Free Shipping Now Available on ‘Mouldings in Practice’

I am so excited about this new book coming out that I purchased an advanced copy less than one hour after the Lost Art Press post came out.

Lost Art Press

After years of publishing woodworking information, you often hear that there is nothing new in the craft. Everything has been done before, written before and fully figured out.

I used to believe that was true, until I read the manuscript that was to become “Mouldings in Practice” by Matthew Sheldon Bickford. This books explains how to make mouldings in a simple way that I have never ever encountered – either in print or from an instructor.

The book turns a set of complicated mouldings into a series of predictable rabbets and chamfers that guide your hollow and round planes to make anything – anything – that has been made in the past or that you can envision for your future projects.

During the last several months, we had many proofreaders edit this book and the universal reaction was much like this:

“Well crap. Now I want to buy…

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My first hand-cut dovetails

It’s really not as hard as it looks…

For the past week, I have been trying to accomplish one of my biggest goals…the hand-cut dovetail. As usual, I go through a lot of research before I actually get to work. Therefore, I have been reading up on some of the most well-known dovetailists and their techniques. I actually had two books on my workbench while I was going through the process of cutting the first pair (joint).

I decided to go tails first based off of the books I have been reading. I can tell you after cutting a few of them this way, I was able to get good results. I’m not even going to attempt cutting tails first to see if there is any difference. I don’t really care…this is working for me, so I am going to stick with it.

Cutting these by hand is a big leap for me, but one I was anxious to try. I am now really into the way the craft was practiced in the 18th and 19th century. I am finding it to be more enjoyable than machine work…not to mention less electric, noise, dust, and set up time. Specifically for dovetails it’s a big leap because I have a $400+ Leigh D4 dovetail jig (which works great) sitting on the sidelines. I can tell you, as good as this jig is, I can get just as good results within less time. I most likely will be posting the D4 up on Craigslist soon.

Hopefully, I can get some decent cash for the jig when I sell it. You see, I don’t own a dovetail saw. I have been cutting these dovetails with my Lie Nielsen cross-cut carcase saw. It works so well, however, I am wondering whether I need to get a dovetail saw.

Now…how did I do…

Well, let me tell you the first joint did not fit right off the saw. In the end, I am glad it didn’t because I wouldn’t have learned anything. There is always something to learn from failure. The first joint I cut was too fat…way to fat in dovetail land. I had to do a lot of paring to get the final fit…it actually took me a couple of days because I was so fed up I had to leave it for the next day. At that point, I started questioning if I was going to go to hand-cutting dovetails.

The second dovetail joint I was more aggressive on purpose so as not to leave it too fat. Well, I was still fat…not as bad this time. However, there was still far too much paring for me to live with dovetailing this way. That’s when I hit the books again. This is the point where I smacked my hand to my forehead. You see, I was using a pencil to mark out for the tails. Although the pencil was very sharp, the line is way to thick for marking out the tails. It also does not give me a reference for my saw, other than my eye…my eye aint that good.

The magical tool that solved my issue was the marking knife. Thank you grandpa for this little gem you gave me.

Dovetail joints numbers three and four fit right off the saw! What a difference the marking knife made. Not only does it make a finer line than the pencil I was using, but it gives my saw a reference. I am not sure why this didn’t hit me earlier because it is basically the same technique used for making saw cuts for tenons, cross-cuts, rips, etc. Well, these are saw cuts too…so why not use the same technique. After tracing the pins onto the tail board with the marking knife, I used my square to carry the line over the end grain of the tail board. As I began my cut, the saw would fall into this ‘trench’ and track on its line. The same thing happened as it tracked the angled line down the tail. I literally just let the saw follow the line I had made with the marking knife.

I could not be happier with the result. I was able to cut and fit dovetail joints three and four in half the time it took me just to pare away joint number two. Had I been using the marking knife in the beginning I would have cut all four joints (for the box I am making) in a single evening…but then I would not have learned anything.

I should note that I have the same issue with the D4 jig…to fat, which required paring. I was never able to really get any better than I can with hand-cutting dovetails.

The picture in the header of my blog are dovetails cut on the Leigh D4 dovetail jig. I think I might replace that header with some nice ‘hand-crafted’ dovetails.

Good bye D4, you have served  me well (not really)…

Check out the slideshow:

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– JR

Tree Fort Deck & Railing

It’s becoming somewhat recognizable…

After finishing the frame, I worked on putting down the deck. I had to search a couple of home centers, but was able to find some premium pressure treated boards that would work. It’s actually fairly nice looking 5/4 stock with a smooth radius on the long edges. The platform is 8′ in length, so i was able to buy 8′ lengths and nail the majority of them without any cuts. The only cuts I did have to make were around the opening for the trunk of the tree. I tried to maintain a opening of about 2″ to allow for growth of the tree.

The decking went down fairly quickly…I was able to finish in one evening. After that, on the next evening, I started working on the posts that support the railings and the roof. The construction is simple, just a half lap at the bottom of the post that fits flush with the outside of the rim joists and the deck flooring. I test fit each post and checked for plumb. I had to make some adjustments removing some material with a chisel where needed to get the post to sit plumb. Then I nailed the post into the rim joist with 16d galvanized.

The posts went up quickly (in a couple evenings) [much faster than my blog posts!]. Then I moved onto attaching the top and bottom rails of the railing. It’s a tree house, so I ditched my idea of half lap or M & T joinery, and went with butt joints. As a result, I flew through this stage of the project. I simply used some clamps to hold the boards (2 x 4) in place while I nailed 16d through them into the posts. I checked for level and did the same at the other end of the board. I didn’t make any cuts until the board was attached to the posts. I simply flush cut the boards to the posts with a hand saw…a hand tool trick that saves time and give you great accuracy.

I made my way all the way around the platform attaching both bottom and top rails. I cut away the bottom rail where the opening would be. I made sure to leave the top rail in place to act as a safety stop to prevent someone from accidentally falling out. Then using a scrap block of 2 x 4, I installed the middle rail, which actually supports the majority of the boards that make up the railing. I placed the scrap block below the upper rail and butted the middle rail against it while I nailed the middle rail in place. I had the top rail already level and square, which allowed me to use the spacer (scrap block).

Next I was back off to the store to buy some more wood to complete the railing. I went with the same 5/4 premium material that I used for the deck flooring. Once I had the lumber I needed, I made some more spacer blocks based off of the Sketchup drawing. I needed to make one spacer for the distance from post to the first board, and another spacer for the distance between each board. Of course, I double checked the distance between posts to make sure I was still matching up to the drawing. I was off on one section, so I had to do some math on the fly and make the necessary adjustments.

This part of the railing was the most time consuming…mostly because of the cuts I had to make. The other reason being that mother nature keep fighting me with rain. Perhaps she was not happy with me driving lag bolts into her tree.

Anyways, I kept toiling away until I made my way around the platform. I did make one change to the design of the railing on the fly. On the front and back (the 6′ dimension), I attached the middle board to not only the bottom and middle rail, but the top rail as well.

I did this for a couple of reasons. First there is a six-foot span between posts on the front and back, which didn’t support the top rail as expected…it just had too much movement for my liking. The second reason, which was a benefit of the first, was it added a little touch to the design.

Next up is the ladder and a late addition to the design…

– JR