Fair Woodworking

March 21, 2013

Curly birch goes with walnut

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


This box is an important one for me. As usual, it has no functional purpose, but it’s still a bit of a big deal.

The beauty of photography is that you can hide a world of sin with the right camera angle, and a tight depth of field. However…

For the first time, I’ve built a box that doesn’t really have a bad side.

Now don’t get me wrong, dovetail perfection is still not quite within my grasp, but any gaps you find on this little sucker, you gonn’a have to search for them.

Cutting a raised panel is not that hard, but getting all the angles to line up with the corners, and also get a nicely planed surface on the end grain is a little harder.

Ok, I cheated a little.  I usually cut the grooves with my plow plane, but this time, I used my powered router. I have to admit, although I hate my router, I hate most all my power tools, that is a great way to cut some grooves!

I also had the forethought to align the birch so that it shows the curls better when it is NOT upside down.

The box is pretty close to perfect, but the lid? It? It was perfect. A lid with a matching raised panel. Without flaw.


And it looked like donkey poo when I put it on the box.

So I made a simple squared edge lid, that is not perfect, but I managed to fix it.

Somewhat fixed…

April 30, 2012

My favorite power tool

Filed under: Favorite tools,Picture issues,Power tools,Skill development — fairwoodworking @ 1:57 pm

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


My interest in power tools these days has diminished to nearly zero, but there is one power tool that I will never give up. I’m a real tool snob, and I usually would rather do without if I can’t use a good respectable, and more importantly reliable tool. At work I have a cordless tool set made by Ryobi that I hate. It’s almost faster to drive screws with a screwdriver than the drill, and I find myself reaching for my $10 hand saw before wasting my time with the cordless circular saw.

I like me a well made tool.

So how is it my favorite Power tool could be considered cheap? Well because, even a cheap Bench grinder will do the job I need it to do.

The grinder is not a finesse tool. It’s a workhorse.

The tool rest I’m pointing at is the crappy one it was supplied with. It’s a total piece of junk, and I love it. There are many that sing the praises of big ticket after market tool rests, but I can’t see how they would work better that this flimsy piece of, one molecule short of plastic fo-metal. Those fancy tool rests are super sturdy, and ultra rigid, but I like the loosey goosey feel of my tool rest. Grinding is super simple. A little flex means I can shape the blade a little. If I find I’m removing material faster on one side of the blade than the other, I can lean into one side a little to straighten it out again.

The other thing I like about Mr. Flimsy is that the knob that holds it in place does not have enough holding pressure to lock it firmly. I can easily micro adjust the angle with a light tap from the back of the chisel. I can do this on the fly with the grinder running.

I’ve mentioned before that the one truly worthless part of a grinder is the factory wheels. These stones are 100% useless for hand tools. DON’T USE THEM!!! If you need to grind off a tab to retrofit a Pontiac part to use on your Chevy, the factory stone is fine, but you will need to upgrade if you don’t want to burn your blades. I recommend the Norton Cool grinding stones, or those sweet Blue ones. Either way, you want as course a stone as you can get.

So what of burning your blades? My understanding is that they heat up when you are getting more friction than cutting action. Friction happens when the cutting material in the stones wears down or if there is excessive pressure applied, or if you are grinding at too high an RPM. I think most times the stone stops cutting so we push harder, and then when that stops helping, we speed up the grinder.

A softer stone wears faster allowing new cutting material to come to the surface. If it keeps cutting there is no reason to push harder, and the blade stays cool longer.

In my opinion, if you feel you need to quench a blade, you need to re think your grinding process.

So let’s say you buy a new stone. When I did, I first thought something was wrong with it. When I mounted it, the grinder wobbled so bad I couldn’t use it. I discovered I had to true the stone first. I don’t know if this is common, it’s really not a big deal, but…

Here is what I did.

I took my Wheel Dresser and held it square to the wheel. The Wheel was slightly oval shaped not round. I want the wheel dresser to only make contact on the high spots. If you are doing it correctly, you should hear a faint tic, tic, tic. If the wheel dresser is moving at all you are pressing too hard and the dresser is just following the shape of the wheel. It’s a bit of a slow process, and the more you rush it, the less effective it is. I’m showing this one handed, but that is just because there’s a tripod in the way. This is a very precise two handed procedure. It’s not hard if you take your time.

From there, you need to true the sides.

Through the whole process I could feel the grinder start to settle down. It’s encouraging to see the progress, and I decided to go after the left wheel. That side was a little more tricky, because it didn’t come with a tool rest for that side. For that side, I just used the edge of the guard. Actually it wasn’t any harder, you just need something stable to rest the tool on. In the end, with the wheels trued, this tool just hums along. It’s fairly quiet, and the rubber feet are all it needs to stay in place. You can take my miter saw, and you can take my table saw, but make a move to snatch my grinder, and you may just find a 1/4″ chisel sticking out of your forehead…

March 7, 2012

The project that changed my world

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


If you have ever seen my avatar, you may have thought I was just trying to be cute. Well I do think I’m cute, but there is a story behind the smiley face.


I wasn’t always one of those hand tool types.
There was a time when I looked forward to Saturday as an excuse to go to Home Depot and drool over tools made of yellow, blue, and red plastic. Comparing RPM and 1/2 horse vs. 3/4 horse really got my juices going.

I was working as a trim carpenter at the time, and had gotten to know some of the guys. One day news got around that one of the other guys had a pretty serious accident. While ripping a full sheet of MDF, he lost control and ended up cutting off a couple of fingers and his thumb. Shortly after that another friend lost fingers using his chop saw. In both cases serious bodily harm resulted from them not respecting a dangerous tool, and did dumb things with them.

For a several years I didn’t go near a saw of any kind without thinking about those two, and during that time, good old fashion fear made me a much safer woodworker.

But, as years go by, life’s lessons fade from memory.

At about 2am, the morning of December 25th 2005 found me behind schedule on a gift for my wife.

I was almost done and it really wasn’t that big of a project. It was a simple book holder that she could place on her lap when reading in bed. All that was left for me to do was attach the ledge piece to the bottom that the book would rest on.

“How will I attach it?”, I asked myself. I thought of using my new biscuit joiner. “But how will I hold the piece against it?”, I asked.

I’m a bit of a night owl and was not sleepy, so I have no good excuse for what I did next. I flipped the biscuit joiner upside down, and held the piece against the fence with my fingers. Pulled the trigger and plunged the saw into the wood.

The next thing I remember, I was standing at the other side of the garage staring at a very tidy 1/8″ furrow through the tip of my left pointer finger and finger nail. The blade had kicked the wood out of the way and biscuited my finger instead.

Thankfully it missed the bone, but it did remove a good amount of flesh. Enough was missing that it posed a bit of a challenge for the Doctor. Well two challenges actually.

You see it’s not every day a guy walks in off the street with an injury from a tool as obscure as a biscuit joiner. Nor is it common at 3 in the morning to see woodworking injuries. Lump those together with it being Christmas morning, and you have a doctor that is laughing so hard that he can barely put a stitch in.

I’m glad I made his night.

This injury was pretty minor compared my friends in the past, but it really got me thinking. Does every tool I own need to have this much destructive power?

That was the day I first really looked seriously at hand tools as a viable option.

I kind’a miss that chunk of finger I lost that day, but I’m glad the event opened my eyes to the world of hand tools.

On a side note, This warning sticker is proof that warning stickers don’t work.

The wise don’t need them, and fools won’t head them.

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