of the board to the other, and then dividing the twelve-inch ruler into six parts, you solve the problem without arithmetic.

-Eric Sloane

© Eric Sloane

Learning to Read the Grain

I was fortunate enough a few weekends ago to take a class at the New Legacy School of Woodworking with Paul Sellers.  Paul has been getting a lot of attention here in the states lately, as he has recently open up a branch of his school in Greenwich, NY.  I was very excited about this news, as its only an hour drive from my shop upstate.

 

 

 

If I would have to put a label on myself, I would like to be considered a hybrid woodworker. Perhaps a more accurate label might be a power tool guy with an interest in hand tools.  That is until this weekend class.  As many of you probable know- Paul is a hand tool guru.  He is on a mission to bring hand tool skills to a new generation.   I must admit, as enthusiastic I was about taking the class, I was not expecting to be converted.  Paul makes a very strong case for the ease the use of hand tools over power tools.  In fact, one of the things that he talks about first is that hand tools are just that: tools, while power tools are not tools at all, but machines.

New Legacy is located on gorgeous piece of property in Upstate NY

The whole tone of the school is set as you drive onto the serene property, park and cross a a small footbridge and head to the newly constructed post and beam barn.  They have really done a spectacular job.  How can you not be inspired working amongst these massive beams with magnificent joinery?  We had three spectacular days that allowed the barn to be awash with natural light.

If you don’t know Paul or his work you should definitely explore his blog and check out his videos on You Tube. His book and DVD series will certainly give you an idea of the class structure and his approach to teaching.  But do not be fooled there is nothing like sitting in a class with a master craftsman with the ability to soak up information!  A note about the DVD’s:  I have read comments about how the graphics are over a bit over the top and it’s over produced, but I gotta tell you, as a guy who has slept through countless woodworking DVD’s I appreciated the effort, it keeps me excited and I am sure it will entice my children into watching it.

My box carcass

I took three day Woodworking Essential I class, part of a nine day series.  The project was the Shaker pine candle box.  A great skill building project.  While it may seem a simple project, like many classes, it’s about building these foundation techniques and not about the project.

 

 

Here are just a few nuggets I picked up along the way:

A great technique for planeing dovetails:  The board is placed under the box in the vise, creating a slight bow on the surface.  The plane is approached from the outside and prevents you from reaching the dovetails on the opposite end and creating tearout.

 

 

 

 

While it seems simple, center the box on the base isn’t always.  By laying out 45° pencil lines at each corner you can quickly and easily eyeball your box evenly on the base.

 

 

 

What a difference! My sawing technique has come miles!  I now understand how to gently approach the wood and let the saw do the work. Paul explained saw sharpening, how the teeth are set and the real difference in steel, teeth and the set.  Real eye opening.  I’ve already come home and dove right into learning all I can on saws and sharpening.  Something I didn’t really expect.

 

 

My Hand tool technique has also grown.  Paul will tell you you can do anything with a Stanley No. 4.  and he sure can!  I am now very comfortable with my planes and really understand what a small adjustment in the tool can make, what to look for and what to listen for.  My shavings are a joy.

 

 

I really walked away with so many positive techniques and things to ponder.  One of the most important things I think I took away was a real appreciation of how to read the grain.  There is definitely something about hand tools that puts you in touch with the wood that machines just can’t.  While I would not say I am posting my woodworking machines on Craigslist just yet, I do see how it will change my woodworking experience. I have so much more confidence now when I reach for my dovetail saw or my No. 4 plane.*

Paul has certainly had an influence of how I approach the wood. It is so much about listening to the wood and feeling the tool slice into the grain at the proper angle and with the right touch.  Before I would take such an aggressive approach that it would be impossible for me or the wood to react properly.  Paul has a very logical approach to his teaching, throwing out antidotes while he carves a spoon in the time it takes you and I to choose which tool to use, making it appear to be the simplest of tasks. I think that is truly what is so unique about Paul’s approach: he keeps everything simple. From teaching with  pine to primarily working with a no. 4 plane and small selection of tools.  But don’t think for a moment this is a simple man, he is a master craftsman with a keen eye, a serene demeanor and a hearty work ethic.   He is on a mission to pass on skills of the past, and make them skills of the future.

*Full disclosure.   I purchased a Stanley No. 4 Plane and a 1871 Disston Saw on Ebay the next day.

12 Lighthearted Questions for Matt Vanderlist of Matt’s Basement Workshop

We woodworking bloggers might not be here without this guy!

Matt Vanderlist of Matt’s Basement Workshop and Spoken Wood Podcast AND Wood Talk Online Radio took time out of his busy schedule to answer 12 of our lighthearted questions.

1- As the grand-daddy of woodworking podcasts: what podcast did you listen to and say: “I can do that!”?

There were three shows I listened to early on that convinced me I could do this crazy thing called a podcast.  First was Adam Curry’s (yep…THAT Adam Curry of MTV) “The Daily Source Code“.  Adam was always talking about how wide open it was for people to make their own content and would ask people to send him clips to promote their shows.  So I took the plunge.

In fact, my sign-off “Straight Grains & Sharp Blades” was inspired by Adam.

Adam’s a pilot and always wished his fellow pilots “Tail winds” in reference to having a good flight with tail winds pushing you the whole way.

Non-pilots would leave a message for his show and end it with “Tail winds”, so one day he said something about ONLY pilots could say that and everyone else would have to come up with their own phrase.

So I did just that, every pilot wants “Tail winds”? As a woodworker I often wanted “Straight Grains & Sharp Blades” when I work on my projects.

The other two shows at the time that heavily influenced me to give it a go were “Dawn & Drew” a couple still podcasting today.  And a now long defunct show, called “Who’s your daddy?”  These two shows convinced me if they could do it, I could do it.

2- What was your first paid commission?

A set of side tables for an old co-worker of my wife. Like so many people, she was convinced somehow “custom woodworking” was cheaper than buying it a big box retail store.

Sadly, I was green enough to say “OK” and take the job. If I calculated the time it took me (minus the materials) I probably made $.25/hour.

3- Did you grow up wanting to be a Cytotchnologist?

I never even heard the word until a college guidance counselor (Mrs. Garza) approached me at a career fair on campus.   She said it was a career with a lot of promise and good pay.

I’ve been doing this for 16 years now, I’m still waiting…

4- Have you ever taken a chisel to work and looked at your sharpening skills under the microscope?  

Nope, I work with a light microscope silly! You’d need an electron scope to get those kind of awesome pics.

All it would look like on my scope would be a re-enactment of the last solar eclipse.

5- What’s with the hat?

Keeps my head warm in a cold drafty basement.

Actually it was a gag gift from my wife on Xmas a few years ago, apparently I didn’t get the joke until much later.   So quite literally, the joke is on me.

6- What tool, that you inherited from your grandfather, do you value the most?

It would have to be two things; a pair of chisels that I underestimated their shop-worthiness for years and a small adjustable square.

The adjustable square is the perfect size for tool setups and so much more, that I go into a complete freak out if I can’t find it.  But the pair of chisels is what surprised me the most.

They’re a set of simple wooden handled chisels from all places…Montgomery Wards…and I remember as a kid using them to pry open cans and as screwdrivers.  It wasn’t until I was attempting to teach myself how to sharpen my tools that I reshaped and honed them and made this discovery that they take and hold a sharp edge like no other chisel I own.

7-  Have you ever built a project and then couldn’t get it out of the basement?

YES!  In fact getting this project out of the basement was probably the closest my wife and I have ever come to divorce.

It happened in my first shop at our old house.  The project was an armoire style entertainment center and I swear to this day I measured for the clearances to get it up the stairs and out the door to my garage so I could apply the finish.

What I didn’t account for was the extra height added by the moulding on the top of the unit (added at the last minute because “it just needed something up there…”).

When we were attempting to get it angled to go up the stairs, the finished ceiling dipped a little lower at the base of the stairs and it got wedged.

Shortly afterwards all hell broke lose and my kids and the whole entire neighborhood were treated to some of the most colorful language anyone had ever heard (almost entirely spewing from beautiful wife).

Needless to say, eventually when cooler heads prevailed we removed part of the moulding on top and discovered we had just enough clearance to get it up and out of the basement.

8- What’s the latest you have ever turned off the shop lights?

I’ve been known to stay in the shop until as late as 1 or 2 in the morning.  Typically when this happens, the wife and kids are off visiting friends and family out of town.

9- How many different woodworking catalogs are in your bathroom right now?

I think only one and it’s from Winter 2009? I now do a lot of my shopping and perusing with my iPad or iPhone when visiting the little woodworker’s room.  I bet after reading, that people will think twice about borrowing them in the future.

10- I know you spend your days staring into a microscope, did you create the Spoken Wood Podcast simply so someone would read to you at work?  

Pretty much yes.  I’ve always been amazed at the number of requests I would receive, before I launched the Spoken Wood Podcast, for more audio only content.  A large part of the audience listens to the show while commuting, working out, walking the dog and at work.

Add to it the requests for recommendations for favorite blogs and authors and it only made sense this would work.  I can’t take all the credit for the idea though, it was largely inspired by two other podcasts I’m huge fans of myself;

Escape Pod – a science fiction podcast in which short stories are read to the audience, and Slate Magazine’s daily podcast – where the host reads articles from their website.

I figured I enjoyed it so much and so did their audiences why not do the same thing with woodworking?

11- How many hours a week do you spend watching woodworking videos and reading woodworking blogs?  

I can’t say for sure.  It’s surprisingly low when you think about it.  I’m slightly preoccupied creating my own content.  But I’d say it’s a fair guess to estimate I spend easily 2-3 hours a day.

12- What project are you most proud of?

This is where I answer with the old “that’s like asking which of your kids do you like better?”.  But when push comes to shove, the one project I absolutely love hands down is our kitchen table.

I haven’t talked much about it before, but it’s big and heavy and covered with scars.  It doesn’t look pretty to most people and I’ve only recently come to appreciate its significance.

Besides being the place we gather around to eat and do homework and play games and talk and…whatever else it is we do there,  it’s also a reminder of the woodworker I started out as and the woodworker I’ve become.

It’s made entirely of ash and I designed it less for show and more for just being used.    There’s a lot of things I would do differently now if I were to build it again, but there’s also a lot of the beginner woodworker foolishness that I wish I still had.

When we first get started many of us don’t realize there’s limitations to what we can do with our materials and our designs.  We just jump in feet first and start swimming to the shore.  At some point we realize we’re in over our heads but by that point it’s too late.  You either finish swimming or drown.

I’m afraid of deep water, so I guess I kept swimming and never looked back.  That’s the personality flaws in myself I wish I could exploit more than ever.  The “I’ve got nothing to lose” and the “what do you mean you can’t do that…I just did  didn’t I?”

I think that’s where conventional thinking messes us up in our endeavors.  If you don’t experiment and fail once in a while you’ll never find out what you can actually do.

Many Thanks Matt!!

Twin Cradle Series, Part 3.1 : The Build

I must say it’s taken me four times longer to spit out this blog post than it did to actually build the cradle!

I learned several fundamental lessons on this project. The key lessons having to do with biscuits, filling knots, layout and what I’ll call the order of execution.

The Sides:

I laid out my templates and copied them onto the wood.  Careful to mark out orientation, keeping the wood grain parallel on my ovals.

The Layout

I then cut my pieces on the band saw…

Rough Cut on the Band Saw

The sides

Smoothing the sides with my Rigid Oscillating Edge/Belt Spindle Sander (looks like an ad for Rigid!)

I cleaned up the edges on my Rigid Oscillating Sander, I then routed the sides with a 1/8″ router bit before smoothing it out by hand:

My new Moxon Vise got a good workout for smoothing the edges.

The Base:

I dry fitted my boards together and then laid out the base using my templates. I then cut each piece individually.   Given the round tenons and the foot boards I thought it would be easier to work on smaller pieces rather than the final base size (I wish I had that forethought on the side pieces, but more on that later).

The Footrest:  I designed the cradle so that it could be rocked easily with your foot as you sat in a chair. Each side needed a comfortable edge that contoured to a foot.  This operation left me know choice but to invest in a set of rasps for TFWW.  What was I to do?  I was thinking of my families comfort after all!

I am lucky enough to live about a mile from Tools for Working Wood.  I read all I could on rasps, to decide which would best suit my needs.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, when I got there, tried them out and chatted with Tim, I over did it and bought a set of four.  I went with the Gramercy Tools Hand Cut Cabinetmaker’s Rasps and I have no regrets.  It has changed how I approach projects.

There are others that are much more schooled in the nuances of the rasps.  I suggest you check out these articles:

Jointing and Biscuits- I know biscuits are one of those things that half the folks say you don’t need them and the other half uses them because that’s what Norm did. Well the truth is I never watched that much Norm, but it was the way I was taught to joint two boards together, and well I’m just more comfortable doing it that way. No harm, no foul. And besides- what else would I do with that biscuit joiner I bought!

So I jointed my boards together before laying out my templates. Then I learned a valuable lesson regarding biscuit placement. While Inset the biscuits about 6″ from the edge I forgot that these rectangle boards I created were going to be shaped into an oval and a rectangle with tenons. See where this is going? I got lucky though– on the side ovals I cut out 4 biscuits at the corners and missed the others. Not so much for the bottom piece– lucky again though since that edge will never be exposed. It’ll be our little secret!

In the interest in getting this out, look for part 3.2!….

to be continued…

 

MDF: Medium Density Fiberboard (not to be confused with My Dear Friend!)

As I stated in my twin cradle series, I used MDF to build my templates.  I have tried not to use a lot of MDF in my shop, mostly because my wife hates the stuff and gives me lectures every time I mention the three letters.

My wife, who we’ll call “Ellen” (since that’s her name), is a production designer for film and television.  That means she designs the scenery and deals with the carpentry shops that build it.  Most of the scenic shops will not use MDF and the unions strongly discourage it’s use due to the health concerns.  I was shocked to read a recent article in Fine Woodworking, that while it recommended using dust protection, it did not mention anything regarding any potential health risks.  Pretty irresponsible.  Present the information and let the reader decide, but please don’t ignore the obvious potential risks.

I found it frustrating, however, that this commonly used, extremely flat and useful material was getting such a bad wrap (even if not in FN).  So I decided I needed to do my homework and find out what the story really is.  So here is what I found:

MDF or Medium-Density Fiberboard is made from wood fibers glued together under heat and pressure.  It is commonly used in mass produced furniture, for a veneering substrate, as well as moulding for kitchens and baths, plus you and I like to use it for templates and shop jigs.

It has many qualities that make it an ideal replacement for plywood or particle board.  It is dense, flat, stiff, has no knots and is easily machined.  Unlike most plywoods, MDF also contains no voids and will deliver sharp edges without tearout.  However, MDF is not entirely isotropic, since the fibers are pressed tight together throughout the sheet. Like natural wood, MDF may split when woodscrews are installed without pilot holes, it can however be glued, doweled or laminated, but smooth shank nails do not hold well.

In spite of its many positives, medium density fiberboard does have some drawbacks. Its comparatively high density makes it heavy and difficult to move. It dulls more quickly than other wood options, and it is somewhat susceptible to chipping and denting. More seriously, the glue used to bind the wood fibers in MDF contains urea formaldehyde, which the US Environmental Protection Agency classifies as a probable carcinogen. The cancer-causer is released in sawdust particles when MDF is machined, and these can quite dangerous to inhale in large quantities. This gives rise to health concerns for workers who produce it and cut it, but these risks can be minimized by wearing goggles and masks and by using saws that cut the board more cleanly. For the average person working with MDF, sawdust can be avoided by gluing pieces together with wood glue instead of nailing them. Alternatively, boards of MDF can be connected with wood-joints or pins. Yet, even when it is not being cut, MDF is constantly releasing urea formaldehyde at a slow rate, so it is important that its entire surface be coated in a finish to trap in the poisonous chemical. Wax and oil finishes are acceptable, but the most effective seal is an even layer of paint. Properly coated, well-maintained MDF poses no health threat, but consumers should be aware of the risk of cancer from unfinished products. 1

History:

MDF Was developed in the US in the Early 1960’s based on the design of Hardboard, a similar product invented by William Mason in 1925.  Mason Attempted to turn woodchips discarded by Lumber mills into affordable insulation, but when he forgot to turn down his machine one evening, his machine continued working, turning the wood chips into a thin durable sheet. 2.

Materials:

Perhaps MDF should be considered one of the greenest products in woodworking as it is all recycled materials (or perhaps not due to the use of Rainforest wood!).  The most common raw materials are wood chips and saw dust, but some manufacturers add other materials such as corn silk and wasted paper such as telephone directories, old newspapers, and cardboard.  The raw material that goes into MDF must do through a process before it is able to be used. A large magnet is used to remove any impurities and separate the material by size.  The materials are then compressed to remove water and then fed into a refiner, which shreds them into small pieces.  Resin is then added to help the fibers bond. The mixture is put into a very large dryer and heated by gas or oil.  This dry combination is run through a drum compressor equipped with computerized controls to guarantee proper density and strength.  The resulting pieces are then cut to the correct sizes with an industrial saw while they are still warm. 2.

Here is a cool video on how MDF is made.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DJypFyptRY

Now for the Health Concerns:

MDF has a reputation for it’s health risks.  The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified all wood dust as a human carcinogen and the substantial dust produced by MDF has been connected to other health problems such as asthma.  One of the affordable resins used as a binding agent in MDF is urea-formaldehyde.  Formaldehyde is also classified as a likely carcinogen on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Prolonged exposure to formaldehyde can result in cancer, including nasal and sinus cancer and leukemia. These cancers take several years or decades to develop (usually 10-15 years). Working eight hours daily for 40 years at the level of the government standard would give you a risk of about 2 in a thousand for getting cancer (based on the OSHA standard of 0.75 ppm and 1991 USEPA estimates).   When formaldehyde is present in the air, some individuals may experience adverse effects such as watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation.  Repeated exposure to formaldehyde may cause bronchitis or skin and asthma-like allergy. Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde, whereas others have no reaction to the same level of exposure. There is limited evidence that formaldehyde may damage the developing fetus and affect female fertility.

The OSHA Formaldehyde Standard requires employers to conduct air monitoring or have other documentation that shows exposure limits will not be exceeded. Workers’ average daily and peak exposure must be below 0.75 parts per million (ppm) and the peak exposure must be below 2 ppm. If greater than 0.1 ppm in the air is expected, then the employer must enforce labeling, education and Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) requirements of the OSHA Hazard Communications standard.   OSHA does not have a wood dust or urea formaldehyde standard. OSHA may rely on The American Conference of Governmental and Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) guidelines for wood dust when evaluating a wood dust hazard. ACGIH recommends average exposure to inhalable wood dust be kept below 1 milligram per cubic meter (mg/m3); and half that amount for western red cedar. 3.

Precautions and Options:

What are the recommended special precautions should you take while handling MDF?     1) always wear a protective face mask such as a respirator 2) always wear eye protection, 3) Only saw in a well ventilated room with adequate dust collection, 4) wear gloves to avoid formaldehyde coming in contact with the skin.  Does any of this stuff sound familiar?  Don’t we do that already in our shops?  Well maybe not the glove/formaldehyde thing…but you get the point.  It’s all common sense.  Remember: Sawdust is a known carcinogen!   If your not comfortable using the stuff, then don’t, or at least find a product that you are comfortable with.  Some companies, especially due to California law, are replacing the resins with phenolic resins, such as Medex  or Ultra Stock-Free. Check em out and see where you can source them locally.

So, if you haven’t figured it out by now:  I’m no doctor, no OSHA consultant, and no chemical engineer.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I’m just searching for them and sharing what I’ve found.This is one of those topics, like SawStop, that could be debated for days in the forums.  The truth is, even as a hobbyist, you need to educate yourself and take what steps you feel are necessary for a healthy work environment.  Like anything we use in the shop, it is important to know the risks and potential hazards.  People work in extremely dangerous work environments every day, but they are safe when they take the appropriate precautions.

Sources:

1.  http://www.onlineschools.org/what-is/what-is-mdf/

2. http://www.ehow.com/about_5103952_history-medium-density-fibreboard.html

3. http://www.elcosh.org

Read more: The History of Medium Density Fibreboard | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/about_5103952_history-medium-density-fibreboard.html#ixzz1rTtnQcn7

http://www.finewoodworking.com/item/32969/does-mdf-belong-in-fine-furniture/page/all

Some other options for MDF with no added urea formaldehyde:

* www.healthybuilding.net/healthcare/2008-05_ProductComp_NoAddUrea_updated.pdf

* http://www.furniturelink.ca/greenoptions.htm

12 Lighthearted Questions for Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench

For this installment we reached out to Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench!

1- You are an Emergency Prep Manager, a weather nerd , a mac nerd, a tool nerd, a sports fan, a shop monkey, an educator,  a cook, a husband and a father of two boys,  never mind all the great blog articles you put out each week: where do you have time to fit in any shop time?

It ain’t easy! Fortunately, I have a very understanding wife – and I don’t really watch a lot of TV at night. Getting out into the shop at the end of the day – even for an hour – is a tonic for me. Gives me a chance to clear my mind of the stuff that goes on during the day and get into the groove. I also like to take a chunk of part of the weekend – a few hours really energizes me.

2-Is it about the tools or the wood?

The wood wins hands down. Tools are nice, but when there’s no wood (or no projects to work on), they sit out there in the shop by themselves. The wood – on the other hand – calls to me. And, when a board goes through the thickness planer, and I see the figure, color and grain pattern, there are moments when I still have to catch my breath.

3-What is the most surprising poll result you have seen?

Just how many people hand-cut their dovetails.  It’s an awesome skill to have, and I am jealous as heck of those who can cut them that way. Given the fact that a high-end saw and set of chisels will set you back more than the cost of a premium router jig, I thought more folks would go that way for sure.

 4-How many pieces of furniture in your home have you built?

Wow… I sure have built a lot of it. There are entertainment centers, blanket chests, desks… let’s just say that a big part of planning for projects involves deciding where they will go.

5-What sports will get you out of the shop?

During football season, I end up going into my shop. The local radio broadcast of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers games is better than what’s on TV. But, I will get out of the shop for college basketball. And, coaching my sons in their basketball leagues will get me away from the bench and make me put down the Wood Magazine. 3-2 zone anyone?

6- I see you use a Tormek system.  How many different sharpening techniques have you tried?

How many fingers do I have to count on?  I’ve done scary sharp (sandpaper), oil stones, diamond stones, a Work Sharp and then the Tormek. Each of these methods has its pluses and minuses… But, that Tormek really does make it easy.

7-You are a great story teller. I enjoy how you set up each story with an analogy.  Is there a book in your future?

Funny you should ask that. Tom’s Workbench actually started as a book called Knothead: Adventures of a budding woodworker. Once I got started with the blog, it sort of became the beast that ate the book. I would LOVE to write a book one day about woodworking… One of these days…

8-Being a self proclaimed weather nerd do you obsess about the current weather conditions and the effects they might have on your wood projects?

Not really. Since I woodwork in Tampa, I know I’m building with the impacts of high humidity in mind all the time. I try to make allowances for expansion and contraction at all times, or I build with plywood. So far – knock on wood – no troubles…

9-Red or White?

Red. Big red. Zinfindel. Shiraz.  Boooyah…

10-What tool do you own that is so bad, you would never think of giving it away to a friend or in good conscience sell on eBay.

It’s a router bit. A lock miter router bit. I think I’ve spent more than 20 hours (over a few days) on that sucker and never got it to work. Ever. It sits in my shop – I can’t bring myself to throw it out, but I’d never give it away.

11-When creating a dado: table saw or router?

Depends. I dig the table saw a lot. Plowing dadoes with a dado stack while using the rip fence is very convenient. But, the larger the piece gets, the more I rely on the router.

12-What project has been sitting in your shop uncompleted for more than a year?

It’s not in the shop – it’s in my oldest son’s room. I built a ‘home office’ system for him – lower cabinets and upper bookshelves with a desk spanning the two units right under his window. Nice place to sit and do homework. I still have to trim out the unit, build the upper doors and do some other finishing tasks on it… I think I put the cases and desk in place back in 2009… One of these days, I’ll get to it… 🙂

Many Many Thanks To Tom!

I’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions.  Who would you like to hear from?

Northeastern Woodworkers Association’s Fine Woodworking Show

I was fortunate enough to attend the Northeastern Woodworkers Association annual Fine Woodworking show again this year in beautiful Saratoga Springs NY.  This is the 21st year for the all volunteer show, and it is really worth the trip.  There is a showcase room with some very impressive work by local members on display.  The show floor is a nice mix of smaller dealers, local sawyers and hands on demos.  While there is certainly attention given to the young ones, with a toy section devoted to kids- giving them the opportunity to use tools and build toys, the participants in the show were, well,…..let’s just say I was the only one there sporting a Modern Woodworkers Association t-shirt (know what I mean?).  Although I did speak with some fellow Wood Whisperer members! Paul Sellars was in attendance and had a similar observation you can read about on his blog.

Peter Sellars giving demos and promoting his new school

I sat in on Paul Sellers demo.  I am very excited to attend a three day class with him in May at his New Legacy School of Woodworking which is opening this month right here in Eastern NY.  My hand tool skills need sharpening!  I picked up Paul’s book as well- Working Wood 1 and 2: The Artisan Course with Paul Sellers, which looks great, and I am still getting through it.

Tico Vogt and the LCM (large carcase miter) Shooting Board.

Tico Vogt, a show favorite, was on hand to debut his prototype of the LCM (large carcass miter) Shooting Board.  I had a great chat with Tico and was able to give the LCM a spin. I don’t see a need for me to own it in the near future, but I was impressed and I liked the biscuit feature.  You can read more about it on his blog.

Chuck Brock and me.

One of the highlights of the show for me was the chance to talk with Chuck Brock.  Everything you’ve read and heard is true.  He is the ultimate gentleman.  We had the nicest chat about woodworking, work, and even mutual acquaintances.  Lot’s of vendors at these shows should take a note from Chuck.  Stop selling your wares and just introduce yourself and have a chat with a woodworker.  That’s the best thing about any of these shows.  The chance to talk with others who love what you do.  The sales, etc will happen regardless.   I own the plans and DVD to The Low Back Dining Chair, it’s certainly on the list.  Chuck prodded me in his southern accent “Now what are we gonna do to get you building?”  Sometimes that’s all the incentive one needs…

Here are some pieces from the show that caught my eye:

Wegner Chair, Charles Trabold. Syracuse, NY
Maple, Walnut, Oak and Bubinga
Oil

Maloof Rocking Chair
Thomas Wetzel
Middle Grove, NY
Tigre Maple
Shellac

Lounge Chair Kitty Scharl of Voorheesville, NY Mahogony Oil, Poly

Lounge Chair
Kitty Scharl of Voorheesville, NY
Mahogony
Oil, Poly

Pedestal Table
Howard Jackson of Altamont, NY
Cherry, Maple Veneer
Oil Varnish

Mission Style Mantle Clock
Paul Ryan of Coeymans, NY
Cherry
Walnut Stain, Laquer

I’ve decided to join the association, although I am not sure how much I’ll be able to participate given the location, but dues are only $25 annually and I think it’s important to support groups like this.

12 Lighthearted Questions for Kari Hultman, The Village Carpenter

I am introducing a new portion of my blog entitled 12 Lighthearted Questions.

The idea being that I send out 12 informal questions to a variety of woodworkers on the blogs and publish their responses, unedited.  Hopefully it will provide a unique perspective into some of our favorite woodworkers and to serve as a way for them to share a little more insightful information about themselves, with us, the woodworking community.

Why 12? Well, there are 12 inches in a foot, 12 eggs in a carton, 12 steps in the program, and 12 seemed to be the right number of questions that a woodworker might actually take the time to respond to!

I recently went back and read all of her amazing blog posts from 2007 on and I’ve chose Kari Hultman, of The Village Carpenter, as our first candidate. She was graceful enough to accept:

12 Lighthearted Questions for Kari Hultman, The Village Carpenter

1- Was there a woodworker in your family growing up?     Nope. My Dad is a retired nuclear projects engineer. I learned at a very young age not to ask him what he did for a living, because he’d tell me. In engineer’s details.

2- Who is your biggest woodworking influence?       Probably Chris Schwarz. I discovered his blog soon after I started mine, and his enthusiasm for and research into traditional woodworking helped steer me in the right direction.

3- What book would you buy as a gift for a novice woodworker?         If he/she were interested in working with hand tools, I would suggest Country Furniture by Aldren Watson. I haven’t read many power tool books, but the book that got me started in woodworking was The Complete Manual of Woodworking by Albert Jackson and David Day.

4- Does being a graphic artist influence your woodworking?      Definitely. Principles in design are found in all the arts and crafts: balance, composition, negative space, pattern, hierarchy, contrast…

5- What flavor ice cream?     Turkey Hill’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough!

6- You seem to use a lot of pine, which most woodworkers won’t touch.  What’s your favorite wood to work with?     I do love pine, especially the smell. My favorite wood is Pennsylvania cherry. Its workability, warmth, and depth are superb.  When it’s finished, it glows.  Plus, I can get it for a buck fifty a board foot. I’m never moving from this area.

7- I am a big fan of the drawer hanging jig you blogged about.  What is your favorite Jig?     It’s a jig that holds thin and small boards based on a design I found in an old woodworking book. I wrote a post about it: http://villagecarpenter.blogspot.com/2007/12/my-favorite-jig.html     (I did read all of Kari’s blog posts, honest I did!)

 8- Do you compost your sawdust?      I use it to line the walkways between my raised flower beds, and my dog (Daisy) uses it as a cloak of invisibility.

9- What is the 1st thing you do when walk into the shop?     This is silly, but I’ll often walk through my shop with my arms outstretched, looking from side to side, ala Vanna White. It’s sort of the way I “hug” my shop. Crud. Did I just write that out loud?

10- What is the most complicated joint you have ever attempted?      It’s not a complicated joint, but it was challenging for me—the through dovetail and tenons on my new workbench. The fit had to be such that the joints would hold the top tightly but could be pulled apart for transport. And look pretty.

11- What would woodworkers in the blogosphere be most surprised to learn about you?     I once stood in line for two and half hours to get Norm Abram’s autograph.

12-  What project is on your bucket list?      There are a number of antique tools that I plan to reproduce. Some involve engraving and inlay, neither of which I’ve ever tried, so I’m very excited.

Apparently this is Kari's secret to keeping her nails looking so nice!

Thank you, Thank you, Thank You to Kari for being such a great sport and sharing her “innermost” secrets!  And Thank You for all the years of amazing blog posts!  I can’t imagine anyone reading this does not read Kari’s Blog, but please head over there and show her some love!

Let me know what you think and hit me me up with comments and suggestions.  I’d love to hear from you.