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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Woodworking and other adventures-

Our recent move has had many ups and downs. One recent up has been getting a little shop area together. Previous homes have not allowed for shop space, and for expanding my limited knowledge of woodworking. Additionally, my work took so much time that I really did not have the resources in time and money to do much. That is now changing.

Here is a shop tour. Here is a bit more. As I said, I am just beginning. Mostly hand tools and a few simple power tools. For a number of months the garage housed a lot of boxed items from the move. Those have been sorted, unpacked or shifted to a dedicated garage storage area. Eventually I excavated the shop bench that came with the garage, and only in the last few weeks have I been able to begin making it a work space.

If you have watched any of the many woodworking shows on television, you know what a real shop looks like. Even the most humble of these shops causes tool envy. "Now we need a mortise joint. Step on over to the mortising machine and I will show you how it is done." Then on to this machine, and that machine, all housed in a thousand square foot out-building.

These fabulous shops and their related programs can be inspiring and informative. I have learned a lot from such shows, and encourage anyone interested in woodworking to study such resources. These same shops and programs can be a bit daunting. So many expensive tools. So much skill, accumulated over many collective years.

I have had to compel myself to begin, even lacking a basic table saw. If I continue to wait on tools, I will never begin. So, today I began working up some wood to practice hand crafted dovetail joints. To do so I needed to get some wood worked down to blanks of uniform size. Lacking much in the way of tools, I studied what I did have. Here are two photos of what I came up with.

This is a Stanley miter box. It is a plastic unit which included a back saw. I have never before used a plastic miter box, but this one is designed well. The backbone on the back saw comes to rest on the top of the miter box when the cut is completed, so the obvious concern over cutting up the plastic is not an issue. Also, the unit came with two plastic cam clamps. Those black things there in the picture. They work surprisingly well for holding the work in place.

To set the stop for the pieces being cut I clamped a board the same thickness as the bottom of the miter box to the bench. The clamp is a basic F clamp running through a hole in the bench. On top of this bottom board is a block set as a stop for the cut piece. This set-up, though rather rudimentary, allowed me to cut out some blanks with which to work.

As a guide to hand cutting dovetail joints I referred to some YouTube videos. Here is a good one. There are others. Indeed, YouTube is a treasure trove of educational videos for just about anything. Since I lack a coping or fret saw, I shall have to wait a few days until I can get to the store. No need for a special trip, especially at the present cost of fuel. Next time I go somewhere will be soon enough.

Crafting tools and jigs is a big part of wood-crafting. Here is a jig made to do box joints. Obviously, the engineering and craftsmanship of tool-making is a big part of woodworking as a hobby. Matthias even made his own gears for the jig. Another aspect of the hobby is designing or re-creating unique pieces, unavailable from other sources. Often it is just the satisfaction of working with wood and tools and your hands.

Indeed, crafting furniture is not a real money saving proposition. With low-cost imports and the abundance of mass-produced components in box stores, making your own furniture is actually a costly venture. Just as the sport fisherman does not go fishing to save on the cost of fish, the woodworker is working for the satisfaction of the doing.

Some craftsmen move in the opposite direction from the elaborate power shop, and master the use of hand tools and ancient techniques for doing their work. Craftsmen have often done wonderful work with only a limited number of tools, many of which they had to design and make for themselves. Participating in that tradition has its own satisfaction.

Mastering the tools you have is far better than dreaming about tools you do not have. You learn more, and get a great deal more done. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this fact, kick myself in the butt, and get to work. Whether writing, knitting, gardening or working with such things as wood, nothing gets done until you get to the doing.

Just do it. ;-)

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