Woodworking is woodworking, unless you are building a boat. For a piece of furniture, most of the parts are pre-cut on heavy stationary machines, jointed, planed, doweled, mortised, or otherwise shaped and sanded before assembling into the final product.
Not so, on a boat. Many parts have to be attached to the boat first in rough form, and then have final shaping, sanding, notching, etc. done in place. Great furniture respects hand work also, but it becomes essential when messing with a boat that gets heavier to move every day.
Becoming adept with hand tools is like anything else. ” Necessity is the mother of invention,” and “practice makes perfect.” The first on the list is the hand saw, but not like the saw I used to build the tree house behind my house on Myers Avenue near Concord Junior High School. That saw was already old and rusty when I got started on the job. I think it took me half a day to saw twelve feet of 2 x 6 floor boards straight on the end.
One of the main problems is that wood saws are so difficult to sharpen, so many saws hanging around home shops are usually not much fun or good for anything.
Ah, but this saw is a Japanese pull stroke saw notching for a runner. The brand is Irwin, and it came from Lowe’s but was either made in Japan or very well imitated. Pulling to cut allows a thinner blade, less effort, and more precision. The motion only takes a little while to get the feel of it, and it is a satisfying effort.
Next, are some work horses of the boat work, the scraper and rasps. The two handled scraper does a great job with glue or epoxy that sqeezed out and hardened. The replaceable carbide blade allows it to be renewably sharp and the two handles give a tremendous focused power. The rasps are good for rounding edges, and rough wood reshaping. I have blue tape on one end for hand holding comfort, but also to make sure it is not doing harm where it should not cut.
On the finer side of reshaping, and especially for making a curve regular, or fair, the home made long board is the champ. The 1/2″ plywood is flexible enough to follow a mildly curved surface, so when you are done, your hand can slide across the surface and say all is well. The handles help to work with pressure, more comfortably. The size is made to use a portable sander belt, opened up and contact glued to the board. This is not fast work, but an amazing ability to take out dips and rises on a long curve.
Up next is my wood mallet which is also home made. It is helpful to have a large contact surface, so I can concentrate my eyes on the chisel working, and not get my thumb hammered. In this case, it is also carved specifically to fit my left hand, which you would feel by picking it up and finding its fit.
The chisel is from a set of Iyoroi Japanese chisels. They have perfected metallurgy for hand tools. This blade has a thin lamination of a very hard cutting edge fused to a more ductile metal which helps not to break so easily. They are expensive, but they sharpen very well, they have been a joy to use for nearly thirty years.
In the chisel drawer below on the right are the four chisels I use the most for all kinds of normal chisel work. The middle three are specially made for cutting mortises, and the next three are old Craftsman chisels. They don’t keep an edge so well, but are sure good to dig out drywall or old linoleum. I also don’t worry so much about hitting a nail, or dirt.
The one on the very left is actually a 1/2″ chisel, old and nearly useless. That is, unless you love an old chisel just dull enough not to scrape off the drying glue without damaging the wood. It is almost always laying out on the bench somewhere, ready to help.
Below are some more favorites, my Lie Nielson collection. From left are: Scrub Plane, No. 4 Smooth Plane, Low Angle Bench Plane, Scraper Plane, Block Plane.
The dust tells the story if which planes are getting the most use at this stage of the building process, although my wife just thinks I make generally too much dust. The low angle plane has been the biggest help straightening and fairing the runners and frames. The pile of shavings are a pleasure each time.
The beauty of the shavings all over the floor makes it easy to push off clean up to another day.