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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 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!

Heavy Sigh

Sometimes I wonder why I stick with this woodworking thing.  I'm working on a very large crosscut sled for the table saw.  This beast is nothing fancy, just 24"X40" of sliding plywood and two fences.

Unfortunately, the critical rear fence has eluded me.  Here is the second attempt:

The plywood was not straight after gluing the halves together, but I didn't expect it to be so.  I originally purchased an aluminum angle to serve as a stiffener/straightener.  The plywood had other plans as the aluminum angle was deformed to conform to the fence shape.

The next step was to buy a piece of steel to serve in place of the aluminum.  The plywood won again as you can see.  What you can't see are the six screws trying to hold it in place.

At this point I'm looking for other options.  Maybe I'll  hit Google/youtube to see what others are doing.  This afternoon project has turned into a multi-day fiasco.  So, I'll close as I began.  Heavy sigh.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sharp Shop Appliance

I attended the Lie-Nielsen event in Chicago recently.  I have not decided if I'm going to write up my experience yet.  However, I am going to talk about the single item I purchased at the show:  The new Lie-Nielsen honing guide.  There are ample (and better) pictures in the link, so I won't bore you here with more.  However, what LN does not show is the jig you can create with the instructions included with the honing guide.  Here is the jig I created:

The space behind the instruction booklet is going to be a small strop.  Use will determine if the strop is a stupid idea.

I actually put some thought into the blocks.  The most used angles by far are 30, and 25 degrees.  I have yet to use 50, 35, or 40 degree angles.

I placed 25, and 30 degree blocks in the middle so that they would be the most protected from mishap and so I would have holding area to either side for use with the honing guide.

I have a similar jig for use with the cheesy $15 side clamping guide available all over the place.  That experience went into making version 2.0 here.  Even though I have the new precision guide, and associated jig 2.0, I have no plans to get rid of the old system.  It is always good to have a backup.

This sort of project is ready made for a CNC carver, or 3D printer.  Unfortunately, I do not own either device, so I'm stuck with plywood and Kreg screws.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Book Review: Mortise & Tenon Magazine, Issue 1


The much anticipated new addition to the print woodworking community has finally shipped.  It is the brain child of Joshua A. Klein and Mortise & Tenon Magazine is his labor of love.  My first impression of the packaging and presentation is classy all the way.

Under the mundane plastic mailer is a kraft paper wrapped present and a few real plane shavings.  An introductory note and wax seal are your first clue that Mortise & Tenon is not the usual fare.
Out Of the Plastic Bag
The above photo is exactly as I removed the contents from the mailer.  I have no idea if the plan is go to this level of customization for future mailings, but I found it a great touch for the inaugural issue.  Here is a picture of note:

Marquis Notice
No detail was overlooked.  The red splotch on the bottom right is an actual wax seal.  Look carefully inside the seal:

The first impression after reading the magazine through once is that this is a content steak with a loaded content baked potato side, some content carrots, and content apple sauce for a sweet after taste.

There are no ads in the magazine main body.  For 139 pages you will find nothing but articles.  There is a sponsor directory at the end, but even here it is tastefully done and separate from the content.

Defining M&T is best done with the publisher's (and layout editor, and content editor, and janitor) own words:  "The Emphasis of M&T is an unabashed celebration of pre-industrial woodworking".  The emphasis is on the research, not the nuts and bolts (screws and dowels?).  There are no cut lists, or measured drawings typical of a contemporary woodworking magazine.  Joshua does not preclude such things in the future, but in the context of research to revive the past, not to get click-thrus, or newsstand eyeballs.

After a couple of interviews is a technical article titled "Analysis of a Federal Boston Secretary".  It is not a 'how to build' piece, however with the provided dimensions and a set of dividers, enough information is present for you to recreate this piece.  

My favorite article is from one of my favorite authors, George Walker.  He talks of the mighty string and it's less agile cousins; I'll leave it at that, enigmatic on purpose. 

If you are reading this, then you have seen that I'm the Pragmatic Woodworker.  My general emphasis is on building what I want/need when I want/need it.  I will never be any kind of wood scholar, I'm not even sure I'll ever learn enough to confidently pass on to another.  That said, I really did enjoy the first issue of Mortise & Tenon magazine.  Of course, not every article struck a chord with me, but enough did to convince me to be a regular subscriber.

Prayer For The Shop

Now I leave the shop to sleep

I pray the Lord my tools to keep

If they should rust before I wake

I pray the Lord the oxide to take

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Free Rein!

Not long ago the folks over at Lost Art Press offered up a graphic with limited permission for personal use.  The graphic is a French marriage mark that graces the cover of the Anarchist Design Book.  The files can be found on the LAP blog here.

A marriage mark is simply something you draw on mating pieces of wood to make sure you can line them up reliably any time you need to.  I use a series of straight lines or a simple exaggerated 'greater than' symbol:  >.  I guess my penmanship is as bad as my woodworking.  Sigh.

Back to the purpose of this post.  I took the granted liberty of the graphic and went a little bit further with it.

Without further preamble, here is my ode to the (so far) two volumes of the Anarchist series:

I had a second one made in black.  I like the green better.

It should be pretty obvious, but I like a shirt in a size that LAP does not offer.

Finally, even though it is very obvious, I'm stating directly that this shirt is NOT a Lost Art Press product.  This shirt is NOT for sale by me.  

I have not yet purchased the Anarchist Design Book; the $47 price tag is a tad high while I'm saving for the first two Hayward volumes.  I really can't wait to get the Hayward volumes to the point where I'm literally saving lunch money. :)  In addition to the Hayward books, I'm eagerly awaiting the second LAP Roubo book.  I'll content myself with the shirts until the ADB is in my grubby mitts.