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Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz

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Updated: 1 hour 10 min ago

A Walk in the Woods in May

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 6:03pm

May is, of course, peak box turtles-crossing-the-road month. Here’s one that managed to evade Chris’s car:

This individual is of the “eastern” subspecies of common box turtle (Terrapene carolina).

I mentioned last month that I wasn’t able to find a good example of a black maple (Acer nigrum). Naturally, I came across a perfect example the very next day. Unfortunately, that tree was inaccessible; I would have had to climb down a steep slope into a swamp to be able to collect a leaf. I did eventually find another one:

Notice that it looks a bit like a seriously overweight sugar maple; the lobes are broad, the sinuses between lobes are very shallow, and the two outermost lobes have all but disappeared.

I also mentioned last month that the leaf of the boxelder (A. negundo) is disturbingly similar to that of eastern poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). I came across this tableau in Ottawa County, along Lake Erie in northern Ohio:

The leaf circled on the left is poison ivy; the one on the right is boxelder.

A common maple lookalike of a different sort is American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis):

In the UK, what we call sycamore is called plane or planetree, and what they call sycamore is a maple, A. pseudoplatanus. And this is why I always give the scientific names </rant>.

Even with the scientific names, it can be a puzzle. Note the sycamore maple’s scientific name, Acer pseudoplatanus: “maple that is a fake plane.” London plane is a common ornamental tree in the UK that is hybrid between American sycamore and oriental planetree (P. orientalis). It is sometimes given the scientific name Platanus orientalis var. acerifolia (“eastern plane with maple-like foliage”). No wonder people get confused.

Several Ohio trees bloom in May. The northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) is uncommon in the wild around here, but frequently planted for its abundant showy flowers:

The native range of northern catalpa is uncertain. It was once thought to be native only to a small area of the Mississippi River drainage, between Arkansas and southwestern Indiana, but recently discovered archeological evidence from West Virginia suggests that it was present in the Ohio River drainage near here prior to European settlement.

Willow flowers aren’t showy, but there are enough of them that, from a distance, they give the trees an overall yellow fuzzy appearance. Here are some black willow (Salix nigra) flowers:

In North America, most legumes (family Fabaceae) are non-woody herbs. In the tropics, however, legumes are often trees, and some of the most highly prized tropical hardwoods, such as the rosewoods (Dalbergia), are in fact legumes. There are a few North American legumes that reach tree size, but only the mesquites (Prosopis) are traded commercially to any significant extent. Legumes often have showy flowers, and the North American species with perhaps the showiest is the black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia):

The bark of the black locust is pale gray with a greenish tint, arranged in thick, vertical ropes:

Most legumes have compound leaves of one sort or another. The leaves of the black locust are pinnate, having a central axis (the rachis), with elliptical leaflets along either side:

The other North American tree called locust, honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos), is actually not all that closely related to the black locust. It is most easily recognized by its formidable thorns:

(You can also see a flower bud near the center of the photo; in contrast to the black locust, the honey locust’s flower doesn’t get much bigger than what you see here.)

The bark is much smoother than that of the honey locust, but the thorns give it away:

(Note that there are thornless cultivars that are planted as ornamentals, so a tree that looks like a honey locust but doesn’t have any thorns is probably one of these.)

The leaves are bipinnate, meaning that the leaves are pinnate, and the leaflets are as well:

Although it’s not too common in Ohio, the Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus) is also a legume, with enormous bipinnate leaves, up to three feet long. I know where there are some Kentucky coffeetrees nearby, but none with leaves close enough to the ground for me to reach, and in any case I don’t have a gray card big enough to lay one on.

There is an American legume with significant commercial value, but it’s not a North American tree:

This is the koa (Acacia koa) of Hawaiʻi. What appears to be a leaf is actually a structure that emerges as a swelling from the petiole (leaf stem), called a phyllode. Most mature koas have no true leaves at all, but in younger trees, you can usually find a few leaves in the interior of the tree, and they have the familiar legume appearance:

(I took these photos on Kauaʻi several years ago.) The closest relative of koa is Australian blackwood (A. melanoxylon), which also has phyllodes.

The eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), which we first encountered back in March, also has attractive flowers. Those are long gone by May, but the seed pods are ripening:

It is said that the young pods can be cooked and eaten whole, like snow peas, but I have never tried them. Every year, by the time I think of it, they’ve gotten too old.

Unusual for a legume, the redbud has simple, heart-shaped leaves:

Another tree of the local forests with heart-shaped leaves is American basswood (Tilia americana):

If you look closely, you can see that the leaf is somewhat asymmetrical near the base, with one side reaching further back than the other. I don’t know why this is, and not all of the leaves are like this, but it’s a feature that is shared by several other unrelated trees.

Elms have asymmetrical leaves, too. Here is a slippery elm (Ulmus rubra):

(It’s a little hard to see the asymmetry in this one.)

And an American elm (U. americana):

The leaves of the slippery elm are densely covered with fine, stiff hairs. If you place one on a tabletop and press the palm of your hand flat against it, it will stick to your hand like Velcro. American elm leaves are usually much less hairy, but can sometimes look almost identical to slippery elm leaves. The easiest way to distinguish the two is to look at the stem between the leaves. In slippery elm, this stem is hairy:

In American elm, it’s smooth:

Another tree whose leaves have this same kind of asymmetry is the common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis):

Hackberry trees are easy to identify from their bark, covered with warty protuberances:

Unfortunately, the emerald ash borer has reached Athens County. I would estimate that over half of the larger ash trees are already dead or nearly so; the smaller ones seem to be hanging on a bit longer. Here’s a dead white ash in Ottawa County; you can see how the beetle larvae eat through the cambium in such a way as to cut off the tree’s nutrient supply:

The more common species here is green ash (Fraxinius pennsylvanica). The leaves are pinnate, usually with seven leaflets:

The leaves of white ash (F. americana) are very similar:

With a leaf in hand, however, there is a simple way to tell the two apart. If you look closely at the base of the petiole, where the leaf attaches to the branch, the cross section of the green ash’s leaf is roughly circular, with a small cutout on top:

While the white ash’s petiole has a much deeper groove:

Rare in Athens County, but more common to the north, the leaves of the black ash (F. nigra) usually have nine leaflets (sometimes more), rather than seven. There is a large tree on our land in Meigs County that I think is a black ash, but the tree is so tall that I can’t get a decent look at the leaves, even through binoculars.

The seeds of both local ashes are encased in samaras that remind me of surfboards:

By May, the forest floor is pretty dark, so there’s not that much going on as far as wildflowers are concerned. Some species occur around forest edges, where there’s more light. One of the common May wildflowers in my yard (but strangely absent in other places that would seem to be appropriate for them) is foxglove beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis):

The flowers that we usually think of as roses are all Asian imports, but there are a few native species, like this Carolina rose (Rosa carolina):

Venturing a bit deeper into the shade, we can find touch-me-nots, especially common along roadside ditches. This one is a pale touch-me-not (Impatiens pallida):

The name comes from the fact that the ripe seed pods are spring-loaded. If you squeeze one, it explodes, shooting seeds in all directions. (It’s a good practical joke when you’re out in the woods with someone who isn’t familiar with the flora: “Here, squeeze this between your fingers.”)

This one is limestone bittercress (Cardamine douglassii):

It also goes by the name “purple cress,” but there are a gazillion other flowers that also go by that name.

In the deepest shade, we can find Canadian wildginger (Asarum canadense, unrelated to culinary ginger):

You have to get down on your knees to see the flowers, though; they’re hidden below the leaves and practically buried in the leaf litter:

One of the most attractive spring/summer ferns is the northern maidenhair (Adiantum pedatum):

There is also a more southerly species called common maidenhair, which looks quite different, but I wasn’t able to find one. Maybe later this year.

When you’re walking in the woods, it pays to look down, and not only for wildflowers and ferns. I almost stepped on this (Odocoileus virginianus) when I went to fill the bird feeders in my backyard a few weeks ago:

–Steve Schafer


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

I Ain’t Selling Your $%&$ Wax

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 3:40pm
wally1_IMG_8410

“Really? More wax? Can’t you make my play a piano or ride a Roomba?”

Sometimes the animals in our house get tired of being asked to pose with wax or stickers (hmmm, we still haven’t asked Skeletor the Undying Frog). So it should come as no surprise that Wally shot lasers out of his eyes today when showed a jar of Katy’s Soft Wax.

Yes, Katy has a batch of soft wax up in the store that is available for immediate shipment. You can order it on her etsy.com store.

Note that cats are not necessarily stupid. After he was told he would get a cookie, Wally instantly changed to “marketing genius” (see below).

— Christopher Schwarz

wally2_IMG_8408-(1)

“Why yes, this wax is the finest in the land. I use it daily.”


Filed under: Personal Favorites, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

The Technique of Woodwork

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 11:49am
Technique

FIG. 1. TYPICAL OPERATIONS SHOWING THE ADVANTAGES OF TAKING THE TOOL RIGHT THROUGH: A. Through groove worked with plough and stopped groove. B. Trenching taken right across and stopped trench. C. Use of plane on straight edge and edge with stops. D. Plain chamfer and one with stops


This is an excerpt from “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years: Volume II” published by Lost Art Press. 

The practical working of wood is largely based upon an extraordinarily simple fact; a fact which every man who goes in for woodwork, even in an elementary way, soon comes to discover for himself. This is that it is easier to take a tool right through than to stop it short—at any rate so far as hand tools are concerned. Men in the past found this out at a very early period, and traditional methods of construction have been based on and developed around this simple truth, but it is rediscovered daily by every man who picks up saw, plane, file, and so on.

Consider the number of times you experience this; how much easier it is to work a through groove than a stopped one; how simple it is to take a saw right across a piece of wood, but what a different proposition when it has to be stopped short as when sawing the sides of a stopped groove; how straightforward it is to plane an edge straight, yet what a nuisance it becomes when it is stopped at one (or both) ends and you cannot use the plane except at the middle (haven’t you been tempted to plane the edge straight and plant on the stops afterwards!); how a simple chamfer can be formed with the plane in a few seconds, but takes probably ten times as long when it is stopped; and so the list might be continued. These points are brought out in Fig. 1.

Of course, it does not follow from this that grooves are never stopped or that chamfers always go right through. Sometimes you cannot help yourself; possibly the one may be a constructional necessity, or the other so attractive a feature that it is worth the trouble involved. But there is no point in work for its own sake; it is much better to go about things in a simple way, especially when the involved method carries with it no corresponding advantage.

Technique2

FIG. 2. DRAWER WITH SUSPENSION RUNNERS: Construction at A is faulty for hand work since plough cannot be taken right through. B and C are better

It is because of this that it is generally easy to tell whether a design is the work of a practical man; or, to take another aspect of the same thing, why a design by an artist invariably requires the cooperation of an experienced woodworker to convert it into terms of practical working. A simple example came to our notice recently. The sides of a drawer had to be grooved to fit suspension runners attached to the cabinet sides. They were shown stopped at the front as at A, Fig. 2. Surely no practical man would ever have given such a detail to be worked by hand when it would have been just as easy to arrange things as at C in which the plough could be taken right through before assembling the drawer. In fact the arrangement at B could have been followed, so enabling the runner to afford support almost to the extreme front.

Technique3

FIG. 3. HOW STONE MASON WORKS HIS MITRE IN A CORNER BLOCK OF STONE

This running-through business is of particular interest because it is largely peculiar to wood, and it is partly due to wood being a natural material which must be used in the form in which it is found (we are ignoring here made-up materials such as laminboard, plywood, etc.). Some materials (metal, plastics, etc.) can be cast or moulded, and projections and stops present no more difficulty than flat surfaces. With timber you fell the tree, convert the log, and then think in terms of so many straight pieces of material. Another point affecting the thing is that wood is comparatively soft so that you can set a metal cutter in a stock (that is, make a plane) and take off shavings, the device having the advantage of helping to make the work straight and true. But of course you have to be able to take the tool through without hindrance.

Perhaps a better appreciation of this point is to compare it with the method used by the stone mason. You cannot use a plane on stone; you have to chip it away with chisel and hammer. There is therefore no point in running through. If a mason has to work a moulding around, say, a window opening, he does not form the joint right at the mitre. Instead he carves a special corner stone as in Fig. 3, this having the two joining mouldings carved in it. Thus we see how a fundamental difference in methods of working has evolved a technique peculiar to the material, this basically affecting the design.

Technique4

FIG. 4. (left) MASON’S MITRE APPLIED TO WOOD. FIG. 5. (right) NORMAL MITRE USED BY THE JOINER

This brings us to an interesting point. The carver in wood uses tools and methods of working which are similar to those of the sculptor in stone. He uses gouges and chisels as distinct from the planes and ploughs of the joiner or  cabinet maker. Consequently the running-through idea does not apply to him. When therefore a wood carver makes a piece of woodwork he often carves it in the solid rather than joins pieces together, and the mitres of his mouldings are like those of the mason. In fact, the same idea is occasionally carried out in joinery in which a timber framing is used. In Fig. 4, for instance, the joint in the moulding is not on the mitre line, but runs straight across in line with the shoulder of the joint. Clearly the moulding plane could not be used on the uprights, and the corner would have to be cut by the carver. This joint is, in fact, known as the mason’s mitre, and the corresponding joiner’s mitre is given in Fig. 5.

It is an interesting thought that if the technique of woodwork had developed through the wood carver rather than the joiner, the mason’s mitre would probably have become the rule rather than the exception.

Meghan Bates


Filed under: Charles H. Hayward at The Woodworker
Categories: Hand Tools

Cathryn Peters, weaver of seats and baskets

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 7:34am
Voysey chair seat by Ruef Design

Bulrush seat for a Voysey two heart chair, one of the builds in the book I’m writing about English Arts and Crafts furniture for Popular Woodworking, scheduled for publication in May 2018. Cathryn Peters wove the seat earlier this year, so the rush still has its beautiful fresh colors. Photo by James Davis, Ruef Design http://www.ruef.com

When most people stop at a fast food restaurant, they run in and out without so much as a glance at the surrounding landscape – and that’s if they get out of their car at all; a high percentage place their order in the drive-through and sit there idling until they’re at the head of the line.

Cathryn Peters is different, at least when she visits her local McDonald’s in Cook, Minnesota. Peters doesn’t go there for the burgers. Her treat’s in a marshy spot behind the parking lot: bulrush.

Peters has been weaving seats since the 1970s, when her son was an infant. Thinking that she should have something constructive to do besides caring for the baby, her mother-in-law brought over a seat frame she wanted to have woven, along with rush weaving instructions from a magazine article and a pack of paper fibre rush. (The British spelling is used in the United States to differentiate the artificial paper material from the natural cattails and bulrush).

“My mother-in-law talked me into learning how to weave this seat using the instructions in the magazine article,” Peters says. The payment for the job was a walnut drop-leaf table from her mother-in-law’s home. “I got the better end of that deal for sure,” says Peters, looking back. “The chair seat I did looked horrible! It had a big hole in the center, there were overlapping strands and the gauge of paper rush was too small for the chair frame.”

peters first paper rush seat top

That first chair seat

 

In the 40-plus years since then, Peters has woven thousands of seats – some for new chairs, some for chairs undergoing repair, and some she bought for resale. She also weaves traditional baskets in a variety of materials and her signature antler baskets.

Although she has taken a few workshops in basketmaking, Peters is primarily self-taught at weaving seats. In the early years, pre-internet, she was able to get some direction from pamphlets provided by material suppliers. But most of her learning came from trial and error or from taking apart seats that were going to be rewoven to figure out the patterns.

In the mid-1980s The Caner’s Handbook by Bruce Miller and Jim Widess, The Craft of Chair Seat Weaving by George Sterns, and a few other books were published – an immense help to seat weavers across the country. Resources in print and online, many of them written by Peters herself, have proliferated since then.

Peters-weaving-bulrush-seat-demo

Peters demonstrating her craft

A high point of Peters’s career came in 2006, when she was awarded a fellowship to study in England with basket maker and seat weaver Olivia Elton Barratt. Barratt was the President of the Basketmakers’ Association (BA) and was also installed that October as Prime Warden of Basketmakers in the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers, a guild in existence since 1569.

During her ten-day fellowship and stay with Barratt, they traveled across the country meeting members of the Basketmakers’ and Seatweavers’ Association, of which Peters has been a member since the early 1990s. Barratt also taught Peters how to weave a bulrush boater’s hat at her home studio. They drove to see the harvesting of bulrush from the River Ouse with Felicity Irons, watch the weaving process of making willow coffins (if I were going to be buried, I would definitely want one of those — how cool!) and hot-air balloon gondolas at Somerset Willows, visit the Coats basketry museum, and to the Musgrove Willows farm to learn how cultured willow is grown and how buff willow and white willow are processed.

Peters weaves seats using a variety of natural and commercially prepared materials: natural bulrush, cattails, paper fibre, cane webbing, strand cane, Danish cord, rawhide, oak, ash and hickory bark splints.

Natural hand-twisted rush seats are woven with the round stalk, stems or strands of the bulrush plant, and cattails with the flat leaves. Both plants are just right for harvest between late August and September, when they have reached maximum height and the ends of the cattail leaves have turned brown. Peters harvests the natural bulrush and cattails from her rural northern Minnesota farm and the surrounding area.

bulrush-cattails-parking-lot

With so many years of experience, Peters can weave a seat in far less time than it would take a beginner. The 15” seat for the hand-twisted bulrush Voysey chair would typically take her from six to eight hours to complete. After a couple of years, the fresh green and gold tones of the natural rush will fade to a nice, warm honey color.

If you’re interested in learning how to weave hole-to-hole cane and over-the-rail cane seats, Peters will be teaching a class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking on the weekend of Sept. 16 and 17, 2017.

The Wicker Woman®

www.wickerwoman.com

bulrush-hat-Peters

Bulrush hat


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Chicago and the Great Lakes Lumber Trade

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 9:01pm

‘Les Docks des Charpentiers’ August 1885. Musée Franco-Américain de Blérancourt.

In a few days America will be celebrating Independence Day, and I thought a brief history of the Chicago and Great Lakes lumber trade in the 19th century would be in order. The Great Lakes region is one of our treasures, and Chicago is at the great heart of our country.

The opening lines of “Chicago” by Carl Sandburg:

“Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler,
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of Big Shoulders.”

As the great timber stands in the East were exhausted and settlers moved west new sources of pine and other woods were needed.

Source: U.S. Geological Survey

The dense forests and extensive waterways of the Great Lakes, especially Michigan and Wisconsin, became the source for the lumber needed to build the barns, fences, homes and businesses of the settlers. Chicago was perfectly situated on Lake Michigan to receive and distribute lumber by water and railroad links.

Chicago’s commercial lumber business started in 1833. But it was the opening of the Illinois & Michigan Canal in 1848 that transformed Chicago from a supplier for local markets into a national distribution center for lumber. And by the second half of the 19th century, Chicago was the world’s largest lumber trade market.

Map of the Canal (Chicago Historical Society). The canal at Summit, Illinois, in the 1840s (Illinois State Historical Society).

The canal ran from the Chicago River at Bridgeport to the Illinois River at LaSalle and opened a direct link to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. With this North-South water link, and later with railroad networks, Chicago became the world’s largest lumber trade market.

Wisconsin-Michigan map, 1844. Map collection of the University of Alabama.

This 1844 map shows the extensive network of drive-able streams and rivers that could be used to move lumber to mills on the coast of Lake Michigan before transport to Chicago by ship.

Log raft on the Wisconsin River, near the Wisconsin Dells, 1886. Wisconsin Historical Society.

As the forest cuts progressed further inland, and before narrow-track rail lines were introduced, loggers had to find faster means of moving logs to nearby waterways. When rail lines penetrated the forests, hardwood supplies to the Chicago yards were increased.

Winter sledding (Hartwick Pines Logging Museum). Big wheel rig for summer use (Michigan Archives).

In winter, logs were moved on paths with ruts for sled runners. The paths were sprinkled with water to keep the ruts iced. In the sled photo above, the number 7,225 marked on the topmost log is the number of board feet in the load. In 1875, the “big wheel” was invented by Silas Overpack, a carriage builder by trade. The big wheel came in three sizes from 12′ to 18′ high. Logs 12′-15′ long could be carried beneath the axle, and by lifting one end of the log it was easier to move them.

 

The junction of the Chicago River by Louts Kurzin, 1866 (Lewis Univ.). The location of the T.M. Avery Lumber Company (on the left in the drawing) is marked on the map.

Following are excerpts from “History of Chicago” (1886) by Alfred Theodore Andreas that describe the growth of the lumber trade within the city. He also describes the rise of hardwoods for the furniture trade, which is linked to the expansion of railroads from the Great Lakes states.

“In 1868 a movement was started to transfer the lumber business and yards to what has since been known as the New Lumber District. A series of canals was excavated by the South Branch Dock Company, extending from the River to Twenty-second Street, affording a dock front of twelve thousand five hundred feet, which, together with the river front adjoining, makes a total dock front of nearly three miles. These canals are one hundred feet wide, and were, at first, eleven or twelve feet deep; since then, they have been dredged to the depth of from twelve to fourteen feet.”

New Lumber District with canals between yards.

“The lots owned by the South Branch Dock Company were one hundred by two hundred forty-four feet in size, each having a dock and street front, and being furnished with a switch track connecting with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, thus placing them in direct connection with the entire railway system of the Northwest. These lots were rented to lumber dealers at ten dollars a foot per annum. In 1868, the lumber trade of Chicago reached the enormous proportion of nine hundred and ninety-four million feet, and this immense trade moved southward to the new district as rapidly as it could find accommodations. In the spring of 1869, about forty lumber firms were doing business, besides eight first-class planing mills.”

1876(?) map showing the location of the New Lumber District and canals off the South Branch of the Chicago River (blue) and a major rail head (red). Library of the University of Chicago.

“The increase in the amount of lumber handled in the Chicago yards became so great that a still further extension of facilities was imperative, and, in 1881, another district was added upon the South Branch of the river, extending from Thirty-fifth Street to the city limits at the Stock-Yards…Here, in 1884 occurred the first extensive conflagration originating in a Chicago lumber yard. This fire commenced in the yard of the Chicago Lumber Company, being ignited by a spark from a passing locomotive. It was not checked until twenty million feet of lumber and one hundred million shingles, aggregating in value about $400,000 had been consumed.” (In 2017 dollars the loss was about $9.4 million.)

From Harper’s Weekly, October 1883. The Newberry Library. Gadzooks!

“The use of hardwood lumber gradually increased with the establishment of manufacturing interests particularly that of furniture, and in 1885, the number of yards of this character increased to thirty, handling an average of about three hundred million feet of hardwood lumber annually, and carrying stocks averaging about forty-five million feet, embracing all varieties of native timber with a liberal supply of foreign woods. The volume of trade in this department comprises, at the present [1886], about one-sixth of the sum total of the lumber trade of the city, its supplies being drawn from nearly every one of the Western, Northwestern and Southern States.”

 

“The lumber yards of Chicago, in 1885,  if consolidated in one, and the lumber piled in a solid body, twenty feet in height, would probably occupy a space fully one mile square; but spread as the business is, through various parts of the city, it occupies a dock and stock frontage of probably twenty miles. In the transportation by lake, not far from five hundred sailing craft are employed, landing eight thousand cargoes a year. In addition, not less than thirty thousand railroad cars, averaging ten thousand feet a car, are employed in supplying the yards.”

When Carl Sandburg’s poem “Chicago” was published in 1916, the city’s lumber trade was well past its peak. The great northern forest were near or at exhaustion point and even with a shift to tapping into southern supplies of yellow pine, made possible by rail transport, the economics of lumber distribution had changed. Rail transport had also made it more economical to ship lumber to nearby mills and specialized manufacturing plants rather than send it to Chicago for storage and further transport.

The Great Lakes lumber trade with Chicago at its center helped fueled immigration needed for the labor force, expansion of the railroads, innovation in the logging business and provided materials needed for our country to grow. Chicago was, and still is, our crossroads.

Currier and Ives map of 1874. The lumber yards and canals are marked with a red dot. Library of the University of Chicago.

If you enjoy reading old lumber business directories with statistics, ads and other sorts of miscellany you can find “Hotchkiss’ Lumbermans Directory of Chicago and the Northwest” of 1886 here. There is an option to download it as a pdf.

The gallery at the bottom  includes  some statistics on the lumber trade, a few more images, a short history of the T. M. Avery Lumber Company (seen in the drawing of the junction of the Chicago River above) and an account of a yard fire.

— Suzanne Ellison

 


Filed under: Historical Images, Personal Favorites
Categories: Hand Tools

Dividers & Curves Coming on Saturday

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 6:41pm

dividers_IMG_8406

Everyone involved with Crucible Tool has been working overtime to get the next batch of tools ready for the store on Saturday. Our machinist has been working Sundays. John and Raney have been reaming, sanding and assembling dividers nonstop. My fingers are bleeding a bit on my keyboard tonight from sanding our design curves.

At 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday we will put all these up in the store. We know that many of you have patiently waited to get dividers or curves. We keep hoping that we’ve made so many tools that we don’t sell out immediately.

Thanks for your patience and your support.

We are currently working on how to get curves and dividers to market even faster, plus our next two new products (details to come).

— Christopher Schwarz


Filed under: Crucible Tool, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

The Son of Roy Underhill’s Mallet

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 4:49pm

2_mallets_IMG_8393

During the last class I taught at The Woodwright’s School, I think Roy got a little bored or restless. And so he asked: “Would you like me to make you a mallet?”

The answer was, of course, “Heck yes, please.”

And so Roy spent an afternoon making a mallet for me out of a chunk of live oak (one of my favorite species) as I taught the 12 students to build a Dutch tool chest. After a few hours of sawing, mortising, rasping, chiseling and finishing, Roy presented the mallet to me.

It is, of course, one of my favorite objects. I have put it to good use and, thanks to a defect in the wood, I broke off a corner of the head. No matter. Tools should be used, and so I use the other face of the mallet’s head to hit things.

In case I destroy this mallet, I took some careful measurements and made a copy in maple. I call it the Son of Roy Underhill’s Mallet. It is identical in every regard except for the species of wood and the amount of use it has seen.

And because I have been too long away from this blog, I present the plans to you for Roy’s mallet. Free of charge.

Here are the sizes for the head and the handle:

Head: 2-3/8” x 3-3/8” x 5-3/8”
Handle: 1” x 1-5/8” x 14”

You can download a pdf drawing of the mallet here:

underhill Mallet

Here are a few details not discussed on the drawing.

  1. The striking faces of the mallet head are the same angle as the tapered mortise, approximately 2.1°.
  2. The chamfers on the handle are 1/4” x 1/4”.
  3. Chamfer the top and bottom of the handle. These chamfers are 1/8” x 1/8”.
  4. The grain of the handle and head should be dead straight throughout. And free of knots and defects.
  5. The mallet is finished with linseed oil.

It’s a mighty fine mallet. Balanced in the hand and to the eye. Making one takes an afternoon of pleasant work. And doing so cements your lineage to Roy.

— Christopher Schwarz


Filed under: Personal Favorites, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

‘Making Things Work’ (A Review)

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 9:05pm

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I read most of Nancy R. Hiller’s “Making Things Work: Tales From a Cabinetmaker’s Life” in the laundromat. Our washing machine was broken, parts strewn all over our basement floor while we tried to figure out the problem. Forgive me, as I realize what I’m about to say next is very much a first-world problem, but I missed having a working washing machine. I have three children and we’re thick into the stains of summer: dirt, grass and popsicles. Suddenly, lugging overflowing laundry baskets down our tight basement steps (oh the dreams I have of a first-floor laundry room!) seemed downright luxurious.

But, I was making things work.

I love a good memoir. I tend to overshare (sometimes rather unfortunately) so I deeply respect gritty honesty. We currently live in a world of filtered Instagram posts, our lives made beautiful, easy, golden even, with a few clicks. None of the essays in Nancy’s collection are filtered. She strips away the gloss, highlighting the truths of furniture making. She writes:

“We may do what we love every day, to paraphrase the marketing pitch of a well-known school, but as with most long-term love, ours deepens from the passion of new romance to the mature familiarity of marriage: sometimes tedious, occasionally exasperating, as much taskmaster as muse. Passion, after all, is equally about what we bear as what we embrace.”

Nancy’s tales of jobs, clients (oh, the clients!), living conditions, working conditions, employees, the minutiae of (solo) business-owning and business-running, romance, learning, personal growth, worry and problem-solving allow you to immerse yourself into the life of a talented cabinetmaker who has managed to make a living—and life—out of bettering and beautifying client’s homes with her hands, her skill, her craft.

I thought of Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” while reading Nancy’s book, everything I’ve read by David Sedaris, and Nick Offerman was exactly right when noting the predicament in how one should shelve Nancy’s book: fine woodworking? Philosophy? Self-help? Etiquette? Religion? For “Making Things Work” is one of those rare reads that could easily be found in anyone’s bookshelf. Woodworker? Must-read. Small-business owner? Must-read. Graduate? Must-read. Artist? Must-read. Feminist? Must-read. Collector of fine, handmade furniture? Must-read.

Maybe it’s because I’m currently immersed in the philosophical writings of the late Charles Hayward, but Nancy manages to do what I believe many woodworkers, in particular, feel but sometimes can’t quite express: the way we work, the way we make things work, speaks greatly about who we are and how we live. Nancy’s anecdotes of a cabinetmaker’s life, her life, speaks to all of that. Because behind all the humor, flaws, talent and grit in each of her essays lies a simple truth: “It’s all problems.” How we approach our problems speaks much more about one’s self than ingenuity. And when problems do arise, we should only be so lucky to have a Nancy at our side during something as small as a tricky installation or as big as a leap of faith—if not in person, then in spirit, in the form of mantras extracted from this book.


Filed under: Making Things Work, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

How I “Met” John Brown

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 2:44pm

Over the Wireless

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I never got to meet John Brown. Truth be told, I didn’t hear of his name until several years after his death. But I’m starting to feel like I know the man.

My first introduction to John Brown, and to Welsh Stick Chairs, was as I imagine it was for many woodworkers, a blog post Chris wrote. These unusual chairs were nothing like I’d ever seen before – theirs was a dynamic form, suggesting a feral energy coiled within the sticks, waiting to spring out. I was intrigued, but at that time focusing on lutherie, so I mentally filed the chair away for another day. A little over a year later and John Brown was again mentioned on the Lost Art Press blog, this time in the context of his influential, if hard to find, book Welsh Stick Chairs. Then I bought a copy of The Anarchist’s Tool…

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Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Live and Learn

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 8:23am

Making Things Work

Some people have the vague notion that when you’ve been a woodworker for decades, you know how to do everything. If only. No one knows how to do everything. Experience in a variety of techniques may be transferable to new forms, but just because a technique will work does not mean it’s especially good in structural or aesthetic terms, let alone efficient to use in specific circumstances.

When faced with a woodworking mystery–say, a look I want for a finish, or some convincing 3-D effect I’d like to produce in an 1/8-inch-deep relief carving–I like to try to answer the question for myself before I seek the answer from others. The effort of thinking a problem through will often give me deeper insight into methods others recommend, and it’s especially satisfying when I find that “my” method is the one used by other woodworkers I respect.

I’ve enjoyed a few…

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Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

The Sad Tale of Tom Turkey

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 6:54am

Making Things Work

Warning: The following is not about woodworking, so if you wish to limit your reading to that subject, you may prefer to substitute an installment of Routers I Have Loved (my personal favorite was my 1980 Elu) or wait for Chris’s next post about Roman Workbenches (which I am, in all seriousness, eagerly anticipating). This anecdote was excised from Making Things Work on the grounds that too much of a good thing is, well, sometimes too much. It will be included in a future collection. Also, you probably won’t want to read this story while eating.

A few days after Thanksgiving, my phone rang. “Oh, hello, Nancy.” It was Andrew, my client at the time. His tone was suspiciously cheerful considering our recent contretemps over the installation of his 1.6 gallon per flush toilet.*

“Look, I hate to ask you, but there’s no one else I can call. I had…

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Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Little Wooden Boxes

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 3:34pm

Ink well, New Kingdom, Egypt. H-4.5 cm x L-12.2 cm x D-5.6 cm (1-3/4″ x 4-13/16″ x 2-3/16″). British Museum.

I like to study the everday objects on display in museums and my favorites are the small boxes and containers used to hold all manner of things: keepsakes, love letters, poison, cosmetics and so on.

In ancient Egypt many of the little boxes recovered from tombs were used to hold various cosmetic pastes used by women and men (aka guyliner).

Duck box, New Kingdom, Egypt. H-9.5 cm x D-9 cm x W-15 cm (3-3/4″ x 3-7/16″ x 6″). British Museum.

Boxes were often carved into animal forms with decorated swivel tops secured with wooden pins. The incised wings of this duck-shaped box swing out to reveal the interior.

Plant life was also an inspiration for the shape of these boxes.

Cucumber box, New Kingdom, Egypt. British Museum.

The cucumber still has green pigment in the groove providing another detail on the amount of work that went into these boxes. The dimensions are: H-3.5 cm x D-7 cm x W-3.5 cm (1-3/8″ x 6.9″ x 1-3/8″).

Middle Kingdom, Egypt. MetMuseum.

Not all the boxes were carved or extremely small. This joined box has a sliding lid and is one of the larger ancient Egyptian boxes in this line-up. The interior has three holders probably for glass vials. The dimensions are: H-18 cm x L-24.5 cm x W-15.5 cm (7-1/16″ x 9-5/8″ x 6-1/8″).

As noted above the boxes from Ancient Egypt were found in tombs and were made to accompany the deceased into the afterlife. They were also items of luxury made of imported woods, ivory and faience.

Round cosmetic boxes, New Kingdom, Egypt. MetMuesum.

Two boxes of similar design: wood on the left, ivory on the on the right. Both with pinned swivel lids and compass-incised designs. The dimensions of the wooden box, including the tabs, are: H-5 cm x W-12.2 cm, base diameter-4.8 cm (1-15/16″ x 4-13/16 cm, base diameter 1-7/8″).

Duck box, all sides, New Kingdom, Egypt. British Museum.

The last ancient box before springing into not-as-ancient times is titled the Trussed Duck. I prefer Resting Duck. It is an extraordinary shape. If I were to order a duck box to hold my mascara, or rather kohl, I would not think to order it in the shape of an entree for dinner. For such a small package it has incredible detail. Dimensions are: L-10.8 cm x W-5 cm (4-1/4″ x 2″).

Greco-Roman or possibly Coptic, Egypt. British Museum.

Another joined (and very petite) box with a sliding lid. Dimensions are: H-5.5 cm x D-4cm x W-4.5 cm (2-3/8″ x 1-9/16″ x 1-1/2″).

Turtle box, 7th-century, Thebes. MetMuseum.

The Met Museum does not identify this as a turtle box, but that what it is. The box is carved with both top and sides incised. Here again, the lid swivels to the side but we have the addition of  the turtle’s head acting as the closing mechanism. Dimensions are: H-5.4 cm x W-14.9 cm x D-7.3 cm (2-1/8″ x 5-7/8″ x 2-7/8″).

If, like Chris, you might have inadvertently squashed a brother turtle on the roadway you should probably make this turtle box.

Kerala salt box.

Moving on to India and a very traditional box for the kitchen. Although the box is not dated it is likely 19th- or 20th-century. The box is carved in the shape of a leaf and the pin for the swivel lid is topped with a bud.

Masala-dabba spice box.

Another box for the kitchen from India, dated 20th-century. The interior is divided to separate the various spices used on a daily basis in Indian cuisine. I’m telling you, that swivel lid has worked for thousands of years.

Birchbark and cedar box, 19th-century. MetMuseum.

This is a Micmac box from Ontario, Canada with etched birchbark sides and cedar base and lid. The bark is sewn with reeds. The Micmac are an Algonquin-speaking people.

Nutmeg box, 19th-century, English. Opus Antiques.

Keeping a pocket-sized nutmeg box was the thing to have in the 19th century. A small dusting of nutmeg was added to any dish needing just a bit of spicey sweetness. One nutmeg was stored in the bottom section, the grater was the middle portion, then the top went on. Some people (my mother) sneak nutmeg into a dish (eggplant parmigiana) and then laugh when others (me) can’t figure out why my dish tastes different. The dimensions are (the box, not my mother): L-7 cm, diameter at top-2.5 cm (2-3/4″, top diameter-1″).

From Denzil Grant Antiques.

Whomever made this pallet for the artist was a very good friend indeed.

Earlier in the year I wrote about a 2,400-year-old heart-shaped box recovered from a shipwreck. One of the archaeologist involved in the research figured out how the box was made. You can read about it here.

Suzanne Ellison


Filed under: Historical Images, Personal Favorites
Categories: Hand Tools

FEATURES IN FURNITURE: CARVINGS AND TURNINGS

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 11:25am
The-Woodworker-Vol-4-167

FIG. 1. EXAMPLES OF EARLY CARVING. (A) Early Gothic, XIV or XV century. (B) Incised Work. (C) Jacobean. (D) A Favourite Tudor Ornament. (E) Simple Tudor Edging. (F) Elizabethan Design in Low Relief.

This is an excerpt from “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years: Volume IV” published by Lost Art Press.

From the earliest pre-historic ages man has tried to express himself in some form of decoration, first in flint and then in wood. To a large extent he is dated and the degree of his culture determined by what he has left to trace his existence.

Woodcarving has been a feature in every civilisation, and all through the centuries we find that days, weeks and often months might be spent on the knife decoration of some weapon, tool, paddle, or domestic utensil. It is interesting to note, however, that, when carving first became a recognised craft in Europe, it was devoted to church woodwork long before it reached the humble home. In our own country little carved furniture can be traced further back than the sixteenth century although many earlier church coffers, chests, and seats with carved decoration are to be found.

Just, too, as woodwork design was borrowed from models in stone, the carpenter in his carving followed the prevalent Gothic mode. Early Tudor carving is almost exclusively Gothic in character (Fig. 1, A and B). Occasionally we find crude representations of figures, or of horses, deer, or birds, and sometimes a medallion with a bas-relief head; but as a rule the carver, timid of freedom, restricted himself to geometrical patterns (Fig. 1, C, D, E). Of these there is a great variety, many showing marked ingenuity, but it was not till the Elizabethan period that we have something of the freedom indicated in the type of design shown at F. The “linenfold” panel had been common from an earlier period, but in Elizabethan times cupboards, buffets, four-post bedsteads were freely carved, the bulbous form of pillar and leg (Fig. 3, K) being a feature of the period.

Throughout the different periods it is instructive to note how well adapted the decorative carving was to the general design. In early Tudor days the carpenter trusted largely to simple incised work or gouge cuts, and little was attempted in the way of modelling. Even during Queen Elizabeth’s time carving was kept in low relief, and it was not till the somewhat heavier Dutch influence was felt in the Jacobean age that we find bolder scroll and leaf work.

Mouldings were freely carved, their differing contours offering scope for individual enterprise. As the tool kit developed work tended to become more delicate, till in time certain cabinet makers specialised in carving. The amazing work of Grinling Gibbons in the the seventeenth century may be regarded as exceptional. Influenced by Italian and French modes he was, in a sense, before his time, and no other English woodcarver has ever reached his fame. The brothers Adam introduced a new technique towards the end of the eighteenth century, and their delicate husk festoons and pendants in conjunction with graceful vases, paterae and fluting are more typically British than any other form of decoration bequeathed to us (see Fig. 2).

Fig-2

FIG. 2. TYPICAL FRIEZE OF THE ADAM PERIOD (LATE XVIII CENTURY) Note the use of severe fluting in contrast to the free husk ornament. Adam chimney pieces were almost invariably treated in this way.

Has the carver disappeared? Practically so—at least for the moment. During the nineteenth century he had to rely chiefly on the designer who, discarding earlier British motifs, showed a leaning towards the conventional and more elaborate Italian models. The introduction of manufactured pressed carvings shocked the purist; and later, when “strip detail” came to take the place of hand-carved mouldings, the craft became suspect. This, with the high cost of labour after the 1914 war, drove the woodcarver from the field—an irreparable loss till, perchance, the world again becomes rich.

Turning. There can be little doubt that, to the potter’s wheel, we owe the origin of wood turning. The earliest form of pole lathe, too, has lingered to the present day and may still be found in our woodlands. In the development of wood turning one point to observe is that it did not follow architectural features in stone so closely as, say, cornices, pediments, and mouldings. The craftsman soon discovered that, in wood, much more was possible than in stone. Thus, unless the design was definitely based on some architectural model, the woodworker struck out on a line of his own. This became more noticeable when domestic furniture came to be decorated. On ecclesiastical woodwork the line of the architectural column, tapering from plinth to capital, was followed; but, even from early Tudor days, we find that, in the case of turned legs, the taper was inverted. This is seen in examples such as A, B, E, G and H at Fig. 3. When, however, the turning took the form of a baluster (see D) the taper was usually reversed, or (as in K) the columnar part kept throughout at the same diameter. This freedom from the rigidity of classical Greek and Roman models has been a feature in turning down through the centuries.

Fig-3

FIG. 3. TURNED WORK DURING THE VARIOUS PERIODS. (A) Early Tudor. (B) Elizabethan (also Flemish). (C) Jacobean Twist Turning. (D) Jacobean. (E) William and Mary Period. (F) Chippendale Grouped-Pillar Leg. (G) Leg of the Adam Period. (H) Delicate Sheraton Leg. (J) Split Turning (Jacobean). (K) Elizabethan bulbous column.

In an article which is a mere sketch it is impossible to do more than indicate the features of different periods. Examples, however, are well worth close study whenever one has the opportunity. Very few people understand the problem involved in planning a graceful piece of turning. Everything depends of line and proportion. One thing to remember is that the diameter is the same from whatever angle the column is viewed. On paper, in elevation, a 2 in. square leg looks the same as a turned one of 2 in. diameter; but, when seen from an angle in the finished piece, the turned one appears to be only about two-thirds as heavy as the other. This the designer often overlooks, although he is more apt to make the square leg too heavy than the turned one too light.

The early craftsmen played for safety, and thus in Tudor, Elizabethan and early Jacobean days we find turnings of the “bulbous” type which bordered on the heavy side. A change emerged during the reigns of William and Mary and Queen Anne, till, later, Sheraton gave us examples which, in delicacy, have never been surpassed. Early Stuart work came largely under Flemish influence, but the typical Jacobean “twist” turning, continued through Queen Anne’s reign, gave us a form which has ever since been popular. The nineteenth century failed to produce any new pleasing model, the tendency being to accumulate members without any real meaning. Mass production rather cheapened the craft, furniture makers finding it easier to purchase a set of stock legs than to turn new ones from designs of their own. For this reason it is well to keep before us the old models in which every detail was considered in its relation to the whole piece.

Meghan Bates


Filed under: Charles H. Hayward at The Woodworker
Categories: Hand Tools

The Tools of the Ship-builder and the Mast-maker

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 9:30pm

A Virginia pilot boat near the busy entrance to the Chesapeake Bay, 1755. From The Naval Chronicle, Vol. XXXIII.

In 1808 Thomas Jefferson wanted a comfortable chair to rest his aging body. He ordered three Campeachy chairs from New Orleans. The chairs were sent by the most efficient and speedy means of the day: by ship. Unfortunately, the ship was lost at sea. Years later another order was placed, the ship arrived in Richmond, Virginia and Jefferson had his Campeachy chairs (or as we know them Campeche chairs).

From ‘The Book of Trades or Circle of the Useful Arts’ 1837, Glasgow.

From the earliest days of the American colonies carpenters, sawyers, shipwrights and other craftsmen were recruited from Britain and other parts of Europe to build everything for the new settlements. Ships of all sizes were needed to move goods and passengers along the coastline, along rivers and bays. Major coastal and river cities, smaller settlements and plantations all had shipyards to build and repair all manner of boats.

Shipbuilding tools from a 1943 reprint of ‘Skeps Byggeriji eller Adelig Ofnings Tionde Tom’ by Ake Classon Ralamb, 1691. Translation of the Swedish nomenclature by J. Aasland, Jr, Hampton, Virginia.

All the shipbuilding tools should be familiar to the modern shipwright or any woodworker. It is thought that when Ake Ralamb started out publishing his scientific encyclopedia he was not saying these tools are new, rather these are the tools that have been traditionally used for shipbuilding.

Masts were generally made at a separate site from the shipyard and required another set of tools. The complexity of the construction depended on whether or not the mast was made using a single stick.

Mast-making tools in ‘The Elements of Rigging and Seamanship’ by David Steel, 1794. From the Historic Naval Ships Association.

Here is an excerpt on making a single stick mast from ‘Masting, Mast-making and Rigging of Ships- Ninth Edition’ by Robert Kipping, 1864:

If you find that hard to follow, Charles Desmond’s ‘Wooden Ship-Building’ from 1919 has a simplified description of making a spar by essentially the same method:

“The spar is first worked to shape by hewing in the manner shown [1.]

1. Making a spar.

…and when this has been done, and the stick is fair, the sparmaker dubs off the square corners and makes portion of the stick that has to be rounded eight sided. Next he makes it sixteen sided, by again taking off the corners, and after this has been done the stick is rounded and made perfectly smooth [2.]

2. The rounded spar.

Of course as a spar has a rounded taper from butt to point of greatest diameter, and from this point to top, it is necessary that sparmaker “lay on” longitudinal taper lines very accurately and work them.”

If the tree procured for a mast was examined and found not sound, or as the supply of massive mast trees was exhausted, another method was used to make masts. As Robert Kipping phrased it in his treatise, “They [the masts] are therefore composed of several pieces united into one body…seems to fulfill the old adage of “a bundle of sticks that could not be broken when so united.”

The Library of Congress has a short article on the history of the old (and very long) Mast House at the Norfolk Navy Yard. The description of composite mast fabrication using coaks (scarf joints) begins on page 5 and you can find it here.

When our waterfronts were crowded with sailing ships and the wooden masts and yards swayed as though blown by the wind the oft-used “a forest of masts” was a fitting description. Although there aren’t as many wooden ships on the water they are still made, and with tools and methods that haven’t changed much in the last few centuries.

From Rudyard Kipling’s ‘A Truthful Song’

Suzanne Ellison


Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

Roman Workbenches. Why?

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 4:25pm

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When I got to inspect the two Roman workbenches at the Saalburg fort outside Frankfurt, Germany, my hands shook so much that I had to take a break. Close contact with ancient woodworking technology unsettles me.

Why do I become a blubbering idiot trying to kiss Kim Shoulders for the first time on the 8th-grade dance floor while they play Little River Band’s “Cool Change?”

It doesn’t have to do with a reverence for pure history. Most historical sites I visit are aesthetically interesting at best. I don’t have an emotional tether to paintings of the Christ child or the architecture around Him. Instead, I get unnerved when I find clues that help me as a furniture maker who is trying to push into the future.

Obvious example: Tail-vise technology. The more I studied workbenches, the more I realized that I didn’t need a tail vise. After shedding the tail vise, my workbenches became simpler and my operations followed suit. When I encounter tail vises at schools and other shops I step aside like they have the bad herpes.

Second example: Staked furniture. Once I understood how the technology worked, the time it took me to build a chair, stool or table was slashed in half (or maybe more).

I honestly and truly think that we are a retrograde society when it comes to woodworking. For much of our time on this earth, almost everything was made from wood plus small bits of iron or steel. Today, most of us can send a text across the planet, but we can’t cleave a piece of wet wood to create an unimaginably strong chair leg.

And that’s what I was trying to explain to my German students at Dictum GmBH last week as we worked together and then drank beer under the Bavarian horse chestnut trees. I don’t want to return to the past. I want to capture what they knew so I can make my march into the future much easier.

— Christopher Schwarz


Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Essential Reading: ‘The Art & Craft of Cabinet-Making’

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 4:06am

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We don’t know much about David Denning except that he wrote four books about woodworking in the late 19th century, was traditionally trained and had strong opinions about the craft. After reading his 1891 classic “The Art & Craft of Cabinet-Making” many times, I imagine he was a Frank Klausz-like character: He knew his stuff and was happy to let the world know his opinions.

Here’s his opinion on antique furniture: “I assert that it is almost impossible to obtain a really genuine unspoiled piece of oak furniture which has (not) had the misfortune to pass through the hands of a dealer or restorer.” Their work is, generally, “not honest.”

Denning disliked iron planes, calling them “toy-like” and “not used by the practical artisan.”

And unlike many other writers, Denning embraced the use of machines in conjunction with hand tools. On the jack plane he said there is “little occasion for it” when machinery is available. And so the planing can begin with “the trying or even the smoothing plane.”

In other words, Denning sat on the precipice between hand tools and machinery in the late 19th century. Unlike other writers, Denning refused to endorse machines as the end-all, and he swerved wildly away from the Luddite path. Denning was, in many ways, like the modern woodworker who has both options available and can make the most of them.

Because of this particular viewpoint, I consider “The Art & Craft of Cabinet-Making” a classic. The book is a thorough explanation of quality furniture making during the Victorian era. Denning covers tools, workshop appliances, joints, assemblies, veneering and installing hardware in excellent detail. He also covers all the major furniture forms of the time and explains how to make them well (and how others make them poorly).

“The Art & Craft of Cabinet-Making” is available on the antique market or in “print on demand” format, a paperback version where the pages are glued together, not sewn.

I am pleased to say that Popular Woodworking Magazine has done a limited press run of the book and it’s a quality job. It’s printed in the U.S. The binding is both sewn and glued. The hardcovers are cloth-wrapped. The price is only $36, which includes domestic shipping.

You can order a copy here. Do not tarry as there is no guarantee they will do a second press run.

— Christopher Schwarz


Filed under: Personal Favorites, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

Announcements About the Lie-Nielsen Open House

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 12:49pm

black_stool3_IMG_4551

I’ve been asked to make the keynote address at the Lie-Nielsen Open House on July 7-8 and also will give a lecture and demonstration on “Finishing With Fire” and showing how to do it with furniture components.

For the keynote, my topic is titled “The Hand Tool Backlash,” and I’ve been working on it for several weeks now. Previous keynote speakers, such as Peter Follansbee and Roy Underhill, have made such amazing speeches at the Open House that fair ladies fainted and the sick were healed.

Though I’m no professional speaker, I vow to give it my best. (Actually, nothing can best my story about my first colonoscopy. And as I probably shouldn’t tell that particular story, this will be my second best.)

Finishing With Fire
For my demonstration at 3 p.m. Friday, I’ll be assembling and finishing one of my three-legged stools with a gas torch and a mixture of linseed oil and beeswax. I’ve been experimenting with this finish for several years now and have figured out how to make it really easy, even for fire-fearing scarecrows.

Also, I’ll be happy to sell the completed stool to anyone planning to attend. These stools are $175 and are made from Southern yellow pine. I’ll be happy to customize the stool for your height on the spot. If you’d like the stool, send a note to help@lostartpress.com, and I’ll reserve it for you.

LN_follansbee_work_IMG_0028

About the Event
The Lie-Nielsen Open House is a fantastic family event with lots of demonstrators, toolmakers and food. In addition to me, other demonstrators include Christian Becksvoort, Danielle Rose Byrd, Phil Lowe, Peter Follansbee and Peter Galbert.

Also attending: Megan Fitzpatrick of Popular Woodworking Magazine, planemaker Matt Bickford, Tico Vogt of Vogt Toolworks, Isaac Smith of Black Burn Tools, Joshua Klein of Mortise & Tenon Magazine, furniture maker Freddy Roman, miniature maker Marco Terenzi, Kenneth Kortemeier of the Maine Coast Craft School, chairmaker and toolmaker Tim Manney, Mason McBrien from the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, planemaker Scott Meek, Bob Van Dyke from the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, planemaker Dan Schwank, saw sharpener Matt Cianci, Wes Sutherland from the Guild of Maine Woodworkers, bowmaker Stim Wilcox, Rory Wood from Rare Woods, boat maker Kevin Carney, Steve Branam from the Close Grain School of Woodworking, Chris Kuehn of Sterling Toolworks and Travis Knapp of RareWoods.us.

Whew, that’s the longest list of vendors I’ve ever seen at the Open House. Should be great.

Note, I won’t be bringing any Lost Art Press books or Crucible tools with me. But Lie-Nielsen carries almost our entire line and those will be available for purchase at the event. As always, I am happy to sign your books (or anything else you put in front of me).

— Christopher Schwarz


Filed under: Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

The Tree That Sparked an Industry and a Riot

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 2:13pm

The mighty Eastern White Pine.

Notable high timber trees

In May of 1605 explorer Captain George Waymouth and his crew arrived off the coast of the “Northern part of Virginia” as that part of the New World was called. They were on a small island off the coast of what is now known as Maine and near the mouth of the Tanahock River, later to be known as the St. George’s River.

A copy of a copy of the 1610 Simancas (Spain) archive map. Waymouth’s explorations are in the area outlined by the blue box. From the Maine Historical Society.

Captain Waymouth took soundings and other measurements during the exploration but no maps survive. We do have the account of James Rosier, a gentleman employed on the voyage who wrote “The True Relation of the Most prosperous voyage made this present yeere 1605 by Captain George Waymouth in the Discovery of the land of Virginia” (that’s the shortened title). He provides a description of the fruits and trees found in mid-May while still on the island:

After constructing smaller boats for navigation in shallower waters they started to make excursions to other islands and into the river. They were astounded by the freshness of the water, the abundant catches of fish and the many deep coves along the river. In mid-June Rosier wrote:

The “notable high timber trees, mast for ships of 400 tun” were the Eastern White Pine, Pinus strobus. Captain Waymouth was not on a pleasure cruise. He and and his crew were on a voyage to find and report on resources and within several decades the business of mast-making would become the first major industry of New England.

By the 17th-century Britain had exhausted the supply of timber need to make single-stick masts for the ships of the Royal Navy. Britain was in fierce and expensive competition for Baltic fir with Spain, France and Holland, a new and cheaper source for mast timber was desperately neeeded.  Pinus strobus was the answer and became known as the “mast pine.”

The Eastern White Pine is known as one of the tallest trees in the Eastern part of the United States. It is easy to work and lighter than other woods. Besides masts the wood could be used for other shipbuilding components, pitch and tar were used for seaming and resin and turpentine were used to make paint and varnish. For future colonists Eastern White Pine would be used to build homes, wagons, barns, furniture and so on.

First Person Observations

Samuel Sewall was a judge in Boston. He is best known in United Staes history as one of the judges in the Salem Witch Trials (he later apologized). He was also a businessman and he kept a diary of his daily actions and the events he witnessed or had reported to him. It is almost overwhelming to read the number of injuries that befall his friends and neighbors and the incredible number of deaths that seem to occur each week. But thanks to his dedication in keeping a record we get a few details about the timber trade and the progression of the mast industry some 80 years after Waymouth’s voyage.

From Thursday, September 1, 1687: “This day we receive a Sloop Load of Boards from the Salmon-falls Saw-mill and the same day, I think by the same Boat, I receive a Copy of a Writ of Ejection which Mr. Mason has cause’d to be serv’d on John Broughton respecting said Mill.”

Sewall was an investor in a sawmill and the writ he mentions may have  involved a mill in which he had an interest. He takes a trip to resolve the issue but the court involved cannot meet and the case is deferred until the following March. His trip continues and we get a glimpse of the mast industry from his entrry of September 14:

“See the Mill, get a Cut, visit Mrs. Rainer and her Daughter Broughton. Breakfast there. Ride into Swamp to see a Mast drawn of about 26 inches of 28 [diameter]; about two and thirty yoke of oxen before, and about four yoke by the side of the Mast, between the fore and hinder wheels. ‘Twas a very notable sight. Rode then to York…”

18th-century example of how a large beam was transported. Moving a mast would have required many more teams of oxen.

The following spring Sewall again traveled to resolve the business with the Writ at the Mill but the case was dropped due to the death of one of the parties. He continues his trip and notes on March 9, 1688: “Goe to the Great Iland [Island], saw the Mast-Ship sail.”

Although Sewall lived in Boston his many travels took him to other parts of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The sawmill in which he invested, the swamp where he observed a mast being pulled and the sailing of the mast ship were along the Piscataqua River in what is now New Hampshire and Maine.

Map of the Pascataway River, ca. 1665-1670. Red arrows mark Quamphegan Falls (site of a sawmill) and Great Island. Portsmouth is not marked but is located at the mouth of the river. Today New Hampshire lies on the left bank of the river, Maine is on the right bank. From the Maine State Library.

Sewall’s sawmill may have been at Quamphegan Falls or further up the river at Salmon Falls. Both falls were an important part of the timber business in this part of the colony. Masts taken from the forests were moved down to Portsmouth at the mouth of the river, further processed and then loaded onto mast-ships for transport to shipyards in England and to other parts of the colonies.

A squared mast tree could easily be 100-120 feet long requiring mast-ships to have exta-long decking. One of these ships could transport 50 masts and the sight of a mast-ship embarking would certainly be a sight to note in one’s diary. Through Sewall’s diary we learn the mast-making industry, as well as other timber businesses, were well-established. Mast pines were felled, processed and transported to the coast for further transport to shipyards. Sawmills were operating and lumber supplies were moved over waterways.

Colony Growth and Crown Control

The Massachusetts Bay Colony was chartered in 1628. After political ups-and-downs between the colony and England, and within England itself, charters were revoked, rewritten in harsher terms and finally in 1691 a new charter was issued by William and Mary for the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

With the influx of immigrants to the new colony the domestic demand for wood grew and came into conflict with the Crown’s need for shipbuilding material. The very last section of the 1691 charter was very specific on the consequences of interfering with the Crown’s supply of mast pines:

“And lastly for the better providing and furnishing of Masts for Our Royall Navy Wee doe hereby reserve to Us Our Heires and Successors all Trees of the Diameter of Twenty Four Inches and upwards of Twelve Inches from the ground growing upon any soyle or Tract of Land within Our said Province or Territory not heretofore granted to any private persons And Wee doe restrains and forbid all persons whatsoever from felling cutting or destroying any such Trees without the Royall Lycence of Us Our Heires and Successors first had and obteyned upon penalty of Forfeiting One Hundred Poinds sterling unto Ous Our Heires and Successors for every such Tree soe felled cut or destroyed without such Lycence had and obteyned in that behalfe any thing in.”

This last section of the charter was known as the Mast Preservation Clause. Surveyors of Pines and Timber were tasked with finding and marking all suitable trees “within ten miles of any navigable waterway.” Trees were marked with three hatchet marks that formed the “King’s Broad Arrow.” Woe to any colonist found with a marked tree, or a tree that was unmarked but met the size requirements for a mast. The Mast Clause, as with most regulations limiting a vital supply, caused divisions among the colonists. Some were very much in support of supplying the Royal Navy with precious timber, others were more concerned with how they were able to sustain livelihoods with the Crown claiming the best and the most.

A New Century and Expotential Growth

Boston Mill Pond and Shipyards, 1743. Boston Public Library.

In the map above you can see that Boston bristled with shipyards. To power the sawmills and other mills in the area a damn was built to create the Mill Pond and use tidal power. As the tide went out it turned the water wheels that powered the mills. The goods made in the mills and shipyards were traded with England, other European countries and with other colonies. Moving commodities and passengers by water, both sea and rivers, was faster and more efficient than by overland route. Smaller ships made in the colonies were made for this purpose. The many shipyards also did repairs for larger ships damaged by weather or warfare. Samuel Sewall’s diary mentions several instances where a ship had lost its mast and arrived for repairs.

Using Boston as an example of the growth of the New England colony we see in 1650 the population of Boston was 2,000 and by 1742 it was 16,382.  New arrivals to the colony swelled city settlements and there was also a push into more remote and rural areas. Increased populations and increased trade put more pressure on natural resources. With the crown snapping up the best of timber there was more pushback from the colonists. Poaching timber that met the measurements in the Mast Clause was a cat-and-mouse game between individual citizens, sawmill operators and the Royal Surveyors.

In New Hampshire we can get an idea of how a Mast Clause constrained the livlihood of the colonists. But first, a note about a series of taxes that created revenue for the Crown and protected the trade of goods made in England. In 1733 there was the Molasses Act, in 1764 the Sugar Act and in 1765 the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act was particularly inflammatory as it required a tax on printed material that had to be on paper made in England – everything from legal documents to newspapers to playing cards. Not only was this a wooden age, it was a gambling age and a tax affecting playing cards was a low blow.

Prior to 1766 the governor of New Hampshire did not strictly enforce the Mast Clause, especially in the western portion of the colony. In 1764 the charter for incorporating Weare (by today’s roadways about 70 miles from Portsmouth) included the usual clause for reserving all white pines fit for use by the Royal Navy. New towns like Weare didn’t pay much attention to the clause and enforcement was lax. In 1766 John Wentorth became governor and he began to rigorously enforce the Mast Clause and thereby greatly increase revenue.

By this time the law had become an onerous weight on the newer towns and settlers. Prior to cutting any timber for a home or clearing any land a surveyor had to be summoned to assess and mark any pine trees suitable for the Crown’s use. A royal license also had to be paid to cut any other trees. If a settler did not follow this law he was subject to inspection and arrest for any white pine that might be found in his cabin walls. The law was unpopular from farmer to sawmill operator to minister, as none could escape paying for the use of their own trees and only after the Crown had marked and would take what was best.

Ebenezer Mudgett Has Had Enough

Royal Surveyors used the tactic of inspecting sawmills to find white pine logs of mast size, put the Kings Broad Arrow Mark on the logs and then fine the mill operator. In the winter of 1771-1772 they visted sawmills in the Piscataquog Valley and found six mills with white pine logs 15-36 inches in diameter. The owners were ordered to appear in court and pay fines. Some mill owners paid their fines but the owners from Weare did not.

Ebenezer Mudgett was the leader of the Weare group. He agreed to finally meet the sheriff and face his arrest but the night before he and others got together to plan their response.

From the archives of the Portsmouth Athenaeum.

This event became known as the Pine Tree Riot. Yes, New Hampshire had a riot. Several accounts say the rioters used pine tree switches to assault the sheriff and the number of strikes equaled the number of logs that were confiscated. Some historians think the disguises used by the Weare rioters gave the Boston Tea Party members the idea to use disguises when they held their protest the next year.

Within a few years of the Pine Tree Riot the former colonists had a country of their own and could now command payment from England or any other country for their mast trees. Business would be brisk for many years as we launched our own Navy, more parts of the world were explored and trade routes expanded and Napoleon began his campaigns.

The cone of the Eastern White Pine.

There are still some old growth stands of the Eastern White Pine in protected forests and parks from Canada to North Carolina and in the Upper Midwest. Go find one and give it a few pats.

For the denizens of New Hampshire and Maine who probably know all about the mast pine and the riot I have one more map for you. It is from 1774 and shows about the same area around the Piscataqua River as the 1665-1670 map above.

Portion of 1774 map showing the most populated areas of New England. Boston Public Library.

Suzanne Ellison


Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

The Tree That Sparked an Industry and a Riot

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 11:26pm

The mighty Eastern White Pine.

In May of 1605 explorer Captain George Waymouth and his crew arrived off the coast of the “Northern part of Virginia” as that part of the New World was called. They were on a small island off the coast of what is now known as Maine and near the mouth of the Tanahock River, later to be known as the St. George’s River.

A copy of a copy of the 1610 Simancas (Spain) archive map. From the Maine Historical Society.

Captain Waymouth took soundings and other measurements during the exploration but no maps survive. We do have the account of James Rosier, a gentleman employed on the voyage who wrote “The True Relation of the Most prosperous voyage made this present yeere 1605 by Captain George Waymouth in the Discovery of the land of Virginia” (that’s the shortened title). He provides a description of the fruits and trees found in mid-May while still on the island:

After  construction the smaller boats for navigating in shallower waters they started to make excursions to to other islands and into the river. They were astounded by the freshness of the water, the abundant catches of fish and the many deep coves along the river. In mid-June Rosier wrote:

The “notable high timber trees, mast for ships of 400 tun” were the Eastern White Pine, Pinus strobus. Captain Waymouth was not on a pleasure cruise. He and and his crew were on a voyage to find and report on resources and within several decades the business of mast-making would become the first major industry of New England.

By the 17th-century Britain had exhausted the supply of timber need to make single-stick masts for the ships of the Royal Navy. Britain was in fierce and expensive competition for Baltic fir with Spain, France and Holland. A new and cheaper source for mast timber was desperately needed and Pinus strobus was the answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

The Rhythm of Work

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 6:17am
gate

“Garden Gates,” The Woodworker magazine, August, 1947

“The man nowadays who is able to do a job at his own pace is one of the fortunate ones. Then to one he’ll either be a craftsman with a small workshop of his own or a man working at a hobby. A feeling of enjoyment so much more often accompanies work that is freed from outside control, when that control takes the shape of a nagging foreman or an impatient boss. The queer thing is that when these no longer have to be encountered, our own moods and temperaments want to take charge, as variable as the weather and just about as dependable. It is then that the craftsman has to assert himself and put the mood in its place, knowing very well that it will play high jinks with his work if he isn’t careful. Once he has really started, no matter how lazy or disinclined he may have felt, the odds are that the mood will recede, the work will catch hold of him and bring an enjoyment of its own.

“The pace and the manner are the things that count. If we fling ourselves into any job with a “Let’s get it over and done with” feeling, the chances are that we shall soon be running up against snags caused by own impatience. If we take it up at an even pace, then a regular rhythm of work develops, hand and eye are co-operating in friendly unison, and if we come up against difficulties we shall be all set to tackle them. At least they will not have been created by our own frenzied desire to get on, which is at the root of the most botched work.

“The sense of haste in the modern world is infectious. We must always be wanting to rid ourselves of the work in hand so that we can start something else. It may be because already we can visualise the new things as having more perfection than the old, or because we very quickly tire of a job and want novelty. Or it may all come round to the same thing, that we do not give ourselves utterly and wholly to the work we are doing, because that means putting that little bit of extra pressure on ourselves which is necessary for work of the very best kind. It is, I believe, an almost universal shirking and it keeps us working at second-best.

“And yet the opportunity is there for every man who knows how to handle a tool. Knowledge alone is not enough, skill alone is not enough, for the perfect use of them depends on what a man can give of himself. For when all is said and done he is not a precision tool, or a robot, or a machine, nor even—by nature—a machine minder. Something he is of all these things, but he has also that gift which is so utterly his own, his restless, eternal, questing spirit, which keeps him ever searching for beauty and everlastingly trying to create it. This is the power behind his technical capacity if he learns to harness it, the power by which he can attain to the sense of balance and good judgment which are among the first requisites of beauty. The rest will vary with the man himself. This is the great glory of our personality, that each individual touch is different, so that throughout the great ages of craftsmanship the work of each worker stood out from its fellows even if it was never stamped with his name. Nowadays the individual touch is swamped in mass production. But it still lives on in the small workshop and in the home, wherever there is a woodworker to remember that tools are excellent things, but that it is a man with a tool in his hand who is the hope of the world. He will always be the one to keep his own courage alight and that of his fellows, because he will have discovered some of the things he can do and know that one life is not long enough to find them all. Always there will be for him the perfection that lies in wait just round the corner, to reach which needs every ounce of the effort he can put out. And even in his failure he may pass on to his fellows those glimpses which the world will treasure, seeing in them its dearest hope.”

— Charles Hayward, The Woodworker magazine, 1947


Filed under: Honest Labour, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

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