Thursday, September 11, 2014

This Next One Is Going To Be A Biggie

Sorry for having to tease you along but I had to be sure before I said anything. The news is that I'm writing a book. I've been working with Matthew Teague from Spring House Press for the last couple of weeks and that work has resulted in what I think is going to be a pretty cool book.
The working title is The Minimalist Woodworker. The book will focus on working in small spaces with the minimum amount of power tools. Essentially the book will be structured around the way I work - a few key machines and a lot of hand tools. Most of us home shop hobbyists are not production woodworkers so we don't need the production tools. I think this book will also appeal to the condo/apartment-dweller who just wants to woodwork but feels they can't because of lack of space, not being able to run power tools and dust concerns.
There will be a series of projects in the book that will progressively use more skills and techniques all culminating in a final project. Many of these projects are for the shop...better to learn on shop furniture and appliances where you aren't too concerned about the way things look. This allows the reader to gain the skills without worrying about perfection...an unattainable goal in my opinion.
I was fortunate to have studied with many of North America's top furniture makers while I was a student at Rosewood Studio and feel that it is my duty to pass on what I know and to help keep the craft alive. I will be keeping you updated on the book as I write it and be sharing some of the behind-the-scenes trials and successes.
I hope you follow along with this process....I couldn't be more stoked about this project. V

In order to understand, you must do. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Stop by and say Hi

This Saturday I'm going to be in the showroom of the Ottawa Lee Valley demonstrating the use of woodworking hand tools. Instead of making some random joints and progressively thinner boards I'm going to build a small shelving unit for my various drills that I use with my drill press.

I'm slowly replacing the not-so-elegant fir plywood shelves that I built years ago. This little shelf will have rabbets and stopped dados, and will be made from pine. The only prep I'm doing is flattening the boards and getting them to rough thickness.

Shavings from the initial flattening

So if you're around the Ottawa Lee Valley, stop by and say hello and maybe watch the shelves take shape.

In order to understand,  you must do. V

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Resting Place For Uncle Karl

When Uncle Karl passed, I offered to make his urn and was deeply honored when I got the job. So I set out to make a box that reflected Uncle Karl and some of the things he did in life. I spent many hours going over memories of conversations we had and stories I've heard about him.


The birch that was used came from Karl's own sawmill that he had built himself for making boards. It is air-dried and was a joy to work with hand tools. I left the saw blade marks on the front of the box lid to show the work he had done in creating the urn.


The exposed metal screws are a tribute to his abilities with metal. Karl made many things from metal like a snow plow and many repairs to tractors, cars, snow machines and anything else you could weld or but a wrench on to. I dislike the look of modern zinc-coated hardware so I stripped the screws bringing them back to the bare metal. (more on that in a future entry)


The carved leather disc inlaid into the center of the lid serves two purposes. The leather pays tribute to Karl's love for hunting and fishing and the initials are there because not much of what Karl owned was without them. As I have been working through Karl's woodworking tools and putting them back to work, I've seen these initials many times over. The on-going joke was that Karl put his initials on all his tools...and sometimes on other people's tools. His initials are hand-carved in the leather, just like the ones on his tools.


In the building of this urn, I was able to use some of Karl's tools (see more here). Two panels saws, a knife, an awl and a plane where used from the kit I inherited. Despite sitting idle for some years, these tools where well taken care of and didn't require much work to put back in action. The saws were still razor-sharp and sliced through the wood with little effort.

Uncle Karl had a fantastic sense of humour.


Karl showing off his catch.

Karl was a practical man and thus a practical urn. No fancy hardware or joinery, just a solidly built box that will serve as his final resting place. Building a man's final resting place puts a lot of pressure on a guy but I think Karl would be happy with what I've done. Throughout this process I was able to reflect on time spent with him and I found myself wishing I had been able to spend more time talking about wood and construction. There wasn't much that Karl couldn't do and that has inspired me to try more and do more. I wish you well on the next part of your journey Uncle Karl...so long. V

Saturday, May 17, 2014

My Inheritance from Uncle Karl

Not long ago the world lost a good man. My wife Christina's Uncle Karl passed away and what a loss that was. Karl was one of those fellas who could make, fix and salvage anything. Whether it was building kitchen cabinets, a snow plow or a sauna (he was a good Finlander too) Karl could get it done. Most of the conversations Karl and I had revolved around woodworking. He would always ask what I was working on and we would discuss things like techniques, glue and tools like all good woodworkers do.

Not long after Karl passed, I was in his shop picking up some wood that he had sawn (with the sawmill he built and ran) for a special project (more on that in a later entry). My cousin David, Karl's son, told me that he would like me to have any of Karl's woodworking tools if I wanted them. I was beside myself and honoured to have the chance to use some of the tools that Karl used so I set out to go through his shop to see what I could find.

There is no doubt in my mind that Karl knew where everything was in his shop. The rest of us however were puzzled at the sheer volume of stuff in there. Some of the stuff in Karl's shop included:
  • 14 chainsaws in various states of repair
  • A tractor
  • A 20" thickness planer(that was his small one, he had already sold the one that ran off of belt on a tractor)
  • Around 10 sets of auto and heavy machinery tools
  • Survey equipment
Not to mention a whole hockey sock of woodworking tools both hand and powered. The place was packed to the hilt with tools but everything was divided up into areas so I made for the woodworking wing and started opening boxes and searching shelves.

I managed to drag a fairly large wooden box out from under a few chainsaws to see what was inside. The box was built from plywood and had steel corner strapping all around it, making it virtually bomb-proof.

Karl's tool box now in my shop
When I opened the box I was delighted to see that it was full of woodworking hand tools of various types and persuasions. Most of them were geared toward home building from a time when power wasn't always available when building a house. I think this was Karl's job site box that he would take with him so that he would have all the tools he needed. The tool box didn't look like it had been opened in many years judging by the state of the tools and the piles of sawdust and mouse droppings.

The tool box was almost a two-man lift and as I started emptying it I could see why. The top front section of the toolbox folds down and has a saw till inside it. Inside there was two shallow drawers and a large open area for tools.


I started pulling out tools and laying them out on my bench and I was shocked by the volume of tools inside. Glass-cutting tools, planes, chisels, plumb bobs, braces, levels squares and even a saw filing vise and sets to tune up his saws on the job site.

My bench was covered with Karl's tools


Karl was famous for placing his initials on almost everything he owned. There was no doubt who owed a tool when you saw the trademark 'KP' written or scratched on it. 


Many of Karl's tools were fettled to suit how he worked including hand-made handles and custom grinds for a specific task.


I also came away with this tool tote full of saws that were still sharp despite not being used in a while. Most of the saws where Disston's and they have plenty of life left in them.


There is no end to what you can do with hanger strap

I'm in the process of rehabilitating many of the tools and will be putting them back to work in my shop (more on that later). My only hope is that I can honour the Palomaki name by doing work with these tools that Uncle Karl would have proudly stamped with 'KP'.

In order to understand you must do. V





Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Work

Just a quick note to let you know that I have finally got my work up on the site instead of sending you to a Picasa page. Just click on 'THE WORK' and the top of the site and look away. The goal is to see more stuff being added to this page ... now if I could only get in the shop to make said stuff.

In order to understand you must do. V

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cross-cut stops

It's always nice to be able to add a bit of efficiency into the shop, especially if you work mostly with hand tools. I was working on a set of shelves the other day and I needing to cut eight, small nailing strips. I wanted them to be the same length so I set up this little stop to help me out.

Locked down with a couple of holdfasts and the set up stays put
Just like a power saw, you put the wood up against the stop and make your cut. Then a couple of quick passes on the shoot board and I was off to the races. Not to mention that I look good sporting my Copperhead Killer! Well....the saw looks good at any rate, not to mention saws like a boss.

Acuracy and good looking...how can you go wrong?

In order to understand, you must do. V

Thursday, April 3, 2014

How many routers does one guy need?

Just when I thought that I had enough hand routers I found a need for another. The other day I was teaching a class on making a saw bench at the Ottawa Lee Valley. One of the T-lap joints that needed mucking out was just a bit to wide for my router causing one side of it to float in the air which isn't ideal. A woodworking buddy of mine had a Stanley 71-1/2 router that was a full 2-inches wider than mine.

So of course I needed to have one.

My new 71 after some light cleaning

I called my local tool pusher and told him what I was after.

Like many vintage tools that originally game with many parts, the router is no exception. The type 11 Stanley 71 has a fence, depth stop and auxiliary foot that are all typically missing. Combination planes tend to be one of the few planes that you can find complete mostly because they were bought and seldom used. If you have ever tried to get a combination plane set up for use you will understand why.

Combination depth stop and auxiliary foot

This plane was quite clean and only needed a bit of oil to get it into service. 30 minutes of work and the plane was ready to go. The best part about this plane is that they take the cutters from my Veritas large router so I don't have to give up any versatility.

Veritas blades work just fine

Now that it's ready to go, I'm looking forward to get it earning its keep.

In order to understand, you must to do. V