Tools for Working Wood

 Joel's Blog at Tools for Working Wood

Sharpening With Diamond Stones - Conclusions  


It's been over a year since I wrote up my take on diamond sharpening. Since then we have moved, my stones were packed, lost, found, unpacked, shifted about, and finally are sitting in a box next to my desk. More importantly, the diamond stones have worn in a bit and cut smoother, and after going back and forth I think I finally have settled on a sequence that not only works well for me, is faster than what I used to do and has become my new methodology.

This is big news for me. This is the fourth major change in my sharpening practice since I started sharpening anything and being fairly traditional I don't change things for the sake of changing. My technique has not changed. I still find sharpening jigs to finicky and slow, and I hollow grind everything I can. What has changed is my choice of technology. Instead of water stones that need flattening I use diamond for all except the last two steps.

Step one: Fine Diamond Stone. - In the picture I have a double sided DMT 12" diasharp continuous stone in DMT's magnetic base. If my edge was damaged I would regrind the tool. Without a grinder I would use a coarse diamond stone to remove the damage. The 12" long stone is overkill. The 8" stones are fine, and I think if I use the longer stones more I will have to get used to making a longer stroke when sharpening because otherwise it is a waste. However, if you use a honing guide the extra length will be very handy as it leaves room for the guide. I use a little water for lubrication. I was teaching a class and had the magnetic base handy, but normally the non-skid mat is fine(but keep the mat dry). The fine diamond cuts fast enough so I can get a wire edge with no trouble and very fast. I do the back, then the bevel, and work the tool until I have raised a wire edge or burr.

Step two: Extra Fine Diamond Stone. I chase the burr, refine the scratch pattern.

Step three: 8000 Grit Norton Stone. I know Norton stones are out of fashion but they do a really great job with A2 and D2 steel. Being friable they cut much faster than harder, less friable stones. I find that a regular finishing stone, like the Norton 8000, gives me a smooth, sweet edge that I just can't get with even the finest diamond stones. Diamond crystals are sharp and stay that way and I still get more of a scratch pattern than a polish with any fine diamond stone. (Diamond paste does give a polish but I don't see an advantage in this case). I do soak the 8000 stone, but because the edge is basically ready for final steps there isn't much wear and tear on the stone and only a little maintenance for the stone is needed. With the 8000 I chase the burr until I can no longer feel it. If I am adding a microbevel I will then do a half dozen strokes to raise a new tiny burr and chase that. When I cannot feel the burr I stop.

Step four: Strop: For best results strop on a PLAIN leather strop, not a strop covered in honing compound (which has its place but not on straight, hollow ground tools). As I strop - about 10 fast strokes on a side, repeated about 3-5 times - you can feel the edge become smoother, sweeter, and generally sharper.


I know I have completely glossed over the details of holding a chisel, how to strop, and etc, for detailed sharpening instructions click here (Just use diamond stones instead of the Arkansas stones in the article).

I don't use my diamond stones to flatten the 8000 grit stone. I use a ceramic flattening stone. The problem is that flattening waterstones erodes the plating holding the diamonds on the stone. We do stock special "hard coat" diamond stones made for lapping waterstones which are great, large, but too coarse for normal sharpening (and not inexpensive). We also stock finer hard coat stones for regular sharpening but I would still want something coarser for flatting a stone.

Tags:Woodworking Tools and Techniques
Comments: 6

YouTube: Woodworking In Asia  


In the old days if you wanted to learn anything you either took a class or read a book. Then of course came video, some good, some bad. But all these videos were by teachers, Again, some great, some not so great. However with the advent of YouTube everyone is a star. What this means is that if you want to learn about a technique or something, chances are someone, somewhere has put it up on YouTube. And, and this is what's so exciting, it's pretty inexpensive to do this and thousands of have posted their work. We now can see woodworking done by professionals from all walks of life, culture, and specialty. and even if they aren't teaching a lesson.

There is stuff to be learned.

I was working on material for my sharpening class that I am teaching this coming Saturday and I got to thinking about sharpening in the Japanese tradition and then I got distracted by woodworking in Asia in general and it was only much later I climbed out of the YouTube rabbit hole. It's interesting stuff. Now it's your turn (In no particular order. Hit F5 or refresh your browser if the videos are small or don't fit the entire screen on mobile):

Almost all woodworking in Asia, Japan and Korea included, have their roots in China. The Japanese woodworking tradition broke away from China pretty early on and has the most obvious differences from China. Korean woodworking is more recognizably Chinese.

This first video is from Korea. I have no idea what the narrator is saying which is a shame, although there is a little English towards the end. Included are at least three techniques I have never seen demonstrated before, and a bunch of new to me tools.

Traditional Chinese Carpentry. This is one of a series and it's really well done. I do wish I knew Chinese. There is a mastery of craft here where order is made out of chaos and tons of stuff I have never seen before.

Korean Joinery with a Table Saw. I found this video sort of tedious but payoff is a joint you never see in Western furniture.

I added this last one from Japan because it was the first video I clicked but more importantly it shows what happens when modern craftsman, using a mix of traditional and modern methods - build a staircase. It's not 100% traditional, but it's not modern construction either.

Tags:Woodworking Tools and Techniques
Comments: 2

Dust Collection - Which Festool Vacuum Should I Get - Demo Day This Saturday  


These days a dusty shop, and tracking dust all over the house, is considered less and less acceptable and having a clean job-site is increasingly a contract requirement. Let's first talk about some basic definitions and then some recommendations.

When we talk about a "Dust Collector" in the workshop we usually mean a cyclone which though a system of ducts sucks dust, shavings, and what have you, from all the machines in the shop into a cyclone patter when most of the dust drops out into a large bag. These systems take huge quantities of garbage and don't have replaceable bags, so they are easy to maintain.

Traditional vacuum cleaners, or "dust extractors" as Festool calls them, suck the dust into a filter bag and then further filter the air with additional filters before releasing it back into the room.

Because a shop dust collector requires ductwork and uses large bags it is a stationary machine and isn't used on jobsites. It also has a limit to how fine a particle the swirling cyclone can separate out.

Regular vacuums, because they use bags have a practical limit in size and regularly using them in a shop would fill up a bag very quickly when milling wood or doing a lot of routing. But because they use sets of filters, vacuums can clean the air far more effectively, and on a job site switching to a new bag, is less messy and faster than trying to empty a bag (although permanent bags are available).

Vacuums are rated by how much suck they have and how fine a particle they can filter out. Modern vacuums can be HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting) rated and in some cases "lead certified". From a user perspective HEPA vacs trap particles down to .3 microns. If you work in lead removal you will need a HEPA vac that also is lead certified. In Festool's case all their vacs are HEPA (except for the CT36 AC which is for plaster) and can be lead certified, which requires paperwork and dedicating a vac for lead removal, but for most of us that isn't really an issue.

If you mill solid wood in your shop having a regular cyclone dust collection is a must. We don't stock them, I don't know much about various brands. I don't know where ours came from (picture above but it's not fully set up after the move), I do know that to some extent the cost is proportional to quality, loudness (ours is very loud) and capacity.

If you work mostly in sheet goods, and don't do any thicknessing a large vacuum or dust extractor might be more convenient. I get this question all the time - "Which vac should I buy"? And not coincidentally, from now until June 30th, Festool is offering a 15% discount on all vacuums and most (but not all) bags and accessories. For a change this discount isn't tied to a tool purchase and it includes all the vacs except the new CT-SYS (which you get 10% off on when you buy a tool at the same time). The 15% is instead of the 10% not an additional discount.

In Europe the CT-SYS is the most popular vac. My guess is that in the US is will become number one too, mostly because it is the least expensive, most portable vac that Festool makes and I think it will be a hit for installers but the low cost (for Festool) will appeal to a lot of people. After that Festool makes two groups of vacs, the CT Mini and Midi which are basically the same except for bag size, and the more powerful CT 26, 36, or 48. The latter group larger and marginally more powerful than the Mini/Mini but otherwise identical except for bag size. The numbers of the CT vacs refer to the bag size in liters. The Midi has almost twice the bag capacity of the Mini and then there is a big jump in size to the CT 26.

I never recommend the Mini to anyone. We sell a bunch to people who have specific uses for sanding on a job-site and want the lightest vac possible. But now with the new CT-SYS (even smaller bag - get the reusable bag) I think the Mini really makes no sense. The Midi on the other hand is really popular with people who do sanding, some sawing, and maybe some joinery. It of course works for the occasional routing but you will fill up a bag very quickly. This is a great vac for the small shop, the on-site contractor, and even big shops like the Midi for dedicated sanding stations (because of the HEPA filters) and the big stuff is hooked up to a big dust collection system.

For shop use the CT26 is the most popular - mostly because of the larger bag size, And it is portable - just heavier. It's the most popular vac in the States right now. If you do a lot of routing consider a CT 36 or CT 48. We sell a fair number of 36's but very few 48's. The footprint of all three larger vacs is the same but the bigger ones are just taller. I think the issue with the 48 is that unless you really do a lot of routing you don't really need the capacity and a mostly full CT48 is a heavy vac to lug around if you don't need to.

Plaster dust can easily clog fine HEPA filters, so Festool makes an autoclean vacuum that is NOT HEPA and has a special feature where it bangs on the bag periodically so the bag doesn't clog with plaster. It is basically a CT36 with non-HEPA filters and the special feature, but it comes with a different hose to connect it to the Planex so while you can convert it back to a regular vac it isn't an instant transformation.

One more thing.

This coming Saturday, May 14, 2016, from 11:00-2:00 we will have our Festool rep set up with all the tools, you can try them out, check them out, and ask those weird questions. We were thinking about having a scratch and dent sale after the demo sessions but it's been postponed. We have more stuff coming, and we just don't have time to prep, and it might have to be a two day event on it's own. Look for the sale in the early summer. See all of our scheduled events on the new EVENTS menu option.

Comments: 2

The Saw-Book Quarterly January 1903  


The Joshua Oldham Saw Works at 26th Street and 3rd Avenue Brooklyn
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, in the course of investigating the roots of Joshua Oldham & Sons, our saw-making forebears at our new home at 112 26th street, I came across a single issue of a magazine series the company printed from at least 1899 - 1905.
Click to download the book
I went to the Brooklyn Collection at the Brooklyn Public Library to see the original. It's beautifully done, a color cover of a Phoenix rising from the flames of the fire that destroyed the factory in late 1901. It's great. The back cover is even better but all the graphics are wonderful. I am still trying to make sense of the engraving the factory layout on page three with what remains of the original building and two survey maps that I also saw at the library. I'll write about that as soon as I am done. I'm finding it very interesting to start to be able to envision this neighborhood before the building of the expressway. BTW in the factory engraving we would be located in the large warehouse building in the back, in the right corner. But I am not sure yet if the engraving is accurate or "enhanced" by the artist.

Click on any of the images to download the booklet. I want to thank the library
Click to download the book
for making all of this possible, saving the material, knowing how to find it, making it available to the public, writing about it in their blog, and letting me see it and take pictures.

In other news you might have noticed a new menu item on the top of the page (or near the bottom on the mobile flyout menu) listing the new events that we are holding at our space. I hope you can come join us.
Tags:Historical Subjects
Comments: 5

Big Discounts on Festool Vacuums, Demo Days, and Sharpening Classes, and Surprise Sale Bin Stuff   


Before I get into the details of the Festool promo I want to apologize in advance to those readers who have complained about the occasion business driven blog. I just spent part of the day at the Brooklyn Library seeing the original of the Saw Book Quarterly that I mentioned a few weeks ago. But that blog entry won't be ready until next week (and I discovered some interesting factoids) But the Festool sale, demo stuff and classes info is timely. So here goes.

After months of worrying about moving, moving, (and then finding where we should put stuff) a whole bunch of things are happening at once. The really big news for May and June is a 15% off sale on all Festool vacuums and accessories. The new CT SYS (more on that later) isn't included but otherwise the sale starts May 1, ends June 30th, and gets you an instant 15% off on qualifying merchandise. This offer isn't connected to buying a tool so it is the ideal time to pick up an extra vac for the shop or jobsite. Bags, filters, and accessories and also included! Note: The promo is 15% off list, not on top of the 10% off you get when you buy a tool. After 5:00 on April 30th the promo prices will magically appear on the website and you can place orders for Monday shipping. Free shipping on all Festool orders over $50 still applies!

The New CT SYS vac is here and you can pre-order now. This is the most popular vac sold by Festool in Europe (after the CT 26) although when people first heard about it in the US we got a lot of pretty negative feedback. Too small, no wheels, under-powered, etc. More than one customer told me that it was a non-starter. Then, once we had our demo unit and could show people in the store, we got a lot of enthusiasm and pre-orders. I think it's a tool you just have to see. So if you are unable to come and you think it might suit just order one. You have 30 days to return any Festool tool and we pay return shipping.

Now that we have a proper ground floor store we are having classes and Festool demo days. First the Festool Demo Days.
Put Saturday May 14th, 2016 from 11am-2pm and Saturday June 4th, 2016 from 11am-2pm on your calendar. The cool bit is that in addition to having some serious Festool demos and the chance to try out just about any Festool setup, ask questions, etc. I plan to be there with our bins of sale stuff. When we moved we found tons of stuff that really we need to get rid of - but it's a lot of work to put it on the website. So I plan to just make up prices on the spot. Lots of new stuff, discontinued stuff, and stuff I just want to get rid of. Now I realize we are short sheeting our customers who live far away and can't come by. I apologize for that but I can't figure out any other way to do it that makes sense for us.

Sharpening classes. We thought a lot about what form the classes should take and we realized that the more people who can sharpen properly, the more people who will enjoy woodworking, and that's great all around. So we decided to offer our seminars for FREE. On Saturday May 21st from 12-1 and again on Saturday June 11th, from 12-1 I will be teaching an "Introduction to Sharpening Woodworking Tools". The call will be about an hour long but I will be hanging out longer to answer questions and stuff. I'm a big believer in technique more than the sharpening media and my goal is to teach hand skills not gizmos. I'm not sure if we will have a pre-registration, and most of the class will be explanation and demonstration. But I will have space set up so people can try the basic hand motions and technique. I also want everyone to get a sense of what a really sharp tool feels like in action. If you want to bring one (and I mean one) of your chisels to the class - by all means bring it. Please however don't bring chisels that have chipped edges or need to be reground (lots of secondary bevels). I will have tools to practice on and it might be easier to learn on those. Depending on demand and response I will in future also schedule sessions on learning to grind. Our goal is to start a steady stream of free classes that teach basic skills as a way to get started woodworking, or as a refresher. For the moment these classes are all on Saturdays, and as soon as my weekday schedule changes - and I have more time in the evenings during the week - we will add free sessions during the week too. Parking BTW on the weekends is pretty easy. Either in our driveway, near our driveway, or under the expressway. The subway (R train to 25th street in Brooklyn) is only 3 1/2 blocks away.

We will have more details as the classes and Festool demo days develop. See You Soon!
Comments: 5

The Old Merchant's House  


Most of the time when we see old furniture it's out of context. It's in a museum, on display, but not in any sense in situ. The exception of course is historic houses. Of course, even in that case, there is a goodly chance of the furnishing being a reconstruction of the original, rather than the original thing.

The Old Merchant's House, on 4th street between the Bowery and Lafyette was build in 1832. Seabury Tredwell, bought the house in 1835 and after his last daughter died in the 1930's the house became a museum. Aside from some odds and ends work the family never redecorated, or threw anything out. Consequently what you see is a coherent picture of the living quarters of an upper middle class family, their servants and the furniture they used on a daily basis in the mid-19th century. In context.

While the furniture itself is very interesting, the most important thing I learned on my recent visit was how the role of furniture and entertaining has changed over the last 170 years. These folks had a fancy parlor with an early pianoforte ready for frequent entertaining. And of course they had a card table. In the US today, due to long hours and television, adults socialize far, far less than ever before. So places in the home meant for social events have been replaced by big televisions, and eating out.
Young people socialize by going out in groups. I don't think Facebook is the same thing and chatting face to face. I used to have a poker game with friends every couple of weeks. I miss that. It was fun.

One reason for joining your local woodworking club or attending gallery and woodworking events and classes in your neighborhood is the social element. And it should not be underestimated. I still have the friends I made in woodworking class and so many people I know get real enjoyment from the people they meet at through their local club.

So visit The Old Merchant's House with some friends. Heck, make a day of it. Bring the whole family, and split up if you need to. Have lunch in the area - Katz's isn't too far away but you are in the downtown on the Bowery and if you can't find something to eat that everyone likes you have larger issues than we have room to discuss here. A walk in the area will reveal lots of buildings from the 19th century in various states of modification, not to mention new stuff of every ilk.

An important issue that the Old Merchant's House faces today is in danger of destruction. Next door a tall apartment building has received building department approval and engineering studies have determined that in the process of drilling for the foundation for the new building the chance of the Tredwell house foundation being shifted is very very high. Reports say that even a quarter of an inch shift will crack the original, fantastic, decorative plaster found throughout the house. Permanently damaging the building and doing incalculable historic damage.
Tags:Historical Subjects
Comments: 2
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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