Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Monday, December 21, 2009

Woodbutcher of the Month

Over the years our tool store has had the honor of being visited by a great many fine woodworkers and builders. They have helped us build our inventory and learn about tools. Once each month we'll feature one of our favorite customers, some of their best work, and some of their favorite finds in our tool store.

Neil Knecht, of Monroe Connecticut, was in a few weeks ago during one of his annual trips to Maine. As a fourth-generation woodworker, he creates custom furniture, built-ins, cabinets and architectural details for both residential and commercial clients.

Featured here is a Greene-and-Greene- inspired mahogany media cabinet. He was sure to let us know that he makes a point of stopping by Shelter Tools (formerly Woodbutcher Tools) to pick up a few hard to find pieces.

During his visit he picked up a number of hand tools including skew chisels, a flush cutting saw, and a hammer. But his favorite item . . . the one he really sought out is the Japanese Nail Seta hard to find tool that is indespensible in the workshop and on site when doing any kind of fine woodworking.

Check back with us next month to see another real woodworker and to see their favorite tools.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Woodworker Gift Ideas for the Stocking

Everyone likes cash, but it lacks personality. Chocolates are gone in a day. A bottle of 21-year-old-Honduran rum is apt not to fit in the stocking. So what can you find at Shelter that's the perfect stocking stuffer?

Folding Japanese Hand Saws:
A folding saw! Yes, they do exist, and it's not only practical for the stocking, it's enormously handy for home, out in a field, or in the shop. The Gomboy 300 pictured here is 13 inches long (when folded). Maybe not pocket size, but certainly the right size for a toolbox. The blade is coarse, suitable for pruning green limbs perhaps. However, the blade can be replaced with a finer blade that might be used for carpentry. Or you might want a smaller folding saw. I keep a Silky Gomboy in my tool belt. It's a little over eight inches when folded and is classified by Silky Tools as "interior" or "civil" engineering grade, suitable for interior trim work because of its finer tooth configuration. We carry many more folding saws and other Japanese hand saws. Call or view our website for more details.

Hammers and Mallets:
One of our favorite tools in the store is the Wood Is Good mallet. (Hint to my wife: the 20 oz. mallet would fit perfectly in my stocking. I promise it won't be too hard to wrap.) We also carry a 30 oz. Wood Is Good mallet. They fit comfortably in your hand. The urethane head is a wonderful shock absorber and is easy on a chisel handle. Our favorite hammer is the 21-ounce Yamaguchi, available with a smooth or waffle face. (Umm waffles.) It is very durable and capable tool.

I think I heard a joke once that God could have created the world in fewer than seven days, but he didn't have enough clamps. Everybody could use more clamps. Since this is a religious holiday season, perhaps they're apt as well. Feel free to reuse the joke on the card.

Staff Favorites:
If the person you're shopping for has all of the above, take a look at some of our staff favorites. You'll find kitchen tools, toys, drafting supplies, and more. Or contact us at

In the end, if none of this will fit in your loved one's stocking, a gift certificate always works. A Shelter gift certificate can be used for classes, tools, building supplies, toys, and more. Contact us, and we'll get one out to you as soon as possible.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shelter Gift Ideas: For the Woodstove Family

Gift Ideas for the Woodstove Family

The woodstove family likes to heat their home independently and economically with wood. They have eschewed the gym membership, and you can find them in their backyard working out on fall afternoons splitting and stacking wood. When you visit their toasty warm home this holiday season, here are the gifts you should bring:

Felling and Splitting Tools:
At Shelter, we carry the Gransfors Bruks line of hand-forged axes. Their quality and and craftsmanship is apparent the minute you hold one in your hands. For the Woodstove family (or any serious woodsman), the double-bit working axe is a great gift if they fell trees on their own property. When they need to split that wood, the splitting axe is the tool they'll need. (If they're more power tool oriented, we carry Efco chain saws at the store too. Call or stop in for details.)

Woodlot Knowledge:
What's one to do with all of those trees? Before the axe is sharpened, the Woodstove family should gather around with some hot cocoa and read The Woodlot Management Handbook. If you find the family can't seem to part with their favorite arbor, perhaps Home Tree Home, a step-by-step guide to building treehouses, is right for them.

Backwoods Tools:
Even if you don't know what a froe, loading tong, or pulp hook are, they're essential tools for the Woodstove family. We carry more backwoods tools too, if the family you know has a full collection of Swedish froes.

If It's Not Hot in the House:
Sometimes, even a hot woodstove can't heat the house. Shelter can still help. We all know that heat rises. So it's sometimes helpful to circulate the woodstove heat into living spaces. The Ecofan does just that. Place an Ecofan on top of a woodstove, and without using any electricity, the fan silently moves and circulates heat.

We also sell books on improving the house itself. Efficient Buildings 2 is a good reference for someone wanting to build an air-tight, energy efficient building.

If you are interested in becoming a Woodstove Family, Shelter is the place to begin. We can help you select a wood stove that best fits your home's needs. We sell Vermont Castings wood stoves, which may qualify for an energy tax credit. For more information about wood stoves, energy efficiency, or the Federal tax credit, read our blog posts on energy efficiency, contact us, or attend one of our next "Intro to Wood Stove Best Practices" class. The class is free, and it will help you save money too.

Need more gift ideas? Contact us and check back soon. We'll post more gift ideas from Shelter.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Annual Open House and Sale

Join us for our Annual Sale and Open House on Saturday December 12, 2009 from 9:00-3:00. We'll have tool demonstrations, refreshments, workshop tours and a free tool drawing.

873 US Route One, Woolwich, Maine ph. 207-442-7938

Sale applies to in-stock items only. This offer cannot be combined with other discount.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Architects Scale

By Blueberry Beeton
The Architects Scale is an invaluable tool for anyone involved in design, layout, or construction - large or small. It is somewhat forgotten because of the use of CAD and Sketchup we don't need to hand draw our plans anymore. I teach its use in the Drafting, Cardboard Models and Framing Models workshops and one person in every class complains about having to use paper and pencil. But I find myself digging my architects’ scale out for any number of projects at work and around the house. It is one of those tools that will never actually go out of use because no matter how much we do in the virtual world on the computer, we will always have the tangible world to contend with. I just used my architects scale to make my gingerbread house last weekend.
Building a gingerbread house is much like building a scale model. This gingerbread house is a 10x14 structure using the 3/4-in scale, (i.e. 3/4 of an inch is equal to one foot). This means that I used the face of the architect’s scale that has 3/4-in broken into increments and called out so it is easy to measure out the 10-ft width and 14-ft length of the building. The photo below shows the 3/4-in face of the scale. Begining on the left you see 0, 28, 1, 26, 2, 24, 3 etc. There are actually two scales on this face 3/4-inch coming from the left and 3/8-inch coming from the right. You can ignore the 3/8-in numbers (the higher numbers) and focus on the lower ones that begin on the left. The nice thing about the 3/4-inch scale is that it allows you to show detail of up to 1/2-inch. Those 1/2-inch increments are delineated by the 3/4 in to the left of zero; each line within that space represents a 1/2-inch in the 3/4-inch=1-ft scale.

This is the ideal scale for residential model making because it makes the house small enough to maneuver through my kitchen (and other spaces like doorways and cars if you need to take your model to the bank for loan approval). The 1/4-in scale is ideal for drafting and the 1-in scale is ideal for building residential models showing the framing. I drew each wall and roof panel on heavy-stock paper first and cut out the pattern before rolling out the dough. The big difference between gingerbread and cardboard models is that the dough does change shape a bit in the oven so no matter how perfect your panels are in the raw; you are bound to have a few site corrections when you assemble. The key to accuracy is to mix the dough very thoroughly -- the butter can wreak havoc on the panels if not mixed thoroughly.
Below is my favorite recipe for gingerbread and my fastener is good old reliable royal icing -- which is remarkably like expanding foam insulation. If you are feeling the urge to build a gingerbread house and add the aroma to your home pull out that Architects Scale to help simplify the process. My favorite architects scale is aluminum because it is extremely durable but the less expensive plastic version provides the same accuracy. These make a great housewarming gift, or gift to a budding architect, engineer or designer as well as anyone considering designing or building their own home.

Favorite Gingerbread House Dough Recipe:
1 C (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter
1 C Brown Sugar (firmly packed)
1 C Molasses
5 C Flour (All-Purpose)
2 t Baking Soda
1-1/2 t Ground Cinnamon
1/2 t Ground Cloves
1/2 t Salt
1/3-1/2 C Water

Royal Icing
3 Egg Whites
1-1/2 Pounds Confectioners' Sugar

Friday, December 4, 2009

Book Sale: Alternative Buildings

Buy ONE book from the Alternative Buildings Shelf and receive a 30% Discount 
Offer Expires December 31, 2009

Alternative home construction is the use of available resources to create a custom home. We've collected our favorite books on Alternative Styles of Construction and put them together on one bookshelf! The Alternative Buildings Shelf includes over 30 titles including such topics from "How to Build an Igloo" to tent construction, straw bale, burmed homes and even eco-friendly suburb development.  All books on this shelf are on sale.

Each month we’ll highlight a particular “Book Shelf” and all books on that shelf will be 30% off!
Purchase one book from the Featured Shelf each month for six months and receive a 25%-storewide-discount card. We'll track your purchases and send your discount card with your last purchase (discounts applicable to in-stock items only, no special orders and cannot be combined with other discounts).

Don’t see the book you have been looking for in our online selection, give us a call and we’ll see if we have it on the shelf in the store. If we do, you can include it in your book order and it will count toward that free book!

Need a suggestion? Do you have a particular topic or question that you're trying to research? Or perhaps this is a gift for someone who has been excited about a particular topic -- let us know and we can make a recommendation! Our knowledgeable staff spends hours combing through the books, reading and reviewing them for your benefit. Email us your inquiry, and we'll make a suggestion of where to find the answers!

The sale is applicable to in-store purchases as well as online purchases so if you’re in the area, please stop by for a visit. Sorry, but we cannot special order books as part of the “book shelf” sale program. Special orders are always welcome however, under regular circumstances.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Build Boston Trade Show

By Ethan Courand

I traveled to the Build Boston Trade Show on Friday Nov. 20th, which was held at the Seaport World Trade Center on Boston’s waterfront. With more than 250 exhibits and over 200 workshops, there wasn’t enough time in the day to see it all. This show was a bit different than some that I have been to in the past, in that it had something to offer to anyone who is involved in designing, constructing, maintaining, or occupying a building. Whether you are a student, architect, engineer, contractor, or a homeowner this show had something for you. The organizers brought all aspects of building together under one roof; exhibitors ranged from building product manufacturers to renewable energy companies to educational institutions. I did get a chance to stop and talk with some of our suppliers who had booths in the trade show. Marvin, our window supplier, had a huge display of windows and doors that took up the space of about eight standard size booths. Our structural insulated panel manufacturer was there as well, showing off their EPS Foam Core Panels as well as their new “Fast Form” insulated concrete form line. Longfellow Cedar Shingles  based in Windsor, Maine, caught my attention with a new MicroPro  pressure treated cedar shingle which brings maintenance free to a whole new level. All in all I had a great experience and I would recommend this event next year to anyone who is thinking about or is in the process of building or renovating a home.

As we travel to other trade shows across the country we'll report back on our findings and our experiences! If you have a favorite trade show that you think we should attend please make a suggestion.