Perfection May Be a Goal

It’s not uncommon for we humans to strive for perfection. We can drive ourselves insane and spend our lifetime trying to achieve it. As David Savage would say, “perfection is a terrible taskmaster”.

The creative people over at The New York Times created a program that reads their articles and scans for haikus. They choose the best and publish them on a Tumblr page. This one, I think, is… gee, dare I say it? Perfection!

Laura Collins-Hughes - Perfection may be a goal

I keep my favourite quotes on a page titled Quotables.


Roots of Flair

My style of woodwork has been influenced predominantly by the materials I had, things I saw, and ideas I explored. Naturally, my designs have evolved over the years. While reorganizing my workshop, I found a few unfamiliar cardboard boxes. They contained some of my work from around the start of Flair Woodworks.

I will be sharing photographs along with the stories behind each item, and many will be offered for purchase.

Breaking Down Slabs

The large majority of the wood that I have is sawn in slabs. While the live edges allow more design possibilities, there are times when I don’t need them.

Breaking Down Locust1


To process this slab, I start by aligning my straight edge just inside the bark. This results in the straightest grain with the least amount of waste. This wood is black locust, which I really like using. My sculpture, Something Like That is made of the same species.

Breaking Down Locust2

I use a carpenter’s pencil to transfer the location of the straight edge onto the slab.

Breaking Down Locust3


Then, I use my circular saw to make the cut. For large, heavy slabs, I prefer to use portable power tools to break down slabs into more manageable pieces. I use a circular saw when possible for efficiency, and a jigsaw for material thicker than 2.5 inches, or curved cuts (e.g. Relationship Study).

If the material is more manageable, I usually turn to my bandsaw for breaking down rough stock, mostly because it is safer to use with unflattened parts than the table saw.

Breaking Down Locust4

Due to the dusty nature of this operation, I prefer to do this work outside, weather permitting. It creates a lot of dust, and if there isn’t a breeze carrying away the dust, I try to hold by breath for the duration of the cut. Unfortunately, I can’t hold my breath for the two-minutes  it takes to cut through seven feet of 2.5 inch thick hardwood.

Breaking Down Locust5

If the saw doesn’t make it all the way through, I usually finish with a hand saw. I find it quite enjoyable pretending to make the entire cut with a hand saw at an amazing speed.

Breaking Down Locust6

This edge needs to be jointed to make it smooth and straight. Note that even if the cut surface is perfectly smooth and straight, I still check it a few days later to ensure that the wood hasn’t moved after being released from the rest of the slab.

Breaking Down Locust7Here’s the yield (minus the long piece at the back which is my straight edge). I will allow them to acclimate and stabilize before processing them further into rails and cross members for my vehicle’s roof rack.

Breaking Down Locust9

What a Mess

As I broke down the slab, I was aware of the massive amount of dust I was creating. My circular saw, which takes a 0.069″ kerf, removed 125 cubic inches of material. That’s equivalent to a 5 inch cube – a lot of dust to throw around.

The Festool TS 75 Track Saw is starting to make a lot of sense to me. Not only does it have provisions for dust collection, the saw has over 3 inches of cutting capacity and leaves a much better cut surface. Using a rail to guide the saw allows me to make perfectly straight cuts, resulting in less clean-up. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to wash the sawdust out from between my toes.


Fast-Action Clamp for Crosscut Fence

A reader recently inquired about the method I use to secure the crosscut fence to my sliding table saw. Grizzly provides a knob with a long male thread to pass through the slot in the outrigger and into the bottom of the crosscut fence. This is secure, but slow to remove when taking off the crosscut fence.

Crosscut Fence Clamp3

For a more convenient solution, I mounted a toggle clamp on a riser block. A large-head, 1/4″ bolt, threaded into the bottom of the block, rides in the bottom T-slot of the crosscut fence and a rubber bumper positions the pressure pad of the clamp solidly on the outrigger.

Crosscut Fence Clamp1 This is what the clamp looks like holding the crosscut fence in place.

Crosscut Fence Clamp2 While not quite as secure as the original bolt, this solution makes it considerably easier to adjust, remove or install the crosscut fence.

Here are some more photos of the clamp on its own.

Crosscut Fence Clamp4 Crosscut Fence Clamp5


My Next Move

2004-2015 Mallet

Last Thursday, I taught a seminar at Lee Valley Tools Coquitlam on making a hardwood mallet and later this week, I will be working my final scheduled shift with Lee Valley Tools, marking the end of a 10.5 year record of employment with the Company.

I started stocking shelves on Saturdays at Lee Valley Tools Ltd. while I was still in high school. I used the opportunity to get my foot in the door and prove myself as a hard worker while gaining hands-on experience with Lee Valley’s vast selection of tools and hardware. I learned a lot, and took time to practice and understand the intricacies of each tool and technique.

My knowledge grew quickly at first, and in later years, I used that knowledge to assist customers with purchases, teach seminars, lead in-store demo events, and participate at trade shows in Canada and Western United States. I enjoyed the environment at Lee Valley, and the opportunity to help customers on a daily basis by providing ideas and information.

Next week, I will be starting work as a Retail Sales and Support person at Clermont’s Ultimate Tool Supply (Ultimate Tools), located just outside of Vancouver in Burnaby, BC. While still firmly in the market of quality woodworking tools, I feel that this will be a substantial opportunity for me to learn more and continue to provide excellent customer service to fellow woodworkers, hobbyists and professionals alike. Ultimate Tools carries woodworking power tools and machinery from Festool, Felder, Hammer, Laguna, Mirka, Grex, SawStop, and Powermatic. They also carry Woodpeckers and Whiteside products and are the exclusive Canadian distributor of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks.

While I’m sad to be leaving Lee Valley, I’m also very excited to be joining Ultimate Tools. If you’re ever in the area, please consider stopping by for a visit – I would be more than happy to show you around the store!


Cam-Action Hold-Down for Grizzly G0623X Sliding Table Saw

When I bought my sliding table saw, I wanted to get a material hold-down for the sliding table. Such an accessory did not exist for the saw, but another Grizzly sliding table saw with the same T-slot size came with one. I ordered the individual replacement parts for the hold-down and put it together myself. These parts cost me $210.50 when I ordered them in 2010.


Part Number Description


PN02 Hex Nut 5/16-18


PR03M Ext Retaining Ring 12mm


PRP32M Roll Pin 6×40


P04510215 T-Nut M12-1.75 V1.04.05


P04510616 Ball Knob M8-1.25


P04510617 Handle Shaft


P04510618 Cam


P04510619 Cam Bracket


P04510621 Locate Block


P04510623 Compression Spring


P04510624 Shaft


P04510626 Washer Large


P04510627 Shaft


P04510628 Handle Shaft V1.04.05


P04510629 Lock Handle


P04510630 Block


P04510631 Disc Gasket

Single-Slab Cherry Coffee Table, Part I

This weekend, I am demonstrating Festool power tools at Lee Valley Tools Ltd. in Coquitlam. To generate interest and demonstrate what can be done with the tools, I am turning this seven-foot-long slab of cherry into a coffee table.


By the end of Thursday, I had made some good progress. To make the legs, I used the TS75 track saw to cut the ends of the slab from table top and bevel the ends at 45 degrees.


I used the DF700 Domino XL to cut mortises in the bevelled ends of one joint and inserted 14mm Domino tenons to provide strength and alignment.


On Friday, I cut the joints for the other two legs. I glued them before lunch, then did some careful layout to determine how to cut the legs so the table sat flat. I performed the cuts with the TS75 track saw in a somewhat dramatic fashion.


After that, I removed the chainsaw marks from the outside surfaces of the legs. I was able to power through this task quickly with 80-grit Rubin 2 abrasive paper on the mighty RO150 Rotex sander.


At the end of day two, the table stood on its own (and I could stand – and jump – on it).


So far, this project has been a good test of what the Festool equipment can do and it has attracted a lot of attention from customers, whether they were woodworkers or not. Many wanted to see it finished and asked if the table would be on display upon completion (the answer was, yes).

Tomorrow, I will continue work by surfacing the top. I may also inset some dovetail keys in the top, and perhaps down one leg to visually reinforce the split.

Make a Polygon Marking Gauge

Heptagonal Marking Gauge

Wheel marking gauges are great layout tools, but their round face means the tool has an annoying tendency to roll, which sometimes results in finding it on the floor with a chipped cutter. By reshaping the outside profile of the tool’s face, it stays put and adds a touch of flair.

This simple improvement takes about 30 minutes. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Buy, download and print the Polygon Marking Gauge Template ($4 CAD) on a sheet of letter-sized paper;
  2. Select between the heptagon, octagon, and nonagon (7-, 8- and 9-sided polygons) and cut it out, staying safely outside the template;
  3. Cut a hole in the centre of the template slightly larger than the wheel of your marking gauge with a sharp brad-point bit or hole punch, using the concentric circles as a guide;
  4. Separate the marking gauge head from the other components, if possible;
  5. Adhere the template to the face of your wheel marking gauge with spray adhesive or double-sided tape using the concentric circles in the middle of the jig and trim any paper extending beyond the face of the gauge;
  6. Shape the face to the desired profile with a metal file or a stationary disc or belt sander. Note that you do not need to remove material up to the lines – having an even distance from each line is enough to ensure an even profile:
    1. If using a file, clamp the gauge head in a vise and file one facet at a time, rotating the head after completing each facet;
    2. If using a stationary sander, hold the gauge face-down on the machine’s table set at 90-degrees to the abrasive. Work slowly, checking your progress frequently and being mindful of the potential heat build-up;
  7. Remove the paper template and soften the resulting sharp edges with a file or fine sandpaper; and
  8. Check that there are no stray filings or other bits of metal inside the marking gauge head before reassembling your wheel marking gauge.

That’s it! I love the look of my polygon marking gauge, and how it doesn’t roll around on my bench (or off my bench!) It’s an easy modification that sees an immediate improvement. I encourage you to give this a try. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions you may have, and send me pictures of your completed gauge heads!

Overflow XXII

Up for grabs is a Stanley #194, which was designed to cut chamfers on the edges of fibreboard.


A razor blade is clamped to the bed with clamping plate and two slotted screws. Meanwhile, two thumbscrews secure the adjustable fence.


The plane features a corrugated sole.

DSC_9316 DSC_9313

According to the hand tool reference site Blood and Gore, the Stanley #194 was manufactured between 1936 and 1958.

If you would like this plane, please leave a comment below with a description of its would-be new home (e.g. on a dusty shelf between my palm sander and tape measure). I’ll give you a bonus entry if you tell me your thoughts on wooden spokeshaves (I’m scheduled to teach a class making a wooden spokeshave at Lee Valley Tools Coquitlam on the 14th). You may enter until the end of Tuesday, February 10. I will then draw a winner at random. Even if you don’t get this tool, remember that there is still much more I want to give away.

And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to my blog so you can be notified as soon as I post something new! Please tell your friends about my Overflow program.

Review the details of the Overflow program.