Thursday, December 5, 2019

New Website

I have a new website:

Please go there for information about ordering reamers and to order shaving horse plans.  I will also keep a calendar there of upcoming classes.

I also have a new article in Fine Woodworking Magazine about building the three slat ladderback chairs that I make.  It was a fun article to put together and goes into detail about how I reference the angles of the rungs and slats. 

Thanks for following this blog while I was writing it.  I'm hoping to start up something similar on the new website as well as continuing to write more in depth articles for Fine Woodworking.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Shaving Horse Plans

I've been working with Jeff Lefkowitz to produce plans of my shaving horse as a part of Curtis Buchanan's series of plans for his Windsor chairs and they are finally available.  You can purchase them by clicking the "Buy Now" button on the right hand column of this blog or below this paragraph, the price is $30 with free domestic shipping.

Shaving Horse Plans-$30
Domestic Shipping included

The plans are printed at half scale and rolled for shipping.  Building instructions and a cut list are included.  For construction details refer to these past blog posts: Build a Better Shaving Horse, Shaving Horse Base, and Shaving Horse - The Business End or to the article that I wrote about building this shaving horse that will be coming out any day now in the newest Fine Woodworking Magazine.  The horse is quick and simple to build and is designed to be made from inexpensive construction grade lumber. 

This horse is a hybrid, combining different aspects of a few of the shaving horses of people that I learned woodworking from.  The simple base is from Curtis Buchanan and the innovative and powerful clamping mechanism is a simplified version of Carl Swennson's horse.

The most recent version, built for Fine Woodworking and drawn in the plans contains a few minor tweaks to the design to improve it's functionality.  Curtis Buchanan has also had two in hard use in his workshop for the past 4 or 5 years and he suggested a couple of changes to increase the durability.

The first woodworking I ever did was carving a spatula on a shaving horse 13 years ago.  It's been an enjoyable adventure ever since and there is still almost nothing I would rather do than spend an afternoon sitting at the shaving horse with a growing mound of shavings piling up all around me.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Steam-Bent Spooncarving Class April 2nd and 3rd


I'm teaching a steam-bent spooncarving workshop at Plymouth CRAFT the weekend of April 2nd and 3rd and there are still a couple of openings to get in on it. Plymouth CRAFT is an exceptional, relatively young, organization that is offering classes in everything from greenwoodworking to fiber arts to cooking with fire.

My course is listed as one of their upcoming events, but while you are at their website, take a minute to look around and check out their other great offerings.  They are doing things that no other school is doing, and you won't meet a nicer group of people than those who run the organization.  Everyone is exceptional and I am thrilled to be associated with them in any way that I can be.

This class is a great opportunity to learn to carve elegant spoons and to try your hand at steam bending. If you've been thinking about building chairs, but you are intimidated by the bends, this weekend will get you over that hump.  Or maybe you just want to carve spoons.  Bending the blanks is a great way to create unique flowing forms that function as nicely as they look.


We'll be prepping blanks for bending at the shaving horse with drawknives and then after the bends have set, we'll move on to carving with knives and gouges.  It is fast and fun process.

 Hope to see you there!

Friday, December 18, 2015

More Chiavari Chair Videos

The lightly built and elegant Chiavari chairs continue to fascinate and inspire me.  I recently stumbled on some new to me videos from some of the well known Italian makers.  The first is my favorite, I love the sounds.  If you aren't familiar with these chairs check out the seat weaving!!  Truly astounding.  Notice how the pace of the video is rapid fire until they get to the seat weaving.  Seems about right to me.

 This one is subtitled.  I can't get enough of this stuff.

Another quick one of the seat weaving.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Use Your Reamer to Make a Matching Tenon Cutter

With a reamer and a matching tenon cutter, making perfect fitting tapered mortise and tenons is a breeze.  Recently, I've been trying to come up with a simple process to make a first rate tenon cutter to match the reamers that I sell.  This is the simplest that I've come up with.  If you want detailed instructions read the text, but you can probably follow the process from the pictures alone.

Start by drilling a hole (the size of the narrow end of your desired tenon) through a block of wood.  The block of wood should be close to square in cross section and it should match the width of the blade you plan to use for the cutter.  For this rounder I used a two inch wide blade, so I started with a two inch square piece of wood that was about ten inches long.  Drill the hole closer to one edge, but far enough away from it that there will still be material between the edge of the blank and the edge of the reamed hole.

Sighting to make sure the reaming is staying on course.

Ream the full depth of the hole so that the reamer is just barely cutting at the narrow.  I hold both the reamer and the tenon cutter blank in my hands and turn them both.  In hard wood, this will require some torque and it may be easier on your hands to clamp the blank to the benchtop and use two hands on the reamer.  I like to hold both in my hands so that I can flip them over and check the narrow end to make sure the small end of the reamer stays roughly centered in the hole as I ream.

The marks in the hole show that the reamer has cut the full depth.

When you can see that the reamer has cut the full depth of the blank.  Stop reaming.

The pencil line in the photo above describes the waste portion of the blank, which will be cut away.  My goal when cutting away the waste is to leave a sliver of material still connecting the hole at the wide end.  I do this at my bandsaw with my bandsaw fence, but you could plane it all off or use a tablesaw.  It doesn't matter how, but all the material above the hole has to be removed.

This will leave just a sliver of wood above the hole on the wide side and a more substantial amount on the narrow end of the taper.  Plane the thicker side so that there is an equal amount of wood above the hole on both faces of the blank.

Note that in this picture the waste has been sawn off, but you are viewing the blank from the narrow side which is why there is so much material still above the top edge of the hole.

Edge of the hole peeking through the face.

Plane until the edge of the hole starts to come through the face that you are planing.  Try to keep the width of the opening equal across the face of the blank as you plane down.   When the width of the opening is even across the blank I clean up the edges of the opening with a knife and start to test the cutting action of the blank.

Width of the opening is now even across the width of the blank.

Lines layed out across the blank.  Excess is trimmed away with a knife.

Blade clamped in place to check the cut.

This part in the process is where this tenon cutter shines.  With the blade in place, I use a hammer to tap the blade into place and check the cutting action.  In the photo above, you can see that the blade is just barely cutting.  If I adjust the blade forward or back, it stops cutting.  So to get the tool to work correctly I need to plane a little bit more off the face of the blank, which will make the blade cut more aggressively.  I took a couple of passes with a handplane and then re-tested with the blade.

There's that pencil sharpener shaving I was looking for.

When your tenon cutter is working properly it should cut along the full width and the tenon should fit tightly in the hole at both sides with no space visible between the tenon and the cutter.  When using thin blades, like the old Stanley stock blades, the clamp has to be positioned relatively close to the cutting edge.  It matters less with thicker blades that are less prone to deflection.

I clamp the tenon cutter to my workbench and turn the spindle through the cutter with my hands.

I'm dreaming up more elegant blade clamping systems for a commercial version that I will probably offer for sale at some point, but the simple cutter illustrated above functions perfectly and can easliy be made in under an hour and yields perfectly sized tenons every time.  The process is the same for making tenon cutters for straight tenons.

These cutters are easy to tune and so fast to make that you can have a small arsenal of them on hand for creating a wide range of tenon sizes, tapered and straight.  And they finally give you a use for all those vintage Stanley blades you have tucked away in drawers and boxes.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Skin on Frame Kayak: Bending in the Ribs

Most builders of skin on frame kayaks don't build their boats on a strongback with molds.  I chose to use molds in building this boat because I was trying to exactly replicate Brian Schulz's design.  I used the molds to hold all the longitudinal members (gunnels, chines, and keelson) in place.  Then I used this structure as a jig to bend the ribs to the correct shape.  The process was effective, but inefficient and inelegant.  I'll be building future kayaks without molds.

The ribs are 1" wide and 1/4" thick hard maple.  I soaked the maple in water until it reached the fiber saturation point.  You can tell that the wood is at fiber saturation by measuring it with dial calipers.  When the wood stops swelling, it has absorbed all of the water that it can into it's cellular structure.  In the steambox, water in the wood acts as a conductor of heat from the steam.  When the wood is full of water (fiber saturation) the heat transfer from the steam to the wood is better.

Throwback.  Coopering class at Country Workshops 2010.

I've been fortunate to have several opportunities to learn from woodworking genius Carl Swensson.  I cannot say enough good things about Carl.  He doesn't teach much, usually one class every summer at Country Workshops, but seize the opportunity to learn from him.  During my summer internship at Country Workshops in 2010 I took Carl's coopering class.  He developed a brilliant technique to limber the wood that becomes the coopered bucket's hoops.  The heart of the technique is a simple compression strap limbering jig.

The jig is a compression strap with two end blocks that can be clamped in a workbench vise.  The wood is placed between the end blocks, pulled into a tight spiral, then opened, flipped, and bent into a spiral with the opposite face on the inside of the bend.  The strap takes on the tension load of the bend, forcing the wood into compression.  The result is a super-compressed blank that can be taken out of the strap and pretty much tied into knots long after the wood cools down.

The technique works great for the hoops of Carl's coopered buckets and I thought it would be perfect for bending the deep v-shaped ribs in the bow of the kayak.  The resulting super-compressed wood is mostly unbreakable and the bends are very stable and do not spring back.

Lots of clamps.

I bent all twenty ribs into place without breaking one of them.  I hope this technique is useful to other skin on frame kayak builders.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Skin on Frame Kayak: Fitting the Deckbeams

One of the challenges of building things that are all curves and no squares is figuring out how to bring all of the parts together without an advanced degree in mathematics.  The front three deckbeams of this kayak are curved and they are tenoned into the gunwales which are sprung out to shape at a 25 degree angle.

A couple of minutes with a scrap of wood, a bevel gauge, and a pencil gave me the offset that I needed to be able to scribe the shoulders of my tenon with the deckbeams clamped in place.

A spacer creates the offset and extends the angle of the gunnel across the deckbeam.

Repeat the process on the other side, connect the lines from one side to the other, and lay out a 3/8" tenon to end up with something like this.

Saw away the waste...

And a little paring leaves a tenon that is ready to slide into it's mortise after rounding the corners.