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This is a collection of all the different blogs I (try to) read.  A whole bunch!  If you have any comments or suggestions feel free to use the CONTACT page to get a hold of me.  Thanks!

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.  



About Those Nubs of Yours

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - 4 hours 15 min ago


A fair number of tables from the Middle Ages and later appear to have a couple of extra pieces attached below the tabletop to thicken up the area where the leg tenons intersect the top. I call these “nubs” for lack of a better word, and they raise several questions.

These nubs are similar – very similar – to the battens in early stools and chairs found in Germanic cultures (I’ve also seen some in the Netherlands). Typically, these battens were attached to the seat using a sliding dovetail, they thickened the area for the joinery and they strengthened the thin seat. They strengthened the seat because the grain of the battens was 90° to the seat.

This grain arrangement is typically a Bozo No-No when it comes to wood movement, and a fair number of seats I’ve seen in Germany and American Moravian colonies have split. It’s also fair, however, to say that many have not split and even those that have split still work fine.

So are these Middle Age nubs attached with sliding dovetails? I can’t see any sliding dovetails in the paintings. Did they skip drawing the joinery? Many artists would draw in the wedged through-tenon joinery. But not the dovetails? Were they too small? Are the nubs parallel to or 90° to the grain? Again, many artists from the Middle Ages didn’t draw in the grain, so I don’t think we can answer this from paintings.

How were the nubs attached – if not by sliding dovetails? Were they simply captured between the shoulder of the leg’s tenon and the back-wedged joint above? My guess is this could work. Glue maybe? Nails? I’ve never seen any nails through the top in the paintings – though that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. They could have been driven in from the bottom – through the nubs.

Aw crap; now I’m going to dream of nubs.

— Christopher Schwarz

moravian_chairs nub4 nub3 nub2 nub1 moravian_detail
Filed under: Furniture of Necessity
Categories: Hand Tools

Hernandez y Aguado, Santos Hernandez and Antonio Torres Style Guitars

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - 6 hours 25 min ago
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the classical guitar finds itself at a level of quality and popularity that was unimaginable even fifty years earlier.

David Tanenbaum, Perspectives on the Classical Guitar in the Twentieth Century, 2003

Happy Memorial Day! Please make today a time of remembrance!

I did spend some time in the shop today French polishing the Torres/Santos guitar that I need to deliver to its new owner soon, and I worked on a copy of the 1961 Hernandez y Aguado guitar.

The 1961 Hernandez y Aguado guitar, seen in the foreground in the above photo, needed shellac applied to its sides. A couple of more coats of shellac and I will be able to start French polishing the sides again. I say, again, because I ended up sanding down to the wood to make sure that all the pores really were filled and get rid of some piles of pumice. The finish work you do can never be good enough!

This Hy A copy has a redwood top, the top came from a redwood board that was salvaged from a barn on the border of Yosemite National Park, and it has Indian rosewood sides and back, the sides are laminated with Alaska yellow cedar. This is a "speculation" guitar, I really made it for myself, but I will offer it for sale once it is completed.

The guitar in the background is close copy of a 1930 Santos Hernandez guitar, click here to see the plans that I followed, that also has a redwood top and Indian rosewood back and sides, both sets purchased from LMI. This guitar I am making for a young man who is in the guitar program at Metro State University, Denver.

The guitar in the foreground is a close copy of the famous FE19 guitar made by the great guitar maker, Antonio Torres. It has a bearclaw Sitka spruce top with grandillo back and sides, this is the one I have am in need of finishing soon. If you follow my blog, you know who this guitar is being made for!

All three of this guitars will be exceptional in sound, loudness and playability.
Categories: Luthiery

Laminated Stanley plane irons n more

Paul Sellers - 8 hours 50 min ago
DSC_0013The line is the laminated harder steel fused to the softer and not a secondary bevel as it appears.

I’m never sure about some things but this week I was restoring an older Stanley enjoying myself seeing the rust disappear and helping the students to see the process and the results. Everything went well and the iron was slightly bellied on the flat side and was bent near to the top so we took it to task. Over the years I have learned a few new tricks and have changed a few of my own views too. Here are some thoughts you might want to consider.

DSC_0017I slightly dished this iron to get the belly out of the way. You can also see the line of the lamination.

Firstly, and I have already said this elsewhere, plane irons need not be dead flat at all.

Secondly, they need not be replaced with any other make of iron and certainly not thicker ones.

Thirdly, if they are bellied they need not be abraded to flatness.

Fourthly, if they are hollow they are ready to go and need minimal restorative work beyond minor abrading and polishing out along the back of the cutting edge.

There, I have just saved you an hour or two’s work.

It puts an end to ruler tricks and even scary sharp flattening faces. Save the time and energy for what you love in woodworking rather than busy work.

But for this blog I wanted to say at last I have come across an obvious laminated English-made Stanley plane iron in the one I bought recently on eBay.

I am used to laminated irons in old plane irons used in wooden planes of old but it is indeed a rarity here in the UK to come across a laminated iron like the one here.

I contacted Patrick Leach at superior works and he offered this:

Stanley did make laminated irons.

I don’t know the exact time frame, but they stopped ca.
1930 (my best recollection).

The earlier ones, pre-1920, are the easiest to

Some ca.WWI, and earlier, Stanley literature notes the
laminated irons, as well as touting their superiority for
grinding/honing due to their thinner cross-section (when
compared to the standard thicker irons of the era).

Anyway, it really takes a keen edge and seems so far to last well too.

The post Laminated Stanley plane irons n more appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

What’s On The Bench – 5/25/2015

Doug Berch - 11 hours 16 min ago
Yesterday I slotted two dulcimer fingerboards. The top fingerboard is zircote and the bottom is bubinga. Zircote has many of the qualities of ebony but it is lighter in weight, which in my opinion is a good thing.  Zircote also has wild, lacy figure and color streaks I find stunning. I rarely use zircote for fingerboards […]
Categories: Luthiery

Handworks 2015 the Finest Handtool Event in the Country!

Heritage School of Woodworking Blog - 12 hours 40 min ago

  Well, better late than never. I started writing this post while we were at Handworks over a week ago, then the crowds started pouring in and my internet signal went south so I never finished. So here it goes…..  This past weekend was spent in Amana Iowa at one of the finest handtool events […]

The post Handworks 2015 the Finest Handtool Event in the Country! appeared first on Heritage School of Woodworking Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

All Dressed Up

The Barn on White Run - 12 hours 48 min ago

photo by Narayan Nayar


Just prior to the Thursday evening reception for the Handworks exhibitors, project photographer and my Virtuoso partner in crime Narayan Nayar set up to take portraits of each of the exhibit staff with the tool cabinet.  I will post the images of the docents next week when I blog about their participation, but here is the one Narayan took of me of me.

This exhibit was the first time probably ever that I wore a dress shirt and necktie for four days in a row.  My wife said it was the biggest smile she had seen on me for many, many moons.

As for the exhibit itself, the physical manifestation was exactly as I had envisioned it almost two years earlier.  How many times does a person get to experience such a concrete realization of a dream?

It was not possible with my camera to get a true panorama of the gallery without it looking bug-eyed, so here are a group of images from which I hope you can derive the complete picture.







Teaching Spoon Making in Austin, TX

The Literary Workshop Blog - 13 hours 41 min ago

This coming weekend I will be teaching a class on making wooden spoons for the ROADS Workshops in Austin, Texas.

imageIt’s going to be a little different from your usual woodworking class, though.  ROADS Workshops are a part of Mobile Loaves and Fishes, a homelessness recovery ministry. They teach recovering homeless people skills and crafts in order to help them get back on their feet financially. It’s a live-in facility with housing, gardens, and workshops.

One of the crafts they’re beginning to teach is woodworking, and they’ve asked me to come over there to hold a workshop on spoon making. Soon the students will be making spoons and other wooden items to sell in local markets.  The ROADS Workshops want to be very hand-tool focused, and they also want to use locally-sourced/scavenged materials as much as possible.  That fits in very well with my own woodworking ethos.

Most woodworking classes focus on teaching amateur woodworkers.  This class, however, will be working with people who will be working wood for a living.  So we will focus not only on tools and techniques, but also on efficiency and selling-points.

I’ll be blogging here about my spoon-making odyssey.

Tagged: Austin, MLF, ROADS Workshops, spoon carving, spoon making, wooden spoon, woodworking class

Quick shop update

McGlynn On Making - 15 hours 20 min ago

When we left off our tale of the table I was trying to figure out how to make a jig to help produce the slot for the decorative ebony spline.  It’s not really a difficult problem, but I complicated matters slightly by making the top a thickness that didn’t nicely match up with the available guide bushings.  I adjusted my thinking for the jig by adding layers of veneer to make up the difference.  The jig fits over the edge of the top, and registers against the breadboard end to cut the 5″ long slot.

Jig for routing the slot for the spline

Jig for routing the slot for the spline

Once I had the design sorted out it was simple enough to cut up some MDF to build the jig.

Parts for the spline jig

Parts for the spline jig

I’ll still need to think through how I’ll make the ebony splines, but I wanted to move forward on building the breadboard ends.  Unfortunately when I started to lay out the tenons on the top I noticed that it was badly cupped.  If I wasn’t doing the breadboard ends this probably wouldn’t matter as the top attachment buttons would likely pull it flat.  But there was no way I could accurately make the tenons on the end of the top and have them fit the end caps.

Whoops, almost 1/8" gap over the 22" top width.

Whoops, almost 1/8″ gap over the 22″ top width.

After staring at this for a while I decided that part of the problem was at the joint between the two boards.  Each half was slightly cupped, but a significant amount of the cupping seemed to be at the glue joint.  So I decided to rip it apart, re-joint the edges and re-glue it…using cauls this time to keep the joint flat.

Ripping the top in half to re-joint the seam

Ripping the top in half to re-joint the seam

I make cauls out of some scrap 2×4 material, with one edge jointed dead flat.  I covered the edge with clear packing tape so I don’t accidentally glue the 2×4 to the top.  The edges are perfectly aligned and the top is flat at this point, we’ll see what it looks like once the cauls come off.  I’m going to make the end caps this morning, then take the top out of the clamps and immediately cut the tenons for the ends in case it wants to move.

Top re-glued

Top re-glued

And finally, the table base is out of the clamps.  The skirts are all tight, and the base is nice and square.  Really, just the top to finish and this table will be a wrap.

Completed base.  The inlay on the legs isn't very obvious but should really pop out once I get some finish on this.

Completed base. The inlay on the legs isn’t very obvious but should really pop out once I get some finish on this.

Categories: General Woodworking

Another Miter Jack Surfaces

Benchcrafted - 15 hours 35 min ago

Last weekend at Handworks we were able to pick up another miter jack from the La Forge Royale firm. Like the jack we posted about last year, this one was also made during the Lemainque period at Forge Royale in Paris. The medallion on this version is quite different than the more typical lion-encrusted one from our other items from the company. This jack is nearly identical in every other way. A customer of ours picked this up in a Michigan antique store. Amazing.

Incidentally, we still have a few miter jack kits left, which you can order directly from our store page. We likely won't produce these again, so you might want to get one while you can, even if you don't have plans to make one in the near future.

Categories: Hand Tools

Happy Memorial Day 2015 – Thank you to those who served!

Matt's Basement Workshop - 19 hours 18 min ago

3-day weekends are amazing and very welcomed, but before we fire up the grill and enjoy this extra day to be with family and friends (or in the shop considering we’re all woodworkers) let’s take the time to remember why we celebrate Memorial Day in the first place.


Please take the opportunity to thank our service members for the sacrifices they’ve made for us over the years. Regardless of which branch of service they belong to, what duties they performed or whether they’re a veteran or active duty, their sacrifices great and small are what make our world a safer place.


Categories: Hand Tools

fitting the bread boards.......

Accidental Woodworker - 19 hours 46 min ago
I had a good day in the shop. I had wanted to be done with the bread boards but that didn't happen. I think I'll be able to finish them up tomorrow. I'll be glad when I finally get this done and delivered. It also will be a long time before I do anything like this again. I enjoyed making it but the self imposed deadline I didn't like. Those I can do without.

quiet time work
My cherry strips had set up overnight. This is is the only down side to hide glue - having to wait till the next day before you can play with it.

top strip flushed with the plane the bottom one with a chisel
This concluded my quiet time work while my wife was still sleeping.

the new and the old
I don't like the plywood edge on the new set showing. I tried using the extra strips I cut for filling the kerfs but they weren't wide enough. Time to visit the black hole.

this will work
I found a couple of pieces of scrap that would have worked but only enough to do one. I need the scraps to be the same size on both risers. I have a boatload of these oak cutoffs. I've had these for years waiting to find a use for them and now I have. The fact that they are round means nothing for this purpose. I like the round top as there is nothing square to catch on whatever will be resting on this.

made a shallow groove
I did this on the tablesaw and I made it deep enough just to provide a positive seat. I didn't want to nail or screw this on, I just want to rely on glue alone. I clamped this up and stuck in underneath the table to cook until tomorrow.

my working solution
This is what I came up with to work on the table top. I clamped on board at the end of the bench and that will keep the top from being pushed off the workbench. I have room to put the cauls on and not bust my knuckles nor my butt on the cabinets to the right.

my distraction
I've been thinking of this poster ever since I got back from Amana. I've been thinking of making a frame for it and having it professionally matted and poster boarded etc etc. I do have a lot of cherry scraps to pick and choose from so this may be the lead off batter when the table is done.

original tube it came in
I got this in 1995 or 1996. I know this because this tube has a Woodworker's Warehouse sticker on it and they went bankrupt in 1997. I bought this when I worked there as the assistant manager of the Westerly store (95-96). Maybe it is about time I framed it.

the plane clears the cauls
but the caul isn't pulling the bow out
now it is
I planed a bigger camber in the cauls. I read that the large size Bowclamps have a 7/16" camber in them. My cauls started out with a measly 3/16".  I can barely slip a piece of paper under the middle which is huge improvement over driving a truck underneath it.

I hate this *&^!#@$))*(^^$# when it slips
The gauge head slipped on me. So what did I do? I checked that the head was tight and ran another gauge line. Now I have three of them to pick from.

I can't catch a break today
I got the plow plane set on the gauge line on the outside and plowed a new groove. I didn't tighten down one of the fence screws and by the time I got to this end and noticed it I had over plowed my gauge lines.

a little fat
I gave up on the manual plow plane and made the tenon with a corded router and guide. I was too frustrated with the slippage and put them aside for now before I gave them flying lessons. This test groove will fit but it's very tight. This gives me some room to trim and fit the tenons and mortises to come.

cleaned up the bottom
I didn't go nutso on the bottom of the table. I did a almost nutso job on the two outside edges because they will overlap the base. They won't be seen but you will be able to feel them. The 3 center boards I scraped and smoothed out until they looked good.

used the #3 too
I wasn't going to use the #3 on the bottom but I had to wait while the branding iron heated up. I got some practice in for the opposite later on.

bottom side is done
laying out for the tenons
I am going with five tenons and a 1/2" lip/edge. I initially did a 3/8" lip/edge but I didn't like the look of it. With the bow I have in this table to take out, the extra 1/8" will help keep it straighter.

four 2" tenons and one 3" center tenon
The two inch tenons will float in over sized mortises. The center 3" tenon will be glued and pinned in an exact fit mortise.

a Wally World find
This was in the bargain aisle at my local Wally World. For less than 1/2 price it went home with me. I also bought 2 rattle cans of spray lacquer and one poly can. This is will keep the sharpie from smearing when I apply the shellac seal coat later.

protecting the underside
 I don't want to redo the bottom at all. I still have to flip this top to bottom a few more times and the blanket should keep it clean and scratch free. I'm keeping my fingers crossed on this.

yes I am brain dead
I got the breadboard ends gauged and the plow plane set to them. Now the fun begins as I plane two 1/2" deep 3/8" wide grooves. Some would make the mortises first and then the do the groove. Since I have no experience doing this (my first time), I'm starting with the groove first.

something went south
I plowed my groove and it came out pretty good. Both ends showed that the groove was square and the depth was consistent end to end also. What didn't happen was the groove being centered. The left side of the center bread board is thinner than the right one. This makes this bread board toast. As in make a new one and then make the grooves with the tablesaw. Then chop all the mortises. I can use this screw for the frame for my Studley poster.

rip and crosscuts for the tenons done - removing the waste is the next batter
first crappy coping saw cut
It's been a while since I've used this and it wasn't easy. The handle on the coping saw keeps falling off. I knew I should have bought a coping saw at Handtools. Even the TSA would have been hard pressed to call that a weapon.

second half of the second cut is much better - settled into a groove here
nailed it on the opposite side
trimmed the coping saw cuts with a chisel
I was going to clean and flush these up with a rasp but I decided to try the chisel first and see how that worked. I did all of the clean up with a 3/4" chisel.

first dry fit
I trimmed all the tenons, top and bottom, with my small block plane first. After a couple of more trims, I got the bread board to seat in the mortises up to the 1/2" lip.

1/2" lip is too thick on this end
just right on the opposite end
I tried to trim the bottom lip with my tenon plane (without flipping the table) but that didn't work out. I didn't want to push this too much and plane a whacko angle in the lip. The breadboard fits on the tenons well. There aren't any signs of rubbing on them (the top that I can see) so it looks like I have to trim the underneath lip to get this to fit.

last dry fit for today
I got it partially onto the lip across the width and called it quits here. I don't want to get in a hurry and split and break something off. There is no getting around it - I'll have to flip this table so I can trim and fit the underside.

Joe McGlynn had a bow in his Blacker table top - 1/8" over 22" mine is/was about 1/8" over 38 5/16". He is making a new top. Me, I'll be busting a gut using the top I got. I don't have the time or the option to make another top nor can I plane the bow out. I would probably end up with a 5/8" or less thickness which isn't suitable for a table top.

I think I've been lucky with my table top so far. I can clamp most of the bow out with the cauls. And once I get the center tenon seated a bit I can see the remaining bow disappear. Having my bow spread out over 3' is helping me here.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to get all the bread boards done. Once I get a good dry fit, I can drill for the dowels and elongate my holes. I want to get this glued up and cooking so next week I concentrate on the finishing.

accidental woodworker

trivia corner
What is the largest mountain in the world?
answer - Mauna Lao in Hawaii

Makeshift Machinists

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 10:30pm


I really believe that a machinist who likes to see things, can find more solid enjoyment in some of the rough-and-tumble jobbing shops located in the woods, than he can in some high-toned manufacturing establishments, gotten up without regard to cost. The workmen turned out by such concerns are invariably of more value than those raised in nice shops.

* * * * A new man comes along and says he worked ten years in Hotchkiss’ shop. Now, Hotchkiss has the reputation of selling the nicest shafting known to the market. You want a man to turn shafting, and, of course, you ask this new comer if he worked any on shafting in Hotchkiss’ shop. He answers truly that he never did much else. You consider yourself lucky, and set the man to work.

You soon find that he turns the worst shafting in the world, and gets out about twelve feet a day. You go for the gentleman, and ask him why he can’t do some decent work and some reasonable quantity of it. He explains, in a very condescending manner, that if you want good work you must furnish good facilities. He explains that, when at Hotchkiss’, he used a special lathe with a wonderful carriage arrangement, carrying numerous tools, and with a centering and straightening attachment, and a burring rest for finishing to size. With this rig he turned a hundred and fifty feet of nice shafting in ten hours, and says he can do it every day in the week if you will bring him the apparatus.

Now, you know all about this kind of thing. You have been in Hotchkiss’ shop, and you know this man speaks truly. But you ain’t in the shafting business, and don’t propose to go into the business. You have shafting jobs now and then, and want to do the work fair in quality and reasonable in price. You don’t expect to do it as cheap as Hotchkiss does, who makes a specialty of it.

You see at once that this man, who was all right in Hotchkiss’ shop, don’t know anything about turning shafting at all. You hunt up a boy in the other end of the shop—a long-legged, long-headed youth, who has spent two years with you learning the machinist’s trade. He knows how to turn shafting, and you know it. You put him on the long lathe, and he gives you forty feet of shafting in ten hours, and it’s forty times as good as the machinist from Hotchkiss’ shop could turn. If your long-legged boy ever gets a job in Hotchkiss’ shop, Hotchkiss will have a rough diamond capable of high polish.

* * * * You give the new man another lathe and set him to boring pulleys. He bores about three miserable holes in a day. He finds no pulley-boring machine, no good chuck drills, no reamers, no nothing. He ridicules the idea of doing work without tools. He never looks at his own deficiencies, but looks at the deficiencies of the shop. He is a nice fellow, but is not smart enough to admire the men all around him, who, every hour in the day, are doing things he can’t do at all.

* * * * You tell the new man he is a failure on a lathe. You set him to key-seating some big pulleys. They must be chipped and filed. Does he go and get good, solid side chisels dressed, and does he lay a wide, straight edge in the hole and draw one mark to chip his key-seat to; and does he sit down on a block and send three heavy, nice, clean, straight, flat cuts through the pulley; and does he file five minutes and show you a nice, clean key-seat, out of wind and free from chisel marks, all done in forty minutes?

No; he don’t. He never cut a key-seat, and never saw one cut in this way. He was brought up alongside a slotting machine, and he is now five hundred miles from the nearest slotting machine. He knows he can’t do this job, and is smart enough to tell you so. This man is no machinist at all. He served a five years’ apprenticeship, and worked eight years in one of the best shops in the United States, but he is actually of less value than your youngest cub.

You put the case to him fairly; tell him you need men and like his looks, and that if he can point out any work in the shop which he can do properly, you will be glad to keep him. He feels badly; and after looking around, decides that he can’t do what the poorest men in the shop are doing.

He will do one of two things: If he’s a coward, without any coarse grit in him, he will abandon the “machinist” trade and tramp back to Hotchkiss and beg for a job on that shafting lathe. If he has the right stuff in him, he will start in and learn the trade. He has sense and experience and don’t need to commence just like a boy. He can start anywhere he chooses, at such wages as his work shows he earns, and increase his wages as he increases his value.

* * * * You go into one of these rough-and tumble shops and watch a man at a lathe. He whistles and sings and skylarks and smokes, maybe, and does a hundred other things which the high and mighty think ought to send a man to the penitentiary. But don’t that chap do the work, though! Don’t he earn and get good wages, and don’t the proprietor make more out of him every day than the high and mighty do out of three men who were brought up to use every modern facility, and who are stumped if one of the aforesaid facilities happens to get broken.

Watch this outre machinist as he works. He runs an eighteen inch lathe, perhaps, and the work brought to him might well be, and, in a better fixed shop would be, distributed among big lathes, little lathes, Fox lathes, planers, slotters, milling machines, cutting machines, drilling machines, screw machines, bolt cutters, gear cutters, etc.

But this chap does everything which is laid by his lathe. Some he does tip-top, some he leaves slouchy, but all of it is done as well as is required. He does this all the time. He lives on it. Every job he does is something he, or anybody else, never did before, but he does it all the same. This man is no mere machine wound up and set to running a shafting-turning machine. This shop isn’t a manufacturing concern with a system adapted to a special product.

This is one of my Simon Pure machine shops, doing job work, new and old, and this fellow we see is a lordly lathesman, a real machinist. You may set him down in any shop in the world where there’s a lathe, and a job to do, and he can do it. He will jump at new and better ways, but is not helpless in the meantime. He’s no baby. He’s a machinist, and he is worth money every day.

Oh, ye puny chaps that claim to be lathesmen! You only know one way of doing things, and that’s the way you were taught to do it. You only know how to do one job, and that’s the job you worked on while you were being taught, and you can’t do that job when you get in another shop away from home. Aren’t you ashamed to ridicule a poor, one-horse machine shop when every man in it is immeasurably your superior? Aren’t you ashamed to claim fellowship and equal wages with these sharp fellows, full of mechanical wit, who do work every day which you don’t even dare to undertake? You say they can’t do it well. You can’t do it at all. You don’t know how to tackle it.

* * * * Look at the job this lathesman gets. He is sitting on a casting and handling a connecting rod strap. It’s a rough forging for a strap to hold square boxes. You can’t see a bit of lathe-work about it anywhere, or a chance for any. Pretty soon he gets his present job done. Now he puts a miserable looking angle-plate against his face-plate, and sets this strap in some shape. He fishes a dirty piece of paper out of his tool box. This paper contains a memorandum of sizes which he took down verbatim as the foreman gave them. He goes to work, and in two hours, lays two hours of planing on the floor.

He has surfaced that strap nicely and squarely all over the outside. There’s one job of “lathework” done. There is but one planer in the shop, and that is too much crowded to be doing anything that can be done in any other machine. That same planer will stand still six months in the year, so it would be folly to get another, and thus be ready for a rush which never comes when you are ready.

* * * * Here goes for the next job. Twelve stubs about two feet long, one and three-quarters diameter, to have thread cut eight inches on one end. No turning, simply a thread to be cut. They belong to a bridge bolt job, and the bolt cutter has no dies for this size. Soon this job is done. It isn’t nice lathe work. Nothing to be proud of, but it is o. k. in every way. What next? He puts on a chuck and proceeds to chase out twelve hot-pressed nuts for these bridge bolts. Ough! how your teeth grit to see a lathesman having to do such a job. It’s a nasty job, but there’s no tap that size, and soon it’s done and off this chap’s mind.

* * * * Next comes some nice lathe work; a couple of valve stems and two or three small wrists. They are finished to the sizes given and nicely polished. He gets them done, and feels proud of them. Bless him, any lathesman can do such work.

* * * * Here’s a brass casting for a two-inch stop-cock, and by it lies the old one. It’s a repair job. The old one is bursted wide open. The plug is swelled, but not broken. Does a foreman come around and instruct this man how to do this job? No, sir. His orders were to “rig up that cock.” He takes the casting, chucks it, and in half an hour has a two-inch pipe thread chased in each end. Now he chucks crosswise, and you suddenly notice that this cock must be bored tapering. How is this fellow going to bore this hole? Will he go and get a nice taper reamer? I guess not in this shop. Will he fit up some kind of a reamer? Not be. He is fitting up an old water-cock, not making new reamers.

He’ll set the head of the lathe over, won’t he? No, he won’t. The head of the lathe can’t be swiveled. Will he set the Slate taper attachment over? Guess not, as he never heard of Slate; and don’t know what a taper attachment is. Will he use the compound rest? He may some day, when such a thing gets into the shop. Will he stick a wedge under the back wing of the carriage? No. He never heard of it, and is not so deep an inventor as to think of it just when he wants it.

Will he wrap a cord around his cross-feed screw-handle and tie it to his tail-stock, and thus get the taper? No, he has no time to invent this ingenious plan. Will he find a fancy little sliding-head boring-bar somewhere? Not a bar. Has he a mandrel which he can screw his chuck on, and thus do the job in the steady rest? No, sir. He won’t do any of these smart things, and he won’t tell you that the shop ought to have a Fox lathe for such work, and he won’t tell you how the Metropolitan Cock Company bore them out, for he don’t know, and, I am sorry to add, he don’t care. All he cares about is to lay that cock down on the floor and call it done, and as well done as is needed.

He whistles a very peculiar air in a very soft manner and turns his cross crank slowly to keep time. The result is a hole which is tapering, if it’s nothing else. It would have taken him just about as long to bore it straight. He takes the job out. Puts on a face-plate, and puts the old cock plug in the lathe. He chalks it and hammers the swells out, or in, rather. Then he sets his lathe over and takes a light cut over it. Then he marks a close fit in the cock, but keeps the plug large.

Now he goes to a vise and files the hole. It was tapering all right, but the sides were not straight. He files carefully but boldly, watching the tool marks in the hole, and trying the plug. Soon he is done with the filing, and, returning to his lathe, completes the fit of the plug. Now he grinds it in, and soon there isn’t a file mark or a tool mark in the hole or on the plug.

It is simply a first-class, water-tight taper job, quickly done in a third-class manner. He screws the thing together, and bounces the next job. Time on old cock, three hours and a quarter. You or I could not do it as well or as quick with all the cock-making appliances in existence. This man never fitted up a water-cock before. He is a machinist, and will hustle out any job you will bring him, and will do it as well as you want it done, and no better.

Extracts from Chordal’s Letters

American Machinist – January 17, 1880

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

American and British Workmen and Machinery

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 9:40pm


During a recent visit to Great Britain I gave considerable attention to men and machines, and the following are some of my observations and impressions. Not desiring to criticize any special locality, I will simply use the word “Britain;” and in comparing with the United States will use the word “American.”

My first attention to mechanics was given to locomotive building, as I wished to solve some puzzling matters, such as the general claim that a given number of men in America will build over twice as many locomotives per year as the same number would in Britain—that American builders can compete against the British for foreign orders and yet pay their men about twice as much per hour. This is rather a big question, but I satisfied myself that I found enough to account for differences as great as the above, partly as follows:

The Americans use more special machinery, and thus make labor more effective; and this is still further increased by division of labor. The easy-going swing in the British works is quite noticeable, as compared with the greater activity and “push” in the American. The British carry a greater dead weight of counting-house, drawing office and pattern shop than the Americans—I would venture to state, two or three times as much, compared with the number of engines built.

Most of the British machines are such as are used generally in machine and engine works, while the Americans use a great many machines designed and built expressly for locomotive work. The application of milling to locomotive work has revolutionized methods in America in late years, while in Britain it is still comparatively little used.

The Americans are easily ahead in vertical and horizontal spindle milling machines, double face mills, horizontal face plate turning mills, cylinder boring and facing machines, screw cutting machines, special tools for stay bolt making, flatting of hexagon nuts, finishing cylinder ports, etc., and an indefinite number of ingenious methods some called “Yankee tricks,” all of which tend to an increase of product, as compared with the number of hours labor.

The general structure of the American and British locomotives makes a great, difference in erecting. The British build a stiff frame of plates riveted and bolted, and all through make a slow, laborious work of erecting the engine; while the Americans actually block up side frames and boiler over wheels, all in position, and seem to finish up all parts at the same time by different “teams” of men, so that the engine is run out of the shop in an incredibly short time.

In the matter of labor, pure and simple, the most important point in favor of America is the small amount of “hand-work,” as compared with machine-work; so great is this difference that in my first visit to an American locomotive works I actually asked where the bench work was done, after I had practically gone over all parts of the works. In the British works no such question would be necessary, for men literally swarm on what is called by them “fitting” (or bench work), filing, scraping and apparently “fiddling in their time” on work which would be almost finished by machines in America.

So prominently does this strike me that it would be little exaggeration to say that the Americans build a locomotive by machinery and unwillingly do a little hand-work; while the British make a desperate attempt to build it by hand, but cannot help doing a little machine work. The Americans “mill right to size;” the British “plane” and “slot” in an imperfect manner, and then add more expense, filing and scraping off the “allowance for fitting” which they leave.

Even with their cheap labor, this method costs more than the American method. I was informed that this British system is perpetuated by the railways themselves in sending inspectors who insist on extremes in testing the work, which have no practical value but to throw expense on the builders. This method, while necessary and proper in machine tool building, is useless in locomotive work, and sometimes even harmful, for a locomotive never does her best work till she “loosens up” enough to be perfectly free from the danger of binding and heating.

In the stationary engine the engineer can keep joints up much closer, because he can feel them constantly for heating, but in the locomotive there is no way but keeping working joints loose enough for safety. The Americans thoroughly grasp this difference, and use fine machines, and nearly always let in working fits without hand-work. I incline to think that types are more uniform in America, and as much greater numbers are built, the ratio which templates, gauges and pattern making bear to the total, is in their favor. The British forged wheel is expensive, ugly, and more liable to breakage than the cheaper, heavier, and better looking cast-iron wheel of the Americans.

Now, why these great differences? Apparently the value of labor in America stimulates the invention of tools, which bring the work nearer a finish, because hand-work is the expensive part. But beyond all this, and permeating the whole, is the greater elasticity and adaptability of the American character, not content even with the best, at any given time, but constantly reaching out for better methods—never satisfied, yet the happiest man on earth—for in him the optimism of constant advance is irrepressible.

Some peculiarities of the British locomotive bear sufficiently on national character to be worth noting here. It is a wonderful little machine for drawing “railway carriages,” but when you bring it to America it is practically useless for drawing railroad cars, and is found to be about powerful enough for shunting at the stations. It has a rigid frame, in which the axle boxes are fitted—but you ask, “How does it run on a curve?”

Well, the curve is made to fit it, half a mile radius being good practice, so it runs around that pretty well. It is driven by inside cranks, and by putting enough metal in these cranks, they stand, but as this necessitates driving the wheels through the axles, these axles must be of large diameter. The wheels are forged as if made light, to press easy on the rails, but as some pressure is necessary, even to draw the little “carriages,” a mass of iron called the “footplate” is riveted between the frames, and this weight reaches the rails through the axle boxes, but, as we have already made the axles very large, a little more added for this does not make much difference.

This foot-plate is intensely British, for it adds to the stiffness and clumsiness of the framework of the engine, so that if a curve is too sharp, so much the worse for the curve. The “driver” (engineer) stands on this footplate, behind the fire box, along with the fireman, and here another use for the foot plate appears; for it is proof even against their massive British boots.

Both driver and fireman stand openly in the weather; but this is easily explained, for the Britisher is never happy unless he feels a drizzling rain in his face, and there is not enough sunshine to be considered. Still, there is a limit even here, for sometimes during severe snow or hail-storms, even the British “driver” running up against the wind at express speed, gets more than he enjoys, so the builders take this kindly into account, and put up over the fire box a “storm board,’” in which two panes of glass, about a foot in diameter, are placed, and the humble “driver” is grateful to his superiors.

No pilot, bell or headlight are used, and the engine has a plain, forlorn look, as if a cyclone had ripped off all her trimmings, the result being that “she looks as if she had been cast in one piece.” The driving wheels are covered with shields, like small paddle boxes, but I utterly failed to find what they were for; I suppose, however, they are to catch the gravel and sand thrown up by the air currents, and to make sure that they are thrown down again on the axle boxes.

Coming to ship building, it is remarkable how little difference can be noted, in a hurried visit, between the American and British shipyard. In the engine department there is the general difference of method noted in locomotive building, but not so marked as in the latter, except in the smaller details of the work, in which the American methods are quicker and more ingenious.

There is enough difference to lead me to the opinion that the cost of production in Britain is not much less than in America, and that this is decreasing. The general method of handling work is more clumsy and laborious, and it appeared to me that more power is wasted in machinery, and more physical force applied by the workmen to produce a given result than in America.

Somehow the American strikes the nail on the head more precisely, and drives it home with less cumbersomeness than the Britisher. Everything tends to clumsiness. Forgings are made with a greater allowance for finishing, and consequently deeper cuts are taken off by the machines; and not only this, but there is less cutting done, the Britisher, apparently, preferring to tear or force off the metal with a blunt, heavy tool.

It is evident that the designers of machines must take this into account, as most of the details are too heavy, noticeably to feed motions. The answer to criticisms on this point is always, “Strength, strength, strength;” but the American designer has shown that mere weight of metal is not always strength, but often the opposite.

The British designer seems to put as much metal as possible in the framework; then he tries to make the moving parts heavy enough to break the frame, and he often succeeds. Hence the poor workman is loaded by everything he has to move; he has, therefore, to use more force, his motions are more clumsy and slow and he effects less. Where the British designer would throw in and out a feed with a stout lever, the American would do it more effectively by a little knob moved by the fingers.

But my British friend says, “These little gingerbread Yankeeisms do not last.” Yes they do—if used by the American workman, for whom they were designed; and this is just the kernel of the matter; for the British workman would find it awkward to move a little knob with his fingers—he nearly always takes hold with his whole hand. Anything movable is with him a hammer, and everything stationary an anvil. This deficiency in delicate touch is very plain, and influences all his actions. He appears to have little sensibility in the points of his fingers; hence his tendency to grasp everything in a “clumsy-fisted” manner.

Amongst unusually heavy tools I noticed the four-jaw chucks, and asked one of the tool builders I met for the reason, and he informed me that he had tried the American chucks and made a complete failure, as his workmen broke them in a short time, and he was compelled to build the heavy style. He did not dispute my assertion that the American workman with his lighter chuck, handled work quicker. Now, observe what the British workman gains by carelessly breaking tools of reasonable weight: he laboriously handles tools nearly twice the weight they ought to be, hour after hour, day after day, year after year.

This machine builder was by far the best informed man I met, as to British and American practice, and the only one I found favorable to the latter; but he had made a tour in America and made comparisons for himself. In his works I found three of the most distinctly American machines, viz., universal milling, universal grinding, and vertical spindle chucking machines, all by the firm which has practically created them —The Brown & Sharpe Mfg. Co., Providence, R. I.

These machines standing among first class British machines enabled me to make direct comparisons with this result. The British has a dead, heavy look, as if driven against its will; the American has a live, graceful look, and appears as if it enjoyed running. The British appears as if made from inert matter; the American seems to have a nervous system. The British is stolid; the American bright. The British is prosaic; the American the poetry of mechanics. The British is pessimistic looking: The American optimistic. The British looks as if built by a Calvinist who believed in hell; the American, the creation of a Universalist. The British is noisy; the American quiet. The British looks brutal; the American refined.

The prevalence of noise and jar in British machinery is amazing, and the workmen appear entirely indifferent—so much so that you would almost suppose they liked it! It is evident that the British designer has little incentive to work for quiet-running machinery. In America quiet running is a leading characteristic, and is placed at the top in advertisements and descriptions, and adds to the selling price of the machine.

Does not this indicate an obtuseness and stolidity in the British workman, and a nervous sensibility in the American? The greatest cause of this noise in British machinery is their persistence in the antiquated system of cast gear wheels. The Americans cut the teeth, and for very large pitches cast them large and then plane all over. In one of the largest British works I talked with the engineer (“driver”) of a department, and could hardly hear him for the noise and pounding of his engine, which he did not notice in the least. I asked him if he had taken indicator cards lately, and he replied that the makers had examined “her” lately, and he supposed they took cards!

The mental attitude towards American improvements is very funny—that is, to the American. I criticized a clumsy machine, and received this crushing answer: “Who had it first?” How could a machine be improved in America if the British had it first and used it most? He spoke and the question was settled. It was stated to me with that seriousness so peculiarly British, that “We have been longer at it, and having more experience, we must be in advance of America!”

I found that this very experience was often the weak point, for it had led to conventionalities in method which stand in the way of advance. In some instances methods would become fixed in localities, and even in families, till skill appeared to become hereditary, and this state of matters was always associated with imperfect and primitive machines and tools. Thus personal skill became the most important factor, so that the employer was put more in the power of the employee. In America it is just the opposite, for machinery and methods are the most important factors, and are brought to such a high point that “any handy man” can be quickly taught.

In one instance, I was shown work being done on the slotting machine, and as it was just the work for which the vertical spindle milling machine was invented, I challenged the method; but the manager promptly informed me he had tried the miller, and “timed” it against the slotter, and the latter was ahead. No doubt about it, and while that twenty-year manager and his present force of workmen are employed, the slotter will be still ahead.

To illustrate this difference between acquired skill and automatic machinery, let us suppose a British machine works suddenly put under boycott by skilled labor; it would be practically wiped out. Now, suppose a similar condition in an American works—what would be the result? Simply that men would be taken from “laboring work,” and taught so soon that little serious delay would be suffered. In both cases I assume that manager and foremen remain.

More than this boys from farms in America have introduced some of the best improvements. Why? Because they were not taught the “proper” way, and therefore tried some original methods, and often made a hit. The young American is much given to “rigging up” some attachment to his machine, and the foreman knows enough, generally, to give him reasonable liberties, and his success is often remarkable.

In Britain he would be told to “obey orders.” This brings us to the fundamental Americanism—the recognition of the individual. In one instance which I know of, a workman attempted to have a simple improvement tried, but was told that the manager did not like such things, and that he preferred a workman to “keep his place.” He refused, and now occupies a much better place than that manager ever did. America says a man’s place is the highest he can reach honorably.

In questioning British workmen you are impressed with their stolid carelessness in answering, partly from ignorance and partly from the danger of “knowing too much for their places.” I hardly think it would be possible to make clear to an American who had not visited Britain, this peculiarity which runs through nearly all grades of society, but shows most plainly amongst workmen, viz., an indefinite and indescribable fear that something they may say or do, even inadvertently, may offend some of “their betters.”

This is in distressing contrast to the bright and easy spontaneity of the American. In Britain the workman will answer you in a short, gruff way, without lifting his head from his work, almost as if he said, “You ought to be aware that I am not supposed to know anything,” while in America he will surprise you with the knowledge he has beyond what he is doing, and he will not hesitate to stop work for a short time to explain anything you may ask about, and he is in no danger from foreman or manager by so doing, because they know that he is more efficient with this liberty than without it.

The British workman is always a “workman”; he wears practically the same clothes the year round, and they are made and advertised for “workingmen.” He goes to and comes from his work in the same clothes he works in, and rarely washes his hands or face at the works, but comes home with all the dirt of the forge or the foundry, and often takes back quite a little of it next morning.

Look at him carrying his coffee can; he does it so well that there is no hope. Note his gait—a “workman,” and for the future, still a “workman.” See his son by his side—the coffee can, the lunch, the gait, the heavy boots, the shoulders getting round, the stunted growth and prematurely wise face, the stolid expression, and you exclaim—a “workman,” hopelessly a “workman.”

He said to me, “I’m only a common workingman.” Why should he not keep his place? I talked with another about the acquisition of knowledge and rising in position; he replied, “A man can only make a living!” It took a good many generations to make these men, and it will take many to lift them up again, if it can ever be done. Does any one suppose that Americans could be bred down to this? Or, are these only possible in a community founded on the class system? Is not this the result of a social system in which a man has his place?

A brilliant woman asked me, “Why is it that an emigrant returning from a few years’ residence in America nearly always comes elevated and brightened, while from any other place he usually comes just as he left, or worse?” Simply the freedom of individualism in America. It is here that the greatest fundamental difference exists between the two countries. In Britain you may be a “green-grocer,” or a “coal-heaver”; you may be a “gentleman,” or a “prince” out of jail; but never, never a “man.” There is no escape from this.

In America the first assumption is that you are a man and a citizen without blemish, and even if you fall short of this, your neighbors will assist you upwards, for they have no interest in doing otherwise. The element of contest is left out, for you do not encroach on any one. In Britain it is just the opposite, for in rising you are always an object of suspicion, and those “above” you resent you as an intruder. Still the vile unjust class system.

Now, to come back to the pertinent question of my fair friend. If there is any good material in an emigrant (and there generally is), he will feel these things in America very soon. I say “feel,” for it is deeper and more potent than any written or spoken language. If there is even a seed of self respect in him it will develop. Not only can he rise freely; he will, in a certain sense, be pushed up, for Americans resent humility—which he will likely show a little from habit.

The American who has succeeded will act as if saying to him, “Step up here; we believe in you.” There is a charm in the recognition he receives as he climbs up, of which he knew nothing in the Old World, and he will gradually acquire that uniformity of manner which marks the American. It is hardly possible to take the Britisher’s manners seriously: now strutting around, with his nose in the air, that he may sustain his dignity amongst his “inferiors”; then doubling up quickly like a jack-knife, till his head almost touches the ground, when a real “big-bug” looms up.

I have seen a man, who, under ordinary circumstances, was almost too dignified to look at the ground, dancing around a superior like a pet dog! Under these conditions the workman does as well as could be expected, and as there are distinct signs of improvement, partly native and partly a reflex action from America, there is good hope for the future.

James Arthur

American Machinist – November 24, 1892

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

Where His Gunpowder was Only Snuff

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 10:28am


“Writing a book is like driving a car at night. You only see as far as your headlights go, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

— E.L. Doctorow

I was pissfarting around with my combination square today when Megan Fitzpatrick stopped by the shop to pick up a manuscript to edit (it’s the Hayward Project, by the way). She looked curiously at the panel clamped in my face vise.

“That’s a huge sliding dovetail in this…uh, what is this thing?” she asked.

I gave her the simple answer: a table. But the real answer is something more like: The sum total of a thousand ideas about contemporary furniture design that are finally taking shape – thanks to a manuscript from the 15th century.


Let’s back up. The last six months of work have been incredibly unprofitable for me. I’ve delayed several upcoming commissions (apologies; you know who you are) and I haven’t completed a single piece of furniture to sell since December. Part of this is because I devoted big chunks of time to “Chairmaker’s Notebook” and “Virtuoso.” But I also stumbled on a bright string in the forest that has led me to design, prototype and build pieces that explore new territory for me. So commerce can wait.

The images with this entry are part of the story, but certainly not anything worth commenting on. If you think the legs are chunky, I suspect you don’t even know what you’re looking at just yet.

I hope to have this “table” prototype complete this week. Then I’ll post some finished photos and explain the piece a bit more.

— Christopher Schwarz


Filed under: Furniture of Necessity
Categories: Hand Tools

Biltong Slicer #2

goatboy's woodshop - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 8:49am

2In thinking about the hardware for this project I had more or less settled on a solution for the blade. I have a #5 ½ blade that had been sharpened so many times that it was well past its useful service life as a plane iron, but would have been suitable for this project, albeit a little wider than necessary. However, the chap who commissioned this project had a better solution. He had previously tried himself to make a Biltong Slicer, but found that he couldn’t do it. His intention was to build several of them and sell them on, and to that end he had a number of blades made up. He suggested that I use his blades instead. They are a little tarnished and the bevel has been crudely ground with and angle grinder, so they will need a little honing and polishing before they can be pressed into service, but I think they will be more suitable for the project than the plane iron.

2dThe slicer that I was loaned at the start of this project had its blade attached at and angle to the side of the handle with two bolts – two bolts being necessary to stop the blade from swiveling away from the desired angle. My design, because it makes use of a mortise hole to house the blade, will only need one bolt to secure it and I happen to have an old saw nut, salvaged from the beat up tenon saw that I used to make the plate for my Kerfing Plane. Again, it is a bit tarnished but it should buff up nicely with a bit of elbow grease.

The tarting up will have to wait until later however. First I need to concentrate on the mortise. Using my sliding bevel, set to the correct angle, as a guide, I chopped out the mortise with my one and only mortising chisel – an old beat up specimen that just happened to be exactly the right width. Then I drilled for the saw nut; a 12mm counterbore for the heads, then 5mm from one side, 7mm from the other.


2a   2b   2c   2e

With the blade installed I turned my attention to the hinge. I have decided to use a piece of 6mm brass rod which will pass through the handle and be glued into blind holes in each upright. Then it was onto the holes for the dowel joints. Using dowel centres for accuracy, I bored 8mm holes for the hinge uprights, 3 dowels each, and 5mm holes for the chopping board, before dry fitting. Next I’ll need to cut out and refine the final shape of each component. Hey! Maybe I can use my new Turning Saw! Happy days!


Filed under: Projects Tagged: biltong slicer

When Does A Website Become Antique?

WPatrickEdwards - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 8:42am
I was born when television became available for home use for the first time.  I saw my first color television broadcast of the world series standing on the sidewalk in front of a TV store watching through the window.  The grass was a kind of vivid green.  I was impressed.

Then, years later in college, I was working in the Physics Department at UCSD when they went from the IBM computer with its stacks of punch cards and purchased a "compact" computer.  As I recall it was called a PDP 18 or something like that and cost a lot of money.  It was so small it could sit on a table!

Early  in 1980 I sold an old car and took the $1800 and bought a Kaypro CPM computer.  I thought it was neat and spent hours typing code into its 6" green screen.  When it appeared that CPM was becoming obsolete, I hoarded all the software I could find.  Now that crap is in the dump.

My wife was the one who fell in love with Apple.  To me it was just the producer of the Beatles records.  She spent so much time at the Apple store I wondered if she was having an affair.  She was, and it cost me money.

The second I touched the Mac I fell in love too.  Then she gave me the phone.  The rest is history.

However, when the Kaypro went away I no longer felt the need to keep up with computer code.  Sometime in the 1960's I had studied Fortran but that was as useful as Latin.  So, around 1990 I asked the neighbor kid to create a website for me.  I gave him my ideas and some content and he posted  It was very cool for 1990.

I printed it on my business cards.  Years passed.  Nothing changed.  It became an embarrassment since it was clearly old and dated.  But like much of my clothes, I refused to throw it away and get something newer.

About 5 years ago I found blogspot and started my blog.  It was easy and fun.  I could sit down when I was inspired and post copy, photos and videos.  I got a lot of satisfaction and positive feedback.  I still do.

But the old website remained online and I wondered how and when I would decide to kill it.

Then Patrice started to get involved in website design and video production.  We made some YouTube videos together and they were a hit.  He spent long hours after work creating a replacement for my original site.  I was not much of a help, as I had already decided that it was not worth it.  He persisted.

Just recently he began converting my magazine articles to a pdf format.  I was impressed and thought it would be great to post them on my blog.  It turns out you can't do that directly.  You need to link to a website which hosts the pdf files directly from the blog.  Who knew?

So I got excited for the first time in 25 years about and helped him with a bit of copy.  He was able to take down my old site and post the new one this weekend.  Wow!

Please visit by clicking on the first link on this blog page.  Look for the videos and pdf files.  I think you will be impressed by what he has been able to accomplish.  Except for some typos and small errors in the copy it is wonderful.  Of course the typos and copy errors are because I didn't take the time to proof read that's my job.

I hope you like it.  You can thank Patrice for not giving up.
Categories: Hand Tools

HB Hobby Tansu #1-Part 2

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 8:33am

The design drawings are complete and I believe that I have all of the joinery elements worked out.  As I said in Part 1, the joinery is fairly simple.  Consisting primarily of dados and finger joints.

The overall proportional layout.


Detail sheet showing the arrangement of dados and finger joints on the end pieces.


hb_hobby_tansu-isoThe basic box is consists of a top panel joined to the ends with a (5) part finger joint that will be pinned with bamboo pegs.  The bottom is joined to the ends with a (3) part finger joint with a slight modification.  The front and rear portions of the finger joint rest in a shallow dado with only the center “finger” lapping the full thickness of the end panel.  This center finger also creates the cutout that forms the feet on the ends.  The bottom panel is tucked behind a simple skirt board that is lapped and pinned to the ends and glued to the edge of the bottom panel.

The center horizontal board that separates the large bottom drawer from the drawer bank above it, is installed in a stopped dado.  This dado will intersect the vertical dado that retains the removable sliding panel.

The back will be made up of two or three panels.  It will overlap the end panels and tuck under a rebate on the top panel.  Glue and pegs will secure it into place.  I’ll either ship lap the panel joints or spline them.  I’m leaning towards ship lap at this point.  Plywood is another option but the solid wood panels will have a better aesthetic.  Especial since the edges will be exposed and this box will be seen from all angles as a matter of course.

hb_hobby_tansu-scrollThe removable sliding panel consists of three parts.  A main board, a decorative appliqué, and the top trim piece.  The appliqué will simply be glued in place since the grain of it and the main board are running horizontally.  There is evidence that this appliqué was pinned in place on the antique and I’m not entirely sure as to why.  My guess is they were a backup to glue failure.  Rice or hide glue would have been the choices for glue on the antique.  Since both are subject to failure in high humidity, pegs would have ensured the pieces remained together.  At any rate, I may end up adding a few bamboo pegs as well, for the same reason.  The top trim piece will be glued and pegged in place.

The two pieces that form the upper drawer bank will be joined and installed in stopped dados.  The stopped dado will prevent the dado from showing on the front of the assembly.    This is not just cosmetic, it also serves to lock the pieces in place.  With the back panels of the box installed the divider pieces will be prevented from moving to the rear and stopped dado prevents them from moving forward.

The drawers will be my normal construction.  Lapped and pinned dovetails at the front and pinned finger joints at the rear.  The installation of the drawer bottom I’m still undecided on.  I’ll either install it in a groove or rebate it into the front then glue and peg it directly to the bottom of the assembly.  How the drawers are made is inconsequential.  They just need to be sturdy and function as intended.

I’m just about ready to start cutting wood for this project.  All that is left is to create the full-scale shop drawing and a trip to the big box store for the lumber.  Tomorrow should see the first cuts being made.

Below are pdf versions of the layout drawings.



Part 1 Greg Merritt

Setting The Cap Iron / Chip Breaker – VIDEO

The English Woodworker - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 6:47am

This is the last (for now) of three videos about cap irons / chip breakers. If you haven’t seen the others then you can find them here:
Cap Irons & Tear Out
Preparing The Cap Iron / Chip Breaker

I find a well set up cap iron to be vital for preventing tear out. It allows me to take good thick shavings and still leave a beautifully smoothed surface, even on difficult grain. Of course this isn’t possible without a good sharp iron, so when it comes to setting the cap iron I want a method that’s straight forward and quick, I can’t be doing with anything that puts me off sharpening up when necessary.

When preparing my cap irons, as in the last video, I don’t mind spending a fair bit of time as it’s a job I’ll only have to do once. Since I have to set it on to the iron over and over, many times a day my method for this is much swifter. Give it a go, experiment to get a feel and let me know what you think.

I focus mainly on the smoothing plane but also discuss setting up on more heavy cambers.

Categories: Hand Tools

no breadboards today mom........

Accidental Woodworker - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 2:30am
I didn't get to the breadboards today but they are the lead off batter tomorrow. Once I get them done, all that is left to do is the finishing. Lots of scraping and I'm going to try and avoid using sandpaper on this. The final part of any project and the one I like doing the least.

Before I got around to playing with the table I had to finish up the new glue risers I made. I had one more stiffener to glue on and I did that. I then did some running around and errands and that gave it sufficient time to set up.

I was curious
I finally got everyone of the dowel holes filled. I even got a 1/8" one. That is a first for me because in the past making 1/8" dowels they always broke on me. Now I have a visual of the 5/8 and 1/2 inch sizes - along with the others.

18     5/16" dowels for the bread boards
The missing dowel is in the dowel plate - that's why there is only 17 here. All of these are fairly straight and usable. With 18 of them 6 can go south and I'll still be ok. I also have more rived stock that I can make more if need be.

one of them is done
These additions have really made this quite stiff and added some weight to it also. The flimsy feeling they had is gone now.

nightmare glue up
This last stiffener didn't want to be glued up. It was bowed and cupped and made for a fun clamping experience.  Started in the middle by clamping in down to the bottom first and then against the upright. From there I worked out to the ends. I couldn't use my quick grips on this neither. They couldn't exert enough pressure to keep the stiffener in place.

see the bow and the gap
I put two errant saw kerfs in the upright when I made this and now it's making the upright a bit floppy. I going to glue in a couple pieces of wood to fill it in.

the bow and the gap got worse
The stiffener was breaking the glue bond and pulling away from the bottom and starting to cup upwards. I guess this wood wasn't done yet playing it's stupid wood tricks. I put a row of screws into the stiffener and I did the opposite side too even though I didn't have any problems with that one.

Once I fixed this problem, I glued the 1/8" fillers in the saw kerfs with hide glue. I have a lot of hide glue now and it will be my go to glue from here on. I'll still use yellow glue but hide glue has been promoted to the head of the class.

practice bread boards
The cross grain spur on my plow plane is dull. I doubt it would cut wet paper and I don't know how to sharpen it. I took it off and looked at it but my dumb looks didn't lead to any ideas on how to do it. Instead I used my cutting gauge to score the outside wall. I got it set to the width I want and I set the plow plane to match it.

I did this setup with the grain to get these two matched. I'll do the actual practice run against the grain. This scrap I'm using is the crosscut waste from the table.

it's clean
I'm happy this worked out. The groove wall on the inboard side is clean and tear out free from one side to the other. I got a dead nuts match with the gauge and the cutter in the plow plane.

second marking
I probably don't have to do this as the groove is below the surface and if I get tear out here it won't be seen. This wall is what the bread board will be butting against so keeping it clean will help with that.

groove is to depth
The inside wall is clean still and the outside one isn't that bad neither. There are only a couple of areas that have some tear out and I could probably plane them away.

splitting the big tenon is next
I an not a fan of splitting tenons. I have tried it several times and I had more success with it then failures. Still, I don't like it but this is a lot of wood to plane off here. It is about a 1/4" on both sides. I split most of it off staying away from the gauge line. There is no telling how a multiple board glue up is going to split.

what I dislike about splitting
The first board to the right split off nicely with straight splits. This second board, second split, is toast. The grain swirls a lot here and I split out a big divot. I could glue this back on and plane this portion but I don't think that will be necessary. If need be I could move the tenon around in this area and avoid it.

the groove bottom is the planing target depth
I'm going to plane this tenon and not use the chisel. I'm not that good trimming with a chisel and this tenon has to be done well.

used the jack to remove the bulk of the waste
the one bad split area on the whole tenon
These would have been buried in the bread board and wouldn't be seen. There is a portion of this squirrely grain on the table that I will have to deal with again. I made the divot to the right of the one I split out when I tried to trim this with the chisel. I had to try it.

nice and clean
I put a square on this but I'm not sure what it is. There isn't much of a shoulder for one leg and it says square but again, I'm not betting the ranch on it. I am down almost to the groove and to the gauge line on the outside of the tenon so by those two I should be square.

the other side
This is the same board that I split badly and on this side it's worse. The small raised area to the right of this split I stopped trying to split with the chisel. On the first whack I saw that it was running downhill into the groove.

doesn't look good for the home team
I left this one alone and I planed it out rather than risk another bad split.

no problems planing down to the groove on this side
gauge line on the outside
Between the bottom of the planed groove and this gauge line, I did pretty good making this tenon. One end is bit tapered because I didn't check myself enough when planing. But this is practice and I'll hopefully pay better attention on the real one.

test mortise
I don't want to change the setting on the plow plane so I made a groove on the face of this piece of pine. This will work for me checking the fit the tenon into this.

my tapered end
gauge line still visible
This is what I'll be shooting for on the real thing. I want to have the line visible. This will be my fudge factor and I can plane and fit as I need to.

tapered end fit
I have a gap at the end (where I can't hide it) but the rest of the 'mortise' fits snugly on the tenon.

the other end
Much better fit with no gaps. This end of the tenon fits very snugly in the 'mortise'.

sharpening time upcoming
I have to sharpen the toys I'll be using tomorrow on the real thing. They are ok as is but I want them sharper and tuned up before hand.

the record 073 iron
This is one iron I've always had to do free hand. It is also one iron that I would wait forever before sharpening it. This iron has to be done square. It's not like a plane iron that you can skew to bring it parallel to the mouth.  There is no allowance for doing this here. You have to do it square period.

I took a few strokes and I checked it against the square. It takes a while to sharpen because of this but at the end I had a sharp, square iron. I need this plane to clean up the bottom of the inside wall.

shiny and sharp
I have been getting better with the free hand sharpening since I don't use the MKII anymore. Being forced to do something makes you learn in a hurry or you sink.  I'm treading water right now.

I have to put it back on the bench
One problem I am going to have with this tomorrow is how do I clamp this to the bench? I need it secure while I plow the groove and then make the tenon. I haven't had any ideas yet and maybe inspiration will hit me before tomorrow rolls around.

problem #2
The table is cupping slightly, It's about an 1/8" here in the middle of the table. I don't see this as a big problem and I think once it's secured to the base with the buttons, this will go away (or most of it will). I am going to put the cauls on when I do the tenons. That should flatten the table and help with getting a consistent depth with the groove.

Another helper with taking the bow out will be the bread board ends themselves. This is what they are meant to do. The cauls flattening the top are a must here before I can fit the bread board ends.

Not much done today but the practice run will pay dividends tomorrow.

accidental woodworker

trivia corner
How many signatures are on the Declaration of Independence?
answer - 56

George 111 and Other Sins

Pegs and 'Tails - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 9:11pm
One could forgive many an individual for not having a rudimentary grasp of Roman numeration, but frankly, antiques dealers – especially those at the top of their game – should, if not fully conversant, be at least familiar with the … Continue reading
Categories: Hand Tools


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