Oct 302014

I’ve been doing this whole woodworking thing for a few years now, and if there is one thing I have learned, and seen preached across the woodworking world as a whole, it is that sharp tools are important. If you have ever had the chance to use a really sharp tool versus a really dull tool, you will know exactly what I am talking about. If you are a newer woodworker, maybe you don’t. Either way, keeping your tools sharp is one of the key components to being a safe and effective woodworker.

I recently took a class with Frank Klausz and he shared an anecdote from his youth as an apprentice cabinetmaker that I think illustrates the importance of sharp tools. When he was a young apprentice he would often wait until his Master had left the shop for the day and then experiment with the Master’s planes, using them and feeling how different they were from his own. He would then work at sharpening his planes so that they were as sharp as those of the Master cabinetmaker. It was a night and day difference and taught him the value of sharp tools.

The reason I’m talking about having sharp planes and other tools and how important they are is that I recently got to work with a Tormek T3 grinder. The Tormek sharpening system is a brilliant little tool, and I was able to bring one into my shop for a few days and test it out.

Setting up the Tormek was relatively simple. It comes with an 8″-diameter 220-grit grindstone that can be temporarily graded to 1000 grit for fine honing by utilizing an optional “stone grader”. Also included is a “square edge jig” that makes it easy to precisely sharpen chisels and plane irons. It also has a leather stropping wheel on the other side that makes final honing very quick and easy. Tormek also sells several different accessories that allow you to use the T-3 to accurately grind different types of tools including gouges, knives, scissors, axes and even planer and jointer knives.

One thing I do recommend is that you fill the water tray after you place it beneath the stone; otherwise you might overfill it like I did and get your bench all wet, but lesson learned. The Tormek is a slow speed sharpening wheel and it also functions as a whetstone, which means your tools don’t get excessively hot which can harm the steel. The system itself was a breeze to use and allowed me to grind my tools to a rather satisfying sharpness.

Currently the T3 has been discontinued by Tormek and they are making way for a new system, which will allow the crafty woodworker to take advantage of the fact that Highland currently has some T3’s still in stock. These T3s are going to be moving fast so if you want a new sharpening system that is simple to use and allows you to sharpen your tools to razor sharp angles in just a few minutes I would recommend checking out the Highland website, the T3s won’t be around for long and they have a really great price.

Matthew York has been a woodturner since 2004 and has been interested in woodworking since he was a teenager. He currently lives in downtown Atlanta and has a small shop in his basement. He is an avid woodworker and is always available to talk about the craft. He can be contacted at fracturedturnings@gmail.com or visit his website at fracturedturnings.com. You can also follow him on twitter at @raen425

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Oct 292014

Got my new dust mask yesterday.  I have not had a chance to really give it a trial yet, but it appears to be a real gem.  I used to have a Dustfoe brand mask and I used it so much I actually wore it out.  Unfortunately, they quit making them and you can’t buy one any more.  Highland has been looking for a replacement for many years.

Masks tend to fall into two categories, i.e. the whole face, gas mask type, or the little cloth mask which fits over your mouth and nose and fogs up your glasses. Prices range from over $300 down to $1.80 with effectiveness commensurate with the price.  What is needed is a good effective mask somewhere in a price range which does not interfere with usage.

The solution is the new Elipse P100 Dust Mask available now from Highland.  I tried mine on yesterday and it is a remarkable piece of equipment.  I happen to wear a beard, so getting a good airtight fit is sometimes problematic for me.  I have to tighten it up a bit more than I might if I were smooth faced, but the inhale valves are so flexible and smooth that it does not leak around the sides as I was afraid it might.  The exhale valve is totally flexible so there is no back pressure, therefore no effort to push air out of the mask.  I expect no problem with moisture in the mask and even with the beard it does not fog my glasses.  ( In fact, as I write this, I am sitting here wearing the mask to test it.  Good thing I live by myself, right?)


Elipse P100 Dust Mask

Technically, the mask is rated NIOSH P100 (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and captures 99.97% of airborne particles and is resistant to oil.  For your own safety if you are doing something besides woodworking, then go look up the ratings and make sure you are being safe with this mask. For folks with a beard – or any facial hair – like myself, any respirator you see on the market is less effective so you can assume the claims of 99.97% won’t apply.

To put it on your face, grasp the front of the mask and then pull the bottom strap over your head and down onto the back of your neck.  Take the other strap with the wide headband and stretch that one onto the top back of your head and then adjust the straps to fit.  Cover the exhale hole with the palm of your hand, exhale, and you should get a bit of expansion in the mask before it releases air at the side of your face.  If you don’t get the expansion, then you need to tighten the straps to get a better seal.  Or shave.

When I bought mine, I went ahead and purchased an additional set of filters so I will have a replacement set if I ever need them.  The filters are made like an air cleaner in your car with a folded filter element which you should be able to clean by bumping it lightly or blowing it out with air pressure.  If it gets where you can’t breathe through the mask, then change the filter.  Duh!

All in all, an excellent piece of work and this one comes highly recommended.  Get you one and stop coughing.


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Oct 232014
Tips from Sticks in the Mud - November Tip #2 - Using carpet underlayment as router pads

No Southern-fried Southern boy wants to be called a Yankee, but we share the characteristics of shrewdness and thrift.  Thus, each month we include a money-saving tip.  It’s OK if you call me “cheap.”   You can buy a non-slip “router pad” from any number of suppliers.  It’s great stuff and will grip your work [...]

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Oct 222014
A Visit to the Atlanta Maker Faire

A “Maker Faire” in Atlanta happened a few weeks ago.  Maker events happen all over the globe and they help celebrate and promote the creative process. Long-time wood turner and Highland Woodworking customer, Mark Sillay, was on hand turning tops and letting kids color them in with a marker.  Mark handed out our Highland Woodworking catalogs and [...]

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Oct 212014
Frank Klausz at Highland: Watching a True Master at Work

On Sunday the 19th of October, I was able to sit in on a class taught by Frank Klausz, one of the woodworking world’s luminary figures. Frank taught a seminar on hand-tool joinery and covered the three major types of dovetails: open, half-lap, and sliding, along with mortise and tenon joints. Frank demonstrated his techniques for [...]

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