Portable Altar for Father Mike

This is a recently completed portable altar. It was a total prototype after discussions with Father Mike on what he wanted. Probably have 80 hours into it total, maybe more. A lot of thought and trial and error went into how the 4 wings would fold up and how the 2 lower wings would be supported. I think it turned out pretty well. As you can see it won first place in the Craftsman’s class of the Woodworker’s Guild of Georgia showing, held during the Woodworking Show in Norcross, GA. early March 2015.

Portable altar for Father Mike

Portable altar for Father Mike

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Sjöbergs Traditional Holdfast

Here’s my brand new holdfasts for my Sjöberg workbench with 1″ dog holes. It’s almost impossible to find any holdfasts that work, and I didn’t want to drill 3/4″ holes, nor convert the 1″ holes  to 3/4″ (yes, I was actually considering that). Here’s a short video with all the info…

Available from…

Black Bear Forge

P.O. Box 4

Beulah, CO  81023

John Switzer – Blacksmith  switz@mindspring.com

BlackBearForge.com  303-589-1767


Black Bear Forge

P.O. Box 4

Beulah, CO  81023


John Switzer – Blacksmith



Pinnacle 151 1/2 Radius Spokeshave


Kunz #53 spokeshave

I had an old Kunz spokeshave that I recently tried to tuneup. I soon realized it was useless because there were no adjustment screws for the blade, and the blade was very thin. I could get a new blade but there would still be no easy adjustment without adjustment screws. Sorry, to the trash!

So I decided to take a look at what they had over at Woodcraft. After looking at the Wood River, Kunz, and Pinnacle spokeshaves, I decided on the Pinnacle #151 1/2 Radius spokeshave. It’s made of brushed 304 stainless steel, weighs just over 1 pound, and has all the adjustments that I felt I needed. It is, in my opinion, a thing of beauty…


Pinnacle spokeshave bottom


Pinnacle spokeshave top

While there, I went on their computer to the Lee Valley website to check out the Veritas spokeshaves. The only difference I could see is the Veritas ships with 2 shims that are placed between the blade and bed to adjust the size of the mouth. While they were about $10 less than the Pinnacle, about $94, I didn’t see a significant benefit of an adjustable mouth since I needed the spokeshave primarily for roughing out inside curves.

I later learned that Lie-Nielson spokeshaves have a cast bronze body, no shims, and no adjustment screws. Nothing wrong with that but I wanted adjustments screws. I don’t see Lie-Nielson bench planes without an adjustment screw, their spokeshaves should have them too.

After talking with some of the staff at Woodcraft, I felt the decision to get the Pinnacle made sense for me. But the Veritas did have pretty bubinga handles. 🙂 It also had an option for PM-V11 blades. 😦

I highly recommend testing tools, if possible, before you decide to purchase them. Most tools are precision instruments, but they’re made by machines that are invariably set up and run by men, and to keep costs down and profits up, the quality control can be lacking. At least that’s what I’ve found in my tool buying adventures.

In the case of this Pinnacle spokeshave, Woodcraft had 3 in stock. The one on demo worked perfectly, and I assumed the new ones on the shelf would follow suit. Wrong! I took one, assembled it, and found out that neither of the adjustment screws would freewheel when the blade was locked down, something that I felt was incredibly important when adjusting the blade.

Here’s why, if you don’t know. With the blade locked down, you should be able to spin the adjustment screws forward or backward maybe a half turn until they stop, then you loosen the cap iron, and make the adjustment. If you’re making a fine blade adjustment that is the ONLY way to do it, otherwise you have no idea where the adjustment screw is in relation to it engaging the blade.

So I tested the second one, and only one of the adjustment screws freewheeled. So I tried the third one and both of those adjustment screws would not spin, just like the first one. Apparently either the boss on the adjustment screws were machined too large, or the body was tapped incorrectly. I suspect the jig they used to hold the body to tap the holes was not setup precisely, causing the threads to be off center. See, it’s quality control!

Since the demo Pinnacle spokeshave worked perfectly, meaning both adjustment screws freewheeled when the cap iron was tightened, I bought that one. No demo discount, though I did ask, but the demo did not have a scratch on it.

Pinnacle is owned by Woodcraft and is their upscale house brand. I called Woodcraft tech support and mentioned the issue and they were appreciative, saying they don’t find out about these problems until someone like me reports them. By the way, the body was cast and machined in China, the blade was manufactured in Canada.

When I got home I flattened the back, took about 45 minutes (A2 steel is tough), and put a nice edge on it with a 2 degree microbevel to bring it to 47 degrees. The A2 steel should hold an edge well, and it looks really nice hanging next to my Veritas router plane and cabinet scraper. Can’t win ’em all Lee Valley!

Veritas large router plane, cabinet scraper, and Pinnacle spokeshave.

Veritas large router plane, cabinet scraper, and Pinnacle spokeshave.

DW735 conversion to Byrd Shelix head

What an amazing difference! I’ve read that if you only have one spiral cutterhead in the shop, that you should put it in your planer. After all, don’t you plane to final thickness?

Well, I finally installed the Shelix head after buying it over 6 months ago. It took about 4 hours, including several interruptions from watching and playing with my twin granddaughters. I took a few photos, but their instructions that I downloaded from their website were very clear for someone familiar with snap ring pliers and chain tensioners. Just go slow and keep track of the order you take off parts. Here’s a pic of it installed.

Before I had to wear earplugs and could only take .01-.02″ off 6″ red oak without tripping the breaker. Now I can easily take .04-.06″ without bogging down at all and there’s no need for earplugs. And the finish is glass smooth. Money well spent.

With these Shelix heads and the Wixey electronic digital readout, it’s the perfect setup for a home shop!


Leather and wood

Here’s a photo of some leather work I did on the portable altar. The leather is a Lattigo leather, very thick, so I had to compress the leather for the post to have enough clearance to set the snaps. The bottom is fixed, I used Loktite to prevent the screw from coming loose during use.

 I added a couple of crosses and rounded the corners. This is VERY easy to do after I figured out how to set the snaps.