Monthly Archives: October 2011

Woodchat Wednesdays on Twitter at 7pm Pacific/10pm Eastern

Note: see the updated version of this page here.

Once upon a time, woodworkers gathered on Twitter to chat about woodworking. It was usually driven by a topic, with lots of great participation and sharing of ideas. It was really good. But then it stopped, and we miss it. For some, their path to becoming a better woodworker took a detour. It’s time to get things back on track.

Woodchat’s Future

After a lot of conversations in the last three weeks with Dale Osowski (Timberwerks Studio), Dyami Plotke (Penultimate Workshop), Vic Hubbard (Tumblewood Creations), and Tom Iovino (Tom’s Workbench), we will be restarting #woodchat this Wednesday November 2nd at 7pm pacific time, that’s 10 eastern. We’ve got permission from the former woodchat crew and have been working behind the scenes to ensure to define how we’d like this to work best for everyone.

Our First Four Woodchat Principles

1. Easy for People to Get Involved

There are lots of woodworkers already on twitter, and it’s easy to sign up, so continuing to use the #woodchat hashtag makes things very easy. No special download, no separate account. So we’ll start on twitter but may incorporate other technology as things progress. Right now, Tweetchat is the easiest way to participate.

2. Approachable for All Skill Levels

If you’re a beginner woodworker, you will be welcomed in and find people ready to help and encourage you. If you’re a skilled woodworker, you’ll also find encouragement and help, and be asked to share your experience and knowledge by welcoming and being helpful to new woodworkers.

3. Focused on Actual Woodworking

In the past #woodchat drifted off topic at times. We’ll focus on woodworking: inspiration, design, stock prep, joinery, finishing, tool selection, shop safety, or shop layout, for the beginner, part time hobbiest or full time woodworking business. No preference towards power tools or hand tools.

4. A Team to Make it Successful

To make sure that chats happen on Wednesdays without one person carrying the workload, we’re going to work together to ensure success. We all have busy schedules with our day jobs and families, but with five (or more) people committed to making this successful I’m sure we’ll establish a regular rhythm.

Woodchat is Yours

Ultimately though, woodchat is ultimately driven by those who participate, so we need to know what topics you’d like to discuss, what technology you might suggest that we incorporate, what days and times work best. Let us know on Twitter or leave a comment below. See you all Wednesday night.

Preval Touch Up Gun Great Tool for Dyeing Small Projects – Like a Whirligig

My sister-in-law had me do a small project for her. I said yes, without knowing what it was “yeah, bring it on over” I said. It was a whirligig. No, really, you read that right. A whirligig. Actually, not even a whirligig, she already had one of those. She just needed a base for it.

What does a whirligig base look like? Well, it’s a block of wood. “Big, and hopefully dark” she said.

Can You Make a Block of Wood For Me

Yes, I’ve been woodworking for over a decade, have attended two Woodworking in America conferences, and even had George Walker himself comment on my projects on my blog, but I’m not above creating a “big, dark, block of wood” for my sister-in-law’s whirligig.

New rule: this blog post is a drinking game. Take a drink for every mention of whirligig. Go back and start from the beginning. You should have six drinks in you now (or more).

I cleaned up some old cedar 4×4, cut it into four equal sections, and glued the sections together with all the growth rings coming together nicely in the center to make this block look like it came from one large log. I know, attention to detail even when making a block of wood for a whirligig.

I’d Like It To Be Dark

The cedar was clear, and smelled wonderful, but it wasn’t dark. I hate stain, it’s horrible stuff. Gigantic molecules that just don’t get into the wood evenly and now manufacturers are mixing stains with other finishing products like varnishes, urethanes and gels to try and make the ultimate all-in-one product. I like dyes. Specifically I like Transtint alcohol soluble dyes. The molecules are smaller, go deeper, and you can shade much easier.

Luckily I had recently picked up some Preval guns at a big box store. These have a ton of uses, I was introduced to them by a professional painter that was touching up some doors when I moved into my house. He put some paint in the jar, mixed in some water, and was ready to paint.

So, I did the same thing. 12 drops medium brown, 6 drops black, 4 oz. alcohol. Swish it around and screw the power unit onto the jar. I’ve never used the Preval gun for this, and I’ve never dyed cedar, but that’s OK. It was after all a big dark block of wood for a whirligig.

Upper Cut Woodworks Preval Mini Transtint Tinting Setup

Final Results: Fast, Easy, Economical

You can see the final results below.

Upper Cut Woodworks Whirligig

The Preval gun was fast, the right size for the job, economical (around $10 for one jar and one power unit), and cleanup was really easy. I was pleased with the results for the amount of effort I put into this job, and my sister-in-law was very happy with her big, dark, block of wood. I’m going to try this with shellac and other finishes on small jobs when the full spray booth (part 1 & part 2) isn’t required. This would also be a great option for on-site touchups.

Woodworking Holdfasts Are Like a Third Hand and Quicker Than Clamps

Over ten years ago I treated myself by purchasing a wonderful nine-foot Sjoberg’s Workbench from Woodcraft. I ordered plenty of square bench dogs and four boxes of drawers for the base. I love my bench – it’s heavy, flat, has relatively good vises, and tons of storage. I didn’t order the holdfasts when I bought the bench, because I thought I’d never use them. I was always able to clamp work to my benchtop, and I thought that was just fine.

As I prepared for the Hand Tool Olympics at Woodworking in America, I realized that clamping pieces was clumsy, slow, and frustrating. Not to mention all the times I stuck myself with the tail end of a bar clamp. I started to look around for holdfasts made for my Sjoberg’s bench, but didn’t really have any luck. There’s also only one pre-drilled (and steel lined) hole in my bench and having just one place for the hold down is pretty limiting. So after reading great reviews about the Grammercy Holdfasts and talking to other woodworkers, I added a pair to my WIA wish list.

On the Expo Floor at Woodworking in America I was able to work with holdfasts for the first time. I don’t know how I ever worked without these, and I was excited to order a pair. Unfortunately you couldn’t order them at the show, so I ordered them from my hotel room on the Tools for Working Wood website that night. A pair was about $30, which is about the cost of a good clamp.

Round Peg, Square Hole

My Sjoberg’s bench has square bench dog holes pre-drilled at regular intervals. These are awesome, but won’t work for holdfasts, so I needed to (gasp) drill more holes in my benchtop. I chose a position about five inches from the front of the bench, a little to the right of the face vise where I’d be sawing dovetails, and marked a spot. The challenge now would be to bore a 3/4” hole through the four inch benchtop cleanly and squarely. Luckily, I have a great set of Jennings bits handed down from my family, and a nice (and now clean and lubricated) Stanley bit brace I picked up from The Superior Tools Works on the show floor at WIA. The trick now is to bore the hole squarely. The series of pictures below describes my process.

Roughing up the Stems

First, the holdfasts need cleaning and roughing up. I wiped the holdfasts with mineral spirits to remove grease and grime, and then roughed them up as recommended so they’d hold better in the bench. Sand around the stem with some sandpaper, not up and down, I want to create rings on the stem.

Upper Cut Woodworks Grammercy Tools Holdfasts Cleaned and Ridged

Boring Straight Holes By Hand With a Drill Block

To ensure the hole I bored was plumb, I first used my drill press and a 3/4” forstner bit to drill a hole in a thick block of scrap fir. This block would guide my Jennings bit.

Upper Cut Woodworks Holdfast Drill Block Prepared on Drill Press

I placed the bit through the hole in the guide block, and set the point of the bit on the “X Marks the Spot” on the bench. I clamped the guide block down to the bench, and I clamped it down good. I’d be doing the twist through a lot of wood and will want that guide block to stay put.

Upper Cut Woodworks Bit Brace in Drill Block Clamped to Bench

When I bottomed out on the guide block I removed it. The hole I’d bored so far will guide the bit the rest of the way.

Upper Cut Woodworks Bit Brace in Hole in Bench

Hole Complete and Holdfast Tested

And now I have a shiny new hole in my bench that fits my new Grammercy Holdfast perfectly. You can see the giant holdfast hole that came with this bench to the left.


The test is snug and the bored is secured very well. But there’s one more thing I forgot.

Upper Cut Woodworks Grammercy Holdfast Fits in Bench Perfectly

All the Cool Holdfasts are Wearing Leather

To reduce the amount of damage the holdfast will do to my pieces, I glued a piece of suede on the face of each. Here’s how I did that.

First, I gathered my supplies. Scrap suede and some Gorilla Glue clear. This isn’t the PVA wood glue they were exchanging at WIA, this is their clear glue that says it bonds metal, wood, and other materials.

Upper Cut Woodworks Suede and Gorilla Glue for Grammercy Holdfasts

I roughed up the face of the holdfast and applied the glue. I wetted the suede and applied it to the face, and then using a spring clamp and a scrap block I clamped these for about an hour. In the picture below, you can see the Gorilla Glue foaming out around the face of the holdfast.

Upper Cut Woodworks Suede Gorilla Glued and Clamped to Holdfasts

After the glue was dry and I removed the clamp, I trimmed the excess suede and hardened glue foam away from the face with an X-Acto knife.

Upper Cut Woodworks Suede Trimmed on Holdfasts After Gorilla Glue Dries

Holdfasts Are A Welcome Addition, Economical Addition to the Shop

I’ve only had these holdfasts installed for a week. I am really happy with how easy they are to install, how quickly I’ve adapted to them, and how well they work. Because they don’t get in the way like clamps, and are so fast to use with just a whack of a mallet, I find myself holding my work more. This decreases my frustration and increases my precision. I don’t know how I worked without holdfasts before, and why I didn’t buy these sooner. At $31.95 for a pair, these are cheaper and easier to use than other holdfasts, and much cheaper than the Veritas holdfast which is currently priced at $78.50. For more information on holdfasts, you might find this article at Popular Woodworking interesting.