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!


  • Ralph Boumenot said...

    I watched the VHS version of Frank's dovetail a drawer so much I wore it out. I had to buy the DVD version. I still haven't tried the layout Frank uses but after 10-15 years, I'll be a pretty good beginner. Then I'll try his layout and I might also switch to pins first.

  • Anonymous said...

    I saw a hand tool video that Frank did in the ‘80’s. He showed how to make the “water box” in that video. Did he demonstrate the use of a heavy gauge wire he used to make the box?


  • HalfInchShy said...

    Definitely try the Frank method, Ralph... nothing wrong with your way, but adding another way is alway a good thing!

    Thanks for reminding me of that, Dean... I amended the posting to add that detail; I remember doing that to the box I later made, but should have put it here.

  • Anonymous said...

    Thanks Paul-Marcel. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the video (2+ years), but if I remember correctly (highly questionable), he did this to the bottom edge of the side boards (right down the middle). He said he only used nails to fasten the 4 side boards to the bottom board (through the bottom flat board into the edge of the side boards). When the water tried to seep out between the bottom of the side boards and the bottom board it would swell the compressed wood in the middle area and form a seal. I thought that was a great idea.


  • HalfInchShy said...

    Yup, that was exactly it. I didn't go into that detail in the posting: just the idea of making the dent with the wire, planing it flat, then assembling mechanically (nails or screws though he used nails).