Category Archives: humor

Madcap Brain Goo

This blog has been a source of great joy for me. It has been the well spring for a lot of creative ideas.

When I first started The Madcap Woodwright, it was on a whim and really had no direction other than as a platform for whatever random thoughts I had.

It has seemed to morph from the run of the mill DIY/woodworking/tool junkie/word puke, into something much more philosophical and substantive.

In the coming weeks, months, and hopefully years, I will be delving more.deeply into the ongoing grab bag of thoughts and ideas I have been working with lately.

In a recent post, I mentioned the latest project that this blog has spawned. Work on that manuscript continues, but I am finding the urge to blog a louder siren song just now.

In any event, stay tuned. I’ll be making a more concerted effort to distill some “Madcap brain goo” to pour into the vessel that is The Madcap Woodwright.

Writer’s Block Sucks…

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Since I had been using my poor, much overtaxed, little tablet to do the majority of my writing since starting this blog, I had a built in excuse to avoid the subject of the dreaded “Writer’s Block.”

Now that I have obtained an incredible, new-to-me, Lenovo Thinkpad, I no longer have technical difficulties as an excuse for the denial I have been wallowing in regarding the case of writer’s block I have.

So, while I have been remarkably negligent in my writing, I am now, as they say, “Back in the saddle.”

Attempting to get myself back in the game, I figured I would whip something up for this blog as a means of stirring up the creative juices, and reconnect with my muse.

Thus far, I have been somewhat mired in finishing off the equipping of The Tiny Shop, and doing some light restoration work to keep the mind and hands supple and well practiced.

I had the good fortune to find a deal on a brand new 1 1/2 HP motor for my Delta jointer, and it is now semi operational. I need to dial in the knives still, but otherwise it is fairly tuned and ready to do real woodworking finally. wpid-wp-1444014009777.jpg

 

Also, after much research and hand wringing, I decided that using the tried and true HVLP conversion set up that I had been using for years for applying finish was just not in keeping with my position on environmental responsibility. Further, It just had far too much in the way of “tweaking” that always seemed to need to be done in order to get the level of quality I wanted in a finish.

Add to that that I was planning a switch to water borne finish media, and the need for a different application tool was obvious.

 

Enter the Fuji Semi-Pro2.

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The Fuji set up is a very well regarded turbine driven High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) system. The idea is, that with this small, self contained set up, over spray is kept to an absolute minimum,which means a significant boost in savings as it applies to material cost. Also, since there is no traditional compressor, oil, water, and other potential contaminants are no longer a worry.

Since the cup gun is stainless steel, (both the gun and the cup) I can shoot both solvent based finishes as well as water based finishes.

Word on the street about Fuji turbines is universally good. They are regarded as some of the very best finishing equipment at markedly reasonable prices. Far less than other manufacturers like Apollo, and Grayco. Bang for the buck, and considering the space limitations of The tiny Shop, this is a no brainer.

All that remains for initial equipment purchases are another router or two, a hollow chisel mortiser, and a dovetail jig.

I debated long and hard on these last two, expensive, pieces. I decided to add these to my “need to have” list because, as I have aged, hand cutting joinery has begun to take its toll on my hands/joints. As much as I enjoy hand cut joinery, I feel that from a longevity standpoint, it makes sense for me to mechanize these operations. Trust me, if I thought that I could continue indefinitely hand cutting my  joints, I would. It is a wonderful exercise in mindful woodworking. Alas, the ravages of a misspent youth and father time, are beginning to rear their ugly heads.

That, and it gives me two more tools to shop for…..so I got that going for me…..which is nice.

carl

 

 

 

Some Thoughts On The Modern Woodwright….OR……Chris Becksvoort Is My Hero.

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As of late, I have found it a bit difficult to sit down to tap out a post here, as has become my habit. Suffice to say, the muse has not been upon me.

That is until I began researching clamps (of all things) to use in the soon-to-be-new-to-me shop.

I remembered reading an article in Fine Woodworking Magizine some time ago, that had some pictures of one of their long time editor’s, Christian Becksvoort in his home shop.

The article was about small shops of different sizes and scale. In one of the pictures that described Mr. Becksvoort’s shop at his home in New Gloucester, Maine, there was a wall full of sturdy looking clamps. These were clamps that I had never seen before, and felt that I simply MUST have them……..as I have mentioned before, it’s a sickness.

Me being…well… “Me”, I Googled Mr. Becksvoort, and through his website sent an e-mail asking him if he would be kind enough to send me any information on those clamps if he could. (NOTE: please notice the request by him to direct any “woodworking questions” to his contact info at Taunton Press. He provides a link. I must confess that in my zeal, I did not notice this little request until AFTER I had sent the email to his business email…lessons learned, and he still took the time to respond to me. Nice guy)

Now, Christian Becksvoort is a well known name in woodworking circles. He has written books, gives workshops, edits a well known and established woodworking journal, AND finds time to produce fine, handcrafted furniture in limited quantities. In short, the man is a woodworking God to many….myself included.

So, imagine my delight when, in ten minutes time, I had received a reply from him graciously forwarding to me the contact information for the company that made his clamps. We traded a couple of emails, and that was that.

Or was it?

You see, in this day and age, it can be difficult to find a Woodwright like Mr. Becksvoort. Successful, well known, self employed, and solvent. Granted, he, like so many talented Woodwrights out there, supplements his income giving lectures, and writing, but that is only because he had made his name by hand crafting such fine pieces in the first place. The man is truly living the dream after having paid many, many dues. To me, having any expectation of getting a response from him, let alone within ten minutes, was a lot to ask. At least in my mind it was.

Anyhow, I may sound a little surprised by the personal response by one of my hero’s.  The truth is, if I really thought about it,  I shouldn’t be. Chris has a long standing reputation as a true ambassador for the art of woodworking, and also as a thoughtful and well respected “stand up” guy. I have followed his work for as long as I can remember, and can attest to this. Granted that my endorsement means very little, and that on a personal level,it is based only on three or four gushing emails traded with him in the span of an hour. Still and all, he did respond personally, and was just as gracious, encouraging, and friendly as a hero SHOULD be.

So, this begs the question, “Why so few Woodworkers like Mr. Becksvoort?” Why is it so, that so many aspiring woodworkers either never move past the hobby stage in their woodworking, or if they do try to strike out on their own professionally, fail to make a living at it? How do the Sam Maloofs, Christian Becksvoorts, and James Krenovs “make it” and others do not?

All good questions. All questions that I wish I had an answer to.

If you listen to some, you may get the idea that fine woodworking as a trade, is dead. That it is relegated to being a craft or hobby only, and that mass production and the IKEAs of the world have replaced it with disposable furniture. In some respects, and for some people, this may be true. However, for me at least, I do not think that it is asking too much of the world to make room for and appreciate finely crafted furniture. Pieces that started as a tree, and were lovingly, respectfully, and honestly worked into a table, book case,chair, or cabinet designed and built to last several lifetimes, and the people whose hands make them, surely still have value and an audience.

One of the keys to advancing this mindset, and thus securing the livelihood of present and future generations of Woodwrights,  is through connection to folks like Mr. Becksvoort. Connection with like minded artisans. It used to be that trade shows and guilds were the mainstays of this connection. Over the years, the guilds have either died off, or are only barely there, and the trade shows/craft shows have degenerated largely into not much more than living commercials for … gasp … tools and jigs that are not really NEEDED.

There is one area that has brought hope though. The internet.

The internet has been a wonderful resource not just for researching woodworking, but also for connecting like minded artisans. I belong to a handful of quality online woodworking forums. (sawmillcreek.org , woodworkingtalk.com , lumberjocks.com, etc.)These forums are an absolute treasure trove of folks who, of vastly differing skill levels and woodworking interests, gather to shoot the breeze, talk about tools, and generally be there for one another. I doubt very highly that you could ask a question on one of these forums, and not get a researched, and thought out answer. More likely, you will get several. Even more likely, you will get several DIFFERENT answers. While it may sound like getting a bunch of different answers to a question is like spinning your wheels, think about this…..

In getting several different answers to a question, you are presented not only with differing opinions and options, but also with little morsels of information  that you can use to further your search, should you not find a satisfying answer initially.
A word to the wise, if you ask a question, and get several different answers that don’t really satisfy you, go out and research what morsels you get in those answers. If you come up with an answer all your own…. go back to your original post and SHARE THAT INFORMATION.

It is through the continual sharing of information that we help keep woodworking alive. Sure, you really DO need to go out to the shop and build stuff. To spend your days writing blog posts and researching tools and blabbering about workbench design, is an exercise in mental masturbation. It feels good, but produces very little.

However, sharing information, and helping fellow woodworkers develop and grow their skills and knowledge base, is a foundational move to keeping the trade moving forward, keeping it from dying. It is through this connection with one another that we help to evolve the art of working wood in that, methods and processes, both old and new, are passed on. Questions about various joinery techniques are answered. Help with applying finishes can be had. Critiques of design ideas are available for the asking. Discussions of forestry and responsible timber harvesting, renewable forestry, and general knowledge sharing on the subject of the proper management of our forests for future Woodwrights, are all facilitated  and made much more available via the internet now.

Therefore, a simple personal response to a very simple question, asked by a VERY simple Woodwright, is indeed a hallmark of someone who values working wood not just as a means to provide for a family, but also as something worth sharing and passing on to future simple Woodwrights.

Thanks Chris.

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The Once and Future……..Shop.

As winter has begun it’s annual transformation into springtime, my creative juices have begun to thaw.

Yes, this blog has done well to quell the ongoing need to express myself, as have aspects of the classes I am taking at the Fine Woodworking Program at Red Rocks Community College. However, I find myself desperately craving to flip the switch on my “New-to-me” shop.

Allow me to recap some of the previous posts I have made here. I am the proud owner of a “lightly used” General International contractors table saw. She comes equipped with General (Canada)’s Biesemeyer rip fence. This is, by it self, worth the paltry admission price I paid for the saw. The saw also has a true 2 horse power motor, and a full cast iron top.  All very, very desirable features to be sure.  Though, on the down side, she will need arbor bearings soon. She does have the beginnings of the tell tale “whine” that signals the need for some tender loving care.
Also, if I were a smart man, I would tune the saw to the “nth” degree while I was elbow deep in the saw’s guts. Aligning the blade to the mitre slots, and also aligning the fence to the blade. In addition, it would seem to make sense to add a couple of modifications while I am at it. The PALS system, is a very, very simple add on that makes alignment procedures much, much simpler. Add the PALS, some machined pulleys, and a new drive belt, and the saw should perform quite well for my needs….quite well indeed.

Next in the line up is my “new-to-me” Inca 510 jointer/planer. Since I have not had a chance to fire it up yet, I am forced into trusting the previous owner’s description and anticipating nothing more than a good lubricating of moving parts, and waxing the jointer and planer beds. It’s promise of an exceptional cut quality, and precision have me chomping at the bit to put it through its paces.

Because the Inca is now safely in hand, I had turned my attention to finding it’s companion, and I finally got a line on one of those lunch box planers I mentioned some time ago.

The Ryobi AP-10 was the original lunch box planer. Originally designed, built, and sold in the mid to late ’80s, the little Ryobi is of advanced age now, no question about it. This does not worry me in the least. The Ryobi AP-10 has always had, and continues to have, a reputation for longevity.

Ryobi had something to prove back then, so they “over engineered” the little surfacer. They are beloved by their owners because of their ease of upkeep, solid construction, and unwillingness to provide an owner a reason to replace it. They just keep going, and going, and going. The only reason I am able to get my hands on one at all, is because the owner willing to let this one go, has a second one that he has been bouncing back and forth between. He feels that that is a bit of overkill. HA! … HA HA HA!!!

I don’t think I need to mention how difficult it was for me to keep my mouth shut. To NOT preach that there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty about having two planers….It pained me like none other, but … I WANT this little planer. So discretion proved to be the better part of valor in this case.

Add to an insanely low asking price for this machine ($75), the current owner is also including the original manual, the blade setting jig, and a NEW set of resharpenable blades. Not only is the little workhorse well equipped, but it is also in really good condition based on several pictures I got from the current owner. Seems he is a bit anal retentive about his tools too….my kind of guy.
Normally, IF you can find one of these little gems for sale AT ALL, they NEVER have the manual and usually have the disposable, NON-resharpenable blades.

THIS is one of the original machines, one of the good ones.

As soon as I am able, I will be adding this machine to my current line up, thus inching closer to basic operating ability.

The only other pieces to the puzzle that need to be fitted into place for basic operational capability are, installation and powering of the “new-to-me” sub panel I acquired for free from a friend, the running of the Romex to the soon to be installed outlet boxes and ceiling lighting fixtures, and find the best deal on Pony brand 3/4″ pipe clamp fixtures and black iron pipe.

THEN

…wait for it….

BUILD MY FREAKING BENCH!!!!!!

Now, I know you all will miss my incessant blogging on which bench to build for myself and why.
So, in an effort to keep ALL of you happy, I will say that as soon as this bench is finally built, I am QUITE sure I will be dissecting it’s good qualities and failings in an effort to justify the building of a MUCH BETTER (insert a “knowing” … as in… “Knowing” I will be building many benches in the future, as it’s my weakness … tone of voice here) bench, to replace the one I just finished building.

In the meantime, I am going to go on the hunt for worthy 4×4 Douglas Fir  material for the top and the trestle. I know already that Lee Valley Tools has my two bench vises for this bench at reasonable prices. For now, it’s about the wood.

Ill be looking for dry, non-pithy, non “Boxed Heart” boards to laminate into a top. The trestle will consist mostly of 4×4 construction, but the two rails that connect the left side to the right side of the base, will most likely be 2×6 boards. The top will be laminated, yes that’s true, but the base is all mortise and tenon construction. It will be heavy, and stout.
Right now, I am planning to put a tool well on the back of the bench. As I have said before, I have never had a bench with one, and I WANT one. If I like it, it might be a regular feature on future benches I build. If not…bonus…it’s an excuse to design and build another BENCH!!!!

As it is now, I am inching closer to making the little shop that could, a reality. With any luck, I will be able to make things minimally operational this spring/summer. Once that happens, I can begin moving to fill in the blanks that will round out the tooling needs. Routers, band saw, dust collection, etc.

For now, the goal is just to get the space set up to accept the shop, and to begin tuning and using the tools I have/am getting very soon, so that I can begin both creating, and building shop fixtures. (like a super cool tool cabinet)………

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Home Of The Mustangs!

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I got a phone call today, from my high school wood shop teacher. (Names are withheld to protect the tool addicted) This is not really an abnormal occurrence, as he and I will talk from time to time. This is usually when I have a question, or if I am trying to remember some woodworking tid bit that I know he will know off the top of his head. I will ring him up, and we can spend a few minutes chatting about woodworking, how I am doing, how he is getting on etc.

To give you some reference, Woodshop was THE ONLY class I paid any attention in. I actually took it two years in a row, and was immediately smitten with woodworking from the beginning. I was what was considered a … how do I put this delicately, ….. “non-traditional” student. I was bored out of my mind, and was notorious for acting the fool because of it. However, shop class was a different matter all together. I loved it.

I think that the main reason for this was , as a student, it was really apparent to me just how much my teacher enjoyed what he taught. It really helped to create interest and to make the class something I WANTED to do.

He was also a certifiable tool junkie. Hand tools, machines, jigs, he just loved (loves) tools. So it is no surprise that sharpening is almost a religious event for him. Thankfully, some of us students picked up on this too, and it is a skill I have worked to keep up, and improve on as my early woodworking endeavors turned into a vocation.

In addition to opening my eyes to working wood, He also introduced me to the woodworking deities that are my heroes to this day.  Jim Krenov, Sam Maloof, Tage Frid, Thomas Moser, all names I learned from this shop teacher. I learned them, I read their books,  I was inspired by their designs and their techniques. It all started with this one teacher.

It’s sad really, that for whatever reason, the educational establishment sees fit to de-fund programs like this. My old high school still continues to offer wood shop, but is in the minority. Any more, one is hard pressed to find a high school with any shop class, let alone a quality wood shop like Ponderosa’s. kudos to the county for continuing to provide an avenue for kids to learn this trade.

In any event, It was a real pleasure, as it always is, to hear a voice from the past that reminds me why I chose to make my (meager) living working wood.

Thank you, Mr. Rauh, for sharing your love of woodworking and passing it on to us. Always remember, there ARE guys like me in your classes who ARE listening, and who ARE paying attention. There are knuckle heads in your classes, who just need that ONE teacher to actually give a shit. To be the teacher who looks for untapped talent, rather than be the teacher who is only punching a clock, or enduring yet another day teaching. Thank you.

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I Think We Have A Winner!!! -or- Yet Another Workbench Post!!!

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Wandering around Google images last night, (get your minds out of the gutter people. The only porn I was looking at, was workbench porn…sheesh) I ran across this picture of a bench. Doing some research, I discovered that this is a LaChappelle bench made in Switzerland. I was smitten.

This is as close to the design of the bench I made , lo those many years ago. It has all the right characteristics that I am looking to build into this next bench, and is nearly identical to what I am used to using.

As of late, I have been fixated on Frank Klausz’s cabinetmakers work bench. The design is perfect for hand tool work, but more complicated than I had originally considered building. Because I rediscovered Jim Tolpin’s “Wrokbench Book” which has dimensions and drawings to work from, I was leaning to building the Klausz bench.

I did have some misgivings about building a bench with the traditional “dog leg” shoulder vise though. Mostly because I am planning to build it out of Douglas Fir or Southern Yellow Pine, which may not lend themselves to the vises that Mr. Klausz calls for in his design. The vise’s “arm” looks to me to be something of a weak link, and prone to failure unless built of much harder,more durable wood. Add to that the traditional “End Vise” on Mr. Klausz’s bench, and the challenge of building a bench built for the ages increases exponentially. Building a bench with these vises, requires that the builder really get it “right”. Zero room for error.
I DO love the design though. If you watch the video I posted last night of Mr. Klausz cutting dovetails using his bench, you can quickly see why he is so militant about this particular design. It is truly a thing of beauty.

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A thing of beauty indeed. One I very much want to build. However, there is something in the back of my psyche that nags at me to wait on building that design. It tells me that that bench’s time will come. When it does, it will be when my skills are better restored, better honed, and the ability to purchase nice, hard Maple stock for it’s construction will be there. To build this bench out of Douglas Fir will undoubtedly leave me feeling unsatisfied and wanting to go out and spend money I don’t have on the stock that this bench really deserves. If I am going to build it, I am going to build it right.

Back to the LaChappelle. Here is a bench that I can feel comfortable building out of something other than Maple. I can build it to be a WORK bench, and not a shop show piece. It shares a number of features of the Klausz bench in terms of overall scale and design, including the tool well along the back rail.
The tool well is the subject of much debate among aspiring bench building woodworkers. “Collector of detritus” “Catch all” “Unnecessary” are all arguments on the against side, while the proponents generally postulate that a truly organized and fastidious woodworker…..like me…..gain much from having one on their bench. Tomato….Tomahhhto.

For my needs, and wants for that matter, I like the idea. Having never had a bench with a tool well, and planning to locate the bench against a wall rather than in the middle of the shop, I am quite enamored with the LaChappelle design for my needs. If I were to be placing it in the middle of the shop, I think I would do without the tool well so as to provide a complete work surface accessible from all sides. Since I am in a shop space that is too small for that, I have to position it against a wall, so this lends itself nicely to the tool well design. I can live with it, work with it, and decide which side of the tool well debate I side with.

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So now, this is the latest finalist in my personal workbench design  showdown. The only thing I think I will change is the end vise. From a complexity, longevity, and ease of construction standpoint, I think I may just stick with a normal full length end vise purchased from Lee Valley.

Then again, I can absolutely see myself beg, borrow, and stealing to buy a German made or Lie Nielsen traditional end vise hardware kit, if I can somehow find the resources to spring for such extravagances. It would be nice to have on this bench. I could always repurpose it on the Klausz bench when I eventually get to build it……otherwise a normal, single screw, full width end vise, suits me just fine.

Another feature of both the Klausz and the LaChappelle, are the end caps of either end. They are almost like giant “bread board” ends. Since I plan to use Douglas Fir for the construction of this bench, having a pair of husky, cross-grain caps on either end should help keep the top flat and well behaved. Either that, or provide the means for catastrophic glue joint failure….

Either way, I think I am going to find out. I think, at least for now, that this is going to be “The One” that I build initially for the new shop. Nice proportions, simple, stout construction. Familiar look, feel, and hardware to my beloved first bench, the LaChappelle is the current front runner for my affection.

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Collegiate Endeavors.

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To say that I am a bit “seasoned” to be back in school is a bit of an understatement. As it turns out, I seem to be on the “Twenty Year Plan”.

As I have mentioned before here, on this hallowed blog, I am what is referred to as a “Returning Student”. It’s a very nice way of  saying “Late Bloomer”.
Better to be late to the dance, than to have never cut a rug at all.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that I am actually quite glad that I decided to return to school. This is for several reasons.

First, things have really, REALLY changed from when I last fumbled for a number 2 pencil, and a scantron sheet that never seemed to be remembered before an exam. Now, people are taking notes on iPads, and shooting video of the lecture/demonstrations with their Samsung Galaxy’s. All administrative gyrations, admissions, tuition payments, class selection, etc. is all done online now. Strange days indeed, most peculiar mama.

But for as much as things have changed, the one comforting thing I experience is how much wood working has stayed wonderfully the same.
Sure, there are new toys to be played with in the shop, and thankfully, Red Rocks Community College has seen fit to provide for the changes and improvements in tooling and technique.

The other thing that makes me grateful both to have discovered this program and also to have been cajoled by my lovely wife to enroll, is that I seem to have been able to find a course of study that suits me to a tee.

Over the years, especially early on in my professional woodworking career, I considered a number of different avenues to further my education beyond my initial apprenticeship, and tedious on the job training. A bold move of note on my part, if I do say so, was to whip off a letter of introduction, and request for consideration for employment at the Thomas Moser Cabinetmaker’s company in Maine. Much to my delighted surprise, I received a phone call from their Human Resources department inviting me to come out and interview with them. They were to fly me out, and put me up, and…and … and it was decided that my then new wife and I, would stay in Denver, and that was that.
I had also considered classes at The Rhode Island School of Design, The College of the Red Woods,  and several other well known schools, but finances, and logistics always made the pursuit of my wood working education quite out of reach.

I have to stop here and admit to you, dear reader, that I was insanely remiss in not being the slightest bit aware that Red Rocks Community College even had a Fine Woodworking program at all, let alone one held in such high esteem. It was not until much later in life that I was made aware. This newfound awareness was quickly forgotten again until discussions with my wife brought the fact back to my consciousness. A little nudging from her, and I made the leap back into both woodworking and into academia. So far, a decision I have yet to regret, and one I dearly hope results in a bit of alphabet soup at the end of my name, even if it is as an associate rather than a bachelor.

One last reason I am glad to have waited until now to go after higher education is that I have matured to a degree, and am able to engage more fully in the entire academic experience. It really is a lot like going all the way back to that last year in high school when I took wood shop as a lark. Then, like now, I was graced with an exceptional teacher who genuinely cared about those select students that seemed to show real interest at a minimum, or potential talent at the outside. I can honestly say, that out of nearly 12 years of schooling at that point, I can not point to a single class I had ever taken, forced to or not, that kept me interested any further than to see if there were any pretty girls in the class that semester.

As it stands now, I look forward to continuing to fill my metaphorical quiver with more woodworking arrows. I enjoy the hope that I may soon include myself among the small number of successful craftsmen who work wood not just to earn a living, but also because they love the effort.

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