In woodworking, there is much to be learned from books. But not all knowledge is to be found there. Many “tricks of the trade” never make it to print, but instead, exist as sort of a vernacular knowledge base that is conveyed from person to person “on the job”.
Adding to my “woodworking bag of tricks “has been a lifelong pursuit. I have never reached a point, nor will I ever, where I can say “I know it all”. What I can say is “This is the best way I know at this time, until I discover or learn a better way”
Every new woodworking acquaintance presents an opportunity to trade tricks and mutually advance. Many years ago, I had the very good fortune to work alongside a couple of extremely knowledgeable and skilled woodworkers. There was nothing these two guys could not do, and do exceptionally well – it was enough to give me an inferiority complex. I made a point to glean whatever information I could from them. At first, I was surprised when they were doing the same to me: constantly picking my brain. But after some thought, I realized this is how they got as good as they are. They were open and eager for knowledge at every opportunity. It was not just me adding to my bag of tricks, they were doing the same as well.
It’s the intermingling of woodworkers that keeps tricks circulating and alive. Early in my career I did not realize this on a conscious level, but used it to my advantage nonetheless. When a new employee would come into the shop, I would introduce myself and ask right away “what kind of woodworking have you been doing”? I was not trying to be nosy – I was on fire to learn and the new guy was potential fresh fodder in that regard.
Back then , I would also regularly apply for woodworking jobs, which I had no intention of taking. Typically, the shop in question was known for something that fascinated me and I wanted to learn how they did it. The interview (almost) always included a shop tour in which I would ask a variety of questions, trying not to sound as though I was on an espionage mission (which I was).
Writing and teaching has, not surprisingly, been a great source for adding to my bag of tricks. Although I am supposed to be the one teaching, it often goes the other way as well, with me on the learning end of the equation. This is especially true when I travel to somewhere new.
Earlier this month I made my first trip to the Northeast to teach at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. The northeast has a different woodworking tradition than the west coast, and therein exists a great opportunity for the exchange of ideas.
Upon arrival, Bob Van Dyke, (founder and director of the school) greeted me. I soon realized, (although it was not stated) Bob and I were both on the same mission: to add to our respective bags of tricks. As I unpacked my jigs for the upcoming class, Bob was eager to learn how they worked. When I asked about a router bit for one of my setups, Bob (with a smile) pulls out a bottom bearing flush trim spiral bit – and waits for my response. It took a double take and a few extra nanoseconds for it to hit. For some time I had wanted just such a bit for flush trimming (greatly reduces blowout) when using a router table.
The bit is not an “off the shelf “product, but its individual components are. Bob gives credit for idea to Will Neptune, who regularly teaches at the school. This is vernacular woodworking at its best: ideas that are freely passed from one person to another.
In that spirit, I now pass this trick on to you:
Bit : Onsrud ¾” spiral bit #40-141
Bearings: (2 each) Whiteside B19 ¾” OD , ½’ ID
Bearing Stop Collar: Whiteside LC-1/2
May you freely give and take in the exchange of new ideas – may your bag of tricks forever grow and overflow.