Thursday, October 23, 2014

What's Going on in there?

A while back (actually records indicate 5/30/14) I received a tapered iron by way of a giveaway from "Nice Planes" (which regrettably has since has joined the list of "no longer in production" planemakers) I want to share with you the process of how I often design projects. If you don't like to see how sausage is made, feel free to move along, in the next couple days I'll have a post sharing the build of this project (and after action report for Brian).

Like most projects, I start out shoehorning something new into the massive list of items I desire to make, usually under the premise of "It'll only take a couple days." Also per the norm, I rarely have clarity and just jump in, even though at some point that happens after my design process reaches full fermentation. I really enjoy the design process and since it always overlaps working or finishing another project, there isn't any time when I'm twiddling my thumbs.

My first thoughts were that in the spirit of the kit received, I should knock out a Krenov style laminated plane and put it to use. The only real problem being that I didn't NEED another bench plane (want?...always) Another problem is of course that I don't generally do simple and that's when my mind starts to wander and dream of possibilities. I want to show my random thoughts along the way, many will be left, never to be explored, while others may morphs into other projects. Some of the planes "not made" could have been better than what I ended up with, and who knows maybe someday I'll get the opportunity to explore them. If anyone desires to take one of these further, please do; and let me know, I'd like to see how they turned out. (or of course commission one)

*Warning: there are some images I have lifted from the web that are not mine, hopefully they are obvious, and I am not claiming them as my own work, but want to illustrate my design process

Layered lamination pattern?

  • Started out with Nice® iron (3-1/2 long, 1-1/2 wide, 1/4 thick)
  • Decided laminated plane ideal
  • Thought about stacked layered plane with scroll work filigree or Marrakesh patterns
    • Each layer could be CNC cut and stacked 
    • Great Wave or comfy rear tote?
    • (use dowel pins for ease of alignment)
  • Curved wave rear tote came to mind, followed by Hokusai "Great Wave" print (one of my favorite works of all time)
    • See that someone in Dresden has similar idea on a larger scale...
    • This could look good with dyed maple laminations
    • What wood can I easily get that is white enough, Maple? Holly?
    • In Dresden
      • Corian! It's Heavy, stable, colorful, machinable, warm to the touch too
      • Thought about thin layering blues & white corian for 3D print wave plane
    • Wedge for plane would be wood and In shape of boat from print
  • Think to self: Self, it will be a lot of work to make CAD models for this plane and tool paths for many layers.
  • Found local makerspace
  • Stumbled across white corian without looking, should look for blue
  • Consider epoxy inlay for wave design
  • Considered what some ivory white planes might look like
  • Considered scrimshaw And inked carvings
  • Boxwood not ivory, but white with "ink"
  • Remember my visit to the Sindelar Tool Museum and his ivory plow planes and "scroll" planes
  • the Beautiful K4
    Krenov Plane
  • Reference other inspirational design touchstone planes, Krenov, S&S K4, DaedTool Index planes, SMT loopyMacpherson's Art Deco etc. I admire
  • Some more sketching including Braun and porcelain paths
  • Think about porcelain & China delicate rolled edges
  • Eve from wall-e inspired by Apple and "the future"
  • Given solid white material, think "Apple" Or Eve from Wall-e
  • Research Johnny Ives, Dieter Rams, Bauhaus, Braun
    • The clean, modern, textured Braun SK2
    • See Braun SK2 Radio think about texture and minimalist future shape
    • Interesting the statement a "modern" plane makes given it's ancient nature
    • Ovalia chair (it seemed cooler in my head)
    • Look at the Ovalia chair
  • Nail down some realistic sizes for this plane
    • 2-2-1/4 wide For 1-1/2 iron
    • ~7" long
    • higher angle ~55°
    • No more than 2-1/2 tall to adjust iron
  • Saw documentary "Dear Mr Waterson" think about simple shape and inlaying a daily Calvin & Hobbes strip on the side
  • My "final" sketch
    • Decide I need to flip through  my compilation and find an appropriate one
    • Can't decide if it is aspirational for Watterson's  Incredible art or derivative and not what the artist would want…
  • More sketching "inside the box" determined by plane size leads me ultimately to this. I decide that I can probably knock it out in a couple of days (and stall on the shop redux), and if it doesn't turn out, then it'll make an interesting paperweight and I still have the components for a Krenov plane to pursue some other direction. Hopefully in the finished  piece you can see some of my influences and thinking.
    End result, laying in some walnut test shavings
    Woodworking in the Stone Age ... or ... Introducing the iPlane 7

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Come to the Dark Side (They Have Cinnamon Buns)

I like IKEA. There, I said it. 

There is definitely an undercurrent of anti-IKEA in the woodworking community "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." It reminds me of all the galoots that NEVER watched Norm, but knew all the details of each episode. Sure a lot of the things at IKEA are "less sturdy" but as a person interested in design growing up in the corn fields far from the big city IKEA stores, I can't help but be intrigued by the intelligent design, and clever functionality of many of their products. Also as many folks have found, if you pick and choose there are often diamonds in the rough, where quality is just fine. I hope we can all agree that good design makes the world a bit better.

I also appreciate the modern, playful attitude that many IKEA designs display. Most of the time Danish modern doesn't fit in with my preferences in the end, but in the case of our kids/guest bath it seemed that a clean, simple & fun design would be just the right choice.

Also there is IKEA Hackers. Since IKEA products are designed to work together, elements can combine into unexpected items well beyond what is advertised. This type of thinking stimulates the "how else could this be used" synapses.

This particular adventure begins when I pulled out the peeling white/avocado green tub (having been refinished already once) and learned that there was water damage. (Yippee, isn't there always.) Which meant new flooring. This got us thinking about re-configuring the entire bathroom, moving the fixtures and demoing a floor-to-ceiling cabinet that blocked the natural light in the room. Also my two kids were spending a fair amount of time "debating" over who was usurping the sink during nightly tooth-brushing rituals, so I wanted to see about squeezing a double sink in this cozy space. (yay more plumbing...) At some point, I came across the idea of back-to-back sinks and thought it'd fit better in the space (and reduce sibling elbow nudges.)

After looking at a way to use IKEA cabinets to make a three finished sided cabinet, that fit the sinks & space, I came away empty handed. Instead I ended up with a bold yellow painted cabinet that I think would be right at home in IKEA, and built from the remains of that original demo'd cabinet with IKEA (Blum) trimmings. The "T" mirror was custom, but is inspired by the Molger Shelf Mirror with the addition of nearly invisible integrated LED task lighting. (This mirror has a neat optical illusion effect of being see-through given the symmetric sink layout.) By pairing another similarly built cabinet over the toilet, we gained overall usable storage space and have made the space feel more open and more functional.

Products used:

Monday, May 19, 2014

What's Your Drawsharp Number?

I want to start out by saying I'm not a regular drawknife user. this puts me in the best/worst possible position to review the Galbert Drawsharp honing guide.

I'm not going to get all technical with a review of this tool... OK I probably will. I will try to only put forth information that is relevant and might not get somewhere else with a tiny bit of research, 

First off, this is not snake oil, this is the real deal innovation. It's the kind of ridiculously simple idea that makes you slap your head and say "Dang, Why didn't I think of that!" It is brilliant and obvious as so many great ideas are (and yet somehow not previously patented) 

Second, it is impecibly made like all benchcrafted products. While it is my first purchase from Benchcrafted, it probably won't be the last, given the silky movement of the vises at HandWorks.
Both of these points mean it's worth your money if you own a drawknife. period... end of story. Go buy it. I do have some ideas for improvement in my mind but that is really only for Mark II considerations for the product, if anyone besides my mom reads this blog, which by now surely even she is gone. 
I paid full price for this tool (though contrary to C. Schwartz, if any boutique toolmakers are interested in me poorly hawking their wares, let me know...) 
I could have made some personal copy of this product; but this is a case where the inventor and maker of a product have certainly earned my support. (And given my 400yr project backlog I probably I wouldn't get around to making it anytime soon and I wanted to give green woodworking a try sooner)
My experience with Drawknives is simple, Growing up dad had a rusty unsharp drawknife hanging on nails in his garage, I knew it was dull and never even touched it. Recently he aquired 4-5 more (in a similar state) at an auction for pennies. So here we are at square one.

Seemless of course, I could have probably used the refurb kit since I knew I would be starting with a bunch of rusty tools... but that cost as much as the fabled BC Skraper so I sprung for that instead. Justifying a purchase with "saved" funds is always easier. I ended up using coarser PSA sandpaper which worked just fine. I did spring for the refill kit, which is really unnecessary as you will find in time, but no harm, no foul $5.

Unboxing. I usually think unboxing is stupid, but the packaging is great, from the retro "hone-o-matic" naming on the tin (tins....+1) to the brightly colored shipping paper (which I think is anti-corrosive or something) and on to the nicely arranged kit of parts carefully fit into the tin. 
This is the first problem. Not putting it together; I LOVE that it was sent to me in parts, because I also love legos and putting this thing together (<20 min tops) gives me a sense of connection "and I helped!" #shakeandbake. The problem is, it's so nicely packed that you want to save it all, and when assembled, it doesn't fit back in the tin. Currently, I'm disassembling it and returning it to the tin. If the posts folded 1-way out of the way or something. I have mechanism ideas I'm happy to share, if anyone at benchcrafted cares or the tin could just be resized.

Directions: Clear and concise. Though it clearly says to grind/file the back of the knife smooth, I got anxious and went ahead after only "kind of" getting it smooth, but definitely knocked off burrs. After restoring 3 bumpy knives, the plastic plate shows some wear, but is fine for the rest of my lifetime of sharpening.

Using: Some $0.05 cutout rectangles of rougher grit PSA disks applied on the unused sides of the square tube sped up removing rust pitting. After that, a couple quick swipes made them razor sharp. I love the unit-less marking system as you can sharpie them on your knife easily with dissimilar numbers & come back to them easily. I did sharpie in the vernier line on the orange anodized pieces for a bit more contrast.

Here's my quibbles. 
The back & bevel end geometry is identical. I recognize they are shaped to fit the tin, but if one end was scalloped/grooved or something it would help remove a tiny bit of second guessing. It shouldn't add any machining to make one end tactilely different in some way.

The threads should be 90 deg to the posts. This would allow 2 things, smaller diameter knobs as the torque required is not what arrests movement (short bolts not best used in shear.) In one instance the bevel post started slipping, causing some minor rework.
 Second, changing the retention direction allows it to become micro adjustable, which is a welcome addition IMO. Though a jam nut or some "lock" would likely be required.

Probably these ideas for improvement have been considered and shelved in the interest of keeping the end user cost down, which I appaud. Regardless, this simple tool allowed me to return 3 tools from the brink to razor sharp and at the same time introduce me to a useful tool that was really off my radar due in part to sharpening concerns. Now I'll use a drawknife all the time I'm sure. Definately the Galbert Drawsharp is a good buy.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Woodworking Safety Day 2014

To go along with the annual safety festivities I wanted to contribute two tips I use in my shop to keep a focus on safety. Both are dead simple and probably obvious but I haven't seen anyone else using them specifically so here they are:

Hang your PPE out to dry

Wearing personal protective equipment is an essential element of shop safety but how many times have you lost track of your glasses or ear protection and then thought I can just make this one cut? By stringing a simple string across something convienient in your shop you can easy store most PPE easily, retrieve it and when you come across a spare pair you can return it to its spot without much effort. Also for me having extra PPE options for shop visitors (and spares in case you leave a pair or 3 in the kitchen) goes a long way toward having PPE at the ready.

A Safer Sled

I am one of the few people with pre-riving knife table saws that keeps their guards on. Frankly despite growing up in a shop without guards a bare 10" saw blade is a scary thing. Using the guard normally puts me on heightened alert when it must be removed because it is a rare event. Also it's much cleaner and I believe a bit quieter too (citation required) The key to keeping the guard on is not having to remove it for normal operations. To allow using a crosscut sled, I created a simple plywood hoop that goes over the blade. Also I made a raised area in front that is a simple raised detent that will keep my thumbs free of the blade area.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Knives, Forks, and Spoons

Like many woodworkers, I think about woodworking ALL. THE. TIME. I sketch projects during meetings, read about it in nearly every free moment and think about how I might prefer taking my vacation time completing a project, instead of a "lame" trip to the beach with the family. Still, I often find when I have some time, visiting the in-laws or on vacation, I can't have a bench & tool chest. Vice versa where I have tools (at home) I'm often busy with the mundane aspects of life. Jonas seems to handle this effectively by taking a small set of tools on-board when on assignment. Forking my woodwork in other direction, spoon carving may allow me to scratch this itch while away from the shop.

How I got here should not be a surprising, but there was a series of events that made me finally get off my butt and try spoons.

The Perfect Storm

  • Down tree has me thinking about joint stools and green woodworking.
  • Watching Roy with the kids recently (Carvings spoons with Peter Follansbee)
  • Recent PWW article on spoon carving
  • Recent storm that brought down many small limbs in our area.
  • Nice weather (finally). I was out on bike ride (literally, immediately after flipping through the PWW spoon article) and found a row of hedge trees (I like Bois D'arc) that had lost some limbs, I came back with a saw and got a few branching chunks. (I need to look into a way to mount a limb saw to my bike in the future...)
  • Procrastination, I've been trying to avoid doing some real things that need done like getting my lawn mower back on-line and finishing the bathroom mirror project.
  • I like cooking and making kitchen items for everyday use.
  • A little free time, I had read about #handjoinery and decided to join twitter (@boisdork) and give it a shot. I didn't read too carefully (and did on the wrong day and it was later cancelled for the week, oops) and did the joint (fairly easy this time) faster than I had anticipated. This left me 1½ hours prior to bed to putter around the shop. (I ended up spending a lot more time that night as well as the next.)

Don't give me problems! Give me solutions!

  • Problem: It was dark, I needed to drag a stump round 'round to the garage for a chopping spot, but didn't want to be bothered with actual physical labor. Also my only axe (an ancient fireman's axe with a 3' handle I've had since I was around 14) is out in the shed (did I mention it was dark) and I was lazy and frankly a bit intimidated with splitting hedge (bad childhood memories)
    • Solution: Bandsaw. I laid the branch on the table and excised along the pith giving me a rough blank in no time. This is viable if you are ok with a little Sam Maloof style bandsaw operation (nothing too bad) I should have been more careful in getting out the pith in a windy wood like hedge (see later).
  • Problem: I have no hook knife or really any knives at all. 
    • Solutions:
    • I used the general purpose knife (started as a broken kitchen knife) that I have used for various shop activities, it is/was sharp enough but not very heavy duty.
    • A firmer gouge worked OK as a hook knife replacement but you have to hold the work with a vise,clamp or crochet to align forces safely and must approach from sometimes awkward positions.
    • Bench Chisels are great for working a flat/convex areas, and I've used them enough to have familiarity in paring but again affected by work holding and direction of forces, so be careful 
      • (I have a Scar on my right hand from my first carving/ER lesson when I was 9. Never put your off hand in the path of a chisel)
    • Small forstner bit in a drill press (with depth stop) allowed me to hog out a lot of the bowl material quickly. Make sure the part of the convex bowl bottom is touching directly under where you are drilling so you don't drill through. 

After Action Report

This project was just as much fun as Follansbee makes it look. I'm glad I gave it a shot with the tool set I had. Now I feel like it's worth a little investment into some green wood tools, confident that I'll use them. I can really see that I may be able to rough out a spoon and then throw the blank and a couple knives into a (checked) bag and have a really fun thing to sit and do on vacation (I'll probably leave the axe at home though...)


  • Free form shaping is a lot of fun, being able to create a sweeping line or consistent thickness is addicting to me.
  • Elemental, Taking lots of shavings and crafting something in my hands is intrinsically rewarding to us as "Man". This I believe.
  • Osage Orange, I like this wood (much better when green) and these small branches had lots of grain color variations. I was worried it would be too open porous, but in these small branches it wasn't really an issue.
  • Burnishing, I used a polisseur and it really was amazing the transformation it had on this wood especially. I wasn't able to get everywhere with it so I formed a rounded tip burnisher from one of the off cuts of the hedge and that worked like magic on this piece. (I then added a bit of mineral oil)


  • Spoons can not be photographed. I've thought that Follansbee's spoons look a bit ungainly in photographs and that it was his Swedish style. Now I understand that form follows function and that this form looks great while handling/using the object, but it looks a bit funny (at least to my eye now) while sitting waiting for a photo.
  • Pith. When I roughed the handle out, I should have made absolutely sure I had removed all the pith. As it was, I incorrectly read the grain on this twisty wood and ended up having to excavate a groove along the back of the handle. Makes a nice finger rest detail, but I'll be more careful in the future
  • Pith. In the bowl, a tiny long-gone branch went through this crotch, so there is a tiny pith portion.We'll see what comes out of this, it may open into a hole in time, if so then I'll convert it to a slotted spoon...
  • Thinning in the handle. Because of the pith issues, I thinned one side of the handle more than I would have liked. It still feels good in the hand, but looks a bit thin (though hedge is tough/strong stuff).


  • I get to buy some new tools, at least a couple of knives, possibly a carving hatchet.
  • Left handed. This spoon is a perfect serving spoon for me as a lefty, but not so much for 75% of my household. (Unfortunately I couldn't select the way the tree grew.)
  • I forced my wife to look at this project midway through (why do we do this?) Her reaction was that it was "like some sort of cave man spoon." I think she'll come to love these spoons but a ½ done lefty spoon wasn't love at first sight.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Lego My Toshio

A few weeks ago, I got to assist at another volunteer construction project doing trim carpentry work. I get to hang out with great friends and hopefully can contribute something to the larger project, not fancy work, but time very well spent. As it was a-ways away as these projects tend to be, I was riding with friends. In general, I try to pack light, and frankly I don't have most of the usual tools for this work. Surprisingly, construction tools don't overlap with my woodwork as much as it would seem. The contractors in our group always readily share their SCMS, job-site Table Saw,  6' levels and the like. I usually try to bring the tools that most others won't have, but might be just what is needed for that special case. This time around, four of us would be traveling by Camry, so tool space was going to be at a minimum for sure.
I have traditionally brought a few of the typical odd shaped tool carriers, which waste quite a bit of space considering their appearance. Loading up the needful the night before yielded a footprint I knew would take up more than my fair share of the trunk. If only I'd built that small Dutch chest or Odate style carpenter's box...I decided I'd give it a shot, since it was this or try to squeeze most everything in a Lee Valley tote bag. Because I had all the hardware for the Japanese box (none) I decided I'd try that one.
I was limited by what I had on hand, a pair of walnut stained (not painted) ~5-6’ 1x12 pine shelves I'd pulled out of some closet or something. They would have to do, but I didn't like how the heavy stain would look, so I quickly ran it through the lunchbox planer to get it mostly down to bare wood. "Sweet, reclaimed lumber, I'm going green!" I thought, grateful for a descriptor short of "cheap" or "lazy." I settled on a size in short order, tall enough for a #4, as wide as I could get with one board, long enough to have enough wood (2') Then I got to work and "just did it". If you are unfamiliar with the form, I saw it first from Wilbur Pan and then several other variations appeared. While a simple crate, it has great features, it is dust tight (well mostly... at least as good as the Dutch chest) sturdy, even integral handles. Go ahead and check these better examples out:

The only slightly clever things I did, were:

  • Use a Forstner bit to create counter bore, an aid for unlocking
  • Use a ramped saw till for my carcass saws (standing "flat" the totes stick up higher than a #4...always double check your requirements first...)
  • Glued the bottom to the sides, I don't have cut nails on hand and thought the 16ga brads I was shooting might not hold well enough. The batons use screws...ahem drywall cough...
  • Burnished with Don's poliseur and some parafin wax. Adds such a nice feel & glow to it while keeping it "clean". I love that broom handle and see a lot of folks are excited about them.

The end result in a short evening's effort was exactly what I needed to get my minimal tools to this construction project, and got me thinking more about using this form as the basis for a tool storage system. While probably not as truly efficient as an English ATC or wall unit, I see this form could be modular like Legos.
My plan would be to use a standard width with 3 lengths (~1', 2', 3') and 2-3 heights, allowing me to create a stack-able unit (Jenga anyone?). There might be some access inefficiency, but it allows my various trade tools to go into their own crate and play well together ala the tanos system (saws, layout, shaping, chisels, bench planes, joinery planes, sharpening, plumbing, electrical, drywall...) It's not often I need to cross trades in the same work session. I'm rather fastidious about putting my tools away at the end of the day. I can see a row or two of these resting easily on the lower stretchers of a bench, giving convenient dust free access to the most used tools (and extra weight for the base) Perhaps some indexed pins or a key groove would allow them to interlock when stacked. I'm sure there are a few design niggles to be worked out, like making sure that the lock can be installed/removed with several stacked side-by-side (feel free to point out anything else as well). Still, given the low investment in time and materials in such a system, and the ability to tidy up the shop appearance, hopefully I'll be making a run of these in the near future.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Vise of Lethargy

This past winter was especially harsh; it broke  records and spirits along with them. 

Like many, I do a majority of wood work in the winter as summer dictates other uses for my time, like BBQ's, yard work, and playing with the kids. In 2013, I'd spent some time adding insulation to my attached garage shop (but no heat yet) This was to allow me even greater time in the shop, and hopefully keep it warm enough that others might want to hang out there with me when it's >50°. 

Despite the insulation, the temperatures were extreme enough to force me first to delay scheduled projects following the SSBO and vacation (related to finishing the dreaded bathroom remodel) and eventually to give up and merely lounge lethargically on the couch. I kept busy shoveling snow, There were some benefits to the eternal winter, like that the pond out back stayed frozen long enough to really have fun skating with the kids and enough snow staying on the ground to make a "skeleton" run on the backyard hill during the Olympics. Still, I didn't get much "done" in February, and frankly it seemed the more time I spent away from the shop, the more easily it was to stay away. 

In early march, My dad mentioned he'd installed (in his heated shop) one of the vises he'd picked up a couple years earlier at an auction in some sort of crazy buy 2 get 1 free vise pack or something. A couple days later, I was trying to shove something else in the garage (rather than face going out into the frozen tundra) when I realized that what was in the way on the floor was one of the other vises that was included in the bundle. This was a solid, vintage, simple, somewhat rusty, cast iron "Colombian" vise. This reminded me just how long it had sat on the floor waiting for me clean it up and attach some bench to it. Given that it wasn't a quick release style and I already have a screw for the front leg vise and Emmert clone for the tail of the planned Roubo bench build, this vise didn't have much of a purpose, but given the price I had paid (free) it seemed too good to get rid of, that's how it ended up on the floor in my garage for 2 years.

This night, instead of returning to Netflix, I decided to attach it to a current bench (a wall attached plywood topped mash-up that started as an L-bank of shelves from a previous home owner) I mounted it lower than usual to avoid cutting into the 2X4 front apron which would weaken it too much (and be more work.) Cleaning up the rust, mounting, and making a chop from scraps took only a couple of hours max. Those hours got what was a boat anchor off my floor, and my shop back in business. Maybe it wasn't a vice after all.