|We get lots of email, most good, some pointing out where we screwed up. This email from Tom Garry was so much fun to read, I thought that, with Tom's permission, I would share it with everyone: |
Dear Tools for Working Wood:
Please allow me to share the thoughts of a dying man with you. (The doctor recently only gave me 5 or 6 more decades to live).
When I was young, I heard or read somewhere "never be afraid to buy the very best - especially when it comes to tools." That phrase stuck with me throughout my life. A couple of years ago I had to give up my then-current hobby, which was rather extreme and involved several trips to the emergency room, and I took up woodworking as a replacement. I knew very little about hand-tools, other than that I absolutely loved the look, feel, and entire concept behind them. How a man could wield such instruments of beauty and produce equally beautiful and functional pieces of furniture and art using only the power of his body, the direction of his vision, and the touch of his hands was utterly fascinating to me. So I did what any new student would do - I visited You Tube University. There, I was lucky enough to stumble across Paul Sellers and his videos on woodworking. I was hooked. It soon became obvious that chiseling with a sharpened screwdriver and smoothing wood with a massive belt sander was simply not going to get the job done. I needed to invest in some tools.
Through more online investigation, I also discovered Tools For Working Wood, and specifically, the Gramercy hold-fasts. After building my work bench (thank you Paul Sellers) I couldn't wait to hold down my first piece of wood with my new hold fasts, modified with a piece of leather from an old belt. I was amazed at the force that could be applied and the obvious durability these would have through my few remaining decades of life. I had discovered, in a world filled by the biblical flood of cheap imports, in a word - quality.
The next couple of years saw my collection of tools grow, and included the full set of Ray Isles mortising chisels. I was dying (no pun intended) to use them for a REAL mortise. So I made a walnut slant - front writing desk, where the only electrons harmed were in cutting the tapers for the 12/4 walnut legs on my portable table saw. I chopped a dozen perfect mortises with these hunks of solid D2 steel and they laughed at my feeble efforts to punish them. They were taunting me to do something that only they could do.
Not knowing if I would survive another Christmas, I revisited my favorite on-line tool store again and discovered the Moxon vice hardware of my dreams! I had an ideal piece of 12/4 walnut left over from my desk build that would be perfect for this ingenious bit of hardware. When my prize arrived a few days later I excitedly examined everything in the kit - and then I saw those 1/2" thick rectangular nuts that would require...be still my heart...a 1/2" wide, 1" long, and very, very deep mortise! I could almost hear my English mortising chisels shudder in my tool cabinet.
When the day of mortising finally arrived, I wanted to play some gothic-choir-chant-type music and wear a dark hooded robe as I lifted the mighty 1/2" chisel, named Mr. Mortise, in the air. Alas, I had no such chants, or hooded robe, so I played the Monty Python segment where they walked through the town calling "Bring out ye dead!" followed by a rhythmic 'thud' of a drumbeat. After laying out the location of the mortises twice (I was so excited I got the location wrong the first time) it was finally time to strike Mr. Mortise on the head with a mallet and see how far I could go. The mortise began to take shape and I was now swinging the mallet over my head and delivering as forceful an impact that I could muster. Mr. Mortise plunged deeper and deeper into the abyss of walnut sheering huge chunks of debris out of his way. The sides of the mortise actually became polished after brushing shoulders with Mr. Mortise time after time again. When the final blow fell silent, I dropped my stainless rule into the mine shaft to check depth: 4 1/8" deep. Straight down. No drift. No problem.
I think the finished Moxon vice looks pretty nice, if I do say so. I was so proud of surviving another year of my fatal disease called "natural causes" that I rewarded myself with the Gramercy dovetail saw. Oh I can't wait to drive that Formula 1 car around a long racetrack of joinery!
So, my toolmaking heros of the North, I would like to offer a very sincere 'Thank You' to everyone who was involved with bringing peace to a man who's years were once numbered. I'm happy to report that because of you I appear to be in remission and am as healthy as a horse. Never be afraid to build the very best - we will buy it.
The Woodlands, TX
|This weekend I will be at the Somerset Woodworking Show in New Jersey along with our crew and a fair range of Gramercy Tools, Flexcut carving tools, DMT, Blaklader workwear, and of course Festool. We will be demoing the new Festool Conturo, an exciting new edge-bander from Festool that brings to the smaller shop the power of a professional edge-bander. The Conturo does curved as well as straight edges, perfectly fitting into the requirements of modern furniture design. We will also have (we hope) the first BT&C Festool accessory product - Spots. |
In addition to us, Lee Valley will be there, along with many other top notch vendors. 360woodworking is giving free seminars all three days and I am told Frank Klausz will be stopping in their booth too. Very valuable paid seminars will be taught by Marc Adams and others.
This is our busy season and I spend a lot of time with customer, old and new, trying to understand their needs, concerns, and desires. What's really interesting to me about the modern professional woodworking market in NYC is how standards have changed. It's true that in 1900 a bandsaw would have had naked blade spinning and we know from contemporary documentation of the time that lots of people thought the guards unnecessary. Now they all have blade guards. When I was younger and we argued about guards on table saws, guards on bandsaws were taken as a given. I think the reason was that I grew up in an age when a bandsaw guard was pretty obvious. It just didn't seem weird to us. It was how you built a bandsaw. Tables saws on the other hand were a different matter.
Table saw safety perceptions are changing. Many people who are used to a bare blades and really poorly designed table saw guards consider the entire debate is about the nanny state and not being careful. People who have seen well designed guards and what happens when you don't have a guard, are probably as a group, younger. But we no longer find it odd, or non-professional, for someone to have a table saw tricked out with guards, or a saw stop. And in fact it's increasingly the standard.
The same this is happening to vacuums. When I first started selling tools dust collection was an afterthought and it was generally thought that there was nothing wrong with a jobsite covered in a haze of dust. This has drastically changed. Leaving a film of dust all over a home isn't nearly as acceptable as it was, and cabinetmakers and finishers, especially younger ones, are more and more aware of, and take preventive measurements against, dust and noise. This is all good.
It's really interesting how the idea of having a HEPA rated vacuum at a job site, not leaving a mess at the end of the day, not having to breath dust, have all become normal for contractors, not a "nice to have". I am of course appalled when I see people use demolition hammers without ear protection, sand without dust collection or masks, and abrasive cutoff wheels without goggles. But I can also say in the past ten years I see this less and less, and usually the demonstration is accompanied by a lack of skill, one step above day labor (N.B. please don't write me and tell me proudly that you never wear goggles or ear protection - I've seen or heard of too many accidents to think that's smart to do, and too many craftsman I know have permanent hearing loss from not wearing ear protection when they were younger.) Younger craftspeople are more aware than ever of the need to protect eyes, lungs, and hearing for the long-term. I think it's great.
What has happened in NYC is that as more and more crafts-people work with great dust collection, customers have started demanding a cleaner job site, so other contractors are forced to upgrade, and in workshops (especially with all those bearded Brooklynites who can't use dust masks effectively) people are demanding cleaner environments, which is not only safer, but also makes finishing easier.
See you in this weekend in Somerset. Along with the crew I'll be there Friday and Saturday. The show runs through Sunday.
| First of all, bad news that might work out Ok, and only effects people who live around 21th street and First ave. Ess-A-Bagel lost its lease and was supposed to close at the end of January. So far it seems to be still open. The landlord supposedly already rented the place to the Bank of America and a second tier bagel place but Ess says they found a place within a block. As Yogi said - "It ain't over until it's over." Needless to say when one is used to starting the weekend breakfasts with a couple of fresh bagels, still hot from the oven, from what is arguably the best bagel shop in the country, a story like this is of grave concern. But since it looks like it will turn out OK I have stopped panicking. |
We are pleased as punch to announce that we will be - once again - at The Woodwork Shows in Somerset NJ on February 20. We will be bringing extensive quantities of hand tools, Gramercy Tools, DMT, Flexcut, Festool, and Blaklader work wear and Etc. We might even have some new stuff to show off! In addition to us and a bunch of other great vendors 360Woodworking, the group founded by Bob Lang, Chuck Bender, and Glen Huey will be there. I don't know at this point if all three of them are coming, but the schedule shows free seminars! Our booth will be located right next to Patina and antique toolware - which is just dangerous for me personally. I'm not sure if we will have holdfasts at the show - the factory might miss the show by a week. By the way we are starting to stock a lot of Flexcut, more is being added weekly. Flexcut carving tools are made in the USA and are very affordable. They are out of the box sharp, and their multi-tool handle is quick to switch tools with no bother - I'm impressed.
For the month of February we are having a 10% off sale on the Festool Kapex and Kapex Accessories. For those of you on the fence about getting the best, most accurate, chop saw on the market, now is your chance. Remember all Festool tools come with a three year warranty and that includes free shipping to and from Festool.
Clico Industries - makers of Clifton Planes and other stuff has finished up. Fortunately the plane department has been sold and is still going strong under the aegis of Thomas Flinn, the makers of Pax and other saws. Jennings auger bits, hollow mortise bits, and spoon bits are currently orphaned and we have no more coming in. At this point I don't have another vendor for these products and when they are gone, they are gone. I am very sad to see them go. We have a film of the factory in operation here.
Adria Tools, sawmakers, has ceased operations. Eddie Sirotich has always maintained Adria as a part-time business. He has decided focus on other activities and will cease trading as parts run out. In 2005 we stocked Adria saws and liked them a lot. Fine Woodworking gave them a top notch review and they certainly inspired many companies, ourselves included, to manufacture saws.
I am of course depressed every time a tool company shuts down. But on the other hand most of the tools I use personally I either bought 30 years ago, or bought from someone who bought them someone who bought them a century or more ago. The companies might not be around any longer but the tools remain, and are useful testaments to past glory. And of course for every company finishing up, another starts up, and we hope to be stocking the products of a few new ventures soon.
|I am tired of reading blogs that tell you that everyone except themselves are corrupt and everyone just recommends stuff they have an interest in. Salesmen, of course, recommend only what they make the most money on, and magazine endorse any product if the manufacturers advertise enough or pay a bribe. |
Not only isn't this true - it makes no sense. Of course a bad salesman in a crappy store might do that. And a fly-by-night magazine may do it, but good magazine? Good retailers? No chance.
First let's discuss salesman. Good stores make their money off of repeat customers. Better stores (and I hope we count amongst them) have free return shipping. So any company that doesn't try to make sure that a customer walks out with the best choice of product that they can is just shooting themselves in the foot. Retailers rarely care what you buy. They care that you by it from them, and you walk away happy. Happy customers return and buy more. The big problem for good stores is when a customer wants to buy something that isn't right. While we might gently suggest an alternative, we don't want to get into an argument, and we are just unhappy because we know the customer might be disappointed and blame us.
The only time this breaks down is with stores where the salesperson gets a commission. This means the longer term goals of the company might not be in line with the shorter term goals of a salesperson who has quarterly goals to make. Retailers we like, ourselves included, don't pay sales commissions and that solves that. (N.B. the following added on 1/25/2015). A reader pointed out that this statement isn't fair to the multitude of salespeople who are on commission and strive to do their best for their customers - for the same reason we all do - happy customers are good, repeat customers. He's right and I apologize. While we all have been exposed to bad salesman - the real key I suppose is company policy and company goals. - not commission.
While it is easy to suspect woodworking magazines of requiring payment for a favorable review, it doesn't happen. The reason is simple: Magazines make their money by selling subscriptions and advertising. Readers aren't stupid and if a magazine really was pay for play readers would figure it out and ignore them.
We would happily send just about any tool, or any shop full of tools, to any magazine reviewer in the United States or Canada. Except that since every manufacturer is willing to do the same thing the bribe effect is totally cancelled out. In addition no reputable magazine of any kind allows their editors or writers to accept free stuff, and if they do borrow stuff for a test or an article it's generally understood that there are no strings attached and will be returned or donated when they are done. Otherwise it's just too complicated for everyone.
Most magazine do have columns for mentioning new products. These aren't reviews and they don't have the impact of a recommendation. Even in this case editors print what they want. As manufacturers we can influence content by sending in a relentless stream of new products and press releases, but we can't force them to be printed (and I've tried for years). Editors are happy to look at new products. Sometimes they say send them along, and sometimes they say please no as they have tons of stuff to do and no place to put anything. Sometimes we have something interesting that jumps the queue, most of the time something we think is really interesting falls into the editorial abyss.
The American magazines keep a barrier between the editorial and advertising departments. In general (and I am hopeful this can change) even if a magazine writes a glowing review about a product we sell we don't find out about it until we get our copy in the mail - usually after sales spike, and we are out of stock for reasons we cannot fathom. Sometimes the editors do drop a hint and that way we don't disappoint readers who want the product. But it's always after the magazine has gone to press. English magazines work almost the same way, although we do occasionally get calls from advertising departments saying our product will be in the next issue and would we like to advertise. We don't.
What keeps the magazines honest is you, their readers. Readers aren't stupid, Once readers figure out that a tool recommendation makes no sense based on performance, they start figuring out what's going on, and the few bucks a magazine might make in bribes will kill readership pretty quick. It's just not worth the risk. Even advertisers don't have an advantage. We don't advertise in Fine Woodworking very often, Lee Valley doesn't either (just one large example), but what do you know, both companies get products reviewed and recommended all the time. Even when our products aren't recommended magazines the articles usually explain why and even if I don't agree, it's pretty obvious that taping a couple of Benjamins to the tool when we send it in wouldn't do any good.
Most magazines don't publish bad reviews. While a bad review can be hysterically amusing to read, there are way to many good products to write about and why waste the space on a turkey? From a purely statistical point of view a lot of good products never get written about either. Not enough pages on the planet.
While I am sure there might be some magazines with a pay for play policy I haven't found them, they are not influential, you probably don't read them, and they won't last long.
So when you read a good review in a mainstream magazine you can be pretty sure that the magazine writers and editors like the product well enough to write about it, or in the case of announcements they thought the item newsworthy. If you disagree with a review (and gosh knows I do all the time) take a look at the review and figure out why. It's more than possible that the features of the tool that you find important aren't the same ones as an editor finds important. Just because their conclusion isn't the same as yours doesn't mean anyone was paid off. They weren't.
The blogosphere seems a different matter. According to the law if a blogger accepts a product for free, or for payment, they have to disclose it. Some do, unfortunately many do not. In the woodworking world, just by reading the blogs it's pretty easy to see which blogs are pay for play so I don't need to tell you here.
I get asked to write blogs on this or that all the time, or just publish a press release. I don't. I do try to write about new products, but just like a magazine my creditability depends on material that rings true. Otherwise you wouldn't both to read it. I have written blogs based on suggestions from other people, but it's because I find the subject interesting. Now I am writing a series on diamond sharpening. Why am I writing it? Because we just started stocking DMT and I need to learn about the stones so I can write product descriptions and answer questions. The series of blogs is about my testing and how it will effect my approach to sharpening. My suggestions on stone selection apply to me. I think they also apply to many of you but not necessarily. Part of my testing is so I can figure out what we should recommend to customers. But our general recommendations might have little to do with your actual situation. We stock a lot more permutations of diamond stones than anyone needs, myself included, and there are whole sizes of stones that I can't see myself ever wanting but might be appropriate for you. I need to learn enough to recommend the right stuff depending on application. So that's why I am working with diamond stones and why I am writing about them. And yes maybe reading about my testing might help sales. I certainly hope so. But even if it doesn't, long term having good content brings people to the site, lets us recommend equipment appropriately, and leads to sales - or at any rate that's the theory.
|I ended part one with a bunch of questions. |
I've got two goals here - the first is figure out if I can get an edge that is the equal to or better of the edges I get using oil or water stones. The next goal is to figure out what's the fastest way of getting there. Finally, and make that three or four goals, can diamonds be used on my carving tools and are they an improvement on what I am already using? The last goal and let's just say, amongst my many goals, is answering the question: are diamonds a good solution for sharpening kitchens knives and other things that I get regularly asked to sharpen?
My first task was selecting stones and coming up with some testing process. I picked 8" Dia-sharp steel stones and a non-skid mat. These are the most appropriate for the shop. Selecting the 10" stones - normally I like the extra length - I figured wasn't justified just for testing. For grits I picked Coarse, Fine, Extra-Fine, Medium Extra Fine, and Extra, Extra Fine.
I included the coarse stone because I had one open, but I didn't use it. I just didn't need it. The fine stone - 600 mesh was a credit card sized stone that we had left over from product photography. Both the medium extra fine and the extra-extra fine I wanted to try because DMT says you can get a finished edge right from these stones. The extra fine (1200 mesh) is where Paul Sellers finishes up so I thought that it would be a good mainstream benchmark.
I also used a plain strop and a treated strop. The latter I never use except for carving tools as the honing compound used to treat a strop is coarser than my finishing water stones, but I wanted to see if I needed any finishing stones at all. Remember of course that I am trying all the stones to test them - I doubt my final recommendations will include even half of these. The non-skid mat is awesome. I know that over time they get dirty and don't work as well but for my testing and a lot of other sharpening stuff I do the mat has saved a lot of time in clamping and setups. It doesn't work well for holding wood for carving because the tools get jabbed in the work and everything moves, but for sharpening, especially with these heavy steel diamond stones it's awesome. (For water stones I use a wet paper towel which works wonders too).
All the pictures were taken with my cheapo USB microscope. For this test I just used a typical carbon steel chisel. I am going to try a D2 mortise chisel later.
The chisel wasn't completely hollow ground. I started working the bevel and back using my fine grit (600 mesh) credit card stone. What is amazing was how fast the little credit card stone cut. In probably less than a minute I was ready to move on to a finer grit. What this tells me is that my preference for 8" stones -is just that - a preference. 6" stones or even 4" stones would work fine. (for wider blades just skew them on the stone). The major application of the larger stones really is for people using a honing guide and they need a larger surface to work efficiently. The picture i took was out of focus so lets just immediately go to the 1200 grit stone. Again, very, very fast cutting. The end result cleanly pared both maple and pine. You can honestly say - as some teachers do - that there is no need to go further. But a look under the microscope shows a ragged edge, and while the chisel works well - the action isn't as buttery or as effortless as I would like (first picture at the top).
So I stropped the edge on a green rouge covered piece of horse butt. A big improvement. The cutting edge was cleaner, although scratches remain. Paring end grain was easier.
Then I tried the medium extra fine stone. Again, very fast cutting, but Ben says I can't recommend this stone because it's only available in the 8" size and it's much more expensive than everything else. The grit pattern is finer than previously, but my polished edge from the strop has disappeared. It pares about the same as the previous stropped edge.
Then comes the extra-extra fine stone (picture on right). Very fast cutting, but I run into a problem. Because the diamonds cut so fast if I am not extremely careful the chisel can stutter a bit on the stone and then I get rounding at the tip. I think - although I haven't tested this - I'm working dry and working with water or oil would mitigate the stuttering and minimize this problem. The chisel does cut easier but the difference in quality of cut is minimal.
But I still have scratches. So out comes an 8K Norton waterstone (third picture) and to the naked eye a decent but not great polish quickly comes up. However under the microscope it is still pretty scratchy. The chisel works even better, with less effort.
Finally (last picture) - A plain strop, no abrasive (as I have advocated for years). No dubbing of the edge, and the edge works easier still. The quality of the cut is marginally better than before.
My conclusion so far. Everything works. If you stop after the extra fine diamond stone you get a very useable edge. If you keep on going you get a better, easier to control, better surface leaving edge. With diamonds, getting rid of scratches is hard. In theory the absence of scratches give you a longer lasting edge, but I don't really have a controlled way of testing that.
This test wasn't about longevity, I can increase the longevity of the edge by using a microbevel ( 5 strokes of my finest stone at a very slightly raised angle) but that is a separate issue. For complete instructions on how I learned to sharpen visit my old web page here.
Where to go from here? Definitely using all the steps I used here is overkill, but I was just testing. The question now is what should be my final sequence? It's more than just grit and polish. It's time, convenience, I'm not to thrilled about dry sharpening, the dust is getting everywhere. Also, maybe following the extra extra fine with an Arkansas stone will be easier. I don't know. Also this is carbon steel. The next step is to repeat everything with a D2 chisel and maybe an exotic plane blade. Stay turned.
|As someone who collects books on woodworking I am routinely faced with the conflict of Cost vs. Space vs Ease of Use. While many people love their E-Books - and I have a bunch myself, the physicallity of an actual printed book makes the world of difference for me. That being said I have run out of room for books in my apartment and any new volume really has to be worth the space. For me at least, I find that a well made and well printed book is a joy to read and that joy makes assimilating information all the easier. |
The Dover reprint of Paul Hasluck's 1908 Traditional Woodcarving has been a staple in our store for years. It's an important book on woodcarving, not so much for the beginner, but for carvers trying to expand their options in architectural and furniture decoration. There is nothing really wrong with the reprint. It's about the same size as the original, The photos are OK for a reprint, but I've never found it engaging. The writing is Victorian crotchety, and the reprint being a modern, even if well made, paperback just doesn't make the connection for me. Before the Internet, and both the worldwide accessibility of the used book market, and Google's insistence on scanning every book on the planet, the reprint was the only game in town.
The Google scan - which is freely available here , when viewed on my ipad is an immediately easier to read volume than the reprint. The scan is fine, but the text seems larger and reading it I don't feel strained. Maybe because the medium is so removed from the original I don't expect anything and it's easier to concentrate on the book. However being able to view just one page at a time, and getting no sense of the volume, or not being able to easily flip through pages, for me is a vastly unsatisfying experience. It might really be just the glass screen that sits between me and the text that makes it appear distant. I am not sure if this is a generational thing and younger folks might not feel this way but I do.
Finally, just arrived, is a luscious original copy, bound in leather with gilt edges, from 1908. It's basically the same size as the reprint, but for some reason it's easy to assimilate. The book lies flat, the photos are clear, but it's not immediately obvious why I find that it just begs my attention. Is it the off white of the paper? The feel of the leather cover? The immediate physiological connection with its history? I don't exactly know but I find myself wanting to sit and read it more than my other copies.
Now I understand the with the availability of the scanned version my sales of the reprinted version will drop, and I know original copies like that I just bought are not readily available. But here's what scares me: Ebooks, no matter how nice, are still read behind glass on a machine full of distractions. Unless you have multiple screens you can't have more than one book open at a time. And for me at least, the assimilation of information is less. A cheap reprint may present the information but but the involvement isn't there. Of course if publisher feels they can't make a profit in print, there won't be nice printed books. And if publishers feel they can't earn enough money from a book, they won't pay much to get it written and the working writer with something to say might need a day job. All that's bad news. My original hardback Hasluck reminds me of what a craft book can be. It's not the best book ever written, but the presentation makes it a lot easier to learn from. I don't know what the future holds.
But here's some great news:
I want to shout out to Megan at Popular Woodworking for the latest issue! In it are two of the best furniture projects I have seen in print in ages. And in the same issue!! An aumbry by Chris Schwarz and an article by Peter Marcucci on how to make a reproduction of an 1898 chair by Charles Rohlfs. Everyone here I showed the issue to wants the pieces, and wanting the pieces is the first step towards inspiring new woodworkers and getting the old ones off their duff. The rest of the issue has great stuff on shooting boards, tung oil and etc. Really a job wonderfully done and I am looking forward to more of the same!! You can get the issue at a lot of bookstores and newstands and through the Pop Wood website here - Although the current issue they show is the previous issue - I am writing about the Feb. 2015 issue.
While I am on the subject of great news. We stock all the books from Lost Art Press. Chris Schwarz, the publisher, understands the important of a book not just containing useful information, but also looking the part. Lost Art Press books are more expensive that typical books on woodworking, but they are hardbound, elegantly done, and a joy to read.
|The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.||