Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Cleaning Crew

Damn, things are really in full swing for the Lie-Nielsen Tool Event that starts tomorrow. 

We've spruced up the joint, and added some color.

Hell, we even cleaned the fridge - a rare event! 

My neighbor, Mario - of Ario Signs - kindly printed a banner for the new classroom. This banner was a inter-continental project - my old high school buddy Terry (who's is in Ohio) designed the banner, using a local graphic artist's logo. 

So the process went from concept (Adam) to Terry (layout) to Mario (printing) to Denny, (my own personal boy Friday) who hung it. I am deeply thankful to have each of them helping me out. 

Tuesday night - we had a cleaning party. Everyone who so graciously offered to help out showed up to help blow, dust, vacuum, sweep, and generally get the place in shape. This was truly a team effort, although several times I caught people blowing right next to someone else trying to contain their mess. 

 So it was a bit of a cluster fuck at times. And somewhat comical, when you stepped back and watched everything unfold.

I want to send a big thanks to everyone who helped prepare for this - it's a huge event here at the school, and I couldn't have done it without everyone's help and support. 

Now...on to the big event....

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Table Retrofit - is it time to tweak that table in your basement?

It's probably not 100% accurate, but I think there's a relationship between the economy and the type of commissions I receive at my woodshop. In boom times - the type of orders being placed are for brand new pieces - kitchen tables, desks, beds, whatever. 

In less predictable economic times, the cycle of work that arrives on my doorstep includes repairs, retrofits, and upcycling. Lately, I've been seeing all sorts of repairs coming in, and to tell you the truth, they're a nice break from what I normally do. 

This sofa table came in the shop the other day; it wasn't particularly outstanding, but the owners liked it and it fit well in their home. They wanted it retrofitted into a small desk, by removing the shelf below, and a adding a drawer into the front apron. They even brought in visual aid for me!

I love it when people come in with a plan. Removing the shelf was first, and my first thought was to remove these plugs, with the hope of exposing the mortise and tenon joinery. Instead, I realized these were dummies (and so was I!) just covering up giant screws. 

Had I known that, I wouldn't have had to dig out this plug! Sometimes, the best plan of attack is BFI. That's Brute Force and Ignorance. 

It's easy to overthink things, when all the situation really needs is a hammer and someone swinging it. A couple of swift whacks with a hammer released the shelf. 

I ground down the screws,

 and cut some of the beaded trim from the shelf front to cover up the lower stretchers.

I swear, when it was done, it looked like that shelf had never been there! 

Part One - Mission Accomplished!

On to Part Two - cutting the top apron and adding a drawer. I wanted to use the piece of wood that I cut out for the drawer front, so I decided to hand cut the apron with a thin kerf Japanese saw. I added a few guides to help me saw straight.

It's so easy for that saw to wander!

When I got close to the bottom of the apron, a little duct tape protected the underside of the table top. Is there anything that duct tape doesn't do?

 The top was screwed into the aprons - which is completely the wrong way to attach a tabletop, but hell... if it's worked for this long, why not join that party? I used a doweling jig to drill some centered holes, 

and reattached the top to the base.

 It's sort of hard to see, but Stella was with me in the shop when I was working on this table, and she just sat at the front door, watching the neighborhood. She tends to get pretty bored when she's at the shop, but I like the company!

 With the apron cut away, I added some side bracing on which to mount the drawer slide.  

The drawer front needed a little cleaning up, with its hand sawn edges looking a little ratty. Once I straightened up the cut, and put it back into place - it looked perfect! 

Building a drawer was probably the easiest part of all of this - I swear, I've built so many drawers in my lifetime, I could do one with one hand tied behind my back, and both eyes closed. I prefer to leave drawer boxes unstained; they just look cleaner, and there is no risk of smell or contamination to the contents of the drawer,

 but when I attached the drawer face to the box and slid it into place, it looked out of place. 

Thats' one thing you don't want with furniture repair - for the repair to stick out like a sore thumb. So I broke my own rule and stained it. And you know what - it looked perfect! 

When finished, it was hard to tell that this drawer hadn't always been there! I suppose that's a good test of whether the retrofit was a success or not. 

As far as my theory about economic indicators goes - the next four or five projects I'm working on all deal with building new pieces, so it sort of blows my theory out of the water. 

So much for me being an economist; I'll stick to woodworking!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Is it time?

Details are being finalized for the upcoming Tool Event hosted by Lie-Nielsen, and I think it's going to be a fascinating weekend. 

There will be three different hand tool makers /companies setting up their wares and sharing their knowledge and techniques with us - here are some details.

But first - I think it's important to remember something when you look at these tools - these are not your average run-of-the-mill tools that can be bought at Home Depot or Lowes. (It's almost sacrilegious to mention them in the the same sentence.) These are tools that are designed to last a lifetime. In fact - they all have lifetime guarantees. 

But here's the bigger point - how many times have you purchased something and it breaks? Maybe not immediately, but - it the fact is - doesn't last. And so a few years later - you end up buying another. And another. I have a few things in mind that have done just that - everything from vacuum cleaners to spindle sanders, and a lot more. 

Frankly - I'm at the point where I'd appreciate just spending more to buy it once. Every tool has a bit of a learning curve, and I'd like to develop that relationship just once, rather than having to learn the intricacies of a lot of lesser tools, only to have them break and be cast aside later, when I purchase something better. 

This tool event is about just that - switching over to quality that will last a lifetime. Is it time for you to think about that?

Infill plane maker Juan Vergara from California  will be demonstrating his amazing handmade planes, 

and if you've never beauty in motion, here's your opportunity. Juan's been quoted as saying that he aims to make the best plane on the planet, and it's quite possible he's doing just that. Using quarter sawn, air-dried wood that has seasoned for at least five years - he crafts his planes - using 12,000 grit micro-mesh abrasives to create an unrivaled finish. It takes more than a month to make one of his planes, and his two-part process is discussed here and here. We don't often have the chance to hold perfection of our hands, but after seeing and reading about his tools, one thing is certain.

His planes represent more than simply a woodworking tool. 

Kevin of Glen-Drake Tools, an amazing toolmaker out of Fort Bragg, California, will also be joining us for the tool event. His specialty tools include handsaws, lathe tools, marking gauges and a variety of hand tools - all constructed to last a lifetime. 

Here's a great example  - his joinery saw deluxe set comes with three blades, perfect for crosscutting or ripping, and in a variety of teeth configurations. I think it's cool to note that this blade is reversible, so can it can be used on a pull or push stroke. Kevin has perfected every detail about this saw  - everything from the geometry of how it is used, to the teeth layout on it. Again – it's easy to buy lesser priced saws that don't work as promised, and end up abandoned in a drawer. Add up the price of those unused tools and then consider what it costs to start out doing things the right way from the very beginning. 

Kevin requested a lathe for his presentation, so I'm assuming he'll be showing us some of his turning tools - including skews and his duckbill, used like a gouge for turning beads, coves and other contour cuts. Want to be a better turner? Come and watch Kevin demo his tools. 

On a side note - I'm considering adding one of Kevin's chisel hammers to my hammer collection. I don't even have A particular need for this hammer, but for me - it's like collecting the work of art. I might have to bust open the piggy bank...

And finally - the company that's pulling it altogether - Lie Nielsen.  

It's not an exaggeration to say that they're world-renowned, known for making some of the best tools on the planet. Woodworkers seek out their planes and chisels, and no doubt  - produce better work using them. 

Just as you would head to a gallery to see painting by a master, viewing their line of tools allows you to experience something that many people miss out on in this lifetime. 

I hope you have a chance to experience this event - the first one ever held in Las Vegas. 

Join us October 17 - 18, 2014
Friday (10am  - 6pm) and Saturday (10am - 5pm)

2267 West Gowan Road
Suite 106

North Las Vegas, NV 89032

Sunday, October 05, 2014

And the countdown begins....

Things are getting a little hectic at my shop, with the Lie-Nielsen Tool event just 12 days away.  We're painting and cleaning and sprucing up the place, and we've expanded into a third warehouse bay, outfitted with individual workbenches and designed for hand tool work. 

If you haven't been to the shop in a while, you're in for a nice surprise!

October 17 - 18, 2014
Friday (10am  - 6pm) and Saturday (10am - 5pm)

Hosted by Wood It Is! and Lie-Nielsen
2267 West Gowan Road
Suite 106
North Las Vegas, NV 89032

Admission: Free and open to the public!

“We started these Hand Tool Events to expose more woodworkers to the improvements in quality, environment, and enjoyment that hand tool work can offer. Over the past decade, we’ve seen their popularity explode with new and experienced woodworkers alike. Incorporating traditional tools and methods can offer even die-hard machinery users ways to bring their work to the next level. The fact that our tools don’t require earplugs or respirators just adds to the appeal.”

- Thomas Lie-Nielsen 

Each year, we visit over 40 venues across the US and Canada and set up a Lie-Nielsen shop for two days. We bring our full line of hand tools and demonstrate essential hand tool techniques for everyday woodworking useful to both professionals and amateurs. Events are hands-on: we encourage customers to try our tools, ask questions, and experience how woodworking with hand tools is rewarding, quiet, and surprisingly efficient.

Events take place at woodworking-related venues like woodworking shops, schools, guilds, stores, and lumberyards. Unless it is part of a larger show or festival, Hand Tool Events are free, open to the public, and do not require registration. A selection of Lie-Nielsen hand tools is available for purchase at most Events. Attendees are eligible for free shipping on orders placed at the Event (excluding Workbenches, Sharpening Station, Vise Hardware, and Dovetail Vise).

We also invite Guest Demonstrators to showcase their work at our Hand Tool Events. Our Guests often include other hand toolmakers, expert woodworkers, and woodworking organizations that share our passion for quality craftsmanship. They demonstrate, answer questions, and, like us, aim to encourage customers to do their best work.

Personalizing your projects

It's always fun to follow up on a project, to see how it turns out in the end. Here's one student's rocking chair, with a small copper and brass plate that she made for it.  She studies jewelry making, so when she made this chair for her nephew, she decided to add a bit of "bling" to it  - how cool!

The chair wasn't easy for her; it had been a while since she worked at the shop, so she struggled with some of the techniques, like making the seat.

 Since these plans were a little vague, and we tweaked them a little by using Domino joinery,

 we all had to think outside the box a bit. 

Most people followed the plans and made the back with slats, 

but some (over-achievers!) turned custom spindles for the back. 

They were worth the extra effort! 

Here's the finished chair - complete with the sweet little plate, commemorating a job well done.  This is sure to be handed down for many generations. 

Nice work, Kate!