Monthly Archives: January 2015

Chisel Me This, Chisel Me That…

Ok, it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  It’s not that I haven’t been busy, I have.  I have worked on some “commercial” projects for people that have made a few dollars.  And, I’ve made some new things for myself and mine to make our lives a bit more comfortable.  And, I’ve made things for the shop.  This is a quick note about one of these.

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This project came out of necessity. My regular tool chest was doing all it could to maintain the tools I use regularly for measuring, cutting, and joining. I wanted something separate that would protect my carving chisels that wouldn’t take up a lot of room. I don’t own many chisels (yet), so the size of the box would not be too prohibitive (a good thing as my shop is getting crowded!)

I chose to use cypress for three reasons; 1) I had some on hand, 2) I love the grain patterns, and 3) my experience has shown it will protect my tools from excess moisture for years to come.

I raised the panel for the lid using a skewed rabbet plane, after cutting the shoulders on my table saw (yet another hand tool needed to replace that operation!).

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The panel for the lid is an example of why I love cypress.  The grain is bold, and jumps right out at you.  Different pieces can treat you to colors varying from a mild pink, to a cobalt blue.

I also decided to use mitered dovetails for the first time. My standard dovetails are coming along very well, so this seemed like the next step for me. These would allow me to put in a groove for the bottom that won’t show at the corners.  The only regret I have about my choice of wood, is that cypress can be a bit brittle, leaving some roughness to the dovetails. But all in all it went together well.

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The mortise and tenons were cut with chisel and saw, the grooves in rail and stile with my Hong Kong plough plan.   The lid fit in perfectly.

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I shaped the dividers with my coping saw. At a later date I intend to make a small tray to give me a second level of chisel storage.

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The lid was mounted with some bold, brass hinges and huge dome headed screws.  It’s amazing how hard it is to find the right screws these days.  I had to mail order these!

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A small strip was nailed in place with brass escutcheons.  This acts as a stop to keep the lid from opening too far.

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I finished it with a simple Tung oil finish. I wanted to preserve the grain, while adding a little bit of luster.  Now to add more chisels!

A Thousand Skinless Cats…

Ok, so the title is a bit gross, but I hope to illustrate a point (oh no, another lecture!).  I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”.   It’s message is timely, and can be applied to so many things.  Of course, in this context I am referring to woodworking.

About six months ago I took a part time job at our local Woodcraft store.  Talk about woodworking Nirvana!  I have to admit that I have been working mostly for free, since the majority of my paychecks tend to go right back into the store for wood and tools.  I mean, it’s like a kid working in a candy store.  But, I digress…

One of the things I get to do is to sit in on any of the classes the store sponsors that I want to.  There are some excellent instructors to take advantage of, and I love to add to my knowledge.  Two weeks ago, we hosted a guest instructor from out of town, a fairly well known entity that I will not identify out of fairness to them.

Getting back to my original quote.  I have noticed over the years that there are many different ways to accomplish the same task, be it with power or hand tools.  And I have also discovered that the only “right” way, is the way that works for you.  As long as it works for you, it’s gold.  But when I come across someone who says that their way is the best way, or the only way, I can’t help but cringe.  I would hope that none of us is so self absorbed to believe that we are the end all be all of woodworking, and that methods used for centuries are wrong because ours is patently better.  Progress and technology have given us better tools… harder steel, finer sharpening stones, finer toothed saws, etc.  But these things don’t make us better woodworkers.  It’s our talents, our drive, and our dedication to practice that makes us better.   Using a finer grit sharpening plate is just another way to skin the cat.

Keep it humble!