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An aggregate of many different woodworking blog feeds from across the 'net all in one place!  These are my favorite blogs that I read everyday...

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Hand Tools

Old Men, Old Planes, Old Ways Now Gone – The Origin of Scrub Planes

Paul Sellers - 2 hours 50 min ago

This Blog Post is About Scrub Planes.

Had I said roughing planes, only a few would have understood. Even in the 1960s old wooden planes, the Stanley scrub plane and even the Stanley furring plane would have been referred to as roughing planes because, in typical fashion, the plane derived its name from its function. 

Sellers Trans

In my dim and distant past (yes this is me 25 years ago or so) I worked with many men 40 years older than myself and all the way up to being 80+ years old. My personal tools then were all squeaky new of course, but the tools in the tool chests and joiner’s boxes these men treasured were all very, very old. Older even than them. I don’t think I was even remotely capable of seeing then that the value in these tools could not be appraised in monetary value but by the provision they were to the men from two world wars in making everything from children’s toys to fine furniture and door frames to coffins. Today, 50 years later, I understand their real worth. 

I Keep Old Tools to Work With Because They Work; Not Because They Look Nice

Today many planes from the past are somewhere near to my bench and the throats vary according to use. It’s here that I want to share something i think has value to us as woodworkers. It’s a little bit about the history of planes that may offer insight. In time past I have shared that old wooden planes were never abandoned because they didn’t work or indeed work well. They were abandoned because they didn’t keep pace with the industrialising of craft and the art of work. The whole process of plane making was an art that required great skills in both woodworking and metal working to make the tools of the plane maker. The wood too required specific parameters to produce tools that would remain stable. Though wood was dried in large quantities, distilling this down, a plane blank for your average bench plane, regardless of length, would at very minimum be 5 years before the plane would come from the hands of its maker. 

For Centuries Woodworking Craftsmen in Different Trades Made Their Own Planes and Tools

Though wooden plane making ultimately became a specialist woodworking trade within the realms of carpentry and joinery, this only happened after centuries of craftsmen making their own planes according to their given trade. Coopers and wheelwrights, joiners, carpenters, boat builders and 50 others all developed their own specialist planes and tools.  Making a plane was a 3-4 hour process and from new the plane served its maker for many decades.

The Evolution of the Roughing Plane

DSC_0001 2

In the beginning the plane started life as a plane with tight tolerances. Cutting edges were bedded only 1-2mm from the front aspect of the sole , which created the closed throat needed for fine shaving work.  Such a plane brought into service for close and fine work would work for a decade or so before wear began to take its toll. It made sense to create a new plane alongside the more used one as the wear became apparent but before too much wear took place. That being so, the new plane would run alongside the older in tandem in the same way a shepherd runs a new dog alongside the old so that he’s never without a dog. As the original plane sole became worn and needed truing because of wear and unevenness, the mouth opening became marginally wider and more open. Another decade and the mouth would be too wide for fine work and so the second plane began to replace the first. It’s at this point that the craftsman transfers the original plane to its new work working the distorted surfaces resulting from air drying wood and saving his finer plane for finer work. The cycling continued and three or four small smoothing planes would see a craftsman through his decades as a working craftsman. 


Wooden Planes Performed Exceptionally and Were Never Replaced By Anything Better

Now then, try to remember that these wooden planes were not simply old fashioned models being replaced by something better and newer. That wasn’t the case at all. Also try to remember that they weren’t called scrub planes as we know the term either. They did however perform the same task. It’s important to know that woodworkers were using wooden planes for these different tasks for centuries and that they were in no way inferior to anything produced with modern-day all-metal planes. These crafting artisans in wood resisted the introduction of the all-metal cast iron and steel planes with legitimate cause. The reason they resisted the new planes was not that they shunned change for the sake of it or were merely nostalgic, but that their wooden planes were, in their hands, flawless designs in functionality in every way and actually worked better than the new all-metal ones. DSC_0004 2 DSC_0005 2They were much lighter in use, almost frictionless in motion wood on wood, were more stable and they could be refined whenever or if needed. Cycling through three or four planes made from the off cuts of a beech table or bed leg was simply the practice of the day. Running planes side by side meant staggered stages of wear levels in the throat and so planes were adapted and adopted to different levels of roughness for the removal of undulation and twist to rough prep boards for the jack and jointer planes. The shorter the sole the kore localised the ability to rough-down highs and of course the easier to turn the plane to task in tackling grain variance of direction and so on.

Ultimately, planes with large and open throats could scrub off masses of wood.


The Scrub Plane Emerges


So, as you can see, when the wooden planes were ousted by the cheaper alternative all-metal ones that required only assembly-line production, it became only a matter of time before one replaced the other. Add into that the demands of a world war on timber resources for every aspect of industrialism and you suddenly begin to see how the demise of the wooden bodied planes took place. Machining in woodworking lessened the demand on hand methods too, to the point that one, by one, the wooden planemakers of Britain  and Western Europe began dropping like flys. In tandem with the demise the need for a roughing plane made from metal was needed to replace the wooden versions. Remember there was no secondhand market for planes as we might know it now in the sense of family members selling off their great grandfather’s old stuff and certainly no world wide web. The term scrub was most likely in use long before Stanley came developed their version in the all-metal scrub. There can be no doubt that Stanley adopted the descriptive name and so created a special plane in a category all of its own. Though still a crude looking plane compared to all others, the Stanley scrub could initially be mistaken for a very unique and different plane altogether which is the much rarer Stanley #340 furring plane. DSC_0004I only ever saw and owned one of these planes, primarily because it was a US development in planes and made only in the US. I bought mine for peanuts in 1985 as part of a collection of tools and planes owned previously by a working craftsman. Just like the the term used for the scrub plane, furring plane to me implies it was used to remove furry and rough surfaces left by the sawyers after sawing, hence the minimalist surface area of the sole with only four square inches of sole in contact with the wood at any given time as apposed to 11 square inches with the scrub plane and 20 square inches with a regular smoothing plane. frictionless humped area around the mouth and the hollows either side to the toe and heel.


DSC_0005 - Version 2Those operating the machines would use the plane to take off furring from the ripped wood before second and subsequent passes on the saw if the wood had deviated slightly or left too much furring on the surface. The plane would be used both with (along) the grain and at a tangent to the grain equally. This plane will most likely never be replicated because its use is so very limited. 

We Lose the Art and Craft of Plane Making

In all of this we saw a close to an era; a tradition of craftsmanship destined to die, save for one or two lingering makers who continued into the early 1960s. For a few decades wooden plane making died and became extinct and to a great extent that has remained the same. Two or three individuals in the USA and the UK have become independent planemakers intent to develop their own niche market for making and selling wooden planes made by hand. There are enough collector users to keep them in business.


The post Old Men, Old Planes, Old Ways Now Gone – The Origin of Scrub Planes appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Chair-Back Settees

Pegs and 'Tails - Sun, 07/27/2014 - 6:52pm
A popular form of mid- to late eighteenth-century seating was the chair-back settee, in double-, triple-, and quadruple-back formats. Fig. 1. George II Irish mahogany double chair-back settee, circa 1740. (O’Sullivan Antiques) Chair-back settees are constructed in much the same … Continue reading
Categories: Hand Tools

Chisel Restoration

Plane Shavings Blog - Sun, 07/27/2014 - 2:42pm
Set of fine chisels ready for sharpening.

Set of fine chisels ready for sharpening.

Just finished this rare set of Anton Berg socket chisels. The original handles were removed and the steel de-rusted in my electrolysis tank. Then they were put through a process I call “brightening”. This is a light polish where no measureable amount of metal is removed. Then I made new handles, replicating the originals, from hickory. These chisel are ready for another generation of service.

As always, thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a comment.

Categories: Hand Tools


David Barron Furniture - Sun, 07/27/2014 - 11:10am

Over the weekend we went to a family friends 50th birthday party.
It was also my birthday but I don't like lots of fuss and attention and just as I thought I'd got away with it, I was presented with this beautifully made (and tasting!) cake. The four candles represented the difference in our ages, unfortunately I'm older than her.

The miniature chisels and planes were very well done and a lovely touch, thanks very much Theresa.

Categories: Hand Tools

I have more fun than I can stand

Peter Follansbee, joiner's notes - Sun, 07/27/2014 - 9:51am

I keep plugging away. Yesterday I got to use some planes!

planes gauges


What a blast - the spoons and bowls are great fun, challenging, etc…but no planes. I need to make a molding to run around my most recent frame & panel – it’s one like this, all I have left is to make the molding & cut & glue it in. 

frame & panel

frame & panel

I keep a stash of riven Atlantic White Cedar, just for this purpose. First, I planed the stock to the proper thickness, in this case 1/2″

planing w jointer

Then I dig out one of those special wheelie gauges to mark out the rabbets, a la Matt Bickford. You already know I’m a fan; his book & video show you how to tackle this work easily. http://lostartpress.com/collections/books/products/mouldings-in-practice  & http://www.lie-nielsen.com/dvds/moldings-in-practice/

The gauge I got from the Alexander collection – thanks once again JA. 

wheelie gaiugethen rabbets. 

rabbet plane

and bevels, then hollows and rounds. 



Then it was time to pack it away & off to the Cape Cod League Baseball – we went to Wareham to see the Gatemen take on the Falmouth Commodores. We were there early, so Daniel watched batting practice – I carved spoons. Then we watched the game. Gatemen blew the lead in the ninth – took it on the chin. 

gatemen 1

gatemen 2


One of many great things about working at home is that I get to see stuff I only used to hear about. Here’s a marble game from yesterday:

marble game

That then turned into a painting by Daniel, who was learning about shadows and light sources this week.

daniesl watercolor marbles

Daniel’s watercolor of marbles in dirt

This one’s just thrown in there – it’s part of an ongoing series of raking light shots.

ongoing raking lght series



2015: Lots of Chests, Lots of Countries

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Sun, 07/27/2014 - 2:05am


If you want to build a tool chest or a workbench in 2015 with the assistance of a sasquatch (me), 2015 could be the year. I have just about finished lining up all my classes for next year. While it might seem early to be discussing this, I know that many busy students need to plan their lives a year in advance.

I’ll be discussing these classes in more detail in the coming months. But here is a broad overview.

January: It looks like I’ll be returning to Highland Hardware at the end of the month to teach a weekend class, perhaps on building a Dutch tool chest.

February and March: I return to Australia for a tour of the country – very exciting. Here is the preliminary schedule:

Feb. 23-27. Build a Roubo Workbench at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking.
Feb. 28-29. Hand Tool Event at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking.
March 2-4. Dutch Tool Chest class at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking
March 6-8. Class at Robert Howard’s School in Brisbane. Topic to be announced.
March 11-13. Dutch Chest class at the Henry Eckert School in Adelaide.

April: I’ll be teaching at the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers April 9-12, topic to be announced.

May: I return to the Woodworkers Club in Rockville, Md., for a week-long class May 4-8. The topic is still up for discussion.

May 15-17. Handworks in Amana, Iowa. Do not miss it.

June 12-19: I return to Dictum (yay!) in Germany to teach classes on building a traditional sawbench, mallet and marking gauge.

June 22-28: I get the honor of teaching at Phil Lowe’s Furniture Institute of Massachusetts. We’ll be building the Anarchist’s Tool Chest for one class and I think we’ll be doing a two-day seminar on tackling the tricky bits for campaign chests – the full-blind dovetails and hardware, in particular.

July: I return to England to teach two classes for the New English Workshop. At this point, one class will be a workbench, the other will be a chest. We’re still working out the details, but both classes will be brand new ones. One of them is a project I’ve been mulling over for years now.

Aug. 10-14. We build Roubo workbenches at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking.

Sept. 28-Oct. 2. I’ll be teaching a tool chest class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. Just like the classes for the New English Workshop, I can’t say much until we finalize some details. But this will be a class that is very important to me.

There are a couple more classes that I’ll add to the schedule. But the schedule above really is the physical limit for me if I want to build furniture and edit books as well. I do hope you can make it out to a class next year.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Woodworking Classes
Categories: Hand Tools

Beading edge action

ZK Project Notebook - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 9:43pm
A crappy video the side bead plane in action. I shot this with my phone, I continue to be amazed with the amount of tech crammed into these things. I took a piece wood, routed a slot that fit the … Continue reading
Categories: Hand Tools

More Details Coming Soon!

Plane Shavings - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 8:21pm

I know the blog has been awfully quiet with no new post for quite a while now, and for that I apologize. It's not because there has been no action in the shop the past two months, it's actually been quite the contrary, it's been a hive of activity out there.

Since my last post, I have had visits to the shop from some pretty major players in the woodworking community. People I feel lucky to call my friends and that have taken time from their busy schedules to make the trip to visit me on my home turf.

One of the giants and innovators of furniture finishing, author/translator of great woodworking books, present and future, and one of the smartest men I've ever met, Don Williams, came by for a visit and spent a few hours conversing. It was fun to get an inside peak of all the things he has planned, from books to classes to barn renovations. Don is one hell of a nice guy and has a great blog over at Don's Barn. Oh, and did I mention he is super smart? But he is smart without making you feel dumb; just a real down to earth guy. This was actually Don's second trip down to the shop to visit; he came back in 2012 before I had even finished and moved in. Thanks Don for taking time out of what has got to be one of the busiest schedules of anyone I know to come visit me. It means a lot to me and I sure do appreciate it. OH, AND he bought me gifts of Pollissiors and a chunk of bees wax. So cool!

My next visitor was here at the shop for three days; Master Windsor chair maker Charles Boland. I've gotten to know Charles through SAPFM and from picking his brain at various colonial craft fairs where he exhibits his skills and knowledge. I have always loved and been fascinated by the Windsor chair in it's many forms. Partly because they were ever-present at so many of the events that created our nation in the 18th century, but mainly just because I find them absolutely beautiful. They were the predominant chair in use at the Pennsylvania State House (later named Independence Hall) during the Second Continental Congress, where the 13 colonies voted for separation from Great Britain and ultimately signed the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson actually penned the words to that famous document in a revolving Windsor chair of his design that he had a Philadelphia chair maker build for him. The name of that chair maker escapes me, but I can guarantee you that Charles knows who it was. That's one of the things that makes Charles so special, not only is he a master chair maker and fantastic at his craft, but he is extremely knowledgable on 18th century history in general and has done extensive research on the chairs he has built which adds so much to the authenticity of his chairs.

Anyway, the reason that Charles was at my shop for 3 days was one of the other things that makes him so special, his generosity and kindness. As some of you who follow the blog know, I've been dealing with cancer since March of 2010 and this sometimes leaves me with not as much strength and energy as I used to have. It had always been one of my dreams to build an authentic reproduction of an 18th century Windsor using the traditional methods and, obviously, entirely with had tools. Well, my health had gotten to the point, after a 24 day stay in the hospital, where my wife Jen didn't feel comfortable with me making the 3 hour trek to Springfield, West Virginia and being away from home for a week without her to attend a chair making class at Charles shop. So, unbeknownst to me, this wonderful woman contacted Charles and explained who she was and my situation and asked Charles if there were any way he'd consider coming to MY shop to teach me to build a chair. Well, Charles being the person that he is not only agreed to teach the class at my shop for no additional charge than his normal class fee, but also custom tailored the class to shrink it from 5 days to 3 and take a couple of the more physically taxing processes out of the equation so that my body could handle the class. It worked out great and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Thanks Charles! More details on the build and the finished results coming here soon.

My third visit, a few weeks ago, was from Jerome Bias, author, passionate woodworker, avid historical researcher, joiner at Old Salem Village in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and all around nice guy! I had learned about Jerome by seeing him on an episode of the Woodwright's Shop with Roy Underhill and by reading an article he did for Popular Woodworking Magazine about Thomas Day, a cabinetmaker and free man of color in North Carolina in the 19th century. Mr. Day was one of the premier cabinetmakers in North Carolina at this time and Jerome portrays him at events and talks that he gives sometimes. Thomas Day was quite the success and has a very interesting story. I highly recommend googling him. But back to Jerome. After knowing about him through the various woodworking outlets I mentioned, I actually got the pleasure to meet him in July of 2013 when I took a week long class at Roy's Place on making a joint stool from instructor Peter Follansbee. We talked quite a bit that week and I instantly knew that he was someone I could hang out with for hours talking woodworking, history, or anything else for that matter. Just a really cool guy to hang out with in general, so I was thrilled a month or so ago when I got an e-mail from him saying he would be in the general area if I was up for a visit. Heck yeah, come by anytime! Well, he did and we hung out in the shop, having lunch and talking woodworking for 3 or 4 hours. I was really sorry he couldn't stay longer. As I said, he's someone I'd never tire of talking to. One of those people were there's never those long periods of silence. Thanks for taking the time Jerome. Hope  to see you in September at WIA!

In addition to all the cool visiting woodworking luminaries, I've become rather passionate about another form of woodworking recently; one that isn't so physically taxing. As a matter of fact, I can sit on my arse on my joint stool with a hewing log in front of me for 95% of it. And I'm REALLY enjoying the new challenge. More details on this coming soon to this very blog. :-)

Also, the shop is in the process of PHYSICALLY expanding a bit to make room for some open air, but under the cover of shade work. This expansion will make it possible and give me the space to delve into my latest passion, the pursuit of the dark arts. Muah ha ha!!! And, as you may have guessed by now, more details to come about this in the near future. And yes, to this very website! :-)

Whew, feels good to blog again. Hopefully you guys will be hearing from me again real soon, expanding on the three subjects I spoke of. Until then, take care everyone!

Categories: Hand Tools

I am an American Anarchist

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 12:01pm


And so she asks: “What does it mean? ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest?’”

I take a deep breath and purse my lips a bit. I get asked this question a lot, especially by non-woodworkers, people who haven’t read “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” and complete wankers.

The truth is, I eschew labels such as “libertarian,” “liberal” and “lemming.” While I am happy to explain my outlook on life, I do it without a whiff of political language. Instead of talking about the political landscape, I’d rather live in the real one.

So my basic response to the question goes like this: I dislike large organizations – governments, corporations, churches. When organizations get enormous, the humans in them tend to do inhumane things, such as start wars, burn each other at the stake or enslave people in factories.

I refuse to participate in those organizations as much as possible. I don’t vote. I don’t give money to churches. I don’t shop at Wal-Mart, or really any other chain store. I admit it’s difficult to be Puritanical about this. Buying a car or a computer is difficult without somehow engaging with a large organization, but I do my best.

Most of all, I try to consume less and make more – and not be an a-hole about everything I’ve said above. The world has enough of those, and I’m surprised they don’t have their own organizing body.

If you are interested in American anarchism, or the particular branch that applies to woodworkers – aesthetic anarchism – I encourage you to read the following short bits.

1. The Wikipedia entry on Josiah Warren, the first American anarchist and the founder of the Cincinnati Time Store.

2. The 1906 book on Josiah Warren by William Bailie. It’s available for free here from archive.org.

3. Buy a copy of “Native American Anarchism” by Eunice Minette. Many libraries have the book. You can buy one from AbeBooks.com as well. The book is a bit mistitled. It has nothing to do with Native Americans. It is about anarchism that took root in America.

Most of all, if you think you are an anarchist, refuse to listen to the non-anarchists who dismiss your approach to life. That’s like listening to the factory owners who laugh at hand-tool woodworking as quaint.

The best response to the criticism is to close the laptop, sharpen a chisel and chop some dovetails. As George R.R. Martin writes over and over in his books, “Words are wind.”

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: The Anarchist's Tool Chest
Categories: Hand Tools

528 Hip photo clipboards

Matt's Basement Workshop - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 9:05am

In the never-ending quest to answer the timeless woodworker question “what do you do with your scraps?” I have yet another answer, photo clipboards!

small wood clipboard

Actually, this one came directly from my beautiful and amazing wife Samantha, who was looking for something new to present to her wedding photography clients.

The concept is simple. Take a beautiful piece of scrap wood, shape it a little if necessary, clean up its surfaces so there’s no splinters, apply a simple finish to protect it and attach a clip to one face.

The result is an amazingly simple project that can be as big or small as you need for your presentation and a great way to clean out your scrap pile (or to just experiment with some pricey exotics without breaking the bank.)

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Categories: Hand Tools


The Saw Blog - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 7:22am

Is there a set of values that go along with working wood by hand? I wonder this often and I tell myself that the answer is yes…there are values behind this work besides just needing physical things like furniture, tools, and implements of life. But why does this always end up sounding corny…like I’m trying to convince myself of something.

Why on earth would anyone choose to make their own tools especially….there are plenty of places around to buy tools….WalMart, Sears, Home Depot, etc. What kind of a nut job makes their own tools?

I don’t know….then those values creep up again…

Like a voice inside my head, “Matt…you don’t want to be like every other schmuck and buy a pruning saw at Lowe’s with a plastic handle or tube steel frame pressed out by the millions. You’re better than that.”

Am I? Or do I just like making things because I have ADHD and my hands always have to be working on something? Is it a romantic notion? Is it a political statement?

I don’t make very effective political statements….I think I always end up sounding like an asshole. Maybe I should remember that in the future…talk less, act more. So am I making a statement of action? Am I modeling something for someone? Why do i always have to go Existential on this stuff….why can’t I just enjoy it and shut up???

I don’t know…maybe its a sickness.

And why does my pruning saw have to be special….do I think I’m better than anyone else? Why do I have to use Hawaiian Koa for the handle…wouldn’t beech or dogwood harvested in my own backyard be more appropriate for a ‘home-made’ tool? Maybe…maybe not. If its supposed to mean something, shouldn’t the whole thing mean something…all of its parts, individually and together, have meaning? The Koa was a gift from an early customer who lives in Hawaii…that means something, doesn’t it? Yes…I think so.

But what of the blade…you can make saw blades, right? Why did you buy this one at Sears? Oh…I know why, you’re a hypocrite. I read about you people in college…you say one thing and do another. You say you’re a ‘hand tool only’ woodworker that makes his own tools, but you bought your saw blade at Sears and cut out the handle on a bandsaw (also from Sears).

Why on Earth do I get into these arguments with myself????!?!?! Who gives a crap about any of this! Didn’t you just need a pruning saw and couldn’t find one you liked so you made one? I suppose, but what are the things I whisper to myself while I’m making it to make sure I don’t cop out and give up? Oh…that’s easy…that’s the ‘democracy’ that Copperthwaite writes about, the ‘anarchy’ that Schwarz spouts and the meaning of it all from Korn. I am admittedly drunk on all of it. Its obsessive and powerful and Existential and all of that stuff that gives you that funny feeling you got when you first saw Kelly Flammin in the 6th grade….only a little higher above your belt.

What’s the result of all this?

…something that is uniquely mine….something only I can claim…something important. Its a mark…a physical manifestation of my soul and will and values.

Oh jeez…here you go again…do you really believe that crap?!?! Its a f*@^%!) saw!!! You didn’t cure cancer or paint the Mona Lisa! You cut up a scrap of some dead tree and rubbed it with some plant oil and we’re all supposed to swoon??

No….no swooning please. This isn’t for anyone but me. This is one of the rare, sweet moments of my life when I get to do something for myself. For too many years I forgot how to do that…simply enjoying things for me…for who I am and what is important to me. It does mean something, but not what you think…its not a political statement, or a social revolution or a manifesto I have to sign in blood. Its an affirmation. It means I can always labor in my life to a certain end…I can face things, whatever…and solve problems. By myself? No…no one is by themselves. But for myself maybe..as much as it can be. Maybe not even that.

Are you still there?

Ya…I’m here…just taking it all in. And trying not to puke. You know you sound like a psychopath, right?

Yes…but that’s okay. Its your voice that pushes me…makes me do this stuff to begin with. And I know I’m not the only one…there’s others who feel the same. That’s where the real meaning comes in.



You’re an idiot.

I know. Aren’t we all?




Categories: Hand Tools

Looking Back and Forward

Benchcrafted - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 5:52am

Six years ago this month I finished my first "Roubo-style" bench. It contained the very first Benchcrafted vise. I chronicled that build on my now-retired luthiery blog.

As I look back on the past six years and ahead, I'm reminded of why we started making vises. As with many woodworkers, I get inspired to build from many directions. But it's using the tools themselves that provides the most meaningful feedback. In short, the best research I can do for Benchcrafted is to spend as much time in front of my bench as possible, using the vises, and breaking habits so I can further refine and develop our tools. Benchcrafted has always been, and will always be about the core traditions of the craft of woodwork. The more I do this, the more I find myself returning to traditional ideas and methods, regardless of my perception of speed or efficiency. Why? There is a "groundedness" in tradition. A safe harbor. A place where we can return to when we press the reset button of unnecessary advancement and improvement. With current advances in CNC machining and the wide availability of off-the-shelf precision components designed for precise movements in the industrial arena, and tempted as we are to borrow from these arenas, we inevitably steer back to rudimentary ideas, paring our designs down to the simplest, purest forms of antiquity with the fewest moving parts. This principle reveals again and again that the old ways in general are best, especially when working with a material that has been around longer than civilized man. Wood has not changed, and it could be argued that man, in all his technological and scientific advancements has lost the aspect of purity and simplicity which allowed the ancient Egyptians to erect structures that modern man still can't quite explain.

I always have, and always will consider myself a woodworker first. Making vises is a product of that work. And it should be. I never want to make vises strictly as a money-making venture. It must always be driven by the craft. So I spend as much time in the shop as possible. Everything we sell is used nearly every single day in my personal shop. I wouldn't have it any other way.

My 8-year old Roubo bench has undergone a few retrofits over the years, but its still my main bench. It's now outfitted with the latest version of the Glide leg vise, and our Tail Vise. I've also increased the size of the dog holes to 1", to accommodate our larger hand-forged holdfasts. Other than that, its the same as the day I finished it. A massive wooden clamp that does what it needs to quickly and without fuss. There is nothing more irritating than fussing with vises when building furniture. Ironic as it may seem, it's my goal that our vises become transparent in use. I don't want our vises to be enjoyed. I want them to become such a seamless part of your workflow that your mind is not occupied with their function at all, but that it become more of an extension of your body. You don't consciously have to think about breathing.

So what's in store for the next few years? We do have some new products brewing, and hope those make it to production. Stay tuned. In the meantime, I've got a flame birch side table about half done that I'm itching to work on.

Categories: Hand Tools

Slayer! Audrey and Kate are simultaneously too awesome and too...

Giant Cypress - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 5:48am


Audrey and Kate are simultaneously too awesome and too cute for words.

Quick compass

orepass: Woodworking to Pass the Time - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 5:31am

My geometry teacher in high school could draw perfect circles on the board every time. The rest of us earthlings have to resort to tracing various shapes or a compass. Since I may make more than one shop stool, I decided to make templates for the arches. Searching around for paint cans, jar lids and other round items it soon became apparent that I would not be tracing the arches. Taking 30 minutes I made a compass from some scrap a pencil stub, nail and bolt. It’s not beautiful but the arches look good.


Sitting down to write this blog I looked online and saw several posts on making compasses. Perhaps I will make a beam compass next…..

Categories: Hand Tools

The Oddest Cut Nails I’ve Seen

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 5:24am


I’ve seen wrought nails made by a blacksmith. Cut nails made by a steel-gobbling machine. And wire nails snipped from enormous coils. But I don’t think I’ve seen nails that have been “stamped.”

I think “stamped” is the right word. I could be wrong.

Paul Mayon of the New English Workshop procured these nails for the two tool chest classes I’m teaching at Warwickshire College this month. Paul looked for traditional clout nails like the ones made by Tremont in the United States, but he came up empty.

These stamped nails are unusual in they look to be die-cut from a sheet of steel, like a cookie cutter. So in one important way, they are much like a cut nail: In one dimension the point of the nail has parallel sides; in the other dimension the point is wedge-shaped.

However, the nails have not been run through a “header” machine, which is like a giant hammer that “upsets” the end of the nail to create a roundish head. This head is what gives clout nails (and other headed nails) their holding power when fastening backs and bottoms to cabinets and chests.


So the heads on these nails extend out in one dimension only. Also unusual: The heads have an additional miniature head on top. I assume that this little head allows you to set the head of the nail below the surface of the wood when using a nail set that is designed for wire nails (if so, it’s a clever idea and works).

In use, these nails seem to bite properly, and the heads deform the wood at times, much like the splintering you’ll get with clout nails. I have no idea how these stamped nails will hold over the long term – perhaps an English reader can let us know in the comments section below.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Categories: Hand Tools

Black Friday in July at Shop Woodworking

Matt's Basement Workshop - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 6:23pm

Shop Woodworking is having their “Black Friday in July” Sale. Save up to 40% off Storewide when you use coupon code Summer40 at checkout.

It’s a great opportunity to save big while picking up all those great titles and videos you’ve been wanting for a long time now. Hurry though, the sale ends 07/28/2014!

Click on the banner above or on this link to visit the “Black Friday in July Sale”

Help support the show – please visit our advertisers

Categories: Hand Tools

Anatomy of a Blade

Hand Made In Wood - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 6:00pm
On the subject of small metal plough and combination planes, (Record/Stanley 45/405/55 and the smaller Record 043, 044 050 etc.),   I recall reading recently that sharpening the sides of a modern metal plough (or combination) plane iron to provide a sharp aris was bad news. The reason provided was that there’s a danger of the sideways …

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Categories: Hand Tools

Part 6: Filling the guts of your Dutch Tool Chest-Tool rack

Hand Tool Journey - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 4:15pm

For those of you who enjoy making lots of mistakes and finding out after hours of work that your tool placement won’t work, I highly recommend that you dive right in to making your rack and don’t bother with a prototype.

I don’t enjoy that process, so I very much bothered with a prototype. This allowed me to firm up a number of dimensions while simultaneously avoiding nasty mistakes.

I began by laying out all the tools I wanted to put in the rack onto my workbench. Then, starting from the left, I began to lay out holes for the tools in the order listed below. I hate retrieving tools from cramped spaces, so I determined that I wanted ½” of space on each side of every tool/handle. There wasn’t enough room to house all the tools I originally intended, so I culled the least used among them.

Chisel holes: The recommended ½” holes were too small to comfortably (for me) secure my Woodriver bench chisels. I found that I preferred 5/8” holes. Four of my chisels are wider than the 5/8” holes, so the prototype allowed me to work out the “wing” slots to accommodate them.


Awl hole: For the awl, I drilled a hole just large enough to accommodate the shaft, and countersunk a 3/8” deep hole to fit the ferule. Once docked, it stays snug and secure.


Wheel cutting gauge hole: The prototype caught what would have been a big mistake. My wheel gauge is too wide to fully seat into the suggested 1” wide rack. To overcome this issue I did two things. I increased the width of the tool rack and I drilled the hole for the gauge forward of the center line. See the picture above.

All-in-one-screwdriver-hole: I saved precious rack space for other tools by choosing to install one of those ratchet, all-in-one screwdrivers with interchangeable heads. The shaft is ½” in diameter so the driver fits perfectly and snugly into the ½” hole I drilled for it.


Marking knife hole: At the drill press, I cut a series of 1/8” wide holes to create the slot for my shop-made marking knife. I cleaned up the slot with a chisel and drilled a countersink hole ½” wide by ½” deep to snugly retain the knife.


Bevel gauge and combination square slots: I used the same process described above to create slots for these tools.


Installing the rack
To avoid all manner of frustration and forgo teaching the neighbor kids some choice words, I suggest that you use “scaffolding” to determine the placement of your rack. Simply cut two pieces of pine scrap to an estimated length, position them vertically to the rear of your upper compartment and place your tool rack on top of them.


Then load up your panel saws and tool-rack tools and see if you can close the lid. Rinse and repeat until everything fits and closes properly.

Now, before you drill any holes, ADD your backsaw till, load your saws and tool rack and position the till so that it’s not bumping into anything.

P24-Dutch-Tool-Chest-Checking-Rack-and-Till-for-fit P26-Dutch-Tool-Chest-Tool-Rack-Wheel-Gauge-Saw-Till

Once you’re satisfied with everything, THEN drill holes to screw your rack and till into place.


For the rack, I placed one screw in each end and one in the back. I used screws to secure the backsaw till by drilling and countersinking holes through the jack/smoother divider slat.

With that done, it was time to add some drawers. And that is the subject of my next post.

© 2014, Brad Chittim, all rights reserved.

Categories: Hand Tools

International Symposium WoodSciCraft 2014

FABULA LIGNARIUS - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 4:09pm
Between 8 & 12 September there will be a unique international event at the university in Montpellier in the south of France. It is a weeklong symposium about wood sciences bridging the gap between craftsmen and the academic world. The event is described as:  WoodSciCraft 2014 aims to create a gathering between wood scientists and […]
Categories: Hand Tools

Home for a little while; bowls & spoons

Peter Follansbee, joiner's notes - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 2:42pm

I got home from Maine trip #2 on Sunday night. Monday kinda floundered, then on Tues it was off to a small island off the coast of America to see Heather & Pat. Heather’s show was outstanding as usual. Here’s one of my favorites, but the web doesn’t do it justice by half. The light in it is amazing. 

Coat Guard Crow

(go to Heather’s blog and click on the paintings to see ‘em larger, then click the quill/feather in the teacup to read the notes) http://heatherneill.com/studio-blog/ 

here’s the gallery’s page of Heather’s work http://www.granarygallery.com/searchresults.php?page=1&artistId=11674&artist=Heather+Neill&start=1

kids & HN

we had a great, whirlwind one-day trip. Then back home to attempt to develop some routine or the semblance of one. Wednesday I mostly worked on hewn bowls; then Thursday spoons. today some of each.

bowl day

bowl day

The great part about spoon day is I can take it outside, and have the kids with me. The river, the birds – what could be better? 

spoon day

spoon day

I have used ring-porous woods like oak, ash and hickory all my working days. I rarely have made spoons or bowls from ring porous woods because they split so easily. But sometimes I throw the rules out the window & see what happens. Catalpa is a very light-weight hardwood. I have made a couple of bowls from it before, and I had one small one kicking around ready to be finished.

catalpa end grain

catalpa end grain


Here’s the one from way back when; and the post it came from. One of the horrible things about keeping this blog is all my unfinished stuff is still there, taunting me:  http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/?s=catalpa

catalpa bowl back at the museum

I remember southern visitors to the museum telling me about the fishermen who loved catalpa trees for the worms that ate the foliage – great bait. some said the best. They called it “catawba” – but it’s the same tree. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalpa    I am lately reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and it’s in there, “…the class was wriggling like a bucketful of catawba worms…”  Turns out that Catawba is a name of both the tree and a group of Native people in the Carolinas, and someone made a mistake with the tree’s name, and we ended up with catalpa. I always knew it as the cigar tree, because of the long seed pods. we used to whip them around when we were kids.

catalpa bowl

catalpa bowl 2

The other ring-porous wood I have to sample lately is really rare – American Chestnut. Or so I’m told. It was a tree planted about 15 years ago; and got some trimming done recently. It’s healthy now…but time will tell. Chances are it will succumb to the blight that all but wiped out the American Chestnut. http://www.acf.org/

It’s not a great wood for spoons, quite the opposite I would expect, but I have some small limbs and will see what happens. It’s high in tannic acid, turned my tools black as quick as you please.

chestnut end grain


The first birch bowl I was making sold before I could really get it here on the blog…but now I have finished the next 2 birch bowls, just applied flax oil to them today. I’ll post them for sale in the next day or 2. The first one is the most common orientation of the bowl in the split blank – the rim of the bowl is the inner wide surface of the halved log. Then I carved some gouge-cut decoration along the upper edge of each side. 

birch bowl right side up overall

birch bowl right side up

The next one is what I call “upside-down” – you hew the split face of the log and make that the bottom of the bowl. I learned this from Drew Langsner, who learned it from his Swedish friends. Smaller bowl, but lots of fun with the shapes. 

birch bowl upside down overall

birch bowl upside down detail


There’s still a few spoons left on the etsy site – don’t be daunted by Etsy. it’s easy to sign up, free too.  https://www.etsy.com/shop/PeterFollansbee




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