Friday, May 18, 2018


On one of the forums I follow, a sickness I know but sometimes they are worth a grin, has a thread going on cheap chisels vs. expensive chisels. If I read the posts correctly the consensus is the cheap ones stay sharp about as long as the expensive chisels and therefore are as good. Of course one of the posters claimed he could use his Aldi chisels for 6 to 8 hours without needing to re-sharpen. I'm sure he could but I have to question what he call sharp.

Bottom line I think the folks over there are asking the wrong questions. The difference between good chisels and bad isn't how long they stay sharp but is a question of "balance" of how the chisel feels in hand and how much effort it is to sharpen and will it stay working sharp long enough to do work. Bad chisels fail at one or more of those qualities.

None of those questions can be answered for you, you have to take chisel to wood and live with it for awhile. In time it will either drive you barking mad, become your best friend, or just an ok tool and only you can decide which it is.

A corollary to all that is tool writers/reviewers are a terrible influence on both buyers and producers. They have to write about something so they write about the type of steel, how long it will hold an "edge", are the bevels "fine" and so on, anyway you know the results. A2 steel for paring chisels, almost no firmer chisels being produced, heavy planes i.e. Bedrock planes instead of Bailey pattern planes, thick irons, and cap irons that do not help control tear out. We are poorer as woodworkers because of their influence.

Ok, I'll get back on my meds but first is a photo I made for the chisel thread. Some of my 12mm/13mm (1/2") chisels with weight in grams. From left to right: Lee Valley PM (113g), Sorby (131g), Marple (107g), Ashly Iles (111g), Swiss Made (105g), Koyamaichi #2 White Steel (109g), and not pictured Kikuhiromaru #1 White Steel (99g)

Click it to big it.

My two favorite Western chisels, the ones that best meet the needed balance of a good chisel, are the pre-war Marples and the Ashly Iles. The other favorite user (not pictured) is the #1 White Steel Kikuhiromaru. Of all the chisels I own the Marples have the best balance of feel and steel. Of course as always....YMMV.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

More BBQ

Sometimes the BBQ gods smile from on high.

I've cooked a lot of BBQ and I can't remember any ever being bad or even less than good. I also can't remember a brisket ever being this good. It is unbelievably tender. The BBQ gods truly did smile on the pit today. What started out as just a sample to check it out has become at least a pound gone.

Here it is with some of the first cuts:

A short BBQ primer: If aluminum foil touches the meat at anytime in the process it ain't BBQ. It is likely smokey steamed roast but it ain't BBQ. If it is covered with a sweet sauce it ain't BBQ. I'm not sure what it is other than an abomination but it sure isn't BBQ. Of course I'm missing the most important part of Texas BBQ...A roll of butcher paper and a Big Red.  

Good eats for the next few days.



A couple of days ago a client was in the "snake pit" filling out a FAA form on one of the computers. I had typed him several years ago so we visited for a bit, he mentioned he would like some good BBQ. I don't need much excuse to fire up the pit and with MsBubba in Houston visiting the kids instead of in the background kvetching about "dead cows" and smoke it is a done deal.

Cut to the chase, I was almost out of pit wood this morning so I got the pit warming up but had to go buy enough wood to finish. This time they didn't have a good selection but did have one short cord of Pecan for $100 USD. Zero on Oak in stock and they said it might be mid Summer before any came in. That's maybe bad news because I want some Oak for chair parts as well as pit wood.

Anyway, here is the brisket a couple or three hours from being finished:

The day has been windy so the pit has been a little fussy but no big deal, it gives me an excuse to forget the honey-dos and enjoy minding the pit with whisky in hand.



Monday, May 07, 2018

Leg Vise

I've never been a leg vise fanboy. After using one for a couple of years I thought they were a fad, fussy, and fiddly with holding power no better if not worst than a Metal QR vise. Those opinions came from having a metal screw leg vise on my main workbench off and on for almost two years and using leg vises with metal screws in other shops. After a couple of years going back and forth between the leg vise and my old English QR vise when I build the new bench it was the English vise all the way.

For the last bench build because it was designed to break down and be portable I decided to use a wood screw leg vise. I'm not sure what the weight difference is but it is considerable and the leg vise is easy to break down into parts. It was a no brainer.

I ordered the screw from Lake Erie Toolworks. The premium kit is $250 USD.  Here it is installed on the Moravian Bench:

This wood screw has totally changed my opinion of leg vises. The fad part still holds but the fussy, fiddly and lack of holding power are no longer operative. Two things, it is fast, to go from holding a 4/4 board to one that is 12/4 is as fast as the QR if not faster and holding is unbelievable. I whacked the hell out of the board in the vise with a mallet and it did not budge a mm. Not that I would do it but I believe I could chop a deep mortise in the vise, it holds that well.

The only problem now is I've been eyeing the main bench with the thought of retro-fitting a wood screw leg vise. There ain't no way that I can see to do it with less work than building a whole new bench and this bench is close to perfect as it sets.  But damn it would be nice if it had as good a vise as my portable bench.

See you guys on down the road,


Tuesday, May 01, 2018

It Is Good To Have A Travel Bench

MsBubba wanted a storage shed and the other day while at Costco she spotted a prefab shed for an ok price, a little cheaper than I could build one and a little faster to erect as well. Not as good but good enough for the job.

I build the base fondation (in the background) yesterday and this morning started putting all the pieces together. That's the bad news, the good news; I needed to take the travel bench apart anyway to plane and sand off the making marks so I might as well set it up in the back garden to work on.

It has been a back saver. Everyone needs a portable bench even if you do not know you need one.

About half way through "insert tab UZY into RBV, secure using screw ACX" I was wishing I'd went ahead and just built from scratch. I expect we will start the building, putting the structure together, tomorrow.


Friday, April 27, 2018

More Of The 10lbs In A 5lb Space

I rearranged the deck chairs this afternoon in hopes of finding room to work in the shop. The old assembly/joiner bench moved to the East wall of the shop, under the wood stack. The new bench moved to where the old assembly/joiner bench called home and the main bench stayed in place.

Because the Moravian bench is smaller it gives the feeling of more space in the shop. We will see how it works out but whatever, I want the chance to work on the travel bench before the Fall PNW trip.

From behind the main bench with travel bench and old assembly bench to the left:

Looking West to East:

Another West to East:

One of the things I've learned after building so many benches and then working on 'em is that most of the folks writing about workbenches are mostly talking out of their ass. I'm not sure I could do a better job or would want to but first time bench builders are not well served.

I'll go back to my mantra: Build it cheap, simple, strong, and quickly then go to work on it making furniture. After working on it for awhile build another correcting all the things that drive you barking at the moon mad about the first build. After three or four builds then if you wish spend a few bucks on nice wood.

Of course....YMMV.


BTW, that's Sam the Wonder Dog photobombing the second photo. I'm sure he was looking for a rawhide bone.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018



The travel workbench is finished, kinda. The next time I have a reason to pull it apart I'll clean up the pencil marks, finish rounding off the tusk tenons and put some oil or finish on at least the base . None of that changes the bench functionality and the bench is fully functional as is.

I've done all the major jobs on it, edge and face plane, saw rip and crosscut, plow a groove, and chop end grain and the bench is rock solid, as solid as the main French/English bench.

Now comes the problem, where to put it. It is too good to just store in the Motorhome and only use on trips. I'm thinking I can move the assembly bench to under the wood storage and replace the assembly bench with the travel bench. Or I could give the assembly bench to MsBubba for her studio. What to do, what to do?

In some ways it is a nice problem to have but here is the sick part....I'm already thinking about making another one but slightly scaled up.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

I Couldn't Resist

The two slabs are close to size, the rear one needs to be trimmed and both will need a little work on their faces.

Most of the bench is set in stone at this point. Base, Long Stretchers, and Vise Backer are 12/4 Poplar, the Short Stretchers and Back Slab are 8/4 Poplar, the front Slab is 8/4 Beech, and the Chop, IIRC, is 8/4 Red Oak. The Vise Screw is from Lake Erie Toolworks.

Anyway if you squint it kinda looks like it will look when finished.

There are still several days of work to go. The two slabs will need "blind pegging" and the pegs to hold 'em. There are two more mortises to chop, both shallow but a little long, and the mortise for the vise guide needs cutting into the Vise Backer. The Vice Backer also needs a 2 5/8th hole for the vise screw.  The slabs will also need final trim before I can roll the credits.


Truing One Edge of Workbench Slab

I'm truing the reference (outside edge) edge of the Beech slab this morning. The edge wasn't 90 degrees to the face and was slightly wavy so first up was a woodie jack plane. For some reason once it was close I dug out the Battleship instead of one of the woodie jointers. I guess I felt I needed a workout. Whatever, I got one. Once MsBubba is up I'll get her to help run the other edge through the power jointer. It will be the inside edge and it doesn't need to be perfect.

The faces of the board are flat with no wind.  Once both edges are done I'll install the Beech slab to the base and do any clean up needed after installing the small Poplar back slab.

The bench will have a small split just wide enough to hold tools with the front Beech slab about 400mm and an ~130mm Poplar back slab. I've found asymmetrical slabs/work surfaces work very well and make the top of the bench easier to build and handle.

A couple of photos of truing the edge:

One of the LN #8. I'm too damn old to push that thing around for long. I'm sweating like a pig even after coffee and writing this post:

The board is just under 2200mm long. I'll trim about 400mm off for a final length of around 1800mm.

I dug out the wood screw, chop, and vise backer board and re-installed 'em on the sharpening bench (the first traveling bench) and they worked like a champ. I also did a quick place the chop on the new bench and it looks like all I'll need to make is a new vise backer board. That should save some time.

While I've never been a fan of leg vises, most of the ones I've tried have been finicky and don't really hold any better than one of the older English QR metal vises. This one with a wood screw is not bad, in fact I could grow to like it.

I think I hear a fat lady far off in the background, it's still a little faint but.....not long until the short rows.