Friday, February 3, 2012

For Readers Who Do Not Work Wood

Next week, based on a call from the Tom's Workbench blog, woodworkers are invited to try and help others get involved.

If I were to prepare a blog post or two about something basic and oriented towards utter beginners, what would it be?  What would convince you to try a woodworking project?  What kinds of information would improve you understanding or boost your interest?

I know several readers of this blog are friends and family members who are interested in my journey with a lost art, but not particularly interested in woodworking in general.  I would like to make posts for you, so let me know what you would like to know and I will do my best to accommodate.  Otherwise, I will aim to just set up a couple very simple and clear tutorials for the benefit of future websearchers.

I'm still a beginner in the world of hand-tool woodworking, and so this entire blog could be considered beginner's information.  However, I have been told already that much of what I write is not easily understandable to novices, and also that I am a great teacher when I need to be, and so, what would you like to learn?

How to flatten a board by hand?  How to sharpen a chisel or plane iron?  How to use various marking and measuring tools?  A tour of my shop and how I use it?  Let me know...


  1. I think seeing how to flatten a board by hand would be neat to see. I took a woodworking class at the local high school, and I bought rough lumber from a lumber yard, but they had nice industrial planers and joiners to use. I don't really have the money or room for those at home. So, it would be neat to see how I could get the same (much cheaper!) lumber and clean it up at home.

  2. I personally always enjoy shop tours. Especially when I see the actual shop, not just a list of all the machines that someone owns. I'm always on the lookout for ideas about how best to store things, to work efficiently, etc etc.

    Also, details about how to set up a plane would be good. I just got a jack plane and I'm realizing how little I know. How tight do you keep the lever cap? How do you know when the frog is in the right position?

  3. Bill - flattening rough lumber by hand is a good one... if I can get one person out there to try it, I will be very satisfied. Its easy and I daresay fun. It does rely upon having a good jack plane and sharp iron, and sadly buying one and getting a sharp iron is not all that easy for a total novice. However, this is a pretty good idea for a tutorial so I will give it some though.

    Grumpy - one problem is that my shop is not at all ideal! I would be glad to show more about how I make do with my temporary setup. My workbench is a converted all-purpose bench. Its too high, it wasn't smooth (but it was level) and it had no dogholes or vises. I have mentioned it a little in the past, but I could show more about how it works. I do have a new small shopspace, but it is currently full of lumber to build my new bench. I guess I meant more a tour of the tools I am using and how they are used, but I would be glad to show exactly what my humble little space looks like. I'll give this some thought too. I do have a couple machines: a tablesaw, a miter saw, and a planer... but they do not figure into my work here although I will be using the planer heavily for the workbench. Not sure if I should show these or not, again I will think on it. I would love a bandsaw and a drillpress, both of which I think can complement hand-tool usage nicely.
    Plane rehab is also a good topic, though maybe a little advanced for total novices. I have learned a great deal about it, though, and it ties in to Bill's idea. I will quickly answer your questions as best I can though:

    How tight to keep the lever cap is a matter of trial and error. If its too tight, you can't easily adjust the blade depth (the wheel will be very hard to turn). If its too loose, it will slip around. My rule of thumb: the locking lever should take a good bit of force to clamp down, but not take two hands. Quarter-turn adjustments of the tension screw are about right. There is a broad range of useful tension settings... if you find yourself wanting to change blade depth frequently, you might want to keep it loose. If you love one setting and only use your jack for one task, you might want to keep it really tight so you never had to mess with it. I keep mine in the middle for "worst of both worlds" :)

    To position the frog... Ideally, the frog should be just up to the back edge of the mouth, so that the inside of the plane sole and the frog are aligned in a single, ahem, plane. In theory, this should provide maximum bedding area for the iron; you want it supported all the way down to the sole with no gaps (in a perfect world). So I would scoot it all the way up, and see if your iron still projects properly. I had to file mine open when I added an aftermarket iron to my jointer, but this was not needed on my #5. I think, also, for a jack, since it is in general a rough tool, you don't have to sweat details like this too much. Most important is a good sharp iron and a cambered shape. For smoothing and jointing, frog position is probably more important... to be honest though, I have not noticed a ton of improvement since getting mine exactly "right". Aftermarket iron though, and a sharp iron (even the original 100 year old one) is a huge huge huge improvement that is immediately noticeable.

  4. This is a good post! I think it is really important to look at the kinds of apprenticeship schemes out there! I started taking electrician courses apprenticeship when I was at college and it has really put me in the right direction.

  5. I also started learning wood works just recently. My friend taught me how to use the woodworking router tool. I admit, it's hard at first, but with proper teaching and practice, any kind of wood work can be done easier.


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