Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It Is Better To Light One Candle...

...than to sit and curse the darkness.

Well that's so true, but up here in Alaska on the shortest day of the year, with only 5 1/2 hours of sunlight, we like to light more than one.

Here's an easy project that is instantly practical. I made the first three-light holder at my son's request. The four-light was made specifically for Advent. The wood is a 100+ year Doug Fir 2x4 (and a real 2" by 4" too) salvaged from my friend Dave's attic remodel in Cincinnati. It was heavy, and hard as a rock! It was also just right for this project - thanks Dave!

First I transferred the angle for the ends from the original, did the lay-out, and cut the ends:

Then I bored the holes:

I scribed a line in from both sides to create the side bevel:

I wasn't trying to match the angle from the ends, as I think it looks just fine when they are not the same.

I chalked the side for easier visibility and stared hogging off wood with the scrub plane:

I'm not sure why, but the surface looks flat in the photo, but trust me, the scrub was set pretty coarse and the grooves were deep.

Once I got close to my line, I switched to a cambered #6:

The final smoothing was done with a #5 1/4 "junior jack" plane.


With oil and wax and next to the original:

And with flaming wax:

This is a fun project for that special piece of wood you've been hoarding (come on, admit it, we all do it...) that also works fine with a nice chunk of 2x4. It's also a good project for kids.

Have fun and light a candle - or two, or three...

Sunday, December 18, 2011


It's been a fun time in the school shop; we've been making spoons!

The students have been learning how to use gouges, and coping saws. They have also been learning the value of persistence, patience and willpower while sanding, sanding, sanding.

Here is a sampling of the great work being done:

Apologies for the image quality - I only had my phone handy.

Oh, and here's an example of what can be done with the "split top" bench design and student ingenuity:

I love it!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Old Spool Mystery

Here's a bit of a mystery. I picked up this old spool, but I'm not sure how it was used. It has a bit of what looks like green chalk on the line, but it could just be grime. It has about 50 feet of line on it now. The hollow through the axle would most likely be for an awl - used to hold the spool in place while the line was drawn out. It has a great patina and looks like it was turned from maple.

If it was a chalk line, how was the chalk applied? If it wasn't a chalk line, what was it? Any thoughts or ideas?

Sunday, December 4, 2011


For a long while now, I’ve been thinking about all the people, and things, that have helped me on this hand tool woodworking journey I’m taking. What better time to express my thanks than Thanksgiving (or a week or two after Thanksgiving…). So here goes (and please forgive me, but there is no way I can cover it all – this is just the tip of the very large, and growing, iceberg).

My Father

When I was a kid, Dad followed his dream and opened “Jim Klauder & Son’s Country Hardware” and I used to “work” there all the time. I think he told me that he was the President and I was the Treasurer or maybe it was the Secretary. Whatever it was, I was in. I know my love of tools was fostered in that store. Dad also bought a load of old woodworking tools when we were at a Bus Mars* auction up in Vermont. He used them to decorate the walls of the store. Most of those tools were sold when we closed the store after Dad died, but I do have a few out in my shop. Thank You Dad.

*You can count yourself truly blessed if you ever got to see, and hear, Bus Mars in person – he was the best auctioneer that ever lived. The story goes that one time his helpers replaced the next item up for bid with some rocks from the ground outside – just to try to throw the old man off. Without missing a beat, Bus sold them for $20. That’s the story. I saw him. I believe it. Thanks for that too, Dad.

My Brother Jim

Jim is a great carpenter, and I learned a ton by working with him off and on over the years. He taught me: details matter, work hard and be honest, there are no mistakes that can’t be fixed (and you have to fix them), respect your tools, and always clean up when you are done working for the day. Thank You Jim.

My Brother Josh

Josh is responsible for me moving to Alaska, and he promptly put a drawknife in my hand, with which I promptly cut myself. Sometimes that’s how you learn; I’ve never done it since. Josh is also a firm believer and practitioner of the “follow your dream” philosophy, and always comes through with geek support when I need it. Thank You Josh.

Roy Underhill

In October of 2003 I got to spend two days listening to Roy talk about woodworking (and everything else – the guy is amazing). I had recently finished filling my garage shop with all the power tools I could find: band saw, table saw, drill press, router table, jointer, planer, oscillating spindle sander, etc. I did have some hand tools – mostly a couple of planes (see below), but I was at least 80% power oriented. As I sat in that room, and listened to Roy’s philosophy about working with only human powered hand tools, it just resonated with me. It was like waking up from a deep sleep – and asking “What am I doing? And why?” Less than one year later, all the power tools were gone from my shop and I was loving it! So, for teaching me to “Just say no to power tools!”, for your wonderful “Woodwright’s Shop” television program, your fabulous books and for setting me on the road less traveled – Thank You Roy.

Wayne Miller & Badger Pond

I came late to The Pond, only about a year before it shut down, but I spent a lot, a lot, of time lurking there. I don’t think I ever posted (partly too shy, mostly too ignorant) but I swam daily in the shared knowledge of others on the boards. At first it was power tool stuff, but I wandered into Neanderthal territory too. I learned how to fettle a plane there, and thanks to Scary Sharp posts, I learned how to sharpen. One of the things I appreciated most was the safe, positive atmosphere Wayne maintained (“Benevolent Dictator” indeed) at The Pond. For a short while, at a critical time on my woodworking journey, Badger Pond was my main source of learning. Thank You Wayne, and all the Ponders.

Kari Hultman - The Village Carpenter

Kari’s blog was, and is, inspirational. She was always positive and supportive, and that meant a lot to me when I was just getting this blog up and running. Perhaps you’ve noticed that The Village Carpenter link on my blog roll is out of alphabetical order – there’s a reason for that – just a tiny tip of the hat. Thank You Kari.

Bob and Dave Key

Back when I was setting up shop, I knew I needed a workbench, but didn’t know how to go about it. I started reading, in books and on web, and started planning and dreaming and my bench ideas got bigger and bigger, and more and more complex and more and more intimidating. I was just about overwhelmed, when I discovered “Bob and Dave’s Good, Fast and Cheap Bench” web page. What a revelation. I read it and I did it, and although it is far from perfect, I’m still using it and it makes me happy every day. Unfortunately, the full site is gone, but if you do a bit of searching on Google, you can find a link to the bench article that has been preserved (as it should be). For helping me cut through the bewildering amount of information and follow the “keep it simple” path to a perfectly fine workbench – Thank You Bob and Dave.

This Plane

The first plane that I owned that worked. There aren’t a lot of sources up here in Alaska. I was reading about planes on Badger Pond and knew I wanted to use them. I tried Sears – fail! What a hunk of junk that plane was – took it back the next day. I finally found this baby at a “perma-yardsale” site out on the highway. To quote the Boss, “You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright ...” and it worked; shavings! Oh the joy! More! More! Thank You “Westlake, by Stanley” jack plane.


And finally, to the person I am most thankful for, my unbelievably wonderful wife, Celena. She is incredibly patient and supportive – from waiting while I run into countless junk/antique stores because “they look like they might have old tools”, to “I’ll be in just as soon as I finish this next part.”, to waiting months and months (years?) for me to finish projects I promised in weeks (the bed, the floor, the deck, the roof, the kitchen, the wood stove fence and many, many more). For this and so much more – Thank You Celena.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sewing Box Christmas Present

I recently finished this sewing box. It's a Christmas present for my sister-in-law Naomi. It's loosely based on an antique box I saw on the web.

Wait a minute - a Christmas present done already? Why, it's not even December yet! What gives? see...umm...okay - it's a Christmas 2010 present.

But like I said, it's not even December yet...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mystery Mallet With Roy Underhill

What? It's the end of November already! Okay, okay, here's the Mystery Mallet post that was supposed to be up about three weeks ago! Sheesh!

In an effort to actually post this tonight, I'm going to keep the text to a minimum. This class was the Saturday after the Friday dovetail class. It was quite a bit smaller, and more relaxed, for me anyway. It was awesome!

The Mystery Mallet - of myth and legend - dovetailed in all directions, guaranteed to never come apart - or go together...

The beginnings of mine. Roy provided the stock, with the hickory (or was it ash?) handle already turned.

The first through mortise:

The double rising dovetails:

Jonathan, wielding his fantastic Wenzloff tenon saw:

The completed mallet head - bottom view:

And top view:

The Master, fine tuning a handle:

Due to the crazy stresses involved in assembly, clamping the handle to reduce the chance of epic failure is advised:

Layout complete - starting on my handle:

And the handle complete:

Roy, and Scott driving Scott's handle home with his "Osage Commander". His survived and gave hope to all still laboring in fear of heading home with jagged shards in a box as the day's final outcome.

My handle and head ready to go!

Roy giving my work the once over:

A very trusting Woodwright and El Kabong!

Success! Yeah baby!

Mugging in triumph!

The best day in a long, long time!

Oh, and one more shot of the mallet after cleaning it up a bit:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dovetail Class With Roy Underhill

If you've spent much time reading this blog, you've probably figured out how I feel about Roy Underhill and what he does. Just in case you missed it, click here for a brief summary of his impact on my woodworking. That first time was back in 2003. Since then, and especially after he opened his school, I've been dreaming of taking a class from him. But, North Carolina is pretty far from Alaska, and now with two little ones, spending time away is not easy.

But then, last weekend the Alaska Creative Woodworkers Association (ACWA) hosted a fantastic weekend of woodworking with Roy Underhill, in Alaska! Wahoo! Thank You!

I ended up in both the dovetail class and the mystery mallet class, plus I went to Roy's presentation at the University of Alaska. All in all, it was an amazing weekend!

Here's a photo summary of the dovetail class:

The recommended tool kit (of course I took more):

We did through, half-blind, and rising dovetails, but in reverse order of difficulty. So rising came first.

I bought a set of the new Stanley 750 chisels, and was pleasantly surprised at their quality. They don't compare to either Lie Nielsen or originals, but I think they are a good deal for the price.

Yet another awkward work holding challenge solved by a handscrew clamp - with an assist by two Gramercy holdfasts - quiet a team.

The finished joint:

Still another use for the handscrew - it makes a perfect dovetail transfer jig - especially with the holdfast keeping everything still.

My first ever half-blind dovetails. Cool!

Some shots of Roy. Check out his camera tripod!

Hamming it up!


Roy is a great teacher, and it was really fun to spend time with the other woodworkers. Thanks again Roy and ACWA!

I'll post the mallet class next...