For the manner in which men live is so different from the way in which they ought to live, that he who leaves the common course for that which he ought to follow will find that it leads him to ruin rather than safety.

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Bit On Sawing

Making a new shelf for the work shop. I thought this would be a good opportunity to write about saw cuts. Let's make the assumption that your saws are in good working order. This is about layout...not saw set up. And here goes...

To make a cut with minimal tearout, use a square and marking knife to go all the way around the piece.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Grinding Fixture, Finished

My knife grinding fixture is finished and operational. So far, so good.

Each surface flanks the grinder. Since the grinder can be adjusted for angle, the fixtures can stay put.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Grinding Fixture (this could get heavy with pictures)

I don't freehand. Nope, just can't do it. I don't freehand simple plane irons, I sure as hell ain't gonna freehand a knife blade.

After some struggling with adapting my LV grinding rest to work with my Kalamazoo belt grinder, I decided for a different approach. Nothing wrong with the LV grinding rest...just not the appropriate application for it. It's meant for a grinding wheel, not a flat belt.

While watching a few knife making videos, something occurred to me. Instead of an angled guide that has to meet the belt, why not a FLAT surface that sits next to the belt? Hmmm.

You see, the problem with a guide that has to angle up to the belt is that knife blades are ground at much lower angles than say, a plane iron. It's difficult to get a more traditional style grinding rest to such a low angle (like...10 degrees or maybe less) against a flat belt. You end up with a guide that has to extend out to the point that it gets really flexy.

A quick call to the local metal supply place, and $30(ish) later, I'm off to the races. Let's just hope it works.

Here we go. I purchased some 1.5" by 1.5" aluminum angle at 3/16" thick and two pieces of 6" wide aluminum flat: one at 1/4" thick, the other at 3/8". I cut the angle into 6" long chunks, and the flats were cut to 6.5".

Thursday, November 12, 2015

More on knifey type stuff

When I first got my belt grinder, I also got a selection of belts. Pictured is a Norton Blaze 80 grit. I'm showing it because I'm impressed with it. The used one currently on my grinder is "dull" though still removes metal at a rapid rate. If you use a belt grinder, check these belts out, they are nice.

After finishing my first knife, there were two things that I knew needed work right away: 1) more consistent grind from one side to the other and 2) a more acute grind angle. I believe I am well on my way to getting a hold on both of these issues. I think both were fixed at the same time, basically by a slight reconfiguration of the grinder. I'll get into that with my next post in more detail. 
As of this evening, I have four new blades with the primary bevels ground to 80 grit. My goal is to get the finish grinding done so that I can heat treat this weekend.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Making a Knife, pt. 3

A road trip snuck up behind me and took me away before I finished my knife. I came home this morning, and set about getting this thing done.

Unwrapped after the heat treat. Again, wear gloves at this stage. That stainless bag is at least as dangerous as it was when the blade was first made, perhaps more so. This is what the blade looks like after a trip up to 1800 degrees. After cooling, it was tempered to 300. I'll see if that is too hard. When I've made plane irons in the past, that's about the temperature range I've used.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Making a Knife, pt 2

Pros make a knife pretty quick...
I'm not a pro.
I'm slow.

Top will become a finished knife, bottom is the template that I will use for future knives.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

My First Lie-Nielsen Plane

I've used (and love) Lie-Nielsen chisels, and floats. I've sold off the floats and mortise chisels. One thing I've never had is one of their planes. I love the quality of Lie-Nielsen tools. I could go on and on...

My standard plane needs are rather well satisfied. From scrub plane to smoother, I'm good. Don't need more, nor can I justify them. There's one specialty plane from LN, however, that I've been interested in, and finally picked one up: the Rabbet Block Plane.

Hello gorgeous! As soon as you hold this thing in your hand, you can feel the quality. It has weight, and the machining quality is apparent right away. It is also visually striking.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Making a Knife, pt 1

A good friend of mine planted the knife making seed a couple of years ago. Earlier this year I got a kiln and a belt grinder. It was time to try it out (or go broke trying...that gear isn't cheap). Lo and behold, I hit the road for a couple of months and put everything on hold.

The particular knife I'm working on is a paring knife. I haven't found one I like, so, I'll do it myself.

Now that I've got some time at home, it's time to pick this project back up and make something!

First up is to come up with the shape. Top is the paper sketch glued to a thin piece of plywood. I used this to get the shape I wanted then scribed it onto the tool steel blank. Today, we're using A2. We'll be doing some 440C steel as time goes on. That A2 blank will not be sharpened, I'm going to harden it and use it as a permanent template for future knives.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

New Stuff On The Way

Once again I have been absent. I have basically spent the last four or five months on the road for work. While it is a good way to improve one's pocket book, it is not such a good way to accomplish things at home. When I've had the time, I've been trying to improve my work space so that I can get stuff done during fall and winter.

Rearranging and insulating the basement. Tool organization. Drinking beer. Cooking. And just trying to find a minute or two to relax before jumping in the car for another road trip. I also quit my shop and am in the process of moving all of my tools and bikes to my house.

New projects are on the way. Things that I've been planning for quite some time and putting on hold until I can get enough time at home to actually see them through.

It seems to me that my down time/busy time cycle is weirder than normal, but it is coming back down to a more sane level. If you still occasionally read here, I hope soon to have some new topics.

(hint...someone just went on a shopping spree at Lie-Nielsen and Lee Valley)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Baking: Apricot Flan Tart

This is a favorite of mine. The recipe comes from Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery cookbook. Bouchon is amongst the best bakeries in the country. I've been there once, while visiting friends in California. If you ever happen past the town of Yountville, I recommend you stop in and try their goods. Since that is a long way for me to go for bakery, I like to make some of it for myself. This weekend's mission was Apricot Flan Tart. This is the third or fourth time I've made it. It's a relatively straight forward recipe, but it does demand your full attention while making it.

(I won't be sharing the recipe, as it is from a copyrighted book...that would be illegal...we're just looking at the process and highlights)

The recipe begins with a Pate Brisee for the shell. A simple mixture of flour, butter, and water. If you want your tart on Saturday morning...this needs to happen on Thursday evening. It needs to be chilled over night.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Common Misconception About Taps

Let's take care of this once and for all: the difference between "gun" taps and standard taps.

On the left a standard fluted tap. On the right is a "gun" fluted tap. You will notice that the gun tap has an additional section ground away near the tip. That grind has a very specific purpose: it turns the chip around and forces it down. Standard taps move the chips up.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lee Valley Plane Iron

When I got my Stanley SW #3 I decided to get a new iron for it. Since Lee Valley was having a nice little sale last week, it was the perfect time to get one. I've been using a Lee Valley back iron on my #5 and really like it. It was time to try one of their irons.

The original SW #3 iron and back iron next to the Lee Valley/Veritas set.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


I said I'd pull out some cooking here's a few.

Pizza! I make pizza almost weekly. I enjoy making the crust and trying to perfect it. This is a very simple pie: cream sauce, Italian sausage, fresh mozzarella and basil. Lately, I've been using pesto instead of cream sauce. I'm allergic to tomatoes, so I need alternate sauces. Some fresh basil on top rounds it off nicely.


I don't post a lot of my baking on here. So I'm going to take a minute to do so.
I love food, and I love making it. Baking is a rewarding and relaxing activity for me. It's a way to get friends together, and enjoy good food.
Here's a few of the items I've baked over the last few weeks. I'm glad I started going to the gym!

If there is anything I get a little arrogant about, it's my cheesecake. I prefer them plain. You can't hide mistakes when there's no added junk all over the cake.

Stanley Sweetheart No. 3 Plane

I found a nice user grade Stanley SW No. 3 the other day. Now I just have to decide if I want to flatten the sole and tune it. I have another No. 3 plane, but it isn't nearly as nice...and not a Sweetheart.

I have a soft spot for Stanley SW tools. The only other SW plane I have though, is a scrub plane.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Triumph Fork Sliders

Last year I bought two complete front ends for parts to build one. Well...between the two of them, there was maybe three or four good small parts. I wasted my ripped off, all that good stuff. It's been a while since I've been screwed like that.
I contacted the good folks at Raber's Parts Mart and ordered another set of fork sliders and the remaining small bits to rebuild the front end for the Organ Donor. As usual, Raber's came through with what I needed.
Now, off to the grinder...

47 years old, they are showing their age, but still in usable condition. How you like that shop chair? Yeah, you like it.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Lie-Nielsen 1" Chisel

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: you can't beat an LN chisel. Love em! For whatever reason, I decided that I needed one in the 1" size. Here goes the prep:

Here's the big bruiser. Getting ready to run it on the 1000 grit stone.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Squaring up

Important in making anything, whether in wood or metal, is making parts square. It's easy in metal, I put it in the mill. In wood, however, I need to plane by hand. It's nice when it all works out.

Even for simple projects, before anything else can happen, the stock you're using needs to be as square as you can get it. I'm not going to get into the process here, really. I was just very happy yesterday evening when I planed up a piece and found that it was as near perfect as I could imagine.

One of my 6" machinist's squares. I like them because they are way more accurate than a typical woodworking square. This particular one is within .0006" over it's length. I have a couple of different sizes here at home. I also use them at my shop and at work. My local hardware store has them and they are reasonably priced. Most would say that a square made to this level of accuracy is not required for woodworking, and they are likely correct. However, when you factor in cost, it's the best choice. I get these for about $20.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Kalamazoo Belt Grinder: Primary Bevels

One of the reasons I wanted to buy my belt grinder was grinding plane irons. Lets face it, I'm rubbish with a 6" grinder. I tend to get uneven and overheated results. If you use a bench grinder, you know how quickly you can overheat a blade. I try to be good about quenching...but.

The irons for my Stanley #5 need the primary bevels, here we go:

You can see that the secondary bevel has all but overtaken the primary bevel. I have two irons for this plane, and they are both in this state. Time to put a fresh 25 degree primary on.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Getting a handle on things?

Literally? hmmm...ok, maybe I'm not very witty all of the time.

The current state of my tiny little shop. Scraper handles in the making...scrapers in the making...lots of tools. That's six sets of handles, from redheart and Brazilian cherry. Handles are the time consuming part of this process, and I'm working to bring them under control.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Kalamazoo Belt Grinder, continued

In between baking a cheesecake and resting my tired bones (seriously, I've had enough of winter. the shoveling is killing me), I took some time to get my belt grinder set up.
I'm already in love!

Temporarily set up in my work shop. This machine will be heading for the basement. I don't want to grind where I work on wood.  I purchased a switch, box, and cable to set up the power cord. The table top is just cheap coated fiber board. It's heavy and absorbs vibration...which is what counts.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Kalamazoo Belt Grinder

I want a belt grinder. Well, wanted. I now have one. The thing about belt grinders is that they can get incredibly expensive. The saying, "you get what you pay for" applies.
There are a lot of options out there. This is one time when you have to bite the bullet and spend a few bucks. Some of these options can range over $2000. However, you can still do it without dropping a full paycheck.
What's out there? If you're going to be hardcore about it, you run out and grab a 3 wheel grinder that runs a 2" by 72" belt. There are more belts available for that size than any other size out there. Starting price? The least you can expect to spend is about $600 (without a motor).
I don't have that kind of cash. I went to the 2" by 48" size. My belts are more limited, but I can still get a high quality grinder and have a good enough belt selection to do what I want. So...enter the Kalamazoo belt grinder...
My new Kalamazoo grinder, with a basic selection of belts.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Surface Gage is coming along

A quick action shot from last night

Current state...several little pieces left to make.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

More scraper action

If you're a baking nerd like me, this is what you get excited about.
This one is heading off to my cousin.

Another one in the making...first of the full 4.5" blade version.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Jiggin' Around

I love making things. More than just things...I love making tools. Because tools are things that make things.

This is a drill jig for making pastry scrapers. The piece registers along the left and top. The drill bushings allow me to consistently place the holes in the blade and handles, thus saving a lot of work.