Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Year and a New Plane

I've never been much of a celebrator of the New Year. When I was in junior high school I spent New Year's Eve at a friend's and we both ate a mouthful of Pringles potato chips at the stroke of midnight. That's my most memorable New Year's. Most the the time I fall asleep before the ball drops.

But this year is different. I just received another infill plane kit from Ron Brese of Brese Plane. So tonight I'm celebrating.

This kit is based on Brese's 875 series full-size smoothing plane. The bed angle is 50 degrees (York pitch), a good compromise between ease of planing and higher pitch for less tearout. The plane uses a 2-1/4" wide iron. This is a smoothing plane, roughly akin to a #4-1/2 size bench plane. The big difference is in the sole length. The Brese plane is 8-3/4" long, almost 2" shorter than typical smoothing planes of this width. That makes sense to me, especially for a smoothing plane, where a longer sole can be a hindrance.

Ron's construction method for joining the sole to the sides makes for a plane body with very clean lines, and a straighforward, utilitarian look. I'm not much for added fanciness when it comes to hand tools, and Ron's aesthetic falls right in line with that idea.

Norris A13

Ron styled the body to mimic the Norris A13 plane. Ron did a great job of translating the style to a shorter body plane, making for an overall beefier look, while maintaining the elegant curves of the A13. I don't plan on customizing this plane, like I did with the Brese small smoother. I like Ron's design very much, so I'll be following his plans directly.

I'm hoping to take some pictures along the way, and document the process as well, since this plane poses some unique challenges that the small smoother didn't. I'm hoping the results will be the same, since that plane is simply outstanding.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Update on the BenchcraftedTail Vise

I don't like to post about commercial stuff here, but it's gotta happen now and then. I posted an update about the Benchcrafted Tail Vise over at the Benchcrafted Blog, and I thought I'd give a quick heads up, especially for those who are anxious to get their vise. Needless to say, we've been hustling to get vises out. More over at Benchcrafted...

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Basswood and Buttocks

I recently began work on a rather large commission. Not huge by any means, but big enough that I'm planning the build to postpone final assembly as long as possible. This piece will we be as big as my Roubo bench when I'm finished, and that takes up a lot of room in my small shop.

The good thing about this piece is that it's going to include lots of carving. Why is that good? It means I get to use basswood. Basswood can spoil the hand tool woodworker. Carver's love basswood for it's easy working characteristics. And that's why I love to plane basswood. There are seven carved panels on this piece.

After milling them with power machinery, I finished up the show side with my #4 smoothing plane. What sheer planing joy! Basswood planes like a dream, and I can go for ages without touching up my plane iron. Heck, I've built entire pieces of basswood and only honed my planes once, maybe twice. Like I said, it will spoil the handtool woodworker.

Shavings from one panel.

And now to the second topic of this post. This is my new favorite bench stool. And I'm not ashamed to admit it.

I picked this up at a garage sale this summer and have been using it almost every time I'm in the shop. Okay, it was my own garage sale, but so what? This little stool is actually a shower seat, thus the holes. (In case you're wondering, it's actually brand new, and never used in a shower with bare buttocks). It's the place that I prefer to rest my back side when doing any shop task that requires sitting. I often see fine, craftsman-made shop stools in woodworker's shops, but I never had the time to make one. And this seat is so comfortable that I doubt I ever will.

The tubular aluminum legs are height adjustable with small spring-loaded bullet-shaped pins, and work nicely. The rubber tipped legs provide enough grip to keep the seat from sliding around.

One of my favorite places to use the seat is at the right end of the bench when I'm doing close, repetitive work with the tail vise, such as in the posed shot where I'm chopping dovetails that have already been chopped. I also use the seat when I'm using the jointer for the long periods. It allows better control, and saves my back at the same time. Of course it's also a great seat for doing any detail work at my 36" high Roubo bench.

Here are some "Christmas" shavings. White (basswood), Red (Padauk), and (almost) Green (Poplar). Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Strings at Khalaf Oud

I'm happy to reintroduce these fine strings for Turkish oud.

This set is designed and manufactured to the specifications of oud virtuoso Necati Celik. These are the strings that Necati uses on his own ouds. It's designed around his own tuning, but the two lower courses can be variably tuned. These are top quality strings, on par with the best like Pyramid and Kurschner lute strings, only with a much more attractive price.

The other set, designed around a more common tuning, uses the same strings as the Necati set, only with slightly different gauges. As with any Turkish oud strings, these can also be used for Arabic ouds with a longer scale (61cm+) and Arabic tuning (a whole step lower).

Any time I'm able to offer excellent strings at a good price, I'm going to jump on it! And these definitely fit the bill.

Take a look at the new strings here: MusiCaravan Strings

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Latest

A couple weeks ago I shipped off my latest oud. This is a rather simple one. I'm actually leaning more towards these simple designs, not only because of their understated elegance, but because they are quicker to make. Nevertheless, the owner of this instrument waited over a year and a half to get this one. I got to play it for a couple weeks before shipping it out. Click here for a sound file. Criticisms welcome!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Gramercy Carcase Saw Kit

The Gramercy Tools Carcase Saw Kit

Last month I tried the new Gramercy Tools Carcase Saw (crosscut) at the Woodworking in America Conference. I've been using Japanese-style saws for a number of years, and only recently have I started moving back towards Western-style saws since so many fine sawmakers have begun offering their wares. Earlier this year I purchased the Gramercy Dovetail Saw kit and was extremely pleased with the ergonomics of the saw and the cut quality. So naturally I was eager to try the new Gramercy crosscut saw. I was hooked. Literally. After trying some crosscuts on the bench hook at the Tools For Working Wood booth I was all set to leave the show with a new saw. I left the booth empty handed though, planning to return and pick up the saw later that day. But before I had a chance to return, I was approached by Gramercy owner Joel Moskowitz. He asked if I wanted a carcase saw kit. I wasn't crazy about doing another saw handle, but I thought since the guy behind the saw was asking if I wanted to do a kit, I figured I ought to oblige. So I walked away from the show with a kit. And here is the result. My saw-handle making skills aren't what they should be, but this one does the job. And I can report that the saw cuts perfectly. Straight, quick, and very very smooth. I won't be picking up my Dozuki any time soon.