George T. (Terry) Chapman

Terry Chapman is a Professional Engineer (Civil) and Land Surveyor who lives south of Atlanta. He has done woodworking for many years and particularly enjoys bowl turning and making Windsor Chairs. He currently works as Site Development Manager for a local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity and has one son who pastors a Church in Connecticut. You can email him at cdeinc@mindspring.com.

Sep 212018
 

I have been hearing about Joseph Moxon and his book Mechanick Exercises for several years now.  Christopher Schwarz of Lost Art Press writes about Moxon all the time and was able to find some details of the Moxon vise in Andre Roubo’s L’art du Menuisier, including a detailed drawing at Plate 280 of a twin screw wide clamping vise.

Over the years there have been several iterations of the Moxon vise. Benchcrafted in particular has a wonderful version of the vise which includes screws and hand wheels. Highland sells the hardware and you furnish the lumber. Lake Erie Toolworks offers another version through Highland and their version comes with the lumber included.

A new kit by Acer-Ferrous Toolworks just came on the scene at only $99.99. I got a kit from Highland to put together and give you my opinion. Included in the kit are two wooden screws and two wooden nuts made from lovely hard maple and beautifully machined with wooden threads. You will have to furnish your own wood for the jaws, recommended at 4 inches wide and 1-1/2 inches thick. The length can be whatever you want it to be depending on what kind of work you plan on doing. The instructions recommend 32 inches long which should give you about 24 inches or so of clamping room between the screws.

I have had some rough sawn walnut drying in my basement for several years, so I pulled out some of it to make the jaws. I only had enough inch and a half material for one jaw so I glued up two thinner pieces to make the other. I milled them both down to the dimensions recommended on the plans and then set out the holes for drilling on my drill press. As recommended, I used a 1-1/2 inch spade bit which moved right through the walnut jaws. It is critical to have the holes perpendicular to the face of the jaws, so the drill press is the best way to go. Once the holes were drilled, the next task was to glue the wooded nuts to the back of the rear jaw. The trick is to get them in exactly the right spot so they line up with the screw holes in the jaws and let the screws run true. The way to line the screws with the rear jaw holes is to wrap the threads with a shim to keep them centered. The instructions recommend cardboard from a cereal box, though they did not say what brand you had to use.  I only had Honey Nut Cheerios and since I wasn’t sure that would work, I found some thin cardboard in the shop.  

I wrapped the threads with the cardboard and added painter’s tape to get close to the diameter needed to slide snugly through the drilled hole in the rear jaw.  By setting the nut in place on the outside and turning the screw tight through both jaws, I was able to clamp the nut to the outside of the rear jaw while the cardboard shim centered the screw in the rear jaw hole. When I was sure it was all in the right place, I loosened the nut and spread some glue on it, carefully avoiding the threads so it was not one big piece of expensive fire wood. When the glue dried, I screwed the vise apart, saving the tape and cardboard, and then put the other nut on and glued it the same way.

After the glue was dry, I put the whole thing together and checked it out. I realized I had made the jaws slightly shorter than the nuts, so I planed and sanded all the pieces to the same height. I broke all the sharp edges on both jaws to make it pleasing to the touch and it was ready to try out.

When mounted on my bench it certainly works as advertised. Clamping pressure is strong with very little effort. The increase in working bench height due to the height of the jaws is very pleasant when you are trying to do any kind of cuts on the end of a  board. Obviously, this thing lives for making dovetails on the end of long wide boards like a blanket chest or a tool chest. Anything up to about 24 inches wide and maybe 40 inches long would work without any problem.  The whole thing is very sturdy and easy to use.

If I were to make another one of these, (and you can look for this one at the store in the next few days if you want to try it out), I would probably make two changes. While looking over the literature to write this article, I saw where some recommend dropping the bottom edge of the front jaw say half an inch below the rear jaw. That way, the rear jaw sits on top of the bench, and the front jaw is used to align the vise to the front face of the bench. As built, any board clamped into the vise aligns it to the bench, a solution which works nicely for small boards but would be awkward for larger boards.

The second change would likely be a small clamping piece attached to the rear of the back jaw. If you notice in the photo above, my bench dogs are set in from the edge of the bench just a little too far to let the bench dogs grab the vise directly.  If the vise had a clamping piece or was mounted on a flat base that extended onto the bench, then the bench dogs could grab, or two hold downs would catch. In addition, if the front jaw were made shorter than the back jaw, clamping would be easier.

Several articles I saw recommend making a beveled top on the front jaw, so if you are making blind dovetails and need to tilt your saw to the ceiling to keep from cutting the face of the finished dovetail piece, it could be more easily done.  I think it would be easier to simply raise the workpiece.

I have not put finish on the vise yet, though I think I will do so. Several articles recommended not finishing the clamping faces to make it easier to hold the workpiece.

All in all, a good piece of equipment. With a little adaptation to your particular workbench, and if you do the kind of work this vise lends itself to, then the Acer Ferrous Moxon Vise Kit is well worth the price. Stop by the store and get your hands on it and see how you like it.

Aug 312018
 

Nobody ever interviews me so sometimes I interview myself. Plus even if someone did interview me, they would never know the right questions.

I love that show called “Best Thing I Ever Ate”. What’s the best thing you ever ate?
My Mother-in-Law’s chocolate pie. She could make the fool out of a chocolate pie.

What is it you like about woodworking?
I like carrying around that fantasy of making anything I want out of a piece of wood. Like some young fellow came to the shop one time and looked around and asked “So, you just get a tree out of the woods and make something!?” Well, yeah.

What specifically do you like best?
I like that finishing touch on a piece. I like taking my little Lie-Nielsen block plane signed by the man himself with an engraving pen the day I bought it, and breaking a sharp edge on a completed piece. If, a hundred years from now, someone turns the piece over and finds my name or initials on the bottom of it, and then touches that rounded edge and realizes that the guy who signed it took the time to round the edges with a hand plane, then my life will be complete, even if I am dead and gone.

What do you not ever eat?
Boiled okra.

What part of woodworking do you not like?
I don’t think anybody likes sanding. I certainly do not. Nothing even remotely fun about sanding. That and cleaning the shop. I despise cleaning the shop.

Favorite material?
Cherry. I love the way cherry looks two hundred years old within two hours after you put finish on it. I love the way it oxidizes from light. I stacked some pieces of a chest on top of one another one time and left them for a few weeks until I got back to the project and you could see the shadow of every piece on the one beneath it. I think it is lovely.

Least favorite material?
Particle board and plywood are tied for first place. None of either in my shop. I bought some plywood imported from eastern Europe one time – I guess it was real cheap. It smelled like a wet dog when I cut it, even though it was perfectly dry. I threw it away, recycled it back to the earth. Reminds me of trying to turn a bowl out of locust wood near the beginning of my turning career. That stuff smelled so bad, I took it back to the place I got it and returned to sender, so to speak. Life is too short for stinky wood.

Most remembered lessons from woodworking?
Two things, incidentally from the same guy, Mike Dunbar. Many years ago, Mike came to Highland to teach a class on Windsor chair making. Now understand, I am an Engineer and a Land Surveyor. I measure things and make engineering drawings to solve problems, and if you build things from my plans as I drew them, it will fit together and work as it should. Inevitably, those lessons transferred to woodworking, so it was a total revelation to me when Mike made a piece of his chair and instead of going to the plans, simply made the next piece to match the first. Totally opposite to my work philosophy, it changed my woodworking.

The other lesson from Mike was twofold. I went to his classroom in New Hampshire to make a chair and the first day he showed us two things. First, he clamped a board in the bench, took a wooden hand plane and flattened the board – the first time I ever heard a properly sharpened hand plane make that wonderful snick snick noise. No earplugs, no dust collector, no electric planer, no setup, no dust, just wonderful long curls of hard maple drifting to the floor. Second, he drilled a hole in the flattened board and used a reamer to taper the hole. He drove a tapered pin into the hole and picked up the end of the whole workbench by lifting on the pin. No glue, no nails, no fasteners, nothing but friction on the pin. Amazing.

And all that changed things how?
Life works well for me when I do the chair thing like Dunbar. I start from where I am, accept what I have, and then go to the next piece. Like the GPS in my car when I make a wrong turn, I recalculate and go from there. And I don’t have to invent everything. Someone has probably had the same problem before and found a solution — all I need to do is find it. Not bad ways to operate, I’d say, based on making a chair.

Anything you want to add?
You can’t make a cobbler out of strawberries. It’s just wrong.

Jul 192018
 

Well, I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. We all get older if we are lucky, so a couple of months ago, I went to the local Lawn Supply and bought a battery powered chain saw.

I had begun to find myself putting things off because I didn’t want to have to try to start the gas powered saw and I was starting to get really irritated with the whole thing.

When I went to buy the battery operated saw, they asked me for my “Man” card. I had to turn in the card before they would let me buy the saw. Nonetheless I persevered and went ahead with the purchase and I am here to tell you my new saw works like a champ. I make a lot of bowls from found wood and a chain saw comes in very handy for that sort of work. I use the saw to score the end grain of a round log and then take my iron wedges and the “sludge” hammer and bust the round into two halves. It is quick and easy and gives a good flat split. After that I mark out a bowl shape on one of the halves with a circle template and a carpenter’s pencil. I use the saw to trim the corners and then nudge it towards roundness by smoothing off the edges until it will fit on the lathe, and I am off to the races.

People ask how long a battery powered saw will last and if it will do the job. The answer is if you cut pulpwood for a living, you don’t need or want one of these. If you make bowls and trim a few limbs around the house, then it works just fine. You can even use it inside the shop since there is no exhaust to suffocate you. As to how long it will run, with a full charge it will run longer than I usually feel like driving it. Isn’t that what it is about?

The real joy is being able to pick it up and simply pull the trigger and go to work. The noise is less, it cuts everything I need to cut and it runs as long as I do. Then it will recharge completely in about 30 minutes. With the blade kept sharp, it cuts beautifully as long as you are not trying to cut a six foot redwood. Like any other chainsaw, you must provide oil for the blade.

Wonder if I can shape enough bowls to get my “Man” card back?

Dec 282016
 

Ah, good old resolutions! Who doesn’t make resolutions for the New Year — I suppose it is a symptom of the human condition, a little bit of hope springs eternal, at least for the first few weeks of the year. So here goes:

1. I’m going to learn something new this New Year. Last year I started to do a bit of leatherwork for the first time. I bought a few simple tools and half a steer hide and built a couple of stools and a Campaign Chair from “Campaign Furniture”. It is a very pleasant hobby and now I understand why people enjoy it.

2. I will continue to purchase more Lost Art Press books, except I do it for a bit of a different reason. I buy things to support the craftspeople and artists who produce the things I like and use. If nobody buys their stuff, they will go away and I will not be able to purchase the things I enjoy for my work. I want Lost Art Press and all the others in our passion, to continue doing what they do.

3. I still want to sweep and vacuum my shop. I resolved to do this several years ago, but it was one of those which fell to the wayside. A supposedly simple thing, but it will take a while to get it done, and I keep putting it off. Like three years now.

4. I want to add to my Festool collection. I love pictures of those walls of Festool boxes and those stacks of Festools taller than the craftsman. I’m up past waist high so far and I want to keep going.

5. I need another class this year. Classes motivate me and I love the way many of them send you home with a finished project. Plus, since I don’t take many vacations, I combine a vacation with a class. If you live in the Southeast US, John Campbell Folk School is a wonderful place with over 800 classes each year. Obviously too, Highland Woodworking has a wonderful list of classes with nationally known and local craftspeople teaching.

6. Recognizing the conflict with Number 1 above, I resolve to drop something. I have reached a point where I cannot be reasonably good at everything so it is time to narrow the focus a bit. How many 10,000 hour blocks to get good at something are left? If I had to say right now, I think it would be carving. I have done enough carving to last me for a long, long time. Been there, done that.

What resolutions do you have?

 

Oct 242016
 

The Holidays are upon us and I think many wood workers are looking for things to make as gifts. One thing I like to make and which can be done quickly and easily is a wooden pen.

All the Pieces

All the Pieces

My favorite this year is the “bolt action” pen.  As you might infer from the name,  the point is extended by a small sliding rifle type bolt near the clip of the pen. The bolt handle locks the pen point in place while you write and then snaps back to hide the point. It is remarkable in its action and appearance.

Wooden pen blanks are easily available for a few dollars for a five inch piece, enough for two pens, or you can use any scraps lying around the shop.  Pen kits can be had for under ten bucks and with a few specialized tools, making a pen is quick and easy. If I focus on what I am doing I can make a pen in about 30 minutes, start to finish.

Pens make a nice gift. You can add a wooden case for a few dollars, and for the bolt action pen, there is even a small gun case available. Typically, wooden pens sell for upwards of $30 and I have a friend who bought a bolt action for a Christmas present last year and paid over $50 for it.

You are going to need a lathe of course, and a couple of other special tools, but not too many things.  Pens are quick and easy and make nice gifts.  Give them a try.

Finished Pens

Finished Pens

Want more information on pen turning? Check out this penturning article and a video on how to turn a pen.


Terry Chapman is a Professional Engineer (Civil) and Land Surveyor who lives south of Atlanta. He has done woodworking for many years and particularly enjoys bowl turning and making Windsor Chairs. He currently works as Site Development Manager for a local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity and has one son who pastors a Church in Connecticut. You can email him at cdeinc@mindspring.com.

Aug 032016
 

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Well, that settles it! I’m getting one of those amusement park ride signs saying “you have to be this tall” before you can come in my shop. Let me tell you why.

Like the rest of you, I am proud of my shop and jump at any opportunity to show if off. Twice in the last several weeks I have invited friends with children to come over and see what I am working on and what I have made lately. Some kids have questions about woodworking and tools, and sometimes parents want to see the shop after they have heard me talk about it.

First family came over and the older child, about 11, was fascinated by carving tools. We set up a piece of soft wood in the bench vise and she tried out the draw knife (don’t pull it too far towards you, that’s what happened to my half-brother! (took three times to get the joke)(Thanks Roy Underhill)).  She tried my spokeshave, and was just enthralled with being able to cut wood with hand tools. In the meantime, her five year old brother was loving the round ship’s wheel on the leg vise. He must have turned that thing a thousand times. His Mom was concerned that he might mash a finger in the vise, but I assured her that it was a once in a lifetime occasion because if he did clamp up his finger, he would never do it again. Later she winced as most Moms would when he picked up something sharp and I pointed out the box of bandaids. We got through that day unscathed, thank goodness.

A couple of weeks later another couple came over with their four year old daughter. I invited them all into the shop and told them to look at anything they wanted, but make sure to not turn on any tool. They had an old dining room table to re-finish so we set the center leaf on the table saw to decide the best course of action. Kid is wandering around the shop with all of us thinking we are watching her while we work on the leaf. I stepped away to find some stain and while I was in the corner of the shop, to my abject horror, I heard the table saw start up. The little girl had come up next to her Dad and could not resist punching the button right in front of her face. Thank goodness, the blade was retracted below the table or it could have been really, really bad.  Talk about dodging a bullet.

I’m putting the sign up next week!! Cavalier attitude and all the good will in the world does not exactly cut it. Safety first!

Get more woodworking safety tips from Highlandwoodworking.com

Jun 202016
 

I have a bad habit of starting a book and then moving off and getting interested in something else. I have a stack of books with bookmarks in the middle that are always pending and I think it is safe to say that pending stack is my summer woodworking reading list. Maybe I’ll get distracted again and start to build something out of one of them again.

Why We Make Things and Why It Matters

Why We Make Things and Why It Matters by Peter Korn.

Don’t you always wonder why you make things? It’s kinda odd, isn’t it, that you can’t stop making things. Read this book and see why you make things. And then on top of that, you may be able to find out why it matters.

Coffin Making and Undertaking edited by Paul N. Hasluck.

This may seem a strange choice, but then I’m a little weird sometimes. My family has a long history in the funeral business and the genesis of that is likely my Great Grand Father who built buggies and wagons for a living. I am sure that when a casket was needed in the little town where he (we) lived, he was the one who was called. Things like making caskets do not change quickly, and this book first published in England about the turn of the last century is very likely similar to the way GG Father made caskets. With a chapter on lead caskets and another on how to move a casket down a narrow stairwell, this little book should be very useful if the need ever arises.

"Campaign Furniture"

Campaign Furniture by Christopher Schwarz.

I have been cycling through this book over and over. I built the three legged stool from the book and then later made the Roorkee Chair. Working with leather for the first time was a treat and both items turned out well. I will build everything in this book vicariously, I’m sure. I love the way Schwarz writes, the depth of coverage and research he does before he writes his books, and the way he makes the things he writes about as he writes about them. I’m definitely going to keep this one in the reading cycle.

Maybe someone will publish something new this summer. I always look forward to a brand new woodworking book.

Find more great Woodworking Books and Plans at the Highland Woodworking website.