I had planned to do a lovely post about the process of packing up my workshop, and choosing tools to travel with - complete with a carefully composed collection of images.

This is not that post.

Chaos on the bench

Instead time ran away with me. The rain returned, slowing progress and reactivating the mud, and my last commission - a cabinet in solid and veneered jarrah for a favoured client went a bit pear-shaped. I had to make a very difficult call to inform her that her cabinet wouldn’t be finished until my return in several months - she understandably wasn’t happy (and neither was I).

 Carcass glue-up

But I did pack tools to travel with. The process was more rapid and less considered than I would have liked. The “technical” tools are simple - laptop, portable hard drive, charger, universal power adaptor, camera, lenses, card reader, digital recorder, monopod, remote release, iPhone and a whole bunch of cables. Simple but what a lot of stuff! Whatever happened to a visual diary and a couple of pens and pencils? (I packed those too!)

Electronic tools

But the studio tools ... The whole of my workshop is a tool for making stuff - pretty much any sort of stuff - from wood. How to narrow it down? Not taking the bandsaw or the jointer  is sad but straightforward - all that machinery is much too heavy. But what about the clamps, my workbench, my pattern-makers vice that will hold just about anything? They are critical tools to the way I work. And many other makers will know just what I mean by this - you get very used to working with your bench/workstation and the holding and clamping tools that you have - and anything else - no matter how good - seems like making do. Im sure it is good for us to be that little bit flexible - but Im packing under pressure here - right now I’m not sure if I can be flexible!

The whole studio is a tool for making stuff (images courtesy Original Eumundi Markets and Katja Anton)

But more seriously - how do you even begin to choose what tools to take with you - what are the most basic elements of your working process that you find it difficult to do without?

I began by thinking about the most basic of the furniture-makers tasks - the process of marking out. Since my eyes are in their middle-aged decline I definitely need to include my very stylish (not) prescription safety glasses. And a measuring tool I can read  - that would be the digital calipers. And a square, a bevel and a marking knife. Settling on one of each of these is hard enough - what size? And as a chair-maker I’m used to using multiple bevels - each one set for a specific angle on the job. But even taking one traveling is luxurious. I had included a digital bevel-box, a fantastic tool that allows you to set almost any machine (even the clunkiest ones) to a very precise angle - but it didn’t make the final cut.  I would also include tapes and a variety of rules here - I always have a few scattered about the studio when I’m working - but they are not such “personal” tools - I can use someone else's without too much difficulty (although that may mean working with imperial measurements - when will North America make the transition to metric? It is quite simply a better system for makers, simpler and with appropriately scaled units). And I have a drawer full of marking gauges, and I don’t think I can fit even one in my luggage ...

Marking out tools

Next I turned my attention to tools for shaping work. Like many furniture makers I have (literally) drawers full of planes. And they are heavy, all cast iron and tool steel. And of course I NEED all of them. When I look really carefully at how I work, most of the time I use just two, a small mitre plane, and a number 7, a giant of a hand plane that suits my size. With that luggage weight allowance in mind, I reluctantly put the number 7 aside and include just the miter plane. So much for shaping planar surfaces, but Im a lover of curves - so a spokeshave, and a couple of beautiful rasps - a big Nicholson pattern-makers rasp and a really beautiful fine cutting Aurio.

And what about cutting joints? On weight issues alone, I choose a tiny japanese style saw - I use both japanese pull saws and english pattern backsaws in my studio - and I’m always telling my students that they should have saws sharpened in both rip and cross-cut patterns ... And chisels - wow - bench chisels, carving chisels, paring chisels, patternmakers gouges, mortising chisels ... I settled on just two of my favourite lomg-handled Japanese paring chisels, a narrow (6mm) and a wide (36mm) one.

Sure hope someone has some waterstones I can use for sharpening...

 

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Quote: ..." working with imperial measurements - when will North America make the transition to metric?"...

I hear you, Ross. I have lived in the US for 17 years now and STILL only work with and "understand" the decimal system. Feet, yards, miles... omg. What a royal pain.

Ross...you'll be OK...we have equipment in North America...really. It might be good for you to leave your 'cocoon' for awhile.

Seriously, very nice story! And we do use waterstones here. Happy Travels.

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