I’ve studied furniture from the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries for decades and done my fair share of inlay (the table leg to the left is an example). When the talk around the office this week turned to Rob Millard’s much-anticipated DVD, “Marquetry, Veneer & Inlay for Furniture Makers” (buy your copy here), it brought up memories for me of Woodworking in America conferences past (learn more about WIA here…OK, […]
“The Furniture of Necessity” book will be written, illustrated and printed in the same spirit as the pieces of furniture between its covers. Instead of relying on SketchUp and digital photographs, the engraver will be making the plates for this book using the actual pieces as her guide.
While this will turn me into a furniture mover for the next 12 months, it also will result in illustrations that are rich in detail and unsanitized, unpasturized and un-homogenized. It will be like drinking the design warm from the the teat of (oh stop this line of thought now).
Today I finished up the six-board chest for the book by nailing on the escutcheon plate to the front. There will be no fake keyholes or keys or hat-tips to modern living. These pieces will work in the same way they worked 300 years ago.
I now have two of the pieces complete for the book. Twelve more to go.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Furniture of Necessity
Finishing Your Projects Following Mine
There is no doubt in my mind, woodworkers love working with wood, using hand tools and even like to use machines for some of the time. What they do not seem to like too much from what I have learned is no surprise to me. They do not generally like finishing their work. Why is that? Well, I always ask woodworkers what they feel is the most difficult challenge they face in their woodworking. This is my conclusion. In almost all cases they feel inadequate to the task. With so many finish choices available they feel confused as to which finish will work best and therefore inadequate to choose the right finish. With such limited experience and so many different products sold for finishing. Again intimidation seems to them a high risk possibility of failure in that they might fail their project by making the wrong choices or applying the finish with little experience and unskilled hands.
Two Finishes – Simple and Effective
We are working on a series of finishing videos to help minimise failure and take out the possibility of risk and so show simple techniques that minimise risks associated with being a winner at the finish line. This week we concluded filming using two finishes and some techniques on finishing for our upcoming woodworking masterclasses online broadcast. When we made the workbench stools (that are the same as bar stools but ultra hand made and ultra comfortable too) series a few weeks ago we said that we would do this and the stools are ideal pieces for developing skills. Here are the results of this weeks videos. I am happy with the way they turned out and my hope is that finishing and trying techniques will be less intimidating for everyone. I ordered my milk paint from The Old Fashioned Milk paint Company, a long-standing company with masses of experience in this unique and wonderful finish. The second finish I chose is Danish oil. This transparent finish is quick and simple and really a good finish for things like chairs and stools. See for yourself how these two finishes came out.
I acquired more tenon saws on eBay and was surprised at the quality I got. Reworking them was interesting and the outcome my reward. It is still amazing what you can get for under £20. John purchased a very nice I Sorby 1 1/4” bevel-edged chisel he has wanted for some time and will be doing the restoration over the next few days. We have been looking at chisels in greater depth too, as you might tell from some of my recent blogs. I am revamping the Aldi chisels and have decided to see just what it takes to make them top notch for under £3 each including the price of the chisel. I have more yet to offer but I think that you will be surprised with the outcome. Separating the chisel blade from the handle is simpler than I thought even though the two parts are very solidly united with a twist free and unbreakable grip to the handle. The tang is not tapered or traditionally shaped or made in any way. It is substantive though. It’s indeed unusual in that the octagonal tang fits into a carefully sized hole that compresses under the pressure of the hard corners of the tang’s hexagon. That tang was solidly embedded. It took a shift and hammer blows to drive the shaft from the tang.
I worked on this one 3/4” blade, flattened the flat side, refined the bevel and of course shaped the bevel with its refined convex bevel. I like the bevel’s size, not too thin at the edge of the bevel, nicely tapered and enough steel to give me confidence. We’ll show you progress as we go.
Jag har börjat att leta exempel på det hjälpmedel, både ord och föremål, för att hålla fast arbetsstycken som vi anser ha använts vid arbeten på Vasabänken. Roald har gått igenom norskt material i ett inlägg. Det jag hittills hittat i litteratur och frågelistssvar är ytterst begränsat. Jag kommer senare att gå igenom fler frågelistssvar i hopp om att hitta fler exempel.
I Hallén & Nordendahl (1923) finns en bild på en “bänkhållare”. Den beskrivs på följande sätt: ” Bänkhållare, knekt (valet), är ett enkelt redskap, som ofta begagnas för att på hyvelbänken fasthålla trästycken vid avsågning, nedsågning, borrning, stämning m.m. Hållaren, består av en rund järn- eller stålten, i övre änden utsmidd till en stark vinge eller fjäder. Den nedsättes i ett å bänkskivan borrat hål; arbetsstycket lägges under fjädern och fastspännes genom ett slag med klubban på klacken i riktning a och lossas genom ett slag i riktning b.“
Här används benämningarna “bänkhållare” och “knekt”. Knekt är ett återkommande ord för olika slags hjälpmedel inom snickeri. Noterbart är att här nämns också “valet” som är den franska benämningen för en bänkhållare (Diderot & D Àlembert 17??). En kommentar från “johanrubank” till Roalds inlägg om “killingfot” är att det svenska ordet för “holdfast” är “fransk bänkspännare”.
I Stadius ( 2013) ingår en genomgång av några bouppteckningar efter stolmakare i Stockholm. I flera av dem återkommer ordet ”stämhake”. Jag har inte stött på ordet tidigare, men det kan vara en bänkhållare som avses.
När snickarmästaren Ove Malm gick i lära i en verkstad i Lund på 1930-talet hörde han de äldre snickarna använda uttrycket “fans tumme” för en bänkhållare.
För några år sedan köpte jag två bänkhållare av Kalle Melin. Han hade i sin tur köpt dem i Gärds Köpinge i Skåne, av en samlare som specialiserat sig på järnföremål. Enligt Kalle Melin samlade han in föremål inom en radie av ca 10 mil från Gärds Köpinge, dvs. i Skåne och Blekinge.
Roald och jag har bett smeden Mattias Helje i Lima tillverka kopior efter en av bänkhållarna. Vi kommer att använda dem i bänkarna som tillverkas i Stigtomta och Mariestad.
Hallén & Nordendahl (1923). Träslöjd.
Stadius, C (2013). En studie av stoltillverkningen i Stockholm 1750 – 1820.
Malm,O. Muntlig uppgift.
Arkivert under:Killingfot / hallfast / ronghake, Tilbehør høvelbenk, Tomas og Roald snikrar høvelbenk i Mariestad, Tomas snikrar høvelbenk, modell Vasaskipet, Uncategorized
John looked under the bench and found a piece of wood which he thought would do for a wedge, only the end wanted sharpening.
“Shall I take your broad chisel and sharpen it?” said he.
“No,” said Ebenezer. “I have not taught you to use the chisel yet, and it would not be safe.”
“What would be the danger?” asked John, —”that I should cut my fingers?”
“No,” replied Ebenezer. “I am not afraid of that. We don’t usually give ourselves much concern about our apprentice’s fingers. The damage that I fear is, that you might dull my chisel, and that would be of much more consequence. You see if you cut your fingers, they will get well of themselves, after a little time; but it would make me a great deal of trouble to sharpen up my chisel, if you were to get it dull.”
(John then proceeds to finish sawing a board, and Ebenezer comes to inspect the result.)
“Have I sawed it pretty straight?” John asked.
“We don’t praise apprentices much,” said Ebenezer, “especially when they are beginning, for fear it should make them conceited. People that know very little are always apt to be very vain of what little they do know.”
— “The Boy’s Own Workshop” by Jacob Abbott (William P. Nimmo, 1866)
Filed under: Historical Images, Uncategorized
I’ve said this before, but it’s fun to see your name in print at the bookstore.
At the risk of seeming self-serving, if you don’t have a copy of this issue, you really should get one. Besides excellent material from the usual Popular Woodworking Magazine contributors, there are articles by Marc Spagnuolo, Autumn Doucet, Don Williams, Jim Ipekjian, and Bob Rozaieski that are just outstanding.
|The Colonel's Workshop|
Col. Bala responses to a questionnaire:
|Col. Bala in his Workshop|
Question: When and how did you come to woodworking?
It was 2007 when we got our Shit Tzu pup, that bundle of joy that brought smiles to our faces. Since we were living in a flat in Dwarka Delhi, at that time, I had to make some space in one of the balconies for her evacuations. I wanted to make a wooden frame and a base, so that sand could be filled, where she could poop and pee, especially during night time.
The problem was getting the simple frame and base made. I went to the lumber store and bought some 1 1/2" by 3" stock and quickly nailed it to form the frame and a piece of plywood which was lying around the house became the base. All was nice and quiet, when curiosity struck. I wanted to make a dog house. A little search on the Internet threw up large number of plans videos etc. Suddenly it all started getting interesting. I knew where tools were sold in Delhi, the famous Chawri Bazar, which I had visited many times as a child with my father who again was a DIY man.
|Drill Bits Cabinet|
|Shop made Router Table|
Once bitten by the Woodworking bug, I had to learn the skills. Even though there were a lot of videos on tool usage on the Internet, it was all in the American context. We would hardly see any of the tools here in India. So I thought I would ask some carpenter to teach me some technique on using a hand saw a hand plane, using chisels etc. To my horror, nobody was willing to share his knowledge. I even offered myself as a helper but they would just laugh it off. Then I met an Ex-Air Force Officer and since I was Ex-Army, we quickly became friends. His house in the society was under renovation and he was staying somewhere in Punjabi Bagh. I quickly offered myself to supervise the work in his house and thus, I sat there closely watching the carpenter rip 8'x4' plyboards accurately with a hand saw. I casually chatted and praised his work and slowly he let me in on many things on using tools. I would come back home and practise on cheap wood. Most of the learning has been through the Internet. Another source of inspiration was the woodworking show. I would attend all the days it was on to learn about new tools.
|Joinery with a Router|
The most difficult part of course was using hand tools, and learning to sharpen them. One might be a master woodworker, but if the tools are not sharp you can get nowhere. Another difficult part was learning to use chisels correctly, how hard to hit them, the right mallet to use etc. Then there was the very difficult matter of safe woodworking. This I learnt the hard way. There were a couple of occasions when my thumb nearly got chopped off on the table saw and once on the router with the bit spinning at 22,000 rpm. Nowadays before I switch on any power tool, I do a dry run to make sure things are in place. Yet another problem was constraints of space and the frustration on not getting the right tool. At that time Amazon was still not exporting to India. Things have changed since then. Availability of raw material was another constraint. That led me to scrounge around for wood from demolition sites and second hand stores. Overall I am still learning. I still practice cutting with a saw, cutting a dovetail, practice hand mortising as a ritual every other day, even if they are not meant for any project.
After my son completed his schooling, I wound up my setup in Delhi and came to Mhow, which has since become my home town. Here, I had a slightly larger space here; in fact I have occupied the entire first floor for my HOBBY shop. I went around looking for reasonably priced stationary tools. Felder was out of reach and machines made in India were worthless. Neither did they have any finish nor were they accurate. You could not use them for fine work. I had learned this a long ago in Delhi, when I bought my first Chinese circular saw. Since then I striven to get better tools. After a lot of search, Metabo seemed to be a good choice. They had an office in Gurgaon, I went and bought and planer-thicknesser and a 12" band saw.
Earlier I had bought the Bosch Contractor saw, which is an excellent tool. I would go to Indore buy an odd tool from Bosch, Hitachi or DeWalt. As far as the clamps are concerned, just before I came to Mhow, I went to Chawri Bazar to get packing materials. That was the day Stanley had opened a shop on the Ajmeri Gate road. I happened to be their first customer. The first thing I saw was the array of clamps. I straight away ordered around 50 of them of various sizes. They were thrilled with the order. They agreed to ship the entire lot to Mhow. Along with it I bought a handsaw, a back saw, coping saw and large amount of coping saw blades. Then I had two projects in mind. One was to make a workbench and a router table. I bought the workbench book and poured over it for about a week and designed my own using Solidworks. The Teak wood came from Indore and It took me about a week to build it. It is six years old as of now. I imported the front and tail vise screws from Lee Valley in Canada.
|An Array of the Colonel's Clamps|
Question: What are the tools you reach out to the most? Which are the tools you cannot do without?
I actually do not have any preference for a particular tool. Each tool has its own personality and each has its quirks. As the stock becomes big the tool should be small so that it becomes easier to move the tool to the stock. Of course the table saw is something I could not do without. I actually like hand tools, especially the dovetail saw. Another tool I really enjoy is the mortising chisel. Routers are another of my favourites. I have three of them and two more are in the pipeline.
|Making a Door|
Like I mentioned earlier, it all started out for a simple Dog house, But the CD storage Unit was the first thing I really built. When I put it on the drawing room in Dwarka, I couldn't believe, I managed to build it. Then I built another one with eight drawers for a friend who paid me for the effort. It was rewarding. These days I enjoy scroll saw work and wood turning, especially making table lamps. This seems to be more popular with friends. I am currently working on a Modular Kitchen project. Next in the pipe line is a tool storage wall cabinet and library system for my tons of books.
Question: How do your friends and family react to your hobby?
I receive a great amount of support from my family for whatever I do, especially my wife who has been instrumental in buying me all the tools.
First, the excuses. We had hoped to release the Classic Leg Vise last week. Obviously that didn't happen. We were in the middle of machining a large run of Crisscross arms when we discovered a problem. This run of Crisscross arms was destined for Classics, but a small error in our molds meant that hundreds of arms had to be melted down and repoured. The cope and drag were shifted just enough to make the machining impossible. So back into the pot they went. We hope to have Classics ready for sale by the end of this month. For those who are chomping at the bit, trust me, it will be worth it. I've been using one in my own shop for that past couple weeks in a high vise. I'm hooked.
And now the opportunity. Since day one we've always used Cocobolo rosewood for all our vise knobs. Recently the wood was placed on the CITES Appendix II list. Supply is already getting short, and the price has doubled as well. We didn't want to raise prices for the sake of the knob, but we also didn't want to eliminate the look and cache that the rosewood provides.
But before I go further, let me mention a couple downsides to using Cocobolo.
Moisture content. It can be all over the map. Waiting for rosewood to dry is sort of like waiting for a drought in the Louisiana bayou. Wet wood shrinks, and when you're trying to put a metal screw into a piece of shrinking wood, things get tight. We usually have to ream some of our knobs so they spin freely on the screw. We also know that some of our customers have to do that as well. Hey, its wood after all, but we want to do better.
We tried a few options. Indian rosewood (same problems as cocobolo), Impregnated maple (too light colored), even transparent aluminum (too expensive). In the end we settled on a material that was at the absolute bottom of our list: DymondWood.
Yes, that ghastly multi-colored birch plywood-based, resin-impregnated, clown-barf abomination that we've all seen on too many amateur knife-maker's blades.
But we discovered that it doesn't all look like that. DymondWood "Rosewood Burgundy" is remarkably close to cocobolo. And it offers a big advantage over rosewood (aside from being made from a super abundant wood-birch), and that is stability. With its resin-impregnated, multi-ply structure, it basically functions like plastic. It won't shrink on the knob, and won't crack either (not that we've ever had a knob crack, to our knowledge). It also feels exactly like a cocobolo knob in your hand.
So in the next week or so, we'll start shipping vises with our new DymondWood knob. I doubt anyone will even notice. In fact, we passed around two knobs this week here, and only one person picked out the DymondWood instantly. Everyone else had to look close.
One of the knobs below is cocobolo, one is DymondWood.
For nine months in 2012/2013, my wife was a student at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, Napa Valley, California. As a dutiful husband, I would fly out there every three weeks or so to visit her. To help adjust to the time change, I would usually fly out a day early. She had eight hours of classes starting at 1:00 PM or earlier. I had to find some why to entertain myself. I couldn’t do anything too interesting, I had to save those for us activities over the weekend. If she had lots of homework, which she always did, I got kicked out earlier.
Not being interesting in tasting wine, I was inspired to start looking for antiques dealers. On this particular day, we wandered up north to Healdsburg to look around a bit before an early lunch. After lunch, my wife went to school. Feeling all alone and far way from home, I hit the antiques shops with a vengeance. I was a man on a mission.
I started in Healdsburg, down to Santa Rosa and then the various shops on the road to Sebastopol. A by then familiar route. Every other trip. Can’t visit the shops too often. Not enough inventory turnover to make the drive interesting.
When I got back home to our big lonely house in North Carolina, I did my laundry, patted the cats and changed their box, paid some bills and headed out. I was on my way to the Peach Meet of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association (MWTCA) in Madison, GA. Then on to Atlanta for a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event® and a class at Highland Woodworking in Atlanta. Oh, ya, the Cathedral Antiques Show, a really high-end show, was also that weekend. Darn them, they don’t allow photography.
Did I mention I drove down to Madison via Columbia, SC. They got antiques there. Who knew?
This is a very eclectic set. Two coasts. Four or five cities. A travelogue in antiques. Click HERE to see the set.
Clicking on the pictures will just enlarge them for this blog.
All this and more can be found at THIS HERE set. Enjoy!
Howard Bass, José Tomás: Memory and Legacy, 2012
Last year, I made a guitar for Julia, lead singer of Ode to the Marionette. It was a redwood/Indian rosewood guitar, small bodied with a short string length of 635mm. She loved it so much that she asked me to make her a seven string flamenco guitar.
I am excited to make her a new guitar, especially a seven string because it is surprising how much more music can be played on a guitar with an extra bass string. Check out the video at the end of this post.
Julia has small hands and to make it comfortable for her to play this guitar I am making it with a 635mm string length, a standard classical guitar has a string length of 650mm, so this requires making the entire guitar smaller so it doesn't look out of proportion to itself and the performer. A standard classical guitar has a box length of 480-490mm, this guitar has a box length of 470mm.
A concern of mine was to make sure that the head stock wasn't going to be way too big to fit this guitar, I also don't want this guitar to be neck heavy. I tapered the headstock in the opposite direction of the usual classical headstock, that is wider at the nut and smaller at the crest. I was going to make the crest be a copy of Santos Hernandez's crest, but it made the head stock look gargantuan compared to the rest of the guitar.
I spent most of the morning checking and re-checking the layout of the headstock to make sure everything was perfect for I cut anything. The noon time 2 mile run I took helped me get through the afternoon with the rest of the work.
Here's the heel block. I like to wedge the sides in, instead of having just a narrow slot.
Glueing the headstock to the neck shaft.
Julia chose a nice Sitka spruce top for her guitar, this photo shows my jointing jig. It was a sunny day when I jointed this top, I went outside to "candle" the joint using the sun.
Glueing the two top pieces together.
The top with layout for braces and harmonic bars.
Tomorrow will be spent finish carving the heel. Again, it is a balancing act, how to make everything look in proportion for a wider neck on a smaller bodied guitar.
Stayed tuned, more seven string guitar fun is on its way!
Here is a video of Doug DeVries playing on a seven string classical guitar. Enjoy!
Several years ago I spent weeks fiddling with the shape of my standard model dulcimer. After thinking I had finalized the shape I built several prototypes and again made some changes to the outline; some based on looks, some based on acoustics. I was very happy with the results. During the months I was unable […]
Last fall the good folks at Popular Woodworking very kindly asked to adapt and re-publish an essay I wrote for To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo On Marquetry, which they titled Hammer Veneering. It came out a couple of issues ago but I got distracted and forgot to put it here also.
Here it is.
I get asked about the equipment I use to take the photographs for this blog, my magazine articles and the books at Lost Art Press.
I think that equipment has little to with photography. But don’t tell that to the people on photography message boards. If you think the woodworking forums are kooky at times, they are Romper-Room in comparison to the ones on photo equipment.
Until December, my photo equipment was one small notch above the Harbor Freight level. And while I’d rather talk about composition, lighting, depth of field and exposure, I’d like to get the equipment discussion out of the way. I’ll discuss the more important stuff at a later date.
When we bring a new author on board at Lost Art Press, here is what we tell them about equipment.
The one place I’ll never skimp is on the tripod. It is the workbench of the photography world. I have a 20-year-old Bogen/Manfrotto tripod that I’ve rebuilt twice. You can find these pods on Craigslist. Even if they are beat to heck, they can be easily brought back. They were designed to last forever.
Many exposures in the workshop and with furniture can be quite long, so a good tripod is non-negotiable.
Any entry-level digital SLR will do the job. I find camera bodies to be disposable. The lenses are where I’ll spend money because those will be with you forever. Until I recently bought a “prosumer” camera, I used Canon Rebel bodies. I don’t give a crap about megapixels. I just buy the camera with the largest sensor that is on sale.
You want a camera that can easily drop into full-manual mode. If you can’t manually adjust the f-stop, shutter speed and focus, the camera will frustrate you in the shop. The exposure meters in cameras are not your friend. The auto-focus is not your friend.
Full manual. Full manual Full manual.
One last detail, the camera should be able to shoot RAW files (most cameras do). It is much easier to control everything (color, exposure, sharpness etc.) in the frame with a RAW file.
A good set of lights can cost as much as a car. Luckily, you those are not the lights you are looking for. I recommend a low-cost continuous lighting system that uses CF bulbs, such as this Cowboy Studio system. Yup, the whole three-light rig is $60 and it is all you need to photograph your furniture and work at the bench.
Yeah, it’s not an Italian light setup. It’s a lot of plastic, and you need to be careful not to break the bulbs. But for the amateur (or someone writing their first book) I think it’s perfect.
The two umbrellas diffuse the light and make things nice and flat. Then you can use the third light to create shadows or highlight some part of the frame.
A Cable Release
One last thing, get a cable release for your camera. This will minimize camera shakes during long exposures. If you are too cheap to buy a cheap cable release, use the self-timer on your camera.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Personal Favorites
Buying Tools Secondhand
Ebay differs from conventional secondhand sellers, flea markets, garage sales and so on. You don’t pick up the tool, twist it around, flex the steel or ping it with a flicked finger to hear solidity, as you do on location with the seller in front of you. So, just what do you need to look for when you buy your secondhand or new on eBay?
There is vernacular used on eBay that should pop up a red flag. I literally just went through some of the terms currently used on eBay this evening. Here are my brief thoughts:
Vintage – is the single most common and acceptable term used in connection with anything old on eBay, but just because that’s so, don’t necessarily think it means everything you see or even anything at all. You should look for additional corroboration in the tool itself, split nuts, brass instead of steel studs, zinc-plate substitutes, handle shapes, wood and steel colour and things like this. “Old’ and “vintage” mean different things to different people. Sellers frequently use these two terms, but it is your responsibility as the possible buyer to try as much as possible to authenticate the reality behind the claims. Vintage and old are relative terms and mean absolutely nothing on eBay.
Antique – is less acceptable as a legit term because of context and accountability. If we were to follow the US Customs law for a definition half the saws would be removed. US Customs law states an antique must be 100 years old prior to the date of purchase. In the UK we generally accept the same term as acceptable. Saws that look old because of greasy dirt and grime doesn’t mean old, antique or vintage at all. Follow the criteria for Vintage above.
Rare – does not mean rare in most cases. It can mean the seller didn’t see one before but it is likely the seller is limited in actual knowledge. You must do your own research before buying, to see if rare fits the particular tool you are looking at. Tools can be more scarce than rare.
Superior, Primitive, Early, Old, Very fine, Fine and so on – are all relevant terms on eBay. Adjectives like these have become quite generic, sometimes they do substitute for truth and honesty but mostly they are little more than bulking.
Drop-dead Stunning – These terms are more irritating than reality. Overseas sellers mostly adopt these types of openings. Look beyond the opening statement to the start price and then at the shipping costs. It’s here that reality hits.
Check for location – Overseas shipping can be prohibitive. Many costs are indeed highly inflated, most often because the seller can’t be bothered offering the real shipping costs or they don’t want to fill out customs, package for overseas and so on. I do click the button for the country I am in before I begin my searching unless that restricts me for some reason. Most often it is as irritating to find the seller is in the US it is for buyers in the US.
Images of Deception – are easy to manipulate the way we perceive the product. Honest images are the most helpful. As an example, some saws are shot from the end toward the handle. This makes the saw look longer than it is. One image of a gents saw regularly sold on ebay gets me every time. It looks like a 10’ saw yet it is only 6”; not a saw I would buy. It’s an attractive image, well taken, good colour and sharp. I can’t really fault the picture at all, but it still looks 4” longer than it is.
Pitting, cracks, chips dents are sometimes described as “the usual” and sometimes not shown in images. This can be deceptive, not always, but I think more often than not. Just look at the image and ask yourself the right questions. I am sure that often enough the images are not intended to deceive, but being open to the possibility helps to see things more realistically.
Some sellers often use old images of tools that are not current to the new. I have found many makers and distributors using images of former products to sell current products that look similar but are not the same. Marples chisels sold by distributors are often sold with the old bluechip chisel image even though when you receive them they will say Irwin Marples on them. That’s because the old ones were made in Sheffield by Record Marples using Sheffield steel and the current ones are made in Asia. The profits for Irwin Marples, which should be Irwin really tripled when they went to overseas manufacturing because they kept the brand without the integrity of the former company that was bought out. Other companies do the same. I have exposed Nicholson US, the manufacturer of files who’s long-standing reputation meant nothing to the current owners and this is proved by their making the files south of the border in Mexico. There are more.
Roald Renmælmo suggested that I might view a Norske TV program about Gunnar Eldjarn, a local traditional boatbuilder in Roald’s region. Roald explained that Gunnar’s son had been killed in Afghanistan three years ago, and that the film showed some of Gunnar’s work on traditional long boats.
I watched the film and though I couldn’t understand a word that was being said, I understood everything. Having three adult children, two sons and a daughter and being a veteran myself, I can only imagine that depth of a father’s heartache at the loss of a child, especially in a foreign war. Seeing, Gunnar Eldjarn at work in his shop reminded me of the recreative and redeeming power of work and the solace and comfort that a craft, well practiced, can provide. I hope that you’ll take thirty minutes out of your day and watch this program.
Just one last thought. We in the United States would do well to remember that we have many allies who share in trying to make this world a more secure place and their losses are no greater than our own.
CLICK HERE to read Part 1 of Lee Laird’s Wooden Square Build.
Now that we’ve created a perfectly fitting half-lap joint, let’s move on.
First we’ll address the shaping of each leg, at the opposite end from the half-lap joints. On my design, I measure from the outside edge of each leg, and mark it at 1/2”. Using a marking gauge, start at this point and mark down the leg about 1 1/2”. Using a small square, draw a line from the last mark, approximately ¼” towards the inside edge of the legs. This is laying out the flat between the two curves that are on the end of the legs. From this line drawn across the leg, measure down an additional 1 ½” and make a small pencil mark on the inside corner of the leg. Take your pencil and draw a curve from the outside corner of the end of the leg, to the outside most portion of the line across the board. This curve should bulge towards the inside edge of the board. The second curve is drawn from the pencil mark on the inside corner of the leg, back to the square line across the board, but meet at the portion closer to the inside edge of the board. The second curve’s bulge is towards the outside edge of the board, or the opposite from the first curve.
The first cut to make is from the inside edge of the board, along the square line you drew. This makes it easier to cut the curve at the end of the board, and not need to back out after reaching the end of the cut. Next cut the remaining curve from the inside edge of the board. You can make the curved cuts with a band saw, a coping saw or any tool you have that you feel comfortable using. Since I planned to make multiple squares, I made a small wooden template for this double-curved section as well as the upcoming ogee. The ogee template is something I might make, even if I was only making a single square, so all six of the ogees on the square are close to identical.
This next portion is to create the ogee on the inside edge of the legs, just before the legs narrow. Measure 1 inch back towards the half-lap joint (and mark it with a pencil) from the step in the leg you created earlier when you removed the 5/8” wide section of wood. (This section is used if you did not create an ogee template.) At this mark, use a square to create a line across the thickness of the board. Using a crosscut saw, cut down approximately ¼” at your line. The ogee begins from this cut and ends at the step. To create this ogee, draw a half-circle up from the bottom of this saw cut to the same surface where the cut began, and back down. The half-circle should have a radius of approximately 3/16”. At the other end of the half-circle, create a smaller half-circle that swings in the opposite direction, or away from the inside edge of the board. The end of this second half-circle should end just short of the step, so the end isn’t overly weak.
To create the ogee shape you’ve drawn, I like to use a chisel and rasps, but you could cut them with a saw if you’d rather. Place the leg into a vise or clamp with which you can restrain the leg while you work to remove material. The section closest to the saw, cut across the board’s thickness, is where I use the chisel to remove the small corner, beginning the start of the ogee, and then follow that cut with a very fine modeller’s rasp. To help expedite the process, I also cut down to almost the very bottom of the second half-circle with my crosscut saw. A fine rat-tailed rasp and a modeller’s rasp are both very useful at removing remaining wood while providing a good amount of control. Sand the ogee surfaces, with fine grits until you are satisfied with the look/feel. Repeat this process on the other leg’s inside the ogee.
You probably won’t believe it, but it’s finally time to glue the half-lap joint together. Get your glue, a small brush, a couple of clamps, a rag or two, a cup of water (to use when cleaning any excess glue), and the two small slabs you removed when cutting the half-lap joint. I usually lay down some wax paper or some plastic on the surface where I plan to glue so I don’t have a lot of cleanup after I’ve finished. I also like to apply some paste wax to the faces of the wood slabs so I can use them as cauls without them accidentally getting glued to the project. I pour some glue onto a small paper plate and use a tiny brush to apply it to the joint surfaces. This can help provide a nice level of control over the volume of glue in the joint. After the glue is applied, get the pieces together in the correct orientation (make sure the nice pretty ogees are on the inside edges of the legs), and put the slabs on each side of the joint and apply a little clamp pressure. Since this is such a small joint, it doesn’t take much pressure as you’re really just trying to keep the joint solid and prevent the parts from moving around. Give it one last look to make sure nothing has gone crazy, and if it’s good, set it aside to dry.
While the legs are clamped together, you can lightly offer the cross member up to them, so you can mark where the inside surfaces of the legs will mate. Once you have those marks, you can proceed to layout and create the ogees on this board (four of them), as well as the narrowing of the center section. If you aren’t in a hurry, you can always do these details later after you’ve cut the angled half-lap joints that mate the three boards together. Waiting isn’t really such a bad idea, as the center section of the cross member does get fairly narrow and with that, it’s strength is reduced. I’d hate to have you snap that board, after spending time creating the ogees and all, while cutting the joints and cleaning them up. I cut the remaining half-lap joints on the few I’ve made before moving on to the ornamentation, but in the end, its up to you. When laying out the ogees on the edge of the cross member that is closest to where the legs join, the saw cut is approximately ¾” in from where this meets the inside edge of the leg board. The overall length of these ogees are the same as those previously created on the legs. The ogees on the lower edge of the cross member are approximately 1” in from the inside edge of the leg boards. At the end of the ogees, make a saw cut across the boards thickness, down approximately 3/16”. The wood between these last cuts will be removed, leaving a lighter feel to the straight line between the ends of the ogees, while also stepped down.
After the leg joint is dry, offer the cross member up, and when the placement looks good, clamp it in place on both legs. On my squares, I placed them so the top of the cross member was approximately 8” down from the end of the leg (the half-lap end). With the cross member clamped in place, scribe around all sides of the mating pieces. Similarly to the earlier handling of the leg’s half-lap, work the joint surfaces to just shy of fully half thickness on adjoining pieces, and then sneak up on the perfect fit. I used my crosscut saw to make multiple cuts (5-7) in each of the remaining joint areas, cutting close to half the way through the board, and then followed that with my chisels to remove the rough waste.
The router plane followed, as it does such a great job of creating a surface parallel with whatever the plane rides on, and if that is an already flat face, the joint surface will also be flat and in the same plane. Leave the cross member at full length until after the square is glued up and dry. Its easy to trim the remaining ends off at that time, and the outside ledges help to hold it together, mainly requiring just a little pressure over the joint. Handle the glueup in the same manner as the leg half-lap and there shouldn’t be any problems.
After the glue has dried, trim off the excess ends of the cross member, as well as any little excess that protrudes at the leg-to-leg half-lap. Check your square to see that it is truly 90-degrees from one leg’s outside edge to the other. To check this, you can place it inside a known good square, or line up one leg’s outside surface with a known flat surface, like the front of your workbench. Draw a pencil line across the surface using the opposite leg’s outside edge. Flip the square over so the same leg’s outside edge is aligned with the front of the bench, and draw a second line using the outside edge of the same leg. Check to see if the two lines are parallel. If they are, you passed and the square is “Square”!
It’s not the end of the world if this isn’t the case, since you can adjust these to bring them into square. This is one of the nice things about making these from wood. If the angle between the outside edges of the legs is reading less than 90-degrees, a little material should be removed down towards the leg’s joint area on both sides. If the angle is more than 90-degrees, some material from the outside edge near the toe section should be removed. Of course, when removing any of this wood, you’d need to feather the amount removed into the full length of the same edge.
Now you can sand and finish your square in any manner you see fit. I sanded to 320 grit and followed that with some Tung Oil, which really brought the wood to life. I always mark my pieces with my burning tool (I still need to design and order one of the marking tools, so my mark is more consistent) and include at minimum the year, but sometimes the month and year. I think its cool for your family, friends, and customers to look back and recall when a piece was made.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the article and will make at least one wooden square. There are a range of techniques you’ll use during this build and like most things, the more you do, the more proficient you become. Please let me know if you have any question or comments.
Lee Laird has enjoyed woodworking for over 20 years. He is retired from the U.S.P.S. and works for Lie-Nielsen Toolworks as a show staff member, demonstrating tools and training customers. You can email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/is9582
As I’m writing this post the snow is still on the ground in my part of Michigan, about 3+ feet on the ground from the looks of it.
So it’s a perfect excuse to grab a hot cup of coffee (or cider), kick up my feet and watch the latest episode of “The Highland Woodworker”!
I don’t know how you could top the previous episode where Marc and I made an appearance discussing the evolution of the online woodworking world, but Charles Brock and the crew have given it a good effort with this episode!
What’s in the line-up this time? Here’s what:
- MOMENT WITH A MASTER: His early interest in woodworking surrounded the table saw, but woodworkers would arguably agree, Christopher Schwarz has become to hand tools what Norm Abrams has been to power tools! Find out how he became the most popular person in the room at any woodworking event.
- FEATURE: “Horsin Around” resulted in a community carving project to end them all. We’ll show you how sculptor Larry Ridge and the people of Chattanooga, Tennessee worked together to carve all the animals to refurbish an 1895 carousel for a city park.
- Popular Woodworking Magazine’s Tips, Tricks & Techniques: Chuck Bender teaches us how to make a bead on a board from scratch!
- Generation Next: This is our newest segment focusing on the stories of talented, young woodworkers who may be the next generation of master woodworkers. Ian Grundner is a talented sculptural furniture maker who is illuminating a new path.