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Paul Sellers

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A Lifestyle Woodworker
Updated: 1 hour 21 min ago

Questions Answered – Router Bevels Reversed

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 12:29pm

I thought that this was an interesting question and would help everyone better understand some added complexities for all edge tools actually. It’s a well thought through question and Ed is a friend of mine.

Letter from Ed



I was going to post this on your blog, but was afraid it might confuse someone and lead to disaster, so I’ll just put it in an email:

I’ve always wondered why a router plane bladed couldn’t be sharpened “upside down.”  That means, have the top of the blade flat (no bevel) and put the bevel on the bottom, which one sharpens by mounting the blade in the router flush with the base and moving the router over a stone as if trying to rout the stone. Yes, this would give zero relief angle, but since the router is really acting like a paring chisel, why wouldn’t this work? You’d always come out parallel to the sole, which would be good for accuracy.




It’s a mega amount of work for little change. It’s really not a problem to hone the bevel of a regular router but you need to set it up first and so I wrote this blog to address the issue. Firstly, you are right, putting the bevel on the underside would work fine but not really without relief. One key problem I see is that most often out intent is to put say a 30-degree bevel on a cutting edge but often add a few degrees unintentionally when and if we strop. That’s enough to put the heel before the toe and so negate the cutting edge from actually reaching the wood and causing the bevel to more ride the wood rather than cut. This is a very common problem with 151-type spokeshaves too, by the way.

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With regards to relief. With the best intentions in the world a paring cut just will not happen. When you sharpen any edge tool, the immediate response of the tool edge to the wood is a minute, most often indiscernible fracture right along the fragile edge. This thin line of broken edge happens almost without pressure, but, regardless, the edge does edge fracture. At this stage the edge fracture is very long and narrow and the edge is still sharp enough to cut wood. Subsequent edge fracture continues throughout further and subsequent use and eventually you must sharpen up again.

We tend to see the edge as being worn away like water washes over rocks but that’s not only what happens. The edge does indeed fracture into ever increasing sized craters and this is what the dulled edge really becomes. That being so, the two faces forming the cutting edge are now jaggedly cratered rather than the crisp arête. This then is the reason we inevitably elevate a chisel to compensate for edge fracture on the flat surface edge after only a few minutes of use depending on the wood being worked and the way the chisel itself is worked in the wood also.

Routers are really worked hard in much of the work and the more you can get in prep work from the chisel the easier it will be on your router, it’s cutting iron and of course the less sharpening you will need to do to the router cutter too. Now, that said, there is no reason a steeper top flat cannot replace the bevel and a relief of say a few degrees put to the underside. The Preston and Veritas routers both have a shallower presentation to the underside of the cutter so that would be just fine. Just as an aside and another note of interest that somewhat proves my theory is that if you take one light pass, even the lightest pass, along and on the tips of saw teeth as if slightly topping or jointing  the teeth with a flat file, the saw just will not cut at all. Even though the meeting edges are indeed sharp, without the relief of a back bevel they don’t cut.

The post Questions Answered – Router Bevels Reversed appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Are We Obsessing About Sharpening Edge Tools?

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 12:36pm

I have come to the conclusion that we went through a phase of several decades where people were trained to follow a sort of legality leading to almost obsessing over sharpening without fully realising the criteria we should be perhaps aiming for. As a young apprentice my mentoring craftsman would repeatedly say, “Sharpen up, lad!”, throughout any given day. I dutifully sharpened up on two stones to around 600-grit and got back to task after stropping the burr from the edge on the palm of my hand. My plane never faltered, protested or chattered and the work I did became more and more acceptable through the years. Today I sharpen to higher levels of fineness and encourage others to do the same. That said, I don’t think I am obsessive so much as practical and my practical knowledge comes from my work, not what someone told me or wrote about or showed on a film. My sharpening levels developed through fifty years of sharpening 20-30 times in a day. Evolutionary sharpening has left me knowing my work gets done in a practical way and now it is unlikely that I will change.


We live in a woodworking culture of much head knowledge that has less and less of an application to real life and that might mean real woodworking too. We live in a culture where the shaving has become as much if not more the goal and not the levelled surface or the finished adjustment to the wood being planed. This can lead to a strange and artificial culture that has less a link to working wood as a job or to getting the actual job done in a timely order. My thought is that most people may not be aware that this changes the dynamism of woodworking because they don’t actually work wood for a living but more because they love working wood, using the tools and stretching themselves in spheres of productive craft work that gives them results in seeing something made. My thought though is this. This is all acceptable. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying seeing shavings ripple and rise from the throat of a plane. After fifty years of daily doing this I still enjoy these gifts to my work that are indeed priceless. The point in this article and the ones yet to follow are more to address any imbalanced perceptions people have as a result of magazine articles, catalogue companies and online information that often more distort reality than serves it. 


What would you do if I told you that your sharpened edge taken to say 15,000-grit quickly deteriorates in minutes only of use to perhaps the much lower level of under 1,000. The reality is that most woodworkers using hand tools work with chisel and plane edges at this level most of the time. The tools still cut effectively and acceptably for a long time once this level occurs. At this level the edge is strong and degrade speed much diminished. The greatest edge fracture occurs immediately after sharpening when the tool is offered to the wood and the cutting edge is at its thinnest and thereby most fragile.

I have tested new steels and have generally ended up with disappointing results. Someone wrote to me questioning the validity about the Aldi chisels being made from a chrome vanadium steel and said that his chrome vanadium chisels did not take and hold a good edge. DSC_0006 DSC_0004 DSC_0003He then went on to ask if high end chisels really offered a better option, naturally basing his assumption on his personal chisels, non Aldi chisels, deteriorating straight away. Aldi chisels, I can assure anyone, truly hold their sharp edge as well as any high end chisel I ever used and better than any UK maker I have come across to date. This not what people want to hear, I know, but the reality is right here in the everyday of working. This past 10 days we had a classful of students using many chisels each made for Aldi supermarkets and the edges gave perfect service hour by hour. Are they my favourite chisels? No, not really, but I would not choose the tested high-end chisels from my research for their name thus far but firstly for their edge retention and service, balance in the hand, and further functionality. Aldi’s take some beating. Whereas It would be good to expect a higher priced tool to give better results, longevity and so on, more and more the reality is shifting. Many European makers have accepted deterioration in their standards of production and quality of manufacture, in many cases relying on past reputations of founder owners rather than their individual responsibility to hold to standards they set. That being the case, they surely forfeit any rights to unearned loyalty and support. This far I have tested 5 different sets of UK-made chisels made by current makers and none of them match the standards set by their forebears. Edge fracture and crumple has been common to them all within a few minutes of use. Most of the chisels I use from the late 1800s and early 1900s never fail through the same results and so too the Aldi chisels. The proof of the tool is in the use on the bench, the problem is you have to buy the tool to test it out, but you can always send them back if you find what I am saying is indeed true.

More to come on this shortly.

The post Are We Obsessing About Sharpening Edge Tools? appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Routing the Past Developments

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 9:44am

DSC_0092In the process of answering the question on pointed router cutters we continued on to undo any misunderstandings surrounding these essential planes. The plane remains one of the most essential tools for hand tool woodworkers and woodworking. The poor man’s router of course leaves you fully equipped should you need one not costing a fortune and not own one, but adjustability of depth of cut provides an added advantage and of course it’s often here that legalists try to lay down the law with regards to which one everyone should buy. I looked through my routers and counted around 20 before I stopped. The school itself takes up half of those so I don’t feel bad at all. DSC_0063 DSC_0079I have bronze ones and brass ones, Preston and Tyzaks, Records and Stanleys and then wooden home mades and manufactured wooden ones made by planemakers of the past. Some you tweak-pinch with your fingertips and tighten with brass wing nuts and then others have micro-adjusters with screw stems and knurled nuts. Those I don’t own I have used at some point or at least tried. Fact is, I love router planes and can’t imagine life without them.

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Modern makers have for the main part taken the basic shape of the old Stanley #71 and might be forgiven for then distancing themselves from creating an actual copy by changing some small features. The footprints of almost all the cast and engineered models is almost identical in shape and size and thereby are essentially the same as the old Stanley #71 and the Record #071. DSC_0080I have not found tighter tolerances in engineering to be of any great advantage, in fact, oftentimes the ‘stuck’ factor can be a little annoying and this is often due to those diminished margins. It’s a small thing to take a file and  fettle whatever’s needed. DSC_0083One router I like the most is the  Preston router of old, which was also made for a few years by Tyzak. I like the extra size of the platen and the positioning  and overall height of the  knobs, which gives optimal inline thrust directly at beside and at cutting iron level. That’s not too helpful because the prices have gone through the roof on eBay and anyone in bronze casting could make good money if they were to take that plane and replicate it. DSC_0010 DSC_0011 DSC_0008As can be seen here, almost all of the metal cast routers old and new use the Stanley mechanism which is a screw-threaded adjusting screw (C) that stands up from the cutter post (D) that then holds a knurled adjusting screw (C). Depending on the maker, the adjusting screw fits into a recess in the cutter (N) that lifts and lowers the cutting iron to the depth needed. A collar surrounding the whole assembly locks the iron to the cutter post. Dead simple and very effective. Until you get used to all metal routers they can seem a little awkward and especially so when it comes to loading the cutting iron into the collar and locating it into the screw nut adjuster, but you get used to it and so you load it more readily.

DSC_0010The Preston router presents the cutter to the wood from a square shank facing squarely to the work forward and so too both of the Lie Nielsen routers. More clearly, the stem of the cutter is square on and slots into vertical, forward-facing channels in the cutter post. This works fine as long as there is no slop in the engineering and of course Lie Nielsen are known for their tight engineering tolerances in making tools. My Tyzak has a little lateral play in the channel and though when locked it is immoveable, I must be conscious not to allow the cutter to misalign to the sole as this leads to slight steps in recesses I might be cutting as I move the plane across from side to side cuts. For dadoes this would generally be fine, but for inlays and such, where unevenness telegraphs through the thin veneer, it would not be acceptable. This leads me to a development in the Stanley version I think many might not see or understand at first glance. Veritas saw it and adopted it in their design. DSC_0017 DSC_0022 DSC_0086The cutting irons in the Record and Stanley models presents the stem of the cutter at 45-degrees and the advantage of this is the automatic locking of the corner of the cutter into a channel that always ensures a vertical alignment of the stem and thereby guarantees that the underside of the cutting iron, when sharpened accurately, aligns parallel to the sole of the plane. In the same way as fettling a regular plane iron or chisel needs flattening and polishing out only once, so too the cutter for the router. Any subsequent sharpening is usually done on the bevel alone. Working the bevel evenly and carefully presents the cutting iron parallel to the surface and it’s here that I would stress the value of taking care not to tilt the iron on the bevel as this alters the alignment of the very cutting edge in its presentation to the surface of the wood.

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It stands to reason that you cannot present the cutter to the work without a relief on the underside of the cutter. If the underside were level it would ride the surface of the wood. Stanley and Record have quite an angle here. DSC_0071 DSC_0065 2 DSC_0059Others are less.

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Because of the relief, the front cutting edge of the cutter is affected by the top bevel of the cutter, so too much tilt lifts or lowers one side of the actual cutting edge. If we could present the underside of the cutter squarely and parallel to the underside of the plane to the surface of the wood we could skew all we want  and not affect the presentation.

The best way to level the top bevel of the cutter is to start with the underside of the cutter first. Load the cutter into the plane and set the iron as close to level with the sole. We want a fractional protrusion of a thou or so. Though it is not necessary at all, if you are bothered that the surface could be marred, and mine have never been thus affected straight on the abrasive, use masking tape to cover the sole as a barrier if it worries you. Or you could put card stock on the abrasive too.

Here I first offered the plane blade to the wood so that I could check for the alignment of the blade to the sole. You can see that the blade takes a deeper cut on the right.


I now take the plane and place it carefully on the abrasive plate, in this case diamonds, and swivel it lightly on the surface.


The goal is to provide a registration face to the underside of the cutter, just to use the light from abraded steel to act as a guide and not so much to reshape it unless it has been badly shaped before. As soon as the iron traces the abrasive, lift it from the surface and look at the underside of the cutter. A white line should appear on the cutter right by the cutting edge. If the line is narrow and parallel, the cutter is aligned well and presented correctly and all further sharpening and remedial work can be carried out. Notice in the picture above that the white lines of abraded metal reflect out of squareness in two directions. The actual cutting edge and the new minor bevel we created. This means that somewhere between these two lines is the square across point we want to abrade to.


Placing the underside on the abrasive will now flatten the surface dead flat and this can be polished out to say 800-grit.


Now it’s looking square.


Once this is done you must work on the top bevel only and it will not usually be necessary to work on the underside ever again. The top bevel is always awkward but holding the blade sideways and rubbing the bevel along the abrasive plate now refines the bevel and you can sharpen to any level you prefer. DSC_0032Most router work can be finished at 800-grit even for the finest work.


Testing out after this work is simply a question of working it on the surface if the wood.


Adjustment by adjusters and tap tapping

With regards to mechanical adjusters, it is always assumed that improved engineering and mechanical adjusters improved our lot, but more and more my experience has proven this not be true.

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Mechanical threads do ease adjustment but pinched adjustment on some more primitive routers work just fine too.


You can pinch to a thou easily and in actuality I find they are equal to more elaborate routers.

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The router referred to disparagingly as the ‘old woman’s tooth’ or ‘hag’s tooth’ is a router that houses a plough plane iron instead of a purpose made shoe-type cutting iron. Above is the one I first used as an apprentice and through my journeyman years. They work fine but rarely give the type of clean surface we might want for veneer inlay and so on. These are adjusted by the same hammer-tap tapping method used generally on wooden-bodied planes on the iron or plane body. These too are effective and practical in general carpentry and joinery.

The post Routing the Past Developments appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Added Schematic Drawing for Stanley #71 Router

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 12:01pm

Both modern-day makers of the router plane, Veritas and Lie Nielsen, sized their planes to the same or similar footprint of the Stanley  #71 and Record 071 plane. Both makers omitted including the depth rod accessory and adjustable shoe for attaching to the arched front of the plane as in the early make of the plane prior to 1900. Obviously the original maker felt that there was an important enough need for this in the improved model so you may want to consider this when you are looking for a hand router. I have used both types without problems but I do like the depth gauge rod for different applications from time to time and also the ability to use the adjustable shoe for the edges of boards and such. Lie Nielsen offers a flat soled router plane and the split soled model emulating the Stanley version of the 71, but of course this means buying two models. Its easier to add the wooden sole and of course costs almost nothing whichever plane or maker type you buy. Having said that, there isn’t provision for screwing a wooden sole to the plane but I surmise that you could use the slot used for adjusting the fence. I would use cheese- or dome-head setscrews and thread the wooden board to do this.

The repeat of the text from the Stanley #71 Router pamphlet from my previous blog yesterday is added because I reproduced a drawing with keys to identify the components parts to the plane.

Stanley router plane No 71

For surfacing the bottom of grooves or other depressions parallel to the surface of the work. There are many applications in pattern making, cabinet work and in fact almost all kinds if woodworking that call for these tools.They are particularly practical for routing dadoes for shelves, stair stringers or where pieces of hardware are to be recessed into the surface or edge of a board, such as large hinges or lock strikes, etc. It is not possible to show all these, but the user will discover places where the tools will prove their value.

CUTTERS-Cutters are made of high grade quality steel and are hardened and tempered. The shanks of the cutters are graduated in 1/16ths for 1″ which makes it possible to reverser for duplicate work and for approximate depth adjustments. Three cutters (N) are furnished, 1/4″ and 1/2″ router cutters and a (3 piece) “V” or smoothing cutter. Cutters are adjustable and depending on type of work can be held on front and back of cutter post (D) by means of clamp (H) and clamp thumbscrew (G).

VERTICAL ADJUSTMENT OF CUTTERS-To adjust cutter to desired depth, loosen thumbscrew  (G), turn adjusting screw nut (B) up or down on adjusting screw (C), and tighten thumbscrew.

SHOE-A shoe (F) for closing the throat is provided for use on narrow work if a closed throat is practical and is fastened to depth gauge rod (A) by means of the shoe thumbscrew (E).

DEPTH GAUGE ROD-This rod (A), fastened by means of thumbscrew (O), may be used to control the depth of each cut, preventing the cutter from taking an excessive cut which would be inconvenient. For example, a cut 1/16″ deep can be cut repeatedly while still allowing the cutter to be set for the final depth of cut. One end of the rod is of small diameter for following in a small groove.

FENCE-An adjustable fence (L) is provided for use where the cutter is to run parallel to an edge. One side of the fence is designed for straight work while the other side is for curved work. Fence may be fastened to either left or right side of working face of plane bottom (K) by means of fence fastening screw and washer (M).

KNOB-The two hardwood knobs (J) are fastened to plane bottom by means of knob bolt and nut (I).

Schematic of Stanley #71 Router plane.


Router plane on wide housing.


The photo shows how to rout openings wider than the plane bottom (should read wider than half the plane bottom). The attachment of a flat board to the plane bottom is the simplest way to span large openings. The plane bottom is provided with screw holes for attaching such boards as necessary.


Here is shown a common job in home construction where this plane can be used – routing the stringer for the step and riser of a staircase. The other pictures show a stopped dado and a routed shape for an inset.

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The post Added Schematic Drawing for Stanley #71 Router appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Unpacking the #71 Router – Last Post Part III

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:54pm

DSC_0128 - Version 3Unpacking the hand router is always a favourite of mine because the tool is one of the most essential tools in hand tool woodworking. Routing recesses and levelling the reception areas for inlays can be almost impossible without them and they far exceed recessing with power routers when it comes to personal and project safety. Let’s plummet the depths a little more at the attributes of the #71 (same as Record #071) hand router developed by Stanley Tool and Level in the last two decades of the 1800s.DSC_0129

Today I worked to give better examples of the tool in use, to show a little more of its substantial merit in the trade for nigh on 130 years. Running the two makers, Stanley and Record (of old), side by side you quickly see that these tools are essentially the same and even some of the parts are interchangeable between the makers. Not all the threads on the set and thumbscrews are the same so watch for that if you are buying to add to an opposite maker.

DSC_0079Chiseling out recesses becomes very accurate with a hand router and of course it’s as fast if not faster than setting up power routers for most operations outside of making a thousand.

In this situation I use the router on the wooden base board to to delineate the depth for a hinge recess.

DSC_0061By using the flap of the hinge as the definitive depth directly to the router blade I can get pin point accuracy right from the start. DSC_0067I then mark the depth directly onto the wood in between the width lines that show the position of the hinge.



After that I chisel the knife wall at the hinge width to deepen the walls and then adjust the depth of cut in the router to remove the waste in incremental depths of about 1mm (almost but not quite 1/32”).

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The recess is ultra smooth and within one thou of an exact overall depth. Translate this into inlay recesses and you start to understand the real value (and safety) in using the hand router and with the wooden sole attached it feels the same advantage all wooden planes have over all metal ones but with the added micro adjustment that makes the work dead-on accurate. Above you can see the steps in hinge recessing with the router.

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I created a double-depth recess on this one within four knife walls and then a hardware recess of the type you might use for extra support for strength.


Chiseling the bulk of the waste saves too much setting and resetting and gets you to final depth very quickly.

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The original Stanley Tool pamphlet that came in the box with the tool is given lastly below, but I added ital and colour for clarity between my work and Stanley. You can work out the parts by the visual look at the pictures. In the pamphlet Stanley have coded the text with Capped letters.

In my last blog on this I talked of the spanning of areas wider than half the plane worth to rout out wider indentations that would otherwise be more difficult. If the cutting iron is well prepped the surface recessed will be as smooth as a planed surface.


For tenons the hand router beats even the shoulder plane for accuracy and smoothness.

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Here you can see the exactness of the surfaces and the alignment with the gauge lines. I have been making a table alongside the class today and all of my tenons look like the one shown and all are interchangeable with the same tightness of fit.


Here is a feature not to obvious at first. Using the back our outboard face of the blade mount gives more access into otherwise inaccessible areas bullnose fashion as in this recess were it up against another board.

Wording from the original Stanley pamphlet accompanying the #71 router plane:

Stanley Router Plane No 71

For surfacing the bottom of grooves or other depressions parallel to the surface of the work. There are many applications in pattern making, cabinet work and in fact almost all kinds if woodworking that call for these tools.They are particularly practical for routing dadoes for shelves, stair stringers or where pieces of hardware are to be recessed into the surface or edge of a board, such as large hinges or lock strikes, etc. It is not possible to show all these, but the user will discover places where the tools will prove their value.

CUTTERS-Cutters are made of high grade quality steel and are hardened and tempered. The shanks of the cutters are graduated in 1/16ths for 1″ which makes it possible to reverser for duplicate work and for approximate depth adjustments. Three cutters (N) are furnished, 1/4″ and 1/2″ router cutters and a (3 piece) “V” or smoothing cutter. Cutters are adjustable and depending on type of work can be held on front and back of cutter post (D) by means of clamp (H) and clamp thumbscrew (G).

VERTICAL ADJUSTMENT OF CUTTERS-To adjust cutter to desired depth, loosen thumbscrew  (G), turn adjusting screw nut (B) up or down on adjusting screw (C), and tighten thumbscrew.

SHOE-A shoe (F) for closing the throat is provided for use on narrow work if a closed throat is practical and is fastened to depth gauge rod (A) by means of the shoe thumbscrew (E).

DEPTH GAUGE ROD-This rod (A), fastened by means of thumbscrew (O), may be used to control the depth of each cut, preventing the cutter from taking an excessive cut which would be inconvenient. For example, a cut 1/16″ deep can be cut repeatedly while still allowing the cutter to be set for the final depth of cut. One end of the rod is of small diameter for following in a small groove.

FENCE-An adjustable fence (L) is provided for use where the cutter is to run parallel to an edge. One side of the fence is designed for straight work while the other side is for curved work. Fence may be fastened to either left or right side of working face of plane bottom (K) by means of fence fastening screw and washer (M).

KNOB-The two hardwood knobs (J) are fastened to plane bottom by means of knob bolt and nut (I).

Drawing of schematic of plane here.

Drawing of plane on wide housing here.

The illustration shows how to rout openings wider than the plane bottom (should read wider than half the plane bottom). The attachment of a flat board to the plane bottom is the simplest way to span large openings. The plane bottom is provided with screw holes for attaching such boards as necessary.

Drawing of options for use, plane and plane parts and assembled plane here.

Here is shown a common job in home construction where this plane can be used – routing the stringer for the step and riser of a staircase. The other piece shows a stopped dado and a routed shape for an inset.

The post Unpacking the #71 Router – Last Post Part III appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Aldi UK Has 4-Set Chisels in Stock

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 1:15am

The now famous four-piece Aldi chisels are in stock and made to the usual standard with wooden handles. Usually they sell out in a few days but you won’t regret having a set or two of these chisels in your chisel collection of users. Still selling for just under £8 (per set not per chisel) you have a lifetime chisel set that will serve you for years to come. We have used over a hundred of the snow for five years and never broken one. They take and hold a keen edge which cannot be said for some of the high end makers these days. 8mm (5/16″), 12mm (1/2″), 18mm (11/16″) and 24mm (15/16″).

The post Aldi UK Has 4-Set Chisels in Stock appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

More on Router Planes – Part II

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 1:36pm

Part II

DSC_0128The 071 or 71 router plane has several uses but the primary use of this specialised plane is to guarantee the depth of different types of recesses. It’s the essential tool of hand tool users and surface trims just about everything from inlay recesses to housing dadoes and levelling depths of sliding dovetails and the cheeks of tenons.

The tool comes with additional accoutrements as you can see above, enabling different functions for the plane’s use. DSC_0095The fence fits to the underside of the plane and is two-ended. One end of the fence piece gives a parallel squarely rectangular edge to the fence and the opposite side end a two-point contact fence that facilities turns on the edge of curved work. The fence is adjustable and locks into two square grooves running each side of the blade along the sole. DSC_0106Loosening and tightening the setscrew into the sole secures the fence for use. It’s best to use the fence when running the blade along a narrower recesses to keep the plane square and parallel to the wall of the work if necessary.DSC_0089

Because of a horseshoe shape in the sole that splits most of the forepart of the sole into two halves the plane sole is effectively useless on narrow sections of wood. On such narrow work, with no fore part before the blade, running grooves trips the plane forward because there is nothing to stop the plane from tilting in the direction of the cut when the cutting edge of the blade grabs the wood. Stanley developed an additional unit that locks a post stem into the body of the plane which then holds a shoe to align an auxiliary section level with the sole to fill in the gap between two halves of the sole.


This piece then rides the edge of the board along with the flat of the rear of the plane. DSC_0093In addition, the depth rod that holds the shoe can be used alone inside a groove to align the blade and prevent the cutter from digging into the walls whilst at the same time restraining the plane from digging any deeper than  fractional increments. This effectively works as an additional sole depth guide for grooved work and the rod itself has two diameters, one for wider grooves and one for narrow ones.DSC_0085

We often use both the fence and the depth rod and shoe in conduction with one another to ensure accuracy in the work. The depth rod used alone can follow the rim of inlay recesses to guide the narrow cutter or the smoothing cutter around shaped work too.

Adding a Wooden Sole

It’s quite common to add a wooden sole for general work because sometimes the metal sole on wood tends to mare the surface of the material being worked. DSC_0127Wood on wood works best and makes the sole smooth and free of fence grooves, screw holes and so on that tend to grab shavings that can further mar the surface of the work too. When working wide recess areas, wider than half the plane sole width, we use an auxiliary sole to extend the base so that the router plane can traverse the surface area and be used to trim the recess perfectly to depth. Making an additional sole piece also enables us to use the plane without the additional shoe on narrower work (Pic above). The plane operates more smoothly with the wooden sole.


To make the wooden sole choose section of wood  12mm (1/2”) thick and to a size that suits the task in hand. DSC_0112Bore two holes 1” in diameter  38mm (1 1/2”) on centre and remove the excess with a rasp or chisel.


Screw the base to the sole of the plane by passing screws through the sole into the base piece.

Sometimes, often, router planes bought secondhand have lost the parts you need to have the plane fully functioning. Adding the wooden sole means you can also screw fences or guides to the sole. This also works well.

The post More on Router Planes – Part II appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Questions Answered – What Are Pointed Blades for on Router Planes

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:25pm


Hi Paul,

I have a question. I noticed when you use your hand router, from what I’ve seen anyway, you’ve always used a cutter with a square cutting edge. Some router cutters come to a more pointed edge and I wondered why you don’t use those? And what are they used for? Wouldn’t using one with a pointed edge be a bit risky when finishing off like a housing dado because I figured the edge could cut into the walls of the joint. I don’t know why I was curious about this but I was. Felt like one of those if-it’s-not-broke-don’t-fix-it things to me, but I figured there must be at least one situation where maybe a pointed cutter was better.

DSC_0229Winter May


At first glance this might look much more specialised than it really is and though it might be handy, it’s not necessarily essential.

DSC_0217The cutter is what was described as the smoothing cutter in the original Stanley leaflet accompanying the plane back in the 50s and 60s. Two things manage the cutter in the wood; one, the spear point bevels to each side of the centre of the cutter effectively bring the underside of the cutting edge to a level cut and so offset the relief angle of the underside of the cutter. This means that the two cutting edges are levelly present along the cutting edge in relation to the surface of the wood and so smooths the level evenly.


The angles presentation either side of the centre of the spearpoint also provide a sheer cut to the cutting edges and by manipulating the plane to the grain encountered the user can effectively gain optimal advantage in just about any grain.


The end result is a level and smooth cut, which effectively improves on the cut provided by the square edged cutters and is ideal in some situations such as inlays for instance.

Generally 95% of work comes from the square edged cutters satisfactorily and so it’s not necessary to install a spear point.


Visually considering the appearance of the cutter it does look as though in actual use the spear point might dig in to the walls or surface being refined but that is not the way at all.


The drawings below show the diamond point and the angled presentation of the cutter to the housing dado or work surface. 

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The post Questions Answered – What Are Pointed Blades for on Router Planes appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

New Series On woodworkingmasterclasses Starts Today

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:38am

DSC_0176Just so you know. We start the new series on making the table I blogged on last night and have mentioned over the past few weeks. I think it really unpacks the past methods of this make and that it introduces methods so very viable today for today’s enthusiasts for real woodworking.

Got to woodworkingmasterclasses.com and enjoy!

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Categories: Hand Tools

A Mixed Day of Bench Banter and Creativity

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 2:30pm

DSC_0148The greatest progress often comes in the face of adversity and without pressure we cannot grow. I demonstrate the steps that need my input to pave the way for everyone as they progress into realms of becoming skilled and I see things I see as growth when others think that have stayed the same. Now the students go to the tools and work the wood with much less conscious effort even though they have uncertainty as to the outcome. The tools, sharp and repeatedly sharpened follow simple and basic patterns yet the basics makes the all the big difference. More than that though, most of the work brings unquantifiable reward, especially when the box lid closes with its unique clunk and you step back into your space and simply stare.

DSC_0268Friendships form and breaks in silence  usually start with a joke about the intensity of concentrations beyond screens and keyboards. The difference is remarkable of course. Who could ever compare touching keys on a key board with the keys of a piano or the key sounds of planes on wood and saws separating waste from wanted wood? Of course one produces present and emerging reality and the other images of the past only. Banter creeps generously between benches and between bouts of dedicated intent to plane the wood and make the joints a tight fit. DSC_0272Phil jumps in to help throughout the day with good advice and so too John who now knows more than I do about hand tools and sharpening and restoring them for future use in Patagonia. Here John has done an exceptional job restoring yet another handsaw. DSC_0152I feel a certain pride in what we are all doing because somehow it validates what I once could only dreamed of. Making woodworkers is as much a creative process as making furniture pieces or musical instruments or canoes and boats. You must have a plan and something to work to but when I started teaching I had no patterns to really follow. When I began teaching it was because people kept asking me if they could learn from me in a class. DSC_0073For a few years I just said no every time and then one day I said OK. I would teach just one one-day class. The result wasn’t to give up making and wear fancy designer work clothes emblazoned with DeWalt and Makita or Bosch and sit on a pedestal but to keep making and add another eight hours a day to my already busy schedule as a maker. One thing that has proven itself time and time again is working with the video team to make over 250 videos to use as a teaching medium for woodworkers around the world. In spite of that I am still a maker and design my work around the added things I do. As I said, without pressure we simply do not grow and without adversity character is rarely formed. DSC_0260 DSC_0239It’s no wonder advertising companies contact us daily to ask us to ‘partner’ with them. These online advertisement companies and promoters promise to screen advertisers to make certain their product falls in line with my work online. The emails usually start out with something like, “Hi, Love your blog, really good way of addressing the issues,” blah, blah, blah. In the first sentence I can see that they didn’t actually read the blog but did do the numbers in terms of hits and page views and so on with regard to our popularity. Mostly I delete the emails and mark them as spam or trash so that we can terminate future pestering. I like our advert-free blogging protocol even though I can see that some adverts might have value.

DSC_0201 DSC_0155Today we began the third project and the intricacies of making shelving units. Of course the tools move more quickly now and the cuts hit the mark exactly. it seems an easier project but soon they will see added features I built in to add the demand and challenges I spoke of above.

DSC_0170I spent much of my time between lectures and demoes restoring the occasional table we filmed for the upcoming series that starts tomorrow. here is the preview of what you will miss if you are not a member. As I said, the students are proving more and more the amazon work we are doing through the online broadcast because they arrive with more knowledge and skills than ever before. Thats been wonderful.

DSC_0176I glued up my table after I removed all of the existing finish, glue and so on. The joints were of course all numbered and they still fit after I stripped everything off. I replaced and scraped all of the surfaces so that the wood would cosily match the one I replicated as a second table. Tomorrow they will stand side by side.

The post A Mixed Day of Bench Banter and Creativity appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Without a Challenge There is No Achievement

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 12:38am

DSC_0047The nine-day class starts its fourth day on track today and as usual it’s heads down and no need to crack the whip. Already I see new levels of confidence even though at times they may feel they are floundering. The chisels are held more accurately now and so too the plane cleans off the nubs of the dovetailed boxes ready for hingeing the lids. Today we start shelf building and that means stopped housing dadoes and through mortise and tenons.

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I see more and more the need for my work and of course some people arrive with skills and knowledge where others come to get them. All in all there is a lit to learn for both camps and those somewhere in between. Most of the time its a smooth flow throughout the day but then glitch comes and everyone learns from what happens. Dealing with high expectations is usually the biggest issue for some. DSC_0026False expectations and a microwave mentality can be difficult to shift from but when I explain that unrealism causes more distress than the real we move on and become increasingly more aware that the process brings fulfilment and not falling into the pit of wanting being approved. If you are already there then there is no achievement. Without a mountain there is no challenge. We are learning that life is indeed like wood in that it comes with knots in it.

All in all we are already making great progress and new reality is beginning for everyone. In this class we have three from the US and one from Switzerland as well as the Brits. Personalities start to show and people relax with one another a little more hour by hour. New friendships are formed and smiles come more quickly. Willie from Switzerland takes the jokes of high expectation because everyone expects his work to be as a Swiss-made watch and Steve, our retired symphony violinist, takes my suggestions of risk at the tool edge alongside my comparisons with tweaking the pressures on the strings to achieve perfect cuts with good humour too.


John made another masterful box with a sliding lid from secondhand oak and mahogany. DSC_0081 DSC_0094 DSC_0075Its very fine with 1/8” mortise and tenoned frame and panel and shaped sliding lid in quartersawn oak. We are al inspired by one another. Fires rarely burn with a single log but when two logs and then a third and fourth and more ignite and spark you start a blaze of spontaneity and inspiration.

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Categories: Hand Tools

From the Past We Can Continue Discovering the Future

Sun, 10/12/2014 - 2:12pm

DSC_0043My search for tools and equipment turns up some amazing finds and I bought this vise partly because it was inexpensive but mostly because it looked so very beautifully made from elm and steel. It’s a simple enough piece of equipment to make, but the decision was based as always on buying art made by a past craftsman. I think these things are exactly that, works of art, and that they are worth investing my time in just to see how a man worked in times past. DSC_0035An engineer made the piece and the woodwork in the form of shaped coves is gracefully executed. It’s too easy to take things for granted in countries like Britain. Common tools sell for very little; planes and tenon saws, saws of all types and of course related equipment like the vise. I think this vise was for working metal with, not wood, because of the metal plating used on the jaws and such.


See how the man inset the plate with his name in it. I think it’s nice to name your work when needed.DSC_0031

A Flotilla of Woodworking Planes

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Here is a collection of beautiful planes of rare worth and scarcely seen anywhere. DSC_0042 DSC_0193 - Version 2Two nice panel raising planes, a sash-rail plane that creates the pane divider and two sash moulding planes are part of a collection of planes used for particular work by joiners making doors and door frames and sliding sash windows. DSC_0038It is rare to find these specific planes individually placed anywhere let alone unique a collection of nine planes. Including shipping the planes came to me for about £30 each on average. They are all made by the same Scottish maker named Mathieson.DSC_0017

What we take for granted is a distant wealth of workmanship and knowledge of past times and working men and the way they did indeed worked. In ignorance tools are listed and misnamed, miscategorized and so misplaced. In ignorance we misunderstand the tool’s significance  and thereby misplace the past. The tools are beautiful working tools that saw little use in work as the age of hand work yielded to the machine age and have been stowed and kept in good conditions for decades now. Now they will begin work again. They need work, but not much, before they can perform well.

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Categories: Hand Tools

Saw Chocks, – Quickest and Simplest

Sun, 10/12/2014 - 12:40am

Here is a short video on making a clamp for your saws and using the vise for clamping. It’s quick secure and effective and I use it all the time. Hope you enjoy it.

Paul’s method:

The post Saw Chocks, – Quickest and Simplest appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Two Possible Stocking Stuffers for Christmas Gifts

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 1:30pm

DSC_0172I recently blogged about saw handle sizing because many handles since the last World War often became undefined, utilitarian and too big for anything but brutish work. That’s true of most hand tools that are mass made. Some of you responded with suggestions for high-end saws ranging in price between £100 – £200 per saw and whereas such saws are often quite beautiful to look at and even use, my heart sank a little when I thought about the majority who could never afford such a tool. DSC_0187I started to ask myself the question some months and even years ago as to whether it was really necessary to buy high dollar saws or are people simply postponing  the process of mastering sharpening so that they can keep their saws at the same level of sharpness of the better quality makers and I concluded that that really was the case. That being the case I went out and bought two saws that cost under £20 to see what they were like in the hand. I decided on inline gent’s saws because these saws are really better than pistol grips for much of the work we do at the bench. I also decided that a 10” was optimal with regards to length. What remained was the depth of cut and, as many if not most furniture joints rely on smaller joints, a gents saw works for many if not most.

The two saws I chose are both a common saw type  that’s been in the saw world for just under two centuries. One I bought directly from Thomas Flinn Saw Makers in Sheffield and is marketed under the old brand name of William Greaves & Sons. This saw has a steel back and whereas people might not like steel backs, there is no difference in functionality in the hand or at the bench. There can be a bit of snobbery surrounding saws whether that’s by the makers or the buyers, so I am saying here that both brass and steel backed saws work equally well. Look at the saws more closely and you will see the saws are identically made but one has a turned beech handle and the other turned rosewood.

DSC_0183The Greaves saw has 15 teeth to the inch, the most ideal number for the job of dovetailing and tenon cutting and for most benchwork jobs, but more importantly, the saw is equally ideal for sharpening yourself.  Don’t make the mistake of buying finer toothed saws for general joinery and most furniture work. They are nigh on impossible to sharpen by eye and hand with the accuracy needed. That said, keep a good Zona 24tpi on hand for fine bead work and you are fully equipped. These saws have hardened plate that will keep an edge for several years. Back to the greaves saw. When the saw arrived it was sharp but over set. A problem resolved between two hammer heads in roughly 10 seconds by anyone no matter the skill levels or skill sets. All I needed to do with this saw  was done and it cuts as well as any saw I tried. The cost was £17.

DSC_0179The second saw is also made by Thomas Flinn but sold under the Crown of Sheffield name, and available in the UK, EU and the US. I bought four of these saws for the tests and, unlike the Greaves saw with the steel back, found all of them had a gentle and shallow  bend along the length of the spline. This also caused the plate to curve too and even though it was indeed shallow it left me feeling a little disconcerted. Sometimes bends in the saw can be corrected by tapping the spine but not usually if the spine is bent too. Removing the plate didn’t help at all but we found that pulling the spine with the saw fully assembled in between the vise jaws and bending the saw opposite to the bend quickly straightened the spine to perfection. DSC_0182I was disappointed in the sharpness of the saw’s level of sharpness and, indeed, unless you new differently, you might think this was the standard, but one light stroke through each saw gullet brought the saw up to perfection and wow! Is this saw a winner for me. Brass back, good steel plate and lovely rosewood handle and all for under £20, this saw cuts like a dream. Woodcraft in the US sells the saw and S&L Hardwoods sell the 10” version here in the UK. The saw is 16tpi so little difference between the two name brands. These would be great Christmas gifts for any serious woodworker or indeed anyone at all.

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Categories: Hand Tools

Some Thoughts for Christmas Gifts

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 2:39pm

DSC_0138This past year some things have impressed me. Tools, equipment, books. I used a C.K. Square awl for many years and then they switched maker and the square bit snapped on many of their awls so I had to abandon them. C.K. probably changed to make 10 pence more per awl. I was given a square awl two years back by Phil as a Christmas gift and I have used it daily since then. It holds a good edge and I cannot flaw it in use. DSC_0149I have sharpened it a couple of times and so it will last for a lifetime. The man making them in Sweden has a good product and for a few Euros you have a lifetime tool that works wonderfully. The maker? Here is the link to S. Djarv Hantverk. Only problem was his website buttons didn’t work too well so I contacted him on that.
Of course you all know about the knife I use and like over all others. The Stanley folding pocket knife here, the 10-598, is about the very best of woodworking knives and I cannot fault it at all. It’s exceptionally good for knifewalls and the blades resharpen readily too. Just what woodworkers need to keep the edge in their work. Indeed, the blades take and hold a good edge and a blade is of course replaceable if you would rather not resharpen. Again it’s pretty much a lifetime tool that wears well and lasts because it really has little to breakdown unless you fold it throughout the day. I never fold mine because I like it ready for use. This tool is inexpensive and a great gift for any woodworkers.


Since I have been in the UK I have tried out many bandsaw blades but the best blade I have ever used is the one made by Axminster they call Axcaliber. I put one in the bandsaw about three months ago and changed it out only yesterday.


A 1/2” blade gives me the wide and rigid beam I need for resawing thicker stock and also the best longevity on my smaller bandsaw because the 1/2″ width gives a good weld area, which is where most bandsaw blades snap. I have to say it never ever drifts with these blades and I can set a fence and the saw cuts perfectly parallel through 4” oak or mahogany for continuous hours if needed.


Of course my need is limited but I do find it very convenient and I kept waiting for the blade to need replacement but only yesterday did I feel the need at all and I have to say that was after cutting lengthwise down an hardened nail embedded in the wood I was cutting.


Gouges of course are much needed for spoon making work and carving bowls. We’ve tested two out over a long enough period to be able to make good recommendation if you can’t find secondhand old ones and the very best is still in my mind the highly polished and well finished Hirsch #7 sweep 35mm from Highland Woodworking. DSC_0153 DSC_0159But I also have enjoyed working with the Ashly Iles model of the same size and sweep. Only problem was the Ashley Iles handle split straight off the bat with a gentle tap. The company shipped out a replacement and we fitted it and its been fine. DSC_0163 DSC_0165Customer relations doesn’t match companies like Lee Valley and what should have happened is they should have immediately shipped out a replacement tool and asked for the return of the damaged one on arrival. The flawed product was theirs not ours. But the steel takes and holds a good edge and I like it in use and in the hand. Don’t let their flawed customer relations stop you. It’s a good gouge at the right price.


There are choices for chisel hammers but this one still gives instant access to a real chisel hammer. The Thorex 712 with interchangeable heads for hard and soft and the wooden ash shaft has proven itself the best for me and in the school work we do. These are good tools for assembly work too and also for tap adjusting on the bodies of the wooden planes. I use them for dismantling plane irons in all of these planes when they arrive in poor condition.

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Categories: Hand Tools

My Toolbox Restored

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 1:56am

When I first saw this tool box I didn’t fully express my feelings here. My senses told me that the box was really, well, first auctioned from a cellar-find in an abandoned state; redundant to requirements, spat out by industrialism and left to die in the dumps around the world in the same way craft, true craft I mean, has been mostly dumped. I have never particularly liked tool collecting for tool collecting’s sake but by user-owners I think is fine. That’s just a personal view and I can also see why people do collect too; possession, conservation, preservation and so on.DSC_0113

We all know that the passage of industrialism has indeed left its high-tide mark of waste and redundancy in Western culture as a direct result of exporting the industries to Asian fronts and all in the name of progress. Dirty someone else’s backyard and dump your trash and garbage there has been the policy of politics and economics for generations.DSC_0011

The tools I restored and reloaded today became more a political statement for me. The past redundancies aren’t at all my quest from the mereness of nostalgia, whether the redundancies are the people, the tools or the toolboxes, but a press into an intentional lifestyle woodworking. The tools in this old chest still work well after decades and even a hundred and more years of use. The tool chest should go for another 150 or so too. The life these tools catered for will be resurrected in the life of another woodworker now. I might sell the chest and put the money into a charity I believe in that can use it to help Downs syndrome youngsters to find dormant skills. Its a serious thought for me now.DSC_0077

As I restocked the toolbox with the older tools I felt an inexplicable excitement placing the tools as stuffed entities representing life and life skills. The two boxes sat side by side and I look forward to bring the videos on the build to pass on the woodworking masterclasses series in the new year. There wasn’t too much complication in the building of the box but watching how you make dovetails fit dead on around the skirt and the lock and lid rail makes the whole process so succinct.DSC_0095DSC_0101

As you can see it’s an amazing storage area and it takes a lot of tools. In the case of this toolbox the craftsman obviously intended to use it to travel to and from jobs. Placed on a hand cart, lifted to the job, opened on a living room floor to repair a door. So many days of use over a century and more by maybe two or three users; father to son and even to grandson???DSC_0107

Anyway, I know that you know I enjoyed this one. More to come on the box build yet. Get to it soon.

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Categories: Hand Tools

Questions Answered – Sizing Saw Handles

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 12:54pm


As a women with smaller hands and a height of 5’3″ I was wondering how I would go about finding a saw that is a proper fit. Ive noticed among tenon, hand and dovetail saws most of the handles are much to large for my hands. Could using a saw that is too large for my hands effect the accuracy of my work and if so how would I find a saw that fits me? Are the recommendations for fit different per saw? Lastly, Ive noticed some saw handles are up higher at an angle to the blade and some handles are more in line with the blade of the saw is this just preference for the user or are there reasons for this difference?

Winter May



It does matter. Many older saws have much smaller saw handles than those made today. The makers were conscious that saw handles needed to suit the user and somehow managed to create handmade handles that seemed more to enclose the hands of men rather than allow them to slop around inside as is often the case with today’s plastic saw makers and indeed some quality saw makers too. The saw handles were quite tight between the top and bottom horns of the handle and also in the inner oval too. This provides much greater control to the hand and helps coordinate direct thrust from the saw.

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The two saw handles above are not particularly dissimilar to look at but they are in the hand very different indeed. The top one from the late 1700 to early 1800’s has  a small handle and that may seem a problem if you have large hands. My hands are indeed large and yet, though smaller than all of the modern makers making handsaws today, this saw truly fits my hand perfectly. The bottom saw looks sleek, but it works against me most of the time and I cannot use it in my work because its so ineffective. On the other hand the most modern Veritas saw shown below fits my hand well and actually has enough meat in the wood for me to adjust sizing if i need it. It actually fits my hand well and is angled for good inline-thrust.


Whereas most people often use the saw by putting all four fingers inside the oval, which is wrong, a full-fist grip decreases sensitivity and denies the vertical alignment sensitivity to the saw in use. You have much less control of the saw.

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The index finger is always placed alongside the handle as if pointing and this gives optimum control. Rarely if ever would this be different.

Sizing in new saws is difficult because unlike in times past when handles were indeed hand made and size with variation possible and even likely, today its a one-size-fits-all sizing and the mentality of what holds a lot holds a little is where we are left. Most saw handles are made using CNC routers that cut the handles from blanks and these saws bear the hallmark at different junctures in the process. These two saws below are made using suck methods.

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It’s fast and effective and reduces man hours in production. There is only a minor difference in the end result but both saw handles are oversized.

Regardless of saw type, examine the old saws of centuries of makers and you will always find the handles were ‘tight’ and rarely oversized. Here, from 8″ dovetail saws with 20tpi to 26″ handsaws with 5tpi you will see that the handles are quite close.

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You might consider gent’s saws with inline handles for general small work such as small tenons and dovetailing and so on. They are very effective and have the most direct thrust of all saws. Sizing is simple, most hands fit them and they can be readily removed, turned to size and restored.



Angles to the saw handle in relation to presentation do vary between makers. Generally it’s best to look for a handle that gives the most thrust behind the end of the saw. If the line of the handle part that you grip is too shallow and high you will have less thrust behind the heel of the saw. This then takes more effort to push the saw into the wood.

In conclusion I would say look for older saws that are more likely to fit your hand You will find one that will visually seem right.


The post Questions Answered – Sizing Saw Handles appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Making the Toolbox – Skirting , Lock and Hinge Rails

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 1:39am

Dovetailed Skirting and Lock and Hinge Rail Misnomered as Trim

There is more to it than that. The skirting boards protect the box from damage or at least reduce the risk of main-box damage, that’s true, but it more importantly thickens up the base area corners to make for much increased structural stability and solidity and make it solid it does. It’s surprising how this narrow band of thickening stock totally transforms the feel of the toolbox. Accuracy is essential for this part of the construction because there is no margin for variance if the joints are to seat fully into both recesses. Both are clearly visible. Many makers actually used half lap dovetails here as this means the seating of the tails in the recesses is only seen from one face as the depth of the tail recesses can be marginally deeper than needed and not be seen.


In laying out the dovetails I made an allowance for the top pin so that the dovetails pins show the same size. The top edges of the skirting boards are chamfered 1/4″ inch so it’s a question of adding that to the top pin. in this case the the tails are 3/4″ so the pins are 1/4″ for the bottom and mid pin and 1/2″ for the top one.DSC_0039 DSC_0046

The tail knifewalls between the tails are taken directly from the box with a knife and so cutting exactly to the knifewalls means that the shoulders of the longer front and back pieces seat perfectly to the walls of the box with no margins.


After cutting the first dovetails to one of the end pieces I fit the two dovetails into the front and back skirting pieces and let the opposite ends float past until I have fully fitted and seated the first ones.


Once fitted as shown I can mark the bottoms of the tail recesses at the opposite end and add the thickness of the tailpiece for that end at the same time.

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Having also fitted and cut the dovetails on this end too, I make the tail recesses and check the whole for fit.


The top edge of the skirting boards are chamfered by 1/4″. I use my fingers as a gauge to set the depth and pencil to mark the depth to work to. Using a marking gauge will cut the surfaces and leave lines or grooves in the wood.


I plane the chamfers before I glue up for ease and then all I need is a trim swipe to finish off the edges to final level.

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I glue the skirting frame together with the two long pieces and one end piece so that I can clamp these three pieces in place first. If I glue the whole frame up and slide it on the glue is push to the top rim of the skirt. Not good. By gluing and clamping the three pieces I can add then add the forth.

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Here I am gluing the skirting board to the box. I have fully planed and cleaned up the box beforehand. Instead of screws I have chosen glue and clamping for greater adhesion and solidity. PVA will work best for this.

Here you can see the counter-positioning of the dovetails as opposites in orientation on the original box. Also note the screw heads seated to both faces. All of the corners are either worn rounded or and sanded rounded in the previous restoration by the dealer.


The original box was completely unglued and relied on square cut nails and screws for all joint security. Someone wrote to me and said they had read that the reasoning for loose skirts and trim was easier removal if needed should replacement become necessary but that’s not the case at all. Speed and a lack of glue were two practical reasons here. The man on the job was in quick mode and the work therefor was quickly and readily done. He installed the tools he needed to transport for his work and got on with making his living. It wasn’t an uncommon practice not to glue joints, I have come across more boxes unglued than glued I think, but I find that it’s better when they are. Things, boxes especially, last all the longer. The original box has had many patches and breakages so I think changes are necessary and I made them in mine.


The theory of skirt and top trim having dovetails opposite to the main box dovetails is simply to have counterposing forces. Adding the screws makes everything work and I am have no issues with screws as fixings. The nails, the square originals, not those added as later repairs, worked fine but in both the case of the nails and the screws they both failed because they rusted. This makes me think that the wood was still quite wet before construction began. In some parts the screws and nails were quite rusted in and therefor the skirt and top trim were screwed into place and this prevented any chance of the box parts separating. In other parts the screws were rusted to the point that they were no longer really holding at all. I did remove some of the screws, but this caused more damage and so, with a little careful levering, I found the parts partied readily with little pressure. I left the screws in place mostly and cut around them when I reseated the parts. I screwed the parts back in place through the walls from the inside on the original.

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On my new box I simply glued long grain to long grain, which is sufficient, permanent and renewable.


Here is how the skirt looks now.

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Categories: Hand Tools

My Week’s Reward For Me

Sat, 10/04/2014 - 2:47pm

DSC_0061I spend a lot of my time making pieces. I’m a fortunate man. Beyond me there is other work going on whether its in apprentices or students, online or by other means. I’m currently doing a distance learning for someone and then in the morning I will be getting prepped for training thousands of others to make their projects for upcoming Christmas gifts. Today John Winter took his box to a wedding in Southport. he’s spent weeks making it, alongside his other duties. Now I see the fulfilment of much work and the reward is in the giving of the gift. It’s often a difficult choice to give up something you worked so hard on but then when you do you see your work expressing something of who you are. I photographed John’s box for his portfolio. The careful thought and workmanship was exemplary and of course all that he did can be scaled up to almost any other box type. The colour and contrast was a quite lovely really.

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The other conclusion was Gerald who made his rocking chair and carried it away. This is the Craftsman-style chair made in oak. This may well be the last rocking chair workshop I teach and I so enjoyed it. How do you quantify the smile and the relief at the end of making something so prized? This is one of the most comfortable rocking chairs I have ever sat in.

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I finished making the tool chest build and have just about finished restoring the original one to its former standard before the miserable restoration and stripping job someone did to it. It’s a great reward to me and I know people always understand restoration in an especially appreciative way.

The post My Week’s Reward For Me appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Making the Toolbox – Pare and Chop Dovetails and Pins

Sat, 10/04/2014 - 6:48am

I said recently hat using the coping saw is less acceptable for removing waste from tails and pins and that I felt it was less the way of the craftsman. I see it much the same way I see it when woodworkers ask if I ever gang up the dovetails to cut four at once or something like that. It’s a mentality issue for me. I do cut rougher dovetails with a coping saw to remove the waste and then chisel to finesse the cut on say a beehive or a tool tote. When it comes to finer work I feel the method and passage is as important as just getting the job done. Someone wrote and said that they couldn’t use a chisel on thin pinned dovetails and that the only way to remove the waste would be with a piercing or fretsaw and I suppose that’s fine. I make choices in my work and then work I might choose not to be involved with in certain cases. I tend not to be involved in prissy things and pretentious things too. I’m not really an advocate of royalty and the upper echelon of  the privileged few lording it over the poorer classes. Some refinements in woodworking were catering to the rich and wealthy and were, really, pretentious at best. This was expressed in certain work such as string inlays and thin dovetails. All very creative and not particularly complex, but it was the minority rich expressing its standing in society and their control over the working classes ‘in service’ in order to show how very refined their tastes were. So I tend not to make thin pins in dovetails just to impress people. I’d like my dovetails to look substantive enough to live up to the work and last the lifetime of service.

Chop and pare is the method I like the most and by like I mean enjoy. It gives me implicit control throughout and I feel the method to be the least aggressively invasive. Everyone will have their view, but the sharpness of the chisel gives me dead on pare and tap cutting that resonates in my soul.

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I saw down the tails first. It’s necessary to cut dovetails from pins occasionally but again, in my view, it’s backwards to generally cut the tails from the pins. Might as well start out doing it the right way. I cut dead to the side of the lines and on the waste side of the line at that. I stop just shy of the line and stop.DSC_0057

Once the tails are all sawn I lay the board on the bench and cut the knife wall in between the tails and not passing the knife over the face of the dovetails. If you want the authenticity of pin lines you can use the marking gauge and follow with the knifewall between the dovetails.DSC_0060

I trace the knifewall on the inside face and when done I slide the chisel into the knifewall at a low pitch.


From here on it’s chop and pare as shown. One thing you should watch for is that the knifewall isn’t shifted by tapping too hard. or allowing the chisel to twist. Tap gently and work from both sides to meet in the middle. leave the outside rim of the tail level and incline the chisel down to the wall. This prevents the wood from tearing at the root and pulling out the fibres.


With all of the tails cut it’s the same step as in the previous blog where you sharpen your pencil and trace around the tails onto the pin piece. Cutting out the tail recesses is the same process of knifewall and pare and chop. 



The soft faced hammer really works well.


Glue both pins and tails and the bottoms of the recesses. This helps to lubricate the assembly.


Gluing up must be efficient and of course both corners must be done at the same time once the opposite corners are glued up. Work quickly as the wood expands with the moisture from the glue and any delay allows the gaps to reduce.


When the box is together I measure the internal corners to make sure the distances are equal. If they are then the box is square.


Planing with the plane skewed does no damage and I work away from me towards the top edge.


The two boxes are more comparable now.


Remove the nubs and plane the surrounding area flush and level and true.


I plane the rim level and flush with the #4 smoother.


Here I use a bullnose to remove the inside arris from the corner. It’s my favourite plane for this.DSC_0090

The post Making the Toolbox – Pare and Chop Dovetails and Pins appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools


by Dr. Radut