Sunday, February 25, 2007

Woodcut Preparations

Against all expectations, woodcuts top my project list. My friend, Bill, offered his printing facilities and his help in creating some type-height blanks (.918199 inches tall). Boxwood, Pear, or Pine are commonly used, and another friend, Sean, offered a piece of boxwood.

The boxwood turned out to be a bit narrow for the blank size I intended. I cut the board in half, jointed the sides, and glued the parts into a plank of adequate width. I found hand jointing a little tricky: what seemed like a a slight crown kept appearing at the center of the boards. After about an hour of planing, testing, swearing, and planing some more I thought to check for wind. Sure enough: either the board started with wind, or I had introduced it. That turned out to be most of the problem. The next day I breezed into the shop, spent 10 minutes on glue up and was done.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Getting into the Shop

I've found it harder to get into the shop lately. This is not a question of time, motivation, or family demands. No, it is literally getting harder to get into the shop.

Take a look at this picture: the walkway started at a meager 3 feet wide (give or take), but in the middle of the path there are now two toolboxes sitting atop a cardboard box filled with mechanics tools. To the right—sitting within a foot of my bench and blocking part of the tool shelves—are three pieces of plywood intended to become the roof ring for our modern ger. Atop that is a baby gate (!) in it's tattered cardboard box. There's also the stool I scavenged, standing comfortably in the remaining two feet of walkway. Around the corner, unseen by you, is a quarter bale of straw (!!) the remains of a porch banister, three ancient bikes, a broken window, a weight bench piled with cardboard boxes, an old dresser, a box full of 2" by 3" aluminum chunks (with really sharp edges), three grocery bags filled with books, left-handed women's golf clubs (neither of us golfs), a quarter bale of cedar shingles, four broken 1970's modern kitchen chairs, a decrepit step ladder too rickety to use, and more.

Whenever I wend my way to the bench, I'm forced into a careful dance, orchestrated to avoid bruising my hip on a bike handle, spilling a pile of boxes, stubbing my toe on a toolbox, loosing my balance and falling into the toolshelves, or knocking tools from atop the stool. I'm world class, precise, almost dancerly in my negotiations. A lucky soul tiptoeing through a minefield.

It's time to get a dumpster.

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Friday, February 16, 2007


"To catch two birds with one stone." That is what people usually try to do. Because they want to catch too many birds they find it difficult to be concentrated on one activity, and they may end up not catching any birds.

—Shunryu Suzuki


Monday, February 5, 2007

Building the Radial Arm Saw Table

One common reason why woodworkers don't like their radial arm saws is the condition or quality of the table being used for a worksurface. Gauranteed, if the saw has been used more than a few times, the table top has saw kerfs in it that compromise its flatness and functionality. A well-built replacement table eliminates that headache and adds to the usability of the tool.

Construction started yesterday on the table for my radial arm saw. The design comes from Wally Kunkel's book, How to Master the Radial Arm Saw, which can be found at

Here's a summary of the construction: one 3/4" and one 1/2" layer of best quality plywood laminated together with steel supports epoxied into cut slots—this adds rigidity to the table and has the added benefit of keeping the layers lined up. On the front section, where saw kerfs generally become a problem, glue or tack down a replaceable layer of 1/4" MDF.

Properly done, the sub-table should be flat and rigid enough that the table can be used as a reference surface (just like on a table saw), and the MDF skin protects the structure and allows easy repair whenever the surface gets too dicey for accurate work.

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