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My Favorite Medicine Cabinet

Bob Lang's ReadWatchDo - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 7:52am
I will be teaching a class in building this cabinet on August 26 & 27, 2017 at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. Click Here for details. Along with an appreciation for good design, I’m also fond of the stories Continue reading →
Categories: General Woodworking

working on drawer number one.

Accidental Woodworker - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 1:12am
I don't like taking pills. Even if they are supposed to be helping me. Unfortunately, one of those pills enables me to work in the shop and play woodworker. The pills don't keep me totally pain free, it mostly keeps my strength intact. My biggest problem with the pills is I forget to take them. That caught up with me today to say hello. My hands have hurt all day long and I kept dropping things I thought I had picked up.

I am going to have to take my head out of my butt and pony up to taking my two blue pills a day. The one time that I did take the pills for a week, twice a day, I felt good. This sporadic pill regime I am using now isn't working. Just like the old Fram Oil Filter commercial, it's a pay me now or pay me later.  I am going try to take one at breakfast and one a dinner and see if I can make that a habit.

fingers crossed on this
The paper hadn't stuck to the wood when I took the clamps off. That could be taken as a bad or a good sign. The front looked ok and it'll clean up and I doubt I'll be able to see the fix.

still fits
It seemed to me that the fit now was a little snugger than before. The side is still a sheet paper proud of the front too.

sizing the back
I was going to use through dovetails at the back. Doing that meant the back has to be the same length as the front. The top to bottom will be different. The back will be the same as the distance from the top of the drawer to the top of the drawer groove. I just did the length and the top/bottom I'll do later.

been using my bench planes more for this
I haven't seen any difference in using my bench planes to square end grain over using the LN 51 shooter. I've been using the bench planes because iron in the LN51 doesn't stay sharp for any appreciable length of time. The 4 1/2 will do 2 times the shooting that the LN 51 will do.

It took me a while to get used to using the bench planes to shoot with and I'm starting to prefer using them over getting the LN 51 out. The added plus is the bench planes are already out and I can go from shooting to planing something else without moving a step in any direction.And use the same plane to do it.

I can't do it
If I bury the drawer bottom groove in the tail socket at the lowest I can go, the bottom of the groove is 5/8" up from the bottom. Add a 1/4" for the drawer bottom and I have lost over an inch of drawer space. If I drop down and use a stopped groove it would be below the minimum groove above it.

made a partial groove with the 043
I used what I was able to plow to set my marking gauge so I could extend the lines to the stop points.

I used the 1/8" chisel to get the groove lower and to deepen the ends. Then I used the router to get the groove to depth.

it's slow going
In spite of the slow going, I'm feeling good about how clean this stopped groove is coming out so far. I had one small glitch at the far end with the 1/8" chisel. I went off to the right a bit and I removed part of the knife line. It is on the bottom and won't be seen.

down less than an 1/8" and I want to go to a 1/4"
finally got to depth
I didn't want to strain this router by taking too big of a bite, so I went low and slow. In the end I got a good fit with the plywood bottom in the groove. It also came out a lot crisper looking than my last attempt at making a stopped groove.

I sawed the tails on the back sides
After I chop the tails I can mark the back for the width.

this is the bottom of the drawer
but it is opposite of where it should be
The bottom should be where the groove is. I can flip one side and get it to fit in the front. The other side is off too much to trim and fit it. I would end up with unacceptable gaps in both tail sockets.

I followed my numbers
This is my habit when I do dovetails. I number the four corners and make it the bottom. I do any referencing or measuring from there. I did the same thing tonight. What I did wrong was I used a marking gauge to set the bottom square cut on the ends. What I didn't do was look to make sure I was doing it from the correct end. I didn't.

I can salvage this but I'll end up with a smaller front to back on this drawer. I will try and do that the right way tomorrow.

accidental woodworker

trivia corner
This sound can be identified by 96% of the people who hear it in 2 seconds or less. What sound is it?
answer - the ice cream truck

The Tool that Changed my Life

MVFlaim Furnituremaker - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 7:18pm

It was thirty years ago this summer. I was thirteen years old visiting my grand parent’s house on my Mom’s side in Detroit, Michigan when I walked into my Grandpa’s garage and spotted this little drill press on top of his cabinet.


It’s was a little German-made drill press. It had no manufacturer’s name on it, so I have no idea who made it, but I thought it was the coolest tool I ever saw. I played with it for a few minutes, and my Grandpa seeing I took a liking to it, gave it to me. I was stoked.


My Grandpa was never really a woodworker. He was a mechanic who restored old cars like Ford Model T’s and Maxwell’s, so he had no use for the press. I just started to work with wood in my parent’s basement, so I was glad to have it.

A few days later, my Mom, Grandparents, and I went to the flea market. While there, I started hunting for more cool tools. I found some old wrenches and a Ohio Tool Co wooden razee fore plane that I still use to this day. The only money I had was a few bucks I saved up from my allowance of cutting the grass, so I bought all my tools dirt cheap. Nevertheless, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, it was the start of my antique tool collecting.

As the months and years went by, I started buying more and more old tools. I’d buy planes, chisels, drills, saws and clean them up. As my tool collection grew, my woodworking skills developed right along with every tool I bought as I learned how to use it. I enjoyed the process of restoring old planes so much that I kept buying more of them and before I knew it, I had collected nearly 100 old tools by the time I was sixteen years old. I used to have white bookshelves in my parent’s basement filled with all my tools. My friends would come over, take a look, and asked what the hell was wrong with me.

At the height of my collecting I had over 600 tools. Then one day, I stared at all of it and decided that enough was enough. I took some of the tools I didn’t care much for and threw them on eBay. I watched the auctions end and realized that I enjoyed that process as well, so I threw more tools on eBay. Before I knew it, I was buying and selling tools on a regular basis.

Today, I’ve figured that I have bought, restored, and sold almost three thousand tools on eBay. It’s become a hobby within a hobby. Something that I would never have believed would have happened thirty years ago when my Grandpa gave me his little drill press.

Issue two update

Journeyman's Journal - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 6:22pm

I may have worded it wrong in my previous post concerning iTunes. Handwork won't be solely available on iTunes. I want to expand it to iTunes for people who use iPads. Handwork will continue to be in PDF format, and whilst many mac users don't know this, they can download any PDF file and then import it via iTunes. This PDF would be located in your iBooks under the PDF tab. You don't need to download any app for this.

Having it available on iTunes is a desire but nothing concrete. If I can't figure out how to make the layout compatible with iPads without having to resort to two different layouts I'm not going to do it.

I have enough on my plate as it is. So it's all in the wind for now.

I know I have bitten off more than I can chew, but I'm working on it and will succeed. I'm not going to let anyone down, I won't fail you.

Categories: Hand Tools

Teaching at PTG

The Barn on White Run - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 5:07pm

While at the Piano Technicians Guild shindig I taught a couple of additional classes.  First was a half-day on Veneer Repair (this must be the year for veneer repair, and in fact I am going to work on a full-length instructional video on the subject this Fall) and a lecture on the Principles of Conservation.  The latter session essentially mirrored my recent article in Mortise and Tenon, so there isn’t too much to say about that.

Both class sessions were well attended, in fact the veneer repair session was SRO much of the time.  The attendees were highly enthusiastic, and I set the room up so they could be close enough to see me working.

At my invitation they gathered closer, and pretty soon it was a mosh pit.  I’m not particularly claustrophobic, which is a good thing.

I managed to engage in a discussion of wide ranging topics related to the issues of veneer damage, and demonstrated the techniques that have served me so well over the past few decades.

With lots of Show-n-Tell to pass around, I think they all got a good exposure to the topic.  If the evaluations are any indication, they enjoyed and learned much, which is about all you can ask.

My only regret was not bringing my own petite Roubo workbench, as the hotel folding tables were not really up to snuff.  I guess that I will just have to make it  practice when I go teach to bring my own workbench unless I know for a fact that another good one will be there.


Slabs part 3

Oregon Woodworker - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 2:07pm
The first issue I faced was how to go about flattening a 37" x 96" slab that had cupped and twisted about 3/8".  This is an awful lot of material to remove and a very large area to get flat obviously.

The technique I settled on worked fairly well.  Using long winding sticks, I got the ends of the slab in the same plane using both hand planes and my Makita power planer.  Then I used a 8' long straightedge and the same tools to connect the ends along the sides.  This left me with a rectangle around the edges of the slab that was in the same plane. Finally I just used a  straightedge side to side along the length.  It worked.

That left me with a slab that was quite flat but with a lot of cracks and knots and substantial tearout.  This is the point at which you want to use epoxy to fill in the cracks and knots.  I chose to use T-88 epoxy, which I had on hand, because it disappears under varnish and dries very slowly.  The problem I encountered is that it dried so slowly that it got absorbed and the level would drop below the surface.  In places it ran completely through the slab onto the floor.  To remedy this, I taped the cracks and knots on the bottom and overfilled the cracks and knots.  This worked but made for a lot of work subsequently levelling the epoxy but the epoxy would still soak in so much that I had trouble maintaining the level.  Finally I mixed fine sawdust into the epoxy and this solved the problem.  I am not sure how else to do it.  I think a faster setting epoxy might be better.

As I wrote earlier, I couldn't figure out a good way to deal with all the tearout.  The hand tool that worked best was a cabinet scraper but it took forever because of the depth of the tearout.  I finally gave up and turned to a belt sander, which I haven't used in years.  I got better at it eventually and, by keeping it moving, I was able to smooth the slab without introducing too must unevenness.  I started with the bottom, so I am hopeful that I can do better on the top.  What I may do is use the belt sander to get as close as possible and then spend a lot of time with the cabinet scraper.  If you know of a better way, I 'd like to hear it.  As I have told you, a plane, no matter how sharp, will simply not work because of the soft douglas-fir and the swirling grain.

The epoxy fill actually turned out much better than I expected.  Especially with the sawdust, it blends in quite well and looks good.
Categories: Hand Tools

Slabs From the Sawyer

Popular Woodworking Editors Blog - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 1:31pm

I often feel like sourcing wood takes on two aspects for me. It can be an annoyance, where I can’t find the board I’m looking for, and everything is checked, warped or has too much runout. On the other hand, I go out of my way on every vacation to visit lumberyards, to see what treasures another part of the country or world possesses, and to take a chance on […]

The post Slabs From the Sawyer appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Categories: General Woodworking

Dutchman to the Rescue: How I Patch Wood

Popular Woodworking Editors Blog - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 10:09am

Every so often I do something dumb. A few weeks ago I was drilling 1/4″ holes to peg the tenons for a table’s apron. I started with a brad point bit but switched to a Forstner after finding that the first bit had torn the grain at the edge of the first two holes. I glued the pegs into those holes anyway, hoping to scrape out the tears when I […]

The post Dutchman to the Rescue: How I Patch Wood appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Categories: General Woodworking

A message from technical support

Giant Cypress - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 8:08am

Over the past weekend, I sent out a good number of photos and videos from NYC Kez, the excellent gathering of fans of Japanese woodworking and tools hosted by Yann Giguère. I used Instagram to post those photos/videos so I could send them to my blog, Twitter, and Facebook. [Insert criticism of crossposting here.] For whatever reason, the video embed didn’t want to play nicely with my blog theme, and so videos showed up as blank space if you’re looking at the desktop version of Giant Cypress.

I think I’ve fixed it, so if you scroll back, you should be able to see the videos now. Sorry for the inconvenience.

More about nuts and saddles

Finely Strung - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 6:35am

Most vices won’t let you file a nut or saddle to shape. Their jaws are too wide and get in the way. Stew Mac make a special vice with tall narrow jaws to get around the problem. I haven’t tried it but I should think that it works fine.  However, it’s quite unnecessary. A simple pair of wooden jaws does the job perfectly well.


The jaws in the photographs below were intended as a prototype. I was planning to make a pair of jaws out of gauge plate or aluminium sheet and wanted to check that I’d got the size about right and that the idea was feasible. It turned out that the wooden version worked so well that I didn’t need to bother.




As I hope can be seen in the photographs, the device is little more than a couple of pieces of maple about 5mm thick, hinged together at their lower ends with glass fibre reinforced tape.



This Old Workshop Podcast

Bob Lang's ReadWatchDo - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 6:13am
Last night I spent a pleasant hour chatting with Lance Granum and Dave Damsen of the “This Old Workshop” Podcast. We talked about how SketchUp makes woodworking better (and why I’m convinced every woodworker should learn it), the 21st Century Continue reading →
Categories: General Woodworking

How to Cut Tenons Accurately

The Indian DIY & Woodworker - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 3:51am

I finally figured out how to cut tenons accurately. After more than a couple of years trying, I might add! And thanks entirely to master craftsman and teacher Paul Sellers (paulsellers.com).

Cutting mortises with a relatively sharp chisel was something I had picked up a while ago. Hand cut mortises are quick, easy and accurate. I found I had more control cutting them by hand than with a router that could deviate ever so slightly and ruin the mortise.

The secret of cutting mortises by hand is accurate marking. If the mortise is marked clearly and matches the width of the chisel that is going to be used to cut it then the mortise will be accurate ninety-nine times out of hundred. The knife marks needless to add should be reasonably deep and straight. The chisel does the rest of the work.

Chopping a mortise by hand is quick but needs careful markling

An inch-deep mortise shouldn't take more than a few minutes to chop. I have found that a good thick mortising chisel also ensures the mortise walls are straight as the chisel can safely be pivoted inside the mortise to clean up the walls.

Tenons are another matter altogether. They need to be fettled so that they go in straight, align properly and are flush when you want them to be.

For years I thought the answer to cutting the perfect tenon lay in getting the right saw. I tried a couple Western saws, including a fine brass backed English saw and a number of Japanese saws.

I watched innumerable videos on sawing tenons and how you had to start sawing on one edge, then drop the saw and so on. It worked, sort of but most times I wasn't getting the best fit straight off the saw.

Then, watched a Paul Seller's woodworking video and realized that one wasn't supposed to cut on the line and get a perfectly fitting tenon just by sawing. Damn! I had been doing it wrong all along.

First test Tenon

Mr Sellers shows that one is supposed to cut slightly away from the line - perhaps a millimetre or so away. This results in a slightly fatter tenon that will not readily fit the mortise.

The next task is to pare down the cheeks evenly with a chisel or preferably a router plane till it fits. This worked the first time I tried it. Perfectly. And what a great feeling.

Perfect Fit

The problem with theoretical learning is that you often don't get the small details that matter. I have never worked with a professional cabinet maker; far less learnt from one. What I have picked is from books and Youtube videos.

Mr Sellers in my view is the only online teacher who provides every little detail of various processes and methods of work. Hobbyist woodworkers would benefit enormously by watching his videos closely.

Indranil Banerjie
7 August 2017
Categories: Hand Tools

had a very late start......

Accidental Woodworker - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 1:24am
It doesn't happen often with me, but today I didn't make it to the shop until after lunch. I was doing woodworking related things from oh dark thirty till then - I was searching You Tube (not all woodworking), reading blogs, watching my new DVDs. So in a sense I was woodworking but in a different way. When I did finally get to the shop I really had to motivate myself to get going. I finally got it together and actually got a few things done and another started.

door is done
I did get the second coat on the door before I went to bed last night. I also made a huge rookie mistake wherein I forgot to clean the brush after I was done. The last time I did something like that I was teenager. Now I will have to buy another sash brush. I've tried products to clean brushes loaded with dry paint but I never used any that worked. The brush just isn't the same after using these cleaners.

I am kind of growing fond of this color. The two coats I got on this and the door both look good. There aren't any holidays or light areas. It must have heard my declaration of only two coats and no mas.

I like this screwdriver
I like the handle of this a lot. It has a lot of facets and angles and dangles and it just feels good when I grip it. It fits my hand perfectly and it doesn't feel short like the Grace screwdrivers do in my hand. This also has a 'nut' where the shaft meets the handle. You can put a wrench on it and really get some torque generated.

I already know the Grace screwdrivers can't handle that. I am hoping that these screwdrivers can handle an occasional Cro-Magnon way. The tips are hardened but so are the Grace and Chestnut screwdrivers. And I've broken the tips off of both of them. I am encouraged by the nut and wrench adaptation on the felo screwdrivers. My thoughts are that why do this if the tips and shaft couldn't handle it? I'm anxious to see how it performs when I do use some wrench assistance.

It did a good job driving the screws in on the pine of this door. There was no slop in the head of the screw and the screwdriver and no problems driving any of these screws.

hinges installed
I took the hinges off of the door because was easier to do that then door. When I painted it I didn't slop paint into the mortises. I was careful to paint around them so I wouldn't get a thick film of paint built up in the mortises. I did paint the mortises with a dry brush (almost no paint) just to color the mortises so no white wood would show.

door hung
It is hung and no hiccups driving the pins home with my fingers only. However, once the door was closed it slowly opened up to this point.

checked the plumb again
It is slightly off which means something slipped when I screwed the thing-a-ma-bob to bottom of the cabinet. I unscrewed it, plumbed the cabinet again with a single big wedge, and screwed the thing-a-am-bob on again. This time I didn't assume and I checked it for plumb and it was.

door stays closed now
got one brace installed
I made myself a ghost stick when I put this side brace on. I clamped two pieces of wood together that exceeded the height of the shelf.  I then wedged it underneath the shelf at the center front until the bubble was centered in the level. Screwed the brace into the shelf at my leisure.

the right side cleat
This one has to be longer than the left side.

went high on this side to clear the pipe hanger
I didn't want to take this down and move it so the hanger on this side would be the same as the other one. Where the shelf is now is working. It's away from the clamp rack on the left, I can get to them and the hacksaws, and my lighted magnifying glass. This worked so I was happy with it and the fact that they don't match doesn't bother me. One last point with the shelf - I lucked out with the height of it and it is about 2" higher than the top of my head.  Sometimes you get lucky.

done and partially loaded up
This shelf is wider and longer than the one that was where the finishing cabinet is now. I have some extra horizontal real estate for some crappola.

Shelf #1, #2 coming shortly
I have one more of these from the old kitchen cabinets. I have enough room for it in the space above my clock. Once I get settled in with this whole area, I'll revisit it.

draw fronts fitted
big drawer parts
This one will be done last.

the little drawer is batting first
I sawed and squared up the sides for both drawers. I made the length so that the finished drawer will be inset in the opening about a quarter of an inch. I don't plan on putting knobs on either drawer. Instead they will get a circular cutout for a finger grab.

doing half blinds
I sawed, chopped, and marked the tails on the front. I am using a scraper to finish the saw cuts down into the corners. I do not over cut my half blind dovetails. I don't like it because to me it appears to be sloppy. I know it is an accepted practice to do but I am anal enough that I will do it the hard way.

almost chopped out
I got this from watching Richard Maguire doing half blinds. He chopped most of the waste with the board down on the bench and then put it vertical in a vice to finish it. I don't have a lot of time on the pond (Navy talk for experience) but this is my third time doing it this way and I like it.

first side fitted
It is a bit proud of the front by maybe a sheet of paper. I expected that because I purposely set my marking gauge a frog hair less than the thickness of the sides. My last half blinds at this step were below the sockets. I would rather be proud and plane it flush.

oops blew it out
clean break but still sttached
It goes from side to side and down about 2".

I don't have the before pic
I know why it split and blew out on me.

this is why
The scraper cut I did first extends all the to the gauge line on this socket (also on the first two I did). On the one that blew out, the right side was shy. The scraper cut didn't meet the knife line and when I chiseled down on the knife line, the corner didn't chisel off cleanly. The chisel coming down straight had no one to go but backwards. Something I'll be mindful of when I do the other drawer.

good fit anyways with a understandable gap on the left one
better when the blowout is closed up
Do I glue it back now or do I glue it when I put the drawer together?

glued it now
I decided to glue it now for one reason. If I glue it now I can still trim and adjust the fit of the joint. If I wait and try and do everything at once I could end up with toast. The blowout could break off entirely or it could shrink and distort the fit. I double triple checked it 4 times that I had cleaned all the glue squeeze out from the socket. I will let this set up until tomorrow.

watched the left one and some of the right one
The baker's table DVD is by NR Hiller who just wrote the book "Making things work". She was trained in the english style in England in the 1970's and the DVD shows that. I learned a lot from this, some of it was new and there wasn't much I wasn't aware of.  What I learned was a different perspective and a new way of looking at and solving some common woodworking problems.

Nancy is smart, knowledgeable, and definitely knows which of the chisel to hold. If there was only one thing to like in this DVD it would be her explanations. She has three majors areas she deals with; fitting a drawer, fitting a door, and mortising hinges. I learned something new on all three from her.

I was expecting more hand tool work on this (not much at all) and I didn't see a lot hand tools in the background.  She used a Marples blue handled chisel to chop the dovetail sockets and to square rabbeted corners. A Lie Nielsen O1 chisel was employed to do the hinge mortises. She also used a #4 hand plane and other then a handsaw, all the other joinery was done with machines. Even here she explained things and did it very well.

What I liked a lot was she explained each step of the construction of the baker's table. She went over the reasons why, some common problems, and some solutions. She did not come across as a know it all nor was she in the least confrontational. This was her and how she made the table. It is now up to you to make the table your way.

One thing struck me afterwards and that was she didn't clean and make everything pretty before gluing up everything. You get to see the burn marks etc till the very end. There is always one 'you shoulda....." and Nancy's was there was no glamour shot of the finished piece. The pic on the DVD dust cover isn't the same thing as seeing it in the DVD.

I enjoyed this a lot and I'm sure I'll watch it again because how often do I get the chance to see a lady woodworker wearing boots, making something? I hope that no one takes that as sexist because it isn't meant to be. There is a lot to learn from her in this DVD.

milk paint
I have used milk paint twice and both times were a learning experience to put it politely. I would rate both a 2 on a scale of one to ten. I want to use milk paint on my grandson's dutch tool chest and when I saw this on Elia's website I bought it. The price was paid when he explained how to get the right viscosity with the paint (big problem for me). I will watch the rest of this later and give my take on it then.

accidental woodworker

trivia corner
On a formal dinner place setting, what is the order of the 3 forks to the left of the plate?
answer - from left to right, salad fork  dinner fork dessert fork

Nancy R. Hiller: On the Importance of Conjunctions

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Sun, 08/06/2017 - 3:00pm

Edwardian Hall Stand by Nancy R. Hiller, 2002

A few years ago I met one of our town’s most respected figures: a husband and father who has held several elected public offices and devoted his career to the cause of social justice. As we shook hands he said, “I understand that your work is very good, but not very cheap.”

“But?” I wondered, biting my tongue.

— Nancy R. Hiller from “Making Things Work: Tales from a Cabinetmaker’s Life

Nancy will read from her new book at the Lost Art Press storefront at 7 p.m. Saturday at 837 Willard St., Covington, KY 41011. We still have about 15 spots left; get your free tickets here.

Filed under: Making Things Work, Uncategorized
Categories: Hand Tools

What’s On The Bench – Filing Frets

Doug Berch - Sun, 08/06/2017 - 2:10pm
In the photograph above are some of the tools I use when filing frets after they are installed on a dulcimer. On this dulcimer the ends of the frets have already been filed flush with the sides of the fingerboard. The next step is to assure there are no high or low frets as these … Continue reading "What’s On The Bench – Filing Frets"
Categories: Luthiery

A Redneck Woodworker, Minus the Accent

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Sun, 08/06/2017 - 12:40pm

Photo by Narayan Nayar

A few years ago, a new neighbor stopped me while I was on a run.

“Hey, I know you. You’re Christopher Schwarz,” he said. “What are you doing here, visiting?”

No, I told him, I live here. Then he looked confused.

“I thought you lived in New England, what with the way you write, look and talk,” he said. And that’s when I looked confused.

Despite 11 years of writing blogs and 21 years of writing for woodworking magazines, I’m always amused by people who think they know me but have it mostly wrong. So to mark the launch of my personal website for my furniture work (check it out here), I offer you this concise summation of me.

Though I was born in St. Louis, Mo., I grew up in Arkansas on Wildcat Mountain and did all the things that redneck kids do: fishing every day after school, hunting, hiking, camping, blowing stuff up (we made our own napalm) and cruising in souped-up crappy cars. If I had my way, every meal would feature a combination of the following foods: grits, barbecue, brisket, fried chicken, biscuits, sausage gravy, cornbread, greens, smoked ham and anything from the other allied Southern cuisines – Cajun, Creole or lowcountry.

I don’t have an accent; my three sisters do. But I am Southern to the marrow and have spent the majority of my life below the Mason-Dixon line. I am comfortable with Southern politeness (false as it may be), Southern insecurities and our hyperbole.

I attended segregated public schools. The mascot for my high school was a morbidly obese Confederate soldier; our school song was “Dixie.” I refused to sing it at pep rallies or convocations and, like most Southerners I know, am disgusted by our shameful history of racism and slavery.

I left the South to attend college outside Chicago, thinking I’d find a more enlightened place. I was wrong, and the day after graduation I moved to Greenville, S.C. I don’t fit in up North.

I’m a redneck. I have a master’s degree, but I lack the Southern accent. I drive a pickup truck, but it’s a Toyota. I love the South, but I am at odds with the backward ideas sometimes peddled down here.

That’s about all there is to say about me, except for the things I’ve built, and the things I’ve written. And that (clearly, see above) I hate to have my photo taken.

— Christopher Schwarz

Filed under: Yellow Pine Journalism
Categories: Hand Tools

Latin American Workbenches in the Colonial Era – Part II: Peru, Bolivia, Argentina & Paraguay

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Sun, 08/06/2017 - 6:50am

‘Hogar Nazareth’ (1627-1681) by Diego Quisepe Tito (q1611-1681). In the Thoma Collection.

In Part II includes more benches and angels, a new painting style, a mystery and a few other things. Get your snacks and drinks ready.


Peru starts in Cuzco, capital city of the Incas, and with the Quecha painter Diego Quisepe Tito. Tito is considered the most important painter of the Cuzco School, and his work includes at least four scenes of Saint Joseph engaged in woodworking. Although the painting above is dark with age we can see a simple bench without a vise.  The background is too dark to see a tool rack, but there are a few tools on the ground.

‘Escenas de la Infancia de Jesus-Hogar de Nazareth’ by Diego Quisepe Tito. Iglesia Parroquial San Senastian, Cuzco. Photo: ARCA.

When Joseph is in the background we usually can’t see much detail about his bench. In this painting it is easy to see there is a face vise with hurricane-shaped nuts on a staked bench. And Joseph is wearing a hat not usually seen on a member of the Holy Family.

‘Hogar en Nazareth’ by Diego Quisepe Tito. Iglesia de San Sebastian, Cuzco. Photo: ARCA.

A staked bench with a planing stop. Look a little closer and on the left side of the bench  there is a board held upright by a face vise. A saw hangs on the wall, and I am happy to see a basket of tools.

Last night I tried to find a color photo of this painting and what I found instead was the sad news that the painting was one of 24 lost in a fire at Iglesia de San Sebastian last year.

Left: ‘Sagrada Familia en Nazareth’ (1675?) Diego Quisepe Tito or his circle. Museo Universidad de Turabo. Right: ‘El Taller de Nazareth’ Anon. 18th c. Monasterio Madras Carmelitas, Ayacucho. Photos: ARCA.

Both of these paintings are a copy of a Flemish engraving by the Wierix brothers. On the left, the artist was faithful to the original engraving keeping the toolbox (behind Joseph) and tools on the ground. The artist on the right changed the saw, perhaps copying a saw seen in use at the construction of a new building. He also left out the tool box and most of the tools on the ground. You might have noticed a whole new look to previous paintings. Brighter colors, intricate patterns (with matching birds on the left), gold leaf, native flowers and landscapes.

At the time the above paintings were done the Spanish had been colonizing the Americas for well over a century. A style of painting evolved in Cuzco when, in the late 17th century, Spanish-born and mestizo artists split away from the Amerindian artists of the painting guild. This freed the indigenous painters to incorporate colors and patterns from their cultures into copies of European art. It is thought Diego Quisepe Tito helped lead this effort that is now known as the Cusquena-style of painting.

‘El Taller Nazaret’ (1722), Anon. Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa. Photo: ARCA.

A nice sturdy bench with stout legs. Only the axe is left on the ground. The chisels are nicely arranged in a basket with the divider used as a…divider! I think the artist may have given the bench such a great length in order to fill the lunette.

‘Taller de San Jose’ 18th c. Anon. Museo National de la Cultura Peruana.

A staked bench with somewhat wonky legs, a parrot and Jesus at sawyer duty. Another trait of the Cusquena style you may have noticed is a lack of perspective.

If some, or many, of the colonial paintings seem familiar it is because of the use of a large set of engravings the Jesuits brought to the Americas to use in converting the indigenous peoples to Christianity. In the mid-16th century the founder of the Jesuits commissioned a series of engravings on the life of Christ from the Wierix brothers, well-known and prolific Flemish engravers. The commission was given in the mid-16th century by the founder of the Jesuits. The engravings were used in Jesuit conversions in their missions in the Americas and Asia.

The next three paintings are copies of Wierix engravings and show other woodworking scenes.

‘Techando la Casa de Nazareth’ (1670), Diego Quisepe Tito. Iglesia de San Sebastian, Cuzco. Photo: PESSCA.

Joseph’s low staked bench sits at the bottom of a substantial gangway-type ladder.

‘Joven Carpintero’ 17th c. Anon. Museo Pedro de Osma, Lima. Photo: ARCA.

Joseph, Jesus and the angels are building a lattice for the garden. The usual assortment of tools are tossed about.

‘La Baracaza’ 18th c. Anon. Museo del Palacio Arzobispal, Lima. Photo: ARCA.

Joseph is driving trennels into the boat.

The gallery has one more Wierix-related painting, two vistas and a map.


During the colonial era Bolivia was known as Alto Peru.

Vista of Potosi, 1758 by Gaspar Miguel del Barrio. Museo Charcas.

The silver mines of Potosi helped drive the trade with Asia and filled the coffers of Spain. During the height of its mining production Potosi was the wealthiest city in the Americas.

‘La Sagrada Familia en el Taller de Nazareth’ (1689-1732) by Melchor Perez de Holguin (1660-1732).

Melchor Perez de Holguin was a mestizo and the dominant painter in Potosi into the 1720s. Although the Cusquana style of painting was found in Alto Peru, de Holguin’s work falls into the Potosi school and was heavily influenced by the Spanish artist Zurbaran.

Joseph’s bench is much like those seen in other paintings from Peru and representative of all the benches I’ve found for Bolivia.

Although his workshop is in the background the painter did not stint on detail. The  bench is staked with tapered legs. The plane is put aside while Joseph uses a chisel. His adze sits on the near end of the workbench. On the wall is a tool rack and on the floor another full set of tools.


I almost left out the next painting but something must have held me back.

‘La Casa en Nazaret’ late 18th c. Anon. Collection of Roberta & Richard Huber.

It was the curvy legs (with stretchers!) and ornate plane. They were just too good to pass up.

‘El Taller de Nazareth’ 17th c. Anon. Private collection. Photo: ARCA.

This work is from La Paz. The bench is staked, has a planing stop and a face vise.  There is a nice collection of tools even if they are all over the floor. OK, OK, if they were piled into a basket we wouldn’t be able to see them in such nice detail.

‘The Carpenter’s Shop in Nazareth’ late 18th c. Anon. Brooklyn Museum.

Because the painting is so dark the Brooklyn Museum provides a black and white copy to better see this frenetic workshop.

With non-winged personnel this may be a good representation of a colonial workshop cranking out furniture, doors and fittings for the non-stop construction of churches, private residences and governments buildings. There are two workbenches, both with face vises and a mystery.






Close-up shot of the bench in the middle of the painting. The white squares may be the vise screws (only this bench has these). But what are those mysterious things at each end of the vise? After much deep thought Chris surmised “rocks on strings.”

‘Taller de la Sagrada Familia’ 18th c. Anon. Location is Copacabana. Photo: ARCA.

Despite the camera flash there is a staked bench with a face vise.

Isolating the bench shows, unlike others, the face vise does not extend the length of the bench.

‘The Sagrada Familia y San Juanito’ 17th c. Anon. Photo: Jose Antonio Camara, Antiquarian, Madrid.

This painting is spectacular in its detail: the wood grain on the board held by Joseph, Mary’s sewing cushion with thimbles in one pocket and thread in the other, the cat under the table playing with a spool of thread and the scissors in the basket at Mary’s feet. Joseph works on a staked bench and behind him tools are arranged neatly on a rack.

You may have seen this image on Chris’ other blog. When I sent the image to him a few weeks ago he got a little crazy over the “doe’s foot” planing stop. Readers of this blog will recognize the planing stop as, ahem, the palm or ban qi, which originated in China. You can read the origin story of the palm here. The blog about the modern version of palm or ban qi can be found here.

The palm can hold a wide flat board in place on the bench or a board held on edge, and both without leaving a mark. So how did a bench appliance of Chinese origin get to 17th-century Alto Peru? The same way Asian workers and goods arrived: the Manila Galleons which sailed between Acapulco and Manila from 1565 to 1815. The palm is just one example of the early arrival of Asian techniques in the Americas.

You might be wondering who is that woman in the doorway, the one who has drawn the attention of the Holy Family. She holds a basin containing the Arma Christ, symbols of the Passion of Christ. In a European painting the woman might be Saint Ann, the mother of Mary. In this painting I believe she is Mama Ocllo, a mother figure from Inca legend who gave women the knowledge of spinning thread and weaving textiles. This is another example of Amerindian painters integrating their culture into Christian religious works.

The illustration is from “El primer nueva cronica y buen gobierno,” a publication from 1615 in the collection of the Royal Danish Library.


I found only one workbench-related painting from Argentina.

The painting is from Cordoba and titled ‘El Hogar de Nazaret’ from 1609 by Juan Bautista Daniel (1585-1662). The bench is staked with a try plane resting at the far end. Most of the tools hang in a rack or on the wall.

The painting has long been in a private collection and this seems to be the only photograph available.  The odd thing about it is Daniel is identified as a Dane in a plaque at the center-right edge of the painting. It turns out he was from Norway and arrived in the territory now known as Argentina in 1606. He made his way to Cordoba where he was granted permission to live and work.


The last stop on this Latin American tour is at Santa Rosa, one of the Jesuit missions in Paraguay known as “reducciones de indios.” It is also my favorite of all the Latin American paintings.

Photo by Fernando Allen Galiano on Portal Guarani.

The fresco is by an unknown artist and is in a corner of the Chapel of Our Lady of Loreto at the former Santa Rosa mission. The mission was founded in 1698 and populated by the indigenous Guarani people. When the Jesuits were forced out in 1767 the missions were deserted and most fell into ruin.

The fresco frames the Holy Family with two columns. Joseph is using a chisel and maul to make cuts on a panel for eight-point star inlays. The middle figure is Jesus sawing (ignore the splotch that looks like a wing), and on the end is Mary. In all the other paintings where we see Joseph with a chisel his action in generic. Is he chopping a mortise or carving? We don’t know. Here, we can see what Joseph is making.

The fresco is first of all an important document in the history of the Guarani. Second, it illustrates a craft that is an important element of colonial design.

Geometric designs were not new to the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Pre-conquest, geometric shapes were used in stonework, metal, textiles and pottery.

The stars, sun and moon were observed and recorded by many indigenous groups. Stars as a symbol, particularly eight-point stars, are found in many cultures. It is part of the Moorish influence in Spanish art and architecture, and in Christianity it is a symbol of redemption or baptism and is also a symbol of Jerusalem. For a sailor an eight-point star is a compass rose or wind rose.

On the left is part of a folio from the 8th century ‘Beato de Liebano’ and on the right Mary’s gown in a Cuzco School painting.

The eight-point star was used extensively as wood, mother of pearl and metal inlays in furniture during the colonial era.  The examples above are from chests, armoires and tables made in various parts of the colonial territories. The black ceiling with red stars is the ceiling of the fresco chapel (in some grand European cathedrals the ceilings are painted blue with gold stars).

So, from a humble fresco in a small chapel that somehow survived for over 300 years we learn quite a lot.

To wrap-up this survey of workbenches I think the staked bench (high or low) with a planing stop and maybe a face vise is the type of bench that was most often used in the colonial era. The painters were not working in a vacuum and only copying scenes from European engravings and paintings. They observed carpenters that arrived from Spain and the benches they built and used, benches that could be adapted for different construction needs. Also, some of the first secular paintings, the Casta paintings from Mexico, were not copies of European paintings and show this type of staked bench.

A Quick Tour of Tool Storage

You have seen tools on the ground, on the floor, in racks and shelves on the wall and stowed in baskets. All of these methods, or non-storage in the case of floor/ground, can be seen in European paintings. How did the woodworkers in the colonial era store there tools? Spanish-born carpenters probably brought their tools in small chests or wrapped in bags. Using baskets would also be a familiar method of storage.

Making baskets was a well-known craft in the New World. In the wedding scene above from the Codex Mendoza, an Aztec document from 1535, there are woven mats and a basket.

This lidded basket is from the pre-Inca Chancay society and dated 12th to 14th century (British Museum). It holds yarns and tools used by a weaver.

If you had a small collection of tools and needed a tough but lightweight storage and carrying solution, a basket would certainly fit the bill.

There is one other solution and possible only with the help of the angels: the sky rack.

Suzanne Ellison

Filed under: Workbenches
Categories: Hand Tools

Kitchen Worktable

Popular Woodworking Editors Blog - Sun, 08/06/2017 - 3:00am

When we moved out here to Covington, I refused to do two things. For one, I didn’t want to bring some of the beater furniture that has been following us around since college. And two, I didn’t want to buy any cheap furniture when we got here, with the plan of replacing it. This led to the need to build nice, hard-wearing furniture with some speed, and a few meals on […]

The post Kitchen Worktable appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Categories: General Woodworking

Week in Review – July 30-August 5

Popular Woodworking Editors Blog - Sun, 08/06/2017 - 2:57am

If you are not a subscriber to our print magazine, you might not know that we produce seven issues a year. This week, we received the first box of our September/October issue at our office in Cincinnati, Ohio. This issue should make it to print subscribers through the mail any day now and our digital subscribers have already received their emails with the PDF version. This is always a very exciting time in […]

The post Week in Review – July 30-August 5 appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Categories: General Woodworking

I'm a day early.......

Accidental Woodworker - Sun, 08/06/2017 - 2:25am
Surprised even myself today. I got the finishing cabinet hung one day early. No door on it yet but the cabinet is hung and awaiting it. I also gave myself a new project to do. I got the stock for it but it will have to wait until later. I have a few others things to get done first.

before I made the Pepin Lumber run at 0700
 I brushed shellac on all of the M&T's and on the putty too.

Durhams Putty
Putting shellac on this wasn't necessary but I did it anyways. After the painting experience I had with the bookcase this is a just in case thing.

big black knot
These are the type of knots that continue to dry out and eventually fall out. This knot goes straight through to the other side. It feels tight so I hit with shellac and I'll paint over it.

painted the back of the door
painted the carcass
I am only putting two coats of paint on this period. After the second coat of paint has dried I will put on a coat of shellac. The shellac will make it easier to dust. As for the paint job it will be what it is after two coats. Shellac and first coat of paint done so I headed off to Pepin Lumber.

my haul from Pepin
I bought six 1/2" x 6" x 5' pine boards for making my twist box but I only need one of these. This is good stock for making drawers and it is only $5 a board. It's a little high for only 1.25 bf but it is very convenient. I wanted to get some Durhams Putty too but Pepin doesn't sell it.

haul from Lowes
After the Pepin Lumber run, I made one to Lowes to get the Durhams Putty and the stock for one of my next projects. This stock is going to be an in/out box for work. I can get one from work but it's plastic and only two trays. I want a wooden one with three trays. I don't want the stock to do stupid wood tricks so I clamped it all together and it will stay that way until I start the project.

I rarely use these hand screws so they won't missed.

making a french cleat
My first choice for sawing this was to do it horizontally but I thought it was too awkward of a saw cut to do at a 45° angle that way. My least favorite way of sawing is vertically but I had no choice here.

starting to wander a little
trying to saw it all from this side
I still have trouble getting my saw kerfs to line up when I switch a board to finish the cut coming from the opposite direction. I was able to finish the cut entirely from this side.

looks good this way
not so good this way
I got a wee bit of dipsy doodle to deal with on the bottom cleat.

off the line a lot but just in one spot
This is the backside of the saw cut that I didn't check to see how I was doing. I concentrated solely on following the line on the front.

two here and a third one I didn't get a pic of
I had to make 3 knife lines because I couldn't get a 45 marked from the front going to the top back.

finally got it
good match on this end
this end has an unacceptable gap
how I planed the 45
I first did this with it in the face vise and I didn't like planing in that orientation. This way I liked because I felt I had more control over where  and how much wood I was removing.

not making it any better
Giving myself a headache trying to determine where this is off. The other end looks almost seamless and the face side gap looks good. But something is obviously wrong on this end.

I planed a hump in this one
45 on both end to end now
not as good as the other side but it'll work
more vertical sawing
I couldn't do it horizontally and this is the other half of the french cleat.

they don't have to be the same size
I lined up the 45 peaks and scrubbed most of the waste. I squared it up and planed it straight.

I can feel square now
After I planed this smooth I ran my finger tips up and down it and I could feel that the right side was high and out of square.

nixed this idea for the cleat
I was thinking of putting a rabbet on the ends and the top. I thought that would make the cleat stronger but it would also make it smaller on the bevel. I don't think making that smaller would help and would probably decrease it's strength.

screwed it to the carcass at the top and sides
needs a spacer for the bottom too
I sawed and planed a piece to go at the bottom of the cabinet to keep it in line with the top. I don't want the cabinet to lean/tilt into the wall at the bottom.

second and final coat on the back
I'll let this dry for a few hours, flip it, and paint the front. Before I hit the bunky(bed) I'll put the second coat on the front.

wow it looks so different emptied of all the crappola
all the crappola ended up on the workbench
it is clear
The cellar bumps out where it goes from cement blocks to the poured foundation. I checked for plumb from the board to the top of the cabinet and I have about an inch of clearance between the level and the wall. I can't reuse this cleat because it is hung too low. The bottom of the cabinet would be 5" off the cabinet beneath it. I want more space there to stow things.

clearance dadoes
I got a new hanger hung on the wall and leveled it. The screws are proud of the face so I made some dadoes so the cleat will lay flat on it.

hanging on the cleat and it is level
out of plumb by 1/8"
five shim pieces and I'm still not plumb
new plumb thing-a-ma-bob
I stuck more shims at the back of the cabinet until I got the face plumb. I will screw this to bottom of the cabinet up and up against the wall. This won't move whereas the shims could fall out.

The end up against the wall is beveled a few degrees to make fitting it easier.

old kitchen cabinet part
I think this was a fixed shelf and I'm going to use it to make a new shelf for the radio. The cabinet ended up too close to the floor joists and there is no room to put the radio there.

possible new home
sandpaper box
I made this over 30 years ago and I think I may have to put it out curbside. I can't get this side seated again.

the other side is still seated
from the front it looks ok and it still works
who uses plane socks?
I don't have a rust problem in my shop. I do get occasional rust spots but nothing even minor. I bought this sock for my bullnose plane and it rusted up on almost the entire plane. I thought I had thrown this away.

My daughter gave me these knobs for xmas a few years ago and I found them today. I think I might use one of these on the cabinet.

got the shelf ready to hang
gas pipe is in the way
I want to put the vertical hangers inbetween the joist and the gas pipe. It isn't going to happen because I can't screw through the pipe.

level only across the front
I didn't want to put it this way because it sticks out too far. It'll have to do because I need a home for my radio. I'll have to figure some way of securing the front edge of the shelf. It is sagging under it's own weight and I can't put anything on this as it is.

figured out something that might work
this is doable
The only hiccup I see with this is reading the bubble, holding it there. and then marking this end so I can saw it out.

another hiccup on this side to deal with
The pipe hanger is in the way. I want to put this so it is on the outside of the shelf. With the pipe hanger in the way I will have to put it on top of the shelf rather then on the side. I can fix this easily but just moving it over to the left a couple of inches.

change to a bigger bearing plate is coming next
first coat on the front     second one before bedtime
trying a new set of screwdrivers
I got comment that these screwdrivers were pretty good. He wrote that he has been using a set of these for over 5 years with no problems. I'll give them try and if I like them I look for square drives if they make them.

This is it for today. I'm tired and a wee bit sore but I feel good about what I got done today.

accidental woodworker

trivia corner
What is the most used appliance in US households?
answer - the TV remote


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