March-April 2010 E-NEWSLETTER

Springtime at Country Workshops.


Jögge Sundqvist’s August 23-28 course is full, but we have openings for the September 6-11 week. Both classes cover similar subject matter but will, of course, be modified to serve the interests of the participants. Follow the underlined links for details on our web site.

Summer Workshops with Guest Instructors

June 7-11: Rustic Windsor Chairmaking (Drew Langsner) - Full
June 21-25: Ladderback Chairmaking (Drew Langsner)
July 12-17: Post-and-Rung Rocking Chair (Tom Donahey)
July 26-31: Coopering – with Wooden Hooping (Carl Swensson)
August 9-14: Japanese Woodworking – Make an Andon Lamp (Osamu Shoji)
August 23-28: Swedish Sloyd Craft (Jögge Sundqvist)
- Full
September 6-11: Swedish Sloyd Craft (Jögge Sundqvist) - Open

Fall Tutorials with Drew Langsner

September 27-October 1: Carving Bowls and Spoons - The Scandinavian tradition.
December 6-10: Carving Bowls and Spoons - The Scandinavian tradition.

2010 Japanese Craft Tour
Focus on Gifu Prefecture and the Hida Alps
October 19-29

Turner and urushi (lacquer) artist Hideharu Kobayashi.

We still have a few openings for our 4th craft tour in Japan. We are arranging visits with master artisans who work with wood and other natural materials. These include boatbuilding, wood carving, festival float carpentry, bamboo basketry, ceramics, mulberry bark (washi) paper making,  samurai katana sword blade making and visits to 2 woodworking schools.  We have arranged for demonstrations at many of our visits, and it will be possible to buy outstanding craft work directly from our hosts. There will also be a special day to view a local performance of traditional puppetry. We will stay in both traditional ryokan inns and western hotels.

The guide and translator duties for our tour will be shared by Masashi Kutsuwa and Osamu Shoji. Kutsuwa-san is a woodworking teacher at Gifu Academy of Forest Science and Culture located in Mino. Shoji-san is a founder and head instructor at Shinrin-Takumi Jyuku woodworking school in Takayama. Shoji-san will also be teaching our Japanese woodworking course in August. Drew Langsner will be the tour host. 

To place a reservation, or if you have questions, contact Drew by phone (828 656 2280). For further information and photos of our 2008 Japan tour, click here


Tool trays at Country Workshops.

Those of us who enjoy woodworking usually recognize the importance of systematic tool storage, but this is often an involvement that is neglected.  The problem increases as one acquires more tools. You need to find specific tools easily. And our tools need to be protected from damage, particularly to the honed edges.

In the past, building a tool box was part of many traditional apprenticeships. During the early years of Country Workshops it was common for our course participants to bring tools to class in a beautifully constructed, homemade box which was sometimes a family heirloom. In recent years we hardly ever see these.

Due to their design, chisels, gouges and knives require special protection. When Country Workshops got started, we kept these tools in canvas tool rolls. These are OK, but tool rolls are a nuisance if you need access very often. (They are good if you need to take tools on a trip.) As the Country Workshops tool collection grew we came up with the idea of making simple open trays with dividers between each tool. It’s easy to find the tools, and maybe more important, very easy to put them back. Immediately. If you can protect the edges you will need to do far less sharpening, and very little grinding. The trays can be stacked on a shelf, or fitted into a wooden case with side sliders. That way you can pull out a lower tray without going through the full set.

Click here for further details


Drew tunes a Granfors Bruks axe.

We recently tested several prototype carving axes from Gransfors Bruks. As they came from the factory, each axe required some tuning. We’ll have a full report in a future newsletter once these tools go into production. Here’s what Drew did to improve their usefulness.

Like other axes from Gransfors, these tools were very nicely made. The temper seems just right, and they come with a leather guard. However, they have a problem – convex bevels. Compared to flat bevels, convex bevels are less expensive to manufacture. The convexity is fine for woods work and camping. To be effective as a woodworker’s axe, the inner bevels must be flat. Even a slightly rounded bevel requires the user to tilt the axe head away from the wood being carved. When the axe is tilted sideways there is no back bevel to support the axe through it’s path. It’s the same situation that you have when using a chisel with the bevel side down. That bevel must be flat in order to cut effectively and to have good control of the tool.

To fix this usually isn’t too difficult. Clamp the axe horizontally, to the edge of your workbench, or in a machinist’s vise fitted with wooden jaws. You want to flatten the inner bevel. That’s the left bevel if you’re right handed. Diamond hones work well for this task. Start with 220 grit, and if you have the full set, work through 325, 600 and 1200. Place the hone in the middle of the rounded bevel at one end of the cutting edge. Then work the hone back and forth (along the length of the bevel) until you have honed a flat that extends to the cutting edge. Continue until you create a fine rolled over wire edge along the full length. Reverse the axe and hone the opposite side. With good steel you can usually do this starting with the 1200 grit hone. Be very careful to not cut yourself when honing back and forth along the bevel. The slicing action could easily create a nasty cut. For this reason,  I prefer to use hones that are 6 or 8 inches in length.

Flattening the outer bevel isn’t necessary, but it’s a good idea if you want to really know what the included angle of the edge is. 

You can also use this technique of honing along the length of the bevel on any other tool with a curved or rounded edge –  gouges,  curved edge knives, or even a scrub plane.  For carving axes I usually stop at 1200 grit. Carving gouges and knives should be polished with a hard felt buffer, with the wheel going away from the edge, and with white aluminum oxide compound. Be very careful to keep the newly shaped bevel flat. Always wear safety classes for buffing.



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Phone: 828 656 2280 (9 AM to 6 PM, Eastern time, any day)
Address: 990 Black Pine Ridge Rd.; Marshall, North Carolina 28753