Author Archive

Not dead yet

So there has been some interesting flak around my recent obituary posted by Chris Schwarz. I’ve received several phone calls and emails, and been truly and genuinely surprised that there actually do seem to be some people who might be saddened by news of my death. My only regret is about the people who took the blog as true and were saddened by it. That wasn’t the intent. It’s also the reason I posted in the comments of the obituary almost immediately. To make clear that it was a (bizarre/twisted/stupid/genius/droll/unfunny/oddball/kaufmannesque/unforgiveable – take your pick) joke.

Of course, Im not actually dead – other than this blog, at least.

So here’s the skinny: Chris sent me the post before putting it up, asking me if I thought it “went too far”. I said of course not. There’s a lesson in that for anyone (sadly) considering reaching out to me as the voice of restraint. I most definitely do NOT do restraint. You might want to consider taking Chris off your ‘good angel on the right shoulder’ candidate roll as well.

Was it in poor taste? Maybe it was – certainly a few people whose opinions I respect thought so. But part of my defining personality has always been that I have no care for ‘taste’. I am pretty firmly on the irreverent side of any line you care to draw. I dislike sacred cows, and I dislike piety in most forms. I think righteousness in most of its incarnations is one of the great ills of our society, and I think we tend to avoid the uncomfortable to our own detriment. I have never felt more of us ought to be easily-offended, but almost always think most of us take ourselves too seriously. It’s a stance I am comfortable with, and plan to keep.

I also have a thoroughly lowbrow and childish sense of humor.

I also know that I share at least a few of those qualities with Schwarz. It’s one of the reasons we’ve always gotten along well. There’s lots of laughter – usually very inappropriate laughter.

But before you write him off, you ought to consider that his off-kilter personality is the driving force behind his single-minded bulldozing forward of the ‘hand tool woodworking’ world. And anyone who’s been paying attention for more than a few years will have to admit that he’s one of the singular driving forces behind the ‘resurgence’ that we’re enjoying. Without his personality tics and off-center socialization, you don’t get the brilliance of the writing or the obsessive details in learning about this stuff we all care about. You also wouldn’t get the audience that gave him such a powerful megaphone to make the case in the first place. Is it worth it to you?

Before you answer – think back to the days when EVERY magazine cover had a router table plan at the top of the roll, and hand planes never showed up in anything but a logo.

Personally, I tend very strongly to value the differences and quirks in people much more than the things that make them good little members of society. I think it’s the oddballs that move us forward, and that make it interesting.

I’ve never been exactly a conformist cog in the social wheels myself, though, so that’s probably a self-serving stance. But it’s mine nonetheless.

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Suspect Device

Machines ain’t the problem. Lazy people are the problem.

First you design for yourself, and use the machine to make the design. Then you start working out how to make the most of the machine, and eventually you’re not designing for people anymore – you’re designing for the machine.

But really, the machine’s designing for itself.

And you? You’re just a superfluous bag of carbon patting yourself on the back for your sleek new designs.

And about a week later, everything in your world looks like an ipod.

- Johnny Bode

During Schwarz’s blogging of the Roubo Project some comments brought up a common straw man. As one commenter put it:
“No escape finding it quite ironic, when the going gets tough prominent advocates of light and noiseless hand tools shamelessly and enthusiastically embrace noisy and o-so-very-heavy mastodonic machinery.”

As someone who most definitely advocates for the use of hand tools, I’d like to respond that only in a certain type of pigeonhole does enthusiasm for hand tools equate to eschewing machinery.

I know a few woodworkers who are completely devoted to hand-powered-only work for reasons of philosophy, history (though machines have been in woodworking shops for a very very long time), or just personal preference. I applaud those proud few their convictions, but I have zero interest in any of that.

What I care about is designing and making the best stuff I can. Period. Full-friggin-stop.

What started me on hand tools was that the furniture I wanted to make was essentially unmake-able with machines alone. When I started making planes, I ran into the same issue.

The issue is that nearly all machines are just tireless idiot savants. They do things like straight lines, flat planes, perfect circles, and smooth surfaces really well – but they do irregular curves and diverse textures incredibly poorly, and only under extreme pressure from jigs and workarounds. And the power source has nothing to do with that – what powers the tool is almost totally unimportant. What guides it, however, means everything.

I think that all craft involves design – which equates to human intent. And that intent is writ large on the object produced. The best objects have complex, diverse, and broad intentions and thinking wrapped up in their designs. Look in your local art museum and see how many perfect spheres, ideal triangles, and straight lines you see represented there. Heck, look in your local forest, or your backyard.

Now look in Wal-mart. Look around your office. Look at any strip mall.

I’ve got nothing (much) against offices and strip-malls – but when I can I’d rather spend my time and energy elsewhere.

The best furniture makers I know are ALL extremely capable with both hand and power tools. The tools don’t much matter to them – they learn whatever tools they need to get the results they ‘see’ in their heads. That’s what I aspire to. And most of what I see in my head is done much more easily with the hand than with the computer, and the fence, and the jig.

But when the computer, machine, and jig will do the job you can bet I’m using them. Leaves me more time for the bits I need to do myself…

Your Southern Can Is Mine

Because I was (by far) the slowest and most infrequent blogger in the house, there’s already been better coverage of the 2013 FORP than I could ever offer:

Jam-master “J” Alibaba’s video and commentary over at the Benchcrafted blog
AP Style Maven Chris “The Tip” Schwarz’s day-by-day coverage at Lost Art Press
Jeff Miller hit on some brilliant photo essays
Justin Leib also had running commentary at Halfblind Woodworker
And finally, Don Williams’ summary at Don’s Barn

Georgia in summer is, indeed, hot and humid. Still, other than my kids it was easily the best cause I ever donated bodily fluids to.

Here’s a few shots of my spindly little bench. I suspect it may be showing up in photos here for a good long time, but I wanted to get a few shots of it while it was still clean. It’s getting no finish, I’m getting ready to rough the top up with a quick traverse planing, and I’ve every intention of beating it senseless for the rest of my days.

Dig, most thoroughly, the killer hardware Peter Ross and Lake Erie toolworks made for the event.

Lost in the Supermarket

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I was in the local Orange Behemoth not long ago, and saw some woodworking magazine with the phrase ‘CNC magic’ on the cover. The picture was a geometric bowlish object – one of those things that looks like it was made with the 3D equivalent of a spirograph. I made an involuntary noise. ‘Bless you’ chimed the woman at the nearest register.

I don’t begrudge anyone their hobbies. And I know that there’s a lot of mental skill involved in programming one of those bowls into the machine. But for the life of me I can’t see how those skills have much to do with woodworking, anymore than I think playing ‘annoying birds’ is like learning physics. Maybe I’m kidding myself, but to my thinking CNC bowls are to woodworking as Big Macs are to beef. Technically speaking, they may be part of the same general category, but that doesn’t make the insinuation any less offensive to a ribeye.

Me? I’ve gotten very clear that I’m at my best when I spend my time and money on skills rather than on machines. It’s not the smart move. The smart move is to get an MBA and pay some ‘skilled laborer’ to make my stuff for me.

But personally I am pretty comfortable with having traded any possibility of a McLaren in for the chance to make things with my hands.

I try not to sob in public.

This week my hands made up a screen and ceiling shade for a client’s kitchen. This is the sound of speed.

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DT2 Index plane – for sale

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Last year when I introduced the DT planes, I had a tough time working out what to call them. Genetically, the planes are an outgrowth of the traditional british thumb plane, but there are pretty substantial differences compared to, say, a Norris 32.

Most significantly, the DT series wedge and front bun are designed for significantly different ergonomics than a traditional thumb plane – with the goal being a range of grips that are comfortable and allow very subtle control both one- and two- handed.

After my initial post about these planes, UK carpenter Greg Reid contacted me with a brilliant suggestion: why not call them ‘index’ planes? In well under a second I’d bought into the idea completely. It describes the critical control focus (the index finger rather than thumb), but also conveys a sense of precision that I think gets at the sort of picture I have of the planes.

So: index planes they are. Thanks Greg – easily the best suggestion I’ve ever received through my blog.

Around the same time, another client asked me if I could imagine a slight redesign of the DT-1 sidewalls that would have a more traditional ‘feel’ than the very modern lines on the original. I liked the idea, and loved the final plane. Here’s a shot of both versions of the DT-1 in ironwood to show the sidewall differences clearly. The DT-1 modern is in the foreground, and the DT-1 traditional in the rear.

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I honestly cannot decide which I prefer – so I’ll be making both styles. Which brings me to:

PLANE FOR SALE: DT-2 traditional profile.

This is the first plane I’ve made in the larger DT-2 size with this profile. The plane has a 1-1/2-inch blade, a sole length of 6-1/2″, and weighs about 2 lbs. 4 oz. African blackwood infills.

It’s a sick plane, if I do say so myself.

Price: $1700. I still need to build a mallet for the plane, so it will be available for shipping by the end of next week.

First ‘I’ll take it’ email gets it. raney@daedtoolworks.com

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I got peace turned up so loud. Handworks 2013.

Punk at its heart is a blood-n-spit forged radical commitment to integrity. It’s a full-force head-butt to a mass-produced culture that degrades our humanity and a caste system sewn in niceties, innuendoes, and euphemism.

It’s not nice and it’s certainly not subtle. But true? Aye – it’s that. Always that.

— Stew Napalm, aka Stuart Daedalus

How was Handworks? Well – other than Narayan Nayar wussing out on a crowd-surfing opportunity – it was pure punk.

And for those of you who don’t know me – that’s about as high praise as I get. If I rotated on an axis, its poles would be Punk and Zen.

Handworks was chest-thumping, adrenaline-pumping Peace with a capital P.

Was it good for business? Probably. But – and you’ll have to trust me on this one – that’s not why I went, or why it was worth every second. I went because it was a chance to be immersed in craftsmanship with some of the most talented people I know.

And to me, the real value of this sort of event is not what I learn there, what I buy there, or what I sell there. The real value for me is what I bring home with me. Pure, unbridled enthusiasm. I came home from handworks exhausted, spent, and positively on fire with the urge to make mind-blowing stuff, to get better at it and to see if I can impress myself. I got home and couldn’t wait to dive into my shop and create something.

Radical dharma in a bottle. As a verb. Present tense.

Thanks to Jameel, Fr. John, and (because no one ever does anything alone in their family – or in this world) the entire Abraham clan. Now get to work on 2015.

One of these things is not like the others

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One of them’s sold, one’s mine, and one is the ‘door prize’ at Handworks.

Which one’s earning me bupkis? Here’s some clues specifically geared to anyone educated in the US public schools. There will be (multiple choice) test.

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Come by the booth and see me if you’re going to Amana. I will NOT be the guy in the Grateful Dead T-shirt.

And if you’re not going to Amana, I’ll try not to laugh at your misfortune. Or your haircut.

More regular blog stuff soon – I promise.

EOY Simplifying My Life A Bit Sale

So here we are, dear reader, at that point of the year when all good neurotics re-evaluate everything about their life, mode of being, relationships, vices, and position in the world. Personally, I’ve only got one area of my life that gets any degree of reflection beyond “I think I’ll have a sammich” and that’s my shop life.

And in this process, I’ve decided to sell a few of my personal planes that, frankly, I just don’t use anymore. I’m not very interested in much more than getting these out of my shop and (hopefully) into one where they’ll see some use, and rather than think much about it I’m just selling these at half the regular price.

Just to be clear – all these are excellent workers, and all have seen significant use in my shop and at demos and shows. Specifics on each tool are addressed below.

Also – before anyone asks: this is it. There is not a stash of ‘other’ planes I’m selling, or a ‘seconds’ bin – please don’t ask.

First person to email me to say they want one of these gets it. You can see larger images by clicking any of the photos below.

edit: SOLD
PLANE A:
a 1″ mitre plane. Ebony infill. This is the only mitre I’ve made to include a lever cap – which is either a ‘plus’ or a ‘minus’ depending on how you feel about lever caps and the aesthetics. Personally, I prefer a wedge – but for sheer function, this is a really nice feature. It’s also one of only a handful of planes I’ve made out of stainless steel (304).

I used this plane pretty extensively for several years, but between the new DT-1 and the slightly larger 1-1/4″ mitre I made earlier this year, this plane has become superfluous. $800.

edit: SOLD
PLANE B: another 1″ mitre – this one a wedged version with Brazilian Rosewood.

This was one of the first planes I made in this style, and there are a couple of subtle aesthetic differences between it and the newer mitre planes.

First is that it’s about 1/2″ longer than I now make these.

Second is that it uses slightly smaller bolts for securing infills.

Subtle details, but they are noticeable to me. As mentioned above, I really don’t find myself using this size plane these days, so it’s gotta go.
$800.

edit: SOLD

PLANE C: This one is the development prototype plane for the DT-1 – infill is Macassar Ebony.

There are some slight design differences, and one functional apology to note.

The most significant aesthetic difference is that this plane has a closed rear, whereas the final designed is open at the back (under the blade).

Functionally, this plane has a very open mouth. My tolerance for mouth openings is about 4-8 thousandths of an inch – this plane has an opening that’s more along the lines of 30 thou.

For all intents and purposes, the mouth opening is too large to function as a tearout-reduction strategy.

For most purposes, and in the vast majority of woods, this is a non-issue – but it will affect performance in the toughest woods.

$925.

Again – email me if interested. And there you have it dear reader. Happy New Year!

PS – I’m also longing to get rid of my massive, idle, and space-hogging Brown and Sharpe no. 10 OD/ Tool & Cutter grinder. If anyone is interested – and can come GET IT – just drop me a line.

Daed Toolworks Block/Thumb Plane

Brace yourselves, gentle readers. Two blog postings in one month – I know, right?

First things first – For those needing further proof that the map is indeed not the territory, today it was discovered that tearing off the last page of the Mayan calendar didn’t actually cause the cessation of the human species. Good News – unless of course you’re Mayan and have to date a check. But for the rest of us, it’s smiley emoticons all round.

So, being still here, and on solid temporal ‘ground’, I thought I’d celebrate by introducing a pair of new plane models.

A few months back, I put together a blog post dealing with the concept of design. There were a few reasons for this, foremost being that at that point I was knee-deep in trying to design a new thumb plane.

Around that time, I’d worked out a drawing that I liked – shown at right – and had made a first-run prototype. Between the two, I’d come to a design I was quite happy with, and I’d also worked out a somewhat larger version as well.

DT-1, shown with Desert Ironwood

So here are the fruits of my labor. The Daed Toolworks DT-1 and DT-2 planes, shown – well, throughout this whole damn post. The smaller DT-1 is 5-1/2″ long at the sole and has a 1-1/4″ blade. Its larger brother, the DT-2, is 6-1/2″ long, with a 1-1/2″ blade.

DT-2 with Brazilian Rosewood infills

Just a word about nomenclature here. I’m referring to these as block/thumb planes because I frankly don’t really know what else to call them. In use, they’re designed to do the same sort of work that most of us use a block plane for – chamfering, smoothing small areas, tuning joinery, and all manner of odd jobs. In the history of infill planes, however, I think this sort of tool falls loosely under the thumb and chariot plane heading. From a design standpoint, I don’t think they really look much like common models in either camp.

But for the sake of giving some sort of explanation as to their likely use – block/thumb plane it is.

In designing these, the criteria for me was to make a plane that was compact and ergonomically designed for both one- and two-handed use. Along the way I also wanted to see if I could stretch the aesthetics of my current work just a bit more.

I’m including a number of photos of the planes with a few of the more common handholds. I find these extremely comfortable, and to be honest I couldn’t be happier from an ergonomic standpoint. Please resist the urge to sign me up for a manicure.

I’ll be adding some info on these to my website over the next couple of weeks, but I wanted to at least get them posted to the blog before the year slips away. For those interested, the DT-1 is going to be priced at $1850, and the DT-2 at $2050.

Here’s wishing everyone the finest of holiday seasons. I’m looking forward to some time with my family, and some time in the shop. I’m taking a two-week hiatus from planemaking to actually do a bit of actual woodworking. Huzzah!

Modern Edge Tools

A couple of weeks ago, the hipster geniuses at Tools for Working Wood sent out a new publication called ‘Modern Edge Tools’. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can download it from their site. Personally, I think it’s worth every second you can spare. I defy anyone to read “Saw Veneer in your Spare Time” and not marvel at the human spirit and laugh at human folly. Brilliant stuff.

Maybe even better than the print, though, are the videos that accompany it on the company’s MET page. Last summer, TFWW’s Ben Seltzer took a trip to the UK and shot video of the toolmaking operations at a trio of old-school operations: Clico/Clifton, Ray Iles, and Ashley Iles. Anyone who has even a passing interest in toolmaking and craftsmanship should watch them.

After a serious rinse/repeat cycle from Mother Nature this year, Brooklyn’s best tool vendor deserves a huge round of applause for their work. In addition to being damn funny, Joel and crew have a positive genius for reintroducing historical practices, tools, and techniques to the modern handtool world. They make the best production backsaws I’ve ever used, they resurrected the turning saw for the new millennium, and if you are reading this blog it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re using their holdfasts (and that you probably hadn’t ever used a holdfast before they brought them back to popularity).

Watch the videos. Read the booklet. And have a merry merry Xmas.

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