Fair Woodworking

September 27, 2016

Just call me Champ

Yes I know, much has happened in the past week, and yet again I am at the center of it. I hate to brag about it since I’m sure you already know. I understand how the Monday morning water cooler talk was all a buzz about where you were, and what you were doing when you learned that Fairwoodworking became the Dovetailing Champion Of The World.

You already know about all that, so I need not mention it.


Well I’ve come to learn that winning was the easy part. The parades, the ceremonial mall openings, the charity golf tournaments and working the international talk show circuit (I’ll admit my Mandarin is a little rusty), meeting with government officials and running from all my new found dovetail groupies. It’s not a life I’m familiar with, but don’t worry.

I’m still Jenny from the block.

I’m not changing and neither is the blog.

Well.  Not much anyway.

I’d prefer it if you did call me Champ, and also please don’t look at me directly. Oh. And only speak in hushed tones.

The blog will remain fully accessible to all… that pay their subscription fees on time.

Yes it’s business as usual here at “Champion Of The World Woodworking”.

Did you guys catch where I compared myself to J-Low?

She wishes.

Are you buying this?

I’m certainly not.

While I greatly appreciate the donated prize of a 14″ BadAxe Sash Saw, I really don’t get how a 5:41 time with a 2 card deduction won. You can argue that I’m being modest, or more accurately falsely modest, but I assure you that you have misunderstood. I think my results under the gun, with people watching was fantastic. My only goal was to perform at a level that I could look back on and know I had done the best that I was capable of. Oh, and I really, really, REALLY wanted to better my good friend Neil Cronk.

Done, and DONE!!!

By the narrowest of margins (1 second and 4 point deductions) I win, and this time you can’t claim to have the nicer fit.

EDITORS NOTE – If the next time I’m spotted in public, I have shards of an award winning stool sticking out of the side of my head, don’t call the police. I deserved it…

The thing is I am not especially talented, and also anyone who has seen me work at anything knows I progress at a snail’s pace. I’ve been working on the same chest of drawers for over a year now, and I’ve yet to finish the carcass. The only things I brought to the table was the accumulation of two key skills, a well thought out game plan, and an average of cutting two joints per day for 14 days.

If there is one thing I can brag to the world about it’s that I came prepared, but by that logic, I should also be bragging that every day I manage to leave the house with both my shoes on the right feet.

I should not have won this event, and if I get the chance to compete again, I hope I am obliterated by one of you out there.

Then I’ll crack you on the head and steal your prize!

So let’s see if we can’t bring this in for a landing.

After the completion of the Handtool Olympics, I got a chance to thank Mike Siemsen personally for running the competition. As we talked I commented that as fun as it was to practice and then compete, such a rushed process has no real value to real life dovetails or woodworking. Mike very kindly stopped me right there and in words I have now forgotten, he essentially told me, “you’re wrong, you’ll see”. Since that time I’ve had some time to consider it, and I now believe him to be correct.

Even if you never compete in a dovetail race, you can learn from it, and in the next while I hope to share with you the skills and strategies necessary to cut a fast’ish dovetail.

The first two skills I mentioned above.

  1. Learn how to start a square cut free hand. (for cutting the tails)
  2. Learn how to cut straight down free hand. (for cutting the pins)

If you are looking at this skeptically, hoping that I will tell you that “You can do it big guy!!!”, don’t bother, you can’t.

However, if you are willing to try, and fail, and try, and fail, and keep trying until you succeed? Who knows what will happen.

Either way, hand wringing 101 is one blog over from here.


Additional thanks to Popular Woodworking for a great Popular Woodworking in America I hope to come again next year!







January 22, 2016

Death to clubs. Woodworking that is…

Having “sampled” three different rums in the past hour, I’ll first say that this Mount Gay rum is really not terrible stuff, and excellent primer for a rather tardy, and totally off the cuff first post of the year.

I wonder where this post will lead.

I guess I’ll give you an update on some of the stuff I’ve been working on as I think of something to write, and if nothing else, this whole thing will give me a kick in the butt to get a move on it.

The slow progression of building a rolling cart with 6 to 8 drawers is currently on the bench. This cart will one day be what my thickness planer will live on. Can’t wait till this is done as it is proving to be a real test of a number of skills I thought were well beneath me or at the very least, well within my grasp…

SMOOTHING PLANES!!! Brace yourselves, I’m going nutz on smoothing planes.

Something like nine of them.

Ya, I know. Who the hell has NINE smoothing planes?

*Cautiously raises hand*

We’ve all read what is really necessary to make an old plane into a first string smoother, and I’m looking forward to testing it out with a mess of rust hunting finds.

Oh, and photography.  I caught myself in a trap of hypocrisy that I am currently digging myself out of.

Whatever could it be?

Later this year, I think I’ll be ready to offer more hands on opinions on both the Nicholson bench and my attempt to use Moxon hardware as a twin screw vise.

That and dancing girls, all makes 2016 look like a block buster of a year here at Fairwoodworking!

But on to a more current issue.

Woodworking clubs.

I struggle to remember positive feedback about a woodworking club. I’ve mentioned how I was wrestling with the dilemma of an aging club that seems unaware of how uninviting it has become. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of highly respected woodworkers shunned by their local club because they admitting to a fondness of shoulder planes, and then there is the apparent absence of a desire to grow as woodworkers.

Recently I vowed to hang in there at my woodworking club in hopes of getting them to come around to seeing what outsiders are not returning for.

This last week, faced with the $70 renewal fee, I felt the need to reconsider how effective my perseverance should endeavor to be.  (Bonus points for words I hardly know the meaning of.)

And after a sober (much sober..er that I am now) discussion with a good old woodworking friend of mine. We’ve decided that we may not be able to right the woodworking club ship, and best just move on…

I’ll just let that sink in for a moment while I marvel at what a great guitarist Joe Satriani is… WOW!!!

Ok, Focus!

The thing is that most clubs seem to be a get together with some guest speaker that is NOT A MEMBER, discussing something that few/none of the members will ever endeavor (loose points for using “endeavor” twice in the same post) to emulate, followed by a quick intermission of juice and cookies.

The president then thanks everyone for coming, and we all go home to watch the evening news.

At what point does the club work… How you say… Ahh.. er… wood?

Well, two former club members are hopefully getting together in a basement this weekend to do something about it. There will be no guest speaker. Cookies are doubtful, as is the juice. Not to mention rum, but there may be beer, and there will be wood.

And something sharp to cut the wood.

YES! WOOD WILL BE CUT!!! And dam it! Wood will be worked!

And if we are not careful?


BYOB (Bring Your Own Bandages)

April 29, 2015

If I could only have three planes

So the other day I was listening to an old Fine Woodworking podcast (I’ve been listening to them from the first), and this same old listener mail question reared its ugly head yet again.

If you could only have 3 planes, what would they be?

I’m really tired of this question for a number of reasons, but I decided to listen to their answers anyway.

1. Block Plane

2. Smoother

3. Shoulder Plane

For what it’s worth, this is a good list of planes. I can’t say that it is incorrect for what I know of their type of woodworking.


It’s a terrible list for my workshop, and that is one of the reasons I don’t like this question.

For a shop ruled by power tools, a shop that has no hand tools, these three planes could really up the game of the woodworker at the helm.

In a shop where almost nothing is done with power tools, this list is both redundant and inadequate at the same time.

That may be harsh, but let’s have a look at what Fairwoodworking of today would say to baby Fairwoodworking elect.


Firstly, to dimension wood you normally use 3 planes, the Jack, Jointer, and Smoother, but that’s just for dimensioning.

At the same time joinery has a its own stable of planes, but we only get to have 3 total.

Then there are planes we use to clean up cuts, break hard edges, and plane end grain. Typically we’d use the block plane, but imagine if you were to reach for your block plane and discovered the blade was far too dull to use, but you needed it now, and you forgot your sharpening gear at your friends house. What plane would you use as a substitute?

In my shop I’d turn to my Smoother.

And if I was to do without one of my bench planes for dimensioning, would I drop the Jointer, or the Smoother? No. I’d have to do without the Jack. I wrote about this a while ago, by using a modern thick blade in an old smoother for smoothing tasks, you can then swap to the old blade with a “Jack plane” like camber for rough work. The difference in thickness of the blades will remove the need adjust the frog for the two vastly different tasks.

I’d hate to ask it of my smoother, but it could get by doing 3 jobs in my shop.

The Smoother gets my first vote.

But the smoother won’t do so well as a jointer unless we are dealing with really short boards, and the more traditional jointer is really difficult to find a suitable substitution. Thankfully, the Jointer is also excellent in the role of both a Shooting Plane, and a boat anchor.

The Jointer gets my second vote. Not so much for what it can do, but for what every other plane can not.

With one plane left, how will we address joinery?

I guess I’d offer the router plane. It’s great at cleaning out the bottoms of grooves and dados, I love mine for mortising hinges, and some people use it for cleaning the cheeks of their tenons. My Veritas router plane has an optional fence that would make it work as a marginally functional plow plane, so there you have it.

Plane number three is the Router plane.

To recap.

1. Smoother plane

2. Jointer

3. Router plane

These are the 3 great planes I would choose if I could only have 3. And dare I say,

If the world was in jeopardy, and the only way we could save ourselves from alien destruction was the faint hope that I could build a box with these and only these 3 planes…

I will be your hero!!!

But like most of the free world, aliens don’t give two craps about what I build, and so I build for fun.

And that is why I hate this question.

Three planes is not fun.

Three planes is the opposite of having the right tool for the job.

Three planes is for some kind of weird “bang for your buck” collector types.


Three planes is a good place to start, and a terrible place to stop.

But really, DON’T go out and just buy 3 planes because of my or any other recommendation. Buy one plane. Probably a block plane or a smoother. An old Jack plane would be a great first plane as well.

Yes I realize that 2 of these 3 planes did not make the list, but that is because the 3 plane list is simply idiotic. If you are interested in planes, get one. Learn how to use it. Learn how to sharpen the blade, and use it until you can see what job it is not the right for. Then figure out what is the right tool, and look at getting it.

And save the lists for Americas Funniest Home Videos.



March 7, 2015

The Joker and Cabinet Maker

Filed under: Favorite tools,Skill development,Strong opinion warning! — fairwoodworking @ 2:44 pm

Ok, It’s hair splitting time again.

As many of you may know, I’m pretty much a hand tool guy. I rarely talk about power tools, and if you are familiar with me on the Twitters, I’ll mock incessantly anyone that dares admit to using them.

But I really don’t have a problem with people that use power tools. Power tools are great for those that enjoy using them. The hours that I suffered through (more accurately neglected) wearing safety glasses, hearing protection, and dust masks, turned me off power tools years ago. However, there are countless woodworkers that build amazing pieces with nary a hand tool save maybe a pencil.

I do however have a problem with the use of a common new term used by many hand tool users.

The Tailed Apprentice. As in how the masters of old tasked the young apprentice with grunt work, we as the modern shop master task our tailed apprentices with the lower beginner skill work.

As best as I can see it, the idea of the tailed apprentice was formed as a counter argument to the statements that using power tools is cheating, but really both arguments miss the core issue.

If you go to a track meet, you will see runners line up at an oval track. When the gun goes off, the race is on, and the runners head down the track. If one of the runners cuts across the middle of the track he would be considered a cheater.

In this scenario, running is NOT like woodworking. You can’t cheat woodworking. The final product is the finish line, but how you get there is up to you.

However, if you went to that same track on practice day two weeks before the meet, and you saw a runner practicing for the 10,000m but was cutting across the track so they only had to run 5,000m, who is being cheated? At the meet, this runner will have an amazing first half of the race, and a rather rough second half.

The runner cheated his or herself as they clearly only wanted to run 5,000m but chose to sign up for an unrealistic event.

If you have no desire to learn how rip wood by hand, that’s fine, but your table saw is not then your apprentice.

If learning to resaw by hand does not fit into your idea of a fun hobby, I can understand that, but to call your bandsaw a tailed apprentice is disrespectful.

My knowledge of the old apprentice system is not great, but I think I’m safe to assume that the average Master Cabinet Maker or Joiner had already put in his 10,000 hours of ripping, resawing, flattening, thicknessing, sweeping, and glue-pot cleaning. Nobody relishes accepting that they are still a lowly apprentice, but the true master earned the right to become a Journeyman, and then earned the right to be called the Master.

And now, I told you that, to tell you this…

I recently bought a thickness planer.


You see it’s been almost 9 years since I dimensioned my first piece of wood entirely by hand.

First hand tool project

I know I don’t know everything there is to know about dimensioning, and I’m nowhere near my 10,000 hours, but I feel I’m near enough to the top of the learning curve for my needs. Considering the limited woodworking hours I still have on this earth, there is still much to learn in other aspects of woodworking, and I’ve discovered that stock preparation now is interfering with my ability to learn. Thicknessing is just one step in dimensioning wood, but I think it is one of the more time consuming.

Think I’m splitting hairs? That’s fine.

In your shop you can call it a tailed apprentice, but in my shop it’s a learning aid.

OK, rant over.

Wanna’ know the first few things I was aided in learning?

1. Thickness planers are awesome!

2. Chip ejection impellers are powerful.

I first hooked it up to my Wet/Dry Shop-Vac, and soon discovered that the impeller trips the mechanism that protects the vac motor from water if it tips over. With the motor blocked, the impeller is powerful enough to pop a latch on the Shop-Vac canister, and spew chips throughout the entire shop.

What a mess!

In the end (as shown above) I’ve attached a hose to a dust collector bag, and this seems to work amazingly well.

3. I still hate wearing safety equipment.


May 18, 2014

1st Annual Day of the Jack Plane!

If you don’t know already. It’s been decreed, and I for one am all for it!

IMG_7950 copy

Now I know what many of you are thinking, I am just one of many mindless Schwarz’onian zombies, blindly following his every word.

I assure you I am not, and what better day to set the record straight than on Jack plane day?!

Way back in my early hand tool days, my original hand tool mentors on Hand Tool forums told me that scrub planes were the ultimate roughing tool, and I accepted this as gospel. Meanwhile, some scrawny journalist, that was actually building stuff with his tools, kept saying that scrub planes were more of a carpentry tool, and woodworkers were better off with the use of a Jack Plane. “What a dork”, I thought, because everybody knows that scrub planes are better.

Well a couple of years ago, on a whim, I finally bought a #5 jack plane. It sat on a shelf for months until one day I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I put one of my cambered blades into it, and tried it out as a roughing tool.


I own a scrub plane. I can’t remember the last time I used it, and EVERY project I build gets dimensioned with hand planes. Chris was right, but was he really? He read somewhere that the jack plane was the better tool for the aplication. He tried it, and agreed with what he read. That doesn’t make him right, it makes him educated on a practical level.

So then he discovers the Moxton Vice, and I hated using that thing. He promotes the use of tool chests, and I said ya right I like my shelf. He is hard core on using sharpening jigs, and that drives me nuts! I personally think that until you are at the very least confident with sharpening by hand you need to avoid jigs. Why? Because god forbid your blessed jig gets damaged or lost and you are unable to sharpen anything until the UPS delivery guy knocks on your door with your replacement. The ability to sharpen tools is more important to hand tool woodworking than your ability to put on pants. Sorry Chris, I still think you are a little off on this one. Anyways, It’s funny how quick I am to disagree, with his “new” ideas, and also how often in practice they prove to simply be, time tested historically accurate gems of truth.


Now he is telling us to “tooth” our bench tops!

What is this guy on?!!!

I have to admit, although it sounds nuts, I’d really love to give it a try some day. I have a sneaking suspicion I will like it, but I’ll stick with “it sounds crazy” until I do, because I have no hands on experience with toothed bench tops.

Bottom line is, don’t blindly preach what anyone else says. Gather as much information as you want, but test it before you preach it.

I think you will be surprised at how few big name woodworkers you will quote after the testing is done, and that is why I preach so much Schwarz’onian drivel.

May 11, 2014

Don’t hate IKEA, and don’t hate the game.

Filed under: Fair Woodworking & Hand Tool Blog,Strong opinion warning! — fairwoodworking @ 9:13 pm

Hate the player.

High-ho, captain opinion here.

I’m really tired of the players that have filled this world of ours. I’ll admit that I’m often a player in what “I” am calling “the game”, and I’m sure that many of you are as well.

So what makes us players? Well it’s not really consumerism, not even greed. I think it’s the misplaced expectations that one more new or new to me treat will make me happy.

This accepted error in human reality, is the fuel that fires the engine of the game.

Now, now, don’t get excited. It’s just that I’m on a return flight from one of Canada’s most wealthy and materialistic cities.

It was a little shocking to hear an add on the radio telling young adults that “just because you are only making minimum wage doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a brand new Toyota”.


Billboards saying you DESERVE a new house, and we all NEED more jewelry because we’re worth it.

It’s also great that Fido can get laser eye surgery. Because Fido’s worth it too.


Oh. More good news. There’s a new Pepsi! Its called Pepsi Next. Cause its the next Pepsi in a long line of must have new cola products.


Because the game needs “new” so you can be so excited that you drop everything to go get one. Who cares if you like it once you get it. If you wanted something good you would have just gotten a Pepsi. Well not really, you would have gotten a Coke.

But what we all know is they probably have already planned the cancellation of Pepsi Next because the players will quickly move on to Coke Fresh or whatever.

But we aren’t idiots!

Clearly most of us are not made of money so we have to get the best price, and we know how to find the good deals. We are smart shoppers, and sometimes we discover that there are cheaper alternatives for the trinkets we NEED. I mean really, I’m going to be tired of it soon enough so it doesn’t need to be a really good one.

But the game isn’t stupid either. It sees that you are happy with lower quality nick-nacks so the better quality frivolity mongers lower their quality to compete with the generic knockoffs. The knockoffs move overseas to lower their labor costs, and the higher end brands follow soon after.

The players drive the game. It’s the players that made IKEA possible. The player got us Walmart and the dollar store, and players like woodworking as well. Why wouldn’t we.

New doesn’t mean better. Often times these days, it means just the opposite.

A hundred years ago it we would have been free of the game right?

Not with Stanley at the wheel. Sometimes I think they wrote the book on the game.  If you are familiar with Stanley plane dating I think you can find the lessons of good game play.

At first Stanley was just trying to build a better plane. Creating a depth adjuster, an adjustable frog. A rib to keep that infernal frog straight! The adjusting nut for the frog, and then the lateral adjuster. By the time they had made type 10 and 11, they had pretty much made the perfect daily user plane. The type 11 was their longest running plane, but then the patents started running out, and Stanley needed to separate themselves from the competition. Suddenly the knobs were too low, and we needed kidney shaped holes on our locking levers. New and improved, but mostly new and different was the savior to our consuming needs.

Even the hallowed bedrock design. The original bedrock design was a marketing dud. The Bailey frog works just as well as the bedrock design, or in my opinion the bedrock is inferior. When you adjust the frog on a bedrock it changes your depth of cut. When you change the blade setting it changes the required mouth opening, and you will need to adjust the frog again. When Stanley moved the adjustments for the frog out from under the blade and to the back of the frog they made the bedrock a super cool plane with a super cool name. I’m sure Stanley never mentioned that they were fixing the shortcomings of a more expensive and less useful frog design in the process.

“But the adjuster is so handy to adjust the frog” . Well true, but I’m not buying it. My smoother is a type 11. I never move the frog. It’s set for optimum smoothing so why change it? My jack is a type 7 (I think), and the frog has no alignment rib, so if you touch my frog, I kill you. Not really, well maybe just a little. My #6 is a bedrock. It’s a LN so it’s pretty awesome and it was super easy to adjust the frog when I first set it up. Now that it is set up why would I screw with it?

Stanley was the king of marketing mumbo jumbo.

Ah, who am I kidding.
Don’t hate the player.

Hate Stanley.

February 24, 2014

A tool shelf for the minimalist that has everything

Not enough time is spent as of late heralding the greatness of us intrepid minimalists. Birthed out of the old days when a proper set of tools included at least one of each from 1 to 8, and including type 1 to 18, but shunning the 19 and 20 for their shoddy manufacture.

Birthed out of that dark time we discovered that having one of everything was an abomination, and we were shown a better way.

Today we know that less is more. Way, WAY more! And more is good. More gets you the girls and the admiration of lesser minimalists.

We all want more.

More of less until that special day of hand tool minimalism Nirvana, when we build with only with a sharpened metal bar and a rock to hit it with. Oh that glorious day!

But minimalism is a journey, that we all must travel.

Many of us have learned that the ATC, as pious as it may be, is for minimalistic sissys. You can fit way too many tools in that thing, it’s too hard to find stuff, and darn it, it hurts my back to reach all the way down there.

The dutch tool chest isn’t much better. Sure it holds less tools, but still heavy enough that you wouldn’t want to carry it too far.

What’s worse, how will people know how few tools you have when they are hidden in a chest? No, there’s not a single true self-respecting minimalist that can be satisfied with these. Thankfully today I offer redemption. It ain’t a hunk of metal and a rock, but we are getting there.

For now you can take pride in a much smaller storage solution. A space so small, that everyone will know that you truly are the man/woman.

No minimalistic ego is complete without the “Egotists Tool Shelf”.




I also hope to finalize a larger version in the near future. I plan, if I’m able to make them out of particle board, and sell them to Ikea, but only if I can guarantee that they will last at least 9 months without collapsing.

I’ll either call it “Loogie”, or my current favorite, “Dago”.



Editors note. With that I hope that in this past week, I’ve managed to alienate pretty much everyone that reads my blog. If however you feel that you have been missed, please let me know, and I will make every effort to rectify the situation.

February 22, 2014

A dumb, dumbs guide to Anarchy

Just for the record.

I do own the book “The Anarchist Tool Chest”.

I read it a couple of years ago.

I’d had a couple of drinks before I wrote this last night…

and I’m pretty frigg’in smart when I’m tipsy,

This shouldn’t be too complicated, or it could be the rum… but here is my take on it.

Anarchy, as it relates to tool chests does not equate to chaos, it is not about burning cars in the street, riots and looting, STOP THINKING THAT WAY, THAT’S NOT WHAT IT IS ABOUT!!! While the modern day man is barely smart enough to get his shoes on the right feet, the modern day Anarchist is striving to reclaim skills that the old world man thought everybody was born with. Yes these skills were passed on from generation to generation, but the last couple of generations were instead taught that they were not smart enough, were not skilled enough, and the world is better off with cheap disposable EVERYTHING rather than quality possessions that could be passed on from generation to generation, along with the lessons they teach.

This kind of anarchy is about seeing what the world sees as the norm that is also what is wrong with the world and going in the other direction.

If you can’t wrap your brain around anarchy in this concept, find a different word that does emulate this concept. Forget the word anarchy. FORGET THE WORD ANARCHY!!! Find a new word like Kittens, or Bunnies, or Rainbows. “The Kitten Tool Chest” lacks the same punch, and might be illegal, but you do what you got to do.

I am sick to death with people complaining that they don’t agree with people bombing stuff. READ THE FRIGG’IN BOOK FOR WHAT IT SAYS, NOT FOR WHAT YOU’VE ALREADY DECIDED IT SAYS.

As to the latest of review to the ATC, it’s clear that the writer does not have a lot of faith in the amateur woodworker in solving the worlds problems. I agree with his point, but I don’t think he made it totally clear what the problem is. I don’t see myself as a woodworking expert, but in comparison to every soul that calls themselves a woodworker, I think I would rate in the upper half or higher. That is not pride speaking, it’s the belief that the majority of people that call themselves woodworkers are mostly armchair woodworkers. I agree that most woodworkers still don’t know the meaning of sharp, and although I can achieve pretty wicked sharp, I doubt I know the meaning of sharp myself. (that is not good if I really am in the upper half of woodworkers…)

I also agree that most of LV and LN tools are wasted on people that will never EVER manage to get them to a fully functional working condition, and that saddens me.

Anarchy is about striving for greatness in woodworking for the sake of the craft. Anarchy is about passing our craft to the next generation for the SAKE OF THE CRAFT. Anarchy in the idea of the tool chest is NOT FOR THE WEAK AND THE PETTY, it is for those that are willing to set aside quick personal gratification, and strive for woodworking greatness for the sake of passing it on to the next woodworking generation. If you are not capable/willing to master the simple gateway task of sharpening, you are not going to make a great anarchist, and perhaps you should take up knitting.

And what of most professional woodworkers? I work in construction, and my most skilled woodworkers really, and truly believe that if you want a sharp chisel, you go to Home Depot and buy a new chisel. When it get’s “dull”, you go back to Home Depot, and buy another new chisel! That’s what has been passed on from generation, to generation.

Despite this, the properly trained professional woodworker is incapable of perpetuating the role of the anarchist, because our “Ikea” world cannot comprehend the value of what they are doing, and so, will not pay what it is worth. Without the financial backing of the “Ikea” generation, the professional has no clientele, and will find themselves out of business.

The single hope of the Anarchist ideal is that the arm-chair woodworkers of the world, get their Asses into their over tooled workshops and actually become proficient with the thousands of dollars of tools they have sitting on their tool shelves and tool chests in basements and garages around the world.

Only the amateur woodworker can afford to build without compromise, and so it is the amateur that must “keep the faith”. And to keep the faith, they are going to need to learn how to use their tools!

Woodworking can be an expensive hobby. Between the tools and the wood itself, this hobby is often limited to those with extra disposable income, and while some of the “Wealthy” woodworkers of the world may be teachers, lawyers, and doctors, I am a high school dropout. I come from a dirt poor single parent home, and I worked my Ass off to attain the funds that make this hobby, and my semi-modest lifestyle possible. Having some disposable income does not define us as sellouts, or hypocrites. Some of us have just learned to be smart with our money, and don’t spend money we don’t have.  I believe that I, just as any doctor or lawyer, has earned the right to make a “political” statement by building every project with every single ounce of excellence I am capable of. I do this in the slight hope that maybe one, just one person in my lifetime might see that the product of my many hours of work are not one of many millions of cheaply made Ikea products with some stupid name from Sweden. My hope is that one day someone either friend or family will say, “don’t throw that out! That piece is special!” NOT BECAUSE I MADE IT, not for my sake. For the sake of this beautiful, wonderful thing we call woodworking.


Working with real wood, not fiberboard, not with a computer. Not made by hardworking Ikea employees that are not even aware of what the finished product will be.

Woodworking by some ding-dong who also writes for a blog called Fairwoodworking.

So go ahead and keep complaining about how the world has done you wrong, Chris has offended you, I’m a weeny, and rich people have all the luck, your mother loved your sister more, and you are not as popular as the next blogger. I guess it sucks to be you. But in this case, I don’t care about you, I care about the woodworking you do and the efforts you actually make to save this craft that could very well die at the end of our generation.

Just get out there and build something as well as you can. Soberly look at what you did wrong and try it again until you are awesome at it. Then help someone else be awesome too.



When I find you I’m going to grab you by the scruff of the neck and, uh…  hey, I love you man!

Did I ever tell you you’re the best.., and I LOVE YOU!

December 22, 2013

Jack of one trade, master of one.

IMG_8428Unless you have a foundry, you can’t turn a jack plane into a scrub plane.  If you camber the iron and set a jack plane up for initial roughing of stock you have, voilà, a freaking jack plane – set up exactly as it was traditionally used. – Larry Williams

As posted in Quotables on Flair Woodworks

There’s a saying out there that goes something like this.

“Never get a framer to do trim carpentry. He will get it done fast, but it will be so sloppy you will have to get it re done. Never get a trim carpenter to do framing. The house will be framed perfectly, but it will take forever.”

If you google “Jack plane” you will most likely get a hit from Wikipedia. In their page they quote Jim Toplin (who I have great respect for), and his belief that the Jack plane is a “Jack of all trades plane”.  He could be right, but I’m pretty sure he is dead wrong. Sorry Jim…

Any bench plane can play the role of jack of all trades to some degree. It all depends on the size of the work to limit its uses. I don’t think the term Jack for planes is any more connected to the “of all trades” than any of the other compound words we commonly build out of the name Jack.

Who’s ever heard of a ‘Jack of all trades hammer‘, or a ‘lumberjack of all trades’, let’s not forget the age-old ‘hijack of all trades’.

Don’t make me laugh, it’s just silly.

So let’s dissect the name Jack Plane. We all know what a plane is so I don’t think we need to study that part, but if you google “history of the name Jack“, you will once again get a Wiki-answer among others. Jack is the old English slang for “man” or even “common man”. The North American equivalent would be “John” where we get John Doe, along with the prostitution term of a John, and we all know what’s happening when you go to the john…?

I think that the name Jack signifies that this plane is for common, unskilled, or rough work. Compare the use of a Jackhammer with finish hammer. Then consider the type of worker who would use the two. A jackhammer requires very little skill, and a lot of rough brawny muscle. A finish hammer is reserved for the skilled hands of a craftsman.


So when I look at the sole of my trusty #5 I don’t see a lot of versatility in it. I once threw it on the lapping plate out of curiosity. It’s not so flat in front of the mouth, and that could be a problem for tear out, so it’s almost worthless as a smoother. It’s also not nearly flat enough in its length to work as a jointer, but rough work?

For fat chunky shavings (though not scrub plane shavings), my #5 has one job, one simple-minded job for a tool that is smart like tractor. My Jack is a Jack of only one trade, but it is also the master of one, just one, simple rough trade.

I’ve read about this argument on other blogs, and if I could find them again, I be happy to give them credit for getting me going on this, but alas, I’m not that smart…

I guess you could say that I don’t know Jack… of all trades.

October 26, 2013

This post could have been avoided

EDITORS NOTE *** This post is experiencing 3rd party photo hosting “issues”, that will be addressed as time allows. ***

If you are reading this, I’ve finally worked up the nerve to post it.

I’ve been sitting here for over an hour hovering over the “publish” button.

After 6 years of using one of my bench planes, I’ve come to the conclusion that it needs to be replaced. In saying that, I suppose that if this was to be considered a review of this tool, I would not be giving it a passing grade.
I really can’t say that I am comfortable with finding fault in a product made by one of my favorite manufacturers, but I guess this really is a six year review of a very high quality tool that I have fallen out of love with.

There are a few nit picks I have with the plane, but these are not deal breakers. They are just things that if I were back in time and were aware of them, I may or may not have made a different choice in tools.

Beyond that there is one design issue that I have decided is a deal breaker, and if it were not for this one issue, this post could have been avoided.

So here we go.

As they say in monster trucks. “We sell you the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge!”

Six years in review, the Veritas Bevel Up Jointer.

I feel dirty already, but I must continue.

As with all Veritas tools, this is an exquisitely, and perfectly manufactured tool. The body is flawless, as is the finish of the bubinga knob and tote.

You can always rely on the quality manufacture of these tools.

So what are the little issues I have found over the years? Anyone who follows this blog might easily guess the first one.

1. It’s a bevel up plane. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not convinced the bevel up design offers any useful advantage over a bevel down plane in most applications. But to find fault in a tool that I knowingly bought as a bevel up plane? That makes as much as sense as complaining that my Honda Civic is not a truck.

2. The lateral/depth adjustment mechanism.

Commonly known as a Norris Adjuster, is a feature that I have been out of love with for quite a while. I’m not a historian, but as I understand it, the Norris Adjuster is not an innovation over the Bailey adjuster. It was the only feasible innovation allowing both mechanical depth, and lateral adjustment on an infill plane. Similarly, when dealing with BU planes, the bailey design is not very practical. Stanley never made a bevel up jointer,but if you were to look at the #62 BU jack plane you would find a simple depth adjuster similar to what they use on many of their block planes.

It’s a simple mechanism that does not allow for lateral adjustment, and so requires a hammer to tap the blade either to the left or to the right.

The “Norris” like adjuster we see on Veritas BU planes most resembles that of the Sargent #514 Patent 1914. However with such a short lever that pivots on the blade near the middle of the blade results in a very rank lateral adjustment.

What I’m saying is, for medium or fine lateral adjustment, you still need a hammer. But, ya so whatever. The Veritas adjuster is a little over complicated, and under advantageous. Who cares?

More than a couple of “swear jar” worthy statements have been heard in my shop when the adjuster came out of the plane with the blade, and then fell off the blade while walking to the sharpening station on to a concrete floor.

4. Veritas handles

I don’t think I need to say much about this one. It’s already pretty well documented (do a search for “veritas handles” I dare you) of how uncomfortable the handles are. Sure I could reshape the handle myself, but why not just make it comfortable to begin with. Would I buy a new “premium” saw that I knew had a notoriously uncomfortable tote?

5. Location of adjuster

Ya, I’m back onto the adjuster. After you learn to sharpen, the next skill that can be difficult for new woodworkers is resetting the blade to make the same cut as it did before. This task, along with sharpening can cause beginners to avoid resharpening to the point of project ruining tear out, and also make the sharpening process take all the longer. In theory, since BU blades don’t need chipbreakers, when you replace the blade, very little adjustment should be necessary, but now that the adjuster has fallen out of my blade and bounced across the floor, I can assume that the depth it is set at will not be where I’d like it.  Either way, the ability to adjust the depth of cut while taking a shaving, is really, really handy.

With a Stanley/Bailey plane you can keep both hands on their handles and still be able to reach the depth adjustment knob.

With a Norris type adjuster, one hand pushes, the other adjusts. (but even if you could reach them, the threading is too coarse to turn while holding the tote, and you risk moving it laterally if you are not careful). I don’t think Norris adjusters are bad, but I do think they are an unnecessary compromise if they are not mated with another really great feature. For example you will never see me complain about them on an infill.

So there you go. These are my wine fest, nit pics, that I don’t consider deal breakers although I know some of them may be for others.

If these are not deal breakers, what are?

I see just one.

The partially milled sides.

And everyone in hand tool land said together, “Exactly! Without fully milled sides, you can’t use it for shooting”

And then I said, “Wrong”.

The unshootable-ness of this plane doesn’t matter to me much. Let’s call that nit pic #6.

At 22″ the BU jointer is really a BU version of the #7. It’s pretty long, and really, other than flattening my bench, I can only think of one or two other times I’ve used it on material that was longer than the plane. As a result I often use shorter planes as jointers. Recently I was working on a project that required the BU jointer, and I quickly became aware of the great deal breaker for me.

Recently (September) on Woodnet, there was a discussion regarding this BU jointer that had its sides fully milled. (oh, and also note the handles have been replaced for comfortable ones…)


Most of the thread circles around the shooting issue, but I found the response that Rob Lee made had a little hole in it that applies to my concern.

Here is what he said in its entirety.

Klaus –

You are a bad man…. (in a good way!)….

Seriously – that’s a much more ambitious modification than most. We encourage people to change tools to suit their own preferences… but we’re usually thinking of the wood parts…

The bevel-up series was conceived as an integrated system of planes – where we optimised for a set functions, in each plane – so that each would complement the others functionally (and not be just diffreent sizes). As others have pointed out – we chose the jack as the shooting plane in the series.

I’m glad the modification worked out so well for you. That casting shape is not optimised for sidewall griding – so Wolfgang did a great job for you keeping everything flat and square!

Cheers –


The part that got me was this, “The bevel-up series was conceived as an integrated system of planes – where we optimised for a set functions, in each plane

But does this design optimize the function of jointing? Or for that matter flattening?

A while ago, I posted about how I flatten a board, and I think the pictures in that post say it all.

Here I show progress with the side of my Jack plane resting on the board. See how it shows the two ridges?

Later I move to final flattening with my BU Jointer, and here I show that I am very close to flat.

The difference is I’ve had to use my straight edge.


Because if I used the BU jointer it would have looked like this.

This is not optimal.

In fact I would rather that the entire side of the plane be unmilled rather than this.

So Veritas, Lee Valley, Rob?

I hope you do not take offense to my criticism.  I do still love you guys!

But as of now, my BU jointer has been retired from active duties. It will sit on the shelf until I get around to selling it. The money I get from it will then offset the cost of its replacement.

This has been a most unenjoyable, and unpleasant post…

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