Posts Tagged ‘Woodworking In America


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.


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.


Episode 12 – Hand Planes, Part 2

Specialty Planes


Veritas Skewed Rabbet plane. Not skewered rabbit. NO.

The Web’s Only Totally Galoot Podcast(tm) continues our journey through the drawer of hand planes by picking up and examining the scrub plane. So many of these planes are made from old smoothers, and I thought I had an original idea. Someday I’ll be able to afford the LN 40. Maybe. Our next stop is with the variety of rabbet and plough (plow) planes available today. I’ve become a huge fan of Veritas’ skewed rabbet plane, shown here on the right.


Norris No.-7 Infill

There are actually all kinds of ways to cut rabbets and dados, and to plough grooves (to dado is to groove a trench that run perpendicular to the grain, and to plough is to to groove a trench parallel to the grain,) including using knives to score the borders and chisels to remove the waste, but this is admittedly long and tedious in process, and not particularly accurate over the long haul (DAMHIKT.) We therefore turn to rabbet, shoulder, fillister (moving and/or standing), and plough planes to get the job done. On the left is a Norris No.-7 infill shoulder plane, the object of many a poor Galoot’s lust.


A crispy Stanley No.-48 match plane, for a match made in heaven.

The match plane is the traditional name for the plane that makes tongues and grooves. Prior to today’s wonder glues, tongue and groove construction was just about as strong as it gets in terms of joining the edges of boards together, since glue really isn’t much of a factor. In the old farmhouse we live in, for example, the floors are all dry tongue and groove, and since they were installed 90 years ago they have each shrunk despite best efforts to maintain a finish on them (cheezy linoleum aside.) Wood shrinks the greatest at its width, and as each plank shrinks it tends to pull back from its neighbor. Having the tongue in between the planks keeps (or at least slows down) the breezes from blowing up through between the planks. FWIW, all the ceilings are beaded board tongue and groove as well. These are photos of my extremely cool Stanley No.-48 match plane, which makes making perfect tongues and grooves extremely easy.

Stanley 98-99

Stanley No.-98, No.-99 Side Rabbet planes. For planing your side rabbets.

The Sanley No.-98 and No.-99 are kind of the standard by which other side rabbet planes are judged, and they are always very welcome in the tool chest. The reason is not hard to understand; if you plough your dado at exactly 5/8″, but you find out your stock is 17/32″, you can choose to plane your stock, which will necessitate re-thicknessing the stock you are woorking on, and need more effort because the stock has probably got a lot more surface area than the dado sides have. Whip one of these babies out, get after the side of the dado, and in no time its just like the woodworking elves have taken care of the problem for you, while you were sleeping. Even those recovering Normites that use dado stacks set up for birch plywood purchased from a Blue Big Box store and then go to their plywood stash and grab an old piece of Orange Big Box store birch plywood for something like that… oh, say… one last shelf in some, just for example, shop furniture project along the lines of, just for example, say, a Spagnuolo-inspired torsion-box assembly table, just off the top of my head… could use one of these with differing plywood widths. You would have to find a 98 or 99 set up for the metric system, however. I’m really glad that nothing like that has happened to me, thought. (Whew!)

I wish we had time, space, etc. to cover all the arcane and even weird planes out there. We have an increasing number of extremely high quality plane makers that are turning out heirloom-quality stuff, and the ones I’ve met are so cool because they love woodworking and they love being with Galoots and talking about woodworking. I need to lift up at least a couple of them for attention. First up is Jim Leamy, who seriously didn’t mind that I was flat broke and that his planes are worth more than my wife’s car, he just wanted to chat with me. I’m afraid that I’m usually a better conversant – I was rather busy staring at his work. These are only a couple of his planes:


Jim Leamy's Center Wheel Plough Plane


Jim Leamy's Mahogany Plough. Yup, accents are ivory. I-v-o-r-y.


Jim Leamy's Ultimate model. Wonder how it got THAT name...

Please visit my hand plane web pages for a list of great links!

Oh yeah, the Podcast:


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.


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.


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.


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!


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 7 – Chisels

On Chisels

This week we take a brief survey of the various types of chisels available to the Galoot, and what they are used for. If you are anything like me, a good tool is a thing that brings joy, and a really good chisel is just one of those things that can make you dance a little jig. Or something.

Mortise Chisels

Set of LN mortise chisels

At the right is a photo of Lie-Nielsen’s very fine mortise chisels, on the pattern that has evolved since Moxon’s time. These are many knowledgable Galoot’s “go to” mortising chisels, and rightly so. Notice the socketed handles.

Different Mortise Chisels

English Pattern Mortise Chisel

At left is, among other things, is one of Ray Iles very fine English Pattern mortise chisel, imported by Gramercy Tools. Note the robust construction and unusually thick handle. The 4″ square will help you with some perspective. See below for links to Gramercy Tools.

Eye-Candy Bevel Edge Chisels

Blue Spruce bevel-edged chisels

Blue Spruce Tools makes some bevel-edged chisels that look like they should be museum pieces rather than ordinary bevel-edged chisels, in fact the term “ordinary” and “bevel-edged” chisels don’t belong in the same reference to these beautiful tools. It’s tools like those shown on this page that makes woodworking a spiritual exercise! All these tools (and more!) are discussed in the podcast.

Firmer Chisels

Sorby "Registered" Firmer Chisel

At the left is a Sorby “Registered” firmer chisel. Note the robust construction, but not nearly as beefy as the mortise chisels above. This chisel will hold an edge well, and withstand more raps from a mallet that I care to give it.

Finding chisels made with excellence, in no particular order:

Blue Spruce Chisels

Gramercy Tools


These are just a few, by the way. Fortunately, new old tools have never been more available or of higher quality than at present! By the way, the photos above were shamelessly snarfed from the tool maker’s respective web sites. Visit them!

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Episode 5: The Galoot Workshop

This week we take a brief look at the fundamental link to the Galoot and his or her environment… the workshop. We consider questions that need to be answered for the Galoot to optimize the workshop. Also, we consider a woodworking lesson I’ve learned.

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Thanksgiving for a Galoot

This Thanksgiving my parents were unable to travel as they usually do, so we chose to travel back to my “home.”  This gave me the opportunity to sort of browse around Daddy’s shop with new (post-WIA 2008) eyes and rediscover some old familiar tools.  Lots of fun, and with the emphasis on interesting back saws in Galootdom right now, it seems natural that I should study the three in the old tool cabinet. Have a listen:

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