Monday, October 6, 2014

New Home

Hey everyone! 

I have moved to a new site and will no longer be updating this one. The new website is: www.minimalistwoodworker.com 

Stop by and check things out...Vic

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Leather Plane

I often use tools that are traditionally for wood for other tasks in the shop. I don't mean opening finish cans with my chisels or anything like that. Normally it's edge tools that are designed for wood on other materials like plastic or leather. I discovered years ago that chisels and planes are great for cutting leather as you see here on this mallet head. But don't even try it with dull tools or you'll make a big mess of the leather. As well, you should use a low-angle plane like a block plane to sever the fibers more easily. This mallet will eventually be making its way into my book 'The Minimalist Woodworker' as an assembly mallet but it's good for more than just whacking wood together, or apart for that matter.
I use a lot of leather in my shop <snickers>. Every tool or vise that holds wood in place has leather lining the surfaces to protect the wood. Leather also adds more friction to hold things in place without a ton of clamping force. Dogs, holdfasts, vise jaws and stops all have a layer of protection.
So perhaps you should add some leather to your shop and if your plane is sharp enough, you can make some beautiful end-grain leather shavings.

In order to understand, you must do. V

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Not Enough Woodworking

I've been feeling sorry for myself lately. With a summer ram jammed with traveling for work and the upcoming Woodworks Conference, I haven't had much time to make in my shop. Fortunately the book I'm writing is on woodworking and there will be a few projects for me to work on. That means....back in the shop. I've got most of the design work done for the book and now it's time to prove the concepts out before I build the real things. This is always one of the fun parts of any project. Drawing things out, finding all the problems and making sure it all works. The projects for the Minimalist Woodworker are designed to help the budding or experienced woodworker to work in small spaces, with mainly hand tools. This type of woodworking isn't for everybody. It's hard work and requires patience and perseverance - but what skill doesn't. There is a learning curve to any new skill and working wood with hand tools in no different, but if you stick with it, the payoffs are huge. You'll be one of the few woodworkers who can work during a power outage or when the zombie apocalypse kicks up...'cause you know it will. I feel that working with hand tools brings you one step closer to the wood and results in a closer relationship with a project that you just don't get from CNC. I'm not dogging CNC work...it's just not my bag.

I'm looking forward to some manual labor in the next few months. I'm also looking forward to sharing how I do things in my shop with you.

In order to understand, you must do. V

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Woodworks 2014

Here we are - the last week before Wood Works 2014 kicks off. It has been an incredible amount of work and it’s finally here. There were plenty of times when I thought “why did I volunteer to lead this mess” but I had a great team helping me along the way. Putting on an event like this is a labour of love. All of us are volunteers that worked hard to get this show off the ground.

This week will be spent tying up loose ends, picking up last minute stuff and hopefully not having too many panic attacks. We've put together a solid lineup of speakers and some great vendors that are going to keep your mind on woodworking the whole weekend through. If you are registered to go, I look forward to seeing you there. If you haven’t, it’s not too late….

In order to understand, you must do. V

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