On days like today, I wonder how many more times I can teach a class on building The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.
On Friday, I finished up a five-day class where I and 10 students built a tool chest entirely by hand, the only way I like to build them. It was a fantastic class. (View a Flickr set here.) They were good students – not a single jerk in the group. They worked until they dropped, and we all had a good laugh and a beer at the City Tap after class each day.
Plus Roy Underhill provided instruction, entertainment and popsicles through the week. It sounds like heaven, and it was. So what the heck is my problem?
Today I taught the first day of a two-day class at the Woodcraft store in Atlanta (in Roswell, Ga., in truth) and today we made a stick. OK, we actually made three sticks. First we made a lone stick (a straightedge), then we made a pair of sticks (winding sticks). Tomorrow we’ll make “stick in a stick” (a try square) and “stick through a stick” (a marking gauge).
No massive 75-pound carcases that needed to be lugged around. No dovetailing the end of every board that crossed your bench. No endless sharpening of your chopping chisels. No giant bowl of ibuprofen.
Instead, the 10 students at the Woodcraft focused today on removing the right shavings from the right places on these 30”-long sticks. I had to lift some shavings from the floor at one time during the day, but I’ll survive.
It’s funny how a small project, such as a wooden layout tool, can be a welcome relief after a vigorous but totally energizing and then draining project such as a tool chest. I better enjoy this while I can. When I return home to Kentucky on Monday night I’ll have 17 days to finish up a secretary for a photo shoot.
— Christopher Schwarz
19 thoughts on “Today, I Made a Stick”
You still have the world’s best job. Let me know when you need an assistant to ease the burden.
So what you are saying is you can’t beat it (making sticks) with a stick…
I definitely see one of yours & Roy’s classes in my future.
Those guys this past week looked they worked hard and had a hoot of a time.
Good job Chris.
Are these the types of sticks you mentioned red heart would be a good stable species to use?
I know a guy who can get some. 😉
Yup. Stuff is generally nasty. But for straightedges, it’s great.
Be forewarned that there are at least two unrelated genera often sold as “redheart”: Erythroxylum spp. and Sickingia spp.. I don’t know what the working properties of either one are. (Incidentally, Erythroxylum coca is where cocaine comes from.)
but you could use that Erythroxylum straightedge for like.. HOURS man….
Speaking of straightedges, Chris. I was wondering what one might do if making a straightedge without a straight edge? I made mine using a true aluminum pinnacle one. But what if the maker doesn’t own one, for instance, in the case of early craftsmen? How did they true them up and try them?
Without a known straightedge to start, you need to make three pieces. Make the first two, and match them to each other. They need to match exactly. But, if one is concave in exactly the same way that the second is convex, they will still match — but not be straight. The odds of them being exact mirror-images of each other is really slim. But to ensure they aren’t, compare the third to numbers one and two. If the third matches one and not the other, they aren’t straight. If it matches both, all three are perfect straightedges. Send one to a friend, and the other to me.
You only need to make one “stick”. When it’s complete, use it to mark a line along its length. Then, flip the “stick” over and align it along the marked line. Any deviation will be magnified to twice its error, and allow you to see where it requires further attention.
Using only one stick and the line it scribes won’t detect problems if the stick is a regular curve or has any otrher kinds of symmetric anomalies. The three-stick method will solve that. But – for the purposes of handtool woodworking – if it looks straight then whatever you measure against it will look straight too.
Flip the stick width-wise, not end-for-end. Any anomalies will be doubly magnified regardless of the stick’s shape.
Good job Chris. Hang in there and stick around, oh a round stick is a dowel.
Shared misery can be fun – I always say. Looked like more fun than I’m having.
No, no, no. When you return home Monday night you will do NOTHING but ship us out our copies of “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree”. Right? Secretaries and photo shoots, forsooth!
I envy you. I spent all day at my desk coding software. My hands don’t hurt from this (they still hurt from chiopping 1×3 mortises this weekend), but all I have to show for it is eye strain. 😉
You are master of your work!
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