The Downfall of Sears

This morning I had some time to kill in between store visits, so I decided to stop in a local Sears to browse their tool department for a few minutes. I wasn’t expecting much since I knew that Sears had fallen on hard times in recent years, but what I encountered was just plain sad.

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I was so taken back by their tool department that I grabbed my cell phone and took some pictures of  their shelves. There was hardly any selection of any kind. I remember about twenty years ago, Sears was one of the main places to buy tools. They had a huge selection with competitive prices. I used to buy all my tools from Sears. From clamps to power tools, to automotive wrenches. In fact I still own a Craftsman bench top radial drill press that still works like a champ to this day.

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I was wondering if this was a store that was closing so, I looked around for clearance signs, but found none. The only reason I could think of why they don’t have any products on their shelves is because they may be on COD-only terms with the majority of their suppliers. I remember the company I used to work for a few years ago had the same problem. They couldn’t order any product from the manufacturers to resell it to their dealers and ended up going bankrupt within six months. It’s been so bad for Sears lately that they sold the Craftsman brand name to Stanley Black and Decker late last year to generate cash.

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This is what’s left of their machinery selection. A radial arm saw and a cheap looking band saw. There was one old lady working the entire department who looked like she was 82 years old. I remember back in the day, there would be at least three or four clerks around to help you out.

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When things get this bad, there’s no way I would even buy anything from them in the first place. There’s a good chance that if I did buy something from them and the product ended up breaking within the 30 days of my purchase, with my luck, the company’s doors would be closed leaving me high and dry. When was the last time you bought something from Sears? I can’t even remember the last time I did.

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Woodworking in America

I stopped by the Marketplace at The Woodworking in America show in Covington, KY today after work. Living in Cincinnati I’m spoiled that I get to waltz right in like it’s no big deal when the majority of people who attend have to make travel plans and hotel accommodations. I attended the first WIA a few years back in Berea, KY and had a blast listening to presenters like Roy Underhill, Brian Boggs and Frank Klaus. However, the money has been too tight for me to afford to attend any of the seminars since then.

I picked up a few things while I was there, nothing much. I mainly went there to buy the book “By Hand & Eye” by George Walker and Jim Tolpin. I’ve read good things about it and knew Lost Art Press would have a booth so leaving with that was a no-brainer. I also picked up a couple of DVDs about using SketchUp. I’ve been wanting to learn how to use this design software for years but after fiddling around with it in the past, it never clicked. Hopefully the DVD’s will make a light bulb go off in my head.

I stopped by the Knew Concepts booth and looked at their fret saws again. I see them every year but they never bring any inventory to sell. They would give me a card and tell me to go on the website and use it for free shipping. Every year I took the card and just forgot about it. Well not this year. They finally brought saws to sell so I bought one.

I’ve wanted one of these saws for a few years now. They are much stronger and hold the blade much stiffer than an ordinary coping saw. I’ll use it mainly for cutting the waste out of dovetails as well as some fret work from time to time. The difference between a Knew Concepts saw and a coping saw is night and day. I may turn a new handle for it out of cocobolo to beautify it someday, but I’m in no rush for that.

With my Knew Concepts saw, my coping saw is perfectly happy in his new home.

All in all, the Woodworking in America is a good show that’s worth going to. It’s not like The Woodworking Show that travels around the country. It’s mainly focused on hand tool woodworking so you won’t find a lot of power tools or boxes of discount belt sander sanding belts. About three quarters of the vendors focus on hand tools which is fine by me.

I was disappointed not to see Welch chair maker Don Weber again this year. He hasn’t attended in a couple of years and I’m not sure if he will again. I took a blacksmithing class from him a few years ago at his shop in Paintlick, KY. He’s extremely knowledgeable about woodworking and a hell of a craftsman, as well as down right a nice guy. I did talk to a few young chair makers who were selling some sweet ass chair making tools. I wanted to buy a drawknife sharpener and adjustable calipers but my funds were already spent. I got their cards so maybe sometime down the road I’ll buy them off the internet.

 

Restoring a Hand Saw

A few weeks ago, while at the Tri-State Antique Show in Lawrenceburg, IN, I came across this old Disston saw. It was in decent shape barring a little rust but the blade was straight. The dealer was only asking $8.00 for it so I decided to buy it and see if I could bring it back to life.

Overall, the saw was in pretty good condition, it just had a few issues with the handle. The top of the tip was chewed up and a part of the side was busted on the other side. I grabbed a piece of beech scrap wood and cut out a couple of blanks to fix the handle. The beech came from an old jointer plane I bought decades ago. It was missing the blade so I ripped it straight down the body into 3/4″ planks and have been using it to repair other tools for years.

I could have cut off the entire tip of the saw and glued in a new piece of wood but I decided just to shave the worn area away with a chisel. This way, the other side of the handle would be left undisturbed.

After I carefully cut out a blank that matched the angle of the shaven off area, I glued it in place with some woodworkers glue.

After the blank was glued and had dried, I used files and rasps to bring it to final shape. I wanted to make sure the wood matched the original shape which was easy because the other side was still there.

Next I flipped over the handle and started working on the part that was missing from the front of the handle.

I cut another piece off my scrap beech and glued it to the handle then shaped and sanded the wood.

The handle came out well but the contrast between the old beech handle and the replaced beech was pronounced. I decided to darken the entire handle down so it would all match. The first thing I did was tone down the wood with walnut aniline dye. I rubbed a couple of coats on it with a sponge and let it dry. I then applied a light coat of dewaxed shellac so I could wipe on a couple of coats of General Finishes Walnut gel stain.

While the handle dried, I focused on the blade. This was the easy part. I simply soaked the blade in a citric acid/water solution for a couple of hours and wiped it clean.

After I wiped it off I used some fine grit sanding sponges and cleaned up blade a little bit more. I also cleaned up the saw nuts with some 000 steel wool.

The saw turned out really well. I just now need to sharpen the blade. I’m no expert on saw sharpening so there’s no sense showing you how I’ll sharpen the saw because I’ll just be following someone elses instructions. There are a bunch of videos on YouTube on saw sharpening so pick your favorite and have at it however, for the money, Ron Herman’s “Sharpen Your Saws” by Popular Woodworking is worth every penny. Ron is considered to be one of the foremost experts on hand saws in the country and his DVD showed me everything I needed to know how to make a saw sing. http://www.shopwoodworking.com/sharpen-your-handsaws-w5169

Anyone need a saw?

What do you call it when you have twelve hand saws, a circular saw blade, a clock movement, and an old pallet? Answer; a $350.00 clock.

I saw this work of art  while I was at The Springfield Antique Show Extravaganza in Springfield, OH today. Before you laugh, a young lady walked into the booth while I was taking the picture and told the vendor, “I love it, it’s such a cool idea.” The vendor selling it had two of them available for $350.00 each. I’m not sure if she has ever sold them in the past, but she claimed she gets a lot of compliments on them.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with using old saws that just sit around collecting dust. It just makes my stomach churn when I see nice tools used as decoration when they could be used as what they were intented to do. I checked the saws she used and most of them weren’t of any real value although she did use some old Disstons. Most of the Disstons had handles that were chipped or the saw nuts were missing.

I guess the joke’s on me. Maybe buying old saws, cleaning them up and selling them on eBay for $20.00 – $30.00 is a waste of time. I should just make these kind of clocks instead, but don’t count on it.

Saw bench design

I designed this thing primarily to be used outside. I own a band saw and table saw and normally would rip any wood with those tools so, I figured if I ever needed a saw bench I would be outside away from electrical outlets.

Its three legged design allows the bench to sit still and not rack on an uneven floor or the ground. The front legs splay apart in both the X and Y axis. The joinery was tough to cut because of the splay. The sides of the legs were it met the top weren’t 90 degrees because of the angle of the splay. The back leg is a simple through tenon.

I kicked the stretcher over to the left so the saw wouldn’t hit it on the down stroke.

The overall dimensions are 28″ long x 19 1/2″ high x 19″ wide. The height of the bench is knee high as all saw benches are suppose to be.