Tools for Working Wood

 Joel's Blog at Tools for Working Wood

Sleep Like an Egyptian  


Every since I was a kid I have been fascinated by this Egyptian funeral bier which is on exhibit in the Egyptian wing of the Met. Over the years, with each shifting of the galleries, it has been moved hither and yon but fortunately it is still on display. Dating from the Dynasty 1-2 about 2966-2926 BC (about 5000 year ago), its use of bull hoofs as feet is both functional and elegant. They have other biers of similar style on display, including ones of ivory. The front of the biers have bull forelegs and the backs have the rear legs. The mortise and tenon joinery is of coarse familiar to use and in fact the structure is entire familiar. But what it makes it, at least for me, this piece that has drawn my eye for nearly a half century, is the imagining of the bier as an animal. Not some plain post, but a person is on top of an bull. Now these are funeral biers for carrying the body into the tomb (I think before mummification but I am not sure) and it makes sense to be riding a bull. I think also that the use of bull feet was also done on beds for the living but again I am not sure. But also look at the power in the foot. It's not really stylized. Five thousand years ago, using bronze and copper tools, some skilled craftsman carved this object and for all that I don't live on the Nile, and that we don't have herds of bulls roaming Grand Army Plaza I can still connect with it. And a modern bed, higher up and larger, with similarly carved (and maybe painted hoofs - would be totally awesome.

The ivory Madonna and child in this picture was something I noticed as my son and i were wandering through the medieval wing. While in comparison to the Egyptian bier, at only 900 years old, this sculpture is brand new. What stuck me is how tender and affectionate the mother and child are. The baby is reaching up to cluck his mothers chin (the photo doesn't do this justice) and they are both enjoying each others' company.

Of course that these objects have survived so long is amazing, but for me what truly is wonderful is the emotional contact the creators have made with me over eons of time.
Make something special, make something worthwhile, make something, as functional as furniture, and it can touch people, cheer them up, and enrich their lives for generations, maybe even for thousands of years to come.
Tags:Woodworking Tools and Techniques,Historical Subjects
Comments: 3

Game Changer: Should You Buy the Festool Conturo Edge-Bander?  


Should You Buy the Festool Conturo Edge-Bander? First of all as a seller of tools with a mortgage to pay the obvious answer as far as I am concerned is a rousing "Yes!" However, from your standpoint it's the most expensive piece of equipment Festool has ever brought to the US, and it's too expensive just to sit in the shop and take up space.

In all seriousness I think the Conturo is a game changer because it allows a smaller shop to apply edge banding that has the same level of quality ( up to 3mm/ 18" in thickness, up to 65mm in width (2-9/16"), and curves (only when using the machine hand-held) but up to a teeny-tiny 2" inner radius), as a large shop can using a stationary giant machine of many times the cost, with similar savings in labor and time.

In other words one competitive edge of a larger shop just disappeared, and the minimum expected quality of a small job just increased.

As far as I know there are, including the Conturo, six ways of applying edgebanding. (^*&! - notes below)

MethodGluing MethodolgyCapacityFinal AppearanceLabor CostCapital Cost
Clamps & Cauls
wood glueAnythingCan be Awesome!Very High!, and some skill is needed.0^*
Iron on - Freehand
pre-glued banding is neededvery thin, Glue has to be melted with an iron through the bandingOK - You have limited options in edging, and the thin edging limits edge treatmentsHigh and some skill is needed0*
Iron on with a fixture
pre-glued banding is needed
very thin, Glue has to be melted with an iron through the banding
OK - You have limited options in edging, and the thin edging limits edge treatments
Not as high as without a fixture<$1000
Hand held Festool Corturo
hot melt applied to the edging
up to 3mm (1/8") bending, needed to be at least slightly flexibleExcellent! As good as any edge banding I have seenLow compared to all methods except a Big Fancy Bander2800-3500!
Table Mounted Festool Conturo
hot melt applied to the edging
up to 3mm (1/8") bending, needed to be at least slightly flexible
Excellent! As good as any edge banding I have seen
Big Fancy Edge Bander.
hot melt applied to the edgingUsually anything, even very thick ridged stock.=C2=A0Awesome. Depending on the machine you can have a finished edge in no time, with any material you can imaginge, with more consistent results than by hand.Low compared to other methods10k and UP#

^ - I am not including the costs of clamps because lots of clamps are used for tons of things in the shop, not just applying edge banding.
* - you do need some sort of Laminate trimmer to flush the edges. There are some inexpensive trimmers that are just a blade in a fixture but they work OK at best. On heavier edging that

! - The higher number includes the MFK700 laminate trimmer - which if you don't have one you don't absolutely need.

#Depending on the specific machines there machines not only apply the banding, but can also trim, and finish the edging. Also some of these machines will take long rigid edging of 1/4" thickness or more. Most will require riggers for installation, and custom electrical wiring. There are also long term maintenance charges to consider.

Another thing about this machine and why it's a game-changer is that unlike a big machine that takes weeks to install and needs special maintenance, the Conturo is like any other portable machine. You can bid on a job taking it into account for use on the banding you need to do, then when you get the contract, come on down (or let us ship it to you - free) and that's it. And it is covered by the regular three year Festool warranty. And you can start using it when it arrives. Cost out the machine based on your labor savings and the increased quality of the result.

Check out our video that Tim made on his phone when we first hooked up our machine. It's cool and the hot melt glue system is the professional way to attach banding - no more iron-on!

We have a unit up and running in our showroom. If you are within striking distance come on by with some scrap or a couple of shelves and try out the machine out for yourself. We only have 3/4" banding samples - so you might want to bring your own if that's not what you want to try. Please call ahead just to make sure we can do the demo.

Click here for details and pricing. The units are in stock now - ready for immediate shipment beginning next Monday March 16, 2015.

Special thanks to Sebastian Lata for setting up the machine and running it through its paces for us.
Tags:Product News, Sales, and Promotions
Comments: 4

Guest Blog: Many Sincere Thanks  


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 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.

Best Regards,

Tom Garry
The Woodlands, TX
Tags:Product News, Sales, and Promotions,Misc.
Comments: 8

Festool Vacuums and the Changing Jobsite  


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.

Tags:Product News, Sales, and Promotions
Comments: 3

News (some good some sad)  


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.

Good News:

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.

Sad News:
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.
Tags:Product News, Sales, and Promotions
Comments: 6

Pay For Play  


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.

Tags:Product News, Sales, and Promotions
Comments: 11
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.
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