Tag Archives: Lessons Learned

Argh! Rust!

I recently went into the shop after a few weeks of not being able to spend as much time in there as I would like, only to discover some rust on my combination square!

So, this video talks about what I think happened, how I fixed it, and what general steps I take to try and prevent rust on my tools.

What do you guys do to prevent rust in your shop? Leave a comment!

Links to the products I mention are below:

SlipIt
Jojoba Oil
Sandflex block (Fine)

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Thoughts When Starting Out

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I’m not the most experienced woodworker by any stretch of the imagination, but now that I have a few years under me, I thought I might pass along a few thoughts that may benefit folks that are interested in getting started in woodworking.

Safety

It’s no secret that woodworking can be dangerous. One can spend tons of time focusing on specific safety topics, but from a high level you want to protect you eyesight, hearing, lungs, and body.

Protect your eyesight. A decent pair of safety glasses is not expensive. If you’re a glasses wearer like I am, you’ll want an “OTG” (Over The Glasses) pair of safety glasses. Don’t rely on your prescription glasses for this – you’ll be mad when you get a scratch or ding in those nice pricey lenses, plus they don’t have great side or underneath protection. I have a pair of OTG safety glasses, and if I am doing anything that is going to kick up dust from underneath that can get up and behind the lens, I also have a pair of OTG goggles that I’ll use.

For hearing protection, I have a pair of ZEM SensGard that I use most of the time (and can’t beat free – I won them from Matt’s Basement Workshop shwag a few years ago). I also have a pair of the over the ear type that includes a radio and 1/8″ jack for plugging in an audio device.

To control dust, and therefore protect your lungs, you can think of doing this in three phases. First collect as much of the dust at the source. You can use your shop vac if you don’t have a dust collector yet. Next is for the finer stuff in the air, you can get an air filter, or use a filter attached to a box fan in the meantime. Thirdly, a decent mask for the face filters what’s left before you breathe it in. You can get a good respirator that can take interchangeable particulate and organic filters (for vapors) for not a lot of money.

To protect the rest of your body, use safety items such as push blocks (which you can make and I like better than push sticks at the table saw), a riving knife or splitter at the table saw, etc. Make sure you have a “no zone” for your fingers around any blade. For instance, anything closer than the throat plate of my table saw is off limits. I have and love the Micro Jig Grr-ripper, and would recommend it as a core piece of safety gear. Have a healthy respect for the tools used. You don’t want to be callous, but you also don’t want to be so tense that you are approaching the operation in an overly stiff or nervous way. I think either approach can leave one more at risk for an injury. Trust your gut instinct as well. If you have reservations about a certain cut, take a step back and rethink it. Chances are there is an alternate way to get the same thing done. If you’re tired, maybe another time would be a better time to flip that power switch on.

What Tools?

Early on, I bought some tools with the thinking that “oh I bet I cold use this to do xyz thing!”. I was too concerned with building up my shop instead of building a thing. But I became anxious to get started building and luckily at that time, some very talented woodworkers I met helped set that priority straight.

So what would I do differently and recommend for folks starting out? What I do today. That is, let the project decide what tools I need. Think of the project you want to make – what tools do you need to get it done? Chances are, you may have the basics: cordless drill, hammer, circular saw, etc. and you can get quite a bit done with these. I worked with a basic set of tools like these when my wife and I lived in an apartment. Say you have these tools, but your project calls for some curves, that could justify a purchase of a jigsaw, or if you have a shop space ready, a bandsaw.

Embrace Mistakes

You will make mistakes. It’s okay. It’s even good. Good? Yep, because you can learn from them. A mistake may mean you alter the design of something, or maybe at times, you may end up with a piece of wood to add to the burn pile. Either way, it’s an opportunity to learn. Failures are not the opposite of success, but the path to it.

Always The Learner

There is always something new to learn. Check out my Woodworking & Maker Links section for some great podcasts, blogs, and education sites, as well as my YouTube subscriptions for some great video channels to learn from. (And, if you know of a great channel, blog, podcast, etc. that I don’t have listed, post a comment to let me know!)

Not just with woodworking, but with anything in life, I try to take a learner’s approach. Knowledge is valuable. There are things I can share with others, and there are always things others can share that I can learn from.

Challenge yourself. With each new project, I try to incorporate something I have not done before. With the puja table I made, it was sliding dovetails. My workbench was the first time I used mortise and tenon joinery (and big ones at that). That said, don’t discount a technique that can be used effectively just because some may poo poo it since it’s not “fine” woodworking. I’ve used pocket holes in situations where it works well (and in a case where it maybe it wasn’t – but that goes back to that whole learn from mistakes thing).

Enjoy It!

That’s the whole point, isn’t it? That also means it’s okay to take a break, too. If you’re tired, short on time, maybe even a little bit burned out on it if you’ve been in the shop a lot, or simply just not “feeling it” that day, it’s certainly fine to take a step away for a bit. You’ll be back in the shop in no time, refreshed.

100 Pieces Of Wood

GWW13

To celebrate their 100th day of the school year, my son’s homework tonight for his second grade class is to bring in a collection of 100 small items. We were going over our options of what he could bring in: maybe some Lego pieces, pennies… or how about pieces of wood? He loved the idea, especially when I offered some different species to make the selection of different colors. This was turning into a great opportunity for Get Woodworking Week!

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After cutting up 25 pieces each of pine, red oak, maple and walnut, my son helped me sand any of the rough edges. Then came sorting time. We labelled four sandwich bags for each of the species. We then talked about how each of the trees make a different color wood, with different grain and how some woods are harder or softer than others. Some of the red oak pieces had some of the bark still on them, so when my son asked why those were two colors, I got to explain how that was part of the bark from the tree still there, and that wood came from the outside part of the tree.

Of course, you don’t have to wait until Get Woodworking Week to teach your child about woodworking, take any opportunity to do that! It just so happened this opportunity came up this week!

The Sawdust Tour & The Woodworking Shows

I recently had the chance a couple of weeks ago to take a Friday off from work and take the couple hour drive out to West Springfield, MA for The Woodworking Shows stop at the Big E (aka the Eastern States Exposition). This was my first trip to one of the Woodworking Shows, so of course was interested in the vendor booths setup there, but I especially was interested in what education opportunities were going to be offered.

I found one such opportunity at The Woodworking Coach booth run by Andy Chidwick of The Chidwick School. Andy is travelling with the show in what’s called the Sawdust Tour – a “social media blitz” where Andy is teaching at the show, and in the process taking the opportunity to meet with other woodworkers along the way, including visiting folks’ shops if possible, such as Todd Clippenger and Matt Vanderlist.

Of course I checked out the vendor booths and caught parts of a few other seminars, but after attending Andy’s first seminar of the day, it was clear I was going back to hear more. Andy spoke about steam bending, picking out the best grain direction from a board, sculpting work – and the joinery that goes into a sculpted chair, and also encouraging us to think outside the typical woodworking publications – to become an observer anywhere and gain inspiration from something that could then be used in a project in the shop.

I had a chance to talk with Andy after the seminars. He’s a great guy, very knowledgeable, and clearly has a passion for the craft along with the desire to pass that along to others. Check out the site for the Woodworking Shows to see if one is near your area. I highly recommend going if you can and check out Andy’s seminars. You can learn quite a bit and they are highly motivating. Also check out The Chidwick School site as well. Andy offers classes in Montana, and soon will be offering an online curriculum as well.

So Andy, it was great to meet you, and thanks for the Sawdust Tour shirt!

Double Dose of Goodness

The months of November and December have been great ones here at the shop. Allow me to explain…

November – The Puja Table is complete!

The Puja Table, the project that I had been working on for the better part of the past year, was finished back in November and given to my friend who it was for. This was my second furniture piece, and my first commission. When I completed my son’s work table and posted it on Facebook, he approached me about building him the puja table. After discussing some design items, and what wood to use, he gave me a deposit to buy the materials.

One of the reasons I did not cover the project in too much detail before (one blog post and one video), is that by the time the project was really taking shape, it was also getting to be a while since he asked for it. I spent a good amount of time sweating the details. I must honestly say he was more than patient though, which I really appreciated. My focus however, especially between August and November, was to finish it up to deliver to him before Thanksgiving.

When it was delivered, he was more than happy with the result. My first commission ended with a happy customer!

I had a few things I set as woodworking goals for this project.

  • I had worked with walnut some when making some paddle cutting boards and really liked how it is to work with. I helped “steer” my friend toward walnut as the primary species, as I really like the look of it as well. When I showed him some pictures online of projects made with walnut, he readily agreed.
  • Attempt a new joinery technique. This was my first attempt at sliding dovetails, which I used to join the leg pieced into the top. This definitely proved to be a challenge, especially with some limited tooling. With some finessing though, I was happy with the result.
  • This was also my first experience with spraying finish. In this case lacquer. Once I got the hang of it, things went pretty well. I did have to correct some overspraying and drip marks initially though.

Some pictures of the final piece. Click each for a larger view and info.


December – The Wood Whisperer Guild for Life!

I’m no longer one of those folks who can say that I never win anything. The Wood Whisperer had their yearly Holiday online party a couple of weeks ago, and as usual part of the festivities were prize giveaways. The prizes ranged from tshirts, USB thumb drives, DVDs, to Guild memberships. This year, saving it for last, the granddaddy prize was a lifetime Wood Whisperer Guild membership. When I heard my name as the winner, I had to pick my jaw up from my desk! I was surprised and excited beyond belief. I was now a Wood Whisperer Guild member for life!

Now, if you don’t have any experience with the Guild, you can find out more and sign up here. I joined the Guild last year when Marc had a one night sale (after the 2011 Holiday party) of 50% off. I was able to sign up for the three month option, which I then renewed that next spring for one year. Since then the Guild has been restructured to have various levels of access. You can gain access to the “a la carte” version, where you pick which projects you want, or an option to gain access to all the currently existing projects. Again, check out the link. There is a section that explains all the levels available that goes into more detail than what I am here.

So now the next question… why join the Guild? After all, there is a reason why I renewed my membership before winning the lifetime membership. In short, because it’s a great resource – both in knowledge and the community. The level of detail that Marc goes into in the videos that accompany each project is incredible. There is also access to help for your project, and interviews with experts that are recorded and posted if you can’t make a live event. Even if you’re not in a position to build the particular project that is ongoing at the time, the insight that you can gain when watching the videos can be easily brought to whatever project you are working on. Having that level of education at your fingertips really makes it a no brainer in my opinion.

So am I excited I won the lifetime Wood Whisperer Guild membership? “Heck yeah” would be an understatement.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

The Dove’s Long “Tale” | Lessons Learned About Sliding Dovetails

Finally Episode 2! As I mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been working on a puja table for a friend of mine. I have not filmed much of the process since I’ve already been working on it for a while and while he’s been very patient, I do want to get it to him as soon as possible. The legs are joined to the top of the table with sliding dovetails that are 12 1/2″ long and visible from both sides. I did find there was some interest when I posted a picture online of the first sliding dovetail, so I decided to capture some video of the second one. I did run into some technical difficulties with the filming, so as I explain in the video, I apologize for any quality and issues with the content being a bit disjointed. But I do hope that folks will still find some value to the content. I don’t claim to use the most orthodox method here, but it worked for me, and as I’ve seen with much woodworking content, there is more than one way to get a task done.

Hangin’ With Woodworkers

It’s been a busy few weeks – I recently was in a remote training class for work for a week that was on west coast hours (I’m on the east coast). That was followed by a different than usual work schedule afterward. This is a blog post I’ve been wanted to do for a bit now that involves two recent opportunities to join other woodworkers for two different events.

Visit to Fine Woodworking Magazine

The first of these events was a visit to Fine Woodworking magazine in Newtown, CT with the Modern Woodworkers Association folks – a great reason to take the day off from work and get a long weekend out of the deal. Our hosts were Senior Editor Matt Kenney and Art Director Mike Pekovich, who gave us an overview of how an issue is produced, and afterward a tour of the shop area that included a discussion and demonstration of tips for shop efficiency. I don’t want to simply redo the excellent and detailed posts that Steve Branam, Dyami Plotke, and Nick Roulleau did about our visit – click on each to read their posts, they’re well worth the read. I had a great time and for me, I valued the tour and workshop efficiency tips (while I was doing this before, I am now even more conscious of setting realistic, obtainable objectives for a finite session of shop time). What I also valued though was seeing fellow woodworkers in person. What the MWA is all about is translating online social interactions into in person ones. Folks I had been interacting with in Twitter, Google+,  blogs and forums I got to meet in person, as well as some I met for the first time (from both an online an in person perspective). Matt and Mike were gracious and treated us to lunch at the Taunton cafeteria, and it was more good conversation that  continued at the lunch table.

WoodExpo 2012

Just over a week after the Fine Woodworking visit, it was time for WoodExpo 2012, part of the New England Home Show. I was just as impressed, if not more so, with the projects this year. What really struck me this year was that they had more real estate at the show, and that it was placed in a better location for more people to be exposed to some very fine pieces. It was also quite busy. I went on a Saturday as opposed to a Friday last year, so that may account for it being that much more busy. I did get a chance to briefly chat with Tommy MacDonald and Eli Cleveland, and a bit more with Rob Bois, Mike Morton, Mike McCoy, and Steve Branam (all four exhibited at the expo); as well as Dyami Plotke and Nick Roulleau. I also got to meet Chuck Bender who had a booth setup at the show. My biggest regret is that I could not stay longer. The Boston area Modern Woodworkers Association (MWA) had their kickoff that evening and I was not able to stay for the dinner after the expo. I had hoped to get to talk to Tommy and Eli a bit more as well, but unfortunately when I had to leave, they were just beginning a panel discussion regarding the state of the craft and the relationship with the buyer – I would have loved to stay to hear that discussion.

I hope to be able to plan a bit differently next year, and for other folks perspectives on WoodExpo, encourage folks to also visit Dyami’s post, as well as Nick’s two posts on his site, and on the MWA site.