welcome to my blog

designing and building with wood channels my creativity and challenges my mind.
This blog is a record of my life in my studio.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ultra-accurate table saw tune-up tip

here is the straightedge lined up on the blade
Table saw tune ups are necessary and annoying.  And for me, I've never really gotten my table saw "perfectly" tuned.  I've always had the nagging suspicion that using the blade as a reference was insufficient: with a 10" table saw blade, the distance between the reference teeth is a mere 5" or so.  That's not a lot of distance to magnify any deviation from square. 

But  this week I had a bright idea: I used my machinist's straightedge to lengthen the reference surface to a whopping 24".  By laying the bar flat on the table and resting one edge against two opposing teeth on the blade, I essentially increased my precision roughly 5-fold.

Check out these pics:

My first dovetail

The dovetail: a classic corner joint, superior to almost all others for joining two boards at a square corner.  It's one of most recognizable signs of craftsmanship (especially for laypeople), one of the first things taught at most furniture schools, and the joint that spawned a million-dollar industry of products designed to avoid hand-cutting it, or avoid using it altogether. 

After nearly two years of teaching myself woodworking, I have read a great deal about dovetails.  So today, in the midst of what I think of as my first "fine furniture" commission, I decided to see if all my reading could help me make a decent dovetail. 

I decided to make a

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

180 Gallon Cabinet

Here are some pics (and a YouTube video) of one of my 180 gallon cabinets, now on display at Skipton Unique Aquaria in Boston.

Here is the video (below).  To see the pictures click "Read More" at the end of the post.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Best hand-plane results from sharp & square blades

Most people with a tool box own a plane and a chisel.  And yet of all the tools in those toolboxes, the plane and chisel probably get the least amount of use.  If this state of affairs sounds familiar, then read on!

When I fist started woodworking, I was, like many, the proud owner of an unused plane and an unused set of chisels.  I figured I was one of a "new breed" of woodworkers who simply relied on today's power tools to make furniture.

Such are the crazy things one can come up with when one is self-taught!

Now that I have a couple of years under my belt, and I've finally started making fine furniture,

Friday, January 6, 2012

My favorite books about hand planes

I have learned about almost everything I do from a book, followed by repeated practice.  Here are the books from which I learned about hand planes:
  1. Understanding Wood, by R. Bruce Hoadley. This is the first book I ever read about woodworking.  It is so clearly the best book for beginners to read, I can't recommend it enough.  It's also a must-read for experienced woodworkers who haven't yet opened the book.  I have seen and heard enough examples of master furniture makers experiencing "mysteriously" poor results, because of something they didn't find out about in Understanding Wood.  This book takes a narrative, scientific approach to the fundamentals of wood, from physiology to wood movement, to cutting wood, blade angles, stress and shaping, and so much more.  If you make furniture and you haven't read this book, then you don't know wood.  The sections on blades, chip formation, and cutting are fundamental to my work with planes.
  2. Sharpening, by Lie Nielsen.  It's a good over-all reference by a renowned metal plane maker.  It covers the sharpening of a wide range of tools.  It's organized like an encyclopaedia, which can be nice as a reference.  But I don't like this style if I'm learning about something for the first time, because it's hard to tell if you're getting the whole picture on a given topic.  For example, If you're trying to successfully use a hand plane, Sharpening will not get you there. 
  3. Making and Mastering Wooden Planes, by David Finck.  A great primer on sharpening, setting, and using planes.  It's also a decent guide to making wooden hand planes.  This book is organized in a narrative way, and is best read start-to-finish.  I use it as a reference as well.  Finck teaches his methods, rather than try and cover the gamut.  For example, a novice wouldn't know from Finck's book that different planing tasks and wood grains might be best suited to different blade cutting angles and wedge angles.  However, this was the most recent book I've read on the topic, and it's the book that finally got me going with hand planes.  
These three books show the why and how of sharpening and using hand planes.  Read them and practice what they tell you, and soon your plane will be2 singing away!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012