Link of the week

Lancaster County Timber Frames, Inc.

My shop fits neatly into my 20 x 24 garage space. My eight foot ceilings are nice, giving lots of headroom for me to work in there, building some pretty decent sized projects.

Some of the work of Lancaster County Timber Frames

But, I can always dream big. And, when I dream about BIG woodworking projects, my thoughts turn to timber framing. The work of Lancaster County Timber Frames out of Pennsylvania  is spectacular, and it doesn’t hurt that they have a great blog and social media presence.

So, if you want to dream big when it comes to woodworking, give today’s link a peek. You won’t be disappointed.

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MicroJig Art

Laguna tools

The straight slice

I really do love my Laguna band saw. That sucker has been a true performer in my shop, helping me cut curves and slice boards like crazy. Or, maybe my son Dominic rip those boards…

So, when David Venditto of Infinity Cutting Tools asked me to come to his shop – and that I should bring my band saw – I told him he was out of his mind. That sucker weighs a ton, and I would bring myself instead.

Good thing I did, because he had a surprise for me. Infinity now has its own line of rip band saw blades – the Infinity Rip. These suckers are the real deal when it comes to band saw blades. Andy Gibson over at Infinity will introduce you to the blade here:

You can tell that a lot of care went into making these blades. I mean, holy smokes, look at the weld on that sucker!  I’ve seen plenty of clunky welds on bandsaw blades, but this one is ground so fine, you really have to look for it.

The weld

So, how does it work? After all, the proof is in the cutting. So, I put the blade on the band saw, over the top and bottom wheels, after backing the guides way off. To set the proper tension, I tighten the blade until a forceful push from my index finger can move the blade about 1/4″.  So far, it’s easy peasey…

DeflectionI adjusted the guide blocks until they were close to the blade without touching it and put the guards back on the saw. After that, it was a simple matter to adjust the fence for the blade’s drift – something I have covered before in this article. 

With this step taken, it was time for the moment of truth. I grabbed a piece of hard maple – notorious for giving me fits – I got from my friends at Bell Forest Products and put it up on the saw. I was careful to use my full face shield and my MicroJig push blocks – safety first.

Cut that wood!

I am always amazed at how easily that saw pours out the power, and the new blade bit into the wood, slicing cleanly and dead straight. It was a real joy to hear that wood cutting.

The result

So, how’d I do?  There is it the slightest vertical scoring with the blade, but again, this was the first test cut on the blade. I’m sure I could fine-tune by technique and setup, but wow, I am sold. That’s one nice blade, David.

The GRR-Reat GRR-Ripper give away

Last Monday, I asked each of you to tell me what you thought safety and accuracy meant to you in exchange for the possibility of winning a GRR-Ripper 100. And, I have got to tell you, there were some thoughtful and well-written responses. And, as promised, I had Iggy take a look at the entries that came in.

Iggy evaluates the entries

He seemed puzzled at first, but I think he came up with the three best ones!

First, thanks to Matt Swier. For him, the safety part of the equation means the world to him:

Safety to me means that I will have all 10 fingers, 2 eyes, 1 nose, and 2 ears ready to use to serve my wife and my son in my other full time job: being a husband and a dad! It’s also very important for me to pass safety knowledge on to my 4 yr old son when he’s down in the workshop working with me. He may not be the best ball thrower out there, but he sure knows that when he’s in daddy’s workshop, he has to have shoes on and walk directly to the hook that holds his ear and eye protectors before he does anything else. Some of the sweetest words ever heard for me are “Daddy, can I please drill some holes?”

Kyle Veatch had a great perspective on the meaning of these two words from the point of view of a brand new woodworker. His input:

Safety in my shop means more to learn! I am a beginning wood worker and can’t get enough videos and articles about wood working safety. I have learned so much from sites like yours finding out better and correct techniques for things I have been doing wrong in my shop.

As far as accuracy, in my shop that is a goal that I often try but fail to achieve. Being a beginner I often find accuracy is lacking in many projects and not only do I learn a good lesson, but I get to learn how to hide or fix my mistake.

And, when it comes to accuracy, Michael Boulant weighed in from the perspective that many of us, who don’t have a giant pile of money to throw at expensive hardwoods:

Woodworking is simply a hobby of mine. I do not use it to supplement my income in any way. Therefore, I must be very careful with the material that I purchase for a project. I typically buy just enough to complete the project that I am working on. If I mess up on a cut, I may have to go purchase more wood. There are projects that I have had to put on hold until I got paid again so that I could go buy more wood. It can really stifle the momentum that you can build while doing a project.

Congratulations to each of our three winners, and I hope you enjoy your new GRR-Rippers!

As for everyone else, remember that safety and accuracy are important. Now, let’s get out there and make some sawdust!

The weekly plan

The Wood Whisperer’s multi-function toy chest plan

Being the dad of two boys, I know that trying to corral all the toys that the little fellas play with can be its own nightmare. So, having a high-quality toy box is a critical need. Now, imagine you could build a toy box to give a deserving child in your life AND throw a beating down on cancer. Well, that would just suit me fine!

Marc's multi-function toy chest

That’s what Marc Spagnuolo – the Wood Whisperer – is doing over at his site.

Steve Ramsey's toy box

 

Oh, and I would be totally remiss if I didn’t also throw out some love to Steve Ramsey at Woodworking for Mere Mortals, who is also co-sponsoring the build with Marc. His version is slightly different, but both are doing awesome work rallying the online woodworking community to this cause.

Now, if you build Steve’s or Marc’s version and send either one of them a photo before November 30, matching donations will be made to the Cancer Research Institute to further the effort to find a cure for this disease which has affected many of us – either directly, or the ones we love.

If you don’t want to build one, you can donate directly to the team for this worthwhile cause.

Even if you don’t have someone in mind to build a toy chest for, you might consider doing what I plan on – building one to donate to a local pregnancy crisis center … something I do every year during the holidays.

Link of the week

Texas Heritage Woodworking

I’m not sure what Jason Thigpen is doing down in Cedar Park, Texas, but I’m starting to like it more and more.

Jason showing off a saw vise prototype

Not only does he build furniture by hand, he also makes shop aprons, nail aprons, Moxon vise hardware and these totally awesome hand-stitched leather coffee mugs. Oh, you’ve never heard of a leather coffee mug? You are just going to have to check it out for yourself. Jason is the real deal!

Species Spotlight: Butternut

Cousins are great. They are often our first friends, share the kid’s table during big family events and stand by you when times get tough. I was blessed to have a large number of cousins growing up in our large Italian-American family, and my two sons have a blast whenever they are around their cousins.

The boys and their cousins

The boys and their cousins – a long time ago!

Come to think of it, I have a lot of fun around them too. What a good looking group of rascals.

A close look at butternut

So, when it comes time to throw a few bouquets to the cousin of a famous hardwood, you bet I’m gonna take the opportunity. And, that cousin is Butternut.

Also known as white walnut, Butternut grows primarily in the northeastern quarter of the United States, from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic, from Tennessee and North Carolina up to southern Canada.

The trees don’t grow that large – to about 60 feet tall, with trunks of two to two and a half feet in diameter. They can be found on well-drained sites and stream banks.

A gorgeous butternut cabinet by Michael Moran

A gorgeous butternut cabinet by Michael Moran

The wood closely resembles the grain and texture of walnut, but is considerably lighter. While not white, the wood features tans with a slightly reddish tint. It’s also much softer, with a Janka rating of 490. While that makes the wood more prone to dents, it also makes this wood ideal for carving and shaping, and a dream to work with hand tools.

Like its cousin walnut, butternut also finishes to a gorgeous sheen – and it takes that finish beautifully. That’s what makes butternut furniture positively glow under oils, varnishes, shellac and lacquer.

A massive salvaged butternut table by Na Coille studio

A massive salvaged butternut table by Na Coille Studio

While butternut is easily accessible and relatively inexpensive in its growth range, many trees are endangered by the butternut canker, a fungal disease that kills the trees off rapidly. The US Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian authorities are expressing concern about the future of butternut trees, and universities are working on a prevention or cure for the illness to protect these important trees.

So, if you love working with walnut, but want to try something new, why not give butternut a try? You might find it to be a friendly wood to work with.

Safety and accuracy

I live in Florida, which means I’m close to the Central Florida mountain range… the Florida Alps. You heard that right. The three tallest peaks? Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain.

Space Mountain

While I have been to the land of the Mouse, I have one other tourist destination that I like a whole lot more… the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex. Did you really expect anything different from me? There is where real history was made. Whether it was Alan Shepherd’s first Mercury flight, the Apollo 11 mission to land on the Moon or the Space Shuttle boosting into orbit to build the International Space Station, many of our country’s crowning achievements started right here in the Sunshine State.

Saturn V/Apollo Rocket at KSC

What impressed me the most – whether it’s standing under the massive Saturn V rocket or next to the miniature Mercury capsule – is how much safety played a part in the missions. Yes, you are basically putting people on top of a controlled explosion. The weight of the Saturn V rocket at launch time was nearly 92% fuel or explosives. So, to rate these launch systems for human use, NASA had to perform extensive tests to ensure that multiply-redundant systems were in place. And, when shortcuts were taken, we saw the tragedy that resulted.

Gemini 6 and 7

Accuracy is also a huge concern. Just getting Gemini 6 and 7 to rendezvous in orbit took incredible calculations (in a day with very underpowered computers) and linking up with the Hubble Space Telescope to service the delicate instrument took incredible skill and dexterity.

When it comes to woodworking, safety and accuracy are no less important. When you are investing a lot of your hard-earned money in high quality wood for great projects, you want to get the best cuts, and you want to ensure that your hobby won’t leave you injured.

MicroJig Header

That’s why I am very happy to announce today that I am partnering with another Florida based company that believes strongly in accuracy and safety – MicroJig. This company is the brains behind such ubiquitous products as the GRR-Ripper push block system, the MJ Splitter system and MircoDial tapering jig.

After speaking with Bruce Wang from the company on several occasions, I have come away thoroughly impressed with the company’s laser-sharp focus on both safety and accuracy. I have been a loyal user of their products for years, and I have got to tell you that they have gotten great results. As with many woodworkers, I’m probably only scratching the surface of what’s possible with these guides. For instance, I know that I can use them to help me joint using my table saw – something I do on a regular basis without a powered jointer in my shop.

The GRR-RIppers in action

As I discover more about these tools, I will share what I learn with you. If it helps you get more safety and accuracy in your shop, that’s a win for all of us.

There are plenty of places you can find MicroJig products online, and now you can pick them up at your local Lowe’s home improvement centers, making it easy to get your hands on these suckers for your shop.

The GR-100

But, let’s start things off right – on this coming Monday – October 20 – I will be giving away a GRR-RIPPER 100 to three separate winners. Basically, here’s how you enter:

Tell me what safety and accuracy means to you in your shop. No, you don’t have to write War and Peace – just give me what those words mean to you. I will have my simian friend Iggy read the entries and choose the best ones. Just post them in the comments below the article.

Now, let’s get out there and make some sawdust!