Hand Tool Headlines

The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator

 

Be sure to visit the Hand Tool Headlines section - scores of my favorite woodworking blogs in one place.  Also, take note of Norse Woodsmith's latest feature, an Online Store, which contains only products I personally recommend.  It is secure and safe, and is powered by Amazon.

Search

The Mortise & Tenon Magazine Blog

Subscribe to The Mortise & Tenon Magazine Blog feed
Updated: 2 hours 30 min ago

A Slice of Pye

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 4:29am

Note: In celebration of “PYE” Day today (3/14), we’ve decided to offer Free US Shipping on all our “Craftsmanship is Risk” merchandise (i.e. Shirts and Stickers). Today and today only.

I must admit that I am a latecomer to the “Real Craft” conversation. Many words have been written and many ideas exchanged over what exactly constitutes craftsmanship. Is it simply the act of making an object “by hand” (whatever that means…)? Is it running a CNC router from your laptop? Is it the practice of only recreating traditional forms with traditional tools? It seems folks have some strong opinions on every side of this debate.

The term “craft” has always carried me back to my childhood. Back then, my mom and grandmother would occasionally engage in bursts of productivity on their sewing machines, creating a wide variety of marketable items: baby quilts, dolls, and Christmas decorations. We would gather them up and bring them to what were called, in central Pennsylvania, “craft fairs”. As I got older, I helped a bit with our product diversity, making painted wooden animals or cute little pine snowmen with twig arms. We often did quite well, and my portion of the sales was generally spent on baseball cards. Because of these experiences, I’ve long associated the term “craft” with sweet little old ladies in extravagantly embroidered sweatshirts and copious amounts of Spanish moss hot glued to bric-a-brac. That, and the smell of cinnamon. Of course, this is a very incomplete (and likely inaccurate) picture that illustrates the importance of defining our terms properly.

David Pye has long been THE go-to resource for defining terms when it comes to craftsmanship. Since he first published The Nature and Art of Workmanship back in 1968, Pye’s nuanced argument has been the foundation for any deep discussion on the philosophy of workmanship. He writes as a maker himself, a true master of turning and carving. Even coming from this pragmatic standpoint, Pye considers terminology and definitions to be of vast importance in this conversation. He relates this story:

“Tzu-lu said, If the prince of Wei were waiting for you to come and administer his country for him, what would be your first measure? The Master [i.e. Confucius] said, It would certainly be to correct language.” After Tzu-lu argues vehemently that this is a secondary issue in running a nation, Confucius comes back bluntly: “Yu! How boorish you are!” He then describes the importance of accuracy in defining terms. “If language is incorrect, then what is said does not concord with what was meant; and if what is said does not concord with what was meant, what is to be done cannot be effected…”

In short, if you and I don’t understand what our words mean, all conversation is essentially pointless. The Nature and Art of Workmanship, then, is Pye’s dictionary for craftsmanship and, in the words of John Kelsey, it “remains the only useful framework we have.”

So how did Pye define “craftsmanship”? Readers of M&T are probably familiar with the term “Craftsmanship Is Risk” – the reference to Pye emblazoned on the back of our new t-shirt and stickers. Let me say first what it doesn’t mean. The “risk” involved isn’t to the maker – you know, sharp edges are dangerous and all. Hand-tool woodworking is not some thrill-seeking extreme sport, like BASE jumping or Skyrunning (though that’s an interesting angle to think about…). Hewing a log barefoot isn’t considered “workmanship of risk” because you could lose a toe, but because “the quality of the result is continually at risk during the process of making.”  This is Pye’s definition of craftsmanship. It is inherently risky, because the end product can be destroyed at pretty much any time by the misuse of the unregulated tools of the craftsman.

This “workmanship of risk” is contrasted with the “workmanship of certainty”. Pye cites examples of mass production and full automation as the purest state of this form of making. “The result is exactly predetermined before a single salable thing is made.” The more predictable the outcome of a woodworking operation (i.e. working wood vs. machining wood), the farther we get from “craft”. “All the works of men which have been most admired since the beginning of history have been made by the workmanship of risk, the last three or four generations only excepted.”  Here is where craftsmanship implies tradition, as Joshua has postulated before in this post and in his follow-up clarification. Our forebears produced everything with simple tools and the skill of their hands.

In summary, I offer this advice: read Pye for yourself (he is worth the effort). Keep your edge tools sharp, take care in your work, and enjoy the relationship between yourself, your tools, and your materials.

And keep telling folks about the inherent risk of craftsmanship – they might drop by for a visit to your shop to see what you’re talking about.

~Mike Updegraff

 

Categories: Hand Tools

2017 Schedule of Events

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 7:42am

 

Below are the events we have scheduled for 2017. If you’d like to take a workshop we’re teaching or chat with us in person, look below to see if you can make it out to any of these events. We hope to see you this year!

 

Center for Furniture Craftsmanship – March 10th Presentation: “Why I Cut the Cord” 

I’ve been invited to present this coming Friday to the Furniture Intensive students at CFC about how pre-industrial methods has informed my furniture making. Read about the school here.

 

Fine Woodworking Live 2017 – April 21st - 23rd – Southbridge, Mass.

Fine Woodworking’s live event. We’ll be there as a vendor. Looks like a great show with top-notch presenters. Visit the official website here.

 

Haystack Mountain School of Crafts – May 6th Workshop: “Introduction to Hand Tool Woodworking”

This is a class offered for local residents to introduce students to the fundamentals of hand tool woodworking. I count it an honor to give back to the community in this way. Read about it here.

 

Handworks 2017 – May 19th - 20th

Handworks needs no introduction. Mike will be there with the entire M&T booth. You can buy mags, DVDs, t-shirts, etc and chat about hand tool woodworking. Unfortunately, I am quite sure I won’t be able to make this one because my third baby will be born right around the event. Talk about bad planning! Visit the website here.

 

Lie-Nielsen Workshop - June 17th - 18th Workshop: “Cut the Cord: Build a Table with Hand Tools”

This is a hand tools meat-and-potatoes kind of class - an introduction to the hand-tool-only approach to building a table. I’ll bring period originals along for students to examine to help inform their working tolerances. The goal is to show how to work with pre-industrial efficiency. Sign-up for the workshop here.

 

Lie-Nielsen Open House – July 7th - 8th

Always a highlight of the year. Come hang out with like-minded hand tool fanatics. Hand tools, Maine, lobster and beer. No cover charge. What more could you ask for? More info here.

 

Pre-orders for Issue Three Open! – September 1st 

We are shifting the schedule of M&T #3 a bit earlier so that as we begin our twice-a-year schedule, it will be at convenient times of the year. Yes, you heard that right… starting with #3, M&T will be biannual. (Yes, biannual is the right word. You’re thinking of “biennial”.)

 

Issue Three Packing Party – Last Week of September or First Week of October

Come join us for the big packing party for Issue Three! We will be wrapping mags, filling ourselves with delicious food, and communing over craftsmanship. Read about the Issue Two party here. It was such a blast and went off so smooth that we’re doing it again!

 

Fall – The Big “Mystery” Project Yet to be Announced...

Mike and I will be consumed with this project through the fall. We will be talking much about it in the near future.

 

Categories: Hand Tools

2017 Schedule of Events

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 7:42am

 

Below are the events we have scheduled for 2017. If you’d like to take a workshop we’re teaching or chat with us in person, look below to see if you can make it out to any of these events. We hope to see you this year!

 

Center for Furniture Craftsmanship – March 10th Presentation: “Why I Cut the Cord” 

I’ve been invited to present this coming Friday to the Furniture Intensive students at CFC about how pre-industrial methods has informed my furniture making. Read about the school here.

 

Fine Woodworking Live 2017 – April 21st - 23rd – Southbridge, Mass.

Fine Woodworking’s live event. We’ll be there as a vendor. Looks like a great show with top-notch presenters. Visit the official website here.

 

Haystack Mountain School of Crafts – May 6th Workshop: “Introduction to Hand Tool Woodworking”

This is a class offered for local residents to introduce students to the fundamentals of hand tool woodworking. I count it an honor to give back to the community in this way. Read about it here.

 

Handworks 2017 – May 19th - 20th

Handworks needs no introduction. Mike will be there with the entire M&T booth. You can buy mags, DVDs, t-shirts, etc and chat about hand tool woodworking. Unfortunately, I am quite sure I won’t be able to make this one because my third baby will be born right around the event. Talk about bad planning! Visit the website here.

 

Lie-Nielsen Workshop - June 17th - 18th Workshop: “Cut the Cord: Build a Table with Hand Tools”

This is a hand tools meat-and-potatoes kind of class - an introduction to the hand-tool-only approach to building a table. I’ll bring period originals along for students to examine to help inform their working tolerances. The goal is to show how to work with pre-industrial efficiency. Sign-up for the workshop here.

 

Lie-Nielsen Open House – July 7th - 8th

Always a highlight of the year. Come hang out with like-minded hand tool fanatics. Hand tools, Maine, lobster and beer. No cover charge. What more could you ask for? More info here.

 

Pre-orders for Issue Three Open! – September 1st 

We are shifting the schedule of M&T #3 a bit earlier so that as we begin our twice-a-year schedule, it will be at convenient times of the year. Yes, you heard that right… starting with #3, M&T will be biannual. (Yes, biannual is the right word. You’re thinking of “biennial”.)

 

Issue Three Packing Party – Last Week of September or First Week of October

Come join us for the big packing party for Issue Three! We will be wrapping mags, filling ourselves with delicious food, and communing over craftsmanship. Read about the Issue Two party here. It was such a blast and went off so smooth that we’re doing it again!

 

Fall – The Big “Mystery” Project Yet to be Announced...

Mike and I will be consumed with this project through the fall. We will be talking much about it in the near future.

 

Categories: Hand Tools

A Trip to Liberty Tool Company

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 3:26pm

The thermometer read 1F when I started the car before dawn, and the wind had been rattling the house all night. These minor details didn’t matter one bit, however, as today was the annual Grand Re-Opening of the Liberty Tool Company in Liberty, Maine. Tool pilgrims from all over flock to this place for its reliably well-stocked supply of hand tools, from the common to the esoteric. And every year, after a long winter’s slumber and limited hours, the store re-opens with all-new inventory of picked and reasonably-priced antique goodies. Incredibly, neither Joshua nor I had ever ventured down for this event, but today would change that. Each of us roused our respective eldest boys out of bed (this is a rite-of-passage, after all) and we rendezvoused at a central location to make the drive together just as the sky was getting brighter.

We arrived over an hour before opening, and there were already cars and trucks lining both sides of the road. The system is very simple – there is a clipboard on the door. Arrive early. Write your name down. You get a number. At 8 o’clock, everyone enters in the order that they’ve signed up. However, we were there to document the event, so all we had to do was track down proprietor Skip Brack (who is featured in M&T Issue Two) to let us in. The power of “press credentials”, right?

We strolled the eerily quiet store for a few minutes, nearly overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of… well, just about everything. Hewing axes, cooper’s adzes, dividers, scythes, anvils, auger bits, swords (the boys practically begged to bring home a sword apiece), ceremonial spears (wait, maybe a sword AND a spear!) – you name it, and it could probably be found tucked back in some shelf or drawer. I had my eye on an old French pattern axe, but it wouldn’t have been fair game to grab something before the rightful first customers came through. Gotta play by the rules.

The boys and I moved back to a warm corner, near the big woodstove, where we’d set up a display of Mortise & Tenon Magazine Issues One and Two. Joshua had been busy taking video and photos of the gathering crowd outside. Suddenly, it was time! The doors opened, and in an orderly but very rapid manner the place was packed. Carhartts and wool flannel everywhere, beards and game faces. These folks were on a mission. I was surprised by just how quiet everyone was – the sound of shuffling boots and clinking tools and inaudible mutterings as an item was handled, evaluated, and either tucked into a bag or placed back for the next customer. Men and women began lugging armloads through the aisles. The excitement was thick, and smiles were big. We heard that some folks make the trip from states away to be there for this event – that doesn’t surprise me a bit.

We headed out after many in the initial crowd had made their purchases. It was still hard to move around in there, though! My French axe was gone, no doubt to a happy home, and the shelves were looking just a bit less overloaded. Despite the bitter cold, another Liberty Tool reopening came off as a success – and hopefully, many of those tools that found new owners will be receiving a good honing and tune-up this weekend!

~Mike Updegraff

 

Categories: Hand Tools

A Trip to Liberty Tool Company

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 3:26pm

The thermometer read 1F when I started the car before dawn, and the wind had been rattling the house all night. These minor details didn’t matter one bit, however, as today was the annual Grand Re-Opening of the Liberty Tool Company in Liberty, Maine. Tool pilgrims from all over flock to this place for its reliably well-stocked supply of hand tools, from the common to the esoteric. And every year, after a long winter’s slumber and limited hours, the store re-opens with all-new inventory of picked and reasonably-priced antique goodies. Incredibly, neither Joshua nor I had ever ventured down for this event, but today would change that. Each of us roused our respective eldest boys out of bed (this is a rite-of-passage, after all) and we rendezvoused at a central location to make the drive together just as the sky was getting brighter.

We arrived over an hour before opening, and there were already cars and trucks lining both sides of the road. The system is very simple – there is a clipboard on the door. Arrive early. Write your name down. You get a number. At 8 o’clock, everyone enters in the order that they’ve signed up. However, we were there to document the event, so all we had to do was track down proprietor Skip Brack (who is featured in M&T Issue Two) to let us in. The power of “press credentials”, right?

We strolled the eerily quiet store for a few minutes, nearly overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of… well, just about everything. Hewing axes, cooper’s adzes, dividers, scythes, anvils, auger bits, swords (the boys practically begged to bring home a sword apiece), ceremonial spears (wait, maybe a sword AND a spear!) – you name it, and it could probably be found tucked back in some shelf or drawer. I had my eye on an old French pattern axe, but it wouldn’t have been fair game to grab something before the rightful first customers came through. Gotta play by the rules.

The boys and I moved back to a warm corner, near the big woodstove, where we’d set up a display of Mortise & Tenon Magazine Issues One and Two. Joshua had been busy taking video and photos of the gathering crowd outside. Suddenly, it was time! The doors opened, and in an orderly but very rapid manner the place was packed. Carhartts and wool flannel everywhere, beards and game faces. These folks were on a mission. I was surprised by just how quiet everyone was – the sound of shuffling boots and clinking tools and inaudible mutterings as an item was handled, evaluated, and either tucked into a bag or placed back for the next customer. Men and women began lugging armloads through the aisles. The excitement was thick, and smiles were big. We heard that some folks make the trip from states away to be there for this event – that doesn’t surprise me a bit.

We headed out after many in the initial crowd had made their purchases. It was still hard to move around in there, though! My French axe was gone, no doubt to a happy home, and the shelves were looking just a bit less overloaded. Despite the bitter cold, another Liberty Tool reopening came off as a success – and hopefully, many of those tools that found new owners will be receiving a good honing and tune-up this weekend!

~Mike Updegraff

 

Categories: Hand Tools

Video: Building the Roman Workbench

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 7:02am
This video shows the build process for our Roman workbenches. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos.


Categories: Hand Tools

Video: Building the Roman Workbench

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 7:02am
This video shows the build process for our Roman workbenches. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos.


Categories: Hand Tools

Making Riven Wedges for Tenons

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 4:22am

Building this staked Roman workbench was another opportunity to do one of my favorite woodworking operations: riving and paring wedges.

I started with white oak that I’ve had sitting around since building my “Roubo” lathe (seen in the banister-back chair article) last year but any straight grain bone-dry hardwood would do. With a mallet and hatchet (a wide chisel also works), I split off several pieces about a ¼” thick. This only took one moderate ‘thump’ per piece.

With my four pieces split, I placed each in my wedge shaping block. This is nothing more than a notched shelf on a block held in my front vise. I’ve seen Windsor chairmakers use a block like this but I’m not sure who the first one was to use this. I love this little appliance. Until now, I had always used my bench hook for this operation. It worked fine. The fact that it got pretty hacked up didn’t bother me - It was just too long to pare comfortably at a low enough angle. Also, it was a bit awkward at the low height of my bench top. This paring block is much more comfortable to use.

I didn’t try to taper the whole 2” wide wedge in one pass. I tapered each face of the wedge by paring one edge, then the other, followed by a final pass to clean up the hump in the middle. I tapered to half of the thickness and flipped it over to pare the other side to meet it.

A word on safety here: A sharp chisel is the most dangerous tool in your hand tool shop and it would be easy to make a mistake you’d regret. To avoid an accident during this operation, keep both hands behind the edge. That shouldn’t need to be said but it’s tempting to put your other hand out in front. Also be careful to not lean all your body weight into the chisel. If something slips and you are leaning too hard into it, your momentum is going to send you tumbling into a loose chisel. You would have a mess on your hands – literally. Always make sure you reserve control to stop yourself if things slip. You always want your momentum working for you but not at the expense of your safety.

I didn’t bother paring the last bit of the thickest end because I made my wedge intentionally longer than I needed. it’s harder to start the chisel at the very edge of a blank so I made it a bit longer than necessary to eliminate any fuss.

Wedges this big should take no more than one minute apiece. In the flow, it really is less than 20 paring cuts with the chisel. Smaller wedges (say ¾” or 1”) can easily be made in two paring cuts.

You don’t need to buy wedges and you don’t need machines to make them. I used to spend time sawing them out by hand in the end of a board but no longer. Straight grain is a real advantage and this riving method will give you the best wedges money can’t buy.

 - Joshua

 

Categories: Hand Tools

Making Riven Wedges for Tenons

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 4:22am

Building this staked Roman workbench was another opportunity to do one of my favorite woodworking operations: riving and paring wedges.

I started with white oak that I’ve had sitting around since building my “Roubo” lathe (seen in the banister-back chair article) last year but any straight grain bone-dry hardwood would do. With a mallet and hatchet (a wide chisel also works), I split off several pieces about a ¼” thick. This only took one moderate ‘thump’ per piece.

With my four pieces split, I placed each in my wedge shaping block. This is nothing more than a notched shelf on a block held in my front vise. I’ve seen Windsor chairmakers use a block like this but I’m not sure who the first one was to use this. I love this little appliance. Until now, I had always used my bench hook for this operation. It worked fine. The fact that it got pretty hacked up didn’t bother me - It was just too long to pare comfortably at a low enough angle. Also, it was a bit awkward at the low height of my bench top. This paring block is much more comfortable to use.

I didn’t try to taper the whole 2” wide wedge in one pass. I tapered each face of the wedge by paring one edge, then the other, followed by a final pass to clean up the hump in the middle. I tapered to half of the thickness and flipped it over to pare the other side to meet it.

A word on safety here: A sharp chisel is the most dangerous tool in your hand tool shop and it would be easy to make a mistake you’d regret. To avoid an accident during this operation, keep both hands behind the edge. That shouldn’t need to be said but it’s tempting to put your other hand out in front. Also be careful to not lean all your body weight into the chisel. If something slips and you are leaning too hard into it, your momentum is going to send you tumbling into a loose chisel. You would have a mess on your hands – literally. Always make sure you reserve control to stop yourself if things slip. You always want your momentum working for you but not at the expense of your safety.

I didn’t bother paring the last bit of the thickest end because I made my wedge intentionally longer than I needed. it’s harder to start the chisel at the very edge of a blank so I made it a bit longer than necessary to eliminate any fuss.

Wedges this big should take no more than one minute apiece. In the flow, it really is less than 20 paring cuts with the chisel. Smaller wedges (say ¾” or 1”) can easily be made in two paring cuts.

You don’t need to buy wedges and you don’t need machines to make them. I used to spend time sawing them out by hand in the end of a board but no longer. Straight grain is a real advantage and this riving method will give you the best wedges money can’t buy.

 - Joshua

 

Categories: Hand Tools

Final Day of the Roman Workbench Build

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 5:51pm

Today, Mike and I got the benches done and spent a good amount of time exploring their use. First, we had to cut those protruding tenons flush. Since I broke my flush cut saw a while back, I opted to use my crosscut saw for the task. I considered getting fancy and shimming up off the benchtop top to prevent the saw’s set from marring the top but decided against it. I’ve always trimmed bigger tenons like these with a regular crosscut and rarely nick the wood in any considerable way. The way I do this is by placing pressure on the back of the saw while carefully starting a kerf. I work around from all sides until the kerf meets the whole way around. As tricky as it sounds, it’s not. The kerf of my saw didn’t nick the top once and the cuts were darn near flush. Actually, one was perfectly flush which ironically made it harder to plane nicely without digging into the top. The other three had a hairline of thickness to plane and went down flush with less fuss.

After the tenons were cut free, we bored the holes for the ¾” holes for planing stops. The stops were shaved from ash leftover from my leg stock. I made sure mine were as consistent as I could (so that they would be tight at all height adjustments) but Mike discovered some interesting benefits to pegs that were less than straight. Very interesting discussion ensued about better designs for pegs. I’ll leave that for Mike to blog about but I think he’s onto something really good here. He also discovered that if he was planing a board that was a couple inches longer than necessary, he could drill a hole on it’s end and place it over the peg, pinning it in place. This freed him to plane without any bouncing around. He could even turn around and plane the other direction without moving the board. Genius!

As soon as I had my stops in, I had to take it for a test run. The first few minutes of planing were surprisingly tiring because I was relying primarily on bicep power and had almost no body momentum behind the plane. We experimented with ways to overcome this and found some interesting postures that made the operation quite effective. The most powerful planing was when we stood up and put a knee on the board. It actually was the easiest planing I think I’ve ever done because my whole body was over the work. I haven’t tried it for extended periods of time, mind you, but I think it has real promise. This was vindication after my first few moments of laboring hard using only my arm strength.

We spent a good amount of time discussing hole spacing for edge planing. We ended up figuring out a pattern based on a few different sources: the Woodworking in Estonia benches, the aprons of Nicholson’s bench, and one of Jonathan Fisher’s benches. I can expound on the logic behind our pattern at another time but I will say that we tried to figure out the way to have the least holes and most flexibility with the stock we envisioned working with. After using it a bit, I think we nailed it.

Then we got out the rope. This was something we had wanted to try ever since we saw it in Woodworking in Estonia. A surprising number of the benches showed a loop of rope wrapped over the work piece and the craftsman holding it down with his foot. It’s almost like a poor man’s shaving horse. When we first tried it, I had the loop around the whole width of the bench and it didn’t hold very well. Then we wrapped a piece of leather around the rope. Still didn’t hold well. It seemed the downward force was spread to far side to side. Feeling defeated, we looked closer at the images in the book and realized that the rope was always fed through holes in the top, enabling the rope to be pulled down close to the work piece. This was the charm. It held great for chopping mortises. We were really impressed. Super easy to adjust and rugged holding power.

So my bench is complete. Mike still has some complex features to add… as soon as he finds the perfect crooked branch for the task. He’s also planning on working out a quick-to-install shaving horse apparatus. It should be very handy.

We really had no idea of what to expect with this bench form. Although it’s not better than a tall bench for some operations, I think it just might be better for others. We will continue to explore workholding on these benches and report it all here. This form has serious promise. We really think you should build one, no matter what kind of woodwork you do. Woodworking in Estonia has proven that there are no limits to the creativity of a craftsman when it comes to workholding solutions. When we set out on this bench build we vowed to explore unfettered by any convention (modern or otherwise). This exploration has expanded our thinking about the craft as well as our respect for the craftsmen that have come before us.

 

For the other posts about this build, click here.

If you’re looking to see more of this bench in action and read about the research behind it, you can read Chris Schwarz’s article in Issue Two.

 

Categories: Hand Tools

Final Day of the Roman Workbench Build

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 5:51pm

Today, Mike and I got the benches done and spent a good amount of time exploring their use. First, we had to cut those protruding tenons flush. Since I broke my flush cut saw a while back, I opted to use my crosscut saw for the task. I considered getting fancy and shimming up off the benchtop top to prevent the saw’s set from marring the top but decided against it. I’ve always trimmed bigger tenons like these with a regular crosscut and rarely nick the wood in any considerable way. The way I do this is by placing pressure on the back of the saw while carefully starting a kerf. I work around from all sides until the kerf meets the whole way around. As tricky as it sounds, it’s not. The kerf of my saw didn’t nick the top once and the cuts were darn near flush. Actually, one was perfectly flush which ironically made it harder to plane nicely without digging into the top. The other three had a hairline of thickness to plane and went down flush with less fuss.

After the tenons were cut free, we bored the holes for the ¾” holes for planing stops. The stops were shaved from ash leftover from my leg stock. I made sure mine were as consistent as I could (so that they would be tight at all height adjustments) but Mike discovered some interesting benefits to pegs that were less than straight. Very interesting discussion ensued about better designs for pegs. I’ll leave that for Mike to blog about but I think he’s onto something really good here. He also discovered that if he was planing a board that was a couple inches longer than necessary, he could drill a hole on it’s end and place it over the peg, pinning it in place. This freed him to plane without any bouncing around. He could even turn around and plane the other direction without moving the board. Genius!

As soon as I had my stops in, I had to take it for a test run. The first few minutes of planing were surprisingly tiring because I was relying primarily on bicep power and had almost no body momentum behind the plane. We experimented with ways to overcome this and found some interesting postures that made the operation quite effective. The most powerful planing was when we stood up and put a knee on the board. It actually was the easiest planing I think I’ve ever done because my whole body was over the work. I haven’t tried it for extended periods of time, mind you, but I think it has real promise. This was vindication after my first few moments of laboring hard using only my arm strength.

We spent a good amount of time discussing hole spacing for edge planing. We ended up figuring out a pattern based on a few different sources: the Woodworking in Estonia benches, the aprons of Nicholson’s bench, and one of Jonathan Fisher’s benches. I can expound on the logic behind our pattern at another time but I will say that we tried to figure out the way to have the least holes and most flexibility with the stock we envisioned working with. After using it a bit, I think we nailed it.

Then we got out the rope. This was something we had wanted to try ever since we saw it in Woodworking in Estonia. A surprising number of the benches showed a loop of rope wrapped over the work piece and the craftsman holding it down with his foot. It’s almost like a poor man’s shaving horse. When we first tried it, I had the loop around the whole width of the bench and it didn’t hold very well. Then we wrapped a piece of leather around the rope. Still didn’t hold well. It seemed the downward force was spread to far side to side. Feeling defeated, we looked closer at the images in the book and realized that the rope was always fed through holes in the top, enabling the rope to be pulled down close to the work piece. This was the charm. It held great for chopping mortises. We were really impressed. Super easy to adjust and rugged holding power.

So my bench is complete. Mike still has some complex features to add… as soon as he finds the perfect crooked branch for the task. He’s also planning on working out a quick-to-install shaving horse apparatus. It should be very handy.

We really had no idea of what to expect with this bench form. Although it’s not better than a tall bench for some operations, I think it just might be better for others. We will continue to explore workholding on these benches and report it all here. This form has serious promise. We really think you should build one, no matter what kind of woodwork you do. Woodworking in Estonia has proven that there are no limits to the creativity of a craftsman when it comes to workholding solutions. When we set out on this bench build we vowed to explore unfettered by any convention (modern or otherwise). This exploration has expanded our thinking about the craft as well as our respect for the craftsmen that have come before us.

 

For the other posts about this build, click here.

If you’re looking to see more of this bench in action and read about the research behind it, you can read Chris Schwarz’s article in Issue Two.

 

Categories: Hand Tools

Roman Workbench Build Day 2: All Legged-up!

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 6:23am

Yesterday, when we arrived back at the studio, the first order of business was to get our leg stock into shape. I hewed my riven ash pieces into rounds with my single bevel hatchet. For this rounding work, I really love the single bevel and heavy head of my Collins hatchet as I can use the flat back (unbeveled side) to establish a flat plane on the stock. After a series of relief chops up the piece, I can swipe it all away to a single plane with one swipe. 

To gauge my initial shaping, I bored a hole with the auger in scrap pine and traced it onto the end. That way I worked to the line with hatchet. For the last of the hatchet work, I pushed the head down the work, riding the flat back, using it almost like I was planing.

All the refinement of the tenons took place in the vise with a wide-mouthed spokeshave. I did most of the test fitting on a bench top offcut. By doing it this way, I could pound the tenon in without chewing up the mortises of the actual bench. Final fit was obviously done on the bench itself.

Mike spent a bit more time on his joinery than mine because he tapered his mortises the whole way through. This made fitting the tenons a bit more picky. He’s got something up his sleeve, I guess, because he left some crooks at the bottom of two of the legs. He says he’s cooking up some workholding situation. We’ll see what he comes up with. If Woodworking in Estonia is the precedent, it seems anything is fair game! 

After shaping the wedges and sawing a kerf on the tenons, we pulled out the hide glue. We decided to use our “liquid” hide glue to buy ourselves more open time. This glue is made with the salt-depressed recipe that I’ve published previously.

It was interesting to find that although I friction fit those tenons by beating them in hard with a maul, when the glue was applied, they slipped though even further. Doh. Of course that would be the case. It should have occurred to me that hide glue would be a great lubricant. It didn’t prove to cause a problem but next time I know that I can fit it a bit shy of coming out the top and trust the glue to slip it the rest of the way through.

After both benches were legged-up, we shimmed each leg until the top was a consistent measurement from the floor. After marking the trim line with a pencil resting on a block, we sawed the legs to final length. Mine ended up at 19.25”.

Yesterday was fun. Our friend, Richard, came by for the day and shared his insights from building this form over the years at Leonard’s Mills Living History Days. He brought his Toshio Odate toolbox full of tools and let us try out a bunch of his favorite stuff. 

Today, we’ll be cutting the tenons and wedges flush and fitting the benches out for workholding. Then we’ll play around with using them. I plan to make a small project on mine this afternoon because I’m curious to explore the viability of using this bench to complete a project. I want to know if I would like this for more than a glorified sawbench. I suspect it will be very different than working on my tall bench but I just don’t know how yet. 

You’ll be sure to hear about it when I do.

 

If you're interested to learn more about this bench, check out the article by Chris Schwarz in Issue Two.

 

 

Categories: Hand Tools

Roman Workbench Build Day 2: All Legged-up!

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 6:23am

Yesterday, when we arrived back at the studio, the first order of business was to get our leg stock into shape. I hewed my riven ash pieces into rounds with my single bevel hatchet. For this rounding work, I really love the single bevel and heavy head of my Collins hatchet as I can use the flat back (unbeveled side) to establish a flat plane on the stock. After a series of relief chops up the piece, I can swipe it all away to a single plane with one swipe. 

To gauge my initial shaping, I bored a hole with the auger in scrap pine and traced it onto the end. That way I worked to the line with hatchet. For the last of the hatchet work, I pushed the head down the work, riding the flat back, using it almost like I was planing.

All the refinement of the tenons took place in the vise with a wide-mouthed spokeshave. I did most of the test fitting on a bench top offcut. By doing it this way, I could pound the tenon in without chewing up the mortises of the actual bench. Final fit was obviously done on the bench itself.

Mike spent a bit more time on his joinery than mine because he tapered his mortises the whole way through. This made fitting the tenons a bit more picky. He’s got something up his sleeve, I guess, because he left some crooks at the bottom of two of the legs. He says he’s cooking up some workholding situation. We’ll see what he comes up with. If Woodworking in Estonia is the precedent, it seems anything is fair game! 

After shaping the wedges and sawing a kerf on the tenons, we pulled out the hide glue. We decided to use our “liquid” hide glue to buy ourselves more open time. This glue is made with the salt-depressed recipe that I’ve published previously.

It was interesting to find that although I friction fit those tenons by beating them in hard with a maul, when the glue was applied, they slipped though even further. Doh. Of course that would be the case. It should have occurred to me that hide glue would be a great lubricant. It didn’t prove to cause a problem but next time I know that I can fit it a bit shy of coming out the top and trust the glue to slip it the rest of the way through.

After both benches were legged-up, we shimmed each leg until the top was a consistent measurement from the floor. After marking the trim line with a pencil resting on a block, we sawed the legs to final length. Mine ended up at 19.25”.

Yesterday was fun. Our friend, Richard, came by for the day and shared his insights from building this form over the years at Leonard’s Mills Living History Days. He brought his Toshio Odate toolbox full of tools and let us try out a bunch of his favorite stuff. 

Today, we’ll be cutting the tenons and wedges flush and fitting the benches out for workholding. Then we’ll play around with using them. I plan to make a small project on mine this afternoon because I’m curious to explore the viability of using this bench to complete a project. I want to know if I would like this for more than a glorified sawbench. I suspect it will be very different than working on my tall bench but I just don’t know how yet. 

You’ll be sure to hear about it when I do.

 

If you're interested to learn more about this bench, check out the article by Chris Schwarz in Issue Two.

 

 

Categories: Hand Tools

Beaver Sticks and Firewood

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 4:54pm
When contemplating materials for any project, I always first assess what I have on hand and use it if possible. I feel that this is an historically accurate way to think about vernacular projects. "Making do" is an art form that has been preserved in many pieces that we've seen, including workbenches. We've come across some pretty funky workholding devices lately, whether looking over Jonathan Fisher creations, digging through the Old Sturbridge Village collection, or flipping through Woodworking in Estonia. It is wonderful to see natural crooks, bent knobby knees, or giant hewn slabs incorporated organically into useful and (yes) beautiful forms.
We have a pile of tree-length firewood at home that is currently sitting under several feet of snow, but before it became entombed in lustrous wintry cement I cut a 5' length of 12"-diameter ash and split it in half with wedges. I had in mind a shaving horse or some such project for it, but I think it'll be particularly suited for a Roman bench because it has quite a bit of mass. I envision using this bench to hew and carve, and ash should take this abuse reasonably well.
For legs, I turned to our resident beavers to do some work for me. I have nothing personally against beavers, until they attempt to flood the woods around our kids' treehouse or take down our nicest oak and yellow birch trees. These rodents (North America's largest) can do an unbelievable amount of work in a single night, and we've started incorporating beaver-processed materials into projects around the house. And why not? Trees are cut, peeled, and often forgotten in the woods to season. A handrail in our house, for example, is a polished beaver stick. We've seen many stake-leg workbenches that use rounds for legs, either as original construction or as later replacements (some still with the bark attached). Having a near-endless supply of downed saplings made this an easy choice - I simply dug out a good dry maple of the desired diameter (3" or so). Besides, how many people can say that a large rodent helped them with stock prep?
To read more about the first day of our Roman bench build check out this last post.

Categories: Hand Tools

Beaver Sticks and Firewood

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 4:54pm
When contemplating materials for any project, I always first assess what I have on hand and use it if possible. I feel that this is an historically accurate way to think about vernacular projects. "Making do" is an art form that has been preserved in many pieces that we've seen, including workbenches. We've come across some pretty funky workholding devices lately, whether looking over Jonathan Fisher creations, digging through the Old Sturbridge Village collection, or flipping through Woodworking in Estonia. It is wonderful to see natural crooks, bent knobby knees, or giant hewn slabs incorporated organically into useful and (yes) beautiful forms.
We have a pile of tree-length firewood at home that is currently sitting under several feet of snow, but before it became entombed in lustrous wintry cement I cut a 5' length of 12"-diameter ash and split it in half with wedges. I had in mind a shaving horse or some such project for it, but I think it'll be particularly suited for a Roman bench because it has quite a bit of mass. I envision using this bench to hew and carve, and ash should take this abuse reasonably well.
For legs, I turned to our resident beavers to do some work for me. I have nothing personally against beavers, until they attempt to flood the woods around our kids' treehouse or take down our nicest oak and yellow birch trees. These rodents (North America's largest) can do an unbelievable amount of work in a single night, and we've started incorporating beaver-processed materials into projects around the house. And why not? Trees are cut, peeled, and often forgotten in the woods to season. A handrail in our house, for example, is a polished beaver stick. We've seen many stake-leg workbenches that use rounds for legs, either as original construction or as later replacements (some still with the bark attached). Having a near-endless supply of downed saplings made this an easy choice - I simply dug out a good dry maple of the desired diameter (3" or so). Besides, how many people can say that a large rodent helped them with stock prep?

Categories: Hand Tools

Roman Bench Build-along Day 1

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 1:59pm

 

The Roman bench build is underway! Mike and I met this morning, gathered our tools and material (read: planks and firewood) and discussed features on period examples. We were primarily looking through Woodworking in Estonia for inspiration and design guidance. There are so many creative workholding solutions in there that we haven’t seen anywhere else. We can’t resist trying some of them out. If you haven’t ordered a copy of that book yet, what are you waiting for? Go order it now.

 

We each chose different versions based on our intended uses and materials available. I have a 200-year-old 2.75” thick pine plank that I am using for a benchtop. It’s 10.5” wide and cut to 5.5’ long. The top only had the slightest amount of twist so it needed little more than planing away the roughness. For the legs, I rived some ash firewood that has fully seasoned outdoors most of the year.

Mike’s bench is a half round of ash that he split, hewed, and planed flat. For the legs, he dug up a beaver-felled maple sapling from his woods. He will be using the sapling in the round as seen on many of these benches. Sure saves a lot of shaping! Come to think of it… why am I hewing a larger log into smaller pieces and then rounding them? Mike might be onto something here!

So after planing our tops, we got at boring the mortises. I have a t-handled auger just shy of 2” in diameter that I tuned up for my bench. Mike bored his mortises first with a 1” Irwin bit in a brace and tapered it with an awesome taper reamer that came out of some guy’s barn. It’s an all in one deal, bores the hole and reams along the way. Because Mike has a half round bottom, he had to bore his holes from the top so he couldn’t utilize the bore-and-ream-in-one feature. Too bad. That thing is cool.

Tomorrow, Richard Dort, our good friend from Leonard’s Mills Living History Days is coming over to help out. He’s been making staked benches for years so we should be in good hands.

Tomorrow we’ll start with fitting the legs into their mortises…

 

Categories: Hand Tools

Roman Bench Build-along Day 1

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 1:59pm

 

The Roman bench build is underway! Mike and I met this morning, gathered our tools and material (read: planks and firewood) and discussed features on period examples. We were primarily looking through Woodworking in Estonia for inspiration and design guidance. There are so many creative workholding solutions in there that we haven’t seen anywhere else. We can’t resist trying some of them out. If you haven’t ordered a copy of that book yet, what are you waiting for? Go order it now.

 

We each chose different versions based on our intended uses and materials available. I have a 200-year-old 2.75” thick pine plank that I am using for a benchtop. It’s 10.5” wide and cut to 5.5’ long. The top only had the slightest amount of twist so it needed little more than planing away the roughness. For the legs, I rived some ash firewood that has fully seasoned outdoors most of the year.

Mike’s bench is a half round of ash that he split, hewed, and planed flat. For the legs, he dug up a beaver-felled maple sapling from his woods. He will be using the sapling in the round as seen on many of these benches. Sure saves a lot of shaping! Come to think of it… why am I hewing a larger log into smaller pieces and then rounding them? Mike might be onto something here!

So after planing our tops, we got at boring the mortises. I have a t-handled auger just shy of 2” in diameter that I tuned up for my bench. Mike bored his mortises first with a 1” Irwin bit in a brace and tapered it with an awesome taper reamer that came out of some guy’s barn. It’s an all in one deal, bores the hole and reams along the way. Because Mike has a half round bottom, he had to bore his holes from the top so he couldn’t utilize the bore-and-ream-in-one feature. Too bad. That thing is cool.

Tomorrow, Richard Dort, our good friend from Leonard’s Mills Living History Days is coming over to help out. He’s been making staked benches for years so we should be in good hands.

Tomorrow we’ll start with fitting the legs into their mortises…

 

Categories: Hand Tools

Roman Workbench Build-along Starts Today!

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 4:04am

Starting today, Mike and I will be building our Roman workbenches and blogging and posting to Instagram along the way. If you are one of the other folks who will be building along with us, make sure to tag your pictures with #romanbenchbuildalong so that we can follow along your progress. This bench could easily be built in one day but because Mike and I are documenting it (and have other responsibilities) it will be at least a couple days of building followed by a bit of playing around using it. There are a few features and variations that I will be incorporating that Chris didn’t in his low Roman bench so we’ll see what happens with those. This will be really fun. Hope you follow along with us! Stay tuned. There will be more updates throughout the day! 

- Joshua

 

Categories: Hand Tools

Roman Workbench Build-along Starts Today!

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 4:04am

Starting today, Mike and I will be building our Roman workbenches and blogging and posting to Instagram along the way. If you are one of the other folks who will be building along with us, make sure to tag your pictures with #romanbenchbuildalong so that we can follow along your progress. This bench could easily be built in one day but because Mike and I are documenting it (and have other responsibilities) it will be at least a couple days of building followed by a bit of playing around using it. There are a few features and variations that I will be incorporating that Chris didn’t in his low Roman bench so we’ll see what happens with those. This will be really fun. Hope you follow along with us! Stay tuned. There will be more updates throughout the day! 

- Joshua

 

Categories: Hand Tools

Historic Images of Woodworkers

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 12:18pm

I’ve always loved seeing period depictions of woodworkers at work. To see the way their tools are stored, their posture while working, and even shop conditions brings these makers to life for me. I have for years been downloading images I found online when they were particularly interesting. It’s been helpful but I often lost track of where I got them.

When I recently did a Google image search for an old painting, I realized upon clicking on it that it was hosted on Pinterest. I had never signed up for Pinterest because it seemed like there wasn’t much of interest to me. Lots of knitting and home décor stuff. But this time when I clicked to the “board” that this particular image was on (“pinned to”), I saw tons more paintings, drawings, and photographs of woodworkers that I hadn’t seen before.

For those of you that don’t know, Pinterest is a website on which you can organize your favorite images you find online. After you sign up for a free account, you can view the collections of images from people with the same interest as you. For me, I’ve found a pile of pre-industrial woodworkers. I “pinned” them all on one board so that you can see them together.

So, if you’d like to see this gallery of images, check out it out here.

I don’t know much about Pinterest but I expect one of these days I’ll make a board of furniture images that I like. For now, check out these woodworkers.

 

Categories: Hand Tools

Pages