I’m Stumpy Nubs, this is Mustache Mike and welcome to another edition of Behind the Sawdust, the show that dares to ask, just what is under Roy Underhill’s hat? This week we argue about precision tools, get some tips for re-sawing book matched panels, a bear loses a fight with a saw, We tell you how Bosch might have saved it, I throw my weight around, Bob Lang comes back from the dead, I reveal seven new homemade woodworking machines, and we give some more stuff away. This week you won’t be seeing any of those annoying ad banners that pop up at the bottom of your screen, and we have Rockler Woodworking and Hardware to thank for it, since they’ve been good enough to sponsor this episode. So be sure to thank them by visiting via the link in the show notes below, you’ll be glad you did. Now let’s get started with the woodworking news.
M- Abraham Lincoln took his last ride in style, and the Blue Ox Millwork School for Veterans wants to see him ride again. The late president’s beautiful funeral hearse was destroyed in a fire some 130 years ago. Now a group of soldiers-turned-craftsmen are working on a full sized replica in preparation for the 150th anniversary of the assassination. They have only one photograph of the original to work from, and many of the components just aren’t available anymore. It took months just to figure out the dimensions. They had to locate a Kentucky wheelwright to recreate the unique 16 spoke wheels. But the project is finally nearing completion. The labor is being donated free and a funeral home is covering the $40,000 in materials so that the hearse can once again roll down the streets of Springfield, Illinois this May.
S- What do bicycle shop owners do for fun? Well if you’re Dave Guettler of Portland’s River City Bike Shop, you spend your free time building wooden fixtures for you store. Since opening in 1995 Dave has shared the philosophy that drives many woodworkers- why buy it when you can build it. He’s been able to customize his store with everything from bike racks to display cabinets, all designed to his particular tastes and needs. They’ve recently produced a high quality video discussing his woodworking pursuits, and it’s well worth the three minutes it will take to watch. You’ll find a link below in the show notes.
M- Buying a spoke shave is like buying a car. There are a lot of different models out there and choosing the right one can be the difference between a comfortable ride and a fiery death. Luckily Tom Casper from Woodworkers Guild of America has produced a five minute video telling you everything you need to know about both spoking and shaving. He covers wooden bodies, metal bodies, flat bodies, round bodies, hard bodies, you name it. So before your next shave you may want to check out the link below in the show notes.
S- Don’t you hate it when your artsy is too fartsy? Well the work of Vincent Kohler may be just for you. The Swiss artist’s latest exhibition shows off the unadulterated beauty of the log, specifically the wood that hides within. His exploding tree peels back the bark to reveal the various cuts of wood we woodworkers might use. In a society that considers a jar of urine or a rusty hubcap to be art, it’s nice to know somebody still knows what true beauty is.
M- Speaking of art, the associate art director of Fine Woodworking Magazine is no shlub when it comes to woodworking. John Tetreault built this stunning end table for a friend, basing its design on an old side table with aluminum legs. John’s version replaces the metal with gracefully formed walnut legs, each of which are tapered from top to bottom and tilted in seven degrees. He used locally sourced, air dried materials and the result is proof that they didn’t hire him just for his pencil pushing skills.
S- Peter Ross says you may be fussing too much. As a period blacksmith he’s learned that aiming for perfection is a modern phenomenon, whether in iron work or woodwork. The old timers developed their techniques to do things quickly and with few tools and fussing. This is in direct conflict with the attitude of many modern woodworkers, so we thought it would be a great subject for another edition of point-counterpoint.
M- I’ll be arguing the precision side of the question. I think the modern workshop has made it easier to work with very precise tolerances.
S- I’ll argue the other side. I believe it is pointless to measure to the thousandth of an inch when you’re working with a constantly changing material like wood.
M- Wood does change with moisture, but that’s no excuse for shoddy craftsmanship. If you can get a perfect joint, why not do it?
S- No true craftsman will tolerate shoddy craftsmanship. But perfection is a relative term. There’s a reason woodworking rulers typically have graduations down to only a 32nd of an inch. We don’t have to work in microns to achieve good results.
M- Today’s woodworking tools are more precise than ever. The trend has been for tighter tolerances, and I think that’s a good thing because precision tools create precision joinery and fewer mistakes.
S- Nonsense. Precision tools require more setup, which means more opportunity to screw up. Do you think the eighteenth century masters measured down to the billionth of an inch? They eyeballed their dovetail angles for goodness sake! And look at what they were able to accomplish.
M- They accomplished through skill what lesser woodworkers can now accomplish through tool technology. A precision dovetail jig can help a mediocre woodworker create tight fitting joints that he’d never be able to do free hand.
S- That’s all fine, I just wonder if we really need to fuss over our tool setups as much as we do. I know people who freak out if their table saw blade is 2 thousandths out of alignment. They spend more time tuning up their tools than they do using them. And their projects don’t look any better than mine.
M- That’s a matter of opinion too. Besides, if a precision tool makes a woodworker feel better, what’s wrong with that?
S- And there’s my point. A lot of this is all about selling tools. People made great furniture with regular tools for generations. Suddenly we need a laser on everything, and if you don’t own at least a dozen digital gauges you aren’t a serious woodworker. My table saw fence has a knob to move it in one thousandth of an inch increments. It’s out of control.
M- So how precise is precise enough? An inch? A quarter inch? Should we just throw our project parts in a pile and squirt construction adhesive on them wherever they lay?
S- 1/32 is precise if I want to sound like a real craftsman. But in reality, 1/16th is good most times.
M- I don’t know how you sleep at night.
M- Remember when rock was young? Me and Suzie had so much fun. Long nights by the record machine dreaming of my Chevy and my old blue jeans… The classic jukebox has gone the way of the dodo now that music is more commonly blasted from our cell phones through Bluetooth speakers. Well that’s about to change. David Whitehead, a wood pattern maker at England’s Sound Leisure jukebox company has turned his half century of woodworking skill loose and the result is a handmade birch and mahogany Bluetooth jukebox patterned after the classic 1973 Wurlitzer. At $450 these wooden beauties aren’t cheap, and there’s a 4-5 week lead time for each one. But you have to admit they are pretty awesome.
S- Music and wood seem to be an unlikely combination, but we’re seeing it more and more these days. Recently the folks over at Romanian based Meze sent me a pair of their classic 73 headphones. Industrial designer Antonio Meze came up with the idea of creating the ear cups from hand carved ebony for a unique sound and a stunning look. They appear more suited for the fashion runway than the workshop, but I have to say, I am absolutely in love with them. I’m not an audiophile by any means, in fact I don’t even like the way that sounds, but I can’t get over how clear they sound, and how comfortable they are to wear. I have been using them in the shop to listen to music and audio books, and they really surpass any of the other sets I’ve owned. Why am I telling you about headphones? Because they’re made out of wood, and I think that’s awesome. If there’s a company out there doing something creative like this, I want you to know about it. So I’m putting a link to Meze in the show notes below.
M- Fine Woodworking’s Matthew Kenney says there’s a couple of tricks to re-sawing wood for book matched panels, and he recently shared them with us. First of all, the closer the end grain is to running perpendicular to the boards face, such as with quarter sawn or rift sawn lumber, the better the end result will be. Flat sawn boards generally make poor book matched panels. He also says to remove as little material as possible when cleaning up your re-sawn surfaces. He prefers a hand plane to a power jointer because the more wood you remove, the more the grain will change. Book matching is a great way to turn a narrow board into a wide one, so keep these tips in mind the next time you re-saw your own.
S- David Heim totally enjoyed Totally Turning. The pro turner turned blogger attended the 12th annual symposium held by the Adirondack Woodturner’s Association in Saratoga Springs, NY last week. 6,000 attendees were at the two day event, which he says is a good place to find accomplished artisans at the top of their game. Among the highlights was a demonstration of freehand sphere turning by Dick Gerard, a live edge bowl class with David Ellsworth and a demonstration on how to embellish turnings with dyes and paints. David says he’s jazzed and eager for next year’s Totally Turning event.
M- Recently, Jeff Burks of the Lost Art Press blog shared an 1820 poem about a bear’s experience in a saw mill. We enjoyed it so much that Stumpy has decided to treat us to a dramatic reading of the text.
M- Thank you Stumpy… In other Lost Art Press News: Virtuoso- The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley is ready at last! Don Williams’ long anticipated book tells the story of the famous tool cabinet of a Massachusetts piano builder. Studley’s cabinet was just 39 inches tall and 19 inches wide, yet it holds more than 250 fine tools nested together in a manner that staggers the mind. The book asks how he built it, and why a man would create such a monument to his tools. But more than that, it examines every inch of the collection with photographs and even measurements. The 216 page book is available for pre-order and will begin shipping in mid-March. But if you want it early, you can order for pickup at the Handworks hand tool event in Amana, Iowa.
S- Speaking of the Handworks hand tool event in Amana Iowa… The Handworks hand tool event will be held in Amana, Iowa on May 15th and 16th. You can join modern hand tool makers and fellow enthusiasts for a weekend immersed in all things handwork. Unplug from the world of machines, dust and noise while listening to the crisp sounds of the hand plane, chisel and saw in a restored timber-frame barn in the traditional, historic German village of Amana. Roy Underhill will be there, I will be there, and so will be the amazing Studley Tool Chest and work bench. Small groups will be able to spend time with the tools, examining and photographing them for the first time in history. I was able to procure one of the very limited number of tickets and will be reporting back on what I see. But even if you won’t be able to spend time with the Studley exhibit, I hope to meet some of you at the Amana Handworks event.
M- Speaking of hand tools, Bosch power tools has shocked the woodworking world with a huge announcement- they’ve developed their own version of a table saw with flesh sensing technology. Up until now Sawstop possessed the only commercially available saw that wouldn’t cut skin. Bosch uses their own cartridge design that the say will not damage the blade when activated. While the Sawstop system includes an aluminum brake that stops the blade’s motion and drops it below the table, the Bosch version only drops the blade without stopping it. Their cartridge can also be used twice before it has to be replaced. The only problem is that the Bosch technology only comes on a small jobsite quality saw, which actually costs significantly more than Sawstop’s new jobsite saw. Weather Bosch will attempt to manufacture a top quality cabinet saw using the new cartridge system, as SawStop has, is yet to be seen, but it is an interesting development.
S- Chris Swartz has finally given in to our relentless pressure. For weeks we’ve been complaining that he keeps teasing us about the new tool chest project he’s been working on with Jameel Abraham. He’s been waving photos of the outside of the chest under our noses while only hinting about the “alleged” carved marquetry design on the inside of the lid. I for one, hate to be titillated. So we cranked up the pressure in our last episode of Behind the Sawdust, eliciting a response from Popular Woodworking Magazine chief Megan Fitzpatrick, who said it was she who was playing this cruel game of hide and speak. Well the photo has finally been released, and while I have to agree that it is an amazing work of art, I also can’t help taking credit for this early reveal before the stated target of the August issue. Clearly we here at Behind the Sawdust know how to throw our weight around, and my weight was just too much for Megan and Chris to bear. Perhaps next we will use our influence to get Frank Klauss to give us a video tour of his plumb bob collection, or maybe we’ll try to force Norm Abram to bring back The New Yankee Workshop. Stay tuned, because my weight gets heavier every day.
M- Speaking of weight- how big is your chest? That’s what Cristopher Swartz asked in his recent blog post about his new tool chest, which absolutely wasn’t influenced by Stumpy in any way. He says that tool chests should be a standard size. That standard? Large enough to fit our tools. No, he didn’t say to fit YOUR tools, he said to fit OUR tools. His point is that the hand tools required for furniture making have changed little over the centuries. So tool chests have always seemed to be of a fairly standard size. He goes on to discuss the three most common including the floor chest, the traveling chest and the tall boy. It was a very interesting blog, and well worth the read if you decide to follow the link in the show notes.
M- Chris also spent some time telling us to fight the urge! He says he’s noticed something strange about his students’ work. While they may be perfectionists when it comes to small projects like boxes, they become sloppy when building larger projects, like tool chests.
M- Have you ever had that problem, Stumpy?
S- Yes. When I read the article I knew exactly what he was talking about, and I’ve been guilty of it myself. I don’t know why it is, but I’ll let something go on a big workbench or something like that which I would never tolerate on a small project.
M- I think just about everyone can be guilty of that. Maybe it’s because we think smaller items will get closer scrutiny that larger ones?
S- I think so. I also think that we can just get lazy sometimes. Big projects take longer. You start out trying to get everything perfect, but a week later you just want to see it finished so you start making compromises. I’m not talking about obvious things, like big gaps in your dovetails. But a drawer that could be fit a little better, something small that you think you can get away with, those are the places that errors can creep in.
M- The article said that those bad habits can really hurt if you let them continue.
S- Definitely. You have to get tough with yourself sometimes. If you force yourself to do things right all the time, your skills will improve and soon you won’t be making those mistakes at all that you used to let go. So that’s the best of both worlds.
S- Turns our Chuck Bender and Glen Huey aren’t killers after all. You may recall how my keen sense of observation was piqued a few weeks ago when Robert Lang disappeared from the 360 Woodworking audio podcast. Lang hadn’t appeared on an episode since January, and the woodworking threesome turned twosome gave us the flimsy “he’s been under the weather” excuse. Well I wasn’t buying it. I suggested that Chuck and Glen had brutally murdered Bob in a fit of tool jealousy and were planning on pretending he was alive by carrying his body around with them to the woodworking shows like the guys on Weekend with Bernie. Well our investigative team was on it, and there was no hiding the truth. It turned out that Bob Lang had been under the weather. Chuck Bender contacted me shortly after the show aired in mid-March to plead his innocence, and soon after that Bob told me the details himself. He was feeling much better, but he’s decided to retire from 360 Woodworking. A week ago both sides made it official with their own announcements. Lang has moved on and the guys wish him the best. I suspect we’ll be hearing more about Bob’s plans in the coming months, and I know we’ll still be seeing big things from Glen and Chuck. The only question now is, since there are no longer three of them, should they change their name to 260 Woodworking?
M- Are you so excellent you deserve an award? Popular Woodworking is now taking entries for their 2015 Excellence Awards. You are invited to submit your work to be judged in one or more of five categories including Casework, Cabinets & Bookcases, Seating, Tables, Boxes and Small items, Turnings and Carvings. Winners of each of the five categories will have their work featured in the November issue of the magazine, plus a $100 gift card. One grand prize winner will receive a thousand bucks. Details can be found at the link in the show notes below.
S- You know what I hate- spring clamps. So when I saw the new Bandy Clamps Rockler just came out with- I admit that I wasn’t very excited. But I think I judged them too quickly. I hadn’t taken into consideration the “bandy” part of the clamp. So I got a set for the workshop, and Mustache Mike has been spending time with them. Now, before he subjects them to his Nobel prize winning mustache-o-meter which judges based on quality, performance and value, I thought we’d have a little bit of fun, so check out this short video-
S- So, Mr. Mustache, let’s get serious. How do they stand up to your first category- quality?
M- I’m having a hard time getting used to all the plastic everything is made of. I suppose I’m just old fashioned so I still think everything has to be metal. So I didn’t know what to expect with these because the entire body is plastic. But I quickly became a believer. It’s not your typical plastic, junk. It’s a high density plastic which is extremely tough. I really tested them for strength and they are virtually unbreakable. So in this case, I think the plastic was a good idea, especially because it kept the price down. I’m giving it a solid 4 mustaches for quality.
S- Ok, what about our second category- performance. Did they work as advertised?
M- Yes, in fact performance is what sets this apart from other spring clamps. The band provides a third clamping direction, so it can do things other spring clamps can’t do. We could probabally sit here and think up dozens of uses, but the biggest one is applying edge banding. You can use the more expensive face frame clamps to do that job, but the bandy clamps are faster, easier and cheaper. It’s just a great idea. Five full stashes for performance.
S- And finally, overall value. Are they worth the price?
They are about $8 each if you buy in quantity, $10 if you buy in pairs. There certainly are spring clamps out there for less, but not of this quality. And certainly not with this unique band feature that makes all the difference. That said, buying enough of them to do a big project would be a sizable investment. I don’t blame Rockler for that because quality costs money. If that’s an issue for you, then I suggest buying a few for special tasks and using your cheap throwaway clamps for run of the mill clamping. Four mustaches for value.
S- So there you have it, folks! The new Rockler Bandy Clamps get four and a third out of five mustaches- a very high rating. Stay tuned to stumpynubs.com for more of the best in woodworking tools, tips and infotainment!
M- We haven’t had a show the last two weeks, and you may wonder what we’ve been working on. Well, Stumpy is here to share some of the big projects we’ve been building in the shop.
S- We have a bunch of mew homemade machines that we’ve almost finished. First is a shop vac cyclone which is designed to increase the efficiency of your vacuum and keep your filters from clogging. We also did some major surgery to the vacuum itself to eliminate the need for a separate dust bin beneath the cyclone.
We’ve just finished building a table saw super sled, which is by far the most fully featured crosscut sled you’ve ever seen. Not only does it make crosscuts and mitered cuts, it has three micro adjustable jig attachments for making splined miters, tenons and bridle joints, and finger joints. It also has replaceable inserts and extendable wings with stops for measuring, which are also micro-adjustable.
We’re just finishing up two new table saw accessories. The first is a homemade table saw fence. It’s designed for those of you who have inexpensive saws with crappy fences, or for people who just want the additional features this fence offers. For one thing, it’s shorter like many European fences which virtually eliminates kickback and makes it a lot easier to handle. It does have a long fence attachment for those who prefer that style, and it also has a micro-adjuster on the side for dialing in your cuts. Even the rail system is hardwood.
Another thing common to European saws is an attached sliding table which replaces the wing on your saw. We’re making a homemade version that can be attached to just about any saw and will be a whole lot cheaper that buying an expensive aftermarket version.
We’ve made a unique downdraft sanding table with T-tracks built in for supporting work, or clamping it in place using a variety of accessories. This thing is really awesome.
For those of you with a small shop, we’re building a complete workstation that combines almost an entire workshop including a table saw, our sliding router table, our jig saw, our new downdraft table, our new sliding crosscut table and a lot more- all in a 4 foot X 8 foot footprint.
And finally, we’ve just wrapped up a unique three wheel band saw design that gives you a full 24” in capacity in a compact space. If you’ve been thinking of a homemade band saw, you’ll want to see this.
M- We’re working on downloadable plans for all seven of these new projects, and then we’ll start filming videos showing you how they were built and how they work. Be sure to sign up for the newsletter at Stumpynubs.com and keep an eye on our Facebook page so you don’t miss out on these or any of the other big projects we have in the works!
S- We’ve been away for the last couple of weeks, so we didn’t ask you to enter to win any tools. Well fear not, we went ahead and drew a name from our newsletter subscribers over at Stumpynubs.com. R.W. Crosby is the winner of a Woodworker’s Journal annual 2014 CD with all of the issues for the year. Congratulations, R.W.! We have some great tools to give away, which we’ll tell you about next week. But we’ll also be occasionally sending random prizes like this to people just for being on our newsletter list. So sign up at Stumpynubs.com!
M- And that wraps things up for this week. We’re back on schedule, so you can expect a new episode next weekend and each week after that, as well as the new project videos we just told you about. In the meantime please visit Stumpynubs.com and check out our project plans, that’s how we support all of the woodworking goodness we do.
S-We can’t thank you enough. You should set back and have a cold one, because you’ve earned it, my friend!
Blue Collar Woodworking, Stumpy Nubs and Mustache Mike are trademarks of Midwestern Trading Company, Michigan, USA
Copyright 2013-2016 MWTco