James Krenov in the 1990s

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When James Krenov died in late 2009 (wow, has it been that long?) I wondered at great length what would happen to his reputation. For some undefinable reason, when some influential woodworkers die, their legacy seems to fade with each passing year. See Tage Frid and Alan Peters for examples of this. And others seem to grow with every passing year, such as Sam Maloof, Wharton Esherick and George Nakashima. […]

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Woodworking Advice from the Food Industry

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Making good food is a lot like making good furniture – you need good raw materials, skill and a decent set of basic tools. Last weekend I was talking to my brother-in-law about his job, which is supplying high-quality ingredients to restaurants. He’s been in the business long enough that he ends up mentoring young restaurateurs. When he works with them in developing menus, he gives them this advice: “Look […]

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The Amazing Finger-jointed Block System

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As a kid I had every manner of toys that allowed me to build stuff, from my grandfather’s set of wooden blocks to Lincoln Logs, LEGO, Spinwelder, Girder and Panel, Erector sets and on and on. But I never had Crandall’s Improved Building Blocks for Children. This fascinating system of components is based on the machine-made finger joint to allow children to build anything in their imagination with the help […]

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Anarchist’s 2015 Gift Guide, Day 10: Abranet

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I do almost no power sanding. But I do use abrasives in my work. And the only abrasive I use is Abranet. I hesitate to call it “sandpaper” because it is absolutely nothing like sandpaper. There’s no paper – it’s a woven mesh. And the abrasive is nothing like sand. But it lasts forever, doesn’t clog and leaves a nice surface behind. I purchase the 5” discs in #220-grit and […]

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Anarchist’s 2015 Gift Guide, Day 9: Lie-Nielsen Honing Guide

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Every year I recommend one tool that is a bit spendier than the rest, and this year it is the Lie-Nielsen Honing Guide. Thomas Lie-Nielsen first showed me the prototypes about eight years ago, and it was a long and involved path for the company to get this tool into production. Like the company’s chisels (which took just about as long), the wait was worth it. So you don’t like […]

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Anarchist’s 2015 Gift Guide, Day 8: Better Beeswax

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During the last few years as I have turned my back on finishes with lots of volatile organic compounds, I’ve begun looking for traditional high-quality finishes that won’t shorten my lifespan. I’ve bought a lot of beeswax from a lot of different sources, from national manufacturers to the individual beekeeper. They all work, but the nicest stuff I’ve found is from Don and Carolyn Williams at donsbarn.com. Don has spent […]

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Anarchist’s 2015 Gift Guide, Day 6: Soap Finish

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This year I have experimented a lot with using a soap finish on chairs and tables. Soap is a traditional Danish finish used on furniture and floors. It’s easy to apply, easy to renew, low on the toxicity scale and leaves a delightful low-sheen finish that is remarkably soft to the touch. The downside? It’s not very durable. After decades of using finishes that require bio-hazard gear, using a simple […]

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Anarchist’s 2015 Gift Guide, Day 5: Veritas Trammel Points

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After 20 years, I finally wore out my grandfather’s Japanese-made trammel points. They were things of beauty, but the micro-adjustable friction mechanism began to slip and nothing could be done to fix it without the help of a machine shop. I’m going to get them repaired, but in the meantime I have lots of arcs to scribe. Megan Fitzpatrick, in a moment of pure generosity, ordered me this set of […]

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Anarchist’s 2015 Gift Guide, Day 4: B’laster Dry Lube

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If you use only hand tools, this isn’t going to interest you much. If you use machines, read carefully. Lubrication makes a huge difference when you work alone. Moving heavy slabs across a jointer, table saw or through a planer can be difficult if you are on your own. For me, the difference between sore muscles and not sore muscles is B’laster Dry Lube, essentially Teflon in a can. No, […]

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Anarchist’s 2015 Gift Guide, Day 3: Starrett No. 92 Compass

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I promise this is not an all-Starrett Christmas. Truth is (I hate to say) the last few things I’ve bought new from Starrett have been disappointing (especially a small pair of dividers). This tool, however, has not been a disappointment. Quite the opposite. For years I struggled with compasses in the shop. They were not hardy enough. They lost their settings. Even the expensive German ones I bought were just […]

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