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Beautiful Cabinet Shop Space Available for Rent in Gowanus  

02/05/2018 The pictures do not do it justice!

I have written many times about how some landlords want to change the industrial zoning in Brooklyn to something friendlier to luxury housing.

Not all landlords favor this plan. My own landlord is one of them. He has a deep commitment to maintaining the industrial nature of Gowanus and supports this commitment by being a great landlord to his tenants. So when he mentioned to me that he has some vacant industrial space and asked me if I knew anyone who needed space, I was eager to help if I could. (And no, I don't get a commission or anything.)

Here's the deal:

5000 square foot space with a high ceiling. In addition it already has a built in finished mezzanine that from the pictures looks like great office space. It's on the ground floor, so loading and unloading supplies and goods is easy. It's in great shape and would probably need minimal electrical work. The previous occupant, a restoration shop, was there for 16 years. The location is near the F, G, and R subway lines on a fairly quiet block.

Bonus 1: The previous occupant and a nice spray booth that they want to sell. This is huge if you need to do finishing.

Bonus 2: Long lease. My landlord understands that unless you have a long enough lease you can't afford to invest in your own equipment and other stuff. Let's just say more than five years.

Bonus 3: Affordable. A commitment to manufacturing by a landlord doesn't just mean that he is willing to rent to you if you want to pay office rates. My landlord will offer you an affordable lease, understanding full well that everyone has be be able to make a decent living. You will also discover that he is really easy to work with. The lease is simple and there are no tricks anywhere.

Bonus 4: No brokerage fee for anyone, which saves everyone money.

This is awesome space and a rare commodity. If you are in need of shop space, and you want a place to settle down to for the next decade or so, and you really manufacture stuff, this is by far the best space in Brooklyn. And Gowanus is a great place to work, shop, and live. The shop is walking distance to a lot of great residential areas too.

Don't miss the opportunity! It will go fast. See below for more pictures.

Email me with your contact information and phone number and I will be happy to pass it on.

P.S. I understand that this blog entry might be a little unnecessary for those of you who don't live anywhere near Brooklyn or are not professionals needing space. But the single most popular question that gets asked in all Brooklyn wood shops (after "How's business?") is, "Are you going to be able to stay here?"

P.P.S. I am totally aware that I don't normally have blog entries that are basically advertisements, especially for other people, but this is an exception. My landlord supports me and what I do, so I would like to return the favor and support him and what he does. So I am.

Comments: 4

Safety Last  


I'm old enough to remember when people didn't routinely buckle up when they got into cars. Years of laws, enforcement of laws, knowing people who were maimed or killed in car crashes and probably millions of dollars of advertising later, most people I know wear seat belts every time they get into a car. We wear seat belts and accept that that the chance of an accident might be small but it isn't zero. We know that the seat belts will offer a lot of protection relative to the inconvenience of using them. We generally don't think, "Hmmm, I'm drunk so I had better buckle up" or "Taylor just passed his road test so guess I'll wear the seat belt" or "Only in bad weather" or "Only with my parents/kids in the back seat" or "Only on New Year's Eve." The practice most people have is protecting themselves every time.

So why is it in a workshop - especially a home shop - do so many people only put on safety glasses only before a potentially hazardous operation, not wear them all the time?

It's true that when working with hand tools there is less chance of kickback from a saw, but there are plenty of other hazards - sawdust in the air, sharp edges, splinters, etc. - all of which can fly into your eye when you least expect it.

Here is what I insist upon with all my students and strongly recommend to all woodworkers: when you enter the workshop, get into the habit of putting on safety glasses right way. Any kind would work as long as they are comfortable enough so that you actually wear them. Get into the habit. You will be glad you did.

In the picture above we have four forms of eye protection. The ones in the lower right with the black frames are prescription safety classes. You get them from an optician. I like them because up until recently we didn't have any glasses that worked with googles (see below), and by using these glasses I save wear and tear on my regular glasses.

I also have an oversize pair of glasses OTS XL that fit over my regular glasses, seen here over my glasses on the upper right mannequin head. For people who truly need their glasses, this is a godsend. These are the only style of safety glasses that I have seen that really work well over a pair of eyeglasses. Highly recommended.

If you don't wear prescription glasses, you have a range of options that are comfortable and inexpensive. The pair with the black nose piece (lower left) fits almost all faces. You can also get safety glasses for kids and adults with small faces. We know adult woodworkers who have complained that nothing fits them -- until they tried the glasses worn by the picture's upper left mannequin. This is great for instilling good work habits if you kids hang out in the workshop with you (and we hope they do), and for giving small adults the routine protection others take for granted. Click here for more info.

The Capstone shield is great when you need more protection and don't want to swallow wood chips being thrown at you. Great for yard work too. The Shield opens and closes

With the exception of prescription glasses, safety glasses are also remarkably inexpensive, as a matter of fact if you click on the links and want to order one pair of glasses the shipping will be more than the glasses - so you might just want to add a pair to your next order and save shipping.

The title of this blog post comes from Harold Llyod's great film. The scene below is amazing - even with camera magic. Lloyd did his own stunt work, which is remarkable especially considering that his right hand was missing fingers due to an accident several years earlier. In the film he is wearing a glove designed by Hal Roach and movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn, a former glove salesman.

Comments: 10

I Am a Panda  


I am a panda. Or a great ape. Or any of a number of animals - I'll choose the cute ones - whose terrain is disappearing and are therefore endangered. Tut- tutting or telling me how cute, chubby, and fun to watch I am doesn’t help much. "Oooh, check out that guy with the hand tools! Amazing!" Neither does lip service. On the face of it, our government agencies all love manufacturing and makers. They love to have “maker initiatives,” training, etc. They are even happy to make a small, zoo-like zone of a few blocks where manufacturers who already exist can try to still exist. But protecting the actual wild environment is another story.
Most of the energy in encouraging manufacturing in NYC is focused on "Maker Spaces," which are always well-intentioned and sometimes actually awesome. But the problem is that these spaces, much like a breeding sanctuary, is that it is not a real substitute for an improved wild environment. What happens to a fledgling business after you "graduate" from a maker space? If you have a prototype, you will probably will outsource your production to somewhere with enough affordable real estate to encourage manufacturing - a place that sometimes feels like anywhere but New York City. And what if you want to expand your business? That probably means not New York too. All the investment in maker spaces, incubators, and other startup support may pay off - but not for the people of the city.

Cabinet shops, which are TFWW’s retail life blood, are dying in NYC. Many landlords don't want messy businesses. Even in neighborhoods with industrial zoning - places that are zoned for mess and noise - the trend is to try to rent to offices and commercial ventures. Even if the business does actual making, their primary work is clean and silent. Offices and design shops have a far greater density of people than a woodshop, and so higher rents are easier to achieve. And of course once your tenant is a fancy office, it will want like-minded businesses for neighbors, not a company with a screaming table saw or spray booth. And once a landlord realizes that it can get more per square foot by skirting the industrial zoning requirements rents shoot up. Even if the space is available for a cabinet shop, the cost might be unaffordable.

Now I should mention that not all landlords are opportunists who bought property that was discounted because of its use restrictions but now are trying to evade their responsibilities. ( See my blog from a few weeks ago about Industry City). There are a many landlord - and thankfully mine is one (My landlord has been incredibly supportive of what we do and truly fights for continued manufacturing in NYC) - that really want industry to succeed. There are bunches of reasons for this. The first is that many people, my landlord and others included, want a city that is diverse. They recognize that not everyone is a web designer or a stockbroker. We have thousands of electricians, plumbers, carpenters, cabinet makers, machinists, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, and a range of other craftspeople and tradespeople who need a place to go to work, like being in the city, and most important, make the city far more interesting and full of ideas than it would be without them.

Let me give you an example:
Once upon a time, on West 22nd Street in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, a tinsmith named Harry Segerman had a business two doors down from my grandparents’ luncheonette. Harry mostly made tinware, and later stainless fixtures, for the restaurant industry. In the years following WWII, Chelsea (nowadays an exceedingly trendy and expensive neighborhood) was a fairly rough part of town. A few blocks west were the Cunard Docks; the buildings were a mix of low rise housing and garment industry factories.
The area was inexpensive to live in, which attracted bohemian artists. Some of them wandered into Harry's shop and were enamored by the idea that you could take metal and bend it into interesting shapes. Harry, who was encouraging by nature and very interested in art, helped helped a lot of these artists make work in tin. Some artists took it a step further and developed expertise in sculpting with sheet metal because of his support.

On paper, this interaction is what cities do best. Art and crafts (and commerce) happen when a big city is a melting pot of ideas and skills. But it won't happen - and we will be the poorer - if New York City becomes solely a consumer of real things, instead of a designer, maker, and consumer.

Comments: 6

The Unheated Workshop  


The temperature has been varying between really cold and OMG cold since the New Year, and unfortunately our indoor work temperature has reflected this. Our steel roll-up garage-style showroom door and super-high ceilings are major escape routes for heated air and our three gas powered reflecting heaters barely make a dent.

Are we part of a "proud" historic tradition? Amazingly, in days of yore cabinet shops in Europe and US, even in dank and chilly parts, were not heated.

Let's think about this for a bit. Iron stoves date from the mid 18th century, commonly available central heating from the end of the 19th. Light was essential for craft work, but glass windows were not common in Britain and the US prior to the middle of the 19th century. In the spring, summer and fall, craftsmen worked in front of open windows - a source of light and air. Rain was kept away by roof eaves. In the winter and in truly inclement weather, translucent oiled cloth over the windows gave some protection from the elements. Shutters secured the premises at night and when there was no work.

While fine sawdust from sandpaper wasn't much of an issue before the 20th century, sawdust from sawing and plane shavings did present a constant danger for a fire. And with all that dry wood around, any small fire could easily become a deadly conflagration. Thomas Chippendale's shop, for example. burned in a fire in 1755; although he rebuilt his shop, his personal fortune never recovered from the disaster. And so unlike those lucky blacksmiths who had forges and bakers who had ovens, woodworkers had to exercise extreme caution around fire. Even smoking was generally banned anywhere near the shop. Open fires of any sort were forbidden in shops -- and with that, no ready source of heat was available in shops.

Even in the 18th century, there must have been some small fires to keep the glue hot. The Joiner and Cabinetmaker (1839) describes the apprentice's job of preparing and maintaining the glue pot and makes note of the "serious accidents [that] have sometimes arisen" with improper care, such as when a "hot cinder sticking to the bottom has set the shavings and the shop on fire."

With the advent of iron stoves, it was possible to have some heat in a workshop. But the lack of insulation in the shop, and the probability of working next to the outdoor light meant that on a good day your back might have some heat on it but your front and hands would be freezing.

Fortunately, in the winter the workdays bowed to the reality of shorter daylight and were shorter too.

The funny part of all of this is that at the end of my workday I ride on a (mostly) heated subway and a centrally heated home. Up until pretty recently your frozen cabinetmaker went home to a house probably heated only by a fireplace in the kitchen and parlor. If he was lucky and well-to-do, maybe his bedroom had a small fireplace, but by and large, your workplace might have been freezing and your home was pretty cold too.

And don't get me started about the plumbing.

Comments: 14

How to Cut a Groove in a Frame By Hand and Without a Plow Plane   


I own just about every hand tool every invented. My mentor, the late Maurice Fraser, used to say that in the old days you could borrow something from the next bench, but nowadays most woodworkers are on their own. If they don't own the tool, they won't be able to do an operation.

There is truth to this philosophy, but for beginners the idea that you first need to acquire a store's worth of tools before you can do anything is both misleading and discouraging.

When I need to cut a groove, I reach for one of my many plow planes (actually a Stanley 45 - no need to sharpen any of the others). But I was taught a perfectly good method, that is still very applicable for stopped grooves, and pretty fast for anyone who happens not to collect tools like I do.

The most common use for a groove I can think of is holding a panel in a frame and panel construction. Nobody sees the bottom of the groove, which is makes it easier. As long as the groove is at least as deep as needed to hold the panel, the bottom finish isn't critical. On the other hand, usually at least one edge of the groove will be visible next to the panel and unless it is clean, it will truly look awful.

How do I cut a groove without the plow plane? The first step is setting my mortise/combination gauge to slightly larger than the chisel I plan to cut the groove with. It just has to be a touch larger, and since panels are typically angled, you have a lot of leeway with width. I want a little extra width so that I can pare to a clean line (like I did on my mortise). With the combination gauge set, scribe the groove the length of the frame. In this case, I have centered the groove and stopped both ends. With this method, stopping is easy and it saves having to worry about an unsightly gap or plug at the end of the piece. I've also run a pencil line in the scribe lines so that I can see what I am doing.

In a nutshell, here is how to make the groove: Using a regular 1/4" bench chisel I am going to make a series of chisel cuts, none particularly deep, each lifting up a bit of wood. Then, as I do multiple passes, I can easily clear the chips I have raised, and then repeat the procedure to go deeper. I have a tendency to do work in sections as I go in steady progression along the board.

I have found that periodically reversing the chisel and chopping at partially removed chisels helps clear the waste, as does using the chisel parallel to the groove to also break up and clear chips. I have gotten into the habit of using a different narrow or even slightly wider chisels (to chisel parallel to the grooves) to break up waste. I do this primarily because normally I would have to do two rails and two stiles to complete a frame and it saves wear and tear on the main chisel I need. I don't have to stop and sharpen.

When I am done to depth I take a paring chisel - the widest I have available - and slice down at the scribe lines to give me a finished clean edge.

Your first reaction to this method might be that this is a really slow way of doing it. Compared to a plow plane, absolutely. This stile took me about 20 minutes. I could go a faster if I wasn't trying to take pictures, but not much. If you are doing a stopped groove like this and you have a plow plane it might make sense to use this method for the first inch or so at each end of the groove, and then plow the rest. Unless you have a router table, for one small box bottom it might be faster and safer to do the gooves by hand than trying to jig up a router for the grooves.

Comments: 6

How to Mortise the Moxon Way: Part 2, Chopping the Mortise  


In Part One we laid out the joint and cut the tenon. Next up: I have to make the mortise. The first thing I want to do is check to see if the tenon I made is still the same width to which I set the mortise gauge. If not, I will have to adjust the mortise to the new width and possible change its offset from the edge of the stile. As it happens, [I cut the tenon pretty consistently- do you mean in general or in this instance?] and the settings I saved are still applicable. As an aside, I should mention that I own three or four combination gauges. None of them are fancy, but it's not at all unusual for me to use several at a time. For example, in this case I am making the mortise right after cutting the tenon, but if I were building something larger, I might have to size more material and work on some other part, and therefore need another gauge to transfer those measurements somewhere else. Since this gauge was taped over, I know that this measurement is safe and correct. I am ready to layout the mortise.

I want to make sure I have space in the bottom of the mortise for any squeeze-out of glue and also if the mortise bottom isn't perfectly flat. So I am setting the depth of my mortise to a little past the length of the tenon. I will also chamfer the edges of the tenon to make it easier to insert. To make sure I don't get carried away, I amI wrapping masking tape at the correct depth of the mortise chisel. I am using a traditional English Mortise chisel. The oval handle makes it easy to keep the chisel aligned with the joint. This style of chisel is as beefy as it comes and can take a lot of levering force.

Using a mortise gauge, I lay out the exact dimensions of the width of the mortise, and using a knife and square, I knife in the ends. I always worry if there isn't much distance between the end of the mortise and the end of the stile, I could blow out the mortise in the process of levering out waste. So if possible, I try to make the stile a little longer than final dimension to add stength to the top end of the mortise. It's easy to cut the stile to an exact length later.

When you mortise you lever out lots of material, so to avoid crushing the ends of my mortise, I draw a pencil line about 1/8" or 3/16" in from each end. I initially chop to these pencil lines so i don't damage the final edge. My mortise is about 5/16" wide - but my mortise chisel is a little narrower (1/4"). This gives me some wiggle room so I don't worry much about damaging the sides of the mortise while chopping.

With the bevel of the mortise chisel facing me, and the chisel edge on the far penciled line, I take my first blows. I'm not trying to go too deep. Then I wiggle my chisel back and forth, put it out and move the chisel about 3/6" closer to me. I make another blow or two and then tilt the chisel away from me. As the chisel is trapazoidal in section, this loosens the chisel in the cut, and pushes back at the chip I just made between my first and second cut. Then I pull the chisel towards me, prying out and ejecting a chip of wood. I am going to repeat this all the way to the end of the mortise. As I do this, I end up going a little deeper with each stroke. By the time I have reached the end of the mortise I am about 1/2" deep. The key to doing a successful mortise in this way is making sure that you do not go far enough between cuts, or deep enough, so that when you try to lever out the waste you can't and the wood fights back. If that happens, just take a smaller bite. If you aren't able to lever out the chip and continue trying to force the chisel towards you, the tip - which is fairly thin near the cutting edge has no place to go - might snap. So pay attention.

After I finish one pass along the length of the mortise, I repeat what I am doing until I get to my final depth. The deeper the mortise, the harder it is to eject chips. They do get stuck. If nothing else works to get rid of the chips, I try poking around with a narrow bench chisel to break up the stuck chips.

Finally I am at the depth I want. Then, and only then, will I chop the ends of the mortise to the final length.

The final step is putting a paring chisel on the each scribe line and pressing down. Long paring chisels are easy to hold vertically. Ideally you want one the width of your mortise. For this mortise I used a 1" bench chisel that I had in the showroom. I have wider and longer chisels but not with me on that day. More importantly, I think a 1" bench chisel is pretty typically the widest chisel in a lot of workshops. It just requires a few more passes.

I chamfered the edge of the tenon and then did a test assembly. The first time I tried to bang it together, it didn't go all the way down becauseI had not fully removed enough material out of the bottom of the mortise. End grain has no glue strength so it doesn't matter if the tenon is short a little. It's a good thing it leaves room for glue, but obviously the bottom has to be clean enough so that the mortise and tenon fit together all the way. In retrospect, I think I would have had almost as strong a joint but a lot easier time of chopping and levering waste if I made the tenon a little shorter and the mortise not as deep.

The main picture shows all the tools I used in this project - with the exception of a Starrett 12" Combination Square (I forgot I used it). For the mortise I ended up using the much smaller Starrett 14D Double Square - but both work. You can also pre-drill the waste. A Forstner bit in a drill press works really well for that. Totally hand done mortises have two real advantages. First, the number off tools you need are pretty minimal, and you also don't need a drill press. Second, if you can cut a mortise and tenon entirely by hand, doing joints at odd angles - perhaps for a chair, or for some modern design - is pretty easy. You have to pay attention but the basic skills of layout, accurate sawing and chopping are identical.

And basic skills of layout, accurate sawing and chopping are as essential to the woodworker as they were in Moxon's time, so long ago.

Comments: 4
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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Recent Blogs:
Beautiful Cabinet Shop Space Available for Rent in Gowanus - 02/05/2018
Safety Last - 01/31/2018
I Am a Panda - 01/19/2018
The Unheated Workshop - 01/10/2018
How to Cut a Groove in a Frame By Hand and Without a Plow Plane - 12/27/2017
How to Mortise the Moxon Way: Part 2, Chopping the Mortise - 12/20/2017
How to Mortise the Moxon Way: Part 1, Layout and Cutting Tenons - 12/17/2017
Why Schlep? - A Look at Tools Baskets and Bags - 12/13/2017
Saw Sharpening Essentials - Gramercy Tools Saw Vise (Back in Stock) + Vallorbe Saw Files (They Finally Arrived) - 12/06/2017
How to Choose the Best Dovetail Saw for Yourself - 11/29/2017
Woodwork at City Hall - 11/22/2017
The Marquetry Plane Shows Up In England 1760-1780 - 11/15/2017
Joel's Blog Ten Ways I am Doing Things Differently - Part 4 - 11/08/2017
Where Moxon Got His Mojo - 11/01/2017
Industry City Wants a Handout as it Kills Woodworking Jobs - 10/25/2017
An Introduction to Hand Tools - The Instructor Confesses - 10/11/2017
Ten Ways I am Doing Things Differently - Part 3 - 09/27/2017
Ten Ways I am Doing Things Differently - Part 2 - 09/20/2017
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