Greetings from Lost Art Press. The Elves, Sharon and myself are headed to Duck, N.C., for the week. We are closing during this time and will re-open on Sunday, Aug. 9. We will stay on the email to answer any queries.
We have gotten a number of questions concerning the Chris’s new book “Handplane Essentials.” We are unable to take pre-orders for the book on our site due to technical issues (we are trying to get this feature available). However, Lost Art Press will have the book available in early August. The book will be signed by Chris for our customers and we will have plenty of books.
Thank you for your patronage and we always look forward to hearing from you.
If you are an accomplished finisher, stop reading right here. There’s nothing for you below. I hear there are some funny new movies of monkeys ironing linen shorts at YouTube.
This week I’m applying many thin coats of varnish to a chest of drawers that I’ve been building during nights and weekends at my shop at home. The finish recipe is my favorite for black cherry: First apply a coat of boiled linseed oil, let the project sit in the sun and allow the oil to cure in a warm room for a week or so.
Then wipe on thin coats of a satin varnish that has been thinned with low-odor paint thinner (also called mineral spirits). I like three parts varnish to one part paint thinner. Sand between each coat with a broken-in #180-grit sanding sponge. After about six coats, the result is a warm and durable finish. It takes time for each coat of finish to dry, but that gives me time to write, sharpen and tune up the machines for my next project.
This weekend I stumbled into two small details that make this finish easier. The first detail concerns the sanding sponge. When sanding each coat, the process creates a fine powder all over the project. With varnish, I have found it best to remove this powder before applying the following coat (it’s not as necessary as when you use shellac or lacquer because those finishes dissolve and bond to the coats below).
I like to use a tack rag to remove this dust, but I am tackless this weekend. So I started thinking about tacky things in my shop. I half-pondered even making my own tack rag. Then I looked at my 3M sanding sponge.
Hmmm. One side is abrasive. The other is a sponge. Duh, I wonder if the sponge side would pull up the powder? It does indeed, and quite well. And when the sponge becomes loaded you can wash it out and renew it. I can’t believe I’ve been using sanding sponges since “Silver Spoons” was on television and never thought of this.
Second detail: Gloves. Whenever I work with solvent, even paint thinner, I like to use gloves. It makes clean-up easier and I worry less about what danger is lurking on the solvent’s MSDS. Usually I use latex gloves from a big box store for mild solvents. I have always hated these gloves because they fall apart while I’m applying the finish and leave little bits of latex behind. I’m sure there are better-quality latex gloves out there, but not in my local stores.
A few weeks ago Managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick gave me a bag of blue nitrile gloves, which are made using a synthetic polymer. These gloves were made by the same company that makes my latex gloves, so my expectations were low.
Boy was I wrong. The nitrile gloves are far more durable. I’ve applied four coats of finish using the same pair of gloves and they are still going strong without a single tear. Farewell latex.
Today I taught my 8-year-old to sharpen. It took five minutes.
Instead of teaching her about abrasives and honing angles and all the other theory my head is filled with, I took a hands-off approach to this important hand skill.
I showed her how to secure the blade in a honing guide. I showed her the three waterstones (and the sheer delight of squirting water from the plant sprayer into your mouth. Then Katy decided to use the plant sprayer to pretend she was a boy… a story for another blog and perhaps Katy’s prom night.)
Then I gave her these instructions for sharpening: “Rub it back and forth until it is as shiny as you can get it. Then clean it and go to the next stone.”
I walked away and let her give it a whirl. In less than 10 minutes she showed me her edge. I could see myself in it. (In more ways than one, I suppose). Then I showed her how to back off the iron on the polishing stone.
We oiled the blade together and reassembled the block plane. Then she took the plane to work on pine and pulled up the same wispy shavings she always does. She didn’t have some sort of Zen-like koan-solving moment. The plane just worked like it should work. And sharpening it was no big deal.
Sometimes I think our heads are apt to stop our hands. We read too much, think too much and worry. Sometimes I think the best way to learn a task is to do it without reading anything about it. (Boy this sounds like a dumb argument from a magazine editor.) Just do the task – fail if you need to – but perform the task from beginning to end.
Then read like crazy to understand why the tools worked the way they did.
Last year we did a little experiment with a new employee, Drew Depenning. I told Senior Editor Glen Huey to have Drew cut dovetails during his first week at work. Drew had never cut a single joint by hand. He didn’t know to be afraid. So he cut his dovetails and they came out fine.
With that out of the way, Drew could get on with learning all the ins and outs of the craft.
This works great in woodworking. Probably not so well at a nuclear reactor.
Lost Art Press will be offering signed copies of “Handplane Essentials” as soon as the book becomes available the first week in August.
The book, a 312-page hardback, is a compilation of all my writings on planes during the last decade from Popular Woodworking, Woodworking Magazine, The Fine Tool Journal, my blog at Woodworking Magazine, my blog here at Lost Art Press and the writing I have done for other web sites and the Lee Valley Tools newsletter.
Honestly, if you’ve kept up with all the publications and outlets above, you won’t find much new in the book. In putting the text together I eliminated some redundancies, filled in some potholes and generally recast some of the articles so that everything made sense. I think it’s a very good introduction to sharpening, bench planes and joinery planes. I didn’t get into the moulding planes so much – I’m still not confident enough there to really write about it with any authority.
So I’m generally pleased with the result. The interior is going to feature sepia-toned photos like Woodworking Magazine (if you want a full-color version, we will sell you a box of crayons as well). The book’s paper will be nice, as will the cloth-bound hardback cover and dust jacket. I’m also pleased to tell you that we negotiated hard to get this printed in the United States (in Ohio, actually).
Here’s how the pricing and availability will work. Lost Art Press will lose some sales by telling you all this, but I’d rather just be honest with you.
Lost Art Press will be selling the book for the full retail price of $34.99 with free shipping. It will be signed by me (and by my daughter Katy as well if you please).
Right now my employer, F+W Media, is offering the book at a pre-sale discount until the end of July. It’s $27.99 plus free shipping. Click here to get to their store.
Starting in August, F+W’s price will return to $34.99 (plus free shipping) for six months. Lee Valley Tools will then be carrying it and will (almost certainly) sell it for less than full retail.
Amazon.com, Buy.com and other retail outlets will not be carrying the book until at least January 2010. Their websites might say they are going to carry it and discount it, but they are in error.
In any case, thanks for all your support. No matter where you buy the book it will help support the work we do and show there is a solid base of support for books on traditional tools.
As a way of saying thanks, you can download a copy of the introduction to the book, which will give you a flavor for its look.