Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lee Valley's new small bevel up smoother

Lee Valley has recently introduced a new #3-sized version of their bevel up smoothing plane. When I use a metal smoothing plane I reach for a #3 Stanley or my eBay special $60 infill smoother but having a new option is always appreciated. For you hand-tool beginners, premium smoothing planes are a great way to get started with hand work and this one looks like a relatively low-cost way to get one.


All the standard bevel up features are on this little guy: 12 degree bed angle with a 25 degree bevel on the iron, accessory blades with alternate bed angles, adjustable mouth.  The square sides make it ideal for use on a shooting board, althought its smaller size and lighter weight might make it more suitable for shooting smaller pieces.

I'm always on the lookout for a new smoothing plane option and, being a big fan of the #3 size plane, I'll be placing my order for this plane very soon. At $179, how can you go wrong?

Buy the bevel up smoother from Lee Valley here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Class warfare, furniture style...

I'm a product oriented guy.  I don't get hung up with cutting dovetails or about having a chisel that is honed to 15,000 grit and will shave your eyeballs with just a slight look in the direction of the cutting edge.  But, I do get a little sentimental  about the simple, every-day furniture of the past.  And I do take great pleasure in reading the posts of other similar-minded folks, such as this post by Robin Wood.

For example, on a recent trip to the East Coast, I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Of course, I was impressed with the large scale, high end casework, tall clocks, etc., but what really got me were the simple objects.  The painted chests that still bore the date of a past marriage.  The pine chest of drawers with the turned ball feet in front, one of which had a very prominent, unrepaired shrinkage crack.  Simple turned bowls and utensils.

These pieces witnessed it all and survive to tell the tale. The dings and scratches that come with real age makes it easy to imagine the historical setting in which the past owners of these pieces lived and died.  This is something I find next to impossible with the "tour de force" pieces applauded by antique dealers and reproduced ad nauseum by woodworkers. Many have an air of sterility about them, as if they have never lived outside of a museum setting. 

The study of high-end furniture is an interesting work area for some woodworkers.  But for me, with rare exception, I'm more interested in the simple pieces, things I might have owned had I been born in the 1680s rather than the 1980s.  I'm sure I'm not the only person who feels this way.  Or maybe I am... but I'm ok with that.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Getting back in the shop

Greetings from dreary and rainy Mid-Michigan.  I've been out of my woodshop the entire summer, instead spending my time restoring a 1973 Plymouth Satellite that belonged to my recently-departed father.  She's basically done now (is a classic car ever really done?), so I'm itching to get back into the den of ankle-deep shavings that I call my shop.  In addition to working on the car, I spent some time demonstrating historic sash making at the Michigan State University Folk Festival and the MWTCA meet at Tillers International, where it looks like I will be teaching a window-making class next year.

The decision I have to make now is what project to build for my return to the shop. Despite recognizing my own need to finish the car my dad started, my wife is after me for a few things, especially for me to finish that Wallace Nutting table from my last post.  Remember when I said it would be quick? Four months later, it sits atop my Roubo waiting patiently for a top and milk paint.  Since I do enjoy being married, finishing this table will have to be my first priority.

After that, who knows? I recently obtained a very interesting book, Early American Country Furniture by Denis Hambucken.  In addition to being well written and extremely well-illustrated, there are several projects that I would like to build, especially a chest of drawers and a washstand. One reason I like this book is that it gives "suggested" dimensions, not a hard-and-fast cut list.  This works well with my style of woodworking.  Does the plan call for a 14" wide case but you only have a 12" wide board? No problem, modify the design slightly and use what you have without worrying about modifying a cutlist.  Make the pieces to fit and you never have a problem.

I'd also like to work on a reproduction of Chief Justice John Marshall's desk, from a plan by Carlyle Lynch.  Further back on the burner is the high chest by John Head which I was inspired to build after a recent visit to Philadelphia.  That will likely wait, however, until my wife and I move back to the country next year.

So, expect more frequent updates and some pictures of great projects.

Best,

Zach