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Paul Sellers

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A Lifestyle Woodworker
Updated: 27 min 24 sec ago

The Art of Ancient Hands

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 2:06pm


A Chisel 1/16” slides into pine like a hot knife into butter. Mortising holes is not always for large work. Many years ago a customer brought hundreds of rosewood parts to me in a cardboard box. It was a multifaceted Chinese lantern made up of frames that housed painted glass panels. Each meeting point intersected with mitred tenons into mitred reception mortises on the adjacent stiles. The owner had missing parts by the dozen, but in the scheme and scale of things, what was missing seemed very small.


I made all of the parts, replicating the pristine mortise and tenons. It was a time-consuming work of love I admit. When i saw the work needed I couldn’t help myself but agree to repair the lantern because the work of a Chinese craftsman two centuries past would have come to an end. I most likely made $5 an hour or less by the time the work was.


Recreating the parts left me in awe of the accuracy of the workmanship. Not only did all of the joints fit interchangeably in any of the mortise holes, so too every mitre fit with a gapless perfection that challenged every ounce of my skill.


I didn’t want a workbench for the fine work. No vise could hold the fineness of the pieces. All plough planes were too big for the grooves and no moulding plane I ever knew of could recreate the moulded stock. I made the small knives and the scratch stocks from Zona saw blades and diamond files. Work I never charged for. I made my chisel from O1 but I am sure what I made would have seemed crude to the old craftsmen that made the lantern. The plane I made left me with little to hold on to but the work was worth any discomfort.


Sometimes your work draws you into deep, deep realms of workmanship we have lost connection with by substituting pathetic alternatives requiring skill-less, workless input through computers guiding styluses. A poor but skilled workman made this lantern and received small reward to establish it for the wealthy man and his family to live with. He was the contented man of depth and substance constrained by a humility I can never know and he lived by his hand work and few words. He lived in an age of no machines and never turned an electric switch to start a motor or even to light his way by. I turned out the work using the same techniques and patterns as I learned from my mentor’s tool marks and cuts. Each cut I made to replicate the work became my treasure and my wage in my heart. When my work was done I delivered it to the rich man who bought it for his son who loved Chinese art work and I closed the lid on my newfound treasure and locked it away until I brought it out to write this blog. The man who made the lantern hid himself in his work. Pride and being known meant nothing to him. This is the art of human life.


The post The Art of Ancient Hands appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Are Small Saws Kid’s saws or is There More to It?

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 3:15pm

Last week I bought a 12” handsaw with 9-ppi but not just because I wanted it. I thought you might be interested in it. Not a serious saw? Oh, I think so. What use can that be?


To be frank, I wish that someone would make saws this size for serious users and uses. I am not a small man but I would use one. If I were small I would make one from a bigger one. It’s all too easy to say what cuts a lot cuts a little, but I can think of many people who would benefit from using one of these including more slightly built men and women, children of all ages, people like me for use at the bench, for tasks that require thinner stock. I could go on.

Well, is it a toy or is it real? Who would have used to when it was first made? What was it used for? Actually this saw is not that old although it is actually a serious saw in that it is spring steel, hard, tempered teeth and with teeth large enough to cut serious depth. The teeth tell me something too.The rake is very passive.


The saw is well used and without kinks or bends in the blade. The handle is well worn but a bit shapeless.


I tried the saw without further ado. To cut down to the line (shown below) took 52 stokes with the controlled, even, forward-thrust pressure used with western saws. Too many, but, surprisingly, the saw didn’t really balk at the work and this was because of the passive front rake. If I were to sharpen a saw for a younger woodworker I would most likely use smaller teeth or develop a lesser rake as in the case of the saw shown. Probably not so passive as this but somewhere between this and fully aggressive rake I might prefer on my ripsaws.


I topped the teeth (jointed) to level them, which then guides me for evening them up as I reshape them to the configuration I want for the work it will be used for. Three strokes worked in this case. Filing the teeth then is a question of shape and tooth pattern.

It took three strokes to each gullet to shape the teeth enough to get to each tooth tip.


I tried the saw a second time and this then took 16 strokes to get to the line.  

So in the picture below you can see the 52 strokes when the saw was dull, The 16 strokes with reshaped teeth and the 10 strokes when the saw was finished and set.


Once this was done I added a micro back-bevel for strength and then all I needed was a little more set. I set to 20-ppi because that’s all I need for dry and thin wood.

Below: Teeth before new shaping at the toe end


Below: After shaping and sizing

DSC_0051 - Version 3

Now then, just who would use a saw like this? I usually look at a saw like this as I might say a #3 plane and say to myself, “Small saw, small-statured person – perfect unity and harmony.”. It’s a good strategy that many women, men and others who are of a smaller build will find a real advantage in using smaller tools made specifically for them. Children especially need smaller sized tools that parallel their size as they grow up into the larger, more full-sized tools they need. Veritas created a smaller, bevel-up smoothing plane with this criteria in mind. I would that they or others would come up with a 12-16” handsaw. 


In my experience there has always been different levels of disparity in ability levels in the ranks of woodworkers regardless of gender. That said, it is only in recent decades that woodworking has been a more open option for everyone and anyone and though those who were restricted in decades past are no longer prohibited by the same archaic dominances of old, they are often disqualified by oversized hand tools that just don’t fit for several different reasons. I would that tool makers making tools would design for new users either beginning in woodworking and for those who need smaller tools to be made for them or at least found for them.

Back in the more regal and royal realms of British woodworking history, and when woodworking was a male-only craft, the gentle men of more noble births discovered that they liked to work with their small hands, unmuscular shoulders, arms, hands and chests. They asked for and got tools made for them and this included all the tools used by the stronger working men of the time; hence the term gent’s and gent’s tools. Such was the power of wealth and certain realms of dominion for the land-owning gentry. What restricts the same movement today is as always demand, the strategies and politics of economics and such like that. Perhaps in decades to unfold more favourable change will come, with the support to create and proportionally sized tools will be more readily available.

I used this newly restored saw on some thin pine and some 7/8” thick pine. Not tough stuff, but harder than all the pines available in the USA. It sliced very readily and as well as my longer saws, but it does of course take twice as many strokes. I’m used to full length saws twice as long and more, but I wouldn’t treat this saw as an inferior saw or kid’s stuff even if it is more than ideal for serious children’s woodworking. As I said, I think it would have been great for my children when the were young and for some of my students today.


The post Are Small Saws Kid’s saws or is There More to It? appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Concluding the Scrub Plane Series

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 1:40pm

Metal and Wooden Scrub Planes Both Work Fine
We have seen that the cast metal scrub planes originating in the Western world started only a little over a century or so ago; and that these dedicated roughing planes found their origins from an early wooden counterpart. Metal versions were never as accepted in mainland Europe, however, I saw that the younger men I worked with felt that this was a flawed perspective reflecting a resistance to change. I don’t think that was the case at all. Whereas I do like all metal planes, I also like the wooden ones too – equally. Every nation I have encountered has always felt it owned the very best of anything you care to mention – best military, best schools, best doctors and best woodworking tools too. Fact is we get used to what we are raised with. I personally found I was less accurate with Japanese saws, chisels and planes than their western counterparts. Japanese craftsmen are world renowned for fine craftsmanship as are British craftsmen using traditional western tools. There’s a place for both and I think respect in both directions in my experience has always been evident.


Planes in Mainland Europe
I would be remiss in this paper if I didn’t give more than just a passing nod to the European planes made from wood that roughed off and trued wood for centuries too. As to different models, makers, cultural styles and so on my knowledge is indeed limited, but I have never found them difficult or awkward to use and I can do the same with these planes as I can with British wooden ones and all of the all metal ones I have used every day of my life for half a century.

It takes only a minute of twisting, turning, rolling and flipping the plane in my hands to realise how well developed  this plane became. Simple, yes, but not simplistic.


Today I dismantled a German or continental plane (Any person not born in Britain is continental to the British.) to rework the blade as a scrub blade for a roughing plane. Just like the #4, it’s practical to keep two irons to use in the same plane body if you only need an occasional one for certain types of work such as scrub planing. This wooden plane is comfortable in the forehand and less so in the dominant back hand. A handle or more shaping would indeed make the plane more comfortable, but the plane works the wood very well and it does indeed hog off high spots as well as any all-metal type I have used.

DSC_0134 DSC_0135

The iron is stamped as shown and I wondered if the iron and heel of the plane were additionally stamped for sale here in the UK as Europe would be unlikely to want none metric sizing.

The front horn housing is a simple enough joint and in this case was totally hand cut with pristine internal surfaces from sharp edge tools. A brace bored the first hole and then subsequent cuts to form the dovetailed inclusion came from 16mm chisel cuts that pared exactness into the angled corners at 1-6 ratio. The solid body and wedging are very similar to British wedging the wedge is longer and more slender. The plane is narrow and the iron at 1 1/4” is comparable to the Stanley #40. This is mostly because the protrusion on a cambered iron ploughs heavily into the wood and the wider the iron the harder to cut.

Scrub planes are used with, at a tangent to and across the grain depending on the wood, the grain and the level of wood distortion being dealt with. Cross-grain cutting at near 90-degrees is usually the easiest depending on the wood type. This gives the ability to remove very localised highs in short jags in greater or lesser amounts according to need. Knots and the surrounding grain will always be problematic and especially so hard knots. Withdrawing the iron to remove less stock helps with scrub planing tasks in such areas.

DSC_0158 DSC_0152

I think this sums up my thoughts on scrub planes for now. Making a wooden one would be an easy enough task and rewarding too. If we do that we will let you know.

The post Concluding the Scrub Plane Series appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Old Men, Old Planes, Old Ways Now Gone – The Origin of Scrub Planes

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 2:28am

This Blog Post is About Scrub Planes.

Had I said roughing planes, only a few would have understood. Even in the 1960s old wooden planes, the Stanley scrub plane and even the Stanley furring plane would have been referred to as roughing planes because, in typical fashion, the plane derived its name from its function. 

Sellers Trans

In my dim and distant past (yes this is me 25 years ago or so) I worked with many men 40 years older than myself and all the way up to being 80+ years old. My personal tools then were all squeaky new of course, but the tools in the tool chests and joiner’s boxes these men treasured were all very, very old. Older even than them. I don’t think I was even remotely capable of seeing then that the value in these tools could not be appraised in monetary value but by the provision they were to the men from two world wars in making everything from children’s toys to fine furniture and door frames to coffins. Today, 50 years later, I understand their real worth. 

I Keep Old Tools to Work With Because They Work; Not Because They Look Nice

Today many planes from the past are somewhere near to my bench and the throats vary according to use. It’s here that I want to share something i think has value to us as woodworkers. It’s a little bit about the history of planes that may offer insight. In time past I have shared that old wooden planes were never abandoned because they didn’t work or indeed work well. They were abandoned because they didn’t keep pace with the industrialising of craft and the art of work. The whole process of plane making was an art that required great skills in both woodworking and metal working to make the tools of the plane maker. The wood too required specific parameters to produce tools that would remain stable. Though wood was dried in large quantities, distilling this down, a plane blank for your average bench plane, regardless of length, would at very minimum be 5 years before the plane would come from the hands of its maker. 

For Centuries Woodworking Craftsmen in Different Trades Made Their Own Planes and Tools

Though wooden plane making ultimately became a specialist woodworking trade within the realms of carpentry and joinery, this only happened after centuries of craftsmen making their own planes according to their given trade. Coopers and wheelwrights, joiners, carpenters, boat builders and 50 others all developed their own specialist planes and tools.  Making a plane was a 3-4 hour process and from new the plane served its maker for many decades.

The Evolution of the Roughing Plane

DSC_0001 2

In the beginning the plane started life as a plane with tight tolerances. Cutting edges were bedded only 1-2mm from the front aspect of the sole , which created the closed throat needed for fine shaving work.  Such a plane brought into service for close and fine work would work for a decade or so before wear began to take its toll. It made sense to create a new plane alongside the more used one as the wear became apparent but before too much wear took place. That being so, the new plane would run alongside the older in tandem in the same way a shepherd runs a new dog alongside the old so that he’s never without a dog. As the original plane sole became worn and needed truing because of wear and unevenness, the mouth opening became marginally wider and more open. Another decade and the mouth would be too wide for fine work and so the second plane began to replace the first. It’s at this point that the craftsman transfers the original plane to its new work working the distorted surfaces resulting from air drying wood and saving his finer plane for finer work. The cycling continued and three or four small smoothing planes would see a craftsman through his decades as a working craftsman. 


Wooden Planes Performed Exceptionally and Were Never Replaced By Anything Better

Now then, try to remember that these wooden planes were not simply old fashioned models being replaced by something better and newer. That wasn’t the case at all. Also try to remember that they weren’t called scrub planes as we know the term either. They did however perform the same task. It’s important to know that woodworkers were using wooden planes for these different tasks for centuries and that they were in no way inferior to anything produced with modern-day all-metal planes. These crafting artisans in wood resisted the introduction of the all-metal cast iron and steel planes with legitimate cause. The reason they resisted the new planes was not that they shunned change for the sake of it or were merely nostalgic, but that their wooden planes were, in their hands, flawless designs in functionality in every way and actually worked better than the new all-metal ones. DSC_0004 2 DSC_0005 2They were much lighter in use, almost frictionless in motion wood on wood, were more stable and they could be refined whenever or if needed. Cycling through three or four planes made from the off cuts of a beech table or bed leg was simply the practice of the day. Running planes side by side meant staggered stages of wear levels in the throat and so planes were adapted and adopted to different levels of roughness for the removal of undulation and twist to rough prep boards for the jack and jointer planes. The shorter the sole the kore localised the ability to rough-down highs and of course the easier to turn the plane to task in tackling grain variance of direction and so on.

Ultimately, planes with large and open throats could scrub off masses of wood.


The Scrub Plane Emerges


So, as you can see, when the wooden planes were ousted by the cheaper alternative all-metal ones that required only assembly-line production, it became only a matter of time before one replaced the other. Add into that the demands of a world war on timber resources for every aspect of industrialism and you suddenly begin to see how the demise of the wooden bodied planes took place. Machining in woodworking lessened the demand on hand methods too, to the point that one, by one, the wooden planemakers of Britain  and Western Europe began dropping like flys. In tandem with the demise the need for a roughing plane made from metal was needed to replace the wooden versions. Remember there was no secondhand market for planes as we might know it now in the sense of family members selling off their great grandfather’s old stuff and certainly no world wide web. The term scrub was most likely in use long before Stanley came developed their version in the all-metal scrub. There can be no doubt that Stanley adopted the descriptive name and so created a special plane in a category all of its own. Though still a crude looking plane compared to all others, the Stanley scrub could initially be mistaken for a very unique and different plane altogether which is the much rarer Stanley #340 furring plane. DSC_0004I only ever saw and owned one of these planes, primarily because it was a US development in planes and made only in the US. I bought mine for peanuts in 1985 as part of a collection of tools and planes owned previously by a working craftsman. Just like the the term used for the scrub plane, furring plane to me implies it was used to remove furry and rough surfaces left by the sawyers after sawing, hence the minimalist surface area of the sole with only four square inches of sole in contact with the wood at any given time as apposed to 11 square inches with the scrub plane and 20 square inches with a regular smoothing plane. frictionless humped area around the mouth and the hollows either side to the toe and heel.


DSC_0005 - Version 2Those operating the machines would use the plane to take off furring from the ripped wood before second and subsequent passes on the saw if the wood had deviated slightly or left too much furring on the surface. The plane would be used both with (along) the grain and at a tangent to the grain equally. This plane will most likely never be replicated because its use is so very limited. 

We Lose the Art and Craft of Plane Making

In all of this we saw a close to an era; a tradition of craftsmanship destined to die, save for one or two lingering makers who continued into the early 1960s. For a few decades wooden plane making died and became extinct and to a great extent that has remained the same. Two or three individuals in the USA and the UK have become independent planemakers intent to develop their own niche market for making and selling wooden planes made by hand. There are enough collector users to keep them in business.


The post Old Men, Old Planes, Old Ways Now Gone – The Origin of Scrub Planes appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Scrub Planes From Common #4 Smoothing Planes

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 2:02pm


Special planes developed for roughing off coarse, rough-sawn, undulating surfaces were developed by the Stanley Rule and Level Company in the late 1890s. This short-lived, little-needed development resulted in a series of planes known as firring planes and scrub planes. The more commonly used of the two plane types is one we know as the scrub plane. This plane is no longer made by Stanley but it was most likely one of the crudest and skimpiest bare-bones plane Stanley ever made. 

A scrub plane is a simple plane with none of the complexities associated with the normal metal cast planes we know today. You can achieve excellent results with #4 Stanleys and Records or any other #4 including the heavyweights retrofitted with a thinner iron. 


I think that this video gives the steps to a good alternative scrub plane and one that really works on any wood.



The post Scrub Planes From Common #4 Smoothing Planes appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Lifestyle From a Lifestyle Woodworker

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 1:53am

Lifestyles Encompasses Work

I have always pursued work as a lifestyle, partly because I always needed to work to earn a living and partly because I always need to work – there’s a difference. I need work because I love it, I don’t love work because I need it you see. Getting up in the morning and going to work stimulates much of my early morning before I leave for the shop. As a boy I rode my bike or walked a couple of miles to work through cobblestone streets, rain, snow, sleet and occasional sunshine. I left at 7am and looked forward to stoking the boiler, reading the newspaper as the heat built up and then the banter that went back and forth over the morning news between theme I worked under. When other boys clambered over the stacks of newly milled window and door parts I walked around them, stared at them, picked them up and smelled them one by one. Oak, Kerruing, Merranti, Hemlock, Spruce, Walnut and more wood types were new smells to me and imbibing multidimensionally seemed to satisfy the very soul of my newfound craft. I savoured each different smell and retained the new knowledge as I asked about the woods from foreign climes. Rot resistant kerruing for window sills and sills to doorways. Ugly, dark, wiry, stringy, coarse-grained wood hard to work with planes, gummy substances exuding with every stroke of my plane and sticking the sole to the wood itself. I’m 15 years old, skinny, so skinny, and I am looking into every nook and cranny for new things to learn about wood.

Man and Boy
Some of the men were full of themselves whilst others had humility and peace about them. Some were crude and vulgar, others quiet and refined. All of them could work wood well. No, all of them could work wood very well. When a machine failed to make a cut for whatever reason they would do it with hand tools just as well an effectively but with more strain on their bodies. The difference between woodworkers then and now is that they could do it by hand, knew exactly the right tool to use and nothing ever stopped the work being done. One time, when I was too cocky in myself, I said something out of order to an older man of around 40. He lunged at me over the bench, grabbed my lapels and lifted me off my feet as he pulled my skinny frame up until his nose touched mine. He remonstrated, “If you ever say anything like that again I will kill you.” I felt the truth in what he said as he dumped me on the benchtop. Respect became mine as I saw the boundary I had crossed. It took a few months before things were healed between us and the past forgotten.
The Boy Finds His Place
Knowing my place became obvious in the first few weeks as everyone called me “boy” or “the boy”. I recall the first day in work as I was shown around and things were explained to me by the man who was to become my mentoring craftsman. Where to clock in and out at the start and end of the workday, where to brew up, where to stoke the boiler, how to bag the shavings from the power machines (never had dust extraction), I was the dust extractor. My boss, the owner of the company, was a man called Idris Owen. Mr Owen was the biggest conservative snob in the world. He drove in on my fIrst day in his Rolls Royce Silver Cloud all gleamy and silvery and asked me who I was. I told him I was the new apprentice. “What’s your name, boy?” he asked. I said, Paul Sellers. In the five years of my apprenticeship including working on his home, his property in Wales and seeing him most weeks at the workshop, he never called my by my name. He always called me “boy”. One day I was in the workshop when he drove into the physical shop itself. I climbed out of the Rolls, stood facing me about 15 feet from me and asked one of the men to “tell the boy to wash the Rolls”, even though I was in plain sight and nearer to him than the man he was talking to was. Such was the conservatism of the time and day. Did it put me off wood and woodworking? I didn’t really realise that the man in the immaculate pin-striped suit and highly polished shoes was so sad a man. I never saw him smile or flip a board of pine to smell the pocket of sap. In all of his riches and throughout the five years of my apprenticeship he never altered, never associated with anyone beyond the most superficial level yet I was immersed in a richness of scents and sounds and shapes and textures I would enjoy for the next 50 years. Class is very much a British phenomenon. I know it exists elsewhere too, but I found my place as each day I learned my craft, absorbed those things that mattered and discovered my lifestyle future.

Beginning Your Lifestyle as a Woodworker
My path has been different than yours. I learned to respect my fellow craftsmen because they earned it. I saw what I wanted to be as a lifestyle woodworker and made the most of every opportunity until I could come to rest in the knowledge and experience knowing what I could and could not do. If someone tells a child they can be anything they want to be they do that child a disservice because it’s really not true. It’s more important to help them discover their honest potential and what they are supposed to be no matter what that is. It should never be tied to economics or politics, social standing or the successes their parents measure success by unless they truly want the child to find their place. Life has limits and a craftsman finds his limits, the limits of his tools and the woods he works and finds rest within those limits. I found rest in my work. You can plan your lifestyle too. Getting of the conveyor belt and the production line of life doesn’t mean working it full time. You do what you can with the time you have and do it to the best of your ability.

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Categories: Hand Tools

From Picture Frames and Making Wood Work

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 2:03pm

Today I made picture frames with different moulded shapes using moulding planes, smoothing planes, rebate planes, scratch stocks, screws and tenon saws of different types and sizes. The work was different using so many tools for so small a project. The demands were high, tight tolerances essential and I felt the tension build until alI the parts came together in exactness. The tools were cast iron and steel as well as wood and steel. I used dedicated tools and improvised by making tools as I went. DSC_0076 So many times we think making a tool for a task takes longer than setting up a router and sometimes that’s true but often not. A tool made is seldom a one time use tool so economy figures in in different ways. I can make a temporary rebate plane in about 10 minutes from a chisel and a piece of scrap wood. It’s not complicated to do this and most of us have an old chisel or a spare one. Anyway, I was rewarded with a new tool to use and all the components for the next filmed series making picture frames that are very different than anything you might have seen before or ever bought or made or ever considered. I will be interested on your take on it when it’s online in a couple of months DSC_0104 There are a series of rebates formed and some of the methods I use to form them will be quite unique to see I think. I am so glad we don’t need to use a chopsaw or jump through the hoops of making a tablesaw sled for the mitres and that we make a perfect mitre guide with two knife cuts and two saw cuts in under a minute. DSC_0071 Much of what I do is about speed and efficiency yet without compromising my lifestyle of lifestyle woodworking that’s so effective and tangibly real I would find it hard indeed to live without it. I know, some of you out there might be saying ‘get a life, Paul,’ but this is the life I love living.The neat thing for me is that I don’t need to prove anything and at the same time I prove everything I believe in. There is no competition between the machine and the hand in my world. I have used both and find both useful. I find undeveloped skill is often diverted to machine dexterity and thereby skills, I mean the skills that could be passed on, apprehended and lived with, lie dormant and unused in most people’s lives. I find that simple and honest. Trying to prove one over the other seems to me to be like comparing an apple to an orange or even say a sledgehammer to a nut. DSC_0096 Another thing I did this week was restore a couple of tools I picked up from the Woodfest Show a couple of weeks ago. Here is a very ugly paring gouge used mostly in pattern making. The gouge itself fell victim to someone who knew nothing about the tool and thereby a careless hand at sharpening. The important part of this type of gouge is only partly the bevel on the inside of the hollow. The very important part is the rounded outside. In this case and the case of a second one I retrieved from a mass of rusted tools in a box the bevel was badly ground and hacked at and the outside round was badly distorted by inappropriate abrading. I felt the best tack was to break off the end and rework the cutting edge. DSC_0064 DSC_0061 I clamped the main body of the gouge in the metalworking vise to reduce the risk of an uneven fracture into the cannel. There is no guarantee. Two swift and firm strikes with a cross peen hammer effectively separated the waste from the wanted. DSC_0008 From snapping off the former bevel I squared off the end of the gouge to give a new start point to grind the in-cannel bevel. DSC_0018DSC_0024 I used the corner of the grinding wheel to create the new in-cannel bevel of 25-degrees. It works well to do it this way and frequent dipping in cold water keeps the temperature of the steel tolerably low enough to prevent excess heat build up resulting in burning the steel. It’s best to take your time with this. Especially strive not to burn the steel and keep the tool moving from side to side around the cannel and so avoid stopping at any fixed point on the corner of the wheel as this will definitely burn steel away fast. DSC_0052 I got very close to the edge and left only about 0.5mm of a square edge left. From here its abrasive paper on a suitably sized dowel going from 250 to 400 and then in increments of 200 to 2500 in steps of around 200 or so. DSC_0065DSC_0066 Beyond that the same dowel can be wrapped with leather and charged with buffing compound. The bevel is now completed. The outside round surface should be polished already, but a final buffing with a leather strip or strap or the rough side of a leather belt charged with buffing compound completes the sharpening and I have vary nice gouge for the rest of my life.

The post From Picture Frames and Making Wood Work appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Supporting One Another Around the World

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 3:07pm


I often look at our supporters following our various ways of reaching out to woodworkers worldwide and at one time only two or three countries were following our work. That’s massively changed; exponentially. Over the last two years we have seen an incredible increase to every continent and in the remotest of parts at that. The world seems suddenly to have become quite small as people interested in the simplicities and complexities of hand craft work are seeking international input to help them discover ways for working wood that are simple but relational, sustainable and skilful.

I have always been concerned when I write about inexpensive tools available to me and feel guilty that we in the UK are so privileged to have such a wealth of tools available to us for almost no money compared to others. I don’t have an proper working knowledge of eBay and secondhand markets in the rest of Europe, Asia, Australasia, South America, North America and Africa. I am fully conversant with what goes on in the USA having lived there since 1987 but I want we teach to go to the wide audience of followers we have seen grow over the past five years around the world. I do truly care about all of you and the principles of what we are teaching that  and is being adopted and adapted everywhere else. What tools do you use and have access to, what could I teach that would be adaptable. So many of you keep a piece of wire drill holes with or recut steel plate to make a saw from. You are all important and what can I do to help you  if you are Sommieres-du-Clain, Kuala Lumpur, Genoa, Melbourne or Bucharest and everywhere. I mean to say I would love to hear from you all wherever you are so that we can be more inclusive. What makes woodworking difficult to you and what’s available or not available to you. I talk about planes and saws you may never have heard of and that seems something we might be ably to adapt our teaching to or look at at least. More than that though, I have learned so much from friends in Japan and Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden. What you tell me inspires my work and spreads the good news of working wood with your hands and other methods too. 


The post Supporting One Another Around the World appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

On Closing the Spokeshave Series – Last One for Now

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 8:31pm

A difference between cast-metal spokeshaves and wooden spokeshaves is the dynamic of bevel-up and bevel-down cutting iron I spoke of in an earlier post in the series. The two differences may possibly appear to present the blade similarly but that’s not the case. Regardless of spokeshave type, the bevel forming the cutting edge will be ground and honed at 30-degrees. When the bevel-up iron negotiates the wood, the bevel being 30-degrees (or what is on the blade if ground and honed differently), the presentation to the wood will be 30-degrees. On the other hand, because the blade is elevated to 45-degrees on metal-cast spokeshaves, and the bevel is on the underside of the blade so that the bevel faces down, the angle of presentation to the wood is then 45-degrees. Some say that this 15-degree presentation makes the spokeshave useless for planing or shaving endgrain and this again is not true at all. The marginal difference is discernible but don’t be put off. Sharpness will make all the difference and you can indeed shave endgrain just fine. The physics of the two different presentations are important because often the bevel up presentation will not tackle certain aspects of wood grain and vice versa. The ability to switch between the two types is highly valued and so you will eventually need both. My suggestion is that you but the bevel down #151 type first and when you think you need the other, go for it.


The Bevel-down #151 -  Blade Presentation Strategy

The blade on the #151 protrudes through the sole of the spokeshave and so, when you place the spokeshave on the wood it immediately enters the surface wood and starts the cut from penetration. This causes a slight step-down in the surface. To prevent this we lightly present the spokeshave to the surface and at the same time push forward so as to feather-entry into the work in an elongated sweep starting from zero and, over a couple of inches, follow through to full depth, which is indeed governed by difference between the sole and the protruding cutting iron. 


The Bevel-up Spokeshave – Blade Presentation Strategy 

On the other hand, because the sole of the wooden-bodied spokeshave is the blade itself, we create an additional feature that toes-in the leading edge of the spokeshave, the wooden part. This angle allows us to lead the spokeshave forward into the cut and it is best to do this with firm but gentle pressure until the cutting edge starts from a feather edge that is more controlled by the beveled leading edge than the sole or underside of the blade itself.


Do you need adjusters?

This is another question I am often asked and my answer could be yes or know. Yes they are not essential, and, yes, they do make life much easier. Here again the misinformant says there is lots of whiplash in poorly engineered models and that’s true, but whiplash makes almost no difference at all. Once the spokeshave is adjusted and you tweak an extra 1/8th turn on the setscrew to cinch the blade tightly to the bed the blade will not move. Adjusters are the way to go if you are intent on working efficiently. Comparing say the non-adjuster model #150 to the #151 adjustable spokeshave is night and day to me.

Why I Did this Series

I posted this series to counter the culture proclaiming that the Stanley 151-type spokeshave will be found badly lacking and that using the standard Stanley 151 spokeshave model results always in “chatter, screeching and cursing.” This erroneous and misleading statement saddens me because it’s a statement against hundreds of thousands of professional and amateur woodworkers who used them through ten decades with no such results. Between the 1950-60s, when a spokeshave came from the manufacturer, mostly Record and Stanley, we expected to have to fettle them and take care of manufacturer’s flawed workmanship in their products made here in the UK. This included planes and other tools too. It was and still is a sad condition pandemic throughout British-made goods made mostly in Sheffield. Those manufactures now relied on the past reputation of the industry fathers who earned their reputations. This demise resulted from complacency and perhaps a lack of competition and I am glad that US makers stepped in a few decades ago to make up for the shortfall and created high quality products that replaced them. British industry should be shamed by this indeed but I haven’t seen that. Even today much of Sheffield tool manufacturing for woodworking tools still survives despite shoddy workmanship even though much of what does survive and exist is because US demand for traditional tools has created a market and Americans still believe that UK and Sheffield goods have a valid reputation. What Sheffield makers have in most of what I see are good materials poorly prepared and assembled.  They indeed spoil the ship for a half-penny worth of tar and forsake their reputation for the sake of a few minutes invested the final refinement of product.

So, that settled, and though we shouldn’t have to, it takes only a few minutes to rework the bed of the spokeshave and prepare it to receive the blade. Once done, you never need do it again. Of the hundreds of spokeshaves I have salvaged from neglect, almost none of them had any remedial work done to them. They all worked just fine as far as I can recall.


The post On Closing the Spokeshave Series – Last One for Now appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Wooden Spokeshave in Use

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 9:34am

Wooden Spokeshaves
Wooden spokeshaves predate the cast metal ones by centuries and more if you delve into the histories of ancient worlds. Spikes and spokes give some limited indication as to why these tools are called ‘spoke’ shaves, but so limited a definiendum only serves to undervalue the breadth and scope of a tool that multidimensionally defies limitation as a specialised tool. I cannot think of any other hand tool shaving tool that so capably spins in the hands of experienced woodworkers and amateurs too. With every shifting, twisting wrist and slight adjustment of hand the spokeshave creates unlimited possibilities for shaping and shaving wood.


Traditional Tanged Spokeshaves Can be Large and Small

Watching trainees through the many years I’ve spent training apprentices and teaching students and then literally thousands of them, I have seen what makes the spokeshave most effective and what renders it almost useless. A common thread creates many problems affecting almost all hand tools in a world that has devalued skills, devalued real and practical knowledge and lost sensitivity in craft work handling wood, materials and hand tools. This common thread is sensitivity and the desensitised use of tools throughout every aspect of work.

We tend to see sensitivity in its most very limited sphere surrounding a sort of gentleness and yet it’s more expansive realm includes developed sensitivity that enables us to feel for and know how and where and when to apply the right pressures, great, small and every level in between. Sensitivity determines the exactness of direction according to felt pressures at the tool’s cutting edge. It’s only by sensing the minute by minute changes needed that we can shift and change so as to present the tool’s cutting edge to its most effective cutting position according to small shifts in grain direction and configuration in the wood. By sensitivity we determine sharpness and the need to sharpen, change the bevel slightly and much much more beyond.  We may not even be capable of defining in words alone what sensitivity means when it comes to the way we respond to a tool’s cutting edge or the grain in the wood we work. We may not even be mentally aware of the subtle changes we make by effectively changing a hand and finger position as we work the tool but we do it every second if, when we work, we sense what needs to change and make the changes immediately.


A Round-bottomed Spokeshave for Convex Work

Though spokeshaves are indeed forgiving tools when it comes to making and taking shavings, and it’s because of this that sharpness is indeed neglected, sharpness affects the work much more than we can appreciate. Green woodworking and working bark from round stems and branches do not rely on the sharpness we might rely on say for shaping a cello neck or a queen Anne leg. Green bark and riven green wood is probably the easiest wood of all to work, so sharpness, although I still think it’s important, may seem less critical to say a chair bodger.

I say all of this to say that there is much more to a spokeshave than making spokes and spindles for chair parts. I have used them for refining arched doors and indeed making them. Shaping narrow sticks for chair spindles is important and so too the crinoline stretcher for an English Windsor. The seat itself and the comb too all come from the cutting edge of a spokeshave. Long bows and wagons, wagon wheels and ox yokes all come from this very humble woodworking tool as do a vast range of highly refined and defined furniture pieces including Chippendale and Sheraton, Hepplewhite, Queen Anne, Colonial, Federal, Stickley, Mission, Craftsman and so many more dating from as far beyond cabriole as you can go.


Yesterday I replaced the worn down forepart to my Padauk spokeshave with some boxwood salvaged from an old boxwood chisel handle. No it’s flat and square again. I own three of these and love them. They work identically to the old tanged ones of old and I can say that without compromise. The older spokeshaves rely on two tangs passing through the wooden handle of the spokeshave. When the tool is well used the tangs often become loose so the the adjustment is less reliable. Progressing a cut into the wood can be subjected to pressures that act like a wedge between the spokeshave blade and the body if the spokeshave. This drives the blade out and the spokeshave develops an unintended heavy cut.


Using a fixed blade on the other hand, that has controllable adjusters, guarantees no such movement can take place and that’s what made me invest in making the Veritas spokeshaves using their component parts. It really is a lifetime tool. It looks complicated but following the instructions step by step gives a guaranteed outcome. What I like too is you can also create your own round bottomed model and use the same blade assembly. Switching the components takes only a minute.


Here you can see the shaving emerge from the rear of the spokeshave as I push the spokeshave into the wood…


…and here you can it rise up as I pull it toward me.


Adjustment is truly simple though at first it’s hard to wrap your mind around it. The larger diameter disc at the bottom, beneath my thumb, seats a threaded tube into the body of the spokeshave. The knurled knob I am turning here secures the blade stems that pass through the tube against the end of the tubes either side and so the distance between the body and the blade is set.


Very simple. The kit you buy includes the taps to thread the holes in the wood.

The post Wooden Spokeshave in Use appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Questions Answered – Why Nibs on Old Handsaws

Sat, 07/19/2014 - 10:54am


Hi Paul,

I bought an old saw a some time back and can’t work out what the indent at the end of some older handsaw is for. Can you help answer this?



About once a month or so I am asked this question and I always say that there are some good enough theories but most make no real practical sense for the simple reason that something more practical was around or the suggested use would not be something practiced enough for makers to build the feature into every saw for the few decades they were made. That said, there is no reason for not using what exists for a non intended use of it works well and here is a practical use I find works fine for me.

Measuring in the exact distance you want from the edge of a board or panel places the mark where you want it but the tape may not be rigid enough to hold a pencil against and pull the line like you would with say a square. Remember that this was the pre-tape measure era but straight rods and rulers were the common way.When the distance is more then the length of a square blade you can mark the distance and use the nib on the saw to pull the line as can be seen.


Mark the distance you need from the tape.


Place the indent nib next to the pencil mark and place the pencil in the recess.


Place the indent adjacent to the nib against the pencil.


Pinch the distance on the saw between the thumb and forefinger of the less dominant hand.


Pull the saw and pencil along the panel for a parallel line to saw to.

The post Questions Answered – Why Nibs on Old Handsaws appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

A Lighter Touch On Wooden Spokeshaves

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 10:57pm

Wood on wood is light, frictionless woodworking at its best and no metal-cast spokeshave offers anywhere near the senseasesiness to the hands of woodworkers than a wooden bodied spokeshave. There you go, it’s said and done. I was really raised on the Stanley and Record 150’s and 151’s and have used them all through my life.

My first time with the all wooden tang-type spokeshave shown here came at the same time and remains etched in my brain as an ever present physical impression of total harmony. Until this happens for you you can never understand why they were and are so ever popular for certain types of shaping work. Shaping and shaving a mahogany neck for a new guitar, a maple cello neck or carving out the four-foot outspread wings of a soaring eagle seems little more than peeling skin from an apple or a potato. The wooden spokeshave can still be had from secondhand tool dealers and of course eBay fairly easily and inexpensively but there are no guarantees until you have it in your hand and can actually test it out on your own wood.


Above you can see a well-used traditional tanged spokeshave showing the wear that occurs when used on narrow work. This still has many decades of use for my work.

Things can and do go wrong, and several things make this type of spokeshave work or work not, but usually you will be able to tell if they are neglected by the images provided. Two woods make the best spokeshaves and were indeed the most commonly used, beech and boxwood. These two woods resisted wear well and left no marks on the wood being worked.


Several years ago I bought some Veritas kit components (shown above) for making spokeshaves with. I wasn’t sure if the results of these would give me the same feel as the twin tanged ones shown higher but, thankfully, I was satisfied they were close enough to the traditional models for me to recommend anyone to go ahead and make them. Since then I have bought them to teach others how to make and use them in classes on tool making I used to hold in the USA..


Adding the brass wear plate defies the lightness of use by introducing friction. It’s the choice you make determined by what you will use the tool for. I have both. I found it better to use it without and then repair as needed as shown here. The reason for the change of wood to maple was the Padauk I used leaves red marks on light coloured woods.


Here shows the repaired padauk spokeshave


These brass adjusters give very precise setting to the cutting iron in relation to the wood or brass forepart to the sole. The instructions come with the fitments you buy as a kit from Veritas but you should not hesitate to consider other shapes that you might want if customising handles and such. This is an interesting all-day project and everyone interested in owning a good wooden spokeshave should set aside time to make one.

Also, I am looking forward to the time their designers come out with a similar kit for a chair travisher.

There’s more to be said on wooden spokeshaves, much more, but we can save that for another day.

The post A Lighter Touch On Wooden Spokeshaves appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Final on #151 Spokeshave Restorative Work Series – Maybe!!!

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 12:12am

Restoring and preparing the cutting iron and the cap iron DSC_0021 The #151 flat-bottomed spokeshave is now the commonest of all spokeshaves in use for general woodworking and the traditional wooden pattern from 17th century origins is no longer a production model because it generally ceased being produced in the 1920s because of the #151 success. Buying them new or secondhand usually requires some remedial work to different parts of the tool. The following will show you the important steps to making any #151 spokeshave work beautifully regardless of the work you do with it. It’s almost always best to dismantle all of the parts of any tool and remove all of the components. This is good advice provided you know how to reverse the steps and put it all back in the right way. A problem occurs if the seller puts the parts together without actually knowing which things should be where. The most common problem I encounter with the #151 is that the blade almost always arrives with the cutting iron the wrong way round. No matter what you do with the spokeshave assembled incorrectly it will never take a shaving. The photos given here show the different parts assembled correctly. Study them and keep them close to hand when your spokeshave arrives to compare what you have. It’s not a bad idea to still take a picture to recall how things arrived anyway regardless of right or wrong. Degrease and derust the blade and cap as necessary using the same tools we used in the previous blog post for restoring the body of the spokeshave. The blade will flex to flatness in the extender holder when you cinch down the cap iron but flipping the bade over to remove the burr and polish the flat face cannot usually be flexed to flatness by hand and so hopefully the blade is indeed close to flatness. We will assume it is flat as in 99% of cases that are indeed flat. If yours is not flat and you are using the extender holder you should flatten both sides of the blade so that it is not flexed in the holder when holding the bevel to the abrasive otherwise the bevel can be curved along its length when removed from the holder. DSC_0051 Establishing the bevel at 25-degrees begins with the coarsest abrasive at 250-grit. One advantage of installing the blade in the extender is you can use the 25-degree angle of the extender to guide you for the bevel angle if you are sharpening freehand. You can also use this extender in a honing guide of you prefer. I find one important advantage of using the guide and extender in tandem with one another is one, the amount of pressure you can apply and two, it virtually guarantees a square result almost without thinking. With the bevel established at 25-degree we can further hone with a few strokes at a slightly elevated angle, usually up to but never more than 30-degrees. The 30-degree cutting edge is now refined on a 600-grit and then a 1200-grit abrasive. Doing this effectively ‘thickens’ the cutting edge to an acceptable and effective working cutting edge. The band width width of this 30-degree secondary angle or bevel is best around 2-3mm only. This creates a strong enough edge to maximise resistance against edge fracture. DSC_0024 Finishing at 1200 is usually a fine enough cutting edge for 95% of work. Removing the extender from the honing guide allows you to draw the bevel in the extender on a strop charged with abrasive chromium oxide. Working the flat face is the same as a plane iron except it is not as essential to create a dead flat face unless you want to. You should remember that polishing the bevel is only half the sharpening. The flat face should always be finished to the same level as the bevel, so if you went to chromium oxide abrasive, which is around say 15,000, then the large flat face should be the same. The extender does not allow work on the flat face but it’s not necessary anyway. Abrade, hone and strop the flat face. The flat face is best polished out on a flat piece of hardwood such as maple or beech. Apply the abrasive compound directly to the wood and trail the cutting away from the abrasive rather than pushing the edge into the abrasive and the wood. Now the cutting iron is ready for installing and using. DSC_0042 DSC_0043 Its important to check the inside face of the cap iron. The above two pictures show the result of introducing the cap to the coarse plate and then further abrading until the whole edge is flattened. DSC_0044 It must be flat or flattened along the very edge where it will meet the large flat face of the cutting iron. Flatten it on the coarse abrasive only. It’s not the whole face that needs to be flat, just along the cutting edge. DSC_0046 Along the end edge of the lever cap, the face-edge that leads and faces into the throat of the spokeshave, file a straight edge with an 80-degree (or thereabouts) back bevel along it. DSC_0049 You can soften this rake with abrasive 250-grit abrasive taking care not to round the underside of the edge formed as an gap will provide a leading edge for shavings to lodge and cause clogging in the throat. DSC_0047 With the blade in the spokeshave and registered on the adjusters feel in the mouth (carefully) for the cutting edge and advance or withdraw the iron unit it feels somewhat even or flush with the rims of the throat. DSC_0054 Now install the cap on the centre setscrew and advance the adjustment screw at the top of the cap until it feels relatively tight but not fully cinched. Often times you will find the setscrew in the centre cinched down, which people feel is the way to lock the blade in place and that can easily seem right because the blade is indeed tight and immoveable. Cinching the cap onto the cutting iron this way negates the ability to adjust the blade but also causes other important elements to be non functional too. The centre setscrew is there to use as a fulcrum point to transfer pressure to right behind and along the cutting edge with the lever cap. Adjusting the setscrew so that a reverse fulcrum takes effect necessitates a precise setting of this setscrew. We work both the centre setscrew and the cap setscrew in unison until the proper distance is set for the centre setscrew. To establish this we look at the gap at the top of the cap. That’s the red component. Look at the gap . The larger the gap without bottoming out the adjustment screw at the top of the cap, the nearer the cap iron marries to the blade at the cutting edge and the greater the pressure where it’s really needed. This translates into a vibration-free assembly capably engaging the work. DSC_0040 DSC_0042

More images of #151 
I have used three different types of #151 spokeshaves in this series to show that they are very similar and have the same basic constituents.

The post Final on #151 Spokeshave Restorative Work Series – Maybe!!! appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

In Defense of #151Spokeshaves…and Wooden Spokeshaves and Veritas Spokeshaves too

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 2:51am

CB12I am often concerned that when people discuss hand tools of different types someone declares that a particular make or type is the only one to get because of a particular quality that that tool might have. All too often and in the same breath they then dismiss other types in order to bolster their opinion or choice or purchase of that tool. Those of you who read my blog will see that through the years I have tried to counter adverse opinions on say the Stanley #4 plane because so many untruths have become accepted yet the basis for its being rejected is actually unfounded. Point in case is the declaration that the #4 Stanley plane with its thin iron chatters. If I give a #4 plane to someone to use I defy that them to make the plane chatter. Some years ago an ‘expert’ woodworker declared that the #151 spokeshave couldn’t be made to work and probably would not be made to make a shaving. Of course that was far from true, but the problem was that 12,000 people and more read the erroneous article and the editor said it was too late to counter what was said.


Whereas I do know a well-made and well-set and sharpened wooden spokeshave performs exceptionally well, there are many aspects of woodworking that a #151 will do better. The reason for this is the simple fact that the blade of the 151 doesn’t form the sole of the spokeshave but passes through the sole in like manner to say a plane. In a wooden bodied spokeshave the thickness of the shaving is determined then by setting blade deeper than the wooden body so as to form a step-like presentation to the wood. In the very narrow field of chair bodging, generally making parts from green wood and even dry wood, this spokeshave is more ideal than the others. That doesn’t mean that the others will and do work well also, just that it works better. In essence this sets it apart from the 151 and others in that the 151 cutting action is very different. In the bedded angle of the #151 the iron is presented at a steep angle and protrudes through the sole so that the sole is continuous and level on both ‘fore and aft’ aspects of the cutting edge.


Of course the other dominant feature distinguishing these two spokeshave types is the bevel up aspect of the wooden bodied spokeshave (above)…


…and the bevel-down of the metal-bodied type of the #151.

As I say, for chairmaking, where a bodger might decry the #151 as inferior to the old wooden ones, the wooden spokeshave works best and is therefore declared superior. On the other hand, others might declare the Veritas superior to any other because of its tighter mouth opening and superior engineering and metal alloys and such. Indeed, I love these spokeshaves because of these features which are well thought through aspects of the design. You see each perceives and expounds from their small and even very narrow sphere of working wood and therefore declare the merits bests suited to their sphere. Fact is that these statements can be true only on a very limited level. Further fact is that they are all good, all indispensable, all highly developed and all provide uniquely different services in the field. Then for some reason the #151 in the minds of the uninitiated becomes some kind of clunker because  of adverse press by writers, bloggers and magazines. Some time back I blogged that the UKs The Woodworker magazine writer wrote something very close to “it won’t make a shaving” and pits himself against a hundred thousand woodworkers that have owned and used a #151 for half a century and people stop buying what is a truly remarkable tool.

The #151 spokeshave emerged from the casting foundries of western makers to provide a lifetime tool that worked less well for chair bodging than it did woodworking joinery and furniture making. On the one hand the wooden spokeshave was indeed used mostly for making spikes, spindles and spokes of every different shape and size. Ladder rungs and chair slats, wagon spokes and spinning wheel components came from the long, with-the-grain cuts that peeled and pared the wood along the grain. With its different presentation, the #151 performed much different work in cutting coves and convexes with equal alacrity. Did that mean the wooden spokeshaves couldn’t do this? Not at all, just that here there was a new alternative that worked and worked well.


Veritas came ut with their version of the spokeshave with wooden handles for comfort and shock absorption, tighter mouths and finer adjusters. Superior in quality the tool works well and especially so in those areas where really fine work is required. Will it take a heavy cut like the #151? No, not without changes to the mouth, but that wouldn’t be practical because that would change its performance for fine work.

My conclusion is this. With spokeshaves there is no one size fits all although you could choose one of these and be happy making adjustments to make them suit the task each time you reach for it. Each of the types discussed will perform differently for different tasks. Bodging chair makers work primarily with long grain cuts and minimal crossgrain work and so like the wooden spokeshaves best because that’s what they do best. The #151 type spokeshave with its open mouth is a work horse of a tool and will tackle almost any and all work well and can be refined for fine work too. I like owning the Veritas spokeshaves for fine-tolerance work but have no hesitation pulling them out for almost anything I do.

The post In Defense of #151Spokeshaves…and Wooden Spokeshaves and Veritas Spokeshaves too appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

#151 Spokeshave Restoration – The Paul Sellers’ Blade Extender

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 9:25am

Sharpening Spokeshaves Needs Good Leverage

All too often punching a keyboard doesn’t strengthen the right finger, hand and arm muscles for sharpening super short blades like spokeshave blades. I do freehand-sharpen without any such associated problems but I have taught enough students through the decades of training to know many do find great difficulty applying sufficient pressure where it’s really needed right behind the actual cutting edge. An extender works well but this retro extender of mine works better than any I ever used. It will work well with any maker’s iron including Veritas, Lie Nielsen, Record, Kuntz, Stanley, Marples, Record Irwin and even some of the rarer makers. If you are a free or paying member of woodworking masterclasses you can access the videos on making one and see one one actually being made and used in full HD action.


Making the extender is simple enough with a piece of hardwood, two 3/4” brass or steel woodscrews and a 3/4” M4 setscrew,  threaded bolt or the setscrew directly from your spokeshave.

I used hand tools to form the main body of the extender because they are more efficient, safer and they simplify the whole process. Making this one takes under five minutes and it’s a lifetime aid even if you are under 10 years old.

Most blades will be somewhere around 2” wide, so cut your blank from 1/8” to a 1/4” wider than the blade. I made mine 2 1/4” x 7” long and 1/2” thick, but these sizes can be adjusted.


On one end of the extender blank mark the angle of 20- 25-degrees on the end.


Cut the angle with a tenon saw to form the underside of the extender.


I planed the angle smooth but that’s optional.


Place the blade on the extender so that the blade extends past the end of wood by about 1/4” or so.


Pinpoint two holes in the adjustment holes of the blank near to the inner edges.



Use an awl to open up the holes and then drive two screws into the holes leaving a gap between the underside of the screw head and the wood.




Cut off the heads with a hacksaw.


Place the blade on the extender and on the protruding brass pins and mark the centre of the centre hole through the blade…


…and the cap you took from the spokeshave using the narrower end of the hole toward the top.


Drill an undersized hole into this centre point using a twist drill that is under the diameter of the threads but larger then the diameter of the main shank. This allows the threads to bite into the walls of the holes and chase a thread to receive the setscrew. You can either find a separate setscrew, a regular woodscrew or use the one from the spokeshave itself. If you use a regular woodscrew, allow the screw to pass through the wood and snap the point off on the opposite outside.Slip the blade onto the pins and adjust the setscrew in the wood to receive the cap. Adjust the setscrew in the cap to tighten the blade in the extender as you would setting the blade in the spokeshave itself.


DSC_0007 - Version 2

At the top end of the extender it’s best to round the end to make it comfortable in the hand during use.. I used a can to mark the round.


Use a coping saw to cut the rounded end. A rasp will remove the corners for comfort.


If everything fits well the extender is ready to use, but if you want to use the extender in a honing guide it is best to chamfer a 10-degree angle on either side of the extender using a smoothing plane.


An angle guide protractor will help but just bevel the sides to fit the dovetailed sides of the guide you will be using.



DSC_0007 - Version 3

The extender in the honing guide fully loaded and ready for use.

The post #151 Spokeshave Restoration – The Paul Sellers’ Blade Extender appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Restoring a #151 Record, Marples or Stanley Spokeshave

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 3:38am

I bought three #151′s via eBay recently to show what could be had for under £10 knowing the steel cutting iron, cast body and associated adjusting mechanisms will be original Sheffield steel of quality rather than an Asian import under the banner of say Irwin or Stanley or whatever. In this series I want to dismantle comparisons of say the wooden spokeshave with the #151 or the Veritas spokeshaves. Some say the wooden ones are superior, but I want to show something a little different from the furniture maker’s perspective rather than the chair maker’s and the joiner’s from say the instrument maker’s. Anyway, I hope to both inform and educate you and at the same time entertain you. We also have videos out that help with the whole and this series of blogs will bring absolute clarity to this most useful of tools.


My spokeshave restoration process is simple enough with nothing more than common sense and common materials and oil needed, although I will as always be using diamond plates and diamond hones for the sharpening, flattening and so on. In place of these you can use any other sharpening stones and abrasives or files.

It’s best to derust and degrease first and so disposable rubber gloves keep your hands clean and give good grip through the processes. Any abrasive paper works for derusting and for starting and often finishing I use 250-grit or thereabouts. Grease is not usually a problem but a brass wire brush will work for most if not all of this. I don’t really like to use solvents but there are several greener solutions for this step too.


Remove all loose paint and find a paint to match the original if you in fact plan on getting the tool to a near original state. The Record blue and red can be had from B&Q here in the UK in a small section of the paint department.


One of these pots will restore about fifty spokeshaves and for under £4 that’s inexpensive. These spokeshaves are quite dirty with some grease to boot.


In this case I used the end of an old knife as a scraper to fit into hollows and then followed with the wire brush in all the nooks and crannies. I tend not to use wire wheels and brushes in power tools unless the tools are way off because of deep rust. Remember I restored some Old Record vises some time back and I did use an angle grinder to get through the mass of work for that, but these spokeshaves should take only minutes of time to derust, degrease and remove flaking paint.


In this case the handles have paint flaked on the handles front, back and underside so I sanded over the whole. On the convex surfaces I padded the flat face of a stick with a cotton rag wrapped around several times. Wrapping the sandpaper around the whole meant no flats but gentle curves that gave me an even surface cleanness ready for applying the first coat if paint.


I checked the spokeshave bed for high spots that cause the blade to bend in the body when the pressure is applied through the cap. The best tool ever for this is the diamond stone and hone medium grit from EZE_Lap.


It gets right into the throat and does the whole surface very accessibly and creates the flatness I like. Notice here some indicated points showing high spots that were never corrected by the former owner. Why they didn’t is lack of someone showing them. These small bumps result in flex that can cause chatter marks in the surfaces being planed or shaped. The image aboe shows a more than adequate level of evenness for a spokeshave of this type.



Before painting I flattened the sole of the flat spokeshave and sanded the round bottomed one.


I taped off the areas I want to be paint free with masking tape because it’s easier and quicker to apply the paint and prevents paint from clogging or gumming up.


Even so, I still try to apply the paint exactly where I want rather than daubing it on. The paint I am using is a low-VOC, water-based gloss? paint that is amazing as far as drying, hardness and final  appearance. It costs just under £4 for this tub, which would be expensive penny per litre but for small projects like this it’s unbeatable. Used a disposable foam brush which washes out easily or you can wrap it inside the rubber glove  to choke off air and apply subsequent coats before cleaning with water.

On this spokeshave I applied two coats to get the thickness, fullness and evenness I wanted. I then touched up any areas that I saw where the paint drew back from tighter edges and such; to ensure even colour.


I cleaned out all of the threaded parts with the brass wire brush and applied  a drop of oil before reassembly. Some parts can be chucked in a drill driver and spun into the wore brush locked in the vise. The knurled parts too benefit from this.


The post Restoring a #151 Record, Marples or Stanley Spokeshave appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

The 151 Spokeshave – Where I Mastered This Unique Plane

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 10:28am

 More on spokeshaves – How I Got Started With One

Growing up in the 50s and 60s and then throughout my apprenticing years in the mid 1960s I worked considerably in restoration work on older houses that had settled more solidly through two world wars, much demolition from bomb droppage and of course normal settlement over a couple of centuries. UK houses are mostly stone or brick and not timberframed. There is no American stick-frame 2×4 construction with sandwiched dolomite between skins of thick paper as such. In fact, for the main part, everything internal and external seems to me anywhere from 12” to 2′ thick masonry of one type or another with 1/2 to 1” of plaster on the walls that is then evened out and finally surfaced with a skim coat of even finer plaster.


I say all of this to say that skirting boards and floors,  architraves and doors and window frames were all suspended between fixed stone anchor points and then trimmed out with moulded wood and it’s here that the spokeshaves came into its best usage for me. When the floors curved, cupped and twisted after a bomb blast resettlement or a stone wall jumped and settled back on it’s newly situated foundation, trim and doors, window frames and so on either needed replacing or refitting and that’s where I learned to master the spokeshave the most. Replacing door and window frames with curved headers or circular frames too required the refining work that came from the spokeshave edge and although we did use the spindle moulder to shape the main frames when first made, during assembly and then when fitting the frames on the jobsite often required extensive use of the 150 or 151 spokeshave. This effective tool could refine and scribe any board or frame to an exact fit within a fraction of an inch and could remove much more material than a plane ever could and this is something few woodworkers would recognise as a need or solution to today. I cannot imagine how we would have done this work without the humble spokeshave, even though we today have jigsaws and routers and circular saws and more.


Scribing wood is a simple way of fitting a piece or length of wood to an uneven surface. Most often this need occurs where a wall meets a floor or a door frame meets a wall at a 90-degree angle and because the meeting points is irregular and not straight or angled rather than square, we must fit the edge of a covering bord or trim piece to close off any gaps. Here in the UK it is a more common need because although plastering creates a flat looking and level surface, the final result is most often less than we might want. In the USA on the other hand, plasterboard (Sheetrock) is used as the finished surface with tape and plaster used on the jointed lines only to create a seamless jointline. In the UK we have a 1/2″ of plaster onto man-made blocks or bricks of some type which is then skimmed over the whole surface with about 1/16 to 1/8″ of plasterboard; a process we call floating or skimming. The end result is a super hard glass-like finish pretty much impervious to life that will last a hundred years plus and maybe another hundred years depending on the care given to the home by the owner.

Cabinets and door frames often butt up against a wall to form another situation where an internal corner needs trimming out with a bead or piece of trim and this bead is trimmed to perfect fit with a spokeshave to. In the USA it is most common to but the trim up to such surfaces and then caulk it with a seam of caulking. It’s fast and effective and gets the job done. A skilled painter can make a perfect cove to the internal corner straight of the caulk gun and a less skilled worker draws a finger along the caulk line to finish the work. All in all it’s another substitute for skill and care.


So, it’s in the pre-caulking days that I learned to master using the spokeshave the most. Three strokes when heavily set takes off a good sixteenth and then a lighter set with the tweak of a setscrew refines the final shaping by a quick thou’ and you are done.

My second exposure to spokeshaves big time was working with a man named Dennis who had the job of converting an old railways sidings warehouse into offices for a man named Gunter who owned a trucking company. The new walls were timber lined and it was me who had to make the new wood fit the old floors and walls wherever the wood touched either. I was there for about four months doing this each and every day and I loved it. We only sharpened to 250 grit for this and that worked perfectly well.

I say all of this to show that the spokeshave is as much or more a plane than a tool used only for shaping spikes, spokes, rails and rungs yet I rarely if ever see anything written on this today. The basis for the restoration of a spokeshave comes from decades of finding them, fixing them and of course using them. This is my next blog on this.


The post The 151 Spokeshave – Where I Mastered This Unique Plane appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Retrofit Your Vise and Bench With Dogs Video Up

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 11:54am

To show I like dogs we made a video to show how you can retrofit your existing non-dogging vise with a simple addition.

On the benchtop we added some spring loaded additions that provide the opposing dogs for holding your workpiece securely for planing and scraping. The system works really well if you like benchtop dogging. Hope you enjoy it.

The post Retrofit Your Vise and Bench With Dogs Video Up appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Upcoming Posts for My Blog – Exciting Stuff Old and New

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 4:52am

These are the next blog post series I have been working on. I’ve taken traditions of the past and kept them and  turned some of them upside down and inside out:

Restoring a Fall Front Writing Bureau


Spokeshaves I Use and Why

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Upcycling Spokeshaves

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Making the Paul Seller’s Spokeshave Blade Extender


Shaping your Kitchen Knives to Task



And one more…



DSC_0058Turning tool handles for replacements and restorations.


Could the unique and simple Paul Sellers’ saw sharpening method be the very fastest saw sharpening method in the world????

The post Upcoming Posts for My Blog – Exciting Stuff Old and New appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Fingers Hurt Sharpening Spokeshave Blades? There’s an Answer!

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 3:24am

Here is the way forward for making the Paul Sellers’ Spokeshave Blade Extender

There is a lot more besides hurting fingers and hands when it comes to freehand sharpening small blades like spokeshave blades. Applying effective pressure is hard and keeping even pressure across the width of the iron with just fingertips is nigh on impossible. Another thing is that you can’t really install a short spokeshave iron in a honing guide because the blade doesn’t extend far enough from the honing guide to reach the needed angle or angles. This simple wooden extender makes the whole process solidly practical and even pleasant.


I have thought this through through the years and seen so many students using spokeshaves at the shop struggle more with sharpening spokeshaves irons than any other type plane iron. The main reason is finger strength but also the fact that you have so little to grip on to with hands wrapped as you would with say a regular plane iron. My extender is effective, compact and simple and it works with just about every type of metal cast spokeshave ever made which includes those made by modern-day makers too.


The video we made shows both how to make the holder and then how to use it. Watch for yourself and make one in just a few minutes. It will give you total control of the spokeshave blade throughout the sharpening process regardless of whether you use freehand methods or a fixed or adjustable honing guide and you will use it for the rest of your life. More than even that, this guide works not only the same with round bottomed spokeshave irons but also with curved edges whether round or hollow too.

The extender I designed is uniquely different and, as with all of our tool and technique videos, available to watch for free online when you sign up for the free subscription side of woodworkingmasterclasses. Simply subscribe to the free subscription membership of  woodworkingmasterclasses go to Video Library and then Tool and Techniques and then look for Spokeshave: Sharpening Holder and enjoy this and 20 more free training videos.

By the way, we will not expect anything from you once you sign in and neither will we bombard you with emails or adverts and…no more aching hands and fingers!


The post Fingers Hurt Sharpening Spokeshave Blades? There’s an Answer! appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools


by Dr. Radut