A Few Words about Technique Posts

There are many excellent woodworking magazines, shows, and videos out there, but the one limitation most of them share, is showing you how they perform woodworking operations. This is NOT a slam on them–sharing their expertise is a good thing. But within the limitations of word counts, column space, and allotted time; decisions are made about how to illustrate particular woodworking operations. The one weakness in these various medians of communicating is they can’t take into account the attributes that make every woodworker unique–your individual experience, tool inventory, and skills; and most importantly your personal goal— what you’re trying to accomplish with woodworking.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. I recently had a conversation with several woodworkers about how they taper legs. We discussed methods using table saws, band saws, jointers, planers, shapers, and hand tools. Next we got to talking about why everyone preferred the tools and technique that they used. Some made experience choices-they had multiple tools at their disposal but choose their method because of a comfort-level with that particular tool. Some made tool inventory choices-using the one tool in their shop that could be used for the operation. Others focused on their skill set-choosing the tool they had expertise in. Finally others chose a method based on their goal-speed, accuracy, repeatability, or desire to learn a new skill.

Obviously, my blog will be no exception to the extent that my writing will be limited by my expertise and experience-with one subtle difference. The process. I’ll try and begin each technique post with a focus on the process and explain each step to the extent that you (based on your experience, tool inventory, skill set, and goal) have enough information to decide which tool or technique you will use.

A great example of focusing on process is sharpening chisels or plane irons. The sharpening industry has done an exceptional job of convincing woodworkers that sharpening is the most complex, difficult to understand, procedure in our world; and that you cannot, and will not, truly master it without their product. But in reality it is a simple two step process–flatten the bottom and cause the edge to intersect the bottom at a point. Every tool, jig, and gadget on the market is designed to help you perform one of these two steps. What method you use to flatten the bottom or to form the point-and determine the angle of interception-should be driven by your experience, tool inventory, skills and woodworking goals.

Finally, please remember this subtle difference between a process-step and a technique step. There are some process steps that are necessary only to ensure you understand the inherent principle. For example we can all perform mathematical equations on a calculator; but they make more sense if you learned how to do them with paper and pencil at some point. An even better analogy is milling lumber. You’ll be much better prepared to troubleshoot jointer and/or planner problems if you’ve milled a board flat, parallel, and true with a hand plane.

So please enjoy my technique posts; I’ll focus on the process, and you decide how to perform each step.

November 17, 2020

Making Wedges to Repair Half-lap Joints

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we end up with a gap in our half-lap joint. If the gap is small enough, particularly a hair-line gap, we can fix it during the finishing process with colored epoxy or a wax pencil. But sometimes the gap is significant, say three-thousandths of an inch, and we don’t want a solid line of filler present. In this instance, a wedge with the grain orientated correctly is warranted. Correct orientation of the wedge means aligning the wedge so it goes perpendicular to the grain of the appropriate rail or stile. If it is orientated with the grain, as your eye follows along the frame, you will see a slight bulge in the frame width at the joint.

September 14, 2020

Do You Sign Your Work?

Do you sign your work? If you don’t, you should consider it, and I’m not just speaking to those selling their work. Signing your working serves many valuable purposes, arguably more so for the amateur or hobbyist furnituremaker. Signing your work establishes a record. Affix a paper label, brand, or a decal with your name, location and year of construction to begin your record. Adding the furniture’s destination allow you to record family history, ownership and/or family lineages.

November 18, 2018

Installing and Setting Up the Mortiser Cutter

This is the third post in a three-post entry. The first post is Sharpening, Installing, & Setting Up a Mortiser, and the second post is Sharpening the Auger.

November 03, 2018

Sharpening the Auger

This is part 2 of a three-part post on Sharpening, Installing, & Setting up a Mortiser.

October 09, 2018

Sharpening, Installing, & Setting up a Mortiser

If you cut a lot of mortise and tenon joints, like I do, a good mortiser can be a very handy tool in your shop. Like most power tools, when its cutters become dull, their effectiveness is greatly reduced. But unlike most power tool cutters, a mortiser’s cutter, comprised of a hollow-chisel and auger, is quickly sharpened using readily available shop tools and techniques. Another important reason to master this technique is that in working with oak, which Arts and Crafts furnituremakers have been known to do, our mortise-cutters dull quickly and frequently. It’s also a good idea to use this technique as a honing step before installing a new mortise-cutter in your mortiser. In this series of posts I’ll show you how easy it is to sharpen a mortise-cutter.

April 22, 2018

Setting Up a Locking Miter Bit

Whether using a shaper or a router table, setting up a locking miter bit is the same. While it’s a simple 3 step process, you should take this set up seriously. Because like its cousin the miter joint, there’s no room for error with the locking miter joint–if you don’t get it dead-on, it won’t look good. But unlike the miter joint, it can be fixed, if it’s a little off.

March 23, 2018

Through Mortise & Tenons

Through mortise and tenons are a popular style of Arts and Crafts joinery, regularly seen in Morris chairs, sideboards, and various case pieces. In this post I’ll show the version I used in my footstool, which can easily be adapted to the mentioned furniture. As with all of my technique posts, I’ll primarily focus on the process. Mentioning my favorite step-by-step techniques along the way; my hope is that you will choose the step-by-step techniques that make sense for you.

August 04, 2017

Working with Templates

Templates are one of the Holy Grails of woodworking. If you desire repeatability and consistency, templates (along with jigs in other applications) are the best way to go. They’re easy to make, reduce what (without there existence) would be a lengthy, and possible complex process to a simpler, shorter process, and can be made from a variety of readily available, inexpensive materials. They’re also a great substitute for hand-skills and tools that have not yet been acquired.

June 07, 2017

Choosing Tabletop Fasteners

When building Arts and Crafts furniture that requires a top, I always find myself wondering which tabletop fastener to use. To be historically accurate, in most situation, I should probably be using figure-8 hardware as Gustav Stickley did on many pieces; but the woodworker in me enjoys making wooden buttons. To help with the selection, making, and installing of tabletop fasteners, one of Woodcraft Magazine‘s Senior Editors, Paul Anthony has written a great article that lays out the how and why of wooden buttons, Z-clips, and Figure-8 hardware. It appears in the June/July (Vol. 6/No. 35) issue of Woodcraft Magazine, and now in my “Book of Knowledge;” More on that later…

April 27, 2016

Peg Mortises

When I make legs, usually the last step is drilling the holes that will act as mortises for the pegs used to secure mortise and tenons joints. These hole passes through a mortise creating the possibility of tear-out as the drill bit both enters and exits the mortise.