Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event

Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool EventA friend of mine recently let me know about a Lie-Nielsen hand tool event that was sponsored nearby in St. Petersburg, Florida at a local sculpture studio called MGA Sculpture Studio. I had heard about Lie-Nielsen tools before, as they are one of the premier hand tool manufacturers along with Lee Valley’s Veritas line, and a few other fine tool makers. I have never had the opportunity to see find hand tools of this quality being used prior to this, being mostly a power tool woodworker up until this point.

I arrived a bit before 10AM at the studio, and everything was already mostly set up by the on-site Lie-Nielsen staff. I had a chance to ask about Lie-Nielsen’s A2 tool steel vs the other types (O1, PM-V11). Deneb Puchalski, a staff member and expert on Lie-Nielsen took the time to explain the differences in tool steel and why Lie-Nielsen’s philosophy is geared around A2. As other people started to trickle in, I got to browse around the displays and touch and feel the tools that Lie-Nielsen manufacturers.

As another gentleman in the group also had the same questions I did, Deneb took us as a group through the basics of getting started with Lie-Nielsen tools (and hand tools in general) and what types of hand tools we should start out with. This was valuable information for me, as I have very little experience with hand planes, and Deneb’s explanation helped to guide us in the use of a Jointer plane, a Smoothing plane, and a Jack plane. He also explained a bit about angles of the various types of irons in planes, and how to sharpen them using his recommend method – involving waterstones and a bevel honing guide.

Coming out of the presentation, I must say I learned a great deal about hand tool use and selection – and a little more about sharpening. Lie-Nielsen’s tools are well known to be among the very best in the industry, and after experiencing them first hand, I can see why. They are solid, well-built, and very precise. The staff there was very knowledgeable about the craft and their tools and it seemed like they enjoyed what they do for a living, which is important. I highly recommend going to one of these if you’re a novice, and I have to say that Lie-Nielsen is high on my list of tools to buy as I progress to more accomplished woodworking in the future.

You Don’t Get To Tell Me What To Do

I’m a hobbyist woodworker. I’m by no means an expert. I learn a lot from a variety of sources, including videos, the interwebs, books, magazines, and by practical experimentation. I am part of a growing group of Google+ woodworkers of various experience, and it’s cool to see the things they make and how they make them.

Recently, a member of this group on G+ posted a video from Fine Woodworking Magazine, which was basically a couple of guys from the magazine talking about how individuals online are posting “how to” or project videos online, and how they should be “vetted” by a professional group (such as a publishing group like Fine Woodworking) before they are posted. Entitled “A Perfect Storm of Stupidity”, they basically bash hobbyists like myself and the people I follow online that post videos or project information (although honestly I haven’t posted anything yet). Now a couple of the people I follow, they are professionals. As one of them put it, if you make your living doing woodworking – meaning feeding your family – you are a PROFESSIONAL. You don’t have any higher “vetting” process than that.

This caused a bit of backlash from a number of people, and rightly so.

Woodworking to me is a hobby. It’s fun, and if someone can use what I’ve done and enjoy it, huzzah! I always learn something (or at least get ideas) from watching online content from people. And if there’s some reason that people aren’t performing safe work with no safety equipment, googles, no table saw guard, or poor working conditions, the community is right there to tell them so.

But no one can tell me I can’t do something unless it is harmful to someone else, someone else’s legal property, or against the law. So far, none of these videos have harmed anyone. Rather, they’ve helped me learn something new. Sure, not everyone looks fantastic on camera (neither do the FWW guys) but it doesn’t have to be an expensively produced video for me to learn something from it, nor do I need a panel of snobby experts reviewing said videos beforehand for content issues. Bah.

Fine Woodworking, this has completely turned me off from your magazine. I will not purchase any of your magazines or supplements (the Workshops supplement you do every year was cool too) any longer due to this. It’s a shame, really, because in the long run you’re only hurting yourselves alienating the woodworking community like this. We are the people that keep your dwindling magazine market alive. If you continue to have an elistist, snobby attitude, we just will go somewhere else.

And now for something completely different…

Today on, we go to knitting class!

Yes dear readers, I have jumped into the pool and have imbibed the Kool-Aid. I decided to take a knitting class at my local Arts and Crafts center of learning, Sew Make Do. It is a two night class, taught over two weeks. The class is taught by a good friend, Sharon. I met Sharon through my wife, and both my wife and Sharon are expert knitters. Sharon is also a fantastic seamstress, as is my wife.

Sew Make Do is a very nice little studio in my hometown that holds all sorts of craft classes. The classes are mostly sewing, but they also encourage other craft classes as well, including knitting. The studio was very well lit, clean, and sparsely decorated, which implied that the important focus was on the particular craft being taught. I was pleased to note that a lot of the furniture was IKEA (my favorite). The proprietor of the shop was very personable, kind, and offered beverages as we arrived.

On the first night, we were given a ziploc bag filled with a ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles, size 6. Since I arrived WAY too early (which is typical), I got to choose the color of yarn.

The rest of my classmates (not surprisingly all female) arrived in short order, and we all settled in for class. Sharon, our instructor, began by talking a little bit about knitting in general. She then showed us how to cast on, after describing a few basic details about how to actually hold the needles while knitting. The styles, English or Continental, can roughly equate to comfort while knitting and help aid right vs left-handed people (Sharon stated Continental was more comfortable for left-handed people). We were being taught the English method, but she showed us an example of Continental.

After the preliminaries, it was announced we’d be knitting simple square coasters, and Sharon showed us an example of what our coaster will look like when complete (using the garter stitch), along with an example of stockinette stitch as well to give us an idea of an alternate way to knit.

After we completed a row, with Sharon wandering around guiding each of us through our first 20 stitches or so, we proceeded onto the next row. Sharon helped each of us through the steps and said we all did really well for first-timers. None of us were dropping stitches badly or making gross errors, and I think that’s a compliment to Sharon’s very patient teaching style. She asked us to make sure that we had 20 stitches at the end of each row, to ensure we weren’t dropping stitches, which is a good double check for accuracy.

We did a few more rows and then it was 8PM, and time for class to wrap up. Our homework was to finish our coaster (and do more if we wanted), but making sure to check for square by folding the coaster diagonally every so often. When it makes two perfect triangular halves, we have a square.

Next week we will be learning how to bind off our coaster, and then how to purl (which I’m not sure I can even explain yet).

All in all, I had a wonderful first time knitting. In all truth, I had learned the basics with my wife teaching me, but I promptly forgot how after not practicing regularly. I will make sure to keep my hand in by working on regular projects, and I hope to get into socks, scarves, and other nifty things as I learn.

And before I forget, I finally get to join Ravelry, which is a fantastic site for all things knitting. I felt strange joining Ravelry before I started knitting, so now I get to join the exclusive club too. Here’s the link to the project I worked on for class: Coaster Mk. I