A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook should be on everyone’s top 5 woodworking books. Written in 1976, this book is the first of five books that would be written by James Krenov. Though not a large work at 132 pages, it is however very inspirational and contains many wonderful black and white photos. Krenov lived from 1920 till 2009, during those many years he lived around the world, help start a fine woodworking school, and taught and touched many people’s lives. As a craftsman he used both power and hand tools and did so in a perfect balance. But, this book is about a lot more than just the tools used to build furniture.
Krenov was very concerned with the wood itself. More so than many others, Krenov always thought of what the wood wanted to be. He always allowed the wood to have a say in the production of his pieces. The flow of the grain mattered, the colors mattered, and the wood was always left to speak for itself. Today many make furniture to survive much use and abuse. Krenov built furniture in a way to let it dictate its gentleness and beauty. Most of all, Krenov believed furniture should be something more than just furniture. He liked the idea that furniture would help people to smile, to relax, and to enjoy being around his creations. He believed his furniture would draw people in to continually discover new things about each and ever piece that he built, never leaving any area untouched nor unfinished.
This is what this book is about. Krenov speaks about his life, his methods, why he made his own planes, and how he fell into woodworking. His overall vision of furniture making and design are truly original and hard to duplicate.
There are many great books out there when it comes to woodworking. I learned long ago that the mark of a great book is one that you can read over and over throughout your life and learn and enjoy more about it each time you read it. This is one of those books.
This book is a great reflection of Krenov’s works. At first glance you might think Krenov’s work is very simplistic and easy. However, the more you look at his work you find more small details, more subtle things done with purpose, and more depth to his work than what is observable upon first encounter.
I would encourage anyone and everyone to read this book. James Krenov taught a lot of people when he was alive and he is still effecting people today. This is a life-changing book for any woodworker. You may never look at your projects in the same way again. And that should be a good thing.
This book is available everywhere on the market. I would recommend finding a vintage hardcover, they just last a lot longer, and you might want this book to be around for a long while.
I always wonder why other peoples shops look so clean.
When I watch other woodworking videos or read blogs I often see a clean floor, despite the fact that they are working with hand planes. I guess they just continually clean as they go. I usually clean up my shavings when I just simply can't stand it anymore. I just have never understood people who continually clean their shops during a project. Now, I will say that after this photo was taken, roughly half way through a coffee table build, I did clean up all the shavings. But, I did so because I was not going to be making as many shavings during the rest of the build.
How do you gauge when to clean up your shop? Do you clean during a build, wait till you are done, or do it somewhat sporadically like me?
By the way, I have several posts and videos coming out soon, to include: James Krenov: A Cabinetmaker's Notebook book review, Matt Bickford: Mouldings in Practice book review, a new weekly post called my favorite tool this week, videos on the coffee table build, and a future saw wall cabinet video build, and a shaker clock build.
Thanks for visiting. Now get off the computer and go in the shop.
POST BLOG EDITING:
I would like to add that , I don't leave my tools out over night, I clean each one and put them away at the end of the day. I don't leave shavings all over my floor for days on end. I just simply wait till the mass mess making operation is over for the day before I sweep the floor. This is in response to those who somehow got the feeling that I work in this mess all the time. I don't, I have a very clean shop, I am just not anal about keeping it that way every moment of the day. To do work, and to get things accomplished in a timely manner, you can't spend half your day cleaning. But that's just my opinion.
This is the new 35th Annaversary Veritas Stainless-Steel Marking Gauge by Veritas. Now, when I first heard of this new gauge I was excited because it looked a lot like the Veritas Mortise gauge that they make. I have had the original Veritas wheel gauge for a couple years now and it has done a great job, but when I bought the mortise gauge it was evedent that Veritas had learned a few things about marking gauges. Or, at least the wheel style gauges that have become popular over the past decade.
Now, there are several things that make the new marking gauge better than the previous ones that Veritas has produced.
First, is the eccentric placement of the rod. With the rod off center it creates a much larger reference area which makes the gauge more stable while in use. That is a major improvement in my book over all other wheel gauges. Also, all the rods are interchangeable between versions.
The second improvement is simply that the face is larger then the original gauge, but not as large as the mortise gauge they make. The larger area combined with the off center placement of the beam makes the reference area and stability even better.
The third major improvement is the material that was used. The stainless steel stands up a lot better then the original surface material and it weighs just enough to feel even better in your hand. The original gauge weighs 5 1/2 oz, Stainless at 8 oz , and the mortise at 9 3/8 oz.
The off center and heavier head has some great advantages. With both the mortise gauge and the new marking gauge I can easily use them with one hand. What I mean is that the extra weight helps the head sit better in your hand, allowing you to lock the beam in place with one hand. This is a plus. Also, as far as not having a micro adjust, well, I never used the micro adjust on the original gauge anyways. Never really saw the importance of having one and I am glad the new one doesn't have one.
Another nice update is the type of cutter on the gauge. This might not seem that important, but I have found that the old flat cutters don't work as well as the newer "pot" style cutters. The old ones sometimes worked loose during use.
Here is a better view of the difference between the new and old cutter heads. The one on the left is very flat and held on with a phillips screw, the new style is deep and held with an allen screw.
In short, I highly recommend the new Stainless-Steel marking gauge by Veritas. With all the improvements over the original gauge and the fact that they are only available for a limited time. You really need to purchase one of these before they run out. I bought three, because I wanted more gauges and I wanted to replace my original gauge regardless. I also think that the stainless version will last a lot longer than any other gauge on the market and you can't beat the $29.95 price.
You can get the new gauges here at Lee Valley Veritas
Well, I have finally got off my butt and made the video shop tour. My only regret is that I did not start documenting the evolution of my shop two years ago. But, nonetheless the shop tour is now posted and I will begin adding additional content to the My Shop
page on my site.
In the future look for new additions to the shop, to include, a sharpening cabinet and a saw till.
I hope that you enjoy the tour. Thanks for watching.
And please visit the My Shop
page for additional pictures and updates.
I purchased this book when it first came out because I have always liked Marc and what he has done for the online woodworking community. He is both educational and funny, which make for a very entertaining website, videos, and now books. I think he made something great when he wrote this book. He accomplished something that others seem to always want to make so complicated for beginners out there. Finishing a project does not need to be a science experiment without parental supervision. I can be quick, simple, and provide great results without stressing yourself out.
The book is not long at 66 pages, but it is packed with tons of worthwhile information. Ever wanted to know how to use a wipe on finish, make your own Danish oil, mix shellac, how to get that mirror like finish, refinishing a piece? What about finishing a table, outdoor furniture, using HVLP, or just putting on Shellac? Marc delivers all of these answers and more with clear, concise, and easy to understand direction. That is what I like best about Marc and this book, he doesn’t make things complicated, he just makes them simple to do.
One of the great parts to this book is the end. Now, I don’t mean that in a bad way, what I mean is that the last section of this book is a conglomerate of real questions with real life answers. I find the end of this book to be the best for anyone trying to solve problems or answer questions that google.com just can’t answer for them. Not only are there great answers, they are accompanied with online video links that help to inform people on each topic.
Now, I know some people out there are not big on computers, but if you’re not and you are reading this right now, you can follow Marc’s links in his book. Since Marc has spent most of his time and resources educating people through the Internet, I feel that it is a perfect use of his online resources to use them in his own books. A priceless resource that shows you get much more than you pay for when you purchase his book. You get someone who cares about your woodworking and genuinely wants to help you get better anyway he can. Every resource, outside of his Guild Memberships videos, is free and has always been since he started.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who just wants to get better at finishing or is just beginning. Or, if you are like me and forget things all the time, it is a real nice reference to jog your memory from time to time. Plus he gives you tons of room in the back for notes, which I recommend for quick references to those common questions you have.
Like always, I recommend getting the book at its source, from The Wood Whisperer himself at http://www.twwstore.com/books/
The book is available in hardcover, E-book, or as a digital bundle. Go check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
Also, check Marc out at his website: http://www.thewoodwhisperer.com/
Well, we all have had some different experiences going to hardwood dealers I am sure. I have heard horrible stories of the angry forklift driver, the sales person that feels you are wasting their time, and the sales clerk who makes you feel stupid because you don’t know everything about wood. But let me tell you there are some really nice places out there that really help you out, even if you are just a small guy.
First, some tips for the new hardwood shopper.
- Go to the hardwood dealer with a purpose. Meaning take some money, at least $100, and know what wood you are wanting.
- Know the difference between 3/4 , 4/4, 6/4 etc…
- Learn the lingo: What is skip planing? What is S4S? Do you want rough sawn? What IS a board foot anyways?
- Take a handsaw, tape measure, calculator, pen, paper, camera, tie down straps, red flags, gloves and anything else you need. They don’t all provide cuts, tie downs, or flags for you.
- Don’t drive a small vehicle to the hardwood dealer and think everything is going to fit and make it home.
- Most of all, be patient, realize you are a small fish compared to the cabinet shops that drop thousands on pallets full of lumber and plywood at a time.
So, lets hit each of these points one by one.
When you go take money. Now this might seem somewhat obvious, but some people just want to show up and check things out, or look around. This is also known as, wasting someone else’s time so you can drool over wood. Don’t do this, it might make for a bad experience. Take some money with you and plan on buying something. Know what you are looking for before you walk in and have alternatives if you find out the prices are higher than you thought or they just don’t have what you are looking for.
Knowing the differences in board thickness is quite simple. Boards are measured in quarters of an inch. So, 4/4 is 1 inch, 6/4 is 1 ½ inches etc…. Now this is the part that will confuse you. You see a piece of Walnut on the rack, it says 4/4 but you measure it and it is 13/16. That is because it is S4S, meaning surfaced four sides. It has been planed and jointed into a nice board from 4/4 stock, you will pay for it as if it were 4/4 stock, though it is now less then 4/4 thick. It may save you time depending on your project, or it could be a waste of money if you could buy rough lumber and plane it yourself. Skip planing is another form of lumber you will find. I happen to like skip planed boards myself because it shows the grain of the wood without the over planing needed to make it S4S. Skip planing just means they run the board over a planer a couple of times to show the grain but not enough to remove all of the rough surface. So you still need to do some planing, but in the end it will save you money and you can see what you are getting. Now rough sawn lumber is just as the name suggests, straight off the saw at the mill. It is hard to see the grain in a rough sawn board, so take a block plane and ask if you can take a few shavings so you can see the grain. The nice part about rough sawn lumber is that it is cheaper, you can get it in wider and thicker sizes, and it’s cheaper. Did I mention it’s cheaper? Best way to go if you can get wood this way, but not always available.
Now that you have selected that nice board, how much is it going to cost you? Well, lets say that piece of Walnut is $8 a board foot. The board is 1” x 10” x 14’(or 168”). You can figure board feet out with this equation: Just make sure all measurements are in INCHES
thickness x width x length
Now that you know the board is 11.67 board feet, you can go buy that $93.36 + tax board.
So, now that you have purchased your wood, how are you going to get it home? This is why you bring tie down straps, twine, red flags, staple gun, and a hand saw. If you can take the board home in one chunk that is always best, but you may have to just cut it there on the spot. This is why having a plan for the wood is so important. It would be horrible to buy a 14’ piece of Wenge and have to cut it down to fit in your rig, to then decide later it would have made a great table top, but because you cut it haphazardly in a parking lot it is now too short. With that said, make sure you drive a vehicle there that is big enough to transport your wood home. You never know what you might buy or what lengths they sell wood at, always be prepared.
I recently went to a new hardwood dealer that deals in very large quantities. The reason for my switch is simple, money. The larger the hardwood dealer is the less their products cost. Smaller hardwood dealers buy their products from these distributors and mark the prices up for you and me. So, in essence I am just cutting out the middleman. The place I went to the other day is one of a few large distribution centers up and down the west coast. Now, when I first showed up and saw the pallets full of Mahogany (both Genuine and African), Cherry, Walnut, Purple Heart, Wenge, Bubinga, and Teak I thought, wow that’s a lot of wood. This place had tons of molding (which I expected), tons of cabinet plywood in different cores (which I also expected), but it also had tons of hardwood stock in many different thicknesses and widths. Best of all, it is one of the only places I have found large quantities of quality Sugar Pine. So now that I have told you about the crazy amounts of wood lets talk about the experience.
When I first walked into the large warehouse I didn’t see anyone except someone on the far end next to a forklift. Within one minute the manager was out on the floor talking with me. Now, a tip for the anyone new or old, when you first go to a dealer please tell them this is the first time you have ever been there, the experience will be a lot better. I told him it was the first time I had been there and he took me right in his office. He asked me a few questions about my business etc.… and then gave me tons of literature and information about their business and their products. As someone who not only works on furniture, but spends time working on homes and doing finish carpentry, this was super helpful. The most important information that I learned is that I could call him, ask for any wood in any size, and he could get it for me, and most of the time within 24-48hrs. That is priceless. The best part of the experience was purchasing two 16 foot pieces of Sugar Pine and a nice piece of Purple Heart for a lot less than I would have spent anywhere else.
I hope that some of the little tips that I have shared with you will help you out when going to a hardwood dealer for the first time. I know that many people that have been at this for a while do not need this information and most of this is for the newer woodworkers. I still find it valuable information when you go and check out a new place for the first time to remember all the little things. Like don’t forget your handsaw so you don’t have to drive home with 16 foot pieces of Sugar Pine strapped to the top of your SUV. Not the best of days. But, I did get it all home and nobody got hurt. OK, I got a Purple Heart splinter in my thumb, but I think I will live.
First let me start with my disclaimer. Read the entire article before you pass judgment on me or anything I say, not everything is what it seems. I am not here to condemn anyone, judge anyone, start riots, start fights with people, or have fights start between people on my website, or anything else in regards to the way you or others work with wood. The question above is only one that you can answer. This is a question that I ask myself all the time when I am working, at home and at work. I personally don’t care if you use all power tools, all hand tools or a mix of both in your projects. In the end, the question for you is, are you happy with the product and how it was created?
Second, I am going to define the terms that I will be using in this article. People have developed their own definitions of words over the years (which is part of the problem) and some words have multiple meanings, SO , this is to help us all start on the same foot.
Handmade: adj. Made by hand, not by machine; made by a process requiring manual skills.
Machine: noun any mechanical or electrical device that automatically performs tasks or assists in performing tasks
Power tool: noun a tool powered by an electric motor or gasoline engine.
Machinist: noun a person who operates machines to cut or process materials.
Lets look at the definitions for just one second. With these definitions we can conclude that, by definition, for something to be handmade no power tools can be used in its creation. Power tools are machines because they are powered devices and those who use them are in turn machinists.
Now, before we go any farther, I know someone will bring up human powered treadle lathes and tools. A treadle is a foot operated power source for a machine. Meaning, yes it is a power tool. A hand plane is a simple machine, it has no moving parts that assist the tool, so, no it is not a machine.
Back to the original question: What does “handmade” mean to me?
I work as a sign maker during the day for, lets just say a very large corporate organization. I make vinyl signs, road signs, carved Redwood signs, displays, custom picture frames, plaques, miscellaneous wooden things and retirement gifts from wood. I work in a shop that would be the dream of many people. I have every hand held power tool you can imagine and a full shop to include, a Delta table saw, Delta jointer, Delta 24” thickness planer, hollow mortise chiseler, compound miter saw, a shaper, router table, belt sander, 14” band saw, panel saw, radial alarm saw and a 36” band saw. So, lets just agree that I have lots of experience working with large power tools all day. Now, all of the Redwood signs I have made untill now have been hand carved signs. With the purchase of a new CNC machine I no longer can call them hand carved signs. In a business management point of view, buying the CNC machine is a good thing because it speeds things along. Even though I still will have to come back with a chisel to clean up the corners, it is now a machined sign and no longer takes really any skill to make. Yeah, that’s right, making signs with a CNC Machine is monkey work, it takes no real skill to make CNC signs. Learning to use design software is not very hard and that is the only place where any skill might be involved in the process. Now that might set some people off, but again, this is my opinion and experience. At work I primarily use power tools for everything. The reason is that I mill very large slabs of Redwood down to make sign blanks out of them and I work with sheet aluminum. I really don’t want to cut 4 x 8 sheets of aluminum by hand. I do make some other small woodworking projects at work, but again most of that is nothing special and usually done with power tools. I don’t build furniture, cabinets or anything that requires the special touch or skill of hand tools, at least while I am at work. So you could say that at work I am a machinist, and I will be more so when the new CNC machine shows up next week.
At home my work habits are a complete 180 degrees. I spend my time only using hand tools and enjoy making things with my hands. When using hand tools I feel a connection with the wood that is just not the same as when I use power tools. I also believe that I learn much more about each piece of material that I am working on when I am using hand tools. I can feel the changes in grain direction, not just see them, I can feel how tight the grain is, not just see it, I can feel the fibers of the tree pulling apart, something impossible to feel while ripping a board on a table saw or edge jointing on a jointer. I believe that this deeper connection with the wood gives me a better understanding of how it will work in my projects. I might make a panel thinner and lighter because I can feel that the wood is more than strong enough and stable enough for a given application. When I hand plane a board I then know what is the best direction to push a chisel to make a groove, an open mortise, or better yet, when carving a letter or design. But really, the biggest thing for me is that I know that when I get done my hands were the guiding power source for everything that was done to each piece that makes up my project. For me I guess it is a deeply engrained satisfaction that I guided and powered each tool in the creation of something. Though it is possible to be extremely accurate with hand tools, every project you make will be just a little bit different. It is much easier to batch things out with power tools and make them all the same, but I believe that deprives each piece of its individuality.
In my own work, any time I use a power tool anywhere in the process, I feel that it has cheapened the end result. Now this is obviously my own feeling on the subject and maybe that’s because I use power tools all day. I don’t know what it is exactly about using a power tool on a project that does this to me, but it does. Though someone else may never know that I cut those dados with my router instead of using my dado plane, or cut the grooves for the drawers of a project with my table saw instead of using my plough plane, I know and that’s what matters. I guess when I analyze it, I feel like I lost a little bit of myself or, in a way, sold out a little bit. At this point some of you probably think I am a little crazy, but this is just how I look at using power tools.
So, what is the point in me telling you all of this? I believe that at some point we lost the idea of what handmade means and started calling anything that is not mass produced, handmade. When in reality we are making custom made pieces. I know for some this is just a matter of semantics, but it really is important. There still are people making projects out there that are made entirely by hand and when we call things handmade that are not, we in turn, cheapen their work. When a person sells a piece of furniture under the label of handmade, but they used 50 router jigs to produce that one chair, it is not a handmade chair and they are misleading people, also known as false advertising. I feel that this is a very important point because once we start misleading our customers their understanding of our craft changes. Many people I talk to don’t get it when I tell them I made something with just a saw, hammer, mallet, chisel and a plane. Most people out there don’t even think people do that anymore. I often get asked, “Why would you not just use power tools?”, answer, “Because then it wouldn’t be handmade”.
This may sound like some super deep touchy feely stuff, and it kind of is. I guess my main point is: Do you want to create projects or make projects? Do you want to mold something with your own hands or just push wood through various machines? The end result is a piece of furniture, a chair, a table, or a box, but the process is a lot different.
THE SUPER SHOCKING CONCLUSION:
So, you might think that I am ready to throw my table saw, router, band saw and other various power tools out the back door, but that is just not going to happen. I like using my power tools just as much as I like using my hand tools. The two can work very well together and using them together can save you lots of money and time. Because once you know how to use hand tools, you never have to cut that 16” wide piece of Walnut in half to fit it through your thickness planer, or waste time setting up your router when a moving fillister will get the job done faster. I call most of my work custom made and shy away from handmade labeling, unless the piece was made entirely by hand. I am a hybrid woodworker, I just have heavy hand tool tendencies.