Monday, October 9, 2017

New Article in Popular Woodworking

In this month's issue of Popular Woodworking, I have an article (my first!) on making a double iron coffin smoothing plane. Here's a link to a description of the article, and here's a link to purchase, should you be so inclined.

I didn't choose the title--Popular Woodworking likes puns more than the NY Post does!--but I'm very happy with how it all turned out. Megan Fitzpatrick originally asked me to write a seven-page article. A few months later, I emailed her to say "I have a problem. I've written 15 pages and I'm not done yet." But somehow, she managed to condense it down to 10 pages, without omitting any essential content.

I tried to put everything I could think of into this article, but after it was done, I realized there was one thing I didn't mention: no matter how complete an article is, it can never substitute for learning at the School of Hard Knocks. I tried to include everything I've learned over the past five years about avoiding all the pitfalls in planemaking, but you know what? The only way to really learn about those pitfalls is to experience them. You'll probably make some mistakes on your first plane. You might even have to start over. But if you want to make a plane, persevere, and you'll get there. I won't pretend it's easy, but it's not rocket science, either.

If anyone out there has comments or questions, feel free to post below.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Five Random Observations from Handworks 2017

A packed crowd watching Roy Underhill speaking in the Festhalle barn.

After 2300 miles and a couple herniated discs, I am back from my first Handworks. It is still kind of a blur, and I will need a few more days to process the enormity of the event, but here are a few observations.

1. Wow, there are a lot of hand tool aficionados out there. For two solid days, I had a constant stream of visitors stopping by my bench to say hi, try my planes, and chat about planing, sharpening, hand tools, whatever. I bet a couple hundred people took at least one of my planes for a drive. It was an invigorating experience. Anyone who says hand tools are dying out would have their mind changed by this event.

2. The Abraham clan is amazing. In most walks of life, an event with a couple thousand attendees and a couple hundred participants would need a small army of full-time, paid workers. The Abrahams--Jameel, his brother and father, along with some extended family and friends--somehow put on this whole massive event, and pulled it off without a hitch. I'm in awe. Jameel and family, thank you so much!

3. Social media sucks. Platforms like Instagram are great places to post work and connect with other craftspeople, but it doesn't take much for them to seem like a cross between The Stepford Wives and Lord of the Flies. For the last week, I've been bombarded by posts about the "community" at Handworks and how awesome it was, and if I see another I might lobotomize myself with an auger bit and a Yankee brace. The funny thing is, this "community" doesn't seem to include most of the talented toolmakers at Handworks--it's a club for the people with the most "followers," or those who have the most photogenic smiles. In that respect, it's more like high school than a community. Remind me to seriously curtail my use of social media this year--I think we've all got better things to do.

4. Wow, there are a lot of amazing toolmakers out there. The toolmakers at Handworks were an amazing group. I had some wonderful, in-depth conversations with  Larry Williams and Don McConnell of Old Street, Matt Bickford, Ron Brese, Nick Dombrowski (Lake Erie), Aaron and Alan from Walke-Moore, Don Williams, Jeremiah Wilding, Tico Vogt, and many others. And I got to catch up with a lot of great folks like Chris Schwarz, Megan Fitzpatrick, Dan Schwank (Red Rose Reproductions), Chris Kuehn (Sterling toolworks), and Konrad Sauer (apologies to anyone I'm forgetting). My only frustration is that I was so busy that it was hard to get away from the bench, so there were a lot of folks I didn't get to meet (particularly all the folks in the Greenwood barn), and I really regret that. Hopefully I will get to meet them the next time around.

5. Roy Underhill has mad skillz. OK, no surprise. But Roy came by my bench and put the jack, try, and smoother through their paces, and it was an incredible thing to watch. I have done a bunch of shows before Handworks, and have probably seen at least a thousand people try my planes. No joke, I have never seen someone as fluid with a plane as Roy. At shows, I keep the jack set for a pretty aggressive cut, and a lot of people really struggle with it. Roy just ripped off huge shavings, effortlessly, not because he's got incredible hulk strength, but because he's got terrific form. In fact, I need to write a whole blog post on that, but in the mean time, enjoy this clip of Roy with one of my smoothers, and (hopefully) see you at Handworks next time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Handworks Here We Come

This weekend, I'll be exhibiting at Handworks in Amana, Iowa. If you are attending, please stop by to see me in the Millwright's shop, where I'll be holed up with Bad Axe, Mortise and Tenon Magazine, Walke-Moore Tools, J. Wilding, and Fine Tool Journal. It should be a lot of fun!

Also, just a quick programming note. Yes, it has been forever since I blogged last. Remember that you can see what Voigt Planes is up to on a regular basis by clicking on the the Instagram badge on the right. Follow me, if that's your thing, or just have a look once in a while--I post work in progress and various musings on a pretty regular basis.

Hope to see many of you in Iowa this weekend!