There are two books that I would consider highly influential in my personal woodworking path. Darrell Peart’s “Greene & Greene: Design Elements for the Workshop” (Linden) and “Adventures in Wood Finishing” by George Frank (Taunton). Peart’s book kicked off my fascination with all things Greene & Greene. Peart does a fantastic job of covering history as well as practical techniques.
“Traditional woodworking using hand tools can offer a more satisfying relationship with the wood and the creative woodworking process. It’s quieter, cleaner and maybe even a little spiritual. It’s no surprise that many “”plugged-in”” woodworkers are returning to the roots of this treasured skill. Where some hand-tool books focus solely on the use of hand tools, Made By Hand takes you right to the bench and shows you how to start building furniture using these tools.
My woodworking mentor, Robert Van Norman, studied under the esteemed woodworker James Krenov. Robert remembers many of JK’s wise words, especially “trust your eye”. When it was time for me to hear those words, I remember feeling such relief and permission to embrace my inherent perspicacity. Intuition is essential in the design and creation process, and for developing work that reflects the maker beyond his or her technical skill alone. At times, the craftsperson is called on to explain the aesthetics of his design and saying “it just feels right” doesn’t always cut it. This article covers seven common design considerations, their definition and how they are generally accepted and understood. Not only will the article help increase design vocabulary and awareness, but it may also assist in problem solving and recognizing the aesthetic strengths and weaknesses of a furniture piece.
Fast forward to adult me. I’m a full-blown city girl whose idea of crafting mostly consists of small handheld tasks (i.e. jewelry making, crocheting, colouring books, etc.). I’ve completely forgotten about how much woodworking was a part of my childhood and how beautiful the work of it can be. Then NBC came out with what (in my humble opinion) is one of the greatest television shows ever created. Making It is a traditional competition style reality show that showcases the work of different crafts people from around the United States. They specialize in everything from paper crafting to (you guessed it) woodworking. Oh and it’s hosted by these two fabulous goofballs.
I ended up making a number of practice cuts. The first revealed that I hadn't tightened the screws on the edge guide enough. The second revealed that the design of the edge guide provided very little support at the end of a board, because of the cut-out for the router bit. In the "Getting Started in Woodworking" video, they had screwed a piece of hardwood to the edge-guide, to provide a continuous -- and longer -- bearing surface. I may do that myself, some day, but I didn't have the materials at hand, so I clamped some 2x4 scrap to the end of each board, to provide a continuous bearing surface past the ends. The two grooves in the long stretchers and the side groove in the short stretchers have identical layout. I made practice cuts in scrap until I had the edge guide set correctly, then I cut them all with that one setting. The bottom groove of the short stretchers uses a different setup, so it was back to the scrap, before cutting them.
In terms of size, this bench is another Sjobergs that is a bit on the small side, though it is actually far more squared than some others. While its length is a bit disappointing at 54″, the width is over 24″ wide which does provide for more diverse projects. Even better, this product still features the incredibly 500-pound weight capacity and continues the Sjobergs trend of avoiding joints that are not as durable as they otherwise could be.
1. Cabinet Making and Millwork by John L. Feirer. I read this book cover to cover when I first got into woodworking, and its still my number one reference book when researching a project or technique. I believe it was intended as a textbook for a high school shop class, so it's laid out in great 101 style. It includes descriptions of everything from how sandpaper is made to best practices for shop math, and provides details for both hand and power tools.
“With Hammer in Hand” by Charles F. Hummel (UP Virginia). Resurfacing like Brigadoon, the woodworking shop of the Dominy family was sealed up with the tools still on the benches and saws still sharp. Moved to the Winterthur Museum, the workshop is an open portal into village woodworking in early America. Hummel’s book takes it tool by tool, piece by piece, expanding our view with a true scholar/craftsman’s eye.
Assemble the vises, for the final time. You'll not be taking them off again, so tighten everything down, and attach the endplate to the ends of the screw and guide rods. Then mark and drill benchdog holes in the outer jaws inline with the benchdog holes in the top. Generally, through-holes are preferred for benchdogs, so that they don't collect sawdust and gunk. With these vises, that isn't possible, there are screws and guide rods in the way. I drilled them just deep enough to hold a Veritas Bench Pony (their reduced-height benchdog), without it sinking to where I can't get a grip to remove it. Rockler sells some very inexpensive plastic benchdogs that can't be adjusted for height, and aren't as strong as metal or wooden dogs, that I intend to keep in the holes full-time, to keep sawdust from collecting in them.
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Furniture with Soul sheds light on some of the worlds most respected and revered makers of fine furniture. Going into their shops and learning how they got into the craft, what they most enjoy about it, and hearing some funny stories along they way is what this book is all about. It’s not a how-to in any way, unless you’re talking about how these selected group of makers made a living creating exquisite works of art. Beautiful photos of creative and challenging pieces of furniture are included throughout. My favourite book from the last year.
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The good news is that you don’t need a lot of shelf space to house a comprehensive collection of basic woodworking knowledge. Get started with Understanding Wood. In this comprehensive bible, professor Bruce Hoadley delves into the nature of wood and how its structure affects strength, workability, and other characteristics. He then shines a light on fundamentals like drying, machining, bending, joining, sanding, gluing, often accompanied by stunning macro photographs that zoom you in to the meat of the matter.
“The Wheelwright’s Shop” by George Sturt (Cambridge UP). Here is the real deal. At the turn of the 19th century, a guy comes back from college when his father falls ill and can no longer manage the old family wheelwright business alone. He realizes that he has stepped into a vanishing world of “kindly feeling” when the “grain in the wood told secrets to men.” Thanks to Sturt, the old English way with wood is still alive in the pages of this remarkable book.
Cut off a 21-in.-long board for the shelves, rip it in the middle to make two shelves, and cut 45-degree bevels on the two long front edges with a router or table saw. Bevel the ends of the other board, cut dadoes, which are grooves cut into the wood with a router or a table saw with a dado blade, cross- wise (cut a dado on scrap and test-fit the shelves first!) and cut it into four narrower boards, two at 1-3/8 in. wide and two at 4 in.
Grizzly is a company currently undergoing an upheaval. This brand was once known as a manufacturer of professional grade tools and equipment for woodworking products. Though, in recent years, that reputation has begun to slip a bit since being bought by the Chinese company SIEG. These days, whether the Grizzly product stands up to its previous standards of excellence often has more to do with what you are buying than the company itself.