Category Archives: family

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.


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.


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.

airplane_1 Airplane_4

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.

Airplane_3 Airplane_2

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.


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


Constitution Village and spottings of “Furniture of Necessity”


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.


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.


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).



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

Lessons from Mr Greene


This plane tells a story from a craftsman who I suppose “retired” a long time ago.  I’ll call him “Mr Greene”.

Mr Greene worked in a shop full of bungling builders who saw no fault in borrowing the tools of the better craftsman.  What hack wants to sharpen his own dilapidated tools, anyway?  Disgusted with their self-serving ways, Mr Greene set out to save his tools from their careless hands of ham.  Engraving his name on his tools wasn’t enough protection – this only helped reclaim his tools upon close inspection.  Mr Greene needed to take a more drastic approach.  With no small amount of reservation Mr Greene disassembled his tools and with care made a mark that would be easily distinguished as his and his alone.  “Now I will be able to spot my tools from across the shop should one of these careless hacks remove it from my workbench.  That will show them.”  Mr Greene inspected his handiwork and rather liked the bold new look.

Mr Greene’s plan worked exactly as intended.  Whenever his tools were in the hands of a hack, he knew it immediately and was able to fetch them before any serious damage was done.  Soon the careless co-workers stopped stealing his tools altogether, knowing it would be folly under his watchful eye.  From that fateful day with paint, Mr Greene’s tools stayed in good order, and no doubt his relationships with his co-laborers were aided by his precaution.


Underneath the bright green paint lie the bones of a solid plane that was once well tuned.  I’ve inspected 100’s of vintage planes and most are unusable in their “as found” condition and generally show no evidence of ever being tuned or used by a conscientious carpenter.  This plane is different.  As I found it, the frog was actually well seated in the body.  The blade was dull and pitted from years of neglect, but at the last sharpening was properly ground and had evidence that the back was flattened at some point (this is rare).

I acquired this plane from a rust hunter to be my backup smoother in case I drop my user #4.  I have done nothing more than a light cleaning and I expect I never will.  I wouldn’t want to mess with the legacy of Mr Greene.

There are at least 2 lessons to be learned from this plane.

1 – If you are remembered after “retirement”, it will be by what you leave behind.  Will your legacy be a messy life, messy relationships and evidence of lazy living?  Or will your legacy be one of self control, stewardship, and serving others?  I’m speaking of more than tools.

2 – If you work in a shop with others who are less considerate, paint your tools a really obnoxious color.  When one of your shop mates picks up your tools it will be obvious from across the shop and you can rescue it from the clutches of the bungling builder…

Bob Jones


My little whittler


I heard a quote about parenting that goes something like this, “You have to tell your children ‘no’ most of the time so say ‘yes’ any time you can”.  I think credit goes to Dr. James Dobson.  I practice that philosophy by saying ‘yes’ anytime I can with my girls.  When I see them writing on their arms with pen, I laugh and say  it looks nice.  When they play in the mud, I get out the water hose and wait for them to finish.  And when my 8 year old daughter asked for a knife, I decided it was time to say ‘yes’.

I let her select the knife, with my guidance.  We bought one that fit her hand and was made in the USA.  I sharpened it up and proceeded to show her how to handle it safely.   Once I let her go with her knife and a nice chunk of softwood, she started having fun with it.  I watched her work for the first few minutes to give her instruction and she did great.  I told her there was a boat trapped in that block and she needed to find it.  That will take a while.


For anyone who thinks I’m reckless, my 5 year old daughter wants a knife like her big sister but I am telling her ‘no’ a little longer.

Bob Jones

“I hope this means something to someone… ughhhh”


Says my sweet wife as she proofs my most recent post.  “What?  ‘Shooting the end grain to the line’ doesn’t mean anything to you? Hmmm, I don’t know how else to say it.”  “In that case, good luck to anyone reading it.  At least I corrected all the misspelled words”.  “Thanks, you’re great.  Besides, you know I just write for myself.”  “That’s good, because I don’t think anyone else will get it.”

My lovely wife is my editor, though she claims to know nothing about woodworking.  She proofs most of my posts (not this one) in a vain attempt to deceive at least two readers into believing that my grammar and spelling are beyond a primary school level (hardly the case, I are an en-jun-eer).

What’s my point?  I realize that my last post probably had no audience.  Experienced woodworkers already know how to make 15 types of cutting boards (thanks WOOD magazine) and new woodworkers do not know half of the jargon that I was using to describe the process.  So, my apologies to all three of you who read the post.  I was just excited about completing a project so quickly that I had to write about it.

If you are ever unsure about a word or phrase used here, please use the comment section to ask for clarity.  Conversely, if you ever notice an error, please be kind enough to correct me.  I’m glad to take any questions (and criticisms) because it will make my writing better.  On second thought, let’s avoid questions on a few volatile topics.


What species of wood is “best” for a workbench?


What is the “right” way to sharpen my tools?

joinery_planes layout1

Who makes the “highest quality” tools today?

That should do it.  All other questions are fair game here at TCTC.  Thanks for reading, by the way.

Bob Jones

‘Tis the Season…

For making crafty gifts for loved ones.  What woodworker out there doesn’t enjoy giving gifts that were produced by their own labor?  I certainly do, but my biggest challenge is finding useful projects that don’t take 10+ hours to complete.  Here is one solution – a simple hand planed cutting board.


Around lunchtime I had a rough sawn plank.  Before dinner I had a finished cutting board.  Not bad, I think.  Let’s walk through the process.

Since I’m working with hand planes, wider boards are better (no width limitation).  Wide boards do not require lamination, so it saves time and looks great.  The hardest part of this project is finding nice boards that are 12+ inches wide.


This is a great chance to use an off-cut from a previous project.  Warning! Don’t the make cutting board longer than 23 inches.  Anything longer will be difficult to put inside a kitchen cabinet.  This cutting board ended up being about 12 inches wide, even though I would have preferred 14 inches or so.  Hey, when working with scraps you can’t be picky.


Sighting under a straightedge in several positions is one way to check for flat.

I used a jack plane to get the board “jack flat” on both sides.  “Jack flat” is flat enough that the board is not rocking around on the bench.  This rough board was pretty well warped, wrinkled, cupped, bowed, and twisted so it took me a while.  Why bother working with such a mangled board?  The grain and color of the wood were worth it.


The bottom edge of longer planes makes a handy straightedge.

Next, I brought out my jointer plane, or in this case, my #6.  I planed a slight hollow on both sides, hoping that it would allow the board to warp a little in service and still touch the countertop at the corners making it feel stable in use.


With both faces flat (or slighly hollow) and parallel, work the end grain.  For lumber like this I hold the board in my Moxon vise and shoot the end grain with a smoothing plane.  Use a really sharp and smooth plane. Work to a pencil line, not a knife line.  This surface needs to be pretty, not super accurate (it’s not joinery).


Joint the long sides after the end grain.  Working in this order should clean up any blown-out grain from the end grain shooting (why planing end grain is called shooting is beyond me).  With a rough cut surface I always start with my jack to make the work faster, even on edges.  Here I am starting with the jack before jointing it with my 6.

CB-8-mark_chamfer CB-7-mark_chamfer

To pretty up the cutting board and make it look lighter, I decided to chamfer the underside.  Mark the chamfer with a pencil, not a knife.  Pick a chamfer angle that looks good to your eye.


To plane the chamfer, I used my number 6 again.  I sharpened it before working the end grain, as shown here.  Watch both lines closely and try to sneak up on both at the same time.  I do this free hand.  I completed the chamfer with my smoothing plane.  These chamfers are on the underside, so they don’t have to be perfect, but aiming for perfect is great practice.


Finishing supplies include a smoothing plane, cotton rag, and mineral oil (intestinal lubricant – yum).

Once the chamfers are complete, use the smoothing plane to break all of the edges.  “Break the edges” means to run a plane it over each sharp edge 5 or 6 times with a finely set blade.  You don’t want to visibly round the edges, just make them dull enough to be easy on your fingers.

Pick your favorite food safe finish and apply by the instructions.  I really like Mineral Oil.  Just wipe it on and let it dry for about 24 hours.  Tell the recipient to keep some mineral oil in the kitchen and re-apply regularly.  If you want a finish that’s more resilient and sealing, do some research on the topic.  Meanwhile, this thing is ready to be gift wrapped.


I think the chamfer really lightens the look of the board.  With such a quick project completed, use your spare time to give some woodworking lessons to your little helpers.

helper-1  helper-2

“No, put your hands here.  Listen to me – I’ve done this at least once.”

Bob Jones

What I’m really About


I added a new page to my website tonight to describe what I’m really about.  Since the topic can be controversial, I disabled comments on that page and this post.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hear from people, that just means I think those conversations should not be shared with everyone online.  I’m not looking to start any arguments, just sharing my mind like I do on my blog.

If this page bothers you feel free to ignore it and stick to the woodworking content, I hope you find it helpful.

Bob Jones