Friday, September 13, 2013

[Mailbag] Subscribing to the blog, Veritas Inset Vise, Tool Sale, and more

Eventually I should write a formal FAQ, since many of my Qs are indeed rather F. I do try to answer them as thoroughly as possible, so don't hesitate to A.

Here are some recent ones which have come up with some regularity:

Q: How do I subscribe to the blog?

A: It is not as obvious as it should be, but there is a subscribe link at the bottom of the page. Here it is:

You can put that into a news reader of your choice, and the reader will take care of the rest. That said, you should also just be able to put into your reader and it will find the subscribe post. 

What is a news reader, you may ask? If you are not already aware, but do enjoy reading blogs, you have missed out. A news reader is a dedicated program (or website) which will constantly check to see if your favorite blogs have updates or not, and if so, will present them in a tidy fashion. I have always loved Google Reader, but it recently went defunct. I now use Feedly and am more or less happy with it, but I have not looked very far for alternatives. If you have trouble setting it up, let me know what type of computer or device you are using and I can try to lend some specific guidance.

Another option, although I have not tried this service, is to sign up for blog updates via email using it:

Q: How much for that Wenzloff tenon saw? When will it be listed?

A: I'm still going through my tools and will list a few at a time along with prices. All I can say is be patient, but thanks for your interest. On that note, Jim Tolpin is also still processing his tools (and having a garage sale tomorrow, Sep 14 if you are anywhere close to Port Townsend). 

Q: How do you like the Veritas Inset Vise?

A: I like it a great deal. As seen above, I use it on the far side of my bench where it has not yet been in the way of anything. I also have added a long row of dog holes, which is a lot of arguably needless drilling, but it is very convenient as I never have to crank the vise too much to get a pinch. It works very well for the style of work that I do. The main complaints that I and others have are that the dog is too tall for thin stock (easy to fix) and that it is "too slow" (never an issue for me). I worked for a long time without a real vise at all, just planing stops, dog holes, holdfasts, and a Wonder Dog. If you like the Wonder Dog and do not mind the permanent modification of the inset vise, you will like it. It is a very elegant and affordable solution. I have never enjoyed tail vises for workholding, although I do like them for vertical ripping at the bench.

Q: Why do you not post videos?

The short answer is because I do not have a decent camera anymore. The longer is answer is that I hope to and intend to; perhaps as soon as this winter as I have more free time. On that topic, I am curious if readers/viewers would want to see more how to stuff (there is already so much out there), documentations of project builds, or would special topics rarely discussed elsewhere be more appealing? Or just general woodworking entertainment? I do enjoy teaching and translating the tricky concepts into easy-to-grasp examples, and video can be great for this. At the same time, what is really important is that you get to work. If I can make a video on any topic which encourages you to actually practice on your own, I will aspire to make this happen.

Q: What type of ___________ should I buy?

I probably get this most regarding bench chisels, but I get it frequently about all kinds of tools. I do not like to answer these, but I will generally try. Working at the school, I have had an opportunity to see perhaps more varieties of tools than typical, and see those tools worked hard. It is difficult not to form opinions or at least observations of quality, ease of set up, durability, and so forth. That said, as time goes on I understand more and more clearly that a great tool will make a good woodworker better, but even the greatest tool is no substitute for practice and skill which can only come from practice. I would rather see someone spend 100 hours with a hardware store chisel than spend 15 minutes a month with a boutique tool. All that aside, if you have a specific need to fill and your budget is established, I can share my observations.

Q: How can I get started? How do I build a bench when I don't have a bench?

A: I get this a lot. I understand. This is a topic that deserves a whole entry, or perhaps a book. However, I can say this (although you won't like it):

If you want to get good at woodworking, start by doing the dishes.

Seriously. Learn to enjoy the mundane. Take pride in being meticulous. Invent work for yourself. Try to find better ways. Accept zero slop. Hand dry them until they squeak and then do it once more with a fresh towel. Time yourself against the machine. I have never put this to the test, but I have a feeling that as I watch students for a week, and how they learn and progress, I could describe their relationship to their household chores. 

I might get more into this later.

Keep the questions coming, it is always my pleasure to help others find what they are seeking!


  1. I was sure the woodworking/dishwashing connection was a weird metaphor, but as I read your explanation I saw the connection. Then I thought about how I wash dishes and it filled me with optimism about the future of my woodworking (I am a rank beginner). I aspire to create beautiful furniture, but I am currently focused mostly on cutting and paring to a line and planing true and square.

    In dishes, as in woodwork I find escape in the mundane, to be able to shut out the hustle and bustle of life and all of the competing demands on my attention. To be able to focus on nothing more than scrubbing out that one stubborn grease spot, or smooth that one swirly patch of tearout is a weird kind of nirvana for me. What first struck me as a bizarre metaphor snapped into a fitting analogy right before my eyes. As a cabinet of sparkling dishes is the product of relentless attention to each speck and cranny as they are being cleaned, so is a piece of fine woodwork the product of sharp focus on each detail and technique along the way.

    Thanks for this one. I always find something I wasn't quite expecting in your entries and I thoroughly enjoy that about your writing.

  2. Oh man! We were coming up to look at houses on Saturday, but I know what else we're going to do!!

  3. I love the dish washing/woodworking analogy! I know there are some woodworkers who expect their wives to do all the dish washing. Maybe there's how now that it at least will be a shared activity. :D

  4. Good stuff..keep updating such Good information...thanks for writing such a post...sale24...keep posting.

  5. Additional benefit to doing the dishes: It can earn points from others in the household, points redeemable when it comes time to acquire tools and/or wood.


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