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Working with Tools

By Rick Gush, Urban Farm Contributing Editor

Friday, April 8, 2011

Curved surform

Photo by Rick Gush

This week, I got to try out my new curved surform—a tool to create pieces for my Adirondack chairs.

I’ve got several projects going at the moment: building a pair of Adirondack chairs, starting spring garden work and prepping my next art project. All of these activities require excessive and repeated tool use. One of my favorite things about the garden is getting to use a bunch of different tools, and it’s the same with my shop. The fact that I can actually make things is part of my pleasure, but it’s the use of the tools that gets me most excited.

In the workshop, I’m cutting out all the pieces for the Adirondack chairs. Each chair has 40 individual pieces, so I’ve been doing a lot of cutting and shaping. In order to have a pair of chairs match exactly, I have to make sure that all the pieces are the same for both chairs. I try to be as careful as I can, but it’s inevitable that when cutting the curved pieces there are some differences.

To make the pieces exactly alike, I screw them together into one block and use a wood shaper to carve down the differences until all the pieces match. The tool I used a lot today was a curved surform. It has a thin steel blade that looks like a cheese grater held in a plastic or metal handle. The tool works very nicely when a board needs to be modified slightly. I’ve used a flat surform a lot, but his is my first curved surform and I’m quite taken with it. Eleven euros very well spent!

As for my garden work, today I pulled up some of the older broccoli plants and started preparing the bed for planting tomatoes and squash next week. The old broccoli plants have big, thick stems, so in order to compost all the refuse, I needed to cut all the old broccoli stalks into short pieces. It took me about 45 minutes to clear the plot of all the old plants and weeds and chop all that up into small pieces. Having a nice pair of pruning shears with an extra large mouth made the work much easier, and I certainly enjoyed having the perfect sharp shears to get the job done.

Read more of Digging Italy »

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I've loved the surform tools since they came out. I like the fact that they give you one more option to avoid the noise of power tools. There is just something about using a hand tool that makes a project so much more personal.
Bruce, Las Vegas, NV
Posted: 4/12/2011 9:33:10 AM
Rick,
I say tools make the man. I have learned over the years to save a little longer and get the quality tool and not the cheap china knock off tool. It makes things go ever so much more easily. I don't have a workshop like you do, but I have collected many tools to fix things mostly but some for construction. Some have been given to me and those are the most special. There was a time when I thought I would like woodworking and wood carving but I am lousy at sculpting which both require at least a little skill in that area. So I've settled for building walls, drywalling, cabinet remodeling, and in general fixing or remodeling anything with a house. I absolutely am envious of those like yourself that can start with chunks of wood and make a chair.

Have a great workshop/garden day.
David, Omaha, NE
Posted: 4/10/2011 5:36:13 AM

About the Blogger

Rick Gush

Rick Gush
Rick Gush has long been a staunch organic gardener. While a student at the University of California at Davis he worked at local tomato and sugar beet farms and continued in the agricultural and horticultural industries for many years. A career move in the 1990s led him to design computer games, but no matter how much of a techie he’s become, gardening and farming remain his principal passions.

In 2000, Rick moved to Italy, where he writes to you about his cliff garden and other experiences in Italian urban agriculture.

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