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Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Present Presentation

I received The Book Of Plates today; one of the new titles from Lost Art Press.  The word 'plate' in the title refers to the original copper engravings used to create the images some two centuries ago.  I believe LAP went retro and included the copper because this thing is HEAVY!

The Book of Plates is a compilation of all the engraved images from Andre Roubo's master work, To Make As Perfectly As Possible.  The plates are reproduced in this tome at full size.  And incredibly high resolution.  I have to take it on faith that the graphics are as close to the 250 year old originals as possible, but the leap of faith is not far at all.

I don't know anything about the nuts and bolts of printing.  When Chris Schwarz starts talking about shiny paper weights, I start to hear the grown-ups from Peanuts-- Wah-wah-wah.  All the publishing technical information boils down to this book is large, heavy, and the paper is awesome.

This is the kind of book that as a kid you had to endure the scowls of librarians if you had the temerity to ask for it.  The Audubon book with all the paintings of birds comes to mind as an example from my childhood.   I know some librarians, and they make the judgmental scowl an art form.  Just kidding.

This is not any kind of 'review' since in essence this is a picture book for two other reference volumes; one of which is not even published yet (by LAP).  This is however, a testament to the worth of this title as a stand alone work.  The book is built to be used often in conjunction with the text, as stated in the forward by Christopher Schwarz.  I have spent a couple hours staring at plates, even making a few notes to myself.  In that two hours I only made it to plate 37.  I also have to say that plate 36 is quite simply elegant art.

Merry Christmas everyone!  I'm enjoying my early present.

P.S.  I'm not one to jump on the lovefest bandwagon that woodworking pros seem to ride.  If something sucks, I'll let you know.  Here is a review I wrote about Chisel, Mallet, Plane, and Saw which is sold, but not published, by Lost Art Press.  I'm told, by one person so far, that it was a very unflattering and negative review.  I didn't feel that way writing it, but the reader should make up their own mind.  This rambling postscript is really me just trying to say that the above is my honest opinion and in no way did I get a break on the hundred dollar (US) price tag.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Practice Makes A Mess

I know the blog has suffered in the posting department lately.  The problem is actually one of excess--I have too much stuff to say!

Highland woodworking has picked up some things I wrote which can be found here:  one, two, and three.  I'll continue to offer them stuff which they may or may not accept.   I spend a lot more time writing when Highland accepts something because this is an informal blog, and they have a real live periodical that deserves professional attention.

I have a number of projects in the pipeline.  I find that every 14-18 months a log jam happens as a bunch of things get started while waiting for parts, tools, or time on other projects.  Right now I'm at another one those log jams.

There are several book reviews partially completed, including one for Christopher Schwarz's Campaign Furniture.  There are also furniture projects waiting my attention including a couch table, book case, campaign table, light box movie poster display, another Dutch tool chest, and some smaller things.

Tonight was a school night as I try to teach myself some basic leather working.  Here is my first outing:

Someday I hope to have a homemade chisel roll.  As you can see, I need some more practice cow.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

So That's What Pitch Is

I haven't done any serious planing in over a year--since I hurt my shoulder at work.  I got the go-ahead last week from the doc to resume normal activity as tolerated.  Somehow I figured that meant I could do some planing today.  Other than some sore muscles in the back, I did OK body-wise.

The boards didn't fair as well.

I'm working with some Northern White Cedar on a project.  The wood is reclaimed from a barn that stood for 90 years before coming my way.  I think the barn was held together with the pitch in the wood.

The plane kept getting bogged down with pitch.  Sometimes I couldn't even finish a full traversing stroke before the plane was all gummed up.

Repeatedly removing and replacing the blade got old real quick.  I stopped after a while to consult the web for advice on planing pitchy wood.  Surprisingly, there was not much to be found.  I found a lot of advice about using solvents to get rid of pitch for finishing.  After a while I gave up and went back to the workbench.

I spent about an hour experimenting with the best plane set up for dealing with the pitch.  I finally settled on taking whisper thin shavings and cleaning after every stroke.  Definitely not the path to high productivity with hand tools.

The real kicker is that this first 4X8 board was practice for the real stock that needs prepped.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Lie-Nielsen Back In The Mid-West

CU Woodshop supply in Champaign IL is hosting a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event 10/31, 11/1.  Details can found here.  I'm pretty far away (78 miles) from CU Woodshop, but they have become an important resource in my woodworking.

I usually go to Jeff Miller's studio for the Lie-Nielsen events but had to miss this year's soiree.  Jeff is on the far side of Chicago from me, but technically closer.  Champaign is a cornfield lined trip down I57.  I can get to Champaign quicker than the North side of Chicago.

I do not know if this is the first time Lie-Nielsen has been to CU woodshop, but this is the first time I've heard about it.  The web is full of people recommending these things.  I'm going to leave you with the most profound experience I have with the Lie-Nielsen events:   the insight into the use of the tools is indescribable.

So, go.  Show your support for the world of woodworking.  Even if all you do is walk around and gape at the CU Dreamshop.  I'll be there on Friday, the 31st.  I'm the scary one without a costume.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Woodworking In America 2014

I attended WIA this year.  I'm told I have an unapproachable look about me.  Consequently, folks generally don't cozy up to well; unless they are trying to sell me something.  Other folks often cite the camaraderie as the highlight of WIA.  Well, for the overarched troll crowd like me the highlights were more tangible.

The best thing about WIA 2014 for me was the discovery of the Moravian desk form.  Head on over to Google and search for images of a Moravian desk.  Go ahead, I'll wait.  If you don't want to wait, I offer this spoiler:  you won't see any desks in the search.  Before visiting Old Salem, I never even heard of the style.  I didn't realize at the time the paucity of documentation of the form, so I only took two pictures:

I've never been interested in desks of this type before.  They are too often copied--cheaply--and pawned off on the public as 'fine furniture'.  However, something about the Moravian style spoke to me.  The stepped feature of the outer drawers and the simplicity of the middle drawers evoke something 'new'.  It also appears wider than the run-of-the-mill tambour roll top desk, yet narrower than the high end furniture gallery double pedestal monster.

I spent a considerable amount of time looking at the examples.  I wanted to take in the experience and not cloud it with scads of shutterbugging.  I thought I'd be able to find many resources for plans and such.  I was dead wrong.  Some day I will build one of these, but I have to come up with a plan first.  I don't want to screw up such a large project with a cartoon looking recreated design of my own.

Another highlight was a visit to Finnigan's Wake.  OK, several visits.

Shepherd's pie and the mushrooms are pretty darn good.  I bought four of the glasses as souvenirs; odd since I don't usually do things like that.

Here is some publicly displayed art from Winston Salem:

Here is the gallery of photos from touring MESDA and Old Salem.  I'm putting these here mostly for my reference over the next few weeks.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hovarter VX-20 Available For Pre-order

I am very skeptical when it comes to--just about everything.  Heck, the title of Pragmatic Woodworker should give a clue as to how calculating I can be.  Part of my skepticism is:

     A) try not to ever do anything first
     2) do not conform to the pack, and
     iii) never spend money unless you know what you are getting

The Hovarter VX-20 is the exception that proves the rule.  I was hooked on this unit merely from recommendation and marketing video (youtube).

I've already placed my pre-order to avoid the rush.  Head on over to to be part of the pack clamoring for this new vise.  :)

I will definitely report on my experience with the VX-20.

I've decided the VX-20 is going to be the center piece (well, left of center) for my new bench.  One of the features I'm drawn to is the quick release mechanism.  The new bench will have a leg vise on both front legs.  I don't want to buy two vises, and I don't want two on at a time.  However, I would love to quickly move the vise from one leg to the other to accommodate the handedness of any operation.  The VX-20 is the only thing I've seen that gets close to my imagined nirvana.

Handedness of any operation?  You see, I was born sinister, cursed to feel the world in my right mind: I'm left handed.  I've learned to do many many things with my right hand.  This handedness issue comes up a lot in woodworking.  Almost every operation has a mirror image of itself as part of completion.  Things like dovetails and tenons generally like to be bilateral in form.  In my world, I often switch hands to achieve bilateralness.  Moving work between sides of the bench is a fact of my woodworking life.

Hopefully I'm not thowing money away on a rose colored vision of the future.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Box Problem

I recently received a new tool--a Lie-Nielsen tongue and groove plane.  I was moving things around in the toolbox to see where the new tool could live.  In the process I realized I have a box problem.

I have a number of Lie-Nielsen boxes that I can't seem to part with.  Pictured above are boxes spanning literally years.  The small box at the top right is a chisel box and is about 3 years old.  The chisel sits in the rack of my first Dutch tool chest, but the box now houses my small files.  The middle box holds a router plane.  The tool and cardboard box go into the Dutch tool chest.  On the left is the new tongue and groove plane; still looking for a home.

I haven't even had a chance to use the T&G plane--it's killing me.

There are also a couple more chisel boxes laying around.  Lie-Nielsen is by far a minority of my tool collection, yet I have all these silly boxes.  I think it is time to part with ages old cardboard.

Boxes for sale!  Get your small cardboard boxes here.  Get 'em while their hot, people!