Like the hair on the heads of most of my co-workers, or a fine strand of gossamer, or perhaps the skin of many woodworking writers, my time spent woodworking lately has been very thin. Why? First off, I just haven’t felt all that great to be honest. I’m hoping it’s nothing, but in any event it was enough to keep me grounded for a week or so. Secondly, with the Easter holiday just passing we had a fairly busy week around the house, not only visiting our relatives, but also having much of the family over visiting us. Still, I did manage to get some work done on my plant stand here and there on Saturday morning, and at that I got a good amount accomplished.
Last week I had milled the stock and finished the top, so next on the agenda was chopping the mortises, and I decided to chop out the mortises for the bottom stretchers first. It’s been months since I chopped any mortises, so I felt that starting at the least visible portion would be the smart thing to do. Each leg has two ¼” mortises, which are intersecting. Intersecting mortises are theoretically easier to chop by hand because if you chop them plumb and square, you automatically will have a flat bottom for each side by virtue of the intersection. The job wasn’t difficult; I had sharpened my mortising chisel last week so it was fully ready to go, and the Fir legs of the soon to be plant stand work easy enough. I didn’t use a mortising machine because I don’t own one and I never really had the desire to, though in this case I wouldn’t have minded. It took around an hour of work to get the bottom eight mortises finished, along with the fine tuning done with a regular chisel. I guess I could have used the router table, but they don’t do all that great a job with mortising in my opinion. I don’t enjoy repeatedly adjusting the depth of cut as there’s just too much room for error.
Rather than continue in a logical sequence and chop out the top mortises, I decided to fit the tenons for the bottom stretchers instead. At first, I used the shoulder plane, but found that a sharp skew chisel and a bench hook did a much better job. I own two skew chisels, ½” Narex LH and RH. Though I don’t care for the bulky handles all that much, they sharpen nicely and hold a good edge. I think I paid $20 for the pair and they were well worth it. To fit the tenons I took a light pass on the “face side”-meaning the side of the tenons on the visible portion of the stretcher, but I did the bulk of the work on the inside portion of the tenon. I learned that if you are going to make a mistake fitting a tenon, it’s best to do it on the “inside” portion. The job didn’t take long, less than an hour, and I had all eight tenons fitted. Only one tenon, the back right, had a shoulder which was a little off kilter, meaning it had a minor gap. It doesn’t matter though, as it will be covered by the bottom shelf and will be completely invisible.
The last woodworking act of the day was sawing the miters on the edge of each tenon. I used the table saw for that job, as it was faster and more accurate. Once the miters were sawn I did another test fit, and found that the tenons were a hair long. To fix that problem I used the jack plane and bench hook to “shoot” the ends of the miters just enough to nibble off the ends a hair. Strangely enough, I had just mentioned to another woodworker that I very rarely “shoot” boards. Once I had finished that little task I did a final test fit using clamps. The shoulders closed up nicely, but I very well may use dowels to reinforce the joint once it’s together; I’m thinking one 3/8” dowel on each tenon should do the trick.
I’m going to estimate that chopping the mortises for the top and fitting the tenons should also take roughly two hours. After that, I will begin the arduous task of planing and sanding the stand. I am planning on beading the stretchers after the sanding is completed. I’m still on the fence with beading the corners of the legs, though I am 95% sure that I will stick to the bead. I’m thinking that a larger bead may be in order, 3/8″ rather than 1/4″, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it, but the toll for the crossing may be the first new router bit I’ve purchased since before I started woodworking.
Tools are meant to be used by humans. I think that we learned to think by using them. By using tools, our hands made a connection to our brains and then our curiosity gene dove in and our minds grew because of this. We discovered so much about the world poking about in it with our hands. And by using the power of the wedge, we learned to do all sorts of things from carving to cleaving to sawing and planing.
Discover the skills you possess by using your hands to create something wonderful with us in the Studio. Next week we’ll start four weeks of the Hand Tool Shop. Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm each day, each week we’ll concentrate on different hand tool skills and different projects. It was a blast last year. Come join us for one week or take all four for a discounted tuition. Make the connection.
In the meantime, the cabinet just languished. One of the pulls I hastily made for it broke, and I was not motivated to fix it. Well, I have been in the mood to tie up loose ends lately, so I finally adjusted it.
There is nothing I can do about the carcase being misshapen, short of rebuilding it. I did, however, disassemble it and plane it enough so that it opened and closed sweetly. I built a new latch and pulls for the front, and outfitted the shelves with a lip to help secure the contents. I created and installed a little pull for the maple drawer face, and I built a shelf for the whole thing to sit on.
The dark wedge-shaped shadow on the top right shows clearly how out of square it is.
Part of me wanted to treat it like a Japanese ceramic student... to destroy the botched item and move on to the next one. However, I instead mounted it next to my bed to serve as a reminder every day that I need to work at my work. Besides, its still perfectly serviceable.
One of my frivolous pursuits is that of incense and, in particular, tree resins. As these can be pretty pricy, I tend to buy the smallest sample quantities available. I have quite a little pile of myrrhs, copals, frankinsenses, sandalwoods, and other aromatic resins.
Given the spirit of the original chest is to organize tinctures, herbs, and medical paraphernalia, an incense cabinet seemed a fitting purpose.
The inside offers plenty of storage space, and was designed around a module of some glass apothecary jars I purchased. These will serve to hold the various treasures. The narrow slots on the sides of the center section are perfect for the tongs, scoops, and other implements used when melting aromatic saps. My electric incense heater sits comfortably atop the cabinet.
Much nicer than the shoebox I was using before, imperfect as it is.
Soon, back to making new things.
Meet Elia Bizzari, Windsor chairmaker and prolific instructor. He teaches both online and at woodworking studios throughout the country. He will be teaching two classes for us this summer, the Continuous Arm Windsor Chair and the Sack Back Windsor Chair.
About Elia: Considered by some to be a chair-making wunderkind, Elia had his own hand tools at age 10 and wood shop at age 15. Early on, he trained under master crafstman Curtis Buchanan (who still outsources some of his work to Elia) and has worked extensively with PBS woodworking superstar Roy Underhill. Elia has also trained with John Alexander, Drew Langsner, Dave Sawyer, and the carpenters at Colonial Williamsburg. He is now, somewhat of a celebrity himself in the world of woodworking.
This summer we have the privilege of offering two Windsor chair classes taught by Elia. Here’s an unsolicited testimonial from a student who took Elia’s class last year:
“I sincerely hope that woodworkers in the Pacific Northwest avail themselves of this opportunity to take a great class from a very good woodworker and teacher. I participated in the Continuous Arm Windsor Chair class last summer. This was the 4th chairmaking class that I have taken. I reside in the metro-Phoenix area and willingly travel considerable distances to provide myself the opportunity to learn technique and create personal treasures…
Pacific Northwest woodworkers should be extremely grateful that the Northwest Woodworking Studio is providing such offerings that gives them the opportunity to learn from well known chair makers and not having to leave their local area.”
R. Simmons, Phoenix, AZ
Elia at Work:
Source: News Observer, Windsor Chair Man
I know you have mentioned that jointer planes aren’t needed much anymore due to milling being done by machines, however I have read some blogs where you mentioned how you like your Veritas low-angle jointer plane. Can you explain what you like about it vs a standard bevel-down no 7 Stanley?
To prepare for this answer we worked with several bench planes including a wooden jack and several metal jacks by various makers. The effort was well worth it and some might be surprised by the results which were very telling indeed. I enjoyed the challenge of working with different planes and working with the film crew to produce a half hour video showing the results of working the different planes in 1 1/4″ wide white oak.
Below you see a wooden jack, a Veritas bevel-up low-angle jack and several Bailey-pattern jacks by different makers, planes we used throughout our filming session and experimental research
My background for working hand planes on wood.
There are not many joiners and furniture makers left that come from a background of using hand planes and hand tools as part of their daily work. I mean those who walk to their workbenches, around them and work at them for 8 or more hours a say 6 days a week and start their daily work by picking up a plane or a chisel and start making something with these tools. That’s how my work always starts and it finishes by putting them down after 8-9 hours using them, even now after 50 years. I mill my wood once, maybe twice a week using machines for no more than an hour tops, if that. The rest, all joinery, shaping wood, surface planing, trimming and fitting of parts, is hand work. In most cases woodworkers like carpenters, joiners and furniture makers since the 1960s shifted from different types of hand work to reliance on mechanised production using machines of some type to a greater or lesser degree. Today these methods are generally known as power tool methods meaning they use large and small-scale machines of one type or another. Generally, what they make is machined components that they then fit and assemble and sand with any one of many different sander types ranging from drum, stroke or strafing sanders to detail and random orbit sanders and of course the ubiquitous belt sander in all its many diverse forms. The men I trained under as an apprentice never used machine sanders on their individual work but used standard smoothing planes made by different makers and #78 and #20 rebate planes to clean off the machine marks left by the planing machines and spindle moulders. Rarely did they ever use anything longer than a #4 1/2 and #4 smoother because all stock was roughed out of 3-4″ thick beams 8-12″ wide and 12′ long taken from stacks of a hundred there in the lean-to buildings outside the workshop. Subsequently they dimensioned and shaped the parts on different machines. All of our work was always in house. Hand work seemed to me to diminish in most workshops over the ensuing years and so after my journeyman years I decided to stay more with hand work and not pursue the machine-only set up. I still have no regrets in choosing that route.
Machines have gained ground through the decades, primarily because of the ease they bring to woodworking in dimensioning and machining stock, but also because they require minimal skill. The result since the 60′s of course is that we have seen the demise of tool making companies like Record and Stanley and several others who were once known for the production of all types of planes. To replace them we have seen new companies emerge and develop their own ideas. Companies like Lie Nielsen in the USA, Quang Sheng in China and Clifton from England all of whom now present their repro models of the old Bed Rock versions of the Stanley Bed Rock and Veritas on the other hand who came up with its own innovative alternatives to challenge the status quo. The interest and subsequent resurgent interest in hand tools caused many to reconsider using planes originally conceptualised in the 1700s that were gradually abandoned through the 1800s and left us void until just two decades ago. Heavy-bodied, low-angle planes used mostly by British cabinet makers of that period were preferred as mitre planes for perfecting mitres and cross grain cuts anywhere between 90-degrees and shallow slopes. These planes were mostly short-soled planes the length of a smoother but sometimes a little longer; most often in the form of shorter planes referred to as block planes. The common maker of the USA was of course Stanley Rule and Level who aggressively defended its turf by buying up as many oppositional plane making companies as possible. Stanley was also based here in the UK’s Sheffield factory, with only a short distance between itself and the Record factories. The older long established and highly respected companies manufacturing different plane types ranging from moulding planes to wooden ploughs and low angle planes then known as chariot planes and mitre planes also lived in what was recognised as the steel and tool making capital of Britain.
In the last two decades we have seen the bevel-up planes repopularised with added developments and finer adjustment mechanisms that many have come to admire. The fact that they are well engineered however doesn’t always mean that they tackle the grain we work any better or any differently than the planes of old or indeed that they are much if any better at planing wood than bevel down planes, even with thin irons. And here in lies my answer to the question. Bevel-up, long or short planes have a place of limitation in the arsenal of planes. For bevel-up planes to work as shown by tool sellers at shows they must be pristinely sharp. That’s a must and it’s not hard to achieve and maintain at a show. It’s the same at the workbench for real woodworkers too. In my view the type of edge sharpness I need at the bench for a bevel-up bench plane to work effectively AND efficiently is the same for a bevel-down plane, but if a bevel-up plane is going to go wrong in the grain it often goes very wrong big time. More so than the bevel-down planes for reasons of physics. When a bevel-up plane begins to tear out the grain it can and indeed does rip the grain out at the very root mercilessly and not rarely but commonly. Unfortunately, at shows, where salesmen sell planes, they never show this plane reality even though this is the reality of why bevel-up planes differ from bevel-downs and why they never replaced the bevel-down planes through the centuries or came anywhere close to them. Now then, that said and out of the way, the reason I do like them some of the time is for the relatively restricted practice of low-angle work, edge-grain work and jointing boards for lamination. I find that it is practical to keep these planes available and sharp and dedicated to end and edge-grain work. I have found the Veritas bevel-up range of planes from the tiny apron planes and block planes to the long jacks and jointers unparalleled if so dedicated. When I am jointing edges for tabletops, I work between bevel-ups and bevel-downs equally. I admit to the purest of joys of using a new and pristinely sharpened bevel-up Veritas jack plane across the end of any hardwood you might care to name. But I reserve the same for my I Sorby 5 1/2 and my Scottish Panel plane too. A fine and marginal difference does exist when using a low-angle bevel-up plane because of the inline point of thrust that centralises the pressure on the cutting edge of the blade. This then serves to more equalise the pressure above and below underside and top of the bevel with a mass of steel behind the very edge. In bench tests this week we tested out the two plane types of standard bevel up and bevel-down planes in the 5 and 5 1/2 jack sizes. Whereas the physics of a low angle presentation with a thick iron in a straight-soled heavy plane might be deemed to make a large difference in finding the sweet spot of planing end grain and such, we found that if there is a difference we couldn’t discern sufficient significant difference. In our testing we found the bevel-down plane actually felt lighter in the cut on or along the grain and could discern no difference in quality of cut or shaving. We sharpened both plane types to equal standards and set both planes to remove the same thickness of shaving; generally one thousandth of an inch. We have found the bevel-up planes work well on cross-grain cutting but again not substantially different than the bevel-down plane and certainly we have not found planing along the grain produces any improved difference at all but that bevel-up planes seem often highly problematic in general and especially wherever we encounter reverse direction in the grain that rips when the angle of the blade presentation on the low bedded angle is commensurate to the angle of the grain undulating and rising periodically to match that of the bed of the plane.
We also checked the angle of presentation of the cutting iron the wood in different plane types and makers and found them to be within 2-degrees of consistency somewhere around 45-degrees.
I think my comments in my videos are the result of picking up a well maintained and extremely sharp plane to tackle what is traditionally a difficult task when edge joining or end planing grain. My workhorse planes are bevel-down planes that may or may not have been sharpened at the point of my changing one plane for another. Had I sharpened my regular bench plane and picked it up afresh from sharpening and used it after a used bevel-up plane I would most likely have felt the same thing, which is what we felt in our experiments in this video.
I feel we were trying to test out the planes non scientifically but honestly and the results were very real. It wasn’t only my opinion either. Both Phil and John felt the same as I did when they took the two plane types and put them to the test. We used three #5s, a Stanley, an I Sorby and a Woden and two #5 1/2s, a Record and a Stanley. They all performed equally well. I felt my I Sorby planes both performed best, but only marginally better than the Stanley #5, which matched the Veritas Jack in performance.
Tomorrow we will be showing the video of our findings for you to watch.
The post Questions Answered – Why Bevel-up, Bevel-down, Low-angle, High-angled Planes are Equal to Task appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.
I had the good luck of being invited to set up at Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events®. I will be at two of them in the next several weeks. As much work as these shows are to do, I always enjoy getting out to talk tools and woodworking.
My first Hand Tool Event® will be at Peters Valley Craft Lumber in Layton, NJ on Saturday, April 26. While the fulle show is scheduled for both Friday and Saturday, previous committments allow me to be there on Saturday only. Full details for this event are posted on the Lie-Nielsen website.
Friday & Saturday, April 25-26
10:00 – 6:00 (Friday), 10:00 – 5:00 (Saturday)
The second Hand Tool Event® will be held at Exotic Lumber in Frederick, MD on Friday and Saturday, May 2 and 3. I will be set up there on both days. Full details for this event are posted on the Lie-Nielsen website.
Friday & Saturday, May 2-3
10:00 – 6:00 (Friday), 10:00 – 5:00 (Saturday)
Remember, the admission to these events is free, and you will have a chance to play with a lot of beautiful tools, as well as talk to other people who share your passion for them. Hope to see a few of you there!
I've just finished my latest batch of hammers and you'll notice a few intruders!
I made up a dozen in lovely black line English walnut, it's wonderful stuff. They are the same price as the rippled ash £32, they won't be going on the website, so first come first served!
The walnut came from a friend of mine who specialises (bordering on obsession) in English walnut. See his website http://www.primetimber.co.uk/news/
Below is cabinet I made from a selection of top grade woods from Andy, all cut from the solid.
In today’s episode we’re moving along on the bathroom cabinet by constructing all three doors. The two on top and the flip down version below.
All three are a form of frame and panel construction, but the biggest difference is in how I chose to assemble them. For the two larger doors up top, the panel is actually 3/4” plywood glued to the stiles creating one large piece.
Then for the flip-down door I used a more “traditional” construction technique and turned to a rail and stile router bit set to create the joinery.
Once all the doors were constructed, we also need to drill the holes that will make up the adjustable shelving system behind the two doors on top.
Hi Wilbur, I have 3 Japanese chisels now that I have set up more or less per instructions on the internet. One thing I can't figure out though is the reason that the back of the chisel should be flattened with a flat metal plate and polishing powder...
The downside of using a waterstone for the initial working the back of a chisel (or plane blade, for that matter) is that this is a task that is usually done by a coarser (less than 1000 grit) waterstone. Overall, coarser waterstones dish more quickly than finer grit waterstones, and so you run the risk of putting a slightly convex surface on the back of your chisel.
The flat steel plate and powder method has the advantage of the flat steel plate remaining, well, flat in use. The disadvantage is that it tends to be a messier process, since the powder tends to roll off the plate, and has to be refreshed every so often. Having said this, I should mention that I haven’t used this method very much, but I do have alternative ways of working the back of a chisel.
For me, if I need to flatten the back of a chisel or plane blade, if a 1000 grit waterstone isn’t working fast enough, I’ll use either my Atoma diamond plate that I use for flattening waterstones, or 80 grit Norton 3X sandpaper on a granite plate.
If you’re getting decent results with your waterstones, there’s no need to get the flat steel plate and powder. If you are not happy with the results you’re getting, then I would look into it.
VIDEO 14/15 of Joshua Farnsworth’s free hand cut dovetail video series shows how to join the pin boards to the tail boards to form the complete dovetail box.
This is a very detailed tutorial designed to teach beginners how to become expert at dovetailing by hand. It is offered as a free resource to encourage the revival of traditional woodworking.
This detailed video series was inspired by a 5 day class that I took from Roy Underhill and Bill Anderson: world-renowned experts on traditional woodworking with hand tools.
Which traditional hand tools should you buy?
If you need advice on which hand tools to buy (and not buy), then definitely read my 13 category buying guide article: “Which Hand Tools Do You need for Traditional Woodworking?”
Shortcuts to Dovetail Videos 1-15:
- Part 1: “Arrange the Boards & Mark the Reference Faces”
- Part 2: “Square the Board Ends”
- Part 3: “Prepare the Layout”
- Part 4: “Lay out the Half Pins”
- Part 5: “Layout the Tails”
- Part 6: “Mark the Tail Angles”
- Part 7: “Cut the Tails”
- Part 8: “Remove the Tail Waste”
- Part 9: “Clean the Tails”
- Part 10: “Layout the Pins”
- Part 11: “Cut the Pins”
- Part 12: “Remove the Pin Waste”
- Part 13: “Clean the Pins”
- Part 14: “Join the Pins & Tails”
- Part 15: “Glue & Clamp the Dovetails”
I criticized a carpenter working for me recently for using dull tools. He excused himself by saying that he had been too busy to sharpen them. He had been working for weeks with a dull saw, and with a plane which had notches in it, leaving ugly ridges on the boards he was planing.
He had probably wasted more time in working with dull tools than would have been required to sharpen them several times, to say nothing of the inferior work he was turning out.
There are multitudes of people who never do good work because they never prepare for it, never put themselves in a position to do good work—they never sharpened their tools; never trained themselves for it, and they go through life botching their jobs…
Orison Swett Marden
North Judson News – December 24, 1914
Filed under: Historical Images
A tall pine-tree had been cut down in the forest, and dragged away to a back yard, where it now lay chopped into blocks of wood for fuel, piled up on the top of one another. Near the yard, on the other side of the hedge, was a garden with a green lawn, and out amidst the foliage there peeped forth a charming villa, where a family from the neighbouring town were wont, during the summer months, to come to live, and inhale the balmy air and bask in the country sunshine.
During the long, dreary spring the wooden logs had plenty of time to reflect on their future, but the majority of them were agreed that there was not much to reflect upon, for the fate of a log of firewood was once for all decided, and could not be altered.
“We are not good for anything else but to be chopped up into little chips, and consumed in the large fire-place,” one of the blocks of wood said to the others.
“It is, alas! our pre-ordained destiny,” sighed another.
“We, the offspring of the forest, cannot attempt anything nobler than to become fire and flames, and to boil the pot,” added a third.
But one of the little blocks that was without either flaws or cracks, and which was lying there by itself, so white and pretty, could not agree in its mind that it would not become anything better than charcoal and cinders; and when it heard the disconsolate talking of its comrades, the little white block begged to differ: “Who knows what one is good for!”
But the others considered that it only spoke in pride, and said, “We shall meet again—in the fire-place.”
The guests from the town arrived at the villa. A journeyman threw down the pieces of wood from the big pile, he sawed and cut them into little pieces, preparing one log after another for the fire-place.
“Kneech, krasch!” said the logs as they were being chopped into little bits; and when the servant girl carried them into the kitchen, they all whispered to the little white log, “It will be your turn next.”
One day the owner came into the back yard, and had his little son with him.
“Now we will knock them with the axe, and hear by the ring whether there is a good piece of timber among them,” said the father, and hammered away on one piece of wood after another.
“No good, no good, only to burn!” all the blocks answered. But soon he came to the little white log, and it had quite another sound.
“Knock on, knock on, fit for anything!” it chimed in the wood.
“There we have one with a good ring in it. Let us take that one,” said the father; and he commenced at once chopping large chips from the log, both before and behind, and on both the sides.
“I shall burn as I am, entire, but you will be chopped into contemptible sticks,” said a crooked twisted bit of a branch with spite. But though its fibres were terribly cut every time the axe fell, still the little white log thought, “One must be shaped and formed before one can be fit for anything in this world.”
And, after every cut from the axe, the form of the log became more spruce and handsome. From a log it was soon formed into the shape of a ship’s hull, and carried away to the carpenter’s workshop, and with a screw affixed to the carpenter’s bench, to suffer more pains in the clutches of various tools.
“She will be a fine clipper,” said little Harry, with delight, when after a couple of days he came into the carpenter’s shop, and saw how the uncouth log gradually had been transformed into a trim little boat, with smart prow, deck and mast.
“I know now what will become of me,” thought the little boat with feelings of exultation, and was quite impatient to be let loose from the screw of the carpenter’s bench, and to be launched out on the limpid waters.
And soon it was completely rigged, the shrouds reaching from the top of the mast down both sides, and out on the bowsprit in perfect fashion.
“There is still something very important wanting, before I can proceed out on the watery main of my own accord,” said the boat.
Then the sails were hoisted, white and flapping. “These are my wings,” it thought; “but still I want something more.”
And then the rudder was affixed, for without that the boat would have been helpless, and not able to steer a right course. “Now I feel myself safe; now I long to leap along the crested billows,” said the eager little ship.
And young Harry took her in his arms and carried her to the creek. His father accompanied him, and all, big people and little folks, whom they met on the road turned and went with them to the shore to see the little boat sail across the tiny bay.
Amid exulting shouts and cheers, the little boat was launched. The wind swelled the sails, and, as if it were a swan, it was borne along the waves, now raised aloft on their surging crests, now descending their foaming valleys. The water glittered in the sunlight; the foliage of the green trees mirrored itself in the serene waters on the side of the creek from which the gentle wind came, and where the waters were unrippled.
“Such happiness I never dreamt of!” thought the boat, and listened with delight to the praise bestowed upon her by all for being so trim and smart.
“See how she dances on the waves—my pretty yacht!” exulted little Harry.
“A regular clipper!” said the father, and then smiled.
“She seems as if she were almost a living being!” said one of the lookers-on.
And the little skiff almost jumped along the billows for very joy to hear these praises; but suddenly she stopped—thought a moment—turned, and steered towards land.
“Right you are, you little skiff, sweep along the shore again; we have forgotten the most important thing of all,” said Harry’s father.
And the boat landed again. A tiny piece of blue silk with a yellow cross was hoisted to the mainsail. It was the Swedish flag!
“Now at last you are fully equipped,” said the father; and louder and lustier rose the cheering of the onlookers as the tiny schooner sailed afresh across the bay, and the flag waved in the wind.
“The blue flag with golden cross speaks of the blue sky and the golden sun that shed their lustre over the country of my birth!” exulted the little boat, and felt her heart beat with joy that she had believed in her true calling from the very first, until now at last it had come to pass that she had emerged from her obscure and lonely sphere to become admired and loved, and carry the Swedish flag to honour and glory.
From the Swedish of Richard Gustafsson
(Translated by Albert Albert)
Chit-Chat by Puck:
Tea-Time Tales for Young Little Folks and Young Old Folks – 1880
Filed under: Historical Images
Two Guys In A Garage Tool Works is a pair of guys who happened upon a supply of spring steel scraps and, being woodworkers who loved hand tools, they hated to see the “scraps” going to waste - came upon the idea of re-purposing the steel into usable tools for the hand-tool crowd. Card scrapers, specifically...
As time has gone on, they've branched out into supplying spring steel plates for those who want to make their own hand saws, first supplying plates for stair saws then later expanding to larger saws and also saw-tooth pattern plates. Their plates come now with teeth pre-punched in a wide range of PPI and are ready for sharpening and setting.
I've linked to their web site before - Dom maintains an excellent library of saw handle templates online free for everyone to use. I see they have also added brass split nuts and screws to their list of available products, which means they are only lacking one thing for all of the metal parts of a saw - the back!
It would seem they are now ready to remedy that. Recently I was fortunate enough to be on a list of folks sent prototypes of their folded backs to evaluate and provide feedback. I am honored they would choose me as one to look at them. Here's what arrived:
Two of their prototype backs, and two 3" x 12" dovetail saw plates. The sawplates have teeth stamped out at 13 PPI ready for sharpening and setting. The teeth are wholly consistent, straight, and with a good rake angle for getting you started,
Using one of Dom's templates, a pair of their split nuts, some wood and one of their handle templates (or make your own) you have everything you need to make your own backsaw.
For my part of the review, I’m to look at the quality of the folded back prototype to see if I can help out with any suggestions or comments. I thought hard about how best to approach it... I have a couple dozen different brands of backsaw to choose from, here you can see the three saws I chose to compare their new offering against that I feel are good examples of the types of back they are trying to emulate in one fashion or another.
From the top to bottom they include a post war 10" Disston, a John Cockerill from around the turn of the last century, and a fairly recent Bad Axe saw with a blued steel back. Side by side with the TGIAG backs on the lower left, here's an end view of all:
In shape, the TGIAG back is most similar to the post war Disston, while in size it is similar to both the Cockerill and the Bad Axe. The latter is fully folded and pressed flat, while the former (both the Disston and Cockerill) are more "ankh" shaped and hold the saw plate primarily along its edge. It's debatable as to which way is better, though my thoughts tend more preferring the "ankh" shape. Having the blade held in a "pinched" back I believe allows for less slippage and a more firm grasp of the plate than the other method.
There are two difficulties with that shape you should be aware of. The first is fitting the back into the handles rebate for it - as the shape is not square, you may need to accommodate for it, depending on the design of the handle and how far the back fits into that rebate, as seen here in a saw I was making some years ago.
That back is pressed flat so has a consistent width along its entire depth. It's not an issue if it isn't - it's just something to be aware of when making your saw. An industrious soul might grind the length of the back so it is flat along its length. It’s my understanding they are working with their machinist on flattening the profile (to straighten the slightly “bulbous” shape to something more evenly shaped for their upcoming offerings. IMO that is the only detractor to their prototype, and it’s a small one, in my opinion.
The other thing to be are of probably isn't going to affect anyone who wants to make their own saw, but the shape is such that any stamp made into the metal would deform the back and make it unusable. It's for this reason that I chose the flat-folded method in the backs I made.
For how well the TGIAG back is made... Made from .090" steel, it was straight and consistent along its entire length, and the blade fit snugly into place. Removing the blade from the back was difficult, but not impossible - which is just as it should be. The edges are smooth, no rough spots. Dom informed me they were looking into using smaller shims to make the gap even tighter, but I don’t believe it to be necessary.
The thickness of the post war Disston steel back was thicker than the TGIAG, the other two were approximately the same. On other saws, the .090" would be about average - some thicker, some thinner, but the thickness Dom & Company has chosen is a good one, in my opinion. For a finish, it would be nothing to buff up the steel to a mirror shine - another option would be to blue the steel, or just to leave it as it is. There is also talk of them adding stainless and brass backs as well - we can only hope, but these are an excellent start.
Conclusions: These are a good deal if making your own hand saw is something you are interested in. Let me explain.
A quick re-cap may be in order... As readers may remember, I made scores of hand saws for time a few years back. At the time, there were no places to get the parts, and there were only a couple of custom sawmakers in the trade (and they weren't sharing). I was moderately successful and very proud of what I accomplished - but I lacked the real resources I needed to bring the level of quality to where I wanted without a large amount of effort. Make no mistake, it was a great learning project for me, and I did get OK at making the saws - but it took quite a bit of practice to get there.
I started off by recycling and re-using the steel from old handsaws, then later used new spring steel like the kind TGIAG is now selling. I tried making my own split nuts using just tools available in my woodworking shop (I'm no machinist). The backs I folded myself using a homemade metal brake I made out of angle iron and door hinges.
Fast forward a few years. Now there are several "boutique" sawmakers on the market, and there are a few that sell sawmaking "kits", but you are pretty much limited to a kit that is a copy of a particular saw they sell. Dom and TGIAG, with the addition of a folded back, open up a full range of possibilities to the amateur sawmaker previously unavailable. Virtually any configuration you want and you won't need a mill to cut a slot in the back nor a fancy (or not-so) homemade brake to bend the back. The hard work is done and at a reasonable cost (they haven’t set a final price for their backs yet but if they follow their current levels it should remain a good deal), even when compared to other saw kits available on the market.
The folded saw backs from Two Guys In A Garage are not available publicly yet, but Dom assures me it will be soon. Keep an eye on their website for more information, and for other products they currently offer.
Have fun building yourself a custom saw!
Norse Woodsmith saws photo courtesy Cian Perez
Andres Segovia, Segovia, 1976
Much is written in guitar making books and journals about proper neck angle of a guitar, I won't delve into it here, because others have done a better job writing about it than I could.
I make my guitars in the style suggested by a 2004 Guild of American Luthiers lecture given by Eugene Clark. Part of that process is that I keep the neck and the heel block on the same plane, you draw a line along the neck in will intersect with the top at the heel block.
The top is domed in the area of the bridge. This doming adds the proper amount of "neck angle", so to speak.
In the above photo I have a 1mm thick piece of steel at the location of the first fret. 1mm represents the height of the string at that fret.
There is a 10mm thick piece of wood at the bridge location, which represents the string height at that location.
I put a 2mm thick piece at the 12th fret, I am looking for 4mm clearance between that and the straight edge.
I got it and the only sanding that I needed to do on the fret board was to level it.
Once the fret board was installed and fretted I started that wonderful task known as sanding. And sanding and sanding.
And filling in any gaps.
Then I can start laying down a wash coat of shellac.
When I first started learning how to French polish, I used a 2 pound cut of shellac. I had read that Cyndy Burton used a 2 pound so I figured I could too.
I have tried 1 1/2 pound cut and a 1 pound cut, but I have gone back to a 2 pound cut because of how quickly it builds up and for some reason it is easier for me to use.
Now that I am back at my "regular day job", I will have to make time to finish this beautiful guitar.
I don't remember when I bought the top, I think I bought it from Alaska Specialty Woods back in 2008 or 2009, it is Sitka spruce and has some wonderful characteristics to it, more show up as I put on the shellac.
I call this guitar, Novia, which is "sweetheart" in Spanish.
Enjoy the YouTube videos!
One of my favorite performers, Scott Tennant, plays one of my favorite Couperin keyboard works.
I added Rod MacKillop because I was asked recently by a client if I could make a baroque guitar.
I can, by the way.
Some of you may recognize the piece MacKillop is playing, Joaquin Rodrigo used this melody in Fantasia para un gentilhombre.
Happy Easter from Giant Cypress and the nuns at Ladywell Convent.
The old Rockwell lathe above is my second lathe. It has served me well for some years, but it had some issues. I have turned many a knob and chisel handle on this old machine. Because of it’s weaknesses when some shop money became available I decided to sell it and buy a new one.
After doing some research I settled on the new Jet 1221 with the stand. I gave up some length between centers but got a lot more machine. It is heavier and more robust and on the stand it is much more solid than the old Rockwell. It has variable speed. A feature that I really like. It is so quiet in operation that I can actually hear the tool cutting which is great feedback as to how the tool is working.
Though I did loose more than a foot of length between centers if I do get to turning furniture legs I can add a bed extension and a base extension and have more length than I gave up.
My only complaint is the soft start feature. I’m not a patient guy. When I turn the spindle on I don’t want to wait for it to get up to speed. This, however is a minor drawback I will learn to live with.
Overall the Jet is a great machine and I have no regrets on it’s purchase. Highly recommended.
As always, thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a comment.
The Society of American Period Furniture Makers has a new chapter catering to eastern Virginia and North Carolina.
First of all, a special thanks to Bill Caillet and the folks at the Norfolk Woodcraft for their hospitality and letting SAPFM use their classroom space. Also, getting woodworkers out of the shop can be a Herculean task, but thanks to Roger Hall, we had over 30 people.
Roger Hall opens the meeting.
Kaare Loftheim answers questions about the Benjamin Seaton Tool Chest. In the background to the left you can see the full chest with saw till. The chest is on permanent display in the Hay shop and if you’re interested, Jane Rees’ book on the Seaton tool chest can be purchased through The Tools and Trades History Society, www.taths.org.uk.
Ben Hobbs of Hertford, North Carolina and the 2011 Cartouche Award winner brought 2 chairs. He discussed the process of measuring a chair and important measurements used to build templates. Mr. Hobbs has a bespoke furniture business and conducts workshops at his shop in North Carolina on building these chairs, hobbsfurniture.com
Kaare and I brought a van full of furniture made by the Hay shop over the years. I’m showing a drawer pulled from the Gentlemen’s writing Desk from the Hay shop wareroom.
Ray Journigan demonstrates the layout for a flame finial that sits atop a tall case clock he’s built. Ray also discussed the process of carving a swan neck pediment and matching it to the side molding. Ray teaches classes on these subjects at the Woodcraft in Norfolk.
Shawn Nystrom brought in his 19th century cabinetmaker’s tool chest complete with tools. It proved these things were not lightweight and portable. Forgive the comparison, but it was like a circus clown car. Tools kept coming out of this box. In the photo to the left, there are 4 trays packed with drill bits, chisels and small hand tools.
The mission of SAPFM is to pursue the following goals:
- To create a forum for the understanding, education, and appreciation of American period furniture.
- To develop and encourage the use of standards and ethical practices in the reproduction and conservation of period furniture
- To offer membership to all with an interest in period furniture
- To assist members with the identification and location of resources including people or organizations having specialized expertise
- To conduct public exhibitions for the recognition of members’ work.
If you’re interested in information on SAPFM, goto their webpage: www.SAPFM.org