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Hand Tools

Devloping My Mortise Alignment Jig

Paul Sellers - Fri, 12/29/2017 - 2:00am

Back in the dim and distant past I found myself struggling with an issue. I’d learned to chop mortise holes parallel to the outer face by rote repetition. With non-through mortises this can be difficult to get perfection in. In my teens I pretty much mastered the technique but most people don’t have what I […]

Read the full post Devloping My Mortise Alignment Jig on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Scandinavian Design

David Barron Furniture - Fri, 12/29/2017 - 1:48am

In my Christmas stocking was this fascinating book, it may be only A5 in size but is 700 pages long with beautifully shot photos. It is sectioned by each country, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland indicating the differences in style between them. Of course there is strong representation of furniture designers, chairs in particular, although I found it all really interesting. I've taken a few shots below to give an idea of the contents, it's a great little book and easy to dip in and out of.

Categories: Hand Tools

Chippendale 300

Pegs and 'Tails - Thu, 12/28/2017 - 7:07pm
Thomas Chippendale: A Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design, 1718-2018 9 February – 9 June 2018, Leeds City Museum, LS2 8BH, UK This exhibition celebrates the life and work of Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779), Britain’s most famous furniture maker. It will be the … Continue reading
Categories: Hand Tools

Booked for the Year

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Thu, 12/28/2017 - 9:30am


One of the biggest fears when you work for yourself is that the work will dry up. You will suddenly go from eating ricotta to ramen. And then you will call Mike Siemsen to get his recipe for “wiener water soup.”

As the last few days of 2017 drop off the calendar, I’m taking stock of the commission work I have booked for the coming year. I am pleasantly surprised at the amount of work I have in the works.

Most of the pieces are what you would expect: a couple Welsh chairs, a tool chest, a Shaker cabinet, some sawbenches, a Roorkee chair and a campaign secretary. But I also received a commission that is a gift for me as a designer.

A young customer asked me to build a chair that would further my work from “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” For the last 12 months I’ve struggled (and failed) to design a staked armchair that I’m happy with for the revised edition of “The Anarchist’s Design Book.” This commission will allow me to take a good three weeks of time to nail down a design that has remained slightly out of my grasp.

So it’s also a gift for anyone interested in staked furniture.

I know there will be lean years ahead. It’s the natural cycle of things. But I plan to fully enjoy every bit of 2018 and make the most of the salad days.

— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools


Accidental Woodworker - Thu, 12/28/2017 - 2:37am
I have a boatload of things to be done, I'm on a mini vacation, all the company has left but I can't work in the shop. I took some pics with the camera and I had to get my wife to look at them because I couldn't make them out. Either could she because she said they were too blurry to see what they were. So along with no work in the shop, I have no pics for today's blog.

It wouldn't have made much of a difference as I don't have much to write about today. I am super close on getting the spokeshave and the rabbet plane done. Being that close to being done and not being able to finish them is incredibly frustrating. A bit ironic that my rehabbing of them caused my eye infections and it's now delaying me getting to the finish line.

I have gone to the shop several times and tried to work but no dice. No see, no work because I inflict enough cuts and nicks on my fingers with good eyesight. I was able to see one tool that I totally forgot to include in yesterday's post.

About 6-7 years ago (?) I went thru a round table building phase. I made 6 round top tables in a row. I had just started to get serious about doing hand tool work and I looked around for a compass plane to plane the tops. I ended up getting a Stanley Victor plane from Patrick Leach.

Before I got this plane I was trying to perfect my round tops with a spokeshave. I wasn't getting good results with it at that time. I switched to a block plane and that worked somewhat but not entirely well. I left a lot of flats and some parts I didn't get square to the top. A sander worked the best but I wasn't thrilled with the look I got. This is where I thought of and bought the compass plane.

The plane I got was in good shape but I never used it. The plane had a problem with the frog being set too far back making the throat too wide. I couldn't loosen the  frog screw that secured it so I could close the throat. By the time I finally got the correct size offset screwdriver, I was done with my round table building phase. The plane got stuck put in the cabinet and forgotten.

I never rehabbed this plane and all I did to it was to sharpen and hone the iron. I don't recall even road testing it. This plane has sat in the cabinet since then. But that may change now because I just watched a rehab video by 'The Plane Collector' today where he did one. I like the before and after looks so I'll be rehabbing mine. He also shows the whole thing taken down to parade rest.

So my Victor compass plane is in a tool category of it's own. I bought it, got it ready to work, and never used it. I'll have to add making another round table to my list of things to be done.

accidental woodworker

trivia corner
Did you know that the apartment number that Sheldon and Leonard (The Big Bang Theory) live in is 4A?

I’ve Learned to Learn, Always!

Paul Sellers - Thu, 12/28/2017 - 2:14am

Perhaps it’s more about learning how to learn I’ve taken many pieces apart, you know, undone them, unpackaged them and spent time dislodging parts by breaking glue lines, dissolving paints and varnishes, band-sawing open joints through and through and my investigations helped me to grow and understand. It’s not just the finished techniques or the […]

Read the full post I’ve Learned to Learn, Always! on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Stanley Burnisher No.185

Journeyman's Journal - Wed, 12/27/2017 - 9:27pm

I’m not sure when Stanley begun the production of these burnishers, but they are an ingenious invention.  The burnisher itself is no different to any other burnisher with one exception and that’s the point on the end that has a 30° bevel.

When you’re burnishing, you may end up rolling the burr and the rolled bottom rides on the timber and doesn’t cut.  Have you noticed that sometimes you have to lean your scraper much further than other times to get it to bite into the wood?  Well, that’s what happens when you roll the burr beyond the 30° angle.  Stanley came up with the idea of grinding a 30° bevelled point on the end of the burnisher.  To use it after the bevel is rolled, you place the pointed end on the end of the burr with the bevel resting against it and lightly pull back along the scraper a couple of times. This pushes the burr slightly upright or back creating a consistent 30° bevel.  As long as you have done all the other necessary steps correctly prior, your scraper will produce shavings and not dust.

Vintage versions can still be found and range from $90-40 or you can buy one from Phil Lowe He makes his own. Burnisher

For me it’s a little pricey and I think I will be making one myself. In the end it may well cost just as much as Phil’s. For the time being, I came up with a little work around. I angled my burnisher to approximately 30° and made a couple light passes and it worked.


I must admit, successfully sharpening scrapers have always been a challenge for me. I’ll sharpen one side spot on and then screw up the other side and never know why it happens. This method won’t resolve your sharpening flaws, but will improve it.  You still must go through the whole sharpening process correctly to achieve good results.

A scraper is a wonderful tool, but often neglected due to the difficulties many people face sharpening it correctly.

Categories: Hand Tools

Veritas plow plane

Oregon Woodworker - Wed, 12/27/2017 - 7:16pm
I have owned this Veritas plow plane for some years: 

It's a great tool.  Like all Veritas products, it is beautifully made with precise machining.  There's a skate, a fence on two shafts held in place with collets, a thumbscrew to hold the blade in, another to hold it down and a third to adjust it.  On the other side is a depth stop held in place with a final thumbscrew.

It's a great tool but, it does have a few issues.  The fence rods fit so tight on mine that it is hard to adjust them accurately, even though they are pristine and lubricated.  I view this is a reasonable price to pay for a fence that stays precisely parallel and deal with it by tapping on the end of the rod or on the fence with a small mallet to adjust the fence.  You have to cinch the thumbscrews down quite tight or they will loosen from vibration during use and this can damage the groove.  Some users complain that the collets don't prevent the fence from slipping but I think this is user error.  Tipping the plane out causes the groove to wander inward, putting a lot of force on the fence and causing it to move.  Finally, there were problems with the depth stop slipping on early models like mine, but Veritas corrected this with a new stop and it doesn't slip.

My initial results with this plane were awful.  The key to using this plane is to keep it precisely vertical all the time and I struggled to do that.  I ran into a great rep from Lee Valley at a show, and he told me to put on a secondary fence.  I did and it really helped.

It turned out that the main advantage of this fence was that it gave me a good hand position.  The key to keeping the plane  vertical is to use your rear hand to push forward ONLY and your side hand to push in ONLY.  For me, the handle is wrong because it is above the fence.  If I just push on it with my palm, I have a tendency to tip the plane over.  Of course, my giant paws don't help.  The auxiliary fence solves this problem for me:

Narrow and/or thin stock presents challenges, so I came up with a jig that I am quite happy with:

By lining the workpiece up precisely with the 1" side of the jig, I am able to keep the plane vertical on thin stock.  For thicker pieces of stock this isn't necessary and standard workholding methods are fine.

I encountered a final issue when working with white oak.  If you are plowing against the grain of the wood, it can tear out along the edge of the groove quite badly.  The best solution, of course, is to buy a left and right hand pair of these planes,  but at $285 apiece that's a little spendy.  Taking very thin shavings at first and using a mortise gauge to sever the fibers on the surface are two ways to address this.

It has always been possible to make narrow rabbets with it but now wider blades are available.  They also now make tongue cutting blades and beading blades in different sizes.  I expect to be trying them in the future.

Categories: Hand Tools

Greenwood Fest instructor Curtis Buchanan

Peter Follansbee, joiner's notes - Wed, 12/27/2017 - 5:32pm

The other day I wrote about Robin Wood coming to teach at Plymouth CRAFT’s Greenwood Fest  – the other “new” instructor is Curtis Buchanan. It’s yet another great pleasure for me to have Curtis come and join us. I met Curtis in 1987 when I was a student in his first class in making Windsor chairs, at Country Workshops.


If you aren’t up-to-speed on who’s who in American Windsor chairmaking, the best Windsors in modern-day America begin with Dave Sawyer of Vermont. It was Dave who taught Curtis back in the early 1980s; and Curtis took what Dave taught him and ran with it. He’s been making chairs now for 35 years or so…and making just the most beautiful chairs you can imagine. He’s taught all over creation; but rarely if ever goes out on the road anymore to work…so it’s an extra treat to get him up to New England.

Part of what Curtis will be doing at the Fest is demonstrating all the steps in making a basic version of one of his fanback chairs. He calls it a “democratic” chair – in that the tool kit is small, and the operations are simple to learn. But don’t think crude – his chairs are graceful and comfortable beyond expectations. I think he said riving tools, drawknife, brace & bit, and a scorp for the seat. Must be a saw in there somewhere…but not much else. I can’t wait to see it happen. He’ll also teach a short session on his 2nd-favorite tool – using the froe. (the drawknife is his first, but we have Pete Galbert repeating some of what he did this year…)

As he’s working, I betcha Curtis will tell some stories too…

Curtis’ website has some video well worth watching http://www.curtisbuchananchairmaker.com/

And this from Jon Binzen of Fine Woodworking – “Anyone who has met Curtis will know that it’s as much fun to listen to him as it is to watch him work.” See the audio slideshow they put together during one of the sessions FWW did with Curtis. I had posted this before and described him as the happiest woodworker I know. And I still feel that he’s wrong in this audio, where he’s says “I’m not the best…” – Nonsense, he’s the best.  – http://www.finewoodworking.com/2014/10/08/curtis-buchanan-windsor-master 

Greenwood Fest will be held in Plymouth Massachusetts – pre-fest courses June 5-7 and the Fest from June 7-10. https://www.greenwoodfest.org/ It will be announced, here and elsewhere – sign up for Plymouth CRAFT’s newsletter to keep up-to-date on Greenwood Fest and our other programming – https://www.plymouthcraft.org/contact 



Hey Schwarz, Are You Chinese?

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Wed, 12/27/2017 - 1:05pm


When you grow in Arkansas with even a hint of a swarthy complexion, you’re going to get bullied and harassed.

When I entered fifth grade at Woods Elementary, my teacher asked me in front of the class if I was Chinese. When I replied, “I don’t think so,” Mr. Williams shrugged his shoulders.

“Dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin and good at math,” he said. “Seems like Chinese.”

The conversation at dinner that night was memorable.

When I made it to Chaffin Junior High School, I had my first brush with anti-Semitism. I’d get clipped in hallways with the wood “heeb” muttered under their breath. I had to honestly look up the word in the library.

There was only one Jewish family in our town, the Wilsons. I was bewildered by the abuse. We were Presbyterian.

At my second job, one of the senior editors kept pressing me on my ethnicity. One day, she declared: “Look, you’re Jewish. So I’m just going to treat you that way.”

So she began wishing me “Happy Hanukkah” and ascribing stereotypical (and racist) personality traits to my behavior. When I’d offer to split the check at lunch, she’d say: “Ha – cheap – just like a Jew.”

That also was the year I began growing a beard, which apparently made things worse. The editor of the magazine asked me to shave it off saying: “You look like an Arab terrorist.”

So to settle these sorts of questions (which also occasionally dog my daughters) I took the Ancestry DNA test earlier this year. All tests have their limits, but until they develop an instant pee test for Jewish, Arab or Chinese, this is what we’ve got.

Here are the results:

Great Britain: 43%
Europe West: 18%
Europe East: 17%
Ireland/Scotland/Wales: 6%
Iberian Peninsula: 7%
Scandinavia: 3%
Europe South: 2%
Caucasus: 1%
European Jewish: < 1%
Middle East: < 1%
Finland/Northwest Russia: < 1%

So you can pretty much insult me using almost any slur (except Chinese) and be correct. This also gives me carte blanche to use both English and Continental woodworking tools.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Personal Favorites, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

This Way Sinners

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Wed, 12/27/2017 - 11:56am


Memory is a damn funny thing. It can be as impossible to hold onto as a handful of water. And yet you can drown in a cup of it.

Today I went to pick up a load of sugar pine for an upcoming tool chest I’m building for a customer and got whacked upside the head by a pointed 19-year-old memory.

Since the closing of Midwest Woodworking a few years ago, I’ve run dangerously low on my stock of sugar pine and didn’t have enough to do the job. Enter Kevin McQueeney, an Indianapolis woodworker who offered to help me purchase a load through his local supplier.

After some back-and-forth, it became obvious that the sugar pine was going to come from Shiels Lumber here in Cincinnati. It’s an old place in the neglected industrial lowlands of the city, about a half mile from the foundry that makes our holdfasts.

Hearing the name Shiels was like waking up from a deep dream. How had I forgotten about this place?

When I started at Popular Woodworking magazine, the first significant project I was permitted to build was an interpretation of Benjamin Seaton’s tool chest. My boss made me change a lot of details so it would be accepted by the magazine’s readership – the corners were assembled with finger joints instead of dovetails, and the interior till had to be simplified.

But despite these compromises, it was a major piece and the first cover project of my career.


The first hurdle with the project was finding white pine that was thick enough for the job. One of the associate editors took me to Shiels, a wholesale yard that is off-limits to retail customers. We loaded up a truck with the pine, and I remember looking up at a weird sign painted on a building that towers over the yard that reads: “This Way Sinners.”

I wondered about the sign 19 years ago. And I had the same sense of wonderment as I loaded my pine today and looked up at the same sign. Thanks to the Internet, I dug up a history of the sign behind the guy who had it painted in 1896. You can read it here. It involves a trip to the Holy Land, a misplaced photograph and hieroglyphics. And the story ends with: “Most salads require a little pinch of salt.”

And the pinch of salt in this story: After 19 years I’m back to building tool chests, buying pine at Shiels and wondering which way this sinner should go.

— Christopher Schwarz

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


The Barn on White Run - Wed, 12/27/2017 - 6:27am

Recently I was reviewing the manuscript for Joshua Klein’s great new book about polymath and furniture maker Jonathan Fisher for Lost Art Press as I had been asked to write the Forward.    The book is an excellent reading and learning experience, and one of the descriptions of Fisher’s day-to-day life caught my particular attention.  In addition to everything else he had to do was the onerous task of obtaining many tons of firewood requisite for each Maine winter.

My friend Bob, who is a lifelong timberman, came for couple hours a few months ago and felled more than a dozen large ailing trees that had been damaged over the years.  His help is incalculably important as I simply do not have the experience necessary to fell very large trees with confidence, while he has felled literally tens of thousands of trees and manages to drop them safely right where they need to go.  Among this year’s prizes was a wonderful old oak with a long, straight trunk, that had been damaged in a storm last winter.  I’ll be splitting and riving that one in a few weeks, I hope.  More about that later.

Sometimes we just go where the trees are, but I am particularly interested in thinning the woods to the south and southwest of the barn to perhaps extend the daylight portion of winter days by an hour or more.  Currently I lose direct light by about 3PM and I aim to push that to 4 or 4:30.  That will be the best I can hope for unless we remove the crest of the hill occupying that space.

Once the trees are on the ground I can then return at my leisure to cut them into bolts and haul them down the hill.  Inasmuch as I have the same objective as Jonathan Fisher, gathering tons of firewood each winter, I am more than delighted that almost a century ago the good folks at Stihl, Dolmar, and Festool worked independently to provide us with what we now have as the modern chainsaw.  Ditto whoever combined a gasoline engine, hydraulic piston, and steel wedge to create log splitters.

With the side crib completely full with a double course of wood and the front porch filled with only a walking path to the front door we are ready for winter.  I’m now working on my firewood pile for next winter with hopes of eventually getting a couple of years ahead.  It’s the mountain way.

What’s ‘Knifewall’?

Paul Sellers - Wed, 12/27/2017 - 5:36am

It’s just a more active word when the two come together; less passive without a hyphenation. I like knifewall because it’s more punchy, but really I like it more because it so describes what I want people to see. It’s 20 or so years old now, not much more. It’s not that I invented its work, more […]

Read the full post What’s ‘Knifewall’? on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

How to Cut a Groove in a Frame By Hand and Without a Plow Plane

Tools For Working Wood - Wed, 12/27/2017 - 4:00am

I own just about every hand tool every invented. My mentor, the late Maurice Fraser, used to say that in the old days you could borrow something from the next bench, but nowadays most woodworkers are on their own. If they don't own the tool, they won't be able to do an operation.

There is truth to this philosophy, but for beginners the idea that you first need to acquire a store's worth of tools before you can do anything is both misleading and discouraging.

When I need to cut a groove, I reach for one of my many plow planes (actually a Stanley 45 - no need to sharpen any of the others). But I was taught a perfectly good method, that is still very applicable for stopped grooves, and pretty fast for anyone who happens not to collect tools like I do.

The most common use for a groove I can think of is holding a panel in a frame and panel construction. Nobody sees the bottom of the groove, which is makes it easier. As long as the groove is at least as deep as needed to hold the panel, the bottom finish isn't critical. On the other hand, usually at least one edge of the groove will be visible next to the panel and unless it is clean, it will truly look awful.

How do I cut a groove without the plow plane? The first step is setting my mortise/combination gauge to slightly larger than the chisel I plan to cut the groove with. It just has to be a touch larger, and since panels are typically angled, you have a lot of leeway with width. I want a little extra width so that I can pare to a clean line (like I did on my mortise). With the combination gauge set, scribe the groove the length of the frame. In this case, I have centered the groove and stopped both ends. With this method, stopping is easy and it saves having to worry about an unsightly gap or plug at the end of the piece. I've also run a pencil line in the scribe lines so that I can see what I am doing.

In a nutshell, here is how to make the groove: Using a regular 1/4" bench chisel I am going to make a series of chisel cuts, none particularly deep, each lifting up a bit of wood. Then, as I do multiple passes, I can easily clear the chips I have raised, and then repeat the procedure to go deeper. I have a tendency to do work in sections as I go in steady progression along the board.

I have found that periodically reversing the chisel and chopping at partially removed chisels helps clear the waste, as does using the chisel parallel to the groove to also break up and clear chips. I have gotten into the habit of using a different narrow or even slightly wider chisels (to chisel parallel to the grooves) to break up waste. I do this primarily because normally I would have to do two rails and two stiles to complete a frame and it saves wear and tear on the main chisel I need. I don't have to stop and sharpen.

When I am done to depth I take a paring chisel - the widest I have available - and slice down at the scribe lines to give me a finished clean edge.

Your first reaction to this method might be that this is a really slow way of doing it. Compared to a plow plane, absolutely. This stile took me about 20 minutes. I could go a faster if I wasn't trying to take pictures, but not much. If you are doing a stopped groove like this and you have a plow plane it might make sense to use this method for the first inch or so at each end of the groove, and then plow the rest. Unless you have a router table, for one small box bottom it might be faster and safer to do the gooves by hand than trying to jig up a router for the grooves.


Accidental Woodworker - Wed, 12/27/2017 - 12:02am
He who has the most tools when he dies wins. I don't think I'm in the top ten but certainly in the top 1000.  Hint: if you leave a boatload of tools behind your wife will be able to finally finance that Bahamas trip. I believe that you can have too many tools and there is a fine line between need and use. Sometimes it is blurred in the buying process.

I can appreciate an old tool as well as anyone else but I am not a collector. I don't see the purpose of having a tool to stick on a shelf somewhere just to look at. I want any tool in my shop to earn it's keep. I try to keep my tools maintained so that when I grab one to use I can put it straight to work. Some tools in my shop get more love than others. But for the most part I think I used every tool I own at least once during the year.

Some tools in my shop never see any use and those would be the portable hand held electron munching ones. I have 7-8 routers that have laid dormant for years along with my collection of router bits. I have a Makita hand held portable planer that I used when I did apartment maintenance. It is in the black hole of tool storage somewhere. It doesn't bother me that these electric tools aren't being used and once I get around to it, I'll sell them. I don't think that I'll ever use them again and I have absolutely no intention of giving them to Miles or showing him how to use them.

There are very few tools that I have bought that I don't use. And I mean I don't even use them once a year. I'm fortunate in that I can only think of two with a possible third. The first one is a butt mortise plane that I bought from Lee Valley.

I bought this to clean and even out tenon cheeks. It has a good chunk of real estate in front of the mouth so I reasoned that I could set the toe on the stock and plane the cheek to the shoulder. I'm sure someone is thinking, "you idiot, use the router plane.....". I had tried the router plane but I was getting tapered cheeks. So rather than improve my technique with the router plane, I thought the butt mortise plane would give me better results.

It was a hit or miss affair. Sometimes I got parallel and sometimes tapered. I found that was mostly  dependent upon the grain direction on the cheeks. Planing at a skew helped but in doing that I lost quite of bit of the registration surface of the stock. In theory I thought it was a good idea, but it turned out to yield so-so results.

This tool now sits in a cabinet and gets no loving and no use. I guess I could use it for it's intended purpose to mortise hinge gains but those I do with a chisel and a router. This is an example of a tool bought but didn't perform as expected. So far I've only bought one like this.

The second tool is an edge tool I got from Lee Valley. I got this tool to square the edges of boards because I was having problems doing that with a bench plane. With time and lots and lots of practice, I finally mastered planing edges square with bench planes. I can now even plane small pieces square with bench planes.

I thought I would use the edge plane for thin edges and small pieces of stock. What I am finding is that I will use whatever plane is out on the bench. The size of what to be planed has proved to be of no consequence. I haven't used the edge plane in a long time but I do recall using it twice this year.

The last tool is a Stanley center finder. (stopped making it in the late 80's) How often do you need to find the center of circle? And this tool will also give a square 90°. I think I used this a few years back but it's been so long that I don't know. This is a tool that I bought when I first started out woodworking in late 70's.

When I buy a tool I usually get for a specific purpose. What I've found is that as my skill level has gotten better I don't use a tool as frequently as I bought it for that purpose. Or I will get another tool as a replacement. My Record 405 is a good example of this. I bought it to do grooves, dadoes, and rabbets. The perfect multipurpose tool that is a clone of the Stanley 45.

I never made a rabbet or dado for a project with it but I did make a lot of grooves with it. I found out that I didn't like the multi-use aspect of it. From using this plane I realized that I like dedicated tools that are made to do one thing but maybe can be used for another.

I have also found out that as my skills have improved, tools I started out with and were my favorite ones to use, aren't so much now. I had a #4 hand plane that I used for everything and I bought a second one because two is better than one. I then bought a 4 1/2 to rehab and it is now my favorite handplane. I keep this one on my workbench with a 5 1/2 and these are my two go to and use all the time hand planes.

I've been through the same love affair same with block planes. I had a LN 60 1/2 block plane that I used almost as much as my #4. I got a LN 102 and it has become my darling. I recently got a used LN low angle adjustable block plane but I still like the nimble and lightness of the LN 102. The LN block planes have been repurposed for large end grain and rough stock work.

I think I've come full circle with the tool acquisitions. I've settled into a routine with the tools I have that matches my experience level. I don't think I need anymore tools. I need to practice and master the tools I have now.  I have long gotten past the internal "Do I really need this....." argument. I am comfortable with what I have to use and I'll get by with them. Having a boatload of tools adds nothing to your ability to work wood with them. Practice and use dictates that.

When I look at my old tool catalogs and see 23 iterations of the same block plane with only minor differences I understand why now. Each of us has our own tastes, preferences, intended uses, and likes and dislikes about tools. I tend to buy tools with function first and looks second. To me the two go hand in hand. Old tools, IMO, are the best for looks and function one package.

I do have one tool that I would like to get. I won't say it would be my last one but it may. I would like to get a Stanley 444 dovetail plane. I find this plane interesting because it cuts the male and female parts of the joint. However, comma/slant/back space/double quotes/questions marks/ the *^#!%)^^#@%(*%$( price of them is more that cost of rocket launch to the moon. So it may be a while before I get one of them.

accidental woodworker

trivia corner
Did you know that the lint that collects in the bottom of your pockets is called gnurr?

Closing the Book

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Tue, 12/26/2017 - 3:19pm


One of my peculiarities is that I try to complete the writing for a book before the close of the calendar year. I believe I’ve been doing this ever since writing “Campaign Furniture.” Maybe longer.

This year is no different. I’ve just completed (yay!) the first draft of “Ingenious Mechanicks: Early Workbenches & Workholding” and am tying up loose ends before I design the book. This week has been about making the construction drawings and reviewing the manuscript for accuracy and poop jokes.

I’m also excited that Suzanne “Saucy Indexer” Ellison is planning on contributing a chapter to this book that ties the workbenches we discovered with their geography and current events during their construction.

I’d also like to say something about this book that will have to be repeated at least 71 times.

This book is not an attempt to get you to burn down your European bench. It’s not trying to make you feel guilty about owning a tail vise. Or having a tool tray. Instead, the goal of this book (and all my books) is to try to expand the world of ideas when it comes to workholding and bench design.

My only true criticism of the ubiquitous European workbench is that it was a virtual monoculture for most of the 20th century. And the reason it became the dominant workbench design is because it is a good design. And it is suited to mass-manufacturing.

The benches and ideas in “Ingenious Mechanicks” seek only to show you what your long-dead ancestors used to build fine furniture for 1,500 years before the advent of the modern bench. These ideas can be adapted to the bench in your shop. They can help you transform a picnic table into a workbench while you are on vacation. Or they can help a poor college student build furniture without a single vise. But mostly, I hope this book will open your eyes to the devilishly clever ways you can make a stick of wood behave.

The research for this book took me all over Europe. And Suzanne spent untold hours in the digital archives of museums all over the world, including China and the countries in the long-neglected South American continent.

We are so close. And my writing cervix is fully dilated. (Um, but it might not be working properly based on that last sentence.) So grab my hand and start breathing in the following pattern (he-he-hoo, he-he-hoo). Nope, definitely not working.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Sorry, I Won’t Make Cheap Crap

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Tue, 12/26/2017 - 12:25pm


Some readers have gritched about our upcoming chore coat. I had to delete a couple of the profane comments (we don’t do profanity here), but the gist of the comments was that the coat is a fancy thing, and it will be expensive.

Here’s my reply: The coat will be exactly the same quality as the books we make and the furniture we build. It will be made in the United States from quality materials. It is designed to last – and is worth repairing if need be. And it is made for work.

Today I received a prototype of the jacket to evaluate the fabric, stitching and the fit. It still needs some tweaks here and there, but we are ready to place the order for the fabric.

We’re shooting for a retail price of $185, and after handling the article I think you’ll find that price a bargain – if you are a rational human being. By that I mean it’s difficult for me to understand people who build quality furniture, use good tools but are perfectly happy wearing things that were made in a sweatshop and won’t last a year. And when these clothes do wear out, they cannot be repaired.

(Conversely, I also cannot understand people who spend huge sums on clothes they wear a few times and then donate to a sketchy charity.)


I own one pair of boots, from Trask. They cost me $225 and were made in the USA but can easily be resoled for $50 – I just picked them up from the cobbler today and they are sporting new Vibram soles. Because the leather uppers are already broken in, these boots are now better than any new pair out there.

I own one rain jacket, a Barbour. I’ve had it since 1997 and have repaired it twice for wear and rips. During the repairs, the factory extended the arms a bit so that my sexy wrists are now obscured from view. Again, any new jacket would be a downgrade.

If you don’t like our chore coat, don’t buy it. We’re fortunate that we have choices in our market economy. But don’t call it expensive or fancy because that’s just ignorant and thoughtless.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Mark Wedekind Side Table Class

Alaska Creative Woodworkers Association - Tue, 12/26/2017 - 12:23pm
The Woodworkers are pleased to sponsor a class with Mark Wedekind to build the table pictured below.  This will be a five day intermediate level class and will use both power and hand tools.  You can check out Marks work at   www.BlackstoneDesign.com  And on Facebook at    www.facebook.com/BlackstoneDesign   Please contact Charles Sappah   gqpunk@yahoo.com  or 907-231-1279 to sign up.  Class will be limited to 10 students.   When: February 15-19, 2018 Cost: $500   Payment is required at signup 

My kind of problem

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Tue, 12/26/2017 - 8:36am

Boxing Day, 2017, 7:48 a.m.

Good morning, Nancy.

An issue has emerged concerning the counter top. As currently configured, the counter top will cover the dishwasher control panel. The dishwasher needs to move about 3 inches out from under the counter top. Please suggest a time when we can have a telephone conversation.

There’s nothing like getting up the day after Christmas to news of a work-related problem.

Being the kind of person whose first response to such communiqués is anxiety, I immediately go through a systematic reality check.

1. Look: Pull up the snapshot of the island where the dishwasher door is visible. Check: The door is protruding from the adjacent cabinets exactly as it should. (A bit of advice: Take progress shots, especially when working on jobsites. It’s especially helpful to be able to look at a picture on your phone when your jobsite is an hour’s drive away.)


2. Think: Who installed the dishwasher? The clients’ builder, who installs them all the time. Check: The installation is probably correct, though I won’t stop worrying until I know for sure.

3. Think some more: Is there really a problem? Don’t the overwhelming majority of dishwashers get installed under counters? Don’t you think a global leader in dishwasher design such as Bosch would have planned for this? That does make sense; you probably program the controls with the door open, then shut it. (Full disclosure: We don’t have a dishwasher. I prefer to use those 12 cubic feet of space in our small kitchen for storage.) Still, I won’t stop worrying until I know for sure.

4. Google “Bosch top of door controls dishwasher.” While installation manual is downloading, do a quick search of email records. Did I advise them to buy this dishwasher, in which case I should have known of any unusual installation requirements? No. The only relevant communication was in October, when my clients told me they were looking seriously at dishwashers. And there it is, on page 37: “Note: With hidden controls, the door must be opened before changing settings and closed after changing settings.”

5. Reply to client, adding that if I’ve misunderstood the nature of the problem, I will be glad to talk by phone. Press “send” and hope the problem is resolved.

6. Relief:

Yes, now we see how the dishwasher works, have reread the manual and are relieved to see that our concerns were unfounded. We both apologize for our confusion!! So sorry to start your day with unnecessary worries!!

7. Schedule appointment with mental health professional. Oh, wait. I don’t have one.

Happy holidays!

–Nancy Hiller, author of Making Things Work


Festive fruit bread (a hybrid of “French fruit braid,” “Easter tea ring” and “Stollen” from Cordon Bleu: Baking, Bread and Cakes (B.P.C. Publishing, 1972)

Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

new vs old......

Accidental Woodworker - Tue, 12/26/2017 - 2:02am
The old saying is that they don't make them like they used to.Some will say it is best that they don't make them like they used to. Others will state that today's better materials and manufacturing processes make a superior project. I am kind of  in the latter camp. I also think that old or new, the technology available at the time does not necessarily dictate how well a product is made.

Take old saws and saws being made today. For the most part older saws have thicker saw plates and the saws of today have thinner plates. Could it be that the older saws had thicker plates due to the manufacturing processes available then? Good research topic for sure but I am dealing with the actual saws themselves. Not how they were made or what they were made from. But before that......

Normally I would have spent some time in the shop in spite of it being xmas time, but I have been way laid. I have an infection in both of my eyes and it is too difficult to see to do woodworking. I know because I tried and gave up before I screwed something up.

I think I know what cause the infection this time and the last infection I got  last week. I was sanding the planes and getting the dust from it on my fingers. Without thinking I rubbed my eyes with my dirty fingers and paid the price. So it'll be a few days before I get back to doing any woodworking. But I've been thinking of saws a lot lately and I can blow some hot air about that.

two old thick plate saws
I had originally bought these saws for Miles's toolbox. The top one is a carcass saw and the bottom is a dovetail saw. Miles's didn't get these two and I bought him others. I kept these because they impressed the crap out of me. Up to this point I had been using LN saws for all my needs but that changed after road testing these.

thick plate dovetail and carcass saw
I had a couple of surprises with the carcass saw especially. This saw is roughly the same size as the LN carcass saw I have but the similarities end there. This saw is a bit heavier, much, much stiffer, and I think it cuts better. Hands down my control with this older saw is way better than what I do with the LN carcass saw.

I'm not saying the LN saw is garbage, far from it. I learned how to saw by hand with it. I am still using it but it has been supplanted by a large margin with this older saw. I have found that the thicker plate gives me a better of control with keeping the attitude of it at 90° as I saw. Both saws are sharp so they are both dead even in that department.

LN carcass and dovetail saws
Using the the older carcass feels the same as a wearing a pair of well worn in socks. They fit, don't bind, aren't the best looking, but you reach for them if you see them in the drawer. This saw is giving me a warm and fuzzy the same as the socks do.

thick plate carcass saw (top) and LN carcass saw
After using the thick plate saw, I can see that I struggle a bit with the thinner plate ones. It takes more concentration and effort on my part to saw square with a thin plate saw. It isn't as easy to correct an errant thin plate saw cut neither.

The exception to the thick plate love affair is the thin plate dovetail saw. For all other cuts at the bench I now prefer the thicker plate carcass saw but for dovetails I like the thinner plate. I like the thin kerf that I get with the thin plate dovetail saw. With the thicker plate one, I find it easier to saw the tails and stay parallel to my layout lines. The downside is a kerf twice the width of the the LN thin plate dovetail saw.

LN dovetail has horn damage

underneath look is worse
I have a replacement tote that LN sent to me but I have yet to replace it. I had been struggling a bit with dovetailing before I broke this and after the break, everything fell into place for me. I wasn't making Paul Seller looking dovetails, but they were finally decent looking ones for me. I haven't replaced it because I think it will bring bad luck to me. Irrational I know but right after I dropped the saw and did this damage, I started to see a big improvement in my sawing dovetails.

For the time being I'll continue to use the thick plate saws at the bench and the LN for dovetailing. I am going to try out the thick plate dovetail saw on the next shop project that needs dovetails.

accidental woodworker

trivia corner
Did you know that Albert Kaufmann invented the electric jigsaw (called the Lesto Jigsaw) in 1947?


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