|Next weekend we will be taking a lot of our American made tools and clothing and setting up two blocks away so we can participate in the American Field All American Pop-up Market. This show highlights American Manufacturing from all over the country. Click on the picture to take a look at the list of exhibitors - everyone from old line companies to new companies with a single product. IT's going to be tons of fun.|
At the same time - next door - will be The Brooklyn Holiday Market featuring Brooklyn makers and hosted by Wanted Design. A lot of our friends are exhibiting there. Both shows are free I think you will have a great time!
See You There!
|This blog post is a catchall letting you know about some of the new things on the horizon here at TFWW. First of all, in addition to all our current methods of payment was have now also accept PayPal for all transactions. On one level PayPal is just another means of buying stuff, but I'm excited because it speeds up checkout. With Paypal checkout becomes simple: Click the "Pay with PayPal" button on the bottom of the shopping cart, or on the checkout page, log onto PayPal, select the address in PayPal, return to our store for shipping method selection, and then confirm the sale. Done. Of course, if you're shopping on mobile, anything that lets you avoid typing in information into a phone is a big step forward.|
Cyber Monday: All around our office and warehouse are boxes of tools that for one reason or another aren't on the website. So on Sunday November 30th at 10:00PM(ish) Brooklyn Time, we are putting all this excess stuff on line for a massive Cyber Monday Blowout Sale. Over 200 items will be available! For the first time. you will be able to put something in your cart, and have it reserved for you for 20 minutes or so to give you time to shop some more and then check out. After the 20 minutes, if you don't check out, the items will be removed from your cart so other people can snag them. My big project for the next week is writing the software to make this reservation system work. So details might vary in the final execution. But it's a fair system so two people can't buy the same thing only to have one person disappointed.
Diamond Sharpening: For the past year, we have introduced a new product every week. In the past weeks. DMT diamond sharpening products has been a big new category for us. After years of being on the fence about diamond sharpening I am working on testing and figuring out a sequence of stones to get a great edge for a minimal cost. So far I don't think diamonds are great for the final finish, but they certainly do a fine, fast job of roughing out an edge and staying flat. I'll have a real how-to soon.
Festool: New stuff from Festool will be coming out on December 1st, with pre-orders starting (we hope) next week. The big new tool is the Festool Vecturo Oscillating Multitool, which is a Festool branded Fein Super Cut tool. The Super Cut, which is the top end of the Fein Multi-Master tool, is very popular, and the Vecturo cutters will be interchangeable with the Supercut Tool (not the regular Multi-master). The Big Festool innovation will be several versions of cutting stops that will also fit the Super Cut Tool. The attachments will be available separately for Fein Supercut owners.
Also new from Festool this fall is the return of the Toolie - a wrench with all the metric Allen and screw keys you need for Festool. A hose attachment to give you a third hand, And drawers slides to turn any cabinet into a SysPort.
We will have full information and be ready for pre-order next week or so. Stay tuned for more details!
The picture above, which has nothing to do with any of this, is of one of my favorite new products - our set of mini colored pencils (see photo above). They are cute, portable, and a great stocking stuffer. It even comes with a sharpener, an eraser, and it fits in a wallet. Some people use them in pencil holders - which sounds like it might be a fun lathe project.
|Colen Clenton is the maker of a range of really wonderful adjustable squares and other measuring tools that we have been proud to stock for many years. I've never met him in person but we have chatted on the phone about this and that for ages from our ends of the earth. When my son was born, Colen sent us a magnificent rattle made of she-oak. He's a wonderful craftsman and a wonderful guy.|
This video shows Colen in his New South Wales, Australia, shed workshop. I'm writing this from a Manhattan high-rise but I can admire his very different lifestyle and of course the reverence for craft that we share. Colen began his tool manufacture by making tools for his own use that attracted the eyes of people who coveted them. He speaks warmly and encouragingly to others who would like to earn their livelihood with their crafts. And needless to say, his gorgeous tools are scene-stealing supporting players throughout the video.
One of the things I find most interesting about Colen's tools is that while they do exactly the same thing as many other measuring tools by other makers, their combination of design, materials, and execution makes them feel wonderful in the hand and amazingly satisfying to use. Watch the video and see how Colen's values and life choices are reflected in his tools.
We stock the complete line of Colen's tool here.
|In the past few years what has become to be known as a "Moxon Vise" has become a pretty popular workbench accessory. The basic theory behind it is that lots of joinery operations, especially dovetailing, need to be done at a higher bench height than a typical bench - which is usually set for planing operations. In Moxon's engraving from Mechanick Exercises(1678) the vise is placed at an obviously incorrect position, with no way of attaching it to the bench. Felibien, in an earlier book, (which Moxon liberally copied from) shows a group of these vises hanging from a wall behind the main workbench.|
I think it was the Lost Art Press' edition of The Art of Joinery that brought the vise back to the limelight and it is now a very popular accessory.
Today several vendors, ourselves included, stock complete Moxon vises ready for use or hardware kits for making your own. Our vise, which was designed and is made for us by the Philadelphia Furniture Workshop, has a couple of unique features, notably a cambered from jaw for ease of clamping, and handles that can be moved out of the way while working. The hardware for the vise, which was a joint design by ourselves and the PFW is specially designed to allow for wear and a lot of give in the wood. Our hardware kit doesn't include drawings for the vise because, while the PFW design is perfect for hordes of people, if you are going to the trouble of making a vise for yourself, you might as well take a moment and decide if some customization is in order. However so many people have asked us for some guidance I thought explaining some design considerations might be in order.
At its most simple the vise is just two boards with screws to clamp them together and enough thickness on the back jaw so that the vise in turn it can be clamped to your bench. The actual size isn't critical. The screws need to be inset far enough in from the ends so the wood doesn't split - a couple of inches at most - and the main dimension is the clamping distance between the screws and the overall height of the vise. Unless you have the urge to have several vises, you want a clamping distance wide enough for any carcase you are likely to make - say 24" max, but 18" or 20" between the screws is probably more realistic. Also you don't want to make such a heavy monster that moving it all the time is a chore. The height is the next issue - you want it high enough so it brings dovetailing to a comfortable height. 4" is fine for most people, 6" might be better for a tall person on a short bench - here is one area where personal preference is important.
Now we are already into two tweaks. By cutting down the ends of the rear jaw into ears you give yourself clamping surfaces that will keep cutting tools away from your holdfasts
- the usual device for attaching the vise to your bench.
Among the innovations made by the Philadelphia Furniture Workshop in our vise - a narrow shelf is glued on the back of the rear jaw to create a clamping ledge so that you can clamp your tails down firmly when you lay out your pins.
The way our kit
works is that the two acme screws thread into two nuts mortised into the back jaw of the vise. Just locate the holes far enough from the bottom so the nuts have enough clearance and first drill the holes and then mortise away. The nuts we use are custom for the vise and are offset. We found that, especially with a sloppy mortise, a regular nut can spin in the mortises as the vise wears. This design gives you plenty of room for error and you won't have to worry about wear.
The front jaw can be as thin as 4/4 but here again the Philadelphia furniture workshop design has a great innovation. The inside of the jaw is slightly cambered so even if the jaws are tightened unevenly the vise will hold in the center perfectly. Also the thinner front jaw, not only makes the vise lighter, the jaw can bend a little when clamping for a better fit on the work.
Finally it's nice to have a little something to help align the vise to the front edge of your bench.
We didn't use Moxon type vises
when I was learning woodworking. What a shame. I cannot imagine not having one now. Especially since between my back and my eyesight (lack of) getting the work closer to me, and not having to slouch down to work is a real boon, Whichever design you use I think it's a really great addition for work holding in the workshop.
| I was at the Met this past weekend with a guest, and we ended up in one of the 20th century galleries that I almost never visit. On display among the paintings were four 20th century chairs (from the left). The "Zig Zag" chair by Gerrit Rietveld (1937), an armchair by Koloman Moser (1903), the "31" armchair by Alvar Aalto (1931-32) and the "DCW" Side Chair by Charles Eames (1948).|
By the very fact of the display, the Met shows that it considers these chairs important landmarks of 20th Century furniture design. But to me, the chairs also signify the shift in furniture craft: from the craftsman making furniture for a client to the designer making furniture specifically for mass manufacture.
The Rietveld and Moser pieces were designed to be made in a typical cabinet shop. We sell a great book about Rietveld, complete with plans, and you can pretty much make everything in his book with a fairly basic shop. I am not familiar with Moser, but the Moser piece is also pretty accessible. It's woodworking. I get it.
The Aalto and Eames pieces were designed for manufacture. Their clients were furniture corporations, not a person. To make either piece, you would need forms, presses, and equipment. Even if you only want to make one chair, you would still have to make molds and forms for the bent plywood. Most of the work is in the forms, and once you have done that, making multiples is fairly easy.
The Aalto and Rietveld pieces date from about the same time, but it's clear to me that Rietveld is looking backward at the A&C movement and its idea that furniture should be accessible to anyone to build. Aalto, on the other hand, is looking forward to the disconnect between the factory, which can manufacture his flowing designs, and the individual maker who is then left in the dust.
Now, before you point out to me that most American furniture was made in factories, let me point out that the furniture factories of the early 20th Century America made traditional furniture the traditional way -- just faster, with the aid of machines. Stickley made his A&C furniture in a factory, but he published plans so that any competent shop, amateur or professional, could make a copy. (Maybe not as efficiently, but certainly as well.)
These chairs document the two paths furniture has taken in the past century. It's not about traditional versus modern design. It's about designing for mass production versus designing for small production. I am not saying mass production is bad, just that the designs for mass production don't leave room for traditional workshops. And so the modern small shop is caught between two worlds: a desire to explore the limits of craft, and the mass vocabulary of manufacture that people are used to and have come to expect.
|One of the fun things about running a business like ours is that you get to meet cool people interested in process and manufacturing. At last year's Maker Faire we met Melinda and Laylah from Saturday Market Project. Over the past year we got together a few times and we decided to collaborate on something.|
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Saturday Market Project retails online through their website. They're based out of the US and UK and have slightly different product offerings from both. Their main focus is on collaborating to develop project kits, and selling raw materials for maker and craft type projects.
Whats interesting about SMP is that in addition to fancy french string, wool, and really nice staplers, they're selling electronics kits, resistors, and a paint pen that draws in conductive ink link.
The idea that those products make sense together is really contemporary - and I think reflects how interesting the maker movement is becoming as it grows. The idea that something like SMP would, or even could exist 10 years ago or even 3 or 4 years ago is impossible.
For those of you in the UK, you may already know that the London Design Festival is going on this week. There are more events that we can mention - but suffice to say that were jealous of any of you who are in London this week.
During LDF, Saturday Market project is hosting a space for, as they put it "making, material experimentation, masterclasses, demonstrations, free drop-in workshops and a temporary shop" in Shoreditch near the Old Street tube stop.
We provided a set of Gramercy Saws, rasps and Hammers for the work bench at their space, and they've got events all weekend including a cool (LDF runs through the 21st)
If you're in London check it out and tell them we say Hi!!
For more information about SMP at London Design Fair check their Tumblr here.
Or visit their website.
Meanwhile, In New York, It's Maker Faire and this year I'll be making a presentation on Sunday at 2:30. Check here for details.
|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.||