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Paul Sellers

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A Lifestyle Woodworker
Updated: 31 min 41 sec ago

Upcycle Chisel Handles For a Fully Functional Tool

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 9:06am

A Fully Restored London Pattern Gouge Handle for Free DSC_0203

Chisels and gouges just turn up from nowhere with sadly abused handles mashed on the end, split down the centre or with short grain that split off a chunk from the side. I seem to accumulate these waifs and strays on a regular basis and unless I do something with them they quickly become a waste of space. For the main part all are repairable though and rarely is the steel beyond working with. Handles on the other hand may seem more questionable and problematic. Here is a gouge we restored for cope cutting and carving with. The steel aspect came quickly back to working condition, but the handle!!???

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Step one is to remove the poor split to a flat surface and this we do with a good sharp #4 smoother. It must be dead flat to make a good mating surface with an add-on piece of the same wood. DSC_0165In this case the handle is ash; it could have been beech or box. These three woods are the most commonly used of all handle woods here in the UK. For this repair I used another chisel handle in ash beyond such repair. Planing a second dead flat surface over the existing split gave me a good match in wood and so I glued the pieces in the vise, clamped them on the outer edges to guarantee good seating and meeting and left them overnight for the glue to set up.DSC_0167

I cut away the bulk of the waste parallel to the width and opposite side fot eh gouge handle and also to length.DSC_0168 Now I must round the handle. this one is easy because it’s not barrel shaped like some handles are.

DSC_0169First I removed the corners with a spokeshave and planed the radius with both the spokeshave and my smoothing plane.

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I refined the cut with a rasp and thins card scraper and used a rasp to refine the corners and marry them to the existing edge of the original handle. DSC_0174

DSC_0175Sandpaper refined this further and the main shaping was done.

This work takes about 20 minutes all in all.

After all the shaping and sanding was done I added in the cut lines DSC_0186that score the circumferance of the handle. I first used a knife to get the lines to meet and then deepened them with a fine Zona model saw.DSC_0189

I applied a couple of coats of BLO for a final stage and now i have a useable gouge.DSC_0198

 

The post Upcycle Chisel Handles For a Fully Functional Tool appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Folding a Bandsaw Blade Video

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 10:02am

 

I recently bought some new bandsaw blades for one of my bandsaws and the company that supplied them went to great trouble to help buyers by giving instructions on how to fold a bandsaw blade. At first glance I thought that’s going to be helpful for new users to learn how to fold a bandsaw blade. Inside the package was a nicely photographed step-by-step guide to recoiling or refolding a bandsaw blade. I learned to do this 50 years ago and have done it throughout my working life, and so I looked at the instructions. I tried to make sense of what I saw and read and tried it by following and doing but I realised these instructions didn’t really work. I asked John to try to follow the instructions and he couldn’t make it work and so too Phil who couldn’t make it work either. So here is a method that works easily and gets the snake back into the bag without biting back.


http://youtu.be/f-7x8X6I3RA

 

The post Folding a Bandsaw Blade Video appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Character Comes Cheap

Sun, 04/13/2014 - 3:32pm

If we walk on two legs and think to resolve puzzles, problems and concepts of design and we build and negotiate solutions, making and creating is intrinsic to us. Whether we will evolve into unconstructive beings remains to be seen, but I look at blocks of wood used for building walls and can’t help but shape them with my hands and a few tools to make a scoop or a spoon or a spatula.

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When I choose my tools I look at different parts of them. Usually I find myself looking at something old, something from the past, and I respect the quality hidden beneath the superficial and neglect to its inner character. I don’t really look so much for sets or even ones from the same maker now. These are not really the ones I reach for. Yes, I admit I do look at tools, a chisel, for character I don’t find in new tools. I like interesting tools I suppose. You know, the ones that have different woods and even steel blades that take and hold their edges differently too, but let me sharpen them. I had a set of chisels where the bevelled edges came to a sharp edge on the long side edge bevels. When I pressed them to the stones they felt sharp enough to cut into my fingers so I couldn’t sharpen them properly. I called the makers and told them of the safety issue and they said to sand the corners. That didn’t seem quite right to me somehow and especially as they were one of the most expensive on the market. Another maker I bought chisels from supplied chisels where the cutting edges kept fracturing when I chopped with them. Again I brought this to the attention of the makers and they did nothing about it. DSC_0270Of the 100 old chisels I have bought I never had one where the edge crumpled, fractured, didn’t take or didn’t hold a good edge. These three chisels cost £7 for the three plus shipping. They will last me about 50 years if use them throughout every day. It will take me 20 minutes each to get them how I want them. I think that’s good value for money. I buy character because it textures my life. I like texture like this. There’s a history in them and they have history yet to make. I like tools to have personality before they lie on my bench.

Categories: Hand Tools

Questions Answered – Fitting Chisel Tangs to New Handles

Sat, 04/12/2014 - 3:38pm

Question:

I have many such chisels that I’ve picked up here and there, I’m a passable turner and fancy turning my own handles but tang fitting and step drilling are arcane mysteries to me. Where would one learn such practices?

Answer: 

DSC_0162Right here. I am often asked how to fit a chisel handle to tanged chisel but the problem now is that not all tangs are at all traditional. With the Ashley Iles gouge John just repaired the split handle of,  the tang was parallel and square and was centred in a round, slightly undersized hole in the wood. That being so, the four corners of the tang bite onto the wall of the hole and forcing the chisel handle down onto the tang meant that the tang was force-driven into the walls. It’s a bit crude but it works  fine. You can see the different tang type above here. This has become common in more modern makers but most of the chisel handles that need replacing will be the older abused types from the ages when skill and craftsmanship were respected.

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Traditional tangs will need new handles because of age and abuse in more modern times when people know no different. In times past the blacksmith heated the tang and burned the tapered, tang-shaped hole square into the handle but left the tang 1/4” from the shoulder of the chisel. With the tang slowly quenched and cooled so as not to be too hard, he then drove it onto the tang so the pointed tang was effectively ‘nailed’ into the end of the hole. Now this process is a bit awkward in a woodshop with wood, chips and fluffy shavings and my insurers might find a case for arson in there somewhere. Step drilling on the other hand works differently than both of these methods methods but we end up with a well fitting tang. The important thing here is to get the hole centred in the handle so that the chisel or gouge aligns perfectly from side to side and front to back.  Here are the steps we used to replace Johns handle.

First off we reground the square tang shown above to a more traditionally shaped tapered one. Not conventional but it worked fine.

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It’s hard to drill holes freehand but it can be done. Sometimes I drill freehand and sometimes I take out the risk by jigging up for it. In this case it’s easy. When one of my Dewalt cordless drills stands on its base the bit aligns parallel to the bench top. That means that when I push the drill forward it is drilling perfectly straight. The difficulty in free handing is aligning both vertically and horizontal. Using the bench and the drill means I only have to align one way. Aligning myself from the back of the drill makes it easy to centre the drill into the handle and keep it equal as I enter more deeply.  A piece of one-by in the vise simplifies the job. Anchor it in the vise  so that the end of the board is a couple of inches above the centre of the drill chuck and drill a 1/16th inch hole an inch or so in from one of the outer edges. Now use a brace and bit the diameter of the ferrule or near to using the hole you drilled as a pilot hole to draw the bit into the hole.  Drill from both sides for a clean cut to both sides. Now, down from the top end of the board, saw a kerf into the centre of the hole. This kerf allows a screw through the side to tighten the hole onto the ferrule and the handle being drilled. Drill a 3/16” hole through the side to the saw kerf. Pass a screw into the hole, locate the handle in the hole the full width of the ferule and cinch up the screw. You can see the screw head in each of the images. This should align the handle nicely but check yourself as you cinch the screw. John found it best to pull the drill toward him because he felt he could see the handle more fully. If you can align more from behind the drill and slightly above it so you can see over it you will get perfect alignment.

DSC_0167Now the drill alignment height is perfect we are ready for step drilling a series of diminishing sized holes. The main tang of the chisel at the base and by the bolster will likely be somewhere around 1/4” square or something like that. If that were the case, drilling a 1/4” hole means the corners will bite into the wall of the hole. You must vary these sizes according to the tang you have on a specific chisel. The first hole I suggest you drill is the one that goes the length of the tang minus say a 1/4”. So if the tang is 2″ long drill 1 3/4” .

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The first hole is 1/8”. The next hole is a little bigger, 5/32” usually works. This hole goes somewhere around 3/4 of the depth to 1 5/8”; not hard and fast. The next hole is 3/16” and goes half way at 7/8” and the last one is the size best suited to the thickness of the square of the tang at the base and in my case is 1/4”. This hole goes to a depth commensurate to the length of the thick section of start of the square; usually this will vary  but 1/2” should work.

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Offer the tang into the hole and tap it into place gently to see and feel how it seems to seat in the hole. You may need to adjust the holes in the stepped diameters if the bolster is a long way from seating to the end of the handle inside the ferrule. I like the bolster to be about 1/4”. This then means that the pointed end will ‘nail’ into the bottom of the small dia hole and the square section at the base will bite into the walls. This stops the chisel or gouge from turning in the hole when being worked as a finished tool.DSC_0163

Categories: Hand Tools

Today’s Chips From My Bench

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 2:01pm

DSC_0163Here is John’s upcycled Ashley Iles 35mm 7-sweep gouge replete with its new beech handle and his retro box is shown below too. Trash to treasure turns the useless to full of use and what one person chunks another knows will last another lifetime. Today I realised a few things as I filed the teeth on the £1 saw I bought last week and made it into a very, very functional saw that now cuts like the very best of saws I ever owned. I topped the teeth and redefined the shape as the students watched me to learn my techniques. The light flashed off the newly topped teeth for a few strokes and then they disappeared stroke by stroke as the teeth became uniform in shape and size before their eyes. This is the very best way to learn to sharpen if it’s possible and it’s the way I learned 49 years ago to the day. I stripped the rust off yesterday in readiness for this class. What they saw today will never intimidate their saw sharpening in the future.DSC_0222
Progress on joinery went well and I pointed out the joints in my tables we made for the videos as I taught them joinery, which is really useful of course because it makes it so applicable. Most people see joints in mostly one-way applications when there are many more uses for each joint when you make a few minor adaptations to suit the task.DSC_0229
I recounted a story from a former occupation when i learned that bank tellers are only given real notes when they are learning their banking skills. After a period of time has elapsed they slip in a fraudulent notes and, remarkably, every time their fingers touch a bad note they can sense the difference in their fingertips. What they do is what we do. We present the truth. A tangible permanent reference in the fingertips and hand pressures of every student who pushes a sharp chisel into wood for the first time. From this day forth and forever they will always know what sharp is. DSC_0237

Phil is setting his brass backed R Groves dovetail saw with a hammer and nail set…

 

 

…and my recent eBay R Groves steel back 14″ below is awaiting another demo for sharpeningDSC_0165

 

No other single aspect of hand tool woodworking is more important than sharpness and every person we teach comes to know that from the very start. Knowing sharpness cuts to the very chase and showing students the way to that end means the eradication of any and all doubt. That’s what happened today. Well, a couple of hours later we did the same with the hand plane. Next week we are filming much of what I taught today because there is a lot we want to upgrade for everyone to learn from. They will be free videos that you can watch for on either YouTube or woodworkingmasterclasses.com if you have signed in for your free online subscriptions.

Here is John’s finished chisel box. the one I mentioned in yesterday’s blog.

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This what I wanted from the beginning, when I started teaching my first workshops two decades and more ago.
Upcycling is, according to Wiki, “the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.’, so I think that’s me and many others who are being upcycled as we upcycle our finds.

I hope you enjoy these little shavings. Tips and chips from my bench to yours.

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I hope you have  a wonderful weekend.

Categories: Hand Tools

Upcycling, Retro, Retrofurbing, Retrofurbish, Shabby chi

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 1:29pm

Upcycling, Retro, Retrofurbing, Retrofurbish, Shabby chic – What’s in a name?

DSC_0219Passing by an old handsaw amidst piles of junk is hard spot for me. I glance first at the medallion and that tells me a lot. Without conscious thought I have already judged the plate and so I lift it to my eye to cast my eye along its teeth from heel to toe. Price doesn’t really matter too much; any Disston saw with a wooden handle and ‘Phil’ in the disc is worth £40. I wouldn’t pay that myself but it would be worth that at least. They never go for more than £5 at a flea market or car boot sale. These two cost me £6. How can I go wrong? In an hour the set and sharpen is done and the plate on one is shining steel again. The other is a big 6-point crosscut Disston, slightly breasted, just ever so slightly. The other, the one I started, is nameless, but it’s a good saw, even with a split handle. I can just restore it or cut the plate along the length and make a wider frame saw blade from it – in under about 20 minutes I think. Upgrading or upcycling creates creativity in my mind and I look forward to the new possibilities. DSC_0197Down one of the aisles ahead of me, John picks out some bits of wood from a trashy box full of junk. He sees something no one else sees and pulls out five pieces of very aged pieces of darkish wood 10mm thick and a few centimeters wide. He, because of who he is, sees an upcycle on the make. A box unmade but beyond only possible. The man selling them says he can have them and so he tucks them under his arm and walks away.

Phil sees a set of six of the old Marples bevel-edged bluechips on ebay and bids in at £20, I think. He wins and they arrive at his house a couple of days later. The steel is stained only, not pitted at all. the blue handles show signs of neglect as do the whole of the chisels, but inside is good stock material and in an hour he too will have them working better than when they were crude and new. I suggest to the guys they look for something I am about to blog on and that they should buy this week because the price will go up in the next few weeks. In two days and for little more than a few pounds they acquire some good stuff that I think they will really need and that will last them throughout their woodworking life. John bought an old beech plane for a few pounds and took it apart. He has a plane iron he can cut into knives or make another iron from and a handle he can retro to a metal-cast plane if or as needed. The plane itself will make a couple of small planes he needs for finishing his workbench stool. The day passes quickly and I see his new chisel box emerge from the five pieces of junk he bought. My saws become the centre of a video we are making on restoring a saw and so we all upgrade, recycle, upcycle and move through our workday.

DSC_0166I made a new table for our latest woodworkingmasterclasses and we filmed it. While I was doing that I made a second one for my wife that will be her computer desk behind the sofa in the house. DSC_0196Now the filming is done we will go on to film the technique for finishing it using an old method used a hundred years ago that is a wonderful alternative to stain and dyes. The other one may be shabby-chic possibly. I may change my mind though.

DSC_0168John’s 7-sweep gouge from Ashley Iles developed a crack in the handle in the first three or four blows. He decides to replace the replacement handle himself, which took over a week to arrive instead of the next day it should have taken. John decides to replace the handle himself so that we can see the guts of the tang for ourselves. It was a disappointing experience because he had waited over six weeks for delivery and nearly two weeks to resolve the issue with the split handle, but we developed it into an education and upgraded the whole by grinding the rectangular tang to a more traditional tapered one. It was John’s first tang fitting so he learned about stepped drilling and such like that. DSC_0159Now that it’s retrofitted and the steel’s been worked remedially and polished out to where it should be, it’s going to work. Not quite up to the Hirsch gouge, but that’s British complacency. About two more minutes in production time with the most basic equipment and it could surpass the Hirsch. With its nice brass ferrule and well shaped beech handle, the ingredients were right, but there you go. We polished out the inside of the gouge behind the cutting edge and also the brass ferrule and then the general body of the steel too, so that it felt more comfortable. In the end, after a couple of hours work, John felt good about his new gouge. It’s no wonder we lose our grip bit by bit though.

A new design for me

Next week I have new design for a lamp I will make for the next series on woodworkingmasterclasses. It’s a craftsman-style lamp with stained glass, mica or paper panels. The wood will be oak I think and the lamp may be both a floor standing or table type. It’s all in the day, the week of lifestyle woodworkers.

Categories: Hand Tools

Whiplash, Backlash – There is No Clash

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 9:07pm

Whiplash or backlash, these wheels have taken up the slack for over a century and they still work great.DSC_0158 2

I think whiplash is of little if any consequence to woodworkers in working their planes. It never made any difference to me and in reality the Stanley and Records that so dominated for a span of 150 years will likely never change. There are enough of them made to remain in the cycle of life now to out-supply even the demand of the new-genre woodworker worldwide. In one sense the Bailey-pattern bench plane in its various widths and lengths has become a legacy if you will and for the main part nothing has surpassed what has become one of the single most reliable resources available to woodworkers. The price of these planes has steadily risen since about two years ago and in general you can buy them for £20-30 or pay a little higher if it’s in good condition and has a yellow box via secondhand markets. I am thankful eBay has given us a place of tool exchange regardless of its possible pitfalls. Tools we would never have found are now providing a good source for us to collect and use tools that would have continued rusting in dark damp cellars and dusty dirty buckets and boxes. Whereas it’s true that I like the basic plane for several reasons, it’s also true that there are good higher end makers that go to great lengths to make a superior quality tool too. Of course there will never be a true comparison between the old and new as far as longevity goes because nothing and no one challenged Stanley and Record with any serious alternative until just a couple of decades ago. Even so, no new maker actually replicates the Bailey pattern and so the two plane types of Bailey and Bed Rock are indeed made differently to different patterns.

It’s not apples for apples at all really.

DSC_0040These more modern planes others cite for comparison have mostly been around for a short time and have indeed proven themselves worthy of acclaim when it comes to engineering standards. I am sure as copies they have seen changes and even some quite simple engineering improvements in standards that have raised the bar, but for the main part it’s not so much this that most woodworkers are actually searching for in restoring an old Stanley or Woden or Sorby or Marples or Millers Falls or Sargent can never be found in lesser models from cheaper imports or the high end models either. The lessons learned from restoring and fettling a plane is the working knowledge they gain and the added satisfaction from actually bringing something back to its fuller value of usefulness and functionality that somehow knows no equal. And even more; it builds the kind of confidence new woodworkers and machinists transitioning into hand work need. This newfound confidence strips away the intimidation of fear and doubt setscrew by setscrew and shaving by shaving. DSC_0034There is no plane made today that equals my #4 or my 4 1/2. Not because it was ever restored but because it came in a yellow cardboard box and I filed on it and sharpened it and it has been serving me for about 50 years and somewhere around 30,000 plus hours to date. How about that. Another thing to remember for me is that it’s never once been repaired. Imagine! In all of those hours it has never once been repaired. I would hate to think that I would have been lugging around a heavier plane or sharpening an iron twice as thick or hard on top of that. Phew! Spare me. Total that up on top of the tons already there.
There can be no doubt as progress closed down the traditions of hand work over the past 50-90 years or so, so too we’ve seen a general declining in woodworking workmanship calling for skill and real insider knowledge once passed down from one craftsman to another emerging one. Just as the Stanley (of old, not today) supplies an endless supply of old planes, so too the internet is now bridging the gap in providing a working knowledge that no that no longer relies on the traditions of the past. Though I might lament the loss of what came to me as I was guided by a craftsman who watched me and helped me in my struggle, I am glad that I can pass on what I know to thousands of woodworkers around the world.

Categories: Hand Tools

New Events This Week!

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 2:21pm

A New Online Series Starts Wednesday

We just completed the Bookshelf series last Wednesday and so this week we see a new series for building an oak Sofa/Entryway Table beginning in a couple of days. Thank you everyone for sharing your enjoyment of the last series and all of the other work that’s going on. I think that this table will aid in your skill development and understanding of joinery whilst reinforcing your working knowledge too. I made two tables during the table build just to show a couple of alternative possibilities. Those members of woodworkingmasterclasses.com can follow this new course this coming Wednesday evening any time after 5pm and new members, remember you can access all of our past series when you sign up too. Here is a brief intro:

At the New Legacy School

DSC_0005As the training through online broadcast shapes the future of woodworkers across the globe, on a local level I will be hosting a two-day introductory Discovering Woodworking workshop here at Penrhyn Castle. We are working on developing a series of workshops with woodworkers around the bench attending some of these workshops and letting you see the questioners as we answer the questions. It’s still in the research and development phase but we look forward to this as a training aid for all levels of woodworking.

Two-day Discovering Woodworking Course

DSC_0108Discovering Woodworking has proven a valuable transitional course at the bench for those new to hand work to bridge the gap between those with little or no prior knowledge of using hand methods and working with hand tools. It’s important to get the foundation dead right to avoid the confusion many would-be woodworkers face after getting started. From this workshop students know which tools do what and which joints to choose for different aspects relying on solid woodworking joinery. Making the joints reinforces the work at the bench in the same way setting up the plane  and using a spokeshave establishes insights into planing and shaping wood by hand.

This class starts on Friday 11-12 April 2014

DSC_0177All in all I feel a contentment in moving from level to level and interfacing with woodworkers afar off and near to, face to face and on the other side of camera lenses. The future for woodworkers never looked brighter than today.  I know thousands of others feel the same way, judging by the ever-increasing number of emails I receive from around the world. This year I feel that we crossed a critical line in our game plan to make serious woodworking work for anyone. We use a functioning workshop, ordinary everyday hand tools, a proven curriculum and the insights of 50 working years as a crafting furniture maker.

Categories: Hand Tools

Does Whiplash in Stanleys Make Any Difference?

Sun, 04/06/2014 - 2:02pm

Question:

Hi Paul,

Thank you for taking the time to make your videos, they’re full of great unbiased advice.  I have noticed with some of my older stanley planes that the brass adjustment wheel has a lot of free spin, about 2 revolutions before it starts to adjusting depth. Is this a problem and can it be corrected?

Thanks,

David

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Answer:

For 150 years the Stanley range of bench planes (UK Records too) made in the US and the UK have been manufactured with what many deem to be somewhat looser tolerances for the depth adjustment wheel. This never was a problem for woodworkers throughout the Britain and the USA and it’s no more a problem today. People do however tout tighter tolerances as being the refinement of finely made planes, hinting that for fine woodworking craftsmanship you must have a highly refined plane with tight tolerances to match the work in hand. 

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This is very far from the case and whereas we can respect the art of plane makers at any level, there is no substantive proof that bench planes with finer tolerances produced better work at all. I can indeed vouch for this as fact. For about a century and even beyond, craftsmen worked with planes that had two or three revolutions between forward and reverse movement and yet their workmanship still stands exemplary to any modern day woodworker. In other words it makes little if any difference to the functionality of the plane. This became more  common a concern in recent years but I have yet to meet a modern plane that will give me a better surface or ease of use. Any whiplash is a mere flick of thumb and finger. The slack take-up is fast when the plane is well used, well oiled and cared for. These are my thoughts and I commend the basic pre-70’s Stanley and Record planes to anyone in search of a good plane. They need no retrofit irons except for preference or if the old iron needs replacing. Otherwise, no changes at all.

.

Categories: Hand Tools

Metric Rules or Does it Really?

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 2:27pm

I worked through school when there were 20 shillings in pound, 12 pennies in a shilling and thereby 240 pennies made a pound. Within that structure we also had farthings, 4 to a penny. half pennies, threepenny bits, sixpenny bits, half crowns and so on. Was it complicated? Not really. I found it quite simple. Eventually we went to the metric and that ended confusion for foreign visitors from other continents and united us with Europe.
Another obstacle to mainland Europe was the non metric imperial system of measuring. Dead simple system of dividing an inch by any number you want and then subdividing those by halves and quarters hence half inches, quarter inches, eighths, sixteenths, thirty-seconds, sixty fourths and so on. To some, it didn’t make any cents. Oops! I mean sense.
DSC_0156On eBay last week was a three foot fourfold rule made by Rabone Chesterman when Made in England meant something. This ruler was divided up on one side in 16ths and on the other side in 10ths. The seller advertised it as both an imperial and metric. Not deceptive but more a lack of knowledge of the facts I suppose. I paid £8 for my scarcity because no one wants imperial measurements, but the rule mirrored one I bought as a young aspiring joiner, replete with red seals still in tact and in place. DSC_0158I have several Rabone Rulers I’ve collected over the years and i use them at the bench for some work. When I was a boy men wore none fashion men’s workwear usually bought as bib and brace overalls that slipped over our general clothing such as jeans. In and along the right leg starting at from bend of the knee and down was a long ruler pocket that took the 9” length of the folded rule. No one I knew used a tape measure back then. My original rule is still current for me. When I was in school we were imperial, Metric invaded in the late 60’s and we converted to longer fourfolds that were ungainly and awkward. I migrated to the US in 1987 and was shocked to find feet and inches back in my life. I converted back to that. IN 1999 I returned to the UK to start New Legacy UK and switched back to metric to find half of the UK population did, like me, understand and indeed work in both unit types. Anyone under say 40 didn’t generally work outside of metric.

Categories: Hand Tools

When Work Loses Meaning

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 4:55pm

DSC_0051I suppose woodworking once found meaning in making a living but for most woodworkers today it actually means more than that. Whereas in times past woodworking made sense because it supported life and those essentials of life we once really and truly depended on, today it’s more about making sense of a life that for many makes little sense. DSC_0002Before about 10 years ago I never used a computer. The woman that supported me with Internet work and computer work suddenly quit and I had to find out how computers worked and what they did. Suddenly I was learning Pagemaker then In Design to develop my curriculum and to pass on what I knew others wanted to learn from me. DSC_0044Woodworking came easy to me. It was natural. Writing hasn’t come easy to me and it cost me something to have to spend hours over and above my long days in the shop to become at least capable of transforming my energies into the keyboard and the world of media for educating the new genre I now started to care so much about. Even now thrashing a few hours on the keyboard is painful for me. It’s not my gift or my calling but teaching and training is and so is making and designing. At one time I wrote articles for magazines until I realised that the energy I was giving to it was supporting the very things that caused so many problems. DSC_0076If I could divert those energies into life elsewhere I could keep my own voice and instead of being so really counterproductive I could revitalise the life of craftsmanship in the lives of people like you. When the internet came along I never thought much about it because I was never programmed for computerism. I hadn’t grown up in it and was not defined by it or for it. When I left school at 15 my head teacher (School Superintendent US) told me that I was ineducable. Uncertain of any future I found an apprenticeship and suddenly, behind the workbench, I discovered craft and the art of work. I found interest in everything surrounding my bench and my tools. Each one of the tools I needed cost me a full week’s apprentice wage but unwrapping a #4 from its yellow box and inner paper meant more to me than almost anything I could buy today. The tools gradually grew and the men I worked under took me under their wing. I soon learned that they were willing to invest when I showed interest. When I asked questions they toyed with me yes, but they always gave me the answers I searched for in the end.
When I stand at my bench life makes sense. When I,place the tools against the wood something feels all the more,honest and I am so thankful that I don’t have to pretend. I think that’s how my students feel when they come to my classes or follow a class online. Most of them are indeed strapped,to,a computer most of the day but when they arrive home and pull the tools out they suddenly feel a wave of sobriety and solidity that strengthens their resolve to become truly skilled in their work.
I am currently training two apprentices and who know, perhaps soon they will start training two more themselves. Part of their work is to make videos and edit them. We have others unseen in the background doing the same and they all do what they do because they truly care about the goals. They form a very unique team together that I seldom see and have not really seen to the same degree before. They too in some degree are woodworkers and I like that they can both see and feel what I feel and want to convey for themselves those same feelings, thoughts and emotions into the films, the blogs, the websites and everything else that make this so much a solid reality for the hundreds of thousands that read the blog, follow the films and so support our training endeavours.
Today I worked more on the next training project to get ready for a new training session next week. The same people that now make films and edit what you see work on prototypes, build furniture pieces and even help in teaching some of the workshops for visiting students. You see it makes so much sense to pass on skill and train others. I have lost track of those I have trained for the past two decades but there are a couple of dozen out there that had their raw beginnings on the other wide of my workbench or at one of the student benches.
Our online broadcast has made a big difference to our direction and I so enjoy this relatively new aspect of my life. We have over 100 films out there now for people to learn from. Half of them are free and we have plans for many more. This has become something of a release of energy for me. I feel I can pour myself into a new generation by the thousands. That still seems amazing to me. People in Perth and Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, China, India, Africa and throughout the whole of Europe are now learning online and from my blog. Yes, I wish that all of them could be here with me for a few months, but, you know, in some ways I feel that they are. My not traveling this past year has been much easier on me and it has meant I could reach far more than ever before. I don’t know what the future holds at all, but I know it matters and I know that you matter.

Categories: Hand Tools

Sunday Woodworking Was a Resting Day

Sun, 03/30/2014 - 2:34pm

DSC_0001The next project Woodworking Masterclasses brings to its members is a taper-legged sofa-cum side table in oak. I generally develop drawings detailing the different features such as joints, decorative points, sizes, angles and so. With that done the prototype is almost done. Prototyping aids any creative development to quicken the build, minimize risk and prevent unnecessary mistakes. Drawings give the proportional representation we need to exact sizing and develop the cutting list for rough-cutting as a prelude to final dimensioning. We will make the one for video from red oak, but the pine prototype should be done tomorrow. Whereas those following this detailed course in table making need not make a prototype, it’s important to see the real value in developing one in a new design.

DSC_0069Table making will recur from time to time over the next couple of years, as we progress training, and I designed this one with a couple of features using different cabinet making techniques used by cabinet makers through the centuries. DSC_0045Down the road we have an extending dining table to make as well as a nightstand table and drawer. To get to these and other table types we pave the way with this sofa table.

DSC_0087I walked the castle grounds to the workshop today and through the woods both there and back. John joined me mid afternoon and we talked as we worked. Penrhyn Castle looks lovely surrounded by golden daffodils and there were lots of visitors as a start to the new season. We invite them in to see our work and they are surprised to see us working with hand tools. The sounds and scents are pervasive. So much so it’s often the smell of wood that draws them. We talk back and forth as they recall episodes from their past recollections in school or passing the local joiner’s shop in younger days. It makes me see how fortunate I have been not to sit staring at flat screens all my life. It’s something of an odd thing to see how appreciative people are to see what we do and make. When they look in the door they usually stop before fully entering; as if they don’t want to disturb something special and yet they can’t resist the open space. I am so glad that they love to be there and listen and watch as we work. The work was light, fun, interesting and not hard at all. We preserve our craft in the lives of you who read this and watch our videos. The tools and techniques  too are preserved not by professionals but interested amateurs who work wood for the love of it. That’s the only reason for doing what we do.

DSC_0024The woodland walk home is about a mile door to door. The blackbirds and robins call back and forth, and the doves too. John and I talked all the way home. Tomorrow is a new day. band new untainted and open. I look forward to working tomorrow.

Categories: Hand Tools

Four Saw File Strokes to Sharp Scissors (Video)

Sat, 03/29/2014 - 1:04pm

DSC_0005Scissors may seem off topic but too many cheapos is causing good pairs to be trashed. Perhaps well-worn and dull ones will take more than four strokes with a saw file, but one good saw file will sharpen fifty pairs, and you can buy old scissors for almost nothing. Scissors for me are not off topic, they are part of my daily kit as I am sure they are for some of you. High carbon scissors take and keep a very keen edge and a good pair will last a lifetime.

A few weeks ago I blogged on scissors and the excesses of an industrial world. It was a short entry but worth the effort because I had bought five pairs of flea-market scissors, good ones, made in Sheffield, for £2.50. That’s about the price you pay for a pack of three from most stores these days. This week we filmed how to sharpen scissors at home or in the workshop, to at least regain some control of sharpening our own instead of buying into the throwaway market consumerism and economy breeds. Here is my version of non-machine sharpening scissors and shears for one of our freebies on YouTube. The reality is that anyone can do this and when someone shows you you do feel empowered to at least try. With a saw file, you, as a woodworker, most likely already have a saw file for sharpening your saws. Any single-cut flat file with a fine cut will work though, and you can sharpen any pair of scissors in under about one minute. To me, that’s empowerment and that’s power tool woodworking and sharpening at its zenith.

Those in pursuit of hand skills will enjoy this one I think. It’s the first video apprentice John Winter has filmed and edited for us.

Categories: Hand Tools

Rounding up on Shellac – Last Post

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 10:03pm

DSC_0017Rounding Up On Shellac

I was asked if the violet colourant makes a difference to the coat clarity or does it evaporate with the spirit as drying comes to completion. The answer is no. Even when wet and newly applied, the colour is not visible at all. I brushed the batch of shellac I just made two days ago from coloured meths and blonde, dewaxed shellac onto clear glass and could see no noticeable trace of colour at all, even when directly wet. So, even before the shellac has time to spirit off, the colour is imperceivable. This image with the arrow shows the glass placed over a piece of pine so you can see what I saw more directly.

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Use a Reputable Supplier

Making your own shellac using a reputable supplier using known well tried sources results in a high quality product that can translate into twice as much finish as the stuff you buy ready made. My experience shows that the finish dries faster and I can brush on a heavier coat with a more even finish, which may be cause by surface tension as the evaporation of sprit takes place. I feel that I can create my own shellac products mixing lighter and heavier mixes to suit specific tasks, add colour if I want to and of course choose natural shellac in different shades from blond through amber to dar brown. I can make a clear or lighter coat to use as a sanding sealer, before applying a thicker brushing coat that allows flow-out for a smooth  or a traditional shellac for padding on using traditional French polishing techniques. I can adjust the weight for spraying with a high volume low pressure (HVLP) spray rig, which I especially like for speed and efficiency and a finished gloss coat that parallels French polishing but in a fraction of the time. After saying all of that I want to add a warning. I have bought shellac online from a no-known selling a no-name and found that it took days to dissolve and needed remedial work to remove globs of undesolved shellac even after a week of dissolving. The Liberon I used this week was dissolving within an hour and after 16 hours was completely dissolved with no need for straining at all.

These rounds have two coats of shellac. the one on the right was unsanded, on the left sanded. This is a 2.5# cut.DSC_0019DSC_0018

A Natural and Sustainable Resource

I like shellac because it seems so much more natural a resin than others. People scrunch their noses if, in answer to their asking where it comes from, I tell them that it is produced from product secreted by the lac beetle and that it’s generally extracted as a resin from what the larvae ingests from the leaves and stems of trees growing in parts of India and southeast Asia. It is not particularly costly, is very safe to use and its uses are as as diverse as you can imagine. If you have your fingernails painted, then the shiny results are most likely from the lacquer they use, which is shellac. The cosmetic, food and drug industries are the primary users of shellac, so if you pop a pill for health, eat shiny candy or almost any piece of fruit and some veggies such as peppers and cukes you are eating a waxy, shiny product mostly made from shellac.

Categories: Hand Tools

Questions Answered – Cross Cut and Ripcut Saws

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 1:01pm

 Question:

Hi Paul,

I am trying to understand the difference between ripcut and cross cut saws. It seems confusing to me because there are so many. Do I need one of each or just one. I think from reading your posts and watching the video on saw sharpening you are saying I need only one. Is that the case or am I missing something?

Answer:

DSC_0056Here is the long answer. I understand the confusion you and most others new and not new to woodworking with hand tools find in trying to understand which saws to get. Here are some of the reasons I see that cause evermore confusion. First off if you look in any tool supply catalogue you will see the same saws with different names on them that look the same and yet have crosscut and ripcut as part of the description and then you also find different numbers of teeth per inch of saw length ranging generally from as few as 6 teeth to the inch and as many as say 32. Add into the equation pull stroke and push stroke and pull-push hybrids and the confusion only gets worse. Beyond that you then have articles in mags and online coming from unverified sources adding in their two-cents worth and before you know it you abandon the quest because, well, it’s so unclear as to which one, two or three to choose.

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Let’s face it, a tool maker or supplier will always want to sell two or three saws to a buyer and the simplest way to do that is persuade you the buyer that you need both crosscut and ripcut in every size of saw made. They will also give the impression you need every saw length made, which will total a dozen or more. Of course a saw arriving sharp saves you having to know how to sharpen and clean one you might buy on eBay or secondhand and there are good arguments in there too. Which new woodworker wants to or has the fore knowledge to start sharpening their saws? It can indeed be a dilemma.

Pull Stroke Push Stroke is a Push-me-pull-you

DSC_0294First of all let me tell you that it’s the Japanese that used pull stroke saws and it’s catalog companies that imported them and did a marketing job to make them accepted in the western woodworking culture. I think it was successful. What the western culture of sales needed was a shot of competition to shake it out of its post war lethargy. Because western saw makers were putting out low quality products and lived off their parent’s reputation, we in the west saw the saw making demise take saw making out of our culture for a season and it wasn’t too hard for Japanese outlets to sell their pull-stroke saws. Thankfully this led to an independent man starting a saw making company to develop the Independence Saw. A dovetail saw with high grade plate, beautiful handle and a milled brass back. He set the standard. DSC_0438DSC_0443Others came along too. The Wenzloff saw set the highest bar of all in terms of finish to the handle and overall appearance. DSC_0069Were I to choose a saw or series of saws I would pick these I think. Then again I love what Glenn Drake came up with in his innovative saw design which is the easiest start saw and alignment to cut I ever used. DSC_0471DSC_0478

The fact is that neither the Western or the Eastern saw worked better one over the other. many will say I am wrong but some of the very finest work ever accomplished was done so with western push-stroke saws. Japanese saws are just different. The problem arose when saw makers and sellers saw a niche where they could sell the Japanese pull-stroke saws to a western market buyer. Makers as always wanted a disposable consumable and so added impulse-hardened teeth, which yet again put them in control and meant buying into the disposable saw. There were two main reasons for this. Most people, 99% of woodworkers, would not have the developed skill or knowledge to sharpen Japanese saws and people are looking for something simple. Throw away is simple. Wrong, but, in the short term of false economy, simple. Japanese pull stroke saws are different and some are quite complex with additional bevels. Impulse hardened teeth last many times longer in sharpness than regular hardened steel that is resharpenable. This resulted in successfully converting people to a culture resulting in disposable or throwaway saws that lasted a few months instead of decades and even centuries. The reality is that western saws have the same ‘success’ story of supposed ‘progress’. They too make throwaway saws and this is what predominantly sells. Straight off the bat I would advise anyone not to buy or buy into the disposable saw lie. I would also advise that Japanese saws are not necessarily better or worse than western saws. I have used both types extensively. I want a saw I can sharpen over and over a thousand times and more. I want one that takes me only 4 minutes to sharpen and one that cuts to the line every time I pick it up. I think that the majority of pull saws made by mass makers have hard-point teeth. They cannot be resharpened with conventional Japanese saw files. That said, there are reputable suppliers selling resharpenable pull stroke saws. These saws are honestly produced and stand in the face of those produced  as counterfeits by other mass makers.

PICT0015I wish that we could return companies like Henry Disston and Nicholson Files to their native countries and domestic standards instead of feeling global supplies are good progress. It’s a terrible thing we are doing globally, destroying countries, economies and people’s lives with our demand for cheapness. If manufacturers would listen to us we would have improved products made for a lifetime of daily use. Today’s progress is highly questionable.

As with most hand tools, you will rarely find that one size fits all. I own dozens of saws of every type, but use only three or four. I buy them cheaply second hand and restore them to former glory. That’s how I became a master saw doctor. That said, you can sharpen any saw to rip and crosscut using the same saw. Eventually you may want to define one saw with more a fleam-bevelled pinnacle cut. Shortly we will be completing the video for this method of sharpening. Follow my progressive rip video here to see how best to sharpen a saw that will cut both ripcut and crosscut and give you an easy-start saw.

Categories: Hand Tools

Making Your Own Shellac From Scratch

Thu, 03/27/2014 - 10:25am

DSC_0032Making shellac is a simple process whereby we dissolve the flakes of shellac we buy into 190-proof denatured alcohol which we either buy through license here in the UK or we use Methylated spirits, which is denatured alcohol with an added violet colouring and any of a number of other additives that make the Meths undrinkable and even poisonous to prevent the misuse of it as an alternative cheap intoxicant. Methylated spirits and Denatured Alcohol are one and the same Ethanol, which is used universally as an industrial solvent for creating products used in finishing, dyes and more and also for making and thinning finishes like shellac. The main additive used in Methylated Spirits is Methanol, hence the name Methylated Sprits. Adding methanol to denatured alcohol doesn’t alter the chemical properties of the alcohol apparently. 

I use a glass jar or a plastic bottle to mix my shellac in but it has a shelf life so mix only what you will use in a few months. No more than six I would say. Whatever you mix, make sure there is enough room for the shellac flakes plus some for shaking during dissolution.

Denatured alcohol – Methylated Sprits is highly flammable

Denatured alcohol in any form and with any additive that makes it Methylated spirits is highly flammable. Never try heating it on an open flame or even have the product near any kind of direct or indirect open flame.

You can buy shellac made ready for dissolving in different forms such as pearls, flakes or pre-crushed flakes. The shellac can be in different forms depending on what you want. In its natural condition, shellac is a dark amber coloured. Sometimes we want the dark amber and other times, in my case most of the time, we want the shellac bleached and dewaxed. That being so, we buy bleached and dewaxed shellac which simply means what it says. The shellac is less waxy and can be colourless or clear. French polishers use both the natural colour of the shellac and blond or clear and then also degrees of colour for their work and this is usually governed by the colour of the wood they are polishing. Light woods such as maple or cherry will turn amber with full coloured shellac flakes. If you do not want this as a colour you must use bleached shellac.

Add the shellac flakes or pearls into the liquid and shake regularly to agitate the mixture, which speeds up the dissolution process exponentially. Leave it stand long enough between shakes, about half an hour or so usually. Depending on the conditions of the shellac manufacture, the shellac may need straining through cloth to remove contaminants.

You can make different cuts to suit your needs. I generally use premixed shellac for everyday work, but there is no doubt that home mixed shellac is indeed best. Whether you make your own or buy it ready mixed, shellac can be thick or thin and this depends on the ratio of denatured alcohol to the pound weight of shellac used. Hence we use the term ‘cut’ because when we mix shellac with the solvent we create different viscosities to work the shellac at different stages in our work. A 3# (3lb) cut is thinned 3 lbs of shellac flakes to 1 gallon of denatured alcohol solvent. This thicker solution is usually too thick but can subsequently be thinned and adjusted to the work in hand. A more general cut is a 1# cut. I find it satisfactory to make a heavier mix and thin down as needed but a 1# cut is good for padding on and a 2# cut is good for brushing on.

Remember to use dewaxed shellac as a primer coat painted finishes as the paint will not adhere well to waxy shellac.

Mixing Your Own Shellac 

Pound cuts seems a little archaic when most of the world uses a metric system of weights and measures and perhaps we should simply go by quantity ratios of liquid to weight or measure quantity by volume. It’s not  a critical thing, in fact it’s fairly open to do that or whatever you want. Here in the UK we generally mix 250g of shellac flakes to a litre of Methylated spirits. You then add additional flakes or meths to thicken or thin the viscosity to suit the task. My usual is to mix a heavier mix and then thin to task or cut the thicker mix and rebottle in different strengths. That way you have no down time waiting for shellac flakes to dissolve.

DSC_0030Mixing the shellac flakes is simply a matter of dissolving them and this usually takes 24 hours and sometimes more, depending on the temperature usually. If it’s too cold it takes longer and you can use warm water baths to increase the temperature or other heat sources such as radiators. Remember, no open flames of any kind or hot plates. This stuff is as said highly flammable. You can stir the flakes or shake them in the solution periodically. I shake them generally and then let it stand to express air in the mix before I use it. I usually shake whenever I remember, but generally every half hour works well. This will halve the dissolution time.

Don’t get too caught up in the thickness of the shellac too much. You can always readily thicken or thin your product and you can always use whatever you mix. If it’s too thick it’s more difficult to use that’s all.

DSC_0034Today I mixed some shellac. A 21/2# cut. I wanted to take the steps you might take so I ordered Liberon Shellac Flakes online via Amazon and then some denatured alcohol in the form of Methylated Spirits from another online supplier. DSC_0035The flakes I ordered were dewaxed blond shellac flakes that basically give me two things in one – one, the naturally occurring wax is drastically reduced allowing me to use it under other finishes and, two, the removal or lightness of colour means I can use it on all woods without changing the colour of the wood. Especially is this important on light coloured and white woods If I do need to change colour I prefer to use dyes on the wood and not in the finish.

Some people say not to shake but stir; I do both and have done for years. What I do not generally do is shake immediately before use. If you shake, leave it to stand for a minute before using to allow bubble to dissipate and let the mix settle.

Ready to Use Products Might be Deceptive

DSC_0036Many companies make products from shellac and describe them as something different to one another. Spirit sanding sealer, sanding sealer and sealer and sand or sanding coat are usually one and the same in that they are shellac flakes diluted in denatured alcohol.DSC_0707 The difference can be the viscosity of the liquid. Thin or thick means that one will flow more quickly and end up with a thinner coat with quicker drying and thicker residue after evaporation, which is the actual shellac coat left after drying and curing. You don’t need a thick coat for a sealer so a thinner coat works well. After sanding the surface will feel super smooth. This is the nature and property or characteristic of shellac. This coat will seal the surface and freeze any surface (end-grain) fibres that might be detached or what we call ‘open’ at one end. This initial application will usually raise the grain slightly, which is actually something we want to happen now rather than later. Subsequent coats of shellac, varnish or other finish types can be built on this foundation and they generally will not raise the grain further.

Let’s look at Other Products

It’s not unusual to see a product line made by finish manufacturers that give the impression you might need two, three or more products to develop and establish a good finish on a project. Often they start with sanding sealer followed by some kind of body-build shellac as another and then perhaps a product entitled French Polish as yet another. All of these products simply put are shellac based and thinned or thickened by more or less flakes of shellac or denatured alcohol .Other names you will come across are button polish, button shellac, amber shellac, bleached shellac, dewaxed shellac and others are names that might further confuse the issue. In general these are all quite simply shellac-based products. Bleached shellac as an instance is simply shellac which has the naturally occurring amber brown colour bleached out to make it clear when applied and dried. Other colours such as blonde, amber shellac have only part of the colour removed and are usually made to a distributors specs to supply us with shades we choose according to the approximate shade we want for particular pieces we are working on. Depending on the company, many colours are available, but, if the shellac you have is dark and needs adjustment you can create your own changes by adding clear shellac to lighten the colour. All shellac-based products can generally be mixed.

This mix looks like its ready after two hours but don’t be deceived. Keep agitating for 24 hours. the suspension of flakes may not be visible. Shaking helps to disperse equality throughout the solution and the end result is completely dissolved shellac.

DSC_0040As the colour of shellac is often different between manufacturers and distributors, it’s best to look at the products suppliers description and colour charts. Button shellac is usually a deeper, richer, brown shellac used for joinery, panelling and furniture making and restoration where darker timbers were used.

White polish on the other hand is a shellac made from colourless translucent lac that dries clear and we use this when we don’t want to change the colour of the wood being treated or woods that are naturally white or blond such as sycamore, maple, white ash, alder and birch. The colour range is quite diverse ranging from garnet, ruby, orange, amber, light amber, brown, rust and many more.

Surface Coverage

As a general guide, I find that surface coverage is usually about one litre of shellac to 10 square metres of surface. Thicker solutions can mean less coats, especially if spraying on the finish as a heavier coat.

Cost of Self Mixes

It may or may not prove cheaper or more convenient to make your own shellac from scratch but what you do get is a known product. Using exactly denatured alcohol or methylated spirits with shellac flakes means you are getting what you put into it. Buying brand names means they may well have added other additives to the denatured alcohol that they feel improve the drying qualities or, more importantly to them, the shelf life, which they want to be as long as possible because of stock-in-store quality. Buying as I did I ended up paying a little more than buying a premix, but then I made my mix thicker for further cutting with DA as needed. All in all I probably ended up at the same price. I have found that the self mix dries quicker and applies better. The overall appearance to me seems better too.

Categories: Hand Tools

Finishing With Shellac – Enhancing Your Work

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 3:57pm

We concluded the Tool Chest Build a few short months ago on the woodworkingmasterclasses.com online instruction for woodworkers and it was a great success all round. Below is how it looked after we finished it using brushed-on shellac as a practical yet beautiful protective finish.

Finishing with shellac is very simple and effective and especially is this so if or when someone shows you how. I wanted to demystify this for you and you may not know that woodworking masterclasses posts all of the technique videos we make for free as online broadcast as often as they can. Anyway, to help you make an educated decision on finishing with shellac, we offer this video to get you started. I do hope that you enjoy it as much as I did making it.

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Categories: Hand Tools

Making and Using Shellac – Just a Few Thoughts

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 3:04pm

DSC_0209 - Version 2Making Your Own Shellac From Scratch

There are two ways to get hold of shellac. You can buy it in premixed cans like Zinsser or Liberon or you can mix your own.

Making shellac is a simple process whereby we dissolve flakes of shellac we buy in crunchy flake form into 190 proof denatured alcohol, which we either buy through license here in the UK or we use Methylated spirits, which is denatured alcohol with an added violet colouring and any of a number of other additives that make the Meths undrinkable and even poisonous to prevent the misuse of it as an alternative cheap intoxicant. Methylated spirits and Denatured Alcohol are basically one and the same – Ethanol, which is used universally as an industrial solvent for creating products used in finishing, dyes and more and also for making and thinning finishes like shellac. The main additive used in Methylated Spirits is Methanol, hence the name Methylated Sprits. Adding methanol to denatured alcohol doesn’t alter the chemical properties of the alcohol apparently.

I use a glass jar or a plastic bottle to mix my shellac in, but it has a fairly short shelf life so mix only what you will use within a few months; no more than six, I would say. Whatever you mix, make sure there is enough room for the shellac flakes plus some for agitation during dissolution.

Denatured alcohol in any form and with any additive that makes it Methylated spirits is highly inflammable. Never try heating it on or near an open or even indirect flame.

DSC_0067You can buy shellac made ready for dissolving in different forms such as pearls, flakes or pre-crushed flakes. The shellac can be in different forms depending on what you want. In its natural condition, shellac is a dark amber coloured. Sometimes we want the dark amber and other times, in my case most of the time, we want the shellac bleached and dewaxed. That being so, we buy bleached and dewaxed shellac which simply means what it says. The shellac is less waxy and can be colourless or clear. French polishers use both the natural colour of the shellac and blond or clear and then also degrees of colour for their work and this is usually governed by the colour of the wood they are polishing. Light woods such as maple or cherry will turn amber with full coloured shellac flakes. If you do not want this as a colour you must use bleached shellac.

Add the shellac flakes or pearls into the liquid and shake regularly to agitate the mixture, which speeds up the dissolution process exponentially. Leave it stand long enough between shakes, about half an hour or so usually. Depending on the conditions of the shellac manufacture, the shellac may need straining through cloth to remove contaminants.

DSC_0707You can make different cuts to suit your needs. I generally use premixed shellac for everyday work, but there is no doubt that home mixed shellac is indeed best. Whether you make your own or buy it ready mixed, shellac can be thick or thin and this depends on the ratio of denatured alcohol to the pound weight of shellac used. Hence we use the term ‘cut’ because when we mix shellac with the solvent we create different viscosities to work the shellac at different stages in our work. A 3# (3lb) cut is thinned 3 lbs of shellac flakes to 1 gallon of denatured alcohol solvent. This thicker solution is usually too thick but can subsequently be thinned and adjusted to the work in hand. A more general cut is a 1# cut. I find it satisfactory to make a heavier mix and thin down as needed but a 1# cut is good for padding on and a 2# cut is good for brushing on.

Remember to use dewaxed shellac as a primer coat painted finishes as the paint will not adhere well to waxy shellac.

DSC_0074Pound cuts seems a little archaic when most of the world uses a metric system of weights and measures and perhaps we should simply go by quantity ratios of liquid to weight or measure quantity by volume. It’s not  a critical thing in fact it’s fairly open to do that. Here in the UK we generally mix 250g of shellac flakes to a liter of Methylated spirits. You then add additional more flakes or meths to thicken or thin the viscosity to suit the task. My usual is to mix a heavier mix and thin. That way you have no down time waiting for shellac flakes to dissolve.

Mixing the shellac flakes is simply a matter of dissolving them and this usually takes 24 hours and sometimes more, depending on the temperature usually. If it’s too cold it takes longer and you can use warm water baths to increase the temperature or other heat sources such as radiators. Remember, no open flames of any kind or hot plates. This stuff is flammable. You can stir the flakes or shake them in the solution periodically. I shake them generally and then let it stand to express air in the mix before I use it. I usually shake whenever I remember, but generally every half hour works well. This will halve the dissolution time.

Don’t get too caught up in the thickness of the shellac too much. You can always readily thicken or thin your product and you can always use whatever you mix. If it’s too thick it’s more difficult to use that’s all.

Categories: Hand Tools

A New Monday and Meaning

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 4:54am

DSC_0015Weeks are landmarks of completion for me and of course for most people. We may or may not like it, but goals are often set in days, weeks and months, but most often people are governed by measured weeks. I just finished yet another none-day workshop training the New Genre Woodworker here at New Legacy in my Penrhyn Castle workshop and last night, when I flopped into a chair at home, a felt that immeasurable sense of fulfilment you feel when the job feels a level of quality completion. I say immeasurable because who can quantify what I feel. I mean, one of the wonderful things about my work is, regardless of my critics who find fault with everything I say regardless of the fact that they have never met me, I have never taught a class or made anything I make for the money. I make because I love making and would make whether I get paid or not and I would always teach as I did for 20 years before I ever got paid a penny for it. I pay my bills from income I earn with hard work and that has always been the case. I have folded businesses or sold them because I felt the business was starting to own me and control me and limit me in my enjoyment. That’s what I teach too. Don’t just say money can’t buy you happiness, live it!

DSC_0061This morning I relaxed and walked the main street of Bangor thinking about last week and pictured the faces of everyone in my class. I know some, two, were returning to Sweden on a 10.30:am flight. They have jobs I think that they like but now they are equipped for so much more as they apply craft to their daily walk in Sweden. They can apply the art of working wood to their work and to their relationships in friends and relatives. Being a woodworker and in particular a hand tool woodworker engages all the senses with too much involvement fussing about health and safety. It means you can focus on woodworking not machines and the unwoodworking stuff. Working wood, and that means using hand tools for me, means you negotiate thoughtfully and with care and without the kind of governance you need for alternative methods. Your senses are freed in other words to co-respond with one another to make sense of how you work. It’s quite a controversial thing to reach back and pull out the best of the past, unite it with the present and then reach into the future with what you create. I like the risk of work I get from using my hand tools and I like the fact that my speed and my ability is then governed by the limits if my human body. I can push so hard but the tools, which are real tools, never ever push me. When I work with the machines, especially routers, I never feel that they are not pushing me.

DSC_0111I think Sweden has a rich and diverse history in working with wood and that it is preserved in the lives of those who pursue it using the methods  have taught throughout my life. Yes, it has its own methods and systems of education and like most countries it is losing what it has with each generation, but there is this remnant I believe will carry the reality of real woodworking in a campaign they cannot let go of and the reason that happens is because they invest in skill, making skill their own and preserving it for others – their children and grandchildren, their extended family and friends and their work mates (now called colleagues and associates – how detached and unreal is that, I ask you? No wonder these terms seem so politically calculated and soulless).

Categories: Hand Tools

Last Day of Class Today!

Sun, 03/23/2014 - 1:52am

DSC_0045These at right are mine

It’s funny seeing the confidences grow. Wrestling tenons into mortises and pressing dovetails home seems quite natural to them now and yet only a week ago they were tentative with the tools and the wood. The tools work for them and they seem settled knowing what the planes can and cannot do and that the problem is most likely not them but the tool and the wood they negotiate settlement with. They twist and turn the planes now and feel the direction as the cutting edges touch the surfaces.

DSC_0051The joints may start out with a loose one that galvanizes determination that the others will be right and tight. I enjoy seeing their faces when the thing they are doing works or even when it doesn’t and they know what to do to correct it. It’s a little more relaxed at different times in the day and every peak of intense challenge culminates in a downhill relaxation before the next challenge. We press hard for good results as we counsel them through the work involving their decisions. DSC_0061Expectations are high but real now. They know any shortfall can be due to inexperience and practice and therefore they persevere even when something is less than perfect.

DSC_0078DSC_0098Today is the last day for them. We are up against a 5pm deadline and all the tables must be glues up by about 3pm so that the glue dries in time for them to leave. Today we shape and fit, glue up and plane and scrape the tabletops. It’s a big day.

Categories: Hand Tools

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by Dr. Radut