Sunday, 19 May 2013

Mmmm, Dominos!

Who’s up for some Dominos? No, not the world famous pizza franchise but the equally woodworking world famous Festool Domino.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last seven years, you will no doubt have heard of the uber useful loose tenon technology available from german tool meisters, Festool.

So what’s wrong with the common tenon joint? Not much really. They are a doddle to make and you don’t get stronger than a properly fitting tenon joint but in most instances a full blown tenon isn’t necessary. Do you really need an all singing and dancing tenon joint to, for example, connect a rail to a table leg? In short, no. A loose tenon would be more than adequate and is super easy to make, especially if you have a mortiser.

But if someone whispered into your ear that they had a machine which could make perfectly fitting loose tenon joints every time and in seconds, of course you’d want to take it for a test drive.

DF 500 Q-Plus
Domino DF500 Q-Plus

I've been obsessing over woodworking for several years and jealously watched many a video featuring Domino machines but I never had the opportunity to use one until I started my furniture making course here in Sweden. We, the students, are obviously taught how to make hand-made tenons before being introduced to the Domino machine but now it is the weapon of choice and is used in pretty much every project made in the workshop. Its so good that unless a customer requested it, it would be my go-to tool 99% of the time. I would probably only make hand-made tenons if the project required a stronger, structural joint. But if I am going to make a living out of making furniture then the projects need to fly out of the door and any tool that makes this happen quicker is a no brainer investment.
Lamello Classic Biscuit joiner

Don’t get too carried away thinking that the Festool Domino is the bee’s knees of connecting two pieces of wood together. As I recently learned, another tasty treat is always waiting in the wings to take the dominos place at the dinner table. The good old biscuit joint! Maybe I got carried away with the hype and excitement surrounding the Domino machine but I went against my own advice and used it in a project where it royally backfired on me.

Table top before shaping

While working on the top for a coffee table, I needed to attach some 80mm wide strips of elm along the long edges of some blockboard sheet material before pressing my own elm veneer over the top of it all. I decided that Dominos would be great for lining up the surfaces so they would be in plane with each other and I didn’t even consider biscuits or a glue only joint.

Table top after initial shaping
(Shaping temple still attached to underside)

Shaping the table top wasn’t a problem and I was overjoyed with my progress until time came to shape the underside of the table top. I needed to create a profile which made the table top look thinner than it actually is. To achieve this I routed away material through several passes and planned to shape the exact profile later by hand. But to my horror, when I removed the table top from the router table I was confronted with holes in three of the four corners. I soon realised that this result was a combination of using the wrong tool for the job and misjudged planning. You see, I neglected to remember that the Domino machine bores holes which are a fraction longer than the tenon to give room for glue and such.
The offending hole!
This error was especially agonising as the holes only just showed through and this was my final project of the first year. A culmination of everything I had learned in the first year! So, in other words, it was quite important. Had I been 1mm further in then nobody would have been the wiser. In the end I enlarged the holes to accept some pegs which I had fashioned from the same piece of wood for a good colour and grain match but it was an unnecessary job. Luckily, the holes were on the underside of the table top, so all is good in the hood. 

Stuffed crust repair!
The only real damage has been to my time plan. It didn’t take too long to repair but I need all the time I can get to be able to finish it before the summer break.

What have I learned? Just like the “measure twice, cut once” saying, I have a new saying. “Think twice, cut once, idiot!”. Basically, it is all about tool choice. Just because there is a more modern and exciting tool on the market doesn’t mean that it does everything better than the rest.

So, another lesson learned and at the end of the day I am a little older, a little wiser and will be a better furniture maker as a result of my own mistakes.

Remember, the best woodworkers aren’t the ones who never make mistakes. The best woodworkers are the ones who know how to repair (or disguise) their mistakes. 

Now, if only Festool did Two for Tuesday! 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Bloggo-mendation - Frank Howarth's Woodshop Blog

Welcome to my Bloggo-mendation!

This is the part of my blog where I like to briefly talk about other blogs which I enjoy. I'm not going to be writing these just because I can but because there are a ton of great blogs out there and if the one person who reads my blog recommendations visits that blog, then its got to have been worth it.

So today I'm kicking this section off with a recommendation to Frank Howarth's Woodshop Blog!

Frank Howarth's Woodshop blog is a blog to aspire to. Going back for near enough a decade, Frank has shared his woodshop adventures with a style in which I certainly haven't seen on a woodworking blog before.

Starting in October 2003 with the obligatory shop tour (Oh, how we love a shop tour!), Frank takes us through a virtual tour of the space which eventually becomes his basement shop. He briefly introduces us to each tool as its brought into the shop and shows us glimpses into each of his projects. Most likely his biggest project, the purpose built shop, is a woodworkers dream. What I wouldn't give for a shop like that!

Frank's all singing, all dancing purpose built shop.

Frank never bores you with a "how-to" but rather shows you what he wants to achieve and explains how he got there without any added fuss or drama. Its when Frank gets into entertainment mode that the blog really takes off. It starts innocently enough with his interactive photographs where you move your mouse over many a photo and the featured tool or project will follow your mouse around.

But then come the videos!

Anyone who knows about Frank, knows about his videos. These are superbly done and really entertaining. He uses magic (aka. stop-motion) to turn his tools into worker drones who willingly do as he commands. There is such a sense of order and calmness in his videos that you couldn't imagine Frank ever panic gluing a project together. Not with those magic clamps around anyway!

Frank, recently and deservedly, received a complimentary mention on mine and your favourite audio blog, WoodTalk online radio with Marc Spagnuolo, Matt Vanderlist and Shannon Rogers, about his segmented bowl. Click the link to check it out!

I don't personally know a lot about Frank but I do believe he is an architect, which probably accounts for his woodworking skills and attention to detail.

Thanks for sharing your shop with the world Frank!

Frank Howarth's blog and especially his videos well worth checking out. So, what are you still reading this waffle for?

Friday, 10 May 2013


Hello and welcome to my blog!

Me harvesting timber, with my bare hands!
(except I am wearing gloves for health and safety reasons)

I will naturally assume that because you are reading this blog you either stumbled upon it by accident (and should click this link to promptly but politely make your excuses and leave) or you, like me, have such an insatiable hunger for woodworking content that you too would stoop so low in the woodworking blogosphere to try to retrieve whatever caked on content you can scrape from the bottom of my dusty barrel!

If you are still reading let me start by telling you a little about myself.

My name is Lee and I am a woodworker. It has been three years since I first felt the obsession take hold and it gets stronger every day. The force is so strong in this one that I am now one year into a two year long woodworking course in Malmö, Sweden.

This blog idea originally started out as somewhere for me to showcase my school projects. Wait, hang on! It’s actually a result of my school deciding to have an exhibition showcasing the work produced by its students. They suggested that if we have blogs or websites that we should have information linking to them at the exhibition or on business cards. Not having either, I decided that it was time to take my first tentative steps into writing a simple blog.

But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to write a blog about woodworking in general. The blog will, of course, talk about my projects but will also talk about the things I am learning or wondering about within the world of woodworking.

I plan to have lots of links to other sites, blogs, videos and any other content that I find entertaining or useful. At the same time, I want to create useful content myself. I want this blog to have quality over quantity. When I write a post, I want the reader to find the information useful or humorous and then feel the urge to check back again and again.

Now that all the waffle is done with, it's time for me to get to work populating these pages!

So, I hope you enjoy WoodForTheTrees and come back as often as possible for lots of smooth woodworking action!