Monday, September 30, 2013

The Stainless Winter Smoother is Complete

Sometimes the hard part of this work is taking this tool that you've just poured yourself into and putting it in a box and sending it on it's way. Of course that's the ultimate goal but nevertheless it would be nice to have time to use the plane for a couple of days just to get the full experience of that particular tool.

That would have been particularly interesting with this tool because it was a slightly nonstandard version of the Winter Smoother. The thicker stainless sides on this tool created a bit of a different package of mass in that this tool is just a bit heavier than the 0-1 version.

As I was tuning this tool and then subsequently putting it thru it's paces I frankly forgot that it was any different. That's a good impression because that means it's not overtly toe heavy and it never occurred to me that there was any misplaced weight anywhere in this tool.

There was one other thing I learned when taking and then editing the photos of this tool. If you're not careful when enhancing a photograph you can change the color of a piece of wood to something that it really can never be. I had to go back into edit mode to color correct my overzealous editing. You may notice in this last photo that the wood is a bit more orange than the other photos. The Olive wood will change dramatically over the next couple of years but it will never be that orange.

I had one major interruption while completing some of the final operations on this plane Saturday afternoon. Julie set out to do a bit of yard work on such a beautiful early fall day and shortly thereafter came walking into the shop with a rather pale look on her face. Once she was over pointing outdoors and speaking incoherently she finally blurted out "SNAKE!" While fetching the wheel barrow she noticed it contained some water which she immediately poured out on a nearby bush. The bush immediately started rattling and that is when she realized she was in close proximity to a Timber Rattler!

Fortunately as soon as she heard the noise she stepped away and was never within striking distance as the snake coiled up.

 It actually would be a rare fall if we didn't see a one of these snakes this time of year. I guess it's getting too cool for them to operate efficiently at night and they're trying to feed a bit more before time to hibernate for the winter, so it just makes sense they would be more apt to crossing paths with a human this time of year. Of course finding yourself in close proximity to one of these is always an alarming experience. We went our way, the snake went his. Everyone was happy....well I guess the snake was happy. Who knows how a snake feels after an unexpected shower?


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Winter Smoothers Coming Together........and Woodworking in America

As of late I've been working on a batch of 3 Winter Smoothers. The opportunity to have this tool at an event where woodworkers could actually put their hands on this plane had not occurred until this past spring at the Handworks Event in Iowa. It was received quite well and it immediately became apparent to the attendees that this was a very versatile plane.

Some people have asked "if I could have just one of your planes, which would you recommend?" I always suggest this plane. Why? This plane is easy to handle when using it to clean up jointed edges, face or door frames, however it's substantial enough for smoothing panels.

I'm obviously a fan of all my offerings but I have to say that this plane is my favorite. It's fast becoming the favorite plane of many customers as well.

One customer requested that I make this plane for him in 440c stainless. You may notice that the plane on the left in the picture has slightly thicker sides. The standard side thickness for this plane when made in 0-1 steel is 5/32 (.156), however I can only source the stainless in 3/16" (.187). If I try to dramatically reduce the thickness of the stainless it will stress relieve and frankly it will bow and do all kinds of crazy stuff. The only remedy to this would be to stress relieve this material and frankly I have no way of exposing this material to the kind of heat required to accomplish this so 3/16 sides it is on the 440C version of this plane.

Woodworking in America would have been a great opportunity to give woodworkers a chance to try this plane and that is one event I had really hoped to include in my event schedule this fall, however it is not to be. My lead time at present is the longest it has been in the history of my business and for that reason I really need to stay in the shop, make planes and do everything thing I can to reduce the time it takes to get planes into the hands of customers. Filling orders is obviously the other way to get this plane into the hands of woodworkers.

If you plan to attend WIA have a great time. It's a great event......maybe I'll get there next year.


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Monday, September 16, 2013

A New Web a lot of work

When I returned from Handworks one of the things on my "Must Do" list was to perform a facelift on a very dated Brese Plane web page. I had two new products that needed to be added and quite frankly nothing much had been done to the web page since 2007. As I added and deleted different products the current site had become more fragmented and harder to navigate. I really could not procrastinate about this chore any longer.

I am first and foremost a "Plane Maker", not an I.T. guy. In fact I never at anytime in my life have ever qualified as an I.T. guy. This in and of itself meant this job would be even a bigger task because there is always a learning curve involved. Granted the company that host my site has created template type software to make this endeavor easier for the common man, however they had just introduced a new version of the software and that was why there was a learning curve. Do you think the guy pictured below could have helped?

I know some of you are probably saying "why didn't you just hire an I.T. type person to do it?" and that is a viable question, however I like to be able to adapt on a daily basis if required. If I want to add a new product or respond to a custom request I want to be able to do so in a timely manner so I persist in being able to do this work myself. It gives me the ability to control this thing and reduces dependency issues.

The new software came with bugs. 1/3 of the way thru the creation of the first attempt I had to basically abandon the work I had completed because I ran into a problem that I could not resolve so I hit delete and started over. I had to devise a work around for the problem and as it turns out this was not the first work around I would have to devise.  I'm sure there were times when I looked like this guy pictured below.

After several weeks of shop work during the day and web page work into the late evening I finally got to the point of publishing the new page. I think you'll find it easier to navigate and the layout is much simpler. More importantly the photographs reflect the details of the planes that I am presently making whereas the photos on the prior web page did not reflect many of the changes made in these tools over the past years.

So here is it:

Here's hoping it doesn't crash before your very eyes!


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pizza!......Yep That's Right, Pizza!

As you can probably tell by the title of the this post I'm into Pizza. Eating Pizza, talking to my Pizza enthusiasts friends and, oh yeah, cooking pizza.

When I first started this blog I was right up front that this blog would not always be about plane making. If you've been following my blog from the start, you might remember my first post was about the brothers Abraham having a bit of trouble in their neighborhood when they engulfed the entire area in smoke during their first attempt at making charcoal. Food or cooking related post are not uncommon here, nor are firetrucks in the driveway at the Abraham compound.

When I first started my foray into making pizza I thought I would end up in the camp of Chicago style pizza and the first pizza's I made were cooked in deep cast iron skillets and they were good enough to keep my interested piqued. But then my 2 oldest children went to college in the Northeast and I got my first taste of pizza in Philadelphia and eventually in Brooklyn...the Promise land of pizza. This is when I got really interested in  the Neo-Neapolitan style of pizza. Unfortunately while in Brooklyn I did not have the pleasure of eating pizza at Grimaldi's under the bridge or DiFara's, two of the better know pizzerias. I'll be traveling back to Brooklyn in October and I hope to remedy this fact.  Subsequently while attending a Lie-Nielsen Event in St. Louis I had the opportunity to dine on what would be considered the type of pizza you would find in Rome, Italy. This pizza had a crispy, almost cracker type crust and the sauce possessed a slightly sweet taste. I was really intrigued with this pizza and even though I don't remember the name of the place, the pizza was quite memorable, and I guess that's the real difference in pizza, what pizza is memorable.

About this time I was given Peter Reinhart's book "American Pie". I've just read it thru for the second time. I think it may be one of the most informative books about pizza that I've read. Not only did Peter grow up eating pizza in the Promise land of the Northeast, he then traveled to the Mother land, ate and researched pizza all over Italy, then returned to the states and pretty much did the same thing here.  He is most certainly a Neapolitan style pizza person. If you're from Chicago and firmly in the camp of the deep dish pizza you won't like what he has to say about that style pizza, in fact you probably should just skip reading "American Pie". Personally I have to say that I've enjoyed pizza in Chicago but it was memorable because of the company of the people I was with at the time. I have good friends and customers in Chicago.

Ultimately I would like to own a brick or masonry wood fired pizza oven, however I am presently making do with what my oldest son calls a FrankenWeber. I cooked pizza tonight and here is my process of the actual cooking. I won't go into recipes and such at this time.

If you buy the "Kettle Pizza" kit that basically just gets you a way to put pizza in and out a Weber grill and gives you easy access to the stone on the grill. You will never get this setup to cook the top side of the pizza sufficiently. The top of the grill is thin metal and it just doesn't have the capability to retain and radiate heat. It requires a modification. But first you need a good fire and to that fire you need to add some chunks of wood. The wood will raise the temperature inside the grill much higher than with charcoal alone. You need to position the coals toward the rear of the grill so that the heat rises from the rear and then flows over the top of the pizza as it convects toward the opening.

Then you add the Kettle Pizza band and the stone where you will be actually placing the pizza. The shiny appearance on the stone is a freshly applied coating of olive oil.

Then it's time for the modification that actually makes this work. Another grill on top of the band and a 19" diameter stone used to radiate heat from above the pizza to cook the toppings.

Here the FankenWeber is fully assembled and the temp gauge is well past 700 degrees, the stones have been given time to heat up and we're ready to cook.

And the picture at the top of the page is the result. I'm still trying different dough recipes in order to achieve a thinner crispier crust, and that's part of the fun of pizza. Like Peter Reinhart, I'm in pursuit of my version of the "Perfect Pizza".

The FrankenWeber is far from the perfect pizza cooking set up. It has it's faults. You'll need to quickly prep and cook your pizzas because there is a fairly short window of time for holding the 700 degree plus temps and adding more wood to this setup after everything has come to these high temps is not easy and can be dangerous, but for now it will suffice.

If you do attempt to add wood to this hot setup and you burn yourself in the process, the other people in your household will give you that "Look" know the "Look".....the one that implies....."you should have known better!"