Friday, November 2, 2012

Stop asking 'what if" and just try it!


The Internet, of course, is a wonderful tool, especially for a group as historically isolated as hand-tool furniture makers.  In the old days, apprentices were expected to keep the secrets of the craft. In the more recent past, we've been the weird guys. We talk about citric acid rust removal for a molding plane iron rather than just buying a new router bit. We're the ones who would actually try to resharpen our own handsaws instead of just running down to the Borg for a new table saw blade. We like it when our projects actually look like they were made by a human, rather than having robot-like machined surfaces. An online community that reinforces that its ok to be beyond the Norm is a fantastic thing. But, as in all things, there is a dark side.

We also read far too many things that aren't particularly helpful.  We see commentary about how flat your sole must be to make your plane work, despite many craftsman who don't worry about such trivialities. We hear that you can't cut dovetails without a razor-thin side bevel on your chisel, and to hell with Job Townsend.  If you wouldn't ask a forum poster what size shirt you should wear, why would you ask them how high your workbench should be? Waterstones! No, diamond stones! No, oil stones!, No, Scary Sharp!

The echo chamber of internet woodworking forums is strong. Truths and non-truths reverberate with equal frequency and, unfortunately, the same validity.  Escape! Think for yourself! Try things! Think about things! Make mistakes!  Make discoveries!

If you want to be helpful, don't simply quote what Nicholson said, or Roubo, or Hayward, or Moxon, or Klausz. Anyone can read their words for themselves and adapt it to their work.  What you can't get is the hands on experience of individual craftsman, unless those experienced people actually share their knowledge through posts.  If you don't have experience with something, don't wait for someone else to figure it out for you. Try it! Write it up! Share! Advance the craft!

I have more respect for the man who tries, fails and shares that failure than the man who tries nothing yet knows all...

In the spirit of the American election season remember this; the average person will start to believe almost anything if they've been exposed to it at least seven times (I know this firsthand; I used to be a professional campaign manager).  Now think about how many times you've heard how you must have those razor sharp bevels on a dovetail-chopping chisel. Have you actually tried to chop the waste with a firmer? I bet you'll find that you can do fine if you just tried it... and that's the point.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Tools for Working Wood has it nailed

I've always been pretty lucky in buying hardware.  Quite often in my travels I find boxes of old cut nails, usually larger sizes, 8D and 10D, but occasionally in the smaller sizes more useful for furniture work. I also salvage nails from old barns when pulling them apart.  So imagine my surprise when, the other day, I reached into my nail cabinet for a handful of 4Ds and came up empty. What the...???

So I panicked. "How am I going to finish this chest of drawers," I asked myself.  "Surely, I can't use wire nails, that would destroy the look of the piece!".  Fortunately, I remembered Joel Moskowitz and the brilliant folks over at Tools For Working Wood.

I ordered a pound of 4D Fine Finish Nails, a 1/2 pound 2D and 1/2 pound 4D Decorative Wrought Head Cut Nails, and 1/8 pound of 2D Headless Cut Brads.  They arrived quicker than I expected and are of excellent quality. And they come in neat paper bags.

Cut nails. Image from TFWW website

Wrought Head nails. Image from TFWW website.

Headless brads, for moldings. Image for TFWW website

The Decorative Wrought Head nails are for some carved boxes, a la Peter Follansbee, that I'm making for Tillers International.  More on that later.

And the other nails are for finishing my chest over drawers, and for a very special project that I'm writing up for Popular Woodworking.  Much, much more on that later as well.

As for my nail cabinet? Of course, I completely forgot that I had just bought a box of vintage (read as "rusty") 4D finish nails at an antique mall in Madison, WI.  I found them two days after my TFWW order arrived. So, I should be set for a while, at least until I forget and order more... Joel, you have my credit card number and address. Don't let me run out!