Saturday, November 5, 2011


Fine Woodworking has included my bench(more here)in their latest issue, Tools and Shops #223, page 83! Here's a link to the online post. I'm pretty excited about it, getting into FWW has been a goal of mine for quite a while now.

Original Sketchup Concept

I've been using the bench for almost two years now. It's performed as I'd hoped. I don't use the ebony guides in the vise for aligning stock, a bevel gauge works better, but I still use them for setting the gauge. The main argument against workbench tool storage is that as soon as you clamp stock to the front of the bench, the drawers are inaccessible. The fear is that a tool will be needed, necessitating the unclamping of the workpiece. This has happened to me a total of three times in the last two years, and moving the part isn't a big deal at all.

I don't use the Tucker very often, the Twin-Screw end vise is the one I use 90% of the time. However, it has saved me a lot of grief from the other 10%. It excels at oddball jobs, and I love it for rasp, spokeshave, and carving work. It's a luxury I'd have a very hard time giving up.

Now that I've used one, I recommend a tool tray highly. Those who complain that they just collect chips don't clean up enough.

There are two things I'd change. I'd like the top a little wider and a little longer. I'd have one less top shallow drawer and I'd apply the space to the bottom largest. I can't get a #7 bench plane to fit unless I grind 1/16" off the top of the iron.

All told I'm very pleased with it. I still catch myself looking at it, and it's a real conversation piece with clients.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Test Drive

So school's going well, I'm really enjoying it. I'm challenged, and it's fun. I unfortunately don't have much time for the woodshop, but I have been able to make a few shavings.

It turns out that John Economaki is a friend of a friend of mine. Through a tool trade he made, I was able to test drive the Bridge City Tool Works VP-60 Variable Pitch Plane.

This is the Limited Edition Tool for 2005, number 391 of 400.

The frog is adjustable from to 30° to 60°, and the iron is mounted either bevel down or bevel up, giving an attack angle range of 30° to 90°. Lateral adjustments are made by the side wheels.

The iron is impressive, 1/4" thick, 2 1/8" wide, and optically ground on both faces. Lapping only worsens the finish, the only time the back is stoned is when removing a honing burr.

The sides and sole are held together with double dovetails. The sole has adjustable mouths, both before and after the iron.

The adjustments are made with dovetailed gibs, and held with screws.

Cocobolo knob and tote, infilled lever cap and depth adjustment screws.

Rather than a chipbreaker the VP-60 has a articulated lever cap and a pressure bar. The bar clamps down on the iron close to the edge to hold it and dampen vibration.

This plane performs as promised, and does it while looking good. I was able to take fine shavings in several different situations at their appropriate angle of attack. However, I found making transitions and setting up the plane difficult and time consuming. The lever cap screw requires a setting I would consider quite loose, overtightening causes the sole to lift off the workpiece. It worked fine once I understood this, but it was very frustrating before I did. The articulated lever cap and the pressure bar take some getting used to, and are difficult to dial in when you're inexperienced to the plane. I almost gave up on several occasions. I would've preferred a Norris or Bailey style lateral adjuster over the side wheels, but once accustomed to them they work well.

The VP-60 works well in all types of cutting situations. However, I feel that the switch between angles takes too long to want to do it often. Several dedicated planes could be purchased for the same money. This plane isn't a rational or justifiable purchase by any means, however, that doesn't kill my lust for it. It's beautiful, appreciated by both my wood and metal working friends. I'm fortunate to have been able to try it out. You should see what it can do to birds eye maple.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

What's Happening

Over the last five or six years I have been finding myself more and more interested in the Machinists trade. It stems from my obsession with antique woodworking machinery, while rebuilding them and investigating ways to make parts and do repairs. This summer I decided that it was a good time in my life for a change, so I'm taking a pre-employment machinists course with intent to become a journeyman.
Woodworking isn't my first trade, I spent the first ten years of my working life as an apiculturist. I grew up around honeybees, my earliest clear memory is being stung while watching the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. We didn't have a honeyhouse at the time, and my parents were extracting in the kitchen.
Beekeeping opened some interesting doors for me. After high school I earned my Certificate of Apiculture at Fairview College, Fairview, Alberta. From there I did some queen rearing and pollination work in California, worked for the largest honey producer in Saskatchewan, and maintained the research colonies and assisted students at Simon Fraser University.
After I returned home to Saskatchewan I decided to persue woodworking. It was my favourite activity by far in high school, I used to feel like I was getting away with a scam because I received credit for doing something I enjoyed. I managed after a lot of pestering to land a job at Works of Art Furniture, the finest local shop. There I've spent the last ten years loving my job and growing my skills.
The last few years have come and gone with a lot of changes. My boss sold his building and moved shop out of town, and has since semi-retired. The local economy is very strong, but was still affected by the recession. Prices for everything have gone up. I have two daughters now. Woodworking for a living was always a tough gig, and it's not getting any easier.
So, I've decided to make a change. I'll ALWAYS be a woodworker, it's far too deep in my soul to be able to stop. However, instead of being my source of income it will be my source of pleasure. I'm actually looking forward to being able to woodwork as a hobbiest, without the pressures of deadlines and profits. I have a head full of designs, techniques, and experiments that I'm excited to persue.
I know my background in woodworking will assist me in the future, and I'm sure that machining will lend me insight into woodworking. They are very similar trades.
I fully intend on maintaining my blog. I have several posts on deck, there are a few projects I haven't shown you and tools I haven't spoken about yet. Later on I hope to show a machinists view of woodworking, and share any revelations I may have. Don't leave yet, it's just getting good.
So, Constant Reader, wish me luck. I start on a new path.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

New Gets

I went camping last week, an activity I try to do at least once a summer. The one or two times in my life that I haven't gone I've felt as though the season has passed me by. It's a necessary event that recharges me and allows me to perservere the cold Saskatchewan winter.

There are a number of items that I pack for a camping trip, as far as I'm concerned only three are mandatory: six cold beer, a bag of sunflower seeds, and a new book. The campground is the only place where I have the time and freedom to indulge in these pleasures. This year I brought along Chris Schwarz's The Anarchists Tool Chest.

I enjoy Schwarz's writing. It's casual, fun and interesting. I usually skim quite a bit while reading, picking up the important points and avoiding boredom. Not so with Schwarz, I read everything, each word holds interest for me.

The focus of the book is to build a tool chest, to the highest standards. The entire project is based on the principles of solid construction, with an emphasis on useability, portability, and exceeding durability. Every detail is well thought out and presented with Schwarz's expertise, won through detailed examinations of existing period tool chests.

The secondary topic is on the tools that fill the chest. Schwarz lays out the needed handtools to perform every woodworking operation. His list is a complilation of his own experience coupled with information found through his research of antique woodworking literature. He details the characteristics to look for in each tool, and in several instances gives his specific reccomendation. Also included is a "Good-to-Have" list, tools that aren't necessary but increase efficiency and pleasure in the work. His opinions are well thought out and presented clearly, between that and his first hand knowledge of available tools make this valuable advise.

The third topic of this book is the one I enjoyed the most. Schwarz waxes philosopical, I side I haven't seen before. His ideas relating to time, money, and labour resonated very clearly with me. I paticulary enjoyed the passage outlining his shifting of priorites; buying well made things from skilled people at a fair price, refusing to buy cheap, "disposable" items, and making exactly what he needs, as opposed to buying something that will make do. As a craftsman and a friend of craftsmen, these points are something that I strongly agree with and live by. It's unfortunate that this writing is confined to a book directed to woodworkers, a group that by nature would live this lifestyle. I feel that the world would be much better off if it were required reading for everyone.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

New Gets

Everytime I'm at Lee Valley I check over the discount table while waiting for my number to be called. Every now and then I fnd a good deal, last time I got two pair of Brusso hinges.

I've been thinking about making a wall mounted tool cabinet, and these will work perfectly. They are the first pair of Brussos I've held, and they are magnificent. They make the no-mortise type I've been using look like garbage. The leaves are thick, the countersinks crisp, and the action is wonderful. Machined from solid brass, they swing freely without slop. All they require is a quick buffing before installation.

These were discounted because of being old stock. They bear the names of Larry and Faye Brusso, who started the company and sold it sometime pre-2003. These hinges from the new Brusso company sell for $43.50 a pair. I purchased $87 worth of hardware for $35. Insert gloaty emoticon here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Gets

I bought a pair of Winding Sticks from Lee Valley. Winding sticks are used as sighting devices, laid across a board they accentuate twists and define high points. Traditionally they are shop made of wood, but I liked the idea that these would stay straight regardless of the environment. Additionally they have machined grooves spaced 1/8" apart, for readily estimating the amount of material for removal.

The one thing I didn't like about them is their lightness. The aluminum feels flimsy. I decided to fill mine with Beech.

I started with an off cut from my bench build. The quartersawn parts are located in the rough stock. I started by jointing the bark side, giving me a reference face parallel to the grain. The bandsaw was used to was used to cut the sides off, following grain lines. The blank was left a little taller than the final dimension.

I have several short strips of ebony left from several years worth of table inlays. I want a dark strip across the top of the infill, to better contrast against the milled surfaces of the other stick. They are only an 1/8" wide, so I inlayed two strips, side by side. The groove was cut on the table saw with a flat tooth blade, a little shallower than the ebonys height. This allowed me to clamp the strips in firmly.

After the stock came out of the clamps, the inlay was planed flush, and to final height. Next the stock was ripped in two, right up the middle of the two ebony strips. My show faces are bookmatched.

Now I locate the centre of the hanging holes, and there drilled a 1/2" hole with a brad point bit. Ebony plugs were cut, glued, and driven into the holes.

After the glue dried, I cut the plugs off with a flush cut saw. I cut up a coffee can lid to use as a shim. This keeps the background from being marred by the saw. I cut in from all around the plug before sawing the middle through. This prevents the plug from snapping off and breaking below the surface. A smoothing plane brings the plug flush without grinding ebony dust into the surface of the white beech, as sandpaper would do.

After the plug is flush the centre is found with a wheel gauge, and drilled though with a 1/4" brad point drill. The hole is given a light champher with a hand held countersink.

The strips are planed to their final thickness. A rabbet needs to be ripped to allow the infill to fit. I use a flat tooth blade in the tablesaw to cut it, slowly raising the blade and bringing the fence in until it is of the right size. A featherboard keeps the stock tight to the fence, eliminating the thin stocks want to flex. Not shown is the strip of 1/4" plywood clamped under the featherboard, keeping the feathers lifted and clear of the blade.

A transfer punch is used to keep the infill inline with the hanging hole, and the ends are marked with a knife. They are sawn off, and the marks sanded clean.

I then broke edges and lacquered them. I used epoxy to glue them into place.

I like the way they turned out. The wood strips add a surprising amount of substance to the sticks.

The ebony contrasts well with the milled aluminum, and it and the beech are used throughout my bench, contributing to a consistent look in the shop.

I also like the way that they have the reliablilty of metal and the look of wood, and are a nice combination of old and new school.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

New Gets

Things have been pretty slow around here for the last few weeks. I've decided to go on paternity leave, I'm off work for the last four months of my daughters first year. That way I can help out around the house, bond with the kids, enjoy the summer, and actually take a "holiday", my first in almost six years.

I still sneak into the shop for some me time, I've been making an entertainment centre as a gift for my folks. They've been using the gutted shell of their old console TV for years now, and deserve better. It's been a long time coming, and it's almost done.

I picked up a Veritas Skew Rabbet Plane a while back.

This plane is for cutting rabbets, both with the grain and across it with its scoring cutter. Attaching a beveled guide to the fence allows for panel raising.

It is made to the Veritas standard of quality. Everything is well thought out in its design.

The depth stop is robust, and the sliding, ribbed mount is a much better design than the rod style found on their plough plane.

The scoring spur is adjustable. It can be slid and locked into alignment with the iron, and lifted out of the way when it's unneccessary. The adjusting screws are accessed in the fence post mounting hole.

It does an excellent job, cleanly severing the wood fibers just ahead of the cut and leaving a nice sharp corner.

It's even more fun with the grain, making nice thick curls and accomplishing the job quickly.

The fence is locked into position using the same collet arrangement found on the plough. It works very well, easy, fast, and ensuring the fence is parallel to the sole. The mounting rods can be swapped for a long version, 2 1/2" longer than standard, to accomodate thick secondary fences.

This plane is difficult to set up. I completely dissassembled it for the photo above, loosing any starting point for reference. I spent a long time getting it to work correctly after that. I don't see how Veritas could improve on it though, it is just a complicated plane. They do have the body tapped for two blade-guiding set screws that help.

The only real complaint I have about this plane is pretty minor. I dislike the tote. It's shape is ugly and uninspired. I was also unimpressed with the amount of cross grain scratches under the finish.

I do like this plane. It is a lot of fun to use and works very well, once set up. Move over, tablesaw and router, I have a new favourite way to cut rabbets!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Wood Show 2011

I am fortunate to live in an area that celebrates craft. In Saskatchewan we have several groups that focus attention on local artists, and here in my hometown there are at least four groups meeting monthly that focus on woodwork. The biggest is the Saskatchewan Woodworkers Guild. They have been active since 1978, and hold meetings, charity events, and shop tours. The Guild has a very strong educational presence with a large library and skill development workshops. The year end Wood Show is a highlight for me. This year I was floored by the quality of the work shown.

Turning by Phil Ochosky

Segmented turning by Leo Fritz

Intarsia by Bob Baker

Turning by Ab Odnokon

Turning by Jack Dzus

Marquetry by Walter McNabb

Turning by Duncan Birch

Carving by Cal Isaacson

Pierced turnings by Debra McLeod

There is always a section featuring work produced by local high school students. This Gibson replica was made by Aaron Berg.

This Oud, Guitar, and Lute were made by Weldon Gray. The quality of work is amazing on these pieces.

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I'm a woodworker on the Canadian prairie.