Geometry et Trigonometry

it was math so a lot of people didn’t pay much attention. and there was a lot of “I’m never going to need this” nonsense going on at my school…

But now you need it: well a little of it. you can do a lot with a little.

squares and circles: the geometric relationship between squares and circles is neglected in geometry class. Sure they point out that blah blah blah circle center of square etc. and most people didn’t listen.

look: it really is simple: and it really is useful!circle square 1

a circle and a square look like they have nothing to do with one another, look again:

circle square 2

if you bisect the angle your line (dotted) is the centerline of the circle. you can use this knowledge to make a center finder for turning on the lathe. or find the center on anything roundish. Or you can use this to make a center finder for your lathe stock.

the same basic principles apply to these also:

the center for this rough piece is somewhere in the middle of the triangle scratched on the end.

Also if your round is larger: on any right triangle if you center a circle on the center of the hypotenuse who’s diameter is the length of the hypotenuse the circle will touch the point of the right angle, so:

rotate the square a bit and do it again:

then the 2 lines cross right at the centerpoint.

jumping back to that first geometry: chairmakers (like Curtis Buchanan) uses it every time he drill his legs for his stretchers. See if the center of the circle is always in line with the center of the square…

circle square 2

if we make a 90 degree v cut in two blocks of wood exactly equidistant from the ends. and stand those blocks up. we get this sort of set up:


where, no matter what the different diameters are or how lumpy/fancy the turning is, straight rod or windsor leg, the centerline of the turning will be parallel to the bench top. so we can set an angle guide to help us aim our drill into the legs at the correct angle.

Here’s another one, you want a nice arc that is a part of a circle but you don’t know where the center of the circle is. or you don’t have a compass around…

put 2 nails at the ends and use your square…

circle square 8

if you slide the square, keeping contact with the 2 nails and a pencil in the peak, it will draw a circle.

Most of the trigonometry that you will need is just what Pythagoras knew. if you haven’t got a square or your object is really big enough that a square isn’t big enough. remember the pythagorean theorem. 345. as in 3″, 4″, 5″. or any measure. a triangle with legs of 3 units and 4 units and a hypotenuse of 5 units has a right angle between the 3 and 4 sides. See you don’t even need the squares or square roots or sines and cosines etc.

3 feet by 4 feet then 5 feet across the diagonal will make a right angle.

So you see: a little understanding of Geometry and even Trigonometry can help you with every project!

be well



Photo gallery

I’m sure there is a way to make up a photo gallery of my work here… I just don’t know how to yet 😉

rolling pin


advertising board for sign carving


door casing corner bosses

table and vase 002

mahogany settle

mahogany settle 001

bear and elephants

toys bowl 001

dartbord case


more on another day: be well all


Bartram’s Gardens

I went for a little walk today at a place called Bartram’s Gardens in the city of Philadelphia, PA. It seems that Mr Bartram was a botanist/horticulturalist that made his name selling and shipping seeds to people in Europe.


they have some bees


and some interesting buildings


and pleasant grounds,

might be a nice place for a green wood event?

be well



The Broken Tradition.

I am thinking of changing the name of this blog to “The Broken Tradition”

In part, our tradition of woodworking spans thousands of years into a past where stones were the cutting edge of technology (all puns intended)

The efforts of colonizing the Americas were at best sporadic and frequently poorly planned.. our early history is rife with stories of starving colonists, and under supported efforts.  Colonists who came with tools, but with no one who knew how to use them. Freezing in inadequate shelters and starving because they didn’t know how too “do” the farming.

We idolize the survivors for having figured it out for themselves… but this is where the breakage starts. We are very proud of “having no masters” to rule over us and tell us what to do. Or, more importantly, telling us we can’t do something.

The carpenters, cabinetmakers, smiths etc who “figured it out for themselves” wanted nothing to do with later colonists who wanted to establish the guilds here. And a lot of the better organized attempts brought either craftsmen under contract to train people then go home (back to Europe), or persons actively trying to get away from the restrictions of the guilds to a place where they knew those guilds held no charter.

Eventually, even in America, the tradition of “Masters” teaching apprentices held sway. There were no books, no schools. No other way. And yet no guild to see or oversee the training of apprentices and the making of “Masters”. So anyone could call themselves a master….

Then the Industrial Revolution comes along… Machines to do everything!

The hand tools and the skills got tossed out, and we all get turned into machine operators.

And all of the Masters stopped teaching because no one wanted to learn. And they took their knowledge and skill with them to the grave.

There is very nearly a 100 year gap between the end of handmade furniture and the advent of our current resurgence and interest in making things by hand.

So there is another gap between the end of making everything by hand and our resurging interest in making things by hand.

Yes, you can point to individual makers during those 100 years… But did you personally learn directly from them? And some of those makers had to have figured it out for themselves because they did not serve an apprenticeship, nor have a teacher to guide them.

The point is: a lot of knowledge and experience was LOST! Gone forever! The line of tradition, Broken!

We can recreate or recapture some of it (and we have). But that re-figuring is at best, just guessing. Some of our guesses may actually be Better than what was done in the past. Some may be not so much.

But we need to acknowledge that the tradition of father to son, master to apprentice, has been broken.

Having admitted this to ourselves should make it easier to accept that We do not know exactly what they did do “before”. We do know what they left behind. The handmade artifacts, the tool marks on those artifacts, the tools themselves, and a very few books.

From all of these things we all work to recreate what was done.

We do this for knowledge, we do it for history, but mostly we do it for fun! We do it for the sound of the hand plane swooshing along a board and the satisfaction of the handmade artifact.

Today we have the benefit of the extensive research that has gone into books that have been (and are continuing to be) written by the pioneers in Experimental Archaeology.

I would draw your attention to: Mr. Michael Dunbar (Windsor chairs), Mr.Roy Underhill (traditional woodworking and early American carpentry), Ms. Jeanie Alexander (primitive hand tool work, “how to build a chair from a tree”), Mr. Peter Follansbee (17th century New England Furniture). Mr Drew Langsner (swiss woodworking and chairmaking).

But none of our ancestors had books (a lot of them couldn’t even read).. The tradition of woodworking was “passed down”, an oral tradition. Saying that “none” had books is misleading.

Of the few existing books, Moxon, Roubo, Diderot, Fabian, et al. stand out in their attempt to record what was done.

So, I am thinking of changing the name of this blog to “The Broken Tradition”


Book Review

Well, I don’t need to teach woodworking classes anymore. There are a lot of great books on woodworking out there. But the new collected works of Charles H. Hayward (The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years: Tools & Techniques vol’s 1 & 2) available from Lost Arts Press is so complete that I feel that I may be redundant.The team at Lost Arts Press has done a great job at compiling close to 30 years of articles that teach everything you need to know, and then some.

If you do not yet know about Lost Arts Press, look them up. They have several very good books about woodworking.


The color even matches my reading chair!

be well





I have decided to post my list of tools that I advise people to buy for my woodworking classes. The list is actually very short. Yet I do insist that with just these tools you can build everything. Other tools can make certain jobs easier, faster, etc.

The List:

  • Rule/Tape measure (or story board)
  • Saws; back , crosscut, coping. Or Frame, and Fret
  • Square; a big one and a small one (Make them yourself?)
  • A chisel, 1 to 2 inches wide
  • A chisel, Âź to 5/16” wide for mortises
  • 16 oz. hammer
  • Mallet rubber or wood.
  • Knife
  • Compass/Divider
  • Marking gauge (make it yourself)
  • Screwdrivers, one w/ replaceable tips
  • Pliers
  • Nippers
  • Block Plane
  • Smooth or a Try Plane (9” or 14”)
  • ½ round Rasp
  • Flat wood rasp
  • 2 grit sharpening Stone
  • Adjustable Bevel ( make it!)
  • Brace and Bits to make holes (maybe a gimlet or burning iron for small holes) (cordless drill and drill bit set)


Add tools as you want or need them, they can be old or new. Ax, hatchet and froe maybe, Chisels: You will want a couple… a small a medium and a large at least.

ask me questions and I will elaborate in the comments…..

be well


Cheep Tools

Hi; I know that I do not have many readers 😉 but that’s OK. Sorry I haven’t made up a post recently. I’d like to say I’ve been busy, but I haven’t been. I was going to do this once a week as leverage to make myself make things, hasn’t happened yet 😉 sorry.

There has been, and indeed always has been and always will be, much discussion started by persons new to woodworking who are looking for “Cheep” tools to get started with. All of us who have been doing/making things for a while understand this.

We Sympathize, we really do! Then we tell you to spend Huge amounts of money.

Well maybe not Huge. You can get some kind of smoother plane for $20 at a big box store. OR… $219 for a good modern smooth plane from the  current best maker. 10 times the price seems unwarranted.


A Master woodworker can get some sort of performance out of a crap tool. Someone just starting out will only find frustration and anger in the package with the cheep tool in it. This is why they say “A master never blames his tools”. He knows the quality of what he has to hand and he knows how to compensate when the tool is no good. The phrase is usually used to point out someones deficiency when they complain about their tools, but I think that is backwards.

You buy that NEW inexpensive square, and it’s not square. you buy the lowest price plane and it doesn’t work because the chip breaker doesn’t meet the blade right. and can’t be made to fit right.

Cheep tools will either make you quit early and never pick up another tool, or you will buy another tool. Cheep tools are tools you buy twice.

Is there a middle ground? YES, yes there is. There are actually 2 middle grounds! (Huzzah for options!)

  1. Make your own! There are a lot of instructions out there for how to make your own planes and squares  and stuff. You could make your complete outfit yourself. And there are Kits for some of these things! There are even kits to make your own hand saws!


2. Used and antique tools. Specifically ones that were quality tools to start with.

Which have their own problems… finding them for starters. Antique shops, Used things shops, on line, E-bay, Etsy, tool dealers. The New LV smooth plane is $219. a restored Stanley is $75 to $150. already a savings! You can still find some for $5 occasionally. all rusty and in need of cleaning. But the search takes time and effort instead of just going to the store and getting one.

Restoration of old tools can be a hobby by itself. dealing with the rust and pitting. If you are in a blazing hurry to get started buy one already restored and ready to go. And the recent resurgence in popularity of woodworking makes them harder to find and more expensive but they still generally cost less than new ones.

Most of the tools I use are older than I am. Except the ones that I have made myself.

ask questions: and buy better tools is the best advice I can give anyone. With old tools you can frequently expect to sell them for the same amount you paid for them.

be well, count your fingers.