Monday, December 15, 2008

REVIEW: Hamilton Marking Gauge

This tool was another purchase while at the WWIA Conference from Di Legno Woodworking Supply. When I first saw this gauge I was struck by the simple but effective design. I even kind of like the Batman motif that this design boasts.

The fit and finish of the gauge wasn't spectacular, but none of the flaws affected the tools performance. The blade which has a fingernail grind on it was off center, but sharp never the less. The groove that accepts the knurled nut and screw had places in it where you could see the they had bobbled the wood while cutting it out on a router table or similar device. Again, it didn't affect performance, merely a aesthetics issue.

This tool is designed for a specific grip. When you first pick it up it seems a little awkward. After you figure out how to hold it you find you have a lot of control. The gauge has that low center of gravity that you get with a Titemark style gauge but a larger reference service. I have had problems in the past where my Titemark style gauge would twist and leave my marking line a 32nd short. With the Hamilton gauge I have had no such issues. It has a much larger bearing surface to resist the the twisting. The typical English type gauges seem very bulky, have a high center of gravity, and can block your view of the cut. For smaller jobs, such as laying out of dovetails I find this tool really excells.

Overall I have been very pleased with this tool. It tool is easy to adjust, has a very a lot of control, and makes perfect lines every time. With today's finicky woodworker, I would advise the tool maker to slow down and make sure every gauge is as close to perfect as you can get it. I have no problem recommending this tool, it would make a valuable addition to any hand tool shop. Its currently my gauge of choice.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Review: Lie-Nielsen Progressive Cut Dovtail Saw

Some of you may recall from earlier posts that I have been on the hunt for a new dovetail saw. I saw the WWIA Conference a perfect time to pick one up. So one morning during the conference I strolled up to the booths. I walked around and give a few different saws a try. Picking a saw saw was very painful. I tried Mike Wensloff's, Veritas, and finally the Lie-Nielsen. While at the Lie-Nielsen booth I had a chance to try both the standard and progressive pitch saws side by side. What's a guy to do? They all cut great for me. I found the Lie-Nielsen saw more comfortable so that is the one I choose. I went with the progressive pitch saw because I hoped to do be doing a lot of carcass dovetailing as my skills improve. So I made my purchase and stowed it away in my little bag and headed out to my next lecture.

As fate would have it my next lecture was Advanced Dovetailing with Frank Klausz. I'm show up early to claim my territory. As I'm waiting, Frank is getting tools and wood sorted out to begin the class. A person, who I'm assuming is a Lie-Nielsen Rep., comes in and hands Frank a Lie-Nielsen Saw. Frank slides is eye glasses up and starts to take a keen interest in the teeth of the blade. At this point I knew they must be wanting Frank to try our the new progressive pitch saw. After a few seconds gazing at the blade he turns around, almost frantically, trying to find a piece of wood. He puts the wood in the vise and saws a few kerfs. He looks at the wood and the saw and muttered something that sounded like "very nice" in a thick hungarian accent. He then took it for a another test run. During the class Frank talked about the saw and used it to cut part of a blind mitered dovetail. I instantly started feeling better about my purchase now that it had Frank's seal of approval.

Some of you may be asking, "whats all this progressive pitch nonsense?" That simply means that on the toe of the saw it has fine teeth and and ask you go down the saw the teeth get more and more coarse. The Lie-Nielsen saw starts off with 16 ppi on the toe and goes down to 9 ppi on the heel. It gives you the best of both worlds, starts easy and cuts fast.

Since the conference I have been using the saw exclusively. I really do like the saw but it does take a little getting used to. It can really feel like a saw with a turbo. If your not careful you will over shoot your line. I'm sure all of us have the habit of sawing fairly rapidly until we get near the marking gauge line and then take a few short controlled strokes to bing us on down to the line. With this saw you have to modify your habits. If you take a couple light strokes on the heel of the saw you may drop 1/4". You really need to takes those last couple strokes on the toe.

Even though the saw is new, I find it very easy to start. The heel of the saw is still pretty catchy. I'm sure this saw will only get better with time. Like all Lie-Nielsen tools the fit and finish of the saw is impeccable. While this saw won't make you better at cutting dovetails it sure does make the experience more enjoyable. Just to use such a high quality tool give you a inspiration. Having faith in your tools gives you the confidence you need to push yourself to the next level. I would certainly recommend this saw to anyone.

I hear that Lie-Nielsen will be releasing a progressive pitch large tenon saw. I don't need this type of temtation in my life!


Monday, December 8, 2008

Let The Games Begin

I retrieved the wood I will be using for my workbench from the stack where it had been air drying.  I have gotten it all stashed away on my wood rack and have begin cleaning up the shop in preparation for a the new project.

I have about 2 weeks off from my day job starting in couple weeks.  I hope to work on the bench during my time off.  Until then I will be working out some of issues with my equipment.  First thing I have to do is get my Delta 6" joiner stabilized so it doesn't flip over when I try and run these large white oak beams across it.  The next thing I have to deal with is the snipe issue I have been having with my planer.  I have a Woodmaster 24" planer.  I love the flexibility of the machine but It has always had a sniping issue.  I think this is due to the fact that the front infeed rollers and outfeed rollers have quit a bit of space between them.  I have tried to adjust the tables to correct this many times.  I'm a little baffled, but I'm sure I'll figure it out.  If not then I guess I will become very aquatinted with my hand planes.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Next Project - Workbench

I feel like its time to start my next project. If you use hand tools you know how important your work bench is. Without it some tasks are darn near impossible and most others suffer. Right now I am working from a Harbor Freight bench I bought about 10 years ago when I first got bit by the woodworking bug. This bench weighs about 50 pounds soaking wet and is somewhat narrow. This makes it very difficult many hand tool tasks. Even after loading the bottom shelf with the heavy stuff I could find laying around (lunch box plainer and some other old electric woodworking tools) it's still very top heavy. Hand plaining across the grain is a real chore. So I have decided to build a new workbench.

I started this quest quite some time ago. Starting reading all the information I could on workbench construction. I picked up Scott Landis's The Workbench Book and later come across Chis Schwarz's Workbenches, From Design & Theory to Construction & Use. It seemed everyday there was a new thread about someone building a bench on WoodNet Forums. There was tons of information out there. I have read so much material written by Chris Schwarz that It feel like we were old friends.

After some thought I decided the bench design that would suite me best is the Holtzapffel Bench. At the WWIA Conference I took Chis's workbench class where he mentioned that this bench had the best tail vise configuration of all the bench's he has built. He really seems to love this bench, but for the life of me, I will never understand why he didn't include this bench in his book. I personally think this was a huge mistake.
Mostly this design is basic woodworking, nothing to complicated. It does however bring some challenges. The main challenge will be the wood screws on the face vice. If I remember correctly Chris purchased his screws. I feel compelled to make them. I can purchase the tool to cut the threads cheaper than I can purchase them. Unfortunately the only place I have found to buy the tool is in Europe. The biggest size tap & die I could find from US suppliers was 1 1/2". The European supplier goes up to about a 2 1/2". I will be using the 2" size. Here is a video Chris made describing this bench:

I think this bench is the best overall fit for me. I need a bench what will handle dovetailing and planing without a lot of set up. I'm pretty excited about the prospect of having a bench that doesn't try to flip over when I'm planing. I will be building my bench out some white oak that I have had air drying for about 3 years. This should be quite the project. I will try and take some photo's to post my progress.

Monday, November 24, 2008

User, Collector, or just an A$$hole?

I have had a love hate relationship with my brothers over at Woodnet Forums. Every so often the forum turns from a community of woodworkers sharing information into a mob of hateful critics. During the Norm Abrams storm about 5 years ago I quit the forum cold turkey. I just couldn't take some hack putting down Norm again. After about two years I started taking a look into the forums again. This time I limited myself to the Hand Tool Forum.

Over the last few weeks Lee Valley Tools released a few new tools. They released their new dovetail saw and two new high end block planes. While at the Woodworking in America Conference I had a chance to try the new dovetail saw. It felt very comfortable in my hand and it seemed to cut very well. This dovetail saw was intended to fill the gap between the $20 dovetail saw and the $135 dovetail saw. While at the show I tried many premium saws, I even purchased a Lie Nielsen Progressive pitch saw. I certainly wouldn't be ashamed to hang the Veritas saw up next to my Lie Nielsen in my tool cabinet. Apparently the progressive design of this saw is just to much for many to handle.

These new block planes were just unveiled today and already the critics are roaring. I haven't had the privilege to hold, much less use, these block planes. I understand that Robin Lee gave some woodnetter's a sneak peek that the Woodnet dinner at the WIA Conference. Unfortunately I didn't attend. From what I have heard from some who have used the tool they say fit and finish is impeccable and and performs just as well as the Lie Nielsen block planes.

I unfortunately didn't take advantage of the opportunity at the WIA Conference to formally meet Mr. Lee. I will say that I find his company's willingness to attempt to advance tool design awe inspiring. I hope that in the years to come it will yield them their deserved respect. So many tools makers today simply regurgitate the designs of yesteryear with no thought on how to improve on those designs. I, and I'm sure Mr. Lee, don't feel that the evolution of hand tool design is at its end.
I hope that some of my brother woodnetters will be able to open their minds to what Lee Valley is attempting to do. If you don't like the tools because it doesn't perform to your expectations, I can understand that. To dismiss or blatantly ridicule the company for their modern design is, well, juvenile. I expect more from the hand tool community. Who is generally an older and wiser crowd.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Woodworking In America Conference in review

The conference, while not void of problems, was a great success. I got to meet people like Frank Klausz, Chris Schwarz, Roy Underhill, Mike Dunbar and Adam Cherubini. Just to name a few. Like any other event like this there was more than enough praise and complaints to go around. I tried to keep the fact that this is the first time Popular woodworking has ever put on a show like this. Sure, there were going to be problems. Overall I felt very good about the show.

My main complaint was the the class length. Some classes were about 1.5 hours and some were about 2.5 hours. Some of the instructors had a 2.5 hour time slot with 1 hour of material to share. You would see a lot of people just get up and leave when the instructors seemed like they were just passing time. People wanted to get the vendor area to look at tools, or get a jump start on their walk back across campus.

I do think It would be nice if everyone who attended the conference had a chance to take a hands on class. That class should be of the 2.5 hour variety. My hands on class was a mess from the minute I signed up. I signed up for a hands on class that was later canceled and got moved to another class. This class was scheduled to be a 1.5 hour class and later got downgraded from hands on to demonstration. I decided this class wasn't worth the walk across campus and just took that time to buy some tools.

On a positive note I was very impressed by some of the instructors. Frank Klausz really shined. His personality kept everyone involved. I just wish I had signed up for one of Roy Underhill's classes. I'm sure he had some very interesting classes.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Dovetailing Continued

I thought a follow up in order on my dovetailing efforts. Dovetails, especially hand-cut dovetails, are very intimidating to most of us. I have unveiled the mysticism behind dovetails but I do still need a little help with my hand tool usage. Here is a pic of some of my early dovetails...

The top one is red oak and the bottom is treated pine. These where just some boards I had laying around the shop. Thought It would be good to do both a hard and soft woods. Here is a pic of workbench and tools I've been using to cut the dovetails. You could probably get all of the tools, workbench and and all, for under $200.

I haven't had time to cut and dovetails for a few days so I thought I better get back out there keep this fresh in my mind. I'm a little amazed that these dovetails look ok...not great...but not bad for a guy who has cut less than 10 dovetails joints in his life. Here's some pics of the Latest attempt...

And The Money Shot...

You don't have to be a critic to see a ton of flaws with what I have done. Bad sawing, poor chiseling, and careless dings just to name a few. After all is said and done...those look undeniably like dovetails. A little glue and a goining over with a plane and I think they would look pretty reasonable.

Now that I have the concept down I'm looking for a few tools that will make my life a little easier. Like a dovetail layout tool, butt chisel set, maybe a 2" engineer square, or even a LN Progressive Pitch Dovetail Saw. I know upgrading the tools probably won't make me a better dovetailer but maybe they will make practice more enjoyable. Who knows maybe I'll find some new tools at the Woodworking In America Conference this weekend?

Friday, November 7, 2008


Dovetailing by hand is something that I a going to have to be proficient at.  Its the obvious choice for drawers and many carcass assemblies.  When customers see dovetails in a project it automatically elevates their opinion of the piece.

So I began my quest some time ago by watching dovetailing video's.  So far I have watch Frank Klausz's "Dovetail a Drawer" and Jim Kingshott's "Dovetails Made Easy."  Sadly I haven't watch Rob Cosman's video yet, although I have seen his method on short clips on the internet.  All Of these guys have their own method.  I feel you will impedes your learning if you keep trying different methods.  So I decided to pick the one that I felt was the best overall and run with it.  I chose Frank Klausz's method for 3 reasons:
  • Speed:  Frank has a certain amount of emphasis and being fast at this process.  He mentions in his video that he charges 20 minutes labor for each drawer.
  • Streamlined Process:  I feel that one way to tell how efficient a method is, is to see how many tools are involved in the process.  Frank only uses a dovetail saw, chisel, mallet,  and a pencil.  It doesn't get much more streamlined than that. There is virtually no layout for Frank's method.  I would be done with the joint using Frank's method before I could get the dovetails laid out using other methods.
  • Strength over vanity:  Most of the dovetails I have seen Cosman and Kingshott cut have very small pins.  This is supposed to be more visually appealing at the cost of loosing strength.  I'm a utilitarian guy,  I use this joint for its strength, first and foremost.  Guess this is what draws me to Shaker furniture.  Frank's method yields dovetails and pins that are roughly the same size.  Which also produces optimal strength.
So I began my quest.  Armed with a $20 Lynx dovetail saw and almost no hand sawing experience.  The first thing I did was watch Frank's video half a dozen times.  Just trying to pick up on the subtleties I may have missed.  Frank goes way to fast for you to pick up on everything the first time through.  After letting that info soak in for a while I went out to shop and give it a whirl.  It was ugly but I did learn a lot.  I was just happy that even though it was ugly it was surprisingly strong.  The biggest problem is I was trying to do it exactly like frank does.  He doesn't have to mark a few things that I do.  For instance he doesn't carry his layout lines across the end grain so that you can tell if you are cutting straight across the board.  So feeling bold one morning I decided to give it another shot but put a few more layout lines on the work.  I was simply amazed.  While the joints weren't perfect, they were d*mn good.  Especially for someone with no real sawing experience.  So I'm thinking this must be a fluke.  Go out the next morning cut the dovetails off my board and begin anew.  It looked a little better.  Still a few gaps, but not bad.  While my joints aren't great they are consistent.  So with a little practice I think I will have this thing down.

Its less than week before the Woodworking in America Conference.  Its no coincidence that I have 3 classes with Frank.  Two of them being dovetail classes.  Maybe I'll pick up on something at the workshop's that will propel me forward.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Woodworking In America Conference

Finally, the Woodworking In America Conference is taking registration.  Trying to register for this conference was filled with highs and lows.  First off, let me say that everyone over at Popular Woodworking has been very nice.  With that said, boy did they goof up the registration process.
  1. They sent out the email telling everyone they could register before everyone on the net could access the page.  By the time my internet provider dns server had updated 4 classes had already be filled.  This just felt so unfair, I didn't get an equal shot at signing up for the more popular classes.
  2. So I sign up for all my classes and I select to pay by credit card.  I enter all the appropriate information and hit next.  I get a confirmation page showing all my classes, there are no links on this page.  I'm thinking everything is fine then I notice at the bottom of the page it says Amount Due $420.00, Amount Paid $0.00.  So now I'm confused, do my credit card info not go through correctly?  Do I need to reenter it or is their the possibility they will charge me twice?  So I email so folks at popular woodworking and the next day I receive an email from customer service with apologies and a receipt for my credit card payment.  Apparently it was just a glitch.  Well at least I'm all signed up now....but wait.
  3. Then I receive an email trying to confirm that I signed up for a class on turning tool handles.  Never seen that class offered, let alone signed up for it.  So I go back the website and look at the classes again.  I notice that somehow the Saw Shapening class I had signed up for was gone and this class was there in its place.  Now I'm beyond frustrated, i'm pissed.  Mainly because instead of getting an email saying, "sorry but we had to move the sharpening class to a different time, would you accept this one instead" All i get is some weak email asking me to confirm that I wanted to take the turning class.
Well it was very frustrating, but I got thorough it.  I'm trying to maintain the perspective that this is the first time this conference has been held.  So maybe the folks at Popular Woodworking are learning how to hold one of these events the hard way.  I feel that i will have a great time once I get there.  Just meeting everyone will be wonderful.  Here is a list of the classes that I am signed up for (at least until I get another email).

Thursday (11-13-08)
  • 6:00 pm Welcome Reception
Friday (11-14-08)
  • 8:00 am Chair Design (Brian Boggs)
  • 9:45 am Master The Spokeshave and Drawknife (Michael Dunbar)
  • 1:30 pm Advanced Dovetailing (Frank Klausz)
  • 4:15 pm Understanding Western Saws (C. Schwarz, M. Wenzloff, J. Moskowitz)
Saturday (11-15-08)
  • 8:00 am Hands on clinic: Turning Custom Tool Handles (Kevin Drake, Dave Jeske)
  • 9:45 am Forgotten Workbenches & Workholding (Chris Schwarz)
  • 1:30 pm Infill Roundtable: Construction, Mechanics and Use (Robin Lee, Konrad Sauer)
  • 4:15 pm Joinery Planes (Frank Klausz)
Sunday (11-16-08)
  • 9:00 am Set Up And Use of Japanese Chisels (James Blauvelt)
  • 10:45 am Dovetails for Casework and Speed (Frank Klausz)
Sounds like a blast and I'm hoping to meet a lot of folks.  Hope to see you there.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

New Plane? Old Plane?

A question recently arose on the Rough Cut Show forum.  The question is one that all new hand tool users ask themselves, "Should I get a new plane, or get a old plane?"  I am a relatively new hand tool fiend and have spent the last while tuning old planes.  So while I'm not a hand tool expert, I do have some experience here.  I feel that almost all beginners should wait until they can afford a new plane.  Here are some things to consider...
  • Generally, the less you spend in cash the more you will spend in time getting the tool ready to use.
  • Do you enjoy spending your afternoon removing rust, flattening soles, and flattening the backs of plane irons?
  • Do you know enough about the planes to know what your buying?  Are the parts all there?  Are they the correct/original parts?  Sole warped?
  • Do you have a good understanding of what a properly tuned plane feels like?
  • Have you considered features of a new plane that probably are not available on your ebay special?  Norris adjusters? Nice thick blades that have the proper alloy and tempering and haven't been used to open a paint can? Adjustable throats?
Over the years I would pick up hand planes if I saw one at a flea market or antique store.  Now that I taken the time to learn about hand planes and how to restore/use them, I wish I hadn't bought most of them.  Some of them were junk right from the start.  I have had to just through a few away because I didn't have all the proper parts.  Some of the others were all there but had been abused or neglected.  I just didn't know enough about planes to be purchasing them.  I didn't even know what a properly tuned up plane should feel like.  I didn't even know what planes I needed to get the job done.

I recently bought a Lee Valley Bevel Up Jointer Plane....It was as if my eyes had opened for the first time.  "So this is why it always looks to easy in the videos."  It took me about 10 minutes to get the plane ready for use.  It may take me several hours to get a old plane ready for use and when I do, it won't be able to hold a candle to my new plane.  I know that there are a lot of guys out there who will take offense to this.  These are normally the guys who have a love affair with old tools and their history.  As a woodworker (not a tool collector) I can't get caught up in these things.  A woodworker needs quick, accurate, repeatable results.  A quality new plane will give you all of those things.

Here is an excerpt from Our Workshop (O'Kane, 1873)...
Good tools are necessarily expensive, nevertheless our apprentices must use none but the best; for in the end they are the cheapest.  Always remember the old and true saying, "A good workman is known by his tools."  A good workman may do a tolerable job with indifferent tools, but a beginner should never attempt to use any but first class implements, or he will never become a first-class craftsman.  If you use bad tools, and try to cast the blame of bad work on them, recollect that "A bad workman always complains of his tools." 
'nuff said.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Woodworking Conference

I am very excited about the upcoming Woodworking In America Conference.  It will be held here in Kentucky in the small town of Berea.  If you have never heard of Berea you should get acquainted.  To me it is the Mecca of hand crafted works.  There are not many towns where you can just walk down the street and go from one woodworker's shop to another.  Its truly an artisan's paradise. 

In shop news, I have a workbench on the drawing board.  I'm not 100% committed to a design as of yet.  I am expecting it to be Roubo type bench but the particulars haven't been worked out.  The original Roubo bench didn't have any type of tail vise.  I'm sure mine will have one, just not sure what kind.  Twin screw, L vise, and the wagon vise are just a few options.  I am planning on a lot of drawboring so I have ordered a dowel plate from Lie-Nielsen.  When I get started I will try and take pics and document the process.  This shouldn't be that hard of a project but i'm a little unsure about the top though.  The logistics of it may be kinda rough especially since I'm planning on a top that will be 8'x2'x3" white oak.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Welcome To my Blog.  This is a whole new experience for me but I'll do the best I can.

My Name is David Barbee and I have been an avid woodworker for some time.  I'm one in the legions of Normites that started woodworking in the 90's.  More recently I have found myself turning more and more to hand tools.  A lot of my time recently has been spent sharpening old planes and chisels.

I know what your thinking, enough with the chit chat lets see some pics.  Here are a few pics of my shop that was taken a year or two ago.

Sorry ladies...I'm taken.  Well, lets see where this little journey takes us...