DSC_0029I made a kitchen board yesterday and today in the workshops here at Penrhyn castle. It’s the Penrhyn Castle kitchen board made from oak, but the originals, there are many of them, were made from sycamore, which was very traditional for kitchen worktops and drainers in the pre-engineered wood years when real wood was used to make things that lasted a century or two or three. This unique board will be available soon via woodworkingmasterclasses.com and further expands the massive work we just did on mortise and tenon joinery through the craftsman-style Coffee table here.

The simplicity and complexities of this board made an ideal teaching vehicle for a basic breadboard-end utensil. The original was a little larger and thicker but the whole process is scaleable. I made this one for today’s kitchen, ours, but you can make one to suit your personal needs or use the process as an exercise for developing manual skills. You can of course adapt the techniques and methods to other projects and indeed that is always our hope, but our goal as an educational provider is and will always be to both teach the essence of real craftwork and preserve every aspect of in the doing of it in and through the lives of others. This one is brand new and has as far as we know never been filmed to camera for this purpose before. It has some very unique aspects to its construction as well as some very common aspects that had we not filmed it for woodworkingmasterclasses might well have been lost and forgotten.

DSC_0001Another Chairside table

Aside from that, the new chairside table came out fine but now I may rework the apron to match the coffee table we made. It’s much lower because I used some scraps, but its perfect next to an armchair.

DSC_0039Secondhand tools are excellent value

This week I bought in planes for a plane restoration, maintenance and use class we will be giving later. We have a couple of free one-day classes we will be offering  in the form of a symposium of lectures and demonstrations around the bench with myself, Joseph Sellers and Phil Adams. these promise to be informative and fun and attendees will be limited by a drawing for places as space will be limited. I also bought a few tools for my own use; two eBay saws I could believe would go for so little, especially the 18″ Disston for £16 and the Keystone Disston for only £10. I love the UK pricing on tools and the availability too. I bought half a dozen gouges for carving, two Eclipse saw sets for £5 each, a very nice Arkansas slip for £5 and a 20’s combination gauge by Marples. I learned that disc marking gauges are difficult to use in hardwoods such as oak as even with light pressure they are held in the wood and often wont move. Whereas I like the gauges, I think that there is stil a place for the older pin-style gauges.



  1. Brandon Avakian on 4 June 2013 at 11:37 pm

    Pretty kitchen board. I look forward to making one.

    Seeing all the hand planes you bought makes me think how great it would be to see you restore a hand plane. I recently restored my first hand plane. It is a Stanley No. 4 1/2 . I spent many hours flattening the sole of the plane on my diamond stones. It made me wonder how long it typically takes you to flatten the sole. Now I have been using the plane pretty much exclusively (as I donated my number Stanley No. 5 to a new woodworking school). I have grown to like the wide sole of the 4 1/2. I bet I would like a 5 1/2 just as much.

    • JBModerate on 7 June 2013 at 5:07 am

      Here’s a YouTube Paul did on the subject,

      I love the 4 1/2, too!

      • Brandon Avakian on 7 June 2013 at 5:34 am

        Thanks for this. I have seen this video before. I guess I didn’t go into the details of what I meant. In Paul’s book he says to look for high spots (shiny spots) on the sole of the plane when flattening it. When the high spots are removed, the sole is flat. In his video, he marks the sole with a permanent marker. It only took him a few minutes to flatten the sole. It took me hours to flatten the sole of my plane on a 250 grit diamond stone to lower the high spots and get a consistent glare. I thought it would be interesting to see Paul take a rough plane and flatten its sole. However, it is possible the plane in the video was just that.

        • JBModerate on 7 June 2013 at 7:31 pm

          Sorry that wasn’t what you were looking for.

          I, too, have spent the many hours flattening the sole, usually because I buy my most of my planes on e-Bay, etc. that have been through the ringer through use. I’ve even sent a plane out to have it machined (#7 Stanley that was pretty banged up). I think there are a variety of opinions on how pristine the bottom needs to be. I’m pretty picky about that stuff, but there are those that say you only need to get certain spots shiny (fore, aft, and just behind the mouth). I’d also be interested in Paul’s opinion on this. I liken flattening the plane to flattening the back of a chisel – something you basically do once, although they have to be tuned up once in a while.

          • Paul Sellers on 7 June 2013 at 8:52 pm

            I think that flattening smoothing plane has become quite obsessive as have many things related to hand tools these days. It might surprise most that I used a from-the-factory plane for twenty years successfully. It was never dead flat and it worked just fine for 90% of my work. Smoothing planes should be close to flat but they don’t have to be flat all over. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to do it all at once or over a few days or weeks. Shiny is not so important and neither does high polish offer much relief to planing so I find quick and repeated change of 250-grit wet and dry gets me down the quickest. Flattening the sole should take no more than 1/2 an hour or so. Why don’t I think that the sole should be particularly polished? Dead simple. Wood is surprisingly abrasive. In the real world of working wood it doesn’t take much at-the-bench work to start abrading any polish you might achieve.
            Repeat flattening for me happens periodically; about once a year. This takes out the channel along the length in the centre of the sole. This is caused be edge planing narrower stock. In general, edge planing happens about four times more than surface planing and surface planing distributes pressure over a wider surface and so wear is less. on the full width.

          • Brandon Avakian on 7 June 2013 at 9:14 pm

            Makes sense Paul. Sounds similar to your posts discussing the angle people sharpen their chisels or plane irons to. Most people give the standard answer of 30 degrees and obsess over it. I used to be that way until reading your blog and trying out some of your methods myself. That was a little over a year ago. I think the only thing that bothers me now some is if my chisel gets out of square a little. I know it’s immaterial unless it gets too out of square. In time I believe that bother will fade away.

          • Paul Sellers on 8 June 2013 at 12:16 am

            Thanks Brandon. I think I said it before, but none of my chisels are square either. Just a fraction, but none the less.

          • Brandon Avakian on 7 June 2013 at 9:07 pm

            I really appreciate you pointing out the video. There is no way you would know whether I had seen it or not. I did poor job explaining myself.

          • JBModerate on 9 June 2013 at 7:19 pm

            Quite alright, Brandon! I wasn’t offended. No apology necessary. And Paul chiming in helped further clarify things for us both, I think. For me, it’s a struggle avoiding spending too much energy on tool prep (appearance) versus functionality. And thanks, Paul for your wonderful contributions to us all!

            The other half of the story, of course, is the sharpness of the plane iron, IMHO. Getting to that razor sharp edge has been as frustrating an adventure for me more than anything else. I’ve used all the gimmicks over time – spent hours flattening the back on progressively finer wet-or-dry up to 2000 grit on a sheet of glass (which I later realized flexes on my bench so I was actually rounding the back), the so-called “scary sharp” method (more hours spent sharpening and more investment in wet-or-dry), the Veritas grinding jig with the micro-bevel adjustment on water stones (including the annoyance of repeatedly finding that the resulting bevel wasn’t quite square enough or that the micro-bevel didn’t quite span the entire edge or that the water stone needed flattening again), and I even have the Grizzly clone of the Tormek grinder (along with the annoyance of having to stop working just to set it up, let alone having to clean up all that water!). While the tools did get sharp after all that time (I could slice paper, and use a chisel to take the finest shaving), the initial satisfaction of getting there was overcome by the dread of having to go through it all again when it came time to resharpen.

            And then I discovered Paul’s videos, and the generous persuasion to build the confidence in the hand versus the machine. I’ve since adopted his sharpening technique on the diamond stones and strop, and it is not only so much faster, it is more satisfying in that your hands and skill are applied to the task at hand and not to setting up a machine.

            I’m slowly getting to the point where I get the razor sharp edge that I got with the micro-bevel technique, but if I could ask one question of Paul, it would be this: After getting the hang of getting the bevel angle and that gentle camber on the edge, is there a single bit of advice you can offer to get to that next level (i.e., most common observation when teaching students in the class)?

          • Paul Sellers on 9 June 2013 at 8:06 pm

            The most common problem I see is that people end up putting a sharper radius on the bevel and instead of starting at 30-35 degrees and tapering of in the quarter ellipse camber they make it too much. In that case the bevel camber can hit the wood before the cutting edge. As long as you push forward from around 30-degrees and drop you hand atto the close of each stroke, a beautiful camber occurs and the edge you need is equal to any other more controlled method.
            Two: patience makes perfect and so too practice. you get to the point (or the edge in this case) where you don’t even think about it and it doesn’t take years or even months. That’s when the joy hits and ypour on your way!

          • JBModerate on 9 June 2013 at 10:32 pm

            Thanks for the reply, Paul! If I understand you correctly, I likely need to hold my angle steady a bit longer in the stroke before dropping my hand. That certainly makes sense, given your observation that the bevel can hit the wood first. And, based on your second recommendation, I will try it tonight! Thanks again!

          • Brandon Avakian on 9 June 2013 at 11:37 pm

            I had the same problem and starting holding my stroke at 30 degrees a little longer. I think I also used to apply more pressure than I do now. My chisels and plane irons stay a little straighter now.

          • JBModerate on 10 June 2013 at 12:18 am

            Good to know, and thanks for sharing!

          • JBModerate on 10 June 2013 at 7:09 am

            Just wanted you to know that this advice was so helpful, Paul.

            Brandon, thank you, too, for sharing your experience!

            I set about re-sharpening my 1-inch chisel tonight, focusing on extending the stroke on the stone a bit more, and also using a much, much slower tempo. I could feel the chisel gently “grab” the stone at the top of the stroke, and this time I zeroed in on maintaining that feeling (angle) throughout, until the last quarter of the stone (where I “drop my hand”). That extra extension of the stroke did it for me! It made a significant difference in the sharpness of the edge.

            Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  2. Alvaro Villalón on 5 June 2013 at 1:39 am

    Hi Paul,

    That board looks really nice! I have a question: What do you think about “end grain” cutting boards or I rather say “Butcher Blocks”? All that regarding durability and safeness in “microbial terms” Thanks!

    • Paul Sellers on 5 June 2013 at 5:46 am

      I suppose these are personal considerations. I plan on using this for more a serving platter and was interested in the means of construction, adapting it to other tasks. I think the absorption of juices by capillary attraction would be an issue and so as a bread board or a veggie prep board I have no issue. That said, I understand some years ago in lab tests for the US food industry, results showed that no bacteria can live on a wooden cutting board longer than 30 seconds but on plastic, glass and stainless steel it increased over 24 hours. This was featured in Fine Woodworking issue and in the Wall Street Journal about 20 years ago if my memory serves me. Personal and family hygiene is up to us all. Butcher block for professional meat cutting is up to individuals. My gut feeling is that most legislation is created to deal with personal employee neglect and human failure in mass food manufacture and delivery. It doesn’t really work that well because it’s almost unenforceable, but a law has to be in place all the more. Endgrain cutting borads are fine. Butchers have used them for centuries. What’s wrong is the food industry as a whole. Its not going to change. You will always find a dividing line between people who internally, genuinely care, and those who don’t. This is the result of local breakdown and globality.

  3. Paul Sellers on 5 June 2013 at 5:53 am

    I am shocked at some US prices on eBay. I know that we have done something to revitalize interest in what was the best plane for the buck, and there are still a zillion number 4’s in basements and garages throughout the US, but I still fail to understand why UK number 4’s sell for less than $20 here. I bought some this week for an average of $16.

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