Gye Greene's Thoughts

Gye Greene's Thoughts (w/ apologies to The Smithereens and their similarly-titled album!)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Like what I would do

Found this while searching YouTube for something else:

Seems like something **I'd** build -- including the rolling stand.

Here's the same guy playing a different (short) song -- filmed from a different perspective:

The thing is, though:  I would've been more likely to build one if I **hadn't** seen this.  Now that someone else has done it, there's far less incentive for me.


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Monday, July 22, 2013

Job typology

I was sitting in a McDonald's a few days ago, and realized that everything I saw around me -- the pillars, the tables, the t.v. commercial on the flat-screen t.v. -- was designed and built by someone.

It got me thinking about how you could break down jobs into a few categories.  Here's what I came up with:  I don't think you can break it down to any fewer categories; and I don't think I missed anything.  But if you have any suggested modifications, please let me know.

  1. MAKING (growing, designing) -- farmers, artists, film makers, composers, cooks
  2. COLLECTING INFORMATION -- researchers, people who work behind a counter filling in forms, data entry operator
  3. WATCHING (monitoring) -- playground monitors, security workers
  4. REPAIRING -- plumbers, computer repair folks, doctors, counselors)
  5. ORGANIZING (consolidating) -- bookkeepers, managers
  6. SHARING (communicating of information, ideas)-- helpdesks, journalists, stand-up comedians
  7. EXPLAINING -- teachers, counselors
  8. CLEANING -- housekeepers, garbage collectors, groundskeepers
  9. TRANSPORTING -- busdrivers, pilots, truckers, waiters
Some occupations might have elements of more than one task.

Hmm -- need to figure out where to put entertainers (e.g. musicians), and athletes.


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Friday, July 19, 2013

Be yourself

Some wisdom from Wil Wheaton's blog:

Don’t let yourself get caught up in popularity contests. When you care about winning a popularity contest, or maintaining some kind of popular status, you make pleasing other people more important than being true to yourself. 

One of the keys to happiness is not caring about popularity contests, or worrying about what THEY will think. THEY don’t know anything about who you are inside, THEY don’t care about who you are when you wake up terrified in the middle of the night, or struggle just to get to the end of the day. THEY aren’t worth your time and energy, so don’t put your sense of self worth and control of your happiness into their hands. 

Be kind. Be honest. Work hard. Speak up. Be honorable. Be silly. Be you. 

There's a swear-ier version in his actual blog post:  this is a copy and paste of his revised version, posted in the same blog entry for the benefit of (and at the request of) educators.

See, **this** is the sort of thing you realize in your 40s and late-30s.  It is **good** to be middle-aged:  you know who you are, and (hopefully!) you're OK with it.  :)


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Monday, July 15, 2013

Hammer down rabbet ears hammer down

Boy-howdy, this person has a fair number of hammers.

(Click photo to enlarge.)


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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Answered another ad

As I mentioned, my work colleague Tanay is getting into hand tools.  There's a guy on who had several different tool ads posted.  Since he lived in town and had a broad range of used tools at good prices, I thought I'd guide and advise her in making some initial purchases towards her woodworking kit.

But, after some discussion, Tanay decided that she wanted to first decide on her next project, and then choose tools to support that.  Fair enough.

Meanwhile, though, I kept looking at the photo he posted of all those chisels:  I kept coming back to it -- especially the ones with the doorknob-like handles.  And also the linesman's pliers:  I'd recently read a guy's woodworking blog entry where he talks about the simple beauty of linesman's pliers -- and I realized that I didn't own any.

Finally, after about two weeks of deliberation, I figured I'd stop by and check out what he had -- without my colleague.  Even though I don't need any more chisels, I thought I'd find some good, solid "users", pick them up, and either sell them (at cost) to Tanay or my co-worker Danielle (who also is beginning handtool woodworking).  Or, maybe add them to my kids' toolboxes.

So, I stopped by today. On my way out the door, I told the kids that anyone who came with, I'd let them choose a tool.  Only B1 (blondie boy) took me up on the offer.

Just ten or fifteen minutes to the guy's house from mine.  I poked around the guy's garage for about an hour -- he had the tools along the floor on one side of his garage.  About twice as much as what he'd posted online -- so it took me longer than I expected.

B1 behaved well.  Oddly, when I reminded him that he could choose a tool, he didn't express any interest.

A lot of good stuff, in reasonable condition, at good prices for around here (Brisbane, Australia) -- although apparently not as good as the flea markets in the midwest and east coast of the U.S.

I went through and grouped everything that looked good into a little area.  Then I realized how much I'd accumulated -- and the cost -- and started paring down, putting the less-good and less-interesting things back.  For example, I ended up putting back about half the chisels because of cracked handles or other structural warning signs.

It took me a fair while to weed through my pile.  We chatted about tools as I went through the pile, and every once in a while he'd take something from my not-yet-sorted pile and toss it into the "no charge" pile.  Sometimes he justified it by saying that he was just happy I'd actually showed up (he gets a lot of calls from people who say they'll stop by, then never show) -- and sometimes he gave me tools for free just because it was clear that I liked tools.  (He's a retired carpenter.)

Once I'd finished my paring down, we both tallied up.  He stated his total -- which excluded the "free" pile -- and I made a pair of counter-offers:  what I'd **hoped** I could get it for, and a more reasonable price.  He agreed to the more reasonable price -- which was halfway between his price and my lowball price.

And, here's what I ended up with:  photo at left.  (Click to enlarge, if you like.)

I won't tell you what I paid -- but I will say that based on my estimate of the prices he **would've** listed for his non-advertised tools -- and once you include the tools he let me have for free -- I ended up getting 40% off the advertised prices.  And those were very reasonable prices to begin with (e.g. $6 for a hammer).

Some of my favorite finds were the linesman's pliers (one of the reasons I decided to go:  I already owned a few different types of pliers, but -- oddly! -- no linesman's pliers), and especially a silver one with jaws that are always parallel (pictured in the final photo of this blog entry). He actually had five or so linesman's pliers, but I chose the two with the longest handles -- figuring "more leverage".

Some interesting clamps:  one might be a clamp for welding; not sure about the others.

Also a bundle of spade bits, in a variety of sizes -- both metric and imperial!  Prior to today, I only owned one spade bit.

In this photo, I'm not sure what the top item is.  (It's also in the previous photo, to the left of the hammer.)  It looks like some sort of hammer, but with a dull adze head for the peen.

There's also a head for a hewing hatchet (also to the left of the hammer in the photo above).  Hewing hatchets are reasonably rare around here:  The Lady and I used to go to a lot of antique stores, and I'd never seen one.  You can tell it's a hewing hatchet because there's a bevel only on one side (usually hatchets are ground symmetrically).  Ten bucks.  And the guy was very fair:  even though I was excited to find it, he didn't raise the price on me when I told him what it was.

I also thought these two were interesting.  I initially thought the thing on top was some type of specialized chisel, because the edges were rough.  Upon further inspection it turns out that (I think) someone ground the teeth off the top and bottom of an old file, ground the end into a chisel point, but -- for some reason -- left the teeth on the side.  Odd.

(BTW -- I've heard that turning an old file into a chisel isn't a good idea, unless you re-temper the steel:  to be harder than the metal they're filing, a file is tempered to be hard -- but brittle.  This means that if you turn an old file into a chisel or lathe tool, it could shatter on you.)

I like the hammer:  although I own a few hammers, the barrel(?) of this one is an interested truncated-cone shape, which is different to anything I own.  So, it's a keeper.

I also like this teeny little plane.  When I got home I let the kids look through my tools, and I let them take shavings off the edge of a scrap piece of 2" x 4".  So, even without further sharpening it seems to work fine.

Five bucks.

Also for five bucks was the small mitre gauge (the 45 degee angle layout thing):  I didn't own one, and now I do.

Also a smaller marking gauge.  Five bucks, essentially new.

Once I got home, blondie boy decided that he'd choose the blue plastic trysquare as his "free tool".  I tested it and it's not perfectly "square" (i.e. not perpendicular) -- but the boy doesn't mind.

The Girl wanted a trysquare as well, so she used some of her allowance money from previous weeks to buy it off me (this one **is** square!).  Likewise B2 liked the look of the pliers, so he bought them off me -- including the "parallel jaw" pliers.  He actually wanted all three of the pliers -- but since one of my aims had been to pick up some linesman's pliers, I told him he had to leave me with one.

And:  that's my haul!


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Saturday, July 06, 2013

Answered an ad

The Australian answer to Craigslist seems to be  (We have Craigslist, too -- but Gumtree has a nicer interface, and more people use it, so the selection is better.)  Lately I've been browsing it for used woodworking hand tools -- and today I checked out an ad for five handsaws for ten bucks each (my photo at left).

I checked out the sawblades (or "sawplate", in jargon) for straightness.  The three wooden-handled ones were straight.  The yellowy-handled saw had two kinks in it (which would make it hard to saw straight) -- but the handle was interesting -- kinda Art Deco.  The black-handled one was bent a few inches in from the tip -- although I could possibly cut it off there.  Or, I could try to hammer out the kinks (never tried it; worth a try).  And, as you can see, part of the handle from one (second from the bottom) of the wooden-handled saws was missing.

I pointed out the flaws, said that I'd be willing to take all five anyhow, and asked what they could do for me regarding the price (i.e. less than 5 x $10?).  The guy said "Make an offer", so I offered $40, thinking that it might be a little low.  He accepted.

Here's a closer look at the "Buck Rogers"-looking handle.  Usually I don't like plastic-handled tools -- but this one is sufficiently quirky that I don't mind.  Even if I never manage to straighten the blade, it's still pretty nifty.

For you saw buffs:  That looks like Henry Diston's signature, there -- right above the medallion.

As I was getting ready to go, the seller mentioned that the plastic-handled saws had been his dad's, and the wooden-handled ones had been his granddad.  Neat-o -- a bit of history.  I wrote down the names of the dad and granddad, and added it to my log of tools when I got home.

He also mentioned that he had a box of misc. tools that he was planning on selling -- but just hadn't gone through them yet.  I casually asked if he'd be willing to go through them now:  I was right there, and still had some cash in my pocket...

He brought out a small cardboard box and let me lay out its contents on the patio table.  Some things I chose; some I put back.  I did a quick tally, and offered an intentionally low-ball price, just to start the negotiation:  twenty bucks.  I admitted that it was a bit low -- but also that the tools would definitely be going to a good home.

Surprisingly, he accepted!

So, here's my twenty dollar stash.  Not gloat-able if you're from the New England states -- but around here it's a pretty decent deal:

I took the various wrenches and pliers because I thought they looked interesting.  His dad had been a t.v. and radio repairman -- back in the days when it was actually worth it to get your t.v. repaired.  So a lot of the tools were clearly specialized, or modified for a task.  It also had a nice little wooden-handled trysquare, and a bevel gauge/sliding bevel, which was was pretty sure had belonged to his grandfather.

My favorite portion of this haul is the three matched set of chisels (part of a larger set?) -- 1/2", 3/8", and 1/4" -- with stickers with a picture of a fish, saying "E.A. BERG MFG Co. LTD"  and "ESKILSTUNA  sweden".  Bevel-edged, with remarkably thin blade thicknesses.  Some surface rust, and the blade of the widest one is caked in some kind of putty.  But clean-able.

I also enjoy the Bakelite(?) handle for a keyhole saw.


For you Galoots:  I sighted down the teeth after I got them home -- and all five of them appear to be filed for ripping, not crosscutting.  Given that most handsaws are set up for crosscutting, that's pretty weird.  Over the next few days I kept squinting at the teeth, thinking maybe I'd seen incorrectly -- but nope.  Huh.

TPIs are as follows:  backsaw, 12TPI; black plastic, 9 TPI; yellow plastic, 7TPI; bad handle, 6 TPI; other wooden, 9 TPI.

I tried out the pistol-grip backsaw -- I own a few (inexpensive, used) backsaws, but all are closed-tote.  This one fit my hand marvelously.  The blade needs a clean, though, and a sharpen.

I offered the other two saws with wooden handles to a colleague, Tanay, who is getting started in woodworking.  They're a bit cumbersome to take in to work via the bus, so I'll get them to her eventually.  She doesn't own **any** handsaws -- so I'll suggest she leaves the bad handle (6TPI) as rip, and re-file the 9TPI saw to crosscut.

I also offered her the tools in red rectangles.  She declined the slip-jaw pliers, but accepted the trysquare and sliding bevel:  I charged her $2.50 each.  We checked out the trysquare for squareness, and it is indeed square.  Both have a fair bit of surface rust on the blades -- but she says she like restoring old things (a good Galooty trait).  She'll take some "before" and "after" photos to chart her accomplishment.  :)


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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Bare minimum woodworking tool kit

I know more now than I used to:  that's a good thing.

I became interested in woodworking for purely functional reasons:  I was recording music and I needed some racks to hold some recording gear.  Buying standard gear -- let alone hiring someone to build it for me -- was beyond my budget.  And because space was tight (I lived in an apartment), the racks had to be certain sizes to fit among my other things.

So, I built them myself.

Or, at least, I tried to.  I didn't know what I was doing, I lacked the tools, and I lacked a workspace and workbench.  I was balancing pieces of wood on the back railing of our apartment while trying to cut it with a handsaw:  this resulted -- not surprisingly -- in uneven cuts.

And now I'm a ''low intermediate'' woodworker -- with a co-worker whom I just discovered is just getting started in handtool-based woodworking.  So, here's -- based on my experience --  the barest minimum tool kit you need to get started in (handtool-based) woodworking.

I'm putting this on the internets, in the hope that it might be useful to other people as well.

I've grouped the items into approximate categories -- although of course some tools could be used for multiple tasks.  How to use the tools, and tricks of the trade for finding decent-quality inexpensive and/or used tools (that aren't pieces of garbage) is a whole 'nother topic.

This list is all my own work -- although I cross-checked it with a similar list from Christopher Schwarz that I found online.  It's based on my own working habits -- and my noticing that although in my earliest days of woodworking I accumulated a lot of tools, I now do about 95% of my work with about 10 tools.  Admittedly, my current projects are more "carpentry" and "country cottage" than "fine woodworking".  But the items on this list will let you build simple jewelry boxes, blanket chests, bookshelves and the like, with dovetails, morticed joints, rabbets and dadoes.

Again, this is the bare minimum kit:  I'm intentionally keeping costs (and clutter!) down.  As I'll discuss below, having multiple (more specialized) saws and more than one handplane -- for example -- would be good.  But with this kit you can start doing -- and add tools as money (or gift-receiving occasions) occur.  ;)

The crucial items are in the bullet points; the nearly-crucial items are in parentheses.  If you don't know what they are, do a Google image search.  And a lot of these will already be owned by most people (e.g. a claw hammer).  If you already have more than these, that's excellent!  This list is just the bare minimum you need to start building things from scratch.  About a quarter of them are minimal cost:  either essentially free (e.g. a squirt bottle!  scrap pieces of tile!), or around five bucks for something simple but functional (e.g. whisk broom).

Finally, I've over-simplified a few things, and skimped on some technical jargon.  This is intentional, to keep things streamlined.  So please, no Comments on how I've failed to call something the correct name.  ;)

  1. Workbench.  Workbench, workbench, workbench.  The number-one thing I would tell my younger self is that I should've just grabbed a bunch of 2" x 4"s and built a simple, solid, heavy workbench -- and stuck it in the spare bathroom in our apartment.  Without a workbench, handtool woodworking is frustrating.  As Chris Schwarz points out in his two workbench books, a good workbench is a three-dimensional clamping surface (so therefore, make the front of the legs flush with the front of the benchtop), and it should be heavy, cheap, a good height (to your knuckles or the back of your hand), and not too deep (maybe 20" to 24" [50cm-60cm]).  And -- my point -- it needs to be there.  Instead of being daunted by the need to build the perfect workbench, just slap something together and move on!  As long as it's hefty and there, you can get started on actual projects.  You can always upgrade later, or modify your existing bench to suit your needs (e.g. dogholes and dogs or holdfasts; a sliding jack).  With very few exceptions, you probably have room for a workbench somewhere.  If it's in your bedroom or living room, you can just throw a tablecloth over it when not in use (and keep your tools in totes underneath it), and just sweep and vacuum a lot.  One advantage of handtool-based woodworking is that the sawdust is coarser than with power tools -- so it doesn't get into the air, and is thus easier to clean up.  Hand-sanding is the exception, though:  if your workshop is in a living area you may need to do that elsewhere.  Finally, the workbench length is a function of your available space and what you intend to make.  As Schwarz points out in his second workbench book, try to make the largest workbench that will fit (8 feet [2.6m] is a good size), but if you're just making jewelry boxes then that's not necessary.  But having a short workbench will limit the size of what you can build.
  2. (Vice, or clamps and jigs.  Arguably this is part of the workbench.  But it doesn't have to be:  some people do woodworking with workbenches without any vice.  Cheap-o vices around here are $30-$50, and they'll work fine (you need to line the jaws with wood, first).  A vice is just a clamp that's permanently mounted to your workbench -- so if your workbench is well-designed and money is super-tight (or you just want to be rustic), you can get by with clamps and a series of clever jigs.  But a vice is easier.)
  3. Bench hook.  Google it and make one.  An easy "first project" -- after building your workbench, of course!
  4. (Pair of sawhorses, or two harm-able wooden chairs.  You may need these to "bootstrap" your workbench into existence.  Note that if you hold your work on wooden chairs and you're cutting wood the long way, you'll have difficulty in cutting straight up and down.  Once you have your workbench, you probably won't need these -- unless you have something longer than your workbench, or you're painting, varnishing, or oiling a project and you don't want to make a mess at your usual work location.)
  5. A clamp.
  6. Another clamp.  I'd suggest bar clamps for your first two clamps.  Again, if you already have clamps of some other type, then use them.  In general, longer clamps cost more than shorter clamps -- but long clamps can clamp short things, but not vice-versa.  The required clamp length depends on the size of what you're building.
  7. (Another clamp.)
  8. (And another clamp.  Two clamps is a super-bare minimum.  There's a woodworking maxim "You can never have too many clamps."  Try to get a minimum of four, total.  The second pair can be G-clamps or F-clamps -- or more bar clamps.  With G-clamps and F-clamps, the cheaper ones sometimes have jaws that don't align, which means that the clamping pressure on your workpiece will be twisty.  So try to get clamps that align.  And clamps are a great gift-receiving idea:  if people don't know what to get you, tell them "more clamps".)
  9. (Even more clamps.  Really.  Yep.)  

Initial dimensioning
  1. Ripsaw.  Basically, a "regular-sized" handsaw.  Try to get one with a wooden handle, as it will be sharpenable (a useful skill, and not that difficult), you can adjust the handle with rasps and files to better fit your hand. Most people would suggest getting one with crosscut teeth, but as Tage Frid (I don't have the book handy) showed, a ripsaw can both rip cut and crosscut, but a crosscut saw really can't rip.  One with fewer teeth per inch will cut faster, but the resulting cut won't be as smooth.
  2. (Crosscut handsaw.  This is a "regular" handsaw.  Again, get one with a wooden handle.  And again, finer teeth mean a smoother cut but it'll be slower cutting.  Until you get one of these, if you're just cutting 2" x 4"s and smaller, you can just use your backsaw, which is what I usually do.)
  3. Trysquare, speed square, combination square, or engineer's square.  Most things you build will be based on 90-degree corners -- so you need to be able to mark, and therefore cut to, perfect "right angles".  Do a web search for how to test that a "square" is truly  "square".  A carpenter's square will do in a pinch, but it doesn't have a shoulder so it's awkward for non-carpentry woodworking.  I often use a medium and a small one, for various purposes -- but you can get away with just one.  (You'll also use the straight portion as a straightedge, such as for checking the flatness of plane soles.)
  4. Tape measure or ruler.  Depending on the size of what you're building, in the initial stages you'll need to measure things.  But once you've gathered the basic components of your project, you'll move away from measuring, and more towards "comparing and marking":  holding a piece next to another piece, marking it, and then cutting it to fit.
  5. Pen or pencil.  Depending on the precision, you can use a ball-point pent, or a pencil with a chisel-like point.  I actually have a few colors of grease pencil for various tasks -- but since this is a "bare minimum" kit, just a pen or pencil to start with.
  6. Marking gauge.  You use this to make lines parallel to the edge of the wood.  This, plus your "square" (see above) lets you make all the additional perpendicular and parallel lines (and cuts) on your already-rectangular pieces of wood.  It's handy to have more than one marking gauge, so that you can retain different lengths during a project.  But it's not crucial.  (Handy tip that I read somewhere:  file the metal "pin" so it's more like a knife or chisel end:  this makes it leave a clearer mark on the wood.)
  7. (Saddle square.  Used to wrap a perpendicular line around the corner of a piece of wood.  I'm cheap, so I use a rectangular hinge (probably cost me a dollar at a garage sale).  Not all hinges will work -- you need to test them for squareness.  You can also make your own out of wood, or buy a ready-made one.)

  1. Sandpaper (various grits, including the black wet/dry sheets).  There are many different approaches to setting up a sharpening system, including water stones, oilstones, and diamond stones.  But I think that a variant of the "Scary Sharp" system (Google it) has the cheapest startup cost.  If you already have some sharpening stones then of course use those.  But you'll need at least two levels of coarseness, ideally more -- and you'll eventually need a way to flatten your stones.  So you'll still need the sandpaper, etc.
  2. About five pieces of floor tile, or a few large pieces, or some thick, flat glass (with rounded-off edges!), or a marble pastry block.  You'll be gluing "landing strips" of the sandpaper to these.  Check with a straightedge that they're flat, at least the main section in the middle away from the edges. If you know someone who's done some remodelling, they probably have some extras lying around in the basement.  Dumpster-diving (with permission!) at new home construction or remodelling sites is also an option.
  3. Spray adhesive.  Use this to glue the sandpaper to the flat surfaces of the tiles, to provide replaceable sharpening stones.  When you use oilstones or waterstones, they eventually lose their flatness and you have to flatten them.  With the "sandpaper" approach, the underlying tile never gets rubbed -- just the sandpaper -- so it never loses its flatness
  4. (Rubbery kitchen shelf liners. When you're sharpening the sharpening plates will have a tendency to slide around.  A rectangular scrap of shelf liner, about the size of your sharpening plate, will prevent this.  You may need to give it a quick squirt of water, above and below.)
  5. Honing guide.  You can make your own if you're mechanically inclined, or just buy one for about fifteen bucks.  Some people treat it as a point of pride to not use one.  I tried to "not use one", but my sharpening massively improved once I started using one.  The Schwarz says it's OK to use one, FWIW.
  6. Squirt bottle.  Save a used laundry stain remover bottle, etc., clean it out, and fill it with water (for the wet/dry sandpaper).
  7. Cloth rag or old washcloth.  You need to wipe off your chisel blades and such after sharpening, to prevent rust. Hang it on a peg or nail at your work space, and it'll be sufficiently dry to use the next time.
  8. Another squirt bottle.  This one will have some sort of oil, for squirting on the metal parts of your various tools, to prevent rust.
  9. An oily rag.  I use the same rag over and oil, to wipe off the excess oil from my tools after I squirt them.  Because it's not a "drying" oil, spontaneous combustion shouldn't be a problem.  But to be safe, I hang it on a nail rather than wad it up.  Always give your metal tools a wipe before packing them away.
  10. Access to a grinder.  You don't need to actually own a grinding wheel -- although you can pick up an inexpensive one for around thirty bucks.  I did, and it works well enough.  But it also makes a mess, so depending on your living situation you might have to use someone else's.  You'll only need this occasionally, for when when you need to tidy up the edge of a newly-acquired tool, or repair dings in the edge of a blade (e.g. handplaning into a hidden nail).  Remember to keep dunking the sharp end of the tool into water, to keep it from overheating and losing its hardness -- and avoid grinding all the way to the very tip, for the same reason (less mass at the tip, so it gets too hot).
  11. Triangular file.  For sharpening your handsaw.  Some people are intimidated by it, but it's not that difficult to do it at least adequately.  If your "regular size" handsaw has really big teeth, you might need two different sizes (one for the backsaw and one for the larger saw).
  12. Flat file (large).  For jointing (making consistent) the teeth.  You can optionally also make a wooden jig (or purchase a jig) to hold the file perpendicular to the "plate" of the saw.  Or you can just eyeball it.  You can also use it to smooth out wood after you've shaped it with a rasp -- although I tend to keep my wood-shaping files separate from my metal-rubbing files.  Note that files are brittle (because they're tempered to be very hard), so don't let them clank around with other metal things or they might crack.  Also, only push, never pull (it supposedly dulls the cutting teeth).  And finally, if it comes with a metal tang rather than a handle, then impale it on a used cork (read this in a "woodworking tips" book!), or get/make a handle for it.
  13. Flat file (small).  For sharpening the spurs of your bits -- if you actually have a brace and bit (see below.  Ideally it would have a "safe" side -- an edge with no teeth.
  14. Small hammer with a flat peen.  For adding the tiniest bit of "set" to your backsaw.  And also for hammering small nails and such.  I prefer wooden handles, which I then rough up with coarse sandpaper and wipe with a 50-50 boiled linseed oil and spirits/alcohol mix (see below).  Also, the wooden handle will be strongest if you get one where the grain runs the length of the handle, rather than "running out" the side.
  15. A saw set, or (linesman?) pliers.  I prefer a sawset for setting the teeth of the larger saws, but they're probably not easy to come by.  Pliers will work -- but you have to eyeball how far out to bend them (it's just a wee bit!).  Google for articles on saw sharpening...
  16. (Straightedge.  For seeing if things are flat.  The blade of your trysquare, or the blade of your sliding bevel, should be flat, and can serve this purpose.  My test of straightness is to hold the edge of the ruler or blade against a glass window (but not one that you don't want to scratch!).  If you can wiggle the middle, it's not straight; and if you can rock it like a rocking chair, it's also not straight.)  

Finer dimensioning (and dovetailing, mortise/tenons)
  1. Bevel gauge, sliding bevel.  For laying out dovetails, as well as misc. transferring of angles.  St. Roy, in his "edge and wedge" book, says that you should use whatever angle looks good to you.  As with marking gauges, it's handy to have more than one -- but you only need one.  You can buy -- or make -- specific dovetail gauges.  I haven't bothered yet.  
  2. Backsaw.  Some sort of dovetail saw, tenon saw, or gent's saw.  I have a few of these, but I tend to use the same one over and over.  Mine is filed for rip-cutting (again, based on Tage Frid's logic).  I also have a gent's saw with even finer teeth, which I use very occasionally, plus many other backsaws of a similar size to my main one.  But basically I use just the one -- even for cutting 2" x 4"s (it gives a smoother surface than my crosscut saw, and it's easier to control because it's smaller).
  3. Wide chisel.  Use it for cleaning up tenons and the sides of large mortices.  There are specialized handplanes for cleaning up tenons.  But, eh.  I own a whole lotta chisels, but I use my "main" chisel (about 4cm/1-1/2" side) for just about everything.  And try to buy one with a wooden handle:  it's nicer to hold, and it's probably (although not necessarily) better quality than a plastic-handled one.  And you'll most likely need to flatten the back of any chisel you buy, new or used.
  4. (Medium chisel.  You can get by with just a wide chisel and a narrow chisel.  But a medium-width chisel adds some flexibility:  it's good to use as wide of a chisel as will fit in the opening.)
  5. Narrow chisel.  For tiny places, like dovetails -- but the edges need to be beveled.  You can also use it for narrower mortices.  There are specialized mortice chisels, of course.  But you can get away with one of these.
  6. Wooden mallet.  For driving the chisels.  Not a rubber mallet, as those things bounce weird. You may eventually get a range of mallets of different hefts.  If money's tight, just cut a scrap of 2" x 4" into a somewhat "turkey leg" shape and use that.  Making your own wooden mallet is a nice little project, with a broad range of possible levels of fancy-ness.
  7. Handplane.  For making the wood straighter, smoother, and/or a tiny bit thinner.  Get one with a handle sticking up on the back and a knob in the front.  As with chisel handles and saw handles, try to get wooden handles, not plastic.  You could get a smoothing plane or a jack plane (Google 'em; most of the ones you'll encounter at garage sales will be smoothing planes), but probably not a wooden-bodied plane, as they're trickier to set the blades to the right depth.  But, if you already have one, then, sure -- use it.  Unless the mouth is really tight, I'd suggest setting it up as a scrub plane (Google it).  You can get away with using a smoothing plane as a block plane (Google image it) -- but if you already have a block plane, then good, use it.  Also, I prefer a heavier plane (more inertia), but some people prefer lighter planes (because they find they don't get tired; although I've never personally got tired from handplaning, even with my hefty plane).  You'll eventually get several handplanes, because each is optimized for a different task, and it's handier to leave each one set up for a specific task than to have to keep changing the settings.  But you can just start with one. And you'll probably have to tidy it up a bit before you use it -- at least by sharpening it.
  8. Methyl alcohol, rubbing alcohol.  Spray it on the end grain to soften it, prior to handplaning.  It'll evaporate quickly after you're done.  You can also use it to raise the grain on the faces of the boards as well.
  9. (Yet another squirt bottle.  Use it to apply the alcohol.  Not crucial, but handy.)
  10. (Used toothbrush.  You can get away without this, but you may as well use it. Clean the crud out of your handplane before oiling it and putting it away.)
  11. (Router plane.  I love my router plane:  it lets me cut troughs to precise, consistent depths.  It's a clever little invention.  You can get away without one -- but it's much nicer to have one.  A powered router would work, but it's harder to control with fine work, and if you're inside an apartment it'll make a much bigger mess (sawdust) than a router plane. For troughs that aren't too long you can just use the (flattened!) back of your chisel as a reference, and do it by eye and by feel
  12. Marking knife, striking knife.  For showing where to cut; much more precise than a pen.  I recommend a double-edged knife (Google "spear tipped marking knife").  You can buy one, or make your own if you have access to a grinding wheel and a long piece of scrap metal.  It can be as simple or as fancy as your time, tastes, and money allow.
  13. (An old candle, preferably white.   Use this for lubricating the sole of your handplane, and the sides of your saws.  It's optional, but it's good to have and it's cheap (garage sale?).  You can use colored candles, but the color might spoil the wood.  Don't use beeswax candles:  it actually makes things sticky and grippy.)
  14. (Winding sticks.  Clever little things:  you use them to tell whether your board is flat, as opposed to having a twist.  Chris Schwarz recommends two lengths of aluminum angle iron, and painting them contrasting colors.)
  15. (Bench brush, whisk broom, bannister brush.  For clearing the sawdust off your work.  Also for sweeping off your workbench.  Not crucial, but very handy.)
  16. (Broom OR vacuum cleaner.  Presumably you already have one of these in your household. Depending on where you set up shop, you don't need one just for woodworking.  But having one handy makes it easier to stay tidy.)
  17. (Dustpan. Use in conjunction with the above-mentioned brushes, to gather up the sawdust and wood shavings.  But a stiff piece of paper works OK)
  18. (Poof tube, long straw.  Keep your eyes open for a stiff length of tubing about two-thirds or three-fourths the length of your arm.  Label one end "Mouth" and the other end "Wood".  Use it to blow sawdust off of your workpiece.  The tube lets you do this from a distance, which minimizes the about of dust you get blown back into your face.)

Additional shaping
  1. Half-round rasp.  Flat on one side, curved on the other.  Use to rub wood away, such as if you were making a new handle for a handsaw.   Be sure to wrap a rag around the tip when you're using it, or you'll get mysterious cuts on your finger that you can't figure out.
  2. Rat-tail rasp.  Looks kind of like a chef's knife-sharpening rod.  Used for rubbing away wood, but in a tighter radius.
  3. (Spokeshave.  Easier to control than a drawknife.  Really only needed if you move away from making rectangular objects and start making long narrow objects with curves to them (e.g. chair spindles, canoe oars).)
  1. (Needle-nose pliers.  You'll probably have need of these.  Most households would already have one, so this probably doesn't count as a "new item".)
  2. (Slip-jaw pliers.  Also handy.  I use mine for pulling nails where the claw hammer failed (i.e. tore the head off the nail -- gah!  For for "normal" woodworking you probably don't need it.)

  1. Glue.  I use just regular PVA wood glue.  Some people use liquid hide glue because it's reversible with steam and pressure.  But I live in subtropical Australia, so using a glue that would potentially come apart during the summer just seems silly.  In fact, I use the "water resistant" flavor of glue.
  2. (Old toothbrush.  For spreading the glue.  A tip from Chris Schwarz's blog.  Be sure to wash it off after each use.)
  3. Claw hammer.  For driving nails.  Also pulling nails.  Most households would probably already have one, and they're plentiful at garage sales.  As above, I'd recommend one with a wooden handle.  Try to get one where the grain runs all the way from the head to the butt of the handle:  otherwise, it may be prone to splitting.
  4. (Nail set.  If you use finishing nails.  If you don't, then you don't need one.)
  5. (Wide flatblade screwdriver.  You don't actually have to use screws in your projects -- so I'm making all the screwdrivers optional.  Plus, most households have a few already.  Please don't use this as a prybar, as you'll bung up the tip.  At the very least, reserve a specific screwdriver for prying purposes.)
  6. (Medium-width flatblade screwdriver.  Ayep.)
  7. (Small flatblade screwdriver.  For driving small screws.  Of course.)
  8. (Larger Phillips screwdriver)
  9. (Medium Phillips screwdriver)
  10. (Small Phillips screwdriver)

Making holes
  1. Power drill/hand drill, OR eggbeater-style drill.  For making holes, either for dowels, pilot holes for screws, or possibly pilot holes for nails. When I was starting out I bought a cheap ($30) rechargeable drill.  But it had the cheap type of battery, where you couldn't leave it charging, you had to put it in the charger overnight, then remove it.  But if you let the charged battery sit for a month, then it lost most of its power.  So basically, you had to know a few days in advance that you were planning to drill something.  In the end I bought a cheap (also $30) electric drill, and it's much more reliable.  I don't mind using an extension cord.  Power drills are one of the few concessions to electricity in my woodworking:  they're inexpensive, faster, not too noisy, and you can use your other hand for steadying the drill.
  2. Drill bits.  Inexpensive ones work fine, if it's what you need to get started.  The smallest ones always break.  The work-around (I read this somewhere) is to take a nail, snip off the head, and file it to a point.  Use this as a replacement drill.  For smaller diameter, drilling in to wood, it works fine.
  3. Awl, bradawl, ice pick, or nail.  Poke this in to the wood to make a depression prior to drilling, so your drill bit doesn't skitter around and drill in the wrong place.
  4. (Countersink bit.  You'll want one if you use screws with that head shape.  I you don't, then you don't need it.)
  5. (Brace.  For driving the auger-style bits.)
  6. (Auger-style bits.  For drilling medium-diameter holes (about a half inch or less).  Or you could try a spade bit with your electric drill.)

  1. Miscellaneous sheets of sandpaper.  You'll need a range of grits.  Although if you're doing all flat-surfaced things, if you handplaned the surface it doesn't need any sanding.
  2. (Sanding block.  It provides support to the sandpaper, and helps your hand not cramp up.  It doesn't have to be fancy:  you can just wrap the sandpaper around a scrap of wood.)
  3. Boiled linseed oil (BLO).  I make a 50-50 mix of this and methl alcohol (listed above) and rub it on my wooden tool handles.  It's an easy finish for other projects as well.
  4. (Yet another squirt bottle.  For the BLO.)
  5. (Danish oil or tung oil.  As near as I can tell from my web search, they're nearly the same thing.  It's a varnish + oil mix, so it's easy to apply but also provides a somewhat protective coat.  It was my paternal grandfather's preferred finish.)
  6. (Paint.  Ayep.  If you have wood that looks nice, use the BLO or the Danish oil/tung oil.  If the wood is boring -- or you have a favorite color, or want to support a color scheme, then paint it.)
  7. Rags.  Now that I'm old enough that I'm no longer growing, my clothes are finally starting to wear out, and I have rags.  I never use a paintbrush:  for painting, BLO, and Danish/tung oil I just "rag it on" (that's the phrase).  Make sure you never wad up a rag that you used with finishing oils, because there's a chance it could combust.  Instead, spread it out (outside?) to dry, before throwing it away -- or soak it in a bucket of water. 


The above is a fairly long list, considering it's just "the basics".  Hand tool woodworking does require a bit of infrastructure.  That said, much of what I've listed is inexpensive, free, already in your homeowner's/apartment-dweller's stash of tools, or on the "optional" list.  I count 19 items that you have to buy -- rather than build or scavenge, or probably already own.

If you don't include the costs of the "lotions and potions" (boiled linseed oil, glue...), the consumables (sandpaper, nails...), and things that most people already have (claw hammer, tape measure...) -- if you were a smart shopper (and/or had a mentor) I reckon you could build a simple but solid workbench for $80 in lumber (dunno how much the bolts would be), a simple $30 vice, and $240 in used tools.

So, about $350, and you're good.  That's not bad.


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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Save those squirt bottles

Here's a shop tip -- particularly relevant to handtool woodworkers:  I suggest saving your used squirt bottles (e.g. stain remover, insect repellent, spray-on sunscreen).  But not furniture polish, if it contains silicon.

Give it a rinse with whatever you'll be holding in it, then purge the residue in the tube by giving it a few squirts.

I have three such squirt bottles at my workbench.  One bottle has a 50-50 mix of mineral oil (baby oil, paraffin oil) and eucalyptus oil.  I use it for lubricating sharpening stones, and for oiling my tools before putting them away (to prevent rust).  I use mineral oil because I (naively?) believe that it's less harmful than WD-40 or motor oil; the eucalyptus oil smells nice and I think it maybe, possible, provides some additional cleansing/de-rusting action.

The second bottle has methyl spirits (basically, rubbing alcohol or denatured alcohol) for raising the grain, wetting end grain prior to planing, and also lubricating diamond stones (I just read [Christopher Schwarz] that if you use rubbing alcohol rather than water then they're less likely to rust).

And the third bottle has water, for wetting the surface of water-based sharpening surfaces (in my instance, wet/dry sandpaper stuck to flat pieces of tile). 

Each bottle is a different shape and color, so I'm unlikely to grab the wrong one.  And I also write the contents -- such as "WATER" -- in BIG letters with a permanent marker.


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Monday, July 01, 2013


Yesterday afternoon I saw the movie World War Z with a friend.


It so easily could've been a really, really bad movie.  But quite the opposite:  it was a solid, well-made movie.  I can't say it was always "enjoyable" -- as at one point it was almost too much for me and I (briefly) felt like leaving the theatre.  (If I'd been watching it on DVD I would've left the room and come back another day.)  But because of this, it was completely engrossing.

It's a solid, high-quality movie.  They played it totally straight -- no irony, no winks at the camera.  Solid acting, solid script:   there was **no** point at which **anyone** did something that a reasonable person wouldn't do (e.g.  "Gosh, there's a serial killer loose in our abandoned high school tonight.  I'm gonna
go use the restroom... by myself...").

Loads of action, without being "action just for action's sake"; very plausible treatment (and reaction to) a pandemic; lots of close calls without seeming contrived.

And, now that I think about it:  very little cussing (that I can recall; I could be wrong), and nearly all of the violence was implied (or, sanitized ''action movie violence''), rather than bones crunching, blood spurting violence.

It was not a typical ''zombie'' movie -- it goes beyond that niche -- so I can see it doing **very** well at the box office and capturing the "natural disaster", "thriller/suspense" (somewhat) and "action" markets as well.

It works on many levels.  It's particularly effective if you're a parent of young children -- as one of the sub-plots is the family man being separated from his family, and trying to ensure their safety.

With all that said:  I don't anticipate buying the DVD, let alone renting it ever again.  It was emotionally draining:  I was on the edge of my seat.  Once was enough:  too realistic, too plausible.

Which also indicates that it was very well done.


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