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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Nearly a Year in the Making

Last Spring I did a post about how the blog was not all I naively hoped it would be.  I have done a lot of woodworking and other stuff since then, even though the blog does not reflect it.

About the time of the above referenced blog entry, I started painting miniatures for gaming.  I was quite the gamer as a kid, but funds, and life got in the way of it for a couple decades.

I thought I would post a picture of a creature I finished painting a couple nights ago.

The woodworking isn't going anywhere, but as I said nearly a year ago, I'm going to include other maker type stuff I work on.  I can't wait to start my Steampunk rifle this Spring.

Without adieu, here is Spike, a troll:

Spike Saying Hello.
Here are a couple pictures with the flash engaged to really feature color and texture:


Start Before Stop Against Stop Before Start: A Blind Cohort Study of Woodworking Projects

First, I must apologize for the title.  It will (somewhat) make sense by the end of this post.  The purpose was to confuse Google to see if I'll ever be indexed in a scholarly article search.  Call it my intellectual rage against the machine for 2016.

The question posed is valid:  why do we, as hobbyist woodworkers, often start the next project before the current project is done?  To make matters worse, there are often several starts, before the first stop!

In a production environment it only makes sense to have all assets utilized to their fullest potential.  The constant flow of projects requires constant management to get all the square pegs confused with round holes (dark, cylindrical, 1 ech.) on the widget line.  Let's call that sentence my second intellectual rage against the bureaucratic machine for 2016.  Moving along.  The hobbyist is supposed to enjoy the process, not the product, or so the conventional wisdom says.

Too often I find myself getting into ultra efficient production mode (that's what it looks like in my head--the shop, not so much) when planning shop projects.  I recently had another one of those moments causing me to be more reflective on the approach I take toward this 'hobby'.

My main project is currently a Jefferson book stand, like the one appearing in the Woodwright's Shop.  The project has about eleventy-gazillion mortise and tenon joints; I'm closing in on about half of them.  So, to celebrate that milestone, I went and purchased more material:  Ambrosia Maple to do a modern version of the book stand, MDF to do a giant shoe box to store shoes (duh!), Cherry to do a high smallish side table, and some regular maple to do a large bookcase.

I had to save a draft of this post for 'later'.  In the interim I also bought some Poplar to make another six board chest because there is enough Ambrosia Maple left to make a cool lid for a chest.  As of right now the first Jefferson book stand is where I left it, but in the interim I did make the giant shoe box, the six board chest (sans lid, because, you know, the 'real' project with the Ambrosia Maple is not done yet), a glockenspiel, and several other little things.

Back to the original point of stopping, read finishing, projects before starting other projects.  I have to wonder if I'm alone in this, or is this behavior germane to the subspecies of human known as woodworker?

I have re-re-re-resolved to finish projects for which the material is on hand before starting other projects.  Right now that includes two Jefferson book stands, a large bookcase, the lid for a six board chest, step stool, a high smallish side table in Cherry, and containers to transport and store miniature figures.

If you stumble on this blog post in your net quest for better woodworking, please drop an opinion on the best way to handle projects in hobby woodworking.  Maybe someday we'll accumulate enough anecdotes to qualify as data, and thus a real study.

2016 Damage Control

Every year I make a post about where I spent my woodworking money for the year.  This is just a list, sometimes with comments; it is not meant to be a budget report, or purchase advice.  Simply stated, this is a yearly look at where my hobby money went.

The top of list this year is Acme Tool.  I purchased a drill press from them.  That is all I will say for now.

The rest of the list:

Amazon.com.  This year I purchased a lot of accessories from them.


Lee Valley.  I purchased more times from them this year than any other vendor, though all the purchases were in the 40-80 dollar range.  This is odd mainly because Highland Woodworking fills this niche for me.  I just needed more hardware this year and Highland is light on that.

Champaign/Urbana Woodshop.  They go by CU woodshop; neat double entendre.

Crucible Tool.  I purchased the dividers and have been using them quite a bit.



Both Rockler and Woodcraft were off the list last year.  However, Rockler opened a new store (Bolingbrook, IL) near my local Woodcraft (50 plus miles away) giving me incentive to hit both when I'm in the neighborhood.  I actually purchased sizable quantities of wood from both this year.

Highland Woodworking.  A perennial favorite.  Any Lie-Nielsen purchase not at a Lie-Nielsen tool event is made through Highland.

Penn State Industries.  A new entrant on the list.  Last year, from Acme Tools, I picked up a lathe.  Now I'm actually buying stuff to use with it.

Knew Concepts.  I know I have been remiss is keeping the blog updated.  I just don't feel the imperative to write often when there isn't much of an audience.  I got the 5" fret saw, I believe they call it.  I'm not exaggerating in the least to say this little tool has been a game changer for me.  I never knew coping could be so good.  I intended to write extensively about the saw but never got around to it.

Patrick Leach.  Pat is a bit of a victim of his own success.  He now does so much volume that the quality of every item cannot be vouched for.  My advice is to look carefully at the merch if you are buying at a show.  By all accounts I've heard, contacting him directly on his site is the same quality it always has been.

Store Supply Warehouse.  Long story involving a lot of hats and a need to store them.

Fastenal.  Another new entrant to the list.  I needed special metric parts for my band saw.  Fastenal and McMaster-Carr were the only places that carried what I needed, and Fastenal had them in stock.

And now a mention for the places where I get most of my 'instruction' in woodworking:

Mortise & Tenon Magazine.  I took one for the team when I bought issue one.  Who'd a thunk I actually would love this yearly rag?  Well, I do, and already ordered issue 2.

Though I have not listed it before, I again renewed my subscription to Popular Woodworking.  

I'm sure I have forgotten a person or two.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Night Playing Free Mason

The following is basically a reply made to a post entitled Crucible Dividers on the Lost Art Press forums.  Why waste a good bit of writing?  EDIT:  Lost Art Press discontinued their forums the day after this post.  As far as I can tell the referenced thread was deleted before they archived the forum here.

Start here to read about the acquisition of the Crucible dividers.

I used my Crucible dividers last night in my design book to draft plans for an outdoor announcement board.  I normally use a set of miniature dividers in my design book because the scale is tiny compared to real furniture.
Crucible divider on top, my tiny drawing divider on bottom

What follows is my initial impression after the first real use of the Crucible dividers.

First off, when you close the legs together completely, they are closed tight.  I guess this is a feature after reading a comment on the Lost Art Press forums.  The only downside to the positive lock feature is that opening the dividers one handed from 'home position' is difficult.  I never carry dividers around in a pocket, so they are rarely closed all the way in my practice.

Once open, and the tension adjusted to your preference, the dividers are a joy to use.  Trite, but true.  For me, a 'joyful' use of something means it works without having to think too much about it.

The heft of the Crucible divider is just right for my grip.  Not too flimsy, nor too weighty; you will know reflexively when the weight is in your hand, or on the work.

Using the dividers is free from obstruction or distraction.  This deserves some explanation.

I have a few dividers with the wing swinging off to one side.  Flipping a wing divider to step out some measurement requires some fairly dexterous hand movements to account for the wing.  In short, you have to think about moving them.

[Note to self, edit this post to include pics of the other divider styles.]

I have another style of divider with the stem on top, like the grade school pencil compass.  They have a lighter mass than the wing compass, and the stem is handy to hold on to when you flip them.  However, the lower mass and round stem means that this style is almost always over rotated to the next step.  At least for me.  I'm sure stem compass experts will call me a dumbass and move on.

The Crucible divider does not have a stem, nor a wing.  The top of the compass is almost too easy to flip end for end and land on a straight line.  I had to teach myself to under think it.  A simple flip with three fingers is all that is needed for precise placement of the compass; two fingers in a pinch (pun so intended).  I believe with more practice only two fingers will be needed to effectively use this tool without thinking about it.

So, now you know why I say the tool is easy to use without obstruction, or distraction.

Now, for the downside.  Precise setting of these dividers is a tad more difficult than I'm used to.  I should note that I have the tension set fairly high on the tool because it is more important to me to keep the setting once arrived at than getting there to begin with.

I inevitably need micro adjustments when dialing in on half of something.  A wing compass with the micro adjust knob does a great job of this.  I'm sure I'll figure out a process with the Crucible dividers before too long.  Remember, this was written after one evening's use and I do not have any dividers of this style already.

Compared to mega-store stamped steel crap, and the flush used market, the Crucible dividers are a pill to swallow at $120.00.  For a high milling tolerance American made cottage tool, the price is a reasonable balance between Crucible keeping the lights on, and reaching as much of the wood working market as possible.  In fact I'll buy another one if the tool works out as well as expected.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

WIA 2016 Short Course

I spent a brief time at Woodworking in America last week.  I plan my attendance like anyone else: location, presenters, and budget.  This year the location was close enough (Cincinatti-ish).  However, the presenters were not intriguing enough to fork over the full conference fee.

So, I settled for show floor attendance and an overnight trip to the area.  With a bonus.  Lost Art Press founders John Hoffman and Chris Schwarz teamed up with Raney Nelson to create Crucible tools.  They had a coming out party the Thursday night before WIA.  I was opportunistic enough to get one of the free tickets to attend at the Lost Art Press storefront headquarters in Covington Kentucky.

The soiree was a veritable who's who of the woodworking world.  I snapped a few photos and was going to talk about my experiences.  After a bit of reflection, I decided that the people who were there are public enough without some schmuck like me posting their every move on the intratubes.

Crucible had a fair number of their monster sized holdfasts for sale.  I'm building two benches in the coming months and seriously considered buying a couple.  However, I'm already invested in the Gramercy holdfasts, which I love and have had zero problems using them.

Crucible had a second 'secret' tool they kept to themselves until the launch party.  The second tool is (are?) dividers.  As it happens, dividers were on my list of things to buy while in the market place.  They only had a few of those to sell, so I decided to take the plunge and purchase one.

Why dividers?  I have a fair number of them already, but I found that I still didn't have enough.  I have an outside shop in the garage, an inside shop in the basement, and a desk area in the living room where I type these, and otherwise doodle around with my project design book.  After just completing a bookcase based completely on proportions, the first take away from the experience is that I need appropriate dividers in all three areas.  I found the same thing a long time ago with tape measures and bought a half dozen from Highland to remedy the situation.

I'm reserving judgment on the Crucible dividers until I use them for a while.  The tension is adjustable with a spanner bit, which is a good thing.  But the fact you need to keep track of a small component is a bad thing.  I already have an idea for a bit holder that fits on the top in rough footprint of a yo-yo.

I got a second divider from Patrick Leach for 25 bucks; the original intention was to get everything from Patrick.  A couple booths down from Patrick was a tool collectors association--I don't remember the name.  The tool collector's had a bin of random user tools for 5 bucks each; I scored a Buck Brothers chisel with a custom long handle.  I'm sure Patrick didn't appreciate the garage sale merch so close to his stuff. Snicker.

Here is a pic of my scant haul:
The marketplace was smaller than in past years.  That is good because you get more quality time with the vendors.  A small marketplace is bad in general for the vendors.  Hopefully future incarnations will be more...populated.

I'm not sure if I'll attend WIA next year either as I've decided to save up to take a woodworking class in 2017.  I'll end this post here as it is already too long.  Maybe I'll write something about my quest for the perfect woodworking class.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

First Time For Everything

I have blogged for years without posting any pictures of myself.  I always figured that there was enough narcissism in the mere presence of the blog.  Pictures of myself would only be grandstanding on top of the other content.

Today I was in Covington Kentucky at the new Lost Art Press storefront to help edit the next Roubo volume.  During the process I discovered a couple original Roubo errors.  Chris had to break out the source books that started it all to verify a mistake.  John Hoffman (the silent partner in Lost Art Press) snapped a photo of me holding all three of the source volumes.  My comment: they are remarkably heavy.


I ended the day with some apple ale, pizza, and some LAP product.  Since I broke ground with a personal picture, I might as well go whole hog down the narcissism hole.  I spent about half my time editing sitting on the recently completed Roman 8-legged workbench:
Note, the red Solo cup is NOT mine.  The height is extremely close to the height of my own two saw benches; I was quite comfortable sitting on the Roman bench.  Obviously, it is solid enough for 4 of me to dance on it.  Now there's a visual on which to end this note.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

On The (Vast) Silent Majority

I have been on the Internet since the early days.  By luck of birth and predilection, I get to say, "I was there when..."  The woodworking thing came many years later.

This post is on the differences in online verbosity between the general woodworker and the general technical professional.

I peruse a number of woodworking and technical sites on a weekly basis.  Frequent thoughtful (and not so much so) posting on tech sites is the norm.  In stark contrast are the woodworking sites.  My experience is that 20 responses to some posted content is a banner event.

There are, of course, exceptions.  The forums at Lumberjocks.com must be mentioned as one such exception.

When I started blogging, I naturally assumed that like minded folks would stumble upon the blog and offer comments.  A very naive assumption.  There are many reasons for the differences in loquaciousness between techies and woodworkers, but I believe the biggest issue is community size.  There are simply a lot more techies than woodworkers and techies by their nature are online all the time.

Enough sociological rambling.  The point I'm getting at is what for me is a natural medium of communication--online exchange--is not for most other folks, woodworkers included.

My naive desire for an interactive woodworking blogging venture has necessarily changed to become more of a public diary to myself.  The focus always has been on learning woodworking, featuring the mistakes made on the way and that is not going to change.  I am, however, going to branch out into other areas of Making.  Did I just turn a verb into a noun?  One more try:  I am, however, going to expand blog coverage into other areas of craft and making.  I may not be very talented, but I do try a lot of different things.

Woodworking is not going away, in fact, I just pulled a splinter from the side of my thumb that must have got there last night.  In addition to woodworking, I'll post other projects that are worked on.  Party on, Garth!