Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A New Post, Wherein;

~ Our narrator, succumbing to the vain allurements of folly and fashion, steps into frame ~ The gross effects of holiday overeating are revealed and laid bare for comments, criticisms and judgment ~ A new sawing technique is demonstrated for the first time (in these annals) ~ A brother, unspoiled by praise or blame, heroically takes up the camera and performs admirably ~ A stout oaken plank is bent to the will of the craftsman ~ A dogsled is returned to trail readiness ~ And - Only Hand Tools Are Used!

Umm...sorry. Got carried away there. A combination of Rex Beach's "The Silver Horde" (1909) and "Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases" by Grenville Kleiser (1917). Dreadfully sorry. I shall endeavor to contain myself...

Earlier today I responded to a comment on a previous post where a reader had stated that I clearly enjoy all aspects of making something out of wood. I agreed, saying that sometimes I enjoy the process more than the product. This post is a perfect illustration of how the process can trump the product - which in this case was nothing more than a rectangular stick with a half-dozen holes drilled in it.

My brother Josh, a recreational dog musher, asked if I could help him fix one of his broken sleds, and I happily agreed. So, the week before Christmas, Josh and his daughter Kaija came over to visit the shop (Kaija actually had her own project to work on - but that's a future post). One of the oak sled stanchions had broken after an abrupt meeting with a spruce tree. Actually, it's more complicated than that, but Josh isn't here right now and that's my version of what happened.

Here's a shot of the part to be replaced:

Josh brought a lenght of oak that was just big enough to form the new stanchion. The main job here was ripping, so the trusty Disston D-8 was called for:

This was one awkward board to rip - hard to hold on the edge of the saw bench, and too narrow for the slot down the middle. I ended up starting it at an angle across the bench and had to stop frequently to readjust - and avoid cutting into the bench.

As I got closer to the end of the rip, I reverted to my normal stance. When discussing the use of this saw bench before, I've tried to describe this position in words, but a picture is better:

At the very end of the board a chunk had been cut out for some past project. The gauge line almost, but not quite intersected this void. Of course, I could have stopped ripping and just planed this slightly wider section down to the line, but where is the challenge in that? Time to put theoretical knowledge into practice! I decided to flip the saw around, sit on the board, and try my hand(s) at overhand ripping:

Hmm, I have been eating too much...

Anyway, it worked better than I would have guessed:

After that I cleaned up the rip and straightened the edge with a jointer plane.

Hey, isn't that a plump grizzly bear chowing down on an enormous cream cheese covered bagel on my shirt? Fitting - isn't it...

Josh provides the obligatory shavings shot:

I used an awl to transfer the holes from the existing part to the new one...

...and then bored the smaller holes with a hand drill...

...and the larger hole with a brace and bit:

After that it was just a matter of bolting it into place. Here's Josh working on that:

So, a thoroughly enjoyable process that yielded a completely mundane product. Cool.

Of course, when joined to its other mundane friends, that part becomes a sled capable of the extraordinary process of mushing. Hmm.


  1. "Yeah, but wouldn't it be easier if you just...", says the person in need, gesturing vaguely at the tablesaw shoved up against the wall gathering dust.
    Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't. But at the very least the kids would have to stand up against the wall and we all have to wear dust masks and ear protection.
    And it wouldn't be as much fun.
    I like the quote the folks at woodworking magazine used to have on their tshirts: "The things I make may be for others, but how I make them is for me."— Tony Konovaloff
    And don't be so hard on yourself, most of us are wearing a little winter weight this time of year, and the winters where you are are maybe worth an extra piece of pumpkin pie.

  2. Martin - Regarding the hypothetical table saw question I agree on all counts - noise, dust, danger etc. Plus, I really don't think it would have been much faster (hypothetically speaking of course - in reality it would have been much slower as I would have to go out and buy one!)maybe a couple of minutes or so. This was a pretty darn quick project, and the only slow aspect of working with the hand tools came from the opportunity to talk and visit with my family while working - and that's something I wouldn't trade for any amount of ease or speed.

    Thanks for the quote, I like it!

    Slice of pie? You can slice those things?

  3. Excellent read. I like your style...have a good one!/Nice blog! Keep it up!

    Hand Tools


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