Revelations

Now I know this will be a bit of a shock to the system, especially coming from me – the “Electron Murdering Woodworker”, but, not every job in the workshop is best done with power tools.

I know, I know – breathe – here is a paper bag each, we can hypoventilate until the panic subsides.

I’m not referring to pneumatic tools either.  I’m talking about handtools, and elbow grease.

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When sanding components, there are times when a power tool just is not the right tool – whether it is unnecessary overkill, or it cannot get into the area of concern, or it would turn a 2 second job into a 2 minute one.  When that happens, out comes some sandpaper, and it is wrapped around a sanding block to tackle the task.

Now there are some problems that can occur with this (at least by my experience)

1. The paper grips on the workpiece too well, and the block rotates rather than slides, and you give your knuckles a good rap.  Done it before, don’t know how – must be a handtool thing ;)

2. The paper slips off the block a bit, and you sand with an edge of the paper, rather than the middle (which then folds and scratches)

3. You catch the paper on a sharp corner, and it catches and tears

4. You regularly need to reposition the sandpaper on the block to expose a fresh portion

5. Some sanding blocks need the paper correctly sized, causing wastage

 

All these things to dissuade me from hand sanding in preference to a power sander.

 

But there is another solution.  How about using a belt of sandpaper, rather than a sheet?  It is cloth-backed, and much more tear resistant.  Being a belt, finding a fresh portion (without using a portion with a previously-created fold) is easy, and the entire belt can be used for sanding, rather than some of the sheet of sandpaper never being accessed, as it was just being used to secure the sheet to the block.

How about a block that carries the sandpaper firmly, yet with a quick-release allows the paper to be rotated to a fresh portion?

And one that isn’t just a lump of timber or cork (technically, a piece of cork is a lump of timber……), but the working surface can be larger as it will not waste sandpaper unnecessarily.

I refer to the Sand Devil, from Professional Woodworkers Supplies

It takes a standard belt of sandpaper, and has a quick-release lever to remove tension, allowing the belt to be quickly repositioned to expose a fresh cutting surface, or offset the paper on the block to get right into tight corners.

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As you can see, there are a few different profiles on the Devil – a square corner, a larger radius corner, a smaller radius point, and the tapered section to help get into tighter places.  The rear shoe is moved by the quick release lever to apply or release tension.

You can check out more details at PWS (including some videos Sand Devil have made)

Return to haunts of old

It was quite an experience of déjà vu this morning. To start, heading off with the family to watch my daughter’s junior netball. Not that specifically, but the frost on the ground, the nip in the air, the quality of the light, green of the hills and sunlight through the trees all gave a striking resemblance to similar scenes of growing up in New Zealand.

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As the timing was right, I then headed towards Holmesglen Tafe. The temperature, the time of day, the drive-through at Maccas for a McMuffin & orange juice breakfast and of course driving into Holmesglen were all strongly reminiscent of when I was presiding at the Triton Woodworkers Club, and also running Triton woodworking courses there at Holmesglen (before the fall of GMC and therefore Triton).

But this time I was there for a different reason. It was to have a look around the Hand Tool event that is being held there this weekend.

David Eckert was there, with a familiar (and ever-tempting) collection of Lie Nielsen planes, Chris Schwarz DVDs, Lost Press books, Knew Concept saw and more. More on a couple of acquisitions another time. (Let’s just say, I “Knew” it would be tempting to go, and see what “Grandpa’s Workshop” may have contained had he been a woodworker!)

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Chris Vesper was there, with his collection of finely (and locally) produced handtools, including one I hadn’t seen before – a “very” straight edge. (The large aluminium piece in the photo below)

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The Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking was there, with Alastair in a familiar pose, draw knife in hand making staves for a Windsor Chair.

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If you are interested in trying your hand at becoming a luthier, Southern Tonewoods has a collection of timbers, along with Richard Howell who runs one-on-one courses on guitar making.

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Big Sky Timber has a collection of timbers for sale, some veneers, some turning blanks, boards and other pieces of tree ;)

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And last, but not least, Japanese tools, with a really cool collection of mini ebony planes ($30 ea), Japanese saws, and an interesting concept, wooden nails. More on those another time (and in more detail).

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Plenty of temptations, and better than that, they are there again tomorrow (Sunday).

Hand Tool Event

This weekend :)

At Holmesglen (Chadstone) :) :)
See the following suppliers, and their product lines

MINI_Joinery_Kni_4e5ef1d8bb464Vesper Tools

lienielsen

Henry Eckertimg_3699_grande

Japanese Tools

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Southern Tonewoods

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MGFW

Batesford Rd.
Building 5,  Parking $2 all day
Drive in at Gate 3.

10am-4pm both days

Close Encounters of the Schwarz Kind

Chris Schwarz is down under this month, and although I wasn’t in a position to go on one of the courses on offer, there are a lucky few that are.

There is still the Shaker Wall Cabinet course with a few vacancies if anyone is interested.

220px_Wall_Cabinet_v2.110419-1There is also a Melbourne Hand Tool Event at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking, which will have Chris in attendance.  Unfortunately we don’t know when that is actually on – they forgot to put the dates in their newsletter, and their website hasn’t been updated since 2011!  If I hear a current date, will let you know (check the comments).

Chris is also hosting a seminar at Eley Community Centre on the 28th March, 6-9pm. Not sure if there is a cost involved.

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Engineering 101 Coping Saw

Received an email today from Henry Eckert, who are the importers of Lie Nielsen Toolworks. It was promoting their new integrated site www.henryeckert.com.au.

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One of the items that caught my eye, was the coping saw from Knew Concepts.

Looks just like a saw that could have been designed as part of a mechanical engineering course. I’m sure I designed something like this during my degree in Mechanics of Solids!

That does not make it a bad thing- it is all about load transfer, and this allows significant blade tension while minimising weight.

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Add to that the material of choice is titanium, so even thinner sections are achievable while maintaining the same strength.

All this leads to being able to really tension up the blade, and as Knew Concepts claim, to achieve notes unheard of from coping saw blades. (Plucking a blade to hear the note it makes, and therefore get an idea of the blade tension is a common practice). The more tension, the greater the beam strength, so the blade is less likely to twist in the cut, allowing tighter corners and more accuracy.

Allows things such as this exceptional work by artist D.R. Halliday, entitled Masonic Coin

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Talk about reinventing a basic tool!

A catalogue unlike any other

How would you like some of the finest hand tools on the planet?  Get yourself a copy of the latest catalogue from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, mark up the most interesting pages, and subtly leave it lying around the house (all the while lamenting about how hard it is to find good Xmas presents)!

The latest cattle dog is out from Lie-Nielsen, and it is a beauty.  You can download a copy here. (5MB PDF) Alternately, you can order a printed copy here.

Lie Nielsen Cattle Dog

Unlike most other catalogues about the place, the Lie Nielsen is not just a list of the tools that are available, but is very instructional at the same time, going into the details of the tools, and often how they are used, how they are useful, how they are made and so on.  It sounds just like any other, but it takes the concept beyond the sales pitch, into much more interesting areas.
If nothing else, this is toolporn at its finest. Just try not to drool on the keyboard!

Scratchin’ out a living

When you are used to using power tools and machines for your woodworking, it is easy to forget that sometimes a handtool is the best tool for the job.

They are quieter (much, much quieter), safer (although any sharp thing can cut), and often can get into places denied to power tools.   They also can have a different method for removing material. Where both can slice, only a handtool can scrape.  (Now I’m sure someone will tell me I’m wrong…..)

Scraping has its benefits.  It avoids tearout, as the blade is not parting material ahead of the blade – lifting and cutting.  Think of all the adverts on TV about shavers, where the blade lifts and cuts the hair.  If you are lifting timber, there is a chance more will lift than you intended, and tear out.  Scraping has the blade at a different angle of attack, with the cutting edge trailing behind, rather than leading the way.

Scraping is used in a number of hand tools.  For planing a surface with torturous grain (burls and the like), you can get planes with the blade set vertically for a scraping cut.  You can use scrapers (a piece of steel with a fine burr to perform the actual cut) as an alternative (and superior to) sandpaper.  And you can use a scratch stock as an alternative to a router.

It is a very simple tool – a piece of spring steel with the required profile cut into it.  And a holder.

You can make your own, or check out this one from Hock Tools (Ron Hock being very well known for the quality of his plane blades).

Hock Scratch Stock

This is available from Professional Woodworkers Supplies in Australia, who sell items from the Hock Tools’ range.  The body is made from a laminate of bamboo, which has good water resistance, and shape stability.  Instructions for using the scraper can be found here.

Where noone would consider manufacturing their own router bit, this comes with a second piece of tool steel so you have plenty of opportunity to create just the profile you want.

I came across an interesting concept while looking at these scratch stocks (and especially the supplied profile).  It used to be quite common for this profile to be used on the leading edge of a kitchen bench….underneath.  The purpose was as a drip arrestor.  Any liquid spilling and running over the edge would gather at the bottom of the curve of the profile and drip off, rather than continuing on its journey into one of the drawers (often the cutlery!)  Simple idea – pity it seems to be forgotten by modern kitchen manufacturers.

A very simple concept, a very simple tool, the ability to make your own profiles, and the ability to deliver that profile just where you need it, right out of reach of powered tools.

Saving some electrons

So I got a little motivated reading Schwarz – it sounds so easy, all this hand planing etc.

Got out the hand planes, and my DMT diamond whetstones, and sharpened my plane irons.  I used the camber roller on the Veritas Mk II to produce a slightly rounded front edge (according to Chris, this is good for Jack Planes for heavy stock removal).

DMT Diamond Stones

From left to right, the plates are the Extra-extra coarse, the extra coarse/coarse (double sided), the fine/extra fine (double sided) and the Extra-extra fine DMT whetstones.

The extra-extra coarse is a ripper – the rate of metal removal is impressive, and it takes next to no time to get the blade to the shape you want, even when it has been used for other purposes (opening paintcans is a pretty typical activity for an abused chisel!)

The extra-extra fine gives that mirror finish.  The other four grades allow you to work through each, as is good sharpening practice.  As much as I don’t mind the double-sided concept, I would really prefer to have each grade the same physical size as the larger two I have, and ideally single sided.  The cost is really in the diamonds, not the base material.

The larger size is ideal for something like the Veritas Honing Jig, especially with the larger plane blades I sharpen.

The other secret about diamond plates is they actually get better with use.  Yeah, weird, but it is a fact never the less.  DMT plates have very consistent diamond size – nothing like a rogue diamond to scratch the hell out of your otherwise finished blade edge, so a quality plate avoids that danger.

Camber Roller

You can’t see it in this photo (didn’t have the right lens with me) but there is now a very mild camber to this blade, stopping the corners from digging in while ripping off massive amounts of the surface of the timber.

I needed to clamp up the piece of Camphor Laurel I had chosen for the exercise, and needed some more dog holes.  While marking these up, I discovered just how warped the surface of my workbench was.  That might explain a few things I’d been experiencing.  Not sure what I will do about it (if anything).  Problem will be solved by making my own workbench (one day).

I chose the Camphor Laurel as it had been resawn with the chainsaw jig on the Torque Workcentre, and had quite significant ridging – a perfect candidate for a Jack Plane.

Ridging

Ignoring the step (this being the other side of the board fwiw), these were the ridges I wanted to see disappear.

Started off with the Jack Plane, and really couldn’t get anything happening.  Just isn’t right – something not working.  Then I remembered reading something in the Anarchist’s Tool Chest about Chris talking about using the Jack Plane across grain – the fibres being weaker in that direction.  Sure enough, that worked a treat, and great swaths of timber came flying off.

Shavings

From there, I moved onto the trying plane to create a flat surface.  With the long bed, it rides on top of the ridges so they get cut down until such time as you get full-length shavings. (These were performed with the grain, rather than across)

It was about this point that I was really discovering that hand tools are:

1. lubricated with perspiration (it is quite labour-intensive!)

2. more involved that you’d expect – a powered tool that takes 1000 cuts/minute (or more correctly 16000 – 40000 (2 flutes on a router bit running at 20000 RPM) is quite different to a blade skimming along the surface at a fixed attack angle.  You can get away (easily) with a (comparatively) blunt blade on a powered tool, whereas a hand tool needs to be razor-sharp.  Imagine how impressive a powered tool would be with the sharpness of a handtool.  Required motor power would be so much less, finish significantly high.

3.  slow, and take a lot of physical effort.  And quiet.  Power tools are noisy, and produce a lot of wood dust along with fine wood shavings (the result of thousands of tiny cuts, rather than one long cut).

Smoothing cuts

Then moved onto the smoothing plane.  This is quite a bit shorter, and is designed to take fine shaving cuts, leaving a smooth finish.  When properly tuned, the finish can be shiny, providing a mirror finish.

So I got a semblance of a result.  A bit too scalloped out of the middle – must have concentrated a bit much effort there.  Not sure whether it was harder than expected, but it does go to show that even if you are very proficient with powered tools, that knowledge does not readily transfer.  Gives one a real respect for those who live with handtools (or had no choice through the ages).

Need another woodshow so I can pick Terry Gordon’s brain about the basics again!  Using handtools to prepare a board – one of the new show demos for TWWWS 2013!  I’d sit in for that :)

The Anarchist

On yet another flight carrying me away from the shed, it proved the perfect opportunity to begin reading my new copy of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” by Chris Schwarz

Confronting book, because he starts off in the same place many of us are – a shed that is too small with many tools and jigs, and a shortage of space.

He then gets into tool purchases, and his many many MANY false avenues he has been down. He soon gets into one of his passions – hand tools, and particularly hand planes. As he described the standard collection of planes you wanted, I was rather buoyed to realise that by good fortune, or good planning, the HNT Gordon planes I had purchased so far over the years fitted neatly into the basic categories (I’d like to think good planning!)

Basic stock preparation: the Jack Plane

What I have:

HNT Gordon Aussie Jack Plane

Flattening stock and edging: The trying plane

What I have:

HNT Gordon Trying Plane

Smoothing the result, ready for finishing: The smoothing plane (eg Stanley #5)

What I have:

HNT Gordon Smoothing Plane

So simply, I have no excuse not to try these tools more, become reasonably proficient with them. Given I have a few blades, I may be able to choose one to put a slight camber on it for improved jack plane performance, but will check with Terry’s site before doing that.
I am sure there is a whole heap more that I will learn, or discover during the journey.

Rest assured, I don’t intend to become a hand tool fanatic, shunning power tools (I enjoy the machinery too much). Nor am I planning relocation of shed tools!

The Schwarz is coming

MGFW

MGFW

Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking has managed to drag the Schwarz to our shores in 2013, to run a number of Master Classes.  These include The Anarchist’s Tool Chest, Hammer in Hand and Shaker Wall Cabinet.

The Schwarz

The Schwarz

Each course would be absolutely fascinating, and you’d learn a huge amount about handtools and techniques.  The cost for a 5 day course is $1760 (the first two), and the 2 day Shaker cabinet is $695.  Needless to say, I am SERIOUSLY tempted!

May the Schwarz be with you.

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