Thursday, May 24, 2018

Portable Moravian Workbench Update

After finishing the portable bench build I wanted to work on it before schlepping it all over the PNW and other points of interest. I moved the old joinery/assembly bench against the wall under the wood storage and set up the portable bench in its place. I've been working on the bench for a couple or three weeks now and it has exceeded all expectations. In fact in many ways I like working on it better than the main English/French bench.

The Lake Erie Toolworks wood screw has made the best woodworking vise I've used. It is fast 2 turns/inch and holds like no other. The bench itself is rock solid in both directions, it is hard to believe a bench that can't weight much more than 200lbs total can be this solid. I only have one quibble with the bench as a daily user, it is too short. Just not enough total real estate, wide enough but needs to be longer.

I expect to take care of that some time in the next year. After the PMW trip the portable bench will find a home in the motorhome's side bins and I will build another Moravian bench to shop size, about 600mmX2500mm. Approximately 2'X8' for those still stuck in the world of hands and stones. 

I'm making a "Changing Table" per the DIL's request (the new Grandpeanut is due around the first of July). It will be painted so the wood is Poplar. All the parts are sized and I'm in the process of marking out before doing the joinery. I expect a good part of the joinery will be done on the small bench. 

Here it is with one of the legs in the vise for marking out:

As always....Click it to big it.


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.