Gottshall Block-Complete and Ready to Grade

If there were an award for the most words per board foot in writing about woodworking, I believe that this series of posts about the Gottshall block would win. And if there were an award for the most harassment per board foot, my coworkers would win. At our weekly meeting this morning I announced that I would be finished with this exercise, as soon as I made the 45 degree cut across the corner. Amidst the snide remarks and general jeering was the suggestion that I walk across the shop and use the miter saw. I dismissed that as cheating, but I had a cheat in mind.

The back of my bench hook has a pair of 45 degree saw kerfs. I can’t remember what I was working on when I put them in, but I do remember that I used a block of wood I cut with the miter saw as a guide for my backsaw. After knifing along the layout lines I made the last cut, and although it was close, I did need to pare off a little bit with the chisel to get back to the layout lines.

Here is the completed block sitting on top of a full-size printout of the SketchUp model. Because this is a shop-class sort of exercise, I thought I should give it a grade, but putting a number or letter score on this thing raised some issues. The big one is that it has no context; there isn’t a mating piece to fit, and that’s the way I judge most of my work. It’s also the way I work; I make mortises first and then make tenons to fit. If the mortises grow in the first step, there is a way to compensate in the next.

There is also a matter of the tools I used, all the cuts were made with a saw and a chisel. I own a couple dozen tools whose main purpose is to shave off that last tiny bit left by the saw and chisel to reduce the work down to the line. It was interesting to see how close I could come without using them, and while I think I did pretty good, this isn’t perfect, or even close. When Mike Wenzloff suggested this, he noted that he had never produced a perfect example, but that really isn’t the point. Like all good exercises, there will be some aches and pains at the end that will make the work better the next time around.

It also makes a difference how close you look, and what you choose to look with when you judge. The rabbet on the end is a good example of this. It looks pretty good to the naked eye, it’s square across the board as well as down and out to the end. But it’s 1/64″ too far in. The quest for perfectly square became the thing that spoiled it being perfectly sized. All of the errors I made in this are of that nature, so there are a few places where the surfaces are great, but they are just past the line. And others where the  lines are still visible, but the surfaces within are a little out of whack. It’s all about making choices and knowing when to stop.

–Robert W. Lang

If you press me, I give myself a B-/C+ on this. Not the best, but not too bad, and I’m doing better than the Cleveland Browns, who got me thinking about this in the first place with this post. At least I don’t have to go to Baltimore next Sunday.

5 thoughts on “Gottshall Block-Complete and Ready to Grade

  1. Don Peregoy

    Thanks for the helpful series. I appreciate the link that brings all the blogs up together. I have been ugly busy lately but when things slow down after the first of the year I plane to dedicate some time to working on one or two of them.

    By the way this seems like a great traveling wood working class. Not a lot of tools, not a lot of wood, don’t need a fancy workbench (sorry Chris). I expect it would make a good DVD – but a DVD cant look over shoulder and tell you your feet are in the wrong position. Maybe a one day hands on the Thursday before WWA 2011.

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