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Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz
The old Stanley router plane turned up in the mail from a colleague in the States a while back, the box a little crunched and the threaded adjustment shaft was bent. Not a huge problem, but the thing was that it made it impossible to set the iron for anything less than about 3/8” (9 mm). The question was; leave it as is, or try to bend and risk breaking the shaft? Not needing the plane right then, I decided to think about it…
The other day when cutting some tenons for a desk for my daughter Rachel, I decided to try to fix the shaft. I figured even if I broke the shaft the plane would still be usable, as the thumb nut is only used for fine adjustments.
I had had a similar problem on a Record 044 plow plane I bought online a while back. It seemed at the time to be an incredible bargain. When it arrived, I could see why. Sharper eyes than mine… There is a machine screw that holds the irons, of different widths, up against the body and a pressure foot to hold the iron against its bed. Whoever bought the plane way back when seemed not to have understood how the screw and the pressure foot worked together, and had cranked the screw so hard he had bent it. Taking a closer look back at the photos online, you could see the problem, but I hadn’t noticed. The iron couldn’t seat properly and from the looks of it the plane was put back into the box and never touched again. None of the irons had ever even been sharpened.
For the plow plane, I took three regular nuts and threaded them down the screw, aligned them and clamped them in a metal vise and used a big Cresent wrench to bend the screw straight. Worked fine, but in this case, the shaft was a true 1/4” and the 6 mm bolts I have here in France wouldn’t fit. So I knocked together a little jig in 5 mm ply to protect the threads from the vise.
Worked like a charm, not 100% straight, but fully functional.
The iron was in pretty good shape, and 15 minutes on the stone got it done.
Oak and black locust, with maritime pine as secondary wood.
I have always liked a low angle for my wrists for typing, so I added an old-fashioned typing tray, wide enough to take a big laptop or a wide keyboard, with a drawer to store it behind the hinged center piece.
I ended up taking it to a joiner I know to cut the profile around the edges of the top on his table moulder. The end grain of the black locust was just too splintery to cut across it with the moulding plane I wanted to use, even with a sacrificial block clamped onto the end to keep it from tearing out. Other than that, I used a thicknesser, and then the rest was hand tools.
There is a reason it is a cliché among woodworkers to speak of the satisfaction of building something for your family that, as long as it lives in a home, will last centuries: It really is satisfying.
Now, if only someone could tell me what eschauffent means…
- Brian Anderson
Brian Anderson is a translator and woodworker living in France. He is translating the woodworking parts of André Felibien’s Des principes de l’architecture, de la sculpture, de la peinture… avec un dictionnaire des terms for Lost Art Press. The book is due out in the Autumn of 2014. Anderson translated Grandpa‘s Workshop for us.
Filed under: Uncategorized
For the last seven weeks I’ve been building this folding campaign bookcase using sapele I purchased from the dearly departed Midwest Woodworking. My logbook says I have about 50 hours in the project. It took seven weeks because I was interrupted by travel, teaching and taxes (to name a few things).
Overall dimensions (open): 37” long, 27” high, 10-1/4” deep.
Hardware: Most of the hardware is from Lee Valley. The corner guards, brackets and campaign pulls were vintage stuff from eBay (though Londonderry Brasses carries the exact stuff I used). The lock is from eBay as well. See here for details.
Finish: Garnet shellac and black wax.
More details on construction: Coming this fall in Popular Woodworking Magazine.
The piece is away for photography and then to the customer. Now I can get started on making some birdhouses.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Books in Print, Campaign Furniture, Projects
I have been interested in the communications of your correspondent in regard to shingles. I have had over thirty years’ experience in building and repairing roofs. I have taken rifted pine shingles from off several roofs that were worn entirely through, at the line where the water falls from one shingle upon the next one below, while underneath the courses the shingles were as bright as when first laid.
Such is not the fact with sawed and cut shingles, from any kind of timber. The reason is, that sawed and cut shingles are cross-grained, so that water runs through the pores of the wood,—wets the under course, and, in wet seasons, seldom if ever dries.
The agents of decay are, air, water and heat. All are combined on a roof to produce decay, and you have the effect on all roofs made of sawed or cut shingles. I have replaced many roofs of sawed shingles, but they never were half worn; they were rotten and unfit to remain longer.
Let any one examine a sawed shingle, and he will find the grain severed and every pore, through which the sap was pumped up from the roots to the branches, is a water-pipe to conduct water through the shingle, instead of over it, as is done by a rifted shingle.
I advise every man, who has means to procure a rifted and shaved shingle, never to use a sawed or cut one. I think slate is the most economical and durable of all roofs. Tin will do well, and roofs with it will be laid more flat, thereby making less surface to cover. There may be compositions that will make good roofs, but I know of none I would accept as a gift, and I have tried several kinds. In choosing rifted shingles, don’t get those of twisted grain, so that one side will turn up and the other turn down.
Any person who will discover a cheap kind of roofing, that will endure our variable climate, will deserve the everlasting gratitude of his kind. But forever deliver me from sawed, and more especially cut shingles.
The Canada Farmer – June 1, 1864
—Jeff BurksA Shingle sawing and packing operation at a small mill near Jefferson, Texas 1939.
Filed under: Historical Images
A Carpenter can no longer be judged by his shavings. Machinery and improved tools is knocking to pieces the old-fashioned mechanical way of lots of sawdust and any amount of shavings in housework.
On this point the Springfield Republican remarks:
“A prominent city landlord, who is putting up many of the wooden houses in a district which is being rapidly filled, when asked by an old resident for a few barrels of shavings the other day, replied: We don’t have any shavings in the houses now; they are all made at the mill and you will have to go there for them. I don’t believe that the carpenters now a-days make more than a barrel of shavings in building a house. Modern residences are put up pretty much as Solomon’s temple was, the parts are brought together all prepared and fitted, and it is short and easy work to put them together.”
The wooden house is turned out of a saw and planing-mill, much as if it were a toy-block. Like ready-made clothes, the average mechanic can put up a ready-made house, while there is still the same opportunity for elaborate workmanship and outlay as in fine clothing.
The Builder and Wood-Worker – September, 1887
Filed under: Historical Images
For some reason I never considered a tree stump as essential workshop equipment until I met Richard Maguire.
Maguire, a lifelong furniture-maker and bench-builder, uses a stump and an axe in his shop and counts it among his essential workshop kit. I’ve always favored sawbenches (yup, I hew on them), but I am coming around to Richard’s way of thinking.
Especially after playing a few (OK, 126) rounds of the Hammer Schlager game, the best stump game ever.
This week Suzanne Ellison sent me this photo from the Victoria & Albert Museum archives. Lady Hawarden Clementina took this photo at Dundrum House circa 1858. It is a fascinating photograph. Not only for the workbench, the chest in the foreground and the awesome hats, but for the stump and the axe.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Historical Images, Workbenches
When I left the corporate publishing world, I stopped wearing a wristwatch everyday. In fact, I don’t think I’ve worn one this year. This is, of course, a symbolic gesture. We won’t release a book until we are happy with it.
So I can’t ever say when a certain title will be released. However, here are the projects we are working on now and in the coming months.
“Windsor Foundations” (a tentative title) by Peter Galbert
I’m about halfway through editing this book. As a woodworker who loves chairmaking, I can say that this is the best book I have read on the topic. Peter is able to explain complex subjects with clarity and just a few words. Plus, he is drawing all of the illustrations for the book (and there are a ton of them).
“Princips de l’Architecture” by André Félibien, translation by Brian Anderson
This important French book pre-dated Joseph Moxon and explains processes and tools not shown in Moxon’s “Mechanick Exercises.” Brian is finishing the translation, which should be in my hands in a few weeks. Read more on this book here.
“Roubo on Furniture” by Donald C. Williams, Michele Pietryka-Pagán & Philippe Lafargue
The translation of this book is complete and the edited sections are now flowing to me. The scope of this book is remarkable. I think you will find it was worth the wait. We will again publish a standard edition and a limited deluxe edition of this book. I don’t have any more details on pricing or availability.
“Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!” by Roy Underhill
The text is complete and Megan Fitzpatrick is finishing her first edit. We are on the verge of selecting an illustrator. Right, Megan? This book is on track for release in the fall.
“Furniture of Necessity” by Christopher Schwarz
I’m taking the first load of furniture up to the engraver on Saturday. So look for an update on this title in the next week or so.
“The Woodworker: The Charles Hayward Years” by Charles Hayward
This project has been going on for as long as our Roubo translation. We have acquired the rights to publish about 500 magazine articles written and illustrated by Charles Hayward when he was editor of The Woodworker magazine in England. The book will cover joinery, tools, casework, carving, turning and traditional design. The goal is to have this massive tome released by the end of 2014, but you’ve heard that line before.
“Virtuoso: The Tool Chest and Workbench of H.O. Studley” (tentative title) by Don Williams
This book will be out this time next year. That is all.
We also have three other titles that I haven’t announced yet but we have completed contract negotiations with the authors. One of these books is a do-it-before-you-die project for me. So our 2015 is booked up and we are already working on the lineup for 2016.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Calvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker!, Chairmaking by Peter Galbert, Furniture of Necessity, Virtuoso: The Toolbox of Henry O. Studley
To build an English-style tool chest, you don’t need a chest full of hand tools. Here is what I consider the minimum tool kit necessary to build this chest during a class or in your shop (as soon as you have your stock dimensioned).
Block plane: for smoothing surfaces and trimming joints flush
Jack plane: for gross removal of material
Moving fillister, skew rabbet or large shoulder plane: for cutting rabbets
Plow plane: for plowing the groove in the lid
Beading plane: 1/8” or 3/16” (optional)
Coping saw, such as the Olson, and extra blades (10 or 12 tpi)
1/2” bevel-edge chisel
1/4” or 5/16” mortising chisel
Marking & Measuring
Cutting gauge, such as the Tite-Mark
Dividers (one or two pair)
Dovetail gauge or sliding T-bevel
Combination square: 6” or 12”
16 oz. claw hammer
Hand drill with a set of bits up to 1/4”
Depending on how you cut your dovetails, you can skip some of the equipment. If you cut pins first, you can get away without a marking knife. If you like your dovetails a little irregular looking, you can dispense with the dovetail marking gauge and the dividers. If you truly cut your dovetails “by hand” then you don’t need a dovetail saw (you ninja).
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: The Anarchist's Tool Chest, Woodworking Classes
When you look at old engravings, there are going to be details that confuse. Perhaps they were drawn incorrectly. Or you just don’t have enough information to interpret the marks on the page.
Several years ago, I wrote about the French benches in the La Forge Royale catalog, which illustrates several benches with wagon vises. The images of the benches show an odd thing hanging down below the benchtops. It’s clearly a stick, but its purpose isn’t discussed in the text of the catalog.
After several years of speculation, we now know what this dangling stick is. It is the handle for the wooden screw that attaches the top and base together. Thanks to a photo from Jameel Abraham, we have this clear cut-answer.
Of course, this answer raises some questions. Does this method of attaching the top and base adequately resist the horizontal forces from the leg vise? If you built a bench like this and attached the top and base with lag screws alone, you’d be sorry. I am sorry.
Perhaps the top and base of this French bench are attached with both the wooden screw and some dowel pins. I guess I’ll never know until I get to take apart one of these benches myself.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Workbenches
Philippe Lafargue, my Roubo translation collaborator and long-time friend, has been insulted.
Deeply. By M. Roubo himself.
Roubo’s chapters on chairmaking are technically sublime, with many profound insights and word pictures I find captivating. However, he is incessant in his demeaning descriptions of chairmakers, accusing them of being sloppy, careless, unskilled and slothful. Somewhere between the lines he is probably implying that they are hung over, their feet stink and they don’t love Jesus. Though he does not comment on their table manners, we can guess what he might say.
As a graduate of the renowned École Boulle curriculum in classical French chairmaking, Philippe unsurprisingly takes umbrage at these characterizations. He has gone so far as to wonder out loud (well, in print correspondence) why it is that Roubo was so contemptuous of chairmakers.
If we knew where Roubo is buried, it might be worth trying to dig him up and asking him. When you read Roubo’s accounts of chairmaking, you will no doubt ask yourselves the same question.
— Don Williams
Filed under: Books in Print, To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation
The American Agriculturist says, perhaps there is no farm implement which is so useful and so little esteemed as the grindstone. If it was kept under shelter and otherwise properly taken care off, one of these instruments should last almost a man’s life-time instead of wearing out in a few years.
No grindstone should be exposed to the weather, as it not only injures the wood work, but the sun’s rays harden the stone so much as in time to render it useless; neither should it be run in water, as the part remaining in the water softens so much that it wears away faster than the other side, and many a “soft place” in a stone has arisen from this cause alone, and not from any in equality in the grit.
The proper way is to allow the water to drop on the stone as it is needed, either from a cast-iron water cup, or (what answers very well) an old white lead keg, supported above the stone, with a spile near the bottom, which can be driven in when needed, and if kept filled with water will last a long time.
Finally, the stone should not be allowed to “get out of the round,” as no tool can be properly ground unless the stone runs true; if it should become uneven, get some one to turn it, and with a nail rod raze it down until it becomes perfectly round.
Greasy or rusty tools should be well cleaned before grinding or they will choke up the grit. If this should occur, a little sharp sand and water on a board kept against the stone while turning, will clean it off and sharpen up the grit.
The Dairy Farmer – January, 1861
Filed under: Historical Images
No Tools to Lend
These words, inscribed on the door of a farmer’s tool house, recently caught our eye, and furnished a ready theme for meditation. Borrowing is an ancient and evil custom, the fruitful source of many troubles. In the ruder stages of civilization there might have been greater necessity for borrowing than now; but as the world progresses there can be less and less need of it.
The tendency of cultivated humanity is to independent action—the tendency of barbarism is to a servile obligation. The more educated a community, the less they borrow, and consequently the more the borrowing element predominates, the greater their degradation.
There are several kinds of borrowers at the present day. There are the careful and the careless—the slack and the prompt —those who expect to pay for the privilege, and those who don’t expect to—those who help themselves without permission, and those who forget to return.
The careful, prompt, paying borrower is usually a welcome visitor. It is a pleasure to lend to such a man. This class know how to appreciate a favor, and it is of these that Solomon spoke when he said “the borrower is servant to the lender.”
But there is a class to whom the lender is servant, a degenerate class of borrowers, always to be dreaded. They wear a fair, smooth face to begin with, and a mean, sneaking face at the end. They take the precious property of another, and subject it to rougher usage and severer strain than does the owner. The chances are that the article is returned in a broken or damaged condition.
A man who can misuse a borrowed thing, seldom has delicacy enough to make amends for an injury. Thus insult is added to injury, and if complaint arises, neighbors often become enemies. That such are the frequent, final results of borrowing, any one familiar with social life knows.
At that farm house where the inscription above referred to was limned, there may have been peculiar reasons for it. Of these reasons we know nothing, and have no desire to. But our sympathies, quickened by trials in this lending line, have led us to recall cases that may have been real.
For example, farmer A keeps all sorts of tools neat, bright, and in perfect order. He prides himself on having tools, and sacrifices other pleasures to save money to buy and pay for them. He has neighbors who are unable or too stingy to buy, and so they live by borrowing, and making old apologies for tools answer instead. They can appreciate good tools, and are willing to save time in using them as well as anybody, but they never think about the propriety of remuneration.
Farmer A buys a new corn planter, and the season being backward, several neighbors are behind hand in planting, and apply for the use of the machine. The implement cost money: the owner never expecting to buy another, handles it himself carefully, and reluctantly loans it.
Some day after, when farmer A wants to use his machine, he has to hunt it up among his neighbors, and finds it dirty, unhoused, a nut lost off, and a wooden linchpin supplying the place of the appropriate iron one. As it has been used by several individuals, each throws the blame of damage upon the other, coolly leaving the owner to pocket the loss and its injury.
Again, farmer A gets a mowing machine, and puts it in running order some rainy day before the time of using. Soon after a neighboring farmer comes all prepared with his team, and wants to try it in his home lot, intimating that he thinks of buying when he can decide upon its merits.
The machine is allowed to depart, and finally returned by the borrower without thanks or offering, but with the cool impudence that it wouldn’t do its work. On examination the knives are found gapped and marked by the sticks and bricks through which it has run, and the loss of an important screw is a key to the mystery.
Other cases might be enumerated. Suffice it to say there are well off farmers in almost every town, who for years have depended upon less opulent neighbors for plows, rakes, forks, and grindstones. These things ought not to be. Every tub should stand or fall upon its own bottom.
It is neither charity or religion to lend to rich men without remuneration. A man’s tools are property, and like money are entitled to security and pay. We believe more and more in the sage advice to young men that Shakespeare put into the mouth of Polonius in the play of Hamlet:—
“Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.”
The Country Gentleman – July 11, 1861
The Lender is Servant to the Borrower.
Will you permit an old fellow who has seen some service in farming, and who has been a subscriber to your very useful paper since its first publication, to occupy a few lines in the Cabinet, for a purpose that perhaps some may consider of little importance.
The purpose indicated by the heading, to wit:—Borrowing, in many neighborhoods, and amongst considerate thoughtful farmers is not much practised; yet there are individuals who through downright carelessness and neglect of duty to themselves and their more provident neighbors, are much given to this species of imposition.
A proper spirit of accommodation, and a disposition to oblige and reasonably to promote the interests of neighbors, should always be encouraged and promoted, but it should never be carried to the point where it would assume the character of a regular systematic plan of operations.
Those who borrow, should resort to it as seldom as possible, and always return the article borrowed as early as practicable, and be sure that it is returned to its owner in good order. This is but a very plain principle of common sense and justice, and yet there are very frequent instances of its infringement, and that among well meaning, yet inconsiderate people.
On the farm that I was reared, care was taken to keep the implements of agriculture in good order, and to have a proper supply of them, but we had neighbors in good circumstances who instead of depending on their own resources, were constantly borrowing, first one article and then another, the year round, and it was somewhat of a rarity for them to send any thing home again; for they seemed to think it trouble enough to come for it in the first instance.
During my boy-hood, it fell to my lot when a loaned article was wanted to trudge off to the neighbor who had borrowed it and bring it home, and it was not unfrequent that it was unfit for use when brought home, and sometimes there was demur at the surrender of a borrowed article.
Now I hope there has been improvement in these matters since I was errand-boy, yet I fear there is still room for admonition on the subject of borrowing, and I concluded to drop you these few lines, that the boys of the present day, may know what has been the experience of those who were boys fifty years ago but are now
The Farmers’ Cabinet – April 13, 1838
Filed under: Historical Images
The principles behind the Roorkee chair can be easily adapted to other forms of furniture besides chairs. Its loose-tenon joinery has been used to make beds and even tables on occasion.
Today, however, I saw my first Roorkee footstool.
This weekend I visited the new Lee Valley store in Vaughan, Ontario, to deliver a couple talks on workbench design and campaign furniture. For my talk on campaign furniture, I brought along five campaign pieces (Me to border guard: “No, I am not invading your country”). But I didn’t have a Roorkee chair with me – my last one sold to a customer.
So I was happy when local woodworker Vincent brought along two Roorkee chairs he had made – plus a Roorkee footstool that was built using the same principles.
Made using purpleheart, the stool had a thigh strap and a slanted seat cover, just like a Roorkee chair. The rest of the attendees were gaga over it, taking photos and trying it out.
Vincent also made some nice modifications to the original Roorkee plan. Instead of turning round stretchers, he made his stretchers octagonal and terminated with a tapered tenon. They looked very nice – I’ll have to try that on a future chair.
Also, the “grip” turning at the top of the chair bowed out slightly in the middle instead of being straight. It looked nice and felt nice in the hand as well.
All in all, the new Lee Valley store is quite nice. The company is trying out some new things with this store. So if you are ever driving north of Toronto on the 400, be sure to stop and chck it out.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Books in Print, Campaign Furniture
Last year we discussed the work of 19th century British photographer William Henry Fox Talbot. A print attributed to Talbot circa 1844, known as ‘Carpenter and Apprentice‘, may be the oldest surviving photograph of woodworkers.
The subject of this blog entry is the work of Eadweard Muybridge, known to many as the man who provided photographic evidence that a galloping horse could have all four hooves off the ground at the same time. You have probably seen his photographs whether you recognize his name or not. Many are not aware that Muybridge also photographed woodworkers. His studies may contain the oldest images of woodworking in action.
Muybridge had a penchant for photographing his models in the nude. His woodworking images depict semi-nude and fully nude males. If you have a problem with nudity, or are browsing this blog from work, you might want to skip this post.
Photography has its earliest beginnings in the 1830′s when most efforts were directed toward the science of capturing photographs and making the results permanent. Once the basic problems were solved, photographers moved on to new ideas. By the 1860′s a number of photographers were experimenting with “moving pictures” using a technique known as Chronophotography, defined as “a set of photographs of a moving object, taken for the purpose of recording and exhibiting successive phases of motion.”
At this time the motion picture camera (using roll film) had not yet been invented. All cameras were bulky contraptions that took significant time to load and prep for a single exposure. To get around this limitation the photographers would set up a series of cameras and trigger them sequentially. The downside of this technique becomes evident when the resulting images are “played back” flip-book style. Because each frame is captured from a slightly different location, the moving picture suffers from shifting perspective of the foreground and background objects.
To quote Wikipedia: “In 1872, Leland Stanford, former governor of California and horse enthusiast, hired Eadweard Muybridge to provide photographic proof that at some instants a galloping horse has all four hooves off the ground. Muybridge lined part of a racecourse with a row of cameras that had shutters connected to a series of tripwires, then photographed a horse against a white background as it galloped past. One of the resulting silhouette photographs provided the desired proof. Later in the decade, with the benefit of more sensitive photographic plates, he obtained greatly improved results. Muybridge also arranged such sequences of photographs in order around the inner surface of a zoetrope; when the drum-like device was set spinning, an observer looking through its slots saw an animated image.”
Muybridge’s story is a fascinating one. He fell out with Stanford after he was denied credit for his photography in the published work on horses, murdered the man he suspected of having an affair with his young wife, and went into exile in South America. When he returned to America in 1883, Muybridge was able to get funding from the University of Pennsylvania to work on a massive photography study known as Animal Locomotion.
Between 1883 and 1886, Muybridge made more than 100,000 photographs for this project using three batteries of cameras, each containing a line of twelve lenses with plate holders and one focusing lens. Muybridge used this setup to capture action sequences of everyday motion. This work would eventually be published in 11 volumes, all of which have been scanned and made available at Wikimedia Commons. Many of the sequences have been converted to animations, some of which can be seen here.
Animal Locomotion Volume II: Plate 379 depicts a man planing at a work bench. The 12-shot action sequence is photographed from three different angles. Similarly, plate 380 depicts the same man sawing a board from three different angles in an 8-shot sequence. Click on the images to see a high resolution copy of each plate. I have taken the liberty of converting these photo series into animations, which you can view by clicking the links below.
Animal Locomotion Volume V: Plate 491 depicts four 10-shot sequences of a naked old man engaged in blacksmithing and woodworking tasks. I have animated the two sequences showing the man splitting wood with a hatchet and sawing a board.
Filed under: Historical Images
Tucked between my trips to both coasts and editing Peter Galbert’s in-fricking-credible book on chairmaking I’ve been building this folding campaign bookcase in sapele for an article in Popular Woodworking Magazine.
The bookcase looks so simple: two boxes that are hinged together. Truth is, this has been one of the most challenging pieces I’ve built in a long time. Most of the joinery is just dovetails, easy-peasy. But the backs of the cases attach to the carcase with a wack-a-doodle joint that has no name. I call the joint “banjo.” If you think that is a reference to the film “Deliverance,” you might be correct.
But what’s been even more mind-bending have been the mechanical aspects of the piece. For everything to work, the adjustable shelves and drawers have to clear the glass doors when pulled out. The hinge barrels of the glass doors have to be placed precisely to allow them to open fully without binding against the case and yet allow the two halves of the bookcase to close tightly.
And all the hardware (there’s a buttload) has to co-mingle, sometimes in unexpected ways. I destroyed the edge of a chisel while mortising the strikes for the door locks. I kept trying to lever out a little piece of waste that wouldn’t budge. Turns out the “waste” was a screw.
Like many campaign pieces, this one has more than 30 pieces of hardware that have to be mortised flush. After writing a book on campaign furniture, that’s easy. What was hard was what happened when I opened a new bag of brass screws that were decidedly soft. Within a few minutes I had four screws that were buried in the work with broken heads.
Good thing I have this screw extractor. I bought this in the 1990s from Woodworker’s Supply and it is the only one I’ve ever used that works (for me).
Today I’m dovetailing the two drawers and cleaning up the exterior for its finish (shellac and wax). I am sure I’d make my April 15 deadline if I didn’t have to go to Canada on Thursday.
Yup. I’ll be at the new Lee Valley store west of Toronto this weekend to conduct a couple of seminars and hang out with our northern neighbors. The address of the new store is: 167 Chrislea Road, Vaughan, ON L4L 8N6. Here is my schedule:
Friday, April 11, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Everything You Need to Know About Workbench Design
Friday, April 11, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Book Signing & Meet & Greet
Saturday, April 12, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
An Introduction to Campaign Furniture
Megan Fitzpatrick, the editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine, will also be there conducting a seminar on her recent adventures in kitchen cabinetmaking. Reading her accounts of it on her blog make me want to move into an apartment where I never have to work on my kitchen.
So all this is the long way of saying: Sorry I haven’t answered your e-mail during the last few months. I do answer all e-mails. But I still have about 40 in the queue.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Campaign Furniture, Projects
About two years ago, I hatched an evil scheme: I intuited that Chris would be writing about polissoirs within the next six months. I also figured that he would eventually invite me to write on his blog. And so I slipped him a small mahogany board that I had finished to look like it had been polissoir-ed, but was in fact finished using more modern techniques. Last week, my plans finally came to fruition, as he mistakenly put forth my sample board as an example of polissoir-ization. It was all very reminiscent of Armand LaMontagne’s Brewster Chair.
Actually, it didn’t go down quite like that, and I apologize for inadvertently leading Chris astray. The irony is that I really did give him the board because I thought that the finish I used looks a lot like a polissoir-ed finish, but I didn’t intend for him to get his boards mixed up.
So what is this miracle finish? It’s something that you’ve probably never heard of: Polyx-Oil, from Osmo (a German manufacturer of wood flooring and wood-finishing products). Polyx-Oil is one of a number of finishes known as hardwax oils. As the name suggests, hardwax oils are a blend of a hard wax (typically candelilla and/or carnauba) and a drying oil (soy, tung, linseed, etc.). Hardwax oils have become popular in Europe in recent years, but they’re still relatively unknown in North America. Until very recently, the only products imported to the U.S. were those from Osmo, but some of the other manufacturers have started to show up. My experience is only with the Osmo products, so from now on that’s what I’ll be talking about. There’s a list of Osmo dealers available on their web site (you can also buy through the company named after a mythical female warrior nation).
While Polyx-Oil hardly qualifies as a Lost Art, it’s interesting that it really isn’t that different from old-time finishes: just oil, wax and a pinch of drying agent. It would seem that much of modern finish chemistry uses the same materials as always, and that the main differences are in molecular micromanagement.
Polyx-Oil was originally developed as a finish for wood floors. While neither “Foolproof!” nor “The Last Finish You’ll Ever Need!” it is easy to use and does a good job of protecting wood against everyday spills and such, but it isn’t truly waterproof. I think it’s fine for most furniture, with the possible exception of dining tables. I wouldn’t use it on bathroom cabinets, and I’d think twice about it on kitchen cabinets. It’s also not recommended as a finish for oily tropical woods. (Osmo recommends against using it on mahogany, but I haven’t experienced any problems with either real mahogany or its African relatives.)
Osmo makes three variations of Polyx-Oil, the original Polyx-Oil, Top Oil and Polyx Pro Oil. All three are very similar, with the only significant difference being the amount of solvent. Top Oil contains more solvent, and is supposedly optimized for furniture and countertops (as opposed to floors). Polyx Pro Oil contains virtually no solvent, for situations that call for a very low-VOC finish.
I’ve used both original Polyx-Oil and Top Oil, and have to say that if there is a difference, it’s hardly noticeable. Top Oil does come in a container with a screw top, making it a bit more convenient for touch-ups. I haven’t tried Polyx Pro Oil, mainly because it only comes in very large containers and is therefore rather expensive.
Through trial and error, I developed a finishing schedule that deviates from the Osmo instructions but is well suited to furniture and casework. The resulting finish is silky and semi-matte. It looks and feels like paste wax over oil, but is more durable. You can download a PDF of my finishing schedule here.
Filed under: Finishing
My recent article on the new polissoirs from Don’s Barn and a long-term test of the burnishing effect from the tool had a significant error: The photo showed the wrong sample board.
That similar-looking sample board was given to me by woodworker Steve Schafer – he’ll be blogging about the finishing schedule on that sample board in the near future.
Last tight I rooted through my wood rack to find the mahogany sample that I prepared 18 months ago. I made it halfway through the rack without finding it; when it turns up, I’ll post a photo of it.
In the meantime, here are photos of two projects that I finished with a polissoir about the same time I made the sample board. These two stools were finished with a polissoir only on the lathe. Like all properly prepared polissoirs, it had a little wax on the tip, which was applied when I first got the tool. But I wouldn’t call this a wax finish. It’s a burnished finish, much like the burnishing finish you get when you use shavings to polish a piece spinning on the lathe.
So the result isn’t wrong – just the photo.
Apologies for the error. I should have marked Steve’s sample board as it is very similar looking to mine.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Finishing, To Make as Perfectly as Possible, Roubo Translation
American Industries—No. 9, Small Tools
The industry under consideration is peculiarly American. It is representative of a class of establishments that have given our manufacturers a world-wide reputation for goods that are both cheap and reliable. This success is mainly due to the system of manufacture inaugurated here some years since, and which seems to thrive better in this country than anywhere else. But for the special machines, the system of inspection, and assembling we should still have the old-fashioned tools, with the defects consequent upon fitting one piece to another, and the prices would be far higher than the more perfect machine-made article now demands.
The Miller’s Falls Company, of Miller’s Falls, Mass, manufacture a great variety of useful tools, most of them being of the smaller sort, such as are of the most general utility. A few of these, shown in the title page engraving, will be recognized by most of our readers as familiar objects. Among these are breast drills, bench drills, Barber’s bit brace, the ratchet brace, parallel vises, the miter box, the screw jack, all of which are so well known as to need no special description.
The saw in the background of the left hand view is known as the Rogers scroll saw. It is a marvel of cheapness; the frame, of elegant design, is entirely of iron; the shaft, treadle motion, and drive wheel are well fitted, and the whole affair, while it is substantial and really good, is sold for $3. We mention the price as this machine exemplifies in a remarkable manner what has already been stated. In the upper right hand corner of the engraving is shown a Lester scroll saw, which combines a saw and a lathe; a hand scroll saw and a small drill are shown on the floor.
The two views in the lower part of the engraving represent two forms of parallel vise made by this company, also the well known tool chests which are used by both young and old. The works of the Miller’s Falls Company contain the most modern machinery for doing work rapidly and accurately.
The middle view at the top of the engraving shows a turret lathe, one of the most useful tools for this kind of work. The special use of the one shown is to make small universal chucks, such as are used with small lathes, hand drills, bit braces, etc. In five minutes from the time a bar of iron is put through the hollow mandrel of this lathe it is turned, drilled, tapped, chamfered, turned to the required form, and cut off. Of the larger views, the right hand one represents the machinery for making various styles of tool handles; the left hand view represents the department in which the different kinds of tools are finished.
The main building of the works is divided into six compartments, separated from each other by heavy brick walls and iron doors, as a protection against the spread of fire. The works are complete in themselves, consisting of iron and brass foundries, blacksmith shops, tempering shop, pattern, wood turning, machine, grinding, and polishing shops; inspection and stock rooms. The machinery is driven by turbines having a total of 300 horse power.
As an evidence of success of this establishment it may be mentioned that great numbers of their tools are shipped to England, many of which go to Sheffield, which was once the very tool center of Europe. The New York warerooms of the Miller’s Falls Company are located at 74 Chambers street.
Scientific American – March 22, 1879
Filed under: Historical Images
This machine is specially designed for felling trees. It is well known that in chopping down trees with an ax, two or three feet, according to the size of the tree, of the most valuable part of the lumber is lost. By this machine the tree is felled within five inches of the ground; and by removing the soil sufficiently to avoid dulling the saw, it can be cut as low as desired. Four men can do the work of ten men with axes in the forests.
It will be recollected that the butt must be squared, or cross-cut, before the log is ready for the mill; but the single operation of felling the tree with this machine leaves the log already squared. The land is left smooth, thus facilitating cultivation, and greatly increasing its value. The surface of the stump being left flat and level, is porous and spongy, so that by the action of moisture and air it soon decays; but when cut by the ax, its pores are sealed up and its surface rendered smooth, and the stump will not soon decay, but remains for years an unsightly and inconvenient object.
This machine, in cross-cutting, operates with equal facility whether the log lies flat on the ground or is elevated several feet above it. To prepare it for cross-cutting, it is turned on one side, and the shaft is put into other bearings, so that the spur-wheel and pinion gear together. The advantage gained over a common cross-cut saw, used by two men, cutting wood into shorter lengths, is that the saw works with greater rapidity, and by having greater power is fed faster.
It can be worked by one or two men, and when not employed in the forests, in sawing up the limbs, it may be used to advantage in cutting all the firewood required in the neighborhood. It is readily adapted to the several kinds of work for which it is intended, requiring less that five minutes for the necessary change of position, and practical experiment has proved its complete success and efficiency.
The power is applied by two cranks, which are sufficiently elevated above the ground to be conveniently worked. The machine is furnished with two handles, by means of which it is easily carried about by two men, and performs its work with great expedition and entire safety. A wedge, of peculiar shape, accompanies each machine, which is driven into the kerf as the saw proceeds, and thus prevents the trees from settling down, or binding the saw, and also forces the tree to fall in the desired direction.
The machine is very simple it its construction, not liable to get out of order, and moderate in cost; and is confidently commended to those interested in forest and timber lands, and all engaged in the lumber business, as effecting a great and important saving of time, labor, and material.
Col. Hamilton, the inventor of this machine, is an old and very successful inventor, His first patent was in 1809, and since that he has patented over sixty inventions, many of which are in successful use. The above-described machine was patented by James Hamilton, of New York. For further information apply to Boyd & Ackerman, at the “Hamilton Patented Machines Agency,” No. 59 Cedar Street, New York.
American Artisan and Patent Record – June 7, 1865
(Additional Illustrations – December 11, 1867)
Filed under: Historical Images
Rhett Fulkerson of Nice Planes in Frankfort, Ky., showed me a cool trick for setting a chipbreaker quickly, precisely and perfectly parallel to the cutting edge.
Take a feeler gauge whose thickness is equal to the distance you want to set the breaker back from the cutting edge. In this example, I used a .005” feeler gauge. Tape the feeler gauge to a flat surface.
Touch the back of the iron to the flat surface and against the edge of the feeler gauge. Slide the breaker down the back of the iron until it contacts the feeler gauge. If your iron has a curved cutting edge, apply the downward pressure in the center of the iron and the breaker.
Tighten the breaker’s screw. You are done.
Rhett showed me this trick during the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event in Cincinnati, Ohio, this weekend. I also got to check out his planes, his plane kits and his new irons and chipbreakers that you can use to make your own wooden handplanes.
The O1 irons and breakers are very nice. The breakers have a machined lip like the improved chipbreakers found on Lie-Nielsen and Veritas chipbreakers. So the parts precisely on the back of the iron.
His plane kits in maple are also sweet. Thanks to pre-cut Dominos in both halves of the plane body, it is almost (almost!) impossible for the parts to shift as you glue them up. If you are looking for a plane kit, this is a very good one.
And his finished planes are excellent as well. Since I first saw Rhett’s planes, they have become sleeker and more comfortable in the hand. Definitely check out his site if you have any interest in wooden planes.
(Note: His site says his company is Nice Ash Planes. He recently dropped the “ash” as he started using other woods.)
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Handplanes
Free domestic shipping for “Campaign Furniture” ends at midnight tonight, April 5. After that, shipping and handling will be $8.
Eight dollars is a lot of money (though not as much as $300). That $8 could be a six pack of snooty beer. Or a 12 pack of stuff that has already been through the hobo once.
Save your $8 here.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Campaign Furniture