Working Under Hills


So I take the left on Forrestville Rd, just as the Mapquest directions indicate. Being North Carolina, the road is flanked on both sides with tall pines. About a mile in I come upon a large, white, cinderblock building with an even larger metal building, teed onto the back. The sign next to the drive says Kay & Sons Woodworks. I’ld arrived.


Driving up the long gravel lane, you begin the realize you’re not only on the property of a business, you’re on the property of an individual. Fully mature blackberry bushes and purple martin bird houses decorate the landscape. Once in the small parking lot, you’re afforded a hidden glimpse of Kay’s house. Surly built by him, a woodworker, given the complimentary arch roofed barn, sitting in close proximity.


I had gotten Kay’s number by chance. Katie, Ethan and I, had been in Raleigh for about a month and my search for work was intensifying. By this time I was walking onto job sites, portfolio in hand, asking for work. You can imagine the looks I received, showing a binder of finished art and studio furniture to tradesmen and migrant workers.  The most common reply I recieved, you’re overqualified. Fortunately during one of my wild goose chases, I ran into a cabinetmaker, leaving a jobsite.  He interestingly looked over my binder of miscellany, then mentioned the shop he purchased doors from was looking for help. That was all I needed to hear. I went home and scheduled an interview.

Walking under a covered porch, equipped with rocking chairs and ceiling fans, you enter the showroom. A mahogany mantel, wall of cherry cabinetry and numerous articles and awards decorated the front room. Looking around, it was obvious that this shop was big time.


Clay was the first Hill I met, followed by his twin brother Kay Jr, or as the shop preferred “little Kay”.   After introductions and a quick overview of my work, Clay handed me a sheet of paper. I was told to fill it out, as he left the office. It was a test. Yes, an actual written math and woodworking quiz.  After about 15 minutes, the questions were answered. I handed it in for grading and got a tour of the shop, while  my test was graded.

From the showroom and offices, we walked through a door and into a hallway. A chalkboard on the wall had space balls and glue scribbled on it. The sound of the shop was beginning to come into tune. When the next door was opened, the sound waves crashed upon me. I was now in the shop and getting my first look of the place I would call work, for the next several years.


To Be Continued…

*all photos property of Scott Hill Photography




As if I need another project.  I happened upon this little guy while in North Carolina. I was immediately drawn to the rubeness of the device and all its mechanical beauty. From what I was told by Ed Lebetkin, it’s an old pattern makers plane.  Ed runs the shop above The Woodwright’s School and keeps an incrediable collection of vintage hand tools.


It was missing a wedge and didn’t have all the blades, but this didn’t sway me in the least. In my eyes it was a perfect broken child and I had the parts and ability to bring it back to life. So it came back to KY with me, accompanied by an old Stanley 51.


The interchangeable bottom plate has a radius with a corresponding blade. This effectively makes one hand plane, a small set of very large cove planes. Unscrewing the front knob releases the plate. Small studs on the planes bottom, slide into metal keyhole ways, rebated in the plate.


Not sure who W.J.Houck is or if he only made the bottoms. His name is only stamped on the wooden plates. The blades are tapered and marked as Buck Brothers.


Fortunately this plane has a number 10 blade and matching sole. It will be perfect for the perpendicular scooping of the seat and back on this bench design I want to build. It is yet another project, on the list.


This might happen also…


Onto Obscurity

I have been asking myself some questions lately, in an attempt to further my peace of mind. Things are easier to comprehend in retrospect and I believe it is important to have clear answers to the questions we ask ourselves. My present thoughts question, who is this body of work for and whose opinion matters? The body of work I’m referring to is the hand plane company, the social media presence and what you’re reading now, this blog.

I’m sure had I actually formed a solid business plan, NAP would have flown farther than it did. My early assumptions and goals could have easily been redirected, had I actually attended a woodworking show or took a woodworking class. The notion there was a need for simple/affordable wooden planes would have quickly been rescinded. This probably would have kept me from attempting a social media presence and starting this blog also. The reality is, Me and social are generally antonyms. My matter of fact charm is best experienced live and even then I’m socially awkward and hard for some to take. My “speak when spoken to” mentality keeps conversation minimal but as Christopher Wallace used to say, “To know me is to love me”. He also said, “love me or leave me alone”.

This blog was spawned by need for a platform, to promote my planes. It has since turned into a relaxing and enjoyable outlet for my thoughts and opinions, most of which never get uploaded. I don’t know if my writing is any good, I just know it makes me feel good doing it. I’ve never taken writing classes and I’m sure my “style” is incorrect. Acknowledge that and let’s continue. Of course I could keep my writing to myself, but the cats out of the bag. While I don’t have a readership per se, people have been reading this blog. Last stat check showed almost 10,000 views from over 57 different countries in only 4 months. This amazes me, simply because I talk to maybe 5 people a week on average. More importantly, I’ve had people who aren’t woodworkers or family members tell me they like to read what I’m writing. This alone motivates me to continue. I’ve found encouragement and acknowledgement go a long way towards motivation. Like all skill, I believe my writing will improve with practice. I have little idea where this current creative outlet will lead but I’m willing to explore it and invite you to come along.

Finally, worrying over the opinions of others is something I’ve done very little of. I respect that everyone has a right to their opinion and a right to express it in any manner they see appropriate, even if I do not agree with it. I do not stand for people pressing their opinions on others and calling it truth.

Nothing you will ever read on this blog should be taken for truth. The only opinion that matters is yours.


These are simply words, spilled on a digital page,

moving into obscurity at the speed of electricity.

Getting Better in NC

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a highly sought after class, held in NC.  It was a week of discovery, reunion and new beginnings.  Revisting an area I used to reside, not only recharged my mind but it rekindled my desire to simply woodwork.

Like most things, timing is key. I was reading Unplugged Shop and happened upon a Lost Art Press blog post about openings in a Dutch tool chest class. Nice enough by itself but these particular openings were at Roy Underhill’s school, in Pittsboro NC.  The Woodwright’s School is a mecca for hand tool enthusiasts and is, I think, the best place in the country to start a hand work education.  After telling Katie about the opportunity, she told me I was going. I quickly registered, managing to avoid the dreaded wait list. Things were real now and the planning of a trip began.


It would be a lie to act like any of the planning was actually done on my part. My lovely bride found me an awesome bed and breakfast, with-in walking distance of the class. The Small B&B is a farm to table café’ as well as a comfortable place to rest your head. Kind hearts and folk art mix with whole foods and culinary inquisition. The lemon ricotta hotcakes were by far the best warm morning confection I’ve eaten to date. Dave tells me the recipe came from a personal kitchen favorite and has been a big hit since introducing it to the menu. 




The first day of class began with a quick introduction and overview of things to come. I took along a very minimal tool kit which consisted of a 50/50 mix self made/vintage hand tools. I had emailed Chris earlier about tools I would need and he assured me there would be a shit ton of tools available, this was actually an understatement.  Don’t let a weak tool kit keep you from attempting a class. 


The class itself was very enjoyable and the instruction was top notch. It’s no wonder Chris Schwarz is such a big draw when teaching, he knows his stuff and keeps things entertaining.  The pace was easy and I never once felt rushed in my project. I came away from the experience with a new confidence in my abilities and feel I have a deeper understanding of hand tool woodworking in general.  There is no substitute for hands on learning, especially coming from people who’ve mastered the routine.


I did not finish my chest during the class, due to the fact I left early to start my journey back home. Given my families circumstances, travel is a big undertaking. It would probably have been easier to get a circus across the country than to get me away from the house for this class. I am very gracious to have the wife and friends I do. This rare reality would not have been possible without them.


On my journey west, I took some time to stop in and see my good friends Maurice and Lisa. It’s been the better part of seven years since I’ve seen them and it was a beautiful reunion. Maurice is the Dr who inspired the MO chair and is the brains behind Akea Essentials, a fermented whole food supplement. He gifted me a kombuchi scoby as I left. I look forward to the benefits of this magical elixir and plan to blog about the process of cultivation, in the future.


Thanks for reading and please understand this blog is simply a brief narration of my life.  Take it for what it is.

Remain Sane

No one is perfect and mistakes are part of the human experience. If you have ever attempted to work free of your comfort zone or if you’ve tried to push the boundaries of your skill set, you are aware getting knocked down is a 2:1 ration to getting lifted up, at the start. 

In the early stages of development, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and when mistakes start to appear, and they will. These errors of action are usually accompanied by a dark cloud of negativity. The trick is to stay positive.

Here are four techniques I use, to remain sane and to keep work enjoyable.

1. Stop Doing and Start Thinking.

The human mind is a wonderfully powerful tool and like all tools, some folks are better with theirs than others. This has nothing to do with IQ or capacity and everything to do with the ability to visualize. Visualization is a very powerful tool and has been practiced successfully by some of the greatest minds in history.

TRY: Before you make that difficult cut, play a movie in your mind of how the task will be performed. See yourself making the cut through completion, exactly how it should be. Smile when you look at the completed and flawless cut in your mind. Now actually cut the line.


2. Slow Down

Haste makes waste isn’t just a saying, it’s a rule in a woodshop. Miscuts and miscalculations bring unwanted and unnecessary negativity to your project. While not all mistakes can be avoided, their frequency can be adjusted.

TRY: During your work secessions stop occasionally, look around and take a deep breath.  Be present for every step. Working slow and deliberate helps to eliminate mistakes.


3. Chill Out

Don’t stress out over simple things. So your joints a bit gappy or your carcass is a bit out of square, no big deal. In today’s world of instant gratification and single serving hobbies, be proud of the fact that you took the initiative.  Doing anything elevates you above status-quo.  Beating yourself up over imperfections will only lead you to resent that which you are attempting to enjoy.  You will do better next time, folks most always do

TRY: Remember why you are in the shop.  



4. Keep It Clean

This is a step I continually struggle with. Clean work spaces are not only safer but they are more efficient. How much time do you waste, looking for things you know you have? How much more enjoyable would your shop time be, if everything was in reach and easy to find?

TRY: Upon entering your shop, put away 10 things before you start working, when you’re done, clean up your mess. Before you know it, your shop will be organized. It then becomes a matter of upkeep.


I hope these 4 simple steps will help to improve,not only your work but your enjoyment of working.

Be Good




There was once a banner that hung in an elementary school hallway, in primary color it read.

Never rest until your good is better and your better is best.

I’ve been reciting this little rhyme like a mantra for the last few days. It emerged from my memory,while trying to remember why I was building a plane milling jig for the 7th time.



When I first started, what can now be called an experiment in making planes, I laminated them, same way everyone else does. My notion to split the body was first addressed with a rude shape, a clamp and  a router using a patterning bit. Not only was it double dangerous, it was awkward and provided mediocre results. I could still turn the resulting mess into a functioning plane, but I wouldn’t want to make very many that way.
In comes a visual if the old Onsrund pin router at Kay’s shop. The one he had offered to sell me once at a ridiculous price. If only my shop at that time wasn’t in the attic of a rental home…
Instead of sinking a large sum of money into an industrial machine, I decided to make a small overarm router, understanding if it worked and I sold some planes, I could upgrade.


pin (2)
Let me quickly explain the basic principle of pin routing. There is a pin in a table which follows a pattern. Directly above the pin is a spinning bit of the same diameter. The cut made above is a mirror image of the pattern below. This type of machine has all but been replaced by computer numerical control, or CNC.
This makes older industrial machines available for little money. The big plus, they have better spindles than anything in the semi-affordable CNC category, huge greasable bearings, true 3hp motors and belt drives. These machines just take a different kind of brain to work them.

More hands on mechanical and less finger tip digital.



I’m finding the fit of the plane halves lie in the precision of the jig. The difficulty is in not only making two mirror images of each half, but then transferring that “image” to a square of wood. All the while keeping the grain lined up, oriented and everything on the level. This called for a jig with some adjustability.


Dipping into the 80/20 rabbit hole once again, I have designed a jig worthy of being called better.


Along with 4-way adjustability to dial in the two halves, the top side is fully adjustable to ensure the grain lines up, uninterrupted.


Weighing in at a hefty 40lbs, this jig is no joke.
But here’s the best part. I can easily switch patternsto mill different bed angles, mouth openings and escapements. Countless configurations are possible, within the confines of this little system.

Determination, Perspiration, Motivation, what’s left?,
When attempting to move from better to best.


I also made my bed this morning.

Building Between

I’ve been quasi-busy with NICE Planes the last few weeks. So between orders and others, I’ve been crafting a few shop tools and jigs. Some to make jobs more comfortable and some to make planes more durable.

Let’s start with this little carving apparatus I’ve configured. It’s for optimum positioning of plane bodies, when using spoke shaves and files. I found clamping the plane bodies in a straight vise restrictive. Not only would I need to clamp and unclamp the plane multiple times, I was often using awkward body positions to achieve the cut I was after.



With a bit of internet rummaging, I came across carving vises. You may have already been thinking carving vise, well, I had to find it in order to see it. But, instead of buying it, I went with building it. Using a piece of steel pipe, a flange and a bit of ingenuity, I now have a carving vise to call my own. And who doesn’t love a new vice? I added a pivot on the lower wooden body, to keep it from being shifty.



My sharpening situation has been less than stellar for some time and I’ve had an idea simmering. The gentleman who sold me my DeltaRU50 was a plastic fabricator. During our transaction, I scored a slab of 1” thick acrylic glass. Knowing the machine I now have, once cut the material I also have, gave me confidence to try working it myself. I made a pattern for the pin router and used it to recess areas for each stone to sit in. This keeps them from sliding when in use. The acrylic was actually simple to cut and route, though the chips had some bite. They stung a bit, being thrown from the router and saw.


023 (2)

These chips sort of lead into the other shop built goody I’ve been working on, a vacuum chamber. This will be used to infuse wooden plane bodies with acrylic resin. The resin used is essentially acrylic chips, melted in acetone. The vacuum will pull in the liquid resin, the acetone will flashes off and the acrylic will be left, inside the wood….in theory. I have yet to try the resin but I have done some small runs with colored dyes. So far, results are good enough to keep me interested.



Lots of little things have occupied the times between.


Spring has sprung here in Fulkytown. The birds are in full chorus and the smell of freshly tilled soil is in the air. The seeds and tender vines planted in the past are showing signs they may finally bear enough fruit to mention.


These grapes vines were planted 3 years ago. Right after planting, a late frost got the buds and I thought for sure they were done,.  They just stood there barren and lifeless, all that first summer. I left them alone last season and let them grow carte blanche.  I’m attempting to educate myself and have began to prune and train the vines. This summer, we are looking set for bunches.


Katie’s greenhouse is awash with new life.  She is growing enough spinach to cover our smoothie needs, and has also started a bunch of heirloom seeds.  Looks like there will be lots of variety in the garden this year.  Just a moment for clarity, we are definitely not farmers and do not give growing advice.  This is just a small part of our simple life plan.  We feel that taking control over what food we can and showing our kids where it comes from, makes gardening worth doing. It also gives our family something we can all do together, OUTSIDE.


The garden is in transition. I switched to raised beds a couple years ago and try to follow the square foot gardening method. With this technique, lots of food can be grown in a very small space. I love the raised beds. Not only do they allow for earlier planting, the arrangement gives wonderful use to old sawdust.


My strawberries are looking good. It was a bumper crop last summer and morning strawberry picks were the norm. Living on a hill makes growing anything a chore and I’ve moved this patch a couple times, looking for optimal sunlight. There are never enough grown to can or preserve, just enough to provide little reminders that it’s summer.


So as you can see, lots growing on out here. 

Thanks for reading, please follow me on twitter and facebook!

Dear Internet,

Hey, hope this post finds you well. I’ve been meaning to write, but it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Last you heard, I was starting the task of building a nicer plane. I’m finding the maple to be a joy to work and I’m having design ideas faster than I can make planes. Dropping the ash is proving fruitful, as business and opportunities have really picked up.

On April 1st, I got the green light to display at a Lie-Nielsen hand tool event. I was so surprised when I found out, that for a moment, I thought I was getting April Fooled. The Event was held at F&W Media, home of Popular Woodworking magazine. Lots of people came through and I saw some familiar faces from WIA. My kits and blades sold very well.  


While at the event, Chris Schwarz took video of me setting a chip breaker. The video ended up being no good, but luckily the trick was. It was posted on the Lost Art Press blog, along with a quick blurb about my kits and planes. I can now confirm the existence of the “Schwarz Effect” and will say his post spiked my one day sales and page views, enough to skew my insights graph indefinitely.

As if all that wasn’t enough for one weekend, I also got interviewed about my planes. This was especially cool, because I have never been interviewed before, not even as a bystander or witness. The questions came from the Drunken Woodworker, David Picciuto. If you haven’t seen his wrap up show, check it out…GOOD STUFF!

The kits have been my best sellers and to aid in the assembly, I made some youtube videos. These are first drafts and were all done in one take. Wanted to get some visuals out there and hope to remake these soon.

The rest of my time has been spent filling orders and exploring designs. I’ve found that breaking free of my previous, self imposed restraints on wood and shape, have opened a flood gate of ideas. I’m excited to see where this goes.



Be Good,


Kerouac’ed Out

He saw that all the struggles of life were incessant, laborious, painful, that nothing was done quickly, without labor, that it had to undergo a thousand fondlings, revisings, moldings, addings, removings, graftings, tearings, correctings, smoothings, rebuildings, reconsiderings, nailings, tackings, chippings, hammerings, hoistings, connectings — all the poor fumbling uncertain incompletions of human endeavor. They went on forever and were forever incomplete, far from perfect, refined, or smooth, full of terrible memories of failure and fears of failure, yet, in the way of things, somehow noble, complete, and shining in the end.
 Jack Kerouac