Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A new toy!!!!!

So, most of you know that I bought a new bandsaw last week (BIG thank you Jeff for putting me on to the deal). I've been eying the Grizzly GO555 ultimate 14" bandsaw for some time now but really had not planned to buy it until after Christmas. But alas, a deal is a deal and I couldn't pass it up (and I didn't even have to bring up the shoe or project analogies to the wife). For the money, it's a pretty sweet machine. Check it out:


14", 1hp, upper and lower bearing guides, blade tensioning release lever, 2 speeds, cast iron table and frame, solid fence and miter gauge. Considering the price, it came very well equiped, but I did buy the riser block kit and a Shop Fox mobile base. With the riser block the resaw capacity is 12 inches (normally 6 inches).

Once again I had a great buying experience with Grizzly. I ordered the saw on Tuesday, the riser block and mobile base on Thursday (with standard shipping), and everything came on Friday. Their customer service had contacted me via email about possibly ordering lift gate service from the trucking company. Their replies were prompt and helpful, and they even cleared up my concern over the effects of drool on the cast iron table - great sense of humor, obviously, and a class act. The saw was packed very well - sometimes too well but that's better than having the parts rattle around in the box. The wheels were aligned at the factory, and once the riser block was installed it took very little upper wheel tracking adjustment to get it up and running. The wheels were coplaner right out of the box. All in all, it took me about 3 hours to get everything put together and set up including the base, mobile base, and riser block.

I've been very impressed with Grizzly so far. I had a similar experience with my 6" jointer last spring. It arrived within a week, set up was under 2 hours including the cast iron cleaning, and the knives were aligned from the factory. All in all, great value and great service. They really seem to care about how they are perceived. I would recomend them to anyone!

below are some pics. And Jeff - you might be the whitest guy in the chat room but I'm the fattest - if it makes you feel better :)

saw, baby, saw!!!.......saw, baby, saw!!!


Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Favorite Tools: Lee Valley 4 inch double square

Into note: This blog was meant to be an outlet for me to share my woodworking projects and adventures with all my woodworking internet friends. If I came over to your shop some Saturday morning to shoot the shit, I'm sure we would end up talking about projects, techniques, tools, books, etc.. With that in mind, I started the book review feature back in September. Along with favorite woodworking books, I had plans to feature a favorite tool occasionally. I also plan to renovate some old tools and even attempt to make some eventually. So, I'm adding this new feature called "My Favorite Tools". My only intention is simply to share my thoughts on why I have a certain affection for a particular tool.

The idea of blogging was brought up in TWW Town Square Forum and in some cases criticized and labeled narcissistic. Now, everyone is entitled to their opinion but forgive me if I feel the need to defend what I'm doing. As much as I joke about plugging my blog in the chat room and forum, it is purely a joke. This is just for me to connect with my friends - many of whom are much better woodworkers than I am. All I offer is conversation and a smattering of wisdom that has been had through mostly painful, error based learning. It is what it is. I love reading what my friends wrote more than writing down my own offerings, but I'm finding that this new medium opens up a pleasing form of expression for me as well. So be it.

My Favorite Tools:
The Lee Valley 4 inch Double Square

I know what your thinking........WHAT!!! IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A MILLER"S FALLS #9 SMOOTHING PLANE AT THE TOP OF YOUR LIST!!!! Hard to believe, I'm sure, but this little square completely turned my woodworking around. Those of you who have used a well made square will not find this a surprise, will you?

My early attempts at making furniture - or anything wood based for that matter - was plagued with bad measurements and parts not coming together true and square. Cuts would be off, markings seemed to change on a board in a blink of an eye. All the while I was trusting an old Craftsman POS combo square. I mean, it's a "square" for Christ's sake, why wouldn't it be a perfect 90 degrees? I know you know the answer, but this post is really aimed at the guy who's starting out in woodworking. The two most important things I obtained over the last three years that took my woodworking to the next level, so to speak, was a good quality square and learning the technique of relative dimensioning (thank you Marc). They kind of go hand in hand because both of them are about measuring your work for accuracy. I can't stress this enough - you can't have accurate cuts and joints without an accurate square to measure and mark them with! No matter how little money you have to spend, this is one thing you should never cut corners on. And, we're only talking about an extra $20 - $40 in most cases from a cheap Stanley combo to a Starrett.

I really like that little square for it's size and reliability. It is as handy and as quaint as it looks. Don't get me wrong, though, it's a serious tool and to me is the perfect size for average joinery measuring and tool set ups. The milling and graduations are crisp, and it feels very sturdy for it's size. Most of all, I really liked it because it did actually turn my accuracy around. There's plenty of techniques to learn and practice that will make you a better woodworker, but some things just cant be helped. If your square is not square and it's graduations are not crisp and even then your measurements will be off no matter how consistent your measuring techniques are. It really was the first tool I ever bought that truly made a difference in my woodworking accuracy. And in woodworking, accuracy is everything in my opinion. Now you see why it's at the top of my list?

I must say, however, if I was going to recommend anything to a new woodworker I would still suggest a Starrett or comparable 12 inch combo square first. A 12 inch model covers more situations than a 4 inch square so you shouldn't be without one of those. But if you're in the market for something a little smaller and pocket sized, I can recommend the Lee Valley. By the way - they now offer a 6 inch version too.

Peace out brothas,


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Book Report: :"The Handplane Book" by Garrett Hack

Alright, I hate to even utter these words, but, Jeff was right ;) I have been meaning to buy this book for a long time, and did so recently at Jeff's prodding. Now I wonder why I hadn't bought it a long time ago. If ever there was a complete, printed resource for hand plane design and use, this is probably it. It's actually so informative that there's barely a need to go over what's inside. I could probably just say "it has practically everything you need to know about planes" and leave it at that. Mr. Hack, you most definitely created the "Handplane Bible".

This book covers plane history, plane types and uses (including many of the specialty planes), overall plane function, how to buy a plane, how to tune your plane, and how to use your plane. He spends a good deal on blade dynamics and angles as well as many fine tuning points to get your used plane (or new plane for that matter) working like it should. Most of all, he fosters a solid understanding in plane physics and function.

If I had any complaint, it would be purely a personal one. I was hoping for more info on the history of various plane makers and comparisons between like models. Information on how a Keen Kutter or Union smoother compares to a similar Stanley or Sargent - or Miller's Falls, of course ;) - would be incredibly helpful when buying used tools on line. Unless the guy selling the plane knows anything about what a bench plane buyer is really looking for, you might not get pictures of the frog or frog receiving area on the base for example. Hmmmm....maybe it's time I write a book......

It was a little dry reading at times, but all in all a really good hand plane reference - THE hand plane reference as far as I'm concerned. If you dabble in hand planes even the least bit then I would pick up this book.

Here it is on Amazon for $16.46 with free shipping:


Take care,


A Note about "Used Hand Planes, part 2"

Hey guys,

I just wanted to mention that I forgot to address the tote and knob in part 2 of the Used Hand Plane series. I've since added the tote and knob as #4, bumping the blade and chip breaker to #5. I fixed the links in part 1 and 2 (so you can actually click on them now), and added quite a few more about repairing the tote and knob. At the end of part 2, I listed a really good, general hand plane site link called "Hand Plane 101" that you should check out if you haven't already. A lot is going on for me this month, so my hopes of posting part 3 about restoring and tuning a used hand plane in the next few days is falling through. It will most likely be a few weeks for that post, although I do have some book reports and maybe a tidbit or two in the mean time. At least I can thankfully say that my wife's mother and sister left on time after visiting this weekend.

So, if you're interested, check out the updates and repaired links in parts 1 and 2 of the Used Hand Plane series.



Woodline Parallel Clamp Review

Many of you know that I recently bit the bullet and bought a few of Woodline's new parallel clamps. Yes, yes, yes.......I went astray from Jet because I was looking for a bit of a better value. I was also annoyed with Jet for jacking their prices so much over the last year and with Amazon for selling the 24" clamps for more than the 31" models. It came across as price gouging to me because the 24" clamps were more popular, although a few guys in the WoodWhisperer Town Square Forum (ahem, LordLQQK) did have some good points and revelations about Amazon's selling practices in particular. I also was looking at the Irwins, but it seemed the Woodlines were pretty good and the price was excellent. I've since let my temper cool towards Jet and, ironically, just noticed that Amazon is selling the 24" Jet parallels for $32.61 with free shipping. Well.......shit.

Anyway, let me tell you about the Woodlines. they are pretty run-of-the-mill as far as parallel clamps go, but they do have some different features that I liked. The over all size is comparable to most parallel clamps. The bar is heavy - arguably as heavy as the Jets. They have built in clamp pads recessed into the jaws and I'm curious as to how long it will last. They look like they might get chewed up a bit over time. The handle fits the hand really nice and has a solid rubberized grip. The handle will also cock to 90 degrees to give you some real torque if you need to pull a joint together or split a joint apart. Now, I would hope that your joints were cut well enough that you wouldn't need that kind of force, but I could see using it for disassembly and in bent wood lamination forms (not that I've done any, but I'm guessing you might need it to pull the laminations into a form). Also, if you're hands are the least bit arthritic, you're gonna love these. The clutch is a double plate type that you find on many F-style clamps. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I think it works better than the original Bessies and Jorgies in moving the clamp head along the bar. When I've played with the Jorgies, I usually have quite a bit of trouble getting them to close because of this. That was one thing that got me interested in the Jets (see Marc's "the Big Squeeze" episode) and was something that I was looking for when shopping for these new parallels. The clutch mechanism is still not as efficient as the Jet trigger design, but it does work. They have a plastic foot at the end of the bar to help keep it stable when sitting upright. The foot is not movable, and is kind of flimsy. When it comes to length, they offer their parallels in what I call +3" sizes. In other words, the typical 12 inch size is 15 inches. The 24 inch size is 27 inches, and so on. So, you have some play in the sizes to give you a little breathing room when gluing up. The clamp head is not the same as the Jets. The plastic looks a little lighter or cheaper, but they still feel pretty durable. As with many other parallels, they are still dwarfed by the Jets in overall size. Finally, they are red, so they fit in along side of Bessies and Jets in your collection if you're concerned about having all your clamps match.

So, the Pros:
  • Overall, a nicely built clamp with heavy components.
  • nice handle design in size, shape, and texture with a functional 90 degree option for more torque and weaker hands
  • double plate clutch is heavy, holds strong, and aids in moving clamp head along bar
  • slightly more length in each size to help in glue ups
  • they are red, for all those OCD woodworkers that need their clamps to match
  • the price: $28 for a 27 inch clamp. Shipping was $6 total for eight 27 inch clamps. I ordered them in the morning and they were shipped that afternoon. I had them in three days.
The Cons:
  • smaller jaws than the Jets
  • Plastic appears cheaper than Jets
  • built in clamp pads might get chewed up over time
  • flimsy, non-movable rear stabilizing foot is a poor design compared to the solid, movable Jet version
So, they are not Jets, but they are serviceable clamps. I'm posting some photos below to give you some side by side comparisons of the Jets with the Woodlines. For someone on a budget, I would take a serious look at them.