03 June 2010

Starting the Roubo.

On June 1st 2010, I bought 10 planks of American Ash for my first proper workbench, the Roubo Bench.  I am basing this bench on the design in Christopher Schwarz's workbench book as well as his many Woodworking Magazine blog posts.  It will only differ in overall length from his bench due to space constraints.  The first post I made discussed starting out.  Well this is a case in point.  I have almost completed my workshop, got every power tool and nearly every hand tool I need, yet I have no proper bench.  So what should have been the 1st thing in my workshop, is going to be my last.  I just didn't know.  And I wish I could write a book one day stating the correct order of things when starting out.  A lot of books cover the details, it's the order that matters. 

Conclusion:  If you are starting out and not sure if you are going to use hand tools a little, a lot or not at all.  If you don't know if you are going to focus on cabinet work, turning, chair-making, inlays etc.  If the only thing you know is that you love working with wood.  I have 3 pieces of advice as a beginner woodworker myself : 1) Build a solid heavy bench that can hold your pieces properly, and like Christopher Schwarz advises, don't try and be innovative.  Just copy what is available.  Do this first.  2) Get a few but the best measuring and marking tools-a couple of Veritas' wheel marking gauges, a super accurate double square (I have one from Rabone, one from Starrett and one from Chris Vesper), a sliding bevel that locks down, a good marking knife, an engineer's square and a straight edge, a digital vernier (small one), and a divider.  This is not the exhaustive list but a start.  3) Learn to sharpen.  Properly.  A future post will discuss this subject in detail.  I was fortunate have a friend show me the A-Z of sharpening, plus get me all the supplies I needed.  There is a lot to know, but once you are set up, it doesn't take much time to hone, nor is it difficult to do.     

28 May 2010

Starting Out

My 1st post. I will start by trying to remember the beginning of this journey. It started by a love of wood and working with it. I had no background experience, so I first needed to understand what tools were available, and what their purpose was. This took many years. I found, for example, large local (S. African) suppliers who either never had a catalogue, or never made it available. There is also no general listing of similarly grouped companies-somebody needs to do this. It was like they never wanted to do business! Then it was rare to find someone who could explain the function and purpose of tools. Someone who could compare similar tools. Which tools overlapped with others, which were indispensable and which gimmicks. This was difficult, and I still get caught. And the same applied to the myriad of books available on the subject. So many gave half the story, so many gave plans that only a very experienced woodworker could follow, and a few are gems. In time I will name these few good books and share why I think they came from an author with a generous soul. The most surprising part of all is that in many instances, amateur woodworkers taught me more than the pro's -hey M C-L.

My point: Try and resist buying too many tools in the beginning until you get some idea . Do your research, check for two tools that have similar functions-duplications. Wait until you really need the tools before you buy it. The experts have all said this before, but we don't always listen. The reason is not only to prevent clutter and save money. It's about buying less and better-and that will make a difference to your woodworking.  A bad woodworker may blame his tools.