Saturday, September 25, 2010

Battling the minimalist within

So, this is a bit of a philosophical post. Looking around my trashed shop I see a number of tools. Some get quite a bit of use, some barely touched for a couple of years. OK... I know.... most of them have been barely touched for years but let's just say some more than others. Still, my mind wanders off to thinking about future tool purchases. I would love a lathe. Nothing fancy, just a decent midi lathe to do some turnings. A Scroll saw would be nice too. A couple more routers would be handy. But the most glaring tool need is a new table saw. I've been using a Ryobi BT3100 for years now and it's demise is eminent. It really has been a decent saw packed with forward-looking features when it was still being made. It had a true riving knife when even the nicest saws didn't come with one. It has a sliding miter table and accessory table that could easily be repositioned on the rails for various configurations. It has been quite versatile, but at it's heart it's still a 15 amp, direct drive, job site saw that bogs down easily with thick hardwoods and can have 1/16 inch of runnout.

Looking through the catalogs, I'm noticing decent table saws aren't cheap. It looks like Grizzly has all but abandoned their reasonably priced contractor saw models at this time. Jet still has one old model that shows up here and there, and the Ridgid contractor saw models seem to only show up on the HD site occasionally. The Hitachi and Porter Cable saws look nice, but it seems like they are just another direct drive model underneath. Dare I say, Craftsman has a new one out that looks promising but you never know with them. So, I find myself asking a strange question - do I really need a table saw? Can I get away with what I have?

Now, now - I know I NEED a table saw, so don't go getting your panties in a bunch just yet. BUT - do I really need a hybrid or cabinet saw? Of all the tools, the table saw takes up the most room. In my little shop, the idea of being able to use a Bosch jobsite saw that unfolds and folds up easily to be stored out of the way is actually... appealing. I'm finding myself getting more comfortable with the idea of supplementing with the router, bandsaw, and hand tools. And I'm finding this concept a little liberating.

If you used to watch David Marks "Woodworks" show, you might have caught his masters episode where he visited James Krenov and Art Carpenter. One thing that was very interesting was that their shops - especially Krenov's - were relatively sparse when it came to a variety of tools. Krenov has reduced himself to a bench top band saw, bench top jointer, and a few well thought out hand tools. Yet, he was still doing some beautiful work. And it makes me think that sometimes I miss the point. I can get so wrapped up in the collection of tools I forget there is more than one way to do the work at hand. When forced to the confines of a small basement shop and tool budget limitations, my mind starts thinking going minimal is... good.

All this thinking gives me a headache, but it also makes me wonder if anyone else goes through this. Maybe I should pose the question in the TWW forum? Hmmm.. it might ruffle a few feathers, that's for sure :)


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I'm back.... and I'm so ashamed......

I know, I know - where the hell have I been? Sorry guys, but sometimes life takes us in many different directions at once and it's hard to keep up with the refinements. I do have some excuses that you're welcome to take your pick from:

  • The backyard stone patio project took way too long - still going, in fact.
  • Obligations to my family have delayed progress.
  • Work has been engulfing, finally concluding with a promotion last week.
  • The new puppy still sucks all of the life and free time out of us.
  • The fishing was just alright, but I was fulfilling an obligation to help my best friend de-stress.
  • I was forced to take up golf by my nephews and future son in law.
If it's any consolation, I haven't kept up with my fishing/hiking blog either. So, here we go into Autumn when sunny thoughts give way to blustery mornings on the trail or the river. They give me a feeling of being alive, and my soul warms at the thought of coming home from a long day of hiking or fishing to be in the warmth of the house and savoring the smells of sawdust in my shop. So, as I put the finishing touches on the outside of my house, my mind is swimming with the plans for the basement and the shop, especially. I don't know exactly when I will be able to start posting consistently again but it's soon - even if it's just to complain at the slow progress. I do have some plans for the coming months, however:

  • the shop redesigned and refined
  • bench plane tune up redux - this time, less time, more content
  • fun with block planes - fine points of tuning
  • sharpening for the realistic, and financially frugal
  • a comparison of bench plane vs. power tool stock milling
  • back bevels - why you NEED 4 or more smoothing planes
  • shooting board designs
  • the workbench
  • Why even Charger needs at least a couple working planes
  • a strangely designed piece of living room furniture
  • my favorite books, favorite tools, and favorite artists features
I was getting fired up like this around Autumn two years ago, and the result was a significant increase in my plane ownership as well as this blog, so I can say I'm getting back in the right frame of mind. Hopefully, my contributions will have some value among all of this online content. Until then, questions are always welcomed.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring is in the air, so, time for an update...

Well, most of you know my best laid plans have gone awry. The holidays resulted in so much demand of my time that the basement project - and, consequently, the shop remodel - have been on hold. Granted, I complicated it all with a new addition to the family - a blonde babe who seems to take up all of my time. Now, I realize you all were on the edge of your seat, waiting for me to complete the basement, and now the depression is setting in because of your bitter disappointment. So sorry.

So, here's the update. I have resumed the basement project and am also starting a stone patio in the backyard. I'm hoping to get them both done in the next month. From that point, it will be peak trout fishing season here in central NY. You know what that means. I will hopefully be working on shop projects during the heat of the summer, in between fishing and hiking excursions. It would be nice to be done with the shop by the Fall, but we'll see. It is still my intention to do a back bevel demo, and possibly redo the plane tune up demo at some point.

Oh, and the maple is dried and ready to work as I had hoped. So, hopefully, you'll see more in the months to come. Now, go make some sawdust in the meantime!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Northeast Woodworkers Show

So, many of you from the chat knew a few of us were meeting up in Saratoga NY for the Northeast Woodworkers show. I picked up Charger in the morning and we headed up together. Meeting up with everyone else proved to be easier than I thought. Despite arriving a little late which was complicated by a lack of parking, we got in to the first Chris Schwarz demo just after it started. Who was sitting in a few rows from the back? Mystyk. Bingo - one down, a few more to go. A couple of phone calls later and Gotham showed up in the demo. In the lobby after the demo, we met up with Dannyboy. Go figure...

So, my critique of the show. Thank God for the Schwarz. I went to 4 demos, 2 by Chris and two others by what turned out to be rank amateurs. I'll give it up to the guys in being able to stand up in front of a small crowd and show a slide presentation. that was about it. The guy doing the marquetry demo seemed to know what he was talking about, but spent more time talking about other artists and their work. he did offer some structure to his lecture, but 5 minutes of online research could have gotten you that info. The guy doing the guitar building demo was worse. Very little structure to his lecture, and it was clear he's only built one guitar and knows little about it. Granted, I've never built one but I've played for 30 years and am pretty versed on how the process is done. I guess my disappointment was mainly because I had some real questions about some details that he had no clue about. Something as simple as the effect of scale length on the bracing or tap tuning the soundboard. Oh well...

Chris Schwarz's presentations were much better. His first about joinery planes was very good, but still a bit rudimentary. At least it had structure, and it was a pretty complete review of joinery planes. His second seminar on workbench evolution was quite entertaining. He's an excellent speaker and laid out the info well. In hind sight, I wish I skipped the joinery plane demo and went to see Phil Lowe carving a ball and claw foot, but how could I miss the only demo on planes - I'd never live it down.

The vendors were OK, but most of us agreed that there were few deals to be had and we felt little desire to buy anything. That was very strange. I did come across a couple of antique tool dealers, but no transitional planes that I have been looking for. One of them had too many Norris planes - it was overwhelming. I heard angels singing as I picked up an A4, only to hear the same angels cough at the $375 price tag. I know - not bad, considering, but still. This was my first time fondling a Norris, and frankly it didn't feel heavier or better quality than most of my iron planes. Back on the shelf. The same vendor had an old, funky Stanley #72 chamfer plane - pretty cool and the first time I saw one of those in person as well. Lots of back saws, levels, shoulder planes, plenty of semi rarities and such.

The exhibits were nice. there were some amazing work, some stuff that didn't excite, and one guy that obviously needed to get laid based on his sculptures. But the major disappointment was that we really didn't get to spend much time with each other. I would've gladly given up a couple of demos for a long lunch and hang out with everyone. The show was over before we knew it, and Lance and I grabbed a late lunch on the way home. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday, just wish I had more time.

And, ironically, I had good weather on the ride home for the second time.