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.