Monday, March 22, 2010

On Shop Inertia And A New Project

It's been over two weeks since I've done any woodworking. So, finding myself with some free time yesterday, I eagerly headed out into the shop - only to run smack into Newton's First Law of Shops: "A shop at rest tends to stay at rest."

Maybe you've experienced this too, but I just couldn't get focused. I swept up some shavings hiding under the bench. I filed a few cardboard templates that I had left sitting out. I put away some leftover hardware. I cleaned and oiled the new marking gauge that had just arrived in the mail. In short, I puttered my time away.

No matter how hard I wanted to get things moving, it just wasn't happening. I had been away too long. The problem was certainly not a lack of projects: the partially finished set of blocks, the Arts & Crafts lamp, or even the long dormant bench. Nor was there any lack of potential projects I could start: the file box, the traveling tool chest, the small box, the shaker shelves or the wall cabinet. I could even work on tools: the chisel handles, sharpen the saws, fix the dovetail saw, or replace the missing boxing on the moulding plane. No, a lack of things to do was not the problem.

Finally, with almost no time left, I got things moving in one direction. I settled on making a new knife holder to replace the one that arrived broken. Two Christmases ago I placed a large order with Lee Valley. One of the things I ordered was a knife holder with plastic rods that hold the knife blades. Well, Lee Valley packs their stuff well, but not always well enough to insure survival through whatever the Alaska division of the USPS does to boxes. The box was practically crushed, and while everything else made it out alive, the knife holder did not.

Here's a picture of the broken holder:

Now, Lee Valley has some of the best customer service ever. And I know that if I had asked, they would have replaced it. But the thing was, I didn't really like the way the original wood looked. So I decided to just keep the plastic rod innards, and build a new case - a simple, fast project that I could have done in no time.

And then it sat there. And sat there. And months went by, and then a year. In the meantime, I saw (I think over at Schwarz's Woodworking Magazine Blog) a version that used bamboo skewers instead of the plastic rods. I liked that even better.

So now that I have had this broken holder for over a year, I finally decide to scrap the whole thing and build a new one from scratch. Sheesh!

I decided to use pine for this project. And so the first step was to resaw 3/4 inch stock to 1/2 inch. For this I use my frame saw. Here's a shot of the process:

And another - this time "sawyer's eye view":

After this, I decided that I need to make a longer frame for a longer web. I also need to file some more aggressive teeth on the next web. The bandsaw blade works fine most of the time, but in a long, wide board like this one, it's too slow.

So in the end, I only got through step 1 in the new project. But I did finally get things moving again in the shop. Now I just hope that the other part of Newton's Law will apply: "A shop in motion tends to stay in motion."


  1. Dan I'm impressed/curious with that frame saw. How long did it take you to resaw that piece?

    I'm guessing by looking at the curves on the saw that that you use a pretty wide grip to keep it level?

    Looking forward to a blog post about the particulars of that saw if you have it in you some day. (My band saw is one of the few tools with power still in use in my workshop... but after seeing your frame saw I wonder if even its days are numbered.)

  2. How many "small blade" saws do you have. I count at least 3: bucksaw, turning saw, frame saw. What other ones am I missing?

    And have you thought about putting together a guide for making your own saws?

  3. I can totally relate, I don't often get much shop time (I have two year old son, and full time job, my time is at a premium) but when I do it's not always fruitful.

    I've gotten comfortable with the "putter" time though, and enjoy it for what it is. It's almost Zen like at times, very relaxing and calming to just sort of clean and organize and well.... putter.


  4. Hey Dan,

    Yeah that frame saw is impressive. Re-sawing is a tricky thing in a hand tool only shop, but you seem to have it down pat. Well done.

    Like steve above I'd be interested in more info on it. How you adapted the band saw blade and mounted it? Did you use a skip tooth blade?

  5. It never hurts to clean up and reorganize a little between projects. I wish I had some more time for it right now. Of course, when I actually do have time for it, I'll probably feel like I should be doing a project instead.

    It'll be interesting to see what you come up with for a new frame saw blade. I'm in the same situation as you now in that respect.

  6. Steve - Well, it's not fast :) That 5 feet of 1x8 took me about 45 minutes. A big part of the problem is that the web has difficulty keeping the kerf clear of sawdust. On this particular board, the resin content was high and the dust was very sticky, which added to the problem. I think deeper gullets and fewer PPI would really help.

    Yes, a wide grip gives you great feedback from the saw. It is very easy to feel even small variances from level.

    I'd be happy to do a post about this saw, maybe when I am also making the new, longer one...

    Torcho2 - Well, would you count coping saws? I think that might be it. I think a guide might be cool, but I don't really consider myself all that knowledgeable...

    Badger - I think I know what you mean - and sometimes I love to just putter in the shop. But that is mostly when I know I am only going to have a short time out there. For 20 minutes or so I am quite happy to just oil handles, or clear the desk or just pick up old tools and hold and look at them and try to hear their stories. But if I have a bigger chunk of time I get into "project" mode and want/need to get something accomplished. It's times like these that I get frustrated.

    Daniel - It's a standard (unmodified) 3/4" blade - I think 3PPI - and yep, its skip tooth. I just drilled holes in the end and pinned it into slots in the bolts - pretty simple really.

    Brian - Yes, it seems to be tied to how much time I have, and how driven I am - the longer away from the shop, the more driven.

    As for the web, I think I am going to reread Roy's description in one of his books (Woodwright's Companion?) about making webs by refiling bandsaw blades, and take it from there.

    All - Thanks for commenting!

  7. I have just read this post on my iPhone and am attepting the comment with the little keyboard. So all I can say is that I thought it was a very enjoyable read.

  8. Extremely Average - Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

  9. Dan,

    I'm behind on my Blogging and commenting ALOT it appears, I always keep eyes on your blog all the time no matter what.

    But it appears that I have missed this one, I read them on my iPhone and it works well, but replying to them don't work all that good.

    Anyway, I know the feeling, It's about time for me to head out to the shop and get things cleaned up and Preped for the mid spring and early summer projects.

    And during that time, I find just as you have, there are so many things to do, so many things you want to do or even start, but you just sit and dwindle the time away deciding which one you want to do and ones you don't want to do.

    It's like cooking, What do you have a taste for, what do you feel like doing, how long is it going to take and what you feel like doing. Alot of things my friend in a woodworkers world or even a hobby woodworker lol.

    Looks great so far, even thou you only got to step one lol, Looking forward to seeing the rest!


  10. Handi - Yeah, time is a funny thing...sometimes fast, sometimes slow...

    I liked the cooking analogy - that works for me.

    This particular project is on extended hold. Who knows, it might come back again...


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