Hand Tool Headlines
The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator
This "aggregator" collects all of the woodworking blogs I read every day - or try to anyway! Enjoy!
Thank you to everyone who contributed towards Walt Quadrato's battle against cancer! Their fundraising goal was met. Our prayers are with you, Walt!
As of now, we are back at full stock on all our books and sweatshirts. Here are the details:
The third printing of “By Hand & Eye” arrived at our warehouse this morning. The demand for this book has remained surprisingly strong. Just when we think sales are plateauing, they increase. The authors, Jim Tolpin and George Walker, have two cool surprises in store for you this year. You can find one hint here.
Also this week, we received shipment of the third revised edition of Christian Becksvoort’s “With the Grain.” This third edition adds details on 10 trees not found in earlier editions. If you have an earlier edition of the book, here are the 20 pages that you can print out and insert into your current copy.
Finally, our new sweatshirts are back in stock in all sizes from small to 2XL. We have switched to Royal Apparel to supply our sweatshirts, which are American-made and of good quality. This sweatshirt is similar in almost all of the characteristics of our earlier sweatshirts, but John reports the fabric feels a bit heavier. This will likely be our last offering of sweatshirts for the season. So if you want one, get them before it gets warm outside and we switch to Lost Art Press Speedos.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: By Hand & Eye, With the Grain
When the history of 20th-century woodworking machinery is written, someone will compose a poem, ode or opera to the Delta 14” band saw that was made in the United States. There are many flavors of this band saw depending on who owned Delta at the time the machine was made, and machinery collectors make fine distinctions about which era was the best. But for users, I think the decision is […]
At last, the weekend course at West Dean College is available to book. It runs from 1st - 3rd of May and we'll be making the high angle smoother shown in the foreground above. Please note the planes we will be making are going to be in Bubinga rather than Lignum (see picture below of the last class). I have some very hard stock which is bang on quarter sawn so they will be both attractive as well as very functional. The £265 cost includes all the materials and the college has advised that you ring rather than book online for the first couple of weeks due to computer work. Please make sure you ask for your 5% online discount though!
The current summary mentions making a plane adjusting hammer but this was part of the format when the course was run over 3 days instead of 2, so we won't have time to include this.
The course is aimed at intermediate woodworkers rather than beginners and as always if you're interested don't leave it too late!
The acanthus leaf definitely is a real plant originally found in the Mediterranean. I have heard that this plant that inspired so many architects and designers thousands of years ago is considered an invasive plant today – sort of like our thistle in the US – and it even resembles the thistle in appearance. I tried to grow one in my garden, and it was really beautiful. I, however, am a woodcarver and not a gardener – so it did not last long in my hands. But I managed to take a photograph of one of the leaves before it met its demise.
So it started as this…
Then evolved to this…
Or maybe this…
You can see that the leaf evolved into designs that often have little resemblance to the original plant. But that’s what is so great about this design! There are certain specific design elements that carry through all leaves that identify it as an “acanthus leaf”, but it is the variety that intrigues me the most.
Here are several direct dictionary meanings of “acanthus” which I thought interesting. Hope you do too.
From the Oxford Dictionary:
In architecture, an ornament may be carved into stone or wood to resemble leaves from the Mediterranean species of the Acanthus genus of plants, which have deeply cut leaves with some similarity to those of the thistle and poppy. Both Acanthus mollis and the still more deeply cut Acanthus spinosus have been claimed as the main model, and particular examples of the motif may be closer in form to one or the other species; the leaves of both are in any case, rather variable in form. The motif is found in decoration in nearly every medium.
The relationship between acanthus ornament and the acanthus plant has been the subject of a long-standing controversy. Alois Riegl argued in his Stilfragen that acanthus ornament originated as a sculptural version of the palmette, and only later, began to resemble Acanthus spinosus.
From Collins Dictionary:
acanthus (əˈkænθəs ) or acanth (əˈkænθ)
(plural) -thuses, -thi (-θaɪ)
- any shrub or herbaceous plant of the genus Acanthus, native to the Mediterranean region but widely cultivated as ornamental plants, having large spiny leaves and spikes of white or purplish flowers: family Acanthaceae See also bear’s-breech
- a carved ornament based on the leaves of the acanthus plant, esp as used on the capital of a Corinthian column
Sometimes life gives you the answer so clearly you’re too blind to see. Just a few days ago I read on the “Working by Hand” blog a post about removing tool japanning with Soy Gel. https://workingbyhand.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/plane-body-finish-removal-soy-gel/
Soy Gel is a 100% soybean based paint remover that has no toxic fumes and is really safe for the environment. I bought a bottle of it for my wife about a year ago so she could remove the paint off a piece of furniture she bought. I don’t repaint planes so I never gave much thought about using it to remove the black japanning from a plane. Well apparently according to the post, it does the job quite well.
So this weekend while I was busting my knuckles cleaning up the bed of an old Stanley Liberty Bell plane with steel wool, I opened up my cabinet to grab another piece of wool when my bottle of Soy Gel was staring at me right in the face. I looked at the bottle, then looked at the plane bed and thought “I wonder if it would help”?
I grabbed the bottle, squirted some on the bed, and spread it around with my steel wool pad and let it sit there for a bit. Sure enough after just a few seconds, the dirt and grime just melted away when I rubbed it off with the steel wool.
I was amazed it worked so well. Then I was angry at myself that I didn’t think of it any sooner. How could I be so blind? Here’s the before and after shot of the side of the plane.
All these years of busting my knuckles trying to clean up the wood from old planes with nothing but steel wool and a whole bunch of elbow grease, and I could have just been using Soy Gel the whole time to make the job a whole lot easier. Oh well, I learn something new everyday. Here is a couple of shots of the plane all cleaned up. I guess someone liked my cleaning job as the plane sold within a few hours of being listed on eBay.
Drivel Starved Nation!
Next week I begin my annual work retreat, and I can’t wait to see what the muse will deliver this trip. This will be my 14th year of holing up somewhere and do nothing but think about tools for two weeks. And as long as Megan Fox leaves me alone, it is incredibly productive…
The real purpose of this post is to encourage you to consider adding a rare tool to your collection, and get a nice tax deduction as well. As you may know, a retrospective of my work from the past 37 years is currently on display at the Bellevue Arts Museum and it closes on February 1. It will be packed up and is moving to a new exhibition space in downtown Boston owned by the North Bennet Street School.
Exhibitions are expensive and when Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez, President of NBSS expressed interest to the Museum of Contemporary Craft (the sponsoring museum for “Quality is Contagious”) the costs involved were concerning. (Caveat: I have nothing to do with this exhibition, where it goes, or anything to do with finances.) When I met Miguel, we brainstormed a fund raising idea — I designed a tool for NBSS that we sold at cost to NBSS to be used as fund raiser to help offset the costs of the exhibition which is close to $20,000. There are 95 of these squares and you can learn more about the exhibition and how you can help here.
Here are a couple of cell phone pics, these squares came out great!
I really like the split personality of this design…
Thanks for considering this rare tool as a possible addition to your Bridge City collection. Now, one last thing…
Two weeks ago, William John Mosso entered this world. 9 lbs, 22 inches. I am officially a Grandpa!
The post Limited Edition North Bennet St. School Try Squares are Done! appeared first on John's Blog.
Last week I finished writing my latest article for Popular Woodworking, titled, I think, “Decorative Wire Inlay.” Tomorrow morning I will finish the photography for it, then move on to the next projects in the shop, the list of which is formidable.
I demonstrated the techniques of decorative wire inlay in my presentation to the Washington Woodworker’s Guild last autumn.
To perhaps close out my workbench series on the bench I currently use I thought you might want some close ups of some things I particularly think makes my work easier. Many of you tell me that you want the inside jaw of your vise flush with the face edge of the bench and that seems fine to me, but I have never found a single advantage to this whereas there are several advantages to having the vise a step forward go the edge. I have answered the hundred or so questions asking on this and the simple answer is that I can grip my materials underhand or overhand with one hand and tighten and loosen the vise grip with full support to the work. More than that, I can hang my tenon saws where I want them and where they are the very handiest I have found them to be.
Notice the swivelling retainers. The lighter saws benefit from this and stop the saws from lifting of the wrapped screws. I don’t want hooks as such because of the lift and pull action. I want something that slips on and off and this works for me. The 14” brass backed saw is much heavier and never falls off through bounce from banging.
The tail vise is there. I still have found almost zero use for it, but people seem to feel there’s something missing and they trust me more if it’s there. I put it there to show that it could be put there if people feel it will benefit them. This vise was born in sheffield without the slide-up dog and I retrofitted the wooden liner with a groove that receives a 6mm by 30mm by 110mm long brass bar. This works as well as the factory fitted one so I no longer look for vises with dogs. I did do a blog on making wooden dogs with a spring wire fitted like the ones shown here. These work well; pity I don’t need them. The vise itself is of course another secondhand Record vise; one of those superior ones from the pre 1990’s.
I keep my most used planes on my benchtop on the far opposite corner from my main working vise. Here they line up well. Two jacks, and the remainder are smoothers with different setting depths or a simple scrub plane.
The old jam jar holds different pencils, rules, sticks, felt tip pens and so on. Next to that is a tin can filled with glue sticks. When I demo hand sawing I often cut several cuts next to one another and then I cut them to length and have 30 glue sticks ready to go as needed.
Around the vise
The risk of damaging furniture by using a tape clipped to a belt is too high so we furniture makers generally don’t carry them as a carpenter might. I usually take the clip off and screw it to my bench and use it for a shop rag holder when filming.
One of my better ideas is the insertion of hardwood blocks and chamfering out a recess to the corner. The recess gives me much more cutting depth with the tenon saw and i rarely ever catch it.
The leather in one jaw of the vise works well to increase grip without over tightening or the need for too much cinching on the vise to hold the work.
Here is the video we made on making my mallets. My old mallets follow a copied pattern I took from a true beauty I discovered in a box of tools I bought back in the 1970s. When I saw nestled amongst moulding planes and a couple of Norrises, it it just impacted me so much that, even lying alongside a very rare and beautifully made Howarth Rosewood Ultimatum brace, I would have left the brace, though worth over £1000, when the mallet was worth no more than say £5 maximum.
The blog I wrote on making your first mallet starts here and is a four part series if I remember rightly. The mallet you make does need to have good weight and density and especially so if using the traditional heavyweight variety like these. Even though for most of my work I use a Thorex 712, the Thorex will never replace the traditional mallet for a few simple reasons and not the least of which is aesthetics.
I do hope if you haven’t seen this that you will enjoy it as much as I did making the video. Yes, it is important for the preservation of the skills in making it, and also the detailed shaping of it and the careful deliberations of the man who thought through the dynamics of it, but more than that, it’s the passing on of another craftsman’s life in a very simply work of art. I don’t do it justice, I know that, but here it is, preserved in the lived lives of those woodworkers yet to be born. Make it by hand as he did. Stretch yourself and master the skills. Keep real woodworking alive for others, for your family, your children and grandchildren. This mallet takes me about an hour to make. Enjoy it and pass it on.
It’s a bit embarrassing writing with the realization that we have been silent for so long. The last post was about the next symposium. This will be about the same symposium, but we’ll have to call it the last symposium now.
We think it went pretty well, or at least we enjoyed ourselves and learned a lot and hope all of our attendees did as well. Conferences such as this are made possible by the work of many people within Colonial Williamsburg and we are, as always, grateful to them. Ron Hurst, Vice President of Collections, concluded our opening night’s program with a eulogy in honor of Jay Gaynor, the founder and now guiding spirit, of these annual gatherings. He highlighted Jay’s commitment to good scholarship, good work, and good humor, which are the same qualities we strive to impart in our presentations. Sometimes we get it right and other times…
By covering a fairly broad topic like desks, we were able to span the entire eighteenth century in terms of style and construction. It is easy for woodworkers and writers to treat the eighteenth century as a single moment in time, a time in which people worked with hand tools, built great furniture, and dressed funny. Our aim was to juxtapose pieces and presentations to reveal substantial changes and surprising similarities in workmanship, design, and technique among early, middle, and late century pieces. Handwork was different in 1707 (the date of our earliest piece) from what it would become ninety years later (roughly the time when the Seymours built the latest piece we explored). This, in turn, is different from how many people approach hand tool woodworking today. Changes in time and place, changes from one craftperson’s perspective to another’s, these are the things we hope to bring out as we move through these conferences. To that end, we all learn a lot from the insights of our audience. Insights that support, contradict, or challenge our assertions are precisely what make these symposia a valuable experience. All of us in the Hay shop are grateful for all who attended and were willing to get down and dig through the arts and mysteries of eighteenth century work with us.
For those of you who have never been to one of these, here is a small sampling of what came to pass over our two sessions of this year’s conference. We look forward to seeing you next year!
Look for more active blogging in the coming year and the launch of our Facebook page in the coming days (we are only several years behind on that one).
Here’s to a new year of woodworking!
The Hay Shop.
“I don’t want to hurry it, that itself is a poisonous, 20th century attitude. When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care about it and want to get on to other things.
I just want to get at it slowly, but carefully and thoroughly.”
-Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig
I read this book back in high school when I was in my moody, teenage, angsty days. I read it again while in college during my deep and philosophical artsy days. Now I’m reading it again in my jaded, mortgage paying, corporate drone working days. It’s funny how the book still remains powerful to me but each time the message changes.
The quote above particularly grabbed me while the author was talking about a botched repair to his motorcycle from a “professional shop”. He is exasperated by how taking his bike to the experts resulted in not only his problems not getting fixed but made worse.
I can augment this story with literally hundreds from the lumber yard where contractors have called in claiming they got defective wood that moved on them or checked. Upon further investigation we find that flooring was not allowed to acclimate or decks were installed with no gaps between boards and without proper ventilation underneath. Invariably the excuse for skipping these essential points was “I don’t have time to wait for that” or “I just needed to get it done”
Even more telling is the attitude we are faced with when we try to educate this contractor on how it could have been prevented or what should be done in the future. They don’t want to hear it, they just want us to fix it with new material…gratis of course. They just don’t care how to improve their work, they just want to get it done and move on to something else. Or using Pirsig’s words, they don’t care.
I’m purposely generalizing here and don’t mean to cast a wide net that says all contractors don’t care about their work.
I’m fortunate to also work with some truly exceptional craftsmen who build homes, furniture, and boats. But I’ll also state that stereotypes exist for reason and I feel bad for those quality contractors whose thoughtful and thorough work goes unappreciated amongst a sea of mediocre projects just waiting to fail when the seasons change.
I’m not innocent in this attitude either. There have been plenty of times when my best work has suffered when I have grown tired of a project and stopped caring about it. Fortunately I’m usually able to remedy that by walking away and coming back later. But I do have to remind myself to slow down from time to time and “care” about the details.
I read and hear from other woodworkers all the time about ways to speed up a task. I hear exasperation about how long a process is taking when done with hand tools. I want to know why we are in such a hurry? Why don’t we care enough about what we are making to “get at it slowly, but carefully and thoroughly”?
I understand that for many woodworkers time is money and paying the mortgage is a big deal to the professional furniture maker. But I think whether you are a hobbyist or a professional, we all got into woodworking with a desire to make something durable and beautiful and that requires great care.
And maybe that is what is most important, not how fast you get it done.
The end. (quite a way to start a blog post, huh?)
On a piece of case furniture, some call it the side. I think of them as ends, as in “help me move this chest, grab the other end.”
I’m not one for measured drawings, but I am working some up for this chest project. Today I was laying out the end view of the chest we’ll build at the CT Valley School of Woodworking this season. http://www.schoolofwoodworking.com/woodworking-classes/29-speciality-weekend-classes/534-build-a-17th-century-joined-chest-with-peter-follansbee.html
In the class, we will delve deeply into the period chest we’re studying/copying, but will also look at numerous variations. These chests (Wethersfield/Windsor/Hartford area of CT) often have one large horizontal panel over 2 vertical panels. the upper panel is glued up in every one I’ve seen and made notes on… but the students will be making single-drawer versions. So that changes how we format the end view. I’ll offer them 2 versions & they can decide which to use.
There is no typical arrangement – but there are several that we see over & over. Like these:
a joined chest, one large horizontal panel on the ends. This panel is about 14″ wide (top to bottom) It requires a tree in the range of 36″ in diameter, straight as can be.
One way around that issue is to divide the end with a muntin, and use two narrower vertical panels. Two more joints, but not a big deal. I do this most commonly. Note here the side top rail and the front top rail are different dimensions.
This next one is a chest with a single drawer. So two side-by-side panels above a single horizontal panel. In some cases, these panels all end up the same width – nice & neat for stock preparation.
Here’s a chest of drawers, and I have found this arrangement on chests with 2 drawers too – two sets of vertical side-by-side panels. or 2 over 2 if you want to phrase it that way. You can cover a lot of ground this way.
How these side views relate to the front view and more interestingly, to the rear view is a study in itself. Come take the class – we’ll be able to really explore joined chests in excruciating detail. You’ll be well-versed in joined chests by the end. The End.
Last Friday on my way to the annual banquet of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers at Colonial Williamsburg I took the opportunity of my foray into “civilization” (or is it “out of civilization?”) to make a number of stops purchasing materials and supplies for ongoing and upcoming projects.
Perhaps the most important of these stops was at Virginia Frame and Builders Supply in Fishersville, just a hundred yards or so from I-64. Virginia Frame is renowned for having large, long, and lovely lumber in stock. I bought some 24-foot long southern yellow pine 2x12s, mostly clear and some even select. Since my pickup has a 6-foot bed, the folks at Virginia Frame cut the 24-footers into 8-foot sections and we stacked and strapped them into the bed for the long ride to Williamsburg then back to the mountains.
This September I will be hosting ten members of the on-line forum Professional Refinishers Group, a treasured mostly-virtual community to which I have belonged for many years, for a week of workbench building. The lumber from Virginia Frame will serve as the raw stock from which I will make a Roubo prototype and a Nicholson prototype, to work out all the bugs in the fabrication process. Once I do I will order the same lumber as necessary for all the workbenches being built in September.
There was rain on my trip, so when I got back Saturday afternoon I spread out the boards to let them dry, then yesterday morning I stacked them to allow them to sit properly before I build the benches in February and March. I love working with southern yellow pine, and these boards are magnificent.
But first I have to make a replica of the Henry O. Studley workbench top for the upcoming exhibit.