Archive for the Category ◊ Resources ◊

• Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

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The NWA’s 23rd Annual fine woodworking Showcase, attended by 5000-6000 woodworking enthusiasts each year, will be held Saturday and Sunday, March 29-30, 2014 at the Saratoga Springs City Center in Saratoga Springs, NY.

The event features:

  • Lots of free classes and demonstrations to help you broaden your woodworking skills.
  • A large trade show with tools and materials from national manufacturers and local suppliers for exhibit and sale.
  • An exhibit of over 500 pieces of woodwork by amateurs and professionals ranging from small accessory items to large furniture.

This year, as one of the featured demonstrators, I will present two topics on each day, Saturday and Sunday: “Hand Planes – Choices, Set Up, Use,” and “Drawer Fitting – Steps To Success.” The demo schedule is here. Of course, I will also be around for chatting, questions, and enjoying the Showcase.

Heartwood readers, I hope you have a chance to attend and I will see you there. Saratoga Springs is about 30 miles north of Albany, NY. If you are there but don’t happen to attend my presentations, please do say hello anyway.

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• Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Learning and laughing, I had a great time at WIA. Here are a few snapshots with preceding captions. A few closing thoughts follow the photos.

I spent much of the weekend hanging out with Mark Harrell of Bad Axe Tool Works, here demonstrating one of his superb backsaws. Looking on are Vic Tesolin of Lee Valley and Al Flink, a student of Mark’s who became my saw filing teacher for an afternoon. In the world of saws, BATW is playing chess while most are playing checkers.



The same goes for shooting boards and Vogt Tool Works. Tico has added to his line of inclined shooting boards with models designed specifically for new shooting planes available from Lee Valley and Lie-Nielsen. If you don’t already own a Vogt shooting board, you owe it to yourself to check out Tico’s products.



When Matt Vanderlist talks, woodworkers listen.



Speaking of great communicators, I asked Marc Spagnuolo to look as cool as possible for this photo. Yes, I know, that’s like asking Kareem Abdul Jabbar to look tall. The Wood Whisperer met my request with his ready sense of humor.



Popular Woodworking magazine Editor Megan Fitzpatrick and I, your devoted scribe, made a deal, or so I thought, to look as sappy as possible for this shot. Megan, no doubt quickly bringing to mind some Shakespearean plot, opted to appear quite levelheaded, while I succeeded rather spectacularly with the original plan – don’t you think?



I will not reveal what Chris Schwarz did moments before this shot, but only say that he switched the anatomical focus of his jocularity from his customary posterior to anterior just in time for the photo. (No, he’s not adjusting the square on his shirt.) Can you tell that Deneb Puchalski and Tom Lie-Nielsen are covering for Chris with forced laughter?

Seriously, it is hard to appreciate the beauty of the Lost Art Press books until you handle them in person. The same is so for the grace and functionality of Lie-Nielsen tools.



Recognize the guy in the middle?



Ron Hock of Hock Tools has done so much for woodworkers for many years.



Woodworkers are similarly grateful for the contributions of Joel Moskowitz of Tools for Working Wood and Gramercy Tools, here chatting with Fred West.


It was wonderful to be around so many people who love what they do, in this case, woodworking. The joy was palpable and contagious, while the learning flowed naturally. The direct link between action and result inherent in the craft of woodworking punishes pretension, so the down-to-earth nature endemic among woodworkers comes as no surprise.

I am grateful for the many conversations I was able to have with sincere, masterful makers. Some that I especially savored, such as with Mark Harrell of Bad Axe Tool Works, and Robin Lee of Lee Valley Tools, were alone worth the airfare. Thank you also to the many people whom I met who kindly mentioned their appreciation of my writings.

Special thanks to the Popular Woodworking crew for putting on a wonderful event!

Category: Resources  | One Comment
• Saturday, September 28th, 2013


Take a look at two lists: the Speakers and the Toolmakers who will be at WIA.

Every woodworker can learn plenty from that bunch. In fact, we can probably learn just by breathing the air at WIA. I’m only half kidding: seeing Mary May in person carving oak leaves, and hearing Silas Kopf discuss where design ideas come from, to cite just a couple of examples among the classes, are sure to elevate my skills and confidence.

Browsing the toolmakers’ booths is going to be fun – handling and trying out fantastic tools cannot be done online. Yes, this is dangerous territory, especially if your credit card is handy, but as a woodworker, isn’t that just the kind of living on the edge that you crave?

Exchanging ideas about tool design with these outstanding makers will be just as enjoyable. My first mission will be a reconnaissance op to the Bad Axe Tool Works bunker and Col. (Ret.) Mark Harrell.

Heartwood readers, I cannot think of any better or more enjoyable way to improve your woodworking skills, knowledge, and perspective than to visit WIA and hang out with lots of people who share our passion for the craft. I hope to see you there!

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• Saturday, September 21st, 2013


There are places available in the class I will be presenting tomorrow, Sunday, September 22, 2013, at the Woodcraft in Walpole, MA, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM on “Fundamentals of Hand Plane Selection, Setup, and Use.” The location is about 15 miles southeast of Boston, two miles north on Route 1 from Gillette Stadium.

The presentation will be in a clear, logical, at-the-workbench manner, much as topics are presented here on Heartwood. It will include plenty of guided hands-on, as well as demonstration and discussion. Beginners as well as experienced woodworkers will benefit from the class, which will include bevel-down and bevel-up options and tuning. Bring a plane or two. DVR the 1:00 PM Pats game and beat the Route 1 traffic going in and going home.

Please see the Woodcraft website for directions and details.

Other upcoming classes I will be teaching:

  • How To Make and Use Mortise and Tenon Joinery on Saturday, November 2, 2013, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM.
  • Choosing and Using Hand Saws – Western and Japanese on Thursday, November 14, 2013, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM.
  • Fundamentals of Hand Plane Selection, Setup, and Use on Sunday, December 15, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM.

If you are in the area, and especially if you like reading the Heartwood blog, come on over – we’ll have a blast.

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• Sunday, July 28th, 2013


Heartwood blog readers, I will be teaching classes starting this September at the new Woodcraft in Walpole, MA. The location is about 15 miles southeast of Boston, two miles north on Route 1 from Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots and Revolution.

The first two classes I have scheduled are Fundamentals of Handplane Selection, Setup, and Use on Sunday, September 22, and How To Make and Use Mortise and Tenon Joinery on Saturday, November 2. Each starts at 10 AM and is five hours long.

I will present the topics in a clear, logical, at-the-workbench manner, much as topics are presented here on Heartwood. The classes will include demonstration, talking, and, of course, plenty of hands-on. If you have any questions regarding the class content, please email me or comment here on the blog.

Signup can be done by phone, email, or at the store. Please visit the site for details.

There are many classes available at this Woodcraft, which houses an exceptionally spacious, well-equipped teaching room. Topics include turning, finishing, sharpening, carving, veneering, power tools, guitar making, and classes for beginners.

If you are anywhere near the area, the store is a very worthwhile visit. It is gorgeous – huge and nicely laid out. Manager Jerry Klevas has thoughtfully assembled the inventory, and thus on a recent visit I was delighted to see tools and supplies that had been difficult to find elsewhere. The store also has a nice lumber selection including specialty woods.

For effective instruction, class sizes are small, so if you are interested, I suggest signing up very soon.


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• Saturday, May 18th, 2013


Woodworking In America, the annual extravaganza hosted by Popular Woodworking magazine, will be held Friday through Sunday, October 18-20, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio (Covington, Kentucky, to be exact).

I’ll be there, and I’m stoked. Here’s why:

Most of all, I will meet many of my fellow woodworkers, including readers of this blog. Some I have communicated with for years and will finally meet in person.

I plan to do a lot of learning (and drooling) at the booths of the toolmakers in the Marketplace section of the conference. This will be a great chance to pick the brains of the small-scale, ultra quality toolmakers that I so greatly admire. I might even have a suggestion or two to offer.

The classes have first-rate presenters and useful topics. Among the many offerings, I have my eye on a carving class with Mary May, Sketch Up sessions with Bob Lang, the historical perspectives of Don Williams, and gleaning what I can from the brilliance of Silas Kopf.

As if all of that is not enough, I plan to take up saw maker extraordinaire Mark Harrell of Bad Axe Toolworks on his claim that he can transform any key on my keyring into a serviceable dovetail saw in five minutes with nothing more than a 5″ extra slim saw file.

Of course, Mark has said nothing of the sort, but I do know that WIA is going to be a great time, and I will gain knowledge and skills. I hope to see you there. Go to this link to register.

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• Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Some topics have been explored in greater depth on the Heartwood blog as series of from three to ten posts. This has been a popular feature of the blog and will continue. The shorter series are the length of short magazine articles and the longer ones would constitute book chapters.

For the convenience of readers, each of the more than a dozen series written over the past four years is now directly accessible in its entirety via a link list that can be found by clicking on the Series Topics link just below the autumn scene header photo.

Comments are closed on posts older than thirty days, which includes virtually all of the posts in the catalogued series, to limit the incessant flow of spam. However, please feel free to email me with questions.

As always, thanks for reading, and happy woodworking to you.


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• Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

If you are looking to acquire hand tool skills and can get to, or live in, the north-central Massachusetts or southern New Hampshire areas, consider contacting Steve Branam, author of the Close Grain blog. Earlier this year, Steve started his Close Grain School of Woodworking in Pepperell, MA.

Learning hand tool skills can be confusing and take longer than necessary if you go it alone. In Steve’s words, “Part of what I want to convey is that this is well within the scope of most people’s ability.” As you can see from the outline of the skills he teaches, his approach is systematic and thoughtful. It is skills-based learning, rather than project-based, which makes a lot of sense to me. I also like his down-to-earth approach, devoid of hyperbolic claims of quick and easy perfection.

The best part is that Steve offers you three ways to learn. At his Pepperell location, you can attend group classes. There you can also get private instruction from him in which you have the option of choosing the skill areas you want to work on. Thirdly, Steve will actually travel to your shop/home (within a 60-mile radius of Ayer, MA) for private instruction. In all cases, he even provides tools and materials, or you can use your own tools. There is no excuse left for sitting on the hand tool sidelines or floundering with trial and error.

By my calculation, Steve has somehow managed to circumvent the normal human requirement for sleep. Actually, this is my way of expressing admiration for his entrepreneurship as well as his dedication to sharing woodworking skills.

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• Monday, May 28th, 2012

With over a half million apps available for the iPhone, surely there must be plenty of value to woodworkers. So I had hoped, but my search, while not exhaustive, has been generally disappointing. There are lots of apps for DIYers and contractors, but few of real value to small shop furniture makers. Some of the woodworking apps aren’t worth even their small cost, some are mostly designed to market in-app purchases, some directed at novice woodworkers give little truly useful information, and some just do not work well.

Here are some notable exceptions that I recommend.

The Woodshop Widget lists movement and hardness values for 288 wood species using data mostly from the US Forest Products Laboratory. You can easily calculate the change in width of flatsawn, rift, and quartered boards over a range of humidity that you specify. Also included are a board-feet calculator and several other handy functions. Its $3.99 price is about the most I can bring myself to spend on an app but this one is worth it.

Board Feet Easy Calculator does one job, does it well, and is free.

WoodworkerCalc, $0.99, is primarily a very handy fractional calculator designed for the fractions woodworkers use. I find it is faster, easier, and less mistake-prone in use than my old dedicated fractional calculator. It allows you to set the precision of fractions (e.g., to 1/32 or 1/64) and decimals. It contains a few other functions including, of course, a board-feet calculator.

Woodworking with the Wood Whisperer is a free companion app to Marc Spagnuolo’s website. The app gives you access to hundreds of videos, audio podcasts, the WoodTalk online forum, articles, and much more. The well-produced videos are not only informative, but also enjoyable because Marc is a gifted communicator with an engaging, likeable style.

Readers, if you’ve found other worthwhile apps to add to this list, please feel free to comment.

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• Saturday, May 19th, 2012

The manufacture of Bartley gel finishes had been discontinued for some time. Reader Mike Dedon gave me the heads up a few days ago that they are now available.

I missed the clear satin gel varnish, having been a fan for many years. Some old stash is pictured above. I called Bartley and they confirmed that the formula for this is unchanged with the exception of a new dryer because the original dryer is no longer made. The new dryer, I am told, imparts a purplish tint to the product but only when it is in the can. The clear varnish is available in satin only.

Seagrave Coatings, the new manufacturer, has been reported for a while now to have acquired the formulas from the former manufacturer and would be producing the finishes. There are several other brands of gel finishes but it is good to have Bartley’s available once again.

Mike tells me he tried one of the gel stains, and though the color was slightly different from his old stock, the application and results were just as good.

Two sources are Bartley and Woodworker’s Supply.

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