Should you upgrade your electric planer with a fancy new helical cutter head? Maybe not according to the Shop Talk Live audio podcast. Some who have shelled out big bucks for carbide cutters complain that they requires a lot more power, perhaps more than their machine is capable of delivering without doing some damage. The problem seems to be the pattern of the small carbide cutters wrapping around the head. At least that’s the view of some people. Others report excellent results. I say listen to both sides and make your own call. But if you do want to listen to the Shop Talk Live take on it, you’ll have to fast forward about 2/3 of the way into the episode. I’m told there’s a lot of banter about mac and cheese to wade through first.
Charles Neil is releasing a new series of DVDs focused on teaching one technique at a time. For years he’s taught these techniques through project builds, but this new series focuses on the skills themselves. The first edition is expected to be released on June 15th and will be a two pack of DVDs. One will focus on cabriole legs, the other on dovetails. Charles says he’s received a lot of requests for this type of content. If past experience holds true, these will sell out quickly. You can find more information in the show notes below.
Are you suffering from smoothing plane bloat? That’s what Chris Schwarz asks in a recent blog. He questions the tendency of many woodworkers to use large smoothing planes, like the Stanley 4 ½. His preference is for a smaller model- really small in fact. He uses a #2, which is perfectly sized for his delicate, feminine hands. But that’s not why he chooses such a small smoother. It’s really about the way a smaller sole rides the surface he’s smoothing, which isn’t always perfectly flat. He says that the earliest smoothing planes were typically only 7”-8” long. There’s a lot more to his philosophy, so if you use hand planes at all, you’ll definitely want to check it out.
Dovetails: Yay or Nay? Glen Huey says Nay-Yay. The well-known woodworking pro suggests that we are looking at dovetails in the wrong way. In fact we shouldn’t be looking at them at all. Old-timey woodworkers did all they could to cover their dovetails, as they did with all end grain. They were structural joints, not showpieces. Trim and moldings covered the dovetails, but today we seem to think they are a status symbol meant to show off our skills. I’ve even seen people use a router jig to cut dovetails, then go back and scratch lines to make people think they used a marking gauge and cut them by hand. Glen’s take is simple- Dovetails are just another way to join two pieces of wood together. Cut them the best you can but stop agonizing over the width of the pins or the layout. Nobody cares.
New in Tools 2/4
Thank you Stumpy… Checking my dovetails for square makes me feel Stumpy trying to type on a cell phone. Even small squares are too chubby. Sterling woodworks has solved that problem with their new dovetailing ruler. It’s a narrow piece of steel designed to replace the rule in a standard 6” combination square. One end is a third of an inch wide, while the other end is just 9/100 of an inch. It’s perfect for fitting into those narrow spaces between your tails. It will not work in a 4” combination square though, so keep that in mind if you do decide to pick one up at the link in the show notes.
Everybody is talking about the new X-Carve CNC machine from Inventables. We even got one for our shop so we can try it out and report back to you. But there is another CNC option you may want to check into before you spend your savings. The CNC Shark HD 3.0 is significantly more expensive than the X-Carve, but many claim the quality is far superior. I can’t speak to that until we get one, which we’re working on, but one thing about this machine really gets me excited. They are going to be coming out with attachments for metal CNC, laser engraving, and even a 3D printing option. That would be a game changer in the maker world. So if you’re thinking about a CNC, you may want to explore all of your options. We’ll be helping you do that by trying to get both machines into our shop for testing. You’ll want to see this!
Around the Web 2/4
Michael Crowe is a craftsman who lives in a craftsman. His blog is called 1910 Craftsman and it chronicles his updates to the house the blog is named for- a California bungalow built in, you guessed it, 1910. A recent edition to the house was a fantastic Tansu-Inspired tool chest. It’s made from cherry with locking miters and the result is amazing. It’s not easy to get all of those flush mounted drawers to look right, let me tell you. I linked to it below.
If you’ve never seen the work of Ed Wright of the historic Colonial Williamsburg Anthony Hay cabinet shop, you might start with this 18th century Spinet, which is a fancy name for an even fancier cousin to the piano. I’ve seen woodworkers make musical instruments before. Heck, I just watched a video where two guys turned a rusty tool box into an electric guitar with built in beer can storage. But Wright has been building these stunning beauties for 30 years. And he doesn’t use electricity. It never ceases to amaze me what some people are capable of.
Do you always have to sand? That question was recently posed to the editors of Popular Woodworking Magazine and the answer may surprise many woodworkers who see sanding as a modern technique. Traditional woodworkers planed their surfaces, then scraped away any tear out, and sometimes followed up with sanding to blend things in. Abrasives were around before hand planes, just not in the paper form common today. Sanding may seem like cheating to some hand tool woodworkers, but it’s really the best way to go in some cases. It requires less skill to achieve a good finish than planning and scraping, and it produces better results when using modern dye stains. Of course there are down sides to sanding too, which proves that there’s never one right way to do things.
Can you use a Forstner bit in a hand brace? Yes you can, according to Salko Safic of Australia. What was once a near impossible task becomes much easier if you simply bore a small pilot hole to your required depth first. The Forstner bit’s tip will follow the pilot hole, which will keep it tracking accurately and when the point hits bottom the bit will stop cutting as well. It’s a great tip for those who like to use hand tools.
S- Jeff Burks recently shared a 1909 article from the Horseless Age Magazine about the perils of delivering furniture with a motorized carriage. Our seasoned citizen correspondent, Mustache Mike grew up in the horse and buggy days, so he’s here to share the article-
M- A motor furniture delivery truck, belonging to R. J. Horner & Co., New York, caught fire as it was being driven out to Hastings-on-the-Hudson last Saturday morning. The driver was apprised of the fire by people looking and pointing at the truck, till he realized something must be wrong. He was driving at about 12 miles per hour at the time. The entire body back of the driver’s seat, and the contents, consisting of about $1,100 worth of furniture, were consumed, but the chassis was practically uninjured and was driven back to New York under its own power. It is supposed that the driver or the helper was smoking, and that the sparks from the cigar ignited the flammable material with which the furniture was packed, but the driver denies this, and says he has no idea how the fire originated. The fact that the gasoline tank was intact and the chassis uninjured would seem to prove that the fire was in no way due to gasoline or anything about the mechanism of the truck.
S- At that blistering speed of 12MPH I’m surprised their motor coach didn’t burst into flames sooner. Thanks for that report from the past, Mustache Mike.
Well, that about wraps things up for this edition of Behind the Sawdust. We tried a three episode per week format for a couple of weeks, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. But three episodes are a bit much if we want to also produce a lot of other content, like homemade jigs and tools. So we’re going to try twice a week for a while and see how that works out. Anyway, you can always find the latest of everything on our website, so go there often. It’s a great place to sit back and have a cold one, because you’ve earned it my friend!
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