Posts Tagged ‘wood working

03
Mar
09

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.

seatonchst1

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!

studley

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…)

riggers-tool-chest

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…)

toolcabinet1

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:

27
Feb
09

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.

ms-holdfast_big

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!

bench-hook

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.

shooting-board1

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.

donkey-ear-view-3

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

donkey-ear-view-2

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!

21
Feb
09

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…

18
Feb
09

When Woodworkers Get Together

I recently had a recording opportunity with Rick Waters and Erik Pearson; names that sound remarkably like the co-hosts of The Sawdust Chronicles podcast (I really wish I would have thought of that name!)  The experience was a great one — I had the pleasure of describing my “rustic” shop (that’s what they call it in the country, a city-dwelling friend of mine would have described it as a “ghetto-shop.”)  I was given permission to vent my spleen on Galootdom, and helped Rick discover the joys of making a Stanley No-7 usable.  The experience reminded me of somewhere I’ve been before…hmm… Oh, Yeah!  Berea, Kentucky – the Woodworking in America conference.

There just isn’t any doubt; woodworkers as a group are the nicest, most supportive group – as a group – that I’m aware of.  And the funniest — laughter is inevitable.  I’m convinced that Star Trek:TNG got their idea of the Borg from woodworkers (“You cannot resist.  You WILL be assimilated.”)  Beats the heck out of school; “You WILL be marginalized.”

Every Friday my junior high school held lunchtime “dances”; where a about 200 acne-infested, geeky boys whose greatest talent lay in tripping over their own feet would sit on one side of the gym and the girls whose teeth looked like they had emptied out the nearest Ace Hardware sat on the other with the juke box playing, “It Never Rains in California” (that would be the original Albert Hammond version, if you need the context).  One might get similar imagery for getting woodworkers together — I have no hard data to prove this, but I would think that a higher percentile of woodworkers compared with the general population would tend to be introverted because much of the work is done holed up in our shops, working alone — only with coffee and doughnuts rather than Reese’s and Twizzlers.

Nope.

Again I remain impressed at the collegiality, warmth, and sense of comradery from these two guys whom I count as friends!  Where else can you go and forget about social strata, politics, and other anthropological detritus?  Not even the Church practices such liberty!

Thanks, guys, for such a great time!  I’m sorry the tree that came down and cut the power to all of the little town I dwell in had to end things abruptly, and I’m looking forward to a return visit!

Why don’t we do this stuff more often?

You can find The Sawdust Chronicles on iTunes or wherever quality woodworking podcasts are sold near you.

23
Jan
09

Episode 11 – Hand Planes, Part 1

A luthier's finger plane, NOT for planing your fingers...

Luthier's finger plane (NOT for planing fingers)

I have bad news for you. Although he was a brilliant inventor, Leonard Bailey was NOT the Messiah! What he did do was advance the art of plane manufacturing, combining efficient manufacturing, good design, and good business acumen (selling his patent rights to Stanley Rule & Level Co.) Later on, he didn’t do so well because he chose to compete against the very folks (the tool giant) he sold out to. Sometimes you get the chicken, sometimes you get the feathers. Nonetheless, hand planes have certainly felt his influence.

tools-019

A sexy Stanley No.-4 from the WWII era.

This is the episode we begin to look at a huge subject, that of hand planes. Planes seem to have stirred the greatest interest of tool collectors for long enough that volumes of valuable information on history, manufacture, anomolies, and how to type many of the recognizable – and some a bit more arcane – is all readily available with a minimum expenditure of effort. As I researched information for this and the next podcast, I became increasinly impressed with the ingenuity of the Galoot; if something isn’t available, the Galoot made it. Sometimes that meant relying on the blacksmith, but it seems that, especially prior to the Civil War, that the Galoot would be so inclined to spend his own time with hammer and forge. The Bailey pattern plane, no matter what marque it bears, is the story of the Industrial Revolution and the shift away from widespread wooden plane use. We can almost track history; I offer exhibit B, a type-17 Stanley No.-4 smoothing plane with funky red-stuff handle that was painted black and the relatively tiny depth adjusting nut is made out of hard, black, rubber (recycled Jeep tires?) rather than the customary brass. This one here has become my po-boy scrub plane, which doesn’t work out real well because it still remembers it was made to be a smoother.

tools-022

My Stanley 60-1/2 with racing stripes.

It’s very important to have a really good block plane, and I have one in my 60-1/2. I like it because its a stealth conversion; someone with brilliant forethought concluded that if he (or she) added the gold metalflake paint to this plane that made his (or her) AMC Gremlin model look so cool, then that would absolutely punch holes in its value (the plane’s, not the Gremlin’s) and some struggling Galoot down the road would be able to get full functionality at a discounted price. I know that there is a God because that someone with brilliant foresight was NOT me (anyone who knows me can testify to that) and that I’ve never owned either a Gremlin or a Gremlin model. I can do better than that, actually, because one of my girlfriend’s father had given her an orange Pacer stationwagon. Everybody said, “Oh, God!” as we drove past.

tools-037

A cleverly conservative execution of a fantastic plane kit!

I will soon be blogging about my really cool Christmas present, but now is a great time for a sneak preview. My parents had obviously been peeking at Santa’s “nice” list (now just hold on a minute!) Anyway, under the synthetic, non-allergenic, non-asthma-attack-inducing genuine Canadian Pine fake Christmas tree there lay a package containing a plane kit from Ron Hock. Now, I’m one who loves to use wooden planes, but they always have been Other People’s Planes (OPP.) Now I have the chance to use one of my own, WOO-HOO! As soon as it’s finished, of course. It’s so much cooler for me now since Woodworking In America 2008, as I had the chance to meet Ron Hock himself, and sho’nuff, he’s one of us! In the podcast I make note of the fact that, like chisels, wooden planes are used in conjuction with mallets (for adjusting the plane, of course!) Here’s my set-up.

For Further Reading

Here are a few very important links for you to book mark for further study, illumination, and reference:

Patrick Leach, one of the original OldTools Listerv masterminds where he was (is) known by (among other things) the moniker, “The Merchant of Ashby,” is one of my primary dispensers of vintage Stanley iron and consequently one of the reasons I work. He has compiled a world-famous (world-wide-web famous?) cross between a subversive treatise, a hortatory sermon, and an old-time SNL feature on Stanley metallic planes known universally as Patrick’s Blood & Gore, and found here: Patrick’s Blood & Gore.

Yet another fellow Galoot, Jay Sutherland (who does not have nearly as many weird and humorous monikers as Patrick,) assembled a page in the 1990’s that breaks down the Stanley plane type study very clearly. Doing a type study on a given plane is fundamental to understanding an individual plane’s collector value (if you do that collecting sort of nonsense. I don’t.) You can find Jay’s excellent resource here: The Stanley Bench Plane Dating Page.

Patrick’s B & G, revised and illustrated by listmom Ralph Brendler and Allen Fisher here: Revised B & G

If you’re in the market for vintage Stanley baubles, I would highly recommend avoiding the eBay route where quality control can be “iffy” (yes, I know, eBay will make them play nice, etc.) I am militant in my belief regarding helping my friends prosper, so I will always recommend two Galoots I’ve had personal dealings with over the years, and have always been treated a lot better than just fairly. Patrick Leach, as already mentioned, is one, and Sandy Moss is the other (Sandy’s Tools-For-Sale page is here: Sandys Tools.) And just for the record, I’m not getting paid for this by either of these gents.

That’s it for part 1… here’s the podcast. Come back for more fun in part 2!

10
Jan
09

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:

tools-012

My Yankee ratcheting drill -- yes, ratcheting!

tools-015

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:

mf-breast-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:




RSS Follow me on Twitter

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Proud Member

RSS Matt’s Basement Workshop

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS The Renaissance Woodworker

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS The Woodworker’s Resource

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Folding Rule Blog

RSS Kaleo’s Workshop

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Lost Art Press

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Adam Cherubini

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Philsville