28 December 2023

Update on Tools I’m Using (been a while since I blogged) & later 2023/early 2024 Shop Layout

 When I started blogging again in 2020, I was using my work computer as my home computer was non-operational.  Recently work appropriately increased security on the computers (which I fully endorse) so that I can no longer upload photos from that computer onto my blog.  I received a Mac air iPad which is replacing the one I had been using since 2012 which really couldn’t do much.  As such, I can blog again.  And yes, buying a piece of computer stuff drives me bonkers because in 10 years or less it won’t work and need replacing unlikely my 100 year old hand tools.  I choose to stay connected so I grit my teeth and hence the new gift.

About 6 months ago, I decided I would replace some of my premium daily users and try vintage stuff to see what it was like.  As I made some changes to my daily use based on hands on experience I thought I would blog about it.  Bottom line, keeping some vintage for daily use and going back to original tools I owned on others.  I will break down categories below.  Before I do so, since it’s basically, 2024, the first three photos are what my shop looks like today and how I work.  It doesn’t change that much year over year but I like to document it so, say in a decade I can see what slow evaluation looks like.

Hand planes

I had put down my No 3 and No 5 Lie Nielsens (LN) for vintage Stanleys.  Not quite sure of years and all that but likely from 20s and 30s.  I really liked the No 5 vintage and its lighter weight so I am keeping it in daily use and keeping the LN No 5 in a tool chest.  The No 3 vintage, needs a bit more fettling as shavings weren’t comming quite properly out of it.  Likely a simple issue (either iron cap too close to blade or throat too tight).  Haven’t gotten around to it so I have pulled out the LN No 3 in the meantime.  Very good chance the vintage No 3 will ba a daily user after I fiddle with it a bit.  My other daily users are a vintage scrub, No 4 craftsman brand with highly cambered blade (and is my most favorite tool) and. LN No 4-1/2 with a 55 degree frog in case wood is having tear out issues.


I quite like the boxwood handled Marples chisels.  They preformed just as well as my premium LN.  I am switching back to my LN chisels.  Why?  Just have been using them longer and want to use what is most familiar.  No noticeable performance difference between the two.


Quite a few so let me go through them.  The vintage panel and rip cut saws work just fine.  Will be using my LN rip and panel more often because they are lighter than the vintage ones.  However, will be keeping vintage rip and cross cut panels out so I can use them from time to time as well.

As for my dovetail saw, at one point I really needed to make some critical saw cuts.  When that happened, I reached for my LN.  Nothing wrong with the 130 year old vintage tool.  Again, an issue of familiarity.  I had been using the LN dovetail saw for nearly 10 years and am happy and very confident (not saying my work reflects that).  As such, I want to keep using my LN.  Had I started with a different dovetail saw first, that is likely what I would have gone back to.

Fine joinery cross cut saw.  I didn’t care for my vintage one (maybe needs more set but all vintage saws were sent out to be professionally sharpened and set) and I don’t care for the LN cross cut joinery saw.  What I want is a LN cross cut saw that is the same dimensions as my LN dovetail saw (harkens to that familiarity thing).  At some point, I will get another LN dovetail saw and have it professionally sharpened for cross cut.  Not an issue as I have a Veritas cross cut of similar size to the LN.  I just don’t like the looks of it and prefer the classic materials.

All in all this was a good problem to have.  I have back up tools and in many cases am 3 deep in any critical tool.  Not planning to sell anything.  Just put them in a tool chest.  Every now and then, I do take them out for a spin.  Some tools I prefer are vintage and some I prefer are just based on what I have been using.  The quality of my work isn’t dictated by the tool I use as my skill is the limiting factor for sure.  Over time, in theory, my skill will get better.  Another good problem.

08 December 2023

Thinking Odd Even for Socialization in 2024

 Based on what I know about myself and the Myers-Briggs tests (three times taken), I am only slightly extroverted.  As such, fine at work but enjoy my respite at home.  Too much socialization drains me. . Covid was no doubt a sad event and many lives lost.  If there was an upside from this misery, it was the amount of time I was able to spend at home without any commitment to go anywhere.  About three months into Covid, I got past the complete fear and was able to be productive.  I read a lot, woodworked a ton more, and got a lot of sleep.  It was very nice.

The world is back to normal, more or less.  I do enjoy seeing some friends, doing some volunteer work, etc.  However, I am feeling drained again not recharging.  It doesn't help that Nov and Dec are busy social months.  It not just a woodworking thing.  I'm thinking in 2024 to got to an odd even system.  Odd months, I say no to all social commitments and basically stay at home outside of the days I need to go to work and the one night I teach at a local college.  Even months, I say yes to most socialization things.

I'm hoping this helps bring some balance back to my life.  I don't want another pandemic but I want to feel more recharged.  Ever since I've know my brother-in-law, he doesn't go anywhere on Sundays.  If we want to see him, we go to his house.  I think I'm starting to understand why.

We will see how it goes.

16 September 2023

PTSWW ATC Class Summer 2024 by Megan Fitzpatrick

 I just signed up to take a class at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking in the summer of 2024.  I will be taking the Anarchist Tool Chest class from Megan Fitzpatrick in Jun.  I am very very excited about this.  To understand why is a bit of a backstory.

Firstly, it was a combination of the ATC book and Paul Sellers videos back in 2013/2014 that convinced me I wanted to woodwork with hand tools.  I had just remodeled my garage and was saving up to buy machines.  Naively (or sleep deprived from my young child), I though the ATC would help me understand what machines I needed. to buy.  As such, that tool chest book and that tool chest in particular has had a warm spot in my hard.  So much so, that in Dec 2019, I had signed up to take the ATC class from Megan Fitzpatrick in the summer of 2020.  We all know how 2020 turned out.  To PTSWW credit, they were excellent at making a refund (wish I could say the same for the airline we had purchased tickets from in Dec 2019 to go to Italy in fall of 2020).  

I did make it to PTSWW summer 2022 (Laura Mays small dovetailed boxes) but I still wanted to take the ATC class.  In fact, shortly after I signed up for ATC class, I made a mid-sized Japanese carpenters tool box to take own tools for the class.  Wasn't really necessary to do as PTSWW provides all the tools.  Yet, I wanted to use my own tools.  In fact, I ended up making later on a mini-ATC (half size dimensions approx from what book uses) just to make an ATC of some kind.  I like the mini-ATC I made but it's a little tight for tools so the one I will be making at PTSWW will be bigger and better suited for traveling.  I can't wait.

If you are on the fence of going yourselves, the Port Townsend School of Woodworking and the town of Port Townsend itself are absolutely amazing places.  I used to live in WA state 2000-2004 and made many trips to Port Townsend because I liked it so much there.  There is a very good chance I may retire there; having a woodworking school where I can take classes/maybe work part time is just icing on the cake.

09 September 2023

Preliminary Feedback on Vintage Tools and Raised Bench

 I've been using my 41" high bench and vintage tools for about two months.  Still a very short time and not ready to make any long term conclusions.  I do like the height on the workbench for layout, breaking down stock, and housing dados.  I have found the height to require more effort for my hand planes which isn't surprising given I can't get as much lower body into.  I do like my vintage chisels.  I can't tell you if they hold the edge as long as my Lie Nielsens do because I tend to sharpen frequently as a matter of habit.  I do like my No 5 vintage hand plane.  The No 3 vintage hasn't worked as well and I think I have the mouth too tight so I will get around to adjusting that.  The large vintage saws are noticeably heavier than my Lie Nielsen hand saws - don't like this as of now but need to spend more time using them.  Haven't used the vintage dovetail saw yet so how I really feel about that remains to be seen.

Long term, I will likely get another bench in the shop that is lower around 36" (target will be 4 hand spans).  Jim Toplin and Geroge Walker talk a lot about hand spans as a measuring tool and I really think they are correct.  In fact, Toplin has an awesome YouTube video on the topic https://youtu.be/bBS5-AV81lg?si=pHLwEbHWH4s2IQ0O  Toplin talks about 4, 5, 6 hand spans as the three ideal heights to have.  Four hand spans for hand planing stock; 5 hand spans for layout and much of the joinery work, and 6 hand spans for dovetails and really fine work.

My current workbench turns out to be 5 handspans (which I was happy to see).  I have a kit for a Moxon vise and that will get me to 6 hand spans.  Thus, I need another bench to be 4 hand spans.  Could either take my current bench off of its elevations or make a shorter bench.  Not sure when I will get around to making that bench.  As for the moxon vise, I have the hardware and will likely make the vise in about 2 to 3 months.  The current Becksvoort's 15 drawer chest will require lots of dovetail work so it makes sense to make it for that project.  Just need to decide what wood to use.  A good problem.  Poplar is a likely choice.  I will go to my lumber store and see what they have and see what else I can get for the same price as poplar and then make a decision.  All good problem.s

02 September 2023

Finally Using My Lie Nielsen No 98 & 99 Housing Dado End Grain Trimmers

 I bought these two specialty planes 4 or 5 years ago at a Lie Nielsen tool event.  In that time, I've had used them twice.  Given Lie Nielsen had stopped production, they had risen to about $600 for the pair on the used market.  I was tempted to sell them as I rarely used them.  However, I thought they might come in handy at some point because I do make a fair bit of housing dados by hand.  As such, I kept them.  Well, Becksvoort's 15 drawer chest is the project where they have come in really handy.  I have total of 30 housing dados I need to make for this project - long ones about 12" each.  

Each piece needs to be fitted into these housing dados.  They were all too tight after cutting the dado so I had to either trim the dado or slightly chamfer the end of the board going into the housing dado.  Normally, I just put the slight chamfer on the piece.  For this project, after doing what I normally do, I broke out the LN 98 and 99.  It worked well and I felt I had more control on sneaking up to a tight fit vs. the other method I typically use.  I will be using these planes more.  Still a specialty tool but handy when needed.

The only challenge is that if the brass shoe makes contact with the wood surface, it mars it.  That's why I didn't use them initially.  If I raise the shoe up, I can get a mar free surface which is important on a cabinet where the inside face can be seen.  On this piece, the inside will never really be seen as there are drawers.  As such, I've mostly left the shoe down.  All good problems.  Hopefully this weekend or next I will have all the dados done so I can move onto the dovetails for the top.  We shall see.  Trying to do more than just woodwork all the time.  Won't stress either way on the progress if it is slow.  This is a hobby and it is supposed to be enjoyable.

31 August 2023

360" of housing dados in progress by hand tools for Becksvoort's 15 drawer chest

 Little by little (summer has other obligations) I've been working on Beckvoort's 15 drawer chest.  From a construction perspective, it contains a lot of housing dados.  I sat down and added them up and came up with a total of 360".  That's 30 feet!  I like making housing dados by hand with a chisel & mallet and then a router hand plane to get the bottom flat.  I am keeping track of the hours so I will have an update when it is done.  The dado's are 1/2" wide by 1/4" deep.  I say half inch wide but I custom fit the width to the specific piece so it is a tight fit.

One of the side boards developed a bow while cutting the dados.  It's most likely due to some stresses in the wood.  Wood is organic and it can move.  The bow is 5/32" over four feet.  I am almost certain I will be able to clamp it out.  I am not worried about it.  A few years back, I would have been.  I guess I've just done enough bigger things at this point and have a feeling what can and can't be tolerated.  We shall see on the dry clamping.  If it doesn't clamp out, I will deal with it then.  All of the layout was done prior to the bow so that is working in my favor.

In Becksvoort's piece (image of final piece from the Becksvoort's Lost Art Press book Shaker Inspiration - well worth purchasing in my opinion), he uses sliding dovetails.  I'm guessing since the sliding dovetails are on both sides, it was likely done with a machine router.  I don't own one and I haven't yet practiced making sliding dovetails by hand.  I didn't want this to be the piece to practice this on.  As such, to add some mechanical permeance to the side joinery to the bottom and midway through, I am using a through wedged tenon.  I like this joint and have used it on the back of drawers.  I don't need to worry about the top as this is dovetailed in and as such is not as reliant on glue.  I am sure the glue would be more than adequate.  However, I do like to have some joinery that is mechanical in nature so that when the glue fails in 200 years, something else is keeping it together.

Little by little I am getting there.  Given the number of pieces to be involved in the glue up of the case, I will likely do it stepwise rather than all at once (too stressful).  I've been thinking my way through how to do it best.  By best I mean easy.  Given I am a hobbyist, speed of glue up isn't important.  If it takes me a week (or even two) to get the carcass glued up, it doesn't matter.  I'm at least two months out if I had to guess before I will get there.  Lots of other things to do other than housing dados before I can glue up the case.  I am very much enjoying this build.  Wish I could spend a bit more time on it each week but am balancing all the other responsibilities in my life.  All good problems.

12 August 2023

What's Old is New Again - Transitioning from Premium to Vintage Tools

 When I started woodworking in 2016, I really knew very little and lacked a lot of confidence.  Yet, money was tight as well.  I didn't want to use vintage tools as they might have needed to be tuned up and I simply had not idea how to do that.  I wanted tools that would work so if there was an issue, it was me and not the tool.  I decided to go with vintage tools and sold my beloved 1990 5.0 L 5 speed LX Mustang to make it happen.  

LieNielsen once a year comes to the San Francisco Bay Area and puts on a tool show and has other vendors.  What I really like is that the instructors there, from and hired by Lie Nielsen, don't push the tools.  They let you use them and answer any questions you have.  As such, there is a lot of teaching at these events.  The byproduct is that folks but tools.  I left with a solid set of tools the first year.  I confirmed I really wanted to woodwork as much as I thought I did.  I went back in subsequent years and have bought more tools.  Their tools work well and I was happy I was woodworking.  

So why, 7 years into woodworking am I changing?  It all has to do this inexpensive No 4 Craftsman plane I bought from Hyperkitten about 3 years (dates are a bit fuzzy in my mind) into my woodworking.  I put it on a shelf and six months or a year later I finally got around to getting it ready for use.  It cost $25 or $30 and it looked like it was basically never used.  The plan was to camber the blade to use it as the initial plane to remove the bulk of the wood and then use the LieNielsen tools.  By doing this, I could preserve the sharpness of the planes that take the final shavings.

I did this (and still do this) approach.  It works well.  As such, the lowly No 4 Craftsman plane has touched just about every project.  Also, it probably gets more use in my hand that my other planes.  At some point, due to frequent use, I started to like this Craftsman No 4.  It went from like to love to it being my favorite hand plane.  If the garage were on fire and I could only grab one hand tool, this Craftsman No 4 would be it.  I'm quite serious about this.  Some of the things I became to like was its lighter weight than my premium planes.  I liked the simply O1 tool steel and thinner blade.  The plane worked very well.  As best I can tell, just as well as my premium hand planes.  I mean this.  Oh, no doubt the Lie Nielsen is more refined and has tighter tolerances.  However, the shavings and surface on the wood is the same for both. 

This has gotten me to think, if I like this vintage plane so much, how about other vintage tools?  Well, over the years, between HyperKitten (best place I think to buy good user tools), Jim Bode, Timeless Tools and Treasures, and EBay, I have built up a collection of vintage tools.  I'm not sure why I bought them (other than to have them) as at the time I had no intention of using them.  If some of the greatest furniture ever has been made with vintage tools, what would I discover by using them myself.  So, I have decided to use vintage tools. How vintage is vintage?  

I'm going to go with what I have right now.  The Stanley hand planes and the Marple chisels are likely 1930s (a guess as I'm not an expert).  As for the saws, the Disson dovetail saw is from 1850 and the others are in the range of 70 to 100 years old.  I prepared the backside and sharpened the chisels.  I took apart the No 5 and No 3 hand planes, flattened the soles, flattened the back of the blade and sharpened it.  I prefer using my No 4 Craftsman with a highly cambered blande, then No 5 to get all straight then No 3 to smooth.  As for the hand saws, Tim Plavin for reasonable fees sharpened and set up the ones I had and purchased some other vintage ones I needed.

I'm all set and have started using these tools.  No, I'm not selling my LieNielsens as I like them.  Also, I'm not replacing everything I have as that would be expensive.  Over time, maybe a switch to woodie hand planes, maybe I stick with the vintage ones I have, maybe I go back to the LieNielsens.  For now, I just want to use the vintage ones I have and see what I think about them.  So far, I like them but I will use them for a year or two and then see what I think.  That Craftsman No 4 didn't win me overnight and I want time to see what I think of these.  I'm guessing I will probably like them very much.