The Best $25 You've Ever Spent? - Popular Woodworking Magazine

The Best $25 You've Ever Spent?

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Woodworking Blogs

These last few weeks I’ve been deep in another spate of chairmaking. If you’ve ever built a Windsor chair, you know that they are a great antidote to making cabinets. All the hand skills are basically the same, but the head skills…¦. Whew. The angles and “best guesses” stretch my gray matter like a good bourbon.

Today I’m gluing up the arm bow to the second of a set of four chairs that are based loosely on Welsh Stick chairs. (By the way, the best book about Welsh stick chairs is “Welsh Stick Chairs” by John Brown. It’s sometimes a bit hard to find, but worth it.) In any case, as I was putting together the arm bow I reached instinctively for my pinch dogs. Knock these into a joint and they will pull it together. They’re great for unusual clamping jobs where you might spend a couple hours building a clamping caul for a one-time use.

Once the glue is dry, a knock with a hammer on the end releases the dogs’ bite. They are Egyptian technology (wedges) at its finest and highest.

The only downside are the holes they leave. Usually, you can work around the holes. These particular holes will be on the underside of the arm bow , only the bugs and cats will ever comment on them. If you use the pinch dogs when clamping up a tabletop (they really help keep the ends aligned), you can crosscut the holes off when you trim the top to size.

As I was knocking these in, Senior Editor Bob Lang mentioned that a good topic for a future article would be “The Best $25 I Ever Spent in Woodworking” and that we should survey readers and pros and make a list.

If you’ve got a vote, drop me a line. I’d really like to hear it.

Christopher Schwarz

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  • Andy Boyd

    Like you I am also a great fan of John Brown’s chairs, but being a welshman myself, I would say that.

    A nice example well done.

    My best 25$ (or 30€ as we say in the Netherlands ) must have been my Marples Trial 1 Mortice guage, just works a treat and a feast for the eyes.


  • Greg Bétit

    You don’t hear much about pinch dogs. I owned one 8" one, probably made for post and beam construction. I’ve never had occasion to use it.

    Then one nice Summer day I stopped at a local lawn sale, and I found 12 of them in the 1"- 2 1/2" range. I asked "how much"? The owner was dying to know what they were. "Pinch dogs" I said. "Shouldn’t have told him", I thought right off. It has such a wonderful old timey ring to it. Adirondack lawn sales thrive on such.

    "What do you do with them?" Back then I was envisioning using them for edge joining boards. Leave a tad of belly in the middle, and pinch the ends together with pinch dogs. Just the oppposite of what today’s conventional wisdom calls "spring" when edge clamping boards. That’s what I described to him.

    He asked me what I would give, and took my first offer. "I’d love to be thinking those things were being appreciated," he said. Now I have the obligation to put them to good use, and a different opinion of the average Adirondack garage sale proprietor.


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