Archive for the Category ◊ Resources ◊

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• Thursday, February 04th, 2021
red oak dovetails

Several years ago I wrote more than 60 lengthy posts for a crafts instruction site called Craftsy. Woodworking was only a small part of their business, which dealt mostly in knitting, cake decorating, sewing, and so forth. Craftsy has since changed hands, first acquired by NBC Universal who called it Bluprint, at then by its present owner, TN Marketing, who returned it to the Craftsy name. It appears they are no longer actively involved in woodworking. 

Nine of the posts that I wrote were assembled into a 43-page “Dovetail Guide,” which was available for free as a downloadable PDF. This was (if I don’t say so meself) a very useful, at-the-bench instruction guide for cutting dovetails, helpful for beginners to experienced woodworkers alike. It covers the hands-on things you need to know in an intimate way that few other sources do. “From the sawdust and shavings at my bench,” as I say. 

The link to the PDF disappeared in the corporate shuffle and has not returned as of now, despite my requests. Many readers have contacted me looking for the Guide. 

Good news: the links to the original nine posts are available at this writing. So, you can get all of the information in the guide but you have to click on nine different links. If you are interested, I suggest you get a hold of this soon because it would not surprise me if it also gets lost in the corporate shuffle. 

Here are the links to the nine sections of Rob’s Dovetail Guide, in order, labeled by topic. Each will open in its own tab.)

1. Essential tools for dovetail joinery

2. Stock preparation and marking out a dovetail joint

3. How to saw dovetails – accurately!

4. Chop the waste with good chisel technique

5. Marking the pins from the tails

6. How to saw and chop the pins

7. Fitting the joint together

8. Assembling and gluing

9. Fixing errors and finishing up (Introducing the Woodshop Spy Cam)

The guide covers through dovetails but the skills are directly applicable to all variants of dovetail joinery.

My goal is simple: to help you experience the joy of our craft and the fulfillment of creativity. If you do use the Dovetail Guide, drop a comment or email me and let me know how it has worked for you or if you have questions. 

Author:
• Sunday, January 31st, 2021
James Krenov: Leave Fingerprints

Author Brendan Bernhardt Gaffney has produced a biography of James Krenov that anyone even slightly interested in the subject will want to read. For those for whom Krenov has been a major influence, and there are so very many woodworkers, including me, in this group, this book is a must-read. 

The depth, breadth, and detail of the research demonstrated in this book are truly impressive. As the author states, it “spanned four continents, six languages and hundreds of interviews” and “thousands of hours.” Even if you have already read, as I have, all of Krenov’s books and lots of related articles and interviews, this book presents vastly more. It is fair to say that you do not know Krenov until you have read this book.

Rather than overwhelming the reader with this mountain of information, Brendan does a wonderfully intelligent job of organizing for the reader the rather complex life of James Krenov. This has helped me further understand the many influences on the development of his craft and what drove him. 

No hagiography, this book does not shy away from uncovering the less pleasant, or at least more difficult to understand, aspects of Krenov. Showing the subject as a real person rather than an icon makes for a much more powerful biography. Along with this, Brendan seems thoughtfully aware of how his relationship to Krenov’s work and teaching can influence his role as biographer. 

I will mention a few quibbles. In some areas, I think the writing and factual accounts could have been made more compact, while it would have also helped me if some of the life landmarks were restated. I suggest for a future edition to add a two-page layout of a timeline of the subject’s life to guide the reader. I also found myself confused by the overuse, in my opinion, of semicolons. 

The best compliment I can pay is this. As Brendan presents all of Krenov – his genius, his contradictions, and the remarkable patchwork of his life – he offers mature, judicious insights into how the many elements relate. Yet, he does this sparingly and modestly, leaving the reader plenty of room to draw his own inferences about Krenov. Moreover, the sheer thoroughness of the book equips you to do that. This is a fine line to walk and Brendan hits it just right.  

One more thing: one evidence of the artistry with which Brendan has approached this work is on pages 248-249. There, facing pictures of James Krenov with a book in his lap as a studious-looking boy in Alaska and as an old man with an easy smile in California bring to mind the uncertainty and beauty of life’s journey. A “quiet joy,” of which Krenov spoke, after all. 

The book is beautifully published by Lost Art Press

Author:
• Thursday, November 22nd, 2018

Rob Hanson fire

At his Evenfall Studios in Paradise, California, Rob Hanson had been producing top quality shooting boards, jigs, and shop fixtures for the past ten years. Rob is a craftsman, a businessman and a builder, and yet almost unimaginable destruction has entered his life. On November 8, his home and shop, 35 years in the making, were devastated by wildfire. The photo above is what is left of his home and shop.

Rob has written accounts: leading up to the destruction, the aftermath, and how it is.

Rob and his wife Kristy could really use your help. Dear Heartwood readers, please consider, on this Thanksgiving Day, helping them through this tough time by contributing via GoFundMe or Paypal. Every little bit will help in body and spirit.

Let us all be grateful that we can build, and that we can also help others to build, and as life sometimes requires, rebuild.

Thank you.

Category: Resources  | 2 Comments
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• Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

smoothing plane

I will be teaching a class, Handplanes: Understanding, Using, and Tuning, this coming Sunday, November 4, 2018, 10:00AM – 3:00 PM, at the Woodcraft in Woburn, MA.

This class will equip you with understanding and skills to directly apply to using handplanes in your shop. Sure, I’ll cover the basics but we’re going to drill down way beyond that so you will really know what you’re doing with handplanes. Among the areas we’ll cover:

  • Understanding bevel-down and bevel-up designs
  • Tuning your plane: blade edge camber for different uses, mouth opening, preparing and setting the chipbreaker, etc.
  • How to use the interactions among attack angle, chipbreaker settings (or no chipbreaker), mouth opening, and skewing the plane to get the performance you want
  • What’s really happening with blade edge wear
  • Blade steel differences
  • Planing technique – hands and body
  • The quality features that matter in new and used planes
  • How to intelligently sort among the many options in jack, jointer, smoothing, and scrub planes

Bring your plane if available, as this class will be hands-on as well as demonstration. If you have a plane in need of rehab, bring that too – I’ll choose one from the group and fix it up.

This class has been very well received in the past. In fact, a past attendee recently commented, “I took this course several years ago and it changed my woodworking.”

Please call the store directly at 781-935-6414 to register, and see their website for the location and details. You’re welcome to email me directly with questions. It would be great to see you there!

blade camber

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Author:
• Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

wood class

And the topic is: WOOD!

You must understand wood to successfully make things out of it. I will present this 5-hour class at the Woodcraft in Walpole, MA (about 10 miles southwest of Boston) on Sunday, September 9, 2018 from 10:00AM – 3:30PM. You will be equipped with the practical knowledge to use wood intelligently to maximize the quality of your projects and avoid the pitfalls that lead to disappointment.

In the woodworking instruction sphere, there are very few classes available on understanding wood, and most of those are small parts of much more extensive general woodworking courses. This freestanding, concise class is a great way to get the know-how you need. The store has an excellent teaching facility.

Go to this link and scroll down to September 9 to get sign-up details.

Among the areas we’ll cover:

  • From log to board: Come to really understand grain and figure. Learn to astutely use figure to enhance your projects, especially curved work.
  • Wood movement: We’ll cover practical understanding and applications, so this issue won’t catch you by surprise or riddle you with doubts. Try out pinless and pin moisture meters.
  • Understand and see what really happens with resawing.
  • How to buy and store wood. Spend wisely. How to spot and avoid defects in boards.
  • Bring: your sharpened plane, card scraper, handsaw, and chisel/knife to make shavings and sawdust as you sample the working properties of 20 species of wood.

And I promise, the learning will be fun!

Category: Resources  | 2 Comments
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• Tuesday, May 01st, 2018

The Krenov Archive

Available now is a new and bountiful collection of images of James Krenov’s work through many years, commentary on some of the pieces, videos, and other interesting materials.

The Krenov Archive is an important component of The Krenov Foundation’s mission to continue the legacy of James Krenov, his values, approaches to woodworking, and teaching. It is largely the work of David Welter, co-founder of The Krenov Foundation and a staff member at Krenov’s school for many years, Dave Matthews, Krenov’s son-in-law, and Kevin Shea. The archive will grow significantly beyond the rollout, so stay tuned.

Those familiar with the master’s work can better appreciate its breadth and further their insight by exploring the archive. I know Krenov’s books exhaustively, yet I’ve found plenty of valuable and interesting material to study in the archive. I particularly enjoy seeing the drawings and construction process photos. Those woodworkers and anyone who appreciates the craft who are new to all that is JK will also undoubtedly find this resource exciting and enriching.

Please consider supporting the Krenov Foundation. Read here on Heartwood for one easy way that I’d bet just about any woodworker can do! Your help will directly support and encourage young woodworkers in their journey in the craft we love. Ultimately, the fruition of their efforts will give more people the opportunity to experience the “quiet joy” of work “from wakened hands.” And that, dear readers of Heartwood, is a very good thing in a too noisy world.

Thank you,

Rob

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Author:
• Monday, December 11th, 2017

Krenov Foundation

You have some tools hanging around your shop that you don’t use or need. I know you do.

It’s inevitable. You’re a woodworker, so more times than you might care to admit, you’ve bought a tool that seemed so shiny and necessary at the time but now sits untouched. Maybe you’ve upgraded your chisels or backsaws, or maybe you’re downsizing to follow the trend of tool minimalism, but somehow there are unused tools in your shop.

And so readers, take a look around your shop and rescue those good but idle tools from their quiet detention. I respectfully ask you to consider giving them new purpose by donating them to the Krenov Foundation.

This organization’s stated mission is “to continue the legacy of James Krenov, his values, approach to woodworking, and teaching” as it “supports the art and craft of fine woodworking through scholarships, exhibitions, and developing an online archive of Krenov’s work.”

As for so many other woodworkers, the writing and work of James Krenov have been pivotal in forming my approach to the craft. Perhaps you often find yourself as I do, working in the shop as guiding words from A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook come to mind. In this spirit, I ask you to join me in supporting the Krenov Foundation.

At its helm is the Man of Steel himself, Ron Hock. It is based in Fort Bragg, CA, home of the Krenov School of Mendicino College, the evolution of the woodworking program established by JK in 1981. It takes only a sampling of the breathtaking work of its students to grasp the essence of the school.

By donating tools, you will be helping the next generation of woodworkers to experience and expand our beloved craft, in an age cluttered with anonymous ugliness. And “the Krenov Foundation is a nonprofit public benefit corporation organized under the Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation Law for charitable purposes.”

Please contact them before sending your donation of tools to make sure they are suitable for their needs.

Thank you!

Category: Resources  | 6 Comments
Author:
• Friday, December 01st, 2017

Porcaro magazine articles

If you enjoy and find useful the material here on the Heartwood blog, here are some offerings by your devoted keyboard warrior that I think you’ll also like. As with all my woodworking writing, it comes from the “sawdust and shavings of my shop.” No armchair pretensions, I write what I do. I hope these materials are helpful for your woodworking.

Popular Woodworking: August 2017 (#233) “Shapely Legs”

This article ties together techniques discussed on the blog to create a practical system for designing and making curved legs. This is how you go beyond copying plans laid out on grids of 1-inch squares in books and magazines. The idea is to empower you to create your own designs. I cover wood selection, transferring curves from a drawing to make a template, marking out and sawing the wood, and tools and skills for refining the curves after sawing.

Furniture and Cabinetmaking: July, August, and October 2017 (#259, 260, and 262) “Edge-to-edge Joinery,” parts 1, 2, and 3

This three-part series with more than 6,000 words and three dozen photos explores the techniques, rationales, and controversies of the ubiquitous edge joint. I truly think it is as complete and thoughtful a discussion of the topic as you will find anywhere. F&C is most readily accessible at a reasonable price in electronic form from Pocketmags.

Furniture and Cabinetmaking: February 2017 (#254) “Jointer Tune-up” 

This article is reproduced from material on the blog. It is a logical and doable approach to tuning a machine that can otherwise cause a lot of frustration.

Fine Woodworking Workshop Solutions: Winter 2017 “Making Better Use of Your Space” – Smart floor plans for workshops of all sizes.

Written by Fine Woodworking editors, this article has two pages of photos and text showing my humble 11×17-foot slice of heaven as an example of a small shop design, while the rest of the article shows an example of a medium and a large shop. The article has a nice plan diagrams of the shops, and shows some of the setup tricks and systems. The article appeared earlier in Fine Woodworking’s Tools and Shops annual issue, Winter 2014, with the cover declaring “dream shops, small and large,” so, wow, I’m living the dream, I guess.

Wood magazine: 

October 2016 (#242) “It’s Always Something” 

October 2017 (#249) “Search and Research” 

These two articles are reworked from the blog, and nicely produced by the editors at Wood.

Popular Woodworking:

October 2016 (#227) “Super Nova Magnetic Lathe Lamp”

December 2017 (#236) “SensGard Ear Chamber Hearing Protection”

These are reviews of two outstanding products.

The theme that runs through these writings and the blog is that I want to inspire you and help you to build things, and experience the joy of it as I do.

Category: Resources  | 2 Comments
Author:
• Saturday, July 29th, 2017

best woodworking books

Hell yeah. I just viewed a video (ironically) in which Mark Spagnuolo, the Wood Whisperer, delivers in his usual engaging manner, an excellent perspective on the role of books in learning woodworking. YouTube, he advises, is best used as a supplement to books. Mark is a prolific video producer, so his admonition to continue to use books as the pillar of learning woodworking carries a lot of weight. I agree wholeheartedly.

Explaining a woodworking concept by talking it through in a class or video is quite different than explaining it in writing. I may perform a process in the shop, maybe for countless times over many years, and later work through it in my mind to prepare to write about it. Then however, writing about it demands particular precision and clarity, even if accompanied by step photos such as for a magazine article. There is no video to help. The reader benefits from what is hopefully a honed and polished written product.

Similarly, reading and video watching are also different. Of course, video has the obvious advantage of seeing a process happen. Reading, however, gives you a chance to pace your mind, and to make sense of the material and absorb it. In particular, the breadth of a book allows you to see relationships among the material that you are unlikely to realize by only viewing videos.

So then, here are my favorite woodworking books. I have mentioned most of these elsewhere in this blog, but I hope this summary is helpful for readers.

1- The Krenov trilogy: A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook, The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking, Impractical Cabinetmaker. JK was a unique inspiring voice for so many woodworkers.

2- Woodwork Joints, Charles Hayward. Ounce for ounce, in paperback, maybe the best woodworking book of all time.

3- Understanding Wood, Bruce Hoadley. How can you even get near a piece of wood without this knowledge?

4- Understanding Wood Finishing, Bob Flexner. I still say that Flexner is the best explainer in all of woodworking.

5- The Perfect Edge, Ron Hock. There is good competition but I think this is the best book on sharpening.

6- Illustrated Cabinetmaking, Bill Hylton. When you have an idea for a project but you’re wondering, “How do I build that?” consult this encyclopedic review of construction options.

7- Wood, Eric Meier. As good a reason as you’ll find for printed books to continue to exist! Informative and joyful.

The following are out of print, as far as I know, but you can probably find used copies available:

8- Working in Wood, Ernest Scott. It has its imperfections, but this was an enormous help to me more than 35 years ago, along with Hayward’s book. I still find them helpful.

9- Designing Furniture, Seth Stem. Despite using mostly ugly examples, this book teaches design very systematically and well.

10- Making Joints, Ian Kirby. A marvelously clear thinker and explainer. Kirby is an underappreciated author in the woodworking world, in my opinion.

11- In a category of its own, not only because it is available free online, is The US Forest Products Laboratory’s Wood Handbook. Visit the US Forest Products Laboratory site and enter “wood handbook” in the search box.

Also, let’s not forget the magazines. They remain excellent sources of high-quality information.

Oh, and blogs too.

Category: Resources  | 2 Comments
Author:
• Thursday, December 03rd, 2015

furniture books

One of the best ways to develop your design skills is to look thoughtfully at lots of furniture, including unfamiliar work. Books and collections that organize work in historical and stylistic context are especially helpful learning tools. Here are two books that are both worthwhile but differ greatly in approach.

Furniture by Judith Miller (Dorling Kindersley Publishing) covers furniture design from ancient Egypt to contemporary. [Note: At Amazon, the larger format 2005 American edition is now much more expensive than the slightly smaller format 2010 UK edition.]

Done in the beautiful and orderly style typical of DK Publishing, the more than 500 pages will supply you with plenty of browsing hours. It is organized primarily by time period, for example 1760-1800, then by country and style, for example late 18th century Scandinavian. I like best the several sections within each time period that are devoted to specific furniture types, which allow you to study, for example, tables in the Art Deco period of 1919-1940.

Even though anything I design and make is unlikely to directly emulate more than a few, if any, of the pieces in this book, there are lots of stimulating ideas, motifs to borrow, and much to learn just from studying a wide variety of good design.

That’s the good part of the book. Now for the bad and the ugly. It is painful enough just to look at much of the furniture in the “Postmodern and Contemporary – 1970 Onward” chapter, but it is exacerbated by reading the highbrow credibility given by the author to some of this crap.

There is no Maloof rocker or Krenov cabinet to found here, though we are informed that Castle, Maloof, and Frid “worked in a highly contrived Postmodern style.” Further, the author states, “Using a laborious, painstaking method to produce off-hand, jokey objects was self-consciously ironic.”

Administer relief to yourself from such nonsense by picking up Craft Furniture by Dennis Blankemeyer (Schiffer Publishing, 2003). The author does an outstanding job of placing this work in the context of our daily lives and, more broadly, in our spiritual lives. He also gives fitting tribute to craftsmanship.

After sections on Esherick, Krenov, Maloof, and Nakashima, he presents the work and background of 25 contemporary craftspeople. There is so much beautiful, honest woodwork here; I think readers are sure to find it inspirational.

I suspect this book has not gotten the attention that it deserves. It is available in only hardcover from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Resolving the different vantage points of these two authors is a matter for another day. I’d rather get back to the shop.

Category: Resources  | 4 Comments