April 23, 2010

Saw Milling

sawmill1b.jpgI love my truck when it's full of wood. Look at all that walnut lumber. I had just about as soon have my truck full of walnut lumber as to have it full of hundred dollar bills. Look at that stuff!! sawmill2a.jpg

Let me tell you about this little adventure. Some friends down the road who know I enjoy wood working offered me two walnut trees off the family farm. The trees were out by the barn and blacksmith shop and had some electrical wires through one of them, so I knew taking them down was beyond me. I hired a professional tree service fellow to take them down and haul the good parts over to a friend who has a portable sawmill. Tree guy came out last week with his bucket truck and his small tractor and trimmed them up and then put the trunks on the ground. The grapple hook on the front of his tractor made short work of loading the tree trunks and they were soon at the sawmill.

Now understand the problem with walnut trees and particularly trees close to a house or a barn and in this case, a blacksmith shop, is metal. People hang horseshoes on limbs (that's good luck for most people--just not for sawyers), drive nails in tree trunks, and nail fences to them. The sawmill guy is willing to saw them for me, but he knows about metal and before he starts, he wants me to stand good for the blades at about $30 each.

sawmill3.jpgWe struck a deal and he started sawing while I was still there. I walked around the mill a good bit trying to figure the safest place to be when the saw blade found the metal I thought was in there. I had visions of metal chips and blade chunks flying everywhere, but thank goodness I was wrong. When the blade hit the first piece of metal, it sounded like a bug zapper. Just a little short "bzzt" and it was through. After several more hits, that blade was done and he reloaded a new blade. There was some beautiful lumber in these trees and after a couple of slabs off the top, we started getting 12 to 16 inch wide boards at an inch and an eighth thick. We sawed one trunk right down the middle of the pith to make bowl blanks. Those bowl blank boards are so heavy, I will have to use the chain saw to cut blanks off the end of the board while it is still on the truck. Otherwise I will not be able to get it off the truck.

When I count up to see if this whole deal was worthwhile, I think it was. I spent about $600 and I have 23 boards which average 12 inches wide and 6 feet long. That computes to around 138 board feet. Plus I have enough for about 20 bowl blanks four to five inches deep. Even allowing for waste, I think you could not buy this lumber for $600. Maybe I can sell some of that dern metal and recoup part of my cost.

August 3, 2009

Sell That Stuff

You keep making all this stuff and it keeps piling up in the dining room and all your family has more than they want, but you just have to keep making it because it's what you do and who you are. What do you do now?

Here's one answer. Put it up on line and sell it. I tried it and it works. You will be constantly amazed at what people are willing to purchase from you (no offense to either party) and if you work at it some, you will be able to sell more than you can make.
For instance, I am shipping today a bag full of cedar shavings swept from the floor of my shop from a bowl off my lathe, (a beautiful Oneway 1640 from the High by the way), to a lady from Illinois who uses them to make little cloth cedar pillows to put in stinky tennis shoes. She is paying $30 plus shipping for two quart bags of shavings I was going to sweep into the dust collector and use for mulch. She turns around and sells the bags for $15 per set and both of us giggle on the way to the bank.

There are several choices on line for selling, but my choice is a site called "Etsy". pronounced like Betsy. They only allow handcrafted and vintage items and it is really simple to use. First you have to pick a name nobody else is using; "" is taken by the way. (See me sneak that one in. Look at my new shop sign from Highland.) If it is clear, then just walk through the steps and put your stuff up there. Get a digital camera and upload some good pictures, decide on a price, write up a description using words like "found lumber', "recycled", and "green" , check your shipping costs and go for it. It costs something like twenty cents per item to list it and then something like a 2% commission when it sells.

Set up a PayPal account, which is really simple to do and people will pay you through PayPal before you ship. On top of that PayPal will print out a shipping label with two clicks and take the postage out of your PayPal account leaving you with the net. Call the Post Office and they will pick up the box off your back door steps. How cool is that?

I average a sale a month and there are things on my site which over 300 people have looked at, including people from England, France and Afghanistan. My record so far is a large salad bowl for $ 105 to a lady in California who gave it as a wedding present. Go for it!! Get that stuff out of the house!! Make some more!! Buy more tools from Highland!!

July 12, 2009

Hammering for Humanity

I have been working for my local Habitat for Humanity Affiliate this week framing up houses. We nailed together four houses this week in the warehouse and we will stand the walls up on the site for a total of eight houses in a few weeks. Few people get the chance to change somebody's life as dramatically as this in such a short time.

hammers.jpg I am a fan of hammers and take every chance to look at what people select when they know they are about to do some substantial work on a house. Since we have been framing this week, everyone brought their framing hammer. Unless you are really into hammers, you may not know that you can spend just about any amount on one. Considered the top of the line is the hammer made from titanium and designed to strike with maximum force and minimum weight. Some of these high end hammers can go for $250 and more per each. Try to explain that to your wife when she can't even get you to cut the front lawn.

Framing Hammer.jpg
Highland carries a wide range of hammers, from the three and half ounce cabinetmaker's hammer

all the way up to the

twenty three ounce framing hammer. Talk about putting a nail into a stud, this one will do it. The joke on site amongst us graybeards is that the number cast into the hammer head for the weight is actually an age limit — you need to be less than 23 years old if you are going to drive that hammer all day. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful thing, and when you walk up on the site with one on your tool belt, people in the know will gasp in awe at the sight of it. These are the same people who will pour water on your face trying to revive you when you are lying flat on the ground about two that afternoon from trying to run that hammer when you exceeded the age limit clearly cast into the hammer head.

Take a look at Highland's selection of hammers, pick out one which fits you and your tasks, and then find your local Habitat chapter and give them a hand. You will be glad you did. Then go home and cut the front yard.

March 18, 2009

New Parallel Guides Take Guided Rail Cutting to a Whole New Level

From the latest issue of Wood News:

Festool parallel guide system
Festool parallel guide system

New Parallel Guides Take Guided Rail Cutting to a Whole New Level

Text & photos by Jerry Work
©2009 The Dovetail Joint
Those familiar with the Festool guided rail cutting and routing system know just how useful it is to be able to move a circular saw, jig saw or router across a stationary work piece in a perfectly straight line. In my studio I use guide rails daily to make all kinds of cuts. Festool's new Parallel Guide system also makes an excellent squaring cut guide as well, turning the guide rail and plunge saw into a fast and efficient substitute for a table saw for most cutting operations. Yup, with Festool's clever new Parallel Guide System you can virtually eliminate the need for a bulky and dangerous table saw.

December 24, 2008

Care and Sharpening of Router Bits

If router bits were hand tools we'd almost certainly handle them quite differently, but when it's the power company that's doing most of the work, it's easy to forget what makes cutting tools cut.

sharpening router bitsWhen working with hand planes or chisels, we take it for granted that we'll have to stop fairly often for a quick round of re-sharpening. Even though good-quality carbide can be expected to hold an edge perhaps twenty times longer than tool steel, it should be fairly clear that sharpening is going to have to be regular business. If a good chisel might need sharpening twenty times during the course of a week's hard work, then a carbide-tipped router bit doing the same work will have to be sharpened at least once a week. I don't know about you, but that sure isn't the way I used to treat my router bits. Even on a hard, brittle wood like oak, tearout can be greatly reduced with a sharp bit.

sharpening router bitsSharpening router bits is surprisingly easy to do. You don't need a sharpening jig, precision measuring instruments or complex machinery. All you need are a couple of diamond paddles (or diamond needle files for the smallest router bits), a good light source and a comfortable place to sit. You're only going to work on the flat radial face of each flute, so there's no fancy fingerwork required. (You don't want to work on the outside edge of the flute, of course, because that would alter its diameter or profile quite quickly.) It's fairly important to sharpen uniformly so the router bit will remain balanced and cut smoothly. Rather than working on one flute until it's sharp, and then doing who knows what to the other flute, you can insure an even job simply by giving one flute five or ten strokes, rotating the router bit and giving the next flute the same number of strokes, then back to the first, and so on. Lay the diamond paddle or needle file on the flat face of the flute, holding it lightly so you can feel it staying flat, and have at it. Your diamond abrasives can be used dry, but they'll resist clogging better and need cleaning less often if you keep them wet with water or light oil.  We usually hold the router bit in one hand and the sharpener in the other, but if it feels better to you, try securing the router bit in your router collet or drill chuck on your workbench.

sharpening router bitsTake a good close look at each flute as you work. What you're accomplishing will be unmistakably clear, and it will be obvious if you're doing the job the way you want to, or if you're putting more pressure in one place than another, or perhaps missing a spot entirely. By the way, don't be surprised to discover that the surface of the flute isn't flat as it comes from the factory.  It might take some extra work the first time out to lap each flute entirely flat so you can get on with the business of creating a sharp edge. We suggest that you work with fine (600 grit) or extra-fine (1200 grit) diamond abrasives; if a router bit needs more aggressive work than these can provide, it probably ought to be sent out for professional grinding. Coarse diamond abrasive wielded by hand will simply fracture brittle carbide edges. How do you know when the router bit is finally sharp? Just feel it and look at it.  If under a strong light you see no flecks of light along the edge, and if it feels good and sharp, then it is—you're done.

sharpening router bitsRegular cleaning is nearly as important as sharpening.  Baked-on crud around a cutting edge interferes with chip clearance, reduces relief behind the cutting edge and increases frictional heating just as if the edge were dull. We use our non-caustic Blade and Bit Cleaner instead. Remove ball bearing pilots before cleaning. Brush or spray a liberal coating of cleaner all over the cutting edges, let stand ten or fifteen minutes, then scrub clean with a toothbrush or brass stove brush under a stream of warm water. Dry the router bit thoroughly and go back to work. We recommend against oiling router bits to prevent corrosion, since it's friction that holds them in the router. Just dry them well and you should have no problem with rust.

If you're working in pine or other resinous woods, it might be necessary to clean your router bits every day. It might take a while to get used to that idea, but the payoff will be pretty convincing. Dri-Cote, a spray-on coating available from Highland Woodworking, does an effective job of slowing resin accumulation on router bits and helping them run cooler.

The time you spend cleaning, sharpening and using your router bits gently almost surely costs less than replacing a router bit when it dies before its time. It's certainly worth a fair amount of work to avoid the nuisance of feeling a router bit has gone defective on you, sending it back where you bought it and then waiting for a replacement. And if your work turns out a little better because your router bits are always in like-new condition, call it a bonus—you'll have earned it.

November 5, 2008

Woodworking Tips for Sharpening Hand Tools

One of the biggest challenges for beginning woodworkers, and for some old-timers as well, is keeping their chisels, plane irons and other cutting tools sharp. Our large in-stock selection of sharpening devices offers a variety of solutions to fit every need, plus over the years we've published a number of articles covering a variety of hand tool sharpening techniques. Here are links to a few of them:

A Guide to Sharpening Chisels and Plane Irons

User Review: Work Sharp 3000 Sharpening Machine

Hollow Grinding: Necessity or Relic?

Q & A: Not Ready for Prime Time?

Waterstone Sharpening: Care & Use of Japanese Waterstones

Guide to Sharpening and Using a Woodworker's Best Friend - The Scraper

Sharpening #80 Cabinet Scrapers

Sharpening Forstner Bits

User's Guide for the Makita 9820-2 Sharpener

Tormek vs. Jet and Standard Bench Grinders

Using Oil Stones


Visit our huge archive of woodworking tips, articles, and Q&As

Visit the latest issue of Wood News, our monthly online magazine

October 16, 2008

Woodworking Q & A: Desperately Seeking a Truly Stainable Wood Putty

Dear Highland Woodworking:

I have not been able to find a good stainable wood filler (or putty). Minwax indicates that their putty is, but it really isn't. It does fill the nail holes, but I can never seem to get the colors right even when I buy the wax pencils to try to assist. Normally I use Minwax Provincial Stain on my baseboard, pine doors and trim. Could you please help? I'll bet I'm not the only one with this kind of issue.

Thanks, Peter B.

Dear Peter,

Many of us struggle with the imperfect science of matching wood with putty. Despite the multitude of manufacturers and the wide array of colors they offer, finding an off-the-shelf product to match your wood and accept your stain exactly is a very tall order. It is really a process of getting the putty as close as possible to the color of the surrounding wood, and then further enhancing the repair through the coloring and finishing process.

As you know, putty and wood are different in many ways. Wood has side grain and end grain. Putty does not. Wood is wood, while putty is a mixture of many different organic and inorganic products. Furthermore, the density of wood is dissimilar from species to species as well as to wood putty. This is complicated by the fact that no two manufacturers' products are the same. As a result, finding an off-the-shelf putty to match your exact needs is very tricky.

So, what should we do? It is important to get as close a match as possible with either the wood, or if staining, with the final color of the piece. Then you can do your best to "make the repair disappear" through the staining or dyeing process and the finish coat (tinted or not). You will very likely have better luck disguising the repair by applying colored topcoats of finish, or by simply painting the area with artist colors. (Be sure to paint in grain lines to match the surrounding area.)

Several years ago, a trade magazine explained how large furniture manufacturers color match their products. As no two pieces of cherry or walnut are exactly the same color (and it is important to make them be the same color as the rest of the dining room suite), the process of coloring the furniture is actually a process of coloring the finish -- and multiple layers of finish at that. This allows a uniform color regardless of the underlying wood and any defects that are present. It is a little like repainting an old car, but you get the idea.

I hope this helps answer your question. We all struggle with this problem from time to time. For further reading, check out Bob Flexner's book entitled Understanding Wood Finishing. It is a super book that covers most aspects of finishing wood.

Sam Rieder
Highland Woodworking

January 11, 2008

How to Become a More Organized Woodworker

by Chris Black

I've heard some of you lament that you do not have enough time, tools, space or skills to practice the kind of woodworking you desire. Many times these subtle excuses serve as psychological barriers which get in the way of us doing any woodworking at all. Perhaps all you really need, however, is to become a little more disciplined in how you approach it.

Here are five bits of advice on how to get your woodworking more organized:

Finding Time
In terms of discipline, military garrisons and monastic communities have similar approaches to daily task organization. The structure of these societies lets you know when and where you're supposed to be and what you're supposed to be doing. Our lives have similar schedules although maybe not as strict or intense. If you break down your day into general time phases, you know when you're to be at work, when's dinner and what time you generally go to bed. Mixed among these phases are natural pauses or down time. The trick is to combine these pauses into a phase so you can work some wood or at least think about it.

I generally spend anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour in the shop every morning before going to work. In the evening my goal is to spend another 30 minutes in the shop. Maybe I'll just sharpen a tool or sweep up, but at least I'm in the shop and productive. I find it pleasant to think about my time in the shop during the day. Sometimes I use these mental vacations to work out a design problem or visualize a complicated assembly. Use your natural down times to mentally organize your finite shop for efficiency.

I find it extremely useful to plan and organize my limited time before I step into the shop. I like to use checklists I make during the day or the night before. These lists keep me on task so I don't piddle. They might be as simple as a finishing schedule or as complex as a detailed cut list. The point is to create efficiencies so you not only enjoy making the project but eventually complete it as well. The key to eating an elephant is to take one bite at a time and to keeping eating. The discipline comes from staying on task and not starting something else until the current project is done. Recently, I finished a wardrobe I started last winter using this method. It took 10 months but it's done. Do this and you won't have 400 half-finished pieces all over the shop.

With each project I try to learn something new. It's not always a conscious decision, but an overall attitude or approach I take. Perhaps you'd like to learn to hand cut mortise and tenon joints as an alternative to the dowel joints you're more comfortable using. Choose a non-critical part of the project and give it a go. You can even use your shop time to practice a new skill and not necessarily do any project. In thirty minutes a day for a week or two, you can learn to French polish, cut half-blind dovetails or anything else you wish. Woodworking skills are cumulative. They build on one another. Do this for a year and you'll be amazed at what you've learned.

We all wish we had the perfect shop. I've owned three commercial shops over the years, and I can guarantee you none of them was right. They either lacked proper heating and air conditioning, dust control, a decent finishing room or adequate space, and none of them had all the tools I wanted. In fact one shop we kept in my pickup truck. We'd roll up to a job, unload the tools and start building cabinets right in front of the customer's house. Not much fun in the winter or when it rained. Somehow though I managed to eek out a living and make stuff.

My favorite example of space discipline is in The Workshop Book by Scott Landis. One featured woodworker has his shop in the kitchen pantry of his apartment. He has to open a window to plane long boards. Granted he doesn't have any machinery, but he enjoys his craft nonetheless. Woodworking requires vision as much as it does space. Grab yourself a block of basswood and a penknife and go work wood.

I recently spoke with a fellow who told me that he had been collecting tools and machines for almost 7 years. When I asked him what projects he'd been working on, he replied none, because he didn't have all the tools he needed. He missed out on 7 years of woodworking because he thought he didn't have the right tools. He might not have been able to do everything he could have conceived of, but he was crippled from doing anything at all because of a perception of need. Remember my pickup truck shop? We were able to produce high quality built-ins with a circular saw, a chop box and a cordless drill. Just because your shop doesn't look like Norm's doesn't mean you can't enjoy making sawdust. My kids come up with all kinds of nifty projects with little more than a coping saw, a rasp and an eggbeater drill.

You don't have to become a monk or a marine to acquire discipline, but you do have to get in there and work some wood!

Visit Highland Woodworking's WoodNews Online Archives for more tips and information.

December 3, 2007

Coplanar Bandsaw Wheels

10 out of 10 bandsaws prefer them

QuestionIn your catalog you've said more than once that "making the wheels coplanar" on a bandsaw is an important part of tune-up, but as far as I know you haven't described how to do it. I have just a few questions: what is it, how do I know if I need it, and if so how do I do it?

answer.pngHmm. Seems we've left a few details yet to cover, eh? The object of the exercise is to make your two bandsaw wheels lie in the same plane while you're cutting wood. When your wheels are coplanar, blades tend to track stably, and perhaps best of all there's little or no adjustment required when you change blades. It's much more likely that your blade will be perpendicular to the saw table, and your upper guides are less likely to require adjustment when you change depth of cut significantly.

Are your saw's wheels out of plane? A snap diagnosis might be easy: if you have to fiddle with the saw's tracking knob every time you change blades, you are going to benefit distinctly from making the wheels coplanar.Coplanar Bandsaw WheelsIf you're not sure, here's another quick check: if there's a blade on your saw now, go look at it. Is it in the same position on the upper wheel as on the lower? If you can see a difference without measuring, then your wheels are almost certainly running in different planes.

Put a 1/2" blade on your saw and tension it as if for work. Don't bother tracking it; you're just going to take it off again in a minute. Lay a 4 ft. straightedge against the lower wheel, as close to the center as possible. With the straightedge touching the wheel's rim at both top and bottom, check the upper wheel. Use the tracking knob as needed to make the rim parallel to the straightedge. If the upper wheel doesn't touch the straightedge, or if it pushes the straightedge out of contact with the lower wheel, then adjustment is called for.

On Delta and Jet bandsaws, the upper wheel can be moved outward by dismounting it and installing a 5/8" i.d. spacer on the shaft. A hardware store 5/8" washer will work if you need to move the wheel at least 1/16". Some hardware stores stock machine bushings, narrow-rim washers available in a variety of useful thicknesses. Be sure the bushing already on the shaft is reinstalled last, just before the wheel. On Sears 12" and Inca 10" saws, the lower wheel can be moved by unlocking a set screw and shifting the wheel on its shaft. For other saws, have a good squint and figure out which wheel is adjustable.

It's easy to set the wheels coplanar, and the payback is mighty convincing. When you can put any blade on your saw, tension it and turn on the saw without worrying about tracking, you'll be a believer, too.

Visit Highland Woodworking's Library for more tool tips and information.

November 19, 2007

Q&A: Mahogany Door Finish

QuestionI had a mahogany front door installed on my house about 8 months ago, and the finish is already peeling off. The installer said they used an exterior finish purchased at a home center. Why didn't the finish last longer, and how should I go about fixing it?

answer.pngI can think of several possible reasons why the finish failed on your door. In general clear finishes don't hold up as well as opaque finishes. A properly prepared surface coated with an oil-based primer and several coats of high quality modified acrylic paint will usually last years longer than clear or stained finishes. The farther south you live and the type of sun exposure you get can also affect the longevity of a door's finish. Most contractors do a good job of hanging doors, but don't have as much knowledge about finishing materials or how to use them. This is especially true with exterior finishes. As a result they will purchase finishing products from home centers that are of poorer quality than those available at specialty shops.

If you choose to refinish your front door, the most durable option is painting. As for staining and clear coating, the process is more involved and time consuming. Here are some basic instructions.

  1. Remove the door from the hinges and remove all hardware. Lay it flat on some saw horses or a sturdy table. You'll need to cover the opening with plywood or hang a temporary door.
  2. Remove all the old finish with a good chemical stripper. Most strippers have wax in them, so you'll have to wash the door down with paint thinner once you're done stripping. If you don't remove the leftover wax, the new finish won't stick.
  3. Sand to 180-220 grit.
  4. If you choose to color the door, use a high quality pigment stain like Varathane or Bartley's. Most stains sold at home centers have dye colors added to them and they won't hold up in sunlight.
  5. Once the stain is dry, start applying a true longlasting oil spar varnish. Here's a hint. If you paid under $50 a gallon for it, then it won't hold up. The best go for $90 a gallon. Professional quality marine/spar varnishes like Waterlox Marine are made from tung oil to give them elasticity so they can expand and contract during seasonal movements. Cheaper varnishes cure hard and tend to peel once the weather changes. Also, good spars are loaded with ultraviolet light-refracting minerals, which keep the sun from breaking down the finish.
  6. You should thin the first two coats of varnish 1:1 with paint thinner, and apply it with a natural hair brush. Pay particular attention to the top and bottom edges of the door where the end grain of the door's stiles are. Moisture exchange happens more rapidly there, so you need to load these areas up with extra varnish.
  7. Lightly sand between coats of varnish with 220 grit sterated paper. Sterated paper (Norton 3X) won't clog and scratch your finish like conventional paper.
  8. Apply at least 3 more full strength coats of varnish.
  9. Since high quality spar varnish deteriorates from the outside, you'll need to inspect the outer coat each year. Typically you'll lightly sand the surface and wipe on a thinned coat of new varnish as needed.
  10. One last note. Always use high gloss spar varnish for all outdoor projects. Satin sheen finishes have flattening agents added to them, which weaken the cured film. If you want a lower sheen, you can use high gloss for all but the last coat and apply satin on the final pass. Another solution is to wait 5 days after the final coat is dry, and rub down the sheen with some 0000 steel wool lubricated with paint thinner.

Thanks for your question,
Chris Black
Highland Woodworking

Visit Highland Woodworking's WoodNews Online Archives for more tips and information.

November 12, 2007

Leading You On: Feed Direction Is the Key to Resawing

The more skilled you become at resawing, the more you take it for granted that any stock thickness your heart desires is yours for the making. Resawing isn't difficult, but it is a skill, which has to be learned just like any other. As usual, practice is the direct route to expertise—and as usual, the better you understand the tool the more effectively practice will teach you what you need to know. Of the main factors that go into successful resawing (blade selection, tension, feed rate and accommodating lead angle), understanding the blade's lead angle is by far the most critical part of setup.

"Lead angle" describes the direction in which wood must move in order for a given bandsaw blade to cut a straight line. As fingerprints are to fingers, so lead angle is to bandsaw blades. There's so much variability in bandsaw blades, even blades made on the same machines from the same coil of band stock, that you can expect to see a perfectly good blade lead as much as 1/2" out of parallel to your saw's miter slot—and the next blade you install may lead that far out in the other direction. As long as the results are good, of course, it doesn't matter one bit whether you feed the wood northeast or northwest. Lead angles, even strange ones, cause trouble only when you attempt to enforce your own preconceptions instead.

Point Block

Resaw Feed DirectionWhen you make a freehand cut along a straight line marked on your wood, you have to figure out lead angle as you go, adjusting your feed direction back and forth as the blade wanders off the line, gradually zeroing in on a direction that lets the blade follow the line consistently. That's a fair description of a common resawing stock control method, where you use what's commonly called a point block fence. The radiused point block helps you keep your stock vertical but leaves feed direction entirely up to you. It's an efficient way to resaw one or two pieces of wood: mark the line you want to cut, leaving a generous margin for error. Set the point block to the width you've marked, and then watch the cut closely, adjusting your feed direction as needed to follow the line. The technique is usually a little more wasteful of wood than ideal, but its appeal lies in minimal setup. Very experienced point block users can make consistent cuts with little waste, but for many sawyers it may be more practical to use a straight fence.

Straight and Narrow

When you have more than a few pieces of wood to resaw, you can do the work quite accurately, repeatably and efficiently with a straight fence tuned precisely to the blade's lead angle. Begin as described above, making a freehand rip along a straight line. Once you're sawing straight down the line, stop the saw and pencil marks on your saw table along the edge of the stock. Set your fence to the marks. Now make a resaw cut, if not in the work at hand, then in a short scrap of roughly similar hardness and width. Begin the cut gently, so initial impact doesn't twist the blade and start the cut wrong. As the cut proceeds, notice if the stock wants to wander away from the rear of the fence—if so, stop and adjust the fence angle accordingly. If the wood stays tight against the fence and the saw begins to labor, stop and ease the rear of the fence away from the wood.

Take a Bow

With the cut completed, stand a straightedge against the resawn face of the board. Unless you're just plain lucky, you'll see that the blade bowed left or right within the stock. You know that the solid body of a blade can't simply move sideways through solid wood.Resaw Feed Direction To create a bowed cut, the teeth must lead right or left within the wood (where they're free of the lateral guides' constraint), twisting the blade and making it saw its way out of vertical. To keep the cut vertical, adjust your fence to match the way the blade twisted. If the blade bowed to the right, adjust the rear of your fence slightly to the left; if the blade bowed left, reset fence angle slightly right at the rear. Make another test cut and check the face of the wood again. It may take as many as three or four tests to get the fence set for flawless sawing, but once that's done you can resaw piece after identical piece, with cuts so straight that one pass through the planer is all it takes to produce clean, flat wood at your target thickness.

Visit Highland Woodworking's Library for more tool tips and information.

November 6, 2007

Preventing Bubbles from Forming in your Finish Coats

by Alan Noel

Whether you're a hobbyist or a pro, brushing on an even coat of bubble-free oil- or water-based varnish is often a very frustrating task. Sometimes bubbles even appear mysteriously while the finish is drying, even though they weren't visible during the application process.

Here are six tips I've found to help eliminate those pesky tiny bubbles:

  1. Never shake the finish. Shaking the container will cause bubbles. Always stir the finish in the can.
  2. Be sure to apply the finish in the direction of the grain whenever possible.
  3. Always use a good quality brush. This is the most important part of the process. A high quality natural bristle brush should be used for oil based varnishes and the best for water based finishes are brushes having synthetic bristles.
  4. After brushing on a coat of finish, use a different dry brush of the same type and gently brush the finish holding the brush at a 45 degree angle to remove any bubbles that are in the finish.
  5. Remember that two light coats are better than one thick one. Laying it on too thick will promote skimming of the finish. Trapped thinners will then force their way towards the surface creating bubbles.
  6. Never attempt to finish any surface unless you are sure the wood is completely dry and ready for finishing. Trapped moisture can cause bubbles to appear long after the lights have been turned off.

Visit Highland Woodworking's WoodNews Online Archives for more tips and information.

October 30, 2007

Fun Woodworking Project: Bandsaw Puzzle Cubes

Bandsaw Puzzle CubeHow's that scrap pile in the corner of the shop coming along? Getting any smaller? Here's one way to put some of your cherished chunks of thick stock to good use, producing casual gifts of irresistible appeal to young and old alike. Kids under ten can reassemble these puzzles in 30 seconds, grown-ups in only three or four minutes if they're sharp.

Make sure your bandsaw blade is square to the table, both left & right and fore & aft. The larger the puzzle cube, the less error you can get away with. Kerf width forgives some inaccuracy, but not much.

Start off by milling up a cube -- any size will do, but bigger is better: 3" x 3" or 4" x 4" makes a good puzzle blank. Put a 1/8" or 1/16" blade on your bandsaw, and don't think about any claims you might have seen that you can't cut thick stock with a very narrow blade. Cool Blocks lateral guides are essential for 1/16"s and mighty useful for 1/8" blades, too.

Orient the cube so you'll start cutting across the grain, and cut a randomly invented jigsaw puzzle pattern across the block. Make a fairly simple pattern. Push gently, using just your fingertips.

Let the saw take its time working through the stock, so the blade stays vertical and your curves are consistent throughout. You'll notice that sawing with the grain is much slower than across it; be ready for significant changes in speed and back pressure as you turn the block.

After completing the cut, slide the two pieces apart, blow out the dust and reassemble. Wrap the block with masking tape or duct tape to hold it together firmly. Now turn the block so you're sawing into an uncut face, and repeat the process of cutting a jigsaw pattern. Remember not to push too hard, especially if you're using a 1/16" blade! When you finish the cut, remove the tape and disassemble the puzzle. A few odd bits of wood may fall loose if your two patterns intersected to cut them free; no matter. Blow all the dust off and try putting your cube back together. Got it?

Optional enhancements include sanding all the corners round, and staining or painting each piece a different color. Come to think of it, you could saw wavy curves into every face of the cube, but that would be simply too diabolical, wouldn't it?

Visit Highland Woodworking's Library for more pictures and a printable pdf of this project idea.

August 8, 2007

Woodworking Tools for Children

By Chris Black

Woodworking Tools for Children by Chris BlackOver the years we’ve been asked numerous times if we carry children’s tool sets. Unfortunately, the quality of these sets marketed for children is so shoddy that the tools quickly break, or they are unusable to begin with. Like learning to play music on a cheap instrument, working wood with poorly constructed tools will soon frustrate even the most ambitious student. We recommend buying quality, age appropriate tools. Even if you purchase professional class tools, your investment can still be modest.

As rewarding as woodworking is, it is also inherently dangerous. Tools are not toys. Adults must closely supervise children. You are personally responsible for learning proper techniques and teaching these skills to your children. Remember, always wear eye protection! Our child-sized safety glasses (818349) have adjustable temple arms to fit most heads. Time spent crafting with kids is a great joy, so use good judgment and keep it safe.

Tools for children must work right out of the box without modification. Only a minimal amount of skill should be necessary to put the tools into service, and they need to fit small hands. The tools listed here meet these standards. As for materials, stick with softer woods like white pine and basswood. These woods are inexpensive, easy to work and readily available at any home center.

  • SAFETY GLASSES (818349) – an absolute must for kids and adults
  • PORTABLE WORKBENCH VISE (199153) – You’ll need a way to hold the wood while you work with it. This one can be mounted just about anywhere, like on a picnic table.
  • EASY CARPENTRY FOR CHILDREN (202644) – A wonderful little book with basic projects that require just a few tools.
  • WOODWORKING FOR KIDS (200931) – A more detailed study with extra projects.
  • COPING SAW (051901) – These saws are prefect for children. They cut on the pull stroke (easier for children), and the inexpensive blades are replaceable.
  • SCHROEDER HAND DRILL (071817) – Eggbeater type drills like this are safe and fun to use. You should also get a 1/16” drill bit for making starter holes for nails and a 1/8” bit for screws. Loading the screw threads with a little candle wax makes driving screws effortless.
  • SURFORM TOOL (8131219) – Surforms smooth and shape wood fast, fit small hands and have replaceable cutting surfaces. Unlike a handplane, a Surform doesn’t need to be tuned or sharpened to work.
  • 7" COMBINATION SQUARE (171208) – A small, adjustable square helps mark out projects with straight lines.
  • SMALL JAPANESE HAMMER (146605) – Any small hammer will do, but we’ve found that traditional Japanese hammers are better balanced, and are more comfortable for kids to use.
  • WOOD GLUE (165039) – Basic white school glue works just fine. Our yellow woodworking variety sets faster for short attention spans.
  • 16” STANDARD TAPE MEASURE (167238) – This one has a rubberized armored case, so it won’t break when it hits the basement floor.
  • SCREWDRIVERS – One slotted, one Phillips.
  • PLIERS – for straightening or pulling bent nails.
  • SANDPAPER – 80 OR 100 grit. Anything finer is not necessary at this level.
  • RUBBERBANDS – Use them as clamps while the glue dries.

Even though we want to emphasize safety, too often these projects become our projects. Let the kids do the work. The point is not necessarily to accomplish a task or even finish a job. Kids operate in the moment, and are more interested in the process than getting the job done.

Keep the tasks simple at first. Limit your initial projects to something that can be accomplished in about an hour or so. Boats with paper sails, cutting boards and one or two piece toys will spark interest and lead to more complex ideas later.

If you purchased just the tools listed here (the ones with our part numbers), your initial investment would be just under $120 with shipping. Although this is a considerable sum, it’s much less than a hand held video game system or the latest battery powered whiz-bang. We’d like to think doing something interactive with your kids, like woodworking, will create more happiness, joy and memories in your lives than a video game. WONDERFUL!

May 11, 2007

Hock plane blades

Hock Tools makes a large selection of excellent quality hand plane blades. In this video, Ron Hock explains the benefits of his blades and shows how to set up hand planes. It's 8-1/2 minutes - so it will take a long time to load on a slow connection.


May 9, 2007

Upgrading your Anant Rabbet plane

Anant 77

A while back, one of our customers e-mailed me about upgrading his Anant #77 Rabbet Plane. He wanted to know if there was a better quality plane blade that would fit, even suggesting that the blade for the Clifton 3-in-1 plane might work. Well, I knew that neither Lie-Nielsen nor Hock offered blades to fit the 77. I went to try out the rabbet plane blades that we stock. Sure enough, the Clifton 3-in-1 plane blade fits the Anant #77 rabbet plane. Unfortunately, it is thicker that the standard Anant blade. As a result, you have to modify your plane to make it work.

Take a file to the tip of the blade retention screw (see diagram) and remove enough of it so that you can fit the thicker blade in the plane. Viola! Better edge retention, less chatter in just a few minutes.

77 mod


April 30, 2007

Rust Removal & Prevention

Rust Removal & Prevention Question: I have an old table saw & jointer that I inherited from my father. His father bought them in the 1950s and they still work great. However, the tools have developed some rust on the table surfaces. It's not deeply imbedded rust, but there's a significant amount of it on the tops. I'm not sure what the tables are made of, but they are a dark steel color and are not soft at all, so I suspect they are steel. What is the best way to remove the rust from the surfaces without damaging the tops & is there something I can apply to the surfaces to prevent further rust in the future?

Continue reading "Rust Removal & Prevention" »

April 18, 2007

Nail Gun Safety

I ran across this article on CNN earlier this week. It's worthwhile reading for every hobbyist woodworker. Basically, nail gun accidents are way up, but only among home users. Be careful in your shop!

CNN on nailguns in the shop.

April 16, 2007

Three Ways to Resaw

Free Hand ResawingAs with any job, there's usually more than one way to do it. Instead of learning a specific technique, it's better to understand the principles behind the task, so you can problem solve when things don't work out. Resawing is the same way. You learn one method only to find out it doesn't work today on this piece of wood with this particular blade. Having a couple of techniques and understanding the principles of resawing will give you options during different circumstances.

The following methods assume a well-tuned saw, proper blade selection and a certain amount of skill. I highly suggest practicing these methods on scrap wood rather than on something you're depending on for a finished project. For further reading I recommend Mark Duginske's Bandsaw Handbook (200393).

Continue reading "Three Ways to Resaw" »

April 4, 2007

A Day in the Shop with Irwin’s Chinese-Made Blue Chips

Irwin Blue Chip ChiselsLet me start off by saying I’m not an engineer, although I did flunk out of engineering school and join the Army. I’m also not a trained metallurgist, but I have done quite a bit of blacksmithing and tool making. In fact one of my homemade jobs made it into an issue of Fine Woodworking. So when I say I tested a batch of Irwin’s new version of the Blue Chips, think woodshop, not laboratory. My test criteria basically consisted of me sharpening the chisels and using them over the course of a day as I would normally use my own bench chisels. Then, given my experience using hundreds of chisels over the years as a cabinetmaker, I decided if I liked them. You know, do they stay sharp, do they hold up, are they worthy or are they paint can openers.

If you read my previous entry, then you know Irwin moved the manufacture of the Blue Chip chisels from Sheffield, England to China. Now, I’m not one to pass judgment on the global economy and all that, but I do want to provide our customers with good information and good tools. So into the shop I went with the new Blue Chips.

Continue reading "A Day in the Shop with Irwin’s Chinese-Made Blue Chips" »

April 2, 2007

Finishing a Cutting Board

Finishing a Cutting BoardI made a cutting board for my daughter, but am uncertain as to how to finish it. What do you recommend?

Oiling wooden boards and bowls helps seal the grain against stains, odors and moisture. However, you want to use a product that's edible, flavorless and won’t turn rancid. Pure mineral oil, such as Butcher Block Oil, is a good choice because unlike vegetable oils or olive oil, it doesn't turn rancid and remains safe throughout its life.

Apply the oil with a soft cloth in the direction of the grain, flooding the surface and allowing it to soak in for a few minutes. Then remove any excess oil remaining on the surface with a clean, dry cloth. The oil will reduce the penetration of moisture into the pores of the wood. Some folks prefer to warm the oil slightly before applying it. Beeswax may also be added to the oil to create a tougher finish. Just shave about 1/2 teaspoon of pure beeswax into a cup of mineral oil and warm until the wax shavings have dissolved. Then apply to the piece while still warm in the same manner as described above. It's also a good idea to oil the surface after it’s washed or weekly to replenish the oil removed by washing and disinfecting.

Walnut oil is another popular choice for items intended for food use. Unlike mineral oil, it is a drying oil that reacts with the air and eventually hardens and will not evaporate over time. Mahoney Walnut Utility Oil Finish is a pure California walnut oil which is heat-treated to penetrate deep into the wood. Like raw walnut oil, it imparts little or no flavor or odor, nor will it go rancid. Wipe on or immerse the piece in the oil and let harden for 24 hours. Mahoney Oil Wax Finish is a blend of heat-treated walnut oil, beeswax and carnauba wax in paste wax form that may be used alone or in conjunction with the Mahoney Utility Finish. Regardless of the oil you choose to use, keep in mind that it is more of a "treatment" than a "finish", and will require maintenance. Apply periodically for maximum effectiveness.

March 19, 2007

Two Simple Table Saw Improvements

Two Simple Table Saw Improvements by Richard McCandlessThe following article, detailing steps one can take to improve table saw functionality, was submitted to us by Richard McCandless of Akron, Ohio. He writes:

"In the last five years I’ve become more serious about my woodworking for fun and in preparation for retirement. I started by taking a few classes and replacing my ancient little table saw. I found myself going out of my way to visit good sources, including Highland Hardware, which is quite a hike from my home in Ohio. Now I’ve progressed to Windsor chairs and another generation of bigger, sharper and more powerful tools. The sense of fulfillment keeps growing."

Two Simple Table Saw Improvements by Richard McCandless

Table saws are everywhere. Most of us start woodworking with a table saw. Nevertheless, most of my homeowner friends haven't made even the simplest improvements to their saws. Nobody told them how.

Here are two simple steps you can take to improve your table saw. They're virtually free. You can do them in minutes. Believe me, they're worth it.

Visit Highland Woodworking for the full article.

March 16, 2007

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Woodworking But Were Afraid to Ask

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Woodworking But Were Afraid to Ask Quite often we receive questions from customers prefaced by "Please don't tell anyone I asked you this, but..." or "I'm embarrassed to admit I don't know this, but..." or "I've been woodworking since high school shop class, but I don't know..."

So we've decided to address several of those nagging little questions that you just can't bring yourself to ask your woodworking buddies.

What exactly is a board foot and how do I determine the number of board feet in a piece of wood?

What is the difference between Flat Top, ATB, and Combination tooth saw blades and which kind should I use?

I know what a dovetail joint is, but what is a half-blind or blind dovetail?

What is the "Golden Ratio"? Why is it referred to so much in woodworking and furniture design?

Almost every article I read about sharpening refers to "Scary Sharp"? What the heck does that mean?

What finish should I use on children's toys?

Visit Highland Woodworking for more questions AND the answers.

March 12, 2007

Small Shop Dust Collection Simplified

Small Shop Dust Collectionby Chris Black

Dust collection is one of those topics you could write a book about and several people have. The book Woodshop Dust Control, Revised by Sandor Nagyszalanczy is probably the best one out there. Dust control is something you know you should do, but where do you start and how do you proceed? You've probably asked yourself questions like, do I need a central system, what about grounding and how much is this going to cost?

For most small general woodworking shops, dust control is simple and affordable. Learn a few basic concepts up front that you can apply to most situations, and the specifics will take care of themselves.

Visit Highland Woodworking for the full article.

February 23, 2007

Coiling Bandsaw Blades

Coiling bandsaw blades is easier than you think. As with many apparently complex woodworking chores, complication arises from trying to assimilate or carry out too many steps at once. Taken one at a time, each step is almost childishly simple and easy to accomplish.

Therefore, we'll try to show you, one step at a time, an effective way to coil bandsaw blades. We suggest that you compel yourself not to read ahead. Read just one sentence; do what it says until you're comfortable, then read the next sentence. You can do everything very slowly; speed is neither necessary nor helpful. A death grip doesn't help either. If you squeeze the blade too hard it will bite you back, so hold it lightly.

1. Go get a bandsaw blade to practice with, preferably between 1/4" and 1/2" wide. Hold the uncoiled blade in a horizontal circle in front of you, teeth up. For the purpose of this discussion, we'll identify 6 o'clock as the point nearest your navel; 12 o'clock is the point farthest from you.

Coiling Bandsaw Blades 12. Support the blade with your left hand at about 9 o'clock: palm up, fingers below the blade pointing toward 2 o'clock, thumb closing lightly over the top.

3. Hold the other side of the blade with your right hand at 3 o'clock: palm down, fingers above the blade pointing left toward 10 o'clock, thumb wrapped lightly beneath.

4. Move your hands toward each other to halve the distance between them, squeezing the blade into an oval.

5. Without moving your elbow, bend your left wrist up toward you as if you were tipping a beer.

Coiling Bandsaw Blades 26. Without moving your elbow, bend your right wrist down as if you were casting a fly. When both fists are roughly vertical (like holding a steering wheel), the blade will be bent into the shape of a saddle, with high lobes left and right, low lobes front and back.

7. Without moving your elbow, rotate your left wrist 45° clockwise, bringing the left lobe of the saddle down to the right.

Coiling Bandsaw Blades 38. Without moving your elbow, rotate your right wrist about 45° counterclockwise, bringing the right lobe down to the left above the left lobe. As you rotate your wrists you'll see the low lobe at your navel moving up and forward, while the front low lobe moves back toward it. It doesn't matter which lies above the other.

9. Keep on rotating your left wrist, letting your hand migrate toward 6 o'clock, until the left lobe (now a loop) is horizontal.

10. Rotate your right wrist, letting your hand move to 12 o'clock, until its loop, too, is horizontal.

11. Step back and admire. If you've been living right and thinking good thoughts, you just coiled a bandsaw blade! If it didn't work perfectly, never fear. It was only a first try, after all. Have another go at it, one sentence at a time. Sooner or later it'll work, and there'll be a new blade coiling expert in the woodworking world.

Copyright © 2001 Highland Woodworking

Visit Highland Woodworking for more information.

October 1, 2006

Slicing Wood: A Practical Guide to Successful Resawing

To begin at the beginning: resawing is cutting a sawn plank into thinner planks. Thus the cut runs through the plank's width, which distinguishes resawing from ordinary rip cuts where the blade runs through the stock's thickness. It's all ripping in any case, and the techniques we'll review here apply just as well to ripping 8/4 stock as to sawing 10" veneers or 5" drawer sides. The band saw is the ideal tool for this job. It's far safer than a circular saw, because it doesn't cause kickback. Its narrow kerf and vertical blade movement make it extremely efficient, wasting minimal wood and cutting relatively easily and quickly even with a low-power saw. Resawing is easy; all you have to do is cut straight lines (very straight indeed). This requires nothing more complicated than appropriate blade selection, adequate tension, effective stock control, and practice.

Blade Selection: No Contest

As you saw through very thick stock, each saw tooth shaves out an enormous amount of waste. In order to maintain a reasonably productive feed rate, there has to be somewhere for that waste to be stashed out of the way until the teeth emerge from the cut. Otherwise the gullets between the teeth fill up and stall further advance until they've cleared the stock. Blades with about 3 teeth per inch (tpi) have large gullets which can accommodate as much waste as you'll generate by sawing through thick stock, and they'll handle anything less substantial with no trouble at all. You've made the best choice of all with our Wood Slicer, whose thin-kerf, variable pitch 3-4 tpi design makes it the smoothest and quietest resaw blade on the market.

In principle, the wider the blade, the higher its beam strength and the better it can maintain straightness. Wider, however, isn't necessarily better. Almost all US woodcutting bandsaw blades over 1/2" wide are .035" thick, thicker than the Wood Slicer's total kerf width. 3/4" blades are set far more coarsely as well, so the doubled load on your saw and their rough cuts make wider blades a distinct step backward.

High Tension: No Worries

Tension may be the least important factor in successful resaw setup, but it's significant nonetheless. Adequate blade tension helps keep stock centered even if your control isn't flawless, and it reduces the blade's tendency to flutter under thrust. It's easy to set a satisfactory amount of tension. Install the Wood Slicer on your saw, with lateral guides and thrust bearings opened up and backed off both above and below the table so they do not contact the blade. Crank on some tension, and then give the blade a sharp sideways poke about halfway between the upper and lower wheels. The blade will deflect a short distance and then seem to hit a wall; if you push a lot harder it will bend farther, but there's a fairly distinct point where it quits deflecting easily. Add tension until this sideways movement is just 1/4" to 5/16" on saws with 6" depth of cut, or about 3/8" on saws with 12" depth. By the way, don't look at the saw's built-in tension gauge until you're finished; there's no need to confuse yourself with arbitrary numbers. After you've gotten the hang of tensioning by feel, check the gauge and use its reading as a setup guide.

Once the blade is tensinoned and tracked properly, there's one last bit of tuning you can do that can make a real difference in performance. Before you bring the lateral guides and thrust bearings up close to the blade, close the wheel covers and turn the saw on. If vibration blurs the blade, try increasing or decreasing the tension very slightly until the blade runs smoothly in a straight, quiet line from wheel to wheel. Cuts will be smoother when you eliminate this source of fluttering in the kerf, and the saw will run quieter and more efficiently as well.

Stock Control: A Leading Question

Cutting straight lines is easy: find out how the saw wants to do it, and do it that way. That might sound facetious, but it's actually a fair description of what works. Every bandsaw blade, unless there's something seriously wrong, can cut straight lines, but each will do so in its own way; each blade has its own "lead angle". If you're resawing just one or two pieces, it will be easiest to use a point block fence, a curved fence tall enough to hold your stock upright while leaving feed direction up to you. Mark the cut line full length on the stock (leaving a generous margin for error:, set the point block to your target width and freehand the cut, adjusting feed direction as you go. It's an imperfect technique; you'll waste more wood and spend more time at the thickness planer than ideal, but overall you'll get the job done quickly. When you need to resaw more than a couple of pieces, however, it will probably be more productive to set up a straight fence and make the cuts with predictable, repeatable accuracy, minimizing waste and finishing time.

Here's where most of us go wrong, so pay attention: When determining the proper feed direction for cutting straight lines with any particular blade, it's what cuts that counts, and nothing else. Your miter slot doesn't cut wood, so it doesn't help to set your rip fence parallel to it. The front edge of your table doesn't either, so don't bother reaching for your square. If your fence can't be skewed right or left at least 1/2" out of parallel to the miter slot you won't be able to use it, so make your own or get one of our Kreg bandsaw fences instead, which we provide with instructions for making it fully adjustable. Outfit your fence with an auxiliary face high enough to hold your resaw stock securely vertical—5" or 6" should do.

Take a piece of 8/4 scrap wood two or three feet long, joint an edge straight, and mark a line parallel to that edge. Rip freehand along the line, adjusting your feed direction until you're cutting consistently straight down the line. When you've split the line for 4 or 5 inches, stop. Hold the stock still on the table and shut off the saw. Mark a pencil line (which can be erased later) on the saw table along the straight edge of the test piece, then set your rip fence parallel to the pencil line. This is a first approximation; now you're ready for fine tuning.

Wood Slicer Bandsaw Band Saw BladeMake a short resaw cut, either in the work at hand or scrap of similar hardness and roughly similar width. With the cut completed, stand a straightedge against the resawn face of the board. Unless you're just plain lucky, you'll see that the blade bowed left or right within the stock. The way the blade bowed tells you how to fine tune your fence for very precise resawing. You know that the solid body of a blade can't simply move sideways through solid wood. To create a bowed cut, the teeth must lead to one side or another within the wood (where they're free of the lateral guides' constraint), twisting the blade and making it saw its way out of vertical.Wood Slicer Bandsaw Band Saw BladeTo keep the cut vertical, adjust your fence to match the way the blade twisted. If the blade bowed to the left, adjust the rear of your fence slightly to the right; if the blade bowed right, reset fence angle slightly left at the rear. Make another test cut and check the face of the wood again. It may take three or four tests to get the fence set for flawless sawing, but once that's done you can resaw piece after identical piece, with cuts so straight that one pass through the planer is all it takes to produce clean, flat wood at your target thickness.

Slicing Wood: Just Do It

Once youve done all of the above successfully, you can't go wrong--unless you feed too fast or too slow, or let the blade get good and dirty. Feeing too slowly will cut the wood okay, but it will wear out the blade a lot faster than need be. You're feeding too fast when the completed cut shows pronounced bands of wide diagonal tooth marks. Practice feeding at a moderate, consistent pace, just slow enough to leave a smooth surface.

Several species of timber can cause rapid buildup of debris on the blade, and any wood eventually will bake on a load of trash. Material crusted around the teeth can make it as hard for them to cut as if they were dead dull, and it can affect the blade's lead angle, too. The longer you wait to clean a blade the harder it will be, so clean it often. If a quick scrub with a Scotch-Brite pad laced with mineral spirits doesn't do the trick, take the blade off the saw and hose it down with our Blade and Bit Cleaner, wait a few minutes and then wipe clean. If you saw resinous wood regularly, Dri-Cote blade treatment will help retard accumulation of resins and junk.

There's one last detail to cover: keeping your fingers attached. The bandsaw may be the least hazardous resawing tool in the shop, but please remember that anything that turns hard wood into sawdust can do much worse to you. As you resaw, you'll often find yourself pushing the stock with one hand while holding it against the high face of your rip fence with the other. It's tempting to let your pressure hand slide along toward the neighborhood of the blade, but that's not cool; imagine the blade bowing within the wood and unexpectedly sawing its way out through the face your hand is pressed against. It can also be temping to push the wood right up to the last half inch and then pull it through the final bit of the cut. Once again, imagine the worst case where an unseen crack allows the last two or three inches of the plank to split apart suddenly, just as you're pushing firmly toward the blade. Use a bit of scrap as push block instead.

There's plenty more to know about resawing, of course, but this should be enough to get you started successfully, after which doing it will teach you anything else you wish to know. So go do it!

Visit Highland Woodworking for more information.

September 15, 2006

Tuning Metal Bench Planes for the Rest of Us

Metal Bench Plane

by Chris Black

It's an unfortunate reality that most metal bench planes don't work to their full potential right out of the box, and that a certain amount of tuning needs to be done by the end user. With apologies to all engineer/machinist woodworkers, I will endeavor to explain how to tune a metal bench plane without involving a machine shop or taking up vast amounts of your valuable woodworking time or money. I'll leave out the small stuff like after market blades and accessories. This is by no means the final word on this subject, but maybe you can pick up a thing or two from my many years of making a living with these wonderful tools. If you find my methods rudimentary or crude, let me paraphrase Jim Krenov who said at some point the engineer and artisan must part ways.

Visit Highland Woodworking for the full article.

September 1, 2006

Tormek vs. Jet and Standard Bench Grinders

Woodworking Tool QuestionI'm looking to purchase a means to sharpen my chisels and turning tools. Is the Tormek or Jet "sharpening system" worth the money over a simple bench grinder?

Woodworking Tool AnswerMany woodturners use bench grinders (low speed is preferable so as not to heat up the tool's edge and ruin the steel's temper) to sharpen their turning tools. However, a bench grinder by itself does not provide a way to consistently jig the turning tool to the stone to grind a predictable and repeatable edge.

Tormek SuperGrindThe Tormek provides a proven and reliable way to jig all the tools in your shop (not just turning tools) to grind predictably on the stone. For a bench grinder, you would need to get a Wolverine Jig to use with the grinder to jig your turning tools. There are other jigs, like one we offer from Veritas that can also allow you to jig chisels and plane irons to a bench grinder stone consistently. (Most of the tool rests that come in the box with a bench grinder are not very functional for precise grinding of an edge).

The Tormek can also final hone your tools, which you need to do with a skew or your bench chisels and plane irons. A regular bench grinder can't final hone an edge and you would need to move to a finer hand stone to finish the hone/polish of an edge.

We think the recent arrival of the imitator unit from Jet is a poor substitution for the quality, functionality and proven reliability of the Tormek sharpening system. We do not offer the Jet sharpener as we do not think it would be a wise use of your money to buy one.

Visit Highland Woodworking for more information.