Dovetails continued – eventually…

My health hasn’t been up to snuff lately so the shop has been on standby.  Back in July (IIRC), I laid out and sawed the tails to one side of the carcass of my Dutch tool chest.  Yesterday, I got to chop out the waste.  I was afraid, at the time that I’d bungled up cutting near the baseline.  When I went back to them, I was glad to say that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had envisioned.

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Frustratingly, I had to take a rest day today.  Tomorrow I hope to finish paring and get on to the pins.  No wonder it takes me forever to get anything done in the shop!


The Essential Woodworker by Robert Wearing

What he said.


I have spoken quite a bit to anyone that cared to listen about how easily frustrated you can get trying to learn this craft on your own.

I’ve gone on about how what is out there on television, in magazines, and online really assumes someone has some knowledge already, and how there’s a need for material that makes this craft accessible to people that are curious and want to find out if it’s something they’ll enjoy.

Heck, it’s essential for the future of the craft.

Here’s what I wish someone had told me, no later than the second time I went on about this:

“Shut up already and quit your whining. Go buy The Essential Woodworker by Robert Wearing.”

Somewhere yesterday I ran across another accolade for this book, decided I’d heard enough good things, and bought it. I’ve only had time to read through the first twenty pages or…

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East versus West

When I started hand tool woodwork I was convinced that Japanese tools were the answer to my flagging physical strength. I started out with a 6mm nomi and a small ryoba. I struggled.  I couldn’t saw to a line and setting the hoop and sharpening the chisel didn’t turn out just so.

Then I got a Bad Axe hybrid tenon/dovetail saw. It was sharp out of the box and glided through the wood.  Of course the wood was poplar but still…

Over the next few years I learned I could struggle with any tool; I often did. East or west, the tool needed input from the user. I also learned that if I persevered that I could do better.

This was brought into sharper focus today as I worked on roughing out the pieces of my milkman’s workbench.  I worked ripping down the 8/4 cherry I’m using.  I was struggling with my very nice Wenzloff rip panel saw.  I decided to give my larger ryoba a try. It worked quite nicely.

For me, I’m coming to the conclusion that I like both sets of tools depending on which of my muscles are working on a given day.

For everyone else? To quote an old supervisor and mentor: “practice makes better.”  There is no magic tool that will transform us into A world class woodworker; patience and perseverance just might. It will at least help us along the road.


New Project: Milkman’s Workbench

Not long ago I blogged about the backlog of projects I had in my workshop.  I decided to ‘just do it’ to steal a slogan.  My solution – of course – to start a New project.  I got out some 8/4 cherry I had randomly added on to a wood order a while back and started to lay out the pieces for a Milkman’s Workbench.  I don’t drink a lot of milk (nor deliver it) but I guess the current title sounds better than a ‘half-dead old Soldier’s workbench’.

Why did I pick this particular project.  I was reminded of it when I was virtually thumbing through some old Popular Woodworking magazines.  My biggest challenge thus far in my woodworking journey has been work holding.  I’ve managed to kludge together solutions ranging from a workmate to a Moxon style vise.  I’ve employed my commercial workbench thus far but I’ve been hesitant to drill holes into it.  I want to return it to it’s original general garage/auto purpose without looking like Swiss cheese.

And thus enters my newest project.  A bench I can clamp onto my other bench and have all the luxuries (I hope) of a ‘real’ bench.

Here’s a Link to Christopher Schwarz’ blog entry about it…


‘If I finish it will be wrong’ syndrome

It’s been a while since I’ve been out to my workbench (more on that in a different entry).  I went out to dust off my tools and straighten up in preparation for what i hope would be an imminent return to working at it.  What I discovered was a few projects in various states of completion.  It’s then that I self-diagnosed a serious complex – with no respects to the DSM I call it ‘if I finish it will be wrong’ syndrome.

I figure it must be a corollary condition to perfectionism.  I peer over the stacked and leaned bits of a shaker table.  All the pieces aside from the drawer are at least roughed dimensioned.  The top is glued up, flattened, and basically ready to be put in place.  Aye and there’s the rub.  It’s not perfect.  It’s a little smaller than I intended – due to that perfectionism thing.  Every time I look at it I see imperfection so there it sits.

The there’s the Dutch chest.  The sides and bottom are ready to be dovetailed.  I cut the dovetails on the first side – my first dovetails ever.  But – yes you guessed it – they weren’t perfect.  I cut them fine – so I believe – but when I went to chisel out the waste I was a bit aggressive.  So it was set aside as I pondered whether to cut them off and try again.  What exactly is the record for the shortest dutch chest anyway?

So there you have it – my neuroses laid bare.  I know the cure – just do it.  If you see completed projects here in the future you’ll know that I conquered them.  If you see me advertising firewood here (or the worlds shortest Dutch chest) then you’ll know I still have work to do on it.


Tools to Make the Anarchist’s Tool Chest

I’m building a Dutch chest now but I want to build one of these someday too.

Lost Art Press


The following is a list I should have made four years ago when I first started teaching people how to build the full-size tool chest in “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.”

Apologies for the delay.

Here are the tools you need.

Dovetailing Equipment
Dovetail saw (15 point or coarser)
Cutting gauge, such as the Tite-Mark
Mechanical pencil
Dovetail layout square (Or a bevel gauge and smallish try square)
Coping saw with several blades (coarse blades, 12 tpi or so)
1/2” bevel-edge chisel
Mallet (I like a 16 oz. model)
Two pair of small dividers

One bench plane, such as a jack, jointer or smoother
Block plane
Rabbet plane or shoulder plane (if you have one)
If you have a tongue-and-groove plane (or match planes), use them
Beading plane (1/8”, 3/16” or 1/4”)
Plow plane with 1/4” cutter

Nailing equipment
Hand drill
Variety of small bits (1/16” up to…

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