Nov 242015

I have a very simple wish, which is ‘better lighting’.

I currently work in a small workshop which is cold, damp, and poorly lit. My workbench is functional but when I’m hand planing I find that the lighting is just poor, which is slowing me down considerably when trying to achieve a perfectly flat edge.

My normal routine is this:

1. place board on bench and clamp between vice and dogs

2. hand plane one or two strokes

3. undo vice, remove board, and hold up to the window with my straight edge to look for light shining through any gaps

4. mark areas on the edge for adjustment

5. again place board on bench and clamp between vice and dogs

6. repeat a million times until insanity or victory

Clearly this is a recipe for madness, so my wish is for some simple fluorescent lighting that I will install horizontally at the back wall just above the bench surface so I can assess my progress while leaving the board in place.


Proposed location of additional lighting

Having said all that, the electricity is currently broken in my shop due to a faulty RCD device, so my real wish is for an electrician :)

Marty is a full time IT worker from New Zealand who is continuing a long journey to learn furniture making despite the common obstacles of limited time, money & workspace.

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Nov 232015

Although my woodshop is pretty well stocked with lumber and the tools to work it, there always seems to be something else I need, or if not need, then that I want. Mrs. Santa is always looking for ideas about what to get me, so here are some suggestions for what might end up under the tree this year.

  • Top on my list is the Sawstop sliding table. Sure, I have a large plywood sled that’s done good work for me over the years, but that sliding table sure is slick. It would make crosscutting a lot easier, especially for oversized pieces like the dressing table top I’m planning for Mrs. Santa in the coming year. She really ought to consider it.
  • I’ve got a goodly collection of handplanes—both new and old—but it seems like I can always use at least one more. How about a Lie-Nielsen #5? That would just about round out my collection. Won’t I be needing it to plane the figured walnut for her dressing table?
  • I also like the looks of the Lie-Nielsen small router plane. Together with the adjustment kit, that would help me with those smaller jobs like lock installation.
  • I’m eager to try my hand at turning a hollow vessel but a hollowing tool is one that I don’t have in my arsenal. Please, Mrs. Santa, give some thought to that.
  • Let’s don’t forget those household repair jobs I’ll need to be doing. I think the Fein Multimaster Top model would just about fill the bill. I’ve seen them in operation, and they are top of the line. What about that, Dear?
  • Maybe we could use some new kitchen knives. How about a set of Ron Hock knife blades? That way I could have fun in the shop making them and produce something Mrs. Santa would like at the same time.
  • I know she’s concerned about my safety in the shop, and one of the hidden dangers is, of course, dust in the air. I hear the Elipse P100 dust mask is great for cutting down on those micro-particles we breathe. Perhaps I could persuade her that this would make a good stocking stuffer.
  • OK, so maybe Mrs. Santa doesn’t want to pop for a Sawstop sliding table or a handplane. There are always Highland logo T-shirts, which would be great to wear in the shop or for that matter just about anywhere.

In the end, maybe the most useful thing would be a nice big Highland gift certificate. That way I could pick out what I want, er, need the most.

Norm Reid is a woodworker, writer, and woodworking instructor living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife, a woodshop full of power and hand tools and four cats who think they are cabinetmaker’s assistants. He is the author of the forthcoming book Choosing and Using Handplanes. He can be contacted at

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Nov 222015

As Christmas rolls around, woodworkers’ loved ones often worry about what to get their favorite woodworker. To help ease that struggle, here is a list of what I feel are the absolute essentials for any woodworker. You can confidently take this list into any woodworking store or website and leave with a gift any woodworker […]

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Nov 202015

There is a strong inclination at this time of year to wax altruistic, demonstrate my “niceness” as the Down To Earth Woodworker, and wish for holiday gifts like “peace on earth,” “more new woodworkers,” or “a twenty-first century renaissance.” The fact is, though, I do often succumb to covetous thought. Professing to want nothing that costs real money is […]

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