Tag Archives: lie nielsen

Lie-Nielsen Seattle Hand Tool Flyer

Lie-Nielsen Seattle Hand Tool Event

I was pretty happy the other day when heading to my mail box and finding this little beauty

Lie-Nielsen Seattle Hand Tool Flyer

Lie-Nielsen Seattle Hand Tool Flyer

Lie-Nielsen is bringing their Hand Tool Event back to Seattle Central Community College’s Wood Construction Center and I’m going to go there. I was there last year and picked up a set of chisels and a small shoulder plane. This year I think I’ll upgrade to a Lie-Nielsen block plane, and a new wall calendar for my office.

First of all, it’s free. So why wouldn’t I go to see Deneb sharpen? They bring their full line of woodworking hand tools, tshirts, calendars, books, videos, and hand tool care accessories. Everything is setup for you to learn from the expert demonstrators and staff, try the tools yourself, and buy the tools at pretty good deals with no shipping costs. And they have a door prize giveaway so I might get something for free.

If you haven’t been to a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event, I recommend them. Click here to find one near you.

Practicing Hand Cut Dovetails for Woodworking in America

I know, it’s hard to believe, you haven’t seen a new post since spring. For the few of you that were concerned, thanks for your concern and encouragement, but I’m just fine. Things have just been very busy (in a good way) this summer. My wife and I purchased a vacation place in Crescent Bar and have enjoyed many family-focused weekends there in the sunshine. Our four-year old is becoming quite a swimmer, and I’ve been fishing the lakes nearby quite a lot. I expect that next summer will be a slow woodworking and blogging time for me as well. I do most of my work in the Fall, Winter, and Spring. Thank goodness my shop is well lit and heated.

The Hand Tool Olympics

If you haven’t heard of Woodworking in America, then you must be living under a rock. All the cool woodworking kids are going and we’ll be participating in the Hand Tool Olympics either as teams or individuals. I don’t think we have it figured out yet – we’re slackers that way. There are six events:

  1. One Meter Dash: rip a 1” x 12” x 36” using a hand saw.
  2. Shooting Sports: use a jointer plane to square the edge from the One Meter Dash.
  3. Crosscut Extravaganza: crosscut that same board with a hand saw.
  4. Brace Yourself for a hole in One: bore a 3/4” hole in a plank straight and square to the surface.
  5. Pins First or Tails First: hand cut dovetails.
  6. Greco-Roman Tenons: cut a 3” long 3/4” inch thick tenon on the end of a 2” x 4”

The Dovetail Rules

I’m practicing my hand cut dovetails first, so I went straight to Mike Siemsen from the Society of American Period Furniture Makers and the School of Wood to get the details.

  1. Materials: 3/4” x 3” pine
  2. Tools: 1/2” chisel, mallet, layout gauge, dovetail saw, pencil or marking knife, coping saw, marking gauge, and square
  3. Objective: 2 full tails, 1 full pin, 2 half pins or 2 full pins, 1 full tail, 2 half tails

The tools I’m using and a test joint in some hemlock.

The tools I’m using and a test joint in some hemlock.

Stock Preparation

I had a lot of 3/4” pine on my lumber rack, so I milled it down today and prepared some test pieces. It’s not 3/4” thick per Olympic rules, but it’s fine for practice and I don’t expect any sanctions.

8” long, 3” wide, 9/16” thick pine boards ready to be hacked up and then burned unless they look good.

8” long, 3” wide, 9/16” thick pine boards ready to be hacked up and then burned unless they look good.

Rhythm and Quality

Today while cutting dovetails I had my little girl in the shop. It is very nice to have your kids in the shop with you during hand work. There is no noise, and you can carry on a conversation while you work. She’s only four, but really enjoys the time in there with me. Anyway, today I was working on developing a repeatable rhythm for quickly cutting dovetails. Here’s the steps I went through.

Tails first

  1. Mark the inside face and bottom edge of both boards
  2. Using the marking gauge set to the thickness of the stock, scratch a mark along both ends and faces of the tail board and both faces of the pin board
  3. By eye, mark the half pins on the tail board
  4. With the small square, find the center of the tail board, and mark the center pin (it’s about 1/2” wide)
  5. With the layout gauge, mark the tails on the face of the board
  6. Tilt the board in the vise to cut the left side of the tails, tilt it the other way to cut the right side
  7. Using a coping saw, remove the center pin as close to the line as possible
  8. Put the board in the vise right side down, remove the half pin
  9. Put the board in the vise left side down, remove the half pin
  10. I’m now done cutting the tails; clean up all cuts with the chisel

Pins next

  1. Put the pin board in the vise. Orient the boards so that the inside faces and bottom edges are correct, and the edges are flush.
  2. Trace the edges of the tails onto the pin board.
  3. Cut the tails away on the pin board, leaving the pencil line.
  4. Using a coping saw, remove the tails as close to the line as possible
  5. I’m now done cutting the pins; clean up all cuts with a chisel

Test the joint

Assemble the joint with the inside faces and bottom edges correctly oriented. After three practice joints today, you should get something as good or better than this.

My four year-old Hayden with dovetail joint #3.

My four year-old Hayden with dovetail joint #3.

Key Takeaways

This is the “what I learned today” section.

  1. Handwork is quieter and therefore lends itself to having your kids in the shop with you. Hayden is building a playground for her dolls with the offcuts.
  2. Handcut dovetails are not that hard. A little practice goes a long way.
  3. The coping saw may be the unsung hero of the dovetail. The better you are with the coping saw, the less chiseling you’ll need to do. I’ll be picking up a nice one at WIA this year.
  4. Hold-downs for chisel clean up are key. Too bad I don’t have a hold-down for my Sjoberg’s bench. If anyone can point me to a hold down that will work, I’d appreciate it.

More Information

Shannon Rogers, the Renaissance Woodworker, just posted an interview with Mike Siemsen the originator of the Hand Tool Olympics. He also has some great videos about the events and a Hand Tool School.

Next Steps

I’m going to watch some of Shannon’s videos and other woodworking videos to refine my technique and improve my time. Today I didn’t actually time myself because Hayden was in the shop but I will do that when I am practicing in the shop alone. It felt great to get some shop time today, and I’m glad I’ve been able to keep up (for the most part) with everyone on twitter. See you all at Woodworking in America!

Out-takes from the Upper Cut Woodworks feature on Tom’s Workbench

Recently I had the honor of being featured on Tom Iovino’s blog, Tom’s Workbench. Tom and I had a great conversation and I thought I’d share some outtakes.

Q: Did you ever take shop class?

I did take a wood shop class in Junior High, but I had forgotten about it until you asked. I don’t remember one thing from that class. I never took shop class in high school because the shop teacher was also my wrestling coach and I figured that I had enough of him at wrestling practice. If you met him, you’d agree.

Q: What was your first “real” woodworking project?

I built my first “real” woodworking project when I was young, married, broke, and in college. Our bathroom was small and had no storage, so I built a little over john cabinet. My father-in-law at the time was good with tools and built all the fixtures and furniture for his wife’s retail flower shop. He let me use the tools in his garage including his old table saw. The cabinet was built of pine with two shelves, a towel bar, and a little cupboard for storage. When I graduated and moved out I sold it to the next family that moved in.

Q: What is your shop like?

My shop is in our three car garage here at the house. I share the space with my wife’s car and some household storage, so I get a section that is about 25’ x 20’. I’m lucky that there are no posts so the space is wide open with two big windows for natural light. I bought this house new and when I moved in I had the walls insulated & painted, the floors epoxied, lots of lighting and outlets installed, and a little gas stove installed for heat. I take most of my time off from my real job in the winter, so it’s great to have a warm and well-lit shop to work in. I’ll spend time this winter working on a shop redesign to utilize the space better. I’ve been thinking a lot about the flow of work, materials, and projects in the shop. I’d like to have an efficient setup that allows me to work on multiple projects. I’m getting ankle surgery this winter to repair a tendon split and remove a bone spur so that might slow me down a bit.

Q: What’s in your power tool collection?

Here’s my power-tool list, I’m getting ready to do some upgrades especially for the jointer and planer:

Q: What’s in your hand tool collection?

My first important acquisition for hand tool use was my big Sjoberg’s Workbench that I’ve had for ten years. I also have some quality hand tools from Veritas and Lie-Nielsen and some great old Stanley Everlasting chisels that I got at this year’s Woodworking in America conference. They have been a joy to use and are accurate and fast. Here’s some of the hand tools I use most often.

  • Lie-Nielsen progressive pitch dovetail saw
  • Lie-Nielsen crosscut saw
  • Old Stanley planes that are in various states of being restored
  • New Stanley Sweetheart #4
  • New Stanley Sweetheart block plane
  • Veritas router plane
  • Stanley Everlasting chisels
  • Tommy MacDonald marking gauge, mallet
  • Starrett comination square

What do you hope your readers get from your blog?

When I think about my readers, I put them into different buckets and have different goals for each:

I hope woodworkers are inspired to start their own business & blog, find some of the information they need to be successful, and spend more time in the shop trying new things. Many woodworkers have great build skills, but don’t know where to start when starting a business: S-Corp, LLC, or Sole Proprietorship? How do I get a bank account? How do I get discounts on materials? How do I keep the tax man off my back? How do I define and build a brand and what does that even mean? What is the deal with Quickbooks?

Potential Customers
I want potential customers to understand all the advantages of working with small woodworking shops: co-designing their piece; custom dimensions; selecting the materials, finishes, fixtures, and hardware; the quality and safety of the materials and finishes; the ability to make changes during the build; watching the build as it progresses; and even visiting the shop. I would like to see families buy furniture from skilled local woodworkers. I think that’s better for the economy and environment, and those families will get better products as well. And after they understand all of those advantages, I want their business!

Current Customers
Current customers get to watch the progress of their projects with blog updates. I’m only posting text and pictures, but in the future I’ll likely add video. They are participating in the design and watching the work progress from material selection to finishing, they are already writing the story about their future heirloom. All of this adds value to the piece and the customer relationship, and I want the customer relationship to be ongoing and span many years and many projects.

My next target customer is tool and accessory manufacturers. I have a lot of experience building software projects and thinking through user scenarios. Almost every tool I use – cheap or expensive – could be improved. Instead of getting into the tool review business, I’d like to partner with manufacturers to refine their tools before they take them to market. There are so many tools that could really go from good to great with just a little bit more refinement. I can list some examples if you’d like.

Q: Now that you are a member of the online woodworking blogger community, how has that affected the way you work?  Do you find yourself building projects or doing techniques specifically for the web?

I haven’t built or bought anything just for the blog yet. I try to only build projects for myself or for customers, and I try to buy materials, supplies, or tools only when I need them for a project. That’s new for me, in the past I would by the popular tools even if I didn’t need them. I’ve been slowly selling off or giving away that stuff. My biscuit jointer is next to go.

The business and website have affected the way I work in some small ways. Because I want to produce content for the web on a fairly regular schedule, I need to set aside shop time every week and also set aside time to update the blog. Sunday night has been shop night for me and I often post later that night. Blogging has also affected how clean and organized I keep my shop. You can’t take pictures or have customers in the shop if it’s messy. I’ve always struggled with keeping the shop clean, and I can hear my Grandpa in my ear telling me to clean up, so I’m glad that blogging helps me put things away.

I do have a reader that has asked me to explain how I build and use my router sled, so I will blog more about that. I’ll build a new router sled to document the process, and I might shoot video as well. All those guys buying straight bit sets of various sizes, including those sized for plywood, are wasting their money. You can create perfect dadoes of any size with just one router bit.

Q: What do you enjoy most about woodworking?

I believe that we’re intended to work hard and enjoy it. But work can get frustrating when you don’t feel like you’re making progress. So I break the work up into steps and work through them. I build software all week, and you can’t hold that in your hand, see it, or smell it, so I really enjoy how woodworking feeds my senses. When the work is flowing smoothly and you’re making progress, nothing feels better. It’s pretty cool to see a pile of rough lumber turn into a beautiful table or chest of drawers. Someday I want to start from a tree.

Q: What do you enjoy the least about woodworking?

I used to hate finishing. It involved too much sanding, filling screw or nail holes, putty & wood filler, blotchy stain, and bubbly or brushmarked top coats. I hated it so much I had to change things up, and that meant either hiring someone to do the finishing work or figuring out how to do it well without all the frustration. So I’ve changed the way I work, with better woods, better techniques (so fewer screw holes and no putty), and a finishing process that works for me. Marc Spagnuolo’s blog and podcasts were really helpful, and now I really enjoy that last step.

So now the part I hate is what I call the Woodworker’s Squaredance. When you have a smaller shop and share it with a car and family storage, and you combine that with a suboptimal setup, you are forced to do the dance. In Computer Science we call this switching cost. It’s the time you spend not doing work, but changing context by moving tools, materials, or the project around. It slows down the work, interrupts the flow, and can lead to mistakes, compromises, and potentially unsafe situations. When I can’t get into the flow, I stop and do something else

Q: What does the future hold for you, Matt?

The immediate future is about refinement – taking small deliberate steps to improve the business, the blog, my shop, and my work. I attended Woodworking in America this year for the first time and loved it. I want to connect more with my craft and understand the history including the tools and historical figures. I want to contribute more to the growing woodworker community. And I want to explore more styles and designs and begin to develop my own style and signature design elements. I’ll be experimenting with new and more unusual materials like Kirei board and I’d also like to try some reclaimed woods, high end woods like those from Artisan lumber, and veneers. Neil Lamens has posted great videos about veneering and now I’m really inspired to look into it. Although I don’t think I’ll be using MDF as a substrate – I hate that stuff.

I am a bit worried about the CPSIA and the impact it could have on small shops. I’ve signed the Handmade Toy Alliance petition and joined up as a member. I hope the laws can be improved to keep customers safe without smothering small business. I don’t want the CPSIA to be expanded and push small shops out of business. We need a woodworker in Congress.

When my skills are ready and I can dedicate the time, I’d love to take on some larger and more detailed pieces. Tommy MacDonald has done some amazing reproductions, and I really like the way he works. I’m interested in the Federal and Prairie styles, they are totally different, but both are very American and very cool. I was introduced to Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie style while working on my first project at Microsoft (a multimedia CD-ROM title called The Ultimate Frank Lloyd Wright). Eventually I’ll develop my own style, but for me that begins with exploring other styles and trying things out.