Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Five Most Popular Posts (So Far)

I know you all would like to read a little self-indulgent narcissism,  so here we go.

It is humbling to consider that there are people all over the world reading my blog.  This post makes 96 posts to this blog.  Let's take a look at the five that seem to have generated the most hits.

#5 - Experiment: Let's Blow Up a Panel! 


I wanted to see if I could replicate a failure of a table top that was posted on reddit.  A woodworker there had built a table in which the top had split and cracked.  I thought the culprit was that he had glued in a cross batten that was attached with a sliding dovetail.

To test my theory, I made these two panels, and attached a cross batten with only three screws.  One of the panels received glue on the cross batten, one did not.

This post was fun because I got to throw out my theory of what happened for everyone to see.  In hindsight, it might have been good to wait until I had several weeks worth of photos to show the progress all at once, but I thought it would be fun to do this series in real time.

FYI, eventually the glued panel did fail, it bowed so much when the panel dried that there would be absolutely no way it would have survived on a table top.  The unglued one was fine.  All this in about three weeks!

#4 - Essential Tools for Newbies: Part V - Proper Bench Chisels


This post was one of a series on the tools I think should be in a Beginner's Tool Kit (BTK).  My general philosophy is that one shouldn't have to skimp on tools, one should just be picky and get a few really good tools.  When I started in hand tools I didn't know how to discriminate from true "must haves" from the gimmicks.  Oh, also, you shouldn't have to take out a third mortgage to do it.

With chisels, I think that rather than spend good money on a starter set, just pick up a pair of premium chisels that will last forever.  These two Lie-Nielsens will run about the same as a set of six plastic handled junkers.

There is a lot you can do with two chisels, and it is easier to keep two chisels sharp than it is twelve.  Later on you can pick up other sizes if you find you really need them.

I have been working with these chisels since about December when I wrote the post.  99% of my chiseling can be done with one of my two chisels.  Every once in a while I find I might need one that is narrower, but honestly, I think the only reason I might have pulled one of the others from my chisel roll in the old days was because it was the sharpest one.

Don't fall for thinking you'll save money, because you'll eventually buy premium chisels anyway.  Save the money and start now.

#3 - Money Can't Buy You Skill

This post surprises me that it is my third most popular post of all time.  I didn't have my camera that day, so the photo is a recycled one, and what I wrote about really isn't all that impressive.

What I did was build four try squares of my own design.  The "design" was that it was constructed with a lap joint, rather than a bridle joint or a mortise and tenon.  I started building squares this way because they could be easily built using my BTK.  I had made several of these before this post, and got very comfortable using my chosen tool kit to make decent looking lap joints.

The point of this post was to test if there was a difference between using my BTK and using fancier tools.  I made two with my BTK and two with the "proper" tools from my tool porn collection.  What I found out was unexpected.

I found out that since I had been using only my BTK for making lap joints, I had gained a level of familiarity with these tools that I didn't know I was missing.  I didn't save any time or make joints that looked remarkably better.  I think the fact that I had a timer going actually made my work more sloppy.

Moral of the story:  one needs to spend a lot of time with any tool to learn that tool.

#2 - "Mouldings in Practice" - A Non-Traditional Review 

This was a tongue-in-cheek review of Matt Bickford's book.  Along with a rehab of an old rabbet plane I had knocking around in my shop.

The reason this post is my all time #2 post is because Christopher Schwarz linked to this post on his Lost Art Press Blog.  This is one of my early posts, and having a plug to my site from CS totally wrecked my stats.  It took a long time before one of my other posts finally surpassed this one not too long ago.

Even though I was joking a little, I am serious.  You really should read this book.

Incidentally, this rehab turned out awesome.  This plane works better now than it probably ever did.  In a following post, Matt Bickford linked to a video I took of my very first rabbet cut freehand.  That post took a long time to fall off of this list, too.

It was a real ego boost to be mentioned by some of woodworking's heavyweights.  I am extremely grateful and honored.

#1 - Essential Tools for Newbies: Part II - Sharpening


This post had been out a long time before it took over the #1 spot.  I think that sharpening is a mystery to a lot of woodworkers.  I have to admit, I spent a lot of money on all kinds of different stones, jigs, and gizmos before I settled on this system.

Essentially, this post reflects that while it would be nice to have a dedicated sharpening bench, there just is no way in my tiny shop that I'll get one.  Surprisingly, I get perfectly good and fast results with the pictured setup.  The only thing I have added since this post is a hand-cranked grinder that I am just figuring out.

This is basically the same sharpening technique advocated by Christopher Schwarz and Tom Lie-Nielsen, with the exception that I clamp a cheap, plastic cutting board to my bench to protect it and provide a stop for the stone to rest against.

This set up is in my BTK because if your tools are not sharp there isn't much chance you will be successful with hand tools.  It happens that this is an effective and economical sharpening strategy that works.

There you have it.  Looking back on these posts gives me a feeling of accomplishment both in blogging and woodworking.  I love to blog because it helps me think, and blogging has helped me become a better woodworker.

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