Tuesday, June 16, 2015

JP in the Shop, Kids in the Shop and What I Learned

Most would probably think after an event like Handworks is over you go home and everything settles down and goes back to normal, or  some semblance of normal. 

Not so. When you return you await the return shipments of everything that went to the event and then you have to re-distribute the items that returned. Some of the tools I showed at Handworks belonged to prior customers and I had to schedule to return those items and some items that were finished just in time for the event were tools that were  ordered by newer customers and those needed to be refreshed and forwarded to their new owners. 

Long story short, another week of returning, refreshing and shipping and then finally I could turn my attention back to the next items in my schedule. 
Last week my schedule was pre-empted due to a visit by my daughter and the two Paglia boys from Brooklyn.

Between daily excursions to playgrounds and our neighbor's swimming pool, Everett (aka Jimmy Pete), the oldest of the two, joined me in the shop to complete a project we had planned.

Rough cutting boards to length

Everett is still too young to possess enough muscle mass to control a full size carpentry type saw, however if I put my hands over his hands on the saw he still was able to experience the action of sawing and it enhanced the overall experience for him.

Learning to saw a bit closer to the line

Although JP was learning from his first experiences of working in the shop I learned a great deal as well. I knew initially that the scope of the project needed to be simple and if we surpassed his attention span we could always finish the project another day. 

Cleaning up the saw marks from the bevel surfaces of the seat stretchers

Fortunately kids are naturally a bit intimidated by machines and that's a good thing because they embrace hand tools as a result. Hand tools are quiet and much less imposing. They can still hurt themselves with hand tools but typically only in a minor way. Use common sense here. A plane is much less dangerous in the hand than a sharp chisel.

As you can see in the picture above at some point your fledgling woodworker may become more interested in being creative with the off cuts. Let Them. It gives them an attention span break from the project. As you progress to more interesting parts of the build their attention will come back to the project.

If your child woodworker is having fun and feels comfortable in the shop his sense of humor will soon emerge. See pic above.

Make certain the project includes task they can accomplish themselves. They enjoy it and it gives them a sense of ownership in the project. 5 year olds can get away with working in the shop in their shark print pj's. Adults, not so much.

At some point in the process Everett (JP) grabbed a board, a pencil and started marking lines onto the board. He asked me to cut the marked out parts from the board on the bandsaw. I didn't question him I just did it. He then marked a few more lines on the board and asked me to cut them as well. When I handed it back to him he pronounced that it was a pretend plane and he walked over to the board in the vise and proceeded to make a planing motion across the board. Give them a chance and their imagination will lead to creativity.

The Finished Project

 It's nice if the project is an object that can be used in a practical way by the participant. It lends credibility to the effort. I think this applies to the first project of a child or an adult.

If you're wondering why I sometimes refer to Everett as "Jimmy Pete"? All my grandchildren get a nickname and they seem to relish this idea. They have a name at home but when they come to Georgia they have a Georgia name. They enjoy this quirk and they also think I know the names of all the crows that frequent our yard. Please don't tell them differently. I'm trying hard to be the person they all think I am.


"I'm suspicious of people who don't like dogs, but I trust a dog when it doesn't like a person." - Bill Murray

Friday, May 22, 2015

Handworks is Done, What a Lot of Fun!

Handworks is now behind us and now Julie and I can get to the "after Handworks" list we started several months ago.

 I've had the pleasure of being associated with the Hand Tool community since around 2007. During this time I've met most of the people that made up the majority of the presenters that were present at Handworks this past weekend. I made their acquaintance at the first several Woodworking in America events, Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events in several locations across the country or the last Handworks event in 2013. They are a special and unique group of people.

One thing has changed over the years. The first couple of years most of the people that attended these events were on the average over 50 years of age. Someone younger than that was rare. Many of us wondered if there would be an end to this revival of hand tool woodworking and if it would slowly die with that generation. If you look at the picture above this paragraph you will see a very nice and well mannered "young" man. Brian Graham is part of what is so inspiring these days. The clientele at these events is becoming younger and younger and that bodes well for the future of hand tool woodworking.

Spending time with old friends is also what this event is about. The above picture includes myself and the namesake of a special version of my Winter Smoother. This gentleman in this picture is Willie Davis himself.  Willie and I jointly sponsored one of the door prizes awarded at the Handworks event. 

Sam DeSocio, (pictured with me below) was the winner of the Willie Davis Winter Smoother door prize. As you can see he is another young man that is a hand tool enthusiast. Sam is a Presbyterian minister from Pittsburgh, Pa. It was fun meeting him. Awarding him a plane I would love to own myself was in it's own way a very liberating and enjoyable experience.

The man you see in the picture below is not a bandito that showed on Saturday afternoon to way lay the exhibitors as they left with the proceeds of the two days of Handworks. In fact he is one of the most pleasant people I've had the opportunity to know. He also happens to be the father of Jameel and Father John Abraham. The two gentleman that organize Handworks. This is a giant task but they do it oh so well.

The cadillac pictured below is a whole other story. Next time you see Patrick Leach ask him about it.

Since my last posting Blues Lengend B.B. King has passed away. I guess "the thrill is gone" but that's the thing about music, it lives on.


"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Handworks Door Prizes

Many of the companies presenting at Handworks next weekend have contributed door prizes that will be awarded to individuals via a random drawing. There is some really great stuff being offered up for this part of the event. Makes we wish I was eligible. Maybe next time I'll try to register just to see if Jameel or Father John will catch it. Of course I guess if my name was selected as a winner it would be nixed pretty quickly. Oh well, guess not.

However if you registered then all you have left to do is show up to be eligible to win one of the many door prizes.

At the 2013 Handworks event Brese Plane contributed a small thumb plane. The winner was a young man named Aaron Moore. I really believe in the Handworks event and want to see it continue and thrive so this year I wanted to contribute a more substantial tool.

There is however a dilemma that faces a plane maker in this situation. One can easily spend 2 weeks of personal labor and shop time on a tool which makes it nearly impossible to consider giving that away. The nature of this work being that it's not like you can make it up in the last two weeks of the month. The processes required to produce tools with this kind of attention to detail require a certain amount of time spent and if you try to rush and perform these operations in less time......well the end result is different. I know most everyone that produces these type tools and none of them deals in "not exactly".

I was faced with this same dilemma and several weeks ago was pondering how I was going to pull this off with short time between then and my ship date and me really wanting  to offer this kind of tool. Enter Willie Davis. The plane I wanted to offer was a Willie Davis version Winter Smoother and when the plane's namesake heard of my dilemma he stepped in to resolve the issue. He became a benefactor and so at this Handworks the plane pictured in this blog post is the door prize that will be jointly sponsored by Brese Plane and Willie Davis, which many of you know as Bill Davis of Davis Tool and Die. Without his generosity this never could have happened.

Now all that has to happen is for everyone to make their way to Iowa and spend 2 days immersed in all things hand tool woodworking related. There are people traveling from around the globe to be present at Handworks and I'm looking forward to meeting new people and renewing acquaintances with people I've not have the pleasure of seeing for quite some time.

If you will be attending Handworks and are anticipating making some tool purchases then let me put your mind at ease as far as making the correct selections......the best tool makers in the world will be there......it's very much like the day my friend Charlie Levan was in my wood room selecting wood for the plane I was making for him. He turned to me and said, "you know, there are no bad choices here", it's the same way at Handworks.

See you in Iowa and good luck,


I've recently heard that Blues Legend B.B. King is in hospice care so in his honor my quotable quote for this post is a line from one of his songs,

"Nobody loves me but my mother, and she may be jiving me too",
                                                                                             B.B. King

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Apple Pie, a Tradition in Many Ways

I guess most of us have heard the phrase, "American as Baseball, hotdogs and apple pie", I guess that harks to several things considered traditional in the nation in which I reside.

I think tradition is a good thing. It's something you can depend on and in some instances it's the stuff that makes life worth the living.

I've developed a tradition with two very good friends. Steve Walls and Charlie Levan will take time once in a while to travel from their homes in Dallas, Georgia to Thomaston, Ga. for a visit to my shop. Steve and Charlie are customers but much more than that they're my friends.

Two things almost always occur when they visit. We have lunch at English's Cafe which has been in business since 1929 and sometimes if Julie happens to be off that day she will go into town and pick up food from there. Either way is fine with us, even though actually going to English's is it's own experience.

 After lunch we have apple pie that I will have made that morning while they were making their way south thru Atlanta and to my shop.  Dallas, Ga. is on the north side of Atlanta and so much so that I often jokingly tell them I think they actually live in southern Chattanooga, Tn.

We could actually eat lunch in several different places and that would be fine but the apple pie is a constant and there can be no deviation from the desert menu.

This visit usually occurs due to my need to borrow tools from them when I'm presenting at hand tool events and part of the deal is" tools for pie". This time around I'll be taking pie with me on my journey to return the tools after Handworks. I'm happy to do so because it creates another opportunity to visit with my friends and partake in the pie. It's a win, win for everybody as far as I can tell.

This past Friday morning as I was preparing the pie I thought it might be a good idea to publish a blog about the process and so I took many photos which I will post here with descriptions. The actual recipe will be offered in pieces in reference to a given photo so if you want the entire recipe you'll have to piece it together yourself but all the info will be included.

Put out your pie crust to thaw. If you're adept at making pie crust that would most probably enhance the pie, however in this instance I used a prepared crust (I usually do) and as long as you buy a quality product these work quite well.

 Peel your apples. There are 4 apples in this pie because these apples are quite good size, however if the selection of apples is smaller your may need 5. Granny Smith apples are the apples of choice for pie. There is a good reason for this selection. The texture is correct, they are naturally tart and therefore combine with the sugar content of the recipe for just the right flavor. I've made this pie with other type apples and it was disappointing. Apples that are naturally sweet make for a pie that is too sweet and the texture is all wrong. Take my advice. Stay with the Granny Smith apples.

Cut the apples into quarters

 Cut the core out using a paring knife.

Slice each piece into thin slices, 1/8" thick or thinner.

Then chop the slices into smaller pieces by cutting thru the other direction as shown, smaller pieces allow the dry ingredients to coat more surfaces of the apple pieces.

Measure and add the dry ingredients into a large bowl. The dry ingredients include, 1 cup of sugar, 2 heaping table spoons of all purpose or bread flour, a dash of salt, 1 tsp of apple pie spice and 1/4 tsp of cinnamon.

1 cup seems like a lot of sugar but this is a big pie. The dash of salt is an important ingredient, don't leave it out to reduce sodium. A dash of salt spread over this many pieces of pie is not much at all. You can make apple pie spice but it's easier to buy a premixed apple pie spice and it's just as good. The apple pie spice has some cinnamon but this recipe needs the additional 1/4 tsp of cinnamon.

Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly. It will look like the picture below when mixed.

Add the sliced and diced apples. You can mix the dry ingredients together before you start processing the apples and then add the apples pieces to the bowl as you process each quarter apple. This keeps them out of your way as you process the remaining pieces.

Put one crust into the pie pan and form it to the bottom of the dish making sure the perimeter of the crust overlaps the edge of the dish as shown below.

Thoroughly mix the apple pieces into the dry ingredients. As my mom used to say "you gotta get your hands in it!" Make sure you get all the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl thoroughly combined with the apples. Go ahead, "get your hands in it!"

Place the contents of the bowl into the bottom crust arranging it evenly. You can add some pats of butter as I've done here. This is optional and I picked this up from watching Paula Dean on TV. When asked about adding this much butter she replied, " I'm your cook not your nurse!" It is rather okay to lick your fingers after this part of the process. Your fingers will taste like the beginnings of a good apple pie. Then wash your hands and proceed to the next step.

Unroll the top crust over the filled pie dish and then cut the edges even with the dish with a paring knife. Rotate the dish while making a downward cutting action with the knife. Easy Peasy! Discard the excess pie crust.

Pinch the edges of the pie crust together using your fingers as shown below.

Then perforate the crust using the paring knife. Perforate straight across the center of the pie, then turn the pie 90 degrees and repeat. Then keep dividing the spaces left with perforations. It should look like the picture below. It's necessary to ventilate the pie with the perforations in order for the pie to cook properly and so the filling stays in the dish.

Place the pie on a cookie sheet. Adding some parchment paper under the pie makes clean up much easer. Cover the top with aluminum foil. Place in the over and cook on 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake until the crust is golden brown. I sometimes let the pie cook uncovered for as long as 20 minutes. If the crust is not brown enough after 20 minutes I turn on the convection fan for an additonal 6 minutes or until the crust is to my liking. Don't over brown the crust.

And here's your pie. If Steve and Charlie got wind of you making this pie they may be pulling into your driveway about now. Don't worry, you'll have a great time with those guys.

My recipe says this is "Ron's, My Oh My Apple Pie", now it can be your apple pie. Enjoy!

If you're wondering why I've been blogging about gardening and baking as of late, especially while I have some much going on with planes in the shop, it's because my thought process has been so consumed with plane making that my mind needs a break to think about other things. That and the fact that I really like apple pie.


"Keep it between the ditches"   
                                                 Red Green

Friday, May 1, 2015

Enjoy Your Spring

As hectic as things are at this time with preparations for Handworks, spring goes on and has been happening here for several weeks. Our daffodils and jonquils have long since past their prime and are regenerating their energy for next years early spring appearance. This morning as I looked out the window of the shop I noticed the morning light was illuminating the autumn ferns with their new fronds shining the reddish gold color that makes them such a delight this time of year.

The variegated Hostas pictured below looked fresh and vibrant this morning with the dew still on their leaves and the dappled morning light making them look well........illuminated. By August the hostas will look dreary and depleted and from the harsh summer heat. Better enjoy them now.

The oak leaf hydrangeas have grown exponentially and give us privacy while enjoying the swing under the pergola

More of the new emerging growth of the ferns,

These hydrangeas will sport blue blooms this summer and give us some cool color when we'll need it most.

Spring is a time of new life and revival. I remember helping my father plant azaleas in the edge of the woods behind my family home. I asked him why we were planting them there. He explained that when they matured and bloomed he and my mother would be able to see them when looking out the large glass door in their den. Later in my Dad's life we experience a harsh, hot, dry summer. The azaleas we planted years before persevered and the next spring the color of the azaleas in the edge of the woods was particularly vibrant against the green back drop of the trees. My Dad reveled in the beauty of the azaleas that spring. I'm glad he enjoyed them, it turned out to be his last spring.

I didn't really mean to make this post a melancholy experience but it does help make my point. You only get some many springs in your life, take the time to enjoy them.

On a recent doctors visit my physician suggested it might be time to do some blood work just to establish a base line for further checkups. When the nurse called to give me the results of my test she told me everything was good but I had two deficiencies and I needed to spend more time outdoors in the sun and I needed to include more dairy products in my diet. I replied, "this is all good news,  you're saying that I need to do more fishing and eat more ice cream", she laughed and said "I like your interpretation". I now have my doctor's permission to take time to enjoy spring........and ice cream.


"I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road."

Stephen Hawking

Monday, April 20, 2015

Handworks 2015, Coming Soon to a Barn in the Amana Colonies

I was watching the Masters Golf tournament and it occurred to me that like the Masters Golf tournament that features the best golfers from all over the world, Handworks will be drawing an international cast of tool makers and professional hand tool users from all parts of the globe as well. Thankfully Handworks is not a competition.

I've been busy making ready for this event and have several tools in process in my shop. I just hope the clock doesn't run out before I get them finished. I of course have to get them completed in time to ship them to the venue so it's not like I have up until the day before the event to get them finished. This shortens my time line considerably, however I won't let it stress me and I won't be rushed. There are some things about these tools that takes a certain amount of time to do properly and there are no short cuts. If you take shortcuts you get a different result, and I don't do "not exactly'. I will opt to show up with fewer tools in lieu of many that were rushed.

I'm not wired to accept less than my best work and that's typically the nature of the tool makers that will be showing their wares in Amana. Many of the businesses represented there blazed the trail of very fine hand tools and they set the bar pretty high. If you want to be among them you have to achieve that level of work, otherwise when your tools are in close proximity to theirs it shows up in stark contrast.

It almost makes me glad that Mr. Studley's work will be displayed at another venue in Cedar Rapids. I'm most interested in getting a glimpse of that legendary kit of tools housed in a finely fitted case. As a hand tool enthusiasts I don't think it gets any better than what will be happening in Iowa next month.

The above picture of Winter Smoother plane sides looks a bit like metal fish to me, hopefully soon they will all look like parts of completed planes.

Above: An assortment of rear totes in process. 2 Macassar ebony totes in the foreground, a Desert Ironwood tote and finally at the back one of Olive wood.

I've not been to a hand tool event of this magnitude since....well, the last Handworks in 2013. I'm looking forward to seeing many of the hand tool community that I've gotten to know over the years, since really about 2007. Tool makers and tool users alike. It should be a fun gathering of like minded people.

Hope to see you there,


Silence is sometimes the best answer. - Dalai Lama  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Yet Another Equipment Upgrade

I've been meaning to change to a more appropriate metal cutting bandsaw for quite some time now. The one I've been using is actually a horizontal bandsaw that I use in the vertical position. Frankly some of the processes I used it for were similar to driving a finishing nail with a sledge hammer. Now you know what I mean when using the above term "appropriate".

The problem was finding the correct replacement saw. I've know for some time that what I wanted was a very robust saw with a small throat dimension. There was a bandsaw made in Racine Wisconsin years ago that I thought would work but those saws are few and far between.

Assorted bandsaw parts and one rusty table

The other saws that I thought might meet the criteria were the Powermatic 141/143 bandsaws. The 141 is the woodworking version of this saw and the 143 is the wood/metal version of this saw. The difference being the 143 has a gear box for reducing the speed of the blade.

When you begin to look for one of these Powermatic saws it becomes immediately apparent that the 143 with the gear box is priced significantly higher than the 141 wood cutting saw. On average the difference in price was about $1000. Must be some kind of great gear box huh?

I finally resolved myself to look for a 141 saw with the idea of replacing the motor and drive system with a new C face motor that I would bolt up to a speed reducing gear box. These parts are available off the shelf and the drive transition wouldn't be very complicated.

Here's the saw as I received it from the prior owner
 I put an ad in the "Boyd" forum of the OWWM site stating that I wanted to buy a PM 141 bandsaw. I got a reply from a gentleman that stated he did not have a 141 but he did have a 143 he would be willing to sell. At first I thought I was right back where I started from until he told me the price for the 143. It was reasonable and quite fair and so I agreed to purchase his saw.

I organized all the parts into subassemblies and kept all the related parts together in boxes. As I dis-assembled the saw I also made a list of hardware I would need to re-assemble the saw. Upgrading the hardware on a machine restoration of this type is a sure fire way to enhance the overall look and quality of the machine when completed. I used button socket head screws with the black chrome finish applied the same way I finished the hardware on my PM 90 lathe.

The $1000 gearbox
  Most bandsaws of this size have a casting that consist of a the bottom drive area of the saw with an arm extending up and over the table. The entire back facade of these little Powermatic saws are one very robust webbed casting.

This saw first resided in the Bay area school system shop. This is the area around Panama City, Fla. I guess when the school closed down the shop all the machines were stored in a non climate controlled area. High humidity and salty air are not good for machines. I have no idea why every tool that comes from a school shop has been painted and for some reason the accessories are always missing. No rip fence or miter gauge was included. This saw must have been in a corner when it was painted because it only seemed to be painted on the sides that were easy to access.

Besides the rust this saw was full of sawdust and some kind of strange white residue that looked like it might have been the dust from sawing some form of plastic or other man made material. When I broke the saw down to fit in the back of the car the oil from the gearbox spilled and combined with the saw dust and the mystery material that was in just about every nook and cranny of the saw cavity. I'm glad I laid down 3 layers of poly film in the car beforehand. Fortunately all the functional stuff like bearings and tires seem to be in good shape. That certainly helped to speed up the restoration.

My original plan was to just set the saw up and run it as it was for a while so as not to upset the schedule of work I had planned for the shop. The more I thought about this and the oil soaked material that was in the saw I really feared that sparks from metal cutting might well set this saw on fire. I didn't really want to be that guy that had a saw and a good bit of his shop burn up right in front on him, so before I took the other saw out of service I set about dis-assembling this saw. The next two weeks I spent evenings and weekends restoring this saw.

This saw is built around the main casting so it needed attention first. I cleaned the interior of the casting and was surprised to find sand in some of the corners from when this piece was cast. In lieu of removing the sand it was just painted right over when this saw was manufactured. I first painted the edges of the casting and then painted the interior the contrasting black color. Of course I removed all the lingering sand.

The result of my efforts

 The rusty table now has the nice gray patina that is left when the rust is sanded away and the newly exposed surface is waxed.

All the under parts or basically any parts that reside in the shadows in this saw were painted satin black. The other parts were painted Rustoleum Sage Green. Parts that were not painted were finished with cold gun bluing, then waxed and polished.

I left the wheels the original gold color. It's a nice contrast when you open the wheel covers/guards.

So far this saw is doing it's job quite well. Cutting metal requires more feed pressure as compared to cutting wood and being able to use the leverage of my body weight makes applying the feed pressure much easier. That makes for less toll on my arms and shoulders.

If you frequent the OWWM forum you may know that these saws are sometimes referred to as the "Gumby" saws. If you look at the pic of the Gumby action figure below it's easy to see why. 

Gumby with his sidekick Pokey

My definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger.