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Diamond Bits

April 6, 2018 Leave a comment

A few years ago I was given a set of Craftsman Diamond Tipped screw drivers for Christmas. Whenever I strip a screw head and struggle to remove a screw I’ve found them invaluable. Lately I don’t wait until I make a mess of a screw head and use them for installing hardware from the start.

Before Christmas I noticed that Lee Valley offers a set of diamond tipped driver bits. They magically appeared under the tree and I’ve used them ever since. If you have a driver these are perfect to pair with the likes of Blue Spruce or others. Yeah I’m dreaming a little, but for now the current driver seems to work fine.

Categories: Tools

Bell Forest Hardwoods

March 31, 2018 Leave a comment

Thinking about building a new workbench is a pastime for many woodworkers. It’s been on my mind for a few years and I have posted my thoughts a couple of times. In an attempt to spread the cost, last year I purchased hardware from Benchcrafted. This year the search for the perfect building materials began. Soft Maple, Hard Maple, Ash all come to mind; reading blogs and watching you tube there are many beautiful benches and thoughts on what’s best. There’s definitely no lack of opinion amongst woodworkers. The decision really came down to two factors, I prefer the look of maple, and soft maple is slightly easier to work. Since my tool cabinet and saw till are cherry the bench accents will also be cherry.

Two hardwood stores are within 45 minutes of my house and I’ve been to both over the last few years, they generally have what I need, but the pricing is very high. Shannon Rogers has frequently discussed lumber pricing and I am a huge believer in capitalism, if the prices I see are what the market will bare, so be it. Fortunately I travel a fair amount in my job and have been stopping at local lumber yards throughout the Midwest looking at alternatives while waiting for the weather to improve. A few weeks ago out of curiosity I had Bell Forest Products quote their Roubo Kit. My expectation was low that they would be competitive. Surprise, with shipping, straight line rip and Planing they were a few dollars cheaper!

The best part was yet to come…. Woodworker Guild Savings, and I happened to need to go to Northern Michigan University for a College Visit. Under the guise of touring colleges I ended up in Ishpeming Michigan. Exchanging a few emails with Eric at Bell Forest Products the deal was struck and date set for pick up.

I’ve read blogs and Instagram about the service and quality of the Lumber from Bell Forest Products and my skepticism faded long ago with the many comments. If any of you remain skeptics one visit and you will be sold. Over the last week Eric has sent a couple of emails updating me on my lumber status. The day before pickup he let me know it was there and waiting, pulling up and walking in the door I immediately felt welcome and comfortable. Given a choice I like to buy from people that I have met and build trust with. Mark Harrell at Bad Axe, Jason Thigpen at Texas Heritage Toolworks, all have built a reputation for quality service and I consider part of my woodworking family. I am certainly adding Eric Poirier and Bell Forest to this list.

Eric toured me around their shop and talked about their business, customer service and employees (there are eight). I was amazed that 90-95% of their business is through the internet and phone and is shipped across the country. We talked a lot about quality and expectations of customers. I think my daughter summed up the visit best “it’s really fun being around people who are passionate about what they do.” This is a direct quote.

A few photos of the lumber in their shop and the team packaging and getting shipments ready. It was a great visit and hopefully the first of many. If you are considering Bell Forest Products, don’t hesitate and if you can find an excuse to visit Northern Michigan it’s beautiful country with wonderful people. Eric, thanks for a great visit and I look forward to staying in touch.

Categories: Lumber, Roubo

Bad Axe Tool Works D8 – Simply “WOW”

October 8, 2017 1 comment

Many of my tools have been found in auctions, garage sales and by family members. The most difficult tools to find have been saws. Back saws, hand saws, panel saws, turning saws,  all lie hidden away in garages, barns and local restaurants. It took several months to find the 26” crosscut and rip saw and careful straightening and sharpening to make them perform. After such a struggle I asked Mark Harrell at Bad Axe Tool Works about the chance of Bad Axe manufacturing a saw equivalent to the Disston D8. Not one to shy from a challenge, Mark smiled and discussed the intricacies of producing a hand saw, clearly he had been thinking about it.  Over several years this discussion has continued and I understood that the challenges of producing a large handsaw were being conquered one by one. When the announcement of the Bad Axe Tool Works D8 came out on Instagram and Facebook (you are a Bad Axe Tool Works follower, Right?) I scrambled to place an order…

Bad Axe Tool Works 24″ D8, Walnut handle, brass slotted nuts, 9PPI, xcut.

The saw arrived a couple of weeks ago and before writing it seemed appropriate to put it to work. Here’s my thoughts…..

Wow!

Grabbing an Oak board, a line was struck and with saw in hand I sliced off a few inches, next I found a piece of Cherry, that too became smaller, leaning against the wall some Sapele left over from my tool chest, then Walnut. Looking around I noticed a longer piece of Oak and “don’t tell anyone” ripped it in half with my new crosscut!

Suddenly I realized that the Cherry board that I was saving for drawer fronts may not be long enough and that Oak board…Oh well, I was having fun crosscutting and ripping if I had to buy new lumber so be it!

Taking a closer look at the saw, the finish on the handle is excellent and what a beautiful piece of Walnut! One of the things about Bad Axe saws is the ability to choose the size of the handle. I happen to be average, but I know others who have smaller hands and they are able to get a saw that fits. The clocking of the saw nuts is noted, I’m sure Chris Schwarz will see it.

At 9PPI I anticipated a rougher cut, but was surprised with a relatively clean cut, the saw started easily and the cuts were quick and smooth. Mark Harrell obviously put a little magic in the saw sharpening. I’m very impressed with the saw and know that it will give years of great service.

Mark Harrell and the team at Bad Axe Toolworks are passionate about the products they make. If you visit them at one of their saw sharpening seminars or talk to Mark at Hand Works you will become enamored with his knowledge and willingness to share. Great products from great people!

Now where’s that small panel saw and the turning saw?

Categories: Tools

Dubuque Clamp Works

August 13, 2017 1 comment

Chance meetings abound at Handworks, while talking with Jim and Mike at Mortise and Tenon Magazine, I took the opportunity to grab a photograph.

Jim and I were laughing about asking someone to grab a photo of the three of us and we asked the first person wandering up to the table. After the picture was taken we continued talking and the  conversation moved to clamps and quickly a business card appeared in my hand. Our photographer, Keith Clark was the owner of Dubuque Clamp Works. 

Readers of my blog surely know that I am a huge fan of Dubuque Calmp Works. Learning more about the clamps I left the conversation even more impressed by their commitment to materials and quality. I purchased my clamps through Lee Valley Tools and have been extremely happy. There are many other places they can be purchased as well.


Categories: Tools

High Desert Saw Mill

July 30, 2017 1 comment

While in Bend Oregon I wandered out to the High Desert Museum to see what could be learned. Stumbling across a saw mill I thought about all the work Matt Cremona was doing with his homemade bandsaw. Missed them operating by a few days which would have given me more insight as to the mills operation. Following are a few pictures.


It appears to be a nice set up, complete with wooden idlers to move the wood and a chop saw to cut everything to length.

Categories: Tools

Looking for a Router Plane?

May 21, 2017 Leave a comment

Walke-Moore Tools – Hanging on Paul Sellers’ tool cabinet are a couple of Preston router planes. They can be found in Paul’s hand when there is a tenon to be refined or a wide lap joint to be made. Occasionally they show up on EBay, and with a flurry disappear. Such is the world of used hand tools, discovery of a tool from others, seeking knowledge of its character and either purchasing or passing.

Wandering the buildings of Handworks, I came to Walke-Moore Tools and had the opportunity to look at an original Preston plane and their upgraded equivalent. Looking at the plane on their website I failed to understand why this plane was so special. The elongated bed is great, but what pushes this plane over the top is the ability to reposition the cutter to the end.


There is one downside to the Walke-Moore Plane, approximately 30 are made each month, so I’ll have to wait my turn before I handle another one. The best part, was a lengthy conversation I had about the planes manufacture and design. This is what makes Handworks special, talking and learning from the tool makers themselves.

Categories: Handworks, Tools

Handworks 2017

May 14, 2017 2 comments

I discovered this post in my drafts, obviously it is a year old but brought a smile to my face as I remembered a great time so I shared it despite the poor timing.

Low clouds drift across the sky, a single drop of rain strikes the windshield, followed by an ever increasing number. Reaching out, I adjust the volume of Snap Judgement as the drops become a downpour. A couple of hours later I find myself slowing in Amana, IA. The rain, now a steady drizzle, could not dampen the spirit of people huddled under umbrellas waiting to enter the barn for Roy Underhill’s presentation. Walking towards the crowd, Norway John and I exchange a handshake, a smile and enter the barn.

Knowing what to expect at Handworks greatly improved my experience,  As pointed out by Shannon Rogers on Woodtalk, Handworks can be crowded, however people are polite and will easily step aside if you want a closer look.

Handworks ebbs and flows and with a little knowledge you can get the most out of it. My plan was to enjoy the people and later in the day focus on the the specific, tools and vendors that have drawn my interest. The initial push into Festhalle for Roy Underhill’s talk and the giveaways, attracts the majority of people, so once finished I walked to the outermost buildings and worked back to the barn. By mid afternoon the crowd will thin and although tired, vendors will be relaxed and less busy.

img_2323Walking between buildings I quickly spotted Ben and the new guy from FineWoodworking Magazine. Handing them an OrePass Sticker and thanking them for ShopTalk Live, they passed me a shirt! More importantly I got a chance to talk and enjoyed a few thoughts and the advice from New Guy to try a Japanese Plane as a little relief from Hip Pain.  I’m really glad to see them here enjoying the many vendors and companionship of their audience.

Next stop was Texas Heritage Woodworks to say hello to Sara and Jason. Two of the nicest people I know and a great companion on Instagram. Their Tool Rolls and the new Saddle Bag was very tempting! Further along I stopped by Plate 11 workbench Co. Their work benches could be found throughout Handworks, these give me an opportunity to compare heights, components and styles. I did learn a trick with the Moxon Vise. Springs inserted between the jaws make quite a difference.

Lunch at Handworks has always baffled me, seems that there would be lots of options; yet again I suffered through a mediocre sandwich however I met Kent. Really enjoyed getting to know him over a few bites.

I spent a few minutes talking with the Guys from Mortise and Tenon Magazine, had some good laughs and a photograph taken by the owner of Dubuque Clamp works.

Spending time with Mark Harrell from Bad Axe Tools was entertaining and educational as always and his son made a valiant effort to sell me a new D8 saw.  Before leaving time was spent with Walke Moore Tools looking at their new Router Plane. It was fun to see and make comparison to the original Preston Plane.

Overall it was a fun day and I look forward to the Next Event.

Categories: Handworks, Uncategorized