Saturday, May 12, 2007

Sorry Roy

Of all of the images that I've posted, this one gave me pause. I recognized that there is a small wedge of the world interested in green wood chairmaking and that I am reducing it to an even smaller percentage willing to do it with an electric drill! It also brought to mind an encounter that I had last year while at the Colonial Williamsburg Woodworking in the 18th Century conference. While there, I met Roy Underhill of PBS's The Woodwright's Shop. Roy is the costumed champion of old technologies, I grew up watching his show. He shows the simple ways to achieve great results while expanding self reliance. This is right up my alley. He also authored some great books that are an inspiration to me still. I had a fine time in Williamsburg and met a lot of great folks who share common interests (I'd return in a heartbeat if they asked!). As I was taking a final stroll through the town, reflecting on my week and looking forward to returning home, I stopped at a cross walk and waited for the light to change. I looked up just in time, there was Roy, whizzing by in a minivan while chatting on a cell phone.
And so it goes...
There are a few keys to getting the results that I've shown with the bits that I grind. There is only one speed for the bit to spin, as fast as possible. It is the rate that the bit is advanced into the cut that the control is exerted. The idea is to hold the drill back, not push it, and let the bit do the work. The size and clearance of the chips can help decide the rate of feed. These bits are aggressive and too much pressure can be disastrous.
The other technological breakthrough that I like to employ is the clutch. Cordless drills (and a corded Ryobi drill) have a clutch that can be set to various settings to stop spinning when a certain resistance is met. Manufacturers alway label the heaviest setting for drilling. I do just the opposite and use the lightest setting. Not only will the bit stop cutting if I am not drilling straight, but it will stop when the bit emerges from the cut and tries to take that one last chunk that will cause a blowout. When the bit stops, let go of the trigger and pull back a little bit (often running in reverse will help). Pull the trigger all the way and advance SLOWLY through the last bit. This can take some real practice, I know "anyone" can use a drill, but there is more to getting excellent results than just pulling the trigger. A drill is like any other hand tool, practice pays off. The results and freedom gained can be amazing, I think even Roy might be impressed, maybe I'll call him.

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