New Shop Space Build part 2

 I've made pretty good progress on my shop addition. It's a simple shed roof frame, nothing fancy, but will add another 50% in floor space and, perhaps more importantly, a ton of wall space for storage. My hope is to have my entire woodworking library stored in this space, along with a smaller bench and perhaps a permanently installed pole lathe. How it will be used isn't fully planned yet but, as you can see, the space itself is nearly finished.

I still need to enclose the rafter tails.

A normal entry door (with screen door!) which will become my new main entrance

3/4" OSB subfloor with joists on 16" centers. Very sturdy.

A nice view to the East

I can't wait to finish this up. I'm as yet undecided on how to finish the inside walls. This entire space will be insulated but I really like the bare wood look, so I might put up some honey pine paneling or the like. What would you do?


New Shop Space Build

 I've been working in my 12x16 timber frame shop for the last five or six years. I love it but a little extra has always been high on my list. I finally decided to do something about it and framed up this 8x12 shed roof addition over the weekend.

Originally it was going to be just a porch but I decided to go whole hog and frame it in. This portion of the shop will be insulated and heated so I can comfortably work year round. Also high on the list is one central storage location for my entire library of woodworking and furniture books, which will make my wife very happy. 

I'm very much looking forward to finishing this space off and moving in. I will probably still build a porch on the South side (aka the side with OSB sheathing as siding since it was supposed to be a temporary fix... five years ago).

Also, firewood stacking continues, one of my favorite house chores (yes, really).

Till next,


Upcoming article in Mortise & Tenon Magazine


I'm happy to let you all know that I'll have an article in Mortise & Tenon Magazine Issue 9. I wrote for the very first issue of the magazine (now out of print and in high demand) and was featured in an interview in Issue 2, so the magazine holds a special place in my heart. It is, without a doubt, the finest publication on pre-industrial woodworking in existence today... and it is perhaps the best that has ever existed. 

You can find more information on my article here. 

Thanks again for the opportunity, Joshua. I'm honored to be part of the M&T family!

A highly recommended YouTube channel

I cannot recommend the TA Outdoors channel highly enough.  I've been watching these guys basically non-stop for several weeks now. They have a hugely impressive library of historic shelter videos, all built with hand tools. Truly enthralling and definitely inspiring.

Ye Olde Traditional Storm Hat

 My dad always used to wear a storm hat. It was a beat up, old, nondescript thing that he only ever wore when we were in for bad weather. Being a crazy man, he would stand outside in the worst of it as if he could keep bad things from getting to his family by sheer force of will. Considering we rarely if ever experienced significant storm damage, maybe he could...

After he died, I lost track of "the" hat. I'd give anything to have it or to spend five minutes talking to him to learn his storm pushing secrets. Since neither of those things are possible, I make do with another hat that once belonged to him. I only wear it during storms and, through a few storm seasons, it seems to be effective.

We had a bit of a blow yesterday (the tail end of what got Chicago, as I understand it) but nothing too awful bad. Guess my hat worked yet again. Thanks for the hat and the tradition Dad.

I wonder... what cool family traditions like this do you have?

Also, it's firewood time here in Michigan. The first batch of about 5 cords is done, with more in process. Pretty stuff.

Covid-19 Summer 2020 update

 It's been one heck of a year, 2020. Aside from the obvious... I managed to seriously injure myself in my woodshop for the very first time in three decades of woodworking. Shortly after my last post, I dropped a sharp plane iron into my right ankle. This severed a tendon and caused an extremely gruesome gash in my foot. I'll spare you pictures (yes, I did take them) but seeing one's own bone and moving tendons is a wakeup call to be a little more careful. Thankfully, no surgery was required (the severed tendon was too small to be repaired so it's just sort of there now). I'm left with a 2 1/2" scar, a large lump of coiled tendon and scar tissue, and semi-numb toes, though the doctor says the numbness should go away in time.

Frankly, the mental damage was worse than the physical damage. It has largely kept me out of the woodshop since. So, rather than building things, I've been working on my house, painting, replacing damaged / rotten siding, and doing a lot of writing, both for Mortise & Tenon and for my new book project. More info on both of those projects to come soon.

I'm planning to return to the woodshop soon. First up, a deep clean, then a reassessment of a few shop strategies before digging into another furniture project. I'm not sure what that will be yet, as it has been years since I could actually make something for myself without restrictions or deadlines. I'm thinking a bench for the new deck I'm having built on my house but, we'll see.

Thankfully, thus far we are safe and healthy. I hope that all of you are as well.

Take care and stay safe.

Zach Dillinger

Lockdown! Tools and new book projects!

It's been an extremely productive lockdown here in mid-Michigan. Our Governor recently extended the stay at home order through April 30th, so we have a few more days at home with our daughter Abigail. In addition to this wonderful family time, I've been getting a little more time in the shop, which I have been using to work on little projects here and there.

Here's the finished infill plane that I wrote about here.

I fitted a new oak handle to this large Ohio Tool socket chisel. It has been languishing in my "someday" pile for years, and now it is a wonderful, Underhill-esque worker.

I've had this reproduction Iron Age Celtic socket axe head sitting on a shelf over my bench for a while now, and I finally found the right piece of maple firewood from which to make a handle. The axe head is carefully fitted onto the handle and currently lashed with twine, though I will redo this when I get some proper rawhide lacing.!

Finally, and perhaps most exciting of all, I've been making significant progress on two, yes, TWO!, new books. One is tentatively titled The Hand Tool Woodshop: How to Create Your Space and Build (Almost) Everything In It. Like my first book, With Saw, Plane and Chisel, it is a how-to manual to produce many of the hand tools, layout tools, and work surfaces you need to be able to work efficiently by hand. This one is taking me a while to finish, and I've been working on it since last July. I'm hopeful it will be available by the end of the year. More to come.

The second is more akin to my book On Woodworking. It is tentatively called Tall Tool Tales: Hunting Rusty Treasures and the People Who Made Them. It features (mostly true) tool hunting stories, ideas about how to find the best of the best, and biographical stories of some of the men and women who made the objects we most revere. I expect this to be available by late summer.

If you're interested in keeping up with news on these two new books, shoot me an email and I'll add you to the list!

Scratch built spokeshave rehab and an infill plane restoration

My dad's corner in the shop: his Billy the Kid poster, Southern Comfort sign,
and  the catcher's mitt he used when we played baseball when I was a kid.
One of the first tools I ever made from scratch, including the blade, was a spokeshave for my dad. This was back in 2007 and, when he passed away in 2010, I got it back.

The spokeshave had lived on a shelf in his computer room and was basically never used, so I put it to work. It turned out to be a capable, if slightly rough and ugly, tool. The front of the sole wore out and I put it on a shelf, waiting for a rainy day to fix it up.

Courtesy of the coronavirus, I've had more than a few rainy days lately, so I took some time to inlay some ebony (my tool patch of choice) into the front of the tool. I also waxed it down and sharpened the blade. It will now return to use, and I'll be reminded of my dad every time I see the WVD I crudely stamped into the tool's top (for William Van Dillinger).

Still rough, still a little ugly, but priceless to me.
 I also started working on this long-neglected infill smoothing plane. I've had it for years but I've never done much with it, either cleaning or sharpening. I don't even remember where I got it but I decided the time is now to fix it up.

"What has brought you to this lowly state?"

The original owner / maker, S.G. Pool. This same name also appears
 on the front bun and on the heel of sole casting.
After a little cleaning and some shellac.

A few lockdown projects

First, let me say how incredibly thankful I am to all the healthcare professionals, front line emergency responders, and everyone else involved in the battle against the insidious Coronavirus and Covid-19. I am personally acquainted with several positive cases and have lost one friend already. So thank you. And thank you to everyone who is staying home and staying safe. That's the only way we win this thing long term, until we have a working vaccine.

Now, on to the woodworking content. Like many of you, I find myself with a bit more time in the shop lately, so I've been taking care of a few things and trying to use up some scrap wood. Here are a few projects I've been working on lately.

First, I replaced the ugly porch skirting on the front and side porches of my 1900-built farmhouse. It had been done with 2.75" diamond garden lattice by a previous owner and this was patently incorrect for the house. So I built my own lattice from 1 1/2" lath, giving proper small squares. This will be painted once I can safely go to the hardware store for "non-essential" materials. Also up is a rebuild / repaint on the side porch stairs / railing to match the front porch stairs / railing I built last year.

I also built an oak door bolt for my front shop door. No more eye hooks to keep the door closed from the inside!

I also used up a scrap piece of pine tongue and groove siding, a 6" length of copper pipe, and some scrap birch to make a set of pinch sticks. These handy things allow you to easily check how square an assembly is simply by checking the measurements diagonally between corners. If the corner measurements are the same the assembly is square; the sticks eliminate the need for remembering the measurements and removes the inherent inaccuracy of using measurements at all.

I also used up some scrap 1/2" poplar (and the last of my 1" headless brads from Tools for Working Wood) to make this 18th century New England style wall hanging box. It will be painted, color yet to be determined by my wife.

Anyhow, I'm thankful that I have my woodshop, a decent supply of lumber and scraps, and a little bit of time to make stuff. It is surely helping me to keep what little sanity I have.

I hope y'all are staying safe.

'till next,

Swedish-Estonian style breast drill - part 2

In Part 1, I discussed the inspiration for and the first steps towards building a unique breast drill that I found in the classic "Woodworking in Estonia". This post continues that project.

With the lower body completed I moved on to the pad, the part to which chest pressure is applied to both steady and advance the auger bit. The book shows that the chest stock is made from a piece of tree branch. The hole for the stock tenon is bored through a knot, enabling the grain to flow around the hole which should help prevent splitting.

I selected a likely looking piece of maple from my firewood pile and started after it with a variety hand adzes and hatches.

Pretending to chop the knot swell flush to the rest of the wood.

Boring the hole

Bark removed and rough layout lines drawn on.

Starting the work with a hatchet

More work, now with cooper's adze

More adze work, getting close now.

I love the texture left by the adze. Some of this will remain.

All in all, a very successful attempt. This is after one quick coat of my preferred finish for tools, a blend of pine tar, linseed oil, and turpentine. Several more coats will be applied after all other steps are completed.

Next up, I'll be choosing and fitting an auger bit to burn into this stock and pouring some pewter. It's about to get smoky in the wood shop (usually a very bad thing).

- Zachary Dillinger

Swedish-Estonian style breast drill - part 1

A couple of weeks ago, I finally had a chance to pick up Lost Art Press's version of "Woodworking in Estonia". Despite being an avowed acolyte of Roy Underhill, who states that this particular book is his favorite, I'd never before read Vires's masterwork. Well, that has now changed and, frankly, it is eye opening. It made clearer so many of the relationships between tools, names for tools, and how their usage has evolved. I highly recommend the book, available here.

The book, coupled with a reread of Issue Six of Mortise & Tenon Magazine, led me to undertake a new tool project. You can see the original in the upper right hand corner of my opening image, a Swedish-Estonian breast drill. Being sans lathe at the moment (a situation to be corrected soon), I opted for the simple style shown on the right.

Vires says that many, if not most, of these drills were constructed predominantly from birch and I just happened to have an appropriate piece.

The work began with laying out the rough blank then ripping and crosscutting it free.

I then planed to my layout line giving me a square blank which enabled me to accurately lay out the center of the piece on both ends.

 I then used a center bit, with the central pike in the center of blank, to lay out the end tenon which will ultimately go into the chest stock. Using a crosscut backsaw, I sawed in to rough depth on all four sides before splitting away the waste with a chisel.

 I then used my Stearns hollow auger to cut the tenon perfectly round.

Some basic shaping, a chopped mortise in the center, and a long turning bar were then made completing the lower part of the drill.

The next post will be a detail of creating the chest stock from a piece of maple firewood. After that, I'll cover the process of fitting a pewter collar and burning an auger bit into the stock.

- Zachary Dillinger

No one is gone if you remember them and speak their name

To Jamie Bacon: friend, craftsman, and raconteur
It's very difficult for me to believe it but it will soon be five years since Jamie Bacon of the Plane Shavings blog left our mortal world. I never had the privilege of meeting Jamie in person but, if you've ever read his blog, you'll understand why we were frequent correspondents.

His blog was superb and remains so. It is well worth another read through.

To friend Jamie, wherever you are, I hope your planes are sharp and that the walnut is all air-dried.

- Zachary Dillinger

Our predecessors

The chimney of Thomas Jefferson's joinery at Monticello. Photo by Zachary Dillinger.

"We are not wiser, we are not better, we are not stronger than our predecessors, but we have their accumulated knowledge and wisdom to build upon. We have gained in understanding and technical knowledge: this vast treasure house is our inheritance. With the creative intelligence of the people now living combined with wisdom developed over the centuries, we may create a self-sustaining flame of human happiness.

- Bill Copperthwaite