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Well, better late than never. I started writing this post while we were at Handworks over a week ago, then the crowds started pouring in and my internet signal went south so I never finished. So here it goes….. This past weekend was spent in Amana Iowa at one of the finest handtool events […]
The post Handworks 2015 the Finest Handtool Event in the Country! appeared first on Heritage School of Woodworking Blog.
Just prior to the Thursday evening reception for the Handworks exhibitors, project photographer and my Virtuoso partner in crime Narayan Nayar set up to take portraits of each of the exhibit staff with the tool cabinet. I will post the images of the docents next week when I blog about their participation, but here is the one Narayan took of me of me.
This exhibit was the first time probably ever that I wore a dress shirt and necktie for four days in a row. My wife said it was the biggest smile she had seen on me for many, many moons.
As for the exhibit itself, the physical manifestation was exactly as I had envisioned it almost two years earlier. How many times does a person get to experience such a concrete realization of a dream?
It was not possible with my camera to get a true panorama of the gallery without it looking bug-eyed, so here are a group of images from which I hope you can derive the complete picture.
This coming weekend I will be teaching a class on making wooden spoons for the ROADS Workshops in Austin, Texas.
It’s going to be a little different from your usual woodworking class, though. ROADS Workshops are a part of Mobile Loaves and Fishes, a homelessness recovery ministry. They teach recovering homeless people skills and crafts in order to help them get back on their feet financially. It’s a live-in facility with housing, gardens, and workshops.
One of the crafts they’re beginning to teach is woodworking, and they’ve asked me to come over there to hold a workshop on spoon making. Soon the students will be making spoons and other wooden items to sell in local markets. The ROADS Workshops want to be very hand-tool focused, and they also want to use locally-sourced/scavenged materials as much as possible. That fits in very well with my own woodworking ethos.
Most woodworking classes focus on teaching amateur woodworkers. This class, however, will be working with people who will be working wood for a living. So we will focus not only on tools and techniques, but also on efficiency and selling-points.
I’ll be blogging here about my spoon-making odyssey.
Tagged: Austin, MLF, ROADS Workshops, spoon carving, spoon making, wooden spoon, woodworking class
When we left off our tale of the table I was trying to figure out how to make a jig to help produce the slot for the decorative ebony spline. It’s not really a difficult problem, but I complicated matters slightly by making the top a thickness that didn’t nicely match up with the available guide bushings. I adjusted my thinking for the jig by adding layers of veneer to make up the difference. The jig fits over the edge of the top, and registers against the breadboard end to cut the 5″ long slot.
Once I had the design sorted out it was simple enough to cut up some MDF to build the jig.
I’ll still need to think through how I’ll make the ebony splines, but I wanted to move forward on building the breadboard ends. Unfortunately when I started to lay out the tenons on the top I noticed that it was badly cupped. If I wasn’t doing the breadboard ends this probably wouldn’t matter as the top attachment buttons would likely pull it flat. But there was no way I could accurately make the tenons on the end of the top and have them fit the end caps.
After staring at this for a while I decided that part of the problem was at the joint between the two boards. Each half was slightly cupped, but a significant amount of the cupping seemed to be at the glue joint. So I decided to rip it apart, re-joint the edges and re-glue it…using cauls this time to keep the joint flat.
I make cauls out of some scrap 2×4 material, with one edge jointed dead flat. I covered the edge with clear packing tape so I don’t accidentally glue the 2×4 to the top. The edges are perfectly aligned and the top is flat at this point, we’ll see what it looks like once the cauls come off. I’m going to make the end caps this morning, then take the top out of the clamps and immediately cut the tenons for the ends in case it wants to move.
And finally, the table base is out of the clamps. The skirts are all tight, and the base is nice and square. Really, just the top to finish and this table will be a wrap.
Last weekend at Handworks we were able to pick up another miter jack from the La Forge Royale firm. Like the jack we posted about last year, this one was also made during the Lemainque period at Forge Royale in Paris. The medallion on this version is quite different than the more typical lion-encrusted one from our other items from the company. This jack is nearly identical in every other way. A customer of ours picked this up in a Michigan antique store. Amazing.
Incidentally, we still have a few miter jack kits left, which you can order directly from our store page. We likely won't produce these again, so you might want to get one while you can, even if you don't have plans to make one in the near future.
3-day weekends are amazing and very welcomed, but before we fire up the grill and enjoy this extra day to be with family and friends (or in the shop considering we’re all woodworkers) let’s take the time to remember why we celebrate Memorial Day in the first place.
Please take the opportunity to thank our service members for the sacrifices they’ve made for us over the years. Regardless of which branch of service they belong to, what duties they performed or whether they’re a veteran or active duty, their sacrifices great and small are what make our world a safer place.
|quiet time work|
|top strip flushed with the plane the bottom one with a chisel|
|the new and the old|
|this will work|
|made a shallow groove|
|my working solution|
|original tube it came in|
|the plane clears the cauls|
|but the caul isn't pulling the bow out|
|now it is|
|I hate this *&^!#@$))*(^^$# when it slips|
|I can't catch a break today|
|a little fat|
|cleaned up the bottom|
|used the #3 too|
|bottom side is done|
|laying out for the tenons|
|four 2" tenons and one 3" center tenon|
|a Wally World find|
|protecting the underside|
|yes I am brain dead|
|something went south|
|rip and crosscuts for the tenons done - removing the waste is the next batter|
|first crappy coping saw cut|
|second half of the second cut is much better - settled into a groove here|
|nailed it on the opposite side|
|trimmed the coping saw cuts with a chisel|
|first dry fit|
|1/2" lip is too thick on this end|
|just right on the opposite end|
|last dry fit for today|
Joe McGlynn had a bow in his Blacker table top - 1/8" over 22" mine is/was about 1/8" over 38 5/16". He is making a new top. Me, I'll be busting a gut using the top I got. I don't have the time or the option to make another top nor can I plane the bow out. I would probably end up with a 5/8" or less thickness which isn't suitable for a table top.
I think I've been lucky with my table top so far. I can clamp most of the bow out with the cauls. And once I get the center tenon seated a bit I can see the remaining bow disappear. Having my bow spread out over 3' is helping me here.
Tomorrow I'm hoping to get all the bread boards done. Once I get a good dry fit, I can drill for the dowels and elongate my holes. I want to get this glued up and cooking so next week I concentrate on the finishing.
What is the largest mountain in the world?
answer - Mauna Lao in Hawaii
I really believe that a machinist who likes to see things, can find more solid enjoyment in some of the rough-and-tumble jobbing shops located in the woods, than he can in some high-toned manufacturing establishments, gotten up without regard to cost. The workmen turned out by such concerns are invariably of more value than those raised in nice shops.
* * * * A new man comes along and says he worked ten years in Hotchkiss’ shop. Now, Hotchkiss has the reputation of selling the nicest shafting known to the market. You want a man to turn shafting, and, of course, you ask this new comer if he worked any on shafting in Hotchkiss’ shop. He answers truly that he never did much else. You consider yourself lucky, and set the man to work.
You soon find that he turns the worst shafting in the world, and gets out about twelve feet a day. You go for the gentleman, and ask him why he can’t do some decent work and some reasonable quantity of it. He explains, in a very condescending manner, that if you want good work you must furnish good facilities. He explains that, when at Hotchkiss’, he used a special lathe with a wonderful carriage arrangement, carrying numerous tools, and with a centering and straightening attachment, and a burring rest for finishing to size. With this rig he turned a hundred and fifty feet of nice shafting in ten hours, and says he can do it every day in the week if you will bring him the apparatus.
Now, you know all about this kind of thing. You have been in Hotchkiss’ shop, and you know this man speaks truly. But you ain’t in the shafting business, and don’t propose to go into the business. You have shafting jobs now and then, and want to do the work fair in quality and reasonable in price. You don’t expect to do it as cheap as Hotchkiss does, who makes a specialty of it.
You see at once that this man, who was all right in Hotchkiss’ shop, don’t know anything about turning shafting at all. You hunt up a boy in the other end of the shop—a long-legged, long-headed youth, who has spent two years with you learning the machinist’s trade. He knows how to turn shafting, and you know it. You put him on the long lathe, and he gives you forty feet of shafting in ten hours, and it’s forty times as good as the machinist from Hotchkiss’ shop could turn. If your long-legged boy ever gets a job in Hotchkiss’ shop, Hotchkiss will have a rough diamond capable of high polish.
* * * * You give the new man another lathe and set him to boring pulleys. He bores about three miserable holes in a day. He finds no pulley-boring machine, no good chuck drills, no reamers, no nothing. He ridicules the idea of doing work without tools. He never looks at his own deficiencies, but looks at the deficiencies of the shop. He is a nice fellow, but is not smart enough to admire the men all around him, who, every hour in the day, are doing things he can’t do at all.
* * * * You tell the new man he is a failure on a lathe. You set him to key-seating some big pulleys. They must be chipped and filed. Does he go and get good, solid side chisels dressed, and does he lay a wide, straight edge in the hole and draw one mark to chip his key-seat to; and does he sit down on a block and send three heavy, nice, clean, straight, flat cuts through the pulley; and does he file five minutes and show you a nice, clean key-seat, out of wind and free from chisel marks, all done in forty minutes?
No; he don’t. He never cut a key-seat, and never saw one cut in this way. He was brought up alongside a slotting machine, and he is now five hundred miles from the nearest slotting machine. He knows he can’t do this job, and is smart enough to tell you so. This man is no machinist at all. He served a five years’ apprenticeship, and worked eight years in one of the best shops in the United States, but he is actually of less value than your youngest cub.
You put the case to him fairly; tell him you need men and like his looks, and that if he can point out any work in the shop which he can do properly, you will be glad to keep him. He feels badly; and after looking around, decides that he can’t do what the poorest men in the shop are doing.
He will do one of two things: If he’s a coward, without any coarse grit in him, he will abandon the “machinist” trade and tramp back to Hotchkiss and beg for a job on that shafting lathe. If he has the right stuff in him, he will start in and learn the trade. He has sense and experience and don’t need to commence just like a boy. He can start anywhere he chooses, at such wages as his work shows he earns, and increase his wages as he increases his value.
* * * * You go into one of these rough-and tumble shops and watch a man at a lathe. He whistles and sings and skylarks and smokes, maybe, and does a hundred other things which the high and mighty think ought to send a man to the penitentiary. But don’t that chap do the work, though! Don’t he earn and get good wages, and don’t the proprietor make more out of him every day than the high and mighty do out of three men who were brought up to use every modern facility, and who are stumped if one of the aforesaid facilities happens to get broken.
Watch this outre machinist as he works. He runs an eighteen inch lathe, perhaps, and the work brought to him might well be, and, in a better fixed shop would be, distributed among big lathes, little lathes, Fox lathes, planers, slotters, milling machines, cutting machines, drilling machines, screw machines, bolt cutters, gear cutters, etc.
But this chap does everything which is laid by his lathe. Some he does tip-top, some he leaves slouchy, but all of it is done as well as is required. He does this all the time. He lives on it. Every job he does is something he, or anybody else, never did before, but he does it all the same. This man is no mere machine wound up and set to running a shafting-turning machine. This shop isn’t a manufacturing concern with a system adapted to a special product.
This is one of my Simon Pure machine shops, doing job work, new and old, and this fellow we see is a lordly lathesman, a real machinist. You may set him down in any shop in the world where there’s a lathe, and a job to do, and he can do it. He will jump at new and better ways, but is not helpless in the meantime. He’s no baby. He’s a machinist, and he is worth money every day.
Oh, ye puny chaps that claim to be lathesmen! You only know one way of doing things, and that’s the way you were taught to do it. You only know how to do one job, and that’s the job you worked on while you were being taught, and you can’t do that job when you get in another shop away from home. Aren’t you ashamed to ridicule a poor, one-horse machine shop when every man in it is immeasurably your superior? Aren’t you ashamed to claim fellowship and equal wages with these sharp fellows, full of mechanical wit, who do work every day which you don’t even dare to undertake? You say they can’t do it well. You can’t do it at all. You don’t know how to tackle it.
* * * * Look at the job this lathesman gets. He is sitting on a casting and handling a connecting rod strap. It’s a rough forging for a strap to hold square boxes. You can’t see a bit of lathe-work about it anywhere, or a chance for any. Pretty soon he gets his present job done. Now he puts a miserable looking angle-plate against his face-plate, and sets this strap in some shape. He fishes a dirty piece of paper out of his tool box. This paper contains a memorandum of sizes which he took down verbatim as the foreman gave them. He goes to work, and in two hours, lays two hours of planing on the floor.
He has surfaced that strap nicely and squarely all over the outside. There’s one job of “lathework” done. There is but one planer in the shop, and that is too much crowded to be doing anything that can be done in any other machine. That same planer will stand still six months in the year, so it would be folly to get another, and thus be ready for a rush which never comes when you are ready.
* * * * Here goes for the next job. Twelve stubs about two feet long, one and three-quarters diameter, to have thread cut eight inches on one end. No turning, simply a thread to be cut. They belong to a bridge bolt job, and the bolt cutter has no dies for this size. Soon this job is done. It isn’t nice lathe work. Nothing to be proud of, but it is o. k. in every way. What next? He puts on a chuck and proceeds to chase out twelve hot-pressed nuts for these bridge bolts. Ough! how your teeth grit to see a lathesman having to do such a job. It’s a nasty job, but there’s no tap that size, and soon it’s done and off this chap’s mind.
* * * * Next comes some nice lathe work; a couple of valve stems and two or three small wrists. They are finished to the sizes given and nicely polished. He gets them done, and feels proud of them. Bless him, any lathesman can do such work.
* * * * Here’s a brass casting for a two-inch stop-cock, and by it lies the old one. It’s a repair job. The old one is bursted wide open. The plug is swelled, but not broken. Does a foreman come around and instruct this man how to do this job? No, sir. His orders were to “rig up that cock.” He takes the casting, chucks it, and in half an hour has a two-inch pipe thread chased in each end. Now he chucks crosswise, and you suddenly notice that this cock must be bored tapering. How is this fellow going to bore this hole? Will he go and get a nice taper reamer? I guess not in this shop. Will he fit up some kind of a reamer? Not be. He is fitting up an old water-cock, not making new reamers.
He’ll set the head of the lathe over, won’t he? No, he won’t. The head of the lathe can’t be swiveled. Will he set the Slate taper attachment over? Guess not, as he never heard of Slate; and don’t know what a taper attachment is. Will he use the compound rest? He may some day, when such a thing gets into the shop. Will he stick a wedge under the back wing of the carriage? No. He never heard of it, and is not so deep an inventor as to think of it just when he wants it.
Will he wrap a cord around his cross-feed screw-handle and tie it to his tail-stock, and thus get the taper? No, he has no time to invent this ingenious plan. Will he find a fancy little sliding-head boring-bar somewhere? Not a bar. Has he a mandrel which he can screw his chuck on, and thus do the job in the steady rest? No, sir. He won’t do any of these smart things, and he won’t tell you that the shop ought to have a Fox lathe for such work, and he won’t tell you how the Metropolitan Cock Company bore them out, for he don’t know, and, I am sorry to add, he don’t care. All he cares about is to lay that cock down on the floor and call it done, and as well done as is needed.
He whistles a very peculiar air in a very soft manner and turns his cross crank slowly to keep time. The result is a hole which is tapering, if it’s nothing else. It would have taken him just about as long to bore it straight. He takes the job out. Puts on a face-plate, and puts the old cock plug in the lathe. He chalks it and hammers the swells out, or in, rather. Then he sets his lathe over and takes a light cut over it. Then he marks a close fit in the cock, but keeps the plug large.
Now he goes to a vise and files the hole. It was tapering all right, but the sides were not straight. He files carefully but boldly, watching the tool marks in the hole, and trying the plug. Soon he is done with the filing, and, returning to his lathe, completes the fit of the plug. Now he grinds it in, and soon there isn’t a file mark or a tool mark in the hole or on the plug.
It is simply a first-class, water-tight taper job, quickly done in a third-class manner. He screws the thing together, and bounces the next job. Time on old cock, three hours and a quarter. You or I could not do it as well or as quick with all the cock-making appliances in existence. This man never fitted up a water-cock before. He is a machinist, and will hustle out any job you will bring him, and will do it as well as you want it done, and no better.
Extracts from Chordal’s Letters
American Machinist – January 17, 1880
Filed under: Historical Images
During a recent visit to Great Britain I gave considerable attention to men and machines, and the following are some of my observations and impressions. Not desiring to criticize any special locality, I will simply use the word “Britain;” and in comparing with the United States will use the word “American.”
My first attention to mechanics was given to locomotive building, as I wished to solve some puzzling matters, such as the general claim that a given number of men in America will build over twice as many locomotives per year as the same number would in Britain—that American builders can compete against the British for foreign orders and yet pay their men about twice as much per hour. This is rather a big question, but I satisfied myself that I found enough to account for differences as great as the above, partly as follows:
The Americans use more special machinery, and thus make labor more effective; and this is still further increased by division of labor. The easy-going swing in the British works is quite noticeable, as compared with the greater activity and “push” in the American. The British carry a greater dead weight of counting-house, drawing office and pattern shop than the Americans—I would venture to state, two or three times as much, compared with the number of engines built.
Most of the British machines are such as are used generally in machine and engine works, while the Americans use a great many machines designed and built expressly for locomotive work. The application of milling to locomotive work has revolutionized methods in America in late years, while in Britain it is still comparatively little used.
The Americans are easily ahead in vertical and horizontal spindle milling machines, double face mills, horizontal face plate turning mills, cylinder boring and facing machines, screw cutting machines, special tools for stay bolt making, flatting of hexagon nuts, finishing cylinder ports, etc., and an indefinite number of ingenious methods some called “Yankee tricks,” all of which tend to an increase of product, as compared with the number of hours labor.
The general structure of the American and British locomotives makes a great, difference in erecting. The British build a stiff frame of plates riveted and bolted, and all through make a slow, laborious work of erecting the engine; while the Americans actually block up side frames and boiler over wheels, all in position, and seem to finish up all parts at the same time by different “teams” of men, so that the engine is run out of the shop in an incredibly short time.
In the matter of labor, pure and simple, the most important point in favor of America is the small amount of “hand-work,” as compared with machine-work; so great is this difference that in my first visit to an American locomotive works I actually asked where the bench work was done, after I had practically gone over all parts of the works. In the British works no such question would be necessary, for men literally swarm on what is called by them “fitting” (or bench work), filing, scraping and apparently “fiddling in their time” on work which would be almost finished by machines in America.
So prominently does this strike me that it would be little exaggeration to say that the Americans build a locomotive by machinery and unwillingly do a little hand-work; while the British make a desperate attempt to build it by hand, but cannot help doing a little machine work. The Americans “mill right to size;” the British “plane” and “slot” in an imperfect manner, and then add more expense, filing and scraping off the “allowance for fitting” which they leave.
Even with their cheap labor, this method costs more than the American method. I was informed that this British system is perpetuated by the railways themselves in sending inspectors who insist on extremes in testing the work, which have no practical value but to throw expense on the builders. This method, while necessary and proper in machine tool building, is useless in locomotive work, and sometimes even harmful, for a locomotive never does her best work till she “loosens up” enough to be perfectly free from the danger of binding and heating.
In the stationary engine the engineer can keep joints up much closer, because he can feel them constantly for heating, but in the locomotive there is no way but keeping working joints loose enough for safety. The Americans thoroughly grasp this difference, and use fine machines, and nearly always let in working fits without hand-work. I incline to think that types are more uniform in America, and as much greater numbers are built, the ratio which templates, gauges and pattern making bear to the total, is in their favor. The British forged wheel is expensive, ugly, and more liable to breakage than the cheaper, heavier, and better looking cast-iron wheel of the Americans.
Now, why these great differences? Apparently the value of labor in America stimulates the invention of tools, which bring the work nearer a finish, because hand-work is the expensive part. But beyond all this, and permeating the whole, is the greater elasticity and adaptability of the American character, not content even with the best, at any given time, but constantly reaching out for better methods—never satisfied, yet the happiest man on earth—for in him the optimism of constant advance is irrepressible.
Some peculiarities of the British locomotive bear sufficiently on national character to be worth noting here. It is a wonderful little machine for drawing “railway carriages,” but when you bring it to America it is practically useless for drawing railroad cars, and is found to be about powerful enough for shunting at the stations. It has a rigid frame, in which the axle boxes are fitted—but you ask, “How does it run on a curve?”
Well, the curve is made to fit it, half a mile radius being good practice, so it runs around that pretty well. It is driven by inside cranks, and by putting enough metal in these cranks, they stand, but as this necessitates driving the wheels through the axles, these axles must be of large diameter. The wheels are forged as if made light, to press easy on the rails, but as some pressure is necessary, even to draw the little “carriages,” a mass of iron called the “footplate” is riveted between the frames, and this weight reaches the rails through the axle boxes, but, as we have already made the axles very large, a little more added for this does not make much difference.
This foot-plate is intensely British, for it adds to the stiffness and clumsiness of the framework of the engine, so that if a curve is too sharp, so much the worse for the curve. The “driver” (engineer) stands on this footplate, behind the fire box, along with the fireman, and here another use for the foot plate appears; for it is proof even against their massive British boots.
Both driver and fireman stand openly in the weather; but this is easily explained, for the Britisher is never happy unless he feels a drizzling rain in his face, and there is not enough sunshine to be considered. Still, there is a limit even here, for sometimes during severe snow or hail-storms, even the British “driver” running up against the wind at express speed, gets more than he enjoys, so the builders take this kindly into account, and put up over the fire box a “storm board,’” in which two panes of glass, about a foot in diameter, are placed, and the humble “driver” is grateful to his superiors.
No pilot, bell or headlight are used, and the engine has a plain, forlorn look, as if a cyclone had ripped off all her trimmings, the result being that “she looks as if she had been cast in one piece.” The driving wheels are covered with shields, like small paddle boxes, but I utterly failed to find what they were for; I suppose, however, they are to catch the gravel and sand thrown up by the air currents, and to make sure that they are thrown down again on the axle boxes.
Coming to ship building, it is remarkable how little difference can be noted, in a hurried visit, between the American and British shipyard. In the engine department there is the general difference of method noted in locomotive building, but not so marked as in the latter, except in the smaller details of the work, in which the American methods are quicker and more ingenious.
There is enough difference to lead me to the opinion that the cost of production in Britain is not much less than in America, and that this is decreasing. The general method of handling work is more clumsy and laborious, and it appeared to me that more power is wasted in machinery, and more physical force applied by the workmen to produce a given result than in America.
Somehow the American strikes the nail on the head more precisely, and drives it home with less cumbersomeness than the Britisher. Everything tends to clumsiness. Forgings are made with a greater allowance for finishing, and consequently deeper cuts are taken off by the machines; and not only this, but there is less cutting done, the Britisher, apparently, preferring to tear or force off the metal with a blunt, heavy tool.
It is evident that the designers of machines must take this into account, as most of the details are too heavy, noticeably to feed motions. The answer to criticisms on this point is always, “Strength, strength, strength;” but the American designer has shown that mere weight of metal is not always strength, but often the opposite.
The British designer seems to put as much metal as possible in the framework; then he tries to make the moving parts heavy enough to break the frame, and he often succeeds. Hence the poor workman is loaded by everything he has to move; he has, therefore, to use more force, his motions are more clumsy and slow and he effects less. Where the British designer would throw in and out a feed with a stout lever, the American would do it more effectively by a little knob moved by the fingers.
But my British friend says, “These little gingerbread Yankeeisms do not last.” Yes they do—if used by the American workman, for whom they were designed; and this is just the kernel of the matter; for the British workman would find it awkward to move a little knob with his fingers—he nearly always takes hold with his whole hand. Anything movable is with him a hammer, and everything stationary an anvil. This deficiency in delicate touch is very plain, and influences all his actions. He appears to have little sensibility in the points of his fingers; hence his tendency to grasp everything in a “clumsy-fisted” manner.
Amongst unusually heavy tools I noticed the four-jaw chucks, and asked one of the tool builders I met for the reason, and he informed me that he had tried the American chucks and made a complete failure, as his workmen broke them in a short time, and he was compelled to build the heavy style. He did not dispute my assertion that the American workman with his lighter chuck, handled work quicker. Now, observe what the British workman gains by carelessly breaking tools of reasonable weight: he laboriously handles tools nearly twice the weight they ought to be, hour after hour, day after day, year after year.
This machine builder was by far the best informed man I met, as to British and American practice, and the only one I found favorable to the latter; but he had made a tour in America and made comparisons for himself. In his works I found three of the most distinctly American machines, viz., universal milling, universal grinding, and vertical spindle chucking machines, all by the firm which has practically created them —The Brown & Sharpe Mfg. Co., Providence, R. I.
These machines standing among first class British machines enabled me to make direct comparisons with this result. The British has a dead, heavy look, as if driven against its will; the American has a live, graceful look, and appears as if it enjoyed running. The British appears as if made from inert matter; the American seems to have a nervous system. The British is stolid; the American bright. The British is prosaic; the American the poetry of mechanics. The British is pessimistic looking: The American optimistic. The British looks as if built by a Calvinist who believed in hell; the American, the creation of a Universalist. The British is noisy; the American quiet. The British looks brutal; the American refined.
The prevalence of noise and jar in British machinery is amazing, and the workmen appear entirely indifferent—so much so that you would almost suppose they liked it! It is evident that the British designer has little incentive to work for quiet-running machinery. In America quiet running is a leading characteristic, and is placed at the top in advertisements and descriptions, and adds to the selling price of the machine.
Does not this indicate an obtuseness and stolidity in the British workman, and a nervous sensibility in the American? The greatest cause of this noise in British machinery is their persistence in the antiquated system of cast gear wheels. The Americans cut the teeth, and for very large pitches cast them large and then plane all over. In one of the largest British works I talked with the engineer (“driver”) of a department, and could hardly hear him for the noise and pounding of his engine, which he did not notice in the least. I asked him if he had taken indicator cards lately, and he replied that the makers had examined “her” lately, and he supposed they took cards!
The mental attitude towards American improvements is very funny—that is, to the American. I criticized a clumsy machine, and received this crushing answer: “Who had it first?” How could a machine be improved in America if the British had it first and used it most? He spoke and the question was settled. It was stated to me with that seriousness so peculiarly British, that “We have been longer at it, and having more experience, we must be in advance of America!”
I found that this very experience was often the weak point, for it had led to conventionalities in method which stand in the way of advance. In some instances methods would become fixed in localities, and even in families, till skill appeared to become hereditary, and this state of matters was always associated with imperfect and primitive machines and tools. Thus personal skill became the most important factor, so that the employer was put more in the power of the employee. In America it is just the opposite, for machinery and methods are the most important factors, and are brought to such a high point that “any handy man” can be quickly taught.
In one instance, I was shown work being done on the slotting machine, and as it was just the work for which the vertical spindle milling machine was invented, I challenged the method; but the manager promptly informed me he had tried the miller, and “timed” it against the slotter, and the latter was ahead. No doubt about it, and while that twenty-year manager and his present force of workmen are employed, the slotter will be still ahead.
To illustrate this difference between acquired skill and automatic machinery, let us suppose a British machine works suddenly put under boycott by skilled labor; it would be practically wiped out. Now, suppose a similar condition in an American works—what would be the result? Simply that men would be taken from “laboring work,” and taught so soon that little serious delay would be suffered. In both cases I assume that manager and foremen remain.
More than this boys from farms in America have introduced some of the best improvements. Why? Because they were not taught the “proper” way, and therefore tried some original methods, and often made a hit. The young American is much given to “rigging up” some attachment to his machine, and the foreman knows enough, generally, to give him reasonable liberties, and his success is often remarkable.
In Britain he would be told to “obey orders.” This brings us to the fundamental Americanism—the recognition of the individual. In one instance which I know of, a workman attempted to have a simple improvement tried, but was told that the manager did not like such things, and that he preferred a workman to “keep his place.” He refused, and now occupies a much better place than that manager ever did. America says a man’s place is the highest he can reach honorably.
In questioning British workmen you are impressed with their stolid carelessness in answering, partly from ignorance and partly from the danger of “knowing too much for their places.” I hardly think it would be possible to make clear to an American who had not visited Britain, this peculiarity which runs through nearly all grades of society, but shows most plainly amongst workmen, viz., an indefinite and indescribable fear that something they may say or do, even inadvertently, may offend some of “their betters.”
This is in distressing contrast to the bright and easy spontaneity of the American. In Britain the workman will answer you in a short, gruff way, without lifting his head from his work, almost as if he said, “You ought to be aware that I am not supposed to know anything,” while in America he will surprise you with the knowledge he has beyond what he is doing, and he will not hesitate to stop work for a short time to explain anything you may ask about, and he is in no danger from foreman or manager by so doing, because they know that he is more efficient with this liberty than without it.
The British workman is always a “workman”; he wears practically the same clothes the year round, and they are made and advertised for “workingmen.” He goes to and comes from his work in the same clothes he works in, and rarely washes his hands or face at the works, but comes home with all the dirt of the forge or the foundry, and often takes back quite a little of it next morning.
Look at him carrying his coffee can; he does it so well that there is no hope. Note his gait—a “workman,” and for the future, still a “workman.” See his son by his side—the coffee can, the lunch, the gait, the heavy boots, the shoulders getting round, the stunted growth and prematurely wise face, the stolid expression, and you exclaim—a “workman,” hopelessly a “workman.”
He said to me, “I’m only a common workingman.” Why should he not keep his place? I talked with another about the acquisition of knowledge and rising in position; he replied, “A man can only make a living!” It took a good many generations to make these men, and it will take many to lift them up again, if it can ever be done. Does any one suppose that Americans could be bred down to this? Or, are these only possible in a community founded on the class system? Is not this the result of a social system in which a man has his place?
A brilliant woman asked me, “Why is it that an emigrant returning from a few years’ residence in America nearly always comes elevated and brightened, while from any other place he usually comes just as he left, or worse?” Simply the freedom of individualism in America. It is here that the greatest fundamental difference exists between the two countries. In Britain you may be a “green-grocer,” or a “coal-heaver”; you may be a “gentleman,” or a “prince” out of jail; but never, never a “man.” There is no escape from this.
In America the first assumption is that you are a man and a citizen without blemish, and even if you fall short of this, your neighbors will assist you upwards, for they have no interest in doing otherwise. The element of contest is left out, for you do not encroach on any one. In Britain it is just the opposite, for in rising you are always an object of suspicion, and those “above” you resent you as an intruder. Still the vile unjust class system.
Now, to come back to the pertinent question of my fair friend. If there is any good material in an emigrant (and there generally is), he will feel these things in America very soon. I say “feel,” for it is deeper and more potent than any written or spoken language. If there is even a seed of self respect in him it will develop. Not only can he rise freely; he will, in a certain sense, be pushed up, for Americans resent humility—which he will likely show a little from habit.
The American who has succeeded will act as if saying to him, “Step up here; we believe in you.” There is a charm in the recognition he receives as he climbs up, of which he knew nothing in the Old World, and he will gradually acquire that uniformity of manner which marks the American. It is hardly possible to take the Britisher’s manners seriously: now strutting around, with his nose in the air, that he may sustain his dignity amongst his “inferiors”; then doubling up quickly like a jack-knife, till his head almost touches the ground, when a real “big-bug” looms up.
I have seen a man, who, under ordinary circumstances, was almost too dignified to look at the ground, dancing around a superior like a pet dog! Under these conditions the workman does as well as could be expected, and as there are distinct signs of improvement, partly native and partly a reflex action from America, there is good hope for the future.
American Machinist – November 24, 1892
Filed under: Historical Images
“Writing a book is like driving a car at night. You only see as far as your headlights go, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
— E.L. Doctorow
I was pissfarting around with my combination square today when Megan Fitzpatrick stopped by the shop to pick up a manuscript to edit (it’s the Hayward Project, by the way). She looked curiously at the panel clamped in my face vise.
“That’s a huge sliding dovetail in this…uh, what is this thing?” she asked.
I gave her the simple answer: a table. But the real answer is something more like: The sum total of a thousand ideas about contemporary furniture design that are finally taking shape – thanks to a manuscript from the 15th century.
Let’s back up. The last six months of work have been incredibly unprofitable for me. I’ve delayed several upcoming commissions (apologies; you know who you are) and I haven’t completed a single piece of furniture to sell since December. Part of this is because I devoted big chunks of time to “Chairmaker’s Notebook” and “Virtuoso.” But I also stumbled on a bright string in the forest that has led me to design, prototype and build pieces that explore new territory for me. So commerce can wait.
The images with this entry are part of the story, but certainly not anything worth commenting on. If you think the legs are chunky, I suspect you don’t even know what you’re looking at just yet.
I hope to have this “table” prototype complete this week. Then I’ll post some finished photos and explain the piece a bit more.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Furniture of Necessity
In thinking about the hardware for this project I had more or less settled on a solution for the blade. I have a #5 ½ blade that had been sharpened so many times that it was well past its useful service life as a plane iron, but would have been suitable for this project, albeit a little wider than necessary. However, the chap who commissioned this project had a better solution. He had previously tried himself to make a Biltong Slicer, but found that he couldn’t do it. His intention was to build several of them and sell them on, and to that end he had a number of blades made up. He suggested that I use his blades instead. They are a little tarnished and the bevel has been crudely ground with and angle grinder, so they will need a little honing and polishing before they can be pressed into service, but I think they will be more suitable for the project than the plane iron.
The slicer that I was loaned at the start of this project had its blade attached at and angle to the side of the handle with two bolts – two bolts being necessary to stop the blade from swiveling away from the desired angle. My design, because it makes use of a mortise hole to house the blade, will only need one bolt to secure it and I happen to have an old saw nut, salvaged from the beat up tenon saw that I used to make the plate for my Kerfing Plane. Again, it is a bit tarnished but it should buff up nicely with a bit of elbow grease.
The tarting up will have to wait until later however. First I need to concentrate on the mortise. Using my sliding bevel, set to the correct angle, as a guide, I chopped out the mortise with my one and only mortising chisel – an old beat up specimen that just happened to be exactly the right width. Then I drilled for the saw nut; a 12mm counterbore for the heads, then 5mm from one side, 7mm from the other.
With the blade installed I turned my attention to the hinge. I have decided to use a piece of 6mm brass rod which will pass through the handle and be glued into blind holes in each upright. Then it was onto the holes for the dowel joints. Using dowel centres for accuracy, I bored 8mm holes for the hinge uprights, 3 dowels each, and 5mm holes for the chopping board, before dry fitting. Next I’ll need to cut out and refine the final shape of each component. Hey! Maybe I can use my new Turning Saw! Happy days!
Filed under: Projects Tagged: biltong slicer
Then, years later in college, I was working in the Physics...
Then, years later in college, I was working in the Physics Department at UCSD when they went from the IBM computer with its stacks of punch cards and purchased a "compact" computer. As I recall it was called a PDP 18 or something like that and cost a lot of money. It was so small it could sit on a table!
Early in 1980 I sold an old car and took the $1800 and bought a Kaypro CPM computer. I thought it was neat and spent hours typing code into its 6" green screen. When it appeared that CPM was becoming obsolete, I hoarded all the software I could find. Now that crap is in the dump.
My wife was the one who fell in love with Apple. To me it was just the producer of the Beatles records. She spent so much time at the Apple store I wondered if she was having an affair. She was, and it cost me money.
The second I touched the Mac I fell in love too. Then she gave me the phone. The rest is history.
However, when the Kaypro went away I no longer felt the need to keep up with computer code. Sometime in the 1960's I had studied Fortran but that was as useful as Latin. So, around 1990 I asked the neighbor kid to create a website for me. I gave him my ideas and some content and he posted wpatrickedwards.com. It was very cool for 1990.
I printed it on my business cards. Years passed. Nothing changed. It became an embarrassment since it was clearly old and dated. But like much of my clothes, I refused to throw it away and get something newer.
About 5 years ago I found blogspot and started my blog. It was easy and fun. I could sit down when I was inspired and post copy, photos and videos. I got a lot of satisfaction and positive feedback. I still do.
But the old website remained online and I wondered how and when I would decide to kill it.
Then Patrice started to get involved in website design and video production. We made some YouTube videos together and they were a hit. He spent long hours after work creating a replacement for my original site. I was not much of a help, as I had already decided that it was not worth it. He persisted.
Just recently he began converting my magazine articles to a pdf format. I was impressed and thought it would be great to post them on my blog. It turns out you can't do that directly. You need to link to a website which hosts the pdf files directly from the blog. Who knew?
So I got excited for the first time in 25 years about wpatrickedwards.com and helped him with a bit of copy. He was able to take down my old site and post the new one this weekend. Wow!
Please visit wpatrickedwards.com by clicking on the first link on this blog page. Look for the videos and pdf files. I think you will be impressed by what he has been able to accomplish. Except for some typos and small errors in the copy it is wonderful. Of course the typos and copy errors are because I didn't take the time to proof read it...now that's my job.
I hope you like it. You can thank Patrice for not giving up.
The design drawings are complete and I believe that I have all of the joinery elements worked out. As I said in Part 1, the joinery is fairly simple. Consisting primarily of dados and finger joints.
The overall proportional layout.
Detail sheet showing the arrangement of dados and finger joints on the end pieces.
The basic box is consists of a top panel joined to the ends with a (5) part finger joint that will be pinned with bamboo pegs. The bottom is joined to the ends with a (3) part finger joint with a slight modification. The front and rear portions of the finger joint rest in a shallow dado with only the center “finger” lapping the full thickness of the end panel. This center finger also creates the cutout that forms the feet on the ends. The bottom panel is tucked behind a simple skirt board that is lapped and pinned to the ends and glued to the edge of the bottom panel.
The center horizontal board that separates the large bottom drawer from the drawer bank above it, is installed in a stopped dado. This dado will intersect the vertical dado that retains the removable sliding panel.
The back will be made up of two or three panels. It will overlap the end panels and tuck under a rebate on the top panel. Glue and pegs will secure it into place. I’ll either ship lap the panel joints or spline them. I’m leaning towards ship lap at this point. Plywood is another option but the solid wood panels will have a better aesthetic. Especial since the edges will be exposed and this box will be seen from all angles as a matter of course.
The removable sliding panel consists of three parts. A main board, a decorative appliqué, and the top trim piece. The appliqué will simply be glued in place since the grain of it and the main board are running horizontally. There is evidence that this appliqué was pinned in place on the antique and I’m not entirely sure as to why. My guess is they were a backup to glue failure. Rice or hide glue would have been the choices for glue on the antique. Since both are subject to failure in high humidity, pegs would have ensured the pieces remained together. At any rate, I may end up adding a few bamboo pegs as well, for the same reason. The top trim piece will be glued and pegged in place.
The two pieces that form the upper drawer bank will be joined and installed in stopped dados. The stopped dado will prevent the dado from showing on the front of the assembly. This is not just cosmetic, it also serves to lock the pieces in place. With the back panels of the box installed the divider pieces will be prevented from moving to the rear and stopped dado prevents them from moving forward.
The drawers will be my normal construction. Lapped and pinned dovetails at the front and pinned finger joints at the rear. The installation of the drawer bottom I’m still undecided on. I’ll either install it in a groove or rebate it into the front then glue and peg it directly to the bottom of the assembly. How the drawers are made is inconsequential. They just need to be sturdy and function as intended.
I’m just about ready to start cutting wood for this project. All that is left is to create the full-scale shop drawing and a trip to the big box store for the lumber. Tomorrow should see the first cuts being made.
Below are pdf versions of the layout drawings.
Part 1 Greg Merritt
I find a well set up cap iron to be vital for preventing tear out. It allows me to take good thick shavings and still leave a beautifully smoothed surface, even on difficult grain. Of course this isn’t possible without a good sharp iron, so when it comes to setting the cap iron I want a method that’s straight forward and quick, I can’t be doing with anything that puts me off sharpening up when necessary.
When preparing my cap irons, as in the last video, I don’t mind spending a fair bit of time as it’s a job I’ll only have to do once. Since I have to set it on to the iron over and over, many times a day my method for this is much swifter. Give it a go, experiment to get a feel and let me know what you think.
I focus mainly on the smoothing plane but also discuss setting up on more heavy cambers.
Before I got around to playing with the table I had to finish up the new glue risers I made. I had one more stiffener to glue on and I did that. I then did some running around and errands and that gave it sufficient time to set up.
|I was curious|
|18 5/16" dowels for the bread boards|
|one of them is done|
|nightmare glue up|
|see the bow and the gap|
|the bow and the gap got worse|
Once I fixed this problem, I glued the 1/8" fillers in the saw kerfs with hide glue. I have a lot of hide glue now and it will be my go to glue from here on. I'll still use yellow glue but hide glue has been promoted to the head of the class.
|practice bread boards|
I did this setup with the grain to get these two matched. I'll do the actual practice run against the grain. This scrap I'm using is the crosscut waste from the table.
|groove is to depth|
|splitting the big tenon is next|
|what I dislike about splitting|
|the groove bottom is the planing target depth|
|used the jack to remove the bulk of the waste|
|the one bad split area on the whole tenon|
|nice and clean|
|the other side|
|doesn't look good for the home team|
|no problems planing down to the groove on this side|
|gauge line on the outside|
|my tapered end|
|gauge line still visible|
|tapered end fit|
|the other end|
|sharpening time upcoming|
|the record 073 iron|
I took a few strokes and I checked it against the square. It takes a while to sharpen because of this but at the end I had a sharp, square iron. I need this plane to clean up the bottom of the inside wall.
|shiny and sharp|
|I have to put it back on the bench|
Another helper with taking the bow out will be the bread board ends themselves. This is what they are meant to do. The cauls flattening the top are a must here before I can fit the bread board ends.
Not much done today but the practice run will pay dividends tomorrow.
How many signatures are on the Declaration of Independence?
answer - 56
I can’t really say that I like or dislike carving spoons with special knives and I suppose it has something to do with who I am as a furniture maker working in a workshop at a bench. I’ve made and sold thousands of wooden spoons and of course I’ve also taught hundreds if not thousands to make them. My methods revolve around fully dry wood and not green wood and mostly my materials come from scraps from flat boards rather than riven and split limbs. My tools are conventional woodworking tools used by different crafts. In this case the bowsaw for roughing out, the gouge for scalloping and shaping and the spokeshave for refining and truing the shape. I used a couple of card scrapers to finish of the shaping and the spoon is ready to go in about half an hour to an hour–ready to sell really.
I prefer these tools to knives mostly because they do it so well. Cherry makes a good spoon, one of the best. I used a gouge today to carve out a large cherry spoon. It takes so little time with a gouge. The great benefit is you can fully carve the spoon from fully dried wood. when wood is dry of course it’s fully hard and in about five minutes a large bowl is full carved and scalloped to almost perfect symmetry. Another advantage of course is the spoon is ready for sale and further drying is needed and there is therefore no wait time sell your spoons.
This large spoon came from the bowsaw, the spokeshave and the scraper. I like the concept of carving spoons with hook knives, but they don’t work to well on fully dried and seasoned wood like this. It’s the gouge and the spokeshave that makes the big difference. The leverage you get with the gouge means more power to you. Using a mallet or chisel hammer means the depth comes in a a minute and refinement in two or three more. Another great advantage of course is your hands are always behind the cutting edge. Perfect for getting children into spoon carving effectively, productively and all the more important, safely.
I used a wooden spokeshave for this one and cherry is a wondrous wood to work with these two tools. As I said, it’s hard, resilient, dense-grained and very lovely with its rich honey colour and swirling grain patterns. Much more lovely than many other softer hardwoods. It means that all of the scraps from my furniture making become lifetime spoons, spatulas, garlic boards and much more.
Of course as a furniture maker I am using slabbed wood and not riven and split limbs. The sections clamp well in the vise or to the bench top. I never liked sitting sown to work and have stood within two feet of a bench vise for fifty years six days a week and 8-10 hours a day on average. mUch better for your back than shaving horses I think.
The cherry when dry or green cuts very nicely with my bowsaw and so the main shape can be cut readily and then also the bulk of the waste comes away in a heartbeat. I suppose the remaining shaping comes from the spokeshave in a few more minutes work. When the wood is dry of course it is the very best. I use a 1/2” bandsaw metal cutting blade with 14 teeth per inch. These blades will cut thousands of linear feet and last me for about three years of use unless I somehow damage the blade. Not too likely. I buy a bandsaw blade and snap them to length. I get six bowsaw blades for £16 so that’s £2.60 a piece.
By Joshua Farnsworth
I’ll bet you thought I wasn’t going to finish this desk, right??? In the above video, I show how I cut a through mortise & tenon joint, in which the tenon goes all the way through an open mortise. I used this joint to construct the middle stretcher, which spans the desk legs. It offers support and a place to rest your feet.
Click here to go back to part 1, if you want to follow me as I build a historic hinged-top desk. Below you’ll find photos and the list of tools that I used to build this desk.
TOOLS THAT I USED:
Even though I have a helpful hand tool buying guide (here), I’m still often asked for a list of and links to the tools that I use in my videos, so here is a list of tools that I used in this series of video on desk building (I also included tools that I used in construction that wasn’t in the video):
- Sjoberg Elite 2500 Beech Workbench (with optional tool cabinet)
- Moravian Workbench (portable and sturdy)
- Gramercy Holdfast
- Lie-Nielsen Low Angle Rabbet Block Plane
- Lie-Nielsen No. 62 Low Angle Jack Plane
- Vintage Stanley No. 71 Router Plane
- Lie-Nielsen No. 73 Large Shoulder Plane
- Vintage Stanley No. 4-1/2 Smoothing Plane
- Vintage Beading Plane
- Vintage Wooden screw arm Plow plane
- Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw
- Lie-Nielsen’s thin plate 16″ Tenon Rip Saw
- Lie-Nielsen cross cut back saw
- Vintage Millers Falls Miter box and miter saw
- Robert Larson Coping Saw
MARKING & MEASURING:
- Starrett 6-inch combination square
- Vintage metal try square
- Vintage sliding bevel square
- Vintage Starrett Dividers / Compasses
- Veritas Wheel Marking Gauge or Veritas Dual Wheel Marking Gauge
- Lie-Nielsen panel gauge
- Wooden Straight Edge
- Vintage Stanley No. 62 Folding Rules (24″)
- Marking knife (chip carving knife)
- Staedtler Mars 780 Technical Mechanical Pencil
MALLETS & HAMMERS:
CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO SEE ALL THE FOLLOWING VIDEOS OF THIS DESK CONSTRUCTION!
Here are some photos from the previous steps: