Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Moments of weakness...

Ah....... I love the smell of old, rusty planes in the morning.

Scored two ebay planes this week :) A Miller's Falls #56B low angle block plane on Sunday night. $34.50 with shipping. Today, I picked up an old Union #4 sized smoother. $31.52 with shipping. With these kind of deals to be found on such excellent quality tools like these, I don't understand why anyone would buy a newly made plane these days.....

On a funnier note, I have been on the lookout for a good deal on a Union plane mainly to score the "grand slam". Out of all of the antique iron bench plane makers, arguably the 4 largest companies were Stanley, Sargent, Miller's Falls, and Union. Planes from Fulton, Mohawk/Shelborne, Ward, Keen Kutter, and Craftsman were all made by these companies.

So, despite the overwhelming prominence of Miller's Falls planes in my collection, I now own the grand slam. I should probably look for a Record, maybe an Ohio, perhaps a Stanley Bedrock......you know, to really cover all the bases.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Extreme Makeover: Basement Shop Edition part 1

Let the fun begin!!!! So, my wife and I are at a crossroads of sorts when it comes to home projects. We have a number of outdoor and main floor projects coming up. We have every intention on finishing the basement as well. We need a fence. A shed. More landscaping. Tiling the kitchen backsplash. And it's all adding up, of course. So, since it will take us some time to get the house the way we want it, we've had to prioritize our projects.

The basement is the full size of our first floor and it's layout has shifted more than any other room in the house. We focused on storage, exercise, and entertainment areas, but after a year or two I also planned on moving the shop down stairs too. It just made sense with our parking arrangement and seasonal issues. And, other than the difficulty of moving supplies and large tools up and down the stairs, it's perfect for my needs.

It's our hope that there will be a nice exercise area adjacent to an entertainment area that includes an air hockey table, ping pong table, dart board, and our gaming systems (Wii and such). there will be a little storage/utility area, a half bath, a small wine cellar, and, of course.....the shop.

I mention all of this, because you will see me doing a lot to help brighten the basement that doesn't just include the shop. In order for us to properly finish the basement, we will have a ton of work to do - everything from framing walls to lowering a window for better egress. Because it will take so long to do, it has been decided to do a couple of quick fixes to the basement to make it more efficient and user friendly. These projects are in lieu of better future design - and to hold us over until the other household projects are finished. What I hope to accomplish is to make a bright, well lit space to exercise and play air hockey in, and an enclosed, bright shop with helpful workstations to allow me to maximize my time in the shop.

So, away we go. First up will be improving the lighting and cleaning up the ceiling. We are discussing how to make the ceiling brighter, more pleasant, and inviting to work in the shop or workout in the gym area. Next, I'll be building a partition and installing a door next to the stairs so that the shop can be locked up to keep pets and visiting children away from the sawdust, sharp tools, and power cords. After those refinements, the real shop overhaul begins. So, stay tuned!


Monday, November 9, 2009

the deal of the century...

So, I met up with Charger Sunday to go pick up some hard maple for the workbench project this winter. Lance found this sawyer on Craigslist recently, and the guy does this as a side job. because the lumber green, he sells it at $1 a board foot. That's right. Hard maple for $1 a board foot. When we got there, he had a bunch of maple pulled out on the warehouse floor. It was obvious that it was more than the 100 board foot that I requested. He said "I know that's probably more than the 100 board foot that we agreed upon, but if you want to then feel free to take it all." Once I got it home, I did a rough board foot estimate. 178 board feet. Yup. I got 178 board feet of hard maple for $100. It worked out to 56 cents a board foot. Unbelievable.

Lance wanted me to take some pictures of the car - I was really sweating the ride home, considering how much wood it was. It's funny, but the weight wasn't very noticable both looking at the wheel wells and in how the car drove. In fact, the old caliber barely flinched with all that weight. Attaboy!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


*tap* *tap* *tap* ....is this thing on?

just thought I would warm up the blog a little and post an update. Got lots to do this fall/winter woodworking season. First, the shop is gonna get a big overhaul. I will be walling the shop off and have about 10 projects planned. I will take it from a collection of tools in the corner of the basement to a real shop space, finally. There are still a couple of family projects outstanding that I hope to crank out. Then I have a couple of real woodworking projects in store once they are done. Yes, I said REAL woodworking projects. I know, it's about time.

There were a few additions to the shop family this summer. Picked up more woodline parallels to help complete the "wall-of-clamp". Also, picked up a Miller's Falls #18 and #11 recently. Got many of the planes to still get tuned up properly. And, with the growing interest in alternative bevel angles for different wood species and tough grain, I'm considering doing a live demo about back bevels. So, there's lots to do. The new shop lights showed up last week. Heading up to Charger's for a great deal on some maple for the bench. Let the fun begin!!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

You live, you learn, it rains...

There's nothing like life's lessons to get you all reflective and stuff. You see, Charger, Bois, Mystyk, and I got together last Saturday. On the drive home, I pondered the course of the day amidst Steely Dan's greatest hits. Here's what I came up with...

Lesson one: When in the presence of an antique tool dealer, don't answer a question about hand planes - especially Stanley #45's - to your fellow antique tool shopper. When the dealer says a line like "sounds like someone knows their planes" you might be fool enough to feel a little pride. Don't. You just fell into a trap. Now, the dealer knows that you know what you're buying, and might even know that they can go higher on the price for something as a result. Another line to avoid may be "Are you a collector?".

Lesson two: If you're looking for anything serious in a small warehouse of antique tools just ask. It doesn't matter if "ma and pa" look like they wouldn't know the difference between a block plane and a #8, let alone a type 2 #2. Trust me, they know. Just wait until "pa" regales you with tales of selling a Stanley #1 for $800. He'll inevitably mention his stash of planes which he had no intention on selling in the shop. Not those. He's gonna put them on ebay...unless, of course, I want to take a look at them first...
The guy looks like one generation from 18th century Amish and lives in the middle of nowhere, but he's probably got Verizon Fios because Road Runner was too slow for him.

Lesson three: When in an antique tool warehouse loaded with so many tools that you immediately go into sensory overload, take a few pictures to prove your stories later on. No one in the chat room is going to believe that you really had a difficult time walking around because there were so many tools. Or, that you risked injury and a case of Tetanus if you tried to take one off the shelf - causing a "Jenga" effect. And, while you're at it, get a picture or two of your friends...

Lesson four: Always take an opportunity to knock your fellow woodworker down a notch when he is building his own shop from scratch. Lines like "Wow, this is WAY too much natural light" or "With all this room to walk around in, I can't imagine how tiring it will get to do ANYTHING in here". It will make you feel good about your pint sized basement shop - Dan knows better anyway. By the way Rob, I have TWO of those dinky basement windows in MY shop...

Lesson five: in honor of safety week, get Lance on camera when talking about his childhood thumb mangling accident.

Lesson six: you haven't lived until you see a friend have to start his antique 1966 Dodge Charger by first starting up his riding mower. Granted, he was charging up the battery but if you didn't know better, the site of it was pretty funny. I'm still chuckling over it...

Lesson seven: Diner food is always great when you're among good friends.

Lesson eight: Woodworkers talk too much...and too long. Embrace it, and remind your wife as you leave that your return time is give or take an hour or two. She knows anyway, but it's good to let her know that you know that she knows.

Lesson nine: It always storms when traveling east to west on I90. There has never been a time that I've driven that route - even on a train once - that I haven't run into a storm. I don't know why. It just is. At least you had the wind at your back, Rob.

Lesson ten: Never pass on an opportunity to meet up with your Wood Whisperer friends if you can. It is always a good time.

Lance, Dan, and Rob - it was a pleasure. Next time, we'll get pictures.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

In Honor of Safety Week...

Growing up, it seemed to me that all the old time woodworkers were missing at least a finger tip or something. It was almost inevitable that the longer you did woodworking, the more likely you'll lose an appendage along the way. It was just accepted as a part of using power tools, and the really seasoned woodworkers could flip you the bird without having to bend a single finger.

Fast forward to more recent days. I can remember it like it was just, um.... a year ago. Marc got an email from a guy named Brent who's fingers met the moving blades of his jointer - big ouch. I think it really opened our eyes, but none more than Marc's. Among all the things to learn in the woodworking community, one of the least covered was safety. Inspired by Brent's accident, Marc came up with "Safety Week". Sure, we had plenty wise cracks and silly safety technique ideas for him, but it was a great idea and a big success. And now - only a year later - it's even bigger, even more influential, and has inspired so many more to recognize how important it is to apply safe practices in wood working. Bravo Marc. You are hand crafting your most important legacy.

I won't go on about my favorite safety technique or anything like that. I think they're being covered very well among all the blogs and wodworking sites. I will, however, leave you with a little reminder - Marc's first post announcing the first anual safety week...for your nostalgic viewing pleasure: http://thewoodwhisperer.com/woodworkers-safety-week-may-5th-may-9th/

Happy safety week everyone.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Wood Whisperer Yak Legacy

Hey everyone. Today in the chat the question about the TWW Yak came up. It's been brought up before and the story is a little long for the chat. So, to tell the story finally and offer up the lists that we came up with I figured I'd offer this post.

In the spring of 2008, the woodwhisperer chat room had one of it's first international visitors - a guy from Bosnia. Those of us on that day thought it was really cool that Marc's site was getting international attention. We also noted an opportunity to mess with Marc, so we toyed with the idea of logging in to a Wednesday night chat session as bogus international personalities. I came up with Chechu, the broken English speaking, woodworking sherpa from Nepal. Chechu was going to have a question about his yak powered lathe. Well, one thing led to another and the talk about the usefulness of a wood working yak started to take off. LordLQQK came up with a yak graphic that looked as if The Woodwhisperer logo was branded on a yak. The lists were next, and the rest has been history.

The Lists:

The Top Uses For a Wood Working Yak:
  • Yak transport stationary tool easily
  • Yak make methane to power shop
  • Yak generate lots of heat to warm shop
  • Yak tail make great strop for sharpening
  • Yak horn make great slip stone to sharpen gouge
  • Yak wool better than steel wool
  • Yak tongue make great tack cloth
  • Yak hoof powder make great buffing compound
  • Yak eat wood scraps and make round MDF pieces for jigs
  • Yak make great dist collector - yak collect dust from everything!

Top Ten Tricks to Play on your Drunken Yak:
  • Play jump rope with yak's tail
  • take naughty photos of yak and put on internet
  • use yak beer farts to start bon fire
  • put on matador hat and run around yelling "torro!"
  • two words: yak love
  • Get "made by powermatic" tatoo
  • put "where's the beef" bumper sticker on yak's butt
  • put sleeping yak in front of a tree and scream "Oh no! we're going to crash!"
  • put yak in cab and tell driver "Yak knows the way"
  • shave TWW logo on yak's side

So there you have it, the Wood Whisperer Yak legacy. In my sidebar you might notice a "Chechu and friends yak luv store" that offers yak tee shirts and such from cafe press. I offered these items at cost - I am not making any profit on them. Enjoy!


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Ok, time to move on...

Sorry, my friends, for the melancholy tone I've taken recently. My step father passed away a week and a half ago, and now it's time to look forward. So, I figured I would update you all on what I've got planned ahead.

Spring is in the air, despite today's winter storm and winds. I've got a handful of projects to do for my father coming up in May. My wife and I will be refinishing his deck, and I have some storage projects to finish in his garage...finally. I also have a couple of projects to finish for my mother as well...finally. I need to rebuild the doors on a small garbage can shed I made for her from back when I thought pocket hole joinery was strong. She also has a couple of things around the house and a couple pieces of furniture that need to be repaired and refinished. As for me, I have a handful of simple home projects to get to...finally. We are also considering building a simple deck outside of our sun room...maybe. And then there's the shop. The assembly table, the workbench, the table saw/router table stand, the combo drill press/miter saw/planer stand, the computer hutch will all have to wait. In fact, I'm guessing that I won't be attacking the shop projects until the fall. Why? well, it is fishing season after all.

Along those lines I did start a new fishing blog that may cause some diversion from my woodworking, but fishing has always been my first love. Some who know me best might even think it was strange that the woodworking blog came before the fishing blog. I've recently made some concessions at work that have freed me from a number of obligations - obligations that hindered the progress of my to-do list for too long. I'm hoping this will be a summer of great success as well as great relaxation. I'm due.

If you're interested in my fishing blog, it's at: http://thewestcanadafreak.blogspot.com
I assure you, I know fly fishing much better than I know woodworking.

So that's it. It's doubtful I'll get to do any serious woodworking this year, but that's OK. Sometimes you have to tie up the loose ends before you can really concentrate on your work, and I've let those ends fray way too much already.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

life imitating life...

I think most of us enjoy when we are faced with a challenge in an area we are well versed in or even consider as an expertise. For me, it's things like taking a child hiking up an Adirondack high peak for the first time. Or maybe watching my best friend catch his first trout on a fly I tied for him and taught him how to use. It could be showing someone Saturn's rings in a telescope, pointing out an osprey nest, or simply helping a friend get a grip on their hand plane. However, there's one area of expertise I dread to have to use - especially when it comes to family. I've been an oncology nurse for almost two decades. Now I find myself having to put my years of training and experience to work for my stepfather, Jim.

Some of you have seen my beat up old bench plane collection. Most of them came from my step father's weekly visit to the local flea market. You know that type 9 Bailey #7? Yup, that was Jim. those 3 or 4 jack planes? Jim. My first Miller's Falls plane? Jim. Most of the hand saws hanging up in the shop? Jim. He loved to search for those old tools and was almost as excited to find them as I was to recieve them. Naturally, he wouldn't take any money in return, brushing off the cost as "a couple of dollars - don't worry about it".

Jim is sleeping right now, just a few feet from me. He can barely talk when he's awake - weak, frail, and a shell of the man he used to be. The family has rallied to give my mother some much needed help. I've taken a leave from work to help take care of him through the night so my mother can get some sleep....and do what I do best for Jim. It's the least I can do. The lung cancer has really taken hold of him, and with his 70th birthday looming in a week or so I know his last days are in sight. I should know it - it's my expertise.

Spend as much time as you can with those who mean the most. Don't hold grudges, they will only make you sick with regret. And never, never take a single day for granted.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Used Hand Planes part 4: Cleaning and tuning - the wrap up

So here it is! The marginally successful video demonstration on how to clean up and tune a used bench plane. Unfortunately, my internet connection broke in the middle of the demo, resulting in a part 1 and part 2 (initially I thought I lost the first half of the demo...phew). You'll especially enjoy the chattering across the cherry on the initial cut - nothing ever goes as planned....

Part 1:

And part 2:

Again, I'm not an expert and never claimed to be. There are a number of great resources that I posted in the blog series along the way to help you out. Also, there are plenty of woodworkers in the forum and chat room that have just as much if not more experience with this as I do. Hopefully, seeing a ham handed oaf like myself successfully tune up a used plane will inspire you to do it as well. If I can do it, you can do it.

Good luck!


Friday, January 2, 2009

The Most Important Tool in my Shop? Take a guess...

...c'mon, which one do you think it is? The Tablesaw? A typical choice, but, no. My new Bandsaw? good guess but definately not. One of my bench planes? You're getting warmer, but still not there. My mind? Philosophical and almost zen-like answer but not that one either. You give up? I wouldn't blame you, because it's probably something that very few woodworkers would even list as one of their tools. It's my computer. Yup - I said it. My computer.

Recently, my wife and I upgraded our personal computers and as a result have reassigned our older computers to other tasks. One of those tasks is the "shop computer". Sounds funny to call it that, but it really is the "shop computer". Adding to my shop computer, Santa brought me a new webcam. Now, I can chat, demo, and watch other woodworkers in their shops all from my own shop. Not a big deal? Well, it is to me. You see, all my woodworking friends are online. The majority of my woodworking information comes from online sources. And now, I can share with my friends and access information like never before. It's actually kind of empowering. To be able to look up an article or show a friend a technique right from the shop and right on my bench has opened up so many more possibilities.

My step son Nick has an attraction to woodworking. He's really just starting to understand it's attraction, but the signs of his intrest are beaming. Unfortunately, he lives across the country from me and in a very small 1 bedroom condo. It doesn't afford him much space for a workshop, be we're working on mobile posibilities that might allow him to acomplish more that he thought he could. Still, he has a lot to learn, and it's very difficult to teach him anything without him being in my shop with me. Well, with the "shop computer's" help, we are now erasing thousands of miles between us. The potential is huge. Rather than try to describe a technique or a joinery method in an email or phone call, I can show him in real time - right there from the shop.

Now, I realize that many of you have already embraced this technology, but there are so many more of us that haven't. And, if you haven't, I suggest you give it a thought. It doesn't matter if you have a lot to teach others, or a lot to learn yourself. It's about being able to open up avenues of communication that at one time were never possible. It's amazing how much you can learn and in turn teach others just by going in your shop, turning on the webcam, start the Ustream broadcast, and start tinkering like you normally would. Pretty soon, the woodworkers who are watching you will start asking questions. Or they might have a good suggestion to make a technique you're doing much easier. Or they might tell you about their mother in law. And somewhere along the way, your shop became a cool place for everyone to hang out....through your "shop computer".

just a little megabyte to gnaw over.