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My sawmilling adventures began with an Alaskan chainsaw mill, which is just an attachment for a chainsaw to allow it to repeatedly cut a log lengthwise into lumber. It wasn’t anything fancy, and while it produced fine lumber, it was painfully slow to use. It didn’t take too many hours of me directly sucking in sawdust and fumes, while sweating my butt off, to start shopping for a more capable sawmill.
When I started my search, I considered bandsaws made by companies smaller than Wood-Mizer or TimberKing or Baker in a quest to also find smaller prices. While searching, I found several mills that looked suitable in the $5,000-$10,000 range, and I also came across a new “swing mill” from Australia called a Lucas mill.
The bandsaws looked to be a good choice as far as production went, but I didn’t have any way to move logs at the time, so the Lucas won out. It’s ability to easily break down and set up on site, while fitting in the bed of a pickup truck made it the clear choice, especially for larger logs. I say clear choice, but it wasn’t an easy choice. I didn’t like that the basic mill, fitted with a circular blade, was limited to 6″ or 8″ wide lumber without the optional slabbing bar attachment. And, my biggest fear was that this new mill from Australia, that I knew nothing about, might not be as good as it appeared in the videos.
Unfortunately, my fears were NOT immediately allayed. I went to pick up the more than $10,000 sawmill at the shipping terminal, and I couldn’t help but feel like I way overpaid for the amount of merchandise I picked up (Did I mentioned that it fits in the bed of my pickup truck?). There was only a sawhead, two long rails, and a few other miscellaneous metal parts that formed the frame ends. Besides that, the kit included a sharpener and some other odds and ends, but none of it added up to very much. I started doing the cost per piece arithmetic in my head, and it wasn’t looking good.
Regardless of my buyer’s remorse, I was tickled to have a “real” sawmill and set it up in my back yard the very first chance I got. After just a short time reviewing the directions, I had the sawmill set up and ready to cut. Even for someone who had never set one up, the Lucas went together fast. It was then that I realized what I had paid for. I didn’t pay for lots and lots of parts and extra bulk. I paid for an impressively designed machine, with an amazingly small stature, than can tackle the biggest logs. I paid for all of the research and design that went into the mill by the Lucas boys, and I paid to not lug around thousands of extra pounds, and I paid for everything to go together with minimal effort and a minimal number of steps. I got all of that and more.
From a design standpoint, I can confidently say that every part of the Lucas mill is well-planned and simplified beyond belief. The only mechanisms that I have ever had a problem with are the winches that raise and lower the ends of the long rails. They work perfectly fine and they are quite smooth, but they can be dangerous. When fully loaded with weight, it is possible to release the winch and lose control, resulting in a violently swinging handle that can smash your arm and allow the sawhead to come crashing down. I know from personal experience, as this has happened to me more than once, with the last instance leaving me at the hospital with a possible broken arm (luckily it was just a very bad contusion). If they were to ask, I would recommend that the winch system be built like the raising and lowering mechanism on my TimberKing 1220 manual mill, which magically is able to easily raise and lower the sawhead with complete control and without the possibility of having a disastrous crash. I have no idea how it works, but it smoothly operates the sawhead with a very heavy 15 hp electric motor attached to it like it isn’t there at all.
Now that you know to watch your arm and to be careful when lowering the sawhead on the Lucas mill, I can continue telling you how wonderful the Lucas mill is. First off, realize that I bought a Lucas mill in 1995, so I have been using one for about 2o years now, and I still use it on a regular basis. It is a very versatile machine that can handle big logs with ease. I often get asked how big of a log I can handle, and with the Lucas mill in my corner, I can just answer, “Yes.”
Currently, I use the 8″ model, which means that with the 21″ diameter circular blade attached it can produce up to 8″ x 8″ dimensional lumber. I rarely cut 8″ x 8″, but the mill can easily be adjusted to cut any dimensions under 8″. I often cut 1″ and 2″ thick lumber by 8″ wide.
The Lucas mill is called a “swing” mill because the blade can flip or swing with the pull of a lever from the horizontal to vertical position and right back again. The cool part is that both of the cuts line up with each other and work in concert to produce accurate and straight, completely edged lumber without a dedicated edger or any extra handling. In contrast, to edge lumber on a bandsaw mill requires flitches (lumber with bark edges) to be stood up in the mill and cut one or two more times to produce lumber with four square edges.
When cutting dimensional lumber I can easily work by myself making the vertical cut walking backward, then making the horizontal cut walking forward and finishing by sliding the cut board backward and out of the way. After a quick repositioning of the sawhead and a flip of the blade, I am back to cutting another piece of lumber. When cutting dimensional lumber like this I get in a rhythm–walk backward, flip blade, walk forward, slide board, move and flip blade, then repeat. The first cuts on the outside of the log are firewood, but after one pass across the top of the log and then dropping the mill to the next set of cuts, almost every pass produces an edged piece of lumber.
When I first got my Lucas mill I used it with the circular blade most of the time. Everything I produced was fully edged. Big slabs weren’t in style, so I didn’t even own a slabber, let alone use one. Now things are different. Live edges are in and so are big slabs, so the slabber is on the mill most of the time. The slabber is an attachment that turns the sawhead into a giant 2o hp chainsaw mill, with a maximum cut of 64″ wide.
I use the Lucas mill with the slabber attachment to cut all of my big logs that will produce slabs for table tops. With the slabber attachment the Lucas is not fast, but it can cut much wider than my bandsaw mill (maximum cut of 29″ wide), and it doesn’t make sporadic wavy cuts like the bandsaw mill. Knowing that I won’t get a miscut on a high-priced piece of wood gives me a great piece of mind.
These days when the slabbing attachment isn’t on the mill, the circular blade is, but not for milling lumber. I have been using it to flatten my kiln-dried slabs, and as long as the blade is sharp, it works great. After I move the slab into position, I just skim the surface with the mill to remove the high spots. Next, I flip the slab, drop the mill a bit and skim the other side. The end result is a perfectly flat slab, ready for final planing. The kids at Lucas sell planing and sanding attachments, but I haven’t used or purchased either one since I finish almost all of the slabs with the power hand planer or wide-belt sander.
Every time I use the Lucas mill, I am reminded how well it works, from quickly setting it up to making small adjustments, everything is simple. And, I know when I show customers how capable it is, they are impressed that such a lightweight, easy-to-setup mill can do so much.
Note: While Lucas is more than welcome to pay me to endorse their mills, as of now they do not. This was written for educational purposes and to let others know how my slabs are produced.
|I wound up having to pay extra as this duffel bag was nearly 30 kilos!|
That being said, I do have a nice batch of "nice-to-haves" here now.
Noticeably absent are any western saws. They didn't quite rate high enough on the list of priorities to replace anything in this bag. I am making do with my Ryobi Dick saw. Also missing are more chisels. I find that the three I have (in sizes kinda small, kinda medium and kinda big) are all I need at the moment.
Unloading the above bag, I thought I would document what was in there after I took out the boring stuff like t-shirts and underwear.
This first photo shows from left to right, my home-made tapered tenon cutter ala Tim Manney that I made a couple years back to match my tapered reamer that is already here. Not shown is the blade that gets attached with a c-clamp. There is also some sandpaper backed with foam that Pedder gave me, a few belt buckles for leather work, a couple of maroon and gray scratchy pads, some ebony scraps, a hunk of wenge, some leather wax, and a buttload of slotted screws and Roman nails that I got from Dictum. I bought three bags of the biggest ones they had which are 2 1/2" long. They should be great for clinching.
Next I'll have to set up the insides of my chest. I have to figure out how to get all this stuff in here.
This weekend we all said goodbye to 2016. (I’m happy to see it behind me because it was a great year from my perspective.) And of course, we are all anticipating what’s down the road for 2017. Before we get too far along that road, I want to remind you that you cannot forget the past 365 days, especially the projects and techniques we read about throughout the year. To that end, I’ve gone back through the archives to pull out and present the best of 2016.
With this post I want to present you my new Telegram channel: telegram.me/langolodispogliainferiore
Con questo post voglio presentarvi il mio nuovo canale su Telegram: telegram.me/langolodispogliainferiore
Since the beginning. Do you know Telegram? It's a cross-platform non-profit instant messaging application and much more. It's similar to WhatsApp and Messenger, but much better and without Zuckerberg on the way.
Among other things it allows the use of "Channels" to send messages from one to many, such as with newsletters or Twitter.
Da capo. Conoscete Telegram? E' un applicazione multipiattaforma, senza scopo di lucro, per scambiarsi messaggi e molto altro. E' simile Whatsapp e Messenger, ma molto meglio e senza Zuckerberg tra gli zebedei.
Tra le altre cose permette di utilizzare dei "Canali" per inviare messaggi da uno a molti, come con le newsletters o Twitter.
Well, my intention is to use this channel to make short reports of interesting things about hand tool woodworking which I find here and there and which I think may be also interesting to others.
A blog post, a photo on instagram, an article in a magazine, a video on youtube, a flame on a forum, a new gauge for dovetail laser marking and anything else that currently I simply just pass to my friends only, now I put at the disposal of anyone who wants to.
I'll be a middle way between a pusher and a DJ.
The posts will be very short: a link and a brief description. And I promise you I will never post more than three a day, although, knowing my lazy nature is easier than they will be actually no more than three a week ("Decrease again!", my friends are suggesting me).
Bene, la mia intenzione è di usare questo canale per fare delle brevi segnalazioni di cose interessanti, che trovo qua e la, relative alla lavorazione manuale del legno e che reputo possano interessare anche ad altri.
Un post di un blog, una foto su instagram, un articolo su una rivista, un video su youtube, una flame su un forum, un nuovo gadget per la tracciatura laser delle code di rondine e qualsiasi altra cosa che normalmente mi limito a girare solo ai miei amici, ora la metterò a disposizione di chiunque voglia
Sarò una via di mezzo tra uno spacciatore e un DJ.
I post saranno brevissimi: un link ed una breve descrizione. E vi prometto che non ne posterò mai più di tre al giorno, anche se conoscendo la mia indole pigra è più facile che saranno effettivamente non più di tre alla settimana ("cala ancora!", mi stanno suggerendo gli amici).
Receiving these messages is simple, download Telegram on your smartphone via Google Play or Itunes and then click on this link: telegram.me/langolodispogliainferiore
From that moment all my new post will be automatically notified you (but notifications may be silenced eh).
Ricevere queste segnalazioni è semplice, scaricate Telegram sul vostro smartphone via Google Play o Itunes e poi cliccate su questo indirizzo: telegram.me/langolodispogliainferiore
Da quel momento ogni mio nuovo post vi verrà automaticamente notificato (ma le notifiche si possono silenziare eh).
Now, the first thing I want to recomend you to inaugurate this channel, is the series of post about ebonizing wood with iron gall ink written by Ralph J. Boumenot, the Accidental Woodworker, which can be found on his blog under the label "ebonizing wood".
Ralph is a great woodworker and one of the most prolific bloggers, but above all it is a good person who always has a good word or a good advice for those who need one. Thank you very nuch for all you do, Ralph.
Ora, la prima cosa che voglio segnalarvi per inaugurare questo canale, è la serie di post sull'ebonizzazione del legno con l'inchiostro ferrogallico scritti da Ralph J. Boumenot, Il Falegname Accidentale, che potete trovare sul suo blog sotto l'etichetta "ebonizing wood".
Ralph è un ottimo falegname ed uno dei blogger più prolifici, ma sopratutto è una brava persona che ha sempre una buona parola o un buon consiglio per chi ne ha bisogno. Grazie per tutto ciò che fai, Ralph.
As we’re only days away from the packing party to ship out Issue Two, I can’t help but reflect on the year (11 months actually) since Issue One was released. 2016 has been a wild ride for me. Before M&T launched, I spent my work week alone in my studio regluing chairs and refinishing dining tables. I ran a little blog documenting some of it but, for the most part, I was pretty much in my own little world.
This leap-in-the-dark magazine idea was simply the culmination of my many thoughts and observations working on period furniture. I never knew if it would resonate with anyone else.
Mortise & Tenon has completely flipped my life upside down. The interest far exceeded what I thought possible, I hired full time help to keep furniture moving through my studio, and now a bunch of my professional time is spent on activities related to teaching, writing/editing, and interacting with readers of the magazine. With Mike on board, we’ve started learning to use new mediums like video. Mike and I have learned a lot doing the Foundations video and we really enjoyed it. We see the Apprenticeship series primarily as a means to teach and demonstrate our methods of working so that we can hook more people into hand tool work. We are truly passionate about handcraft and want to make it as approachable as possible. Video seems to be a good way to do that.
What should you expect to see from us in 2017? Good question. Lots…
We are prouder than ever of Issue Two and expect it to generate a bunch of dialogue with readers. We plan to ramp up our blogging and YouTube activity to facilitate that. YouTube is new to us and we hope to figure out its “isms”. We see it as a powerful tool to communicate through comments. Subscribe to our channel and watch for new videos.
You can also expect to see a new Apprenticeship video released sometime before summer. Mike and I have been discussing the outline for that but we will announce the topic in the near future. What I can say is that it is a topic (and perspective) I don’t recall ever seeing done before. We hope it will be a valuable resource for our readers. Stay tuned for that.
We will have new shirts soon – the design is in the printer’s hands. We’ll see if we can figure some hoodies too but are not sure if there is enough interest. (Do you all want hoodies?)
And there will be new stickers.
We also have a big project that we will announce this summer. I can’t say what it is yet but I will say it is huge news for M&T and that Mike and I (and others) will be putting a ton of time into it. You will see a lot about it, believe me.
This winter, though, I’m finishing up my book about the furniture making of Jonathan Fisher for Lost Art Press. During the course of my research and writing, the vision for the book has clarified. The book will be much more personal and less academic than originally intended. I discussed this with Chris and he said he and John expect and actually hope that their authors have a new perspective on the project having been in it so deep. What an incredible support Chris and John have been to me. You won’t find a better publisher. Come spring, my part in the Fisher book will be complete.
We already have a pile of ideas for Issue Three and will begin planting those seeds with authors soon. We are hopeful that Issue Three (which we plan to be shipping in November or December 2017) will be the beginning of a biannual publishing schedule. Doing this thing twice a year will be a huge amount of work but we are working toward making it attainable.
So the turning of the year tonight has me thinking afresh about the whirlwind of 2016 and the exciting new opportunities to grow and expand in 2017. There is so much on the horizon. Even personally – my wife and I are expecting our third child this spring.
Mike and I thank you for supporting our young families. Mortise & Tenon Magazine is a homegrown publication that we pour our hearts into. It’s your enthusiastic comments on social media and emails that keep us focused on providing content that you readers enjoy.
Thank you, readers. May your 2017 abound with shavings.
Well, 2016 is about to bow out, and so I thought I’d put together a little slideshow of what I have been up to this year.Click to view slideshow.
Now I’m off to raise a glass of the particular and usher in 2017.
Happy New Year folks! Let’s make it a good one.
Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: self-indulgence
|Always Time to Work|
It is normal at this time of the year to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. I find this very strange. I enjoy my life and craft and find myself in my shop at the bench working on something every day. I do not see any difference between week days and week ends, holidays and non holidays. What changes is the trash pick up schedule, whether the school across the street is open or not and if there is any mail in the box. Other than that, no difference.
Since I work and live in North Park, an older historic commercial district in San Diego, this day to day normalcy is compounded by the fact that the weather rarely changes. Except for a few weeks of the year when it rains a bit and other weeks when the temperature drops to 60, there is no indication of the seasons.
I have enjoyed this lifestyle, earning my keep by restoring antiques for 47 years now, with all but a few the early years in the same location. I walk to work and open the door at 7am, read my emails and turn on the glue pot, remove the clamps from the day before and then, promptly at 8am turn the "open" sign around in the window. When I feel like it, somewhere between 6pm and 7pm, I turn the sign to "closed" and walk home. It's a nice routine. On some days I ride my bike instead of walking.
In any event, I cannot fail to notice the news and talk that another year has ended. As Pink Floyd
sang on The Dark Side of the Moon ("Time") "The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older, shorter of breath and one day closer to death." I turned 68 two weeks ago and I now have approximately 32 years left to finish all the projects I started in my life. I am not sure that I have enough time...
So, this post is about "time." Something that we can measure but cannot see. Of course, we can see the effects of time. Things get old and die. But we cannot hold time in our hands or feel it with our fingers. Time is ephemeral, as the wise men would say. We are aware it exists and cannot ignore it. It rules our lives. We are subject to its rule. Time is our master. It will exist long after we all are gone.
Jim Croce sang "If I could save time in a bottle." For me the solution is to put time in a box. I make clocks. Mechanical, old fashioned pendulum clocks, the kind which were first invented around 1650. Using lead weights to convert potential energy to kinetic energy, driving a precise set of gears with a constant escapement to turn the hands of time. Using gravity instead of electricity as a power source. Using human power to raise the weights every week and letting the earth pull them down.
I have made 5 clocks in the past 15 years. Each one found a home before it was completed. I did not advertise any of them. Over the year it takes to complete a good clock, some person would discover it and meet my terms for adoption. Each clock is different, but I tend to make clocks that stylistic date from 1690 and have square brass dials. I like olive wood and it produces a dramatic surface with a nice polish. It is getting harder to find, as is most of the old stock exotic woods.
|Clock #6, Completed and Standing Tall|
I have just completed clock #6, which has been a project for the past year. The origin of this clock is a clock I was asked to restore some 20 years ago. It was the property of a famous actress in Hollywood, and she had owned it all her life. It was from a world famous clock collection, the Wetherfield Collection, and had been sold by Arthur S. Vernay in New York, when that collection was broken up in 1928. At one point, after I had restored it for her, I managed to secure a cash offer of $175k from an English clock dealer, which she refused. Even though I encouraged her to take the offer, she just said, "I would rather have the clock."
I understood exactly what she meant. When you entered her home, the first thing you saw was this clock. It spoke immediately of class, culture, education, maturity, and stability. It had a heart beat, which quietly permeated the home, and would announce the hours with a charming bell. It had a face, and hands, feet and a waist, and the face was surrounded by a bonnet. In every aspect it was a person. A physical presence and reminder that we are all humans, measuring time's passing.
|Waiting under the Plastic is Clock #7|
This clock had a dramatic surface, decorated with boxwood and ebony pinwheels of all sizes and covered in figured sawn olive wood veneers. All the moldings were carved across the grain, giving it a vertical thrust, forcing your eye to travel from the feet to the top, relishing every detail of the construction. It was made by Joseph Windmills, in London, around 1690. In the book, "The Wetherfield Collection of English Clocks" it is illustrated on page 22 as figure #14.
|Joseph Windmills, London 1690|
I started this project by finding online a period set of clock works in good working condition. I then had David Lindow, in Gravity Pennsylvania, fabricate a new brass face, which was then engraved by Valdemar Skov, in Maine. David also made a fine set of hands to complete the works. I had the works cleaned and adjusted by Paul Smith, who has been in business here in San Diego nearly as long as I have.
I always start building my clocks with the back board. In this case, all the secondary wood is tulip poplar. Historically, English clocks are made of oak, but I cannot find the proper old growth white oak here in California, so I use poplar or beech. There can be no confusion in the future as to the possibility that my clocks could be sold as period clocks, even if some dealer were to remove my name.
It takes many weeks of work to apply the skin. All my clocks are covered in sawn veneers which are quite thick, 1.5mm. All elements are glued using animal protein glues. All the molding is hand carved across the grain, which takes some time. I cannot use simple molding planes, since the grain is going sideways. It must be carved and then scraped and sanded to shape. The profiles were taken from the original clock, when it was in the shop for conservation.
|Progress around July 2016|
On the sides I use sausage sawn veneers and oyster sawn veneers. On the front I use oyster sawn veneers, with highly figured cross banding. In the pinwheels I used Gabon ebony and English boxwood, with each triangle trimmed to fit by hand with a hand plane. The nice thing about using sawn veneers is that you can work the edges like real wood.
|Clamps on...Clamps off|
It takes a lot of clamps...Fortunately, I have a lot of clamps.
This clock has a very special owner, now that it's completed. She is 101 years old. I have worked for her and her family since she was my age, nearly 4 decades. I have carefully moved her from one residence to another, as necessary, transporting all her precious antiques personally. She has kept together a great collection of art and antiques from her ancestors, and lives surrounded by beauty.
Her daughter purchased one of the Treasure Boxes, first series, and it sits in the main room in a place of honor. They both desired a tall case clock made by me and I thought that this would be the year to fulfill their wishes. I am pleased that I was able to complete the task by the end of the year.
They have recently purchased a nice condo in the older part of San Diego, where this clock will be delivered. I expect to have it in place, beating away the seconds, in the next few weeks.
Today I stand at my bench, working on wonderful projects, at the end of another year. I know that next year will start tomorrow and I will be faced with more wonderful projects to complete. There is always a good reason to come to work and a genuine satisfaction every day when I decide to go home. The one inescapable truth is that, regardless of how much more time I have left, it is time itself that will survive. I hope and believe that my clocks will also survive me, beating away the seconds for centuries yet to come. I know Joseph Windmills had similar thoughts back in 1690.
Life is good.
This story starts way back in May when Jonathan White (of Bench Blog fame) sent me a William Marples Hibernia Mortise Gauge as a very generous, but completely unexpected present. You can read his and my posts on the tool for background. Anyway it got me thinking how I could return the favour. At the time I already met a delightful young Namibian blacksmith by the name of Hanno Becker. He trained in Germany through the ancient apprenticeship model they have for all craftsmen. Since he finished his training he moved back to Namibia and started his own business. He is a very refreshing change from the often money orientated younger generation. Hanno is driven by excellence.
Hanno and I decided in February to try and create our own version of a Japanese Daruma hammer that I wanted to use with chisels for fine joinery work. I have adopted David Charlesworth’s techniques for this type of work and a good purpose made hammer is essential. These Japanese hammers are so well thought out (over a matter of several centuries) and made that it is not just a case of rocking up and producing a good quality hammer, even with Hanno’s considerable and well polished skills. We wanted to have one perfectly flat face and one slightly convex.
By late June Hanno had the first prototype ready. You can see what it looks like in the picture below. By that time I had ample time to ponder over the shape and choice of wood for the handle. I wanted to create a handle that sloped towards the flat face of the hammer and away from the convex face. The idea behind this is to open the convex face up to keep one’s knuckles away from the work when setting nails, hence the convex design of the face. The curve towards the flat face helps keep the face perfectly square on the butt end of your chisel while doing precision joinery work, hence the flat design of the face.This picture illustrates one of the most challenging obstacles in producing these hammers the traditional way. As the blacksmith forms the hole for the handle it deforms the shape of the billet. This picture illustrate the ergonomic advantage of the sloped handle while doing joinery work with the hammer.
I made my first handle and used the hammer for a week before handing it as a present to my cousin the Urologist. Apparently he has been using it to chisel out prostates ever since. Apparently it works like a dream, albeit a particularly frightening one.My apprentice Connor is helping me to shape the handle. The handle gets wedged in two directions. First a wooden wedge longitudinally, followed by purpose made metal wedges diagonally with regards to the aforementioned.
A trick I learnt from Hanno is to heat up (ever so slightly of course as not to have an effect on hardness or tempering) the head and rub on beeswax. It creates an attractive protective finish that smacks of the old artisan age.
What I learnt from this first attempt is that the handle needs to fit perfectly in the head otherwise you end up with the metal wedge splitting the handle below the head. There is a learning curve to everything in the shop I guess.
Another advantage of the handle curving towards the flat face is that it can be placed on the workbench like this while doing joinery work and it is easy to pick up immediately in the desired orientation to continue working. The curve and oval shape of the handle also informs the user immediately which face is at the business end if picked up without looking at the hammer.
After this first prototype Hanno and I collated our thought on where we could improve the design. What we notice on the positive side was that the hammer is an absolute joy to use. Clearly the age old tradition of hardening only the faces and keeping the rest of the head relatively “soft” works wonders for the feeling of superior power transfer and pretty much eliminating recoil. When I first read about this in Japanese hammer literature I thought it was just hype or marketing, but believe you me it is quite striking (pun intended) when compared to a regular commercially made hammer. I noticed that one needs to use the hammer for a little while before the mentioned effect reaches a peak. All I could think was that it has something to do with the “joint” where the wood meets the metal. It seems as if it needs to settle or mature a bit.
It might have something to do with the properties of the Assegaai (Curtisia dentata) I chose for the handle. Allegedly it was the species favoured by the Zulus for their spears, hence the common name of the species. Assegaai was also heavily favoured by colonial wagen builders, especially for the spokes of the wheels. Assegaai is extremely fine grained and hard, yet surprisingly flexible. Another prized property is the fact that it tends to be extremely stable once well seasoned. A property that is priceless to keep the spokes secured in their mortises and would probably apply to the joint with the metal head. I think it has something to do with these properties of the Assegaai which translates into a joint with the metal that needs a bit of time to settle to give a very noticeable improvement in the feel of the hammer. In conclusion we thought the first prototype was a resounding success, but wanted to see how much better it can get.
We decided to try and aim for a artisan round (as apposed to perfectly round) shape to the head, improve on the inside shape of the hole through the head to increase the grip of the handle, and I wanted to create a more flowing look to the curve of the handle. Hanno then invited me to his shop on a Sunday to witness the process firsthand. At this stage he had already made two more heads and thought he was ready to produce a winner.This is one of the two heads Hanno made in phase two.
On the big day Hanno first made a new chisel for punching the hole through the billet. He developed a few ideas on how to improve the chisel from the first two phases. This chisel is made from a special type of steel that is ridiculously hard in order to punch a hole through the special steel that Hanno handpicked for the hammer’s head. The chisel tapers slightly to ensure that the hole first narrows over the first third and then flares out after that when approached from the end where the handle enters. This feature together with the wedges ensures a very sturdy joint with the handle.
Once the chisel was done he moved on to the billet.
The hole gets punched through the billet from both ends bit by bit. It was at this stage that I realised just how skilful this young man is.
As you can see, this process tends to deform the billet somewhat.
One perfect hole done and dusted.
At this stage it takes even more skill to regain the round shape without deforming the hole.
A week later Hanno delivered what would become my bench hammer and it looked liked this. My Jenesaisquoi Persuader (as apply named by Matthew J McGrane on Bench Blog) has become my favourite tool, it is literally the only tool that does not have a dedicated storage spot as it lives on the bench. I use it constantly to set my holdfasts (with the domed face of course) and it is a revelation in tandem with my Lie-Nielsen chisels while doing joinery work. Now I only need a Akio Tasai chisel to go with it. If there is one outstanding feature of this hammer that gives me tremendous pleasure (ala Charlesworth) each time I use it, it would be the incredibly soft efficiency of the power transfer. When hitting a holdfast there is almost no discernible recoil.
By late November I received two hammer heads representing phase four of the development. By now my handle shape improved to a more pleasing curve and I picked the best cuts of Assegaai I could lay my hands on.
Below you can see my hammer’s handle. (i.e. phase three)
The following photos illustrate the improvements we identified for phase four. We wanted to increase the size of the hammer’s sweat-spot by increasing the diameter of the cylinder shaped head, while retaining the weight of approximately 375 gram. That necessitated the head to become a bit shorter.
The phase three hammer is on the right and the phase four on the left with a noticeable increase in diameter.
Again phase three on the right and phase four on the left. Roughly the same weight yet noticeably shorter.
I try not to fuss too much when making these handles as they are meant to be working hammers not museum pieces. I also used the set of tools that I imagined an old artisan from yesteryear would employ for this task. That is perhaps with the exception of the electrivorous bandsaw that was initially used to cut the curves, but was followed by drawknife, spokeshave, card scraper and finally sandpaper. As my talented friend picked up in his assessment of the hammer, it actually balance best when you choke up on the handle somewhat. This is also intentional as that is the grip one would use when doing precision chisel work (illustrated by the picture below). When setting nails or holdfasts the balance is less important.
The wooden wedge.
Followed by two (another detail we added) rather than one purposed made metal wedges.
From right to left, phase 2, phase 3, and finally phase 4.
And here they are in the opposite direction, with phase 2 on the left and 4 on the right.
Finally they received a coat of Ballistol. I prefer using only a light coat of oil as it retains a better grip and tends to be less sweaty compared to lots of coats of varnish.
Then I sent them on their merry way to Washington and Nova Scotia. They are presents for my two blogging friends Jonathan White and Robert “Bob’s your Uncle” Demers. I hope you guys get as much joy out of them as I do.
- Attach the leg to the seat with a tapered tenon and hole. I would have to buy this reamer and this tenon cutter. The seat base would have to be thicker;
- Keep the legs rectangular but move them inboard to the flat portion of the seat and drill the holes with the seat clamped to the completed leg assembly. I've already decided to move the legs inboard anyway for appearance reasons.
Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Western Trees, 1952
I like to split guitar bracing material from billets of spruce or Douglas fir, usually I use a 2 inch wide registered mortice chisel for the task, but the chisel doesn't work as well as a froe.
During this past summer and fall I bugged a friend of mine to weld a piece of steel pipe to an old file I have to make a small froe for the shop.
Either he was too busy or I was, the froe never got made.
Then, lo and behold, there on the Tools For Woodworking website were three different sized froes made by Ray Iles! I emailed the web address to my wife and told her which froe to order for me, I was so very excited!
On Christmas morning I unwrapped a wonderful present, a six inch Ray Iles froe.
It's a nice froe, very much the length I need...
and today I cut up a length of a hickory pick axe handle, chucked it into the lathe and made a new handle for the froe.
Why should I do that when the Iles froe comes with a very nice beech handle?
It is my tool and I want a different shaped handle and the handle will do quite well for now.
Froes are tools that are very near and dear to my heart. When I was a kid, I helped my parents rive shingles to replace the worn ones on my grandparents' house in the Sierra Nevada of northern California. Shingle making had been a cottage industry for many folks that lived in the great forests of Northern California from the 1850's until the end of World War II. My great uncle, Frank, told me that my grandfather, Rufus, could rive one thousand shakes a day, if he didn't have to stack them. During the Great Depression, my grandfather often sold the shakes for a penny a piece.
In the above photos are two froes and a shingle bolt marking gauge made by my grandfather.
The froe on the right is a "checking" froe; you would mark the top of the bolt with the checking froe to see how many shakes you could rive from the bolt.
The riving froe, on the left, is what you use to do the actual splitting and riving. Notice how the end of the riving froe is upturned on the very end, I was told this little bend made it easier to get the froe out of the bolt. If I had made my own froe this fall, it would have looked just like this one, only smaller.
Notice that the handle on the riving froe has a curve to it, this curve help saves the knuckles of the hand that is hold the froe from getting hit by your froe mallet. California Live oak limbs were harvested for froe handles, they were placed into forms while green to set the curve and were sold once dry. Some where I read that live oak handle sold for as much as 10 cents an inch in 1900.
If you want to see how I make a traditional froe mallet, traditional to northeastern California, click here.
This historic photo comes from the CSU Chico Digital Collections, click here to see the original photo. These men were working near the Clipper Mills area of Butte County, California. Both men are using froes with French eyes, the gentleman to the left is riving out bolts, the gent on the right is splitting shakes and take a look at the brake he is using. When I was a kid, a similar, but not as fancy, brake that was used by my grandfather was out behind the wood shed.
The stacks behind the men are shake bolts, usually six inches wide by thirty six inches long. One implement I don't see in this photo is the baler, a device to squeeze the shakes down so you could wrap them with wire. If I remember correctly, it was 100 shakes to a bundle.
Here's a photo of me, from about five years ago, using my grandfather's froe splitting a cheek for a lathe poppet.
As for the Ray Iles froe, it is well made and I look forward to using it, a nice tool to honor a bit of my heritage. All I need to do now is to figure out some sort of board brake to use at the workbench when I split out guitar braces.
I've had these Incra squares for years now and they have seen plenty of use, especially the 150 mm version. They have holes for a 0.5 mm pencil every 1 mm and then below holes at 0.25 mm intervals in-between. This may seem a bit odd going to the nearest 0.25 mm using a lead which is 0.5 mm thick but it really works well. You can place a sharp awl bang in the middle of an intersection of lines for marking pivot hinge positions etc.
Sadly the Incra branded pencil available then wasn't very good and the lead was always breaking. This fine pencil from Staedtler may cost a bit more (£4) but it works much better.
The lead is supported right up to the tip drastically reducing breakages as well as annoying blockages.
It also has a rather nifty twist rubber (eraser) which is replaceable.
In this video, we talked with Chris Schwarz about the fascinating article he has written a titled “Decoding the Roman Workbench” for Issue Two. His article, which looks at the practical usage of the bench, has been informed by meticulous research in ancient texts, surviving European artifacts, and in-the-shop exploration. As it turns out, this experimental archaeology approach has yielded some compelling discoveries about pre-industrial woodworking.
You can order your copy of Issue Two here.
I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.
I gave it all that I had, and it’s gratifying that others seem to be receiving it so well.
(Thanks to my brother for the picture.)
What is it about the hand plane that draws people into woodworking? What is it about that block of wood with an iron that connects with woodworkers at such a visceral level?
I think about this question a lot when I’m working in the shop because there are days when it seems I just need to shape wood – as if it’s some sort of therapy or something.
The feeling of satisfaction that comes from using such a simple tool to work the lumber must be something rooted in us at the deepest level. Creativity, I think, is something rooted in our humanity. We were all made to work with our hands.
But also, to lose touch with handcraft is to lose touch with an essential part of what ties us to our heritage. Craft is as much about community as it is creative expression.
David Pye defined “craftsmanship” as the workmanship of risk. What he means is that the more our work relies on our skill and dexterity developed through practice, the more we connect with the heart of craft.
So I think the hand plane has come to embody the interaction between the craftsman, the tools, and the material. When people see the magic of a hand plane, I think they’re recognizing – even if subconsciously – that deep-rooted human desire to create with their own hands. So I think that’s the primary reason hand planes evoke so much awe in people.
I know that’s true for me.
What do you think, readers?
Workbench side clamps are not something I think anyone would generally use on a daily basis, but when the job calls for the sort of clamping they provide, they do a great job. I think one of the reasons they were not used often is the time it takes to affix them to the workbench — usually requires the use of nuts and wrenches.
How can I improve the likelihood I will use my new side clamps?
The 3/8″ 5 star knobs I ordered from Rockler for my side clamps arrived yesterday and I gave them a shot.Side clamps with 5 star knobs
On the left you can see both knobs on the same side of the clamping block and on the right you can see one knob on the top and one knob on the bottom. Either configuration works well. With a 5 star knob you can easily loosen both knobs and remove one knob to move the block around.
The above tweak is not an earth shattering change but it does remove the need for a wrench and make it a little more likely I’ll break out the side clamps with the need comes up.
P.S. If you’d like to read up on how to build your own pair of side clamps you can read my earlier post on that topic here.
Filed under: Popular Woodworking, Portfolio, Workshop Projects, Writing Tagged: featured, Rainford Workbench, Rockler, Side Clamps, Tage Frid, Tage Frid Workbench
A fixture used to produce an angle had better by right on, as on the Donkey Ear for the Vogt Shooting Board. Close ain’t cuttin’ it. It’s easy to get in the ballpark but not to hit home runs consistently.
If you want to bevel a plywood edge to 45° the tablesaw is the obvious choice.
I have found that, no matter how carefully I set the blade angle, the results can be inconsistent. Material can be less than ideally flat, the reference edge against the fence not as straight as expected, and the angle a fraction of a degree one side of 45 or the other.
A technique I have developed that delivers the accuracy I want is to start with the tablesaw, then use a jointer plane to shoot a small, straight flat on the knife edge, and finally to joint the bevel on the router table using a large bit.
My router table fence can be set with an out-feed fence to remove about 1/32”. Notice in the photo that I have inlaid a strip of acetal in the MDF face of the out-feed fence where a very sharp edge would wear a groove in it.
When I set the bit height, the sharp edge lands in the small space below the bearing.
There is snipe for the first two inches of the piece to be beveled that I account for as waste. Tapering the leading edge helps to guide it onto the out-feed fence.
Scribble on the edge to be jointed lets you see if the job is completed when it is fully removed.
Referring back to this morning’s blog, I found this:
If you don’t get the reference check out this morning’s blog.
If you still don’t get it, well, bless your heart.
We just got done loading Issue Two off the delivery truck and into storage! They will be heading out from our packing party on January 6th and 7th! Coming soon to a mailbox near you!
Order your copy here!
|My old corded drill|
For years, I had been telling myself that I don't need a cordless drill, that the two corded ones I have are more than enough. What's the big deal about a cordless drill anyway, I reckoned, it's drill and nothing more, right?
Well, that said, for the past few months I could not shake off the thought that a cordless drill-driver could actually be a somewhat different beast. I had been watching those Youtube videos where woodworkers nonchalantly reach for their cordless tool and unthinkingly go about their job. Even the great hand tools guru, Paul Sellers, had one at close reach.
I, on the other hand, would have to plug in my electric drill, key in the appropriate bit and then make sure the job was within cord range. The other thing was I couldn't keep my corded drill upright on the bench and had to stow it away somewhere every time.
It dawned on me eventually that my intellectual struggle against cordless drills was over, I had lost. It was time to save up and read up on the specs for a cordless drill-driver.
I eventually settled for one by Bosch named the GSR 18 V-EC. The nomenclature is maddening but eventually begins to make sense: GSR stands for drill-driver, 18 for the battery voltage and EC, for some reason, stands for "Brushless Motor".
This was a new one for India and it made sense to buy a newer model, especially since brushless motors are supposed to be more efficient and don't have carbon brushes that eventually wear out and have to be replaced.
The idea of a keyless chuck too is very appealing for a person who has always used chucks that have to be tightened with a key. Bit change is fast and effortless in the keyless variety.
More important I found that the drill had a maximum torque of 60 Nm which is pretty good for most jobs and the machine can be used on wood, metal as well as masonry.
This meant the drill would be good for my outdoor projects as well and I would not have to draw a long extension all over the place.
With all this in mind, a month or so ago, I went across to a big Bosch dealer in New Delhi's Chawri Bazar. Their office was at the end of a narrow alley through which a motor cycle could barely fit. No sunlight reached its interiors and the office itself was housed in an ancient gloomy building, full of ill lit rooms, dark nooks and crannies.
The two proprietors sat like grumpy goblins in a neon lit room as shabby as the rest of the place, amidst piles of files, stacks of cardboards cartons and old greasy tools strewn in a corner.
I later found that the office actually comprised three floors stuffed with tools, accessories and packing stuff. The place was worth a fortune but its owners seemed to have no problem in operating out of a hideous airless place.
The only bright fellow in the place was the salesman I had been introduced earlier by a Bosch marketing executive. He was talkative, helpful but not terribly informed as I later learnt.
I bought a few accessories and paid for the drill driver which they were selling for Rs 10,500 which seemed a bargain. After collecting my receipt, I was told to go to the ground floor to collect the tool.
I went downstairs and waited, and waited and waited. Half an hour passed and I was getting frantic. Went back upstairs and did some shouting; the salesman scurried down and joined the hunt for the drill amidst cartons of tools piled to the ceilings. At the end of much searching, they declared that the particular tool could not be found.
It there somewhere, the salesman claimed but it couldn't be found. He promised to courier it to me the next day at no extra cost and I, like an idiot, agreed.
The drill never arrived the next day, nor the next. It went on for more than a week with me calling up the salesman every day and yelling, entreating, and finally even appealing to his better sense. Each day I was given a different excuse, mostly about the blasted courier service.
And then finally one day the machine arrived. Thank God! I thought and opened the package only to find it was not the machine I had ordered. They had sent an older 18 Volts model marked "CV" and not "V-EC". And that started another harrowing round of shouting and screaming over the phone. This went on for weeks.
The salesman turned out to be the only honest man left standing in the dealership. He repeatedly apologised and promised that he would get me the machine I wanted. The proprietors did not even bother to take my calls.
After three harrowing weeks, the salesman informed me that he had got hold of the model I wanted but it would cost me another Rs 3,500.
I agreed in relief; but there was another problem: the proprietors refused to courier it and I would have to travel 70 kilometres to get it.
Then one night, the salesman called to say he would personally deliver the machine to me somewhere convenient but only on a Sunday as he worked late and his bosses would not let him off early to deliver the machine.
|Bosch GSR 18 V-EC|
On a grey Sunday morning I drove down to the nearest Metro station which was about 25 km from my house to meet the salesman who was waiting with the cordless drill.
It was rather decent of him to travel all the way to the suburbs on a Sunday morning, at his own cost, to deliver the tool. I stood him a coffee at Barrista and I told him I appreciated his gesture.
He grinned happily: "I had promised I would get you the machine, hadn't I?"
That he had and much against the wishes of his grumpy proprietors. I was touched at the end of it, despite the weeks of uncertainty and indignation. As I drove away, it struck me that this was Christmas morning and I had finally got my cordless drill-driver. What a lovely coincidence!
29 December 2016