Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bench Knives

Techni-Edge 16-pc Hobby Knife Set TE01-807

     It is impossible to work with wood without having an assortment of knives available to trim, adjust or scrape your materials into shape.  Knives are also used to smear wet glue or to scrape dried glue away.  I have a set of knives like the ones above that I use for all of the above jobs and then some.

   As you know from previous blogs I am not keen on throw away tools, so I also have a bunch of other knives that  I resharpen rather than throw away.  Recently I added a knife that I made to my shop tools.

left, trim knife, razor sharp
right, hacking knife, heavy weight blade.

     Saying that I made the knife maybe miss leading.  I made the handle, I bought the blade.  You can see the hacking knife is not meant to be held in the hand for long and so the handle is not very useful.   The knife on the left will be used to trim edges and clear tear out from hand cut wood, as well as remove glue and probably sharpen pencils.  I made the handle from hard maple and I glued it to the metal blade and itself instead of going to the trouble of riveting it.  I used Contact Cement, (follow the instructions, leave it to cure) and so have no expectation of the handle coming loose.

right- blade, comes pre sharpened, needs some honing.
2nd right- pencil sharpening knife, made by my father.
3rd from right- hacking knife
left- new trim knife

   Many years ago my father made the pencil sharpening knife from one of these blade blanks.  He cut the blade off short and then fitted an off center handle:
   The handle is ideal for a right handed person to use.  The knife doesn't really have any other particular use other than to sharpen pencils. Last spring my father passed away, that pencil sharping knife hangs out on my work bench and is used often and never with out personal feelings.  

   I have  a passion for edge tools and bench knives are no exception. 

P.S. Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


   You can't do woodworking without wood.  Lumber has been a vital resource in Canada and the United States from our earliest settlement.  There were many, and there still are some trees who's silent witness dates back for hundreds of year.  This video Honor the Giants shows  two of minutes of still photographs of trees that have been harvested in the western United States.  The end of the video is a promotion for their company and I am not skilled enough to edit that out, and anyway, they did the work so should get to show their ad, in my opinion.

  I am not trying to start a discussion on cutting old growth forests, or any other political cause, I am just admiring the wonder of wood and the folks that worked in the forest.

   Happy Boxing Day, I hope that you all had a good Christmas, filled with family, friends and fabulous food.

    Happy Holidays from

Monday, December 24, 2012

Why Wood, the Christmas Tree

Kieran's  wee tree
our Tree
the kid's tree

12 Days Of Christmas

Merry Christmas,  
I wish all the health, happiness and blessings of the season to one and all.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Why You Need A Scroll Saw

     George Vondriska's video posted by the WoodWorkers Guild of America touches on many good reasons to have a scroll saw.  I have a couple of observations of my own to add to his.  Ten years ago I was finally diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea , went for the test, got the CPAP machine and suddenly discovered that I had a life after supper.  Also ten years ago our house didn't really lend itself to a proper workshop, its limited space, limited electricity, poor light and low ceiling did not thwart my desire to make saw dust and so the first serious tool I bought on my way to wood dust addiction was a scroll saw.

  The old floor model Delta scroll saw cheap, and ultimately missing pieces but I have used it by the hour. I has cut out dozens of wooden puzzles,

 and many many Christmas ornaments, not to mention countless little jobs that would have been painful, or dangerous on other saws.

Excalibur EX21K 21'' Scroll Saw Tilting Head

   It is shortly to be consigned to the curb and be replaced with something nice like the saw in the video.  I strongly support having variable speed, my saw has two speeds, not really fast enough and too fast.  Also, in ten years the blade changing technology has come a long way.  Look for a saw for which blade changing in easy, pierced cuts are the bread and butter of the scroll saw.

   If you want to give it a try and the cost of the video saw stalls  you, check out the King Scroll saw.  It is variable speed, it will not be as smooth or a quiet as the Excalibur but it may well be a good place to start.  There has been tonnes of good work done with basic tools.  In my experience King tools are basic, a little rough but adequate as an occasional use tool, and I have always had good results when looking for parts or warranty support

King, 16in Variable Speed Scroll Saw

My feeling has always been, give it a go, but spend your hard earned dollars wisely.  When you find that you are going to use a particular tool regularly, buy the best you can afford, if you are going to use a tool occasionally  buy a basic one that works,(and live with its short comings.)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wood, Wonderful Wood.

   It is well known that I love wood, my friend Ron calls me a wood junkie, my passion for wood encompasses all aspects of wood, it is beautiful to look at, lovely to smell

 (most of the time), satisfying to manipulate 

and historic.

  A good portion of Ontario's history is made of wood, early on it was believed that there was so much wood in the golden horseshoe that it could never be used up.  That observation was made by an Englishman who had come from a country were all the good trees had been cut down already; never occurred to him that it could happen again.  

  Lumbering as well as pulp wood harvesting were the backbone industries in many Ontario towns, I can remember seeing river drives when I was a kid in Thessalon Ontario.  I thought I wanted to drive the alligator boat when I grew up, fireman wasn't a job in my small town.  If you can remember when television stations when off the air for the night, they played O Canada and showed videos of river drivers and lumberjacks topping huge trees in British Colombia.  

   Wood also can last a long time.  There are two companies that I have lumber and history and the environment mixed into their business model.  Deep River Lumber  reclaims sunken logs from the Ottawa River and Canadian Salvaged Timber reclaims timbers from old building as well as lumber from old trees that are cut down in the city of Toronto.

  I have used salvaged/recycled lumber in projects in the past, some of the wood is wonderful to work.  Beware of metallic inclusions, check the wood carefully before you cut or plane it, those old barn boards can be filled with everything from buck shot to horseshoe nails. A metal detector is a very good idea unless you want to spend time and money resharpening blades. (I learned the hard way, visual inspection is not enough).

there was nail, happily I was using a hand saw
and stopped immediately, minimum  damage done.

Split Fire Wood

King, 5 Ton-20in Log Splitter
  It is hard to think of a log splitter as an artist's tool, but check out the photos that follow.
that should keep the mice out of the wood pile.

You'll only use this oven once !

Trees are just beautiful.

Is this like burning a wooden ship to feed its boilers?

This one just scares me.
  Thank you to Brian L, for sending me the photos.  


Friday, December 14, 2012

Honest Mistake, hard lesson learned

   Derek at Oldwolf Workshop is another of my hand woodworking heroes.  I have followed Derek's blog from the start and watched as he developed as a wood worker, carver and blogger.  

  Derek's current blog is one of those honest admissions that we who work alone in our shops don't often make.  As you can see from some of the comments, we just sand down, throw away, or burn our little mistakes and no one is the wiser. I admire his effort to remain philosophic when there was so much time and effort spent to learn the lesson. I guess it is not just measure twice, cut once, it is also spell check and edit, then edit again because you can't trust the spell check.

   When Derek talks about router guys and pantographs he is talking about using lettering bits.  With good templates and quality router bits you should be able to make pretty good signs, not an individual as hand carved but good none the less.

   I only ever made one sign in my shop and that was years ago and the store is long gone, I wonder what happened to the sign?
12 Days Of Christmas

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Landfill Harmonic Orchestra

   At this moment I am sitting in a nicer house than I imaged I would own, in our basement is a great workshop that has more tools and possibilties than I will ever fully exploit.  My health is good, my diet too rich and my friends and family safe and happy. 

  Check out the video that Tom at the Unplugged Workshop posted the other day

  As we indulge ourselves and find joy in this season, lets keep this video and those kids in the back of our minds.

12 Days Of Christmas
The Tool

An Inspired Portable Sharpening System

  As I have said many times many ways, Merry Christmas to you, no no, that is not what I said, that is what the radio just said in the back ground. 

   It is after supper, I have spent the day in the shop, mostly making small repairs to kids toys and working on a big Christmas gift.  Now it is time to relax, do a blog or two and have a cool beverage.  My policy is absolutely no sharp tools, or motorcycles mixed with cool beverage time. It is safer to blog and beverage, I can edit out the errors and the keyboard almost never cuts my fingers.

Portable Sharpening System

   Dan's Shop is a blog that I follow regularly because it has shown me good ideas and I like and respect what he has to say.  His most recent blog entry relates to sharpening.  Dan uses the Scary Sharp System, a system that I have used in the past and found very effective. I also use my Worksharp and have found it great for chisels.

Work Sharp, Wood Tool Sharpener

   Regardless of what system you use, sharp tools are vital to success and having sharp tools on a work site can be a challenge so a portable system like Dan's Scary Sharp is a good idea.

  The availabily of  Quality fine grit sandpaper  makes a portable Scary Sharp system a very good idea.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Leveling Chair legs using the table saw

  I know that I rage against the dying of the night( and computers generally) and all that know me know that I will not go gentle into that good night.  But some time I have to eat  crow too, it is not as poetical is real.  As much as the internet, and computers and cell phones make me crazy, often, just the moment before I throw the lap top out the second story window or drive three inch spikes through the key board something like this floats to the surface.

  The video shows such a cool and useful trick that I not only wish I had thought of it but fleetingly thought of claiming to have invented it.  Anyway, I make no such claim, I can claim only to have found it and be passing it on to you.

Freud 10'' Thin Kerf 24 Tooth Rip Blade LU87R010

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Another Reason I Love Wood

This was the view from my bedroom window last Saturday morning.  Eva and I were in Emsdale staying with friends on Bay Lake.  It had snowed a bit the day before and the clean white snow rested heavily on the tree branches.  It was very nice, the view across the lake is to a ridge covered with evergreen trees and the vista reaches to the horizon.  If you could see further you would see the vista reach pretty much to North Bay.  The principle feature of the view is trees, or wood, it is not often that the raw material, in its rawest form is appealing in the way that wood is.  Most building materials are not visually appealing in their raw state.

   The other wood thing that caught my eye on the weekend was this clock.  This clock is from Belfast, the works are English and the case work Irish, and was made sometime between 1780 and 1830.  As you can see it is not as fancy as some large case clocks but the works still run and the case work is still subtle and tasteful.

  There are things are subtle and timeless and then there are small flights of fancy.
  This is a small Christmas tree I made last year for Kieran, a tree, presents and a old fashioned rag rug on the floor.  I didn't really expect to see it again this year, it warms my heart to think that some of my wooden silliness hangs around.

   Speaking of Christmas trees that have hung around for a long time.
The Original Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

Another Christmas Classic

Monday, December 3, 2012

Rules for Workbenches

   I search all over the internet for information on topics that attract my attention. Several times in the past I have written about work benches, recently Chris Schwarz wrote an extended article on the characteristics of a really good work bench.  It would be nice to think that I am smarter and more articulate than Mr. Schwarz, but that would be delusional fantasy, so here is the link to a very good article on what your bench should do for you.


   I have built four work benches in my life and assumed ownership of two others.  Those experiences have shown me the things that I would like to see in a bench, when I build another one, someday.  The bench is a tool with which you work in your shop and so like any tool must be attuned to your needs; a carvers bench is going to be different than a furniture makers bench and a shop like mine when I do a bit of everything means the bench is a compromise.  Just remember that a compromise means that you have given up one thing to have another thing work, sort of.

  I have a bench against the wall and a large heavy wheeled work station (3x3) with shelves underneath.  Both benches get serious work, to add to that I have a KREG Klamp Table.

Kreg KKS2000 Klamp Table w/ Steel Stand Combo
   The Klamp table is a very useful assembly surface for all types of small project.  I also have a WorkMate, which has seen years of heavy on site work. 

Black & Decker, Workmate® Project Center WM225

   I may have been one of the best investments based on hours used and miles traveled. 

   Regardless of the bench on which you work care, time and effort are still the most important ingredients in success. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Bittern, carved

   This past week I was visiting family for a couple of days and one of my Uncles does wild life carving.  A few years ago he carved this Bittern, he only carves things that he has actually seen.  The Bittern is a member of the Heron family.  I was told that the shape was very good, the paint colouring is not quite as good.

  The detail of the frog and the lily pad are almost as much fun as the bird.

   Sonic Crafter, I have on of these and it gives good service for occasional work. I have used it to speed the smoothing and shaping stages of a project.

Rockwell  RK5100K Sonicrafter 20 pc Multimaster MultiTool Kit RK5100K

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Very Special Workshop Project

   There are a number of ways for a project to stand out in my mind.  Sometimes the project is the first time that a new skill is finally conquered, sometimes the project is something I'd wanted to make for a long time but not had time or materials.  I have projects that I are bench marks in my development as a wood worker and so stand out like graduation ceremonies. Then there are projects that are special because I've done then with a Grandchild.

  A while ago Kieran and I made a bird house together.  He pushed the trigger on the cordless drill and helped hammer the bottom of the bird house into place.  That project was a pleasure to make with him.

   Kieran is six months older and so last week Kieran and I made three small wooden airplanes to go on his LEGO aircraft carriers. He was able to do more things than on the bird house and so the project felt really good to make.

   These planes were the most basic of projects but.....this time he helped me cut the strips of wood with a handsaw.  We are learning about safe handling of sharp tools. Then he helped me sand the bits of wood,( discovering how to make the edges smooth to the touch)  as before he pushed the trigger while I held the drill ( he has got very good at that part of the job) making the holes for the tacks.  Finally, he helped me drive the tacks into place, this is not a hand cut dovetail jewel box made from rare and exotic wood, and I wouldn't trade the planes or the experience for the world.