Category Archives: Events

Quick update and local news

A few readers have asked if I’m still alive and/or building things out of wood.  I’m confirming both to the affirmative.  Thanks for the notes!  I suppose an update is in order.

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You may have noticed that I just posted a lot of tools on my “for sale” page.  Don’t panic!  I haven’t quit woodworking and I’m not planning to die anytime soon.  I’m just reducing the number of tools that I have in my shop.  After my trip to a LN Hand Tool event, I’ve been hooked.  I’ve been switching over to LN planes (slowly) and I just haven’t been using the Stanleys as often.  I’m the type of person who can not keep things that I’m not using, so these tools can go to new homes if people will give me a fair price for them.

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In other news, I’m scheduled to teach another hand plane class at the woodwork shop in Memphis, TN on April 25.  Watch that date – it may change to May.  I hope lots of people turn out because the class is always fun.  I really enjoy introducing people to the experience of using a well-tuned plane.  I never tire of seeing the fun people have when they experience how easy it is to surface wood with a sharp iron and good technique.

Now, for the “update”.  What have I been doing?  My middle daughter (call her K) expressed an interest in robotics a few months ago.  Thanks Disney and Big Hero 6.  I didn’t need much encouragement to pursue this interest since it involves making things and learning about new stuff.  I decided that building drones would be a fun way to teach/learn robotics, so that has consumed most of my shop time recently.

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Daughter (K) and nephew (J) really enjoy their time at the local R/C airfield.

Naturally, I’ve been working on what is called “scratch builds”.  Designing and building toys airplanes is just as fun as building furniture, it’s just a lot more temporary.  One crash and they are done.  I’ve developed a reputation at the R/C airfield for trying crazy designs – that fly a little crazy.

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I can testify that a french workbench is also an excellent workbench for other building hobbies.

Least you think that I’m done with wood – fear not.  I’ve been working on some “staked furniture” as described by CS in his excellent new book.  I’m reading it now and will post a review when I’m done.  Suffice to say it is excellent and the techniques he describes can make the process of building nice furniture faster and easier than you think.  Buy it.

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Recent experiemental builds – 2 stools and a staked sawbench

Here are 3 things I’ve built recently as experiments.  The sawbench (far right) is a test of strength.  The legs are only 3/4 inch diameter at the top.  I wanted to test the limits of this staked technique.  It can hold 200 lbs with little trouble, providing the floor is not slippery.  That’s impressive considering how spindly the legs and top are.  It is super light, which is helpful for this shop appliance.  The carved stool on the left was an experiment in carving a seat.  Not great, but still surprisingly comfortable.  The stool in the middle is my best so far.  I plan to build 3 more like it next.  I should be able to do a build series on it, so stay tuned.  I think that’s all I can type for now.

Bob Jones

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Too much for one post (spoon carving and events)

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You could call this project a spoon, but I consider it a spatula.  It has no bowl, requires no concave blade (like a hook knife), and can be carved completely with a drawknife and very little skill.  How’s that for a fun project?  I gave a demo on this process some time back at the woodwork shop and I promised to write about it.  The promise was almost broken, but since I have not received any complaints, I guess it is ok that this post took a few months.

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I’ll just jump right in.  The process is best started with firewood of some type.  Fruit woods work great, but lots of other woods work, too.  Stay away from oak or other “ring porous” hardwoods because the pores can harbor bacteria.  Anyway, split that chunk of firewood by any means available to you.  Here I am using a wedge, maul, and hardware store handsaw.

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Keep working the wood into smaller pieces.  Wood likes to split in half.  As the pieces get thinner a froe can be very helpful, but not necessary in pieces this short.

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Here’s a good “green woodworking” tip for those of us who don’t have time to use a whole log before it dries.  Wet your wood.  Get the pieces to rough size and soak them in any type of container that will hold them and water.  Here I used a plastic bin that was sold as a wrapping paper storage system.  If the wood is pretty dry, leave it here as long as you can (at least 2 weeks).  Reconstituted wood is not the same as fresh green, but it’s better than dry.

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Once you have re-wet the spoon sized blank of wood, get in front of a crowd of about 30 woodworkers to finish the job.  Ok, you can do this alone but it’s way more fun with others.  Toward the end of summer I was invited to speak to a woodworking club in Tupelo, Mississippi (just down the road from home in Hernando).  The organizer, Marty, asked me to come speak to them.  I convinced him that I had nothing interesting to say, but I would be glad to show them how I carved a spatula.  This idea caught on and the club members really turned up in force to watch.

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Back to the process – Work the blank to something that is rather flat.  This flat is where you draw the profile of the spatula.  It’s really helpful to draw a centerline and the shape to guide your eyes.  Notice that I’ve left waste wood beyond the big end to hold in the clamp.  The shaving horse has so much clamping force that this wood will inevitably get deformed.  Now, carve away, starting with the areas that require the most removal.

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I really like the low profile head of this shaving horse.  It lets me work easily on both sides of the head which is very handy for carving!  Flip the spatula around a few times and remove wood from anywhere that needs to be lightened.  As the spatula gets thinner the work gets more interesting (and risky).  Starting with split wood, rather than sawn, makes these thin components stronger than they look.

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When the carving is complete, cut the spatula to length and finish up.  Give the spatula to one of your new friends, or keep it for your spouse in appreciation for her letting you do a little woodworking on Saturday.  With the spatula complete, it’s time for some family adventure.

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Yes, it’s a long bike.  Yes, we get a lot of funny looks.

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If you find yourself in the Tupelo, MS area with some free time, I highly suggest bringing your bicycle.  After the spatula carving demo my whole family went on a bike ride on the Tanglefoot Trail.  We only did 8 miles, but the trail is over 40 miles, it’s mostly flat, and it’s paved!

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Not a bicyclist?  No problem.  New Albany (trailhead for Tanglefoot) has a great little family friendly restaurant in their picture perfect downtown.  Fat Luey’s serves up some great catfish tacos (a new personal Mississippi favorite) and sweet potato fries.  Seriously great food.

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Curious about my next woodworking event?  No need to wait, it will be this weekend.  Yep, on Halloween day (2015) I’m giving a free demo at the Woodwork Shop on making three legged stools.  The process is super simple and requires few tools.  I hope to see some blog readers there, just don’t be late.  I’ve got three little girls that need to beg for obscene amounts of candy from neighbors.

Bob Jones

Got plan(e)s tomorrow night?

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Late notice – as always.  I’m teaching a hand plane class tomorrow night at the Woodworks shop (June 1st, 2015).  In this class I focus on joinery planes like the router plane and rabbet planes (shoulder, fillister, and block).  I demo their practical applications for power-tool woodworkers and hand tool folks, too.  Everyone will be able to try out as many of them as I own.

Just to add something new this class, I’m bringing my shooting board.  I’m sure we will end up sharpening some tools and using bench planes too.  I’ll even bring my grinder in case anyone wants to practice free-hand grinding.  It should be a big time.  If you plan to come, sign up quickly.  If people don’t pre-register, then the class will not happen.

DTC_outside  DTC_inside

If nothing else, you can poke around my Dutch Tool Chest.  It’s always popular with the students.  I hope to see you tomorrow night!

Bob Jones

It’s not Handworks

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But there is a free event that is hand tool related in Memphis, TN this Saturday (May 16, 2015) at 10:30. I will be giving a demo called “making a spatula from firewood” at the woodwork shop.  I know that spoon carving is all the rage, but spatulas are fast and easy.  There is no bowl so I carve the whole thing with a draw knife.

The Saturday demo’s are a great format and are always fun.  I’ve done a few on hand planes and I’m always surprised by how many people show up.  Must be because it’s free.

Anyway, I asked Mrs Rita if I could do something different this time and she encouraged this.  If the demo generates enough interest she may offer it as a Monday night class.  How would you like to leave a Monday night class with something you made that night?

So, if you can’t go to Handworks this weekend, come to the wood work shop and commiserate with some like minded folks.

Bob Jones

Constitution Village and spottings of “Furniture of Necessity”

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Our tour guide had no problem using a little child labor to turn the “great wheel” lathe.

On a recent family vacation to Huntsville, Alabama we made a stop at a living history museum.  It was a small, low key place, but I really enjoyed the visit.  My reason for wanting to visit was the cabinet shop.  I was very comfortable in there.  I prided myself on knowing what everything in the shop was and how it was used.  Sorry if that sounds prideful, but it was a simple shop and I’ve been studying this craft for a little while now.  The cabinet shop seemed strangely modern to me, for a living history museum.  There were few actual antiques and most tools were modern reproductions.  The tour guide was very friendly and I wanted so badly to step in an do the working while he did the talking.  Not wanting to be guided off the property, I restrained myself.  Maybe next time.

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The cabinet shop didn’t just have tools.  It also held some of the typical projects completed therein.  The walls were lined with windsor chairs and this casket was on top of a workbench.  The first thing this brought to mind was a book that Christopher Schwarz is working on called “Furniture of Necessity“.  I tried to get Chris to name it something with “Permanence” in it, but he wasn’t moved.  Anyway, it was funny to see something that most woodworkers would consider an oddity as one of the primary objects of display in the shop.

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Sorry for the lighting – the chair is the one in the shade of the desk.

The tour also included a few houses.  Compared to other museums there was not much unique there, but I did spy this Windsor chair.  What caught my eye was the seat.  It looked like it was shaped only with a jack plane, like CS mentioned on his blog here.  It is similar to the one Chris is building, but with 4 legs (how boring).

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It was hard to tell from across the room, but I think the scooping of this chair was more extensive than what CS did in his post.  I wanted to jump the velvet rope and give the chair a try, but I’m certain that would have embarrassed my wife into disowning me.  She is a rule follower for sure.  All in all, the museum was nice and I could have been happy to spend all day in that shop.  They really need someone there who knows how to sharpen tools.

Changing topics – thanks to everyone who looked over at my tools for sale page.  Double thanks to those who bought anything.  Most items sold quickly, but a few things remain.  I’ve dropped the prices of all remaining tools but I’m not likely to drop them further, so if you were waiting for a better deal now is the time to strike.

Bob Jones

Lie Nielsen Hand Tool Event, Nashville

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I guess I should have sent out a notice before this event to help publicize it, but surely anyone who was interested would know before they read my little blog.

I attended my first ever Lie Nielsen (LN) Hand Tool Event last weekend.  LN does these events all over the country, but this is the closest they have ever come to Memphis.  Since the event was “free” it was pretty easy to justify a little road trip for my wife and me.  We made a fun weekend of it.  I got the LN event and she got a fancy dinner and a trip to the mall.  Spend – spend.

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Nice necklace, Scott.  He just made it of a really long shaving.

I think it’s great than LN invites other makers to their events.  This was a real plus for everyone.  Scott Meek (of Scott Meek Woodworks) and Josh Nava of Suburban Pallet were positioned at the front door.  It was fun to talk with both of them and try out Scott’s wooden body planes.  I don’t think I’m ready to give up my metal bodies just yet, but Scott’s planes are excellent.  He has a unique rear grip that felt great, but is hard to describe.  It’s kinda like shaking hands with a plane.  You just have to try it, but keep in mind that it is dominant hand specific.  Thankfully he had one left handed model for me to test out.  Scott was also showing a prototype low-angle spoke shave.  Sorry no pics, but it worked so well that I put myself on the list to buy one when he gets it all worked out.  It looked pretty similar to one that Bob R. is making now on his blog, but Scott is using hardware from Hock tools.

Josh was selling / making spoons.  As a failed spoon carver, I was impressed with his work.  Lindsay (my wife) was also impressed with his craft and bought a butter spreader at a good price.  Check out his website here.

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Sorry, no pics of the LN area.  I was too busy playing with the tools to take pictures.  You can find lots of those online anyway.

I also met a few LN reps that were really helpful.  First was Deneb Puchalski.  I’ve seen some of his youtube videos, so I recognized him right away.  In his videos he’s really controlled and level – not so in person.  He’s a colorful sort who enjoys a good argument more than I do (which is quite a bit).  He spent a lot of time answering all of my questions and trying to convince me that my Stanley planes and planing technique needed improvement.  I tried his technique, but was unconvinced.  His planes were more convincing.  I’m partial to my souped-up Stanley’s, but I see the advantages to the Lie Nielsen’s.  I think I may need one or two of them to know for sure, but I’ll have to find some extra cash for that experiment.

Another helpful rep was Keaven.  She’s a woodworker who works for LN (not just road trips).  She has a great blog at K.Willa.Designs. Her blog is a useful one for woodworkers because it covers topics that are adjacent to woodworking like refinishing and upholstery.  I’ve read a few of her upholstery posts and she has me thinking I could try that sometime.  Lindsay did say we needed a new couch. Hmmm

The real point of this post was to say that if you are ever able to attend one of these events, do it.  For those who can’t spare the time or cash to spend weeks at classes or tour distant tool showrooms, this is almost the only way to try out these premium tools without buying them.  Besides, these events are “free”.  There is no admission, but don’t expect to leave there with as much money as you brought with you.  I know I didn’t.  The tools were just too tempting.

Bob Jones

Operators are waiting – call now

finished

Well, I did it.  I finished the St Jude Half Marathon.  I even beat my target time. Sorry if that sounds prideful; it was all for the kids.  Now it’s your turn.  If you made a pledge to donate based on my satisfactory finish, now is the time to follow-through.  Here is the info again, in case you missed it the fist time.

A big thanks to those of you who have already donated!

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I am participating in finished the St. Jude Memphis Half-Marathon to support the kids of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As a St. Jude Hero, I have a personal goal to raise $150 for the kids of St. Jude.

Will you help me support St. Jude by donating today?

How your donation helps:

  • Thanks to donors like you, no family ever receives a bill from St. Jude for anything, including treatment, travel, housing and food.
  • St. Jude is working to drive the overall survival rate for childhood cancer to 90%, by 2020. They won’t stop until no child dies from cancer.
  • Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since it opened 50 years ago.

Please visit my St. Jude Heroes fundraising page to make a donation.

Thank you for your support!

http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=2673290&pg=personal&fr_id=20064

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In other news, I’ll be back at the woodwork shop in Memphis again this Saturday and Monday night.  Saturday is a free demo on using hand planes, and Monday night is the hand plane basics class.  Check out their website for details.  Why not take a break from your Christmas shopping and drop by for some festive woodworking.  Reportedly they have a new fancy workbench, so it may be worth coming just to check it out.

Bob Jones