Behind the Sawdust #13
S- 2- Move over Snookie, there’s a new reality show where everybody keeps their clothes on, and the viewers get to learn something other than how to look stupid. Actually, it’s the very first reality blog. Every 10 weeks a new group of crafters is selected for a head-to-head competition called So You Think You’re Crafty. They make things, viewers vote, and people get kicked off the island, or something like that. I don’t know all the deats, I just found it while I was looking up a tutorial for turning a wooden bracelet on the lathe. It was for, um, someone else… it was a pretty cool tutorial, which you’ll find in the show notes.
M-1- The Society of Arts and Crafts has a new director. What is the Society of arts and crafts? It’s an organization dedicated to keeping handcrafted work alive and rejuvenated, and that’s just what new chief Fabio Fernandez aims to do. The previous director, Beth Gerstein served at the post for 21 years. In that time, handcrafts like woodworking have changed a great deal with the advent of CNC machines, 3d printers, and a whole new generation of artists and craftspeople. Add to that the internet revolution and you can see why there is a bright future for hand crafts of all types.
S- 7- Robert Lang returned from the dead recently, so what does he have planned for an encore? How about a school? Since leaving his long held post at Popular Woodworking Magazine and retiring from 360 Woodworking, the master woodworker has taken up a new cause. It’s a proposed national trade school to help aspiring students learn skills and secure jobs. It’s the brainchild of former shop teacher Dean Mattson. Dean took over a struggling shop class in a low income school with what were often referred to as problem students. He discovered that if he partnered with shops that were looking for craftspeople, and offered his students a real chance at a job after graduation, it changed everything. His idea has been a huge success, and he’s now laying the groundwork for a national program. Robert Lang is in the process of writing a new book to bring attention to this worthy cause, and they are looking for more support, so please take a moment to read the articles too at the link in the show notes below.
S- 1- Chris Schwarz is in love, and I don’t just mean with nicely trimmed beards and button down shirts. In a recent blog he talked about the lowly spade bit. They’re cheap, they aren’t flashy, and their heads are pointy. The spade bit is a lot like that homely girl with the thick glasses nobody paid attention to in high school, until one day she took off those glasses, let her hair down and rouged up her lips. Oh, Mamma. Chris talks about the benefits that come with a $12 set of spade bits, and how to solve a couple of problems that will change the way you work with them. Check the blog out when you get a chance.
M- 2- Do you have a lot of dog holes around your shop? According to a new Wood Whisperer poll, the average workbench is a holy mess. 31 percent of respondents had one or fewer bench dog holes, a third had up to ten, and the rest had anywhere from eleven to Swiss cheese. More than 50 people said they had over 20 holes in their bench tops, which is obviously a filthy lie and I don’t even know why we’re doing this story.
S- 4- Hand tool woodworker Don Williams received a hard whack to the forehead recently and is expected to make a full recovery. He was struggling to plane some tricky grain and remarked that he wished he had a high-angle smoothing plane. That’s when a friend told him something so obvious that it led a violent encounter between his palm and his forehead followed by the word “DOH!” All he had to do was flip his plane iron. He explains the mechanics behind this awesome little tip in his blog, which you’ll find at the link in the show notes.
S- 1- Was Norm Abram right all along? The popular power tool woodworker loved his biscuit joiner. But since a well glued long grain joint is stronger than the wood itself, some say that biscuits and splines actually weaken the joint. Chris Schwarz says that isn’t always the case. When he’s edge gluing panels that are 3 or 4 feet long, he uses glue alone. But big ol’ table tops require something to keep everything aligned. That’s where the trusty biscuit comes in, or the tongue and groove, or even the new-fangled domino. Taking a few extra minutes to add some extra joinery can save you a ton of time planning those uneven seams later.
New in Tools 1/3
M- Rob Cossman has made a dovetail knife that he says is a game changer. At first glance it looks like a simple utility knife. But he says looks can be deceiving. He spent a lot of time adding small features that make a big difference. In a short video he explains what those features are, and why you should care. I have to admit that I am intrigued, and may have to try this thing out for myself. You can watch the video and decide for yourself in the show notes below.
Old-Timey Woodworking 1/3
S- The really skilled are becoming more and more scarce and trades are only half learned. Old time workmen were proud of their work, but there seems to be no such feeling now. About the only thing that gives real concern is the question of pay. These words are from an 1887 newspaper provided to us by Jeff Burks. The Victorian era writer complained that the breakup of the old apprentice system had destroyed the American workforce. The best skilled workmen were foreigners who were willing to work hard and considered the matter of pay to be secondary to doing the job right. Labor unions were identified as the problem, which encouraged compulsive idleness. You can read the article for yourself, and then try to determine just what century he’s talking about.
Check this Out 2/6
S- 1- Some time ago, a French wood turning school with a name I won’t even try to pronounce held a trembleur (trem-blue-r) competition. What’s a trembleur? Technically it’s a person who trembles. But in the high stakes world of European turning, it refers to an exercise designed to test an apprentice’s skill at the lathe. The turner is required to make a ridiculously fragile spindle that may explode at any moment, destroying hours of delicate work and years of confidence. Whether you’re into wood turning or not, you have to see this video, which you’ll find at the link in the show notes.
M- 2- Sometimes awesome woodworking projects aren’t even made out of wood. Vigil Films recently created a true masterpiece using nothing but a video camera and a Southern California woodworker by the name of Kyle Toth. The five minute epic takes a look at his work and philosophy in a way that befits such an artist as Kyle. I highly recommend you check it out at the link below.
What Stumpy Thinks
I get a lot of email. Most of it is great, some of it, not so great. A good example of the latter was one I got last week. This guy was watching an old episode of “The Old Timey Workshop”- the hand too woodworking series we produce from time to time. Evidently he was so upset by what he saw, that he went to my website, found the contact link, and told me about it. The problem was two-fold. My hand plane was dusty, and he didn’t like the sound my tenon saw made. He said it pained him that I was disrespecting the craft that was so important to him. So let me get this straight. My hand plane technique was fine, it was performing well. But it was a little dusty. And my hand saw was getting the job done, I wasn’t doing anything dangerous like giving it to a baby and telling him to go shorten the dog’s legs. It just sounded a little dull.
Now, this guy felt like he was doing me a service. I mean, criticism is important to any woodworker’s growth. And he may be right. I have a lot of tools, I may have grabbed one I don’t use often, and had I not been in the middle of filming I should have stopped to sharpen it or dust it or polish it or whatever. The problem is, as good as his message may have been, it was lost among phrases like “carless” and “disrespect for the craft”. Here’s the moral of my story- the internet is full of places to express yourself, even criticize others. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you really have something useful to say, consider how you say it. Otherwise, you just look like one of a billion blowhards out there who will say anything as long as they have keyboard and computer screen between them and those they insult. It’s not always what you say, it’s how you say it. And that’s all I have to say about that.
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