The Lost Art Press storefront will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday, June 11, for those of you who have woodworking questions or would like to browse our complete selection of new books or our limited selection of blemished books.
We’ll also have free stickers, free posters and (I hope) some of Katy’s soft wax for sale at the store.
I’ll be working on a contemporary chest of drawers in some highly figured oak that has some unusual joinery and will be featured in an upcoming issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. With any luck I’ll be finishing the plinth, which is constructed like a post-and-rung chair.
Just a reminder that we can accept credit cards for all our books except the blemished ones, which are cash only. The store’s physical address is 837 Willard St., Covington, KY 41017.
I’m going to be living in Quito, Ecuador for the next six months. I wanted to bring some tools with me to try out on those notorious tropical hardwoods (and whatever else I might encounter). Unfortunately, with all that iron and steel, woodworking tools are heavy. I decided at the outset that my weight and size budget would be one standard checked bag, which is 50 lb and 62 inches, length + width + height.
The first thing that comes to mind when transporting items that need protection is a Pelican case. But Pelican cases are heavy, and one of an appropriate size would put a pretty big dent in my weight budget. So I started looking around at alternatives, including standard hard-sided luggage (mostly the wrong shape, and of questionable protective ability for a 50-lb. load), and eventually decided that I would have to build a lightweight wooden box and ship it inside a padded duffel bag. The good news is that woodworking tools generally aren’t too fragile as long as you keep them from banging into each other.
I had already started down the path of designing the box when I chanced upon an ad in a web site somewhere, advertising the new line of lightweight Pelican Air cases. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation revealed that a 1605 case would be the right size, and would weigh no more, and probably a little less, than my proposed box. So, out with the box and in with the Pelican Air case. But when I tried to order one, I discovered that the Air cases truly were new, as in, not yet released.
I spoke with Gary at Midwest Case, and after he did some checking with his supplier, we concluded that the case would probably arrive in time. So I crossed my fingers and waited, and used Pelican’s CAD drawings to design the internal dividers that I would need to keep the tools from attacking each other. (The case arrived on 24 May, in plenty of time. I heartily recommend Midwest Case for anyone who needs a Pelican or similar case in or near Ohio; the customer service I received was above and beyond.)
I’m an iron plane kind of guy, but I knew that an iron jointer plane would completely blow my weight budget, so I briefly entertained the idea of building a Krenov-style wooden jointer plane. Instead, I decided to go all-Charlesworth and take only a single jack plane, with an assortment of blades for different tasks, and a couple of low-angle block planes for small stuff. I left out things like a rough panel saw and hammer/mallet, since I knew that I could buy those things at a big box store once I arrived.
Once I got everything together and fitted, I was still a few pounds over my weight budget (as I had expected), so I had to give up a few tools that I would have liked to have, like a couple of paring chisels, a heavy-duty diamond plate, a Starrett compass, etc.
This is the final layout; the empty spaces are where tools had to be omitted:
The tray bottoms are made of 1/8″-thick paulownia plywood, chosen for its ridiculously low weight. I was also going to go with paulownia for the dividers, too, but after cutting a few pieces I decided that I didn’t like its workability, being rather coarse-grained and crumbly. So I went with basswood instead, which in addition to being lightweight (though not as light as paulownia) has a very high strength-to-weight ratio. The basswood is a dream to work with.
The end result is not exactly the Studley tool chest, and the fit and finish could best be described as “utility,” but I think overall it was a successful exercise. We’ll know for sure once TSA and the baggage handlers are through with it. I’m going to include an instruction sheet for TSA so that if they remove the trays they will (hopefully) get them back the right way. Wish me luck.
When I was a beginning woodworker, I tended to buy sets of tools – sets of carving tools, router bits, clamps, you name it. If you bought a set I usually got a bit of a discount and I got the false impression that I was “done” with carving tools once I bought the “set.”
You know where this is going. Sets (except for sets of drill bits) are for suckers.
My first set of chisels were the Marples Blue Chip chisels. I bought the starter set and saved my money to buy every single size the company offered. After a few years of daily use, I realized that I used only three chisels frequently (1/4″, 1/2″ and 3/4″) and one chisel (1-1/4″) infrequently. All the others collected dust instead of making it. But all that dang blue plastic made me feel like I knew what I was doing.
Bench Chisels I am certain that some people need lots and lots of chisels – bevel-edge, firmer and etc.. I am not that person. I would rather have a few perfectly tuned tools than 24 in various stages of dull.
So the three bench chisels I have are Lie-Nielsen A2 socket chisels. They fit my hands perfectly. They have wooden handles. They are lightweight. They are balanced. Everything else is fairly irrelevant in my book. My wide chisel is a Blue Spruce Toolworks 1-1/4″ chisel. Before I had the Blue Spruce I had a Buck Bros. chisel that was too soft for woodworking, which was why it probably was a survivor. Most Buck chisels are outstanding and get used to nothingness.
Other Chisels For mortise chisels, I still have my Ray Iles mortisers. But I have only the 1/4″ and the 5/16″ sizes.The rest I’ve given away to other woodworkers. Those two sizes handle about 100 percent of my hand mortising needs. (Side note: I had a dalliance with the Narex mortisers that did not end well. They were astonishingly soft.) I have a fishtail chisel for half-blind dovetails from Blue Spruce Toolworks. It’s a luxury, but one that I appreciate when making drawers and rabbeted full-blind dovetails for casework.
I thought this blog entry would be longer. After all, we’re talking about chisels. Shouldn’t I have a long list? Apparently not. Let’s talk about striking tools.
Mallets & Hammers I still have my same Blue Spruce 16-ounce resin-impregnated round mallet I’ve had for years. Its head still has only minor marking on it, which is unbelievable. That mallet is an extension of my hand and I cannot imagine replacing it.
I also have a 2-1/4 lb. lump hammer (also called an engineer’s hammer) that I use for mortising, assembly, disassembly, feline discipline and setting holdfasts. You can buy these on eBay or at hardware stores for a pittance. Old ones seem to bounce around a lot less than the new ones. After saying my vows to the lump hammer I got rid of my square-headed wooden mallets, which freed up a lot of space in the chest.
For driving nails, I have two claw hammers: a vintage 16 oz. hammer with an octagonal handle and an 8 oz. hammer with a roundish handle. The big hammer drives nails. The little one drives brads and pins, and it adjusts my plane irons (sometimes in tandem with my round wooden mallet).
Hammers are as personal as knives or things you put in your nether regions. So brand names aren’t going to help you. I say you should handle a lot of hammers; unlike when choosing a mate you are unlikely to catch any diseases. Once you settle on a hammer, switching to another one will result in serious consequences, especially when it comes to your hammerschlager skills.
Other striking tools in my chest include some nail sets (also called “nail punches”), a dowel plate for skinning dowels and drawbore pegs and my shopmark from Infinity Stamps.
— Christopher Schwarz
Part 1 of this series on handplanes can be found here.
Part 2 on saws is here.
Part 2-1/2 on frame saws is here.
Part 3 on marking and measuring is here.