Posts Tagged With: woodworking books

Exercises in Wood-Working: Use of the Chisel Part 1

Yesterday I talked about the Ivin Sickels book on hand tool woodworking exercises.  Well, there is no place to begin better than the beginning.

I stopped by the local lumber yard this morning and picked up a scrap of Western Red Cedar.  Chris Schwarz recommends, in the video, getting a 2 x 4 from the local home center.  But the local Home Despot gives is too overwhelming, and I prefer to support local businesses.  Plus, the cedar smells really nice.

I cut off about 8″ from the 2 x 6 scrap I got, and ripped it into thirds.  I’m going to package one of these rough blanks with the book/DVD I got for my brother-in-law.

The first exercise is to make one face flat using the chisel.  The book recommends starting with the bevel down.  The drawings show the chisel held at about a 45 degree angle, with the bevel well off the face of the board.

I didn’t find that orientation particularly useful.  Having the bevel flat against the surface worked really nicely.  I had a lot of control and could shave off high spots without risk of splintering or spelching.

The face I was working was way off, it had a significant high spot in the back right corner, at least 1/8″ above the rest of the surface.  You can see daylight (well, fluorescent light) under the left side of the rule.

I marked the highest area with a red pen and attacked that first. I ended up having to pare away quite a bit of the face in order to get down to the low spots at the near edge of the board.

Here I’ve removed the worst of the lump and the reae 1/3 of the board is relatively smooth.  Everything so far was done with the beval down.  If the chisel started to lift too big a shaving it was simple to pivot it and keep from digging in.  It was hard to take a long shaving that way though.

At this point I decided to try using the chisel bevel up and paring away material from the rear area to bring it down to the level of the front.  It was too each to remove too much material that way and I ended up first with a small hump in the middle, then I had the surface flat, but too high all along the left edge.

I got it flat after a few more minutes.  It helped to check with a straightedge, pare away material in a small area to address a problem and check again.  I used the straightedge lengthwise, cross ways and diagonally.  I got a reasonable surface after maybe 10 minutes total.  The next step is to make an adjacent face flat and 90 degrees to the reference face I just created.  Later.  I need to make dinner now.


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Resources for Learning Hand Tool Woodworking

There are some really great resources available today for learning hand tool woodworking today.  Maybe 10 years ago I did some woodworking – primarily using power tools – and this certainly wan’t the case then.  The Krenov books were great (and still are), and there were other resources.  But there has been an ongoing resurgence in hand tool woodworking, and we’re all richer for it.

I recently bought a package of two DVDs and a book called “Exercises in Woodworking“.  The foundation of this is a book written in 1889 by Ivin Sickels.  A scan of the book is also available on Google Books. I bought the reprinted copy with the two DVDs on a sale from Popular Woodworking, but you could get a lot out of just the (free) online book.

The origins of the book was a manuscript that Sickels prepared for his students at the College of the City of New York.  When I went to college there wasn’t a woodworking course option and I feel cheated.  I’ve read most of the book and watched both DVDs.  I plan to read the rest of the book of course, but it’s mixed in a stack of rwo dozen other woodworking books, videos and fantasy novels.

The book has two main elements.  The first is a “Short Treatise on Wood” that explains the properties of wood.  The second part is a series of 39 exercises in hand tool woodworking beginning with the use of a chisel to smooth a board through joinery and finishing with veneering and finishing.  Not all of the book exercises are covered on the DVDs.  I like this package a lot, and even bought the same DVD+book package for my brother-in-law for Christmas.

The first DVD has Christopher Schwarz demonstrating the first 8 lessons.  Chris begins by flattening one face of a 2″ x 2″ x 8″ block using just a chisel.  Interestingly, the initial work is done with the bevel down.  I’m eager to give that a try.  In fact I plan to start with that exercise and work through all of them, so expect to hear more about this book.


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