The Shadows

No, not the name of my Goth band.

A while back, in trying to bore some straight holes, I’d set up some squares to use as reference. As I went along I realised I wasn’t watching the brace in relation to the squares, but the shadow of the brace along the wood in relation to the shadows from the squares. Since getting squares to sit still while boring can be a pain, I just started marking the shadow lines and using those as my points of reference.

Having a goose neck lamp that is adjustable helps a lot.

This week I chopped two miserable mortises before remembering that trick. I’d used a jig to register against the side of the chisel, but that was distracting to me. And I wasn’t able to chop straight, anyway.

Using guide lines drawn off a square’s shadow allowed me to chop mortises with straight walls. The process was pretty easy. Mark out the mortise, set up a square along one end and draw a pencil line along it’s shadow. Advance a bit, repeat. As I chopped I would set the chisel to what I thought was perpendicular to the surface, check against the line, and correct.

While this may be veering off into unnecessarily complicated territory, I found that after a few chops my sense of holding the chisel straight improved a bunch. I used the lines as reference less.

I could have stuck with the jig, but I feel like (s0me) jigs are like training wheels. Sooner or later I’ll want to kick them off. Using the shadows helped me move from training wheels a bit faster.

Exit wound

In training as a Peace Corps volunteer we had a Moldovan doctor who liked to intersperse pictures from his field days as a military doctor in his presentations. Including pictures of recent  amputations and exit wounds. Given his soviet bearing, I never asked why.

I’m making a workbench, and this was the fruit of my labor chopping, hacking really, mortises yesterday. More exit wound than mortise.


Clearly, chopping a mortise through a knot that size is dumb. But, I had to move my original mortise because of another mistake and really am too lazy to remake the entire leg. There is a long discussion of practice and not rushing into work in there, but I’ll keep that for myself.

So, I knew the knot was a bad idea, and as soon as I chopped into it realised the full breadth of just how bad . Didn’t stop me, though. For whatever reason, I powered through. Which wasn’t bright. Ended up having to come at it mostly from behind, as the leg is laminated and the other board was knot free.

The hard part about experience is all the stupid shit you (I) do along the way to getting there.

Part of me wants to ditch the leg entirely and make another so I have clean mortises. But, it might be a good reminder in the future to practice, warm up and go slow.

This arrived yesterday, too. Made me happy after that knot.


Had no idea what a beast this vise is until my wife, who carried it home from the DPO, told me to go get it from the car.