Tool wall

Well, are you bored with reading posts about my shop renovation project yet? I'm starting to tire of the project myself. I'm aching to get back to some real woodworking but I have a few more things to take care of first.

The tool racks are largely done, just need a few more in a few spots and I need to figure out auger bit storage. They currently live in tool rolls on one of the new shelves but this may change. I'm leaning towards a few bit blocks stashed on the shelf below the saws.

It should be warm enough to finish painting everything in the next two weeks. Then I can lay the new decking for the attic floor and get my lumber storage organized up there.

I can't believe the number of tools that I own that I simply forgot about. I need to have a woodworker's yard sale...

Williamsburg / Jamestown pictures

I've been very busy putting up insulation and siding in my shop, which is not very interesting work to read about on a blog. So, I've dipped into my archives a bit and decided to put out some pictures of a trip my wife and I took to Virginia back in 2010. Our travels took us to Historic Jamestown, Jamestown Settlement, and Colonial Williamsburg... here are a few of the pictures we took during that trip.

The original hearth and chimney of the joinery at Monticello

A slightly different angle of the 'Nickel View'

A very cool architect's desk designed by Jefferson

The Hay Shop

The Williamsburg Courthouse

A cornice plane stamped 'Underhill' and made by the man himself

A messy workbench at the joiner's shop

One of many fascinating timberframe buildings at Jamestown Settlement

New work at the Settlement

Inside the church

I'm copying this style of rack for my axes and froes

A recreation of one of the ships that carried the colonists to Jamestown in 1607

Beyond the pale...

Tool storage racks and shelves

In my continuing quest to clean and upgrade my workshop, I've been seriously considering my options for tool storage. I've always loved the look and functionality of the systems used in the shops in Williamsburg, namely shelves and racks. My inability to heat my building has made this an unworkable solution so the tools have lived in chests for many years. Now that I'm insulating and electrifying the shop, I'll be able to keep the building at a minimum of 50 degrees year round. This means tools can live on walls.

To that end I've been busily making shelves and racks. I've chosen to paint them, along with the window trim, in a brownish-beige color which will contrast nicely with the soon-to-be white walls.

I'm simply using dimensional pine from the Borg. It's rare that I use pre-dimensioned lumber but, with my time at a premium these days, I'm going to be saving my efforts for where it really matters, i.e. my actual work. I did hand plane a nice bead detail on the what will become the bottom of the rack, and will plane similar beads on future racks.

 Here it is hanging temporarily before painting. I decided that I will hang it in a lower position when I install it permanently.

Tool rack from Sampson Joinery Shop. Photo by Peter Follansbee
I'm also planning to make a few of these racks from the Sampson Joinery Shop as documented by Peter Follansbee.

It's still far too cold to paint anything outdoors so the walls will have to wait a while yet (c'mon Spring!). The shelf rack was painted inside and I'm pleased with the look. I suspect it will look even better against white walls.

I hope this series on shop improvements is inspirational. I know I'm enjoying getting back out there and making things a little brighter, a little cleaner, and hopefully a little warmer!

It has to get worse before it gets better

My slight shop cleanup has turned into rather more than that. I decided that, since I had everything put away while cleaning, I would go ahead and put some bead board and insulation up. I had originally planned to just do the area near my bench to help improve the lighting for photograph. This is where you last saw it.

Here is what it looks like as of yesterday....

I decided to make better use of the window at the far (East) end of the shop. With paneling and a cleanup at that end, which was always a junk heap just out of the frame of pictures, I'll be able to put a second, albeit shorter, bench there to take advantage of the beautiful light there. I will also pull my main bench out away from the wall about 8 inches or so to enable me to use the East end in my work.

Once I'm done with the paneling and insulation, I'll be able to cost-effectively heat the building throughout the winter. That means I can keep more of my tools on the walls and not fear for their safety. To that end I'm going to be putting up a few shelves and some lengths of 1x4 with dowel pegs every 6 or 8 inches near the ceiling level of the first floor. This will give me plenty of convenient places to hang saws, draw knifes, etc.

The ultimate inspiration for these changes is this picture I took in the Williamsburg Joiner's Shop back in 2010. I've always wanted a shop that looks like this; now I'm well on my way to achieving that goal.

In the mean time, I also picked up a new tool. As a dedicated contrarian, I have resisted these for years because they were just too popular. My resistance finally waned after using one, so here is it, along with the rod extension set. I guess I will give it a try and see how it works out.

All the best,

My favorite chisels

Planes seem to get all the love from hand tool woodworkers but it is with chisels that my work really gets done. Without my beloved bits of razor sharp steel on wood handles, I would be lost and totally useless in a woodshop. Aside from my full set of Gabriel hollows and rounds, they are most prized tools and the things I would run into a burning shop to save.

I have many wonderful chisels but I thought that a closer look at a few of my favorites might be appreciated.

My Blue Spruce paring chisel which I purchased at Woodworking in America a couple of years ago is pretty high on the list. It is beautifully made tool that, more importantly, works beautifully too.
All the best,

My workaday bench chisels. A mostly full set of William Butchers with one no-name, a Lakeside, thrown in. The Lakeside is my favorite overall chisel and the one I grab for first for most shop tasks. It is also the only tool with which I have ever seriously hurt myself, having nearly lost the tip of my right pinky finger in a moment of sheer stupidity involving poor work holding choices. The handles, except for the vintage one in the middle, are shop made in a process I documented here on the blog.

I also enjoy my Lie-Nielsen bench chisels. They are truly beautiful tools that I use less than I should.

My Iles mortising chisel. I have some vintage ones too but the Iles usually gets the nod for any task which can accommodate the 3/8" width. I should just bite the bullet and get one in 1/4" and maybe 1/2" too.

I'm always on the lookout for new chisels as well. Do you have any particular favorites of which I should be made aware? Let me know in the comments section.


Shop improvements project part 2

I'm closing in on finally being comfortable enough with the condition of the shop to start working again. While cleaning I found some tongue and groove siding boards that I had left over from another project, so I decided to put them to use in the shop.

Getting good lighting conditions for taking print worth pictures has always been a problem for me. Hopefully these bright, clean walls will help. Once I finish putting up boards on the first floor walls I'll paint all the pine white, I will leave the exposed timbers in weathered condition for appearances sake. 

I also took some time to put an extra upper kitchen cabinet into position at the end of the bench. Previously this had been a catch-all at the other end of the shop. I will store my molding planes in this cabinet once I add a few shelves and put doors on it. I'm trying to decide if I want glass doors or doors with a whiteboard panel in the center for making shop notes. I currently write quick notes, measurements, etc. directly onto my bench top so a whiteboard would be useful.

I also found time to replace my 15 year old and totally worn out bench hook. More on this to come.

All the best.