Saturday, November 14, 2015

Writing While I'm Laid Up

I'm wearing a soft cast right now to heal inflamed tendons in my right ankle.  I'm supposed to stay off my feet as much as possible.  That means I'm not getting in much in the way of shop time.  Instead, I'm using the time for my other interests, writing and photography.

I'm finishing up my latest book, Choosing and Using Handplanes, a guide intended for the newer user of handplanes.  It will be published by Amazon as a paperback and also in a Kindle edition.  I've described some of the process I've been going through on my writing blog

And, I'm working my way through literally thousands of photographs in my files.  Some of these I'm selling as art prints.  Others I'm posing on my photography blog and on Facebook.

So I'm occupied doing things I love to do.  But when the cast comes off my foot, look out--it'll be back to the woodshop to finish up some projects that are waiting to be completed and start some new ones.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My Book on Handplanes

For the last several months, I've been writing and photographing a book on using handplanes in woodworking.  Titled Choosing and Using Handplanes, it describes the various types of handplanes, how to set them up and sharpen them, ways to hold work for planing and planing technique itself.  It also addresses caring for handplanes, buying and restoring old handplanes and how to diagnose and fix various problems encountered in planing.  The book should be completed in November in a paperback edition that will be sold on as well as on my web site and in a Kindle edition to follow soon after that.

A photo of the book's cover is shown here.  If you are new to handplaning, I think you will find this book a helpful resource for getting started.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Publishing the Handplanes Book

I continue to progress toward completion of my book, Choosing and Using Handplanes.  It has 74 pages now and will probably reach 80 by the time it is finished.  I still have a few photos to make and some appliances to construct.  I hope to have this all completed by mid-August.

That means it's time to start thinking about how I'll get the book published.  I could go for a traditional publisher, but I'm inclined to think that the self-publishing route would be better.  It think that offers the possibility of a lower price and wider distribution.

I do know that I'll be publishing it in full color, both the cover and inside.  That's important particularly for the photographs, which are important for conveying the information I want to share.

At the moment, I'm taking a hard look at publishing through CreateSpace, which will make the book available for purchase via Amazon.  I'll probably also produce a version for Kindle so it can be read on tablets.  That's what I did for my mystery novel, The Hero of Gucci Gulch, and it worked well.

I'll keep you posted on my progress and let you know when it is available.

For now, my offer stands to send a free copy (via email) to anyone who wants to review it.  Just write me at and I'll send the latest version by return email.  If you send me helpful comments, I'll also reference you in the acknowledgements!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

An Update on the Handplanes Book

Since my last post, I've made considerable progress toward completing my book, Choosing and Using Handplanes.  The text is completely written, all of the figures are complete and most of some 80+ photos are inserted in their proper places.  I still need to complete the appendices on shooting board construction and build and document a few other appliances.

I have the book out for review with a few people who are knowledgeable about handplanes.  But, I would love to have additional readers.  If you would like to be one of them, send me your email address to and I'll send you a pdf version of the book in its present draft form.  Bear in mind, however, that it is about 3 mb in size.

I hope to have the book completely finished in a few weeks.  I am starting to look for a possible publisher.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Choosing and Using Handplanes

For a number of years now I've taught classes on handplanes at two northern Virginia Woodcraft stores.  My classes--Handplane Basics and Restoring Old Handplanes--are both fun to teach and educational, not only for my students but also for me.  I've learned a lot about handplanes since I started.  My beginning was a class at the Marc Adams School with Chris Schwarz and Tom Lie-Nielsen.  Following that, I studied a number of books on handplanes and became a user in my own shop.  But as much as anything, I've learned a lot from the questions posed by my students and my sometimes fumbling attempts to answer those I'd not anticipated.

As a result of this experience I've come to believe I have a good feel for what beginning handplane users want and need to know.  And while there are many good resources available, none of them seem quite right to meet the needs of my students.  So, I've decided to write a book of my own.

For now, the working title is Choosing and Using Handplanes.  The book will explain the types of planes and their uses in the woodshop, techniques for planing, setting and adjusting planes, sharpening and honing blades, buying and restoring old handplanes, and jigs and fixtures to use with handplanes, including holding devices and shooting boards.  It will also have a list of resources.  It  will make extensive use of photos, drawings and explanatory sidebars.

My plan is to publish it as an eBook through Amazon's Kindle.  I'm hoping to have it finished sometime this summer.  Already I have a first draft written, figures drafted and photos planned.  Most of the sidebars are completed.  What remains is to fill in the gaps and edit the text.   I will also need to build the jigs and fixtures I want to illustrate.  There's plenty of work to do yet, but I'm very excited about the project and find myself making progress on it every day.  Look here for information about my progress.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Sharpening Station, At Last!

Many of my tools will benefit from regular sharpening.  This includes handplane blades, bench chisels, carving chisels and woodturning tools, all of which I use often.  It's well known among woodworkers that sharp tools are necessary to achieve the best work, while dull tools are inefficient at best and dangerous at worst.  My problem was that I had no regular place to sharpen my tools.  Instead, every time I wanted to sharpen my plane blades or chisels, I had to get out my stones and set them up on my workbench, then move them out of the way when I was finished with them.  My woodturning tools are sharpened on a heavy slow-speed grinder that was inconvenient to lift from under my workbench every time I wanted to do some turning.  I use a Koch sharpening system and Shapton stones for my carving chisels and, once again, it was stored in an inconvenient location.

The eventual outcome of all this inconvenient, of course, is that the job of honing gets put off until no small amount of resharpening will suffice to restore the tools to peak condition.  And it means that tools get used when they are dull, poor practice indeed, but one I'll admit to practicing.

Gluing up the drawer
The solution is a dedicated sharpening station, something I've yearned for over the years and even planned but never built.  Fortunately, my good friend and business partner Jeff Fleisher came up with some surplus property that provided a solution.  First was a slightly damaged cabinet with a wide drawer opening and double doors leading to a moveable shelf inside.  Then, a local restaurant was renovating and he snagged some thick Formica table tops for each of us.

With these two pieces in hand, my job became simple.  I attached rotating wheels, pin nailed the table top to the case and built a drawer to fit the opening just under the new tabletop.  Then I added drawer pulls and finished it all with a coat of shellac.

My sharpening tools
Even before the drawer was completed, however, I put the station in operation.  The tabletop measures 48 X 30 inches and is large enough for all my sharpening equipment--a Tormek T-7 water-cooled grinder, a Koch sharpening system for my carving chisels, a low-speed grinder and a tray with my Shapton stones at the ready.  My strop is hanging on one side.  Tormek accessories and other small tools are in the large drawer.  Water jugs (I have no water in the shop) and other large items are accessible through the double doors.  Being on wheels, the whole sharpening station can be easily rolled near the workbench when wanted there and then rolled back out of the way when the floor space is needed for assembly and the like.

The finished sharpening station
I feel certain that this improvement to my shop will greatly enhance the speed and quality of my woodworking.  If you don't have a sharpening station, consider building one similar to this.  If you can get hold of a surplus cabinet or tabletop, so much the better!


Monday, October 13, 2014

Adding a Laguna Bandsaw

For a long time now, I've wanted to build boxes.  Beautiful boxes.  Boxes that feature beautiful wood.  And for some time now, I've been building up a stock of highly figured woods that could make boxes that are attractive and, I hope, salable.  I've got several nice, thick pieces of crotch walnut, some with gorgeous feathering, that would look lovely gracing the top of a box.  I've got some figured ash as well.  And small quantities of tiger and birds-eye maple.  Plus a goodly amount of less figured woods that would make attractive box sides to offset the figured tops, woods like quartersawn white oak, maple, cherry, hickory and mesquite, among others.

The thing about boxes is they are generally built from thinner than usual pieces of wood; 3/8" and 1/2" are common thicknesses.  While it's possible to plane wood to these thicknesses, it wastes a lot of valuable and perhaps irreplaceable wood.  So resawing--slicing wood vertically through its width--is the preferred solution.  Resawing is best done on a bandsaw.  Though a tablesaw can be used for narrower boards, for boards over 5-6" in width, a bandsaw is required.  In all cases, a bandsaw is both safer and takes a smaller amount of wood for a kerf.

I have a 14" bandsaw, a Grizzly GO555, and it's perfectly adequate for many operations.  But I've never had good results when resawing with it.  Drift is a big problem, plus I'm limited to 1/2" blades like Highland Woodworking's Woodslicer.  While this is a good blade, I'm looking for something even better.

Enter the Laguna 14" LT14 SUV.  It started with a sale that Woodcraft had on this saw.  So I did some research.  Actually, a lot of research.  This SUV model (SUV stands for "Souped Up Version") has several attractive features, including some that are new to this model.  It is driven by a 3 hp. motor.  It has a large table (slightly larger than 15" X 19") that is easily adjusted and that tilts in both directions.  It has two 4" dust ports.  It has a resaw height of just under 14".  The 125" blade is available in a 1" carbide tipped version called the Resaw King.  Amazingly enough, this 2-3 tpi variable pitch blade has no set, which helps it achieve a smooth cut.  The saw uses ceramic guide blocks that are easily adjusted above and below the table.  The fence has two positions, high and low, and can be quickly adjusted for drift.  Most reviews are high on this saw, which is said to give a superior cut when using the Resaw King blade.

The nearest competitor is the Hammer N4400, a 17" German saw from Felder, which will accommodate a 3/4" blade, quite adequate for resawing.  It has a 3.5 hp. motor.  The nicest thing about this saw is that the tires are flat, rather than crowned, so drift is never a problem.  I'd have easily have gone for this saw--I've seen it in action--but it costs almost $700 more than the Laguna's sale price.   As far as I can determine, each saw delivers excellent results when resawing.  Price being an important consideration, I decided on the Laguna.  It's on order now.

I'll be keeping my Grizzly bandsaw.  I've got plenty of jobs that call for smaller blades.  And, I'll slice logs into lumber on the Grizzly, leaving the Laguna for resawing and protecting the expensive carbide blade for high quality cuts.

Naturally, I'm eager for it to arrive.  Getting it off the truck (the crate weights 420 lbs) will be the first issue.  Then I'll need to go through the whole setup and testing process.  After I've had time to test it for myself, I'll write a review.

Have you used the Laguna bandsaw?  If so, share your thoughts with other readers by leaving a comment.