The garage air conditioner has been very nice.  I turn it on when I get home and it cools the cars down which makes it much more pleasant to go into the garage for all those things you usually go into a garage for but it has made all the difference to me since I can now go out there and spend time at my workbench.
I’ve been able to work on my long-term transition to more hand-tool work.  I haven’t accomplished a whole lot yet other than practicing with various hand planes and saws.  I have sharpened everything I have including some saws which is a rather tedious skill to try and develop.  It’s similar to plastering the ceiling in that sense.  But I have managed to make a couple of them cut better than they did so that’s encouraging.
I’ve started a simple project to actually produce something: the English Layout Square that I saw in Popular Woodworking.  I’ve seen that one done on the Woodwright’s Shop on PBS also.  So that one is about half done and it going well.
Air conditioning is definitely a good thing.
I also have a guy at work who is building a shop and who wants to buy my table saw and dust collector so I’m pumped about that.  That should free up some space.

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There’s a place called “Persimmon Hollow” up near one of the major shopping areas.  It has been there since long before the shopping centers and it shows.  But it’s kind of cool that you take what appears to be a driveway behind a large restaurant and end up at a dead end filled with a number of little shops that were built in a sort-of 1880’s style.  They vary from boutiques to antiques stores but I’ve been meaning to go there for years and just never have.  On Saturday, we went.  It’s kind of a dump actually but I suppose that will keep the prices down.  Quaint though.

I’m conscious of the fact that work expands to fill the time allotted and so with an empty nest, I have been afraid that we’d just sit down in front of the TV and never move from it. That’s what happened to Dad when he retired and I went off to college.  I don’t want that to happen so I’ve gotten out my “Big List of Things To Do” and started on it with gusto.  Persimmon Hollow was not at the top of it but it was on it and my brother-in-law had said I might be able to find some old tools there.

I have a fantasy of being able to find some old hand tools that are still usable but apparently that only happens on the east coast.  Everywhere around here about the best you can do is find rust-covered wrenches and the occasional dried up, cracked wooden jack plane with a broken handle.  I envy the folks that scrounge flea markets back east.

One of the proprietors mentioned that every male that walked into her shop asked for old tools and anything that showed up from the various auctions were snapped up as soon as she put them out.  Apparently there are a lot of collectors out there.  She also mentioned that junk shops over in Arkansas were plentiful sources of tools.  I wish she hadn’t said that; now I want to go over there to see for myself.

I did find a small bench grinder at one of the Ye Olde Junque Shoppe places for $25.  I had been planning on heading to Lowes to buy a new one at $78 so this was a big win.  It has smaller wheels than normal so I can’t replace them with full-sized ones.  I tried grinding a lathe tool with it when I got home and it worked well;  apparently all that stuff about the stock gray wheels being crap is overblown.  I put an edge on my bowl gouge for the first time ever and it worked well.  I need to build a tool rest for it; I was working almost free handed and with a proper rest, I’m sure it will be even better.  According to the Almighty Interwebs, you just have to go slowly with the gray wheels.  Well I can do that.  I also found a hand-cranked grinder which I thought was cool but the tool-rest was totally missing so I passed it up.  I’ll bet I can find another one someday with all its parts.

I did buy a normal sized wheel later that day but discovered that the shaft of my grinder is not long enough to go through and have space for the arbor nut but at $5, it wasn’t worth taking it back to the store.

I also took the opportunity to go up to Woodcraft and buy a two-sided diamond impregnated bench stone.  I’d wanted to do this for a long time – I’m tired of sticking sandpaper to a floor tile to put an edge on my tools.  I tried it out on a couple of things and I think I’ll end up with good results after some practice.  I used to go crazy with the sandpaper and all my chisels have a mirror like surface but this doesn’t contribute to the sharpness, it’s just cool looking.  The bench stone will get things sharp enough to cut after I’ve done the edge with my grinder.

It was beastly hot in the garage but I still went out there for a bit of woodworking.  I wanted to try to cut some tenons by hand and so got out my pull saw for this purpose.  I also cut one set of cheeks with my bandsaw which is certainly easier but somehow not as fun.  The surface left behind is not as pretty either but again, the look of a surface inside a joint is not relevant to anything as long as the glue has something to stick to.  Still, sawing is good practice.  What really needs to happen is for me to get out there and tune up that bandsaw (also clean it thoroughly) and sharpen every tool with an edge.  Then I can start doing something.

After getting completely drenched in sweat I gave it up and came inside.

I decided that with it so hot, the best use of time would be to redo the file cabinet.  I moved all the files from the big cabinet to the two smaller ones and dragged the large file cabinet out of the master closet.  Now Mel has much more space for some of her stuff.  Unfortunately the new drawers are not as deep as the old ones and they don’t extend fully outward so I actually have less space for files than I did.  This is not an issue since two drawers were just full of random crap anyway.  So that project went well until I ran out of file folders and then I aborted the project in favor of watching TV.

This business of trying to do my woodworking out of my garage is just not working out and I don’t think it ever will.  Ignoring the car situation for the moment and after thinking on it, I have to admit that it’s still hot and poorly lit in there.  Both those things can be dealt with easily enough and I may indeed do that in the future but there’s just not enough space in there.  The problem is this: all those nice power tools have to have space to exist.  At the moment, they’re all shoved up against the walls on wheels so that if I want to do something I first have to back a car out then move a bunch of stuff then clean up first because of all the clutter I’ve let accumulate because I could not get to the drawers.  It is a given that the cars must go in the garage – I pay upwards of $20,000 for them at the very least and to have $40,000 of valuable equipment sitting outside getting pounded by the not-uncommon hailstorm makes no sense.

I’m fed up.

I’m also terribly jealous of all the guys who have basements.  For reasons that have been lost to time, nobody around Tulsa has ever built a house with a basement.  Some people claim to have them but they’re just built into a hillside. I guess that’s why so many Okies have garages full of crap and their cars outside – no place else to keep their junk.  And I don’t believe anybody can ever really divest themselves of junk – everybody has seasonal clothes and decorations that have to be stored.

So I’ve been doing some hard thinking.  We’ve been looking at other houses to buy in the distant future but requiring them to have a shop or a large lot to build a shop on has complicated things unnecessarily.  I have therefore decided to entertain the notion of selling all my large tools.  The table saw, the jointer, the drill press, the dust collector, and the bandsaw.  I am considering going in for hand tools only.  Just leave myself a nice workbench (which I already have) and a cabinet. Maybe leave the router table since it isn’t that large anyway.

I would also re-scope my projects to only tackle smaller things like boxes, smaller shelves, maybe a chair or two.

I’m also jealous of my woodworking friends out on the east coast.  There is apparently a vibrant community of hand tool woodworkers out there.  Around here in Oklahoma the only cohorts I’ve been able to learn of (via the local Woodcraft store) is people that like to turn bowls and pens.  Well, that doesn’t interest me all that much.  I’ve turned about 30 pens so far and although they were great fun, I am awash with them now.  I can’t give them away fast enough.  Everybody I give one to treats it as if it’s a thing of great value and never uses them so they don’t get worn out.  (Otherwise I’d give them another one – the parts kits only cost me $5.) But I can’t move to North Carolina – my job is here and I like it.  I’ll just have to maybe go out there for a class sometime and meet some folks.

If I got rid of all the big tools, I could then work more effectively in the space I have; plus, when I buy another house, all I’d need is a three car garage.  An extra bay would easily accommodate a hand tool only habit.

And I must be honest: I can never give up the woodworking.  It’s just too much a part of my soul.  Both my grandfathers were in the trade and I think it’s just in me too deeply. My Dad too was a huge builder of things although he was a mailman.

So… I would truly like the opinions of others on this.  Those in my woodworking circle on google+ must have more experience than I and would have some good wisdom to pass on.  Admittedly, I’ve self-selected the hand-tool-only guys to put in my circle but I’d like an objective opinion.  That is, an opinion that is not my hot-headed, flying off the handle because the weather is so damned hot, opinion.

 

I have a fascination with hand tools and hand-work.  I’ve seen some very impressive work done with only hand tools and so I’ve slowly been accumulating some along with the skill to use them.  The skill part is pretty slow but I keep at it.

Recently I bought a drawknife at a junk store over in Jenks.  I’ve often seen Roy Underhill and other guests on his show go at it with a drawknife so I bought one myself.

The edge is pretty dull and has a nick or two in it.  I originally thought that this was pretty much a tool for rough work but I think a bit of sharpening couldn’t hurt plus it would give me practice at holding a constant edge.  The whole thing is curved in two dimensions so that rules out using any of the jigs I have or might build.  This is going to rely on just holding it right and holding the file/stone correctly.  I once watched a guy at Plimoth Plantation do this with a scythe and he managed to get that down to a razor edge – enough to cut grass with easily.  I’ll try to do what he did.  Of course people tend to make things easy that are not necessarily easy.  I’ve learned that over and over with guitar playing.

I’ll have to take photos and document the whole thing.  Or not; I find that when I get my head down into something like this, I don’t fancy stopping to take a photo.  Plus this is the sort of thing that gets my hands dirty and/or oily and that keeps me from touching my camera. 

Not sure how well this is going to go; I went at it with a file last night and I accomplished little except getting some corrosion off the edge.  No iron filings to be seen yet.