Sep 232014

We attended part of British woodworking teacher Graham Blackburn’s class titled “5 Favorite Hand Tool Appliances.” Graham made a convincing case that hand tools need not be used merely freehand. In fact with some simple preparation he demonstrated using hand tools to cut accurately without even using his eyes.

Some takeaways from the class:
1. Avoid measuring. Instead transfer dimensions directly from the workpieces that are to be fitted together.

2. Avoid cutting freehand. Example: use a one-bevel marking knife to scribe your cut line, then use the vertical wall of the cut line as a “fence” for your saw blade.

3. Take advantage of what your body can do best, e.g. place the workpiece vertically in your vise to make it easier to saw accurately; place 3 fingers on the saw handle so the index finger points in the direction of the cut; in general position yourself and your stance to your ergonomic advantage.

Graham considers the try square to be a woodworking jig, not an actual tool. (To him, a woodworking tool is something that cuts wood.)

His first 3 favorite “hand tool appliances” are the bench hook, shooting board, and winding sticks, all of which he strongly believes a woodworker should build for themselves, since after all, they are made out of wood. When told by someone in the audience that artisan wooden winding sticks were being offered for sale in the show’s marketplace for $95 a pair, he laughed and said “Isn’t America great!”

We moved on to sample another class before he named his final two favorite jigs. He does have a new book out that covers that and much more:
Jigs and Fixtures for the Hand Tool Woodworker

Print Friendly
Sep 222014

“If you’re woodworking and it doesn’t sound like music, you’re not doing it right”-Roy Underhill

Woodworking in America is well-known for its excellent Marketplace, which we covered in several posts last week (here, here and here, for example). But the conference is also known for the fantastic classes offered by excellent instructors. Excellent instructors who you can then walk up to at the end of the class and personally ask that woodworking question that has been keeping you up at night. For most woodworkers, this is the opportunity of a lifetime.

With so many classes offered in the two days, we weren’t able to attend all of them. But between the pictures, quotes, nuggets of useful woodworking information and videos below, hopefully you can get a taste of how great it was. And when Popular Woodworking announces the dates for Woodworking in America 2015 (any day now, according to editor Megan Fitzpatrick…) make sure you put it on the calendar and buy your tickets so you won’t miss out!



Class: Windsor Innovations
Instructor: Peter Galbert

Peter Galbert started his chair making passion when living in New York City and made chairs in a 5th floor walk-up apartment. The standard makeup of his chairs includes: A soft wooden seat, turned legs, and a split wood top, which allows for exceptional strength and bend-ability. Instead of sand paper, he uses scrapers when finishing his seats, which gives it a better look in the end.

Funny Peter Galbert quotes:
“My materials are inexpensive compared to what I turn them into.”
“Forgive me for going down a woodworking nerd rabbit hole…but here we go.” (Discussing the design of his shave horse).
-”Turn the burr- one of the worst phrases in woodworking.”




Class: Japanese Chisels and Japanese Saws for the Western Woodworker
Instructor: Wilbur Pan

In this class Wilbur showed off several different Japanese saws and chisels and described their uses.

He explained the differences between a Kataba saw and a Ryoba saw (apparently the Ryoba isn’t necessarily a bargain just because it is two saws for the price of one), as well as the how the small details in the design of the Maebiki saw made it ideal for milling down logs.

Wilbur also gave a great explanation for why Japanese saws are able to be made so thinly, and will still cut straight. (Hint – it is all about the pull-stroke!)



Class: Making the Roubo Bookstand
Instructor: Roy Underhill

In this class, Roy went through the step-by-step process of creating the Roubo Bookstand from just one solid piece of air-dried Walnut. In Roy’s typical fashion, there were some very funny moments wrapped up with a lot of very useful woodworking knowledge. Our favorite part was when Roy explained the only way he has ever been described as “boring”. (Every other time, he was drilling!)



Class: Secrets of Period Finishing
Instructor: Don Williams

Throughout the centuries there have been a wide variety of finishes based on the materials that were available during that time period. Don showed us a variety of these finishes and techniques, and how we can “apply” them in our shops today! He taught us that finishing is a period of steps where you’re not messing up what you did before. At one point in the class, someone in the audience said he was amazed the planing Don was doing wasn’t tearing up the wood, and Don invited him up to give it a try. In general he was very open to audience discussion and participation in the class.

Class quote: “Every time you make a pot roast, you are starting a woodworking project whether you know it or not!”- Don Williams explaining hide glue production.


Possibly the first issue of Popular Woodworking

Possibly the first issue of Popular Woodworking

Class: How the Sausage Gets Made and How You Can be a Part of it
Instructor: Megan Fitzpatrick

Megan Fitzpatrick gave an informative and at times hilarious presentation on the history of Popular Woodworking and the process she goes through to produce each issue. Let’s just say we will never take for granted an issue of Popular Woodworking again! One of our favorite moments from the class (and there were a lot of favorite moments) was Megan telling us about the first issue she edited, and all the red ink she wasted ‘correcting’ all of the mentions of ‘rabbets’ and ‘moulding’. She certainly learned what those words meant by the next issue!




Class: Shells, Shells and More Shells
Instructor: Chuck Bender

Chuck taught the process of carving shells for period furniture, including designing the patterns and the actual carving itself. He started with a piece of Basswood, which is a good starter wood for carving. When removing the waste from the shell projects, he uses a V-parting tool. He believes that if you’re not making chips of some sort during this process, then you’re not doing much of anything. As you continue carving the shape, you want to turn the carving upside down and you’ll see shapes and bumps that you hadn’t seen before. A helpful tip he taught was that when carving, you use both of your hands and if you’re right handed then that is the “gas” and the left hand is the “brakes.”



Class: Understanding the Core Hand Tools
Instructor: Deneb Puchalski

Deneb taught us that you should have a basic set of 3 different hand planes for the 3 different types of board cuts you need to make: roughing, flattening, and finishing. For these 3 cuts you need a Jack Plane (rough, coarse, heavy work), a Jointer Plane (interacts with the high points of the board), and a Smoother Plane (makes short, fine cuts). With these three basic planes you can make any kind of cut to complete your project. “Hand tools teach you how to be a better woodworker”-Deneb Puchalski



Class: Frank’s Favorite Joints
Instructor: Frank Klausz

It would be sacrilege to attend WIA and not enjoy the sight of Frank Klausz cutting a smooth and simple dovetail joint. And that is exactly what he started with in this class. Talking the whole while and mixing semi-brilliant woodworking commentary with random thoughts, we came away with the following useful nuggets of information and perspective:

“A key question to ask when building furniture – what type of joint goes where?”

“We aren’t cabinetmakers, we are box-ologists.”

“Learn to cut dovetails on a piece of paper. Handwork has character – the angles will be different, the tail size will be different. Just make the dovetails a size that pleases you.”

“If it is too tight, don’t force it, just get a bigger hammer.”



Class: Rocking Chairs
Instructor: Peter Galbert

On the second day of WIA, Peter Galbert was up early to teach an 8:30 class on Rocking Chairs. He pulled the rockers off of a chair he had never been satisfied with and used it as an opportunity to demonstrate to the class how he would go about balancing a new set of rockers and aligning them so the chair feels right to the individual sitter.

On mistakes being the best way to learn: “You should see me teach turning. All I do is show you how to screw up.”



Class: Carving Tools for Green Work
Instructor: Drew Langsner

Drew Langsner, also dressed in the apparent presenter uniform of suspenders, used large single ply models of tool edges to demonstrate the best way to sharpen your carving tools for green work. He stated an interesting theory towards the beginning of class that he referred back to a few times throughout the class:

“Woodworking is the interaction of animal, vegetable and mineral. We are the animal, wood the vegetable and the tool is the mineral. Simplifying it to that level will help you solve a lot of woodworking problems.”

And his reasoning for using the large single ply models to demonstrate?
“Putting a hollow on a very small tool is devilishly difficult.”


Thanks to Matt Vanderlist, we were able to get video coverage of several more classes in our Woodworking in America Montage, Parts 1 and 2 below:

Part 1: Roy Underhill’s Combination Planes, Glen Huey’s Add “Wow!” to Your Projects with Inlay, and Frank Klausz’s Table Saw Jigs

Part 2: W. Patrick Edward’s Building and Using a Chevalet and Wilbur Pan’s Japanese Saws for the Western Woodworker.

Print Friendly
Sep 182014
Woodworking in America 2014 Marketplace: Plate 11 Workbenches

The WIA Marketplace is full of both power and hand tools and to use some of these tools to their full potential, you need a good workbench. This is where Plate 11 Workbenches comes in. Founder Mark Hicks was on hand this past weekend to discuss the story behind his company and how on a [...]

Print Friendly
Sep 172014
The September 2014 issue of The Highland Woodturner

Hey woodturners, we’ve got a new issue of The Highland Woodturner for you to read! First up we’ve got a classic article from Curtis Turner on turning your own chisel handles. You can even make a whole set of them and always know which chisels are yours! Temple Blackwood explains “The Order of Cuts,” which is a [...]

Print Friendly