Years ago (seven, it seems, according to this post), I bought a little knife in Japan that I decided that I’d try out as a marking knife. I haven’t really said anything about it since.
It turns out that I haven’t even thought about it very much either, even with the couple odd years when I wasn’t doing much in the shop. But since I picked it up, it’s been the marking knife I almost exclusively reach for, and I also use it to sharpen the odd pencil here and there when nothing else is handy.
I also don’t even recall when I last sharpened it. I don’t even know if I ever did sharpen it, come to think of it. That’s never a good sign. But the other day when I was cutting some dovetails in some white pine (as part of a secret new project), I thought, “Huh. This thing could stand to be sharper.” Softer woods tend to elicit that sort of thinking. So I took it over to the stones and did that, unfortunately with a few minor blood sacrifices. (Wear rubber thimbles or something next time, dummy.)
This looks a little wacky because I sharpened it with two bevels: A main one, then a smaller one near the tip to make it easier to touch up. Like many Japanese blades, this is laminated, with white steel making up the cutting edge. And it can be a pain to sharpen that stuff.
Also typical is the hollowed back:
The hollow wasn’t terribly well-done. Using a diamond stone that I also coincidentally got on the same trip to Japan, I got that evened out pretty quickly. Yay for hollow backs.
Well, I should have probably sharpened this thing a long time ago. I do, however, have to be a little careful now when marking stuff, because the length of the blade makes it too easy to brush up against a finger or something when running along the side of a square.
So, that aside, this is not a purpose-made marking knife, but rather, a “craft knife,” according to the package:
(Aside: KRAFT KNIFE… POWERMESSER!) According to the helpful use suggestions on the left side, it’s for “wood carving,” “bamboo (something) work,” and “DIY.” Though I have to admit that the rear of the packaging card is a lot more useful than the stuff you get with a lot of products these days. For example, it has a “how to sharpen” blurb.
I don’t know who made it, other than it is made in Japan. It’s marketed and distributed by the Ito company in Miki (三木市) , which sometimes uses the “Bigman” moniker (search for “bigman HK-60” and you’ll find this knife at several retailers). Sadly, they do not carry a “She-Ra” line.
I don’t even remember where I bought it. Was it a home center? Tokyu Hands? Huh. In any case, I think it cost somewhere around 2000 JPY. That’s not dirt cheap, but it’s not exactly expensive, either.
And this has me thinking–Lee Valley sells a Japanese marking knife that’s a spear-point thing (in addition to one that looks like mine without a handle). Like my knife, it’s laminated white steel with a hollow back, and is currently $21. Maybe I’d also like that? I’m not sure what to think of the traditional form without a handle.
Or maybe I need to stop thinking and just remember to sharpen the knife.
During the past couple of weeks, I restored the old blog posts that have been missing for the past year or so. I won’t go into technical details, but it was a mostly unpleasant process. All comments from sometime or other in 2010 did not make the transition. Unfortunately (and unusually), this is a shame because there was some really good feedback.
Thanks to the Internet Archive for helping me patch up a number of holes where I had no backups.
I have the original versions of all photos. Many of the old photos are kind of dim due to that being a somewhat transitional period between CRTs and panel displays, and they are pretty low-resolution due to the limitations on storage at the time. If anyone wants me to brighten up and expand the resolution of a particular image, let me know.
As part of the process, I reviewed every post. I confess to making some minor edits for typos and such. Making it a little interesting is that I started the blog at the exact same time that I started woodworking; I had no hands-on experience until even a few posts in. So I saw myself learning again. (And then, there were those posts that I read and thought, “oh, that’s how I did that…”)
Enough navel-gazing. Here’s what we’re looking at right now:
When you hear Schwarz or someone harping about how a workbench is a three-dimensional clamping surface, you might wonder why they’re so religious about it. One of the big “rules” is that you should have the front legs flush with the benchtop.
Although I am fond of the idea of rule-breaking, they’re often around for a reason. And here’s why this one is a decent ruleguideline:
That just wouldn’t have been possible without this configuration. It made a really unwieldy task (trimming off the edges of the coffee table top) to a very manageable one with just a handsaw.
So it’s not so much religion, more of an admonishment to prevent you from shooting yourself in the foot in the name of form over function.
I finally finished all of the deck and porch work that was monopolizing my shop and shop time. Railings, deck boards, trim, and so on–it just never seemed to end. The last bit was making these balusters for the front porch:
Full disclosure: Electrons were shoved around in the making of these. I should write something about that sometime. However, I did cut each board to length by hand, and I finished off the little concave interior curves with a rasp (It was the fastest tool for the job).
I’m not even sure if I want to post this, but here goes. I just finished a breadbox, which qualifies as the worst woodworking project I’ve ever done. Wonder why? There are lots of reasons, but let’s just get a photo out of the way first:
This project has been languishing for years. How long? I don’t even know anymore. There was a reference to it in a post many years back, three moves ago, probably saying that this was taking an embarrassingly long time. That was at least a few years ago. (I also found a photo from five years ago showing the door frame being made.) The reasons for delay? All obnoxiously stupid:
Couldn’t decide how to do the door
Couldn’t decide how to seal and stop the area around the door
Couldn’t be bothered to find decent hinges
Couldn’t decide on the handle
Couldn’t decide what kind of clasp hardware to use
Couldn’t be bothered to order the clasp hardware
Didn’t remember that I actually ordered the clasp hardware, then spent a year or two absentmindedly trying to decide on the clasp hardware (again)
Didn’t want to finish it
Didn’t remember that it needed to be finished
Any and all other methods of procrastination
That all sounds bad enough, but there are even more reasons. The best I can say is that I made the box and the door very quickly.
And then there’s the quality of work. It’s not great. It looks OK from a distance. Maybe just don’t look too closely. I don’t want to go into the details, but let’s just say that I wasn’t particularly careful here. I can only conclude that I just wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about this albatross of a project.
Despite all of this, it’s better that it’s done and now in service. This was an incredibly irritating monkey on my back.
Oh, I guess there are technical details: Beech, half-blind dovetails for the carcase, mortise-and-tenons for the door, floating panels on the door and rear of the carcase.
Here it is, open (I didn’t even remember to use the same exposure on both pictures, and nope, I’m not gonna go back and redo it):
This might seem like an obvious topic, but I don’t know if I’ve ever discussed it. To be clear, I’m not really talking about species selection here. It’s more a matter of the individual boards that you incorporate into a project and where they end up.
Wood selection might not stand out as one of the most compelling reasons to bother to learn woodworking, but it’s at least an implicit reason. If you’ve ever seen one of those kitchens with the cherry cabinets that were popular about 10-15 years ago, you know what I mean. These typically don’t have any rhyme, reason, or consistency to the boards making up the frames and panels; they often look like they were made up of many different species. It’s the same way with a lot of more expensive factory-made furniture as well. Well, if that doesn’t drive you nuts, the pocket joints will.
So this relates especially to my current project, the coffee table, which has a frame made of walnut. Like cherry, walnut has a high degree of variability between trees, boards from a tree, and often even within a single board. To try to get everything as consistent as possible, I always try to group pieces according to location and function, then map those groups to boards. The fewer boards, the better. Then you start working on the puzzle of where everything fits. Here’s where I’m at on the frame:
There are two stretchers per side between the legs, and they are paired (bottom layer) in this photo. Between those stretchers will be two inner frame pieces. The boards on the top layer of the photo will each be cut in two make those pieces. The pair on the top will go with the board on the right, the next down is second from right, and so on.
All of these pieces came from the same board, which made it a little simpler in some respects.
If you look closely, you’ll see that the grain orientation (top side in the photo) of each pair matches, with the rear pair being quartersawn, the next one mostly quartersawn, and the front pairs flatsawn. These are chosen to match the legs. Recall this photo from the last post:
That leg is the trickiest part of the arrangement because it’s riftsawn. But it mostly resembles flatsawn on the left and quartersawn on the right, and the legs on the other ends are definitely in that orientation, so the pairs of stretchers are chosen accordingly. (The other legs are much more straightforward in orientation and have obvious matches.)
In any case, the flatsawn sides oppose each other, as do the quartersawn, making it easier to arrange the legs. And the oddball above is going in the “rear” of the table to keep it mostly out of sight anyway.
Let’s take a closer look at some of those stretcher pairings, starting with the quartersawn:
And now the flatsawn:
If you look even closer at this one (and the pairing in the post’s first photo), you’ll notice that the horizontal stretchers were cut not only from the same board, but right next to each other. This might seem a little crazy because the upper ones won’t even be really all that visible (the top will overhang, obscuring them), but it’s the kind of thing that I like to be in the habit of doing.
So I guess I spend a lot of time thinking about this kind of stuff. It might even be worth it.
I posted the following photo from my happily-neglected Twitter account a while back and forgot about it:
I’d been busy making a stand out of some southern yellow pine and didn’t take too much time to clean off the bench between making each mortise-and-tenon joint. Perhaps there’s some sort of meaning here. But it could also be just a cluttered pile of cutoffs.
That project is essentially complete, but I’m not too sure. I didn’t make a top for it yet, but I might not need to. It’s just a tall stand for workshop-related stuff and is already in use.
I don’t know if I’ll ever write about that little mini-project. It’s pretty sloppy; I didn’t even bother to uniformly thickness or even mill all of the sides of the boards.