Interesting Woodworking Link

Monday, August 18, 2008

Episode #70 - Kids in the Shop, A Great Idea!

A great weekend in the shop with my son Matthew

Matt laying out his joinery

I just spent a wonderful three days in the shop with my son. Now, we weren’t in the shop the entire three days but suffice to say that our shop time was a significant part of some quality father-son time this weekend. My wife and daughter were out of town this weekend visiting friends in Central Oregon. My son Matthew and I stayed behind to start work on a community service project for his Boy Scout Citizenship in the Community Merit Badge.

Matt showing off his pine tree cutout detail

Our family has the opportunity to help a friend put the finishing touches on a Habitat for Humanity home in Sisters, Oregon. We will assist with the installation of approximately 105 feet of fencing. Matt made the gate as a gift. He will also be part of the fence building crew.

Matt working with the Festool Domino
(looks like he's done this many times before!)

As a father, I got to witness the developing personality of a wonderful young man. Matt has done a number of woodworking projects. It is a real pleasure to watch him work with his hands. It was also a lot of fun to watch the excitement mount, as his cedar fence gate got closer to completion. This is by far his most complex project to date. As a Dad, I couldn’t help but smile when he shouted over the drone of a jig saw “Hey Dad, I want to help you clean up!”

Matt working on the cedar gate panel

The real telltale sign that he would someday have his own shop and likely relive this experience himself was when he picked up a scrap of 1/4” hardboard to write down our grocery shopping and errand list! Even more satisfying was the sense of pride Matt had when he gave his Mom the blow by blow detailed update over the shop phone. I smiled to myself and thought “life is good”!

Matt organizing his frame stock

I am a firm believer in getting young people into our shops. It is a sad that Industrial Arts are increasingly being dropped from school curriculums. I have fond memories of wood shop, auto shop and metal shop when I was in school. I am convinced that these experiences influenced me later in life. I am more apt to build or make something myself. I am pleased that a number of woodworkers on the Internet have focused on getting young people into the shop.

Matt telling Mom all the details!

The last forum project featured on The Rough Cut Show was a Shaker Step Stool. I was very happy to hear T-Chisel encourage forum members to “get a newbie into your shop for this project . . . your girlfriend or kids . . .” Craig Stevens has a wonderful woodworking blog, Woodworker’s Resource, that has a Just For Kids section. He also has a great book, Woodworking 101 for Kids available for sale.

If you have a son or daughter this would be an excellent start for getting them in the shop and developing some valuable life skills. This will likely give you as much satisfaction as your last tool purchase!

Matt using a router to cut out a pine tree in the panel

Another great example of getting kids into the workshop comes from Charles Neil with his UnPlug the Kids . . . a wonderful Sunday afternoon in his shop with some kids and their parents experiencing the joys of woodworking. Last, but not least, are the young woodworkers joining the ranks of more senior members on Lumberjocks. Check out the projects and contributions talented teenaged woodworkers on Lumberjocks, Tyler (aka Woodshopfreak), TheTeenageWoodworker, and The Timber Kid on Lumberjocks.

SketchUp detail of proposed fence gate

So, if you want the woodworking thrill of a lifetime, than get one of your kids in the shop. You won’t regret it!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Episode #69 - Thanks to The Rough Cut Show!

Life is good when you get a shout out by T-Chisel & Al!

To say I am blown away from the great shout out by T-Chisel & Al would be a huge understatement! Thank you to Tommy, Al and all The Rough Cutters. What an awesome woodworking blog and forum.

Now that I am back in the shop, my son Matthew and I are going to try our hand at the Step Stool project. Matt has been a big fan of Tommy ever since the early beaver tooth episode. Of course his Dad is a huge fan. So now we get to do a project together . . . what more could I ask (except of course to cut awesome dovetails!)?

Thanks again guys for the shout out and the honor of joining Pallet Makers 207!

Episode #68 - Finishing . . . Take Your Time!

A review of Finishing From A to Z: Beyond The Books from Woodworking with Charles Neil

It wasn’t long ago that Popular Woodworking Editor Glen Huey mused that the finishing phase of a project can take as long as the design and building phases. In fact, this phase of a project’s execution is so important that Neil Lamens from Furnitology Productions recommends starting to experiment with the proposed finish schedule concurrent with initial milling. He advises in his Furnitology 101 DVD and on his popular woodworking blog that scrap material culled during the milling process is perfect for fine-tuning the finish schedule. This is sage advice that will pay dividends when your project is sitting on your bench ready for the finish room and you've already worked the bugs out of your finish schedule.

“While finishing already takes nearly as much time as building the project, why would you want to add another step to the process?”

- Glen D. Huey, Senior Editor
Glazing for the Ages (pp. 30-31)

Woodworking Magazine • Spring 2008

My standard practice is to mill up a batch of 3 x 5 x 1/2 blocks during the initial milling process. These blocks get their backs labeled with masking tape allowing me to record the steps of the finishing schedule including experimental deviations. During my last project, I used 6 blocks of solid wood and 4 cherry and maple veneered panels to work out finishing details the subtle nuances of my finish schedule.

Every woodworker’s library has at least a volume or two on finishing. It is a complex subject with a huge number of subtle variables. It has been said that a poor finish job can quickly ruin an otherwise well executed project. My son just had a very valuable resource added to his woodworking library. Charles Neil kindly gifted Matthew his 10 DVD set Finishing From A to Z: Beyond The Books. Charles has a keen interest in teaching kids the craft of woodworking. Matt has had the pleasure of interacting with Charles several times. Once to share his experiences with his Boy Scout Woodworking Merit Badge and again when Charles sent Matt a chunk of the Stonewall Jackson Prayer Tree after finding out that Matt is a Civil War history buff. Needless to say Matt was quite excited when this package arrived in the mail!

Matt was kind enough to let his Dad review Finishing From A to Z: Beyond The Books during a recent vacation to California. I spent some down time in the car watching the series on my laptop computer. Anyone who has visited Charles’ website, watched his videos on or Fine Woodworking’s GlueTube, or enjoyed one of his woodworking DVDs knows that he has a gift for teaching. He has a unique ability to take the mystery out of woodworking bringing confidence to woodworkers of very level. Part of Charles’ charm is his calming Southern accent coupled with years of experience.

I was absolutely fascinated with Finishing From A to Z: Beyond The Books. It basically is like spending private one-on-one shop time with Charles while he explains the intricacies of wood finishing . . . clearly an experience Beyond The Books! Like most adults, I learn best by watching and doing followed by the reinforcement of reading. This DVD set is the perfect bridge between “doing” in the shop and sitting in a chair reading. This 10 DVD set has over 13 hours of quality instruction covering everything from hand applied finishes to spray finishes, water based materials to solvent based materials, spray equipment, coloring, toning and special techniques.

My recommendation is to have a pad of paper and a pen close by to make notes! There is so much information contained in these 10 DVDs that you will have to watch them more than once. After watching the series from beginning to end, you can then focus on areas of particular interest.

So, if the depth of your finishing skills is a basic “to go to oil finish” and you’ve decided that you want to expand your finishing horizons, then head over to Charles’ website and order Finishing From A to Z: Beyond The Books for your shop library. It is a purchase you won’t regret!

Finishing From A to Z: Beyond The Books DVD Titles

  • 1 Building to Finish – Sanding & Smoothing
  • 2 Preparing to Color – Repairing Defects
  • 3 Coloring Woods – Dyes & Stains
  • 4 Controlling Color
  • 5 Advanced Coloring Techniques
  • 6 Spray Guns & Turbines
  • 7 Spray Techniques
  • 8 Spraying Top Coats
  • 9 Hand Applied Finishes
  • 10 Special Finishing Techniques

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Episode #67 - Soon to be back in the shop!

What the heck is a flexor carpi radialis?

Here’s a hint, it’s not a tool and you can’t buy one at Rockler or Woodcraft!

Well, I am finally heading back to the shop . . . sort of. It’s a good feeling none the less. Thank you to everyone that wished me well while I recovered from a shop related injury. I haven’t discussed it much as it still makes me nervous to think about what happened. It happened early in the morning on a day off from my regular job. I was just finishing re-sharpening a plane iron for my rehabbed Stanley bench plane. I was using the Tormek to re-grind the blade square and sharp. My previous wet-sharpener had a bad habit of always making the blade out of square, regardless of what I did from the operator end of things. Once the blade was sharp and square, I moved over to the leather strop for final honing and polish. What I did not realize was that the jig is a bit “back heavy”, and with a plane iron secured, it has a tendency to tilt backwards exposing the sharp edge of a now vertical blade. It all happened in a blink of an eye and before I knew what happened I had a small cut on the inside of my non-dominant left wrist, approximately an inch in length.

Being an ER Doc, I immediately applied pressure and started ticking off in my head a quick assessment of nerves, arteries, veins, and hand function. Everything seemed OK initially, but I knew I had to go to the ER so I quickly cleaned up the blood and changed my clothes. I decided to get my daughter Kelsey up to drive me to the ER because Beth had a hard night sleeping due to a cold. I didn’t have the heart to wake her up . . . I also didn’t want to frighten her with my injury.

Kelsey was awesome. She is 15 and quite a responsible young lady. She has her permit and has been driving with me for a long time. So off we went to the hospital in our Ford Excursion, which had 2 tons of landscape rock in the back. I had planned on taking the rocks over to Sisters that weekend. There was no available ground-level parking at the hospital so Kelsey navigated up to the top of the five-story parking structure to park on the roof! To say I was immensely proud of her would be a gross understatement. Being a patient in the ER is not my cup of tea. I would rather be in my shop! I had great care by one of my partners and the wonderful staff I work with every day. Six hours later we headed home, after the hand surgeon repaired a partial wrist flexor tendon laceration.

The verdict was that I partially lacerated my flexor carpi radialis and that I should do well. I had to wear a splint for four weeks and take it easy for an additional four weeks . . . no straining the tendon repair. I have a great family. Beth was notified and spent time with me in the ER. Matt was there as well in between scheduled activities. Kelsey sat by my side the entire time. The rocks eventually made it over to Sisters and were unloaded by some very good friends. I’ve not been in my shop for the interim, except to look at things every once and a while. I am extremely safe with everything I do. I am meticulous with shop safety. Safety is something that was ingrained in me while on the Fire Department and hammered home again later in the Navy. Safety, Safety, Safety!

This accident did take the wind out of my sails a bit. I do know that I have, no, want to go back to my shop and start working again. Despite best efforts accidents happen. I will continue to be vigilant and as safe as I possibly can. I did feel it important to share this story so others can learn from my experience. I do have a way to prevent this particular event in the future, which I will share with a video in a later blog entry. Thanks again for all the well wishes!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Episode #66 - Design & Critique

Some thoughts on design and work critique.

The Rough Cut Show Forum
. . . truly the Forum of choice for the Internet woodworking community

Ready to loose a round of Frisbee Golf to my son!

Well, I have too much idle time on my hands these days. What is a woodworker to do when they can’t be in the shop? Read, draw, plan and organize . . . that is what I have done. I am recovering from an injury that precludes me from working in the shop. I have had a chance to knock a couple of woodworking books off my “to read list”. I also spent some time digging around some favorite woodworking sites. There is a huge amount of distracting content on the Internet for every subject of one’s imagination. Like everything else, some discrimination is in order to separate the wheat from the chaff.

What an exciting time to be a woodworker. For many of us, the craft is a quite pursuit. Something explored in a small garage or basement shop, or for those lucky enough, a dedicated shop or studio. Regardless of the individual passion for hand tools, power tools or a blended approach, all share to some degree a similar experience of design and execution. Relatively new to the woodworker of today is a common fabric of discourse and reference enhancing the quest to improve a skill set and raise the level of work. The Internet provides unfettered access to, not only outstanding written and video content, but also direct interaction with seasoned woodworkers willing to mentor and champion these efforts.

I have been particularly fascinated with developments on Tommy (aka T-Chisel) MacDonald’s website The Rough Cut Show. Tommy has generated a unique and supportive venue to learn and develop woodworking skills. Three components can be identified for the burgeoning success of The Rough Cut Show. First is Tommy’s charismatic personality. It’s kind of hard not to smile and get swept along with his enthusiasm. He is unabashedly proud of his work all the while being his own worst critic. So, it is hard not to accept the challenge of this North Bennet Street School trained woodworker to “raise the level of your game”. Second is the video content (119 Episodes as of 10 August 2008) on Tommy’s site. Intermixed with humor and camaraderie is a significant level of woodworking instruction that warrants more than a second look. Third is The Rough Cut Show Forum. Woodworking Internet history was made when forum members built The Crazy Leg Federal Table. The project was designed to explore and learn embellishment techniques relative to Federal Period Furniture. Project #1, The Crazy Leg Federal Table, gave way to Project #2, a Shaker Step Stool. This is a deceivingly simple project presenting an opportunity to work on joinery, specifically dovetails. Tommy encouraged forum members to bring non-woodworkers into the shop to build this project as an introduction to the craft. Additionally, the project could be done quickly over a weekend out of pine with quick joinery or pursued at a slower pace to push all elements of execution. Now the forum is moving forward with Project #3, a beautiful blanket chest.

To say Tommy and his forum have caught my interest would be an understatement. More importantly, my interest has been piqued by forum members that are developing a method of constructive critique. Without a doubt, this has been an area lacking development in the online woodworking community. All to often comments are general in nature with “. . . good job . . . great work as always”. While this makes the builder “feel” good, it offers nothing for their future development. Constructive evaluation and critique does not need to be something fraught with sensitivities, rather a valuable process actively sought out by the builder. Ultimately, this step is as critical in a woodworker’s growth and development as the design process and project execution, because without it, there is no other way for a builder to bring to bear on the next project the lessons learned from the previous build. These are tools as essential to our woodworking as the finest saw or sharpest chisel.

With these thoughts in mind, I encourage everyone to explore the rich content on The Rough Cut Show. More importantly, join The Rough Cutter’s Forum and participate in the development of a constructive woodworking critique rubric. As a woodworker, you have nothing to loose and everything to gain!

"Evaluating our work for better work in the future is very, very important"

Hope to be back at it soon!

The Three Sisters (South • Middle • North)
Cascade Mountains – Central Oregon

Some interesting related links:

Rough Cut Show Forum Topic: Furniture Design

Rough Cut Show Forum Topic: Critiquing Our Builds

Rough Cut Show
Project #1 – Crazy Leg Federal Table
Intro Video
Project #1 Forum

Rough Cut Show Project #2 – Shaker Style Step Stool
Intro Video
Project #2 Forum