Saturday, August 30, 2008

When I was nine...

This morning, my wife and I began our Labor Day weekend by running over to an estate sale just a few minutes away from our house. The posted description wasn't terribly promising, but there are so few this close to us that we had to swing by and see what we could find.

With a "More Out Back" sign by the front door, the first place we headed was the tool shed in the back yard. Unfortunately, the only tool I could find after five minutes of looking was a cheap and bent-bladed keyhole saw. I don't cut that many key holes myself, so I left it there as we made our way to the house.

Inside the house, we could tell my wife's pickings were going to be slim. Pretty easy to tell if you're going to find things like cut glass or coin glass when you walk in the front door. My pickings aren't always so easily found, though. Tools have a way of showing up in the weirdest places, so I'm always sure to search the house bottom to top (you ALWAYS start in the basement when looking for tools at an estate sale...).

One foot on the last step and the other on the basement floor, I looked up and my heart jumped a bit. In front of me was an old workbench with a planing crotch screwed to the top left side and an old leather belt screwed to the apron, making loops to hold chisels at the ready. Obviously whoever lived here actually did some woodworking and the chance of finding some good tools jumped 55%!

But aside from a few jars of screws and nails and one old mostly-working German clamp, there wasn't a tool in sight. What a disappointment! I asked one of the women in charge and found out that the sale started Friday morning and we had arrived just an hour before the sale was to be over! (What kind of schmuck starts an estate sale on a Friday morning??)

My chance of finding anything good just dropped to a low, low 5%. But I'm not one to give up so easily, so I headed upstairs to see what I could find.

And this time my persistence paid off. In the last room I checked, under a small table in a corner, slightly covered by a towel that had fallen to the ground, were two of those cardboard magazine holders that allow you to store about 15 or so magazines in an upright position.

I turned my head to the side so I could more easily read the spines... the first one I saw said, "Fine Woodworking". I don't think I read it on four other magazines before I reached for both boxes to pull them out from under the table.

I held my breath as I counted them up... there were thirty-three issues in all, from as early as #33 (May/June '82 - I was nine years old that month) to as late as #123 (April '97). Quite a few of them were from 1985 or older, and I knew these would help fill some rather large spots in my FWM collection. There wasn't a price on them, but I hefted a box in each arm and headed downstairs regardless.

At the checkout table, the woman asked me how many magazines I had. "Oh, man," I thought, "She's going to charge me a couple dollars for each one and my wife is never going to let me drop $66 on a bunch of old magazines!" But I took a deep breath and mumbled, "33" as quietly as I could. Then my wife dropped a few things on the table as well, and the woman pulled out a calculator to punch up some numbers.

The grand total: $5.60

That's right, folks - I picked up these wonderful tombs of almost-lost knowledge for just $.10 a piece, $3.30 in all! I dropped the exact amount on the table and ran out the door before she realized her obvious calculation error.

This evening I spent some time thumbing through the first couple of issues. There is some amazing information in these old magazines, like articles on woodlot management, shoji screen construction, making fly rods from split bamboo, and photographing your work. I even found a detailed explanation on how to make inlaid wooden cabinet hinges! There are interviews with James Krenov and Art Carpenter, written when these fantastic woodworkers were at their prime!

There are a few articles and pictures that made me laugh out loud, like Ian Kirby, demonstrating proper planing techniques in tight-rolled jeans (can you imagine woodworking in pegged jeans???) and ads for *brand new* power tools like the Excalibur scroll saw.

It looks like there used to be a reader-written section called, "Adventures in Woodworking". Not sure when it was phased out, but the stories were great fun to read. I'd love to see something like that come back in the current iteration of the magazine. Maybe I'll write them a letter...

And then I saw things that made me a little sad. In the July/August issue of '82 is a photo of Prince Charles, holding a split and shaved child's chair, with a caption saying who made it for him and how it would be necessary pretty soon as Princess Di was expected to give birth any day. I found an ad for top quality, extra durable, one-piece Lignum Vitae carver's mallets for $6.90 that brought tears to my eyes. In 1983, you could get a brand new #52D Record vice for under $100 delivered.

(I had to run to the bathroom for a tissue when I read that one.)

Want to know when they started printing the magazine information on the spine? It was November/December '82 (Issue #37).

I can tell you when Fine Woodworking switched from the larger 12"x9" size to the now-standard 10.5"x9" size. (April '96, Issue #117)

Ever wonder when they first printed an issue with a cover in full-color? (September/October '84, Issue #47)

Would you like to know how John Lively makes his marking gauges? I'd love to know, too. Unfortunately, that article was in Issue #32 and this treasure trove starts at issue #33. :(

(Oh, well, you can't win them all...)

The moral of this blog entry, my friendly woodworking boys and girls, should be obvious. Don't stop looking until the last corner has been searched! You never know what you might find!

Now, if you'll excuse me... I have some reading to catch up on.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Do you take me entirely for a Windsor?

A few years ago, I stumbled across a website by a guy who lives near Kansas City, Missouri. I don't remember exactly how I found it - I believe I was searching for a beading tool or an inlay tool, probably something along the lines of a Preston router.

Anyway, whatever I was searching for, I found Kevin Brennan, owner of the Kansas City Windsor Tool Works, instead! And Kevin happens to make copies of a wonderful old tool called a Windsor Beader (also known as a Poole and Williams Beader). I contacted him to find out pricing and availability, but he replied that his first batch of the beader had already sold out.

I told him to let me know if he was to ever run another batch and then I guess I forgot about it...

Two years later, some time around January or February of this year, I got an e-mail from him. He said he was gearing up for another production run and that I should let him know if I wanted to pre-order a beader! That was about the time I'd started thinking about what I might want by way of a birthday present, so I discussed it with the wife and she agreed to let me place the order.

Originally, the batch was supposed to be ready some time around the beginning of June, just a month after my birthday, but some slight hiccups in the production process (part manufacturing, I believe) forced Kevin to push some of his deadlines back a bit. So it didn't actually arrive until last week.

And tonight I finally had time to pull it out and take some pictures of it for you. I wanted to actually put a cutter in and cut a bead, but he recommends sharpening the cutters before you even put them in the first time to remove little bits of slag that might remain on the edge from the cutting process. That slag could scratch the wonderful polished bronze... and I'd rather give it a few weeks of pristine appearance before I bugger it all up. But sharpening the cutters involves polishing the flats and then honing the edges with slip stones and I just haven't had the time to get that done. So for now, you're just getting pictures of the tool.

After a day of pawing at it and messing around with the different fences, I put it away. When I pulled it out again the next morning, I noticed I'd left finger prints all over it! That wouldn't do. On Sunday, my wife and I were shopping and we walked past a jewelry store. I went inside and asked them if they had any polishing cloths available for sale. As it turns out, the store was having a grand opening that day, so they gave me a cloth for free. Score! Now my bronze is all nice and shiny again.

This evening I found a great article Kevin had written for one of my favourite on-line woodworking magazines - WK Fine Tools. In the article, he goes over the steps to shaping one of the edges of the blank cutter (in the center of the picture to the right) that comes with the beader. I'll have to be sure and print that out tomorrow when I have access to a printer and stick that in with my paperwork for the tool. I picked up an additional blank cutter (not photographed), just in case. You could also use part of an old saw blade for blank cutters, but... it was just easier to have Kevin throw another blank into the box.

Eh, it might be a few months late, but... Happy Birthday, Ethan!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Oh, For Pete's Sake...

I'm stealing my newphew's new "catch phrase" for this blog title. Funny to hear it coming from a seven-year-old; it makes him sound much older than he really is. He said it a few times last weekend when I stomped him on the wii (Olympic Games, appropriately enough). I could have let him win the hammer throw, but a) I honestly have no control over how good I do and could just as easily have faulted on the throw as launched it the 84 yards I did and b) I don't think that would have done him any good.

Today I'm using it because I just happened to notice the date on my last blog entry.

I can't believe I've gone this long without making an entry! I feel terrible about it (no, I really do!). I'm pretty sure it has everything to do with the number of woodworking projects I've completed in the last three months - approximately zero. So I guess the answer to my blogging problem is to get back in the shop and make something!

I could do a blog entry on my latest house project, but it really had nothing to do with wood. And I don't imagine you would want to see step-by-step photos of me pulling the toilet in the hall bathroom to replace the wax ring, gasket, and mounting bolts and then reassembling it.

I do have some woodworking project ideas sitting on the back burner, and I really want to get started on them, so maybe I'll have something worth photographing and posting here in the near future.

If you'll take note at the bottom of my homepage, I've now added a playlist for the album "Currently Playing in the Shop". Nothing like a bit of Wake the Dead to motivate me into some creative woodworking!

(Good news, by the way... no leaks on the toilet fix!)