Monday, May 23, 2011

The Economaki-Brese-Imai-Lie-Nielsen Melange

This post marks the first for a new category at the Benchcrafted blog: Personal work.

In the past year I have been scaling back content at my other blog for no other reason than I haven't done much luthiery work for a couple years now. And much of my recent work has more to do with workholding than luthiery. So look for more personal work here in the future, interesting or not!

It's firmly established now. We are living in a woodworking hand-tool Renaissance. And yesterday I experienced it yet again.

I'm building a small chest for a friend using some of the hardest, densest, gnarliest maple I've ever come across. It's like working a tropical exotic. But yesterday everything clicked.

As many know, Andrew Lunn is no longer making saws. Like others I was on the list. So I'm still looking for ultimate performance. I've found that in John Economaki's Jointmaker Pro, which I now use to cut almost all of my dovetails, and especially the critical, joint-as-design-element dovetails. The JMP was simply awesome for cutting the joints in this chest. And they all fit together, without paring of any sort, right off the saw. And setting it up for the cuts was easy. If you can line up two marking knife lines, you can cut perfect air-tight dovetails with the JMP. I recommend using the cross-cut blade for this operation. I've found, oddly enough, that it tracks better than the ripping blade, especially in ornery woods.

Smoothing this wood was a physically demanding task. I have a Shelix head on my planer, but the traces are always removed and flatness always tweaked with hand planes. For me, machines are my shop's apprentice. I expect them to do the grunt work perfectly and without complaint, and leave the precision to me. I spend very little time in my shop setting up machines. To smooth this nasty wood I used a Lie-Nielsen #7 followed by a Brese 132-50P panel plane, both bedded at 50 degrees. The L-N got things flat, and the Brese polished the surfaces. But both planes needed honing after each side of the panels was smoothed.

But I was most impressed with my new Fujihiro chisel by Chutaro Imai. On the recommendation of Raney Nelson I purchased a 12mm Fujihiro bench chisel from Hida Tool a couple months ago. I chopped all the joints for this chest with this chisel. And I didn't go back to my stones once. That's right. The edge retention simply blew me away. That's about 5 running feet of continuous rock-hard, abrasive birdseye maple end grain work. And for fun I took some wispy thin end grain basswood shavings after I finished the last socket. Simply amazing. I think Raney has hooked me on Japanese chisels.

The chest is almost done. With all the difficulty of working this wood, I'll admit I have a soft spot for it. It's just too beautiful a material.


  1. That is some beautiful wood. What really interested me was the music. Who is it?
    Thank You,
    Bob Warfield

  2. It's just some royalty free stuff I pulled off the web. Not sure who composed it.

  3. Do you have any feeling for how large of a vertical piece you can efficiently run through the Jointmaker? I have one coming in their next batch that is due out in Sept. and will find out on my own but I'm curious as to your take on optimum wood size capabilities. I know it must be superlative with the super small and medium size but I would imagine it struggles with larger sizes.
    I don't know if you've been to Hida but it's literally right around the corner from my girlfriend's house in Berkeley. It's a tiny tiny store. I love going in there.

  4. I'd say this chest is about it. The front and back are 26" long, 13" wide and about 5/8" thick. I wouldn't want to go longer (taller) and heavier than that. Never been to Hida, but would like to someday.

  5. I'm pleasantly surprised by those dimensions. I would think with that height that it would create problems overcoming inertia and balancing the need for speed going through the blade..if that makes sense.

  6. Jameel, you are getting into some of my favorite type of wood, gnarley figured and full of character. I have to stop by your shop sometime soon so we can chew the fat again and enjoy some quiet woodworking.

  7. HIda Tool is a really charming place. It's a small store, with a nice selection of woodworking tools, but they also have gardening tools and cutlery as well. I've had the pleasure of going there once. I need to find more reasons to go to the Bay Area.

    I have Imai's Fujihiro chisels, too, and I just love them.


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