Posts Tagged ‘Neanderthal


Episode 15 – An Open and Shut Case

Think back to the times that you’ve been visiting a very cool historical old Fort, or a re-enactment village such as Old Sturbridge Village or Colonial Willamsburg, or something along that ilk. As your cup is coming near to running over with information overload and an imagination that’s lagging behind you 300 years or so (and perhaps the kids are getting antsy,) the next threshold brings you into a space where woodworking took place. In the midst of dust settling from generations-old rough-hewn rafters to the burnished floorboards there sits a tool chest, carefully arranged by loving curators to depict the Galoot’s dream. Suddenly your fatigue is gone and your attention is riveted.


Reproduction of Benjamin Seaton's tool chest. He didn't use it much, and that's why it's well preserved.

The tool chest was more than mere organization to the old ones. It was a sales brochure and an industry efficiency expert rolled into one. On the right, of course, is a reproduction of the tool chest of Benjamin Seaton, as described in the podcast. Notice the chisel tills in the top bin of the sliding till, and the fixed till securly holding the smaller saws. Also notice the rope handles — there is some conjecture that some chests were made with handles long enough that a pike might be slid through each and the chest carried that way. I suppose it’s possible, but then, I don’t need to carry this chest.

What is not visible is, of course, the fixed tills in the bottom of the chest. They often hold larger tools such as bitstocks (braces), and so forth. I use a Stanley No.-8 for my jointing plane; that takes up half of the cabinet, it seems!


The tool chest of H.O. Studley. I hope he was as good at finding the wall studs as he was at fixing pianos!

On the left is the famous tool chest of H.O. Studley. Not only would most Galoots trade their first born for the tool chest, there are a lot of insecure Galoots that would love to have is name, too! There are at least 300 tools in that box, and I’ve heard claims as many as 400, but I have no way of counting them all since a lot of them are nested. Certainly this is not the tool chest of the average home woodworker.

I recently ran across a photo of a rigger’s tool chest on the web. Perhaps my strongest passion is sailboats (ironic, being stuck in the Hill Country of Texas, don’t you think?) Tradtional sailboats in particular fascinate me, and when we limit ourselves to not using unstayed carbon masts and high-tech rod rigging we enter the realm of “the rigger”. Jamie White is just such a man, out of the Sausalito area, and has quite a bit of interesting information on worming, parceling and serving (pirate talk in background, arr.. arr…)


Tool chest of James White, the Rigger. Built with rigour.

Jamie is the real thing, spending a few years “before the mast” on “square riggers” – this should be intersesting even for the lubberly of you. Most relevant is his tool chest, and I’ve swiped a photo to include here. Even the able seamen of today require a tool chest, and no Snap-On for Mr. White, thank you very much. Notice his name inscribed in the front of the chest, and the coachwhpped handles – much more comfortable than hemp rope, to be sure. Notice also the photo background – below the weather deck of a wooden sailing vessel. (Arr… arr…)


Wall hanger. Lots more room for "customization" here, a couple of dozen more boring tools...

Our final exhibit is of a hanging tool chest. I’ve forgotten where I lifted this photo from, but this well-crafted tool chest is typical of the hanging tool chests many Galoots construct for their own use. If you are contemplating a tool chest at this point, consider that each of these and the photos of the hundreds of those out their on the web were all built as solutions to the individual Galoot’s needs. Your tool chest needs to be as personal as your shop space and your work bench — there is no right or wrong in tool chests. Let your tool storage be your sales brochure!

And here’s the podcast:


Episode 14 – The Well-Dressed Bench

Dressed up like a million dollar trouper
Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper
Super duper
Come let’s mix where Rockefellers walk with sticks
Or “um-ber-ellas” in their mitts
Puttin’ on the Ritz…

This week we are covering tap dancing; do you see Fred Astaire dancing around like he’s on strings? Okay, well, go rent old movies. They’re wonderful. And it’s okay, too, because we are Galoots — Retro ‘R Us.


An example of a holdfast in action, and another one on hold... (These are Gramercy Tools offerings.)

This week we are covering bench accoutrements, what the English call appliances and Americans often call them fixtures. These are work bench supplements that help us hold our stock while we work it.

No appliance is really more simple than the holdfast. We just slip our holdfast into a dog hole, or holdfast hole if we use square dogs, apply what Moxon calls the “Beak” to our stuff, and give it a rap at the bend point. The stuff will be held fast. I’ve found that it pays to keep a couple of them around, for they save a lot on your knees. Seriously — you don’t have to climb up on the bench to sit on your workpiece, and you don’t have to jamb your knees jumping down!


The humble, noble, wonderful, simple, bench hook.

I like simple tools. No, that’s not exactly precise; I am enthralled with simple tools, and the simpler the more the attraction. Among the simplest is the bench hook; make it right it your own shop — no one sells these things and that’s because most tool vendors have conciences. You can even make effective bench hooks out of scrap plywood you have laying around, and come to think of it that’s not a bad idea. Mine is made out of 3/4 oak, with each cleat 3/4 x 3/4. I made up another bench hook by cutting 1-1/2″ off of one side of my hook and fastening 3/4 x 3/4 cleats identical to the bench hook itself – a mini bench hood. The idea is that when I work longer stock I can put something with identical dimentions to the main bench hook at the other end of the bench, or somewhere along in there, to support the workpiece at the proper height. Bench hooks are made to hold our stuff whenever we are sawing (primarily) but it does fine for other occasions as well, such as trimming up tenons, etc.


Nice shooting board, Tex!

A sort of variation on the bench hook comes with the shooting board. Designed for one thing, really, and that’s making sure the end of our stock is precisely 90 degrees square with the reference edge of the stock. Used in conjuction with a plane, the shooting board is something we want to make sure is absolutely precise and stays that way. You can tell from the Sketchup drawing at the right that our stock is placed against the fence, and a plane is placed on its side, iron oriented toward the thickest field of the shooting board, and the plane is advanced. As the plane moves toward toward the stock, the stock wants to run, but is trapped by the fence allowing the plane to shave the end grain. I added the trough between the 2 fields in order to keep shavings/dust from tipping my plane out of square. Probably overkill, but it’s mine, dagnabit. If you are a framer (as in, picture frames) you can vary this concept easily by simply changing the angle you plough your dado at. I used a 3/4 dado 1/4″ deep, which gives my 3/4 batten (for the fence) a reveal of 1/2″. This means that if I shoot any stock smaller than 1/2″, I’ll either have to plane down my fence, build another shooting board, or find somebody with a thickness planer (not!) Anyway, one can simply run a dado at 45 degrees, and there is a mitre board. Set up a shooting board for 78-1/2 degrees if you regularly to multi-sided mirror frames or clock faces. Or something.


Shades of "It's a wonderful life," the Donkey's Ear.


Donkey's ear -- all the resonance of Beethoven...

Miters are for putting a 45 degree angle across the face of a board. What if we want to miter the edge of the board? We go out, find the nearest Jerusalem donkey, and lop an ear off! This strange contraption is actually known as a Donkey’s ear. Note the fence on the 45 degree surface, and how that surface forms a fence for our plane to ride against as well. In use, the piece underneath the plane table is chucked into a vice, the stock held against the vice, and away we go! On any shooting board its always a good idea to have the sides of our planes lubricated a bit with paraffin or ordinary candle wax. Here’s another view of the donkey’s ear. I have measured drawings available for any of these (NO, I’m not wearing a flannel shirt and beard!) If you are interested, please email me at mack AT thewoodshepherd DOT com.

Oh yeah…

And now, a podcast!


A Week of Epiphanies

This week has been a week of epiphanies for me. The first epiphany came when Liz came to me and said, “It’s time to rearrange the office for more efficiency.” I thought I was pretty efficient, ensconced in my CIC (that’s a naval term for what used to be the bridge of a ship – now it’s the Command Information Center, and depending on your perspective probably a few other things.) I’ve stalled on the rearrangement as long as I could, and last night fell victim to it. The CIC has been hit with enemy fire, and I can’t find anything… Mayday…

The next epiphany wasn’t mine, but mine to share. I had the pleasure of being a guest on “The Sawdust Chronicles” podcast with Rick Waters and Erik Pearson. Just three guys talking about woodworking, perhaps the kind of conversation that would take place down at the local hardware store when I was a kid. The joy of this podcast is that Rick is especially forthright in the fact that he’s just beginning as a woodworker. He’s following the path that many of us seasoned woodworkers have taken; started out trying to emulate Norm Abrams in making their shop an electromotive glow of wonder that can be seen from space. Ask me how I know this… Recently, Pete Bretzke sent Rick a Stanley No.-7 saved from the brink of death (including a gorgeous knob that Pete had turned out of Zircote.) As we talked about the No.-7, Rick discovered the nomenclature of the plane as well as, and more importantly, how to adjust the iron for square and how to compensate for the backlash. As Rick discovered the joy of hand planes, Erik and I basked in the joy of bringing another soul into woodworking enlightenment.

Epiphany number three came to me yesterday, as Matt Vanderlist of Matt’s Basement Workshop fame sent me a video he made recently. It is scheduled to be a part of another video he’s making, so I’m sure you’ll see it. Don’t worry. In the clip I received, Matt reasoned that in the length of time it would take him to pull out his track saw (sometimes true enlightenment takes a while,) get set up, and make a cut he could pull out a hand saw and do the same job with time left over. I have found this a truism, although I don’t own a track saw. That’s really not all that remarkable, but the stock being saw was… plywood! I have to admit, I’ve never tried to “crosscut” plywood, but there it was – Matt had used blue tape to reduce splintering, and used a red-handled saw for sex appeal. With the pale color of the birch plywood, we had American ingenuity at work!

So, there you have it. Since the week is nearly over and I’ve used up more than my quota of epiphanies, I can now rest easy thinking I know it all. Of course, tomorrow is Sunday, which starts a new week…


Episode 13 – The Bench Page

Schwartz meets Roubo

The Schwartz meets Roubo (that's French, you know)

Foundational for the Galoot, the subject of workbenches is eliciting a lot of attention lately, in large part due to dvd6Christopher Schwartz’ excellent book Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use. The popular western workbench falls into one of five basic patterns. On the right is an example of the pattern that seems to be most popular right now, the Roubo pattern. Note the massive top and legs, the robust leg vice, sliding deadman (the hourglass-shaped panel with all the holes in it), the holes in the right leg with a mechanical holdfast in it, and the traditional holdfast at the rear of the bench top. Note also the planing stop just behind the front left leg; this is adjustable, tapped up and down as a stop to keep stock put whilest one planes, and adjusts to be shy of the planed surface so that the plane is planing only that which needs to be planed, and not the planing stop. Get it? Shown prominently in this photo is one of the endearing features of the Roubo, the crochet, on the left front apron of the bench. Subtly appearing is the wagon vice in lieu (that’s French, you know) of the tail vice — you can just make out a slot at the heel of the very cool low-angle smoothing plane. Think of this as a bench dog that moves in a slot, because that’s pretty much what it is. The wagon vice solves many of the issues associated with other forms of tail vices.


Nicoholson's entry into the Ugly Bench contest. Cheap gimmick to try and use colorful floor mats, but you can't fool the judges.

Second in popularity is the Nicholson bench, as shown on the left. Here we have a top that is not massive, but that is compensated for with supporting cross members. This bench also sports front AND rear aprons (Peter Nicholson drew his bench with a mere front apron.) Note that the apron in the front has a series of peg holes in a “Z” pattern. These holes permit the Galoot to insert dowels to support stock when jointing, replacing a deadman (which is a good thing, because a deadman wouldn’t fit well under there.) The splayed legs were something that The Schwartz added to increase access to stock in the leg vice. This bench sports a couple of metallic folding planing stops inlet into the bench top (in line with the left front leg.) I guess these are a matter of personal preference, but just seem to be a stark anachronism to the tradition of this bench. The Schwartz added a wagon vice to his Nicholson bench as well, which may defeat the purposes of economy and expediency in building the bench, but never, ever the purpose of use. As I’ve emphasized all along, the Galoot workshop is an acutely personal place, and one is crazy to think that because The Schwartz, The Wood Shepherd, or anyone else sets something up one way that that is the only way; Don Weber (the Welch bodger) likes this pattern for its ease of assembly, so that one can get on with the work. I like the pattern because you can use Big Box dimensional lumber for a much smaller investment than other patterns.


The Shaker bench, so named for the Religious sect and not for any instability in the bench design.

The third pattern we look at in the podcast is the Shaker pattern. This is a pattern that came to my attention in Scott Landis’ The Workbench Book. The photo on the right shows a brilliant execution of the design, incorporating many of the best features of other patterns: solidity, cool leg vices (note the wooden screw in this one, constructed with the ability to be removeable,) a beautiful maple top with a row of dog holes hear the front, a sliding deadman, and a tail vice. The typical shaker bench reclaims the lost space beneath the bench in the form of cupboards and drawers. This one even has contrasting and wonderful milk paint. I have to say that this pattern is near and dear to my heart because of my many forays to Pleasant Hill in Kentucky (we called it “Shakertown,” but I don’t know why.)


Klausz shoulder vice, the dovetailer's dream

To name our fourth pattern we use a somewhat universal name, “The Continental.” Several years ago Frank Klausz published material expounding the benefits of this pattern and for many years the Klausz bench was the vogue. Since that time many of these benches have been built better than a lot of fine furniture, using exotic hardwoods that contrast. And why not? This is an extremely functional bench and can be pretty versatile; and if the Galoot has the time and inclination along with the desire to showcase his or her joinery skills, why not in a bench?


The tail vice on a Klausz bench. I hope the builder signed the vice!

Two of the defining features of the Klausz bench are visible in the photo at the right; the tool tray in the back, and the distinctive shoulder vice. Tailor your choise of benches to the work you do a lot of; if you don’t need to use a lot of clamps in strange places all the time, you need to be less concerned about under-bench storage interfering with clamping points. If you cut dovetails every day (some of them taking only 3 minutes, rasafrackin!) then this is the vice for you. Some prefer square dog holes with a retractable dog in each hole, some prefer the ease of boring round holes after the bench is assembled. There is no right or wrong. I absolutely love the look of this tail vice, no questions. I find it to be a very versatile vice as well.

The fifth pattern is not a pattern at all, really, it is just all those other non-woodworking vices out there. This is my entry in the Ugly Work Bench contest. Send your entries to me, and I’ll publish them in this blog, just for the fun of it! We’ll vote to see whose is most gruesome!


My entry into the Ugly Bench contest. It does keep all the junque (that's French, you know) off of my woodworking bench, so that makes it a decoy!

Okay, the podcast:


Episode 10 – Boring Tools (Not!)

Modern gimlets (just add Vodka)

Modern Gimlets (just add vodka)

Yes, I have teenagers, so yes, I understand that any activity that isn’t their own idea or that sound like the vaguest hint of discomfort is… you’ve got it, “boring.” I’m not a teenager. Therefore, from my perspective the only boring Galoot tools out there are made to put holes in wood. This week’s episode covers exactly that — the myriad methods the Galoot has at his or her disposal to sever or spread those wood fibers in approximately (hopefully) perfectly round manners. Apparently, boring holes sort of lives up to its name among workmen, because over the years an incredible amount of creative energy has been invested in the tools that make round holes in wood (and skull material — listen to the podcast!)

Wooden Bitstock - my favorite tool I don't own

Wooden Brace (my favorite tool I don't own)

"Gentlemen's Brace" This is one I DO own!

"Gentleman's Brace" This is one I DO own

Despite being overly laden with puns (C’mon, by now you KNOW me…) we cram a lot of detail into 23 minutes: we take a look at gimlets, the bitstock (also known as the brace), and of course, the wide range of bits used in the brace, including the 6 main patterns of auger bits.

At the right is what is known as a Gentleman’s Brace, although it became known as such without association to its present owner. There once was a day when I thought I might become a tool coll… A tool coll… I can’t say it. I once thought I would own lots of tools. Disaster has a way of making one more practical, don’t you think? Here’s the interesting chuck on the end of this gentleman:

Beauty in simplicity.  Definitely not Dewalt.

Beauty in simplicity. Definitely not Dewalt!

Yankee brace

Yankee brace, 14" throw.

Yankee chuck

The Yankee chuck. Click to enlarge.

This brace fascinates me. It’s a Yankee brace, made by the North Bros. and does feature a ratchet. The ratchet is not exposed like it is on the standard Millers Falls pattern, but is, in fact, enclosed with a button that actuates it’s direction. With a 14″ throw, this brace is intended to get through tough stuff. One of the remarkable things about the North Bros. company was their ability to think outside the box. These are the same folks that brought us the Yankee push drill I used to see Daddy struggling with. Apparently his was a right-handed push drill, and he being left handed, well, you know.

Below are a few shots from the internet, showing some of the bits that we covered in the podcast. With six primary “patterns” of spiral bits (comparable to those found in spiral augers) our predecessors, the Galooterati, knew what they were doing when choosing a bit.

Center Bit

Center Bits

Spoon bit

Spoon Bit

Nose Auger

Nose Auger

The critical feature in choosing a bit (besides availability) is the grain direction the Galoot needs to bore through.

A Couple of interesting bits of engineering:


My Yankee ratcheting drill -- yes, ratcheting!


Like I said! Here's the ratcheting mechanism.

I wish I had lots more room to show and tell with all the pictures of really, really cool stuff.

Okay, just two more, because the items are just so intriguing – the breast drill (not for putting holes in your chicken, but for leaning on) and the post drill:


Millers Falls breast drill

A very cool post drill (from the internet)

A very cool post drill (from the internet)

Whew… not boring at all! Heres the podcast:


Episode 8 – Saws

On Saws

I recently started evaluating my saw till, the one I keep in my Joiner’s tool box.  As I was pulling the individual saws out and looking at them, I began to realize that I couldn’t remember when I had bought most of them.  Not a few, one or two, but… In fact, I could only readily account for the one my dad gave me when I was in junior high.  That deserves a good “sheesh.”


A cool Disston D-8 thumbhole

Saws are an intoxicant for many Galoots, and it seems clear that I’m no exception.  (I deny that I have a problem, however.  I can stop any time I want.)  In this week’s episode we take a look at what a hand saw is, as opposed to a Hand Saw, and examine many of the forms saws take.  An excellent “old tools” example is the very cool Disston D-8 from the late part of the 1800’s shown to the right.  It features a “thumbhole,” and no, it’s not for a Schützenfest.  Although you would have to have perhaps more primal anatomy than I have to actually put a thumb through that hole, it was intended as an aid to sawing two-handed.  This feature is only found on rip saws.  At the other end of the spectrum is the

Lie-Nielsens' dovetail saw

Lie-Nielsens' dovetail saw

compartively diminutive dovetail saw.  This saw holds my fascination for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its intense practicality and ability to do what it was made for.  I don’t own a LN (yet), but the one I have was  made by Independence Tools, a partnership between Pete Taran and Patrick Leach (two of the early Old Tools Listserv members.)  When the two decided that they didn’t want to make saws anymore, they sold the patterns and rights to LN, who made a few minor mods, and viola! a star is born.

I’m also becoming a huge fan of the bow saw, having recently built a “turning saw.”  These are saws (bow, turning, frame) that seem to be increasing in interest right now, which is a very good thing.  Incredibly practical for bench work, easy to build and maintain (and make look nice,) the bow saw is a vital component of the Galoot’s tool chest.  Here are some really good annotated links to saw information.

Gramercy Tools: Joel Moskowitz and his crew are some really great people, and Joel has an extensive knowledge of tools and how they work.  They are now manufacturing bow saw kits and parts (turning saws) that are of very high quality.  The rest of their site is full of tool eye candy, too!

Wenzloff and Sons: I had the opportunity to meet Mike Wenzloff and to speak with him while we were in Berea.  You would expect someone who is working in the family saw making business to be knowledgeable about saws, but this is the new millenium — you don’t expect Mike to be so enthusiastic about saws and saw making!  WAS is producing some of the finest historical reproduction saws on the market, and of course they are using modern metallurgy and techniques.  Nontheless, these are not mass-produced saws, and I want a specimen of all of them!  Browse!

Lie-Nielsen: Awe, c’mon.  You KNEW I was going to say that, anyway.  The link is to their saw page, which is as far as I’m concerned, a cut above (ba dum bump.)  LN is manufacturing a new “progressive pitch” dovetail saw that I’m going to need to check out in the near future.  Enter at your own risk.

Veritas/Lee Valley: Robin Lee has introduced a radical new dovetail saw with a synthetic back that integrates into the handle.  I’ve heard nothing but positive things about this saw, and the demo model they had at Woodworking In America was always in someone else’s hands whenever I tried to get to it.  I’m finding the aesthetics for many of Robin’s tool offerings to be very progressive (as in, uncomfortable for a history buff) but functionally at least as good as anything else out their, and often far superior to what our predecessors worked with.  I wonder what Duncan Phyfe would say.

Vintage Saws: Never content to rest, Pete Taran has NOT dropped off the radar screen, but continues to play in the world of saws.  Pete isn’t just someone who sells saws, but he is actually a tremendous resource about the tools he sells.  He has reprinted a number of articles he authored as a contributing editor to the Fine Tool Journal, and they are full of excellent information on Disston saws and their typology, care and feeding.

Disstonian Institute: Going back into the recesses of OldTools Listerv history, we find a ubiquitous name… Ralph Brendler.  Ralph was one of the earliest of Galoots, a longtime and much beloved listmom, and a curator of historical information on marking guages and Disston saws, among other things.  He began a legacy that Jay Sutherland continued and caused to flourish, and this is the link.  Make sure you’re in a comfortable chair; it reminds you of college days, only better because it’s a lot more interesting.

If you haven’t seen this yet, you need to.  This is Frank Klausz, cutting a set of well-fitting dovetails in just about 3 minutes.  Click here to go to the video!

And of course, here is the podcast!


Episode 6: The Galoot Toolchest

Power tools, while they have a distinct an unique “gadget value,” are often too expensive for the hobbyist woodworker. An increasing number of individuals are flocking to hand tool woodworking to save money and space, and because they are seeking the therapeutic value the solace of quiet woodworking offers.

In this episode, we examine the nine categories of tools that would be found in a Joiner’s (cabinet maker’s or furniture builder’s) tool chest. Come along as we continue to equip our shop for the adventure of Galootdom!

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