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Extremely Average

729003 Views 1850 Replies 162 Participants Last post by  Ecocandle
New Year...New Hobby

I have been known to take up a hobby or 37. At 42, on the cusp of 43, and well into the 'balding' years, I have decided that, in lieu of a midlife crisis, I would take up woodworking. Don't get me wrong, a new car and a 27 year old with huge, firm, hands would be wonderful; But I can't afford the 27 year old, and I am not into cars that much.

In the summer of 2009, I went to an arts festival in Des Moines. The gentleman, who won best of show, did so with some amazing etched clay bowls. I am not sure why those clay pots inspired me to take up wood working, or if they were the only inspiration, but shortly thereafter I found myself living in the thriving metropolis of Martelle Iowa. I had my first ever basement.

Without a lot of money to buy all that one needs to build furniture, I started with magazines. The first one was called, "Start Woodworking", from the editors of Fine WoodWorking. I read tips on tools, ideas for projects, stories about great woodworkers, and I began to formulate a plan. I would start with a workbench, the workbench on page 24. The editors of the magazine did a good job of designing a project with the beginner in mind. They even provided a DVD with instructions that were really helpful.

The bench took several months to complete, though the plans were designed so that one could complete it is a weekend. I would guess that I spent 5 hours of thinking about building the bench, for every hour of actual working on it. I thought about what I needed to complete each step, but I was always only focused on the next step. The first step was to buy the 2×4s, 4×4s, 3/8" threaded rod, and a miter saw. Not an electric miter saw, a cheap manual one. I could afford it, it would cut, and I didn't at all care about how long it would take to make each cut. I also discovered in the garage and old hack saw that I could use for cutting the threaded rod.

With the wood cut, I decided I wanted to sand my lumber. The next purchase was a small Black and Decker 'Mouse' sander, some 80, 120, 180 grit sandpaper, and a cool looking level that I didn't need but it was shiny and I was powerless to NOT buy it. The next few weeks found me sanding each piece a bit each day. Barely into my first project I was already getting addicted to the process. The feeling of the construction grade lumber in my hand, after it had been sanded, gave me the slightest glimpse into the beauty of working with wood. I thought about how it must be to run my fingers across a piece of glass smooth mahogany or birds eye maple.

The plans required that I route a 3/8 inch groove into the stretchers. Before I read this magazine I didn't even know what a router or a stretcher was. Each new term learned, each skill set explored, opened up the possibilities that developing woodworking skills offers. And each discovery brought the reality home that care needs to be taken to master each aspect of woodworking. So before I could move on to routing I needed to do a bit of research. This is how one turns a 2 day project into a 2 month quest.

I read reviews and comments. There are many good routers to choose from and I decided to go with the Bosch 2.25 hp router with both the plunge base and the fixed base. I bought 3 bits. A 2" Spiral Downcut CL 2BB and a straight 3/8" by Amana Tools, and a 3/8" Up Spiral bit by Freud. I have come to the conclusion that Freud and Amana Tools are the two best out there. Admittedly Amana makes 2 levels of router bits, and I can't speak to their low end line, but the high end bits have been a joy.

With the router in hand, I had all the tools required to build my workbench. Each step was approached with a sense of confusion and fear. The first time I used the router I was filled with trepidation and pizza, as it was after dinner when I gave it a try. I spent close to 40 minutes setting up a guide for my router. Pieces of 2×4 clamped with 2 24" and 2 36" Jet clamps on my make shift workbench, allowed me to position the router to route. I had read that it is best to take several small passes for safety. Since I was already a bit scared that the router would spin wildly out of control and drive itself into my spleen, leaving me bleeding and generally disappointed, I decided that small passes were a good idea.

It worked as advertised. My first 2 passes made a wonderful 3/8" grove in my wood. I was filled with pride and sure that I was well on my way to being one of the greatest woodworkers of the last 700 years. My second board didn't go as well. I had tightened the collet on the router, though apparently not enough and it had slid up slightly. This had produced a slight up ramp for the groove. My ego needed this set back and I retightened it and decided that I was the greatest woodworker in my basement at that moment. This was good enough for me.

The rest of the project required gluing 2 pieces of ¾ " ODF together to form the top, drilling some holes in the 4×4 legs, and attaching the 9" Jet vice. The only difficult part was installing the vice as it didn't come with instructions, but my own insecurity about getting it right, made me take it at a glacial pace. When I flipped the bench back over and put a piece of wood in the vice, I almost wept with joy.

At the end of the quest I learned several things. 1) When marking wood to be cut or drilled, avoid doing it while watching college football. My bench still bears the scars of several errant holes. 2) Drilling holes with a hand drill, so that they are straight, requires a bit of practice. 3) High quality drill bits are much easier to use than really old, worn out, dull, bits. This likely applies to all tools, the better the quality, the better the results. 4) Fostner bits are cool. 5) I love my workbench, with its shiny red Jet 9" vice. 6) The journey before me is perhaps the most exciting one I have undertaken in my lifetime.
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Reflections of a Mortise

Stepping through the beveled corner, art deco inlay, looking glass, into the world of woodworking is an experience that is humbling to say the least. On another woodworking site, a blogger posed the question, are 'Dovetails' overrated? The article was well written, the comments were astounding. The debate between the pro-tail vs. the pro-choice factions was more contentious than an abortion debate three days before a presidential election.

Wonderland indeed! The one point that I took away from the debate was that choosing to learn to cut dovetails by hand required a lot of practice and patience. As someone who revels in his obsessive compulsive side, this epiphany appealed to me more than pizza and beer on a Saturday night. Admittedly I am not a huge fan of beer, but I LOVE pizza; And I didn't want say 'Pizza and Diet Dew', lest any readers think I am a big sissy.

As I cracked a diet dew, I decided that I would begin my study by buying a chisel. My general rule is to always buy the best I can find. My knowledge of chisels was limited to knowing how to spell chisel, and I only recently learned that. The internet pointed me towards Lie-Nielson. Several other articles taught me that socket chisels are nice because the handles are less prone to splitting. Apparently the steel should be around 60 - 62 something, so it is not too soft and not too hard. This sounded like a fairy tale about 3 bears and a porridge stealing juvenile delinquent. But who am I to question the wisdom of those who come before me?! Lie-Nielson chisels are of this design. I felt smarter just for knowing that. I decided that I wanted a set of bench chisels, a fish tail, skew chisel and possibly a 3/8 mortise chisel. They only cost $555.00.

With my brand new 3/8" Irwin chisel (around $10.00) in hand, I took the old mallet I had found in the garage, and tapped it gently into my practice wood. The Lie Nielson will have to come at a later date. The practice wood was a lovely little piece of hard maple; she had a nice figure and was a bit shy. I could tell it was her first time too. As I tapped that wood with my tool I felt nervous. Was I doing it right? Was I hurting my lovely piece of wood? Was it good for her?

An hour later I had finished. I had drilled and chiseled my way to my first mortise. I was sweating but filled with joy. Oh the euphoria. So this is what all the fuss is about! I had chiseled out a 2 and ¼ inch by 3/8" mortise and was now ready to think about moving onto the tenon. Of course, this would have to wait for another day, as I wasn't ready for another go. I just wanted to bask in the glow of my first mortise.
I learned several interesting things about chisels. They are able to remove much thinner and cleaner shavings of wood than I would have imagined. I had assumed that they would take large chunks of wood with each hit. As I pared down the sides and brought the corners to 90 degrees(ish), the need for mastering hand tools became clearer than a D flawless diamond and quite possibly more valuable. I know now that if I can learn to use these wonderful tools, if I can make them do my bidding, then I just may be able to create a masterpiece or at the very least, a nice cutting board.

It is ironic that, two days before, I had been thinking how I might use my plunge router to cut the mortises I would need for the Krenov saw horses I was attempting. I still believe that it will be equally important to be able to cut them with power tools, and I will likely cut far more using a router than I will a chisel, in my lifetime. But I doubt that I will feel the same exhilaration.

So I discovered the joy of hand tools. I have since cut 7 mortises (4 without a drill) and 7 corresponding tenons by hand. The last 2 mortises (no drill) took less than 26 minutes each, which was a vast improvement over 1 hour. As I continued to meander through the wonderland, I happened upon a rabbit that said, "You should probably learn how to sharpen your chisel" and he winked. The wink made it seem dirty somehow. As I thought about the rabbit, I realized that this is why this journey is such a joy. Each day brings a new challenge. Each challenge opens a door. Each door leads to a hallway with more doors. I doubt I will ever find my way back to the mirror.

(Editor's Note: Ok, I don't actually have an editor, but I like the sound of it. I did want to say that I appreciate all the encouraging comments from the 1st post I threw up yesterday. As of the writing of this post there were 321 people who had read my previous post, and 3.4% of you chose to leave a comment. To the 96.4% who didn't comment, I can only assume that your mother told you, "If you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing at all." To those non-posters, please feel free to mock my spelling, grammar or content…But NOT my hat…never my hat!)
Brian, this is a pretty good mortise, especially given that it was hand cut. I enjoy seeing hand skills developed as you are doing and have made myself a promise that I will work on mine, which I will freely admit to having long neglected them.

And don't worry too much about the non-comments. Your "rate of return" on your post was fairly normal. There are a few of us on board here who seem to post with abandon but, in general, the majority of members post infrequently at best. :)
A Tenuous Grasp

"Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers."
-Alfred Lord Tennyson

As you may know, I have mortised. Can mortise be used as a verb? Obviously it can, though I am sure my 7th grade English teacher is rolling over in her grave. Actually, I don't know if she is dead, probably just wishful thinking on my part. I digress.

What is a mortise without a tenon? It is sad. It is lonely. It is unfulfilled. It is ying without yang, peanut butter without jelly, Simon without Garfield. Ok that last one wasn't a good example, as Paul Simon has done pretty well solo. Apparently I am still digressing.

After my 3 practice mortises and 4 real mortises, I realized it was time to create a verb out of tenon. I have read all sorts of interesting articles giving techniques and jigs one can use to cut tenons on the router table or table saw. I have neither yet. In a fit of impulse buying I had purchased a lovely coping saw a few weeks earlier. A Robert Larson saw made in Germany. I reasoned that with all the Germans have had to cope with in the last 100 years; they probably know a thing or two about this type of saw.

I find my coping saw to be quite wonderful. It cuts nicely, but alas it is not the tool for tenoning. I know this now. I am still very pleased to have it in my tool collection. I decided to try my Marples Japanese hand saw. I had not really used it in earnest before. It has two distinct types of teeth on it. This seemed to me to be significant and I reasoned that I should find out what each set of teeth was designed to do.

I wondered over to, where I gladly pay $4.95 per month to be a member. I figured I could find something about Japanese hand saws, and while I was looking I saw an article, "Guide for Cambering a Jack Plane Blade". I don't know what 'Cambering' is. I am equally uniformed as to what a 'Jack Plane' does. I assume it flattens large blocks of cheese. Not wanting to get distracted I passed on this article.

I found a wonderful article which had a diagram, which was vastly superior to the one I have here. Now I just needed to find a definition of 'rip' and 'crosscut', and I would be set.

I meticulously marked the board, took my saw to the basement, and clamped my bit 'o' hard maple into the vice. I decided I would cut off the short blocks on the end of the tenon first. This didn't take long at all. I then sawed the long bits off. I now had a tenon with four shoulders that were grotesquely uneven. Not to worry. I grabbed my trusty Black and Decker mouse sander and went to work. This was an abysmal failure. I now had shoulders that were smooth but not flat. Wisdom gained.

Never being one to get too stressed about failure, I decided I would take my mallet and see about gently inserting the tenon into the mortise. By gently I mean hammering it like Thor. This worked nicely, and though there was only one side of the combination that looked reasonable, it was so solid I couldn't pull it apart.

I have since learned that that first mortise tenon combo was too tight. It seems that when glue is applied the tenon will swell a bit. Though I didn't know that the joint was too tight at the time, I did know that it looked dreadful. So I brutally unjoined my joint and set the two pieces on the table. It was apparent that my grasp of tenon cutting was tenuous at best. I decided to sleep on it.

The next day I thought about it some more. It would be best to approach the cut differently. I would draw a box around the piece of wood, where the shoulders are supposed to be, and cut that first. It worked slightly better than my first method. Then as I was comparing the two, I had an 'ah ha' moment. I bet that the Master Woodworkers, clean up their tenons with their chisels!

With the speed of an Indy car driver, I grabbed my chisel and sheared off a bit of the shoulder. This was fun, and appeared to be helping. I spent a good deal of time chiseling off tiny bits here and there, occasionally setting my chisel on the shoulder and using it to see how close I was to flat, and then I learned a valuable lesson. If you are chiseling across a shoulder and coming up on the end of the board, it is best to stop and chisel back into the board. I learned this when I shaved the slightest bit off the shoulder and took a huge chunk out of the side.

Before I tackled the last two I looked up the best way to start a cut with a Japanese handsaw. I also drew a secondary box 1/32 below the 1st one. This made thing easier. I cut to the 1st box and chiseled to the 2nd one. It was also brought to my attention that one should hold the saw near the end of the handle, not apply too much downward pressure, and to just let the saw cut. Apparently these types of saws like to cut in straight lines. I am not sure that my saw is aware of this, but it does a pretty good job. A good enough job that I am planning on upgrading to a better saw. Any ideas or suggestions from the peanut gallery would be greatly appreciated. In fact, here are three questions I would love to have answered.

1. What is the best Japanese handsaw for cutting tenons or dovetails?
2. How do you get clean and flat shoulders on your tenons? (if you cut them by hand)
3. What is your favorite land mammal?

With my newly acquired knowledge I was able to improve the tenons marginally. I would give my tenons a c+, but only because the class is graded on the curve, and I intentionally signed up for woodworking for toddlers. Those 3 year olds with their barely developed motor skills, they make me laugh. In all seriousness though, I would imagine that just like in all other aspects of woodworking, practice goes a long ways towards perfection. So I am going to keep at it.

"The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions."
-Alfred Lord Tennyson
Brian, you are making progress and I am sure your tenons are far better than mine would be. I shudder to think what they would look like if I tried to cut them by hand. Sadly, I have long neglected development of my hand skills but lately I have at least made a mental commitment to work on "honing" my hand skiils.

If I were going to cut tenons routinely by hand I would get a tenon saw from Lie Nielsen. I am a firm believer that it is better to cry once when you buy a tool rather than the multitude of times that you use it. Actually I probably would get two and keep one for rip cuts and have the other one filed for cross cuts.
Out Into The Cold

It is cold in Iowa today. It was cold yesterday too. It will be cold tomorrow. Despite this I realized that I hadn't been to Home Depot, Menards, or Acme Tool in several days. I was beginning to get that itch. I needed a fix. So I bundled up and hopped in the car and off I went.

I had a vague desire to buy some rare earth magnets. Do I have a project that requires magnets? No, of course not, I just really wanted them. The reason that the advertising industry is so successful is that there are people like me. I recently read an article or saw an ad about rare earth magnets. I don't remember which it was. I just know that the seed was planted in my mind that they are really cool.

I have no idea what sort of woodworker I will be. Will I faithfully reproduce a 1755 George Haupt commode? Perhaps a Federal chest of drawer will strike my fancy? Or a Greene and Greene inspired end table? Right now, I couldn't say where this journey will take me. I do know that I like to learn how to do new things. So it is quite likely that I will pick many of my early projects, based upon the skills they require to complete, rather than what I would like to have when I am done. I am learning how to use hand tools now, so for the foreseeable future there will be lots of gratuitous chisel work.

This brings me to the point of today's rambling. The joy of woodworking extends well beyond the physical construction. I take pleasure in reading about woodworking, or watching The Woodsmith Shop on Iowa Public television, or just thinking about projects that might be in my future. Of course one of the best rushes, as far as I can tell, is looking at, learning about, and buying new tools and woodworking accessories.

I knew a woman once, a professional Jazz singer. She did very well financially. She tried to explain to me why she had over 1000 pairs of shoes, she tried to justify it by explaining that many of the pairs were less than $350.00, she described the feeling she had just owning them. I did the math. I couldn't conceive of a world where I would want to spend $350,000 dollars on anything that didn't have a walk out balcony and a view. It was what she loved and she had the money.

As I left Acme tools, having drooled over a random orbital sander and vacuum from Festool ($800 ish), the $3000 Saw Stop table saw, and tens of thousands of dollars of Freud and Amana router bits, I thought about the woman with the shoes. I think I finally understand her love of shoes.

Magnets in my pocket, carefully placed on the opposite side from my wallet, I headed home. When I got home I looked around and realized that in my world, one of tech, most things I own hate magnets. I spend most of my life at my computer, or more accurately surrounded by my computers. It was clear that the only place that it would be safe to take them out and play with them, was in the basement, among my tools. I love tech, but I also love it that the magnets won't erase the hard drive on my 9" Jet vice. Sitting at my workbench I took out the magnets. I bought both ¾" magnets and the little holder thingies (I like to use technical terms whenever possible, in this case it wasn't possible, as I would have had to get up and go all the way downstairs to find out what they are called. Perhaps not possible is too strong, let's say that it was inconvenient, and I couldn't be bothered. My daily digression)

They are fun. I like to learn something about woodworking every day. The other day I learned that if one has rare earth magnets and one puts them in the little holder thingies, it increases their strength by 4x. Today I learned that if one is playing with their new rare earth magnets and puts one into its holder thingy, it is no small feat to get them back out again. I used my vice and a poking device. I put the magnets back in their little case and the thingy back in its case, and put them in a drawer. I felt satiated. I had made an impulse purchase, which was loosely related to woodworking, and I had gotten out of the house. The only problem I can see with today, and this blog post, is that it hasn't lent itself well to photos. So I have included several gratuitous cat photos. His name is Harley. He is NOT my cat. He is however, a master craftsman, specializing in reproducing the works of Karl Friedrich Schinkel (Ok, that last part isn't true. Harley is a cat, he doesn't have opposable thumbs)
Brian, I read your post, and I am not sure that I can ever understand the reasoning behind the shoes. My wife has a similar passion that also includes purses and clothing. But seriously why does anyone need 30 purses? I have one wallet that has lasted me for at least two decades (probably because it gets very little use and it never has a lot stored in it). :) Maybe I could understand it more it her passion ran to tools. At least they get used on a regular basis unlike the shoes and purses which largely just sit in the closets.
My Days as a Ninja

It seemed like a long time ago. The year was 637 AD, and I was studying under the master Ninja and Carpenter, Sado Asuka. His philosophy was, 'To master the blade of the Ninja, one must master the tools of the Carpenter'. He said this often. We built a Shinto shrine in his back yard and a rumpus room, for his kids. It was strange that he spoke English, but I digress. One day I was using the hand tools, as I was told, practicing my Miyajim-tsugi, or as the master said, in his best East Anglia accent, 'halved oblique scarf joint', when an elder from the village told me that I was needed, to help build a defensive wall, to protect the village from a pending attack.

I followed him to the area where the wall had collapsed. Holding true to the teachings of Master Asuka, I used only my hand tools to meticulously cut and join the logs, even though there was a perfectly good Bosch circular saw a mere 5 meters away. Though I knew the circular saw would speed up the construction considerably, I held true to my teachings.

Before I had finished the wall, a horde of marauders attacked. Three people died, a dozen people, including myself were injured, and hundreds had their feelings hurt. My injuries were severe and I was to be carted, by ox, to another village, where I could receive better treatment for my wounds. It is unfortunate that on the trip, the ox got spooked and fell off the path, into the ironically named, Ox Death Crevasse, pulling me with him. Neither I nor the ox survived.

Many centuries later, when I was reincarnated, as a middle aged woodworker with delusions of blogger, I would remember the error of my ways. It is important to master my hand tools, but it is equally important to get into the habit of finishing projects in a reasonable amount of time.

With the memory of my ill fated wall project and the succeeding oxen cart death ride on my mind, I thought about how I might complete the feet on my Krenov saw horses. I also realized that it had been seven days since I had purchased a tool. Seven! In some parts of the country that is almost a week!
Though I had considered ordering some chisels, I made the decision to buy a jigsaw instead. Off to Acme tools I went. They had many jigsaws and I had looked at them all before. I have researched jigsaws and already knew that I wanted the Festool PSB 300 EQ-Plus. They have this tool and I asked the sales person about it. He pointed out several features that I wasn't aware of and the deal was done. I bought it. This is not the story of my new jigsaw, but the story of its packaging.

He went to the back and got my jigsaw. It comes in a hard plastic case. The handle is in the middle of the lid. It looks strange, but it is actually very comfortable to carry. The latches are heavy duty and fasten securely. The case is molded in such a way that it is stackable. Apparently they have designed the outside of their tool cases to fit together with one another. So if I later purchase their random orbital sander, and I likely will, the case will stack neatly on top of the jigsaw. There are also slide up latches that allows one to connect the cases together, so they don't fall off, if you are pulling them on a cart. Should I also decide to buy one of their uber cool dust collectors, the top of the dust collector is designed for the tools to sit on it, and because it has wheels, you can cart your tools around together.

I love brilliant packaging. I haven't been this excited about the packaging of a product, since I worked at GEICO, "Where a 15 minutes could save you 15% on your auto insurance.", and a friend showed me the new iPod. He called it a Nano. I had to have one. This was my first iPod. I still have the iPod and the packaging. I believe that the packaging is a good indicator of the quality inside. I know, you can't always judge a book by its cover, but if a company puts so much time, thought and engineering into the case, it is reasonable that they probably spent some time building a pretty good tool too.

So I will finish up my saw horse feet with my jigsaw. The practicing of cutting with my Japanese hand saw will continue. And I will mourn the loss of the villagers and the ox that perished because of my unwillingness to use the right tool for the right job.
Brian, this was certainly a creative blog and it was a nice read. In case you were not aware of it you are beginning to display signs of tool addiction. This condition must be treated by periodically adding a new tool to your shop. :)

Nice score on the jigsaw. I have always had a great deal of respect for Festool tools but just have not had the "courage" to ask my wife for an advance on my allowance so that I could get some.
Angry Beaver

Last evening, as if some mysterious and mischievous deity were looking in on me and saw how giddy I was over my new Festool PSB 300EQ, the power went out. Not just a little outage, one where the deity could chuckle for a few minutes as I sit in the dark with my unusable power tool, but a major 'the house gets really cold' outage. I went to bed. It was warm. I thought about using my new saw.

At 7:37 am the electricity flowed into the house, bringing with it heat, computing power, and more importantly a working microwave. Much as I love woodworking, it pales in comparison to how much I love breakfast. I made a turkey bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. Why turkey bacon you ask? Well it is certainly less tasty than regular bacon, but it is healthier, and choosing it over the good stuff, makes my mom happy. Hi Mom (She reads my blog). I would worry about reading the instructions for the PSB 300EQ after work.

If I were still in my youth, I would just fire it up, but I am old and I feel much less invincible. I read the instructions, especially the parts on safety, sometimes twice. I usually learn something. The safety section told me how it is important to have the correct cross section on the extension cord. They also explained the speed to use for different types of materials. The third thing I learned, and it is likely something that every reader, except my mom, already knew. With the right blade, and the speed set between 2 and 4, my FSB 300EQ can cut steel up to 10 mm thick. Steel cutting is very cool. The 3/8 threaded rod, which I used in my workbench and cut by hand with a hack saw, would have quaked in the presence of my jigsaw/saber saw (note: There seems to be some disagreement as to what I should be calling the PSB 300EQ, I call her Marey. Marey is a dentist and has great teeth. It was funny to me.)

So I grabbed Marey by the hand(le) and we sauntered downstairs to the waiting hard maple. Marking the three remaining feet was easy, as I used the first one as a guide. I cleared off the workbench, so that my workspace was clutter free, as per the instructions. Then it was show time. I pressed Marey's trigger, engaged the trigger lock, and she began to hum. I gently eased Marey into the hard maple and she started cutting like an angry beaver on a damn mission. I have only used a jigsaw/sabre saw once, and it was a really old model with a dull blade. Marey is shiny and new and her teeth are razor sharp. The difference was noticeable.

My first foot came out looking fair. I decided to make the small and much easier angled cuts with my Japanese hand saws, as I do like getting the practice, and use Marey for the rip cut. This worked really well. With each cut I became less and less intimidated by Marey and her power. The final foot went the smoothest as I applied a little bit of downward pressure and she handled beautifully. Like all of the tools that preceded the Festool PSB 300EQ named Marey, it takes practice to become good.

With the cutting done, I unplugged Marey, and she sat on the bench top. It was obvious that we were both very pleased with ourselves. I told her I needed to photograph her and the cuts she had made, for the blog. She said it was ok, but afterwards she was going shoe shopping.
To assess the results, I would say I am delighted. The cuts, including the ones on the edge, will need to be cleaned up with a chisel, which I am more than comfortable doing. Someday I will have a table saw, which will be more accurate than a hand tool, but I am fine with the extra bit of work right now. In the close up photo, the top foot is the one that I have already cleaned. I am so glad I have taken the time to learn how to use my chisels, because had I started by cutting with Marey, I would have been clueless how to get the feet to the exact way I want them. This would have caused all sorts of frustration and likely diminished the fun I am having with woodworking. This experience with Marey has also reinforced my belief that high quality tools are worth the money.
Brian, you are a far more patient person than I am. Whenever I get a new tool I am like a 10 year old at Christmas. I can't seem to get it out of the packaging quick enough and fire it up. I might even read the directions later. :)

It looks like you are having fun with the jigsaw and I completely agree with Mike's comment about the relationship between a tool's cost and its quality.
A Viking Tale

It was in the spring of 975 A.D. when Erik the Red's 1st cousin, thrice removed, Sven the Brunette with blond highlights, headed out in his longship for weekend of pillage and camaraderie with his buddies. Sven was a giant of a man, standing 6' 8" tall, with a barrel chest, and a thick beard, also with blonde highlights. His friends were also rather large and one might say malodorous (of course one wouldn't say that until 1840 or later, as the word didn't exist in 975, but I digress). They headed out to sea, towards a little village, which they expected would put up scant resistance to their pillaging, and Sven had heard they had a nice day spa. He figured lads would be sore after a day of pillaging and he really needed a seaweed wrap.

Sven had not done a lot of pillaging in his life, he was more of a home body, but the continued success of his cousin, forced him to, according to his wife, 'get out more'. Apparently the other wives were beginning to talk. So off they went. As he stood at the head of the longboat, looking out over the waves, he thought about the conquests of Eric, and he thought about his other cousin, Bahn the rather grumpy. History has forgotten Bahn, but Sven knew only too well of his tales. He cringed as he remembered the stories of Bahn, with his massive hammer over head, screaming as he ran into the villages, 'Fear my hammer, fear the Wrath of Bahn!'. This cry would cause the men to tremble and the women to swoon. When the tales of Bahn were told back home, the men toasted him, and the women, well, they swooned too, except for Sven's wife. She hit him on the shoulder and gave him a dirty look. That night was a cold and lonely one for Sven.
He spent the next week fashioning a massive hammer from his best wood. He reinforced the handle and polished it to a fine sheen. He then gathered his smelly friends and told them of his plan for fame and riches. The lads were not terribly bright, and they all liked the idea of getting away from the wife and kids for a weekend.

As the little village came into view, his excitement almost overwhelmed him. They had been crossing the sea all day and were eager for battle. Sven had been practicing his war cry in his head. The boat crept ashore, down the coast from the village. They made their way through the woods, over the glen, and soon they saw the village. There were several dozen huts, people milling about, an ox pulling a scratch plough, and children playing near the center of town. It was just as Sven imagined.

He led his band of Viking Warriors down the hill. As they got within ear shot, Sven yelled out his battle cry, wielding his hammer with bravado. The bravado was short lived. The town's people all heard the cry, and a group of women, washing clothes in the stream at the edge of town, defeated Sven, not with weapons, but with their laughter. Not just laughter, but a full on eruption of boisterous chortling, with a fair amount of finger pointing. Several woman, laughed so hard that they slipped and fell into the stream.

Sven's friends, his Viking hoard, stopped soon after hearing the battle cry, and the aforementioned laughter. They just shook their heads, turned around, and headed back to the boat. Sven was crushed. He was confused and didn't understand what had happened. The lads got back in the boat, snickering, and waited for Sven. When he returned and demanded to know why they had stopped, Holgar spoke up, and said, "I've got wood!?...Massive hard wood!?...Really? THAT was your battle cry?...Did you think it through?" The rest of the hoard busted out laughing, and continued through the night as they returned home. It didn't stop until most of them had gone to bed, but quickly started up again, when they told the tales of their great adventure. Sven said, he would never pillage again, and his wife said she loved him regardless, which was all he wanted in the first place.

So with Sven in mind, I declare, "I've got LUMBER, really massive lumber." When I began my journey into woodworking, I imagined creating all sorts of beautiful tables and chairs, with exotic woods, and stunning grain patterns. I don't think I ever spent even a moment, thinking about where one gets beautiful lumber, for I knew that, unlike most things, lumber did grow on trees.

The book 'Selecting and Drying Wood', which is a collection of articles from Fine woodworking magazine, has opened my eyes to the challenges involved in selecting and buying lumber. I have learned that one should be prepared when they head out to buy those bits of trees that will become treasured projects. Roland Johnson's article in the book, suggests that one have a 'kit' for their trips to the lumberyard. He believed in taking a flashlight, gloves, tape measure, moisture meter, clip board with cut list, pencil, and even a hand plane. I wouldn't have thought of any of these things, with the possible exception of a cut list. The book also taught me the value of trying to select pieces of lumber that are from the same tree and gave tips on how one can determine if two boards go together. I had no idea how much the color can vary between different trees of the same species. I didn't know what heartwood was or how one could use defects in a board to match it to another board from the same tree.

I learned that rough cut lumber is cheaper than the kiln dried wood one finds at a lumber yard, and that rough cut wood needs to be air dried for 1 year per inch of thickness, if you don't have a kiln. I don't have a kiln. But most of all, I learned that one should always keep their eyes open for opportunities to get a good deal. It became apparent, after reading this book, that 50% of the skill of the master craftsman is their understanding of, and ability to find, truly special wood.

A few weeks back I made a purchase. I bought some rough cut walnut and cherry from a gentleman who advertised on craigslist. I bought approximately 340 board feet of rough cut lumber. I have been inventorying every piece, and I haven't finished, but when finished, I will have a detailed record of what I have in the stacks. The lumber was cut in June of last year. 80% of it is 1 inch thick and should need another 6 months of drying, while the remaining 20% is 3 - 4 inches thick and obviously won't be ready for several years. The breakdown is 20% Cherry and 80% Walnut.

I don't know if I got a good deal. I paid $400.00 for the lot, or $1.17 per board foot. It feels like a good deal to me, and I will get lots of hours of enjoyment from my lumber. I am learning how to build stacks. I didn't even know what a sticker was, before I needed one. And perhaps the best part, is the joy I feel when I walk downstairs to my basement (where I have the dehumidifier running 24/7), and see the stacks I am building. There is something great about having lots of wood.
Brian, this was an entertaining read and you did get a good deal on the lumber. Thanks for the post.
Photographing my Blog pt. 2

I have been giving one tip to people for years. It is so simple, I hesitate to even call it a tip, but alas I don't have a thesaurus handy, so I have little choice. This applies to every photo, whether it is an image of your latest woodworking project or a prize winning picture of a yeti. The last thing I do, before I press the button, is to slowly force myself to run my eyes around the edge of the image. I know it sounds dumber than Jethro Bodine, but that is because it is so easy. In the words of a thousand commercials for footwear, 'Just Do It'.
When you start to look at the rest of the image, not just the finely turned bowl, you will notice that there is a corner of a box of diapers sneaking into the image. You will also get better at taking pictures of people. The stop sign that is 'growing' out of your girlfriend's head, or the car with your angry wife driving by the shoot, will suddenly pop out to you, and thus you can make slight adjustments (like making sure you take pictures of your girlfriend only when your wife is visiting her sister in Saginaw). This tip will work with any camera you have, though I still think you should get those lazy six years olds their first job, and get a fancy pants model. But I digress.

Along a similar line, when taking a picture of your work, if you wish to put some extra items in the background, like tools behind a project in process, or a delicious ham behind the aforementioned finely turned bowl, try to use a shallow depth of field. Depth of field is the distance (or depth) in the image, which is in focus. This generally applies to SLRs (Single Lens Reflex…aka…fancy pants cameras), but there are some point and shoots which have this capability. My mom's camera, the Powershot G10, is able to set the f-stop. So when I say shallow depth of field, I mean a small number on your camera's lens, or a small f-stop. For example an aperture setting of 3.5 will cause the background to be out of focus, thus causing the subject to stand out, while f22 (f stands for aperture, I could make up a story for why they use f and not a, likely involving a priest, a Rabbi, and an Episcopalian yak farmer, but I have already digressed.), would leave everything in focus. It is also important to understand how aperture works with light.

Shallow depth of field requires less light than a longer depth of field. This is helpful when you are taking pictures in artificial light, because the shutter doesn't need to stay open as long as it would if you were trying to have everything in focus. If you are getting really excited about photography and are starting to read up on the subject, you might run across the term 'fast lenses. This confused me for a long time. It is simply a lens that allows for a very shallow depth of field. They are generally much more expensive than a normal lens. For instance a zoom lens that goes to 300 mm, can be picked up for 3-400 dollars, a 'fast' lens, the giant lens that the photographers use on the sidelines of football games, those start at about $7000.00. This is not a lens you should need, as it is too 'long', for shooting your work, but it brings me to my next and last subject for the day.

This photo shows tilt shift in the table (sort of, it actually just demonstrates perspective, but you get the idea.), an annoying shiny bit from a Jet clamp in the top right corner, and also demonstrates shallow depth of field. This image can be improved substantially by simply removing the clutter in the top right corner. Were I to shoot it again, I would also slide the mortar slightly to the left. It feels slightly out of position where it is.

The amount of zoom you should use when shooting. If you are limited in space, you can use the wide angle portion of your lens, or zoom out. Zooming out, a back up the image, but it also causes something called bowing. Have you ever taken a picture of a tall object, like a dresser, and in the photo it looks warped? That is bowing. If you are taking a picture of a tall building, the building seems to bow out and the edges don't run parallel with the sides of the image. That is tilt shifting. It can be corrected in Photoshop CS 2, 3, or 4, but that runs you another $1000 and 8 or 9 months of intensive study to master, so fixing it, is not the best solution. It is better to try to take the image of your dresser from a greater distance and then zooming in on it. This will give you much better results. If you can put the dresser in one room, and stand out in the hall and zoom in, you will be much happier with the results. One last note, if you are taking a close up of your girlfriend's face while your wife is in Michigan, then try to stand further away, such that the zoom is at 135mm. This will be much more flattering. That is all for now. I am off to do some woodworking.
Thanks for the post, Brian. I am a complete novice when it comes to photography. If the camera works when I push the button then I assume that all is well. :)
Henry Wood Detective Agency: Bad News

The note simply said, "Went to the store for bacon, eggs, juice, and bread." Luna wiped the sleep out of her eyes and looked around. The house was small but cozy. She hadn't paid much attention the night before; she was too overwhelmed. On one wall was half a dozen photos of Washington DC. They were nicely framed and were quite nice. The other walls were mostly covered by book shelves. She ran her finger along the spines and read some of the titles, "Candide", "Father's and Children", a collection of short stories by Rudyard Kipling, a book of haiku, and various tomes on chess.

She went into the bathroom and splashed some water on her face. The sound of the front door startled her, but she immediately heard Henry calling out. Henry had also picked up the morning paper, the headline was disturbing, and he wasn't sure if she was ready. He hid it behind the credenza and headed into the kitchen. He heard the sink running in bathroom as he unpacked the groceries. Henry was an extraordinarily average cook, mostly he could keep himself alive, but he did make a pretty good breakfast. He hoped she liked bacon and eggs, and thought to himself, "Everyone likes bacon and eggs!"

Luna walked into the kitchen and said, "That smells delightful. Here let me help." She took the spatula out of Henry's hand and took over. He wasn't use to being taken care of, and it made him a little bit uncomfortable, but she looked really happy, so he sat down at the kitchen table, trying not to think about the paper.

"Luna, you really don't need to do that, I can make breakfast." Henry said.

"You aren't used to being taken care of, are you?" Luna said with a little smile, and then continued, "Why haven't you found yourself a Mrs. Wood?"

Henry chuckled. He could tell she was feeling much better after a good night's sleep. He liked seeing her like this. He also felt that a subject change was a good idea. "So, how long have you been working at the bakery?"

Her eyes got big, "I love baking, cooking is fun, but making cookies and cakes is the most wonderful thing in the world. I have been there for about 10 years. I make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world." She said, sticking out her chest as she pointed to herself with her thumb. "Since I came to see you, I haven't been into work though. I have been too worried." Suddenly she was sad again.

Henry thought another subject change was in order. "What else do you like to do?"
She flipped the bacon over and cocked her head to the side, "I like books. I like books a bunch, they are swell. I have a degree in literature from Oberlin College. Did you know that the first woman to ever attend college went to Oberlin?"

"I didn't know that."

"Her name was Lucy Stone and she graduated in 1847. I wrote a paper about her relationship with Susan B. Anthony. It got an A."

"I bet it did. Do you like to write?" Henry asked, seeing that her mood was on the upswing again.

Luna cracked an egg into the skillet. It didn't even look like she was thinking about it, she was a machine in the kitchen. Henry just sat and watched her precise movements; it must be an Alexander trait. Another egg hit the skillet and she said, "I do like to write. I keep a journal and I write some stories, but I would never want to be a writer."

"Oh, why is that?"

"Because when you get done writing a story, you can't eat it!" She said giggling.

Henry laughed too.

They sat at the table and ate breakfast, telling stories and laughing about Henry's college days. He had a thousand stories and she loved them. Her days at Oberlin were much tamer. Henry was exciting and he made her feel safe.

Henry told her that he was almost done with his cauls, and asked if she would like to come downstairs while he finished them. She said she would be down after the dishes. Henry tried to object, but she would have none of it, and sent him down to the basement to play.

When Luna came downstairs she sat next to the workbench and asked him about his project. Henry loved talking about woodworking, and wasn't ready to tell her about the Headline. "Cauls are helpful in gluing up boards. You apply the glue to the edges, lay some wax paper over both sides, clamp them lightly together, and then put a caul over each end." He said, while he sanded a small block of wood, and continued, "Once you tighten it down, they keep the boards from popping up when you tighten the clamps, and the wax paper keeps the glue from sticking to the caul."

"That is quite clever. I use wax paper for cooking." She said, and then asked, "How did you learn how to build a caul?"

"I read an article in a magazine. It described what I needed." He answered, and then proceeded to list off the components, "8 pieces of 2 inch maple, cut to 36 inches long, and twelve 2 inch by 3 inch spacer block, plus some 5 inch bolts and knobs."

"They look lovely."

"Thanks, the directions didn't call for it, but I spent a lot of time sanding each piece, so it will feel nice and I won't get splinters." He said with pride.

The rest of the morning was spent talking in the basement. Henry didn't know that Big Mike was looking for him. He didn't know that his phone at his apartment in the city had been ringing off the hook. He didn't know about the fire.
I am looking forward to the next installment, Brian.
Creating the Cauls

In Vol 28, No. 164, on page 6 of Woodsmith magazine is the article which describes the Adjustable Panels Cauls. It was sent in by George Johnson of Canton Oklahoma. They give the dimensions and I followed them somewhat closely. I visited my local Home Depot to buy the goodies I would need to make my cauls. I purchased (4) seven feet long, 1×2, in hard maple. I like hard maple. I also purchased (4) 36 inches long ½ x 3 inch pieces of Oak. I only needed one piece of the oak, but I wanted the other pieces for another project. So only buy 1 if you don't want extra, and to be honest, I didn't use the entire one piece either, I only used 18 inches.

As for the hardware, I came very close to making a tightening handle blunder, when I nearly bought a handle with the male threaded rod attached. This would have been a mistake. The handles need to be female which allow the threaded part of the 5/16th carriage bolt to pass through. Which brings me to the quantities of stuff I needed, the plans required 4 handles, 4 washers (I bought 8 to allow for losing a few), (24) #8, 1 ¾ "flat head screws (I bought a box). I also bought a box of 1 1/4" flat head screw, because I didn't believe the instructions. The 1 ¾ looked way too long. They were not too long and actually worked wonderfully.

Being new to woodworking, I lack confidence, so I bought extra stuff, which I didn't need. I then reinforced my fears when I purchased (3) 5" 5/16" carriage bolts and (1) 5 ½" carriage bolt. I blindly trusted the little bin that told me I was buying 5 inch, and it was very sneaky in giving me a 5 ½ bolt. I fixed the problem by buying (3) 5 ½" and (1) 5" the next day. So I have an extra set that will allow for thicker boards to be in my glue up. In the photos I used the 5 ½ inch bolt. I may buy some longer ones too. The reason one can't just buy really long bolts is that the threads don't go all the way down the bolt. If I had bought a 7 inch, I wouldn't have been able to tighten them all the way down.

So here is how I built my cauls. I cut (8) 36" pieces of hard maple, using my Japanese hand saw. I was amazed at how quickly it cut through each piece, and how beautiful the cuts turned out. It was definitely the right tool for the job.

I like sanding. I have read that many woodworkers don't like sanding their projects. It is considered drudgery. I took 2 pieces and clamped them into my vice and sanded the top to a nice rounded edge on the outside edges on the top side of the two pieces. My reasoning was, it was a waste of time to sand the inside edges, so I didn't. I also didn't sand the bottom edges, because I wanted them to remain flat. So I sanded up each pair. I used 80, 120, 220 grit paper and my mouse sander.

The next step was to cut off 1 ½"blocks from the piece of oak. My Japanese hand saw handled this task as well. The blocks are used as spacers between the pieces of hard maple. There are 3 spacers per caul piece (top and bottom) and created the gap that allows the carriage bolts to be threaded up through the top and bottom. It means that one is able to move the clamping handles in to the edges of the wood when clamping, to apply the most pressure onto the wood being glued up.

So with 12 pieces of oak cut, I stacked them together and sanded the tops, rounding the edges. This was done for aesthetics.

The next step was to screw everything together. I placed a spacer in the middle, at 18 inches and one on each end, set in 1 ½ inches from the edge. I have no idea why they weren't all the way out to the edge, but in the article, that is how George Johnson did it, and it looked good to me. I then flipped the pieces of wood upside down, with the rounded edges on the table, and placed my oak spacers in the correct positions. Next I clamped everything together, before drilling pilot holes. I then used a countersink bit to drill out a bit of space for the flat head screws to set into the wood. To make my life easier I got out both of my cordless drills, using one as a dedicated pilot holes driller and the other for the countersinking and the screwing in of the flat head screws. ( I am not sure all of the verbs in the last sentence really exist, but I digress)

Once all of this was done, I just needed to cut some blocks to hold the carriage bolts. The instructions called for 3 ½ inch blocks, but I had a lovely piece of hard maple that was 12 inches long, so I went with 3 inches for each block. Yes it was a daring move, but I am not afraid to live life on the edge. I sanded the 12 inch block before I made the cuts. I also drilled the holes, first with a Fostner bit, then with a regular bit. This meant that after I cut them into their 3 inch lengths, they were ready to go.

The last step was to check the flatness of the bottoms of each caul section. I had focused on making sure that the tops were flat, because I intended to flatten any that needed it, using my router. There was only one that needed flattening, so I used my 2 inch flush trim bit. It is a really nice bit, made by Amana. I spent $128.00 on this bit. That seems like a lot, but I have already used it a bunch of times. And it cuts like a hot knife through brie.

When I finally assembled the cauls, they looked even better than I had hoped. Now I just need to find a project that requires a glue up.
Thanks for the reference on the cauls, Brian. These look pretty good. I haven't been real pleased with mine so I may have to try these.

And you put together a well documented tutorial.
To Build or Not To Build

A while back I talked about my desire to buy or build a router table. Today I have decided. I will build. It will be glorious. The factors that influenced my decision were many; quality, precision, flatness of the table, and to some extent cost. When I weighed all the factors the scales were greatly tilted in favor of buying either the Incra super system or the Veritas system. I choose to build, because I wanted to.

In a day or two, the router plate I ordered will arrive. This will cause much stress and fear, as I will likely need to drill some holes into it. It is possible that I will devote twenty to thirty hours measuring and remeasuring the placement of the holes, before I break down and call in someone from NASA. Since I don't have a drill press or know what type of bit to use, I calculate my chances for a cataclysmic failure to be at about 84%.
I began work on the stretchers. They are made from 2×4s. I have designed the table to have the same table top dimensions as the Kreg table, 24×32. When I say designed, I am using that term loosely, as I am actually just modifying the plans I used to build my work bench. Those plans were designed by the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine, Asa Christiana. My plans simply call for different dimensions, a set of freaking laser beams, and a Gatlin gun. It is actually going to be a router/urban assault table.

I am setting each leg in from the edge by 3 inches. The legs will be made from 4×4s. This means that the side stretchers will be 11 inches and the front and back will be at 19 inches. So I bought (2) 8 foot 2×4s and (2) 4×4. I also purchased 10 feet of 1×6 oak. It was pretty and I wanted it. I may use it as part of a fence or as a mount for the gun.

I was all set to cut my 8 stretchers when it occurred to me, that I should sand first. The voice in my head, with a thick German accent, said I was being 'Stupid'. I didn't listen to my inner German voice and I went ahead and started to sand. While I was sanding, I noticed several things. The first was that sanding one long piece was easier than sanding 4 little pieces. The second was that I didn't need to clamp and unclamp everything so often. Now admittedly, I would have used bench cookies were I sanding 11 inch pieces, to do the four inch faces, but still, it seemed more efficient. The third aspect that I really liked was that I didn't have to change the sand paper as often. I started with 50 grit on the belt sander. I then changed to 80, 150, and 220 on the mouse sander. I went through this cycle with each of the 4 sides. Obviously there would have been 4 times more grit changes, had I sanded each piece individually.

So that was all I did today, with regards to my woodworking. I sanded a 2×4. Not very dramatic or sexy, I will admit, but that is today's report. I feel I have let my reading public down. I have brought great shame to myself, my family, my ancestors, my sister's cat, and several neighbors here in Martelle. I can live with that.

On an entirely different note, today has been a banner day for the readership of the old blog. It is interesting that the eastern sea board, completely shut down by snowmageden, has had a fair number of people turning to my article on creating the cauls. The normal readership, which does not count the several hundred wonderful people which read the blog on Lumberjocks, is around 100, with the largest contingent being the 12 people from St. Louis who started reading a week or two ago. As of the writing of tonight's rambling, the number of people who stopped by to check out the blog was 261, with 77.78% being new visits. I don't know how many of those will return to see this post, but to those that do, I say, Thanks a bunch. I hope the snow melts for you quickly. And to the 12 from St. Louis I ask, do you know Eric Liu?

This is going to be an interesting project to follow, Brian. I am sure you are going to have fun doing it and following your progress will be both enlightening and enjoyable to read.
Amazing Customer Service

Today I received a call from Dale at ACME Tools in Cedar Rapids.

A couple of weeks ago I asked if they had any router plates. Dale said that they were out but there were some that were supposed to be arriving any day. He checked the computer, and the order was a couple of days past due. I find the people at ACME tools to be helpful and they are very patient with my lack of knowledge. The next two times I walked in, Dale saw me and said that the Rosseau plate wasn't in yet. I didn't even have to ask, he just remembered.

Yesterday my Rousseau router plate arrived from Amazon. I had finally decided on Monday that I couldn't wait any longer. I wanted to give ACME the sale, but I was ready to get going on my table. So when Dale called today, I had to tell him that I had just received one. Not only was he nice about it, he proceeded to give me all sorts of tips about how to install it. After a few minutes, when it became apparent that I wasn't following everything, he said, "I won't be here tomorrow, but tell you what; I will draw a diagram and put it under my register." About 15 minutes later he called back and told me that he was ok at drawing but his written explanation wasn't quite so clear, so he set up a little display behind the counter to show me how.

I thanked him profusely and hung up the phone. I love ACME tools and this is just one of the examples of how great they are to their customers. And today I wasn't even a customer; I had bought it from Amazon! If you have an ACME tools nearby or perhaps one day you will pass one, please take a moment and drop in, I am sure that they will be as friendly as the Cedar Rapids ACME Tools.

My Rousseau Model 3509 router plate is quite cool. I am eager to get to the point where I get to install it. Today was not the day however. Today I needed to route dados for the 3/8th inch threaded rod. As part of my extensive collection of three router bits, there is a Freud 75-106 3/8th Up Spiral Bit, which has yet to taste wood. I love my Freud circular saw blade and was excited to see how this bit handled the task at hand. When I cut the dados in my workbench, the Amana bit cut wonderfully, but being a down spiral, I could tell it wasn't the right bit for the job. It pleases me to report that the Freud bit is magical in its cutting prowess. The first pass was approximately 1/8th an inch, as a test. The Freud cut like a hot samurai sword through a pile of Jell-O with tiny bits of fruit in it. The up spiral created lovely shavings and pulled them out of the way.

To cut the dados on the edges of the eleven inch 2×4s I rigged up a setup using the stretchers and part of the dado jig. The first step was to take one of the guides off the jig and clamp it to the stretchers. The first two boards went fine. The third didn't go so well. I wasn't quite careful enough with the clamping and the board got pulled away from the guide. I have included a picture to show what happened. Another cut was made, and though it doesn't look pretty, it will work just fine.

The longer stretchers require the dado be on the face of the board, so I carefully marked each stretcher. The stretchers were clamped to the twins, Teri and Tracy, who are my saw horses, if you are new to the blog. This setup worked really well and the cuts went without incident. So now the next step is to cut and sand the 4×4s. I don't know how the router table will look or work when I am done, but I can say the stretchers are much better than the ones I did for the workbench. So I am happy. Ok, I am off to watch the rest of the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics.

This looks good, Brian. And I really enjoy hearing customer service stories such as you experienced.
The Amazing Hand Saw

The world is a dangerous place. The opposing ideas cause our species to fight and squabble about almost anything. Every so often, those differences seem to disappear, and we cheer for the triumph of the athlete.

Today I did some woodworking, but I also watched the winter Olympics in Vancouver. I cheered for the USA. I watched the medal count and felt overwhelming pride with each Bronze, Silver and Gold. But I also cheer at the joy. The pure happiness displayed at a life's dream achieved. Much has been made of Canada never winning gold at any of the Olympics held on their own soil. The added pressure was evident when with only one skier to go, the Canada's Jennifer Heil, leading women's mogul event, had her dream, and that of an entire country, dashed. The tears streaking down her chin were heartbreaking. Today, Alexander Bilodeau put on his skis, trying to do what Jennifer Heil had almost done. Alexander Bilodeau won the gold medal in the men's moguls' event, and a nation cheered. I cheered too.

The dedication that each man and woman displays, the desire for greatness, is so apparent, is so beautiful, that for a couple of weeks we are inspired to try harder. With this in mind, I rethought how I would cut the 4×4s. I had planned on firing up the Bosch circular saw, as I was sure that they must be too big for the Japanese hand saw. As I looked at the wood, it's mass, so much greater than the normal 1 inch boards I work with, I had a thought it must be too big. The Japanese don't use power tools, so they must cut their 4×4's by hand. It must be possible. But is it incredibly hard, will I screw up my router table legs? In the spirit of the great Olympians fighting it out in Vancouver, I decided to go for it.

I marked each leg, just as I would for the circular saw, and then clamped the first one in my vice. I started the cut and with a handful of careful strokes, got the blade heading through the 4×4 on a straight path. To my surprise, the saw easily made the cut. It went so quickly and was so straight that I had to stop and take a picture. The picture set up took longer than it took to cut both the legs. It should be noted that I can't fit an eight foot 4×4 in my car, so I have the man at the lumber yard cut off a bit. I always make sure to know exactly how long I want my pieces before I go, so that the first two legs are done for me. Cutting the legs was fun. When I was finished, they were all the same length.

So I learned that my Japanese hand saws are even more capable than I had previously thought. The next step is to get them sanded up. The rest of the afternoon was spent sanding, watching the Olympics, and taking a Sunday afternoon nap. Not a bad day at all. I am still inspired.
Brian, I have to agree with David in that often it takes more time to get out our power tools than it would take to do a job by hand. This is a nice saw that does cut well. I use mine for all the hand cuts that I do.
Henry Wood Detective Agency: The Lab

Sylvia looked at Henry, and cocked her head to the side. It was obvious to her that he was deep in thought. She didn't understand why he suddenly felt like he had to sit down.
"Are you ok? Would you like a drink?" she asked.

"I am fine, thank-you, and yes please." Henry said, still looking at the back of Bobby's card and the business card that Sylvia had just handed him. He knew he didn't want to try and explain to her what he was thinking. It would have struck him as impossible, were it not for his closet, which he had grown to accept. He couldn't imagine being able to explain it to Sylvia.

The distinctive sound of ice cubes landing in fine crystal went unnoticed by Henry. Sylvia poured Henry a scotch rocks; she hadn't asked what he wanted, because the look on his face was one of complete concentration. She had seen it on her father's face many times, and knew that it was best not to break his train of thought. With the grace of a cat she set the drink on a coaster in front of Henry.

Henry was staring at the bookshelves behind the desk, but it looked like he was seeing past them, off to the horizon. Off to the ends of the earth for all she knew. A minute passed and slowly Henry reached out, slowly picked up the scotch, and took a sip. He didn't change his stare, but said, "Thanks, this is excellent."

Sylvia whispered, "You're welcome." She had returned to the desk and was watching him, completely intrigued by his motionlessness. It was as if she stared into his eyes hard enough, she might see what he was thinking.

The deafening silence was shattered when Henry asked, "May I see your father's lab?"

"Sure." Sylvia said, startled at the suddenness of his question. She stood up, grabbed her drink, and headed into the hall. Henry followed, taking sips of his drink as he walked. They crossed the entryway; headed down a hall that was the mirror image of the one they had just left. Henry was no longer paying attention to the art. Before they got to the end, Sylvia opened the last door on the left, and Henry followed her through.

The room was long and rectangular; they passed through it, to a door at the far end. This door led to a spiral staircase, which headed down. Though Henry was still deep in thought, he did notice that they seemed to be going down more than just one story. It felt like two or three. They had passed a small door and continued on until they arrived at a heavy wooden door. Sylvia lifted the latch and pushed the door open. The hallway was entirely made of stone and felt like a dungeon, though it was lit with modern lighting. Henry felt he should be carrying a torch.

Sylvia paused at the door at the end of the hall. "I haven't been down here since the explosion. If you don't mind, I will stay outside." She leaned down and pulled a flashlight out of a little wooden box sitting by the door. She handed it to Henry.

"I understand." He said, clicking on the light. He opened the door and walked into the lab. There was a burnt smell, but it wasn't the same as his office, it was more of a sulfur smell. The room was a large and circular in shape, with a very high domed ceiling. It looked like there had been three workstations around a center area where there must have been something massive. All that remained now was a crater. The edges of the room had piles of equipment, glass and wood, which had been blasted out from the center. There were large bits of the ceiling on the floor. The basic structure still seemed sound, but the lab and its contents had been turned to a pile of rubble.

Henry walked all the way around the room. He didn't see anything helpful, so he turned off the flashlight and put it back in the box by the door. He had something he wanted to ask, but he wasn't sure how to broach the subject. He already knew that Sylvia wasn't tuned into her father's work, but he had a theory, a crazy theory, so he decided to ease into the question.

"Was your father alone when the accident happened?"

Sylvia said, "Yes, he always worked alone."

"Were you home when it happened?" Henry asked, lowering his voice slightly.

"I was shopping at Macy's, when Winston called and told me what had happened."

"Winston?" Henry asked.

"He manages the house, you met him earlier." She said, giving a heavy sigh, as she remembered getting the call.

"Winston found the body, I mean, er, your father?" Henry asked, stumbling a bit with his words. That was the question he wanted to ask, but had hoped to be able to do it more delicately.

"We never found a body. Everything was destroyed in the explosion. He was the first one down here, if that is what you mean." She said.

"And you don't have any idea what he was working on?" Henry asked, though he knew the answer.

"No idea at all."

Henry had his answer. He was developing a theory, but was a long way from figuring out where he was going to find the next clue. He needed to get the journal to the district attorney and to find the key that would unravel its contents. He was sure that there was something in this house that would point him in the right direction. He hoped he would be able to spot it. He decided to head back to Mr. Alexander's office and take a closer look at the books. Every clue had been very subtle, he was sure that trend would continue. He would need to talk to Winston.
Have fun, Brian. I would tell you to try to keep your credit card in your wallet but I know that every time I pass my local Woodcraft store I always seem to come out of there substantially poorer.

I am looking forward to the installment.
Frantic Speed Shopping

The sun was out today and it was the first time this year that I noticed the days seem to be hanging out a bit longer. They are sneaky that way, sort of creeping up on spring. After all the snow this winter, I will welcome spring with a giddiness that I haven't experienced in years. Of course, it was still cold out, when I got into my car, but the sunlight on my face warmed my spirits considerably.

I had errands to run. I needed to get some petrol and oil for my car. I was craving a Jimmy John's sub, so that was also on my list. The top task on my list however, was to try to make it over to ACME tool before they closed, so I could see the Festool rep. I had marked on my calendar that he would be in town on the 24th and 25th and today is the 24th! Since I purchased Mary the Jigsaw, I have been interested in seeing either the 5" RQ 125 FEQ or the 6" RQ 150 FEQ sander in action.

The Festool representative, Matt, had a piece of tiger wood, which had recently admitted to cheating on his wife with several types of exotics, from all over the world. Not only did I get to see it in action, I got to do the sanding! It was fantastic. He explained how to hold it correctly and also told my why it was important. Because of the design, it sort of looks like one might hold the sander too far back. He explained that this would lead to horrible chatter. So I did as he had instructed and there wasn't any chatter, it was smoother than a famous golfer picking up a porn star.

We started with some 120 grit and worked our way up until we were using some weird space age polishing pads. I have read that new woodworkers often over sand. The 6" RQ 150 FEQ sander, which has a random orbital setting and a gear setting, also has an attachment which collects dust. The dust collection was incredible. There simply wasn't any, the tiny little vacuum seemed to get it all. When I had made it through all the grits and polishing pads, the wood was polished like a new driver.

Before I knew it, the store was closing. I wasn't prepared to make my purchase today, as I like to mull tool buying decisions over, but I also was not at all prepared to leave ACME tool empty handed. That would be crazy talk. So in a near panic I scooted over to the section with measuring and marking devices. I swooped down the aisle, deftly grabbing a Crown Tools 10 ½ inch bevel in rosewood, a wheel marking guage by Shop Basics, and then frantically hailed one of the remaining workers, to unlock the Freud router bit cabinet. The ACME guys are always friendly, and they never rush me, but I have developed a terrible habit of making them wait on me to close up, so I am trying to do better. I looked at my iphone and I had my new ¼" double flute straight bit, with one minute to spare. I plopped the stuff on the counter and bought them. Whew that was close.

Worry not, if you thought that the closing of ACME, cut my woodworking shopping short, for I still intended to wonder over to Home Depot. Between ACME tools and Home Depot is a Jimmy John's sub shop, so that played right into my plans. I had the #5. Yummy!

As many of you know, I am working on building a router table. I have some ¾" ODF, which I thought I might take two sheets of and glue them together for the top. I have decided against that option, in favor of a more expensive one. I want each project to teach me a bit more about woodworking. So I have decided to glue up a bunch of 1×2 pieces of hard maple and oak, to create the table. Of course, I will be standing the pieces on their edge, so that the final thickness will be similar to the 2 pieces of ODF, but it will let me do some gluing. Also, I have been dying to try out my cauls, so this should be fun.

There is one additional benefit. I plan to assemble the tops, such that there is an opening, which is about a half inch smaller than my router table plate. This eliminates the need to cut a hole. I will give a more detailed explanation about how I approached my table top, after I have completed it. I bought 70 linear feet of wood, a piano hinge, and some Titebond II Premium wood glue. All in all, a good day, and now I get to go downstairs and cut some wood.
Brian, it sounds like you have made a good choice with whatever sander you decide to get. I have said many times that the best piece of advice I have ever been given is to "spend the most money your budget will allow" when buying a tool.

Let us know what "companion" you select for Mary.
Is It Worth It?

The best part about blogging, as a beginner at woodworking, is that one learns much more than they would, were they doing the woodworking alone. Yesterday's blog had some great reactions, and posed a great question, is it worth it?

Is it worth the extra dollars for the expensive equipment? An experienced woodworker, who has tried a full gamut of tools, could give a solid argument for or against. I am not such a woodworker. With every purchase, the pros and cons must be weighed.

There is an old adage; you get what you pay for. There is another one which goes, buy the best tool you can afford. Of course, old Ben Franklin used to say, and probably would still, were his voice not impeded by a nasty case of death, 'A penny saved is a penny earned.' Historically, I have been a terrible impulse shopper, not at all taking Ben's advice. This has not been the case with woodworking however. (He said, knowing full and well, he ran amok with impulse purchases just yesterday, and wrote a considerable blog piece about that very fact.) It is the first time in my life where I have mulled over purchases for weeks or months, before making a decision. I spent a least a month deciding on the Bosch router. I took a week just to pick out a new set of drill bits. The decision to build or buy a router table started in November.

It isn't because of a new found restraint. It is more a case of fascination with all that is out there, and the research is definitely educational. I actually find the process enjoyable. Maybe it is that way with other things too, I wouldn't know, as I haven't ever tried it before. So this brings me back to the current items, which are trying their best to make it to the top of my list. I am considering the Festool RO Sander, a collection of nice chisels is something I would like, my first hand plane might be the Veritas block plane, a drill press or DJ1 drilling jig, a planer, SawStop table saw, and nice moisture meter.

There are lots of other wonderful items, like a band saw, lather, and some nice spray equipment for finishing furniture, but they aren't high enough on the list to mention. Oh wait, I just mentioned them. Oh well, I am on a roll.

So I continue to do research. Which brings me back to the discussion about the Festool sander we had today, and I don't know that I am able to give an answer one way or the other. I do know that I was very impressed with how the wood glowed after I used the 6" sander. So I wanted to check it out again. Today

I went prepared to do my own, very unscientific test. I took in a piece of rough cut walnut, cut to 33". I have lots and lots of this walnut, so this test will be more meaningful to me, than working on scrap pieces that Matt had with him. Because there wasn't a lot of time, I decided to a comparison based upon how much progress I could make in 15 minutes. Of course, I lost track of time, and ended up going 16 minutes.

This is how my test will go. I have spent 16 minutes sanding with the items that come in the 6" kit, on one side of the rough wood. I will now use my existing equipment, a belt sander and mouse sander, and see what I can accomplish in 16 minutes. I want to know how much difference there is between my current, albeit meager set up, and the Festool. It is not apples to bananas, by any means, and I am aware of that.

So today I have included a picture of the wood, in rough cut form, as a bit of a teaser for tomorrow's blog.

Now will this answer the question, "Is the extra money worth it, for the Festool, versus another company's less expensive option?" No, as I said, it isn't scientific. It will answer the question, how much improvement will I get for my dollars.

I should mention that there was a customer with Matt the Festool guy, when I arrived. He had a finishing sander with him, which he had bought about a year ago. He didn't feel like it did the job he wanted, not by a long shot. The customer builds furniture and cabinets and had used several other, very nice quality finishing sanders, before buying the Festool a year ago. He was very polite and explained that he honestly didn't know if it was his sander, or operator error. Matt got out the piece of tiger wood that I had sanded on one side the day before. The customer looked at it and said he remembered seeing a piece of wood at the demo last year, and he truly didn't believe that there wasn't a finish on the wood. I told him that I had done the sanding yesterday.

Matt turned the wood over and made a couple of passes with the customer's sander, using the 220 grit paper that was on it. He sanded for only a very short while, and then stopped. All three of us felt the wood. It felt just like I expected, as I had done the same thing the day before. The customer thought it felt really good too.

Around the table he walked, and grabbed a piece of scrap lumber and tried it himself. Sure enough, his sander worked just fine. But the customer still seemed confused. So they got the exact sander, which the customer had used, prior to buying the Festool. They fired it up and it was much noisier. After using both of them, side by side, the customer realized that his sander was working so much quicker, quieter, and the dust collection was so complete, that he was being fooled into thinking it wasn't working. The last tip that Matt gave him, was to dial down the vacuum, which when on high, sometimes creates too much suction. The middle of the road suction worked better for his model of sander. In the end, he loved his tool, and left feeling much better about his purchase.

So I am going to do my test, which will help me decide if I want to move it up the list. I may not learn anything that is helpful to anyone else, but what I will have done is recorded what I was thinking about and my reasoning for making the decision. This may one day, down the road, be incredibly valuable to me. I hope it will be interesting to all of you.
Brian, it sounds as if you have already made up your mind to get the Festool sander since you are going back for another demo. Go for it!!! I am sure Mary is needing some companionship.
Monday Ramblings

Tonight I bought a ½ inch x 2 inch Freud bit. The instructions for installing the router plate said I should have one, and I can't think of a single reason why the Rousseau people would lie to me. Of course, it takes very little prodding to get me to buy a new tool or tool related accessory.

Yesterday, in addition to the final glue up, I spent some time meditating about the install. I sat in the middle of the room, in the lotus position, and hummed and visualized a perfect install. Ok, none of that is true. I actually spent a fair amount of time playing with my Wii. I was playing the Wii cabinet builder game, and made it all the way to kitchen remodeling. Yeah, that wasn't true either.

It feels like I need to take a day or two and not work on it. I can't explain why, but there is a little voice in my head, that is telling me that I am on the precipice of a mistake. The little alarm bells in my head made me pause the glue up for a couple of hours, and sure enough, I figure out a different method. I can't say for sure that the process was better than my original thought, but it did work. Maybe it is just a fear of screwing up, as I really like the look of my router table top. In fact, when I unclamped it and set it on top of the legs I said, "Man that is a sexy table top."

It might just be fear. Fear is a constant companion on my journey. She walks beside me, whispering in my ear, saying "Are you sure about that?" You may have notice that I choose the third-person personal pronoun 'she' for fear. This is, in part, because of a blog post I read today. The question was posed, "What frightens you?" My answer was, in a nutshell, single women and nightclubs. There was a long story, which I won't bore you with, but I realized that fear is an exciting aspect of life. It isn't the fear so much, as the rush of overcoming it.

Thus far, the table seems to be coming along nicely. I have gotten over my fear of gluing two pieces of wood together. Next stop, my fear of installing the router base plate.
Brian, the table is coming along well. And, I think that most of us tend to have the same "fears" that you do as when at this stage of a project. Like David said, experience will alleviate these fears over time but in the meantime the only way to gain "experience" is to work though these nagging doubts.
A complete lack of self restraint...

Hello Lumberjocks and Cats,

Today I shopped. I made a list, checked it thrice and headed out determined to stick to it.

The power of the Woodsmith store was just too great, and though I resisted the temptation to make any major Festool purchases, I did stray from the list.

Oh well. I had fun. Talked a bit of woodworking. And when I got home with my stuff watched UNI beat Kansas in basketball. I would rate that a pretty good day.

To see the actual rating I assigned today…

Brian, I always come out poorer whenever I go to my local Woodcraft store so I can well understand your "temptation" to stray. :)
Introducing My Router Table

Hello All,

For those who have been following my router table building adventures, I am pleased to announce that it is a fully functioning table of routing. I love it. I am especially pleased with the dust collection adapter I created. It not only works, but looks pretty good in my humble opinion. The best part is that I have learned a bunch.

Ok, now to conjure up ideas for my next adventure. :)


Brian, this is going to be a fun addition to your shop. Have fun using it.
Really? 4 hours and I am not done yet.

Hello LJ folks,

Today I bought some marble tiles, spray glue, wet dry sand paper and made sharpening slabs. I have seen many people suggest that this is a good precursor to the wet stone. So I started on the 180 grit. Now 4 hours later the back of the spokeshave blade is still not done, and I have swapped out the 180 for another piece. In the videos it always looks like they get it done rather quickly. Perhaps it is me.

So that is what I blogged about tonight. If you are curious to see what 4 hours of 180 grit will do to an antique spokeshave blade, feel free to check out the photos.

ok, back to the blade. I will finish it eventually.

Brian, the marble will work just as well as the plate glass. Basically you just need a flat substrate to attach the sandpaper. Marble, granite, plate glass will all work just fine.
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