Thursday, December 29, 2011

Other Uses for the Domino

While chatting with someone about the Domino, I realized a brief tour of other uses of the Domino might be interesting.  Here goes:

This shelf in my shop currently has three things hanging from it.  There used to be a few more jigs there, too.

The top of the shelf has a series of equally spaced Domino mortises...

The underside of the hung items also has mortises.  As you can see, the shelf is where I pop an unglued Domino in whichever mortise I need to hang items.  For awhile, I also had a moisture meter hung by a Domino since it had a wrist strap I could hook over it.  But the Domino isn't just used for stowing things on this shelf.  Next to the shelf is a large box that protects the water softener and water filter from clumsy woodworkers.  On the top of that, are 3 mortises (left, right, and one about 2/3 more to the right); each has an unglued Domino.

In this photo, you can see that the spray gun stand that was hung on the shelf can be hung from this box when I'm spraying outside the garage; the stand doesn't stand up well on its own with the long tail and whip on the gun so this is really handy.

In this photo, the "ladders" that were on the shelf are now deployed onto the box; they are used to hold panels as they dry with dye or finish (they can be much wider as they cantilever off the frontmost nail).  I made this while preparing 10 shelves for a cabinet and it has been very useful.  It is also the reason for the "2/3 more to right" Domino so it can handle shorter shelves or drawer parts.  As you can see in the picture, the exotic MDF is ready for French polishing :)

Ah, the back junk wall above my bench.  That horizontal stick of Oak is there for mounting mini shelves like the shelf for the scrapers (or the clamping squares to its left).

Push the Domino flush to the wall and plunge, which puts the Dominos 10mm from the wall.  Use that spacing to make the mortises on the bottom of the shelf and you have a quick way to make a removable shelf; easy to scoot over, too.  If you change your mind on a shelf's location, glue the Dominos in place and cut them flush.

I had a laptop in the shop for a long time.  I wanted a stand to hold it, but also wanted it removable.  I ran across the stand today in a hidden corner of the shop (in the garbage now as you've seen I have a wall-mounted monitor now).  Where my monitor is today, there was a horizontal strip of oak like the one for the scraper tray where this laptop holder could be quickly inserted or removed (as it stuck out over the bench a little, I'd often remove it when assembling something tall enough to hit it).

The laptop sat on the incline to make the keyboard more accessible; the oak front sticks up high enough to stop the laptop from sliding down!  Notice the two Dominos in the back.

On the back of my "Sysport" drawers, I use a Domino to register in the Systainers' locking slot to keep them in place.  I've used this trick on non-Systainers, too, as just a nub that sticks up is enough to keep a box from sliding around, but also easily removed.

If you remember the entry about the Moxon vice, I made a 'jig' mortise with the Domino using its registration pins so I could make mating mortises in jig accessories that attach to the vice.  First one I made and love is one for locating a drawer side plumb while cutting dovetails.

Out of the shop, I use a couple Domino tricks as well.  My dad made this ceramic bald Eagle long ago.  I borrowed it when I first moved in :)  That shelf is actually my first woodworking project in hardwood.  It is shaped from a tracing of that bird's shadow.  Now, I think the shelf needs more shaping, but I like it anyway.  It is mounted to the wall with 3 Dominos into the bracket (the bracket itself is screwed into wall bracing):

The two slots to the left are the "middle" size giving a bit of play; the other is elongated: 2 of the "wide" mortises in a row.  The shelf attaches by putting one Domino into the elongated slot then sliding the shelf into the other two:

Once inserted, a small screw goes through the top of the bracket to pin the Domino closest the corner.  It's rock solid, but easily removed.  Note that this shelf doesn't have to hold a lot of weight; 3 Dominos in shear like this would actually be pretty strong, but not enough for a hand-crafted anvil or anything.  Also, for the curious, there's a recess in the middle of the shelf that matches the base of the eagle so it can't vibrate off the shelf and also it places the eagle in the correct orientation it was in when the shadow was traced.

As a final example, this built-in cabinet is in my master closet.  The mirror in the back is held in place by 5mm Dominos.  No, no, I didn't mortise into the mirror :)  The Domino holes are set back from the front molding enough to hold the mirror in place; should I ever move, I can pretty easily remove the cabinet and take out the mirror for transport (no mirror mastic!)

Oh, yeah, I use the Domino for joinery, too :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Utility of a Router Bearing Kit

I'm finishing up a gift box for my mom's Christmas present.  Yes, I know, today is the 27th... anyway, I had to raise a small panel twice with a big honkin' 3.25" coving panel raising bit.  Those things generate a healthy amount of respect, I tell you.  But me fessing up to being way more frightened of a panel raiser than a rabbetting bit is not the topic of this post, if nonetheless true :)

A reader brought up a valid concern: the photos below were all taken the day after I raised the panel; they are staged photos to show how I used bearings to accomplish the panel and to highlight a caution.  Use push pads, stock holders or even a coping sled to keep yourself safe from the bit...

I raised the panel twice with a cove to create a unique shape; this is for the top of her gift.  As an aside, get creative with the profiles you have as "stacking" them can make unique profiles you don't see elsewhere; this is especially useful for boxes.  In my case, this stacking of a simple cove panel profile mimiks the "linen fold" bit I used for other parts of the box.

To accomplish this profile, I had to change the bearing on the bit to set the inside shoulder distance from the edge. The two bearings right in front of the panel were the keys.  I had these bearings in a Slot Cutter Survival Kit from Eagle America.  Panel raisers stack their cutters on a shank used for stacking slot cutters, which is why this bearing set was so useful.  Note that it wouldn't be useful to replace the bearing on the top of your rabbetting bit as that is a different inside diameter (there are top-bearing kits for that), but that said, I grabbed a few of those bearings as well and converted a rabbetting bit I got in a set to a 3/8" rabbet from 1/2" to compliment the 1/2" I already had.  Very useful.

Back to the panel cutter, between the cove profile and the back-cutter was a bearing that would ride on your stock to set the standard profile.  That's the bearing I swapped out for these larger diameter bearings.  I also left off the backcutter as I didn't want that.  The problem, though, with removing the backcutter is that you reveal a section of the shank that isn't threaded... so how can you lock down the cove cutter?

For that, I stacked bearings and a thin shim between them (less wear on the bearings) to get to the threaded part.

The photo shows how, when I had the larger diameter bearing, I had a smaller diameter bearing under it simply as filler.  The bearing kit, though, does have a variety of shims; I just opted to use another bearing rather than stack 6 or more shims.

This photo partly shows something I want to point out as a caution when stacking bearings and shims: as I cut this panel, I was constantly making passes and raising the bit a hair (small panel, big bit, hard Maple end-grain...)  Imagine the above picture as the bit goes higher. At a point, I'd be riding on the narrow edge of the bearing and it would be easy to get the stock underneath the bearing.  If I'm lucky, I maintain control but dig into my stock in ways that glue and sawdust won't fix.  A more likely scenario is that it catches the stock and throws it.  The hand nearest the starter pin might get hit like a kickback, but the other hand might get carried with the board into the bit.  So pay attention to the registration of the bearing on your stock.  Without stacking bearings (using the bit "as is"), there would be a back cutter on the top and a bearing sandwiched between them; the case can happen there, too, if you raise the cove cutter (pattern cutter) high enough to get the bearing about the panel.

I point this out because the bazillion cycles of raise-bit-route-panel can get you into inattentive repetition and you might move the bearing up or down off a safe registration on the stock.

I bought that slot cutter survival kit with a slot-cutter set, but I swear I've used it more often to modify other stacked bits than my slot cutters.  Highly recommend finding a kit like this and having it on hand.  Also recommend a few of the top bearings although usually you can steal one from another bit for a particular operation.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Stuff I learned from The Wood Whisperer

Worked my way to the first person I learned from: Marc Spagnuolo more commonly known as The Wood Whisperer from his podcast blog site.  (He's the goofy one in the picture... well, actually, that's not clear-cut either...)

If you've read my profile, I happened upon his site long ago while bored in a hotel room during a new-hire training trip.  I was doing some remodeling job and wanted new ideas.  That sparked an interest in learning more to, you know, make my own stuff, save some money :)  Actually – perhaps surprisingly – I knew making it yourself cost much more than store-bought stuff, but at least you could make your own goofy ideas come into fruition (or into the fire pit!)

I tore through the videos he had back then; they were very accessible and explained the parts glossed over in TV DIY shows.  Good stuff.

As for the title of this posting... the stuff I learned are the fundamentals, but that's what you need to build up to your own "thing".  I started on his site when it was pretty young; if you just start there now, you'll have, like, a bazillion videos to get through.  More popcorn.

Back in the day, he wasn't so busy so I made him busy with my email questions or chats when he was live streaming from the shop.  To give you an idea of how long ago that was, it was before someone stole his Makita SCMS.  Yeah, that long ago.

He later started WoodTalkOnline, a lively woodworking forum; I learned a lot posting answers to people's questions; even so far as to go to the shop to try out and verify what I thought would work would in fact work.  Tedious, but helps you learn quickly.  Just never become part of the "Internet echo" that repeats the same tired nuggets of advice that may or may not have ever been verified.

Thanks, Marc!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Stuff I learned from Frank Klausz

I'm working in reverse-chronological order still on the list of people I learned from directly.  Next up, the Frank!  (There can be only one!)

Frank Klausz came to Phoenix to do a seminar and hands-on class; how could you pass that up?

Frank learned as an apprentice in Hungary; learning all hand tools and emphasizing how to use them efficiently.  Today, you can sell a product built with hand-tools as a selling point to distinguish it from the others in the market.  Back when Frank was an apprentice, everybody built by hand so the successful ones had to be precise and quick.

The seminar class was a slideshow presentation of some of Frank's work through the years and his thoughts on the pieces.  Frank's pretty good about letting you know his thoughts.  Later there was a long discussion about general woodworking practices along with a Q&A.  There were some interesting stories along the way.

The most interesting story to me was about Frank hanging out with is friends during his youth in Hungary. As he put it, when he saw a pregnant lady go by, he thought of side-money for beer.  I had to scratch my head on that one for a moment until he explained.  Back then, bathtubs for babies were made of wood so he knew she would need a wooden bathtub.  This led to an interesting story about making wooden tubs.  You see, the tubs were square and the end pieces would be joined to the sides with sliding dovetails or similar mechanical joint.  The bottom of the tub would be mechanically attached.

The way the joints were made was very intriguing.  The mating sides of a butt joint first had a piece of thick gauge wire placed on them (paint bucket handle, for example) and pounded down to make a long dent in the shape of the wire.  Now plane the edge until it is flat; you should have just hit the bottom of the dent.  Now assemble.  The compressed wood where the dent was will swell and be proud of the rest once wet and acts like a mechanical caulking keeping the joint water-tight.

The box was water-tight once some water swelled the joints.  As a testament to that way of building tubs, the water box for his water stones is made that exact same way.  Every morning in Frank's Cabinet Shop, they run water into the box until it swells then they use it all day with no leaking.

...and that sharpening box of his.  Loved it during the hands-on class so I built something based on it.  But since I only spritz the Shaptons with a water bottle, the box never gets any water but the slurry that drips off the stones.  Part of why I went with the Shaptons was the spritz-n-go way you can use them without long soaking or lots of water; I can use them on the bench right where I need them with no mess.  Regardless, if you have regular water stones, consider making a box like his as it was so convenient to sharpen anywhere... once the box was full of water.

The hands-on class was to make a small jewelry box doing the joinery, shaping, and finish with hand tools.  The initial stock was machine jointed, planed, and dimensioned.  This let us concentrate on learning hand-cut dovetails.  Frank's method is pins-first; though I cut them both ways, I tend to prefer pins-first.  What I loved about the class is the focus on efficiency.  For Frank, dovetails don't take long.  A large part of what makes his dovetails fast is a layout by eye.  Once you get used to doing the layout by eye, it's much quicker!  You can have the pins cut by the time you pull out your ruler to do the layout.  A good place to see this is in the YouTube timed dovetail competitions.  Other contenders have their marking gauge and dividers pre-set.  Frank shows up, that's his setup :)

Frank has an excellent DVD on dovetailing a drawer.  Highly recommend that you get it.  While you can tell it was shot last decade, the content is king!  What you get is a fast version of the first day of the hands-on class.  Pay attention to the comments Frank makes along the way as they are all to promote better efficiency.

The video series I did here on hand-cut dovetails was inspired by Frank's class and his video; it emphasizes doing the layout by eye for all of the types.  Worth practicing, definitely (yes, your first couple will, uhm, "look" laid out by eye!)

Thanks, Frank!

The Jointmaker Journal

Was having a bit of fun in the shop while frantically working on a Christmas gift...

It's just a minute of a tool-mounted camera I tried out; based on the response so far, I think the idea is too out there to include it in future videos.  But give it a look if you have a minute to spare :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chaos Tamed! (a bit)

Usually when I complete a project, I spend the next week or so deciding what I want to build next as well as lowering the project-induced chaos in the shop before ramping it up again.  The bathroom vanity project definitely punched up the chaos; normally I don't do a big project over summer as it is too hot in there to hang around and, you know, put stuff away.  So there was some stuff to put away.  As my dad would have said, there was 10 lbs of crap in a 5 lbs bag.  Roll up your pant legs...

Part of my chaos problem is that I don't really like to do shop projects.  Oh, they are a necessary evil – and sometimes a great excuse to try something different! – but what I do about a tool or "thing" that needs a shop project is I put it on the assembly table to annoy me.  Once the assembly table is full of such things, I break down and dedicate a weekend to those shop projects.  Last weekend was such a weekend.  BTW, any of you do this, too!?  Tell me I'm not alone...

I rearranged a lot of things, put up 3-4 small shelves, fixed the broken things in the pile, and dug through too many plastic storage boxes that needed coalescing.  In fact, the coalescing resulted in this pile of previously full baskets:

What's funny is that things are more accessible now from better placement; when I get something new, usually its home is the first open place I can find.  Which explains so many tools in my refrigerator, but enough of that.

The projects included shelves for router "stuff", putting away the extra bases and edge guide for the router that will never leave my table, pulling out a slow wet slow grinder (sic) to the sale pile, and dismantling a pile of Systainers that were on the floor and finding them really decent shelf space.  Those damn things multiply when left to their own devices!

One of those baskets became home for piles of sandpaper sheets, another for drill bit packages; so much better!

The result (though I admit, superficially it looks like not much changed):


Oh, the clock? well, it merits a close-up:

A friend from the UK surprised me with a package that included this clock and (drum roll):

a toolie!  Those things are crazy unavailable out here so I'm very happy with both!  Thanks person-whose-name-I-wont-mention!  What's great about the clock, too, is that my old one suddenly started running at a different speed, like it was made for a moon or something.

That inlay?  It was something I put together with the Jointmaker Pro and some gouges as a sample.  Had some gaps (dammit) because I decided to try inlaying each piece individually so I could take advantage of the gouge's shape to accurately mark the recess.  Problem is as a sweep instead of a radius, you have to get the gouge lined up exactly as you did on the wood or you introduce a 'sweep error'.  Eh, next time...

I do still have one big shop project to do, but it is mostly done:

I'm awaiting an order of balancing kits for the wheels to kill the vibrations; so much nicer grinding a hollow grind the same day you started!

There is another project to build, especially before the next big party:

these were cast in Perú; I picked them up during my trip last year since we had a lot of fun playing Sapo (the "frog" game) at a local restaurant/pub.  Fortunately for me, I took the video camera and detailed the "game console" with audio notes as well; the build instructions are useless.

Now, though I was working hard at reducing the chaos... I added a lil...  I have a couple gift projects coming up as well as two projects for myself so I ordered a bunch of wood from Bob Kloes.  I went the internet route since local suppliers here charge outrageous prices and "do you the favor" of planing your stock to 13/16" or worse 3/4".  Bob normally skip-planes to easier packing and slightly cheaper shipping, but if you want it rough, let him know.  That didn't sound right...

This is what I picked up from Bob: (NSFW for woodworkers!)

The boards in front of the Swiss Pear are all from Bob.  There's a bunch of Tiger Maple in there as well as this:

8/4 Birdseye Maple... that picture is completely rough: no planing at all yet the birdseye are plainly visible and plainly all over the place!  Around here, a common woodworker pastime is to play "find the birdseye" on local birdseye boards.  Not with this stuff!

Another special board I got from Bob was this one:

it's a Maple board with bark inclusions.  Actually, this picture shows the tiger striping of the Tiger Maple on the boards to either side of this one.  The inclusions penetrate the board so if need be, I could resaw it to make more stock; this one was an impulse buy since I was already shipping 3 big boxes.

I've been working on a Christmas present this weekend using some of that lovely stock; this was my first experience buying from Bob (or any internet lumber dealer) and it definitely won't be my last.  I've since added Bob's blog to my blog roll, but in particular, look at this entry about what's going to be ready soon.  Leave some for me!

I recently blogged about my class with Garrett Hack.  It was in a Woodcraft.  That's dangerous.  Right by the door to the class was a huge load of quartersawn Sycamore.  Wide stuff, too!  All day long, people would look at it.  I looked at it during a break and found this one in the middle:

It's huge!  The colors are amazing as are the rays of figure on this quartersawn stock.  On the division between the sapwood and the heartwood is a black ink line of spalting; the heartwood is a crazy array of colors:

I have a spare bedroom I'm converting into a reading room/study.  Planned on making a 7' long low credenza for media, books, etc. and the multimedia components.  The inking on this board goes for 7' and the board is the width I want for the credenza.  It'll make a beautiful top!  The offcut is a little narrow for a center coffee table, but I may resaw it to bookmatch it into a larger table.  Have to design the pieces still, but they should be coming up soon.  (Oh, I've said that before).

Okay, after all that wood porn, I feel like a smoke, and I don't like cigarettes!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Festool Rotex 125 and 150 Reviews

On a forum, I saw a question about the differences between the Festool RO-125 and the RO-150 Rotex sanders.  I wanted to post a link to my blog entry about it only to realize that I never made one with the various review videos of those two sanders.
So, if you have followed my blog for the past year, you likely saw these.  I'm adding them here for completeness.

The following video reviews of the Rotex sanders are mostly about each individual sander, functionality, speeds, etc. with a little comparison between the two.  The fourth video is a comparison directly between the models.

Let me apologize up front for the lighting in the videos; they were among the first 5 I ever did and I had no softboxes (directed diffuse lighting).

Read up after the videos for some additional thoughts...

First up, the RO-125 review and demo:

Next, the RO-150 review:

and separately the demo (I was too new to YouTube to be allowed a longer video at the time :)

And lastly, a video comparing the two models side by side:

Additional thoughts (some of which were eluded to in the videos):

I like the RO-125 because it fits nicely in my hand; I can easily grab the knob top and whirl it around a bit like an ETS-125.  It's less aggressive, however, than the RO-150, but I normally don't need to hog off material (for that, the RAS-115 is a beast).

The surface of the RO-150 is 44% larger than that of the RO-125, which is significant if you are sanding/polishing the hull of a boat, less significant if you are sanding face frames.  Actually, if you are mostly sanding face frames, the RO-90 is the sander of choice.

Whichever sander you get, be sure to order the hard pad for it.  You want that when sanding most anything flat.  The semi-soft that comes with the sander will follow minor undulations that you may not care about in the field of a piece, but near the edge, it can "dub" the edge.

If you decide to get the RO-150, I highly recommend the auxiliary handle that attaches to the front of the sander.  You are so much better balanced for leaving the pad flat on the surface.  With the regular side handle, it's too easy to dip the front or back of the pad and add scratches from the edge of the pad.

For their papers, I like using Rubin paper from P80 to P120.  From P180 up, I use Brilliant-2 papers.  Now that Granat is available, I'd be tempted to replace Rubin with it as it seems to last longer plus if you work with mixed media, Granat doesn't clog on resins or plastics.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Stuff I learned from Charles Neil

I'm playing a bit of catch-up :)

Awhile back, I assisted Charles Neil while he taught a series of classes down in Tucson, Arizona.  Was a great chance to get to meet him in person as he doesn't make it out this way too often.  I say assisted because about all I could lend a hand doing was being the gopher.

If you've ever watched his videos (YouTube, DVDs, or his guild), you know he has a hundred ways to accomplish the same thing depending on your tooling and mood.  I respect that a lot since all too often in woodworking there's a preponderance of "only" ways to accomplish anything.  If anything, learning 12 ways to make a certain joint comes in handy when you have to correct something undoubtedly caused by your tape measure being a half inch short. ahem...

The first day was a woodworking show held at the Tucson Woodcraft.  Days two and three were the real classes.

Anybody who has watched Charles knows he's a finishing guy; all throughout a build, he's focused on preparing anything he can to simplify and improve the finishing stage.  He had a good overview class of various finishes followed by a small spraying workshop complete with Apollo and Earlex spray systems.

On the subject of finishes, one of the excellent take-aways was the use of General Finishes Enduro-Var to stabilize punky spalted Maple.  He had a very punky board with large soft pithy areas.  A quick coat of Enduro-Var (which dries very quickly) and the pithy part was solid enough to work.  He talked about a bowl he turned back home that was nearly falling apart.  A soak in Enduro-Var and he was able to finish turning without loads of CA glue.  I've used the stuff on a few small shop projects since the class and I can tell you it's tough!

The spraying class was a lot of fun for everybody; most people have questions about certain spray problems or don't have a sprayer yet and want to see how it feels.  We had a booth setup where they could spray exotic corrugated cellulose (ahem, cardboard).  What was fantastic for the participants was explaining a problem they get and having Charles reset the gun so it produced that problem.  It was then easy to make the adjustments right there and try again.  I think he's taught this class a time or three.

Another interesting take-away: of the Earlex sprayers, only the 5500 is truly capable of spraying water-based finishes.  The others can do it, with difficulty.  Any bit of crud in the lines or a thicker finish and you'll likely start having problems that you'll think are your technique (since the day before it shot okay).  Worth the extra dollars for the 5500.

Another class was on scooping a seat.  There are lots of popular videos that show scooping with an angle grinder and a shaping disc like a Holey Galahad or Kutzall.  That's slow and also tricky to get the depth correct everywhere.  He uses a technique with a dado blade to do the bulk of the removal and to set a consistent 'bottom' (for your bottom...).  The back angle that makes the center of the seat deeper is accomplished with a shim block on the seat blank.  Once you have 90% of the waste removed with the dado stack, pull out the Holey Galahad to shape what remains (frankly, I'd use the RAS-115 so I don't look like Fozzi Bear when done... yes, I was the hose-monkey who held the DC hose near the grinder and I looked like that when we were done; it was a hazing incident, I'm certain!!)

He's made a video of this now that you can see here:

Coincidentally, a friend of mine (hi, Brian!) is making a lot of Maloof-inspired chairs right now.  I mentioned this class to him and how well it worked so he found the video.  From what he said, it was much easier than other methods, faster, and cleaner.  Worth a try.

This posting is too serious, so we need a funny story.  Day 2 ends and it's time for dinner.  Everybody says the Silver Saddle is a great steak house so we decide to let the other gopher lead the way thanks to GPS.  To protect the guilty, we'll call this gopher Donald.  He types in Silver Saddle and the top two entries are both Silver Saddle.  I say it's the second one cuz it's Silver Saddle Grill; Donald punches the first one "oh, it sometimes has duplicate entries".  Well, true, both entries were 5.3 miles from Woodcraft.  We drive there.  We're getting close and it's in a residential neighborhood.  Then we're by a used tire yard with hubcaps.  Then, there it is, the Silver Saddle... strip club!  Awesome!  Wait, why is Donald going around apologizing to the other cars?  I mean if he needs cash or something...

Meanwhile, back at the Silver Saddle Grill, I'll assure you our waitress was prettier than any at the other place.

One class was on turning flame finials, both concave and convex.  There weren't a lot of takers for this class so Donald and I got a long private class on doing them and a lot of other ideas.  I had never turned before so this was an interesting start!  Donald said I couldn't get into turning because Festool doesn't make a lathe yet.  I didn't get the joke...

We did a class on steam bending and had a long discussion after the class.  Charles was intrigued with the Mesquite in the store since it isn't a wood you see back in Virginia.  The Tucson store was loaded with it.  What was intriguing is that nobody had tried bending it, but he's convinced it would bend well given the grain structure.  Certainly it would make for a beautiful continuous-back chair if it would bend.  It's on my list to try when I make a steaming box; air-dried woods typically bend better than kiln-dried and it's easy to get air-dried Mesquite here.

Funny story part deux: the store got the wrong type of PVC for the steamer so it was melting and collapsing everywhere before the class while pre-heating.  Just wanting to make it last through the class, Charles asked for some duct tape and was given a big new roll.  His eyes got big and told me, "with a whole roll, I can make a car!"  I believe it.

Last class was on cutting compound tenons on the table saw.  The jig is featured on his chairmaking DVD as well as the latest "Tables" series in his guild.  We built it before class in no time at all.  It's both ridiculously simple and ridiculously effective.  Clever.  You'll see it in use on a project video early next year.

All in all, it was an excellent 3 days of woodworking education.  Since I follow his guild and have many of his DVDs, I knew a lot of the content already.  The gems above (and the location of the other Silver Saddle) will definitely get used in future projects.

Thanks for the great weekend, Charles!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Stuff I learned from Garrett Hack

Last weekend, I attended a 2-day seminar with Garrett Hack followed by a 3-day hands-on workshop with him as well.  If the name rings a bell, he's an associate editor for Fine Woodworking magazine and a builder of some very very nice furniture.  Go visit his personal site for a slideshow of his work.  No, no... go now (then come back :)

Chris Wong was out to visit (still...) and attended the 2-day with me.  That seminar included a detailed design review of several pieces of furniture including many of Garrett's own creations. The idea was for us as a group to critique the choices made in the pieces, what seems "wrong" to each of us, and how to do it better.  Design is often overlooked in these woodworking classes so it was hugely refreshing to spend the better part of a morning looking at fantastic craftsmanship with a critical design eye.  My friend Marco hijacked Garrett's laptop and inserted his own demilune table into the slide show; it was a table he made previously in a class Garrett taught.  We skipped by it after a laugh; personally, I was going to say that it looked pretty good and that he should have made the other half, too. :)

It is interesting that when Garrett designs furniture, he makes a conscious effort to make it lighter than you think.  For example, thin walls on drawers, light woods for drawer bottoms, coopered doors using very light core material skinned and veneered.  I found this very interesting since I've never heard someone put the weight of the product as a design goal among the other client-driven constraints.

Garrett is the author of two books on hand planes so naturally this seminar course was going to be heavy of good plane information.  Not so much the history of specific planes (I would have fallen asleep...) but rather his personal philosophy of using them.

For example, Garrett uses a lot of low-angle planes.  That surprised me since I've often heard people say that low-angle bevel-up planes were beginner planes; personally, I have 6 bevel-up planes on my bench and never thought them to be akin to training wheels.  So I was happy to see him confirm my belief that they are not.

Garrett also sharpens all his blades to a 25º bevel and gets excellent results.  For me, I have difficulty with small surface tearout on Maple with that arrangement, but since he's an obviously successful believer in the 25º at all times, I tried some scrap hard Maple being particular about closing up the throat.  Worked great! With a 45º blade (57º attack), I always got great results on Maple, but talk about a hard push.  With a more meticulous throat setting, though, I got a polished result.

Speaking of polish, Garrett pointed out that if you get your surface to a clean polish off the hand plane, you can read a magazine in the reflection... and he's right!  That's a new goal of mine when planing a final surface.  Another goal is to watch my lateral adjustment more carefully; d'oh! got busted for that a few times :)

Chris was staying at my place during this part of his vacation so after class, we'd spend the whole evening until 3 am in the shop.  One evening, we took home a gnarly piece of Mesquite because it seemed to defy hand planing.  The specific test was to use a new Woodriver #5 plane on it.  Chris is going to post a detailed review of the whole event likely after Christmas so watch his blog for that.  I flipped the board and planed the back side to a nice polished finish with a Veritas low-angle jack with a 25º bevel (training wheels removed :)

An interesting benefit of planing that Garrett pointed out was that a planed surface doesn't raise the grain when you wet it; he demonstrated with a planed board where he scraped a small section in the middle.  Only the scraped section had raised grain from the water.  That's very interesting and will alter my way of working with flat stock since I usually use water-based finishes.

Garret uses stringing in a number of his pieces using a scratch stock.  As simple as a scratch stock is, it is often overlooked for router bits.  A scratch stock is a piece of metal ground to a scraper profile you want; mount it in a handle with a fence and scratch the profile you want.  For thin stringing lines, this is perfect; it also works well for custom edge profiles.  There is no sharpening involved other than making sure the profiled section is polished to 90º like a scraper is before applying a hook (scratch stock are hook-less scrapers).
In this photo, the scratch stock I made in the class is to the right in a chunk of Mahogany.  The tool to the left in the back is a Veritas beading tool and is basically a fancy scratch stock.  The blade in my scratch stock is a piece of a bandsaw blade for a bandsaw mill; you could easily cut up old handsaw blades or even a scraper.  The block of Mahogany acts as a fence and the thumb screw holds the blade in place.  You run the fence along the edge of your project to scratch in the profile.
In this top view, you can better see the profiles.  My scratch stock is scratching a fine line for a stringing inlay whereas the Veritas tool has a scratch stock that will make a flute.  We didn't use the Veritas tool in the class; the point was to show how easy it is to make your own profile.  The Veritas tool, however, comes with a number of nicely ground profiles that you could buy without the handle if you want to pop it into a block of wood to try it out.

There was a long section on inlays, both of the stringing type and in inlaying motifs.  It is tedious work at times, but a little inlay goes a long way.

Garrett discussed bent laminations including all the details of resquaring up what comes out of the clamps.  One of my next projects involves a few bent laminations so this section was of particular interest.  Normally when I think of a bending form, I think of MDF, but he prefers to use construction lumber and with good reason.  For him, it is free as he lives on a large farm, but also you can more easily fare it with hand tools than something like MDF.

When dealing with bent laminations, you're creating shapes that aren't flat.  They still need joinery so we did a section on compound tenons and how to dovetail a drawer with a bowed front.  That was a very interesting section that I haven't yet practiced so I may glue up a bowed drawer front and try it out.

The course finished off with coopering.

This summary of the 5-day course doesn't scratch the surface of what was covered in the class or in conversations with Garrett.  As he explained, this course was a summary course of other classes he teaches that are 5-days long on just one section.  Even so, getting direction from a master to get started in some new areas is energizing.

He also happens to be a easy-going guy; if you get a chance, take a course - any course - with him.  Thanks, Garrett!