Interesting Woodworking Link

Friday, July 18, 2008

Episode #65 - Hand Cut Dovetails: Beauty, Strength & Craftsmanship

The Beginning of My Dovetail Journey

Ah, dovetails, one of the great gauntlets to run for the intrepid woodworker. Whether plugged or unplugged, sooner or later every woodworker will consider the path of hand cut dovetails. There is something very appealing about the fine fit of hand cut slender pins and the satisfaction of mastering chisels and the dovetail saw.

I recently have started down this woodworking slippery slope. I have acquired my weapons of choice. I’ve done my research reading textbooks and watching some instructional DVD’s. One of my favorites is Rob Cosman’s Dovetailing Series and Shop Manual. I also got a lot of inspiration from Thomas J. MacDonald, aka T-Chisel, over at The Rough Cut Show. If you want to get inspired to work on hand tool skills and raise the level of your work than check out The Rough Cut Show and join "The rough Cutters" Forum. So, over time I will share my progress as I work to master this essential woodworking skill.

One of the best bits of advice comes from Fine Woodworking Contributor Gary Rogowski, Studio Director of The Northwest Woodworking Studio in Portland, Oregon. In his video clip The Five-Minute Dovetail. He uses this as a “warm-up exercise” before beginning work. Excellent advice I took to heart. So, with that in mind I set aside some pre-dimensioned stock so I could quickly set-up and cut a joint each day. I did pretty well for a week. Then work and some other commitments put up a roadblock. I am just recovering from an injury (something to blog about later!) so I will be back at it soon!

DOVETAIL TOOLS - My weapons of choice

Lie-Nielson Dovetail Saw

Lie-Nielson Chisels

Adjustable Frame Fret Saw

Dovetail Marking Gauge

Starrett 6" Dividers

Sharp Knife - X-Acto


Rob Cosman - Your Hand Tool Coach

Alan Wood • Hand Cut Dovetails

Unknown Author • Hand Cut Dovetails


All About Dovetail Joints by Mario Rodriguez

My Favorite Dovetail Tricks: Five ways to increase accuracy and reduce the time it takes to execute this hand-cut joint by Christian Becksvoort

Cutting Dovetails - Learn from Five Experts: Chris Gochnour, Andy Rae, Christian Becksvoort, Gary Rogowski, and Philip Lowe share their dovetail-cutting expertise in this roundup of videos and articles from the Fine Woodworking archives by Fine Woodworking editors

The Five-Minute Dovetail: Practice hand-cut dovetails without the pressure in this easy exercise to strengthen your hand-tool skills with Gary Rogowski

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Episode #64 - Its true, you get what you pay for!

A comparison of the JET and Tormek Wet Grinding Systems

WMH Tool Group / JET


For clarification, I am not a professional woodworker and I have no vested interest in JET Tool or Tormek. I work in a small garage wood shop building custom furniture. I am constantly developing my woodworking skills and consider myself a student of the craft with much to learn and explore.

Anyone interested in building furniture deals with sharpening tools. It is impossible to build good furniture without sharp tools. By definition, a sharp edged tool will require (frequent) sharpening to continue its useful function. There is a huge, if not daunting, array of sharpening options available to the woodworker.

I am blessed with a very supportive family that finds some humor in their Dad’s passion for woodworking. My daughter is very fond of asking when I plan on adding music to my iPod to “round out” my collection of woodworking videos. I guess I really am boring!

Well, I was very spoiled on Father’s Day with a gift of a JET Wet Sharpening System for my shop. My wife knew I had been doing some research on a sharpening system. I knew if I was going to get the most out of my chisels and planes that I would need an easy to use and reliable sharpening system. Based on a number of reviews I had settled on the JET System. Beth and the kids were really excited. I was even more excited when I headed out to the shop to sharpen my chisels and planes in preparation for my next project (actually a Father and Son project, but that is a story for the future!).

Out of square plane iron sharpened on the JET

I feel compelled to share my experience after having both the JET Wet Sharpening System and the Tormek T-7 in my shop all within 24 hours at my own expense. No sponsorship or pressure for a particular review, just a guy building furniture in his garage. Now, just to be clear, I am very particular about my gear and equipment. I also like dependability and reliability. I’m not about to put an expensive plane iron or chisel in a system that will not give me the best results.

JET 708015 Wet Sharpening System

The JET System is a nice machine with some interesting features. The basic package comes complete with everything you need to start sharpening plane irons and chisels. It was very easy to set up. Mine came with the optional stand with two extra drawers to store jigs, honing polish, the diamond-truing tool and grading stone. The printed material, or manual, was little more than a detailed parts list and basic set-up instructions. JET also includes a DVD demonstrating the use of the system. I felt the DVD was well done and organized with chapter markers for rapid retrieval of specific information.

I set up the JET Wet Sharpening System according to the instructions. Trued the wheel and graded it to coarse grind. The leather strop was conditioned with oil and charged with honing compound. I decided to start off with my rehabbed Stanley block and bench plane irons. Both irons ended up super sharp but off square. I went back and checked everything. The stone was square. The support guide was square. The jig however did not align squarely to the wheel and support arm. I sharpened each iron twice with the same results. Additionally, the build of the sharpening jig was somewhat flimsy and the guide bushings kept falling out. The leather strop was slightly out of round with a noticeable bump where the edges were glued. Neither of these attributes lent a quality feel or inspired confidence.

Now, I know that JET has good customer service. I did not attempt to go that route because at this point I had no faith in the accuracy of the system. I was not about to put one of my Lie-Neilson plane irons or chisels on this grinding stone. I returned the JET and paid the difference for the Tormek.


My experience with the Tormek T-7 was completely different. The package is similar to the JET system including everything needed to begin sharpening plane irons and chisels. I immediately noticed the substantial quality of the fit, finish, and build.

Square plane iron sharpened on the TORMEK

The Tormek grindstone ground my plane irons quickly and more importantly perfectly square. The Tormek leather strop is made of thicker leather mounted on a heavier wheel that runs true without a noticeable bump at the glue line. The support guide is stiffer and the jigs’ construction is heavier compared to the JET. Simply put, the Tormek T-7 is a quality machine with a solid build that performs as advertised. The Tormek is more expensive than the JET, however, I feel confidant putting a valuable plane iron or chisel on the Tormek. Just my humble opinion . . .

Do your research and most importantly test drive both machines before making a commitment.

Keep this in mind: how valuable is the piece of steel that you are sharpening?

Folding Rule Stanley Plane Rehab Part I Part II Part III

JET 708015 Wet Sharpening System - ROCKLERWOODCRAFT

TORMEK T-7 Wet Sharpening System - ROCKLER


Australian Woodworking Forum

Joe Woodworker

Sharp Tool USA

JET & TORMEK Comparison Chart

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Episode #63 – Three Becomes One

The first week of July is a special time of year for the little town of Sisters, Oregon. The population swells as many thousands of quilters from around the world descend upon the town for the annual Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. Often referred to as “The Disneyland of Quilting” and having the honor of “the first and largest outdoor quilt show”, the event spans a full week of events centered about everything to do with quilting.

The 33rd Annual Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show
"Wedding Ring Blues” by Paul Alan Bennett

Now, I know you are wondering what this could possibly have to do with woodworking. Well, quilts and woodwork just happen to be great partners. This year I planned to build a set of three quilt stands for The Clearwater Gallery. One from cherry and two from quarter sawn white oak. I chose an Arts & Crafts style design.

Thinking I might build additional quilt stands, I worked out a simple manufacturing process utilizing 1/4” hardboard templates to cut the curves of the uprights and the feet. Everything proceeded very smoothly as I began to assemble all the respective parts.

The first few afternoons were spent rough milling stock and making the hardboard templates.
The following week was short on shop time as I was busy at work. That weekend I was back in the shop with plans on completing the three quilt stands which would leave a good week to apply finish before dropping them off at the gallery on the way thru town for our family’s annual sojourn to visit my brother-in-law in Northern California.

View of Mt Shasta on the way to Fall River Mills, California

Cutting and shaping the feet went without a hitch. Cutting the rails and gluing up the tops was very easy. I had a great feeling as I looked at the stacked parts on my bench.
The next day began with rough cutting the uprights on the band saw . . . again, no problems. The first set of uprights was trimmed to final dimension using a hardboard template and the router table. Now I was getting excited envisioning the three quilt stands ready the finish schedule. Then the unimaginable happened. Despite the fact that there was the only the slightest excess edge to remove with the template and router, I ran into a bit of difficult grain that splintered one cherry and one of the oak uprights. I tried to salvage the splintered uprights but it just wasn’t meant to be.

So that is how three became one. All ended well as we had a great trip to Fall River Mills, California . . . the company was enjoyable and the fly fishing was excellent. The quilt stand looks wonderful in the gallery with one of Beth’s quilts draped over the top rail. The templates are safely tucked away until next year!