I had planned on doing that at one point, until I was fortunate and lucky enough for this to happen.
The classical guitar tuning machines slide into three holes bored through each side of the headstock. The holes need to be perfectly spaced for the tuning machines to slide into the headstock properly. I was nervous about this step since drilling six 10mm holes straight through the side of the headstock seemed like quite a dramatic thing to do.
After carefully marking the centre each hole I got ready to drill. I clamped the headstock to a guide, ensuring that the drill press would squarely enter the side of the headstock.
The first hole seemed to go fine. When I started to drill the second hole, disaster struck. The drill veered off course and damaged the wood. I turned off the drill and noticed that there was a worse problem: the first hole was at least a millimetre away from where it should have been. Panic!
After falsely blaming the drill bit I noticed that I hadn’t fastened the drill press properly, causing the drill to swivel horizontally to the side as it made contact with the wood. I was so fixed on my clamps and the guide that I had forgotten to tighten the drill press! After fixing this, I plucked up the courage to drill the other holes. This went smoothly:
The incorrectly drilled hole is the one on the left. The damage around the middle hole is annoying but will be covered by the tuning machine plate so won’t cause any further problems.
As I’ve discovered with woodworking, there’s (almost) always a solution when things go wrong. Luckily I still had some cedar off-cuts with which I could make a dowel to fill the hole. I asked my friendly local wood-turner Joost Kramer if he could help. He used his lathe to turn me a dowel by hand. This man is highly skilled: five minutes later I had a perfect dowel with an exact fit:
The picture below shows how off-centre I was:
As a furniture-maker, turning was always an uphill battle for me. Every turning tool requires a different touch and a different sharpening approach. The problem was that I never practiced enough to keep my skills up. So every time I picked up a skew, I was a baby turner again. A few years ago I … Read more
Woodworker Matt Czegan sent these photos of his recently completed tool chest. Love the eagle – and the extra detailing on the drawers. I’ve always meant to do something with the panel of my chest’s lid, perhaps a veneered panel or even some parquetry a la Roubo.
Nice work Matt!
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Books in Print, The Anarchist's Tool Chest
Goose-neck mouldings are, in my opinion, the great equalizer in any discussion of moulding planes or power tools for curved designs. Sure straight runs of moulding can be made using hollows and rounds, but the curved mouldings are a completely different animal. With goose-necks, you better be thinking kindly about a router, router table or shaper. And, you probably should have a selection of carving tools if your design has a rosette and doesn’t return on itself (as shown in the above photo).
Of course, the Egerton clock has rosettes. This translates into more hand work using carving chisel. But the bulk of the waste is removed with power tools. You just need to find the correct profile, and that can be tricky as you flip and turn the profile looking for a match, especially if you’re using bearing mounted router bits. (I’m tossing out shaper work, because most woodworkers are not working with a shaper – router tables have all but replaced the shaper in home shops.)
The best way to run these profiles using a router is with the face of the goose-neck moulding facing up. To do that you need an over-arm pin router setup, or you need to create a method to hold your router above the workpiece as you guide the cut, as shown to the left. This setup uses the guide-fence holes and scrap pieces to raise the router cut abilities. The setup is easy to duplicate, but using the arrangement is not that simple. You need to accurately guide the router along the curved lines of the goose-neck while holding things at 90° to the workpiece. Slow and steady wins the race, but even then you have clean-up work to do. It is much better if you can use bearing-mounted router bits. To do that in this scenario, I had to run at my router table, keeping the face of the mouldings against the table.
The problem with bearing-mounted router bits is reach. On wide goose-neck mouldings, you often cannot reach back into the profile enough to make things work. On the Egerton moulding, though, that’s not a problem because it’s only 7/8″ wide. I was able to use the bearings on my router bits of choice to get the job done, so the first bit used was a cove design for raised panels. That router bit allowed me to reach back 3/4″ of the 7/8″ needed – that left an 1/8″ of flat at the top edge of my profile. On the straight runs, cut from end to end. On the curved work, you need to stop just short of the rosette area.
The second profile I used was a simple 1/4″ round-over bit, but I switched out the normal bearing to use one that was a 1/8″ smaller in diameter. That change moved the round-over profile in slightly on the workpiece. Height adjustments need to be accurate. Because I was looking to flow the second profile into the larger cove cut, I found it best to sneak up on the final setting. I could have stopped at this point, but the square edge left after the second router cut was smaller than what I saw on the original clock profile. I wanted more.
Deciding to make the last router-bit cut added the needed square-edge to my profile, but it also caused more work after routing work was complete. To achieve an additional 1/16″ of square edge for an 1/8″ total, I used a rabbet bit to push the design up into the moulding. That cut removed a lot of the round-over profile, but that would be easy to replace with carving tools, and the extra square edge made the design of my goose-neck more in line with the original.
To complete the mouldings, both the curved and straight pieces, I use a couple carving gouges to re-round the profile. Work on the straight pieces was easy. I found and carved with the grain direction. On the curved pieces, carving required that I move in different directions due to the grain changing as the curves undulated. Even with that need, the work was not difficult.
Next week I’ll show the completed and installed goose-neck moulding with the carved rosettes in place. I’m getting close to finished.
Build Something Great!
The best one I've seen is definitely worthy of a swift mention here and can be wholly attributed to my friend Chris Tribe.
It concerns cramps and cramp heads. For years, I've used bits of 6mm plywood with a slot cut out...
…so that they hook over the bar. Works quite well, but does have the slight problem of...
…your own. Blocks of scrap wood with a slot milled down the middle. How simple is that?…and you've still got some 'folding' left to spend down the pub in the evening.
To return to the cramp heads, here's the solution. The 'fork' has now been cut off and some offcuts of nice thick leather glued to the face, but here's the cunning bit. The reverse….
….side now sports an 8mm rare earth magnet, set in flush with the surface.
This means that your cramp heads stay in position...
…no matter which way the cramp is orientated. Clever n'est pas?
See Chris's full Utoob clip for more enlightenment.
It’s hard to say what it’s like to make small collections like this. I have determined that using the gouge to carve a spoon is quicker and easier in general than using say a small spoon scorp or knives. Especially is this so in dry rather than green wood, which most of my spoons were made from. Carving the bowls is the quickest part surprisingly and especially so if you have as a good a gouge as I had. I admit I have blasted on a bit about the Hirsch gouge but I haven’t used one like it before.mi am not saying other gouges are not equal to this one I am using, I just haven’t found one that keeps an edge like this one did. I sharpened up three times in cutting 35 spoons and three scalloped chair seats.
As I carved out the bowls using my ‘eye’ method to increase the depth, I was ever conscious of the different woods I was using and the variable aspects of the characteristics that define them in their particular species. Woods known as hard were the easiest to make whereas soft woods I found more difficult to refine and finish out. I think all of the woods carry idiosyncrasies and of course there are plain woods like aspen and birch and then there are woods like oak and beech that have bright smiles in the form of ray flecks we call medullary rays or medullaries.
For the main part, carving some parts of a spoon is not much different to peeling a potato. I think that that’s the difference between knives and gouges. The gouge does not seem that way, but the spokeshave seems to me like a heavy potato peeler. So between the knives and a spokeshave you have more a potato peeling session.
Here are the spoons I carved out this past week or so. I actually made more than 35 just in case I changed my mind on one or two. Sometimes, when I am making something as simple as a spoon, people question why I do it. Well, my answer is always the same, spoons and spoon making are the first aspect of woodworking through which I brought my boys into a world we know as woodworking and I think it is the best way of showing people just what grain really is. To carve, you must know grain very differently than the superficial and external level people know grain as. Here we are digging in much deeper into realms most people sadly never know.
Where I live is a region known for a long history of making love spoons. My tour of St Fagan’s museum last year revealed the oldest known love spoon made in the late 1600′s. A love spoon was a token of a man’s love for his betrothed and was hand carved with knives and chisels into the most ornate of shapes and sizes. It wasn’t only Wales that held to the tradition Germany and Scandinavian countries shared the same tradition. The spoons originated as practical and useable spoons, but they became more ornate and more decorative through the centuries. Today, they are produced mostly by commercial CNC routers and look just like that. They are tourist items and mostly all stained the same and seem somehow now to be characterless.
When my children made their first spoons they were for their mum. You see, making something is lifeless if it is not intended for someone. Giving a gift from wood, making it, shaping it and thinking of its function as it takes form, seems to me to be meaningful.
Here is a video on YouTube on how they are all made. Interesting for some of you to see, but going to the woods and through the wood pile in my shop deepens the interest I have in making anything from a lump of wood. This second video is how some of them started in the woods. I hope they inspire you.
The covers of our Lost Art Press books are important to me, even though we don’t sell our titles in bookstores, which is where the cover can make or break a book.
I don’t want our covers to say “buy me.” I want them to say “open me.” There’s a difference. I’ve had many non-woodworkers tell me that the cover of “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” was so oddly compelling that they had to open it and see what was inside.
As I am closing in on the end of the writing for “Campaign Furniture,” my lizard midbrain is turning its attention to the cover. The concept is to make the cover itself look like a campaign chest. There will be ogee (or ovolo or straight bracket) brasses on the corners of the cloth-covered hardcover. In the center will be a pull. It’s my favorite campaign pull, which I found on a piece that is likely from the Indies.
I’ve been trying to draw this pull for the last couple weeks. It’s asymmetrical and doesn’t have a straight line in its profile. I’m getting closer.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Campaign Furniture
A couple of years ago, I was called by Dan Hellmuth of Hellmuth and Bicknesse Architects to work on a new green building that they were designing. I had worked with Dan previously on Washington University’s Living Learning Center and was glad to hear from him again. For me, the new job was similar to the Living Learning Center – trees from the property were going to be milled and the lumber was going to be used to make finished products throughout the house. The new building wasn’t trying to be the greenest building in the U.S., like the Living Learning Center, but it was designed to be very energy efficient with structural insulated panels (SIPS) and geothermal heating and cooling.
The property had about 80 acres of forest comprised of eastern red cedar, oak and hickory, along with a sprinkling of sugar maple and ash. The best trees were white oaks in the 24″ diameter range, some of which had veneer-grade butt logs (which means they were perfect, straight-grained and knot free). Most of the trees were slightly lower-grade and smaller, but still nice. The smallest were the cedars, which are considered invasive and were scheduled to be removed.
My choice of logs to harvest was limited by the terrain, which ranged from hilly to mountainous. Only one inclined ridge allowed reasonable access to the better logs. The rest of the forest housed bigger trees that will probably never be cut – it is just too difficult to get the logs out. Even spots that looked reasonably flat were only so in relation to the steep drop-offs. Often it was so steep that I had trouble getting the Bobcat back up to the landing, even if I wasn’t moving a log.
Once I got the logs out and back to my mill, I cut them and either air-dried or kiln-dried the lumber depending on their final use (kiln-dried goes inside, air-dried goes outside). The white oak was used for the deck, the boat dock and interior doors. The cedar was slated to be used as siding for the house, but that was changed to reclaimed barn siding and the cedar was moved indoors to be flooring in the loft areas. The smaller amount of ash, maple and hickory haven’t been used yet and are waiting their turn, most likely for future furniture.
Interestingly enough, two areas of woodwork in the house that I am most proud of, did not use wood from the property. We built the entertainment center cabinets from a mix of the customer’s cherry and cherry that I provided, while we made the front and back doors from WunderWoods walnut.
Overall, the project is nearly complete (I am finishing up the wine cellar racks), and since I never remember to take photos, I thought it was about time.
Here are some photos I took last time I was there (click on any photo to enlarge and view the slideshow):
Special thanks to John Stevens and Dan Draper for their help on many aspects of the job. Also, thanks to Scott Allen and his crew, who took over the general contracting of the house and made sure I always had an extra hand when I needed it.
Read this from my friend Mike.
Surprised me too. So I’m not the only one whose Jennings bits clog and strip in really hard woods. Thank goodness for center bits. They’re so much simpler to understand .
The kids are the real creative ones around here. Us grownups try hard to keep up. While I have been fooling around with spoons and things, Maureen has been knitting away for a craft sale she’s participating in. Here are some knitted and felted bowls she finished the other night. If you drop these bowls, they don’t break!
It’s great to hear her needles clicking away again; when the kids were really small she didn’t get much chance to knit. Now they are learning too -
Here’s a couple more samples of Maureen’s recent output. and the flyer for the sale. It features work of many friends and others, so if you are near Plymouth, Massachusetts and inclined the dates and times are on the flyer. Starts today, Saturday December 7th. Dig it.
My workshop has always been in an unheated garage, which can get uncomfortably cold in the winter. Although I have seen a few workshops with gas forced air heaters, I have found a much more economical solution in one of these, which I have owned for years (Source: Lee Valley):
It is a quartz infrared heater that warms objects rather than ambient air like a regular electric heater. I tried several of the latter and was never satisfied. Strategically placed above your bench this infrared heater will keep your hands, your tools and your workpiece nice and warm without using too much energy (about $.15 per hour). They're really good for glue-ups and finishing. At $59, it's a bargain. I was in the shop all day today when it was in the twenties and I was very comfortable. The biggest challenge is finding a good place to mount it on the wall or ceiling that is fairly close to where you do most of your work, but if you can I think you would be happy with it. I notice that Lee Valley now carries some commercial units that will heat a larger area, so if you live in a colder climate or want to be comfortable over a wider area, I think they would be well worth the higher cost.
The common file, as every workman knows, is an Implement, the flat or curved surfaces of which are notched or serrated in such a manner that, on being rubbed on the wood, ivory, metal, or other hard substance for which the tool is intended, a surface of more or less smoothness is obtained.
Files are made of bars of steel prepared in a peculiar manner, it being necessary that the file should be formed of the hardest possible metal, or else its working surface would be speedily worn away. The steel is therefore rendered harder than usual by means of a process known as double conversion, the metal thus prepared being said to be doubly converted.
Small files are generally made of cast-steel, which is for this purpose preferred to forged steel, on account of its fineness and quality. The larger kind of files are forged from bars of steel, which have been beaten into the requisite shape by means of the tilt-hammer. The largest kind of files, rather formidable looking tools, are forged from the bar steel, without the latter undergoing the preliminary process of tilt-hammering.
The files are then shaped—the square and flat ones by means of a common anvil and hammer; those of a circular, half-round, or triangular form by means of bosses or dies, made of the corresponding shapes, fitting into grooves made for them in the anvil.
The surface of the file thus prepared is perfectly smooth, but it has to undergo another process—that of softening—before it can be serrated or toothed. This softening, or “lightening,” as it is technically called, is effected by placing a number of blanks, as the uncut files are termed, in a large brick oven, made perfectly air-tight, to prevent the steel from becoming oxidized. The fire is made to play round the oven until the “blanks” are perfectly red-hot, when the heat is relaxed, and the oven gradually allowed to cool.
On the perfection of this process depends much of the value of the file, and the labor of the worker. If the metal be too soft, the indentations may be too heavy and irregular; if it be too hard, the workman will find much of his labor fruitlessly expended. After being softened, the “blanks” are carefully ground and smoothed down to the requisite shape, after which they are passed to-the file-cutters.
File-cutting is a curious and interesting process. The cutting-rooms are generally long, low apartments, with as many windows as possible, it being essential that the workman should have plenty of light, so as to immediately detect or prevent any flaw in the cutting. The work-benches are placed along the wall, just below the windows, each file-cutter sitting upon a stool, or astride a saddle-shaped seat, immediately in front of the bench.
Before each workman is a small anvil, fastened to the bench in such a way that it can be instantly removed if required. The cutter ties one of the blank files upon the anvil, securing it from slipping by means of a strap which passes over the ends of the file, and which is held tightly in its place by the weight of his foot. He then takes a peculiarly shaped hammer and a short chisel, rather broad in appearance, having a carefully ground edge, and formed of extremely hard steel.
If the file to be cut be a common flat one with broad indentations, the workman’s task is a comparatively light one; but if it be one of the finer kind, a wonderful degree of delicate accuracy is expected of him. If we take a common file, we shall find it covered cross-wise with a series of well-formed and strongly-defined indentations running parallel to each other. These are the result of the special training of the file-cutter. No unpracticed hand, even if assisted with every mechanical appliance, could compete with the productions of the regular workman, whose keen and experienced eye and steady hand are his sole guides in determining the relative distance of each groove or cut.
Indeed, according to a writer upon this subject, “so minute are these cuts in some kinds of files, that in one specimen about ten inches long, flat on one side and round on the other, there are more than twenty thousand cuts, each made with a separate blow of the hammer, the cutting-tool being shifted after each blow!” Such a file may be bought for a few dimes, the purchaser never dreaming of the vast amount of patient toil necessitated by its manufacture before it could enter the market.
The process of cutting varies somewhat with the shape of the file. If it be a flat one, the task of cutting is, as before stated, comparatively simple and easy. If it be a half-round one, the cutter still uses a straight-edged chisel; but has to make three or four cuts before a complete cross groove can be obtained. Chisels with semi-circular edges are used for cutting some varieties of round files; but even with these the straight-edged chisel is frequently used.
Various attempts have been made for the purpose of substituting mechanical labor for that of the artisan; and in America these efforts have proved in some instances successful. Still this is stoutly denied by some of the hand-cutters, who strenuously insist that file-cutting is a process which can not be properly performed by any kind of machinery, however ingenious or skillfully devised.
They state that machine-made files are, and always must be, inferior to hand-made files, and for the following reason: If one portion of the file be in any degree softer or harder than the other parts, the uniformity of groove, which constitutes the principal value of a good file, could not be maintained. The chisel would sink unequally into tho metal, and thus render the file worthless. It is only fair to add that the advocates of machine-cut files deny these allegations, and profess to have overcome the difficulties complained of.
After being cut, the files have to be restored to their original state of hardness. There are various ways of effecting this, each manufacturer having his own particular method. The process commonly adopted consists in covering the files with a kind of temporary varnish, or composition, to prevent oxidation and scalding of the steel when heated. The files are then heated uniformly throughout in a stove, from which, when they have reached the proper temperature, they are quickly withdrawn and suddenly plunged into a bath of cold water. The effect of this, properly performed, is to give them an extraordinary degree of hardness.
The concluding operations are very simple. The files are scoured for the purpose of removing the varnish, then carefully washed and dried, and finally tested; after which they are wrapped in stout brown paper, and passed into the warehouse, ready to be dispatched to any part of the habitable world.
The Manufacturer and Builder – January 1870
Filed under: Historical Images
At work today I had to do a 600 amp, three-phase service lay out; they are fairly common in my line of work. The service consisted of a 75kva 480-120/208 transformer, a 600 amp MDP panel, a 600 amp 3R service disconnect, 3-200 amp 3R service disconnects, 3-200 amp MCB panels, 3-meters, and the kilowatt meter. A service of this size I can usually have laid-out and priced with the approval drawings in 20-30 minutes using a computer. If I have to do it by hand, which is very rare, it takes longer. You wouldn’t believe the questions I get concerning these services. People have no concept of how electricity works, and what it takes to distribute and meter it safely. I’m seeing this more and more.
Surely some of you reading this may say that I’m not being fair. After all, I’ve had nearly two years of schooling in electrical systems, 67 credit hours to be exact, not to mention on the job training and ten years of work experience; it should be expected and required of me to know more than the layman. Maybe. But there are books, videos, courses, etc. available to anybody who wants to learn more about electrical systems and how they function. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to learn the basics of electrical distribution. Electricity has been in widespread use for nearly one hundred years; the tools haven’t changed much; even the way it is generated has remained rather consistent. Surely the only things keeping the average person from learning about electricity, it’s uses, it’s generation, it’s equipment, and it’s tools are laziness and stupidity, aren’t they?
I know that some of you who read this probably are thinking that I am nothing more than a total jerk right about now. You may be wondering how I could be so presumptuous to assume that any person who doesn’t possess common knowledge of a skilled trade that requires years of schooling, practice, and on the job training must be nothing more than a lazy fool blissful in his own ignorance. You may be wondering how I could be so callous as to scoff at their questions concerning my trade. You may be wondering why I think it ridiculous for any person not to own a professional set of electrical tools. You may think that I am a creep because even though I do electrical work for a living, I expect people who are not exposed to it very often to have as much knowledge and skill as I do. You might think of me as nothing more than a complete A**hole to expect an amateur to dedicate all of his free time to learning about electricity, otherwise he is not worthy of the knowledge.
Now that I think about it, those of you who think those things may be absolutely correct. But I don’t mean to insult; I am just passionate. With all due respect, shouldn’t I expect everybody to be as passionate as I? Don’t I have a right to do that? I’m just doing my best to be an ambassador to the trade; is that wrong? I know that I get paid for my work in the trade, but shouldn’t I be able to expect the same level of dedication from those who want to learn about it just for fun in the little free time that they have? The bottom line is, I am only trying to get you people off your asses and show you just how rewarding electrical work can be. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
Come build this Shaker-style step stool with me at the Cambridge Center For Adult Education.
I'm very pleased to announce a new venue for classes, the Cambridge Center For Adult Education, located at 42 Brattle St. in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA.
For their Spring 2014 term, I'll be teaching a class building this Shaker step stool entirely with hand tools. Shaker styles make good introductory projects because they're practical, functional forms without being overwhelming.
But that's not all! When I was talking to CCAE about my class proposal, they asked if I also knew someone who could teach classes covering their power tools. I said I knew just the guy.
So I'm equally pleased to announce that Freddy Roman will also be teaching there. You can read my profile of Freddy here. That's a real two-fer when you can arrange a gig for yourself and for a friend at the same time!
Freddy will be starting almost immediately, with the Winter term, currently open for registration. He'll be teaching two classes, a one-day Boot Camp, and an 8-week course.
The Boot Camp runs twice, 10AM-4PM, Sunday, January 12th, 2014, and 9AM-5PM, Sunday, March 23; registration details here and here, respectively. This covers basic woodworking tools and concepts and includes a simple woodworking project.
The 8-week course will be Monday evenings, 6-9PM, starting January 13th, 2014 (no class February 10). The project will be a Shaker table, using both power and hand tools. Registration details here.
He'll be repeating the 8-week course for the Spring term, again Monday evenings 6-9PM, starting March 31, 2014.
Buying tools for Christmas gifts makes gift-buying quick and simple, especially through eBay and online buying. This is the reality of woodworking. The price can be matched to any budget from a few pounds and on into the hundreds.
There is nothing wrong with putting one of these on your Christmas wish list, either now or for the future. To prevent price hikes, I suggest an option. Every time I do a blog on the Stanley smoothing planes, or any other for that matter, there is no doubt that prices go up for a period because more people take the advice, looks and finds one, and bids at the same time. Consider another option, which is to give a promissory note and extend the bidding period into January or later. Usually there are several pages of these planes and they vary in price from several pounds to well over a hundred. Many prices are too high. Avoid new planes. They have plastic handles that break soon after purchase And replacing them with wooden ones makes the price all the higher. New Stanley’s are not the same as old ones. They are miserable to use and are not the quality of older models. Some say pre-war models are best, but don’t dismiss post war ones. Mine, the ones I bought in the mid 1960′s, have been wonderful planes and still work perfectly after 50 years of continuous daily use. Not many modern planes have been through what my planes have and so I have no hesitation in saying this. These are readily available via eBay.co.uk and most likely will be forever as there were so many made they just cycle though. In the USA eBay Stanley’s go for much higher prices and there are often much fewer planes available. I cannot say that I have had the same success buying in the USA as the US prices are higher and the number of planes fewer. I also think that the US was far more advanced into accepting machine methods using power equipment than Britain was.
Look for the shiny black look on the handle and knob. This usually shows that the handles are plastic. Any and all new planes will have plastic handles except those that are both old stock but new and unused product. The yellow Stanley box is not a sign of none plastic handles. Don’t use that as confirmation. Look at the handles for yourself and ask questions of the seller as needed. Avoid broken handles. The price is not usually much less when repaired and rarely is a repair permanent unless the repairer knows his or her plane stuff and used the right glue, cramping pressure and so on. Rosewood is better glued with an epoxy and even then a good one. I use West Systems epoxy for such things. Beech handles do repair well with PVA so use these two adhesive types for the different woods. I think it’s true to say that all of the UK Stanley’s had beech handles and the USA Stanley’s had rosewood. I may be wrong on this but some of you may know more than me on this. I love the rosewood handles. They are often slimmer. More graceful and feel really nice in the hand.
Another thing to look for when buying is the height of the cutting iron in relation to the lateral adjustment lever. This image will help you see what I mean.
Here is a link I did some time back on a blog on buying planes via eBay. I think most if it is still good.
Now eBay is not the only way to buy. There are many secondhand dealers out there and though they charge a higher price, they also ensure that the plane is functional and clean.