This is the place to visit if you like to see if The New Chinky Workshop strives to be well rounded in handtools as well as power tools. There's something very primal, very satisfying in using a tool you power by your own hand. In this age of cell phones, cable television, and the like, I sometimes want to pound my chest, roar, and then return back to my cave. But seeing as how I don't really have a cave to run back to, I'll settle for being a caveman who enjoys using handtools.
Have you ever seen a tool like this?!!! I ran across it on a recent trip to Thailand. Some local craftswomen were using it to drill through less than 1/8" thick material. I was so fascinated by it, I asked if I could buy one and bring it back to The New Chinky Workshop. It's pretty neat to see it operation--but I'll leave that to your imagination. If you absolutely have to see how it works, email me...I might just put a video of how it works.
On the top of my list of favorite tools have got to be my handplanes. Yes, these planes are works of art (the pricetag will attest to that), but they work like a dream. Starting from the top: LN #6 Foreplane (yes, I know what that sounds like)--the sole is long enough to flatten wide boards, especially after gluing up several boards for a tabletop; LN #164 Low-Angle Smoothing Plane--great for leaving a glasslike finish on wood (10 times better than sanding); LN #85 Scraper Plane--takes the place of using 220 grit sandpaper and both the knob and handle tilt in both directions.
I was sort of into hand tools before, but I didn't really get into using them all that much. It probably has a lot to do with me not knowing how to use them properly. But since I've learned how to sharpen correctly and tune up my planes, I think I've started down the slippery slope towards using hand tools instead of power tools. Don't get me wrong, my power tools will still get the lion's share of the work. It's just that when it comes to putting the final surface on a piece of furniture, I currently prefer to do the job with a nicely tuned handplane instead of letting my arms shake with the random orbit sander.
UPDATE: I figured it's time to post some new pix of my collection of handtools.
This is my current collection of handplanes. I've got a few random collection of Lie-Nielsen, Record, Mujingfang, The New Chinky Workshop made Krenov style woodies and bronze infill. I think they're starting to fill in my workbench drawers nicely.
Here are few more planes (a few block planes, a miniature compass plane a friend brought back for me from Japan, a Stanley 92, and small wooden palm plane I use to make quick chamfers. Then of course, I have a couple of Glen-Drake chisel hammers and my favorite plane hammer. It's amazing how their curved handles really do feel comfortable to use.
This is my miscellaneous tool drawer. I have a couple marking knives (some shop made, some store bought), wheel gauge, few Japanese chisels, burnishing rod, spokeshave, shopmade skew chisels, a few carving gouges, and missing from from the photo (but you can still see its home) my signature brand.
Next to my Lie-Nielsen 60 1/2 rabbeting block plane, my set of chisels are my favorite hand tools. I love them so much, I made a comfy home for them in my workbench drawer. I made custom cutouts out of foam packing material to prevent them from rolling around in the drawer and possibly damaging their sharp edges. Sometimes the best solutions come free.
My marking tool drawer is opened quite frequently. It's definitely a smart move to invest in a quality set of Starrett 6" and 12" combination squares. My engineer squares aren't too shabby either. I turn to them quite often not only to set up machines, but also just when my other combination squares are "busy" being used for precise measurements. Then I have my shopmade dovetail marker and a sliding t-bevel. I think if there are any tools that need a lot of care, it's got to be your marking tools. My custom made foam inserts really do the trick in keep my measuring tools from rolling around and getting damaged. I hardly ever use my junky framing square or my first Stanley combo square I bought at my local Orange Borg.
To handcut dovetails, I use my fancy schmancy Lie-Nielsen Dovetail saw. This saw is really nice to use. I especially like the curly maple wood handle one this saw. To help mark the dovetails, I use this homemade dovetail marker I created with some scraps of wood.
I had this branding iron custom made by this guy using laser technology. That's my name in Chinese characters. I just have to heat up the branding iron in an open flame and then presses onto some wood. If you're interested in having your own custom made branding iron check out BrandNew. (I'm not affiliated with them, just a satisfied customer).
The key to fun woodworking is sharp tools. To ensure that my handtools are sharp, I use Japanese waterstones. I made this wood sharpening board out of plywood and a thin strip of wood. I then staple-nailed a piece of rubber non-skid material to the plywood to keep the stones from moving. From right to left, I use varying grits to finally achieve a mirror finish, and I do mean mirror finish-you can actually see your reflection (220 grit, 800 grit, 1000 grit, 4000 grit, 8000 grit). The spray bottle helps lubricate the stones while I'm sharpening my plane blades or chisels.
Update: One of the most valuable things I learned from taking a woodworking class from Cerritos College is how to properly sharpen chisels. One of my instructors, Adrian, did a great job in a short amount of time on two different methods of sharpening tools--hollow grinding + honing vs. honing using the bevel.
This picture is a more accurate of picture of the how my bench looks when I'm sharpening. One fundamental "must" for getting a sharp edge is to keep your waterstones flat. I flattened all of my stones using a DMT diamond plate (Actually, I managed to convince/trick my 16 year old niece to forget reading her teenie bopper magazines and devote her time to flattening my waterstones). If you look at the red waterstone (800 grit), it's sitting on top of the diamond plate.
Here's a closeup of a chisel after some polishing. I got a little lazy and didn't finish sharpening the chisel all the way to the edge. This is one of my heavy duty chisels, so I figured, I'll wait until this guy gets more use before I start regrinding/honing it. But you can see how shiny you can get an edge to look. I started with 220 grit and progressed to the following grits: 800, 1000, 4000, 8000.
This is the back edge of the chisel. I learned how to keep the back flat while sharpening on my waterstones. As you can see, the top/cutting edge of the chisel is grounded and polished flat. The "dished" center part of the chisel doesn't really adversely affect its performance. Just be sure that the area immediately behind the edge of the chisel is completely flat.
Thanks again to Adrian and following his wise advice, practice sharpening your chisels and don't be afraid to try a technique because you may find you may be more comfortable sharpening using one method over another. So get your hands dirty and keep those tools sharp!
ATTENTION ALL NEWBIE SHARPENERS!!!
I wished when I started someone would have given me a barebones tutorial on how to set up a sharpening procedure that was simple and easily repeated. So hopefully, this quick tutorial will be helpful to someone. My preferred technique is sharpening using Japanese waterstones.
First off, I'm not going to get into using a grinder to grind the proper edge on your tools. I'm assuming that most people will buy a basic set of chisels or handplanes that already have a decent bevel to them, requiring just some honing. So here goes:
(Preface: Like everything in woodworking, there are a million different techniques (e.g. scary sharp-sandpaper, oil stones, etc.) and recommendations on what brands to buy that all have their valid points, but I'm just going to give a basic list of required tools that'll for sure give you the results that you want.) If you want to know the pros and cons of my list of sharpening tools, email me and I'll do my best to explain in more detail.
Slide your plane blade or chisel into El Cheapie honing guide. The side clamping design of this guide should keep the edge of the iron square to the sides of the iron. Be sure to keep the bevel side of iron face down on a flat surface (I used my waterstone as a flat surface for a better photo). Important: Now slide the iron up or down on the honing guide until the bevel of the iron rests completely flat onto your flat surface. Do you see how there are no gaps between the beveled edge of the iron and the floor it's resting upon? Most store bought plane irons are ground to a 25 degree bevel. If you keep your bevel completely flat to the surface, then you'll also be honing your iron at a 25 degree angle. If you want a microbevel or secondary bevel to reduce the amount of honing you'll have to do, then raise the iron a little bit higher on your honing guide until only the edge of the bevel touches the waterstone. Once you're reached your desired angle, tighten down on the honing guide with a screwdriver.
This initial set up will take a little time, but will save you lots of time later down the line every time you want to hone your irons. With your iron set at the desired angle on your honing, grab yourself a scrap of plywood and some hardwood scraps. While holding the plane iron/chisel flat against the plywood (bevel side down), but the honing guide against the edge of the plywood. Now butt a small piece of hardwood scrap right up against the plane iron's edge. Screw this piece of hardwood into place. Now you've effectively created a stop to accurately position your plane iron on honing guide to the desired honing angle. Take the time to label the hardwood scrap indicating which plane iron/chisel it's meant for. You'll save a lot time and confusion with this little extra step.
Grab your 1,000 grit waterstone and hit it with a spritz of water with your spray bottle (that's the beauty of the shapton stones, you don't have to pre-soak the stones for 5-10 minutes). Now you're ready to rock and roll! I had to use only one hand in the photo (trust me, the other hand wasn't being lazy--it was holding the camera). You'll want to hold the iron and guide with both hands, pressing the cutting edge of the iron firmly against the waterstone. Then roll the iron and honing guide up and down on the water stones maybe about 10-20 strokes.
You'll need to flatten the back of your plane iron/chisel to remove any burrs or to ensure that the back side of the blade's edge is also sharpened. By making sure the back edge is also sharpened, you'll be creating two very sharp surfaces meeting at a razor sharp edge. You don't need to polish the entire backside of the plane. Just concentrate on the area just immediately close to the edge. Here, I used a small block of hardwood to help keep the iron secure and flat on the waterstone.
Once you've sharpened both the beveled and non-beveled sides of the edge, progress next onto the 4,000 grit stone, following the same procedure in steps 3 and 4.
It's important to flatten your waterstones after every sharpening session. Trust me, you don't want to wait until after several sessions to flatten them out. It's much less time consuming to give your waterstones a quick one-two rub on your diamond plate. Why do you need to flatten them? Well, if the surface on your waterstones are completely flat (i.e. they're dished out in the middle), you won't be able to maintain the proper bevel angle on your plane iron or chisels. To flatten the waterstones, use the coarsest DMT diamond stone you have--anything with a coarser grit than your coarsest waterstone will work just fine. In this case, since I'm recommending 1,000 grit, 4,000 grit, and 8,000 grit waterstones, a 220 grit or 320 DMT diamond plate would fit the bill nicely. Dunk the diamond plate in water quickly and then rub the waterstone against the diamond plate back and forth. You should see that waterstone wearing out a bit, causing a slurry. Stop every so often and check the waterstone. The goal is to have a uniform flat surface with freshly exposed waterstone abrasive. If you see that you have some high spots (areas where you still see some black residue from your previous sharpening session--refer to top and bottom parts of the green waterstone showing some blackened marks versus the freshly flattened and clean orange stone), you know you've got a little bit more flattening to go.
At this point you're done with sharpening. Use a rag to wipe away any slurry or moisture from your plane irons/chisels. To protect your hard work and tools from rust damage, rub a little amount of camellia oil (a vegetable based oil) on the exposed metal parts of your tool. Since this oil is non-toxic, I just put a few drops on a plane iron, for example, and just rub it onto other the entire metal surface with my fingers. And that's all folk!
Sharpening is actually really easy once you've got a set method. As I've said before, I'm sure other folks might have a different or even better method of sharpening their tools, but for me this procedure works and really costs no more than the initial investment of some high quality waterstones. Oh and I forgot, you can test the sharpness of your TLC'ed for tools by running edge against some paper. If you can get a clean, crisp cut right though paper, without any snags, you're good to go.
I really enjoy employing dovetail joinery whenever I can. I find that I'm most proud of making dovetails by using my tablesaw, router, and chisels. While I probably could work a lot faster using a router and a jig, I find that being able to make very small dovetail pins and custom crafting it to avoid that machine made look is really rewarding. The last time I made half-blind dovetails, I really craved some skew chisels to get into those corners. Unfortunately, the only skew chisels I could find were for lathe turning and they were a bit too long for the type of paring cuts I needed to make. I vowed I'd make my own skew chisels someday. Well, that was over a year ago and now I've finally got myself a grinder. And that's where this next story begins....
It all started with a good deal on this slow speed grinder. I went backwards with this project, as I bought the grinder before I really researched how to use it--I figured it was a good sale price and I could return it to Woodcraft within one year if I never did wind up using it. Then I got myself "Sharpening with Waterstones" by Ian Kirby. I'd suggest anyone thinking about using a grinder and waterstones check out this book. This book maybe a bit too easy for some with experience with grinding, but I was a complete novice, so it helped. I do wish some of his diagrams would have hand more measurements, but I still was able to follow the directions to make this grinder stand and jig. I made this stand and all of the jigs with scraps and hardware I had in the shop (Free is always a good thing!).
Here you can see I made a guard for the lower part of the wheel (using scrap aluminum angle iron). This is a definite must as I caught my fingers touching the guard a couple of times during grinding. I put some masking tape on the guards and labled the grit for each wheel. You can also see that I modified the base by making square cutouts--I found that without this extra clearance, longer chisels wouldn't be able to pivot properly.
The book gives instructions on how to build jigs to hold chisels and various plane blades. I decided to make three different chisel holders (as I have a lot of chisels and would rather set up three all at once before actually grinding away(plus it's just as easy to make 3 as it is to make 1). I also followed the directions on how to make a plane iron holder (far right). These jigs work surprisingly well. And I love how I didn't have to spend $$$ from a tool dealer to buy special jigs, etc. The jigs are made from hardwood scraps that were destined for the fireplace.
I normally avoid buying "quality use tools" from Harbor Freight (by that I mean a tool that I use often and want to be of good quality--versus disposable tools like, acid brushes, storage containers, etc. (where quality isn't really crucial). Don't get me wrong, I like shopping at HF, but you just got to know what you're getting for the price you're paying. Anyway, I saw these wooden chisels on sale for $3.49!!! So I thought I had to get a couple of these. Since they come out to roughly 60 cents/chisel, I thought this would be a good way to learn how to grind metal with my new setup. What am I going to do with all these chisels? Well, I figured I really wanted two of the 1/4 chisels to grind into the skew chisels my dovetail fantasies yearned for. That would leave 10 other chisels for some other use. Then I realized that while I do use a glue scraper to clean up glue squeeze out, I do like to use a sharp chisel whenver the glue scraper can't get the job done. So I guess I'll have an extra set of heavy abuse yeomen chisels to keep my fancy chisels from having to dirty their proverbial hands with things like dried glue.
Here's the jig at work. I secured the chisel at an angle to the grinding wheel to create the skewed edge. The wooden guide coupled with the shank of the chisel rides up against the metal rod to create a uniform grinding edge. I was really surprised how well this worked. Of course, I had to take my time and dipped my chisel into a H2O bath quite frequently. Once I'm done grinding the rough angle, it's off to my waterstones.
For those of you who are thinking about getting a Tormek, (I'm envious--can't justify buying another tool that I don't absolutely need), but are short on cash, consider reading Ian Kirby's book. I got the grinder for about $80 and everything else I built with things I already had in my shop. I'm sure having a tormek would be really fun, but this seems to get the job done at a much cheaper price. Additionally, the extra caution you have to use when grinding with this slow speed grinding versus a Tormek can be both a blessing as well as a curse. It's true that with a Tormek, you'll never have to worry about overheating your tool steel can causing your chisels/plane irons to lose their temper. However, a Tormek makes aggressive grinding away to remove serious knicks or reshaping of a handtool much more tedious and time consuming. What one hand giveth, the other taketh away--or something to that effect, right?
In the end the HF chisels were worth the cheap price. I was able to make my own set of right and left skew chisels. At this rate, I might make another set of them out of my 3/8" HF chisels. Additionally, the wider chisels serve as my fullback--they can take a beating when I use them to remove dried glue or paint, when a scraper just can't do the trick.
After completing my New Chinky Workshop made jointer plane, I decided I had to make a quick shooting board and check on the results. The was my first time using a shooting board. Actually, I'm a bit ashamed that it took me this long to make and use a shooting board. This is definitely a must have tool. I made mine out of some leftover melamine, plywood, and hardwood scraps. With my new wooden jointer + shooting board, I made some seamless edge joints. I was truly amazed at the seamless joint lines. If you're accustomed to using your power jointer to prepare your stock for edge gluing, definitely give this neanderthal method a try. I guarantee that in this instance, doing the job by hand will give you better results.
Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Well, in this case that proverb proved to be true. After jointing a whole lot of boards using my new wooden jointer and shooting board, I noticed my hands felt cramped and sore. Laying my jointer plane on its side worked well for edge planing, but I couldn't manage to get a comfortable grip. Then I thought the whole process would be a lot better ergonomically if I only had something comfortable to grip onto. Although I have just as much of a healthy appreciation for beautiful handtools, I don't mind giving up aesthetics if it makes the performance of my tools better. So after scractching my head for a bit, I remembered I had a bunch of leftover wooden drawer knobs. I placed them on the side of my jointer and tried to imagine how it would feel. The added knobs did seem to improve the grip--the only downside was this new addition would make the plane pretty ugly. But heck, after looking in the mirror, the ugly factor never impact my ability to get the job done. So it was settled, the knobs would be added on regardless of aesthetics.
Originally, I was thinking of permanently attaching the knobs, but then (after scratching my head some more) I thought better of it--I just might need to use both square cheeks of the plane for some unknown future woodworking situation. So again, reaching into my bag of tricks, I decided some threaded inserts strategically placed on the body of the plane would provide the perfect solution. (Right) You can see the threaded inserts in the plane body. I then threaded and epoxied 1/4-20 threaded rods into the birch handles (I'm thinking it would have been nicer if I could turn my own knobs/handles and using matching colored wood--but alas I know nothing about lathe work). Despite the cheesy look of those knobs, they function just great!
I just had to post a pic of my tools actually being used. Look at these fluffy shavings! Here's a photo of my home-made, fancy-schmancy 62 degree angle smoother and my glen-drake plane adjusting hammer. I highly recommend this plane adjusting hammer. Not only does it fit well in the hand and provide good balance while tapping the plane body, the other end of the hammer-head is perfectly sized to tighten/loosen cap iron screws. Glen-Drake tools has a couple of other really neat hand tools and great customer service to boot. *Disclaimer: No affiliation, just a satisfied customer.*
This was the first woodworking tool I ever purchased. It's a handpowered adjustable miter saw. This isn't anything fancy and I actually never use it anymore, but I guess without this saw, maybe I never would have got interested in woodworking in the first place. So I guess I'll probably never sell or give away this saw. Maybe, I'll enshrine it in The New Chinky Workshop Hall of Fame?
These are my clamps. The ones on the left are Bessey K-body clamps. They cost an arm and a leg, but they are worth it. I managed to score quite a few of them while Home Depot had their Yellow Tag 40% sale. The ones on the right side of the photo are pipe clamps. You can never have too many clamps and I'm slowly building my collection.
These are called handscrew clamps. I know the name sounds a bit suspicious, but trust me I only use them for woodworking.