Friday, September 21, 2012

Upcoming Demos

I'll be participating in a number of woodworking demonstrations over the next few months. If you get a chance, stop by to say hello and make some shavings.

Demos are great fun and a great way to get people to try hand tools. There's an element of ego of course, but I get the greatest satisfaction from seeing someone put their hands on a tool and try it out. They think they can't do it, but I can see it in their face as they realize they can, as they feel the tool sing in their hands. My goal is to help spread the craft.

First, I'm thrilled to be helping Phil Lowe and his Furniture Institute of Massachusetts at the Topsfield Fair in Topsfield, MA, September 29-30 (the complete event runs September 28-October 8). Phil is an outstanding craftsman. As a member of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers, he received the Cartouche Award for excellence in 2005. His is the kind of work I truly aspire to. While I've never taken any classes at FIM, I've read his articles and watched his videos for years. Helping out is my way of paying back for the knowledge he's passed on.

Second, I'll be at the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events October 19-20 at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking (information here) and November 30-December 1 back with Phil Lowe at FIM (information here). I participated in the Hand Tool Event at FIM last year.

Third, I'll be helping out with the Guild Of New Hampshire Woodworkers demos at the Portsmouth, NH Woodcraft store on November 10 and December 8. The Guild currently has demonstrations there the 2nd Saturday of each month.

Finally, I'll be at The Furniture Project at the New England Home Show, in Boston, MA, February 21-24. You may remember this is the new name for WoodExpo, which I participated in last year. I'm planning on doing something a little special there, so I'll post more about it once we have details finalized. Sadly, we lost one of the organizers of WoodExpo and The Furniture Project this week, Neil Lamens. I only knew him through email, but he was universally admired for his encouragement of other woodworkers.

Come on out if you can and see what these folks have to offer. I'm always happy to help those who promote the craft and whose products I believe in.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Review: Doucette and Wolfe YouTube Videos

Whenever I get a notification from YouTube that someone has subscribed to my video channel (which I've recently switched over to using my real name instead of a rather random account name), I always go check their channel to see what other videos they've linked to.

Since we can't shake hands and introduce each other, it's a quick way to get some idea of who they are and what interests them. However, I usually don't go watch those other things, just because there's so much, and I don't have the time.

This time, fortunately, was different. I don't know what made me click on this one, maybe it was the title, "Nightstand with Reeded Legs Building Process". I'm glad I did; thanks, Fisch8441!

This is one of nearly 80 videos posted by Doucette and Wolfe Furniture Makers, a small shop in the White Mountains of New Hampshire run by Matthew Wolfe and Moriah Doucette. They specialize in custom period and contemporary furniture, with testimonials from customers all over the country.

The videos are a fantastic resource. They're a combination of finished work display and build process. The style is very simple and dynamic, brief video shots interspersed with stills, nice background music and no narration. What makes them so valuable is that they focus closely on all kinds of design and construction details.

And these are top quality pieces they're working on, jaw-droppingly beautiful. It's just a wealth of information, like being a fly on the wall watching masters at work.

They use a combination of power and hand tools. I of course love to see all the fine details of the hand tools in use. Ah, see how he skews the plane; note the specially-ground chisel for cleaning out the half-blind dovetails; see how to trim the breadboard tenons; see the Al Breed carving vise in use; look at the incredible precision of that fit.

One of my favorite images was a tall cascade of drawer sides stacked up for cleaning out the dovetails. These are production techniques for precise, efficient work.

For hand tools, they use a mix of top-end Lie-Nielsen and Veritas planes, Japanese dozukis for sawing out dovetails and tenon sides, and humble Irwin blue-handle chisels for chopping out the dovetail waste. It's just a joy to see the planes in the hands of real professionals. Wow, that's how I want my plane to sing!

Not only do these show how to handle the tools, they show the standard of workmanship you can shoot for. I find this both educational and inspiring. I'm not there yet, but it points me down the path.

I posted a couple comments, and the icing on the cake is that Matthew responded, saying he's looked at my site many times and likes the information I post. I was so flattered that someone doing this caliber of work is reading my blog. Thanks, Matthew!

I'm just a hobbyist working my way along through trial and error, sharing what I learn with others. I show both my successes and failures, since I know from forums and comments other hobbyists are dealing with the same things. That includes the occasional bone-headed mistake like misunderstanding how someone sharpens, or sharpening my paring chisels at the same angle as my bench chisels. It's all a learning experience.

These videos kick that learning experience up to level 10. So grab a cup of coffee and check out their YouTube channel for a couple hours of enjoyment. And a huge thanks to Matthew and Moriah for sharing their knowledge with the rest of us.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hollow-Ground DuoSharp Sharpening

Even a hand-cranked grinder makes sparks fly!

In my post and video Single-Bevel DuoSharp Sharpening, I was trying to reproduce the method used by Mark Rhodes, a professional woodworker in the UK. However, I got it wrong. I thought he uses nothing but a single bevel, but he actually hollow-grinds first. So while I was able to get useful results purely with a single-bevel, this corrects that.

The main complaint about strict single-bevel is that, except for Japanese tools which have a softer steel back welded to a hard steel for the edge, it's more time-consuming. In fact, that's why the double-bevel method came about hundreds of years ago. The primary bevel was ground on a grindstone, and the secondary bevel was honed by hand.

Hollow grinding is similar to double-bevel, but has an additional advantage. The grinder removes the bulk of the metal to save time during the honing steps. Then when honing, the two ends of the hollow curve surface form registration points for accurately maintaining the honing angle.

This can produce a flat bevel at the edge comparable to the flat bevel produced with a honing guide. The initial contact points become flats that continue to provide registration over multiple honings before it becomes necessary to re-establish the hollow.

I first saw this method several years ago on an episode of David Marks' TV show Wood Works. He used a hand-crank grinder, followed by honing on waterstones. He had a wooden tool rest that made it easy to maintain the grinding angle.

When I went looking for the Wood Works episode, I couldn't find it, but I did find a reference to Marks using a tool rest from James Krenov's book The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking. Aha! I knew Marks studied under Krenov, and there it was on page 109 of my copy.

I made one with a short surface as he shows for chisels. The only difference was that I mortised out a hole for the clamp, where he just saws a block into a U-shape. Shims under the front edge of the base adjust its angle. It's a little fidgety to adjust and clamp down, and you're setting everything up largely by eye, but it's simple and effective.

The shim under the front edge adjusts the angle of the tool rest.

It's held in place by the clamp.

I made the trough with a round molding plane, though you can also plow out  a square trough.

How to hold the tool on the tool rest. Adjust the shim to produce the desidered grinding angle.

It only took me a few minutes to grind the hollow in the face of the chisel. I used a light touch, and checked it frequently. You may also need to cool it by dipping in water, even with a hand-cranked grinder. Ideally, you only need to grind to within a millimeter of the edge. The reference flats will hone down easily from that.

Similar to the two bevels of a double-bevel chasing each other up and down the face over time, the hollow and the flats will chase each other back and forth over time. Regrind when the two flats are close to joining up into a single flat.

My grinding skills still need practice. I overground one end right out to the edge, so I ground the rest out to make it consistent.

The hollow-ground face.

The key to honing with this method is to rock the edge up and down on the sharpening stone until it "clicks" into place, with the two ends of the hollow grind making even contact. Then hold it in this position while moving the tool sideway up and down the stone.

Mark Rhodes only uses a DMT Red, and sometimes uses a finer stone, then strops. So I used just the Red side of my DuoSharp, followed by a strop. It doesn't take much to hone a flat and produce a burr. I stopped as soon as I had consistent burr along the edge. No need to remove any more metal. That produced a very narrow flat; you may want to have a wider flat, especially if you'll be doing heavy work with the chisel. All it takes is a few mores strokes on the stone.

When stropping, now that I had a dead-flat bevel across the flats, I used a lighter pressure on the face, since I didn't want the flex of the leather surface to round over the edge. People argue over whether that's really a concern or not. I fall on the side of believing it is. When I strop using convex bevel methods, I rely on that flex to make the leather conform to the convexity.

I did about 10 strokes on the face, 10 on the back, then alternately one on each side, twice.

Finding the registration point where the two ends of the hollow contact the stone. Then keep pressure on the end while moving up and down the stone.

The finished edge with a narrow flat that will grow over repeated resharpenings, until it's time to regrind the hollow. The inconsistent flat on the right shows that my grinding still needs work. But it's sufficient to get a sharp edge.

The edge easily passes the paper-cutting test, both along the length, and across it, which is harder because it's across the grain of the paper.

It also takes beautiful fine shavings in white pine end grain.

As with all the other methods I've practiced, I was able to get excellent results. The key lessons to be learned are that there are many ways to sharpen that work well (though people will endlessly debate multiple aspects of each), but that they all take an investment in time and practice. Some may offer quicker success, but it's not that difficult to get them all on par.

I also think that success with one improves your results with others, since you're constantly improving and gaining better overall control. So it's worth circling back and trying some of your earlier methods again.

This completes my obsession with sharpening methods.

For now.

I think.