The Boys of Summer Have Gone

I spent the summer not woodworking. In fact, I spent the summer doing as little as possible outside of my day job. The Kansas City metropolitan area has been punished by record-setting heat and drought this summer, and my garage workshop was an oppressive place to enter long enough to grab a screwdriver, much less to joint a board.

A few weeks ago, on one of those 100 degree days, a neighbor’s house caught fire, and we volunteered our garage to store some of our neighbors’ few remaining possessions while they sorted things out.

That sudden constraint, plus a break in the heat, has me thinking again about woodworking. The oak that I harvested in 2008 is ready to use. I have a coffee table to build, and my son is eager to complete the tool tote project we were working on in the spring. Truth be told, I’m eager for his tool tote to be done too, so his tools won’t be scattered and under foot.

Speaking of tools under foot, I’m beginning to realize that I probably don’t need three Yankee screwdrivers or four bit braces. There are a few essential tools I have yet to find in the wild, and I’d love to do some trading. Hopefully I end up with a half set of hollows and rounds. I own a No. 3 hollow and a No. 8 hollow so far, so I have a long way to go.

Saturday I got to spend a little time in the workshop, maybe a few hours total. Nothing profound–more staring-at-tools than woodworking. Instead of walnut and white oak, the shop smells like a mix of smoke and perfume (the burned house was home to a single mom and two teenage girls), and there’s barely enough room to walk around, so no project work.

I did, however, spend some time analyzing a piece of casing from my brother-in-law’s house. I agreed to reproduce some of the moulding from his Victorian. The casing is a cove in the center, flanked by square ovolos, with flat ovolos on the outer edges.

Reproducing it would give me a great reason to buy a few hollow and round pairs, plus the new book, Mouldings in Practice from Lost Art Press. The free download chapter offered a great teaser. It’s one of those books that reminds me what’s exciting about woodworking. Matt Bickford’s premise echoes Schwarz’s: Get a few essential tools and practice the craft.

You can’t buy your way in. I tried.

In fact, I’d resisted heading down this path precisely because it involved purchasing tools I don’t already own. But then, looking at that casing Saturday, I thought about what a simple setup it is, really. Just a few tools open up a whole design vocabulary.

No wonder hollows and rounds have become so hard to find this summer.

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