Friday, March 31, 2017

It All Takes Time



























Last summer I was hanging out for a week at Mike Seimsen's Home for Wayward Woodworkers  during one of his handtool immersion weeks. The concept is to take a handful of younger folks interested in the craft and get them up and running with tuned up "previously loved" tools and a tool chest to carry them home in.

One evening, during an after dinner drink (or two or more) I was telling Mike what an awesome experience this was for the students. "I wish I'd had this opportunity when I was beginning to figure it out."

"Hell," said Mike, "How do you think I felt. Nobody was writing, or even talking about hand tools when I was starting. You has Chris (Schwarz) and the internet!"

He was right of course. I had great teachers and influencers to draw from. (Mike included) but I've also had the sustained time in the saddle that has taken things I've read, seen, and heard and  allowed me to amalgamate them into my personal style. I'm still learning I"M STILL LEARNING. and so we all should be, but it all takes time.

The short attention span theater is all around us. It permeates our everyday and almost all of us carry in our pockets a little index card sized dopamine dosing machine designed to keep our divided attentions divided. Instant information and gratification at the swipe of a finger in a tool too useful to ignore. But mastering a skill, a craft like woodworking is not something you can download or plug in. It takes time.

It requires making mistakes, A LOT OF MISTAKES. It requires abandoning failed projects and clinging to desperate ones. It requires time on your feet at the bench, sweat dripping onto your boards and it requires long car rides with the radio off to contemplate, problem solve, and plan. It requires constant evaluation, self competition, and sometimes competing with those who don't know it and sometimes competing with those who are long dead. It requires you put in the time and effort. It all takes time.

The good news is that it doesn't judge. Your tool chest won't mind if it's closed for a year, it's patient. It will wait until you're ready. A little sharpening and you can be off and spending more time. The skills are only slightly perishable. The familiarity will diminish some but the human hand is amazing. It will remember quicker than you expect.

You can get there, but you do need to spend the currency of time.



























Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Thoughtful Change


I land all over the bell curve in a large number of my life's pursuits, but one thing I am exceedingly good at is monogamy. I've been married for closing in on a quarter century. My pickup had close to 300,000 miles on it, and typically once I find a brand of something I like, from ketchup to underwear, I will go far out of my way to buy that brand. 

Until someone sells the brand and it changes . . . it almost always changes for the worse. I hate that. But I guess that figures into my monogamy pathology too. 

When I heard Chris Schwarz preach the concept of "Sharpening Monogamy" I was all in. The idea that your sharpening gets better, regardless of media, simply by sticking with one system works for me. The repetition allows you to refine your process and achieve good and repeatable results. In the end a consistent result is probably the most important and undebatable aspect of sharpening there is.

For a long time I've been sharpening using grades of automotive sand paper. It's a great place to start sharpening. It has a low buy in price and you can create excellent, repeatable results and for a long time that's what I've stuck with. I use 6 grades of paper 320, 400, 600, 1000, 1500, and 2000 grit, I sharpen a bevel straight up in an eclipse style jig. No micro bevels. If the blade doesn't fit in the jig - I freehand it. I also lightly use David Charlesworth Ruler Trick

I try not to make sharpening precious. It's a simple maintenance task to pass through and get back to work. However, because no relationship is perfect there are things I dislike about the system. 

First, even though it's a cheap initial buy into good sharpening results, overtime it will become the most expensive method out there. It's a slow death from a thousand paper cuts but I'm sure since I started using the system around 2010 I've spent enough to buy into most other systems and then some. 

Second, and the final deal breaker. All sharpening systems are inherently messy. Oil or water and steel slurry are part of the deal with stones. Sandpaper involves stinky spray adhesive, fine particles of steel dust that can become airborne and changing out the paper regularly. I use flat marble tiles as my substrate and over time I've gotten so tired of the process of peeling the old paper off, scraping the dirt and remaining adhesive off, then spraying and gluing down new. If your aren't meticulous all the way along the process the paper bubbles or wrinkles, even imperceptibly. As you're applying blade to abrasive, the corner of the steel will inadvertently catch those areas, then tear and lift up a triangle shaped m()th#r-fu@&er (so named in my shop). 

There is no good repair to these tears, even in a fresh sheet and you're back to either peeling, scraping and swearing or sharpening around the defect. Both are shitty options. 

A while ago I decided it was time to end the relationship, for the most part. Though it was the right decision, it was difficult to decide on a replacement. eventually I sat back and decided I've never been steered wrong by considering what my Grandpa would have done. He wouldn't have had a thousand waterstone and diamond infused plate options and twice as many voices proclaiming a better way. He's have gone to the local hardware store, bought an oil stone or two and some honing oil. Maybe polished the blade on a leather strop. 

Bingo. My answer. 


Yesterday the mailman delivered two new stones. Today I'll  go about making a dedicated tray to hold them steady in use, Then I'll start touching up a couple chisel and plane blades. There might be a small return learning curve as I learn a new partner's proclivities, but I'll figure it out. And it i take care of these stones, they'll probably take care of me until the day I can no longer pick up a tool. That's a comforting thought. 

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf

Friday, March 24, 2017

Kerfing Planes In Wisconsin Part 1

To say this without ranting, a few years ago my bandsaw broke, unrepairable and unsupported by the company that slapped their name on the side of the POS and my resaw world has suffered for it. As I weighed my options I decided that a meat powered frame saw might be a better way for me to go.


I rolled that around for a while until I was able to get my hands on a resaw and kerfing plane kit from Bad Axe Toolworks last early fall. Mark Harrell had recently revisited and retuned the kit as a whole and had all the parts and pieces up to his usual over the top quality. The man doesn't know the meaning of the word compromise.

Since I was just setting up shop yet at the time I decided working on the kerfing plane part of the package was where to start. Tom Fidgen really is the pied piper of the resurgence of these tools in hand tool woodworking circles and the kerfing plane is the key to making resawing a more reliable operation. the shallow grooves made by the kerfing plane help keep the resaw blade on track and reduce the skill buy-in factor.

The original kerfing planes I saw had arms and an adjustable fence like a plow plane. This seemed ok but a little fiddly to make in my shop. But I'd also recently snapped up a set of match planes and tuned them up to work on 3/4" stock. Now I was inspired.


I wanted to make a dedicated width kerfing plane, but I wanted to be able to also cut kerfs for three different common thicknesses I use. The answer is to make three different plane bodies and just be prepared to swap the plate out from one to another.


Since I like those match planes so much I decided to use them as the pattern for the kerfing planes themselves. I pulled some walnut chunks off the pile and milled them up in preparation.


I used my tablesaw to consistently set the repeated cuts to remove big swats of the stock. I completed all the cuts with handsaws and cleaned things up with some chisel work.


Once the basics were done I recreated a couple details from the match planes. This little finger groove along the top of the fence is a nice touch that figures into the comfort of using these tools. Those old planemakers really knew what they were doing and I'm lucky to be able to stand on their shoulders.


There were still a couple problems to work out, shaping the handle and fitting the blade square to the fence and I'll write about those things soon.

Thanks for hanging out while I took a break. It's good to be back and re-energized

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf