The Rob Cosman workshop training program was held at the Mike Smrek Ontario, Canada workshop during the fourth week of July, 2014. Woodcraft product manager (router bits, benches, vises, ect.), Brian Renner, was in attendance to increase his woodworking skills from Rob’s proficient instruction of hand tools. The prelude to this blog, can be found at this link: Cosman-Smrek Host Ontario Based Workshop Training Program.
We’ve included some photos of Brian in-action, learning the art of hand-cut dovetails and all that Rob details in his 65 hour, class. Various hand tools were available that Rob recommended from WoodRiver, Trend, Pinnacle, Bora HoneRite, Shapton, and a full line of Rob’s personal woodworking products.
Brian stated, “All of Rob’s 35 years of experience was applied in this week long class. Without Rob Cosman’s class, and the lack of time spent in the shop, it would have taken me two or more years on my own to master quality dovetail craftsmanship, skillful hand tool techniques, and proper sharpening expertise. Rob’s focus on making sure we left with a proper education with the importance of using the right tools the right way, made me feel confident that I could build a quality project on my own. We were also taken care of by the host Mike Smrek with his assistance in the shop, providing great meals, and an afternoon with his guitar. Great class, I highly recommend it!”
Brian explained, “The first day, before we touched a saw or cut a dovetail, we learned how to properly sharpen chisels and hand planes. After all, you gotta crawl before you can walk! The second day was spent learning how to use hand planes, hand saws, and chisels. On the third day we took rough cut lumber and made it to dimension lumber using hand planes. The fourth day was all-day dovetail cutting and perfecting. On the final day we learned Standard, Houndstooth, Half-Blind and Mitered dovetails, along with mortise & tenon joints.”
Brian came back all fired up showing off his dovetail skills and giving us a “show and tell” about what he had learned!
Brian cut a pre-instruction, standard dovetail (left) before the class had begun. His effort was not too bad, but with plenty to improve upon! As each day passed, you can see the refinement in Brian’s work from left to right, as he learned to create Houndstooth, Half-Blind and Mitered Dovetails.
A closer look reveals significant improvement with fine tuned cuts and much tighter joints. The left one was cut on Wednesday during the class instruction. The standard dovetail on the right was perfected on Thursday afternoon after lessons were concluded with hours of practice complete.
Rob’s step by step instruction was very patient and thorough, making sure he spent considerable time with all 10 students.
For Brian, the class take-away’s for hand plane blades, was learning that sharpening is the true key to a smooth operation of a hand plane; from how to hold the blade during hand sharpening to knowing the angles for each of the bevels. Holding the blades freehand during sharpening at the correct angle was critical in creating a sharp tool edge. Also, holding the hand saw with the same registration point or feeling, each and every time to create the parallel cut was the most critical part to creating dovetails. In essence, you are free handing a compound angle, and the cuts have to be precise for each dovetail cut.
For chisels, the cutting edge angle for soft wood was instructed to be sharpened at 17 degrees, and 25 degrees for hard woods because of the grain structure of the wood. The 17 degree angle allows for the wood to be peeled off and cut and not crushed. The hard wood requires a 25 degree angle for the harder grain, giving you a higher angle to peel and cut the wood.
All that being stated, these angles are a personal preference, and can be anything that works for you or for the projects you may be working on.
Take a look at how you can begin to hone your sharpening skills with Rob Cosman in this video,
Okay Brian, you’ve impressed us! We’ll all place our furniture orders, time to hit the shop! Brian said, “If I can do it, anyone can!” Well done Rob and Brian!
Brian’s new expertise in hand tools increases his value as a woodworker and as a Woodcraft team member, Helping You Make Wood Work!
For additional information on Rob Cosman, videos, workshops, tools and much more, visit Your Hand Tool Coach HERE. Check back HERE for next years Ontario Workshop.
Get your Dovetail Degree from Rob today!