Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Future Plans

I have been doing more metal and CNC work in the last few weeks and I don't want to mix up my stuff where I post them. I do have more plans to do some woodworking projects. One thing I have on my to-do list is some more plane making. This time I am planning on doing a combination of metal and woodwork by trying my hand at an infill plane. What I am considering is to make a little miter plane. I already ordered some steel and brass to work with and have been doing some other stuff in preparation. I am not that hardcore that I want to do all the metal cutting by hand with hacksaws and files so I have been working on getting my lathe set up for some milling with a milling attachment.

The other project I have in mind is to add a depth stop to my little plow plane. I have one of the ones from Mujeng Fang that I picked up from Japan Woodworker. It really is a nice little plane but the lack of a depth stop has been a major sticking point for me. I have another plow -- A Stanley #45 -- that I really don't like. I will not go into the rants I have about it now but suffice it to say, I don't think of it as a real viable tool. There are good reasons that they are still around in such unused condition.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Drilling for dollars...

I am reading a new article from Popular Woodworking Magazine website. It seems that Festool has a new cordless driver drill coming out. It looks like a fine little drill. Festool has a really nice premium product line. The question that comes to mind for me is: Who in their right mind would pay $225 ($275 with the right angle chuck) for a cordless drill? I payed under $100 for my full set of rechargeables that includes a circular saw, flashlight, drill, and something else. I would have to go dig it out to see what the other tool was because I don't use it that often. Come on, I like a good tool. I don't even mind at times buying a premium quality tool. But nearly $300 for a cordless drill? Who is their target demographic customer? How do you keep a straight face as a salesman explaining the price?

I felt like I was going overboard buying my eggbeater drill at $50. It will never need new batteries. It won't ever need to be recharged. It will probably last for the rest of my life and then still be going strong. The other drill I use is a brace and bit. The brace is not that expensive I think I remember paying $15 for it new about 20 years ago, but I do see that they are up to $26 now. I did have to hunt around to find one that had a 4 jaw chuck because it does a good job with both square shanks and round shanks. I have the adapters that use the 1/4 hex screwdriver bits and a 3/8 socket adapter bit. Lee Valley sells them for like $10 each. It never needs to be charged. It never needs new batteries. Sound familiar? It has no problem driving big lag screws. It has enough torque that I have to be careful or I can rip the heads off 1/2" lag screws if I am not careful.

The only real extravagance I have for drilling is my set of auger bits. I don't remember what I paid (considerably less than retail -- $30 or so) but it was a full set of Irwins in a box set.You can pick up used auger bits for a dollar or two each.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Little by little.

I have been thinking about where I am going with this blog. At first it was going to be a tutorial site. Eh, lots of those around. Instead I am going to just go with what gets my interest.  I will keep it on topic as being woodworking and leave it at that for a formal topic.

I have a huge mess in my workshop right now. I have been getting tooled up to do some auxiliary metal work I am also planning a CNC router. As far as regular woodworking, I need to get some stuff organized.  Many of the tools I have are things I had when my shop was in my old house. The building was broken into and I took most of what was left and put it into storage. Last year, I built a small sailboat -- well actually I finished a small sailboat. I partially built a couple other ones but did not finish them. Just learning how to use new stuff like the epoxy. I got out part of my tools then but that type of building really doesn't take many tools. After finishing that, I started going through what tools I had and deciding what I wanted to use as a basic tool set. I had previously had more power tools but began to find the hand tools were more to my liking.

The main things that I have built first are some basic things. A couple small workbenches. Several planes. A new saw. I have also been filling out the tool set. I grabbed a couple new frame saws, a new set of chisels, and a few other things. It really doesn't take that many tools. Not to be disingenuous, I am not a total hand tool person. I have quite a few power tools. They are just not the big part of what I use. They are for the boring part. As an example,  I really don't like resawing by hand. I would rather use the bandsaw.  I have also built up a really nice router table. Not from scratch, just from components. It is one of the chicken or the egg problems. I could build a router table from scratch but I would want to use a router table to build it. I also picked up a new jointer/planer combo machine. So far, I have not run it in planer mode because it is rolling around on my dolly since I don't have a stand for it yet.

Well, it will take some time to get things in order.  Pretty soon, there will be some organization bringing things together. It is just now getting warm enough to spend time in my garage shop and some other stuff has cleared up so I am able to move around better. Things are looking up.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Layout tools: A marking knife, a compass, a square, and a tape.

The first thing that you really need to have for woodworking is a marking knife. It doesn't have to be fancy. A cheap way to get started is with an X-acto knife. You know, the little ones with replaceable blades. Maybe a utility knife if you prefer. What you will want to look for is a blade that has a single bevel. That means it is flat on one side of the edge. If you have a double bevel, it will tend to try to follow the grain of the wood instead of following a straight edge. Some have a spear point so you can mark toward you or away from you. That is nice too. A marking knife will give a much finer line than a pencil It will also be used to cut out a little sliver of wood to make it easy to start a saw cut or to pre-cut to keep the wood from splintering. More on that when we actually start talking about making stuff.  Do keep a pencil handy though, it is great to use one to highlight a knife line.A quick rub with a pencil will really make it stand out. We will come up with a better solution later.

A compass (a divider is a better term since you really don't want one that works with a pencil.)  is really useful for woodworking. It can mark out circles and arcs but it is also useful to compare two different widths and finding the center of things. Drafting supply stores or office supply stores will usually have one.

You also will want to get a square. I suggest a 12" combination square for a start. They generally come with a 90 degree angle, a 45 degree angle, a level, and a scribe hidden in the body. They can range from about $5 to several hundred dollars. Unless you have a reason for other work, the expensive ones will be much more than you need for woodworking. I have several in different sizes up to a 4' drywall square that is really useful for working with sheet goods. A steel blade is better because you are going to be running a steel knife along the edge. 

The last measuring item is a tape measure. It is really just a convenience as much of woodworking is done with relative units such as marking off of other work pieces.  Unless you are building a house or something, a 10'-12' tape is plenty long. Look for a wider blade on one so it will support itself better. If you are going to be working with metric measurements, don't mess with one of the combination tapes that has metric and English units. Get a fully metric tape and an English measure tape. The ones with combination units are awful because you can't use both sides of the tape with either unit. 

Hi everyone.

I have kind of schizophrenic as far as my taste in tools. I really like the new high tech stuff, and I also have a taste for old fashioned low tech hand tools.  Some people may disagree but hey, the only thing I promise you is my opinion. If you want my opinions on the high tech stuff, jump over to my other blog: There are a lot of other good hand tool wood working blogs that I will mention now and then. They all have different focus and different personalities. It is a fun group.

There are a lot of ways to spend serious money on woodworking tools. You really don't have to unless something really gets your interest. There are a few basic things though that you can get started with that don't cost much at all. From that basic set, you can work your way into a really nice tool set that can handle most jobs. More importantly, once you have a basic set, many of the others you can make for yourself. Pulling yourself up by your own boot straps as they say.

What I am not going to do here is tell you to scour the flea markets and garage sales. Yes, you could save money. Maybe. That assumes that you also know what you are looking for. It also assumes that you can tell a workable item from a dog. It also assumes that you are not having to use any gas and your time has no value.I also will not always point out the cheapest items. Sometimes, it is cheaper to buy high quality stuff that lasts a lifetime.  Actually, many of these things will last many lifetimes if cared for. Some are also disposable. Sometimes that is cheaper and easier.

As I talk about different tools, I will also discuss how to use them. You might already know some but many people are just starting out.