Woodworking in America 2016

I was honored to be one of the featured speakers at Woodworking in America 2016 in Cincinnati this past weekend. It is one of, if not THE, premier woodworking event in the country. I gave demonstrations on several topics including making cabriole legs without a bandsaw, and scratchstocks.

To me, though, my favorite part of the event was talking to the attendees, vendors, and my fellow speakers. I got to talk to Roy Underhill (a swell guy by the way), Freddy Roman, Joshua Klein of Mortise & Tenon Magazine, and so many others that I can't begin to name everyone. So much fun.

Of course, I got bit at the Marketplace... as long-time followers of this blog know I am a chisel fanatic (so much so that it is in the title of my book With Saw, Plane and Chisel.). Now, I need more chisels like I need a third eyeball, but somehow I ended up with five...

This incredible Blue Spruce paring chisel made by my new friend Dave Jeske. Blue Spruce Toolworks

 A set of four of these period-inspired chisels by John Switzer of Black Bear Forge. Keep an eye on this space as I will be doing a post on handling these, as well as another post on installing the very cool hand-forge bench stop I also purchased from John.

From the legendary Pat Leach (a fellow car guy as well as arguably the world's top tool dealer), I picked up these two molding planes.
A Madox thumbnail plane
An unmarked cove-and-astragal profile in a very small shape. Very useful.

All in all, a great weekend. I encourage you to investigate WIA 2017.


A c.1650 Dutch cabinet on stand

Anyone who knows me is well aware of the fact that I don't usually follow measured drawings. I prefer to investigate / measure a piece myself whenever possible. However, in this instance, I happened to see this piece in Lester Margon's World Furniture Treasures and sort of fell in love with it.

photo courtesy of The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
I emailed the very helpful Collections people at The Rijksmuseum (owner of the cabinet) and asked for any additional photos they have of this piece. They answered within 24 hours and set along two images of the cabinet with the doors open.

Photo courtesy of The Rijksmuseum

Photo Courtesy of The Rijksmuseum
Now, I enjoyed painting furniture but this stuff is several levels above my mediocre skill. I will likely veneer the drawer fronts or may play a little with marquetry instead of painting. Although there are a lot of crummy oils on canvas out there... perhaps I could buy a few and cut them up for the drawer fronts. Lots of decisions to be made, but luckily I have time.

On a piece like this, you always construct the case first and then build the stand to fit. I had a couple of free hours this weekend, so I planed some stock (oak for the sides, pine for the case top and bottom per the original), dovetailed them together, and cut the dadoes for the drawer runners.

The nice thing about dovetailing oak and pine is that you can leave the pine pieces (the pins in this case) quite fat and they will compress into the oak ensuring a tight fit. If you cut them on the line, the wood will compress too far and you'll end up with sloppy dovetails. In this circumstance, aiming for a good fit off the saw is important.. I achieved that here with the exception of correcting one pin that was slightly off-square due to the proximity of a knot. Five seconds with a chisel and all is well.

The case glued up square and true, and I planed it smooth (dovetails included) with my toothing plane to prepare for the veneer. I am using walnut veneer (I have a ton of it) and will be ebonizing with a chemical stain followed by Transtint black in shellac. I am aiming for a piano finish on this piece (several steps beyond where I usually end up). This piece deserves to be an absolute stunner!


The goals of With Saw, Plane and Chisel.

"I wrote With Saw, Plane, and Chisel to add another voice to the available woodworking media.  Herein, you will find what I hope to be a jumping-off point in the worthwhile pursuit of historically-accurate furniture reproduction. You will find information on the history of each of the 18th century styles I have chosen to represent, details on period correct tools, how to prepare your stock and cut solid joinery, and authentic ornamentation techniques. The construction of six pieces is detailed herein, but the techniques you will learn can be used to replicate almost any piece of furniture you like in an authentic manner. You will also learn enough to incorporate realistic elements of period work into your own period-inspired design
The bottom line is this: I’m asking you to question your own definition of the word craftsmanship and to expand your skillset. This is not a call to do poor work, something which was no more acceptable in the period than it is today. I challenge you to try for something more esoteric than simple “perfect” dovetails and “piston fit” drawers. I hope you will study the pieces of the past and see them for what they are: snapshots of a moment in time which can teach us of the men and women who lived, worked, and died in this country more than 200 years ago."
- excerpt from the introduction, With Saw, Plane and Chisel: Making Historic American Furniture with Hand Tools by Zachary Dillinger

My toothing plane... and my new Instagram account

Toothing planes have gotten a lot of coverage lately. I find this tool to be very useful in the shop and, like tradesmen of the past, I use it for more than just veneer work.  Here is my toothing plane.

It doesn't have a maker's stamp but appears to be professionally made. The iron is by Butcher and is all but used up. It will be a sad day when I have to replace it.

The plane is set to take a fine cut but it does not produce a true shaving. It produces little ribbons of wood, as seen in the picture. This enables the user to plane in virtually any direction regardless of the grain, which is useful when dealing with highly figured wood. I use this little plane to flatten unruly pieces, to remove bits of wood from inside cases after glue up (useful when fitting drawers to cases made with hand prepped stock since there is often a bit of wood to remove there), and I've even used it to plane down drawers to fit the openings (inspired by this entry from the Hay Shop blog.)  

The surface left by the toothing plane isn't what you would call attractive, but it can easily be scraped or planed to a beautiful show surface. I use my toothing plane more and more as I grow as a craftsman, and I would encourage you to get one and try it out (and not just for veneer).

For more information on toothing planes, visit the Hay Shop blog.

At the suggestion of a reader of this blog, I have joined Instagram. Check me out there @zachdillinger. I plan to use this blog for more in-depth information sharing, and the Instagram account for frequent updates on my shop projects (including sneak peaks of the work from my upcoming book With Saw, Plane and Chisel.

Zach Dillinger

Returning to this space and an I. Sym jointer plane

It's been 363 days since my last post on The Eaton County Woodworker... you may ask what the heck I've been up to! Well, I'll tell you... I've been writing a book for the F&W Media / Popular Woodworking folks! It's all about how to make period furniture (six projects representing the major 18th century styles) entirely with hand tools. It is not a how-to book on how to tune or use (in a theoretical sense) tools; it is how to use them to actually make furniture. It should be due around Halloween of this year and will be nationally available wherever books are sold.

The draft is almost ready to go to the publisher, so I'll have time, energy, and topics to write about once again on this blog. Please keep an eye on this space as I have some pretty cool stuff in the hopper. Stuff like this late 18th century I. Sym jointer plane. 200 years old and still perfectly flat and square. Just took a few minutes to sharpen the plane (it needed nothing else) and it was taking those whispy shavings we all know and love.


Lovely I. Sym jointer plane on my desk, home base for writing my book

Hand prints from a long-dead user in the patina

No twist after 200+ years; this is why I like English planes better than American

Perfectly flat and straight in length with no work

Whispy full length shavings in walnut (some sapwood)