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How to Read & Write Tool Reviews, Part 3

For experienced woodworkers, it’s easy to ignore tool reviews and say: “I just buy the brands that have served me well.” But what if you know little about the different brands? When I was growing up, Skil made fantastic circular saws. Black & Decker made good drills. Craftsman put its name on some good...

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Threadboxes: One More Song the Radio Won’t Like

Whenever I write about threadboxes, my personal blog gets swamped with spam from the Pacific Rim. So batten down the firewalls, mateys. I started writing about the Moxon double-screw vise in 2010 (original post here) and have made many of them using a threadbox and tap that you can buy from many reputable woodworking...

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The Monogamy has Ended

When I teach people to sharpen edge tools, I am very much an “I’m OK, you’re OK” guy about the kinds of systems out there and whether you should use jigs or not. But there is one thing I’m all fire and waterstones about: Stick with one system until you know it – at...

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5 Mistakes Beginners Make with Block Planes

When I teach beginners, one of the most common phrases I hear is, “I cannot get this (insert tool name) to work. What’s wrong?” They hand the tool to me and the fun begins. Though block planes are dirt-simple handplanes, there are some important points about them that are rarely discussed in the literature....

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Tightening the ‘Stay-Set’ Chipbreaker

Last week I took my new Clifton No. 5 to teach a full-size toolchest class at The Woodworkers Club in Rockville, Md. Several of the students used it on their toolchests, which they made using cherry, pine or poplar. The plane did quite well – the iron stayed sharp through planing up an entire...

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Settling Debts: An Update on Clifton Handplanes

Though I’ve been a non-editor at both Popular Woodworking and The Fine Tool Journal for almost three years now, I still have debts to pay. And I take those debts seriously. One of my first reviews for The Fine Tool Journal, which was reprinted in the book “Handplane Essentials,” is a review of Clifton...

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The Church of ‘Leave me Alone, Please’

During the last 17 years that I have been using a honing guide to sharpen, I’ve been approached (sometimes nearly assaulted) by people who want to teach me to sharpen freehand. My response: “I sharpen freehand all the time.” They don’t believe me, and so they spend an hour or so to show me...

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A Place to Call ‘Hone’

When I think of all the things that improved my sharpening skills, two things loom large. No. 1 is practice, of course, but close behind that is a dedicated sharpening tray. About 14 years ago I built a shallow tray from scrap plywood, nails and glue. No fancy joinery, no water-resistant materials and no...

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4 Tricks For Flattening French Benchtops

One of the gripes I hear about French workbenches is that the benchtops are difficult to flatten because of the end grain protruding through the top. I don’t buy it. Here are a few simple tricks that deflate that argument. 1. Start with ‘Stop Shavings’ When I flatten a French benchtop, the first thing...