Thursday, April 20, 2017

Transformative By Nature


My wife occasionally reminds me that my relationship with tools is outside the bell curve of normal. The following thoughts may be proof of this.

With some tools there is a learning curve. You have to figure them out before you get consistent results. I think of my Veritas plow plane this way. It wasn't immediately intuitive to a dummy like me and I had to learn her idiosyncrasies (and get an upgraded depth stop from the company) before I was happy. This isn't a deal breaker in my world, I'm happy to get to know a tool well if we're going to have a long term relationship. Many of my planes and I have had this courtship.

Occasionally tools spring into your hand ready to go. Often it's because I payed my dues with a similar tool before finding this one. I taught myself good sawing technique on a self sharpened old Disston backsaw with a slightly warped plate. So when my first Bad Axe Saw found it's way home it was amazing.


But there are a small percentage of tools that signify a paradigm shift in my shop techniques. They change the way I solve problems and even view my work in the shop. Around a year ago this Morakniv 120 arrived in the mail. I bought it to add to my spoon carving kit, but it didn't live in that tool roll for long. It doesn't even go in my tool chest, it hangs on one of the pegs over my workbench and other than my holdfasts and bench mallet, is the most quickly accessible tool in my shop.


Last fall as I was building a set of kerfing planes and it became time to shape the handle, I decided to rough out the grip with the knife before reaching for the rasps, but once I worked down to a point I came to really like the lightly faceted feel on the knife carved handle. It transfered that "touch" to the tool's feel that's so elusive. So I slowed a bit and made better, finer, smoothing cuts to finish by knofe only. Treating the handles as I might the handle of a spoon.

This knife simply answers the call of duty every time without complaint. It came to me very sharp and it holds it's edge for a long time and is still easy to maintain with a charged leather strop. The wooden handle is modifiable but honestly I found it comfortable and responsive out of the box. The only thing I don't like, that keeps me from strapping it to my belt, is the plastic sheath. I suppose I should just find someone to make one for me out of leather. All in due time I suppose.

So there you go. Even the simplest of tools can be transformative to your shop time when they are designed and crafted just right.

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf


P.S. 
This love letter is unsolicited and unsupported. I was not asked by MoraKniv to write this nor have I recieved anything from them. I was using this knife in my shop this week and this post formulated in the joy of the shavings coming off the blade. 
Cheers. 
D

Friday, April 14, 2017

Do I Look Like A Guy With A Plan?

Please don't answer that. I already know. This post will catch several threads of my life and shop so hold on.

I just finished reading Nancy Hiller's "Making Things Work." (You don't need me to tell you what an entertaining read it is, there are plenty of bigger hitters out there giving the book lots of deserved sunshine)  It came into my hands at the perfect time. I don't take many commissions for work but over the winter came one I couldn't refuse. I pulled it off and the client was wonderful, but by the time I delivered the pieces I was tired.

Not physically, or really mentally. The word I have is spiritually exhausted. It was probably six weeks or a little more before I meaningfully stepped back into the shop to do anything. Still now I am only getting my sea legs back underneath me. The batteries were just depleted and took a while to charge, but it gave me time to think.

A dangerous pass time I know.

I know I'm not cut out to build furniture full time for other people. I knew that without Nancy's book. Still it leaves to question; What do I want from all this? Mostly I just want to answer the questions I have for myself instead of blindly trusting the words of others. If I could make a perfect career out of my shop time, it would involve experimenting, then writing and teaching about those experiments.

I'm guess I'm just a stubborn old viking who likes to steer his own longship tiller. 

If that's what I want, how do I move from here to there?

I've spent the last few months planning and working on some things adjacent to directly making sawdust.


Last summer I spent a week around Tom Fidgen as he taught a class at Mark Harrell's Bad Axe Saw Emporium. We spoke a little about his Unplugged Woodshop project and I was very impressed to see how much he accomplished combining video from his cell phone and a GoPro camera on a tripod. I enjoy shooting video but after I see what I've done a few months removed I dislike the unsophisticated production value.

So I also upgraded to some professional level video editing software.

I've only started playing with things and the software learning curve will take a bit to be efficient/proficient, but it's like learning any other new skill. You eat the elephant one bite at a time.

As a start I decided to create a quick introduction sequence for my videos, the results are embedded below. Being highly critical, the intro isn't more than 80% there, but it's an improvement. 

Other irons in the fire?

I am starting a production run of chests based on a six board style with a slant top and interior drawers. The plan is to build seven to eight of the same chest and keep close track of my time and work. I think there's an interesting article in this as you don't often hear about hand tools in a production situation and the implications. It doesn't seem like something up the alley of the Usual Suspect magazines though. We will see if I can entice any takers.

After the chest run I have to pick back up with building the furniture shown in the Morgan Bible. I've second guessed and delayed this project long enough. Abandoning it half done is not an option (I have my pride) I don't know if anyone will take it from me or if I will have to publish on my own. Either option is fine. The project is like a broken tooth in my mind that I'm always testing with my tongue.

The good news is the time has allowed me to decipher exactly what I'm trying to say with the book. Believe it or not the furniture itself has become support material for an argument promoting experimental archeology and the concept of finding things out for yourself through practical application over just reading what some joker writes in a book or on a blog.

Translation: If you really want to find out what it feels like to wear medieval armor you shouldn't just read what Dr. Blabberblaster has written in his dissertation reviewing the existing literature of the weight of armor in correlated medieval grave finds. You should go find some chain-maile and strap it on. Not that aluminum Hollywood shit either, find the real steel stuff as close to accurate as possible.

Then go figure out how to move, run, and fight in it. Spend all day wearing it. Figure out how to take it off. The experience yields such a broader understanding


The third iron is a longer game and the threads are only starting to weave together. For a long time I've been frustrated with much woodworking media, (including my efforts) and its masturbatory nature. In essence most spends it's work on preaching to the already converted, but I've wanted to find a way to bring the good word to others. Missionary woodworking to bring more bodies into the flock. If it works then it may go farther to support that "Experiment, write, and teach," dream I seem to be chasing.

Believe it or not, I found the answer at my local comic book shop. . . .

Stay tuned

Ratione et Passionis
Oldwolf