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!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Coming Soon: Autumn tool sale!

Just a heads up that soonish, hopefully within a month, I will be listing a large number of tools for sale. Some of these are mine, but mostly this will be on behalf of Jim Tolpin. He is getting serious about going minimal (and I am hoping to stay that way) but his loss can be your gain. Decades of well collected and restored tools. It is going to be a bit of a process to catalog and present them, and I am sure they will go fast. This might be a good time to subscribe to this blog in order to receive the heads up. I will formally announce the sale a few days ahead of time so that those without internet addiction will have a halfway fair chance of being present.

One thing I will go ahead an mention, is that I will be selling my Wenzloff and Sons tenon saw. It has a 4.5" depth of cut and is filed rip at 10 tpi. It is a marvelous saw, but after two years, it is just a bit too large for my small body and the work I do. It is a bit of a custom job, one of the last to go out in the last batches when Mike was still active. Based on the Kenyon Tenon, it has a slightly different tote detail, it has 3 nuts in the tote like the Disstons do, while his image of the Kenyon has only 2. It does have the deep lamb's tongue detail of the Kenyon. Images and more details coming soon, but I wanted to get a heads up out there.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Anarchy in the PT

This week concluded "Build the Anarchist's Tool Chest" with Christopher Schwarz.

10 students completed the shell, skirts and bottoms of the chests while most of them also finished the frame for the lid. Christopher also build one alongside the students as an example. I was around to help Chris with individual's questions/problems, get the tools set up properly, prepare replacement members when mistakes were made (or the stock kits were deemed rejects), and, of course, clean the bathroom. It was a great group-- isn't it always?-- but this crew was in fact a bit unique. It could just be the type of folks that are attracted to his writing style, but the whole class was as much a barrage of witticisms, horrible puns, and sultry humor as it was woodworking. Well, not really. It was very much about woodworking. But there were jokes. I believe on one or two evenings, some of the participants in the class explored the entertainment options in the area and decompressed with chilled beverages and ocean views.

I only took photos during the mortising process, although Christopher's camera has images from the whole week. Maybe he'll get around to posting some of them.

Chris keeps heady lectures to a minimum, but not because he has nothing to say. There is just so much to do in terms of building. That said, his lectures and demos are completely saturated with utterly useful information. He can get information across at full bandwith - the students were progressing at warp speed through his exercises and explanations.

There was much pounding. Above is Denny, whom I had previously met in the By Hand and Eye course. In the background is Badger, who was also in that one.

The chests become useful long before they are complete.

This is Bill from Seattle. He's taken a few courses at the school already and really has the knack. If you read the Lost Art Press blog, you have already seen his mini and micro layout squares.

Bill also brought in his tool tote which he built in the Joinery Essentials class. It is great to see one being put to use, and he did a beautiful job on it, don't you think?

Check out Badger's Roubo print tool rolls.

Here is what it was all about. It was quite a spectacle to have 11 of these around at once. Every single one came out well and will doubtless be of service for decades (or more) to come.

Sadly for us but great for him, Chris is taking next year off to focus on his research and writing. When his schedule is announced for 2015, though, I would urge any and all to jump on it. Not that they won't anyway.

Now I need to get back to the school to sharpen up the tools for the next class...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

[offtopic] etching and aging

I've always wanted to have a tool or two engraved by Katherine Kennedy. When my daughter, Kestrel, was born, I contacted Katherine to see what it would take to get a Kestrel put onto my smoothing plane as an heirloom. I do not think she asks too much, but the timing was not right for my wallet. Someday, I hope.

Anyway, today I received a gift from my wife who has recently joined the team at Daily Bird Pottery. 

I haven't had reason to mention it here, but aside from my woodworking, I also kindof love entomology, and am especially fascinated by order Mantodea. So I was pretty stoked to come home to this:

I would love to hear from anyone else who has a mug combining handplanes with insects.

The mug was a birthday gift, I just turned 40. It was a nice touch to get carded buying a bottle of wine last night. Being Port Townsend, the cashier then informed me that Virgo has its new moon coming, or something, and that this is a great time to decide what I want to keep and what I want to get rid of. I said "I will get rid of it all!". Except the mug.

This has been a great week in that helping out with Christopher Schwarz's class at the school has been a total blast. Witnessing skills bump up on an hourly basis is such a delight, it makes every difficult step in my journey to learn and share what I have learned worth it many times over. Christopher is an excellent instructor, has an infectious sense of humor, and is deeply generous. Also, he knows stuff about tools and how to use them. With admitted bias, I highly recommend seeing him speak or taking classes with him. On that note, if you are at all local and live under a rock, you have a chance to see him this weekend at the Wooden Boat Festival. You can also stop by the school tomorrow to see the utterly glorious spectacle of 11 "Anarchist's Tool Chests" in their final stages of assembly. I suspect around 7pm tomorrow, there will be a palpable dip in the global beer supply as some tired students rinse the sawdust from their mouths.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Sins and Beezdiks

It is not a good idea to make a blog post without original photography, but here I am. Also, here is a beezdik, an Australian term meaning about 3 thousandths of an inch:

This week I am helping some guy named Christopher Schwarz with his class on building an "Anarchist's Tool Chest" at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking. While he is plently capable of running a class and getting 16 students to get their chests together, it is a lot of fun to take part helping the students realize what sharp truly is, suggesting local restaurants, and providing cheerleading service. Really, their dovetails, go dovetails, nice dovetails, are great! RAH!

There are 12 and a half or so chests being built. There are 10 students, one of them is also making the "travel" version, and Christopher is making one as well. I am not sure, maybe  that is eleven and a half. Anyway, it was 1200 lbs of poplar stock, hand-milled using machines (sideways glance here) by the always amazing Abel Dances. The students showed up, had a quick orientation, and quickly succumbed to Christopher's generously-oiled iron fist approach. Tears were shed, boards were broken (ok, one was broken), curses were uttered (ok, a lot), and a very good time was had by all. I believe everybody had reasonable tailboards done by the end of today, day one of five very long ones.

Back to the beezdik... this is the unit of measure which one should observe when placing the kerf of a cut onto the waste side of the line defining a pin. It is very precise. Puts the metric system to shame. Half a beezdik is even more precise, effectively doubling the snugness of fit.

It is great to see some old friends show up for the class. Some I remember from Jim Tolpin's pilot By Hand and By Eye class at the school, some from Joinery Essentials, and some from Woodworking in America. These dudes are all pretty serious, and the toolkits they are toting are enviable. It is nice to know that at the end of the week they will have some storage spaces to be proud of. More soon, and hopefully with actual photos of actual beezdiks.