Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Three Artifacts, Pt. 1: The Tool

I received three items in the mail yesterday. All of them carefully planned, doted over, essential; hand crafted.

The first item came in a large box sealed with packing tape embellished with green text which spelled out the words, "Lee Valley Tools, Ltd."

I have spent hours upon hours over the last 2-3 years navigating websites and browsing catalogs from fine toolmakers such as Lee Valley/Veritas, Lie Nielsen, Tools For Working Wood, Highland Woodworking, etc. So when I saw the packing tape with the toolmaker's insignia, I was so overwhelmed and unbelieving that I could barely recall what the item might be.

The item: a router plane from Veritas, the Canadian manufacturing arm of Lee Valley Tools, Ltd.

I had spent hours debating between the large router plane from Lie Nielsen versus Veritas's version. While Lie Nielsen stays more true to the original pre-WWII Stanley's, I decided on Veritas's unique design. I was nervous about my decision when I placed the order (or rather, wrote it on my Christmas wish list to my father;) nervous that it might be "too fiddly" and have too many pieces to get lost. However, the opposite is true. It fits the hand perfectly and all the pieces fall right into place. Whereas with Lie Nielsen's version it seems you have to remove the depth stop and depth adjuster when changing or reversing blades, the Veritas router has a brilliant spring-loaded collar that allows for removal of the blade without any further action.

I immediately set to work cutting dadoes for a chisel rack I've been planning to attach to my bench. I'm smitten.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Picking Up Shop

While it may turn out to be a terrible idea, over the holiday break I moved my workbench from the basement to what used to be our bedroom and is now our shared upstairs workspace.




The shavings are begging to fly in my new workspace; they are also becoming scattered throughout the entire house (sorry, Darcy). Did I mention we have carpet? (ugh...)

I know it's not THAT great of a view but compared to the white drywall I had been staring at in the basement, it's pretty damn good. It's just too bad that the window doesn't face the east so that I can see Mount Hood.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rust Never Sleeps

The other night I noticed some rust spots creeping in on the corrugated sole of my jack plane, due to the damp nature of the basement. Drawing inspiration from Jim Tolpin's most recent book "The New Traditional Woodworker", I decided to make an "oiling pad."

So I took some cheap fir "firewood" from the bundle of cutoffs that I got from the lumber store and joined two 2.5" pieces together. I then added a beveled edge, glued some scrap carpeting to the top face, and rubbed some vegetable oil into the green pile. Now I can simply run my planes or chisels over the lubricated carpet before putting my tools to rest for the night.

Before and After Planing

This is my completed oiling pad. It is much smaller than Jim Tolpin's but I have a much smaller workbench than he does.

(at least that's the idea.)

Aaaaand just for fun I decided to hone my Google Sketchup skills and create a 3D model of this simple little project. I even threw in a little bottle of oil from the user-submitted google 3D warehouse just to be thorough.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Point of Reference

I'm still trying to decide on my "first" woodworking project. I've built several projects through community college woodworking and cabinetmaking courses but they were very heavy on the table saw aspect of the craft and held no emphasis on honing one's skill.

As with many modern woodworkers, the noise and dust of machine woodworking seems unhealthy and unnecessary to me. As such, I am solely interested in the hand tool side of things. Not only is it cheaper financially to use hand tools, it is more practical for those of us that rent or don't have a whole lot of space to store: a table saw with out-feed table, jointer, planer, band saw, chop saw, router table, etc. (not to mention dust collection!) With hand tools, I can work quietly enough (almost) to keep going late into the night even when my duplex neighbor has his kids for the weekend.

It would be a safe guess to say that I subscribe to the ideas of modern hand tool woodworkers, i.e.:

Lie Nielsen

Christopher Scwarz and (of course) Roy Underhill.

I am a purist at heart (not to be confused with Puritan) or maybe that is not the correct word; maybe the very opposite: "anarchist," perhaps. Is there such a thing as an "anarcho-purist"? Maybe my understanding of both words are totally off the mark. I'll have to scrounge up $37 for a copy of Schwarz's book to really find out for sure. At any rate, I have deep convictions that humans were never meant to evolve to a state of such technological malaise or to become so disconnected to the surrounding world.

Eventually I would like to end up making fine furniture as a source of supplemental income, owning my own furniture shop or just setting up booths at markets and fairs. In any case, I intend woodworking to be an ongoing hobby/profession for the rest of my adult life.

For now, my workbench is planted in a 5' x 10' area of the basement of my SE Portland duplex (the other half of the basement will become a seed-starting area with shelving for grow lights come January.) So in the coming days, I plan on organizing my workspace and building a few helpful appliances formy workspace, including: a set of saw benches, bench hooks, shooting boards, and some shelves and racks to hold my tools off of my bench. Everyday I get a little more excited about the things to come.