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No matter how much you read about a person, a piece of furniture or a place, the real thing is always different. Today, Narayan Nayar and I visited Herculaneum, the doomed coastal city in Italy that has changed the way I look at woodworking workbenches.
There are no workbenches at Herculaneum. But there was an image of one. Once. But it was cut from the walls of the House of the Deer, shipped to Naples where it deteriorated to the point where almost nothing of the bench is now visible. Still, the image (actually an image of the image) is incredibly important to me. It’s the first drawing of a holdfast that I know of. And it shows a low workbench being used for sawing – another critical clue.
So I had to visit Herculaneum and other sites involving the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius. Not that I expected to discover “new” information about woodworking, workbenches or tools. But to give me some context for everything I’ve read for the last 20 years.
What was shocking? For me, it was the paint and the painting. I now need to do more reasearch on the surviving frescoes at Herculaneum, but I was struck dumb by the detail, clarity and color of what I saw today. Was it restored by modern hands?
As Narayan and I walked around the ruined city it became clear that that modern people are both the saviors and sackers of the now-exposed stonework, plaster and frescoes. Narayan and I saw a little girl rummaging inside an ancient clay vase. Other frescoes were covered by Perspex and clouded by the sun and humidity.
I tried to tread lightly all day because Herculaneum is a non-renewable resource. But my tiptoeing is a drop in the bucket against modern air pollution, adventurous little girls and 2 million other visitors. Ultimately, everything turns to dust.
So the best I can do is to provide an account of what I saw that is unprejudiced by cultural or temporal bias so that future woodworkers will know why Herculaneum is a pile of rubble to be remembered.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized
|I added a Coke can to this shot|
to give you some perspective
regarding this saw's size.
|It has a super clean plate with a clear etching.|
|The second side is as clean as the first.|
|This photo is trying to|
show how straight
the plate and
|It's a good looking saw...|
|...from any angle.|
|It still shows a super-strong etching.|
|Ok, my lamb is a little mute.|
|It isn't talking to me from this side either.|
|This was in the piece of Apple Wood that I made the handle|
from. It does not go all the way through the horn. I liked
this, which is why I made sure it was included.
That was plan 1, iteration 3b, change 9, upgrade Z21-A, that quickly got flushed down the toilet. The reason why plan #1 didn't work was that I couldn't drill the holes for the new screws because the jamb for the screen door was in the way. And the door was drooping so I couldn't line up the holes in the hinge with the ones in the door.
|size of the screw in the hinges|
The one thing I didn't want to do was take the door down. It is an old, solid wood door and it weighs as much as battleship. I know this because I had to take the door off the hinges. I also blew out the lower hinge on the jamb. So I had to fix those screw holes along with the ones on the top of the door.
From start to finish this adventure took me over 3 hours and I'm still not done. I'll be replacing the door and the jamb later on this summer. Part of the problem with blowing out the bottom hinge was due to rot. The door has been sagging for years, and I've putting band-aids on it for years, and now I have run out of them. The rot at the bottom of the door jamb is only going to get worse and contribute more to the door sagging. The rot is on the lock set side of the jamb but the hinge looked like it had some too.
|brought a problem home|
|I'm two lines off|
|had to check it to make sure|
The monitor base will be 13" up from the desk. The monitor will adjust upwards another 6". Between the two of them I can dial in a height where I can look straight into the monitor without bobbing my head.
|all the joints are trimmed, dry fitted, and ready to glue up|
|glued up and cooking|
|the main desk|
|I won't be using this|
|hiding the plies|
|2nd piece glued on|
|new ebonizing method|
|distilled water first|
|about 1/2 of a 1/4 cup|
|lots of breathing holes|
I took a break here and did my second non workshop wood related chore. I found some pruners and filed them sharp and went outside in the rain. I spent the next hour pruning my 3 lilac bushes. I removed all the dead wood and last years blooms that didn't fall off. I'll have to make another trip tomorrow with the big ass pruners to get a few crossed branches that are rubbing against each other.
After I came back in I was going to work on the big desk but that didn't happen. When I looked at it on the bench I saw that it was noticeably bowed. Bowed to the point of being useless to use as the desk. I clamped it down to bench and we'll see tomorrow if there is any joy in Mudville.
What is the width of the train tracks in America based on?
answer - the width of ancient Roman cart tracks, 4 feet 8 1/2"
I’m offering my smoother for sale click on the link for more information and pictures.
From time to time I will post tools for sale, I’ll notify you when I do but it’s also a good idea to check periodically the items for sale page.
Confession time…if you follow me on Instagram, then you know that I started this lathe project a week ago. I’m little behind on my blogging, but I’ve been running a little time management experiment this week.
It is exactly five minutes between my house and my work. As a result, I come home for my lunch hour most days. Usually I eat something, check the news and catch up on reading blogs (another thing I’m behind on). Anyway, I decided to try getting in twenty minutes of shop time while on my lunch hour. So every day this week I set a 20min timer on my phone and headed for the shop. Its been a nice break in my day to get in a little wood working. More importantly, it has been surprising how much I can get done in that short twenty minutes.
Once I had the mortises in the uprights I turned my attention to the three rails. Two will be the ways and form the bed of the lathe. The third rail serves to stabilize the assembly. Each of these rails will eventually be secured with wedges in a tusk tenon arrangement. The two bed rails have single-shoulder tenons and work in unison when wedged tight to keep them square to the uprights. The lower rail tenons have two shoulders that will keep it square.
Once I had the tenons laid out, I sawed the shoulders. I opted to split off the bulk of the waste. In hindsight, it would have been quicker to saw it off. This SYP is stringy and will not split work a darn! Which will make for a strong assembly, but tedious going for waste removal.
Next I worked on the feet. I made these feet much taller than Roy’s version. Which is part of how I’m gaining a little extra height. The remainder of the extra height is in the uprights themselves. The connection between the upright and the foot is a thru, spit tenon. Which ment that I needed to chop a mortise through 180mm (7″) and keep it square and plumb. Not my best design choice. This depth is the limit for my chisels, but I managed to pull it off in both feet.
The tenon was formed as I described above for the rails.
I’ll be glueing these feet in place, but also opted to add square drawbore pins. These aren’t actually necessary, but a little extra structure never hurts. Plus a little practice never hurts either. To chop the required square holes I fashioned a plug to fit into the mortise. The plug adds backing and keeps the inner wall of the mortise from being splintered out. I should have waited on this step though. I’ll explain why in a minute.
I’m shaping the feet with a Japanese inspired shape. My original plan was to have a shallow arch at the bottom center of the foot. (This is why I should have waited on locating the square pegs). I saw that I had a couple of knots in these pieces, no big deal. What I hadn’t noticed is that one of them was dead and loose. I saw that I could eliminate the knots by changing the shallow arc to a deeper shape. Ideally the drawbore pins would be closer to the shoulder of the tenon than to the end of the tenon. Changing the shape of the cutout will shift my pins about 12mm(1/2″) closer to the end of the tenon. Not a big problem, I’ll just have to lessen the offset so as not to over stress the tenon.
At any rate, I laid out my desired shape with a compass and cut it out with my turning saw. The shape was then refined with a sharp chisel and spokeshave.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Finally, I ended my day in the shop today by fashioning the required pins and wedges. I made these from white oak.
OK…that brings this blog and you up to date.
Tomorrow I’ll chop the mortices in the rail tenons and fit the wedges. I also hope to clean up the uprights and feet with a plane and assemble them.
Part 1 Greg Merritt
Klaus war so nett und hat schlitze für Blatt und Rücken in zwei Griffen gemacht.
|Sehrfeinsäge in action|
|Schnitt 0,2mm - cut 0,2 mm (0.008")|
Jesper from Denmark sent me these pictures of a little oak box he made for his partner.
After making a dovetail alignment board, this was his first attempt at a dovetail project and he looks to have done very well.
The box was used to present a gift certificate as congratulations for passing her PHD in architecture, very touching.
Here is Jespers dovetailing kit of tools, he looks to have everything he needs there.
Don Williams, at the Library of Congress rare book conservation lab:
I let them try any number of re-sawing methods, ranging from my vintage 4tpi carpenter’s rip saw, my own bow saw or their bow saw, a range of Japanese saws they had in-house, my French style frame saws, etc. I have to say that by nearly unanimous confirmation the Japanese saws came out the favorites.
Completely unsolicited comment, I swear.
|going with the pencil lines|
|rough bandsaw work done|
|planing it smooth and square|
|first foot done|
|I got lucky|
With the feet done, I can make up the iron part of the ebony solution. That will take a few days to cook and in the interim I can finish up the rest of the bookshelf.
|straightedge isn't touching the opposite corners|
|it's dragging on these two corners|
|my sighting table|
|dealing with a defect|
|#120 spin wheels|
|my threads have better definition and aren't worn|
|swapped them out|
I tried both wheels in their respective lever caps and I still didn't get any stripping action. Both locked down on the iron without any problems. I swapped them out and got the same results. I couldn't get either one to 'strip' out.
|Matt's plane in action|
|5 tries and 5 different shavings|
|finally got it to 'strip'|
I'll keep an eye on that and for the time being I'll leave the wheels on their respective lever caps. If the stripping action comes up again, I'll swap out the wheels.
I would have done the planing on the sides to thickness tonight but I was tired. The one thing I didn't want to screw it up was the thicknessing because I was tired. I probably would have made a mistake and not caught it until the next day. Grrr!. No rush or deadlines on this, so I'll pick this up on Saturday.
How teaspoons are there in a cup?
answer - 48 (3 teaspoons to a tablespoon and 16 tablespoons in a cup)
Given the right tools, expert instruction and hours of practice I believe I stand a good chance of becoming a mediocre carver. It’s something to which I aspire. Eventually. Aim for the stars…
I was watching the famous and talented Mary May do another carving demonstration today. Not for the first time and not, I hope, for the last. We are at a furniture seminar at MESDA (Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts) in Winston Salem, NC.
I have a special relationship with MESDA, I give them money and they let me into the museum. I give them more money and they let me come to seminars. With food. All very civilized.
Knowing that it will be a while before I create my own most excellent carvings, I choose to honor them with the only way I know, take pictures and share skilled people’s work.
This is a set of pictures of carved shells and shell-like objects I have dcoumented between January of 2016 and now.
Shell-like carved objects come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and styles. There is:
You can see the entire flickr set HERE.
The task for the second day of training at the Library of Congress rare book conservation lab was for each of the specialists to emerge at the end of the day with a perfectly prepared matched set of oak bookboards in order to create their own model of the art form. Considering that this was an assembly of gifted folks with near-zero woodworking experience, that is no small feat.
Re-sawing in the vise, crosscutting, and trimming on the bench hooks was what consumed the entire day.
I let them try any number of re-sawing methods, ranging from my vintage 4tpi carpenter’s rip saw, my own bow saw or their bow saw, a range of Japanese saws they had in-house, my French style frame saws, etc. I have to say that by nearly unanimous confirmation the Japanese saws came out the favorites.
Following the re-sawing, and the flattening of one face of each of the two bookboards, I asked them to mark the desired 1/4″ thickness with a gauge and shoot a rabbet around the perimeter for the final thicknessing by hand plane.
Off they were to the races. After the boards were to the proper thickness they were sawn to width and length on the bench hook with back saws or Japanese saws, and all four edges shot also on the bench hook, mostly with either block planes of small bench planes (most of the book boards were in the 5″ x 7″ range). The final step was slightly beveling the edges.
As I packed up at the end of the second day I think everyone was well on the way to having their own pair of boards ready for making their model book.
It was an unmitigated delight to introduce them to the tools and processes of making their own bookboards and I look forward to getting reports of them applying their new skills to projects in the future. The virus of hand toolism was planted, and some of them even went to the recent PATINA tool sale two weekends later.
Now I just gotta see to fixing their orkbench problem.
I have always been fascinated by the lathe. There is something mesmerizing about watching the shapes appear from the spinning wood. As much as I like the lathe, I never planned on adding one to my shop. There’s a whole list of excuses why and I had taken the lathe off of my to-do list and penciled it in on my some-day list.
Through a strange series of events however, things have changed. There’s a big long story that explains all of it, but I’ll just cut to the gist. I was recently given several turning tools. How awesome is that? There is a mixed bag of Craftsman, Buck Brothers and Vermont American. I think all of the basic profiles are here. A few gouges, a skew, a parting tool, thumbnail, ect. They are in need of a little love, but should get me more than started.
So now it seems silly not to delve into lathe work. Of course I need a lathe first.
The basic types of human-powered (I have no interest in electric) lathes are spring and treadle. Each has its pros and cons. The spring type lathes are simplest to build, are portable but work with a reciprocating action. Treadle lathes are a little more complex to build, are generally too heavy to be easily portable but have the benefit of constant rotation. So why choose one over the other?
Portability seems to play a big role in the decision process. Even still, there are several examples of historical shops with permanently installed spring pole lathes. So maybe personal preference has always played a part. For me, the combination of simple to build and portability is hard to ignore.
Roy Underhill’s version of a German spring pole lathe is a design that is hard to beat. It’s a self-contained, reasonably light and portable lathe. The only issue I have found with Roy’s version is that it seems a little short. In most of the videos I’ve watched, including The Woodwright’s Shop, Roy and others look stooped over while using this lathe. My suspicion is that the low height is a function of the novelty of building the lathe frame from a single 2″x12″x12′. That’s just my personal guess though. Anyway, I think I’ll have a go at building and using Roy’s version of the spring pole lathe but, I’ll build it a little taller.
Plans for the lathe can be found in a few places. One source is Roy’s book, “By Wedge and Edge“. Most recently, PWW magazine (August 2016) ran an article by Roy on the building of the lathe. Or (if you have the time and money) you could attend a class and learn to build this lathe directly from Roy.
As you may know, I like to work with proportions. Short of that I prefer metric. All of the plans for Roy’s lathe are based on imperial dimensions though. So I did a little CAD work, converted the plans to metric and tweaked a few of the details. My version will raise the work a few inches/centimeters, it will be a bit longer to ensure that I can work with table-length legs and I’m changing the decorative elements as well. No surprise there.
I’m building the lathe out of SYP and purchased a couple of 2x boards and will be utilizing the pieces left over from the recent table builds as well.
Step one was to break that lumber down into the required components and layout the joinery.
I then cut the large mortises that will receive the rails. I used an auger to remove the bulk of the waste and then used a chisel to finish off each mortise. The “spring” part of this lathe design is supplied by two wooden rods. These rods are contained in three holes and one slot. The slot allows the end of one rod to travel up and down creating the spring action. The three holes I simply bored through. To create the slot I bored a hole at the extents of the slot and used my turning saw to cut out the bulk of the waste. Finally cleaning up the walls of the slot with a wide chisel.
As cautionary woodworking tales go, Nancy R. Hiller’s might just be the funniest – and the most sincere.
Standing in contrast to James Krenov’s “The Impractical Cabinetmaker” from 1979, Hiller’s new book, “Making Things Work: Tales from a Cabinetmaker’s Life,” is not about waiting for a particular plank of wood to tell you its true purpose. It is not an exhortation to fuss over each detail, no matter the personal cost. There is not a shop cat.
(Side note: I do love Krenov’s books, but they have not taught me squat about making a living.)
Instead, Hiller’s funny and occasionally ribald story is about a cabinetmaker who was trained to work at the highest level possible and how she has dealt with the personal anxiety that occurs when the desire and drive for excellence collides with paying the monthly bills.
The backdrop for “Making Things Work” is a cast of characters who could populate a Cohen brothers film – a Missouri furniture maker who masquerades as a Brit to impress his customers. A 30-something client and her older husband who seem hell-bent on cheating every trades worker in the Midwest. And Hiller’s British trainers, who through teasing, criticism and mockery finally let her know what “navy cake” really is.
At the center of it all is Hiller. She seeks to run an honest business, make beautiful things and be fairly paid. Doing all three things at once is an immense challenge, and she tells her odyssey in a series of vignettes that read like a modern-day Aesop’s fable. There is a lesson in each chapter about the craft, business or personal relationships. But it’s up to you to decode them. Her indirect approach is one of the great charms of the book.
If you are considering abandoning your cozy corporate job to make furniture, “Making Things Work” is required reading. It will illuminate you as to how difficult the profession can be. If you are undaunted after seeing the quality of Hiller’s furniture and reading about her struggle to make a living, perhaps you have a shot.
For amateur woodworkers, the book is a great read. Hiller is a fine and precise writer who knows exactly when to land a punch line (sometimes with a sledgehammer).
For those of you who appreciate the manufacturing quality of Lost Art Press books, “Making Things Work” will please you. Hiller used one of our printing vendors here in the United States. This is a book designed to last.
Most of all, kudos to Hiller for taking on this book like a piece of fine furniture. She managed most of it herself, from the writing to the production to the distribution.
“Making Things Work” is available from Hiller’s website here. Highly recommended.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Personal Favorites, Uncategorized
I am not a piano repairman. But when our piano tuner told us that it would be pretty expensive to fix our 1950s-era spinet piano (for which we paid $60), my wife urged me to try it myself.
A couple weeks earlier, one of the younger kids had been pounding on the keys, and the dowel rod holding one of the hammers snapped right off. My wife found the broken piece inside the piano. It was the B-flat above middle C–so not exactly a note that we could do without.
It’s easy to forget that a piano is both a stringed instrument and a percussion instrument. Press a key, and a small hammer strikes a string held in tension over a soundboard. There are 88 of these hammers, most of which strike three strings at once. The dowel rod that held this hammer somehow snapped in two–perhaps there was a flaw in the wood, or perhaps the key was just struck too hard. That happens sometimes when you have little kids.
Regardless, fixing this hammer was going to be tricky. Open up the bottom of the piano, and this is what you see:
All those vertical, wooden pieces are part of the action–the mechanism that connects each key to each hammer. The broken piece was deep inside this very complicated mechanism. (Pardon the funny lighting, but the ambient lighting in my living room is abysmal, and I was working mostly by LED flashlight.)
Looking in from the top, this is what I see:
Somewhere down there is the other end of a broken dowel rod. My first thought was that, if I could get the stubby end out, I could surgically insert a new dowel without having to disassemble anything. Some older pianos, I knew, were assembled with hide glue, which will release when moistened. I tried it out on the free end of the broken hammer, but no luck. It’s PVA, i.e. yellow wood glue. The whole thing was going to have to come out.
All the way out.
I had heard from pianists that it was possible to remove the entire action assembly from a piano. I looked over the inside of the piano for quite some time, trying to see how the action assembly was attached. Fortunately, the internet had a helpful tutorial by a professional piano repairman. I’m not sure I would have gotten any further without his help.
Once I located the points of attachment, I started carefully removing nuts and screws.
At one point, I ran across an odd little nut that looked like this:
I recognized it as a “split nut,” which is used on many old handsaws. Getting one loose can be quite a trick, unless you have the right tool.
Which I did.
It’s an old spade bit ground down to a screwdriver shape and a notch filed into it. I made this split-nut driver several years ago when I started working with old handsaws.
When I made it, I didn’t think I’d get to use it on a piano.
In order to remove the action assembly on a spinet piano, it is also necessary to remove ALL the keys. And piano keys are NOT interchangeable. The keys on our piano are numbered, but I still kept them all in order so as to make it easier to put them back in later.
Once the keys were all out, I was able to remove the last few bolts and screws holding the action in place. I carefully lifted the whole thing out.
Here is the now-an empty piano with the keys lined up on the floor and the action assembly at the very bottom of the picture. (Side note: you can probably imagine how much dust accumulates underneath the keys over sixty years. It took us quite some time to vacuum it all out.) The keys fit over those metal pins and rest on felt pads. It really is an ingenious design, very complicated in some places and dirt-simple in others.
It was time to carry the whole action assembly out to the workbench.
If the soundboard and strings are the soul of the piano, this is its heart. I sort of feel like I’m doing open-heart surgery here. One false move, and the patient may not survive.
With the action on the workbench, I carefully un-hooked and un-screwed the very-complicated mechanism that had the broken piece.
Each key is connected to a mechanism like this. From this perspective, it looks a little like a Rube Goldberg machine. Press the key, and a whole sequence of levers, straps, and pads moves to strike the strings.
Take a moment to appreciate how many individual pieces there are in even a small piano. I count 14 wooden pieces all together here. Some of the higher notes have fewer parts, but there are 88 keys total. There over 1,000 little wooden pieces in the whole action assembly!
You can see here where the dowel supporting the hammer broke–right at the base where it was glued in.
Replacing the broken dowel was, I think, the easy part. Once it got down to cutting and shaping wood, I felt that I actually knew what I was doing. But order of operations was critical.
I first sawed the broken dowel off flush at the base. Then I carefully re-drilled the hole. The replacement dowel I’m using is a hair thinner than the original, but it’s dead-straight hardwood and should hold up to household use.
It took me three stops before I found a suitably tough hardwood dowel at a local hardware store. The original one was, I think, maple or birch. I’m not sure what species the replacement is, but it’s not poplar, which was too soft for this application.
Dealing with the other end was more tricky. After close inspection, I noticed that the dowel went into the hammer’s head at an angle. I would need to drill out the old dowel at the same precise angle. So before cutting off the old dowel, I made this little jig:
In a squared-up piece of scrap, I cut a small dado to fit the hammer and wedged it in upside down. I then inserted a long, pan-head screw into one end of the underside so I could raise the whole jig up at an angle by turning the screw. I sighted the dowel along an upright square and, by trial-and-error, found the precise angle at which the dowel was inserted.
I sawed off the old dowel and took my jig and workpiece down to the drill press.
It was easy to drill the hole at the correct angle.
I glued in the new dowel and went and had a cup of coffee while the glue dried. (Sorry, no picture of the fixed mechanism. I was so tired that I forgot to take one!)
It wasn’t easy getting the repaired mechanism back into the piano. Having one or even two people to help guide it in was very helpful. The more you bump things inside a piano, the more out of tune it will be. And I sure didn’t want to break any more pieces on this action assembly!
My oldest daughter kindly helped me put the keys back on, too.
Keys, nuts, screws–all had to be reinserted exactly as they had come out. It was especially annoying to reattach the damper and sustain pedals.
Finally everything was back in place. It was a lot of work to fix a little piece. It kind of reminded me of car repair–and not necessarily in a good way. I had to remove so many components in order to replace one little piece without which the whole thing wouldn’t work. At least it leaves my hands less greasy.
Now, of course, the piano needs to be tuned again. But it plays. And I fixed it all by myself.
Tagged: drill press, piano, piano hammer, piano keys, piano repair
We got out early on the vernal equinox, to see the sunrise over the trees on the riverbank. While we waited, these red-breasted mergansers came along, chasing the fish along the river. The other fish-chaser, great blue heron left the scene, water was too high for him.
The sun hit the workshop before it hit us down at the river.
Inside, I’m a sucker for raking light.Now that I finished the chest with drawers, this one is next. Needs some trimming here & there, and fitting the lid. Then when someone buys it, initials carved in the blank area on the center muntin.
Here’s the first 2 (of 8) panels I carved for a bedstead I am making for a customer.
A couple of boxes underway. The front of this one was a carving sample for my recent class in North House Folk School.
Here it is, test-fitted. Next is to make the till parts, and assemble it.
we went to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston the other day. the kids are studying Greek myths, and we went to look at Greek art, mostly sculpture & pottery. I saw patterns everywhere. I probably hadn’t been in those galleries since the 1980s. Amazing stuff.
What is A2 steel
“A” stands for air hardening which means you don’t quench in any liquids but set it aside and allow it to cool down on its own. It contains .95% High Carbon a 1% Molybdenum, 1% Manganese, .3% Silicon, 5% Chromium, .15% Vanadium, .03% Phosphorous and the same for Sulphur. Excellent edge retention is possible thanks to the Chromium Carbides that are mixed during the heat treating process that makes it the most preferred cutting tool steel by tool makers. However, the trade-off is that honing A2 steel takes longer and more effort than O1, it won’t hone an edge as sharp as O1 and the edge fractures quicker if the bevel angle is honed at 25 degrees. To prevent the edge from fracturing Lie Nielsen recommends to hone the bevel at minimum 30 degrees but preferably to 35 degrees. So, if you notice your blade isn’t cutting as well as it should be hone a steeper bevel.
O1 Tool Steel
O1 is a high carbon medium alloyed cold work tool steel with 1.1% manganese, 0.6 chromium, 0.6% Tungsten AND 0.10% Vanadium added to it with good hardening capacity.
The O stands for oil quenching. Quenching in oil is recommended over water because it cools slower reducing the chance of cracking. O1 also takes an edge better than A2 but will not stay sharp as long as A2. So, the main difference between the two is; O1 sharpens relatively quicker than A2 and hones an edge sharper than A2 but the edge retention in A2 is better than O1. Obviously thinner O1 blades that come with old Stanley planes will sharpen very quickly than the thicker modern A2 blades because their less steel to hone which is why they’re still a preferred choice for many old-time woodworkers who know the difference between truth from fiction. Thicker blades do not reduce chatter as advertised, instead they are a pain in the backside to sharpen but for more information on that refer to Paul Sellers blog. I believe he’s done a video on that.
Heat Treating Process
So now that we know all the technical jargon and we don’t want to spend an eternity on sharpening lets go with the heat treating process of O1. Remember this is the tool steel I’m going to use on my moulding planes and the small router plane that’s been holding me back from the true build. Maybe I should fill you in before I continue.
The small router plane I currently have which is the Veritas, the blade is ¼” wide which is too big for the mouth opening on the moulding plane which should be no bigger and smaller than 1/16” and I’m referring to the gap between the edge iron and the breast. The mouth on the plane is 3/16” (5mm) and I’m using an iron that is 1/8” (3.175mm) thick so that should leave a precise gap of 1/16” to allow shavings to go through. The thicker the iron the larger the mouth opening should be, so make your adjustments according to the thickness of the iron, all in all the gap should equal to 1/16”. This I learned from Charles Hayward may he rest in peace.
I actually thought that a gap opening of 1/32” was ideal but that would only allow very thin wispy shavings through and that isn’t ideal for a moulding plane. So, this router plane once I actually get it done will have a longer blade to do 2” or more depth and I’m yet to find out if it can handle that depth and also have a 1/8” width blade. This will be the only tool of its kind in the world as far as I know and I’ve looked everywhere for one. What’s holding me back you might ask, I’m trying to make it look pretty.
Ok now with process of heat treating O1. O1 comes annealed so we can skip this part. Grind your bevel and shape first, then whatever process you like to use as heat go with that, I used 2 blow torches. You heat the cutting iron to about 1500 degrees Fahrenheit (815deg. Celsius) you will know you’ve reached that temperature when it reaches a bright cherry red colour. In my opinion, I think that a bright orange colour is a more correct description of it but that’s the word that’s been in use for a few hundred years now so I won’t rock the boat.
Once that critical temperature has been reached you plunge the iron into an oil bath. I used peanut oil over motor oil as it has less tendency to flame up and apparently, it smells better but I couldn’t smell squat. I even stuck my nose into it and still couldn’t smell any peanuts. You can use a metal container or a glass jar, I used a glass jar that was fairly thick. I think the thickness is important due to the heat build-up of the oil, you don’t want the glass shattering and spilling oil all over your bench so a Nescafe jar is ideal.
When you plunge the iron into the oil, plunge it in vertically and keep it upright vertically while you continue to plunge. If you angle it in and stir it you could induce warpage, I’ve seen Tod Herrli stir it gently but it was still held vertically.
Now take it out and let it sit for ½-1 hr to cool down, be careful though as it is still quite hot so don’t touch it and don’t ask me how I know that. This is the confusing part though, some technical websites say cool it in the oil until you can touch it with your bare hands and temper it immediately, others say let it sit depending on its thickness, so 1 hr for 1” thickness and then temper it. Up to you on this one, I don’t know who is right or wrong here but as for me personally on the next one I will choose to let it cool in the oil and then temper it.
Tempering is the process of reducing the steels brittleness, if you didn’t temper it, the steel would shatter like glass if dropped on the ground. You also wouldn’t be able to shape the edge nor sharpen it, your file would just skate over it.
Ever wonder how those martial arts experts were able to karate chop an iron in two, well you too can do that in its brittle state and that’s why we need to temper.
The temperature may vary according to the desired hardness and the hardness scale we are working to is the Rockwell C scale. You see in every tool sellers’ description hardened to Rockwell C 60 or 62. To reach that Rockwell C scale we need to heat up the iron in an oven to about 325 deg. F (162deg. C) for about an hour. The iron will reach a light straw colour, you don’t want any other colour but that. If you were tempering a knife then your Rockwell C should be about 55 -57 which is about 500-600 deg. F (260deg. C). My oven only goes up to 260 degrees and there is no guarantee your oven is accurate.
If you can’t use your oven here’s the way I did it. I held the flame back from the cutting edge and observed the colour change. I withdrew the iron from the flame and watched the heat travel up the iron until it reached the edge during which a colour change was occurring. Once the light straw colour was reached I immediately plunged it into the oil and then left it to cool in air.
I did skip an important part, after hardening clean and flatten the back to take out any potential warpage and clean the black oxidation around the cutting area up to the beginning of the tang. It’s important to do that so you can observe the colour change during the tempering process. Also get yourself a good magnet so you know you’ve reached the correct hardness and either glue it on wood or get one big enough you can hold by hand. If you your burn fingers in the process you’ll live, don’t be pussies about it you won’t burn them second time round.
After over a year of development, we're excited to announce pricing and availability of our Swing Away Seat!
But first a few words about this product in case some of you are wondering what road we're headed down. When we started Benchcrafted it all began with a product that, although made of wood, was not a woodworking tool. The Mag-Blok. Only after we got a wild hair to build a new workbench for our shop did we take the leap in manufacturing our own woodworking vises. So, although we've become known as the "men of vise" we have our roots in making stuff we like to use, period. The other tools in our line reflect that philosophy too. We use everything we make, often on a daily basis. The Swing Away Seat is no different. And it just so happens that it's an incredible workbench accessory as well.
In early 2012 we began researching these seats after discovering a vintage example at a local food market. We were intrigued by the whole concept. How sweet would it be to have a seat for your bench that was always there, but also "never" there? We began compiling designs and searching the old patent record. Fast forward to last year. Prodded by our customers, we decided to put the Swing Away Seat at the head of the line. As is typical, it took way longer than we anticipated to complete the first run. A dead simple device, but there's more here than meets the eye. We also wanted to spend some time designing the thing so it didn't only look like something old.
The Swing Away Seat is cast in gray iron and powder coated in satin black. When you buy the seat you'll receive two castings: the larger part called the mount, and the smaller part which bolts to your bench, called the bracket. You'll also receive two black oxide-finished steel pins that marry the parts together. They are loose pins, just like you'd find in a door hinge. So if you need to remove the mount from the bench for whatever reason, you simply lift the two pins and the mount comes off.
Mounting the seat to your bench or table is easy with two 1/2" lag screws or through bolts. Bolts are the stronger option, and if you've got 2" or less of wood to bite into, we recommend bolts. Lag screws, driven into properly-sized pilot holes in hardwood are extremely strong. However, since we can't control your mounting situation, we can only make general suggestions. As such, the Swing Away seat does not come with mounting hardware. Beware of hardware store and home-center lag screws. They are usually total junk with soft steel and shallow threads. We source ours from the excellent Blacksmithbolt.com. The 1/2" square head lags in black oxide work very well with the Swing Away seat. We also recommend their rub washers under the head of lag screws for a smooth connection. These aren't so necessary with through bolts.
The Swing Away seat will be offered two ways. Castings only, for us woodworkers who want to make our own seats, or packaged with a finished, ready to mount wood seat. The wood will be offered in one species only, quartersawn white oak with a chestnut stain and satin lacquer finish. The seat is 11" in diameter and 1" thick. Each wood seat will include three screws to attach it to the mount.
Like our vises, the Swing Away seat is overbuilt. We haven't done any testing on how much weight the casting can take before it breaks, but our empirical knowledge tells us its more than anyone need worry about. Since the seat is cantilevered off its mounting surface, one does have to be mindful of the mounting structure. Obviously a free-standing structure could be prone to tipping, depending on the weight of the structure and the sitter. Again, there are lots of variables at play here that we can't possibly anticipate. Our Classic Workbench (pictured here) is not a super heavy bench, being somewhat narrow at 20" with a 3" thick top. Yet it supports a 250 pound body (me) without tipping. If you're planning to use one of these on any free standing object, keep this in mind.
The Swing Away seat will pivot a bit over 180 degrees in total.
Pricing and Availablity
The Swing Away seat will be available initially at Handworks in Amana, IA, May 19-20. After the event is over, we'll post them to the website where they can be ordered any time. The Swing Away seat will be a stock item. We won't be taking pre-orders or deposits for the seats we sell at Handworks or later online. If you want to make sure you get one of the first ones, be at our space in the Festhalle Barn first thing Friday morning, May 19. We'll take credit cards, but cash will get you in and out of our space much quicker. Unfortunately we can't reserve a seat for you before the doors open, or hold one after you've paid. You'll want to take your seat back to your vehicle immediately since they are a tad on the heavy side. We will have both the seat only, and seats with wood for sale. We'll have several seats mounted to benches for you to try out at Handworks.
The Swing Away seat is $199.
The Swing Away seat with wood is $249.
See you in Amana...
Sharpen More to Sharpen Less
This week I am hoping to address a whole bunch of sharpening questions all at once by illustrating how I sharpen my tools now that I have settled on diamond stones and strops. I discuss the process of free hand sharpening, how to use a strop, and the spectre of dubbing.
|24 hrs later it's green|
|Matt's came out a little cleaner|
|Ouch! switched to using my right hand|
|rinsed and driedof any water with the hair dryer|
|the plane adjusters|
|my iron is a Sweet Heart one|
|Matt's iron has writing on but I need help to see it|
|it's faint but this is what I saw|
|how the blade is adjusted|
|all the way down|
|all the way up|
|my lever adjust doesn't work|
|Matt's plane works|
|my serrations are kind of flattened out|
|Matt's serrations are better defined|
|side view of my adjuster|
It looks like I'll be rehabbing Matt's plane and not mine. I'll keep mine as is and use it as a paint remover plane. I'll paint Matt's plane, sand the sides and the sole, and make it look as brand new as I can. I put these two aside for now and I'll come back to them later on.
There you go Bob. This is all I know about these. When can I expect a #120 blog post?
|feet stock - this face is flat and straight with no hump|
|sawed off the front and back pieces|
|I am pretty damn happy about it|
|the front is dead nuts|
|I can't plane the two of these as one|
|need a bigger fence|
|used my small block plane|
Tomorrow I'll saw off the tops to the feet and see how well I can do planing them separately and end up with the two of them the same.
What did ancient prospectors use to collect grains of gold from streams?
answer - the fleece of sheep