Monday, March 23, 2015

The Best Customer Service in the World

A few days ago, I was sharpening a scraper on my fantastic Ohishi waterstone, and I decided I needed to flatten it.  My method of flattening a stone is to use a diamond plate, but even though I use running water from the sink to lubricate the two stones, the super fine 10,000 grit side of my combo stone always sticks to the diamond plate.  To unstick the stone, I usually twist the stone sideways to reduce the surface area of the stone, thus reducing the friction.  This time, though, I lifted up the stone accidentally.  To my dismay, I realized that half of the stone had broken off, and the other half was still clinging to the diamond plate.  I am definitely not trying to make a point about these waterstones being cheaply made or of poor quality, and they are definitely not either of those.  In fact, they are the best sharpening media I have ever used.  I just happen to be the one idiot who managed to break a $120 sharpening stone.
Here's what a $120 rock looks like

I immediately emailed Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, whom I had bought the stone from in July.  I know that if I have a problem with tool I have bought from them (though problems rarely arise), they will not hesitate to replace or fix a damaged tool.  I wasn't sure how they would handle a situation like this, because they do not make the Ohishi waterstones.  To my amazement, they sent me a brand new 10,000/3,000 grit waterstone, completely free of charge.  I didn't even have to pay for shipping!

The new waterstone
This brief post is my way of thanking the amazing people over at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks in Warren, Maine.  Just one email or phone call with their customer service can show you how much this company values its customers.  I am so glad that there are still companies like this in the world, as they are beginning to disappear.  I hope this story makes some of you out there who are on the fence about buying one of their tools because of the higher price reassured that the cost is well worth it, because I know that the Lie-Nielsen difference not only lays in the tools themselves, but also with the people responsible for producing them.

Speaking of purchases, I just had one of my own delivered just last Friday.  I first heard of Lie-Nielsen on the DIY Network show Cool Tools, where they showed the LN No. 62 Low Angle Jack Plane being used by the expert hands of Deneb Puchalski, whom I would eventually meet in person. I had not yet experienced the joy of handplaning, but this was the tool that made me want to try it. Five or six years later and I was finally able to own the tool that opened me up to the world of hand tool woodworking, and it is even better than I expected.  

I will use the 62 mainly as a dedicated shooting board plane, and I made a new shooting board for just that job.  Perfectly square every time, and effortless to use!
I also needed a shoulder plane, and the LN Large Shoulder Plane really had an appeal that set it apart from other shoulder planes like Veritas and Clifton.  It works just as you would expect a Lie-Nielsen tools to perform, and is a great addition to my tool chest.

The 62 and Large Shoulder Plane

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Some Past Projects

Since progress on the nightstands is a little sluggish, I thought I would post some pictures of projects I have completed in the past.

The first project I made start to finish was a jewelry box from mahogany and poplar with cherry accents in the interior.  I had a lot of fun making this, the dovetails turned out great and it was my first experience with inlaying hinges.  A special thank you goes out to Tim Lovett of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks who helped me decide what to do about the bottom of the inside tray.  I was worried that a solid piece of wood would present a problem during the course of expansion; however,  he assured me that, since I was building the box in the summer, the bottom would only get smaller, so it would not be a problem.

The deep red mahogany is a strong contrast against the greenish-white poplar.
The houndstooth dovetails of the tray.  It sits on dividers that rest in stopped dados in the main case.

I was too busy to complete any projects during the last school year, so it was long time before I built another one. Looking ahead to the summer, I decided to build a new workbench. I had become fed up with the one I bought a few years earlier from Harbor Freight (what a mistake that was), so I decided I deserved to make a new one. I wanted to build a split-top roubo, because it is perfectly suited to hand work, and could easily be used for occasional power tool work. I began making preparations for it in the spring. What an investment that was! I built this bench almost entirely by hand, including ripping the sixteen-quarter poplar legs and eight- and six-quarter ash for the top. I knew I was going to struggle with flattening the top with my number six fore plane, so I called up my friend Tommy MacDonald, and he took time out of his day to invite me over to his shop in Canton to run the two top sections through his powerful planer.  I would estimate that he save me five to six hours of work that I would otherwise have had to do by hand.  He did all that for me completely free of charge, which really shows how selfless he is.  I don't think I will ever be able to repay him for that, but he has really inspired me to do even better work on my bench and to be a better person.  The Benchcrafted vises are so sweet. All it takes is one quick spin of the wheel or tommy bar and the vise cinches down tight. I don't think I even needed to line the jaws with leather, but why the heck not?

I can never take a good photo in my shop.
I toothed the benchtop to give it some extra grip.

The first project I completed on my new bench was a cherry bedframe with a tiger maple frame-and-panel headboard.  This is the biggest piece of furniture I have built by far, which made for some workholding challenges.  The long rails are, I believe, seven inches longer than the length of my benchtop, so I clamped the boards down and took stopped shavings with my handplanes and scraped and sanded to blend any spots where the shavings didn't quite overlap.  The tiger maple panels were resawn from an eight inch wide eight-quarter board.  To do this I took the boards to my high school, which has a bandsaw, and it made quick work of this hard wood.  The finish for the cherry frame was rather straight forward.  Two coats of a 2:1 mineral spirits to varnish blend and a quick coat of wax.  The tiger maple was much trickier.  I used a mixture of W.D. Lockwood's Golden Amber water-based dye that was thinned down a twelfth of the recommended concentration.  I used several thin coats and wiped away the excess as soon as possible.  This allowed me to really highlight the figure, because it absorbed much more of the finish compared to the straight grain.  I followed that up with three coats of the 2:1 mineral spirits to varnish blend that I used on the frame.  This really made the grain pop.  I then used a coat of wax over each panel.  It is best to do the finishing on panels BEFORE they are set into their frame.
A good view of the entire frame. 
A close up of the headboard.

In the next few days I should have a post updating you all on the progress of the nightstands, so stay tuned.  Happy woodworking!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Welcome to the Blog!

Hi there,

My name is Danny Spatz and I am a passionate woodworker just like you.  I will use this blog mainly for four reasons. The first and most important is to update readers with my adventures in woodworking, such as current projects that I am working on.  Second is to create an archive for things like finishes I used on a specific project that I can reference if I choose to repeat it at some point in the future.  The third reason is to create a virtual résumé for potential employers or people interested in making a commission.  Finally, I have heard that starting a blog is a great way to improve your writing and developing a voice characteristic to yourself, and that is one more thing I wish to achieve from this blog.

Here's a photo of me at 15 years old with my first project, a jewelry box.  

To tell you a little more about myself, I have been woodworking almost entirely by hand for about two and a half years now.  I am lucky to live in a time where just about anything can be learned from the internet, and I have taken advantage of that.  Most of what I know I have learned from the internet, but I have taken a few classes taught by some of the most well known teachers such as Phillip C. Lowe, Christopher Schwarz, and Bob van Dyke.  I am also a subscriber to Popular Woodworking and Fine Woodworking magazine.  I do all of my work in my small basement shop with the decent assortment of tools I have acquired with the money I have earned by lawn mowing for my neighbors and more recently, lifegaurding at a local pool, as well as a most gracious donation from Mr. Carl Bilderback, who sent me a router plane after reading about me on Mr. Schwarz's Lost Art Press blog, you can read the article here. I am most grateful to both of them for their help in allowing me to further develop my skills.

Speaking of current projects, I am working on a set of two nightstands for my bedroom, which I share with my older brother.  As you might have guessed we will each get one.  One is made of Tiger Maple and the other, which is destined to be mine, is made of Cherry. I will update you in the progress I make in the coming posts.

Here is the current process on the nightstands.  The tiger maple one is nearly done, all it needs is for the profile on the plinth to be cut out and the finish to be applied.  The cherry one is not quite there but I'm chugging along just fine.

Blogs can be wealth of information, but also a source of controversy.  That is why I will do my best to write about my methods of work while avoiding the much disputed topics such as pins or tails first dovetailing, just about anything concerning the topic of sharpening, or the use of western style or japanese style tools (though you can probably figure out which one I use from the picture above). I will do my best to provide accurate, grammatically correct, information in my posts, but do let me know if I have made a mistake, politely if you will.  Talk to you soon and happy woodworking!