A Somewhat Bereft Shop Corner

When Christopher Schwarz left his full-time job at Popular Woodworking Magazine to concentrate on his company, Lost Art Press, he took his tools with him (of course). And I’ve come to realize in the last few weeks how many items I regularly borrowed from his cabinet, chest and wall racks. And I must say, the racks look pretty lonely without his many tools thereupon. And I’m pretty lonely without my daily lunchtime coffee buddy (though I have cut down on the Starbuck’s expenditures).

Now, I am not really lacking in tools – though mine don’t fill the racks nearly as much as did Chris’s. I have a good set of bench planes (including a choice of smooth planes – Nos. 3 and 4); small and large router planes; shoulder planes in various sizes; other specialty planes; an overabundance of block planes; far more chisels than I ought; a cutting gauge; rules; backsaws for rips, crosscuts and dovetails; and more.

So I do have most of the tools I need on a regular basis – but what can I say…I’m covetous.

I don’t have any panel saws (a situation I hope to soon remedy) – but they’re not something I need every day – or even every week. The last time I truly had no choice but to use a panel saw was when I was in the shop on a Saturday to prep the wood for the chop of my “petite Roubo” (which, by the way, is basically the same bench Chris builds on this DVD, and it’s included in “The Workbench Design Book“). The reason I needed a crosscut saw was because the 8′-long, 2″-thick hunk of maple was too heavy and unwieldy for me to lift onto the miter saw stand by myself, and I couldn’t find our circular saw. Don’t get me wrong – I like using panel saws (it’s an excellent triceps workout). But usually I have other options at my disposal. So it’s not terribly surprising that I’m panel-saw deficient.

But I also don’t have a screwdriver, other than a huge straight driver that I inherited from my grandfather. It’s great for tightening the screw on my knock-off Eclipse jig, but it’s too big for any of my other needs (though it does make a good back scratcher in a pinch). I’ve no Phillips’s, Robertson or reasonably sized straight drivers. This should be a cheap and easy fix – except that I got spoiled by helping myself to Chris’s single drop-forged “perfect handle” drivers from H.D. Smith & Co. I love those drivers. I want those drivers. I cannot find those drivers. And if I could find those drivers, I probably couldn’t afford them.

I also am scraper-deficient. Chris had a wallet full of scrapers; there were maybe 15-20 sharp scrapers therein at any given time. So on the occasions my work involved scraping, I borrowed one. Then put it back dull. How rude of me. (Chris preferred, understandably, to sharpen his own tools.) Could I buy a set for $15? Yes. Have I? Not yet. Could I cut my own from an old sawblade? I hear-tell that’s a time-honored tradition. But I don’t have any saws that are past their prime so much that I’m willing to chop them to pieces.

A second cutting gauge would be nice. Up until last weekend’s table build, I’d always borrowed Chris’s Tite-Mark to mark the far wall of my mortises. Last weekend – horror of horrors – I had to mark one wall on all my mortises, then reset my Tite-Mark for the second wall. (I’d planned to cut them by hand, but I was feeling lazy and ended up at the mortising machine where all those marks weren’t necessary – so maybe that’s a bad example. Oh well.)

A small square would be a good thing for checking the inside of small projects – including the table mentioned above. The interior width across the aprons was 4-1/2″ or so; my 6″ square, obviously, didn’t fit. I went with hope as my determinant. Again, a fairly inexpensive buy that I haven’t yet accomplished.

But the most amusing thing I lack is a plant mister. Yes, a $10 item. Oh – and the ceramic composite stones with which to use it. Those are a little pricier. For the nonce, I’ll have stick with the waterstones I have soaking and stored in Tupperware. That reminds me – I now have nothing at home in which to store leftovers.

– Megan Fitzpatrick

21 thoughts on “A Somewhat Bereft Shop Corner

  1. gdblake

    Megan:

    My 20″ crosscut panel saw use to be a 26″ saw that had been sharpened so many times that it nearly came to a point. I bought it for less than $10, cut it down to the 20″ length, polished it, sharpened it, and refinished the tote. It’s now a great little saw. There are plenty of old saws in your neck of the woods just waiting for the same treatment.

    1. Megan Fitzpatrick Post author

      My challenge is finding panel saws for tiny people (comparatively). 24″ & 26″ are fairly common and easy to find at garage sales…or among the tools I inherited from my grandfather. But the 20″ ones that I _should_ use are hard to find…

    1. Megan Fitzpatrick Post author

      Yup – as far as “modern” tools, I do like those…we’ll see how my eBay and flea market searching goes. (And of course, we have “shop” tools I can use for the nonce.)

    1. dsnyder

      On the contrary, it might help someone take a look at their tool inventory and make them realize they need this tool or don’t really need that tool. Try thinking outside the box for once.

    2. ArtHarg

      An interesting and helpful comment, but I beg to differ. Megan’s blog shows how there are humans amongst those who work wood. That may keep some people from giving up because they’re not as good as the Schwarz or yourself. And not giving up leads to improvement.

    3. Mark

      I read the newspaper every day and find nothing within to improve my life. I watch television and more often than not am horrified I’m actually paying for that nonsense. On the whole, reading Megan’s musings on her tool collection, or any other subject, is a far more pleasurable use of my time. If you have something positive to offer, step up to the plate. If all you have is criticism without a constructive suggestion, keep it to yourself and take your frustrations out on your politician of choice.

  2. jon003

    Megan,

    A cutting gauge is a quite simple affair to build. It is a nice short project, you can use hand tools to build it, and it gives you a good idea of the kind of features you should look for in other tools. Why not build one? (or two?)

  3. skewedII

    Megan,

    What a nice way to say thank you.
    I am sure Chris will be happy to know how much you miss him at coffee…AND his tools. lol

    Now you will have to start haunting the antique sales.

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