Wednesday, December 20, 2006
A few years ago, I attended a seminar given by Garrett Hack. Anyone who reads Fine Woodworking magazine is probably familiar with Garrett's woodworking, as well as the articles he writes on tools and techniques. In some circles, he's as well known for his custom tool making skills as he is for the Federal-style modern furniture he builds. He spends a lot of time traveling the country, giving seminars and teaching. A true Renaissance man.
Inspired from his seminar, I've spent more time lately with handtools, enjoying the process as much as the end result. Owning good tools shouldn't be a luxury; quality tools make working with wood much easier. When building a set of eight dining room chairs, I machined roughly 60 tenons per chair. While the Powermatic Mortiser made easy work of the mortises, the tenons required a little touchup during the final fitting, especially the shoulders. Lee Valley Tools makes a wonderful shoulder plane that worked perfectly for all the tenon clean up.
Which brings me back to Garrett Hack and his toolmaking. If I took nothing away from his lecture, it was this: if you can't find the tool you want, figure out a way to make one. He includes many simple inlays in his work, and often builds handtools that help with this process. It's fascinating to see the steps he goes though, and the end result is simple, yet adds a formality to work.
I recently had to drill some wide but shallow holes in plaster. There was no commercial bit available for the profile I wanted, so my next thought was to alter the shape of a spade bit. Still, the sizes of spade bits available to me weren't going to be big enough. I sketched a few shapes, and made some full sized patterns to decide which profile worked best for me.
By attaching a cutter to a spade bit, I was able to accomplish something important to the design of this bit. The length of the pilot tip on a standard spade bit was too long, so positioning the cutter lower (to the tip) allowed me to shorten the pilot length considerably. Here are a few versions of the bit I made; they perform beautifully, and I'm now experimenting with some different shapes to add to my tool arsenal.
Next post... you'll see where I used these bits.