Mark ( on November 20th, 2009

Another in the series of reviews of DVD’s from the SmartFlix Woodworking University, this time I review two profile DVDs: Sam Maloof and Tage Frid from Taunton Press.  While these DVD’s do not solely contain content on woodworking technique, if you have any interest in what goes on in the shops and minds of two of the great woodworkers of our time, then they are certainly worth a look.

Sam Maloof

Sam MaloofThis DVD is a profile on Sam and includes insights on his life and work.  He covers a good deal of information on how he approached designing his furniture as well as taking the viewer through a lot of the actual steps to create one of his famous chairs.  Interspersed within segments of work in Sam’s shop are vignettes of the extraordinary house that he built and a good deal of the furniture and artwork within it.

This DVD does not disappoint if you are considering building a chair in the Maloof style.  Sam takes the viewer through building the seat, executing the specialized “Maloof Joint” and some of the process for shaping parts of his famous rocking chairs.  He covers both aesthetics and function in his discussions.

If you are anything like me, just hearing Maloof talk about his work and watching him in the shop is an inspiration.  Profiles such as this one offer a unique glimpse into what motivated Sam the woodworker to build what he did and how he did it .  Maloof was a generous man and that comes through clearly during the time you spend with him while watching the DVD.  We are fortunate to have this record of his life, techniques and work.

Tage Frid

Tage FridIn this DVD, Tage takes the viewer with him into his shop as he completes several projects.  Along the way, Frid demonstrates his methods for sharpening, creating a keyed-miter joint, doing half-blind dovetails and veneer work. Watching you will be surprised at the simple techniques he uses to do complex work.

In addition to the woodworking techniques and tips that he shares, Frid speaks about his approach to designing several pieces of furniture that you see displayed in his home.  He walks the viewer through the subtleties of some of the design elements of each piece as well as his rationale for creating them.

While the video is a bit dated and it has very simple production qualities, it is easy to look past those trivial things into the mind and spirit of a true craftsman.  It is easy to understand why his techniques have been revered for so long – simple and efficient are the perfect words to describe them.  You may or may not like the style of his furniture however; his techniques and insights into furniture design are definitely worth a look.

Don’t forget, if you are a new customer and interested in renting these DVD’s, SmartFlix has offered readers of The Craftsman’s Path a $2 discount coupon for your use. Simply use the coupon code: CRAFTPATH when you check out!

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Mark ( on November 13th, 2009

Next in the series of reviews of DVD’s from the SmartFlix Woodworking University, this time I review the DVD: Forgotten Hand Tools by Christopher Schwarz.

hand toolsThis DVD is one of several done by Schwarz in conjunction with Lie Nielsen Toolworks.  I have previously reviewed another in this series: Coarse Medium and Fine, here at the blog.

This DVD discusses tools that have largely been forgotten and fallen out of use in most of today’s woodworking shops.  These tools include Hammers, Gimlets and Cut Nails, Draw Bore Pins and Hand Saws for ripping and cross-cutting.

Schwarz opens with a good tutorial on the use of Hammers, Gimlets and Cut Nails in toe-nailing applications for furniture.  He discusses how these techniques were used for many years in some antique furniture that is today regarded of the highest quality, thereby dismissing the notion that the techniques are either too crude and/or somehow technically inferior.  Schwarz demonstrates simple techniques for toe-nailing a shelf into a dado in a case side.  From the demonstration it becomes apparent that this technique is both easy and physically strong.

Draw-boring is a method of pinning a mortise and tenon joint that has the advantages of having superior strength as well as eliminating the need for clamps in the assembly operation.  In the DVD, Schwarz demonstrates draw-boring of a mortise and tenon joint and the use of a simple draw-bore pin for prepping the offset holes prior to inserting the draw bore pin.  In addition, he covers possible problems in this operation and their solutions.  A simple and inexpensive approach to creating a shop-made draw-bore pin is also covered.

Finally, Schwarz speaks to and demonstrates the use of hand saws for cross-cutting and ripping operations.  He notes that these are operations that do not require significant accuracy (as the cuts are later cleaned up by hand planes) but act as gateway skills for more demanding sawing operations such as cutting dovetails.  The demonstrations are done with vintage hand saws that Schwarz notes are widely available and inexpensive.  He uses a shop made saw bench to put the work in a proper position for efficient sawing making quick work of both a cross-cutting and ripping operation in a pieces of rough hardwood.  During these cuts, Schwarz purposely goes off his lines to discuss methods for easily correcting the cut.

Schwarz is a good teacher and his information is both thorough and accurate.  The video quality is typically good as in other Lie Nielsen DVD’s.  Also, as an added bonus, included on the DVD are articles from Schwarz from prior publication on the tools as well as the shop fixtures like the saw bench.  For anyone interested in the tools and techniques covered, this DVD would be a good choice to quickly get up to speed on their use.

Don’t forget, if you are a new customer and interested in renting these DVD’s, SmartFlix has offered readers of The Craftsman’s Path a $2 discount coupon for your use. Simply use the coupon code: CRAFTPATH when you check out!

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Mark ( on November 6th, 2009

Continuing with the series of reviews of DVD’s from the SmartFlix Woodworking University, this time I review the DVD: Beginning Woodcarving by Everett Ellenwood.

carvingThis DVD is one of two done by Ellenwood, the second DVD by Ellenwood a complete treatise on sharpening for the woodcarver.  This DVD covers sharpening, material properties and selection and carving techniques.

The DVD opens with a good tutorial on the anatomy of wood and its properties for use in carving.  From there, the sharpening and use of the most basic carving tool, the carving knife are covered.  Ellenwood carves a small stylized bird as an example of a piece to carve with the knife to illustrate the process.  Sharpening and use of other carving tools like gauges and v-tools are covered next along with a section devoted to tool practice to develop skill with the tools.  The section on sharpening is particularly well done – no doubt this is a subset of what is covered on Ellenwood’s other DVD devoted to sharpening carving tools.  He does a good job of both describing how the carving tools work as well as presenting a simple method for sharpening them using sandpaper.

With the gauges and v-tools sharpened, Ellenwood moves on to demonstrate their use by doing a relief carving of a flower.  His explanation of the process is very well done and thorough.  Following, are sections on good woods to carve, how to layout and start a carving project, clamping work for carving and finishing ideas.

This DVD is aimed at the beginning woodcarver to provide an introduction to the sharpening and use of tools as well as some basic projects to get started.  I think that it achieves this goal very well.  I would rate the sections on materials and sharpening very highly.  For the carving examples I would have preferred to see more close-ups of tool technique and maybe the addition of another project, however, that may be better suited for an intermediate DVD on the subject.  Ellenwood is well spoken and clearly articulates his vast experience on the subject.  For the beginning woodcarver looking to get his or her feet wet on the subject, this DVD is a good mix of theory and practical application.

Don’t forget, if you are a new customer and interested in renting these DVD’s, SmartFlix has offered readers of The Craftsman’s Path a $2 discount coupon for your use. Simply use the coupon code: CRAFTPATH when you check out!

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Mark ( on November 2nd, 2009

Another in the series of reviews of DVD’s from the SmartFlix Woodworking University.  This time I review the DVD: Basic Inlay Techniques by Larry Robinson.

InlayThis DVD is the first and most basic in a series of three done by Larry Robinson.  Larry has a long history of inlay specializing in inlay for musical instruments.  This DVD series are a companion to his book The Art of Inlay.

The DVD production is very basic and no frills and Larry’s demeanor is fairly stoic.  If you are looking for a Hollywood production with lots of fanfare, you should probably keep looking.  However, if you want to learn the basic techniques of inlaying, this DVD should fit the bill.

The DVD covers a good bit on materials and their properties.  Even though Robinson uses only Abalone and Silver on the inlay project in this DVD, he runs the gamut on what kinds of things can be used and challenges the viewer to use anything that their tools can cut to achieve a desired result – and to ignore the traditionalists!

Speaking of tools, in the DVD, Robinson shows how with a modest set of tools you can achieve suburb results doing inlay while following his techniques.  Included in this section is a discussion on the simple birds-mouth sawing platform and vacuum system for collection dust that Robinson uses during his work.

The bulk of the DVD takes the viewer through the process of developing and inlaying a Butterfly image into a block of wood.  This includes the tracing of a picture of the Butterfly and the refinement of that tracing to optimize it for inlay.  Of course, the material selection, sawing and filing techniques for each of the puzzle-piece shapes in the pattern are covered as well as the techniques for inlaying and gluing them into the wood substrate.  The end result is a very nice inlay using minimal tools.  AT the opening and closing of the DVD there are numerous still pictures of Robinson’s inlay work for inspiration and after viewing him do the basic one in the DVD it becomes apparent that to aspire to work like his one must simply master the basic techniques that he prescribes in this DVD.

Don’t forget, if you are a new customer and interested in renting these DVD’s, SmartFlix has offered readers of The Craftsman’s Path a $2 discount coupon for your use. Simply use the coupon code: CRAFTPATH when you check out!

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Mark ( on October 28th, 2009

Well, I have finally gotten back to work on the Sculpted Rocking Chair – yes, I know it’s been a while!

When I last left the project, I had completed sculpting the seat.  With that task completed my attention turned back to more processing on the rear legs.

The rear legs needed to have a 20-degree angled cut from the top of the legs down to the arm rest area along their inside edges.  Also, a parallel cut to this one needed to be made at the top of the legs (to match the height of the headrest) along the outside edges.  The result will form a parallelogram shape at the top pf the rear legs which will match the angle of the headrest.

These angled cuts needed to be made at the band saw.  However, because my band saw table (like most others out there) will only tilt greater than 20 degrees in one direction (i.e. it is limited to about 10-degrees of tilt when angled back toward the saw) I needed to either cut one leg in the reverse direction or to find a way around the tilt limitation.

20 Degree Band Saw Jig20 Degree Jig ReversedI chose to create a simple 20-degree jig that could be clamped to the saw table and reversed for each leg cut.  This allowed me to make the cuts from the tops of both legs downward toward the arm rest location which is the most desirable direction.  You can see the jig in the pictures.  The riser blocks beneath the jig are just there so that I had more clearance when rotating the legs during the cut so that they did not run into the saw table.

Cutting Rear Leg at 20 Degrees 1Cutting Rear Leg at 20 Degrees 2Result of 20 Degree Leg CutsAs, I mentioned, there were two cuts to do on each leg.  The first cut was from the top down to the arm rest area.  Then the leg was rotated and the second cut was made from the top downward to match the headrest height.  In the pictures you can see the cuts as well as the parallelogram shapes that resulted at the tops of the legs.

Leg Curve LayoutWith these shaping cuts completed I next moved to the seat joint areas of the rear legs.  As you will recall, these curves have only been roughed shaped and marked along the seat top and bottom for later shaping.  To do this shaping, I first penciled in the curves to meet up with the lines that were scribed earlier with a shallow saw kerf.  These curves were based on a 2” diameter circle – the reason for this will become clear shortly.

Trimmed Seat Joint CurvesSanding Seat Joint Curves to LineRough Fit of Seat Joint CurvesNext, it was back to the band saw to cut along these curves.  The important thing here was to keep the leg balanced on the seat joint area during the cuts.  The picture shows the results. With the band saw work completed.  I moved to my oscillating spindle sander with a 2” diameter drum and I sanded these rough curves to shape until I just barely met the scribe lines marking the top and bottom of the seat. This resulted in legs that will require only minor shaping where they meet the seat.

Drilling Headrest Holes 1Drilling Headrest Holes 2With this shaping completed, it was a good time to drill the holes to allow attachment of the headrest.  This was done in two steps.  The first hole was drilled with a 3/8″ Forstner bit to counter sink for the the screw head.  With the leg in the same position I switched out to a 3/16″ bit to drill through the leg for the screw shank.  Doing it this way assured that this hole would be perfectly centered on the countersunk hole.

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