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The Best Advice for Woodworkers

Simple woodwork for the common man, that's what all this is about. By all means glean what you can from reading what the experts say. But don't let that get in the way of your woodwork! Remember that every day that you do some woodwork, your techniques improve. Even when everything goes wrong, that is still an important day, when you will have learned something you won't easily forget.

John Brown, Good Woodworking magazine, 1998




Happy New Year!


End of Year Thoughts, Ramblings and Thanks

You know more than the devil about what goes on in Heaven, so if you assure me that angels play the guitar then I can die happy.


Andres Segovia, An Autobiography, 1976




What a year! It was great! Not only do I get to live in this wonderful house on these 5 acres at the very base of the Indian Peaks of the Rocky Mountains, but I also had the chance to work at many of the great properties owned by Boulder County Parks and Open Space.

I've also posted more on my blog than ever before and the number of"hits" to my blog is over 62,000, most of those have happened in just the past year! I owe that to Luke Townsley, previous owner of unpluggedshop.com, and I just found out that Luke sold the site to Joseph and Paul Sellers which is maintained by New Legacy Woodworking. I extend a hearty Thank You to Luke for finding my blog in the first place and to New Legacy which continues to post my posts on Unplugged Shop!

I want to thank Leif at the Norse Woodsmith for putting my blog on h…

Look at the Lathe that Santa Brought Me!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf...

Clement Clarke Moore, A Visit from St. Nichols, 1823




What a wonderful thing, we got snow on Christmas Eve! It was only four inches, but there was still 10 inches on the ground from the last storm. It also got down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit last night!




Wow, look at this bench top lathe that I got! It is a sweet little lathe, it runs quiet and smooth! Just the thing for turning tool handles, tuning pegs and crochet hooks for my wife!

Miter Cuts by Hand

The most important possession of an instrument maker is his workbench.

Stanley Doubtfire, Make Your Own Classical Guitar, 1981


You know you've gone completely nuts when you take a bone keyboard tail, cut it into three pieces and then glue all the pieces back together again with some added black veneer. I did this to make a veneer overlay for the tie block on one of the guitar bridges I am making.





After I cut the three pieces and super glued on the black veneer, I made a miter box out of a piece of scrap pine.





I've cut many a precise cut when I was a full-time finish/trim carpenter, though I never did any work this small on a custom home. I think these Xacto brand mini back saws are the best!






Testing the cuts as I go.






The end pieces are so small that I had to put everything on a piece of double sided carpet tape.





All the pieces and miter cuts are coming along nicely, though if you have a good eye you can see a piece that was cut just a hair's width too short.

To assemble t…

15 Inches of Snow and Guitar Bridges

The smoothing planes require not only sharp edges, but also an understanding of the use of a backing iron. When doing the final planing, this iron should be as close as possible to the cutting edge of the blade.

Jose Romanillos, The Classical Guitar, 1979




We got a good snow fall over December 18th and 19th, I measured 15 inches in the meadow by 2pm yesterday and then temperature dropped down to 3 degrees Fahrenheit for a while last night. Even with this snow the ground is still so dry that when the snow shovel hits bare dirt it kicks up dust!






Got the strings and string action set on a guitar (western red cedar top and black walnut back and sides) yesterday, it's a nice sounding guitar, just some touch up with French polish and it will be ready for sale.

Today, as a reward to getting the aforementioned guitar ready, I started making bridges-one for a close copy of a Hernandez y Aguado guitar and the other for a copy of a Rene Lacote guitar, circa 1830. I am using padauk for both b…

Guitar Neck "V" Joint Construction

Yes, we three were so happy, my wife, my guitar and me.

Big Bill Broonzy



Remember this guitar?





It is a close copy of a c.1839 Rene Lacote guitar that I made some time again. The peg head was fitted with mechanical friction tuners.




The tuners never worked that well, I had a hard time keeping them tight to the peg head and when they were tight, they were hard to adjust. I wanted a better solution.




My solution was to cut off the original peg head back to the original "V" of the joint and pare it down to the glue line.




I thought a piece of Spanish cedar would contrast well with the black walnut, in this photo I have cut out the female part of the joint.




Both male and female parts are mated and ready for glue up.




I have found making full size drawings a very helpful and time saving practice, I wanted to make sure that the tuner slots won't cut into the male part of the joint.



Thanks goodness for long reach "C" clamps!




Gluing on the top veneer.



This drilling jig fro…

The Ten String Classic Guitar-My Latest Obsession Part 6

If there is such a thing as a perfect instrument it will, more than likely, be in the "eyes of the beholder".

Jose Oribe, The Fine Guitar, 1985



It's been a busy past 2 days. First, I drilled the holes for the tuning machines...



Then I got ready to cut the slots...




I cut the slots and smoothed them out.




Now comes the fun part, carving out the heel block! By the way, I made this turning saw over 20 years ago from an oak tree on my grandparents property and the blade is a bow saw blade that I bought at WalMart! The handles are mulberry from a tree on my parents' property, the only metal in this saw is the blade and the brass nails that hold the blade! I would like to make a new saw, but hey, this one still works!




A good sloyd knife is your best friend. It's kinda like that old saying "and Bob's your uncle!"




The finish product, so far... The block might change for the smaller!




Just for your TK! This is how I know that I had a good day, a messy workbench…

Which is Better? The Old Plane Irons or the New Plane Irons?

Wood must be smoothed, squared up and made to fit--the three main jobs of a plane.

Aldren A. Watson, Hand Tools: Their Ways and Workings, 1982




I mentioned in an earlier post that I thought that the best way to soup up your antique metal hand plane was to replace the original chip breaker with a thicker one. I have a Lee Valley breaker on a #3 Stanley plane and a Hock on my #4 and #7 Stanley planes, both are great chip breakers and reduce iron chatter by an amazing amount.



A #3 iron on the left, a #4 iron on the right

My #3 and #7 sport Hock blades, wonderful blades to use and sharpen, but on one of my #4's I kept the original iron and installed a new breaker. That iron works just as well as the Hock irons, but I find the original Stanley iron sharpens to a razor more quickly and easily and holds an edge just as long as the Hock iron. The same goes for the iron that is in my Stanley #35.

After using those old irons for over 30 years, I know that those old timers sure knew how to mak…

New "Old" Tools

Deal-
The term is used of fir and pine loosely. White deal is the wood of the Norway Spruce, Red Deal that of the Scotch Pine, Yellow deal that of the yellow pine; but much depends upon local custom, red and yellow deal often being the same wood, Pinus slyvestris.

Hampton and Clifford, Planecraft, 1934


I've been meaning to post some photos of tools that I acquired at meetings of the Rocky Mountain Tool Collectors.




A stick and rebate plane, a small drawknife and a small Stanley plane.






I bought the stick and rebate with the idea of making a copy to use when I make new window sashes, but that may have to wait for several years. Right now I have a router bit that will do the same job, though with much more noise!

The plane was bought with nostalgia, it is a step up from the folded metal modeler's plane that my brother and used when we were kids in the 1970's.

The drawknife was a steal at a price that was much cheaper than anything new from Lee Valley or other modern day vendo…

The Earliest Known Joiner Shop in the US is Discovered!

Check out this article!

Click here!

The earliest known joiner and cabinetmaker’s shop on its original site anywhere in the United States was recently discovered in Duxbury, Massachusetts!


12/03/12 update!

Rob from The Offcut emailed me that Peter Follansbee had posted about this workshop earlier this summer. Click here for more information and photos!



Smoothing Planes, Which is Better? The Stanley No. 3 or the Stanley No.4

What, sir rule, said the plane,
Another reason I will thee say;
Tho oft my master have no stock,
Yet thy master thou should not mock;
For yet a means I shall see,
So that my master shall prosperous be.
I shall him help, both day and night.
To get him good with all my might,
I shall cleanse on every side
To help my master in his pride.


Anonymous, 15th century manuscript





Rob Gates, who has a wonderful blog, The Offcut, asked me whether I like the Stanley #3 smoothing plane better than the #4 smoothing plane.


I like both, but I find that I will pick up the #3 more often than I do a #4. Why? Maybe because of the #3 seems to "cleanse" wood easier than a #4. I find it interesting that one of my #3's smooths Indian rosewood better than the other, that could be explained by saying I have that blade and plane tuned up perfectly for such wood, or...?

For the record, the two planes I use most are a #3 and a #7.

And another thing-I discovered that these old vintage planes (pre-WWII…

The Ten String Classic Guitar-My Latest Obsession, Part 5

For me the guitar has always been a beautiful instrument as a medium of expression, and my attachment to it continues to increase with the years.

Alexander Bellow, The Illustrated History of the Guitar, 1970



I am sorry that I haven't posted much this month, it's been hard to make time with my job and dealing with the Thanksgiving holiday.

Today, I finished carving the crest on the peghead of the ten string guitar that I am making. Lots of chisel, file and scraping work to make the final design.



The top veneer needed to be thinned down to 2mm, I sharpened up the blade on my No. 3 smooth plane and put a 10 degree back bevel on it and pushed the chip breaker as close as I could to the edge of the blade.



Nice thin shavings!




In this shot I am in the process of thinning the back of the head piece, I want the final thickness to be 20mm, then I can drill the holes for the tuning machines and cut out the slots.



New Hand Tool Rack

A workbench and vise are the first, last and most important tools without which all others would be only half as useful.

Aldren A. Watson, Hand Tools: Their Ways and Workings, 1982



Sorry for the bright photos, I didn't have time this afternoon to take any pics, but today was spent re-installing some old shelves to hold planes, etc., and a new tool rack.




Space in my studio is at a premium, my plan is to empty the tool chest and get it off the studio floor, I am tired of walking around it. It was nice to build a shelf box to display my joiner and jack planes!

(Yes, that is a photo of me playing my guitar at a Chris Parkening master class at Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana back in August 1980!)


As much as I love my tool chest, a tool rack gives immediate access to certain hand tools. Another set of shelves will be built and I need to figure out where to put the drawknives and hand saws! This shot shows only half of the chisels that I own and use, I have too many tools! …

The First Good Snow Storm of the Fall Season

A comfortable camp while in the woods is one which affords shelter from the wind and storm.

Daniel Carter Beard, The Field and Forest Handy Book, 1906




The National Weather Service website said that those of us along the Dry Fork of St. Vrain Creek received only 10 inches of snow, I measured 13 inches this morning. It snowed heavily Wednesday night, again last night and when I woke up this morning the thermometer read 18 degrees F., not too cold, but it was just right for this light and fluffy snow. Okay, so I'm rambling, but it was a gorgeous day today.

I've been home sick these last two days and it's annoying not to be able to go out and play in this snow, though I did manage to take the dogs for a walk up the gulch. I look forward to more snowy days like this.

The Ten String Classic Guitar-My Latest Obsession, Part 4

Andres Segovia had little use for modern innovation where the classical guitar was concerned. For Segovia, the classical guitar ethos mainly featured six strings (nylon, to be sure, but still...), one guitar (though he did admire the playing of the Presti-Lagoya duo), and compositions he transcribed or which were dedicated to him.

Howard Bass, Jose Tomas: Memory and Legacy, 2012 (Click on title for the full article!)



Slowly, I continue work on the neck for the 10 string classical guitar.


I decided that the headplate should have BWB purfling sandwiched between to the two halves of fiddle back maple. I will use this BWB in the back of the guitar.




Here's a close up of the joint while the pieces are in situ on the shooting board.




In order to join the pieces I made a small version of a plate joining jig. The two pieces together are four inches wide - a top or back for a classical guitar are a little over sixteen inches wide when you join them, I hope from that description you can get…

Aspen, Ponderosa Pine and Fall

This is my backyard, yes, I own this and these scenes are less than 100 feet behind our house. How lucky am I! I am so grateful to live here!