Last week I posted the following challenge: Match up, with their trades, seven engravings of old workbench designs from the Diderot Encyclopedia. I didn't expect it to be easy, but I thought it an interesting way to allow people to look at benches critically and try to figure out what
I've been looking through the Diderot Encyclopedia (1751- 1777) doing research on workbenches. I've found lots of images of workbenches, all similar yet different; each was designed to help execute a specific trade. The only common thread I see is they all seem to use a lot of holdfasts.
I was demonstrating our tools at Woodworking in America one year, and several people picked up several of our Gramercy Tools saws and suggested that the handles were too small. While I am sure there are people for which our handles ARE too small, in just about every case at
Some of us still earn our livings making physical things, putting them in boxes and sending them out of the building. Professional furniture making ends not with the last coat of wax, but with shipping whatever you made out of the workshop. We have dozens of cabinet shops in our
I'm pretty clueless as a businessman; my background is in tools, computers and mechanical engineering. So I read a lot of books on sales, marketing, and running a business. My favorites are first-hand accounts, and the old books are the most interesting to me. Right now I'm reading "Forty
Every time someone comes in and buys a marking or mortise gauge, I give them a quick demo on how to use it. It's not unusual for customers to know they need a gauge, but not how to use one. It's not their fault. There is a hell of a lot of misinformation on this subject, and using a gauge properly isn't intuitive.
The joy of learning to use hand tools to refine your work is rewarding. But that joy can be offset by the perceived "hassle" of needing to occasionally sharpen those tools in order to maintain peak performance. For the uninitiated, sharpening things like knives, chisels and plane irons can be
Let's talk about a super-durable material: Iron, the stuff we make our tools from. Here's an overview to make sense of the terms that are used to discuss iron as related to toolmaking. Iron starts out as ore, which is basically a lump of rust (iron oxide) in one concentration
About 65 years ago, my father bought six Made in USA, modern, Paul McCobb dining chairs and a glass-topped table to go with them. The table ended up with my cousin many years ago, and I've had the chairs for over twenty years. The chairs are light and strong, but
Take a look at this image from G. A. Siddon's 1833 The Cabinet Maker's Guide: It's an interesting book (mostly about finishing) that we'll someday reprint, but that's not the reason for this post. Please notice three things: 1. Two of the workers are wearing paper hats 2. The
I don't care how exciting your design job is—at some point you have to engage in repetitive, mundane tasks. Whether it's naming Photoshop layers, cutting a crapload of biscuit joints or tediously executing some CAD task that you can't automate—how do you deal with it? Me, I've found a strange
Years ago, I saw a 1920s Ruhlmann Macassar Ebony bedroom set, similar to what you see here, at a furniture auction at Christie's. It had belonged to some Paris "bachelor," this big double bed with a tigerskin throw on it, flanked by matching nightstands and armoire, and the headboard was
A couple of posts ago I wrote about Playatech furniture, which is made of interlocking sheets of plywood. Now here's another approach to simple furniture that is tons of fun to make. We recently added this book, Ridiculously Simple Furniture Projects, to our catalog. The projects in it live up
I was reading a Chris Schwarz blog entry on his favorite woodworking writer, Mag Ruffman. It reminded me that I have been planning to write an entry about the first woman woodworking writer that I know of. The Handbook of Turning was first published anonymously in 1842, but it is
A lot of the chemicals we use in woodworking, especially in finishing, are toxic. Now there is toxic and TOXIC. There is long term exposure toxicity and one-whiff-drop-dead toxicity. If you want to work safely, you need to know. Not only do woodworkers need to know, everyone needs to know.
Nothing is worse than accurately cutting out all of your parts for a project, then screwing up during the assembly process. This is easy to do with a project made from wood, where a lot of the pieces can look the same. So it's good to have a system to
Designers and architects should, more than most, understand the built environment that surrounds us. And how you can learn from it, particularly if you look at older buildings. When a layperson stares at a building detail, they see a simple corner. But if you look at it closely, you can
I routinely get asked about what books I recommend for people trying to learn this or that. So I thought I would make a short list of the more important titles I stock in my store. This list is about what I recommend for the first book I would
Finding the center of the edge of a board is faster using a marking or mortise gauge than walking across the shop to find a specialized gizmo for the job. Here is what you do:
In Japan, bench chisels and other chisels for striking are always "hooped," meaning there's a metal ring encircling the butt-end of the chisel handle. This is a good idea since they traditionally use steel hammers to hit their tools, and absent the hoop, the butt end of the chisel would quickly deform and split.
If you're framing out a deck and something's off by 1/4", you can still make it work. But if you're creating a small box with dovetailed corners and something's off by 1/32", that can be a disaster. That's why folks who do the latter type of work often using marking
I know that city kids today want iPhones and Pokemons and Bluetooth speakers. But when I was growing up in Manhattan I only wanted one thing, and I wanted it badly. This came about because my father had given me a book called "How to Run a Lathe." My father
Those of you that went to ID school learned to make things with your hands. For those of you that didn't, or for those of you that did and miss having access to a full shop, this post is about simple furniture that can be easily built--even if you only
Whether you are in school or not, do you realize how easy it is, today, to get information that previously took people decades to amass? There are a lot of good books on woodworking out there, some old, some new. After the success of The Joiner and Cabinet Maker, which
This post is really for beginner furniture makers. If you're already happy with what you're accomplishing, skip this entry and come back next week. But if you're the person who reads the blogs and maybe has some tools, but finds the road to furnitureville insurmountable, this blog entry might be
In the early 19th century everything was done by hand. From the engraver carving a family crest on a pocket watch to the seven year old assembling fusee chains for tuppence a day (or thereabouts). Woodworking, metalwork, it was all the same. Hand work, under various working conditions and repetition.
I see a lot of people using a western style (cut on push) dovetail saw having trouble starting the cut and then continuing smoothly onwards. The reason almost never has to do with the saw. Most people seem to start a cut with the saw resting on the trailing edge
This is sort of a followup to my blog entry on sawing straight. After I posted it I got to thinking that my approach is not really about anything other than paying attention to what you are doing, learning to "see" square, and then learning to feel when everything is
The trick in doing just about anything that requires consistent repetitive actions is finding a method that your body naturally follows, and training your body so a more efficient method seems natural. That's why coaches help ball players with their swing and shots, and then the players practice all day
One of the blogs I regularly read is Robin Wood's blog. Robin (whom I don't personally know) is a maker of wooden bowls and plates, made with a foot-powered lathe, and he is passionately interested in preserving traditional crafts in England. Not just the tools of the craft, but the
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