WIA Pasadena Wrap-Up

I decided to go to WIA West this year to attend some talks and to meet some of the people I’ve chatted with over the last few years. It was great meeting all of you (you know who you are) and I hope to see you again sometime!

One of the first things I had a look at was Michel Auriou hand-stitching rasps at the Lie-Nielsen exhibit:

Watching him do it in person is remarkable. You get mesmerized at the pace he sets when punching the teeth.

One of the highlights for me was one you might not expect from someone who doesn’t do any carving and has no real plans to start–Mary May‘s Acanthus leaf-carving demonstration. I’d seen her do this as Roy Underhill’s guest on The Woodwright’s Shop, but seeing it in person was something else altogether.

I can’t really put my finger on why I find this so fascinating.

Of course, speaking of The Woodwright’s Shop, I went to St. Roy’s talks. Now that guy has charisma. For some reason, I didn’t get a photo op with him.

Speaking of wild stuff, here’s a bentwood lamination clamped up in a jig from David Marks‘ talk:

You can never have too many clamps.

And yes, I did two of the events in the Hand Tool Olympics. I did the dovetail faster than I expected I would–something around 10-12 minutes, if I recall. I generally don’t do so well when I’m being watched, but luckily, when I started mine, Wilbur Pan was doing his on the other side, and then Chuck Bender went over there, and so all of the attention happily went over to that side of the bench.

That was just in the nick of time, too, because I accidentally snapped the blade to the Knew Concepts saw I was using and few people noticed (I shouldn’t have been sawing so quickly). I will say this about that saw (the 5″ woodworker’s): it’s fantastic. I’d never used it before. Using it was probably the biggest thing I got out of the whole Hand Tool Olympics thing.

I used three other tools making the dovetails. One was a new Veritas chisel, and I thought that it was really good (too bad I already have too many good chisels). Another was the Cosman dovetail saw. It worked fine–I can’t say much more than that, because nearly all dovetail saws perform the same to me when they’re sharp. I think I still like mine the best because I made it. Finally, there was a “Mongo-style” mallet. I think I like my larger wooden mallet better, but I can’t say that it didn’t work.

Workbench v2: Another Wood Installment

So, what’s been happening with the new workbench? Not much, because I needed more wood, so I’ve instead been dorking around the shop, cleaning things, and rehabbing old tools.

Last Sunday, I got the next installment of wood, and I now have all of the legs and half of the stretchers milled out:

That was the easy part. The task ahead of me is considerably tougher:

Those are two 6.5′ 4x14s that will somehow comprise the top in the end. I really have only the faintest idea on how I’m going to support these things as I’m ripping and sizing them. I suppose I could finally make some sawbenches.

And, of course, I have to glue them up. Yay.

Henry’s Stool

Several months ago, I made a visit to my aunt, who has some old family furniture. Among them was this stool that I remember from my grandmother’s place:


It was made by my great-great grandfather, Henry Snyder, for my grandmother when she was young, so this would have been in the early-to-mid 1920s. The wood looks to be some sort of softwood, likely one of the pines.

The stool’s joinery is very simple; three nails on each side of the front stretchers, plus nails from the top down. On woods that move a lot, this would have caused checks due to the large variance of humidity in the Baltimore area, but this stuff seems to be pretty stable, and the pieces are quite small. I like the design’s lines and simplicity.

Henry Snyder was a carpenter who built his own house in addition to this stool.


Four years ago, I decided that I was sick of store-bought furniture, and that, as a Real Man[tm], it was a moral imperative to learn woodworking and build my own stuff instead of buying one more stupid thing that I didn’t really like.

Four years later, my steadfastedness has only resulted in having huge piles of books lying all over my place because I still don’t have any bookshelves. But stuff happened in those four years, it was somewhat crazy, and I am now in a good position to actually make good on that promise I made so long ago. Therefore, I’m going to chronicle my, uh, “adventures” here.

My grandfather worked for a publisher, but also did a bit of woodworking. He was a Real Man[tm]. He knew a thing or two, much like many people of that generation did. Unfortunately, he became ill and passed away before he was able to teach me much of anything. You can call it silly, but sometimes you can’t ignore what runs in your blood, as my friend Linda tells me. Having written three books and worked on many others, I’m now involved in publishing myself. I might as try to live up to my grandfather’s name (well, even if it isn’t exactly my name).

When I decided to do this, I didn’t know where to start. Even though I’d been around many of the tools all my life, I didn’t have any instruction whatsoever on the proper way to use them for woodworking. I didn’t know a whole lot about wood. It was basically square one.

So I figured that since I’d written some books, maybe I’d go down to the bookstore and look for something that might tell me a thing or two. Well, first I checked on Amazon for reviews on books. I decided that “The Complete Manual of Woodworking” by Jackson, Day, and Jennings seemed like a pretty good bet. I found it without a problem. I also picked up “Classic Hand Tools” by Hack, because, well, it had a lot of pretty pictures in it, and there was something about hand tools that I sort of liked. Oh yeah, and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. (Now you guys who wrote these things are now honor-bound to buy my books, right? Ha ha.)

In buying these books, I was in the early stages of discovering that the old system of apprenticeship where young’uns learned from a master is pretty much dead. Unless you know someone who does this stuff, no one is going to teach you; you have to learn it yourself. This isn’t such a bad thing, though. You have to understand that, as in disciplines like software engineering, there are about a million ways to do things in woodworking. Not all are equally good. Fortunately, due to the now rich array of literature on woodworking as well as the flood of, uh, stuff on the web, you can find out how to do quite a lot of stuff if you actually know how to read. In another turn of fortunate events, I know how to read. Well, maybe if only just a little.

The “Complete Manual” is eye-opening for someone who’s never seen any of this stuff before. It succinctly covers a lot of ground, starting from the biology of trees. I’d lump the topics in the book into four main areas: (1) trees (2) tools (3) joints (4) other stuff that you do with wood (turning, carving, etc.). Tools are grouped into three categories: hand, power, and machine.

I’ve read the book in its entirety (several times). I’ve now got more that go into more detail on certain topic areas. What I have not done is actually using any of what I’ve learned to actually make anything. And it’s high time I fixed that.