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The best online source
 of hand-tool woodworking discussion and information
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 When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone.

Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think...that a time is to come when those (heirlooms) will be held sacred because our  hands have touched them, and that men will say, as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, ‘See! This our father did for us."     ---John Ruskin


"Be Careful Near Machinery"
Works Progress Administration Poster from 1939


"The Perfection of a
clock is not to go fast,
but to be accurate"

Luc de Clapier, Marquis de Vauvenargues (1715-1747)





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In the Workshop
No workshop website would be complete without a workshop page.  This section is my current web project,  I plan to put together a workshop tour and photos of my favorite tools and jigs.  I will also photo-document the bench that I have chosen to build.  So, check back with this page as I fill in all the white spaces! 
Bench-Top Sharpening Station

Diamond Sharpening StationI refer to this as my bench-top sharpening station, even though I have yet to build a real workbench, but that's another story.

It is a simple "French fit" box constructed of pine upon a plywood base and holds four diamond stones, course, medium, fine, and super fine - all hand tool made of course. The Stanley #4 is there for size reference.

Since I occasionally need to remove the stones to get at them from different angles, I drilled finger holes in the base in each compartment to make removal easier, although they do get grunged-in a bit.

Roll-Your-Own Dovetail Marker

Walnut Dovetail MarkerThis is a dovetail marker that I made as a "take away" piece at the "Working With Hand Tools" class that I took at Homestead Heritage School of Woodworking near Waco, Texas.  The marker is made from black walnut and is about 3" long. One end is "square" on both sides for marking the pins and the other is "1:7" on both sides for marking the tails.  The piece is finished with a 50/50 blend of boiled linseed oil & turpentine, garnet shellac, and Butcher's wax. 

Workshop Photo

Workshop PhotoHere is a Summer 2004 photo of my workshop when I first received the heirloom cradle featured on the Project Page.  As you can see there's not a real bench in sight.  I make-do using the assembly table (that would be the scaffold-board-on-sawhorses), or the salvaged 1950s metal kitchen cabinets, or the Radial Arm Saw table. 

By way of a quick tour of the photo, what you're looking into is the "bump-out" at the back of one stall of a two-car garage.  This side of the garage is about 10' longer than the other side, by virtue of a 4' extension into the backyard and a 6' extension to the front.

The 15-drawer maple cabinet is, yes you recognized it, a vintage library card catalogue.  I wish that I had two more of these because they're great organizers. The unfinished pine pieces sitting on the recycled kitchen cabinets were the take-away practice pieces from a Homestead Heritage hand tool wood working class.  We made a dovetailed candle box and a small shelf unit with through tenons, dados, rabbets, and an arch apron using a Stanley 4 1/2, chisels, crosscut backsaw, and a dovetail saw. 

The  white three-bead moulding just in the left foreground is a custom run of moulding to match the original window and door casings in our house (c.1936).  I had Davis Hawn, a local old fashioned full-service lumberyard make a knife and run 500-feet of this moulding to appoint the new and newly remolded areas of the house, as well as to rectify someone's earlier remodeling  casing faux pas.  All that to say that my to-do-list always has painting or installing moulding listed somewhere.

Bulletin Board

Click to see readable version of CartoonI'm sure that all workshops have a "pin up" collection of photographs, drawings, comics, etc.- my shop is no different.  At the right is a For Better or Worse comic that I've recently posted that seems to capture the essence of my workshop - and maybe yours as well?


The Official Workshop Pages Cut List 
So, I decided that I needed a cut list the other day - even though they become worthless after you find a knot  or decide to shift on board 4 inches in relation to another.

Since I work in Excel most days at the office, I naturally turned to it to build a cut list that could be printed off and used in the shop.  But, just like a the office, I can't stop with just a simple form, so I decided to make it useful in its native state (i.e. electronic) and have it calculate board feet.  I was so pleased with it that I decided that I'd share it here.  See if you find it useful.   If you don't have Excel, here is a PDF version without the calculation function. Note: If you have trouble downloading the Excel file hold shift down while clicking and if you get a pop-up box hit ESC.

Wood Movement Charts 
Have you ever glued up a panel, prepared to attach it and then stopped to consider wood movement?  Of course, being an informed wood butcher you know to allow for seasonal moisture changes and the attendant wood swelling and shrinking, but how much and in which direction?  You can simply cut a longish slot and place a screw in the middle and hope for the best, but in this age of preciseness you probably want to know the length of the slot and where to place the screw.  Whatsezt?  Well I wanted to know and so I did a bit of digging, which  resulted in a chart (of course it did), and I found genuine US Government Publication, complete with Maps on moisture content for interior woodwork to go along with them - sorry but I’ve not yet found maps for EU, Canadians, Oz, etc.  If you do, please let me know.

NEW Dilution Formula
The dilution formula is used quite a bit around the workshop - although you may not see it in the mathematical form often. We use it empirically when we thin stains and paints, or add alcohol to shellac, etc. 

There's an easy to use formula to determine the outcome from adding a given amount of solvent, or weaker solution, to a stronger solution.  In finishing, you sometimes have strong saturated solutions (e.g.70%) that you need to make weaker (e.g.15%) for use.  Click the formula to see the solution.

I've also attached a chart that uses the dilution formula to calculate how to make Whole Milk (3.45% to 4%) from the various concentrations (skim, 1%, 2%, Half & Half, condensed or evaporated, and Heavy Cream) that people have on hand.  My wife is an excellent cook, and most recipes calling for milk what it Whole.  So, I made up the Whole Milk Conversion Chart to have handy when she asks for the answer.

Steel Wool - non-woven Abrasive Pad - Sandpaper Equivalent Chart
Here is a handy chart to paste to your sanding storage center.  It is just what is says, an approximation of the roughness or grit of each of the common abrasives used in woodworking.  This chart appeared in a great article on finishing by Jeff Jewitt in Fine Woodworking #159.

Wood Hardness Chart  Updated
On the occasions that I needed to know, or thought that I needed to know, the relative hardness of a certain wood, I could never find a comprehensive wood hardness chart.  So, I ended up making my own up from about five charts that I found in various locations on the Net.  Here's a copy, if your interested.  

By the way... the wood hardness number, also known as the Janka Test Number,  is determined by pressing a .444 inch steel ball to one-half of its diameter into the surface of a board.  The amount of force used to accomplish this feat, measured "pounds per square inch," is the wood harness number.

Math Conversions
I needed a couple of decimal conversions last week, so that started me on putting  together a reference chart to hang on the wall near the drill press - Fractional to Decimal & Millimeter Chart   If you need something a bit more robust, you might like to consult

Tips & Techniques

Popular Woodworking  - I Can Do That 
Would you like to get started in woodworking as a hobby - or perhaps know someone who would?  Popular Woodworking is publishing their "I Can Do That" magazine series on their website.  The series is turning into an excellent primer on tools (both hand and power), joinery techniques, and finishing for the budding apprentice

NEW Finishing Articles by Jeff Jewitt 
A great online resource about the ever-perplexing topic of finishing wood, by the widely publicized author, and owner of Homestead Finishing Products, Jeff Jewitt.    

 Woodworking Basics from Highland Hardware 
A massive, and growing, collection of  short How-To, Why, and What articles from a great online hardware store located in Atlanta.  

Distonian Institure 
For everything saw related, there is no better place to go to learn the ins and outs. With more detail than most of us want to deal with at one time, this site has the answers you seek about handsaws, sawing, and caring for your handsaws.  Also, check out the vintage Disston article How to use a Saw.  It's never too late to pick up a tip or two on something that we all *think* we know how to do.
Whether you're just getting started or are an old woodworking pro, I think that you'll find Howard Ruttan's site interesting and informative.  Mr. Ruttan has obviously spent a great deal of time thinking about, as well as doing woodworking and he has set up a site full of good information and tips.

Home Shop Finishes That Work! 
Jack at The Woodshop website maintains this great resource of extensive information on finishes, preparation, application variations, and a great recipe  for a "mix your own" wiping varnish.  

Hide Glue
Below are a few links concerning that most galoot of substances - hide glue. The first link is Deller Conservation Group's comprehensive answer to the question, "What exactly is hide glue and what are its properties."  The second link is to a paper by W. Patrick Edwards from 2001 entitled, "Why Not Period Glue?", that includes a  history and overview of hide glue, its uses, and properties.  Next is a practical discussion of use by Howard Ruttan at In the Woodshop. 

Poor man's Pore-O-Pac
Behlen’s makes a great grain filler called Pore-O-Pac, but when your in the shop and you need a clear-ish filler and the nearest store that *might* carry this item is an hour or more away, it's good to know how improvise. Patrick "Paddy" Olguin long-time resident of of the OldTools list and former seller of all things shellac gives two options, one very exciting and the other less so - both are shellac based..  Click on the header to see them both.   

Buffing & Polishing Compounds
Trying to get a mirror finish on that highboy?  Desirous of that "wet look" bar top look?  Well Donald Watland's article on the subject may be just what your looking for.  The article is housed on the Sydney Wood Turners Guild website, which also has other interesting information and newsletters.

Making Mouldings with Hollows & Rounds 
Ken Greenberg from the OldTools List provides a excellent step-by-step explanation of what has become a thoroughly esoteric subject - sticking moulding by hand.  This is difficult information to come by so it it worth a special mention here.   Also, while you are visiting Ken, take a look at his wonderfully informative site

Hand Cut Dovetails 
Here is as good and thorough an explanation of how to cut dovetails as you will find. Mr. Havens, proprietor of the website has done a great job of using text and photos to provide  step-by- step instructions on this sometimes confusing joint.

Wood Images
Ever have a great design idea, but couldn't get past using cherry AGAIN!?  Paul Hindes at The Hobbit House, who sells veneer on Ebay and bowls on his website has assembled a great online collection of wood images - many with with two or three views.  It's a great resource to peruse to find the perfect grain / color / texture match for your next project.

Make Your own Octagonal Chisel Handles 
Don McConnell, of Clark & Williams Plane Makers fame, has put together a nice how-to piece on making your own 18th Century style octagonal chisel handles.  This article and accompanying photographs is definitely worth reviewing before you begin making a replacement handle for your latest old tool acquisition.  

Screw Types and Drivers 
Ever come across a screw with an odd head pattern and wonder where you could get a driver to fit?  Well, I bet that you can find your answer here. 

Math Conversions
I needed a couple of decimal conversions last week, so that started me on putting  together a reference chart to hang on the wall near the drill press - Fractional to Decimal & Millimeter Chart   If you need something a bit more robust, you might like to consult

NEW  Vernier Calipers & Micrometers
So, what is it about these metalworking tools that fascinates woodworkers?  And, why do I always feel that they can do much more than I know what to do with them?  You will find some answers at the Physics Department of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.  They have posted a Vernier Calipers instructions page as well as an Vernier Calipers interactive simulation page to test what you think you've learned!  One note on the simulation, I did not find it obvious that you are supposed to "drag" the lower jaw with your mouse.. but that was just me. 

As for Micrometers, the SMU Physics Department comes to our rescue once again with a nice little Micrometer instructions page.

Phi - It's All Greek to Me 
Confused about all those references to the Greek letter Phi (1.6180339887...), Golden Section, Golden Ratio, Golden Mean, the Fibonacci Series - and their relationship to proportion and style on that highboy that you’re planning?  Well, will provide you with more than enough information to. talk intelligently about Phi at your next Woodworkers Guild meeting, as well as apply its concepts to your next project.  

Done with the concepts?  See this link for specific information on how to build your own Golden Section Gauge so you don't have to do all that pesky math (find the image that looks like the thumbnail right).  Now that you have the gauge, learn how to use it by watching Wood Magazine’s video that uses the Fibonacci Gauge in designing a table.  Wood Magazine also covered this concept in their November 2006 (#173) print issue.   Since we are seeking balance, here is a link to a well reasoned article by Michael Ostwald to serve as a rebuttal of the some of assertions set out above - "Under Siege: The Golden Mean in Architecture."

Coming Soon - Updated Workshop Tour
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