Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Reamers are Here!

I'm very pleased to announce that we have gotten the process down for producing the adjustable 6 degree tapered reamer.
I am fortunate to be working with Tim Manney to produce these. Tim is a gifted chairmaker and has worked with some of the best woodworkers in the country. He brings a lot to the table.
He has taken the design and process and pushed them to a level far beyond my expectations. The tool not only functions better than any reamer that I've used, but it's absolutely beautiful. 
Besides the precision machined parts, the key to the performance of the reamer is the adjuster screw. It's a simple mechanism that is easy to reach and can dial in a depth of cut so that you can get smoother mortises and more control over the tool, regardless of the material. When set properly, this reamer glides past the end grain, and even better, no fussing with little shims behind the blade to adjust the cut.

 The top of the body is a straight cylinder for measuring with a bevel square and has a brass point for easy sighting and durability.

One unexpected benefit of our process is that the shavings don't jam between the blade and the kerf. Shavings build up in the channels like they are suppose to and fall out when you pull the tool from the hole, so you don't have to constantly remove the blade from the body to clear them.

 One other feature that I wanted for personal reasons was a removable handle. I don't know about you, but I haven't met a toolbox yet that could accommodate a reamer, and with my traveling, I really wanted a simple way to mount the handle. So, being a reamer, it made perfect sense to use a taper to lock it in place.
It's a subtle little taper that works great thanks to the precise fit of the rest of the handle. A quick tap on the workbench and it's set, another tap and it slides right out.
Forgive me if I am gushing on this one, but Tim has really hit it out of the park.
We are offering these at $110 (plus $10 shipping). If you would like to get your name on the list, please contact me at
Thanks in advance for your patience.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Yeah, But it's a Dry Heat

I am not a scientist. I think that the scientific method is one of the great achievements of mankind, but, I would never claim that I'd worked it thoroughly enough to deserve the designation. But I do want to know more about what I do, so the experiments march on.

Lately I've been thinking about bending. Perhaps it was having to bend some walnut after a recent bad experience that got the juices flowing. I read literature that remarked on the moisture content of steam as it related to wood bending and the concept that steam piped into a box might be lacking moisture. Of course, heat is the primary element in bending wood, but moisture is the conductor. As I understand the concept, the moisture can drop out of suspension in the steam en route to the box and what ends up making it into the box could be heat, but not as wet as it could be.

So to see if my steam needed wetting or if there was any difference in my bends, I attached a reservoir below my steamer that the hose from the steamer runs to so that the heat must pass through water as it enters the box, ensuring that the moisture content was at it's highest.

When I start up the steamer, the steam boils the water in the jar. So far, the results have been positive enough to warrant further testing.

Here are two bends. The same wood, air dried walnut, steamed for the same amount of time, 90 minutes. The piece that bent didn't raise a single fiber even though the fibers ran out the side more dramatically than the failed bend. And yes, the only difference was that one was steamed with the reservoir and one without. Of course, the successful bend was with the reservoir, and as far as free bending walnut, it's the tightest bend that I've done.

I've done other samples and gotten similar results. One factor that interests me is how this effects long steam times. Imagine that the steam isn't adding enough moisture, this may never be an issue with green wood or short steam times, but for working air dried or even kiln dried, this could make a difference.

Like I said, I'm no scientist, and I'd love to here from you about your ideas or experience. I am planning some tests with kiln dried white oak that I'll post soon.

Monday, January 7, 2013

I was Wrong!

No, this isn't about shavehorses, let's be serious.
As I have been working on the manuscript for the book, I've been coming across all sorts of interesting things. I finally have the perfect excuse to jump down the rabbit hole on lots of topics and follow some long held assumptions to their logical end.
As I have been working through the sharpening details, I've found that I've been doing something wrong, or at least didn't know the right way, for years.

I've used diamond stones, paddles and hones for a long time. They are durable, cut fast and stay nice and flat. But I've never trusted them to finish the job, that is, remove the burr and leave a sharp edge.
What I recently learned is that I've been using them wrong.
Unlike waterstones, which have particles that break down in use and then serve to polish the edge to a higher degree, diamonds are more like sandpaper. Like sandpaper, diamonds can only take so much pressure before you are simply wasting pressure and scratching the surface up with the trapped shavings (called swarf).  I found out long ago that a light touch is the key to sanding, letting the tiny edges take the cut that they were meant to and clearing the swarf often. Since I've applied the same idea to diamonds, my results are far beyond my expectations.

I don't know what it is about diamonds that made me want to bear down on them, perhaps it was the knowledge that they are so hard, or perhaps I just miss seeing the clear black marks that the steel makes on my waterstones that let's me know that they are working. Whatever it is, it took a leap of faith to use them lightly. As Greg Pennington says, use them like you are sharpening a feather.

I've been sharpening my drawknives with a new technique (teaser) that uses diamonds and the results are much improved. I still finish with a few strokes of the strop, but the burr is basically already gone.
See, admitting you are wrong isn't so hard...