Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Wis...

My friend and occasional boss (when I'm feeling Freelancing'ish) Chris Schwarz recently found out that I have a Ken Wisner Edge-Trimming Block Plane, and he put together a really nice post on his blog about it.

I got mine a while ago (1 to 2 years ago) on Ebay. However, something interesting happened late last year when another Ken Wisner plane hit Ebay.

Last November another Wisner appeared on Ebay, and it included the original Garrett-Wade "Instruction" sheet. I didn't win that plane; I don't know if I even bid. However, I emailed the Ebay winner and asked if he would be willing to scan the instruction sheet and email it to me. This fellow Wisner owner (I only know him as TOM) did indeed scan the wrinkled Garrett-Wade page and email it to me. (That was a genuinely nice thing for a fellow woodworker to do.)

Here is a copy of the original Instruction Sheet that accompanied the Wisner Planes, courtesy of a nice fella named Tom.

It is interesting to think that a different guy named TOM was working at Garrett Wade when they were selling these planes, and perhaps he is the guy who wrote up these Instructions????

Tom Lie-Nielsen: Did you write up this one pager of tips for using the Ken Wisner plane when you worked for Garrett Wade?

I am glad Ken Wisner made a few hundred planes, but I am even more happy that Thomas Lie-Nielsen picked up the mantle and ran with it....

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

And I thought he only made Bibles....

I am joining the old book club. It seems that Chris Schwarz is always panning for gold nuggets in the dusty, old tomes of woodworking. I recently found that Chris Gochnour has been known to do the same thing. So even though my name isn’t Chris, I have decided to be an old book test pilot. Here is my inaugural flight into the realm of woodworking books of old. The good news is that I have found a book we can all take a look at.


It appears the Project Gutenberg folks have made it possible for the entire world to own a virtual copy of:


Assistant Professor, Department of Industrial Arts.

Teachers College, Columbia University


The entire book has been scanned, and is available at the link above. If this book had been written two weeks ago, I believe all of the woodworking book clubs would be clambering to secure exclusive rights to make it the Selection of the Month. It has about 4 boatloads of information, and it has pictures.

It tells how to sharpen a card scraper. It tells how to choose a hammer. It tells how to layout the rafters under the roof of your next house. It describes the proper circles to make when applying French Polish.

To me the most fascinating part of the book is the first section which provides tremendous detail on logging in the era before the internal combustion engine. The photos are amazing. Here are a couple just to whet your appetite.

Did it whet your appetite?

Wait!!!!!!! Did I just say “WHET”?????

Yes. And that leads us to the WHAT THE &$#*@&^%$ moment of the day…..

There is one area of this book that I read. Re-read. Paused to consider. Then re-read. It still confuses the heck out of me. I am pasting it here unedited….

To test the sharpness of a whetted edge, draw the tip of the finger or thumb lightly along it, Fig. 79. If the edge be dull, it will feel smooth: if it be sharp, and if care be taken, it will score the skin a little, not enough to cut thru, but just enough to be felt.

Fig. 79. Testing the Sharpness of a Chisel.

Maybe it’s because I am something of a bleeder, but I cannot bring myself to agree with that information. One of my primary objectives in woodworking is to avoid things that "score the skin a little."

99.9% of this free e-Book is gold, but whatever you do…don’t follow the advice “To test the sharpness of a whetted edge, draw the tip of the finger or thumb lightly along it…”

Enjoy your free book, and resist the urge to buy from the guy on Ebay who is offering a CD with this free eBook for the unheard of price of just under ten bucks. And to that Ebay guy...if you are one of my regular readers, I apologize for possibly hurting your plans for early retirement. It's nothing personal... I just wanted to be able to say that I gave all of my readers a free book.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Asian Gilrs for Dating

Ya know...I put Google ads on this blog in the hopes of making about $50,000 per month. However, the actual monthly income has been about 10,000 to 50,000 times less than that.

It should be noted I have no control over the ads that get placed along the edge of the blog. They get chosen based upon the key words spread throughout my writings. Then, in a king of the hill fashion, the best producing ads stay there until their production decreases and they are replaced by the young guns.

This week ASIAN GILRS FOR DATING showed up, and it seems to be stuck there. Don't get me wrong, pretty girls from timezones 12 or 13 hours away from mine add a nice change of pace from the mountain of links for workbenches.

Exactly 3 years ago I was in Viet Nam preparing to travel to China. It was quite interesting to be in the former Saigon as they prepared to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the departure of the last US helicopter. We managed to fly out the day before the official celebration of the anniversary of the American Departure.

The best joke I came up with during my stay in Viet Nam was told to Gail as we spoke on the "phone" through Skype. Here it is:

Gail: How are things in Viet Nam, Honey?

Jeff: Good. Not at all like Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, or The Deer Hunter (that's just me being "normal." That's not the joke).

Gail: That's nice. How is the food? Have you found anything to eat? (I'm a very fussy eater.)

Jeff: The food at the factory scared me, but here at the hotel it's GREAT!

Gail: What's it like? Is the city interesting, or have you seen any neat scenery?

(Get Ready. Here is the best joke of my Asian adventure)

Jeff: Yeah, there is one really neat thing. Today while we were in the taxi driving through Ho Chi Mihn City, I noticed the weirdest thing.... Every time we passed a Nail Salon, there were only American Women working there.


It is my hope that joke is the only substantial thing that comes of my Asian trip of 2005. However, if a blue-eyed Asian kid ever knocks on the door, I am sticking by the story I have always told Gail.... "God as my witness, honey, I thought Karaoke was just singing."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It’s not you…it’s me.

Two weeks ago, on April 1st, I received a call from Maine. I was busily working at Marc Adams School of Woodworking and the call went to voicemail. Later that evening as I drove to my parents’ house (where I stay when visiting MASW) I finally listened to voicemail and found that Andrew from Lie-Nielsen called because he was getting ready to build my workbench. It truly seemed like it had to be an April Fools joke.

Last year about this time I was talking to Mr. Lie-Nielsen, and I had finally decided to forego building my own workbench and just buy one. I asked what the lead time was, and he said, “about 6 weeks.” Thomas told me to call Casey back at the Toolworks and place the order through her. When I called Casey the next day, she told me Tom misspoke about the lead time. I was informed the benches were as much as 6 months out. I went ahead and ordered it, realizing that I would have a new workbench in time for Thanksgiving. Around October of 2007, I called to check on the status of my bench and found that I was still number 83 on the list of 130 people waiting for benches. A new bench for Thanksgiving would be out of the question.

I was lamenting my bench waiting frustration to Chris Schwarz who responded, “Why don’t you just build a bench?!?!?!??!” My response was something like, “Hey, Chris, you know Tom better than I do…. Do you think he would move me up the waiting list if I offered him like an extra Ten Dollars?” Chris replied, “Knowing him, he will either move you down or throw you off the list.”

I don’t think it’s a case of Thomas Lie-Nielsen being The Soup Nazi; I just got the impression he believes in treating everyone fairly. So I waited.

A couple of weeks later, I decided to start building the Holtzapffel Bench. That bench is nearly done, and I really like the design. While at MASW, students work on Lie-Nielsen workbenches, and they are very good benches. However, during the first day of my class with Chris Gochnour two weeks ago I kept discovering little things about the bench that were less efficient than the Holtzapffel bench, given the way I work. I love the massive legs of the Holtzapffel and the fact they mount flush to the front of the benchtop. This design offers clamping possibilities that are not available with the traditional European Trestle base. As much as I thought I wanted a tool tray, I have now grown accustomed to the clear 24” wide top of massively thick hard maple. (Note: Lie-Nielsen benches can be ordered with or without tool trays.)

So on April Fools Day as I pulled out of the parking lot at MASW, I was thinking about how happy I am with the workbench I built when the cellular signal improved and my phone's voicemail reminder told me of all of the calls I had missed during the day. I was thinking about my Holtzapffel bench when I listend to a voicmail from Andrew asking if I still wanted the Lie-Nielsen Bench. I called Andrew the next morning and found out some information… I was now number one on a list of about 200, and they aren’t taking any more orders (for a while). As Andrew told me about the challenges they face in meeting the demand for the benches, my mind began racing through thoughts of various schemes and dreams.

My brain went into Antiques Roadshow Collector Mode. I saw Leslie and Leigh Keno oohing over the bench, saying, “Yes. This is an original Lie-Nielsen Bench….” My brain then jumped to a glimpse of the estate sale with a Lie-Nielsen Bench covered with all of my tools. Patrick Leach’s Full Grown 50 year old Tool Elf was there offering “a hundred bucks for all of this old woodworking crap” which my 52 year old nephew was greedily accepting.

I thought about buying the bench and then immediately selling it on Ebay. How much would the guy who is currently #200 on the list be willing to pay to get an 8 foot long Lie-Nielsen workbench within 3 weeks??? The greedy look in my eyes was replaced with a look of fear as the vision of The Soup Nazi flooded my brain, and I heard Tom Lie-Nielsen’s voice say, “You’re the *^&^%*^$% who sold the brand new bench on Ebay????? NO MORE TOOLS FOR YOU!!!!!!!!”

Then, for about 10 seconds I tried to picture the layout of my shop with a $2000+ 8 foot long sharpening station. I couldn’t figure out where to fit it in. I also couldn’t figure out how to convince Gail to start working nights at a 7-11 in order to bring home extra cash to pay for it.

So after weighing all of these thoughts, I made the following speech to Andrew: “Working on the Lie-Nielsen bench here at Marc Adams’ yesterday reminded me of how nice these benches are. However, I am really happy with the bench I just finished making (don’t tell Andrew that it isn’t actually finished yet). Just in case you guys decide to stop making these benches, I would sure love to have one just from the collector side of things, but I cannot justify it given the lack of space in my shop. So, you see, Andrew, I love the benches you make, but they aren’t right for me.”

Then, feeling like all of those old girlfriends of mine from the 1990’s, I said the phrase that effectively closed my affair with the Lie-Nielsen workbench. I softly spoke into the phone and told him, “Andrew… It’s not you… It’s me.”

Next weekend I will be seeing Tom Lie-Nielsen. I hope things won’t be awkward. I hope we can still be friends if only for the sake of the 30 or so planes, saws, chisels, doweling jigs, aprons, and spokeshaves I own.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Three Carries

It was never my intention to be a hero. I think the word is overused. However, events in life occur that cause normal people to do heroic things. For me, my fleeting moments of heroism involved our older dog Abby and Three Carries.

Carry Number One occurred in 2001. Near our home is Rosy Mound Park on Lake Michigan where we would go swimming with the dog. The beach at Rosy Mound was always deserted because it sits about two miles from the road. Those two miles consisted of sand dune trails through the woods. No one would go to Rosy Mound beach because you had to burn about 500 calories hiking two miles through sand to get there. Then you had to turn around and hike out when you were done. In recent years, they spent a lot of taxpayer money to pave the trails to provide yet another accessible place for mothers pushing 13 baby strollers, and I have never been back. But back in 2001, Rosy Mound was our private beach.

(clicking any of the pictures will open a larger version)

When Rosy Mound was still rustic we would hike out there with the dog and throw a Dokken Retrieval Duck into the water and she would swim out to fetch it. Abby loved swimming so much we always had to drag her away from the water when she would get too tired; she would have swam until she drowned. One day, the waves were crashing and I threw the duck in the wrong spot on the other side of the driftwood tree pictured below, and Abby jumped over the tree to go after the duck. However, as she was in the air over the tree, a crashing wave hit her and caused her to drop onto a limb spike.

Abby was impaled on the spike and was thrashing in her attempt to get away, but she was stuck on the tree with a limb spike up inside her abdomen. I ran out to get her and as I lifted her off the limb, her thrashing struck me across the face. The picture with me holding my chubby niece (competing to see who has the bluer eyes) was taken a few days after and the cuts Abby gave me are clearly visible.

When I lifted Abby off of the tree I saw a massive wound in her abdomen just in front of her rear leg. I remember telling Gail, “Well, she is going to die, but I’d rather her die with me carrying her out of here than to just sit here and wait for it.” The bleeding wasn’t quite as bad as I would have thought, but I stuck all 110 pounds of her up on my shoulders and carried her two miles through the sand dunes. Eventually, we made it to the car, Gail called the vet’s pager, and Dr. Bader met us at Mapleview Animal Hospital and performed emergency surgery that saved her. Somehow that spike limb had missed all of the major internal stuff.

Carry Number Two came a year or so later. We were walking the dog through the downtown area of Zeeland (a village 8 miles from home) one night in December when Abby started whimpering like there was something stuck in her paws. When I knelt down to check on her I felt an electrical tingling on the pavement. Suddenly, Abby yelped and staggered into the gutter of the street which was filled with salty water from the snowmelt. When she hit the puddle, she convulsed, lost bowel control, and was being electrocuted when I somehow scooped her up and carried her a hundred or so feet back to a “safe” parking lot. We went home, but the situation really bugged me. So the next night we visited the same spot, but I took along my digital multimeter. When I probed the wet sidewalk and the metal light pole at that location, I found that the light pole was leaking 120 Volts. The previous night, my dog Abby had found a metal light pole with a short that was feeding electricity out to the salty wet pavement. It was at night, and no one was around, so I called 9-1-1 with a “non-emergency.” Within 5 minutes every police officer, fire fighter, and fire apparatus within 5 miles was screaming onto Main Street with lights and sirens blaring. I assume that the night before the rubber soles of my shoes kept the circuit from completing and allowed me to scoop up Abby as she was being electrocuted, without my suffering a similar shocking fate, or perhaps it was dumb luck. But either my quick action (or stupidity) saved Abby from a Bundy-ish death.

Carry Number Three happened this afternoon. Abby is eleven years old, and she suffers arthritis. However, in the last two weeks, she has seemed more weak than normal, with very little strength in her back legs. Last week while Gail and I were in Indianapolis for my class at MASW, we stayed with my parents. On Thursday morning I was awakened around 5:00am by a horrible noise and I found Abby having a full blown seizure. It lasted about 5 minutes, and then we took her to the 24 hour animal hospital that is near my parents’ house. Epilepsy was a possibility, but given she has never had a previous seizure, along with her advanced age of 11 ½ , it is more likely she has a brain tumor. That night, she had another seizure. In the last few days there have been no more seizures, but Abby’s mobility has gotten significantly worse. This afternoon, Dr. Jill Veldhof (the other vet at Mapleview who took such good care of Simon last January) confirmed there is likely a neurological issue affecting Abby’s back legs. Also, she had likely torn an ACL (or something like it) recently. The information Dr. Jill gave us confirmed what Gail and I had already discussed this morning and throughout the day. Abby’s always been a fiercely independent dog, and we knew how much she hates the mobility problems that have attacked her over the past couple of weeks. So Gail and I knew what was going to happen when we prepared to leave the house for our 2:45 pm appointment. I knew as I carried her to the car that it was the last time she would see her home. And I knew as I carried her into the hospital, that I was carrying her for the last time.

When the time came, I stroked Abby’s head and told her stories of swimming in Lake Michigan and fetching retrieval ducks. I told her she was our first dog and how much we loved her, and how she helped Gail and me to heal a little when we got her after our miscarriages back in the 90’s. I told her that even though she’s never been as lovey-dovey as her brothers (Simon and Peyton), that I know she knows how much she is loved. Abby truly understood that I saved her life when I carried her out of Rosy Mound and Zeeland, and today her eyes told me that she knew I was once again carrying her to a better place that would be free of pain and suffering.

We loved you, Abby. We were blessed to have you in our lives.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

That CH is actually a K

Well, it has been a while since the last update, but I have a good excuse. I've been doing actual woodworking.

This week I attended 2008's opening week of classes at Marc Adams School of Woodworking. My instructor was Chris Gochnour, the owner of the most often mis-pronounced name in woodworking. Honestly, there are more folks who know how to pronounce Tage Frid than Gochnour. Phonetically speaking, that "h" in Chris' last name is actually a "k." It's pronounced GOCK-nour....not GOTCH-nour. It probably shouldn't be that surprising, because the "CH" in his first name follows the same rule. It's pronounced KA-RIS...not CHA-RIS.

Rest assured, though, that I learned a lot more than just how to pronounce Chris' name. In this class, we built a Shaker wall clock using only hand tools. Chris provided a detailed cut list in the weeks leading up to the class, and the students brought their prepared stock. I used my jointer, planer, power miter saw, bandsaw, and tablesaw to prepare that lumber at home. However, after I arrived at MASW, the only electrical energy I used was the overhead lighting.

Using hand tools exclusively opens one's eyes to possibilities that are normally not embraced in a power tool shop. For example, trimming 1/8th of an inch off the end of a 7 inch wide panel is a no brainer with a miter saw or a crosscut sled on a tablesaw. However, working only with hand tools I decided to not use the miter plane and a shooting board and, instead, went for a full size crosscut saw. Using a panel saw to trim off an eighth of an inch is not really as difficult as it might seem, but few woodworkers are ever placed in the situation of needing to attempt it.

Likewise, the decorative molding around the doors of the clock looks like it was run across the router table, but it was actually a hand held molding plane. Honestly, those narrow wooden things that Roy Underhill is always messin' with....they actually work to cut profiles. Who knew?

At the end of the week, when I looked at the nearly finished clock, it was interesting to consider the many steps that could be completed with greater speed in a power tool shop. Routered molding would have been much faster. A hollow chisel mortiser would have made quicker work of the joinery. The bit and brace was not as fast as a drill press. Yet, the thing I come back to is the realization that the exclusive use of hand tools was not so slow as to make this project impossible to complete in 5 days. (Chris says he has taught this class near his home in Utah over the course of only 3 days.) The beauty of the class is during the 5 days, I never once needed to put on any hearing protection. A molding plane is noticeably quieter than a router screaming at 20,000 rpm.

Take note that Chris Gochnour is a great instructor. His articles in Fine Woodworking should be sufficient to give one an idea of his abilities and his communication style. But those articles never communicated one of the delightful surprises of taking Chris' class at Marc Adams' School: with Chris Gochnour a student gets VALUE. The pace of the class was never hurried or frantic, yet it never dragged. Chris was able to provide individual instruction as students progressed at varied rates. The amazing thing is that Chris Gochnour worked harder than any student. We started promptly in the morning, and we would stop each evening a little after 6:00pm. Chris would then tell everyone, "after we grab some dinner, I'll be back here by 8 o'clock for two or three hours." At least two nights during the week, I decided to go back and get some additional work done after dinner. On Monday night, when I left at 10:00 pm, Chris was still there ready to help and instruct. On Wednesday, when I was the last student out the door at 11:00 pm, I later found out that Chris didn't leave until midnight.

I'll have more to say about this clock and Chris Gochnour in the near future.

Sorry for the delay since the last blog post. I hope the folks who follow this blog didn't worry that I was lost like Baby Jessica down a well...I've just been too busy sawing, chiseling, and planing to return to the electrical world of computers and broadband connections to update the blog.

I'm glad my laptop is quiet. (It is going to take a while to work my ears back to tolerating the noise of routers and planers.)

To Chris Gochnour and the staff at Marc Adams School of Woodworking: thanks for a great week. I know that the students in our class were thrilled with the knowledge and experience we gained. It was a wonderful week.