December 2015 #222

Our December issue features an Arts & Crafts bookcase inspired by an early 20th-century wardrobe from noted English furniture maker Harris Lebus – but the time-saving construction techniques in this power-tool build are thoroughly modern. Author Nancy Hiller drew on her experiences in a professional shop to develop a design that uses straightforward joinery without sacrificing sophistication. You’ll learn an innovative way to install a bottom in large cabinets and discover how she mimics (sans ammonia fumes) a classic Arts & Crafts finish and more.

You don’t need an expensive custom handplane – surprising words, especially when they come from Raney Nelson, a maker of, well, expensive custom handplanes. Top-quality manufactured planes do just as well for most jobs, so why would you want to spend the extra money? In “Apologia for the Custom Handplane,” Raney dispels myths and misconceptions about custom handplanes to show you how these tools are optimized for superb performance of a single task.

Christopher Schwarz teaches you the secret of hand-cut finger joints as you build a “Japanese Sliding-lid Box” based on a toolbox owned by a Japanese carpenter. Christopher presents a simple way of thinking about finger joints (think dovetails), tells you why it’s a good idea to secure the joinery with hide glue and how to “dovetail” nails to keep a box bottom secure through years of use.

Toshio Odate’s life has been a study in change and contrast. Monumental sculptures, delicate shoji screens. Precise movements of a chisel, slicing giant logs with a roaring chainsaw. Quiet mornings with a cup of tea, onstage at Café Wha? laughing and singing. Toshio Odate, now 85, went from a teenage apprentice in postwar Japan to wild days in the New York art world to his place as a world-renowned artist and woodworker. John Kelsey looks at how Odate has traveled full circle to his roots as a simple shokunin, or craftsman.

In “Tool Test,” the editors put the Grizzly G0790 benchtop planer through its paces, test the Vesper Double Square and try out Tools For Working Wood’s Jennings-pattern auger bits.

In “Arts & Mysteries,” Peter Follansbee shows how the pounding of a sledgehammer can turn a billet of ash into splints for baskets; Bob Flexner teaches you four things you need to know about finishing in “Flexner on Finishing;” George Walker reveals drawing strategies for design in “Design Matters;” in “End Grain,” Kenneth Royal ponders how to stay true to the conditions of his grandmother’s gift, and more.

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Flexner on Finishing: Understanding Wood Finishing

Here are four things you need to know. by Bob Flexner p.54 Finishing is not hard to understand. As I’ve pointed out in previous articles, it’s made confusing by manufacturers who don’t understand their own products, so they make up names and claims they think will help sell their wares. The...

End Grain: Three Gold Coins

Passing up gold for a treasure with more lasting value. by Kenneth Royal p.56 The holidays are a time for visiting and catching up. While visiting my parents one Thanksgiving, my mother handed me an envelope. I could tell at first glance that it was old. The acid in the paper...