My New Years Resolution

It’s a brand new year and I’m not getting any younger. I’ve been thinking over the past few days about what I’d like to achieve this year with my woodworking. The answer was clear. 2014 has to be the year where I finally get into and learn blacksmithing. For years I’ve been farting around with the idea of incorporating metal work into my furniture. I took a blacksmith class from Welch chair maker Don Weber of Paint Lick, KY in 2008 where I made a couple of hold fasts and a cold chisel, but unfortunately, I never took anymore classes from him. I use the hold fasts all the time and I’m very proud of them, I just wish I would have taken more classes. Don’s shop was nearly three hours away and I believe he has since retired as his website has been down for several months.

I really want to learn blacksmithing for a few reasons. I want to make hardware for furniture, handles for cutting boards and be able to heat-treat blades for tools. I bought a set of handles for cutting boards from a guy at an art festival a few years ago and the design is simple enough that I’m sure I could reproduce it with a little practice. If I make cutting boards I would add handles like these and sell them through my Etsy account.

I have been a member of Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil (SOFA)  for a few years and I attended their annual meeting in Troy, OH back 2011. SOFA offers classes on blacksmithing but Troy is an hour and a half from my house. Ten weeks of driving back and forth from Troy on the weekends doesn’t sound like that much fun.

I do have a few books on blacksmithing, but the best by far is The Backyard Blacksmith by Lorelei Sims. She writes about setting up a simple shop and teaches some basic beginning projects. It’s a great first step in learning blacksmithing.

Awhile ago I bought the first piece for my blacksmith shop, a 150 lb anvil, at a local auction. My wife warned me that I would buy an anvil and it would just sit in the garage for six months before I would even use it. Well she was wrong. It’s been sitting in there for a year and a half. I need to make an anvil stand for it, but that shouldn’t be too hard. I’ll probably write a blog about it when I do.

I have three blacksmith vises that I bought at a tool auction a few years back. I only use one of them right now as the other two are sitting underneath my shelving where I store my wood. The one I do use is fantastic and works much better than a metal machinist vise that is bolted on top of a workbench. If you ever have a chance to buy a blacksmith vise for a good price, do it, you won’t be disappointed.

Last fall, I bought the final piece of my shop at an antique show, a forge. It’s really nice with a hand crank blower. I would like to eventually make my own chisels or blades for molding planes and a forge like this is ideal for that task. Maybe I can even get good enough to shape my own carving tools.

Now that I have all the major tools for my blacksmith shop, I could set it up in the garage, but that is where my wife stores her furniture or parks her car. We’re talking about getting a shed in the backyard in the spring. If we do, that would be an ideal spot where I can pull out my anvil and forge and work in the yard. All I know is that it has to finally happen this year. I just wish there were blacksmith classes around Cincinnati I could take.

Woodworking in America

I stopped by the Marketplace at The Woodworking in America show in Covington, KY today after work. Living in Cincinnati I’m spoiled that I get to waltz right in like it’s no big deal when the majority of people who attend have to make travel plans and hotel accommodations. I attended the first WIA a few years back in Berea, KY and had a blast listening to presenters like Roy Underhill, Brian Boggs and Frank Klaus. However, the money has been too tight for me to afford to attend any of the seminars since then.

I picked up a few things while I was there, nothing much. I mainly went there to buy the book “By Hand & Eye” by George Walker and Jim Tolpin. I’ve read good things about it and knew Lost Art Press would have a booth so leaving with that was a no-brainer. I also picked up a couple of DVDs about using SketchUp. I’ve been wanting to learn how to use this design software for years but after fiddling around with it in the past, it never clicked. Hopefully the DVD’s will make a light bulb go off in my head.

I stopped by the Knew Concepts booth and looked at their fret saws again. I see them every year but they never bring any inventory to sell. They would give me a card and tell me to go on the website and use it for free shipping. Every year I took the card and just forgot about it. Well not this year. They finally brought saws to sell so I bought one.

I’ve wanted one of these saws for a few years now. They are much stronger and hold the blade much stiffer than an ordinary coping saw. I’ll use it mainly for cutting the waste out of dovetails as well as some fret work from time to time. The difference between a Knew Concepts saw and a coping saw is night and day. I may turn a new handle for it out of cocobolo to beautify it someday, but I’m in no rush for that.

With my Knew Concepts saw, my coping saw is perfectly happy in his new home.

All in all, the Woodworking in America is a good show that’s worth going to. It’s not like The Woodworking Show that travels around the country. It’s mainly focused on hand tool woodworking so you won’t find a lot of power tools or boxes of discount belt sander sanding belts. About three quarters of the vendors focus on hand tools which is fine by me.

I was disappointed not to see Welch chair maker Don Weber again this year. He hasn’t attended in a couple of years and I’m not sure if he will again. I took a blacksmithing class from him a few years ago at his shop in Paintlick, KY. He’s extremely knowledgeable about woodworking and a hell of a craftsman, as well as down right a nice guy. I did talk to a few young chair makers who were selling some sweet ass chair making tools. I wanted to buy a drawknife sharpener and adjustable calipers but my funds were already spent. I got their cards so maybe sometime down the road I’ll buy them off the internet.