Woodworking becoming financially unviable and fast

As woodworking has soaked the interest of many and in particular over the past twenty years, its popularity has grown exponentially in both machine and hand tool woodworking. This new rapid rising interest and I would refer more so in particular to the last ten years has led to many new business opportunities for some.

From the opening of many woodworking schools to the production and sales of tons and tons of quality online videos. New tool makers from various engineering backgrounds have come on board this merry-go-round of the wheel of fortune. Tool restorers who have “apparently” been doing this since the neanderthal age and not to forget the creepy crawly antique tool dealers with their false “near mint condition” statement who always somehow work their way up and out of their bottom less Pitts they come from, have also on steroids have joined this merry go wheel of fortune

We’ve seen the price of antique tools sky rocket in the last 5 years. We’ve also seen vintage tools that nobody wanted at one stage become seriously sought after and people paying top dollar for it. We’ve seen toolmakers spring up from everywhere and charge top dollar for some good and not so good tools, but what we haven’t seen nor expected to see is the price of timber being jacked up to ridiculously stupid prices by lumber yards. Whilst everyone was caught up in all the hype of tool collection and dreaming about open fields and puffy clouds of no dust mask and ear protection of hand tool woodworking, the timber merchants have being jacking up their prices.

People you can have all the tools in the world, but without wood you’ve got no craft.

I’ve seen a single board sell for $1200, pine is over $20 per l/m, American Walnut 200×25 (1″x 8″x 39″) sells at $42.15 ex GST per l/m. For our American friends l/m refers to lineal metre which is 39″ in length.  Then you have the privateers on our forums selling wet timbers for insane prices and no one’s the wiser.  I don’t know what you’re paying for your timber, I can only speak of what it’s costing me for mine.  All I know is at the current yard prices you have a greater chance of winning the lottery than buying affordable lumber. What’s the solution? I don’t know but something has to be done.

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Setting up a Workbench

Terry Gordon from HNT Tools released a video not long ago on setting up a Workbench. This morning I got into about 10 minutes of it and I thought there was valuable information in it worth sharing.

How to bore dead centre of your mortise

Chopping is time consuming when creating a mortise, which is why I prefer to bore with my brace and bit. But isn’t it annoying and downright shameful when you can’t get the bit dead centred between the marking gauge lines? I will show you how you can every time and it’s simple.

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There are two ways of doing. Place the business end of the bit between the scribed lines and hope for the best or another method which is my preferred method is to find the centre of your to be mortise with your marking gauge. To do that eyeball the centre, scribe a small line, flip the gauge to the other side and scribe another line. What will be left unless you were lucky is a gap between the two scribed lines. Move the gauge to the centre of between the two lines and test again. Keep doing that till the scribe meets centre from both sides and scribe all the way through.

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With a scratch awl prick the centre line with light finger pressure. Do not hammer or press hard because the awl will want to follow the grain of the wood and can throw you off centre. Just a light touch is sufficient.

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That’s it you’re done! BTW this isn’t something I invented even though I’ve never seen it in any book or showed anywhere on the net, I can’t take credit for it. Because I’m sure just as boring instead of chopping has been practised for thousands of years, I’m certain someone has had the same frustrations and came up with the same solution several times over throughout the centuries. This is why posting these posts, writing articles for magazines, writing books and making videos are so bloody important to us as a civilisation. Had most of our ancestors bothered to do that we wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel again and again and not to mention playing the guessing game of what we think they might have done. I hope this helps and I apologise for taking so long to finish the 5th Issue of HANDWORK. It will get done, it’s life getting in the way. If someone has a work around for that please let me know.

Dolls Cradle Project for Issue V

This is the cradle I plan on building again for Issue V. The dolls cradle in the picture is for my niece and a prototype. The beauty with this cradle is that it’s not a factory replica of a factory style finish.  With that I mean it’s not spray painted, but hand brushed. I made and used my version of chalk paint. I experimented with all different finishes and found this one to be the best.
I also made it easy for shipping by making it a flat pack. The only part I haven’t included is the Allen (Hex) key with the product. Hardware stores are selling a single for $5.00 which I feel is expensive for a throwaway tool.
The odd thing though that surprised me the most with this project is that I took the same time to make the M&T for rails and stiles as it to bore out a few holes for simple butt joints. The reason it’s so quick is that I no longer chop out the mortise instead, I bore it out with my brace and bit.
Tomorrow I will make another for a friend of mine for his granddaughter. I believe I will start article on the third one.

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Korean Joinery

The high level of craftsmanship, the accuracy and cleanliness of his work is due to high quality training as an apprentice and ongoing practice and dedication to the craft therefrom.

This is Korean woodworking, not Japanese but to my eye they appear to be identical. Even with the timber they work with. Paulownia timber is popular in Japan and Korea. It’s a lightweight timber that similar in weight to _______________ I don’t know the name of the species I have at home. You see at the time of purchase I was told it’s African Tulip but a little research has proven it can’t be so I don’t know the name. However, if you refer to the jewellery box, I made in Issue IV you see what type of timber I’m referring too.  They also use paulownia to make surfboards, I was once interested in using this timber for my clocks. After having felt how soft it is I couldn’t use it no matter how attractive it was. I remember a surfboard maker offering paulownia at low prices and no one wanted. A few years later the trend changed and now he sells them like hot cakes at top dollar.

Ox hair Brushes by Gramercy

A few years back I bought a brush from Gramercy. It‘s made from European Ox hair in particular hair found inside the ear of the animal. I bought it specifically for shellac and have been, really happy with it.  It holds more finish which minimises dipping, and it leaves an almost brush free finish. There is an art to brushing I’m yet to master, but it makes finishing a lot simpler with this brush.

I’ve tried artist brush made from goat hair as Paul Sellers suggests and there is no comparison between the two. The brush marks are prominent but it holds a reasonable amount of finish which is good. However, these artist brushes are poorly constructed which leads to hair droppings into the finish.

I know quality brushes are pricey, but they are just as important as a quality joint. We lament over our joinery, but when it comes to the finish, we skimp on it and get all tight arsed about it. A high quality brush is just as important as any high quality tool. I’m not a rich man which is why I can’t afford to waste my hard earned money on second rate tools. I buy once, treat em right and they’ll treat me right back and when I move on my kid will get to enjoy them throughout his life.

If you can’t afford a professional spray equipment and dust free booths and so on, then brushing is the way to go.

Here is a short 4.5mins movie on how these brushes are hand made still today. Shock horror surprise that something is actually handmade which explains why this brush has performed so well for so long for me.

ENTHUSIASM VERSUS APATHY

BY JOHN RUSKIN 1901

To ensure enthusiasm of good workmanship among craftsmen, they must be relieved of the hard pressure of circumstance. They must neither be pressed for time nor by want. They must be removed from the necessity of slovenly production. They must be led to perceive and acknowledge the value: that is usefulness or the beauty of the materials which they daily handle; so that waste, that enemy of the workshop, may not enter to create dissension between the employer and the employed. They must be taught to respect the work of their own hands, so that it may com to be for them a subject of great interest, care and love. They must be made to feel their worth and dignity as producers, as one of the prime factors of organised and civilised life.