One of the most common questions I get is “What Japanese plane should I start with? I don’t want to spend a lot, because $300 is a lot of money.” The vast majority of the planes I have were bought used from eBay, and that’s a great way to go. The process of rehabbing a used Japanese plane is very similar to setting up a new Japanese plane out of the box, with the exception of knowing what to do if the blade protrudes too much because the bed is too low and knowing how to tighten up the mouth if it’s too wide.
I love examining at old furniture. I enjoy looking at the joinery used by the craftsman who built it and see how well it has lasted over the years. After all, since it lasted this long, the piece of furniture must have been made well. However, sometimes I see failures in furniture that I can learn from and not make the same mistakes.
I came across this secretary in an antique store in Milford, OH this weekend. It’s a beautiful secretary that I believe is made out of cherry. When I examined the top, I noticed it had a bread board edge that I had never seen before.
The craftsman who built the top inserted the edge of bread board into the slant top board by forty-fiving the end board into it. The whole point of making a bread board edge is to prevent the top from warping. However, it’s critical that you make sure that the top can expand and contract with changes in humidity during the summer and winter months.
While it took incredible craftsmanship to accurately cut the joint into the top, three of the four corners where the joints meet, cracked because there was no room for the wood to move.
The only reason I can guess why the craftsman built the top the way he did is he either he didn’t want end grain to show on the top’s edge, or he didn’t want to make mortise and tenon joinery for the bread board edge. I think it would have been rather ironic if he chose the latter because creating a 45 degree joint that fits perfectly into the top’s cavity seems a lot harder than making a mortise and tenon joint and then pinning it tight with pegs.
Before I tell you all about last week’s class out at Heartwood, (a great time. what til you see it) = I have a bit of stuff to run down about next year’s classes. First off, two new places. Three new places I mean. All begin with vowels.
Alphabetically, Alaska comes first. I think I won’t drive to this one. Late April, just a tiny bit early for migration, but there should still be lots of stuff to see. Oh, & we’ll make some boxes, but from boards, not logs. Might do a one-day spoon class there too…
Another in the series of classes in places that begin with vowels, England. http://www.newenglishworkshop.co.uk/
Seems I’m there for 2 weeks, teaching the log-to-box version twice. Once in Somerset, once in Warwickshire. WOW. These classes are part of an I-don’t-know-how-many ring circus. Me, Chris Schwarz, Roy Underhill, Jeff Miller, Tom Fidgen – mostly all at the same time. I know Chris & I are on the same schedule – I got lost eventually trying to map it all out. I haven’t been to England since 2005 – can’t wait. Somerset – where they carved stuff like this:
The last vowel destination for now is also a new one for me, Marc Adams (Indiana) – so the only venue in the lower 48 where we’ll do the carved box from a log in 2015. They’re working on the schedule now, I’m there in late Oct, the 19th-23rd. http://www.marcadams.com/
There’ll be more of the usual places; Lie-Nielsen, Roy’s, Bob Van Dyke’s – I hope to be at home some too. And I’m working on more new places too. I’ll post more of it soon so we can get 2015 sorted. As always, thanks to the students who put aside time, money etc to come out to these classes. It makes it possible for me to have fun for a living.
Jose L. Romanillos, Antonio de Torres, Guitar Maker, 1987
I recently finished a guitar that is based upon Antonio Torres's guitar FE 19, aka "La Suprema", which he constructed in 1864. Click here to see the plans that I used to make this guitar.
It has an Engelmann spruce top, California laurel back and sides, Spanish cedar neck, an Macassar ebony fret board, ebony binding and is French polished.
The string length is 650mm, width of the neck at the nut is 51.5mm and 62mm at the 12th fret.
I did not use the standard Torres style of "fan" or "kite" bracing on the guitar's top, instead I used a parallel bracing that Santos Hernandez used on several of his guitars. This bracing helps give the guitar a very beautiful, singing voice that is quite loud, its volume is more than adequate for a concert guitar. Another change from the original guitar that I made was not to install a brass"tornavoz". Click here to learn more about this device.
The back and sides are California laurel that I re-sawed, by hand with a Disston No.8 rip saw, from a board that I purchased from a wood supplier in Orick, California. Many of the old time loggers and lumberman that I grew up with in northeastern California called laurel "pepperwood" because when you cut into it, it smells like pepper. Other people call it Oregon myrtle. Luthier John Calkin states:
"This is yet another wood that reminds me of maple in appearance and working properties, though its' texture is a bit coarser. Its basic straw color is often flavored with an amazing array of colors and figure, most frequently a maple-ish fiddleback. Myrtle has a reputation for instability that I have yet to experience. Tonewood suppliers occasionally stock sets of myrtle, but if you can resaw, the specialty lumber people like Lewis Judy can give you a better deal on this West Coast wood. This is first-class stuff, worthy of the best instruments."
(Click here for his article on alternative tone woods.)
This is not a flamenco blanca guitar, but a classical guitar.
I firmly believe that the laurel back and sides add much to the voice of this guitar.
The price of this guitar is $2500.
I will post sound clips and video as soon as I can.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Filing the area away took maybe 5 minutes, and I just filed the small block of oak so it fit on the two sides.
Before adding glue I made a test fit and a test of the clamp. Few things are as frustrating when it comes to woodworking, as when you are not able to make a clamp up because the clamp will slip or otherwise don't fit.
Glue was added to both parts and the clamp was attached.
Tomorrow it should be dry so I can start reshaping the upper part of the rear tote.
I saw these advertised on E Bay and they looked very nice, when they arrived they didn't disappoint.
Hand made with 100% real wool felt, with a cotton ribbon and a leather closer. The felt is nice and thick giving great protection for your best planes.
They come in 19 different sizes from 6"x4" right up to 26"x10" and range from £6 up £36. And if that's not enough they also offer a bespoke service..
My two Sauer and Steiner planes now have the protection they deserve.
If you are interested just look for Green Sleeves Tool Bags on E Bay, the seller is Tea and Teak
This is fun. Results still look plenty amateurish, but I have more maple, so no reason not to continue improving my arts. I really love this kind of freehand work.
Something that I preach is that we woodworkers should use the best tool for the job. It that’s a table saw, jointer or big-honkin router, so be it. It the best tool is a handplane, egg-beater drill or sharp chisel, go for it. To be wholly dedicated to one woodworking discipline while ruling out others is nuts.
The story I like to tell is a tale on myself. When I built the Baltimore Card Table article for Popular Woodworking Magazine, I was more dedicated to power tools even though I used hand tools. In one of the early steps of the build, I needed to trim the ends of the brick-laid apron. I spent 20 minutes or more setting up the cut at my miter saw. Of course, the cut was square and right. (See the image from the article above.)
Years later, after hand tools began to play a bigger role in my day-to-day woodworking, I taught how to build that table at a woodworking school. When the time came to trim the apron, I grabbed my pencil and square, laid in the lines then made the cut using a hand saw. Of course, the cut was square and right. The difference was that I did not spend 20 minutes setting up the cut.
What’s important is to choose and use the best tool for the job.
In the photo below, I guess the tool would be classified as a hand tool. I know, however, that it is the best tool for the job. Why? No only does this tool make spreading the oil/varnish mix quick to accomplish and easier to direct finish were it’s needed, the process also warms the oil ever so slightly to better allow mixture to soak into the surface.
Build Something Great!
I got a couple of hours in the shop yesterday and made a good start on the G&G power strip. This is supposed to be a “quick and dirty” project, so I hope it doesn’t take on a life of it’s own. We’ll see. I made good progress, although there are still a couple of time consuming details left on the boxes themselves — shaping the ends of the finger joints after using a round over bit seems to take longer than you’d ever expect for example.
Anyway, here is where things stand right now.
I did a bit more, laying out the locations for the ebony pegs — twelve to each box — and starting to round over the ends before I called it quits. I won’t be able to work on these until next weekend again because I’m about to pack up and drive to San Diego for a week long class in Boulle Marquetry. On the way I hope to stop in LA to look at some original G&G stuff. I’d like to be on the road in an hour, so time for a cup of coffee and then I need to roll.
Leland M. Roth, A Concise History of American Architecture, 1979
Here's the house when I started working on it in late June...
This is what it looked like two weeks ago when I and my colleague, Mike, walked away to other projects.
We completed the siding repairs and I even found a door that matched the original door that you see on the right side of the building.
It was amazing that it took us 3 days with a skid steer loader to remove enough soil so water would drain away from the house.
We removed so much soil that we were able to fill in part of a washed out on the pasture that is next to the house, the hole we filled was over twelve feet deep, twelve feet wide and twelve feet long!
Yesterday, 9/26, I spent all day scraping paint, also had Jake, another seasonal, doing exactly the same thing.
There is a lot of prep work to be done, scraping paint, masking off windows, gutters, parts of the roof and parts of the stone house that is attached to the building.
If Mike and I can start applying the paint by next Thursday we will be lucky.
Once it is painted I will post a photo of how it looks!
The second stop on the New England Tour 2014 was the homestead of Joshua and Julia and Eden, and what a delightful stop it was. Aside from the fellowship we encountered an overload of learning and experiencing
On our way to dinner the first evening we stopped by the Jonathan Fisher House museum, where Joshua is engaging in a lot of important research and recreation for his upcoming book on this rural Maine polymath. There was simply too much to see in such a short time, and I am eagerly awaiting the results of Joshua’s research on this remarkable man who was part parson and part inventive genius furniture maker.
Of course one notable item in the collection is this Roman style workbench,
while another is the windmill powered lathe that Joshua is currently reassembling after two centuries of non-use.
Miraculously many of the original turning gouges are still in the collection.
Fisher was many things including an accomplished artist, as these prints from his woodcuts will attest. I fully expect Joshua to paint a compelling picture of rural inventiveness and creativity from the Maine frontier of two hundred years ago.
The weeks pass so quickly and I might find it hard to call it work if I were to compare what I do with the work others leave for every day in their cars. If you know me at all I never stop making and this week’s been no different in that I finished replicating the new version of the old toolbox from some knotty pine I bought some months back from the same carboot sale. This type of toolbox is actually the simplest of any and I think with the tills it’s probably about three days work start to finish. Skills-wise it’s comparable to say something like a larger kitchen drawer and as most of this build comprises three boxes I suppose I might say three simple kitchens drawers in three sizes. Now, that said, the toolbox is pleasing to make because of its simplicity and of course its functionality as a tool box.
In times past I might have made a box with thicker walls and thicker bottom but I am converted to thin walls. I have rarely seen boxes with such thin walls and that’s why I chose this on over the dozen others I could have picked that were, well, in better shape, thicker walled, and better jointing. But this one intrigued my with thinness and weight. The box weighed in in its completed form today at just 30lbs. Its size too intrigued me. Most toolboxes of this type are more awkwardly cumbersome to the point that they can be difficult to place usefully. Discovering this one made me rethink a little. Would it be better a large box made all the more awkward when a stuffed mass of hard to place tools or to have perhaps two boxes better matched to the tools themselves. Doors started opening as i dismantled the man’s thoughts inside the box. Restuffing this box with old planes I could see better the care and consideration he had for the planes and saws he must cary and lift and stow and save. In the big boxes it seemed always a struggle to get to the tools needed and so I found that both box and tools were almost always in the way.
I made some changes t the box but I want to talk about the wall thickness here. My dovetails are much tighter than those on the original box. Those were made quickly as was common on toolboxes of old. In measurement and so the original has pretty accurate distancing and squareness. My first thoughts as I cut the walls to dimension and then the cut the dovetails was, my, these walls are pretty bendy when this thin. Another thought was that there doesn’t seem much there when the joints are formed independently of one another. But then suddenly, when I pressed the joints together tree was an immediate stiff rigidity I loved. As I progressed around to the next corner and then the next there came something I might only describe as a sincere wholeness to it. Dismantling the box, smoothing off the faces in readiness for the final gluing up of the parts, I felt I reached a new level of recognition in seeing a fineness index I might not have accepted before. I have seen fine work, yes. Even the very finest ever. I have been acknowledged for my personal fine workmanship too, but what I am describing is not fine work in the sense of pretentious fine work like the work done in past generations only for the wealthy, but what I can now describe as a fundamental vernacularism of a working man like the man I am. It was the most wonderful association of space and time I ever experienced and not at all unlike the discovery I experienced in making the tapered leg table for the past film series opt the Shaker Deacon’s bench seat. I am so glad to be living in a world as a lifestyle woodworker.
Gluing the box wall corners together brought with it the conclusion I always search for with a sort of momentary hesitancy in closing the joints for the very final time. This is like watching the deer drinking from the brook and you fear losing sight of it. My search for completeness concludes in the harmony of each portion of the composition and I feel the peace joinery should always mete out in completion. When the four corners were together I felt the very best of peace come over me as the work came to rest in its phase of completeness.
It is highly unusual to find a Bedrock in Denmark, so I was very pleased with the news of him finding it, and actually I asked myself if he had any birthday gifts for me, because if not I would like the plane.
He and my mother did have somehing else for me too, but he was glad to give the plane to me, so I could fix it up.
The rear tote was broken, and the nut for the front knob is needs to be replaced, apart from that it is in OK condition given the age of it.
I brought it with me to the ship this time, because a plane restoration is a nice little job to do while at sea.
I started out by dating the plane by means of the Internet. I merely googled "Stanley Bedrock plane dating" and some suggestions came up that could provide the answer.
As far as I was able to conclude, it is a type 6 which was manufactured between 1912 - 1921.
My fingers itched so much for starting to fix the plane up, that I forgot to take some "before" pictures.
But what I did was to wash the parts in some soap water and then I cleaned them with "Metalbrite" which is a phosphorous acid based rust removing chemical often used onboard ships.
The japanning is not perfect, but it doesn't have to be, the plane is old so it shouldn't necessarily look brand new.
After cleaning the parts I have lapped the bottom of the frog to the bed using some valve lapping paste. It didn't need much work before I was satisfied. The bottom and the sides of the bed was cleaned up using some sandpaper on a flat surface, these too didn't need much work.
The rear tote which was broken had been glued before. I decided to flatten the broken parts completely and try to glue it up again. So far it looks good.
On the upper part of the tote, a chip has come off. I haven't got any rosewood out here to use for patching, but I think I have a piece of oak lying somewhere that can be used for making a small repair.
I have considered using spruce for the patch instead, because that way it will clearly stand out that the handle was repaired.
What do you suggest? Oak (if I can find it) or spruce for the repair job?
I only have a little time before I leave town for the marquetry class tomorrow, but I wanted to start on a couple of new projects in the shop today. I threw together some plans for the power strip I designed, I’ll see if I have enough scraps to make one or two of these.
There are some details I want to adjust still, and I don’t have the materials for the inlay, but what the heck?