Saturday, May 31, 2014

Adult Supervision

The critters and I will have some adult supervision once more, my guess is it will be a good thing. A life of eating and drinking what you want when you want it and sleeping at odd hours can't be good for your soul. Well maybe good for your soul but not so good for the body. Anyway as I type or maybe that should be input this I have one eye on Flight Aware, she has just crossed into Oklahoma and should be landing just before 2200MST.

I've done a few crossings riding in steerage and it ain't no fun, it's so bad we had a rule "Business or Better" for any crossing. Especially if we were going to relive a crew or pick up an aircraft and had to fly the next day. Anyway I expect she will be knackered but too tired and wired to sleep.

I should get a few attaboys, the house is clean, the plants did not die, and I finished a little box, a step stool, and the TFH, and only a few new tools snuck into the shop while she was gone. Not too bad.

I've rough cut the girl child's hall table's legs but have been holding off rough cutting the aprons because I had a new bandsaw blade on order. It came today, maybe I can get the aprons rough cut tomorrow so everything can have a day or two to finish doing stupid wood tricks and I can finish her wedding present before their 4th anniversary. I wouldn't want to rush things.

One last look, she is crossing Amarillo and will soon be in New Mexico and headed down hill.

Monday, May 26, 2014

There is a Season

As an ordained minister in The Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) and Dudeist Priest I should be allowed to borrow a little from my Judaist/Christian brothers. Whatever, I think it was Picasso that said "Everyone borrows, Artist steal". OK so maybe this isn't stealing but, and I'll get around to the point eventually. Ecclesiastes 3.1 said something like "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under the Heavens".

Well I've reached the end of a season, I'm hanging up my Motoport riding suit, LDComfort underwear, Shoei Helmet, Kangaroo gloves, and Sidi boots for the last time. The three motorcycles are for sale. I can no longer ride safely at night because of poor night vision and the riding I enjoy is Long Distance Endurance riding, ain't much chance of covering long distances riding only during the day. The season has passed, I've done almost everything I've wanted to do on a motorcycle, it's time to quit.

BTW, it has been one hell of a ride, I've met and ridden with some great folks. Some that can, will, and have done amazing things on motorcycles. I've showed many riders how to ride safely and in comfort through the desert no matter how hot it gets. I hope someone will carry on with that mission. But whatever, it is time for me to put The Dirty Fat Girl on the kickstand for the last time.

The Dirty Fat Girl, MsOK, and me running Hwy 180 in New Mexico:

Sturgis SD for the 69th Bike Week:

Luling, TX City Market BBQ:

Outside Ouray, CO:

California Coast:

Well you get the idea, it was great fun.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Work Benches

As posted earlier, this last week was a tough one at work, I was in the short rows with no energy for the shop. Work, sleep, eat, and spend a few moments geeking on the web each day, that was pretty much the week.

One of the things I noticed was a number of posts on work bench builds and how folks obsess over their build and most of the time over things that do not make a rat's ass of difference. I will admit to trying different things, different vises, split tops, square dogs, round dogs and so on but I also find with each new build my bench gets simpler.

The vise you use really doesn't make a hill of beans for either face or tail. Go for the easy install and easy to use especially for the tail vise. Battens and holdfasts will do 99% of what a tail vise does, easier and better most of the time. Some day I will build a bench with out a tail vise and I'll bet I will never miss it. A good face vise, should hold, be fast and easy to adjust, and easy to install. Most early UK made metal vises fill those requirements i.e. Record 52 and its clones.

The only really important things about a bench are: Is it heavy enough? Is the joinery strong? And is it Goldilocks, neither too big nor too small?

Make it flat, heavy, and strong, everything else is lipstick on a pig.

New Philly Plane Classic Smoother

I received my new Classic Smoother from Philly Plane a couple of days ago. As I was in the short rows of a tough week at work I didn't have time to try it out until this AM. The iron was in good shape, maybe 5 minutes on the back and much less on the bevel and it was ready to go.

First impression is:....This is a freaking work of art, almost too beautiful to use. In fact when I showed it to a friend his first response was " are not going to use it. Are you? It should go in a display cabinet." Of course my answer was I'm going to use it and in use it is very nice. It is easy to set with just light taps, it holds the set well, and it leaves a pristine surface. It's a keeper.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I Have a Tool Jones

I have to admit to a tool problem, put a new tool in hand and my pupils dilate, my breathing becomes heavy and labored, reason takes a ain't pretty. It's one of the reasons my shop is full of little used tools. Ninety percent of my tools are well cared for and sharp tools ready to be used on whatever the project. The other 10% are in the process of being made ready or they are defective for some reason. But most of the tools are seldom used except for a core kit and that core kit is pretty small.

I would guess on most projects out of well over a hundred chisels I might use a 1/2 dozen, one of the pig stickers, a 1/8", 1/4"or 3/8", and a 1/2" bench chisel, and one of the paring chisels. Same story with saws, a 26"or 28" Atkins or Diston X-cut, one of the dovetail saws, a carcass X-cut, and a large tenon saw will take care of 99% of my sawing needs. Add in a router plane, a plow plane, a rabbet plane and one of the smothers plus a small wood stock planes. The misc stuff like a couple of marking gauges and marking knifes, dividers, dovetail markers, a mallet, a brace and a box of bits and I have all the kit needed for 95% of what I do.

That's a total of less than 50 individual tools and with that kit I can build almost anything if I add in a couple of bench appliances and a longer plane or two. And the truth is that is a damn generous kit.

I just came back from the shop where I roughly counted the tools on the wall behind the bench and those on the bench. there were over 200 individual tools, not counting scrappers, extra irons, straight edges, winding sticks or rules. I didn't count the tools on the west wall and cabinet, the east wall and cabinet, on the sharpening bench, nor in the tool room. My guess is well over a thousand hand tools stuck in various nooks and crannies around the shop.

If you stop and think it's pretty dumb because every one of those tools need care, used or not, and being very generous I need maybe 100 different tools. All I can say is somebody is a sucker.

Follow Up Photo


The top is 12-14mm narrower than the legs to (I hope) make it more stable. There is a slight flair running from about 50mm down the leg to the top so that the outer edge of the leg just meets the top edge of the top. Also I think the slight curve gives some relief, as does the curve on the stretcher, to the squareness of the basic stool.

Maybe you can see it in this photo:



Summer is here early, it went over 100F yesterday. I have a swamp cooler in the shop and it will work to lower the shop temp 10 or so degrees until Monsoon season starts in July, but even with the cooler the amount of work that can be done in the afternoon is limited. Early morning is great and it isn't too bad after the sun goes down but mid afternoon you might as well give in and find a AC and something cool to drink. I was reminded of the facts of life in the desert yesterday as I finished up the step stool, I pushed a little hard as I was in the short rows and found myself getting the first symptoms heat injury. A short break with a couple of glasses of tea and remembering to turn on the swamp cooler took care of the problem. I love the desert, I love the heat but almost every year I have to be reminded to respect it.

BTW, with correct gear I can ride my motorcycle all day across the desert even as hot as 118F by using the same principals as the swam cooler. Only problem it's hard to get the swamp cooler to blow 85mph and still work in the shop :-).

I've been making this stool for awhile, it is sturdy and a easy build but also a good project to hone skills. Most I build out of Oak and finish with Tried and True and wax.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

LV Tapered Single Iron

I made a wood stock for the small LV tapered single iron. It sure makes it easy not having to chop a mortice for the chip breaker screw.

I made a plane using the large single iron several weeks ago, for how I use wood stock planes it was too big. This one at 48mm wide is just a couple of mm wider than the Hock double iron I usually use. Functionally not any real difference in size between the LV and the Hock iron. The LV is a little longer than I like but I can get use to it. I wish LV made a little smaller iron for making a "Block" plane sized wood stock.

Use will tell but it seems to hold the set better and is a little easier to fine tune the set.....Could just be first impression or wishful thinking. Did I mention how much easier the build is :-)?

The new LV irons are really flat, about three strokes on the 3mu diamond stone and the back was polished across the cutting edge. Three or four strokes on the "fine" diamond turned a burr on the bevel, a couple more on the 3mu to polish, a fast strop and the iron was ready to go. Not bad for a new out of the box iron. I'm use to irons taking an hour or more (sometimes days) getting prepped for first use, These new LV irons are the flattest I've found, I'm not sure what they changed but what ever they did it's working. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday Tool Porn

This has been the first three day weekend where I haven't taken PTO in a long time. When I first started the current job three day weekends were the normal but that changed a couple of years ago. We went from running one line a week always starting on Monday to the current system of 23/7 (the Sim has to be down for maintenance for 1 hour every 24) with lines starting whenever. Bottom line for the last year or so most weeks have been 6 day weeks and if 5 the days off have been split....Ain't no way to live life. I hope the suits have gotten the message.

Anyway it has been nice to not feel rushed. The first day I finished the TFH, yesterday I did some house chores and tool maintenance. Today more tool maintenance and cut some blanks for wood stock planes, making one. I believe this one will be a keeper, I may shorten the back a little and will give it a coat of BLO.

The blanks:

The finished plane:

BTW, the new plane is next to the wood stock I use more than any other, it is my go to for chamfering and trimming. It is so light and easy to use either one handed or with both. The metal ones are good for heavy work but for light trimming I will pick up one of the wood stocks.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Random Thoughts

After a good lunch and a couple of  beers I'm in no hurry to go to the shop, I've finished all outstanding projects so shop time, if any, will be spent cleaning up the shop and sharpening iron. If I get real ambitious I could pull out some lumber for the next projects and rough dimension it, but I expect most of the day will be spent scratching doggie butt, geeking, and maybe since MsOK isn't here watching "House of Cards".

One of the things on my mind is I'm often asked to teach a class on whatever, most of the time I turn it down flat, same with folks asking me to build something for money. Now, I have an open shop, if someone wants to come by I will be happy to show them how to do whatever, saw a dovetail, chop a mortice, sharpen iron or saws, build or restore a plane, whatever they would like to see. I just do not want to teach a class, too much like work. Same with building things for money. Once money enters, it is no longer fun, you are no longer an amateur, it becomes work. Money is the apple, I've ruined too many enjoyable functions such as flying airplanes, skiing, and so on by doing it for money.....Ain't going to happen again.

This morning, at the wood store, someone asked about why hand tools vs. machines. My answer as always is it is easier and quicker if you are doing one off projects. Not necessarily better, it would be tough to be more precise and consistent than a well set up jig and machine and if you do production work the machine and jig wins hands down. But for the type of work I do, hand tools work good enough and are quicker. An example is sharpening, a well set up jig will return a consistent sharp iron but it takes time to use. By sharpening free hand, I sharpen much more often because it is quick and truth be known I think a free hand sharpened iron with a slight convex bevel is as sharp as the best jig or machine sharpened iron and has a stronger edge as well. YMMV. Another example is a M/T joint, using a saw and a pig sticker I can cut and chop the eight M/T joints for a table in less time than the jig set up and by draw boring they don't get stronger. Pretty much the same story with dovetails, four for a box I can usually saw and chop as fast, more the jig wins.


MsOK left Friday to spend three weeks visiting her folks in Scotland. I and the critters are on our own. It's tough, I'm not sure how we will survive with out supervision. The first night Sweet Maggie Dog must have felt I was lonely in the big bed all by myself, when I awoke I had Brown Sugar sleeping next to me.

Yesterday I had to spend the whole day in the shop finishing up projects with out cruel is that. Today I haven't made it to the shop yet, I've been geeking and Sam the Wonder Dog and I went to the wood store for coffee this morning. I stopped on the way back home to pick up a couple of things for lunch and had to fix it myself. Oh the pain. Photo to follow.

Truth is the critters and I miss the old broad but every once in a while it's nice to just be with the critters and my shop.

Lunch before:

Lunch after:


Black Limba Top

The TFH's top is from a small piece of Black Limba our local independent wood seller had. BTW it is nice to have a guy that finds and resales wood living just a couple of blocks away. I try to support him as much as possible.

Anyway the "Wood Database" list it as easy to work with hand tools, this piece....not so much. Lots of interlocking grain and pretty soft so tear out was a problem and the top ended thiner than planned. I expect with its softness it will need to be replaced in time but for now I like the figure.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Table from Hell Finished

I'm walking away from the TFH, it is what it is. The only problems are the joinery is first rate, draw bored M/T joints, and because of the drawer MsOK will like it. I expect I will be dead and long gone before the TFH goes.

If ever a piece deserves Goodwill this is it yet it will be there reminding me every day just how bad a screwup I can be......kinda like a wife.

Side Table from Hell

What a build. I can't tell you how many times and how close this side table came to being firewood. It may still make the discard pile but all I have left to do is install the drawer pull and attach the top. If a mistake can be made, it was made on this table. Starting from shaping the rails, to cutting button mortices on the wrong side, to screwing up the drawer during glue up. It's all been done.

The only thing that kept me going is all were recoverable and there is some really pretty wood in the build. If I keep my mouth shut when finished I expect no one will know how many screw ups that are hidden except maybe another woodworker. Oh well, the photos to follow will not be close ups :-).

A friend sent some photos of tools in a local estate sale. I need more tools like another hole in the head but....My name is Ken and....

There are some nice Japanese chisels and a good number of wood stock planes. I'm such a sucker for both. Photos if I score.

Friday, May 09, 2014

New Philly Plane

I just received an email from Phil that my smoother is ready to ship. It should be in hand in a couple of weeks. In the mean time here's a photo:

Thursday, May 08, 2014


I forgot to mention the tool/bench appliance I use more than any other tool from TFWW, the Gramercy Holdfast. It is by far the best and most cost effective holdfast on the market. There my be better/prettier ones made by local blacksmiths but I will bet they will not hold better nor will you be able to buy a pair for $35 USD.

I know this sounds like a commercial but I'm always surprised when talking to other woodworkers how many are not aware of TFWW and of the great products they carry.

Tools For Working Wood.

TFWW Is a first class operation. They are a source for many excellent woodworking tools, some they produce, some they encouraged the maker to produce, and some they are the only source in the states. I use tools from all the categories in my shop almost every day. The Gramercy 9" dovetail saw is my go to saw for dovetails, their 12" bow saw is perfect for sawing the waste on dovetails and works much better than the more expensive Knew Concepts coping or fret saws. The Ashley Iles bench chisels are first class and a bargain and the one tool I would have the hardest time finding a good replacement for are the Ray Iles English mortice chisels.

Like I said TFWW is a great source for tools but they also stand behind what they sell. One of the arms of my 12" bow saw split the other day. I emailed TFWW with this photo of the saw.

I asked if it was warranty or if not to sent me the part number and a price so I could order a replacement arm. This is the email I received the next day (my email was sent on the weekend).

" Dear Ken,

sorry to hear of your difficulty. We are sending you a replacement Bow Saw Cheek today. Please let me know if it does not arrive by next Thursday.
Please let me know if I can ever be of any assistance in the future. Thanks a lot for choosing Tools for Working Wood.

All the best."

It doesn't get better.


Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Sharpening Iron

The third of Ms.OK's side tables is in the short rows, I just need to finish and fit the drawer and attach the top. This is the second drawer made, the first was square when I clamped it but somewhere between the checking for square and fitting it to the table it cocked about 6mm, it made a nice parallelogram. I have to say I spent a couple of minutes scratching my butt trying to figure a way to save it but in the end sanity won and I'm making a new drawer. Which is the reason for this post.

I hate working Poplar, the only nice things I can say about it is it's better than Pine and it takes Milk Paint really well, which is good because the paint will hide the needed pookey. Bottom line it is really hard to get smooth cross grain cuts such as when chopping and cleaning up tails and pins and it eats edges which in turn leads to more tear out. Gets a little circleur but it also leads to the point of this post.

As is usual to control tear out, one answer is a more acute bevel and sharper iron with smaller cuts. Works to a point but the bevel needs some metal behind it, the iron can only get so sharp, and sneaking up on the line a 0.001 at a time just ain't going to happen.

I usually sharpen free hand but will use a honing jig and I will use my Tormek with both the standard stone and the 3000 grit water stone if needed. When I run into a tear out problem I will usually try different methods of sharpening and different angles of bevel.

In almost every case the results are the same, the jig or machine sharpened iron may work a little better for the first cut (debatable) but after that the free hand sharpened iron with a slight convex bevel will work better and longer. YMMV.

I keep hoping for a different result but it never happens.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

New Bench

I've always built and used work benches made of SYP. As I have posted before, the first bench because I couldn't find the traditional, at the time, Beech lumber nor could I afford a commercial built Beech or Maple bench. The first bench worked so well, why mess with success, all the benches that followed have been made of construction grade SYP.  I even went so far several years ago, when I re-established my shop in Tucson, to drive to Texas for enough SYP to build my current bench.

The current bench works well and there is not much that I will change on this next build except for the first time since the building of my very first bench I'm lusting after a pretty bench. I know it's dumb. I know after I build it I will drive myself crazy for the first few months trying to protect the top from spills, cuts, glue, and marks and then old habits will prevail and in a few months my pretty Beech top will be just as ugly as my SYP one.

I know all that but....I'm still going to do it.

What brought all this on was a couple of months ago a hunk of 8/4 Beech followed me home. this was the first Beech I had worked with. I made several planes from it and damn it was nice to work, pretty too. The seed was set. I started thinking about needing a second bench (almost as much as another hole in my head) and what changes I would make on the next bench build. Anyway, bottom line, the wood store didn't have enough Beech for the build so I kinda dodged that one except I asked them to find some 8/4 sized so there would not be too much waste.

I had Friday off with not much to do so I thought I would drop by the wood store to see if they had some Walnut for the girl child's hall table wedding present (she's been married three years going on four now, no one can ever accuse me of being fast). The Walnut sucked but just as I was about to leave one of the guys said my Beech was in. Well damn, that's good news, sorta of....load 'er up.

Even better the wood store was having a three day 25% off sale (I didn't know about, hadn't read my email) and because I bought over 100 BF they gave me another 5% off. One hundred and thirty BF of beautiful 8/4 Beech for just over $500 USD. As we were loading the shop man said "that's a lot of wood for $500"....I just smiled. It's better to be lucky than good.

BTW, I still haven't decided on the base, cheap out and make it out of Douglas Fir, or go whole hog and use Ash.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Life Comes Full Circle

Last week we drove to the Texas Gulf Coast for the boy child's 30th B-Day, with the critters, Sweet Maggie Dog and Sam the Wonder Dog. With the dogs, MsOK and my OF's bladder along for the ride what should have been a 17 hour drive came close to 20 hours each way. Still not bad, about the only thing better than a diesel's road song is the Wing's while running TBMRITS (The Best Motorcycle Road In The States), I-10.

We spent the weekend in Sargent Beach, a typical old Texas beach down and waiting for the next tropical storm to blow it away. Just the kind of place I grew up in as my folks were hunters and fishermen. Only this time I was one of the OFs drinking beer and watching the kids have fun. Life doesn't change, just the players are replaced.

BTW, while in Texas I picked up my VTX1300 from the boy child, he wasn't riding it so it might as well be home. Even though I did my first Iron Butt SS1000 on it, it really is just a bar hopper which also isn't bad. It will be nice to have a bar hopper for quick runs around town.