First project - Japanese low horses

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Blog entry by siavosh posted 06-03-2013 06:51 AM 5820 reads 1 time favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

After I got bit by the woodworking bug a few months ago I’ve been scrambling to figure out how to start making stuff given that I live in a 3rd floor one bedroom apartment with my fiance in San Francisco (and having no hand skills whatsoever). I hope this entry helps inspire others in a similar situation that it can be done, but please don’t look at this blog or my projects for any tips on technique. I’m sure I’ve made every mistake in the book—but all while having a lot of fun :)

So to figure things out, I first took a weekend course at a community center down south near San Jose, and even though I ended up with a small walnut wall cabinet at the end, I had no idea how it came about. I just know that I had to use a lot of pre-made jigs and a lot of power tools, the latter which wasn’t very feasible given my current circumstances.

I then enrolled in an excellent one night a week hand tools class at the Randall Musuem, just a few minutes from my apartment (a real hidden treasure in SF by the way). Although we didn’t make anything notable, we did practice a few joints, and I had the chance to really ask a lot of questions, and to that I deeply thank the patience of my excellent teacher.

So as the class was wrapping up, I began to think of what my first project should be. Something relatively simple, low-cost, useful, requiring a minimal set of tools, and not least of all having a high tolerance for messing up and still being functional. After reading the beautiful blog post by mafe on Japanse saw horses and finding more instructions online at Make, I had my first project.

I acquired my set of tools: a Japanese double sided saw, 3 chisels, a combination sharpening stone, and a couple squares. Here’s my on the ground “workshop” in our living room (spoiler alert: i took this at the end of the project). Good place to mention that my fiance has shown infinite patience for this new hobby.

For the sawhorse, the raw material was one 2×4 from the nearest big box store. From there it was a fair bit of time trying to be as precise as I could to do the layout and initial first cuts (tip, dining chairs in the kitchen make an excellent saw horse).

Resulting in:

From there, it was the half lap joints which I’ll be honest were a bit of struggle to get “good enough.” I’ve really begun to gain the appreciation for how much precision and skill it takes to do fine joinery—something to strive for! Finally there were some decorative curves on the legs and the beams to be sawed, chiseled, sanded—the results were pretty sloppy but a good learning experience.

For a guy who spends his day in front of a computer, this was a huge challenge but also hugely gratifying. Living in an urban setting with little access or exposure to craft, I feel I’ve discovered a new range of experiences that I didn’t know existed. All the inspiring projects and craft men/women on Lumberjocks are a big part of that, so a big thank you to the community! Hoping I’ll put these sawhorses to good use soon.

-- -- Discover the most interesting woodworking blogs from around the world

13 comments so far

View jimmyb's profile


185 posts in 1888 days

#1 posted 06-03-2013 11:49 AM

Good job. I can see you will grow immensely.

-- Jim, Tinley Park, IL

View SPalm's profile


5320 posts in 3878 days

#2 posted 06-03-2013 12:15 PM

Yea! They are cute.
Good job, and welcome to LJs


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View waho6o9's profile


8189 posts in 2573 days

#3 posted 06-03-2013 12:50 PM

And a mighty fine set of horses they are!

Good job Siavosh and enjoy your journey in your
new hobby, it’s going to be a great one.

View bonobo's profile


297 posts in 2052 days

#4 posted 06-03-2013 01:04 PM

Those turned out beautifully!

If you’re still looking for instruction, be sure to watch the Woodwright’s Shop. A whole bunch are available in HD, on demand, at the PBS website. I found the episodes that feature Chris Schwarz to be a huge help, as they cover basics like sawing, layout considerations and how/when to employ the different hand planes.

Also, build a saw bench next because, sooner or later, you WILL cut into that nice dining chair.

-- “The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” ― Mark Twain

View helluvawreck's profile


31056 posts in 2863 days

#5 posted 06-03-2013 01:41 PM

Nice set of horses, Siavosh. Welcome to Lumberjocks.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View libraryman's profile


45 posts in 3741 days

#6 posted 06-03-2013 03:38 PM

The journey begins with the first step. You have equipped yourself well – many Japanese furniture makers have little more than you and produce stunning work. They would add a very sharp plane to your tool kit. Please, for the sake of domestic harmony, don’t saw on that Oriental carpet. As an aside, for an excellent free e-book on woodcraft using simple tools ( back when we taught students how to coordinate their hands with their brains) read about Slojd (Sloyd) Has really neat old woodworking graphics!

View siavosh's profile


674 posts in 1867 days

#7 posted 06-03-2013 08:42 PM

Thanks everyone for the kind words! bonobo and libraryman – thanks for the tips , will definitely check them out before the next project. And I’ll try not to have our furniture and rugs too close to my sawing :)

-- -- Discover the most interesting woodworking blogs from around the world

View Bogeyguy's profile


548 posts in 2064 days

#8 posted 06-04-2013 12:30 AM

You need to change out of your bath sandals and put on some work shoes.

-- Art, Pittsburgh.

View siavosh's profile


674 posts in 1867 days

#9 posted 06-04-2013 07:51 PM

Bogeyguy, this is San Francisco, THOSE are my work shoes

-- -- Discover the most interesting woodworking blogs from around the world

View Bogeyguy's profile


548 posts in 2064 days

#10 posted 06-04-2013 09:14 PM

You drop a sharp chisel or saw on your foot and you’ll be wishing you had some real shoes on while working. It’s the least you can do while beginning to use sharp tools.

-- Art, Pittsburgh.

View siavosh's profile


674 posts in 1867 days

#11 posted 06-04-2013 09:20 PM

Good point. I’ll dig out some hard shell shoes.

-- -- Discover the most interesting woodworking blogs from around the world

View jte9999's profile


25 posts in 2098 days

#12 posted 06-04-2013 10:59 PM

A nice shop vac and maybe a modern milkman’s workbench found at the Popular Woodworking site would be in order. Happy woodworking, good luck!

—jay KCMO

-- --half full, half empty? How about twice as big as it needs to be?

View rhybeka's profile


3979 posts in 3117 days

#13 posted 05-03-2014 09:37 PM

glad your fiancé is patient and happy you’ve found a hobby – it’s good to get out from behind the desk! Good luck with your space limitations but it seems you’ve found the best way to deal with that already! :) Welcome!! I’m looking forward to your projects as I’m a bit of a hybrid worker myself. Maybe not so Japanese inclined but definitely hand tool inclined :)

-- Beka/Becky - aspiring jill of all trades, still learning to not read the directions.

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