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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event: Joint Stool

I attended Lie-Nielsen's hand tool event Friday, April 20th at the Jeff Miller woodworking studio in Chicago, Illinois.  I reviewed Make a Joint Stool From a Tree published by Lost Art Press.  The stool that graces the cover was on display at the event.  Oh, and Christopher Schwarz was there as well displaying the stool.  Chris and I chatted for a bit and he graciously allowed me to manhandle the stool to my heart's content.

Though the review passed unremarked into the Internet night, I stand by my original assessment after examining the book's star stool: "... book full of hewing, hacking, rough tolerances, and an aversion to directions beyond what you see in front of you".  The stool itself reflects the rough nature, yet still looks great as a whole.  Look at the top of the stool:
Extreme close-up of Stool Top
See how the lines are _not_ straight?  The lines are not exactly crooked, but it is obvious that this top is not made on a router table.  The little nub in the back of the photo is one of the square pegs that hold the top to the body of the stool.  The peg is proud on purpose.
The Other Side

I will let the rest of the close up pictures give you more detail on the joint stool.  My final thought is, this stool is the real deal.  I'm a big guy, and this joint stool is sturdy enough to hold me with ease.  As a former coworker would say, furniture for grown folks.

Joint Stool on Top of Lost Art Press Books
Stretchers Meet
Yes, The Pegs Go All The Way Through
More Through Pegs

Note The Shadow Line

The shadow lines on the back side are obvious.  The relieved wood on the unseen side allows a crisp clean joint on the showy outside of the stool.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event: Glen-drake

I attended Lie-Nielsen's hand tool event Friday, April 20th at the Jeff Miller woodworking studio in Chicago, Illinois.  Jeff's digs are easy to get to, but don't expect to find parking anywhere near the place!

Lie-Nielsen is peculiar in that they actually invite other cottage tool makers to exhibit along side their own wares.  I spent a considerable amount of time at the Glen-Drake display.

Glen-Drake table display
Glen-Drake has created a saw system that really is something new.  I've seen it demonstrated several times now and I really do believe they are on to something for the modern hobbyist.

Past masters of woodworking learned their craft through excruciating repetition; bad work meant no pay.  Most modern woodworkers practice the craft occasionally on nights and weekends.  Mastering a technique is arduous, and opportunity to practice is limited.  Utilizing the Glen-Drake tools and methods really is a way to develop repeatable quality results fairly quickly. 

Here are some pictures of their products.

Marking gauges with coarse and fine adjust

Cornerstone of the Glen-Drake system
Looks, Eastern, but cuts Western (push stroke cut)
Free with purchase of a Glen-Drake saw is the video featuring their system.  I have to also mention that these saws really, really cut well.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Grace USA Screwdrivers Redux

The post titled "Grace in the USA" has generated the most conversation on the new blog.  Yet, for all the messages, not a single reply on the post itself.  Curious.  It has also been the most edited post.  So, instead of continual tweaking, I decided on a new post to address the issues/questions/nitpicks that have been raised.

First off, Grace USA has been in business for years.  This is not a flash in the pan company.  The full line of woodworking screwdrivers are available from The Best Things.

Some folks took exception to the use of the term 'hollow ground'.  Sure, the term originated from grinding a blade on a circular grinding wheel; in the photo you can see that the tips are not created on a circular wheel grinder.  However, the effect is still the same at the tip:  the Grace USA driver engages much more of the screw surface than the traditional wedge shaped drivers.  Unlike true hollow grinding, the edges are much more crisp, which means sharp.  The steel is actual tool steel and needs to be treated like your other woodworking edge tools.  In my mind these screwdrivers are exactly like my Lie-Nielsen,  or Narex chisels.

The next nitpick seems to be over who made me the authority on screw sizes.  The short (and only) answer is these sizes fit all the tools in my current collection.  My tools, my screwdrivers, my blog, my email address, got a problem with that?  Just kidding about the attitude, it is a legitimate question.  I worked with the President of Grace USA, Dan Morrison, to work out the details of my custom drivers. 

Dan's advice was to use a feeler gauge on all of my screws--a DUH! moment for me if there ever was one.  I ordered three sizes in decimal inches, .045,  .032, and .050.  I used an inexpensive set of feeler gauges to measure all the screws on my planes and saws.  I wrote down all the sizes and then rounded down to three decimal places.  I then verified the rounded down measurements with the feeler gauge in all the screws.  It took me about 90 minutes for this whole affair. 

As stated in the original post, the .050 fits all of my Stanley planes.  The .032 fits all of my old saws with straight (i.e. non split) nuts and the .045 fits my newer 1950's era Disston saws.  I would have ordered split nut drivers but Grace USA currently does not make the screw drivers wide enough.  I should note that The Best Things offers a Grace USA specialty driver for old saws; I did not know about it at the time of my order.
.032 Driver in Saw Nut
One person asked about the practical uses of hollow ground drivers.  If you work with screws in brass or bronze, then you most likely have dealt with steel drivers ruining expensive screws.  The hollow ground tips engage the screws more firmly.  The screw may have the threads ruined from over torquing, but the top will still look nice after the King Kong treatment.  Also, if you have followed Christopher Schwarz for a while then you probably know that he has a thing for 'timing' all of his screws.  Timing is where you have all the slots of the screws line up in the same direction.  Timing is accomplished by repeatedly removing, filing, and replacing the screw; a hollow ground driver is almost required for this type of obsession.  Personally, I plan on building a small boat in the near(ish) future and I will be buying a set of the Grace USA woodworking screwdrivers to aid that effort due to the large number of bronze screws.

To the reader with a height complex, I don't know why the custom screwdrivers ended up so short.  I didn't ask for it, but that is exactly what I wanted.  I suspect the folks at Grace USA had a better idea than me how the screwdrivers would be used in practice.

Finally, if you are the type of 'discerning' shopper who only buys the likes of Elkhead Tools, these screwdrivers are not for you.  These puppies will perform as long as any Elkhead driver, but they won't be entering any exotic wood tool beauty pageants any time soon.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Grace in the USA

A reply on another blog turned me on to a source for affordable custom made screwdrivers:  Grace USA.  Grace made their name in drivers for gunsmithing and is looking to expand into woodworking.  What makes them so special?  I'm glad you asked.  Grace USA dresses the tip of the driver so that they are square to the sides of the screw which is referred to as hollow ground.  Engaging the entire surface of the screw slot resists marring or destroying the screw.

I ordered three custom screwdrivers (in decimal inches) for my woodworking tools: .045,  .032, and .050.  The first two are for saws, new and old.  The third is for planes.  I found that the .050 size will fit nicely on every screw on my vintage Stanley bench planes.  Grace USA charged ten dollars for each custom screwdriver and shipped on their dime; a sweet deal in anyone's book.

The screwdrivers arrived quickly and well packaged for their journey.
Fresh out of the padded envelope

Hollow ground Tips
My photography skill, or lack thereof, is again on display in this picture of all three of the hollow ground tips.  The edges are crisp, sharp, and not to be taken lightly.

Size stamped
The size of each custom screwdriver is stamped deeply in the side of the tool.  Look at the top driver, .050, in the photo captioned "Size stamped".  See the smudge outside the first zero?  I value that smudge.  That tells me the maker took enough care to darken the number stamps by hand to aid legibility.  Use will wear that smudge off in no time.

Close tolerance
The photo captioned "Close tolerance" is an example of how well the screwdriver fits a saw screw.  The driver and screw (nut, actually) are propped up on a square and saw so I could get the picture.

Grace has three sets of screwdrivers to offer woodworkers.  The largest is a set of seven drivers designed to fit slotted screws numbered 2 through 14.  The set of 7 retails in the $60 range.  Next in line is a set of 4 Phillips head screwdrivers followed by a set of three for square drive screws. UPDATE:  The Best Things carries the Grace USA full line of screwdrivers.