Like you, I too am benchless. I built the “Mozilla” Molson vice variant from last year’s issue (I forget which) and it comes in handy for a lot of operations. I clamp it down to a piece of plywood that I have covered with formica (actually, it’s two pieces that I have piano-hinged together for easier storage) laid across two sawhorses. As long as lateral thrust is not involved, this is a pretty stable way to work. I also have a Zyliss vise for working on smaller pieces. I’ve made do for nearly forty years with a radial arm saw and circular saw. I have only recently acquired a planer and router table (both on wheels) It makes the garage croweded because also sharing the space are two motorcycles and about 400 board feet of rough sawn Camphor. I currently attend classes in woodworking and this coming semester I’ll be enrolled in a class for handtools only (and sharpening).
Your first backsaws should be (1) a dovetail saw, with fine rip teeth, used for cutting joinery along the grain (like dovetails), (2) a “carcass saw” used for cutting across the grain (fine cross cut teeth), and (3) a larger tenon saw used for cutting deeper cuts, like tenon cheeks, along the grain (rip teeth). All three saws are used very, very often in my workshop. You could certainly get by with just a larger dovetail saw and a carcass saw at first, if you don’t plan on immediately cutting large tenons. Buying backsaws can be very confusing because there is no standardized naming system, and a dovetail saw can be turned into a carcass saw (and vice-a-versa) by sharpening it differently. And practically everybody that’s selling antique saws mixes the names up. My buyer’s guide really clears this confusion up and will help you know what to look for.
About forty years ago I purchased a Shopsmith Mark V because I lacked space for a large shop, and also moved around the United States a lot. Later I purchased another Shopsmith Mark V Model 510 for the increase in table size and flexibility. I do wood working as a hobby, not to do many projects as fast as possible. I also have every tool and accessory that Shopsmith makes for the two primary tools. Their quality is excellent, and while I enjoy antique tools like the 1912 three phase electric Camel Back Drill Press I purchased for my son’s shop, the Shopsmith does every thing I have ever needed.
It’s okay to buy wood with knots, splits, cracks, and checks. These defects affect only a small area of the board (if they exist over the majority of the board, don’t buy it), so you can plan your cuts around them. Avoid boards with warps, twists, or bows. It takes a lot of time to flatten a board that has one of these defects. To test for these defects, place one end of the board on the floor and hold the other end to your eye. The board should be straight and true. If not, leave it there.
I know I’ve been a little MIA but we’ve had a big project in the backyard, an overwhelming workload (which we planned on being MUCH less), and then decided to hire out for some help to haul away a huge amount of dirt. Unfortunately, that ended up with the guy we hired stealing from us…..uggggh. When will we ever learn to not be so trusting?! Steve and I both have a problem with that……but when did being “too trusting” become such an extreme character flaw?!! Sad. Anyway, the whole situation is under investigation and there are some definite twists to the story that the crime-show-watcher in me would love to share with any other crime-show-watching enthusiasts out there. ;) Hopefully soon.
The key to making furniture is having a plan. (Or is that the key to life? I always forget.) The good news for beginning woodworkers is that you don’t need to develop the plan; you need only to follow it. Project plans are abundant and easily found (check out Chapter 21 for some project-plan resources). After you get familiar with the way plans are written, you can build just about anything (depending on your skills, of course).
The number one thing to know is that wood isn’t a static thing. It’s a natural product that’s constantly in movement. As a woodworker, your job is to understand how wood moves and how to use that movement to your best advantage (or at least how to keep it from ruining your masterpiece). This chapter helps you to understand how boards are made out of trees and to discover that the way the log is cut determines its ultimate strength and stability (and its beauty). Additionally, you explore the characteristics of a variety of species of hardwoods and softwoods.
The third tool for the beginner is the Jigsaw. A jigsaw allows the user to cut curved and circular patterns in stock. Sure, a band saw will likely be more accurate and can cut thicker stock, but for the beginner, the jigsaw (sometimes also referred to as a Sabre Saw) can be perfectly effective. For versatility, choose an orbital-action, corded jigsaw that feels good in your hand and has an easy blade changing system.
Just for the record, a jointer and planer are not from the ICDT kit – the philosophy on that column is, indeed, beginner AND basic (hence the Workmate). The tools we suggest in the ICDT manual are for those who are working at a kitchen table or in a backyard; the tools the editors would recommend for someone who is quite sure he or she wants to pursue serious furniture making would be rather different.
But until then, I’ve been thinking of other ways to use my hands and create things. (Even though many of our saws and tools have been stolen.) But I’m feeling a little antsy to make some quick projects, because creating makes me extremely happy…..so we’re calling this surge in me to create something simple, THERAPY. In fact, I need to call up a few friends and have them make some with me because friends and creating is a favorite combo of mine! (Any out of town-ers want to fly in?! ;) )