Molly Bagby

Nov 212017

We’re excited to have been featured in another Atlanta publication this month after having just been featured in an interview on the Voyage ATL website.

Grace Huseth, a contributor for Atlanta INTOWN sat down with Molly Bagby, daughter of owners Chris and Sharon Bagby, to discuss 40 years of Highland Woodworking.

Although Molly hasn’t been around for all 40 years of the store’s operations, she spent the majority of her childhood in the store when Sharon started bringing her to work just a few weeks after she was born.

Read more about Highland Woodworking’s history in our article featured in the November 2017 issue of Atlanta INTOWN.

You can also scroll through this month’s issue below:

Aug 212017

Prior to today’s 97% eclipse here in Atlanta, the last annular eclipse that was seen in the area was back on May 30th, 1984. Back when Wood News was a print publication, we included pictures and a write-up from the events of that day.

1984 Wood News Article on the Eclipse

This year’s event was another exciting one here at the store, with employees talking about it throughout the morning. Once the eclipse started around 1:05pm EST, Highland employees took turns going outside to look through the few pairs of eclipse glasses that some of our fellow employees were nice enough to bring and share with the rest of us. One of us even brought a welding mask and another made a pinhole camera out of paper.

Viewing through glasses and welding masks

Pin Hole Camera

While it didn’t get completely dark down here at Highland Woodworking, you could definitely tell a difference in the light, not to mention the quietness that occurred.

One of the highlights of the event was the beautiful crescent shadows made by the trees located throughout the store parking lot.

Crescent Shadows

Aug 092017

Molly Bagby is an employee at Highland Woodworking who recently finished up a 2 Week Basic Woodworking course at Center for Furniture Furniture Craftsmanship (CFC). Although she grew up at Highland Woodworking from a mere 1 week old, her knowledge of woodworking skills is limited. With this class, she was able to change that. You can follow her on Instagram @HighlandWoodwoman.

To read my previous post on Mortise and Tenon Joinery, click here

At the start of week 2, I felt it was finally time to move on to dovetails, something I had been dreading because it was already about 5 days after Peter had done his first demo on how to make them. Luckily, one of Peter’s most important teachings is that the student should feel comfortable in each step of the process and not have to rush through any of it, so he was happy to go through the process step by step with me.

Specific Tools I Used for Dovetails

The first step in marking out dovetails is to figure out what angle you want the dovetail to be. For learning purposes, we made a 1:7 angle, which we first drew out on paper and then recorded that angle with the sliding t-bevel, to transfer to the wood.

As I may have said before, I am a very visual learner and since I had never used some of these tools before, instead of having Peter demonstrate them multiple times, I took pictures of “how they work.” For example, the sliding T-Bevel seems like it can go in a million directions and figuring out what side needed to lay on the wood for proper marking of the dovetails proved to be a challenge for me. But once I took a picture of it in action, I was able to reference it for future layouts.

As I learned the hard way, the goal for cutting dovetails is to try and get a finished fit right off the saw so then you have to do less chiseling. I didn’t trust myself with the saw right away and so my cuts usually ended up being way off the line I had marked for myself. At least I was almost always following one of Peter’s most important rules of not cutting/paring away the pencil lines!

Cutting out the waste with a fret saw

When cleaning up the tails, one of Peter’s tricks to get a nice clean edge is to square a new visual guideline with a sharp pencil a few inches from the tails. After marking out your new lines, put the wood piece into the vise so that your new lines are perpendicular to the vise and you will be able to get a nice, straight cut down your new pencil line to the shoulder. The most important part of the cut is the positioning of the elbow and hand that is holding the chisel, as illustrated below.

Ideal hand positioning for cleaning up the tails with a chisel

When I first started my dovetails, I took the long route and marked both my tails and pins at the same time. Then I learned that by the time you’re done with your tails, they are a lot less likely to fit the original pin sizes you created. You’re better off marking and cutting your tails first, and then marking your pins based on the size of the tails you just cut.

Mark your pins by tracing the tails you just created

Again, one of Peter’s most important steps in cutting both tails and pins, is to make sure you saw the waste up to the pencil line, but DO NOT REMOVE THE PENCIL LINE.

Removing the waste of the pins

Paring back the pins with a chisel (note the vise setup with backing board)

Are they ready to be put together and joined?

Unfortunately, there was a point where I wasn’t using a backing board when paring away the waste on my pins (as pictured above) and I ended up chiseling across and going off the far side. When this happened, Peter got really excited because it made for a great class tutorial on fixing cracks.

Crack Fix: With thinned out Titebond glue, brush the glue onto the surface and then push it down into the crack with the brush. Remove excess glue off the end grain surface, clamp up and let dry. Make sure you clean your glue brush while waiting for your piece to dry!

The first dovetail I’ve ever made with just a small gap on the right side.

I started my dovetail practice on a Monday, and the next Tuesday I received a package from Highland Woodworking containing a Lie-Nielsen Dovetail Saw and a David Barron Magnetic Dovetail Saw Guide. Let me just say, that with these 2 amazing tools, I was able to speed up my dovetail making two-fold! Not to mention that I already had 1 set of dovetails down, so it is always easier once you know what you’re doing.

The David Barron Magnetic Dovetail Guide is an amazing time-saving jig for cutting dovetails precisely and quickly!

For the rest of the week I used my David Barron Dovetail Guide on all of my practice and project dovetails. I occasionally felt like Peter was giving me the side eye when he saw me using the jig, but it made my process so much less stressful and I was able to make my project dovetails a lot more quickly!

When I first watched Peter demonstrating dovetails, I got really nervous that they were going to be hard and complicated. Once I started practicing them, they came very quickly to me and I actually enjoyed making them a lot more than mortise and tenon joints! I also enjoy how they’re so pleasing to the eye!

Aug 022017

Molly Bagby is an employee at Highland Woodworking who recently finished up a 2 Week Basic Woodworking course at Center for Furniture Furniture Craftsmanship (CFC). Although she grew up at Highland Woodworking from a mere 1 week old, her knowledge of woodworking skills is limited. With this class, she was able to change that. You can follow her on Instagram @HighlandWoodwoman.

To read my previous post on The Importance of Sharpening, click here

After we learned the most important skill in woodworking (sharpening), it was time to move on to joints. For learning purposes, we practiced with poplar wood, an ideal wood choice for beginning joinery. During the two weeks of the class, we learned and practiced 3 types of joinery, Mortise and Tenon, Dovetails, and Half-Blind Dovetails. It’s amazing how much work goes into just 1 little joint of a project.

The hand tools I used for all of my joinery included:

Specific Tools for Mortise and Tenon

As I’ve said before, even though I have grown up around power tools, I’ve never actually used any of them. We went through a full walkthrough of the machine room on Day 1, and were told the only machine we could use by ourselves without shop assistant supervision was the drill press. Over the course of the first week, I got to know the drill press really well with the amount of mortise waste I was drilling out on my samples. An important tip I learned on the drill press was to make sure all dust and wood chips are removed from the table before setting up what you are drilling, or else you’ll get an uneven drilling.

I spent several days “perfecting” my mortise and tenon joint. I am a slow learner and even though Peter demonstrated each process in front of the entire class, I needed a separate tutorial for each one, where I could go step by step to make sure each “move” I made was correct. By the end of the week, when everyone else was starting their projects and had already “perfected” their dovetails, I had made about 5 mortise and tenon joints. That also included a full day of re-sharpening all of my chisels, and countless demos and discussions by Peter about other aspects of woodworking.

One of the most helpful tips I learned in making my mortise and tenon joints was the use of the Lie-Nielsen 271 Router Plane to help flatten the cheek of the tenon.

My last few words of advice on making a mortise and tenon joint: make sure you measure tenon size based on the size of the mortise you end up with! If you base your tenon on the size you were originally intending from the beginning….it will likely not fit.

A successful mortise and tenon joint!

They fit into each other!

The whole time I was working on my mortise and tenon joints, I couldn’t help but thinking about Mortise & Tenon Magazine, and fully understanding the meaning behind the name of this incredible magazine! If you haven’t read this magazine, I strongly suggest you get a copy. They’re just about to release issue #3!

Jul 192017

Molly Bagby is an employee at Highland Woodworking who recently finished up a 2 Week Basic Woodworking course at Center for Furniture Furniture Craftsmanship (CFC). Although she grew up at Highland Woodworking from a mere 1 week old, her knowledge of woodworking skills is limited. With this class, she intends to change that. You can follow her on Instagram @HighlandWoodwoman.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, we delved right into Sharpening on Day 1. I quickly learned why Highland Woodworking has an entire section of the store dedicated to sharpening supplies. A lot of work goes into getting tools sharp, but a sharp tool really makes all the difference, especially when making joinery.

Peter Korn has an entire section on Sharpening in his book Woodworking Basicswhich discusses each step of the process in detail. What he taught us in class are the same methods he discusses in his book, but here are the main steps I picked up from the process (as a side note, I had brought up a brand new set of 6 Narex Chisels, which in their description say “like most edge tools, they’ll need sharpening before use”…they forgot to mention the words “A LOT” but apparently that is the case for almost all new chisels, and even if they do come “pre-sharpened” you’ll still want to do a little bit more yourself to get them in “perfect” working condition.

Flattening the Back – Your goal in this part of the process is to flatten the back of the chisel.

  1. On the two sides of a 5×12 piece of glass, stick a long piece of 220 grit adhesive sandpaper.
  2. Rub the back of the chisel flat on the sandpaper by holding it down at a slight angle and move it back and forth to remove the factory marks from the top 1-2 inches of the chisel (I found that I had a hard time keeping the chisel flat…this necessity was stressed time and time again).
  3. Switch to a 1000 grit waterstone and continue flattening the back of the chisel, taking out the 220 sandpaper scratches.
  4. Switch to a 6000 grit waterstone and continue flattening until the back of the chisel has a shiny, mirror finish to it (i.e. once you can see your reflection in the back of the chisel).

One of these chisels has been sharpened and one of them hasn’t…can you tell which is which?

-When sharpening on stones make sure you are using the whole length of the stone and are holding the chisel on the steel portion of it so that you are less likely to lift the handle and round the chisel back.

-Once you have flattened the back, you will no longer need to use the sandpaper or 1000 grit waterstone on the back of your chisel.

Honing the Front 

Once the back is flat, it is time to hone the front of the chisel. First you want to make sure your chisel is ground down to a 26-30 degree bevel angle. Anything less than 25 degrees will fail. I found the grinding process on the electric grinder to be very technical and won’t go into the details of the grinding process, but there are some great YouTube videos that show this process.

After you have the proper angle from grinding, go back to the waterstones to get the perfect edge:

  1. Start on the 1000 grit waterstone and make sure the bevel edge is flat on the stone, with only the front edge making contact with the stone.
  2. Again, keeping the chisel as flat as possible on the stone is key in order to keep from misshaping the edge.
  3. Move the chisel back and forth on the stone (making sure to use the entire surface of the stone), applying downward pressure when pushing it forward and no pressure on the return back. I found that I had to go back and forth for several minutes and sometimes counted my strokes to help pass the time (I think I got to over 100 one time).
  4. Remove the burr that has been created on the back of the chisel on the 6000 grit stone.
  5. Repeat Steps 1-4 on the 6000 grit stone.
  6. Once your chisel is sharp enough to remove hair from your skin, it’s sharpened.

Congratulations! You now have a sharp chisel….maybe. Unfortunately, this was not the case the first few times I was going through the sharpening process and I found the entire process to be very frustrating, detail-specific, and I felt like I had no idea what the perfectly sharpened chisel was supposed to look like.

I was so frustrated by sharpening that I tried to stab my benchmate’s mascot with my “sharpened” chisel…it clearly wasn’t sharp enough

I compared the process to making a magic wand work. If it wasn’t perfect made, no magic would come out of it. If the chisel wasn’t sharp, it was not going to cut wood the way you wanted it to. I don’t actually believe in magic, which is why I found this comparison to be true…a magic wand will never actually work, and the sharpening process was so arduous that at times I felt like I was never going to get my chisel sharp enough.

But with a little lot of patience, time, and wet/flattened waterstones, eventually you will get your chisels sharp enough to start making joinery. Keyword=eventually. It wasn’t until midway through week 2 that I handed one of my chisels to Peter who was showing me a dovetail technique and he specifically said “wow, you’ve actually got a really sharp chisel!” That was probably one of the highlights of my time at CFC.

Jul 132017

Molly Bagby is an employee at Highland Woodworking who is taking the 2 Week Basic Woodworking course at Center for Furniture Furniture Craftsmanship. Although she grew up at Highland Woodworking from a mere 1 week old, her knowledge of woodworking skills is limited. With this class, she intends to change that. You can follow her on Instagram @HighlandWoodwoman.

Since this is a 2 week class, the school sets up housing hosts for those who come in from out of town. I arrived in Hope, Maine around 10:30pm the day before my class started after a brief detour visiting my sister Kelley, a fellow author on this blog. I was easily able to find the house and my room, and my host was gracious enough to leave handwritten notes everywhere to tell me where everything was located. The next morning, she was in the kitchen when I came downstairs and she and I chatted a bit. Her name is Deb and she is active in the local arts community.

My residence for the 2 weeks I’m studying at Center for Furniture Craftsmanship

After a quick stop for some breakfast at The Market Basket (a deli I’ve frequented many times on my visits to the Lie-Nielsen Toolworks factory) it was off to my first day of woodworking school.

Each 2 week class at Center for Furniture Craftsmanship (CFC) accommodates 12 people (i.e there are 12 workbenches plus 1 for the instructor). When I entered the Workshop Building (1 of 5 buildings on campus), all but 2 of the workbenches were occupied with students ready and raring to go! I found an empty workbench at the back of the room and 5 minutes later, a guy named Mike Z from NYC showed up and took the last bench (and became my bench mate since our benches were butted up next to each other, as every 2 benches were situated in the classroom). Mike has been a really cool guy to get to know and we both have several things in common (being the 2 youngest people in the class and both having lived in NYC, among other things).

Mike brought this doll head from his school workshop in NYC. It stares at me a lot, so one day I tried to stick a chisel in its head so it would stop staring at me. My chisel wasn’t sharp enough.

Class started promptly at 9am when Peter Korn walked into the classroom and called everyone over to his workbench. He gave a brief overview of the school and then explained what would be happening over the next 2 weeks. He introduced us to Mary Ellen Hitt, the co-instructor for the class, and Eddie Orellana, who has the all-encompassing role of Shop Assistant. Then everyone taking the class introduced themselves. After I introduced myself, Peter noted that Highland Woodworking had donated many of the workbenches found throughout the school.

After introductions, Peter told us one of the most important things to know in woodworking safety: “Oily rags will spontaneously combust.” We haven’t even had our finishing talk yet, but already, this phrase has been repeated multiple times.

The rest of the morning included a basic overview of wood: “We’re going to start with wood…wood comes from trees…” This discussion included types of wood, types of grain, wood thickness, and wood grades. Next, he went right into discussing steel and chisels, which quickly led to the most important aspect of woodworking, sharpening.

I have quickly learned why sharpening is many woodworkers least favorite parts of the trade, but at the same time, I have also learned how important it is to have a sharp tool at hand. Peter went through a detailed step-by-step demonstration of his preferred sharpening process, which I will go into further detail about in an upcoming blog entry dedicated to sharpening and how much I hate love it. For now I will just say that Peter makes everything look really easy.

The last part of the day was spent touring the Machine Room and learning what each machine was used for, as well as safety measures for each machine. While I’ve grown up around power tools and machinery, I’ve never actually used any of it. I am excited to learn, but I am happy that the school likes to focus more on hand tool usage…

The Machine Room consists of the following:  a 10″ SawStop tablesaw, a 12″ sliding tablesaw, 8″ and 12″ jointers, 12″ and 15″ thickness planers, 14″ and 20″ bandsaws, drill presses, a lathe, a shaper, a chopsaw, a scrollsaw, a slot mortiser, grinders, a stationary disc/belt sander, and an oscillating spindle sander. There is also full dust-collection.

Every workday ends at 4:30pm with a class meeting to go over the next day’s schedule and then it’s time for shop and workstation clean-up. Peter made sure to note that according to OSHA standards, it is “illegal” to sweep a woodshop. Vacuuming it is!

Read the next blog in this series, The Importance of Sharpening

Follow me on Instagram @highlandwoodwoman to see more photos from the class! 

Jul 052017

Me, Nick Offerman, and my Dad (Chris Bagby, co-owner and founder of Highland Woodworking)

My name is Molly Bagby and I have been involved with Highland Woodworking since I was a mere 7 days old (or maybe even earlier than that). Once my Mom, Sharon Bagby, recovered from pregnancy she started back to work right away and brought me with her. While I don’t remember much from those early days, growing up at Highland Woodworking has contributed to my passion for learning new things, as well as my crafting skills. But despite being around tools for most of my life I have never actually taken the time to learn basic woodworking. Now that I am more involved with the business side of helping to run the store, I figured it was about time to actually learn some woodworking skills.

An amazing opportunity recently came along to take a 2 week Basic Woodworking class at the Center for Furniture Craftmanship in Rockport, Maine. These classes fill up months in advance and when I called back in April to sign-up I was told that the class was full, but I could be put on the waitlist. I remained on the waitlist for several weeks. About a month before the class was scheduled to start, I gave them a call to see where I was on the waitlist. There were still 2 people ahead of me, so I figured my chances were pretty slim this close to the start. Last Tuesday, I got a voicemail while at work and saw that it was from the Center for Furniture Craftmanship. I called them back right away and they said a spot had just opened up due to a last minute cancellation and it was mine if I wanted it. It didn’t take me long to decide and I said yes right away. I mean, wouldn’t you have said yes to an opportunity to escape to Maine for 2 weeks and become fully engulfed in woodworking?

During these next 2 weeks I’m looking forward to learning as much as I possibly can about woodworking so I can become a better, more educated employee at Highland. I’m also looking forward to beginning a new hobby. Judging from what I’ve been able to see through the shared experiences of our customers, I’m sure it will be a very rewarding one.

Stay tuned to this blog to hear about my journey as a beginning woodworker! You can also follow me and my experiences on Instagram @HighlandWoodwoman..