Posts Tagged With: tools

Stuff that Works

“Stuff that works, stuff that holds up
The kind of stuff you don’t hang on the wall
Stuff that’s real, stuff you feel
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall”    — Lyrics by the late Guy Clark

This is not a forum for advocating anything in particular, including any brands, types, or manufacturers of tools. But when I find something that works unexpectedly well for me, it makes sense to put it out here. I spent quite a long time pounding away with a chisel and mallet, cleaning out and squaring up the rounded corners on the Shoji Style sliding doors.





Each of the two doors has 12 square acrylic panes, with four corners each. That’s 96 corners to clean up, in some pretty tough white oak.

I tried several different chisels, trying to find one that would work quickly and do several corners before it needed to be sharpened. A couple of no name chisels failed very quickly. My old Stanleys and newer Lie Nielsens did relatively well. Finally, I settled on a Lie Nielsen mortise chisel to chop out the majority of the waste , then clean it up by paring with a Stanley bench chisel. This combination worked great. After pounding on the Lie Nielsen mortise chisel for over half of the corners, its edge is still in great shape – it’s going right back into the drawer with no need for sharpening. And that Lie Nielsen mortise chisel is a wonderful tool. But this post isn’t about the chisel. It’s about the mallet.

“I’d rather be a hammer than a nail.”   — Song lyrics by Paul Thorn


Blue Spruce Toolworks Mallet

I have to admit that I bought the Blue Spruce Toolworks mallet because it looks great. A classmate at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship had one and raved about how wonderful it was. When you hold it, it weighs WAY more than you can believe. Like its filled with lead or something. The Blue Spruce website says it is, “totally infused with acrylic resin to fill every cell.” I don’t have any idea how they would have done that to a gorgeous piece of tiger maple. But it looks great, with the African blackwood handle, and feels balanced and ergonomically perfect in the hand.

img_0934But here’s the amazing part: after beating on chisels, not only on this project but many others, there is not so much as a scratch on the mallet. Blue Spruce Toolworks claims that the acrylic infusion “helps prevent crushing of the face grain.” I can vouch for that. How does a mallet not get dented and scratched with use?

The Blue Spruce Toolworks mallet is a tool that works. I won’t ever have to buy or make another mallet. It feels great to use, works perfectly, and, yes, it still looks great!

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Lie Nielsen Toolworks Tour

While in Maine taking a class at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, our instructors arranged for the class to tour the Lie Nielsen manufacturing facility, which is just down the road from the school near Rockport.

Lie Nielsen Toolworks makes some of the finest hand tools you can buy today. I only have a few of their tools, but they are among my most favorite, and get lots of use. The quality is obvious to both the eye and the hand. They have a feel and balance in their hand planes, chisels, saws, etc. that elevate them above most the competition.

It was a highlight of the trip to see how a chunk of metal becomes a Lie Nielsen hand plane.

The foundry work is done by a small family owned foundry not far away. The designs and molds are done in house. Much of the machining is done on old Bridgeport milling machines. They have also incorporated CNC milling machines into the process, but handwork is still a fundamental part of the process. They work in small batches, with the goal being that today’s manufacturing will be sold within a month.

Here are some photos.

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The castings arrive in a web and are cut apart

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Initial Milling of the blanks

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After initial milling and powder coating

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CNC milling area

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Final milling on the old Bridgeports

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Squaring the side to the bottom

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Blades blanks

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Caps and parts in process

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They have a wood shop for handles, etc

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Saws are finished with hand filing

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Blades ready to go

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Final assembly by hand

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Finished, boxed and ready to go

It was a great tour. Unfortunately, no free samples were given out. But you do get a 10% discount when you buy in person in the showroom. And, yes, I did purchase a few items. Some chisels, a small router plane, and their low angle smoothing plane that was too nice to pass up.

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Computer Stand

A friend asked me to build him a stand to use for his desktop PC with some room underneath for a small subwoofer.  Here is the stand ready for delivery:

Computer Stand

Computer Stand

The stand is built from red oak. The size was specified by my friend, with the finished piece standing about 17 inches tall, and with a top measuring about  27 x 16. The finish began with a sanding sealer, followed by a walnut stain and completed with about 5 coats of General Finishes Oil and Urethane. A couple coats of Renaissance Wax brought up a nice, deep shine.

I softened the edges on much of the piece by chamfering the edges and corners.

Chamfered corner and edges

Chamfered corner and edges

And, I used some fun joinery to construct the piece. The bottom shelf is notched at each leg, and the legs are mortised to accept the shelf.  The very bottom of the legs are tenoned to fit a square mortise in the base. The top of each leg has a bridle joint to accept a top crosspiece.

I have used bridle joints now on several projects, including a dining room table and even on my current workbench. It is a very effective way of joining a vertical piece to a horizontal one in a very strong and stable manner.

This project was built with both power and hand tools. It was a fun project to design and build, since it incorporated a variety of processes. One of my original design criteria was to construct it with no mechanical fasteners — and I nearly succeeded with that. In the end, I used screws and metal clips to fasten the top to the undercarriage. This arrangement allows the top to expand and shrink in various environmental conditions without cracking or buckling. After looking at many other methods of attaching the top, I thought this way was best.



Here are some photos showing various components in construction:

pc stand 04

Mortise on leg to accept the bottom shelf


Legs fit into mortises

Legs fit into mortises

 Bridle joint at top of leg

Bridle joint at top of leg

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A Couple of Craigslist Finds.

One of the best places to find tools at a good price is Craigslist. I confess to checking the website regularly, and have found some great deals. Here are two of my recent finds.

Grizzly 8 in. Jointer

Grizzly 8 in. Jointer


I got this jointer from a local gentleman who will be moving to a retirement community where he will not have room for a workshop. He had a huge basement shop, and was selling most everything. I got this jointer for about 15% of what a new one costs, and this one looks and performs like new. I am finding that it is indeed handy to have a jointer in the shop. I had devised several work-arounds to true up the edges of boards, but this is definitely several steps up from there.

I have added another 220v circuit and another run of ductwork for dust collection at the jointer, and have done a little bit of tuning up, and it is a welcome addition to my little workshop.



Veritas Medium Shoulder Plane

Veritas Medium Shoulder Plane


The other Craigslist find is something I have wanted to get for quite awhile as well. It is a very specialized tool, and though there are several manufacturers and several sizes, this is the exact shoulder plane that I had researched and decided to buy. This is a much needed tool when building anything with mortise and tenon joints. Unlike most other hand planes, the shoulder plane’s blade is the full width of the body, which means you can get all the way into a corner. This is my second plane by Veritas, and I am impressed with their overall quality. Without a shoulder plane, I was using a chisel to clean up the faces, cheeks and shoulders of the tenons. This plane makes that job much more accurate.

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A New Router Table for the Shop

My old router table badly needed replacing. It was way too low, since it started as a table-top and later a frame was added under it. There was no dust collection, unless you count all the dust that collected in the two drawers. The top was too small to adequately use my Join-Tech fence positioner system. And, it was difficult to roll around.

Correcting those issues was the main criteria for designing a new table. The table height went from 29″ to 34″. The top size grew from 24″ x 32″ to 27″ x 42″. Dust collection was added, both a downdraft under the router, and a branch to collect behind the fence. And, a partially concealed wheel system was used.

Router Table

The top is made from baltic birch plywood, with a 3/4″ sheet glued to a 1/2″ sheet, resulting in a 1 1/4″ thick top. The top is supported on maple “rails” which are attached to the top by wooden “buttons” riding in routed slots to allow for movement. The case is mostly red oak, with some white oak panels. The dust collection area where the router hangs has plexiglas panels, and a light that comes on when the router is switched on, so you can watch the dust get whisked away down the 4″ pipe.

The area under the dust collection box houses the dust collection pipe, and also some hidden casters which are deployed by use of the hand crank at the bottom of the case. These casters raise that end up enough to engage the wheels at the other end of the case.


Dust Collection port on back

The Join-Tech positioner mounts to 3/4″ stock which must be clamped to the table securely. I drilled a couple holes in the top and used very short pipe clamps to hold the positioner in place. The slots will allow for movement of the unit as needed.


Router Table Top

The top has yet to get its miter channel, and I plan to work on improving the fence which attaches to the positioner. My old table had a Formica laminate surface, and perhaps this one will get that treatment in the future. For now, the top is baltic birch plywood, finished with 5 coats of poly-acrylic, and a coat of wax. The rest of the piece got a Danish Oil finish.

The dust collection works even better than I had hoped. It is a night and day difference from my old set-up. The larger surface will come in handy, and working at a better height makes it much easier to use.

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