A place for me to display some of the varied projects that come out of my shop, as well as to "talk" about some of my experiences working with wood.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

New Plane finds Home in Caring Shop

In keeping with my recent theme of nice tools and equipment, I have been focussing on upgrading a few of my planes. Most of my everyday planes are Lie-Nielson customs with cocobolo handles. I have a Record No. 6 Fore plane that is soon to be replaced by a new custom-made infill model from Konrad Sauer from Ontario - more on that when it is complete.

A new (old) branch of toolmaking has seen very much of a renaissance over the past 20+ years: the infill style of hand planes which was very popular in the early half of the 20th century has found new life. I read a lot about woodworkers going "back" to using more hand tools to do tasks that machines have taken over and as a result "nice" handcrafted handtools are coming out of the woodwork (so to speak!) One only has to do an online search to see makers offering handbuilt custom saws, chisels (like my Blue Spruce stuff) and various marking and cutting tools designed to make sawdust. Now, old school will tell you its not the tool, its the craftsman - I agree 100%, but if you can afford it, isn't it a lot nicer to do the same job with a super-sweet handtool custom made just for you? C'mon!

Enough  of my musings....

In the world of infill planes, one name has emerged as being credited with reviving this almost lost art - Karl Hotley. Many writers in the trade credit the UK-based Hotley with setting the standard for this realm and while I am not here to argue about which I do not know, he is considered by most I have read about the pre-emminent infill plane builder today.

So of course I had to have one!!

Karl Hotley 11SA Smoothing Plane

This little darling is my Hotley smoothing plane, just 6 5/8" long is a testament to fine craftsmanship in a tool. Its dovetailed bronze sides, substantial steel sole and rosewood infill pack a lot of mass (2.4 lbs) into a small space. As I evolve (revert?) towards using more hand tools in my work, this baby will fill a nice little gap as a smoother for difficult rough stock; it just feels so nice in the hand, which makes the tedious task of smoothing a real pleasure.

Here's another look:

Side View of Hotley Smoother

While this is the first of my custom hand made planes, it is surely not the last. Woodworking for me is a pursuit of pleasure, using nice equipment built by craftsmen like myself only serves to increase the pleasure I get from my craft.

Back to the shop...

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

My own take on Nice Tools

Did I mention I like nice tools?

Buying those nice tools from Dave Jeske inspired me to do some more tool upgrades around the shop, but this time I would take on the task myself. The target this time was screwdrivers, and yes you need to be a little off to get excited about a screwdriver upgrade project....

I had bought a nice set of screwdrivers several years ago from Lee Valley (these ones) and have been generally pleased with their performance, the large guy was a bit too big for my hands so was not that comfortable - not to mention the very pedestrian look of the set, which is very important also!!

So I started where I always start, online looking for ideas. I was delighted to find that Lee Valley is selling the shafts of those same screwdrivers for just this purpose here  - I was off to the races. I was afraid I was going to have to cannibalize another set which was not going to be fun.

There are also many youtube videos and how-tos on woodworking forums, as well as folks online selling "custom" screwdriver sets. Armed with all this inspiration I sat down with pencil and paper and starting sketching, using several existing tools I found sizes and shapes that were comfortable in my hands and worked out a design.

My sketch and some nice Pau Rosa blanks
 with screwdriver handles hidden inside.

Wood choice was key here, I wanted them to be unique looking but I had O.D.'d on cocobolo so wanted something different - I headed over to see Darrell at Halifax Specialty Hardwoods to see what I could find - known as "The Wood Store" around the house, they are conveniently located to extract the most money from me. (I am really glad they moved Canadian Tire further away, it was getting too expensiive having them that close!!!!) I picked up some nicely figured Pau Rosa turning blanks in 18" lengths which would give me the three sizes for each tip from one piece.

Using the story stick I made (shown in photo above), I laid out the rounded blanks and cut the material to length. The turning is relatively straight-forward and the lathe drilling went well, so in no time I had 3 nice handles ready for assembly. Now it is quite easy to turn individual pieces, the real challenge is turning 3 sets of handles that all match in shape and size, we will see how it goes for the phillips and robertson tips.

Ready for Glue-up!

While I plan to write an article on the project, which will give all the gorey details, some folks may want to see how they go together, so this shot is the large guy ready for some glue-up with super-thick CA, notice I added a rubber washer which hides messy underparts...

 And here is a shot of the completed range of slot screwdrivers, having worked out all the kinks on this set, it will be easy to finish up the phillips and robertson sets in a day.

I am very pleased with the outcome!!

Friday, 5 August 2011

I Like Nice Tools!!

As long as I have been working with wood, I have enjoyed using nice tools. I was not always able to afford the best equipment, but as the years go by I have been able to upgrade things regularly.

I have spent quite a bit of time lately honing (:-}) my sharpening skills to get the most out of my planes and chisels. This has been a real eye opener as I now realize the difference between sharp and "shave the hair off your arm" sharp. I had purchased some water stones and a complete set of DMT diamond bench stones, which are great and simple to work with. Using the Veritas Mk. II Honing Guide gave me the control I needed to get the most out of the diamond stones; these allow me to put a mirror finish on the blades making them a dream to use on wood.

14 oz. mallet and bench chisels
 from Blue Spruce Toolworks

Now that I have a new appreciation for sharp tools, its time to upgrade to a tool befitting this new found understanding. Recently I have been acquiring some nice chisels and other small hand tools to replace some I have had for almost 20 years.  In my research online through woodworking forums and magazines I came across Blue Spruce Toolworks from Oregon, which will make custom bench tools using the wood of your choice.

Many years ago when I upgraded my hand planes and hand saws I chose cocobolo as my wood of choice for these tools, mostly bought from Lie Nielson Toolworks in Maine - this would (wood?) be my choice this time too. So I contacted Dave Jeske at Blue Spruce and ordered a load of new gear from him. He chose some interesting grain for me and when they arrived I was floored, the picture below is what I ended up with, a complete set of Bench Chisels, Dovetail chisels, Set of Skew chisels, Marking Tools and small awl - all from cocobolo and all spectacular.

Homage to Blue Spruce Tools

Since these are tools and are meant to be used and not just looked at (really that's true), they need to be good tools. Right out of the box they were razor sharp, I just ran the micro bevel over my 8000 diamond plate to polish it  up and it was time to make shavings. Everything they evoke in their appearance is magnified by their performance in your hand. the chisels were dead flat and cut like a dream, I know that my son will be using some nice chisels long after I am gone.

You can also see in the shot an awesome cocobolo magnetic strip from Bench Crafted which is from their One of a Kind Mag-Bloks collection. I bought a few of these and will do a blog on them later as I have made some jigs which enhance the usability of these already indispensable tool holders.

So what's a nice chisel without a nice mallet to pound it with? Okay let's say tap then...

Mallet Collection and Holder

These mallets include two from Blue Spruce, a 14 and a 16 oz. one for various levels of force. You will notice the large one is not cocobolo, I guess this was a snafu in the order. The middle mallet is a cocobolo one I bought in the US over 20 years ago and has the marks to prove it's been well used.

Since I had killer mallets, I needed to make a stand to have them at the ready on my bench. This holder I custom made from a piece of brazilian, some ash & wenge strips,mounted on a Pau Rosa backplate - suitable I think!

Every time I pick one of these up to use, I marvel at the craftsmanship, this only adds to the pleasure i get from spending time in my shop each day.