Archive for ◊ November, 2009 ◊

• Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

This is an excellent opportunity to do something you can hardly do at stores and certainly not online: get your hands on lots of hand tools, give them a real test drive on wood, and scrutinize them to your heart’s content. The Lie-Nielsen folks will, of course, be there answering your questions and running two interactive workstations, sharpening and plane tuning.

Four guest demonstrators, including yours truly (representing Popular Woodworking magazine), will be there for the entirety of both days, at workbenches, to demonstrate, discuss tools and woodworking, and to make shavings and sawdust. You will undoubtedly enjoy the offerings of Bob Van Dyke from the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, Matt Kenney from Fine Woodworking magazine, and Bob Zajicek from Czeck Edge Hand Tool.

I will present a demonstration and talk on shooting at about 2 pm each day, which will cover how to make a simple shooting board, how to use it, and which planes to employ.

Readers, if you are anywhere in the area and can make some time – hey, this is woodworking we’re talking about – come over and say hi, it will be fun to see you. This promises to be an enjoyable and informative two days.

Category: Resources  | 2 Comments
• Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Recognize the date? “The Eagle has landed.” This was a joyous and monumental accomplishment for our country and all humankind.

At 14 years old, I had my own little additional private cause for joy that day having finished my first drawer. I knew then, and certainly now, that this crude fir plywood nail-‘em-up dresser valet was a long way from fine craft but the drawer moved in and out and it closed well. It could hold things. I made it.

The drawer and I have survived the ensuing four decades of use. Can’t complain, I suppose.

So, what of the youthful hours spent in the basement messing around with wood and tools, trying to make things? There were boxes, bird feeders, bookcases, tie racks, more boxes, and on and on. (Note to mom: thanks for putting up with sawdust in the laundry room.) It is enough just to have enjoyed the time.

Yet, looking back, there were also lessons learned about planning a project and progressing through the steps, a certain discipline of thought and action. Further, valuable experiences were accumulated: the feel of tools in the hands and of steel on wood, the quirks of wood, and how things can go wrong and right.

Most meaningful, is the honest joy in having an idea and making it simply be there. That and the drawer endure, so I feel very fortunate.

Category: Ideas  | 6 Comments
• Sunday, November 08th, 2009

I have been using this set of chisels for two years now as the primary chisels in my shop, mostly for chopping joinery but also for many general chiseling and paring tasks. They are beautiful. “Blue paper” steel has been laminated to the soft steel body which has been repeatedly folded to produce a wood grain pattern (mokume). While it was not easy to part with the money to buy them, they have been well worth it.

These chisels, with the exception of the handles, were made in the hands of one man, Teiichirou Ohkubo, who uses the market name “Daitei,” in his very small shop in Yoita, Niigata, Japan. (Spellings of his name vary among Western sources.) He works at a forge established about 100 years ago by his grandfather. I am inspired working with these chisels because, though I will likely never meet Mr. Ohkubo, I sense a personal connection with a craftsman putting some of his spirit into his product which, in turn, assists me in doing the same. That’s a good feeling.

The handmade inscription on the box in the photo below reads, I am told, “made by Dai Tei,” in the lower left corner, above the red personal mark (chop).

Now for the best part. They have been easy to sharpen on Shapton stones and hold an edge magnificently. I use a primary bevel of 27.5 degrees and a secondary bevel of 32.5 degrees. This gives excellent penetration and completely avoids chipping of the edges. Sometimes, just for curiosity, I’ll pause fairly well along in chopping some joints and am amazed to see the chisels can still shave hair on my arm.

They have an authoritative weight and balance in the hand. I have long enjoyed the ergonomics of Japanese chisels though I recognize this is a matter of personal preference. I believe the handles are Macassar ebony, contrary to the vendor’s description. Initially, I had some concerns regarding the handle wood being perhaps too brittle and prone to splitting. I properly set the hoops (I like Joel Moskowitz’ excellent step by step method), and, despite some serious working action with a mallet, have had no problems.

Any imperfections? Yes, of course, but not enough to cause practical problems. The handle on one of the smaller chisels is undersized and there is slight inconsistency in the angles of the side bevels among some of the smaller chisels.

It is exciting and motivating to work with personally made woodworking tools. Woodworkers now are fortunate to have this kind of tool available from not only Japanese makers, but, more than ever in my lifetime, from many outstanding Western toolmakers. By all means, seek out and use some of these personal tools for personal woodworking.

Category: Tools and Shop  | 11 Comments