Secondary menu

Hand Tool Headlines

The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator

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!

Be sure to visit the Hand Tool Headlines section - scores of my favorite woodworking blogs in one place.  Also, take note of Norse Woodsmith's latest feature, an Online Store, which contains only products I personally recommend.  It is secure and safe, and is powered by Amazon.


Hand Tools

Gettin’ there

ZK Project Notebook - 5 hours 2 min ago
Adding drawers to the stand. Mixed media is kinda nice, when one starts getting tedious, work on the other. Just three drawers, I ran out of the “select special aged” doug fir stock, which was a ladder made from 2x4s … Continue reading
Categories: Hand Tools

Visit to The Netherlands.

David Barron Furniture - 6 hours 16 sec ago

We've just returned from a weeks cycling in The Netherlands. The only major woodworking tool supplier in this small country (16 million people) is Baptist, based in the centre of Arnham.
I spotted this huge chair before I saw the store, it was outside a cabinet making shop nearby.

It was a large and very well stocked showroom with mainly hand tools, the machinery showroom was down the street. This weekend I was told they were moving into a much larger industrial unit where they could have a big demonstration area as well. I wish them luck with the move.
Below is just half of the wall of carving chisels.

A fine stock of books and DVD's most in English, there were some very interesting books in German, I should have paid more attention at school!

Here's a fine looking double sided grinder made by Hegner, I have one of their disc sanders which is excellent. It has a nice wide pair of ruby wheels and a very sturdy full width tool rest, the gap between the bars helps with holding chisels and plane blades, as well as accommodating curved and skewed blades. Another really nice feature is the variable speed adjuster, something I've not seen on a grinder before. At 600 + euros not cheap, but I want one!

There was a good selection of axes from various Swedish makers.

Nice to see a choice of replacement handles, axes obviously get used well in the part of the world.

There wasn't an array of European work benches which I had perhaps expected. The only proper bench was a Lie Nielsen, apparently delivered by Tom himself. The vices ran very sweetly.

So if you ever find yourself in The Netherlands then I would highly recommend a visit.
see the web site here

Categories: Hand Tools

Virtuoso! A New Book about H. O. Studley and His Tool Cabinet

The Sharpening Blog with Ron Hock - 6 hours 55 min ago



My hat is off to Don Williams. Again. Don’s depth of knowledge about how things are and were made is nearly bottomless. Retired from his post as Senior Furniture Conservator at the Smithsonian, Don is anything but just kickin’ back. I recently asked him, now that the Studley extravaganza was moving into the past, what’s next? Here’s his reply:

“Roubo on Furniture Making wrap up, many conservation projects in the studio, begin Historic Finisher’s Manual (two years), finish the models for lost wax cast finger planes, Roubo Glossary, The Furniture Conservation Primer (ebook), Roubo on Trellises and Gardens, Roubo on Trim Carpentry, The Duncan Phyfe Tool Chest book, Roubo on Carriage Making, Technology and Preservation of Tortoiseshell and Ivory book, writing mystery fiction, speaking here and speaking there, working on the barn, projects aplenty on the homestead… ”

Yeah, Don. Just chillin’.

Don communes with Henry

Don communes with Henry

Linda and I had the rare privilege of seeing The Studley Exhibit, Don’s display of the Studley tool cabinet at the Scottish Rite Temple in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a couple weeks ago. It was late in the day, after the exhibitors’ get-together after setting up for the Handworks show in Amana (just a half hour away.) Don sold tickets to the Studley exhibit but allowed us tool-makers to get a preview, knowing we’d have no way to break away from our show to come see his show. (Thanks again, Don.) The tool cabinet has gained fetish-icon status in the woodworking community and it doesn’t disappoint in person. In fact its cult status became understandable, for me, anyway, when I saw it in person. I can’t begin to do it justice here which brings me to the meat of this post…

Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley by Don Williams, photographs by Narayan Nayar, published by the virtuosi at Lost Art Press. I honestly believe that Don Williams and Henry O. Studley were intended to meet like this. Don is probably the best-suited person on the planet to document Henry’s tool cabinet. Don is the consummate expert and professional throughout Virtuoso. Yet, he describes this incredible artifact and its contents in a warm, friendly and engaging style. Not a moment of stuffiness, Don’s words show that he is a friend to the subject and to the reader.

Williams begins Virtuoso with a compelling description of his own journey leading to the H.O. Studley chest. What began simply enough for Don turned into a 6 year free fall down a rabbit hole, utterly surrounded by the obscurity, the preciousness and swirling specifics of the now famous Studley tool chest. Don continues the narrative with a hard-won biography of the enigmatic H.O. Studley, then segues into the rich and chewy center of the book. Here is where you will find detailed descriptions of each tool and widget contained in the chest; photographed on their own, alone and meticulously “nested” among their peers.

All along the way we are treated to Nayar’s sumptuous photos of the tiniest details of the chest, of the deepest layers inside, and out.

A coffee table book? Yes, in the way large format pictorial books are coffee table books. But, Don Williams’ Virtuoso is one coffee table book that also contains a massive amount of technical and aesthetic information, a book to which you probably won’t bring a cup of coffee even near.

I really don’t have a place in my sense of art/history/sculpture/museum-things/precious-objet-d’art/beautiful-tools for the Studley tool cabinet. It floats in a new zone between practical and fetish, a fine craftsman’s eccentricity, high art and utility. Don lays the question before us as he notes that while the tools appear well used for the most part, the cabinet does not. So, the beautiful and somewhat haunting question remains, “Why such an elaborate and involved monument to the tools Mr. Studley used everyday? Is this H.O. Studley’s masterwork, a final repository for the tools of a past career?” I’ll get the Ouija board. No, wait! Don Williams’ Virtuoso may just be the Ouija board: I’m happy to go through it again, and again, to ruminate on H.O. Studley’s remarkable accomplishment.

Such a simple thing in concept, a tool chest. Amazing.

Categories: Hand Tools

BBQ'd Plane Irons

Toolerable - 8 hours 6 min ago
Tonight was the night for heat treating my plane irons.  I figured it would only take about a half hour, and I wasn't too far off.

I think I was worrying too much about this step, and it put me off.  I needn't have worried, this was relatively easy.  At least, I accomplished what I meant to.  We'll see if it gives me good steel or not once I sharpen them up.

My plan was to use my barbecue on the balcony for a platform for doing the heat treating.  This was a really good idea, as my set up didn't need to be anything crazy.
My heat-treating forge.
I bought three fire bricks at the big box store yesterday.  I also picked up a special teflon-infused fire glove.  This turned out to also be a good idea, because it kept me from burning my hand while still being able to use my fingers, unlike using an oven mitt.
The rest of my heat-treating set up.
I bought an old pot today at the thrift shop.  It was only $2, and almost too nice to use.  I think it is cast iron with an enamel coating.  Plus, there was a lid which I thought was a bonus.  Handy for when the oil catches fire.  Outside of this picture was a fire extinguisher, just in case.

I hadn't done this before, so wasn't quite sure the best way to go about this.  I set the fire bricks up this way in order to best hold the heat in the spot where it counts most.

I think this was a good idea in theory, but the torch used up all of the oxygen in that corner and wouldn't burn properly.
How I started.  Note that I am holding the iron with a big pair of pliers, using my hand in the fire glove.
I asked the Frau to take photos of this whole process, and when I looked for her while I had the torch going, she was no where to be seen.  As a result, you'll have to paint the picture using only my words.

It took a little while to figure out the best configuration, but I finally got the torch working best when it was shooting the flame at a bit of an upward angle.  It was plenty enough to get the iron hot if I held the iron as flat as I could against one of the side fire bricks.

It turns out the fire bricks hold heat for a long time, so next time I will pre-heat the iron while it is laying flat (to get that nice dark color), then lift it up so the business end of the iron is flat against the side brick and I can torch the crap out of it in that position.

Once it got red enough, and the little pools of iron float to the surface, quench.

Next time I bet this only will take five minutes for the two irons, after everything gets warmed up.

I think I wound up with a couple of decent irons.
Now all that is left is tempering.  I haven't told the Frau I am using her oven for this yet.  Wish me luck!
Edit:  Success!!!

Categories: Hand Tools

What is a Mother Plane?

Caleb James Chairmaker Planemaker - 10 hours 51 min ago

I get asked all the time at events where I demonstrate my planes - "How do you cut the profiles on the sole?"

The answer is easy...well, sort of. :) I start by making a plane that is exactly like I want my final production plane to be. I call this my prototype plane. I cut that profile with hollows and rounds along with rabbets and/or plow planes. However, I don't want to do that for every plane I want to make in the future because it would be tedious and take a really long time. Therefore, I use this prototype plane to make a mother plane which is essentially a "negative" of the profile I want.

I can then cut multiple plane soles with this mother plane, all of them being virtually identical. These planes that are made from the mother are then called daughter planes. It is a good process but it is tricky to make a good mother plane. It involves making planes with multiple irons in order to cut these mucho complex profiles.

I have been making these mother planes for quite some time now, and was thrilled to discuss them with Bill Anderson recently. He is in the process of studying a very large collection of antique mother planes and he told me that the original makers would typically combine multiple dedicated planes to make complex profiles rather than putting multiple irons in a single plane. I can see some advantage to this, but also some disadvantage. I may try this in the future for some other profiles, and look forward to seeing more from his research down the road.

Anyway, I put together some videos of the process. The first is a time lapse of the process and the others are the full, comparatively slow process. I hope you enjoy seeing how this is done.

Also there are a few of these Ogee and reverse Ogee planes left in the shop.

Categories: Hand Tools

User Made Hand Planes Discussion – VIDEO

The English Woodworker - 11 hours 31 min ago

I’ve been making a few hand planes this week in preparation for an upcoming series we have planned all about getting in to wooden planes. I’ve trialled a couple of designs and here are my thoughts so far. To see a video of my smoothing plane in action head over to our Facebook page and scroll down a bit.

Categories: Hand Tools

Amateurism thrives as the real power behind woodworking

Paul Sellers - 12 hours 16 min ago

We should never really rely on the professionals for keeping woodworking alive or passing on the skills because most of them do use dumbed down methods to make their work work. There is more to it than that. personally, I am an amateur because i have never done it just for money but for the passion and love for it. Ask my wife and my children.

DSC_0013You want to become a woodworker. Your thoughts at work cushion you from the hard harshness of your two-dimensional work as you mentally enter the three-dimensional world  of the wood you will work with your hands for an hour this evening or over the weekend. In your mind you remember looking back at the project as you close the door and darkness closes over the shed, the garage or the basement shop. The shadows outline the shapes of the legs you fashioned with your spokeshave and you catch the last scent of the wood as the door wafts the essence of wood and oils, paste waxes, resin and all manner of other such smells that make wood work for you. This is the validation of your life and status as an amateur woodworker—never despise it. This is the essence of being a real woodworker.


Guard against losing such things.

Commerce has a way of invading many of the things that started with the love of it. Guard when others plant the seed and say you could make your living from this. They usually see dollar signs and not the fact that you love the other world you’ve created for your personal sanity and wellbeing. Most of them can never see or understand  what you are doing nor the why of it. Be careful that you don’t sell yourself and the very thing you love in pursuit of something that might cause disaffection down the road because of pressures you might not realise you’ve allowed to creep in.

The innocence and purity of amateurism

Amateurism is a quality seldom measured or understood by friends and family, work colleagues and business associates. Whether you can make more money than you already are has supplanted any sense of wellbeing you might get from mere manual work. This is especially true of most  educators at the higher echelon of academia from what I have seen. Yet to live and work with your hands, following the unknown aspirations yet to unfold, translates a person into a truly unique world with unquantifiable values. Working through these past decades, dismantling the ever-invasive industrialism that has become so very pervasive, has very much been my goal. Mass-making equipment had its way for a season, about half a century or more, and it rampantly displaced real woodworking for the majority. Every attemptI made to balance out the invasion was met with resistance over the three decades. It was a great challenge at first getting serious woodworkers to understand what we were doing, but gradually we have succeeded. DSC_0017Now, on the other side so to speak, I look back and think just how well worth it it was. Today there are more hand tool woodworkers than ever in the last 50 years. Mostly this is because so many people made the paradigm shift from unquestioningly accepting the status quo and the asking questioning the whole evolutionary process from true hand work to machines. I mean, apart from the interest some people have in technology and making a robot mechanism make something with precision, most of the woodworkers I meet started to pursue woodworking and discovered that the professionals in woodworking stores led them only to machines and related equipment they could sell to them. Remember the router rarely ends with the machine. From there you must buy expensive route bits, special bearings, router tables and fences, appropriate guides, safety equipment and such like that. It was here that I realised something was dying. The things I took for granted in recessing hinges and chopping mortises by hand were deemed dead and past, yet I knew that I could cut dovetails and mortise and tenons with much greater levels of fulfilment and confidence to say nothing of safety using hand tools and methods than I ever could with machines. I also knew that I could do many things much faster if you took into account set up time, clean up time and additional sanding and correction time to correct the flawed surfaces and even damage machines left.

Over these past few years, a decade or so, I have especially seen how my work is now radically changing the lives of those who love woodworking and how I have influenced the changes in attitudes too. The health benefits from workouts at the bench planing boards of course have been immeasurable. What about the wellbeing mentally of mechanical math, geometry and other engineering problem solving. Listen everyone, woodworking is changing. It’s no longer just the stage of entertainers selling machine methods but people’s lives investing in becoming. I see some of the more really refined wood and craftwork these days that sets the amateur way above the professionals because not only does their work exemplify high standards of workmanship but they actually use real skill to do it.DSC_0016 As long as we lead people along this path, craftsmanship thrives on into future generations. These dovetails are Sam’s third ever box. Each corner is the same. His mortise and tenons for the doors and the back frame above are as perfect too. He’s making one of my Joiner’s traveling toolboxes (below). Currently he’s an amateur. An apprentice. I hope he never becomes a professional. I’m an amateur and always have been. I just get pad for it. What’s the difference between an amateur and a professional. An amateur does it whether he or she gets paid for it or not. A professional only does it for money. That said, I know many “professionals” that are amateurs. Anyway, the toolbox is one I have used all of my life. I redesigned it with additional features that far surpass the ones made in the last century. DSC_0022I have about seven or eight of them now, including the one I made when I was 16 years old in the back of the wood stacks. Yes, I felt ashamed because it was dishonest gain, but I have changed and would not do what I was encouraged to do back then. But it was the foreman, Jack, that gave me the four pieces of wood for the box and he showed me how to lay out the dovetails too. Then he said, “Theres a bench at the back of the wood stack, go there for half an hour in the mornings when you get in and make yer box.” So that’s what I did. Back then we glued and nailed the dovetails. It was a common practice to allow the glue to go off and the reason was it needed no clamps. I was very much the amateur in the truest sense of the word. I loved it then as I do today.DSC_0046

Making money is not a bad thing to work for, don’t get me wrong and don’t think I am judging anyone. Yes, there are those who do what they do only for money. That’s their choice. I never thought money could buy what I strove for to make life enriching and ever-fulfilling because my work was a large part of what made life so rewarding. My work enabled me to be working from home,  be with my family as they grew and see everyone of my children through the formative years of their lives…all the more fulfilment. Then it allowed me to train them and teach them woodworking. Through all of this you start to see the knock on effect. And, what reward. Anyway, you don’t have to do it all day as I have unless you truly feel led in that direction; evenings, weekends, days off all work. In the brief periods when I had to do something else, I still worked with wood for four hours a day and all through the weekends. We built two homes from the ground up and then built the furniture, restored at least four or five houses and much more too.DSC_0086

Keep amateurism pure and alive.

It’s truly a heart issue everyone. Professionals don’t really read my blog I am sure. Reaching out to amateurs has been my greatest reward, let me tell you.

The post Amateurism thrives as the real power behind woodworking appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Building The La Forge Royale Miter Jack - Step by Step guide

Benchcrafted - 12 hours 25 min ago

We've had a few requests for build plans for our Miter Jack.  As a limited run item, we eschewed written plans for this build and instead posted blog entries detailing the build.

Unfortunately Blogger doesn't let you show search results in chronological order, so here they are:

Sketchup Drawing for the La Forge Royale Miter Jack

Building The La Forge Royale Miter Jack - Body Dims

Building The La Forge Royale Miter Jack- Part 1

Building The La Forge Royale Miter Jack- Part 2

Building The La Forge Royale Miter Jack- Part 3

Building The La Forge Royale Miter Jack- Part 4

Building The La Forge Royale Miter Jack- Part 5

Building The La Forge Royale Miter Jack- Part 6

Building The La Forge Royale Miter Jack- Part 7

You Don't Know Jack. Get To Know Jack.

To see everything we've posted about the jack, click here. Clicking on "La Forge Royale Miter Jack" under categories on the right side of the blog will get you to the same place. 
Categories: Hand Tools

Vices for awkward shapes

Finely Strung - 15 hours 41 min ago

Most woodworking vices are designed to hold pieces of wood with sides that are parallel. This is a problem for instrument makers because much of the wood they work with is curved or tapered.

So guitar makers frequently use a carvers’ vice, which has adjustable jaws, to get around the difficulty.  Dan Erlewine uses one in his excellent series of videos, Trade Secrets.  And here’s one in my own workshop.



But they’re big, heavy, ugly things (mine is a particularly repellent shade of green) and whenever possible I prefer the simpler solution of a moving accessory vice jaw. This is no more than a block of wood with one gently curved side that allows it to rotate to accommodate the work piece. The flat side is lined with cork and there’s a thin sheet of plywood is glued to the top to maintain it in position while the vice is tightened.








I’ve written about these before (see here) so I’ll only say that they’re easy to make and that they’re very effective in gripping gently tapering (10° or less) objects.


The device below  is a little more complicated in having 2 jaws connected at the bottom with a flexible hinge made of leather. It was originally intended to hold the head of a violin or cello  bow while the mortise for the hair was being cut – an invention of Andrew Bellis, who is a bow-maker in Bournemouth.

The 2 jaws are slightly thicker at one end (hence the arrow on the top) which gives it a head start when it comes to accommodating a tapered shape. The flexibility of the hinge allows it to adapt to objects with complex curves. It’s easy to make, too.







Here’s a similar idea but in a more elaborate form. I took the jaws off a small Record vice and substituted cork-lined wood. On one side there’s a permanent version of the moving jaw described earlier. A thin metal bar located by a 3mm rod keeps it in position. I’m hoping the photographs will make things clear.






A couple of photographs of it in action. In the first it’s holding the neck of the soprano ukulele that I mentioned in a previous post. The second shows it gripping the head of a violin bow while it is being re-haired.





I’m pleased with how these vice jaws turned out. And it’s certainly convenient having them immediately available to hold an awkwardly shaped work piece. However, I have to say that they’re significantly more effort to make than the simple devices described earlier. Unless you’re dealing with tapers and curves a lot, it may not be worth the time and trouble.

Nice Video of Klint’s Safari Chair

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - 16 hours 12 min ago

If you’d like a close look at some of the details of Kaare Klint’s Safari Chair, check out this video (OK, it’s a commercial) from Carl Hansen & Søn on the piece.

You get to see the elegant cigar-shape stretchers and how the slightly tapered tenons flow into the overall shape. Plus a bunch of nice close-ups of the way the leather is attached to the wood.

I’ve seen a lot of new Roorkee/Safari chairs on the market lately, some of them with design details I rejected. On my first Roorkees I used a vegetable-tanned leather that I left natural. Heck, I even sent photos of it to Popular Woodworking to use in the article published three years ago on building them. I quickly changed my mind on the leather color, thinking it to “fleshy” – almost a “Silence of the Roorkees” look.


But several design houses are now triumphing that look – natural leather with dark wood.

I’m still not a fan.

If you want to build one of these chairs, complete plans are in “Campaign Furniture,” now in its second printing.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Campaign Furniture
Categories: Hand Tools


360 WoodWorking - 16 hours 21 min ago
In my latest article, “Spray Finishing is Easy” I discuss more than just why I think you should consider spraying your finishes. I also give lots of tips for ensuring a good finish on your projects. I talk about ways to streamline your finishing process so you can get the best finish possible. But to read […]

josephthompsonwoodworks: So much awesomeness in this book from...

Giant Cypress - 17 hours 58 min ago


So much awesomeness in this book from the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum. @bluecheak you’re the best

table 2 me 1.......

Accidental Woodworker - 19 hours 42 min ago
In yesterday's post I labeled doing the finishing as drudge work. I have since rethought that and changed my mind. Drudge means (as I used it) dull and hard menial work. Working the expanse of cherry that is my table top with hand planes and scrapers is hard work but it is not dull or menial. Using planes and scrapers involves employing the senses to their fullest. And you have to think of what you are doing as you plane and scrape. A momentary lapse in attention means tearout or worse, an ugly scar left on the surface of the wood.

It is hard work and it takes a high calorie count along with a bit of muscle  to push the planes and scrapers. When the grain is cooperating the reward is a shimmer to the wood that no amount of sanding can match. Sanding will never come close to the silky feeling of the wood after it has been planed. To my sense of touch, sanding smooth and plane smooth are at opposite ends of the spectrum. It is because of this I invested more of my limited shop time trying to coax that reward out of the wood.

Still a couple of innings to go before the game is over so I have time to catch up and win this.

two problem whitish spots in front of my fingers
I wish I could take a better pic of this. The grain pattern is a series of concentric circles and these are basically the problems I have circled in the chalk. The surface is rough to the touch and looks that way too.

If plane this with the #3 it gets worse and expands. Using a card scraper will remove the off color look but the grain still is rough. Not as bad as before, but still unpleasant to look at. The #12 did seem to work on some of the spots like this so I tried that and a card scraper again.

card scraper
The off color spots are gone and what is hard to see is that it still feels rough to the touch. The card scraper is giving up fluffy and wispy shavings. What it isn't doing is making it baby butt smooth.

some #12 action
I expected the card scraper to a have a blue cape and big red S on it but it wimped out on me here.

#12 is working
This is finally doing what I expected it to do. It is smoothing out the rough spots and not making new ones adjacent to the original ones. It took a bit of experimenting with the angle of the blade but I think I finally got it. Moving the blade forward away from the handles increases the cut and moving it towards the handle, decreases the cut. One thing the #12 doesn't do is produce big shavings like the card scraper will. And the angle didn't stay static, I had to constantly adjust it depending how I was approaching the grain.

 This is where the experimentation comes in. Just a little change in the attitude of the blade either way changes how it works on the 'rough' spots. I found for what I'm trying to get rid of that a light cut with multiple passes produced the best results.

wee bit of deep tearout
The #12 won't touch something like this. If I had an extra month of sundays I might be able to do it but not as is. It is sliding right over this and barely making a shaving off of it. I moistened this with some alcohol to highlight it, not to make it easier to scrape.

one more spot here
I removed these two spots with the card scraper. The sole of the #80 was too large and it was skimming over these spots like the #12 did.

I ran the #12 back over this whole spot that I wet with alcohol first to highlight it. The #12 smoothed out both spots that the card scraper left rough.

see the straight marks
These are coming from the #12. I think I am making them when I make my first push with it. I haven't seen any of them on the end of the stroke. I think the slight protrusion of the blade beneath the sole is hanging initially when I push the scraper. I've been removing these with the card scraper using a very light touch. This is something that I'll have to figure out a work around on or something.

not quite a 1/3 of the table done
This has taken about an hour to get to this point. I still have a couple of small areas where the table top and the bread boards butt that I have to address. I'm not sure on to best attack those areas so I'll leave them be for now and concentrate on the table top field.

one point for the home team
The area to the right of the chalk line is done and ready for some finish. Except for areas I mentioned above. I got one of my circled chalked areas from yesterday resolved and I'm happy with those results.

I will wet the top with mineral spirits before I apply any finish to it. The mineral spirits will highlight any recalcitrant areas. I can then beat them into submission before I apply the finish.

I made good progress tonight and maybe I'll get another third done tomorrow. Before I start on that portion I'll have to sharpen the blade in the #12 first. I could feel it dragging a bit rather then gliding over the wood.

accidental woodworker

trivia corner
What are the 3 largest islands in the Mediterranean?
answer -Sicily  Sardinia  Cyprus

Machine Shop Characters

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 9:06pm


There are many things to be learned in the machine shop by keeping one’s eyes open, and observing the characteristics and idiosyncrasies of our shopmates.

There is, for instance, the much talked about and well known man who “knows it all.” You can tell him nothing that he does not already know. It doesn’t matter what sort of a job you are doing, he will tell you how he generally does it, even though it is the first of its kind. He is always afraid that you will spoil the job, because you are not doing it as he thinks it ought to be done.

You will also find the man who thinks that “anything is good enough.” You will recognize him by looking into his tool chest or drawer. It looks like a veritable junk shop. His hammer handle is without a wedge, or it is split; his chisels always have a fringe on the top, which would make one think that they had been hit with a sledge; his squares and fancy tools (if he has any) are scattered about among the files and scrap that invariably accumulate in the bottom of his drawer. The work that he turns out is on a parallel with his tools; if he is a lathesman, he will try to cut out a sharp corner with a round-nosed tool, and as a natural consequence manages to cut a groove into the mandrel.

Closely related to him is the man who calipers his work until he has taken off too much stock, and then wonders why it is that “Jim” seldom or never spoils a job, while he is always in hard luck. If he is keying a wheel onto a shaft, he somehow manages to file off enough of the key to make it drive chock up to the head before he knows where he is.

I must not forget the chronic borrower. He has that nice, smooth, oily way of coming up to you with a “Say, Bill, lend us that center punch of yours, I’m having mine dressed,” and somehow that is the last you will ever see of that or any other tool that you loan him, unless you jog him about it, and then—“Oh, that’s so, I forgot all about it.” Verily, he is a fiend, and has made many a man resolve not to keep a decent tool in the shop, for fear that it will eventually find its way into the drawer of this shop abomination.

Did you ever see the man who imagines that the shop would go to smash if he wasn’t there to look after things? He rushes about as though the whole concern rested on his shoulders, and he has that careworn look that would suggest that he was responsible for the outcome of all matters pertaining to the future welfare of everything and everybody about the place. He thinks that nothing has been done right, unless it was done at his suggestion. Poor fellow, I really feel sorry for him. I believe that many of these men are sincere in their beliefs, but it is only a delusion. They don’t seem to realize that there isn’t a man in the shop, or any other place, whose position could not be filled by some one else with perhaps greater efficiency.

There is the chronic crank who has a growl for every one; he is the terror of the apprentice, who is afraid of his swearing and abuse. So I might go on—the man who does everything with a rush, but somehow never gets through any sooner than the man who takes time to use his brain, and brings into his work ideas and contrivances which more than make up for his neighbor’s expenditure of muscle.

The man who has a hobby, and who will talk about it whenever he can get any one to listen to him, “and a host of others.”

Charles Stelzle

American Machinist – February 18, 1892

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

Walks to Office

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 9:01pm


Leo to Capricornus

Notwithstanding the noise, dirt, and discomforts of London, there are thousands of its population who prefer it to all other places. We have known some of these town-worshippers: when, after much deliberation, they visit a country friend, they are always miserable until they get back again. Charles Lamb, who

—’Ranged the crowded streets
With a keen eye,’

affords a memorable instance of love of urban life, amounting almost to a devout feeling. We have another example in Dr Johnson: his attachment to London breaks out in many parts of his writings. In one place he says: ‘The happiness of London is not to be conceived but by those who have been in it. I will venture to say there is more learning and science within the circumference of ten miles from where we now sit, than in all the rest of the kingdom.’

And Davy, speaking of the Metropolis, observes: ‘It was to me as the grand theatre of intellectual activity, the field of every species of enterprise and exertion, the metropolis of the world of business, thought, and action. . .. There society of the most refined kind offered daily its banquets to the mind, with such variety, that satiety had no place in them, and new objects of interest and ambition were constantly exciting attention, either in politics, literature, or science.’

To multitudes, however, London is a place to be inhabited only from necessity, which compels them to a weary and monotonous course of task-work. How many of those you meet during a walk to office are mere machines, who have outlived all desire to go and look upon a green field! Their holidays are spent in lounging at the corners of streets, or in the dingy parlours of out-of-the-way taverns.

Stand for a few minutes on any one of the bridges, and watch the human tide as it goes by. You shall see objects of misery such as can be seen nowhere but in London. Not mere penury or destitution, but hopeless misery, that stamps a wolfish expression on the victim’s features, and kindles a fiery madness in the eye. They move with the throng, but are not of it.

Notice, too, how some men’s trade tells upon their physical constitution: the one now approaching, with one shoulder higher than the other, head inclining a little to the right, the left hand always carried in advance, while the right, with bent fingers, is held back—he is a filer in some engine factory. The next, in threadbare coat, with a slight stoop, curved legs, slouching gait, and right arm swinging in uneasy jerks—is a tailor: you cannot mistake him. Here is another with a dirty canvas apron twisted round his waist; he takes long, slow steps, and turns in his left foot—he is a cabinetmaker: and in the same way might we go on reading off each one’s calling or character for a whole day.

The peculiar expression, however, varies in different quarters of the town. ‘Let any one,’ says the Tatler, ‘even below the skill of an astrologer, behold the turn of faces he meets as soon as he passes Cheapside Conduit, and you see a deep attention and a certain unthinking sharpness in every countenance. They look attentive, but their thoughts are engaged on mean purposes. To me it is apparent, when I see a citizen pass by, whether his head is upon woollens, silks, iron, sugar, indigo, or stocks. Now this trace of thought appears to lie hid in the race for two or three generations.’

In the daily walks to office much may be seen of the petty trades of London—the under-current of its commercial activity. Things are turned to account here. In front of patten and clog makers’ shops, stand small baskets filled with the little lumps of beech sawn off the ends of the sole pieces—’only a penny.’

A little farther on, at a place half shop, half shed, a man and two or three boys are busy sawing and splitting firewood. One saws the blocks to the required length, a second splits them, and a third, with the aid of a small lever and a strong loop, ties them up into bundles with marvellous accuracy and celerity. This, though classed among petty trades, requires the employment of large capital. We have seen a wood yard, half an acre in extent, by the side of the Surrey Canal, completely filled, and piled to the height of thirty or forty feet with the ‘chunks’ of pine brought from Canada, to be split up and sold four bundles a penny, to kindle fires in London.

A few of the old cobblers’ stalls, little dens, half in the cellar, and half in the street, are still to be seen. Pass when you will, their occupants are always busy; it does not appear, however, that any of them ever remove into a shop or more roomy premises. A parallel class of out-of-door workers, are the men who go from one butcher’s shop to another to sharpen and set the saws. Half-a-dozen files, a hammer, and ‘sawset,’ a wooden stand with screw-clamps, constitute their stock in trade. The stand is generally painted the professional blue; and the filers appear to be merry fellows, for they whistle blithely while at their work, generally performed at the edge of the pavement.

Another form of petty trade is presented by butchers’ and provision shops: the latter with pennyworths of bacon and scraps of cheese; and the former with fragments—cuttings and trimmings of mutton and beef—of most repulsive appearance. Yet nothing is lost: however indifferent the article offered for sale, there is always a purchaser for it. The New Cut, in Lambeth, the upper extremity of White Cross Street and Clare Market offer a spectacle fraught with profound instruction about the animal food supplied to the humbler classes of London.

‘Garret masters,’ as they are called, represent a considerable amount of petty trade. They are turners, carvers, cabinet and chair makers, and almost every other business that can be mentioned. How often, on a Monday or Tuesday morning, you meet the wife or boys of one of these small traders, with a plank and cane for chairs, or veneer for workboxes—material for another week’s struggle!

On Saturdays you will see the man with tea-caddies, a table, or half-a-dozen chairs upon his shoulder, panting along with hungry and anxious look to find a purchaser. Poor creatures! many of them are to be pitied; for very often the price they obtain does not exceed the cost of the materials on which they have expended six days’ labour. Several of the large advertising houses derive their supplies of goods from these sources.

Boys, looking keen and experienced as grown-up men, are seen both morning and evening delivering and vending newspapers—how they collect round the doors of newspaper offices on the announcement of a ‘second edition,’ waiting for news as jackals for carrion! A singular fact connected with these boys is, that they go “on ‘Change.” Turn up Catherine Street any afternoon about four, and there, within hearing of the Strand, you will find them congregated, and with a perfect Babel of cries exchanging papers. ‘Times’ for ‘Herald’—’Standard’ for ‘Chronicle’—who wants ‘Globe ?’—who wants ‘Daily News?’ are calls kept up for the better part of an hour with vociferous iteration. Watch the group for a few minutes, and you will see that the newsboy is as great an adept in turning a penny as the stockbroker farther east.

Our present purpose is to describe only the more obvious of what presents itself to the eye in a walk to or from office; much more might be written, were we inquiring into the multiplied resources for gaining a livelihood to be found only in great cities.

One more instance, and we must leave this part of our subject. Every day, ‘except Sundays and holidays,’ two rather grim-faced, weather-beaten men may be seen walking up and down under the portico of Somerset House. For years have they taken up their position in this place, from ten to four, and will probably continue to do so until incapacitated by age or infirmities.

They look like man-of-war’s men ‘in shore-going toggery;’ and their business is to stop the sailors, great numbers of whom are continually calling at the Admiralty Office, within the quadrangle of the building, and advise them how to proceed in making their inquiries. With the proverbial generosity of seamen, the applicants, on leaving the office, hand over a fee to their two informants, or invite them to drink at a neighbouring tavern. It is only in such a place as London that it would be worth any one’s while to come out in all weathers, with clean polished shoes, and well-brushed though threadbare coat, to watch for the chances of a living from such an apparently uncertain source.

It sometimes happens that the routine of official duty is disturbed by some unexpected stroke of business; on such occasions, a brief interval is allowed for refreshment at a coffee-house—a half hour, in which some of the peculiarities of London life may be studied. How the disposition to avoid all unnecessary expenditure of words appears in the short, technical orders issued to the attendants! With some customers it borders on slang: ‘Coffee and a thin un!’ or, ‘Dab o’ grease and ball o’ pipeclay!’ may be heard from some remote corner; the speakers’ requirements being a cup of coffee and a thin slice of bread and butter, or a pat of butter with an egg.

You may observe, too, how the demand for bread serves as an index to the season. In cold weather, brown and cottage loaves are most in request; but in warm weather, nothing will go down but light French rolls and tea-cakes. London coffee-houses would be nearly all that could be wished, if their arrangements included ventilation, and real coffee for the fluid supplied to customers.

Should it happen to be a Saturday on which the unexpected detention occurs, the walk home late in the evening reveals many new features of life in the great city. The people who now crowd the streets are quite of a different class to those seen during the day: labourers, operatives, and artisans with their wives and children, are making their purchases for the week or the next day. This is the time to see the infinitesimal system of dealing carried out at butchers ‘and grocers,’ or any place where food is sold.

Petty dealers, never seen at any other time, now station themselves at the entrance of alleys and corners of streets, offering skewers, meat-hooks, penny roasting-jacks, cabbage-nets; in short, a complete batterie de cuisine. They invite purchasers in most vociferous tones, and it is hard to say whether they or the beggars are the more importunate: the latter have to provide for a blank day on the morrow, and make most moving appeals to the charity of bystanders.

Presently you come to a ready-made clothes warehouse, flaring and flashy, in front of which half-a-dozen musicians, engaged by the proprietor, have been blowing away most lustily ever since noon, and will keep on till midnight. This is a frequent mode of advertising in the transpontine regions, and is often adopted by enterprising bakers, when the usual ‘glass of gin,’ or ‘penny returned with every loaf purchased,’ fail to attract. So bewildering are the noise and confusion, that you feel a sensible relief as the walk home-wards carries you into a quieter neighbourhood.

It is pleasant to note the succession of flowers, from the crocuses and violets of early spring to the roses and carnations of summer, offered for sale in the streets. The taste for flowers has increased of late years; some persons you will see never walk to town without a flower in their button-hole during the fine season. From the markets, as centres, they are carried in handcarts, barrows, or baskets, into every quarter of the town: even back streets and dismal alleys are visited by hawkers of flowers: and is it too much to expect that the sweet-scented things may have a humanising influence?

Another pleasure of the summer season, is the opportunity for varying the daily walk by a trip in one of the cheap steamboats. You make for the nearest bridge, walk on board, and for a halfpenny, are set down close to your place of business. These river omnibuses are admirable places for observation; here you may detect many peculiar characteristics of the Londoner.

Rather than wait two minutes and a half for the next boat, they overcrowd the deck until the little vessel is top heavy, and stand wedged together, half suffocated, without the possibility of changing their position. They will land at all sorts of inconvenient wharfs, with imminent risk of life and limb, week after week, and month after month, or until it may please the proprietors to provide better accommodation.

Extremes meet: and London is at once the fastest and slowest of cities. The man who cannot stay to answer your salute in the street, will live with exemplary patience close to some horrid nuisance for ten or twenty years. He wonders what people can possibly find to do with themselves in the country, and goes night after night to the same parlour, in the same tavern, to hear the same vapid talk that he already knows by heart.

You walk home leisurely on summer afternoons, resting a while to contemplate the animated view from the bridge you may choose to cross, or halting at some of the frequent book-stalls. All the world is thirsty: the benches in front of public-houses are crowded with porter drinkers, who imbibe the contents of pewter pots with infinite relish; and venders of ginger beer offer their cooling draught at every hundred yards.

Frequent parties of strangers are now met on the shady side of the street, gazing with wondering delight on all they see. Among these some have evidently come to settle in London: you may see them cheapening furniture at the brokers’ shops; perhaps a widow with two or three children, eking out a scanty income to the utmost.

According to Johnson, whom we have before quoted, ‘there is no place where economy can be so well practised as in London: more can be had here for the money, even by ladies, than everywhere else. You cannot play tricks with your fortune in a small place; you must make a uniform appearance. Here a lady may have well-furnished apartments, and elegant dress, without any meat in her kitchen.’

If the weather be at all rainy, the approaches to the bridges are beset by retailers of second-hand umbrellas: ‘Only one shilling each!’—’Save a shower for a shilling!’ It is a better business than would at first sight appear; for, apart from those who can afford only a shilling for an umbrella, there is many a well-to-do citizen who would rather lay out that sum than get wet to the skin.

Day after day, as your, eye glances along the line of clerks and men in office walking homewards, you are sure to see one carrying a blue bag. A blue bag is considered respectable; it has an official look about it; it suggests ideas of papers and parchments tied up with red tape. But appearances are often deceptive: if that young clerk there, who has not yet reached his first promotion, would show you the contents of his bag, you would see a leg of mutton, a bargain from Leadenhall or Newgate market. We have known oysters, ox-tails for soup, onions, crockery, to be carried home in a blue bag. The bag enables many to economise, who otherwise would be ashamed to do so.

But the days begin to draw in: by and by both sides of the street are shady; and those who look for sunshine as they walk home, see it only on the gilded weathercocks of church steeples, or slanting through the opening of some side street in long sickly-looking rays. And then, before you are aware of it, the return walk is all by lamplight; and the long suburban roads, with their lines of flame on either side, remind you, as you look down them, of the avenues described in the ‘Arabian Nights,’ brilliant with lights, but ending at last in a gloomy void. Butchers and grocers are decorating their shops again with holly, which reminds us that our Walks to Office have made the round of the seasons.

Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal – Saturday, February 5, 1848

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

It’s (Studley) Showtime!

The Barn on White Run - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 9:00pm
photo courtesy of Narayan Nayar

photo courtesy of Narayan Nayar

Friday morning May 15, 2015, saw the fulfillment of a dream in such concrete and veristic terms that it was breathtaking.  On that day and through the weekend, I was joined by about a thousand enthusiastic aficionados to share my interest (obsession?) with this over-the-top tool cabinet and its companion workbench.

The plan for the exhibit was for each visitor to have about 50  minutes in the gallery, along with a maximum of 49 other patrons.  There were some pleasant surprises along the way, along with the need for constant reminders (mostly to me to keep on track as I could get too wrapped up in the story of Studley; throughout the weekend various docents had the task of pulling the plug on me).

photo courtesy of Naryan Nayar

photo courtesy of Naryan Nayar


photo courtesy of Bartee Lamar, I think

The visitors checked in at the ticket table, then waited in the elegant Library of the Scottish Rite Temple until their time to enter came to pass.


In the Library was a Lost Art Press station for the purchase of Virtuoso, although that was rendered inactive by the start of the second day as all the books available were sold.  You can get a peek of MeganF right behind one of the delightful Bagby sisters (sorry, I simply cannot recall her name) near the center of the image as we are in the Library.


Also present was Narayan with his remarkable hand-processed print of the collection, which he printed himself on his large-format printer.

I met each hour’s group with some words of introduction and instruction (more of this function was inside the gallery as the weekend progressed) and then I made a point of attempting to greet and thank every single person at the door.  I was and remain humbled and grateful for the enthusiastic validation they provided.  In the picture above of the check-in table you can see me at the very back of the image shaking the hand of every person I could as they walked through the door into the gallery.





photo courtesy of Bartee Lamar




The visual of people engrossed and captivated by the three stations of the exhibit and the accompanying documentary video repeated itself every hour on the hour over the three days.  I was especially delighted by the fellow who showed up ready to party with a head mounted digital camera to record the event.  He sent me the video file and it was a gas!


One of my very favorite images was this one, with the ghostly pair of hands with a camera hovering above the case.


The hands-on replica bench top with its outfitting of period piano-maker’s vises and decorative elements from the tool cabinet was a big hit.


photo courtesy of Narayan Nayar


cStudley 034_01

cUS Trip 165

cUS Trip 091


At the bottom of every hour we opened the vitrine and I spoke at some length about Studley and the tool cabinet and contents, and either opened or closed the compartments that lent themselves to that.  This was the first time the guts of the cabinet were ever seen by the public.

cPhoto 5.jpeg




After that we raised the house lights to provide the maximum lumens into the room for folks to take their final photos, including a lot of portraits and selfies with the case.  The fellowship during these sessions was truly heartwarming, I only wish I could remember each interaction.



While that was going on, I moved to the back of the room where there was a line of folks waiting to get their books signed.  I don’t know how many I signed, but it was a lot.



Friday was a bit different from the rest of the days as after hours Chris Schwarz and I were filmed by Charles Brock of the Highland Woodworker for an upcoming episode.  I think the footage will be incorporated into the documentary film that Lost Art Press will be releasing in the fall.

One of the most surprising events of the weekend was one that did not happen.  As I laid out the schedule for the weekend, I set aside a brief period at the end of every session to clean the plexiglass vitrine, wiping all the drool and nose prints off.  It was unnecessary to plan in that manner.  The audience was so respectful to the exhibit that the ongoing cleaning of it was essentially not needed.  We wiped it off from a little dust and the occasional fingerprint, but y’all did great in the exhibit etiquette department.

The final afternoon of the exhibit was such a special time for me that it deserves its own post.  Ditto the tale of The Heroes And Hired Guns.  Stay tuned.


PS  A number of these new friends sent me photos they took.  I did not have access to all the emails when I wrote this and could not identify the photographer for each image, but you know who you are and I thank you sincerely for letting me use your pictures.

HB Hobby Tansu #1-Part 4

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 7:28pm

The more I looked at the scroll detail that I designed the less I liked it.  It’s still a viable pattern, but I don’t feel that it reflects the overall aesthetic that I’m going for.  It has more of a country craft feel to it instead of the intended asian nuance.  The arcs are too bold.  Fast I think is the correct terminology.  The entire pattern needs to be “slowed” and made to be more subtle.  Especially for what I have in mind to do with this detail.  But you’ll have to wait to find out what that it is.


So I went back to the drawing board.  Still working within the same module and played with the proportions until I had the scroll to my liking and closer to the detail on the original inspiration piece.


Here are how the proportions work out.


One thing to note about the original scroll design.  This box, built with the original scroll design, a coat of paint and the right hardware, would look at home in a country cottage setting.  Actually, this design is turning out to quite versatile.  It’s not overtly Japanese/Asian looking, but can be made to be so.  The interior can be configured in a multitude of ways and its scalable.  In fact, I think it would retain its functionality even at half the current size that I’m building.

I have managed to get in a little shop time after work this week.  Not a great deal of progress to report, but progress just the same.  The center divider shelf is fitted.  Although it still needs its front edge trimmed.  The other small bit of progress was to thickness a couple of pieces down to 1/2″(I have the shavings to prove it).  These pieces will be used to construct the interior dividers.



That’s the sum total of forward progress this week.  Like I said, not much, but progress just the same.

Part 3 Greg Merritt

5 days of carving – what can be better?

Mary May, Woodcarver - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 7:09pm

Mary May - Woodcarver


DSCN3510Next week, June 1 – 5, I will be teaching “The Joy of Woodcarving” Class at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. The weather is going to be a lot nicer than when I was there earlier this year :)

There are still a few spaces available. Time is running out to sign up!peach png

fiished still



We will be starting with the fundamentals of carving – sharpening, basic carving cuts, how to work with the grain – and we will progress to a variety of relief carving projects that will get more challenging as the week goes on. For each project, I walk you through the complete step-by-step techniques of  creating a beautiful carving.

Whether you are a novice carver and have never picked up a gouge before, or are an experienced carver – please sign up! If you have experience in carving, you can create a more customized course if you wish.DSC02059

Looking Back On The Studley Exhibit

Benchcrafted - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 2:58pm

Thursday night before the big Handworks/Studley weekend I had the opportunity to see the Studley Exhibit at a special gathering just for Handworks Exhibitors. It was very kind of Don Williams to open the exhibit just for us toolmakers. But after a long day, I was pretty well spent, so I walked through the exhibit sort of quickly, then headed home. I had seen the ensemble a couple years ago in Studleyville, so I was primarily there to see Don's handywork in designing the exhibit. I didn't get to do that on Thursday night due to the crowd. So I went back Sunday evening during the last viewing slot.

It was a case of "you snooze, you win".

The last few slots on Sunday were pretty empty, so Don broke all his rules, let everyone stay as long as they wanted, and started taking stuff out of the chest, just short of passing tools around to the remaining attendees.

I sat on one of the long benches in the room and enjoyed watching Don share his love of Studley with equally enthusiastic onlookers. It was a great cap to a fantastic weekend. I can imagine Don was pretty well wiped out Sunday around 5pm, but you wouldn't know it. He took Studley's Bailey #1 from it's ebony archway with as much enthusiasm as the first time he'd done it, I imagine. It was a real special treat for everyone in the room. Then more tools and even some of Studley's special racks came out. It was very very cool.

If you missed out on Studley for silly reasons like ticket price, I pity you. This exhibit was as much about sharing a common interest and genuine community as it was about Studley. And that's what made it special. Seeing the chest in a static presentation with a bunch of strangers is one thing, but the difference here was that Don personally engaged every viewer for three solid days. Hats off, and thanks to The Don.

For a  backstage pass on how the exhibit happened, and its aftermath, check out Don's blog, where he's been posting about the ins and outs of the exhibit.

Categories: Hand Tools


Subscribe to Norse Woodsmith aggregator - Hand Tools
by Dr. Radut