Woodwork Tools Blog

Aug

29

Woodworking Ideas – Simple Hammer Tip


Picture by Kyle May

Sometimes the simplest woodworking ideas can make a huge difference when trying to get the best out of your woodwork tools, so I thought I would share a simple tip that was passed on to me when I was replacing the decking timber on my deck.

As the deck is exposed to the elements, I was using galvanized nails to secure the boards. After driving a number of nails, I found that often as I was hitting the nail, the hammer was starting to slide off the top (to be honest, I didn’t really pick up on the fact that this was happening until I switched to a different hammer, and found it a lot easier to drive the nails. Up until then, I was starting to question my ability, skills and all round co-ordination).

Fortunately, I was talking about this strange phenomenon with a friend of mine who is in the building trade, and he managed to set my mind at ease. Apparently it was not at all related to my skills with a hammer. It seems that when you are using galvanized nails, each time you hit the nail, a small amount of the gal will build up on the face of the hammer. This makes the head of the hammer more likely to slide off the head of the nail as you are driving it in.

Luckily for me, the solution is extremely simple. If you are working with galvanized nails, keep a brick or a piece of coarse sand paper next to you (or some other coarse material). If the gal builds up on the face of the hammer, simply give the hammer a few rubs over the brick, and it will clean the buildup off the face of the hammer, ensuring you can drive your nails home just like a professional!

It is little woodworking ideas like this that are only gained from experience, but they can really set the experienced apart from the beginner. One day, this little tip may come in handy when using your woodwork tools, so file this away in your list of tips and woodworking ideas!!

Jul

29

Woodwork Tools – The Hold Down Clamp

One of the issues that you are sure to run into as you tread down the path of a woodworker is how to hold your workpiece safe and secure while you attack it with your woodwork tools. Clamps are typically not something that jumps to mind when most people think about woodwork tools, and yet some sort of clamping device is required almost every time you pick up a chisel, a woodworking plane or a saw. There are a ton of different clamping devices available, many of which are quite common-place that we are all quite familiar with.

Recently, however, I stumbled across a clamping device that I hadn’t seen before, so I thought I would mention it here, as it seems like such a handy device which is very quick and easy to use.

The “hold down clamp” (also called a “holdfast” or “Hold downs”) is a very simple looking device, and yet is surprisingly effective. The hold down clamp is basically a piece of metal, with a straight stem, and a curved “foot”. The stem provides the holding power on the bench, and the “foot” pushes down on your workpiece, holding it in place. In order to use the hold down clamp, you will need to pre-drill some holes in your bench top – the hole should match the diameter of the stem of the hold down clamp very closely, so that it is a snug fit.

Once the holes are drilled, it is a very simple matter to use the hold down clamp. Simply place the stem into the hole in the bench top, place the curved “foot” of the hold down clamp onto the top of your workpiece (make sure you protect your workpiece by placing a piece of scrap timber between the workpiece and the foot of the hold down clamp). Once the hold down clamp is positioned correctly, take your mallet, and give it a couple of solid taps on the top. This will apply pressure to your workpiece, holding it to the bench, and the friction between the stem of the hold down clamp and the hole it is sitting in will ensure it doesn’t move.

To loosen the hold down clamp, simply tap it with your mallet again, but this time on the side of the stem. This will free the stem from the hole, and the workpiece will be released.

Hold down clamps are generally most effective when used in pairs, and they do come in different sizes.

So if you’ve ever found yourself battling with clamps to hold down your work piece, pick yourself up a pair of hold down clamps – it will transform the way you work!

There are several other types of hold down clamp available, but none seem as simple as this tried and tested method.

Jul

12

Woodworking Safety and Your Woodwork Tools

I was reminded recently of the dangers involved with the use of any woodwork tools, and that safety is not just something for power tools!
 

In the process of moving house, I was carrying out some last minute repairs, without the benefit of my workbench and woodworking vise, which had already been moved. It was only a small job I had to do which required me to cut an unusual shape out of a small piece of timber, so I pulled out a trusty old coping saw and got stuck in. Unfortunately, as I was just starting a stroke with the saw, the workpiece broke, and instead of my saw stroke cutting smoothly through the piece of timber, I managed to cut about 1/3 of an inch directly into the end of my thumb!

In hindsight, it is clear that there were a couple of things about what I did that pretty much guaranteed that the outcome of this work wasn’t going to be as I had planned.

The first issue was that I was in a hurry, and trying to rush through a job is a surefire way to have an accident, or at least to end up with work that is of substandard quality. The old saying “More haste, less speed” definitely rang true in this case – what should have been a 5 minute job, ended up costing me several hours. It wasn’t just the trip to the doctor to ensure I wasn’t going to die a horrible death, but also the time lost as I found myself hampered by my injured thumb.

Clearly my biggest mistake however, was attempting to work with a small piece of timber that wasn’t properly secured. As a result of the piece not being secured, it was necessary for me to use one hand to hold it, making it almost inevitable that at some stage my hand would be in the wrong place if the blade slipped for any reason.

All in all, I consider myself to be quite lucky to have just ended up with a small scar, and a slight loss of sensation in the end of my thumb. There are too many woodworkers around that have a missing finger, or part of a finger – and I’m sure that most of them would admit that they ended up that way as a result of similar factors to my minor accident.

So next time you pick up your woodwork tools, make sure you have a good think about what you’re about to do, and always make safety your highest priority!

Mar

31

Woodwork Tools – The Arbortech Mini-Grinder Power Carver

After being given a couple of burls by a friend, I was looking around for the quickest way to hollow them out to turn them into bowls, and stumbled across this very cool woodwork tool – the Arbortech Mini Grinder. This is probably one of the coolest woodworking power tools that I have seen.
You can check out the product specs and videos of it in use at http://arbortech.com.au/view/woodworking-information/mini-grinder_20070202100615 (while you’re there, make sure you check out the air board – another very cool looking (although slightly impractical) device from these guys – a bit of a strange mix of products though!). There are also a few wood carving patterns available on their site, so have a look around if you are interested in some free wood carving patterns.
 
One of the reviews on Amazon says that it is cheaper over at Bailey’s but I had a look around, and Amazon seemed to have the best price that I could find (at the time of writing), so the review may be out of date. Note that almost all of the places that I found that mentioned this tool gave it a great review, and most also suggested buying the “Mini Carbide Cutter” blade as well, as it was so much more effective for finer detail work. Sounds like it would be great if you are into chainsaw carving for cleaning up those rough edges.
 
Unfortunately, it is probably not the sort of thing that you would buy just to carve a couple of burls, but for serious wood carvers, it looks like an ideal power tool for finer carving work.
 

I am still trying to find enough uses for it so that I can justify purchasing it – let me know if you come up with any uses for this tool that aren’t immediately obvious!

Mar

23

Welcome the Wood Scraper, Card Scraper or Cabinet Scraper to my Woodwork Tools

So, about 8 months after the birth of my 4th daughter, I have finally managed to get back to my workbench, and spend some of my precious time with my woodwork tools again.

My first attempt at building a stitch and glue kayak (based on the plans in this excellent book, also worth checking out the new edition), although successful (in that I got a boat that actually floated), clearly demonstrated the fact that I have absolutely no experience (or natural skill) in working with fibreglass and epoxy resin. As a result of a number of amateur mistakes, and a general lack of knowledge on how to work with epoxy, I ended up with a boat that I was forced to christen “Old Dribbles”, due to the large number of runs of epoxy that highlight the finish.

I decided it really was time that I cleaned these up, and so I started into it with a few sheets of sandpaper and a sanding block. This didn’t last long…Sanding has never been my favourite pastime and sanding epoxy seemed to amplify my dislike for it, so I started thinking of other ways to attack it. I had tried using my block plane in the past, with some success, but I thought this might be a good opportunity to try out a wood scraper (also sometimes called a card scraper, or a cabinet scraper). The wood scraper is a tool that I have always shied away from, as the process for sharpening seems so laborious and precise.

I happened to have an offcut of stainless steel lying around which already appeared (to an amateur card scraper user such as myself) to have the desirable qualities of a card scraper – the metal is quite hard, and it even already had a bit of a burr which must have been put there when it was guillotined. Not having any idea of how to sharpen it properly, I thought I would give it a go as it was. I must say, I was very impressed. The small burr on the edge of the card scraper was quite efficient at removing the excess epoxy, and yet it still removed small enough quantities that I didn’t feel there was any danger of cutting too deeply into the epoxy, or through the epoxy to the wood.

After my initial success using the card scraper on epoxy, I turned it to another of my least favourite tasks – removing paint from recycled timber. Again, I was very impressed with how effective the scraper was at removing a fine layer such as paint.

After a while experimenting with the card scraper, I could tell that it was losing its edge, and so I turned to my old friend google to get some information on how to sharpen it.

There are any number of sites that will show you how to sharpen a card scraper, and the process can seem quite daunting to a new user, indeed, as I mentioned before, the process of sharpening a card scraper is one of the reasons that I have shied away from using a card scraper in the past.

After checking out this site: http://woodgears.ca/scraper/index.html, I was feeling the same apprehension as I had previously, particularly as it reminded me that I didn’t have a burnishing tool to sharpen my card scraper.

I then stumbled across this site: http://woodtube.ning.com/video/the-easy-way-to-sharpen-a-card which has an excellent video on the rough and ready way to sharpen a card scraper. The method described in this video will not suit everyone, but it was perfect for what I was looking to use the card scraper for at the time, and is so quick and easy that it should be enough to convert anyone who has been hesitant to try a card scraper because they weren’t confident they could sharpen it.

Following my experimentation, I would highly recommend that everyone have a go at using a card scraper – particularly if, like me, you don’t particularly enjoy sanding. Whilst I am still in the beginning stages of appreciation for the card scraper, the results were so impressive that I am already planning on investing more time in this tool so that I can get beyond the rough and ready method of sharpening, and get to the point where I am confident with sharpening it in the traditional method.

Look out for me down at the tool store – you’ll find me checking out burnishing tools…

Jun

16

The Jointer Plane or Trying Plane


The jointer plane (also commonly called the try or trying plane) is a woodworking tool designed for planing long edges square, straight and true. “Jointing” is the term used to describe this process, as it is generally done to prepare a board to be joined to another board, so that a single, wider board is created.

As the aim of the jointer is to create, long, flat edges, so the sole of the jointer plane is flat and long – very long! Jointer planes typically have a sole that is from 18in right up to 36in long – quite a hefty looking tool!

While some other planes (such as the jack plane, and even the smoothing plane) may have their blades honed to a slight arch, or the corners rounded, the blade on the jointer would typically be ground square. This ensures that the edges of the boards being jointed have the best chance of being square, ensuring an even, tight fitting join.

When using a jointer on the edge of a board, initially the shavings will probably be quite short, as the long sole of the plane ensures that the blade will only hit the high spots on the edge. As these high spots are lowered, the shavings will become longer and longer, until you get a straight edge, which will give you a shaving the entire length of the board.

The No.8 is a typical metal-bodied jointer, such as this example by Anant however many people do love the traditional wooden-bodied jointer, such as this superb looking wooden bodied jointer. There aren’t many woodworkers around who wouldn’t love to have a beautiful tool like this in their workshop – to me woodwork tools such as this are almost a piece of art – but are better than just art, as are also fully functioning woodworking tools.

The Jack Plane
The Smoothing Plane
The Block Plane
The Block Plane – My latest woodworking tool
Woodworking Tools – The Scrub Plane

PS. Are you SICK OF FIGHTING with your hand planes?
If you feel your hand plane should be giving you a little more joy, make sure you check out “The Handplane Book” – everything you need to know to start getting the most out of your hand planes.
Click here to solve your handplane problems today!

May

28

Woodworking Tools – The Scrub Plane

In these times of pre-prepared timber and power thicknessers/planers, the scrub plane is one of the woodworking tools that you don’t see as often as other planes. Scrub planes do still come in handy in a number of situations such as (in my case) when you don’t have a thicknesser, or your board is too wide to fit through your thicknesser, or if you want to quickly bring a piece of timber down to the correct width, but without rip-sawing it. Scrub planes can also be used to give an interesting texture to finished pieces, and of course some people just prefer to use hand woodworking tools instead of power woodworking tools, so it is unlikely that the scrub plane will ever completely disappear from use. The purpose of the scrub plane is to remove large volumes of timber quickly, and so the blade on a typical scrub plane is reasonably narrow, with the blade ground to a distinct curve, of 3-4 inches in radius. This allows the blade to make a deeper, gouging cut – the sort of cut that you generally try to avoid with all of your other planes! At around 9.5-10.5 inches, the sole of the plane is also quite short. When working with the scrub plane, work diagonally across the grain, first in one direction, then in the other, as this will assist in getting the board down to a regular thicknes. In past days, the scrub plane would have been the first plane used when starting to dress a piece of timber. Once the timber was roughed out by the scrub plane and the correct size achieved, the craftsman would then have moved to the jack plane, the jointer plane, and finally the smoothing plane – taking the workpiece from a rough-sawn piece of timber down to a dressed timber ready to be crafted into a fine piece of furniture. Whilst not one of the woodwork tools that most people see as a necessity in the toolbox, the scrub plane still has many uses, and you will find yourself reaching for it on occasion. Second hand scrub planes are not found in the abundance of other woodworking tools such as the jack plane or the smoothing plane, however there are generally a few available at any one time on ebay. If looking for a new scrub plane, take a look at the ones over here Scrub Planes to get an indication of the sort of prices that can be paid.

Looking for more information on hand planes? Check out my other entries:
The Smoothing Plane
The Jack Plane
The Block Plane
The Block Plane – My latest woodworking tool
The Jointer Plane or Trying Plane

May

20

The Block Plane


The smallest of the planes commonly found amongst woodworking tools, the block plane is normally only about 5-6 inches long, and is designed to fit comfortably in one hand. Originally designed for trimming end grain, the block plane is a versatile woodwork tool that you will find many uses for.
As I have mentioned in a previous entry, there is something very special about using a block plane that makes it feel like an extension of your body rather than a separate entity.

The block plane is different from other planes in a number of ways. Other than the most obvious size difference, it is the orientation of the blade that really sets it apart. The blade in the block plane is reversed so that the bevel of the iron is facing up, rather than bevel-down as is the case with bench planes such as the Jack or Smoothing planes. The blade in a block plane is also set at a lower angle than bench planes, generally about 20 degrees, however you can also get low-angle block planes, with an angle of around 12 degrees. The lower angle blades are great for working with difficult grain or very hard wood.

Block planes can be pushed or pulled, and are often used in a shearing style cut – the plane is rotated at an angle to the direction of travel. This allows the fibres to be cut in a shearing motion along the length of the cutting edge – perfect for that difficult end grain.

There are many different block planes on the market, and most will do a reasonable job provided that they are well tuned. When looking to purchase, the one feature I would recommend getting is a screw depth adjustment, as it is much easier to control the depth of cut, particularly for a beginner. The block plane that I own does not have a screw depth adjustment, and it is a feature that I really wish that I had looked for, as I did have a little difficulty getting the blade depth adjusted to my satisfaction, particularly initially.

The block plane is defiinitely one of my favourite tools, and whilst it wouldn’t be the first plane that I would buy (that would be a Jack or Smoothing plane), it would definitely be the second. Check out ebay for second hand block planes, there are plenty around, and you should be able to pick up one for a reasonable price.

If you prefer to buy new, you will find that Stanley still make good tools for their price such as the 12-220 or the 12-960 low angle block plane. At the top of the line are absolutely beautiful tools such as the Lie-Nielsen low angle block plane. I always recommend investing in the the best tool you can afford, and the Lie-Nielsen would certainly be a tool that would take its place proudly amongst your woodworking tools!

Other entries that may be of interest to you:
The Jack Plane
The Jointer Plane or Trying Plane
The Smoothing Plane
The Block Plane – My latest woodworking tool
Woodworking Tools – The Scrub Plane

May

6

The Smoothing Plane

The smoothing plane is generally slightly smaller in length than the Jack Plane – typically 9-10inches long, with a blade width of around 2 inches, and is the last plane to be used to finish the surface of your wood. Many fine craftsmen will use the smoothing plane as the tool which gives the final finish on their job – with this woodwork tool finely tuned and wielded by experienced hands, it really isn’t necessary to sand or scrape to obtain a professional, high quality finish. Indeed, some people use such a fine cut on their final pass with their smoothing plane that it is more of a polish than a cut!

There is some contention over whether the blade of the smoothing plane should be honed square, or whether the corners should be slightly rounded to prevent them from digging in. In general, considering that the purpose of the smoothing plane is to smooth, I would suggest that you grind your iron square, and only if you find that you are ending up with scratches or ridges in your piece, that you then try rounding the corners.

Rounded corners or square, the key to success with a smoothing plane is to ensure that the cutting edge is perfectly parallel to the mouth of the plane, and also ensure that the depth of the blade is set to the finest of cuts. A tip that may help you to determine if your blade is not square to the mouth is to look at how the shavings are coming out. If the blade is not square to the mouth of the plane, the shavings will often skew out to one side, rather than come straight up.

As with most woodworking tools, there is a large range in the price you can pay for a smoothing plane. You can get a reasonable smoothing plane such as a Stanley No. 4 for around $50.

Again, if you are looking for a top of the line model, it would be difficult to find a better tool than either the Lie-Nielsen No.4.

Check out related entries:
The Jack Plane
The Jointer Plane or Trying Plane
The Block Plane
The Block Plane – My latest woodworking tool
Woodworking Tools – The Scrub Plane
The Block Plane

PS. Are you SICK OF FIGHTING with your hand planes?
If you feel your hand plane should be giving you a little more joy, make sure you check out “The Handplane Book” – everything you need to know to start getting the most out of your hand planes.
Click here to solve your handplane problems today!

Apr

29

The Jack Plane

This is the first of a series of very brief entries in which I intend to cover some of the different types of my favourite woodwork tools – hand planes. I thought I would start with one of the most common – the Jack Plane.

The Jack plane is probably the most used of the bench planes, and is generally one of the first woodworking tools that will be added to the toolbox.

The purpose of the Jack Plane is to quickly remove a large amount of wood, such as taking off the rough-sawn outside of a plank. For this reason, it is common for the the blade on a Jack Plane to be honed to a slightly rounded shape. This allows the depth of the blade to be set quite deep, whilst still allowing the blade to move through the timber with less force than would be required with a square blade. Despite the rounding of the blade being ever so slight, it is amazing what a difference this makes.

It seems that the name “Jack plane” comes from the term “Jack-of-all-trades”, no doubt in reference to the fact that many people use it to carry out the work of the try plane and the bench plane.

Jack planes are generally about 14-15 inches long with a 2 inch (50mm) wide blade, although some do have a 2 3/8 inch (60mm) cutting iron.

The Stanley No. 5 Jack Plane is a typical example of a jack plane, and a reasonable plane for a reasonable amount of money. You can check it out by clicking here.

If you are looking for a top of the line plane, as usual, the team at Lie-Nielsen have you covered with the Lie-Nielsen low angle jack plane – possibly a bit pricey if you are starting out, but as with most tool purchases, you definitely get what you pay for.

Interested in hand planes? You may also like enjoy reading these entries:

The Jointer Plane or Trying Plane
The Smoothing Plane
The Block Plane
The Block Plane – My latest woodworking tool
Woodworking Tools – The Scrub Plane

PS. Are you SICK OF FIGHTING with your hand planes?
If you feel your hand plane should be giving you a little more joy, make sure you check out “The Handplane Book” – everything you need to know to start getting the most out of your hand planes.
Click here to solve your handplane problems today!