Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Going to the Woodworking In America Conference... Really??

Yes, really!

I am fortunate to have married an incredible woman. She is an absolutely wonderful mother and a thoughtful and caring wife. And earlier this year, when I was presented with an opportunity to go to the WIA Conference, I didn't think twice about it because I didn't want to leave my wife home with our ~2 month old baby.

But it happened to come up in a conversation and she asked why I hadn't talked to her about attending. I listed my reasons and she poo-pooed them, saying I had a great opportunity for a unique experience and I should take it.

So I signed up!

It is just a few days before the conference now and I'm starting to get nervous. Not because I'll be leaving work a little early and rushing home to pack and then driving six hours to Cincinnati. And not because I'll be spending three days running around like a chicken with his head cut off, trying to figure out if I should be watching an instructor in awe, furiously writing down notes, or snapping pictures until the cows come home. And certainly not because I'll be attending much of the conference in unbifurcated freedom (look for me in the mocha Survival Utilikilt)!

I'm nervous about being away from my boy for so long. I wonder if I'll find the strength to leave this little guy...

... for three days.

(Before you suggest it, Skype is already out as I'm taking the netbook with me, which has our only web cam on it. Oh, but wait... my mother-in-law will be in town with HER notebook, which also has a web cam! So maybe I can still get to see him in the evenings!)

I want to try and take the momentum gained from attending the conference and use it to push myself back into doing some woodworking. With a new baby, it is difficult to find the time to make it in the shop, but I know the time is there - I just have to find it.

So if you're headed to the conference, as well, and you see a red-head in a kilt, be sure to stop him and say hi! (Hopefully it will be me, natch.)

If you're not able to make it this year, check back here after the conference - I hope to have several blogs written on my experiences there. It won't be the same as being there yourself, but it might be the next best thing!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Birth of a Sincox...

I want to take a minute to apologize for being a bit remiss in maintaining my woodworking blog over the past month or two.

Instead of woodworking, I'm been focusing on getting things ready around the house for a new addition to the family. We needed to do things like assemble cribs and strollers, finish some kitchen renovations, get a closet installed, and paint, paint, paint. Then two weeks ago I decided to go in and have sinus surgery done to clear up an infection issue I'd been dealing with for six months.

Fortunately, we were able to get most of it done, and recover from the surgery, because I decided to suggest Dana go to yoga class Tuesday evening.


She came back and complained about some lower back pain. I attributed it to the class and asked if she felt a twinge at any point where she didn't get a pose right. She said no, that everything seemed to do well in class.

Four minutes later, she felt the pain again.


Timed it once more, just to make sure...

Yep. In retrospect, maybe yoga wasn't such a great idea, Ethan...

So off to the hospital we went, suitcases and bags and books in tow. A short seven hours later, my wife and I had a new addition to the family. So the Birth of a Roubo will have to take a seat for a little bit as the Birth of a Sincox takes precedence...


(Oh, and as a minor update on the Roubo... I checked the lumber in my garage-come-kiln the other day and it is light as a feather and straight as an arrow! So when I AM ready to get back to working on it, the lumber is good to go!)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Birth of a Roubo...

This last Saturday a friend of ours was over doing some electrical work in the kitchen. My brothers and I had removed the old counter and tore down the tile backsplash the previous weekend. While the drywall was down, I wanted Mike to update the wiring to make sure all of the outlets were GFI and add some under-cabinet lighting.

Mike has one of those big trucks you love to drive around and every guy you pass stabs you with jealous daggers from his eyes. I like borrowing it when he is working on a project at our house.

This last weekend, I borrowed his truck to take a trip to Lowes. I needed to pick up some supplies for the work he was doing, but I also wanted to take advantage of the bed of his truck to haul a little bit of lumber home.

Two hours later, I returned, triumphant (and sore and tired...)! I had the lumber picked out for what I'm calling The Ten Board Roubo.

It starts with the hand-selecting of ten 12' long 2x12 southern yellow pine boards. Let me tell you, hand-selecting 12' long boards by yourself isn't exactly easy. If you ever start on a bench-building project in the future, I would suggest bringing a friend along to help move lumber during the selection process. Those suckers are heavy and unwieldy.

Once I got them home, I cross-cut them to somewhat smaller dimensions before I stickered them in the corner of the garage. The top is going to be 8' long, so I decided to cut them all into 8' and 4' sections.

It isn't much to look at so far, but it is a start... and it makes my garage smell good!

The mahogany board sitting on top of the stack is not part of the bench but another project I also started (er... picked up again?) this weekend. I'll have some progress on that project at a later date.

Total price for the bench lumber came out at about $150. I'd love to be able to spend the time and money on wooden screws for a face vice and pick up a shiny wagon vice for the end, but I have a baby due in less than 10 weeks, so both are at a bit of a premium right now. I'll settle with using the two record vices I picked up last year (a #52) and three years ago (a #52 1/2). As long as I recess the inner jaws and make some nice big chops for them, I'll be happy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Decorative Wood Inlay Book Review

Decorative Wood Inlay
By Zachary Taylor

At some point in your woodworking endeavors, you'll find yourself doing inlay of some sort. It might be intentional, such as the addition of stringing to table legs or banding to the lid of a box, or it might be to cover up a mistake, like when I had to inlay an escutcheon into the front of a box to cover up an error I made cutting the key hole. Whatever the reason, it never hurts to have a book handy to get you through these times. Decorative Wood Inlay is the first book I reach for when I want a refresher to get me prepared for my next inlay venture.

Zachary Taylor is a woodworker from England who comes complete with the dry, wry humor we tend to associate with our brethren from across the pond. His writing style is clear and concise and easy to follow, but also very “British”. While wordsmiths will find joy in such sentences as, “The stroke is completed with the same attitude of the blade to the hone,” others might have trouble digesting the English nuance. In this case, he means the blade should be in the same position on the sharpening stone when it ends as when it began.

The book is organized in an easy-to-follow format, beginning with a brief history of inlay and ending with, as he so aptly puts it, “the finish”. Some of the chapters are a bit sparse, like the history (he does call it “brief”) and the last two chapters on adhesives and finishes. In his defense, however, I would point out that a book written on inlaying wood in a decorative manner should mostly cover the process of inlaying wood and not focus on the most basic mechanics of woodworking.

The first few chapters are useful to the beginning woodworker who already knows they want to incorporate inlay of some sort in many of their pieces. Chapter 2 covers the tools and equipment one might find useful while Chapter 3 discusses what Mr. Taylor deems to be important features for a shop setup. It is important to keep in mind that his ideal workshop is created with his kind of work in mind, so it certainly wouldn't work for someone who builds kitchen cabinets for a living.

The bulk of the book, of course, is spent discussing various types of inlay, covering several techniques for each type. Mr. Taylor first starts with one of the simplest types, corner banding. His first method uses a custom purfling tool made for him by Carl Holtey, one of Britain’s master plane makers. The second and third methods involve multi-tools (e.g. Dremel) and hand-made scratch-stocks.

He follows this process for each technique he discusses – how to perform the function with a variety of tools, going into enough detail with each method that they all seem comfortable and do-able. Throughout the next chapters, he outlines inlaying stringing, inlaying curved stringing, inlaying panels and motifs, and inlaying irregular shapes. Each technique he discusses builds upon the previous, finally ending with the high-end techniques of inlaying guitar rosettes and purfling.

Over the past seven years, I’ve amassed a nice little collection of woodworking books. Many of them are quite enjoyable and do get read from time to time. But this book gets pulled down from the shelf for reference and for reading pleasure more than almost any other. I think it would be a fine and inexpensive addition to any woodworker’s library.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hand-Cut Dovetails With Frank Klausz, Wrap Up

On Friday, March 19th, six members of the guild met up with Frank Klausz for dinner at the Soulard Restaurant. The beer was tasty, the food was rich, and the conversation was daunting! Frank is anything but shy and his speak-your-mind approach to everything in life is refreshing, if not intimidating. If you ever get a chance to eat dinner with Frank, don’t pass it up.

The next morning, 15 guys showed up at the St. Louis Woodworking Academy, most unsure of what to expect, ready for two full days of hands-on instruction from Frank. Except to say we cut our pins first, I won’t bore you with the details of making hand-cut dovetails. If you want to learn how to do it the Frank Klausz way, then you should pick up his DVD on How To Make Hand-Cut Dovetails or you can find detailed descriptions of his technique in the September 2005 issue of Popular Woodworking magazine or in the book, Hand Tool Essentials, also published by Popular Woodworking.

I would be remiss, however, if I did not point out a compliment Frank mentioned several times during the class (and even once after the class when talking to Wayne Watson, the guild V.P.). The benches we used were not the best suited for hand tools. In most cases, we had two woodworkers to a bench and the one vice on each bench either didn’t work or was of such poor quality it was unusable. But after Frank demonstrated the technique for cutting dovetails, and gave us scrap wood to practice with, we all went back to our benches and figured out how to make it work. Not one person complained about not having a vice – people either shared what good vices we had or people made their own set-up with clamps. Frank was really impressed with our ingenuity and ability to adapt to the situation.

By the end of the first day, 15 people had 15 boxes (though they weren’t all quite the same size) assembled with hand-cut dovetails. We let them sit overnight to allow the glue time to fully cure. On day two, we leveled the sides, shaped the lids, and cut off the tops. Frank showed us how to add the hinges and lock and we ended the class by discussing his suggested finishing techniques.

Hey, those are some pretty good hand-cut dovetails!

I really enjoyed this hands-on class, much more so than any of the lecture classes I’ve attended over the years. Some people learn better by reading and listening and others learn by doing – apparently I’m one of the latter. Though I do see the reason for and a need for lecture classes in the future, I also look forward to the next hands-on class sponsored by the guild.

I don’t expect we’ll see any finished boxes in the April 2010 guild meeting, but I do expect to see a few in the Show and Tell portion of the May meeting!

(By the way, that first picture is Frank's box, not the box of anyone in the class. I took some pictures of it for inspiration.)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cruel And Unusual Punishment?

One would think seeing such a display in an in-box would bring tears to the eyes of the average woodworker. I mean... an e-mail from Konrad Sauer could very likely mean some type of infill smoothing plane is in the works, right? And who doesn't want to hear from Chris Schwarz on a lazy Friday morning? Or any morning of the week, for that matter.

Alas, the Konrad and Chris in the in-box displayed above are not the plane-making and woodworking gurus you might be thinking of. In this case, Konrad is the Team Lead of a report-writing division and Chris is a member of a technical support team at the software company that keeps food on my table. And I work with these two quite often in my capacity as a software support specialist.

But up until this last week, I hadn't seen their names so close together. To be honest, as I stared at my in-box, wasting a few minutes of my day thinking about what I'd rather be doing, I did find a tear in my eye...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Getting Ready For Frank...

This weekend, I'll get to spend most of two days with one of my favorite master woodworkers - Frank Klausz.

I spent some time the past few evenings making sure all of the tools I'm bringing to class are tuned up and ready to work. This evening, following David Charlesworth's ruler-trick method of sharpening, using just a #1000 grit stone, a #8000 grit stone, an eclipse-style honing jig, and a thin metal ruler, I got my two block plane blades and my smoothing plane blade razor sharp.

I didn't even think to take any pictures of the process, but when I came up with an end-grain shaving from my low angle block plane, I thought I would photograph it for you. You can just make out some of the text in the middle of the shaving. Not too bad for end-grain.

Yeah, I think it's ready for Frank...

I'll spend some time each night the rest of this week warming up my sawing skills and making sure the rest of my tools are ready to go, as well.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hand Tool Essentials Book Review

Hand Tool Essentials – Refine your power tool projects with hand tool techniques
From the Editors of Popular Woodworking Magazine

If you are a power tool woodworker interested in taking your woodworking to a new level, then this collection of articles, pulled from the covers of Popular Woodworking Magazine, is a great place to start. Chris Schwarz sets the pace for the rest of the collection in the first of seven chapters, with three introductory articles discussing the reasons for, providing the motivations to, and outlining the fiscal ease in which you can incorporate hand tools into a power tool shop.

Since most hand tools do not work well when dull, the second chapter is comprised of nine articles dedicated to helping you make your tools sharp. These articles focus on sharpening plane irons, chisels, scrapers, and draw knives and also cover some of the different sharpening techniques, like using the ruler trick or adding a camber to your plane blades.

Chapter 3 covers hand planes and is the subject with the most articles dedicated to it. There, you will find information on what different kinds of planes there are and when to use each one, how to restore a flea market find and how to tune a new one, and on using wooden planes, smoothing planes, and jack planes. The last article is a bit of eye candy, with some great photos and information on infill planes.

The next two chapters discuss the use of hand saws and chisels. In the chapter on saws, Frank Klausz gives us the final word on dovetails and Chris Schwarz discusses East vs. West. Another article goes into detail on the usefulness of the bench hook and how to make one. The chapter on chisels covers basic and advanced chisel techniques, restoring an old chisel, and modifying stock chisels to work better.

Do you know how to properly use an awl? Or what the difference is between a striking knife and a marking knife? Or how to glue up a table base without using clamps (I'll give you a hint – it involves drawboring)? These answers and more can be found in Chapter 6, which contains several articles on the other hand tools you might want in your shop.

The final chapter provides you with the perfect excuse for buying some hand tools – projects! Start off your bench obsession with the Roubo-style workbench. Then follow it up with a cabinet to store your planes, a sawbench for sawing boards using the proper form, and some miter shooting boards for making tight, precise joinery.

The articles are all well-written with crisp clean photos and clear captions. They are both concise and detailed and easily read one at a time or all in one sitting. Had I not won this book for planing the flattest board at a Chris Schwarz hand plane class earlier this year, I wouldn't hesitate to spend the retail price of $24.99 to add it to my permanent collection.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Getting a little feedback on feedback...

The topic of constructive criticism has come up several times in discussions with other woodworkers over the past few months. I was thinking about tackling the subject in a more thorough manner, but I wanted to get an idea of how people in the woodworking community in general felt about it.

(Plus, I'm also working on writing shorter, more interactive, blogs and I thought a survey might be a good first step...)

Constructive criticism, as I see it, is defined as using your (limited or extensive) knowledge gleaned from life experience, structured learning, or books to offer advice to another as to how they can improve upon something they've done. When providing this service to another, I think the focus should be on the word, "constructive." Nobody wants to hear you say their work is crap, but they might be open to suggestions as to where they could apply themselves a bit more in the future.

So what are your thoughts on the subject? When you present a project to others, be it family or friends or other woodworkers, do you want to only hear the good? Are you completely satisfied with where your woodworking skills are and do not feel any desire to improve them? Or would you be interested in hearing what might be improved as long as it is balanced with some positive comments? Or are you completely comfortable with someone else offering advice on improving your work?

If you would go to the home page of my blog and take 10 seconds to fill out the brief survey, I would most assuredly appreciate it!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Guess who is coming to town!

Every year, the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild (SLWG) puts together a seminar for the month of March. It is generally a Saturday/Sunday event, with breakfast and lunch provided, attended by upwards of 30 or 40 people.

I've learned a lot over the past six or seven years, from the likes of Jeff Jewitt, Marc Adams, and even Frank Klausz! Presenters have discussed almost every aspect of woodworking, from power tools to hand tools, wood selection to "finishing the finish". We have had people talk to us about daily life in their shop and how they run their woodworking-related businesses. I have pages and pages of notes. Heck, I have notebooks of notes! I found during these seminars I can write and write and write and pretty much get down everything they discuss. And I've even gone back and referenced these notes for a particular finish or preparation technique.

Man am I tired of it!

What? Tired of learning about woodworking? No, I'm not tired of learning about woodworking - I'm tired of sitting on a cold, hard metal chair, doing nothing but taking notes for two days! I want to do some active learning! I want to put sharp edge to wood grain and hear the pleasing sound of a curl of wood being removed from a board. I want to learn with my hands!

One nice thing about being the SLWG Newsletter Editor is that I get to attend the super-secret planning meetings held the week before the monthly meeting! Ok, they really aren't that super-secret. In fact, they are open to any and all paid guild members. But I'm not sure I would make the time to attend them if I didn't have to!

So, being present last summer when the topic of the March 2010 seminar came up, I took the opportunity to express my dissatisfaction with sit-and-learn-seminars. I suggested we try to do a hands-on class, instead! And after a month or two of throwing ideas around, we decided on one guy and contacted him. So...

Santa Claus might have already flown back home, but, for 16 lucky woodworkers, Frank Klausz is still coming to town!

The class will take place on March 20th and 21st at the American Woodworking Academy in Festus, MO. Frank will take us through making a jewelry box with hand-cut dovetails (cut the Frank Klausz way), a hinged top, and a mortised lock. We will start off with a pre-cut and dimensioned pack of wood so we can focus on the dovetails and the construction techniques. As we won't have time to go over much else in class, sharp planes, saws, and chisels are a must, as is a comfortable level of tool use.

After two full days, we will (hopefully) leave the class with a high-quality solid mahogany jewelry box made entirely with hand tools as well as a greater understanding of our tools and how to apply them to wood. The class time is tentatively set for 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but when I talked to Frank on the phone last week, he said, "nobody will leave on Saturday until everyone has lid and bottom glued to their dovetailed sides." So it could go a bit longer (not that I'll complain). Applying the finish to this box will be left up to us, as we won't have time for that, either.

Doesn't it sound like a great class? Well, if you live in the St. Louis area and would like to attend, you might be able to join us! As of the writing of this blog, we still have one or two openings left. The cost for the weekend is going to be about $350, due before the first day of class, and I think that includes the kit of wood Frank will provide. It also includes breakfast (donuts, bagels, and coffee) and lunch (sandwiches, chips, soda) on both days.

If you are interested, please contact me as soon as possible (through this blog or by using my contact information located on the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild website ( Open spots will become filled as soon as a $50 deposit is made with our guild treasurer. Once a deposit is made, I can provide a list of required tools.

How often do you get a chance to work side-by-side with a professional woodworker of Frank Klausz's caliber for such a great price? Not very often! So don't pass up this opportunity! I do not believe these open spots will last very long. In the event of multiple inquiries, I will start with emails received first and allow about 48 hours to get a deposit in before the next person gets a chance.

(Oh, the picture of me sporting the Lumberjocks shirt and standing next to Frank is from the first Frank Klausz seminar I attended in March of 2007.)