Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event At CVSW

People examining the full line of Lie-Nielsen tools.

Last Friday and Saturday I participated in the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, representing the Society of American Period Furniture Makers. These events are a chance for people to see the full line of Lie-Nielsen tools, try them out, and talk to LN staff about how to use them.

CVSW is a fantastic venue. It's huge, located in a warehouse-sized space behind the Manchester, CT, Woodcraft store. Founder and director Bob Van Dyke teaches and hosts a number of different instructors for classes at all skill levels, using both power and hand tools. This is where SAPFM New England Chapter Coordinator Freddy Roman got his start.

Guest instructors on the schedule for the next year include well-known names like former Popular Woodworking Magazine editor Chris Schwarz, furniture-makers Steve Latta and Will Neptune, carver Mary May, chairmaker Peter Galbert, SAPFM co-founder Mickey Callahan, Fine Woodworking Art Director Mike Pekovich, and 17th-century furniture-maker Peter Follansbee, as well as up-and-coming people like planemaker Matt Bickford and handsaw expert Matt Cianci. The range of skills, techniques, and styles offers tremendous opportunity for students.

Bob also keeps great music going in the background. I told him it had been years since I heard Robin Trower!

Bob Van Dyke working on sand-shaded fan inlay for a Federal-style table.

Bob's workbench with Federal-style legs with inlaid stringing, pan of sand on hot-plate for sand-shading, and raised mini-bench at upper right.

One of the really nice things that Lie-Nielsen does at these events is bring in a number of people who are hand tool woodworkers or have their own small businesses making hand tools and related items.
  • Freddy Roman worked on inlaying a set of walnut table legs.
  • Peter Follansbee worked on building a joined stool from freshly riven oak, like the one in the new book he co-authored with Jennie Alexander, Make a Joint Stool From a Tree.
  • Tico Vogt of Vogt Toolworks demonstrated his Super Chute 2.0 shooting board.
  • Matt Bickford demonstrated the magnificent wooden moulding planes he makes. I had him autograph my copy of his new book Mouldings in Practice.
  • Joshua Clark of Hyperkitten Tools had antique tools for sale.
  • Matt Cianci had handsaws for sale.
  • Peter Galbert and North Bennet St. School graduate Claire Minihan demonstrated chair-making techniques. He was taking orders for his travishers and had several for people to try. Claire works for Peter making them; these were amazing, excavating a pine chair seat so fast there's hardly need for an adze or in-shave. Shavings just shoot out the back as you work. Peter's blog is full of information and great videos that helped me with my turning skills. In fact, I just now had a "Holy crap!" moment watching this one; I had to run downstairs to the workshop for a few minutes to try out my wooden spokeshaves that I've been struggling with. Thanks, Peter!
  • Will Neptune came on Saturday, demonstrating carving on turnings.
Hot off the press: Will Neptune was just announced as the SAPFM 2013 Cartouche Award Winner. Congratulations, Will!

Peter Galbert also deserves a special mention because he's featured in Jonathan Binzen's monthly profile on the back of the current issue of Fine Woodworking ("Tools and Shops Annual Issue", Winter 2012/13 No. 230). There's an accompanying audio slideshow in FW's extras. Congratulations, Peter!

Peter Follansbee and Matt Cianci were only there Friday, but I forgot to get pictures that day. Peter wasn't on the list of demonstrators at the LN website, so I didn't bring my copy of his book for him to autograph. Next time!

I spent the two days telling people about SAPFM and demonstrating techniques like sharpening, dovetailing, and using planes and spokeshaves. As always, my LN Brian Boggs spokeshave is a great tool to engage people and have them try. It's just a joy to use. I had my portable sharpening station with me, which a number of people liked.

I also started work on the door for a small cherry hanging cabinet, so I demonstrated how to raise the panel with #5 plane with cambered iron, #10 rabbet plane, and shoulder plane. The door will be like the one I made this summer in the class I took at LN with Roy Underhill. This is a great demonstration project because it's small and portable, yet encompasses a lot of different skills, from raw stock preparation to mortise and tenon and dovetail joints along with the panel-raising.

A couple of people who I've given private home classes to came by to say hi, Larry Ciccolo and Rick Roberts, as did hand plane doctor Bill Rittner, whom I had met at Rick's. Late Saturday Rob Porcaro of the Heartwood blog introduced himself and had some very nice things to say about my blog. He asked if I ever sleep! Yes, occasionally.

Freddy Roman unwrapping some of the inlay pieces he's using to decorate a set of table legs.

Will Neptune, Freddy's shop partner, demonstrating carving on turnings.

Matt Bickford talking about moulding planes.

Peter Galbert turning chair parts.

Peter with his beautiful and amazingly comfortable Windsor chair made out of walnut.

Claire Minihan makes Peter's travishers. These things are a dream to use.

Tico Vogt talking about his Super Chute 2.0 shooting board.

Joshua Clark with his array of antique hand tools for sale.

The progress I made on the cherry cabinet door, starting from the rough board on the bottom. The piece of scrap on top is my story stick, where I laid out all the door joinery.

I got a fair amount of work done on my cabinet project in between talking and demonstrating other things. I dimensioned the door parts from rough board, raised the panel, and completed one stile mortise. I worked up a sweat planing, but I just love working with cherry. It's gorgeous with the grain flashing in the light, leaving a magnificent surface from the plane, and shapes with incredibly crisp edges.

I'd like to thank Deneb Puchalski of Lie-Nielsen and Bob Van Dyke for letting me participate. November 30 and December 1, I'll be representing SAPFM again at the LN Hand Tool Event at the Furniture Institute of Massachusetts. If you get a chance, come out, say hi, and try out some of the finest hand tools on the planet.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Resawing By Hand

Resawing is the technique of ripping boards across their width to make thinner boards. It's useful for making things like drawer sides, box dividers, custom veneers, or slices for bent wood laminations. This is the alternative to planing thicker stock down, which wastes a lot of wood.

This past February I gave a demo on resawing by hand at WoodExpo in Boston, which Justin DiPalma recorded on video. I've edited the raw video down to the interesting parts for The Furniture Project website (recall that WoodExpo is now The Furniture Project).

Here it is on YouTube:

Below are photos from the video. There are three examples of resawing, with both soft and hard woods:
  • resawing a 14" piece of construction-grade 2x6 with a full-size ripsaw;
  • resawing a 5" piece of pine 1x4 into a very thin slice with a Japanese ryoba;
  • resawing an 8" piece of oak 1x4 with the ripsaw.
These pieces took 10.5, 3.5, and 10.5 minutes to do.

First piece, 2x6 with ripsaw. From left: my 26", 6 TPI ripsaw; starting the resaw; progress after flipping the piece a couple times.

About halfway through; down the length to the far corner; opening it up to check the cut surface after doing the other end.

Resawing by hand is definitely work, probably the most laborious operation you can do, so pace yourself and take breaks. But the point is, it's not that hard, it's definitely doable, and it gives you a lot of freedom, because it allows you to work in any thickness. The technique isn't complex, just time-consuming (10 and half minutes to resaw a 14" length of 2x6). It's really just heavy ripping.

You should take 10 minutes to sharpen your saw before any major resawing, then wax it to minimize friction. You should also minimize the amount of wood you're resawing by cutting the stock down to close rough width and length first.

The resulting resawn surface may be pretty rough, but it cleans up quickly with planes. Just be sure to leave enough margin when you mark out the thickness you'll be cutting to allow for that.

As you get better, you'll be able to get multiple slices out of the same piece should you need to do so. That's why I demonstrated the ryoba; I can get 5 slices out of a 3/4" thickness of wood.

Just remember that the bigger piece, the more challenging, and the more chance of things going wrong (like when I tried to resaw a 12" wide piece of mahogany; the saw bowed inside the cut and eventually cut through the middle of the surface). Try some different sizes and different species to learn your limits.

Second piece, pine 1x4. Starting in with the ryoba; halfway after flipping a couple times; comparing the two thicknesses.

Third piece, oak 1x4. Making a starter kerf with a backsaw; working on the second corner; down the length; about halfway through.

To resaw a piece, mark the edge all around, leaving adequate margin in the thickness for cleanup. Start at an angle on a corner, like you're sawing out a tenon cheek; sometimes it helps to make a small starter cut with a backsaw. You can either saw this corner all the way down until you reach the adjacent corner, or just saw down halfway to it, depending on how heavy the going is. Then flip the board and work from that corner.

Once you've made good progress on the second corner, flip the board again and do more from the other side. Do this repeatedly until you pass the halfway point of the length. Then you can switch the board end for end and repeat the process on those corners. Eventually it all meets in the middle.

You'll notice a couple of things. First, every time you start in from an edge, you're cutting a small triangular corner that grows in size and difficulty as you reach the other edge. Second, the existing kerf where you've already cut guides the saw, helping keep it straight.

More frequent flipping makes it easier and keeps it more accurate. If you find it getting off track, flip it immediately and start from the other edge, but pay attention to the exit of the saw. If it's still getting off track, switch to the other end. This gives you a couple of chances to recover from mistakes.

You can also raise and lower the angle of the saw as you work to change how it's cutting. Experiment with it. Lower it all the way to extend the kerf along the length so you can reach the far end. That then creates a starter kerf for working on that end.

This isn't something you'll want to do a lot of, but it's a very valuable skill. You're no longer limited by the thickness of the available stock, and you don't need to waste large amounts of wood planing down for thin pieces.

Monday, October 1, 2012

With Phil Lowe At Topsfield Fair

Phil Lowe hands out fresh spiral shavings to passers-by. Dana Smith gets ready to help out for the evening inside the booth.

This weekend I had the privilege of helping Phil Lowe promote his Furniture Institute of Massachusetts at the Topsfield Fair, in Topsfield, MA. Begun in 1818, Topsfield is the oldest agricultural county fair in the country.

It's a typical county fair, with agricultural displays, arts and crafts, rides, small business vendors, and food vendors. Lots of food vendors! It runs through October 8. Phil's booth is located on a small loop with other craftsmen near the Kiddieland.

Prior to opening the Institute, Phil was an instructor at Boston's North Bennett St. School from 1975 to 1985, the last 5 years as head of the furniture-making program. He's been a contributor to Fine Woodworking magazine for most of its history. In 2005, he was awarded the Society of American Period Furniture Maker's Cartouche Award.

I consider him one of my true woodworking heroes. Helping out at the fair was my way of paying back for the all the knowledge I've gained from his articles and videos.

The weather was damp and gray. Back when I was a Scoutmaster with my son's Boy Scout troop, this was typical Fall camping weather (where the boys would tell you it rained 25 hours a day). Fortunately the light rain tapered off by the time we had the booth set up Saturday morning, so we pulled the workbench out front.

Phil clamped an 8' pine 1x8 in the vise and started planing full-length curls off the edge with a wooden coffin smoother (notice the board has been somewhat reduced by the end of the day in the photo above). He also had a wooden jointer and a Stanley #4 of about World War I vintage with a Hock iron.

As people walked by he offered them shavings to drape around their necks or over their heads. The kids played with the tight curls like wooden Slinkies.

I clamped a small piece to the corner of the bench and started working on it with my Lie-Nielsen spokeshave. As people stopped to watch, I asked them if they'd like to try it. Most did, men, women, boys and girls as young as 4 or 5. Phil was a little worried about someone dropping my expensive spokeshave, but I want people to see what top quality tools feel like.

A well-tuned spokeshave is highly addictive. It works so easily and leaves such a smooth surface. I explained about using it for curved work, while the planes make things flat and straight. I also showed people how to skew it and produce little corkscrew shavings. While some took just a few passes with it, many kept at it, fascinated.

I also clamped a couple pieces to the opposite corner and set out my Spofford brace with a half-inch bit. I like to tell people about the history of the brace, which has a patent date of 1859 and is marked "Fray and Pigg". Since Messrs. Fray and Pigg parted ways in 1869, that dates the brace to a 10-year window. It might have been around when Lincoln was president.

It still works beautifully, my favorite work brace. I had them drill holes with it, not putting any pressure on the pad and observing how the lead screw pulled it into the wood.

When one is at the fair, one must eat fair food. Mmmmm, jalapeƱos on spiral potato chip fries, with sour cream, cheese, and bacon bits! Wilbur Pan assures me via Twitter there's vitamin C in those potatoes, so this is healthy. Just visible above the plate is my copy of the September/October 1983 Fine Woodworking, with Phil's article on making cabriole legs.

After lunch, while Phil worked on a chest of drawers he's building inside the booth, I picked up the planes and continued to make shavings. When people stopped to watch, I asked them if they'd like to make their own.

I showed dozens of people how to grip the various planes and guide them along the edge with their fingers down the length of the board. Most were able to get a decent shaving within a couple tries.

For the kids who were too short to get over the tool, I pulled it from the front. That worked especially well with the wooden jointer, half as big as they were. Then I would have them try the spokeshave and brace. When a good crowd built around the workbench, there was activity on three sides.

All of this was a great way to engage people and tell them about the Institute. Many were just having fun as they passed by with their families, but a number looked more closely at the sample work and picked up fliers. I had several in-depth conversations with quick impromptu lessons.

In addition to full-time programs, Phil offers weekend and weeknight sessions. He covers the full range from hobbyists with limited time to people looking for career training, from beginner to advanced. The Institute is state-licensed and approved for veterans GI Bill.

Whenever someone says they can't do it, I tell them it's like learning to play a musical instrument. You don't try to play Mozart right off, you learn the techniques and practice to develop the skills.

Throughout the day, we had a young visitor who really loved the spokeshave, six-year-old Julian. His mother was one of the blacksmiths at the nearby Prospect Hill Forge booth. In between other people trying it, he spent about an hour working the piece of pine I had setup down to almost nothing.

I set him up another piece, and he said he wanted to make a chair leg (Phil had a number of leg samples set out, in additional to the frame for an upholstered chair). So he spent the rest of the day shaping it and showing other kids how to use the spokeshave. I love seeing kids get fired up like that.

I headed home at 5 after Dana Smith arrived to help Phil for the evening.

Sunday it rained all morning, so I asked at the Forge booth if we could set up the bench under their side overhang. Meanwhile, I had a surprise for Julian. I had cleaned up a Stanley #51 spokeshave of 1920's vintage that I had gotten at the Nashua tool auction for $12. After checking with his mother first, I gave it to him and went over the rules:
  1. Use it only with Mom's permission.
  2. It's not a toy.
  3. Don't let your friends play with it.
  4. Don't touch the sharp part.
He was ecstatic, and immediately went to work on his second chair leg.

Julian pumps the air supply for the forge while the blacksmith heats a piece. By the time this kid is 16, he'll be able to make anything. Anything!

Julian puts his new spokeshave to work.

Several of Phil's instructors and students had pieces in the Coolidge Hall arts and crafts displays. You can see the type of work people learn to do at the Institute. It's just magnificent, covering a range of styles.

Dresser by Freddy Roman. You can read a profile of Freddy here.

Side chair by John Cameron.

Side table by John Cameron.

Table by Art Keenan.

Side table by Brian Days.

Cabinet by Art Keenan.

Corner chair and dressing table by Brian Days and dining chair by Art Keenan.

Nightstand by Mike Fossey.

Shaving stand by Art Keenan.

Once the rain stopped, we pulled the workbench back out. One of Phil's students, TC Mannetta, arrived to help out for the afternoon. He told me he reads the blog and had some very nice things to say about it. He said he had never used a wooden handplane, so I gave him a quick lesson.

The large wooden jointer is a bit awkward at first due to its different shape and balance, but you get used to it after a few passes. Once TC got it down, I showed him how to withdraw and set the iron with a plane hammer to adjust the shaving. We took turns the rest of the day showing people how to use it.

At one point, a gentleman wearing a Wooden Boat cap stopped to watch. I asked him if he was a boat-builder. He said he had built one, but he was really having trouble sharpening his chisels.

So I pulled out my portable sharpening station and an old chisel I got at Nashua and gave a quick lesson on double-bevel oilstone sharpening. However, I told him Phil uses a hollow-ground/waterstone sharpening method, so we would have to fight it out. In a few minutes I had the chisel taking nice end-grain shavings on the pine.

While Phil talks to someone at left, TC Mannetta takes a shaving with the wooden jointer, and a young lady works a curve with the spokeshave.

Another young man uses the spokeshave while Phil works on decorative elements for a dresser and TC adds to the pile of shavings.

I'll be back at FIM November 30 and December 1 demonstrating at the free Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event. Stop by and meet Phil, see the Institute, and try out the full line of Lie-Nielsen tools, which will be available for sale or order. You can read about last year's Hand Tool Event at FIM here.