Sunday, August 31, 2008

Featured Project - Jodi's Favorites

Here are some pictures of my wife's favorite projects that I built for her.

This is the finished changing table with hardware.

A side view of the changing table showing the adjustable shelf.
The solid Oak and Mahogany cross shelf has no fasteners.
It is held together by wood on wood joinery.
It makes me smile everytime I look at it. :0)

This wall shelf was a Valentines day gift for her.

I built it shortly after she bought me a 9" Bandsaw.
Just had the desire to cut some curves.
Thanks for looking!

David J. Ulschmid
~ Wisp Woods ~

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Shop Talk - Sharpening System

As I listed in a previous blog, I have 17 blades in my shop to keep sharp. This isn't even counting the 5 turning tools and 15 carving tools that are quite possibly the most often sharpened tools during the course of working with them.

Below are a few images of my sharpening system. I feel that sharpening has been covered ad nausium all over the internet, I will go into little detial with the confidence that if you desire to learn more, you will google terms such as "scary sharp", "hollow grind", "honing jig", and others.

My system is a hybrid of the scary sharp and hollow ground system. I do like the results of sandpaper sharpening, but I would not pass up the chance to try a waterstone, should the opportunity arrise. I am really happy with the hollow grind method, due to its simpliciy and speed.

As you will see below, I do not work on a "standard" grinder. The grinder I uses is a concoction of motor, pulleys, bushings, and a wooden dowel (hey, I am a WOOD worker afterall). I was really happy with the way this shop made system worked out and wish I could take credit for the idea, but it is based on an idea from James Krenov's Book 'The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking'. The main exception is that this mine is a motor driven system.

This honing guide really sped up the sharpening process for me. It is also a much more reliable way to make a micro-bevel. I use a simple board with lines marked at the correct distance to set the blade protrusion and therefore the sharpening angles.

Here is the row of sandpaper and strops I work my way through after the grinding is done. They are all glued to marple tiles with spray adhesive. The sheets I use are 250, 400, 600, 800, and 1500. I just purchased some 2500 grit that I cant wait to try out. The strops are loaded with two different grits of rouge. They are awesome for putting on that mirror finish. A quick 15 swipes on each, and anything goes from dull to scary sharp.

Thanks for looking!

David J. Ulschmid
~ Wisp Woods ~

Tuned-Up Tool - Antique Hand Planes

I spent most the day fixing up a couple of old hand planes. Both came from Threads of Memories in Brookings, SD. Of all the hand planes that I have tuned up, these were the easiest by far. They were very clean when I got them. They were obviously owned by a caring woodworker.

The planes are a No. 4 and a No. 5.

My plan for the No. 4 was to turn it into a finely tuned smoothing plane, with a high bevel angle and a small mouth opening. This plane, although it is old, is superior to my new No. 4 is many ways. The most important, IMO, is the "Bedroock" style frog assembly. I took the extra time today to tune the frog contact points with lapping compound, which makes the tool more solid.

I did already have a No. 5 plane and I really love the size of this plane for general work. The reason I bought this one, was to turn it into a "scrub" plane.

This simply means that the iron is ground with a 3/32" curve in the blade. This allows you to take deeper scalloped cuts, which can be left on the surface to show a hand-worked look, or easliy smoothed out with my new No. 4.

I feel that I have a really good set of planes at this time. My collection now includes the following, which are all Stanley, except the wood based plane.

Block Plane
Low Angle Block Plane
No. 4 (old)
No. 4 (new)
No. 5 (old)
No. 5 "Scrub" (old)
No. 6 (new)
Wooden No. 6 (oldest)

Other hand tools that contribute to the endless cycle of sharpening inlcude:

4 pc. set of Marples Chisels
4 pc. set of Irwin Blue Chip Chisels
Stanley Spokeshave
Small Trim Plane

That is a total of 17 blades to keep sharp, ranging in size from 3/4" x 1 1/2" (trim plane) to 2" x 8" (No. 6 plane).

I will showcase the sharpening system that I use in a future blog post, so stay tuned!

David J. Ulschmid
~ Wisp Woods ~

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ponder This

Ah-Ha moments, much like Ta-Da moments, can seem magical. The difference is that an Ah-Ha moment can change your life profoundly. I experienced one of these moments this weekend. In a Make: magazine article about the “consumption facts” (how much energy is used to make an object) of a simple plastic bottle, the author used the example of a dining table to prove his point. He said something to the effect of “it takes the same amount of energy to produce a cheap IKEA table that will last only 7 years, as it does to make a hardwood table that will last 20 years. Therefore the hardwood table uses fewer resources, because its consumption is amortized out over many years.” This goes along with a quote from James Krenov, “Much of our life is spent buying, discarding, and buying again, things that are not good.”

When the concept of conserving resources and purchasing durable objects converged in my mind, it changed the paradigm through which I view my woodworking projects. My goals for Wisp Woods now include the desire to take this concept one step further by reversing the consumption model by reusing discarded wood. This will serve as a way to achieve an even more ecologically responsible end product when combined with time tested construction techniques.

This concept is not new to Wisp Woods. Examples can be seen in many of my projects, especially the early ones. When I started woodworking, my stock of raw materials primarily consisted of plywood left by the previous occupants of our first house. I even used the wood from an old box spring when first getting started.

This is not to say that I have not worked with “perfect” wood. Wood that is the antithesis of a sustainable consumption model, being surfaced four sided and sanded by the factory before being wrapped in plastic, for what reason I do not know.

The best example I have of a project that I made that is consistent with these values is the Baby Changing Table seen below. The only things I had to buy for this project were the hardware pieces like the drawer glides and pulls. The solid wood and plywood was salvaged from our house, the main source being the shelves and dated built-ins that we removed.

I encourage everyone to look around them for sources of wood that could be reused. Many industrial companies throw out a vast amount of hardwood and plywood that are used in the transport of their raw materials. If you have a motorcycle dealer in your area, you could be sitting near a gold mine of exotic hardwood, since the pallets that those machines arrive on are often built overseas.

When working with this wood, it is often fun to use the flaws that are inherent to enhance the character of the finished product. This isn’t a way to hide your own flaws, but rather to leave the piece a bit of its history and to allow it to tell its story, to those who will listen to its “Wisp-ering”.

David J. Ulschmid
~ Wisp Woods ~

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Shop Talk - My New Bevel Gauge

During a quick trip to Lowes, I snapped up the latest issue of Woodworking Magazine, which had a very well written article about an oft forgotten tool, the adjustable bevel gauge. "The Schwarz" reviewed bevel gauges from many companies and what was most surprising to me, was that the tool that was tops in his eyes, is no longer made. What I gained from the article was an understanding of what makes a tool good and bad, and what I lost was the respect that I had for my Stanley tool.

With this new information fresh in my mind, I stumbled across a bevel gauge at Sears that caught my eye. It is made in the USA, by a company called Companion.

The Companion tool has a few of the features that "The Schwarz" pointed out as benefits, such as:

A knurled knob locking mechanism (at left) that doesn't interfere with the blade, unlike the wing nut on the Stanley (at right).

A longer, thicker and wider blade, that has less flex thanks to the smaller adjustment slot.

Another interesting discovery at the Sears store, was a whole new line of tools that they were just putting on the shelves. I did not buy any of them, but being made in England out of Sheffield Steel is IMHO a good first step on the road to quality tools. They are called Footprint tools (, and I would have purchased their wood and brass bevel gauge (#1254), if the locking mechanism hadn't been a slot head screw.

Other Footprint Tools that the Sioux Falls Sears store carries are as follows:

Carving Set
Large Selection of Chisels
Scratch Awl
Try Square
Marking Gauge
Beechwood Mallet
Aluminum Oxide Stone
Scraper Set

And perhaps others that either I don't remember, or hadn't been taken out of the boxes yet.

It seems that no matter what they have to offer, I can't go into a store with woodworking tools, without buying one. I can say, with an almost absolute amount of certainty, that if I ever get to a real woodworking store, like say Woodcraft, my finances would be in big trouble afterwards.

David J. Ulschmid
~ Wisp Woods ~

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tuned Up Tool - Spokeshave

For my birthday, my wife agreed to subject herself to the torture of the area's biggest woodworking store, Stan Houston in Sioux Falls, SD. It was better for her this time, because she could at least play with the baby, while I drooled over tools.

While there I picked up a brand new Stanley #51 spokeshave style spokeshave. Of course, like most Stanley made woodworking hand tools, I knew this wasn't a "turn-key" tool. No taking it out of the box and putting it right to work. Oh no. These tools, to the discerning woodworker, are nothing more than a "kit of parts", and some parts aren't even good enough to make it into the final tool.

The "Kit of Parts" for a spokeshave

Of course we must take the blade out and sharpen it, and lap the sole. Those are the easy things to do. I was guided through the rest of the tune up project by a wonderful article from Fine This article was written by chair-making spokeshave genius, Brian Boggs. His evolution as a woodworking is a great read, and is chronicled in another article from FWW. I highly recommend their website, and they are even offering a 14 day FREE trial!

Being the frugal woodworker I am, I couldn't follow Brian's fist bit of advice and buy a new blade. Even though I KNOW it would greatly reduce chatter and hold an edge longer, I'm cheap, and that's the final word on that. Moving on.

The next tip was to "level the bed". This is accomplished by making a bed/epoxy/paper/blade sandwich, and letting it cure overnight. This creates a perfectly matched surface for the blade to sit on, reducing chatter.

The epoxied bed, molded by the blade.

The final step was the most involved which, for me, made it the most fun. This involved doing away with the stock lever cap, and making a new one, which also has the advantage of serving as a chipbreaker, giving you a much finer cut. Now Brian is a classy guy, so for his raw material, he used brass. Me = frugal = scrap iron, dirty scrap iron at that, but at least I found a piece that was soft enough to work with a file.

Original (top) and shop-made (lower) cap iron.

Original cap does little right .{}. Shop-made cap/chipbreaker improves tool.

A finely tuned spokeshave is an extremely versatile tool, and can do things that power tools simply cannot. If your looking to put into your work a little extra hand-made detailing, this is an easy and enjoyable way to do it.

Come on admit it, what would you rather make a round-over with? A router screaming its way though it's victim, or a spokeshave, taking off beautiful Wisps of wood?

David J. Ulschmid

~ Wisp Woods ~

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Featured Project - Bathroom Vanity

Take a trip with me, back in time. A time before our beautiful baby daughter was born. Before I really knew how much work this old house we moved into would be. And most frightening of all, when I worked out of a single stall garage!

We were just an excited young couple, looking to start a family, and the stars aligned in what we thought was a rather fortuitous constellation. We would be buying a house from my Father-In-Law which would allow us to live cheaper and begin this new chapter in our life. We knew the house was going to take a lot of work, and we started by gutting the basement and starting over.

Being the aspiring woodworker that I was (and still am) I volunteered to build the bathroom vanity. My desire to do so was bolstered by many a disappointing trip to the local home centers. While there for other supplies, we would stroll over the the vanities on display.

"I would never build something this way.", "That is so cheap.", "Do you know what happens when this stuff gets even a little wet?". These and other more colorful musings echoes through the isles as I inspected what they had to offer.

One good thing came from all this frustration, I got to know what styles of vanities my wife liked. Like an international spy working behind enemy lines, I discretely snapped some pics with my cellphone camera, and ran back to the drawing board (aka ACAD) and whipped up a few design options. A bit of sawdust, and a pile of wood wisps later, this is the result.

I have more detailed pictures at left.

Thanks for looking and Enjoy,

David J. Ulschmid
~ Wisp Woods ~

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Welcome to Wisp Woods

Where every piece has a story to tell, if you listen to their "wispering"?

I decided that the first post will just be a smattering of completed project pictures. Further posts will be more about me, how and why I work wood, and these hopefully will help you hear the "wispering".

The skiff Ambivalence and her oars.


Baby Changing Table ^
Carving Mallet ^

Wooden Cross Shelf ^

Tall Hall Table^

p.s. - Yes I do know how to spell whispering.

Thanks for viewing and please leave comments,

David J. Ulschmid

Wisp Woods

Arlington, SD