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One of my best woodworking tools is one I don’t write about much: my sketchbook. It’s an inexpensive spiral-bound thing I get at the grocery store, right by the romance novels. It’s always in my bag when I travel, and it’s on my lap when I’m “encouraged” to watch “Project Runway” with my lovely wife. I keep a mechanical pencil clipped to its metal spirals and use it to solve […]
Editor’s note: Sorry, this post is not about “Game of Thrones.”
George and I often get asked which book should be read first, and we don’t have a quick answer. Because our research has been a quest, we didn’t write them necessarily in the order a beginner should take them up. We both agree, though, that our most recent “From Truth to Tools” would probably be the one we’d suggest reading first. It will go a long way to help you visualize space with practical knowledge of how our tools fit into the picture.
The second pick depends on how you like to learn. Read “By Hand & Eye” if you like to know the “why” as well as the “how” behind design and proportions. Otherwise, we suggest starting with “By Hound & Eye” if you tend to learn more by doing, and you just want to get down to it. Whichever way you begin this journey, we are confident you’ll come out seeing the world – and your craft – in a whole new way.
— Jim Tolpin, byhandandeye.com
Filed under: By Hand & Eye, By Hound and Eye, From Truths to Tools, Uncategorized
With our ambitious agenda awaiting us for the Man Week at the barn, our first task was to begin the Tetris game that always seems to be on tap for any type of reorganizing the shop. The ripple molding machine was easily accessible for John but I had to move a ton of stuff to get to the FORP I workbench parts that were behind the parts for all the other workbenches that are not yet finished, and a large pile of old oak salvaged from the shack deconstruction that we were working on when I crossed paths with the cranky wheelbarrow that put me out of commission for the better part of a year.
The first thing I noticed from the pile of salvaged oak was the presence of frass in between each piece of the stack. It might have been old frass from a no-longer-active infestation or it might not. It was not an extreme amount but I was not going to take a chance as I was going to be making furniture for the cabin from it.
I mixed up my typical batch of insecticide with a gallon of marine anti-freeze and two 8 oz. cups of dry borate-complex powder (Disodium Octaborate Tetrahydrate), then mixed with a paint stirrer in my cordless drill.
I used a cheap garden sprayer to saturate the boards and stacked them under plastic to let it all soak in thoroughly. After 36 hours I set them against the barn to dry, and two days later moved them inside and will put them to use when that project moves to the top of the pile.
Japanese chisels hold their value. This well-used set of chisels are still completely usable. That’s because the hard layer of steel in a Japanese chisel goes all the way across the bottom layer to the area where the blade transitions into the neck of the chisel.
(Pictures from eBay.)
I had promised myself that I would have a good look round all the show, but as usual it didn't happen! Here is the main barn just before customers were let in and here's what happened afterwards.
So unfortunately I only have a few shots of those near to my stand.
Camera shy Phil Edwards from Philly planes, gotcha!
Bill and Sarah Carter with a fine selection of his wonderful planes as well as a few other rare antiques.
Ollie Sparks with a good selection of his master pieces. More on Ollie later.
And below Richard Arnold with lots of 18thC planes along with some very nice 21st interpretations made by himself. Richard gives his time very generously and is extremely knowledgeable.
I am not going to put saws in the toolbox. I had watched a toolbox presentation on the evolution of them from about 1660 up to the late 1800's. According to the person presenting he said saws were not commonly kept in toolboxes. I found that hard to understand when all the tools a craftsman needed were supposedly in the toolbox. How did he saw anything? The presenter said saws were kept in a separate saw till. Although he did show a few chests with saws stowed in the lid and in the interior bottom.
I like the idea of a separate saw till to hold Miles saws. I have a crosscut and rip saw for him already and I am going to get a dovetail, carcass, and tenon saw too. Making a saw till for him will free up that space in the toolbox for other tools.
|blue tape to the rescue|
|I can't see it|
|cleaned and flushed up the top|
|gluing on the bottom|
|glued, clamped, and cooking|
|the before and after|
|found some screws|
|set my 4" square to the depth|
|screw holes done|
|should have erased that pencil line|
|laid it out right on this side|
|they work well|
|I don't like the flat look on the ends|
|my backyard maple tree|
On the Bob Newhart show (1970's), what was the apartment number he lived in?
answer - 523
I was talking to Peter Follansbee about life, woodworking and this blog when he asked my why I didn’t take pictures of anything really old? My threshold for old is pre-McKinley (1900) while Mr. Follansbee’s is 16th century. The obvious answer is that the places I have access to don’t often have anything old. The number of Empire chests-of-drawers far exceeds the number of jointed English stools in the retail/auction market.
To address Mr. Follansbee’s concerns, I offer here two dealer-confirmed old pieces. I completely trust antiques dealers. What possible incentive would they have to lie or deceive?
Is it a cupboard if it was built before cups were invented? Could it be a jelly if all they had was preserves? It’s that old:
Equally old or even older is this chest:
Today was the first day of the shop raising and, wow, was it momentous. The day started with finishing the new sill Luke, Matt, and Isaac began the day before. This 8” wide by 10” tall sill sits on top of the deck to raise the ceiling height. It is joined in the traditional manner with pegged mortise and tenon joints. After the sill was assembled and bolted to the deck, we began assembling the first (rearmost) bent.
We assembled the joints on sawhorses and drilled and pegged each tenon. Peg sizes varied from 1-3/8” to 1” to 3/4” depending on the joint. Because the pegs Luke purchased weren’t available in the odd 1-3/8” size that this frame was made with, Mike and I spent a good chunk of our day shaving the pegs to final size. Once the bent was fully assembled, Luke and Isaac measured the tenon spacing and braced the assembly with 2x4s to keep them in position.
Matt carried the bent with the telehandler as Luke directed it into the mortises. It was pretty incredible to watch these two work together. Their subtle but effective communication showed that they’ve been doing this for a long time. With each tenon slipping seamlessly into its mortise, the first wall was standing.
Between the physical labor these guys have gone through and the stress of crucial measurements working out, I think everyone working on this project was feeling wiped at the end of the day. But the day went off without a hitch. Tomorrow, bright and early we begin assembling the second bent.
I had no ready answer, for I too struggle constantly to achieve accuracy and "squareness" in my work.
There is no one way to achieve accuracy; one has to constantly work at it. Perhaps practice and experience makes working more accurate. Today, my work is far more accurate than it was a few years ago although, as I mentioned, I am far from perfect.
Inaccuracies can arise due to various reasons including inaccurate cutting or measuring tools, incorrect marking or measuring, wood movement and so on.
|Get accurate measuring tools and be careful about how you measure|
A few tips could make cutting and sizing wood more accurate.
1. Get good measuring tools
Most of us rely on the tape measure, which unfortunately is not always accurate, and this is true of other cheap rulers, squares and so on. I prefer to use folding rules when I need to measure something for cutting. When choosing rulers and squares the best are the "satin chrome" ones because they are easy to read and non-reflective. When marking, place the edge of the rule on the work to avoid parallax.
|Instead of relying an a tape masure for accurate measurement switch to a rule of some king|
2. Gang up your pieces
When I need to cut two pieces to the exact same length, I find it easier to gang up the two pieces by clamping them together and cutting them at one go. This is better than measuring each piece individually and cutting them one by one.
|When marking or cutting two identical pieces, gang them up|
3. Use a Marking Knife and Gauge
For joinery always use sharp gauges and marking knives and not rely on pencil marks.
|Good quality marking tools such as a marking gauge and knife are essential|
4. Use a hand Plane
A saw is often not a tool for fine work. Even a circular saw with guides can be a few millimetres off; a cross cut might not turn out to be perfectly square. The best way to fix minor inaccuracies is with a sharp hand plane. A shooting board can guarantee squareness more accurately than even the average chop saw.
5. Check for square
Once your pieces have been cut, check each one for squareness on all sides. At times, I have been frustrated by joining pieces of plywood that are not perfectly square and ending up with twisted or ill-fitting assemblies. Don't assume that plywood cuts are square - only two sides (top and bottom) are parallel to each other but the sides and ends are often not square or perfectly flat. Double check and fine tune with a hand plane if necessary.
|Keep a large saw of some kind at hand to check for square at every stage|
6.Correct bows and Sags
Board material especially plywood is prone to bowing, cupping and sagging. An unnoticeable bow can cause problems of squareness and ill-fitting joints. These problems can be corrected by clamping a straight piece of wood to the bowed piece prior to measuring, cutting or assembly.
|If a board bows its length will decrease; adjust for this or try to straighten the piece|
7. Repair Errors
Gaps, misalignments, protuberances and so on can all be corrected with a bit of imagination. I do not hesitate to fill gaps with wood slivers and glue when needed and often plane down protruding sides. Thin sheets of wood can be glued on to misaligned parts and then planed down to produce the desired surface. Fixing errors is part of the woodworker's craft and rather fun too.
I hope this post helps Kaushik Nath. Good luck to him .
18 September 2017
You can now order a pre-publication copy of “From Truths to Tools” in the Lost Art Press store. The book will ship in early or mid-November 2017. The book is $25, which includes free shipping to customers in the United States and Canada. All customers who order the book before Nov. 7 will receive a free and immediate pdf download of the entire book.
You can download an excerpt of the book via this link:
Here’s what the book is about:
Good books give you a glimpse of small truths – about workbenches, joinery or sharpening, for example. Great books, on the other hand, stitch together seemingly disparate ideas to present a new way of looking at the world as a whole, from your marking awl, to your hand or to the line of the horizon.
“From Truths to Tools” by Jim Tolpin and George Walker is a hand-illustrated work that masquerades as a children’s book. There are funny drawings. There aren’t a lot of words. You can read the entire 208-page book in one sitting.
But “From Truths to Tools” somehow explains the craft, the entire physical world, our language and geometry in a way that makes you feel like the authors have revealed a huge secret to you. One that has been sitting in front of you your entire life.
The book begins with an explanation of a circle and a single point and show how those simple ideas can be used to create an entire set of layout tools – a try square, a straightedge, dividers etc. that allow you to build furniture.
Once you understand the language behind your tools, very complicated things become easy to understand. Compound joinery. Fitting odd miters. Making curves that taper.
And once you get those ideas in your head, it’s a short hop to how those same ideas can be applied to building anything of any shape imaginable – skyscrapers, boats, bridges. When you can calculate if a tree will hit you when you fell it in the forest you’ll be able to calculate the circumference of the earth.
“From Truths to Tools” is the third book from the geometry-loving team of Jim Tolpin and George Walker. Their first book “By Hand & Eye” makes the case that simple whole-number ratios are the underpinning to the built world and our furniture. The second book, “By Hound & Eye” gives you the exercises that open your eyes to the way geometry and ratios govern our world. And the third, “From Truths to Tools,” shows how geometry creates our tools and, once understood, leads to a deeper grasp of the things we build, the world around us and even our language.
“From Truths to Tools” is printed in the United States to exacting standards. The pages are sewn and glued so the book will last a long time and can rest flat on your bench. The pages are protected by heavy paper-covered boards. The book is designed to last several generations.
As always, we hope our retailers in North America and elsewhere will carry the book, but the decision is up to them. So as of today, we don’t know which retailers will stock it.
— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com
Filed under: From Truths to Tools, Uncategorized
If you’re paying attention you might know by now I will be one of the presenters at the upcoming Colonial Williamsburg annual conference Working Wood in the 18th Century, January 25-28, 2018.
I have two time slots, the first being a discussion of the acouterments of a Parisian woodworking atelier in the late 18th century, including Roubo workbenches and ripple molding machines. If all goes well we will be demonstrating these machines, making ripple molding right there on stage. My second session will be the concluding presentation of the conference IIRC, reviewing and demonstrating the practice of woodfinishing of the era.
I hope to see you there. Say “Hi” if you make it.
Varnishers of The World, Unite!
Keep hanging on.
I remember this show.
With the EWS show finished I'm just trying to catch on the back log, pictures of the show will follow.
Slava, a good customer sent me these pictures of some lovely saws he has made. He started by refurbishing old saws and then got hooked, so he decided to start making his own.
This one is a long stroke (probably dovetail) saw with an early style handle in curly walnut
This one looks like a tenon saw with another early style (beech?) handle with beautiful spurs.
And lastly another tenon saw with more curly black walnut and a very pronounced hang (I think that's the correct term!)
I like this chain trick and how it dealt with an annoying problem with the chain falling into a till. The problem with that is the chain coils in the till and it can catch tools and pull them up as the lid is opened. I think my problem with not finding the chain trick again is I watch and read a lot of things. Just punch in tool chest in on You tube you will get over whelmed with videos. I'll keep looking and I might come across it again.
|after dinner on saturday|
|can you work epoxy with hand tools|
|out of the clamps|
|larger of the tills|
|easily pulled the other sides apart|
|large till dry fitted back together and it slides|
|smaller till survived the planing clean up|
|the two tills won't fit in the big till|
|the larger till|
|squared the frame and took a coffee break|
|the smaller till|
|the two tail sides will be shortened|
|the larger till|
|gluing the bottom on the larger till|
|sawed and squared up the new sides|
|did my layout|
|something was wrong|
|my tail lines slant in the wrong direction|
|sawed a practice one|
|got it finally|
|crappy fit - it's too proud|
|the other end|
|ganged sawed the tails|
|chopping the pins|
|back to my mastery|
|glued up and squared|
|big till fits|
|needs to be cleaned up|
|this would work|
|the marking gauges fit in the bottom|
|won't fit in the top till|
What are the seven seas of the world.
answer - Antarctic, Arctic, Indian, North Pacific, North Atlantic, South Pacific, and South Atlantic
Proverb: Give a woodworker a try square and it works (at least till it gets knocked off the bench). Teach a woodworker artisan geometry and he or she can build a try square, cathedral or a damn fine boat.
Why do dividers appear in countless old paintings and engravings? They show up in the hands of winged cherubs, scientists, stone masons, boat builders and artisans of every stripe. Yes, dividers were the tool that spanned almost every art and craft. But there is much more to it, something deeper, more profound and basic. Dividers were also a symbol of the entry into the world of artisan geometry. This world is a big place, as big as the universe, yet captured in a circle scribed with a pair of a dividers. This world of artisan geometry is just a collection of abstract discoveries, yet the truths of geometry are more true and solid than the Rocky Mountains.
Our ancestors understood that learning the truths of artisan geometry was fundamental to reaching our human potential. On a practical level, it allows us to imagine, design and build almost anything. They also understood that this world of artisan geometry can transform our thinking and train the mind to follow logic and truth wherever it takes us. For that reason it was a key part of the classical curriculum for centuries.
Jim Tolpin and I are on a quest to explore this artisan geometry and we’d like to invite you to join us. This isn’t about memorizing theorems. Instead it’s about exploring truths with a pair of dividers and a straight stick. The lone requirement is you must bring your curiosity.
In our own case, it’s taken us to a wide-open space filled with ideas and possibilities. It’s also given us deeper insight into every tool found in our woodworking tool kit. For each of these tools is the embodiment of a geometric truth. On one level you can know how to use a try square to mark off a line for a saw. On a much deeper level it’s possible to grasp the immutable truth underlying the square and then apply that knowledge across much more than a chunk of lumber.
Our soon-to-be-released book, “Truths to Tools,” is an introduction to artisan geometry. It just might change the way you see your tools and open your eyes to the timeless world of artisan geometry.
— George R. Walker, by handandeye.com
Filed under: From Truths to Tools, Uncategorized
|On the Bench I Saw a Holdfast|
A few years ago I was on a cruise ship and I made it a daily ritual to approach the front desk and complain about something trivial, like a pen that didn't work or something. The patient young lady at the desk was named "Lovely" and she was, always smiling at this funky old man who stood in line to complain about nothing. At the end of a magnificent cruise, just before I left the boat, I approached her one last time.
"Good morning, Mr. Edwards," she smiled pleasantly. "How was your cruise?"
I said, "I want to register a complaint!"
I paused just long enough for her to think to herself, "What is it now?"
Then I said, "There's nothing to complain about!"
In my mind that was funny, but I can understand how she must have been relieved that this was the last time she would have to talk to me. She smiled nicely and said, "I look forward to seeing you again." She was one of the most optimistic and happy people I have ever met.
Life is a process, getting through every day with as little pain as possible and as much pleasure as you can create. If you are happy then the people you meet will be infected with happiness. Life is also a great risk. The only certainty of living is that we will eventually die at some point. Knowing that I will be 70 puts a rather uncomfortable limit on the time left to do the things I need to do.
On the other hand, celebrating the past 50 years of living as a woodworker has been very satisfying and I hope that the rest of my time in this business will continue as much as possible with the same satisfaction.
People I meet often say that I don't look my age. My hair is not grey, my face is not wrinkled, and I am still very physically active. I usually tell them my secret rules for a good life:
Go to bed at 9 and get up at 5. Eat healthy organic food. No alcohol, drugs or tobacco. As little social life as possible. Most importantly, work every day at a job you love. Live with passion.
This year I have been invited to return to Williamsburg as a speaker. They are celebrating their 20th annual Working Wood in the 18th century conference, and the topic is "Workmanship of Risk: Exploring Period Tools and Shops." I am honored to be included. My good friends, Roy Underhill, Peter Follansbee and Don Williams will also be presenting, along with staff members of the Williamsburg cabinet shop and curatorial departments.
For the project we will be discussing an amazing marquetry tool box lid, currently on loan to a museum in England and the property of Jane Rees, a tool historian who lives there.
Her website is: Jane Rees, Photographer and Tool Historian
Jane will be bringing the tool box lid to the conference and she will be discussing its history as well. I look forward to meeting her and listening to her perspective on woodworking tools, many of which I use on a daily basis in my profession. She has been kind enough to send me detailed photographs of the marquetry, and those which I post here are under her copyright protection.
When I "retired" from my career working in High Energy Particle Physics, back in 1973, I made a conscious decision to abandon technology and live, as much as possible, a pre industrial life. Of course I own a car, but I walk to work every day. Of course I own a clock but I never use the alarm. Of course I have a computer but I killed my TV. Of course I have a woodworking shop but I never use power tools. My lumber is naturally air dried over many years.
Early on I was influenced by David Pye, who introduced me to the "Workmanship of Risk" and the "Workmanship of Certainty." Recently I read his book again to prepare for this conference. It still resonates with wisdom and insight.
I have struggled to reduce his philosophical perspective to simple concepts that are more easily transmitted to students who are curious about how I approach my work. There are three elements to working wood: Worker, Material and Tool. The difference between "risk" and "certainty" is in the relationship between these three elements.
In the "Workmanship of Risk" approach the Worker manipulates the Tool against the Work. Using basic hand tools, like a chisel, plane or saw, the Worker learns to control the Tool and takes risks producing the final Work. Learning from his failures the Worker gains a deep sense of pride when the Work is successful.
In the "Workmanship of Certainty" approach the Worker manipulates the Work (material) against the Tool. If the Tool is properly adjusted then the result is certain. Setting a fence on a table saw to 2" produces a 2" board every time. The Worker basically is feeding the Machine. If the Worker wants a better result he purchases a better Machine. Thus consumerism was created by the Industrial Revolution. Bigger, Better and Faster. Also Cheaper!
The pride of ownership replaced the pride of workmanship.
The marquetry tool box lid, which is the centerpiece of this conference, is very interesting. My initial analysis from photos is that it represents several different historic marquetry processes, and was probably made in England around 1800 or so. It shows a worker at the bench, surrounded by his tools and work, drinking a beer. This image is in the center of a sunburst ray of veneer with flowers on the corners and decorative banding around nicely figured crotch mahogany ovals.
I can identify "tarsia geometrica" and "tarsia a toppo" and "tarsia certsonia" and I am researching the images provided by Jane for evidence of "Classic Method" but so far the results are inconclusive. There is also a great deal of tinting and additional decorative lines in both black and brown ink.
I will be producing copies of each of the decorative marquetry elements in this lid for the conference, and the Williamsburg cabinet shop is actually making a full tool box copy to complete the lid.
I can easily relate to the image of the woodworker as executed in the center of the design.
|Working At the Bench|
He is surrounded with the necessary hand tools of his trade: the glue pot and brush, mallet, hammer, planes, drills compass, square, chisels, hand saws and the toothing plane (under the beer.) On the end of the bench he quietly admires the result of his hard work and experience: a decorated tea caddy. Tea caddies of this style were purchased by wealthy clients who could afford the elaborate marquetry decoration shown on this example.
|Put Down the Hammer and Pick Up the Beer|
This worker is dressed in fine clothes, representing a good income and his respected position in the professional trade. He would fit right in with the other workers at the shop in Williamsburg or in any shop in any large city at that time.
His face shows the faint glimmer of a smile. His work is done for the day. He is satisfied with the results. His reward is a tall glass, with a nice head of foam.
Tomorrow he will deliver the tea caddy to the client, and get his well deserved paycheck along with sincere appreciation for a professional job well done.
I’m working on getting Barn the Spoon to come back to Plymouth CRAFT’s Greenwood Fest next June. He’s supposed to be checking his schedule & getting back to me…but he’s probably busy turning the world onto spoon carving. I met Barn last summer when I finally made it over to Spoonfest (the inspiration for our Greenwood Fest) which he & Robin Wood started 6 or 7 years ago. Right away, I knew I like Barn. He’s infectious in a good way. Attending one of these festivals is just an incredible experience. Not everyone can make it of course. Barn has you covered. I just saw an announcement about the American version of his English book Spon. Here’s the blurb about the English version. I can’t imagine how different the American version can be – https://barnthespoon.com/courses-books-gifts/spon-learn-to-carve-spoons-with-barn-the-spoon
But it gets better. Barn and his colleagues at the Greenwood Guild run many courses both in London and Bristol, http://thegreenwoodguild.com/ – “but I’m a long way from there, what do I do?” you ask…
Video. You sign up for Barn’s spoon carving online membership. £7 per month, let’s see – equals $9.51 today. http://thegreenwoodguild.com/protected-content-2/?redirect_to=http%3A%2F%2Fthegreenwoodguild.com%2Fonlinemembership-2%2F
Here is a sample video, mostly about an introduction to the knife.
The ever-expanding video library right now has these categories:
The Basics, Tools & Kit, Knife Grips, Axe Work, How to Carve a Spoon, Tool Sharpening, The 16 spoons, Q&A –
I just checked a couple headings – there’s 8 videos under The Basics; under Knife Grips 9 individual videos. 10 under How to Carve a Spoon. You get the idea, lots of information and more all the time.
Some are 4-5 minutes, some in the 20-25 minute range and several are close to an hour long. If you want an immersion experience with spoon carving, and stay at home – this is it. Watch for his Plymouth CRAFT hat…
This past week I spent an hour talking with Asa Christiana for Thursday’s 360 W/ 360 Woodworking podcast. Thanks for your time, Asa. He’s a former editor of Fine Woodworking Magazine (FWW) who is now running his own gig at Christiana Creative, and he’s the author of the new woodworking book “Build Stuff With Wood” (Taunton Press).
In earlier podcasts, we talked about his book, the concept behind the book and about some of the projects in it (podcast #228 and #230).
Wanting to do something different, I recently went out to visit a few antique shops. I discovered many things wonderous and mundane as is typical. These three are not as they seem and I find them worthy of being shared.
First up is a desk with a secret. I haven’t seen one of these in a while. I’m not sure if it is my declining skill in finding them or there just hasn’t been one to be found. Whichever, here is the desk:
The main drawer bottoms are made of several board that over a few hundred years were not dimensionally stable:
An appropriately handsome gallery:
A lot of wood in the drawer fronts:
Nice prospect door:
Nothing within the prospect:
I reached in to see if there were finger notches to push out the letter boxes on either side of the door. I made a discovery:
An it turns out that the letter boxes come out the back:
There is also a less than obvious drawer above the door:
Next is the deception. This deception might have worked better when young and the doors hung true:
The press is actually an armoire:
And now, the mystery. I speak of this large, two piece press, shelves and drawers:
The upper section is shelved:
Now, here’s the mystery: how do you access the area between the shelves and drawers? Storage space was always at a premium. I do not believe that the builder would have left the space unused. There are rough sawn board internally above the drawers so the space was not intended to be unused.
I don’t think the only access to the space is by lifting off the upper section. The carcass is pinned frame and panel construction so nothing comes off or is hinged.
My only conclusion is the access was gained by lifting out the bottom shelves of the upper section, the top over the lower section being left open. Those bottom shelves did seem loose and not part of the carcass. Inconvenient but workable. I didn’t have the time, patience or chutzpah to try so I don’t know.
Then the question is is it a secret or mystery or just something we don’t know because it is not now in common use?
Picking out the wood for a project always brings with it surprises. How often do we woodworkers mention to people that we are woodworkers and hear the exclamation, “Oh, I love wood!” My own take on this has changed through the years in that at one time it would have been wood that they loved …