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Walt Quadrato of Brass City Records needs our help in his battle against cancer. Walt is an exceptional guy who has always done right by the hand tool community this web site serves. Family and friends are conducting a fundraiser for him they've dubbed "WaltFest". The following link is to their giveforward.com page.
Thank you for everything you have given so far. If you can help out, please do.
On last weekends dovetailing course there were a couple of fine Moxon vices brought along. This is Simon looking very pleased with himself and for good reason, his vice was superbly made. Below is a close up of one of the beautiful lambs tongues.
He also surprised himself (and his wife!) with the quality of his dovetailed box.
Below is Normans vice which has some interesting features. He made the mechanisms himself, milling the mild steel to fit the threaded rod. The screws move in and out rather than the wheels which prevents any annoying protrusions, a very good idea.
Here's a shot of one of the pieces from above, ingenious!
I just bought the hardware for a new Benchcrafted Glide Leg Vise from Highland and I am working on getting it installed in my workbench. I have a workbench which I made myself out of rock maple about 30 years ago. The plans came from Tage Frid’s books on woodworking and the design is Danish or European style with an L-shaped vise on the right front and a shoulder vise on the left front.
When I read up on the Benchcrafted Leg Vise and looked at the installation instructions, at first I was going to put it on the right front leg of my bench. I then realized if I put it there, it would always be in the way because that is where I stand about 90% of the time when using the bench. Because of where my bench is located in the shop, I don’t have a lot of flexibility on moving the bench. Note in the pictures the bench is up against the wall at its left end and fairly close to the table saw on the right end. If I move the bench, I will have to rearrange almost the whole shop, and that seems a bit like the tail wagging the dog.
I got to looking at all the mounting options and decided I would mount it on the “rear” of the right end of the bench. That means the vise will be on the outside of the tool tray with an auxiliary leg to allow for the size and thickness requirements of mounting the vise.
As I thought about the vise and searched for information, I began to realize that to call it a bench leg vise is a bit of a misnomer. It could be mounted on a post in the middle of the shop since the only role of the workbench is to keep the vise from falling over. All the clamping is between the back piece (usually the bench leg) and the chop.
I think a little vocabulary lesson is in order here cause I know I struggled with the terminology. Am I the only one who did not know what a “chop” is? What the heck is a chop?! And why do they call it that?
Benchcrafted sells several different vises. Our topic is Leg Vises and there are several options for Leg Vise Hardware. There is the Classic, the Crisscross where you can get a Classic Crisscross Solo, a Classic Crisscross Retro, or you can buy the Classic Hardware Only. Then there is the Glide M and the Glide C. I almost needed a decision flow chart to figure out which one to buy, but when I went to Highland, they pulled out the one they said I needed and it turned out to be the right one.
Let me see if I can simplify for you. The “chop” is the tall outside piece that moves when you clamp something in the leg vise. The chop does not rest on the floor so the weight of the chop is carried by the Crisscross, which is two cast iron pieces hinged in the center like an “X”. There is a Crisscross Solo and a Crisscross Retro. The Solo is generally mounted on a new bench because it has pins at the top which need to be drilled precisely for smooth action and is best done with a drill press. The Retro is more forgiving since it is mounted on two cast brackets set in a mortise in an existing bench leg.
The other part of the leg vise is the screw which moves the chop. You can make your own, buy someone else’s screw, make or buy a wooden screw, or you can buy the one from Benchcrafted. The traditional one from Benchcrafted is the Classic, a fast action screw with a straight bar handle. Old school.
There are two other screw handles besides the straight handle Classic. They are the Glide M and the Glide C, both shaped like a ship’s wheel. The only difference is the “M” is machined and polished with rosewood cocobolo knobs on the outside and the “C” is cast but not polished and has beech knobs. You pay about $70 additional for the polished wheel and rosewood knobs.
So here is the flow chart: Decide if you are mounting to a new or existing bench. If it is a new bench and you can put the leg in a drill press, then get the Solo Crisscross. If it is going in an existing bench, get the Retro Crisscross and cut the mortise in the leg and the chop.
Then decide if you want a Classic straight bar handle or if you want a Glide wheel. If you want a wheel, decide if you want to pay $70 additional for polish and rosewood.
So there, it sounds so simple once you figure it out, but it took me a few days even with the information on the Benchcrafted Web site, to get it in my head.
We will continue next time as I mount the vise to my bench. There are no directions in the box when you buy the hardware, so you will need to go to their Web site to download the instructions. There are a lot of instructions, they go back and forth and you will need to read them several times to get what is needed to mount your vise. When you do get it mounted, it should be a real joy.
Autographed copies of my flow chart are available.
Then I was invited to speak at the Woodworking in America Show in Winston Salem and had a great time with all those woodworking professionals and enthusiasts. I am always excited to spend any time with Roy Underhill, who is a hero to all of us.
Business has picked up quite a bit here and some really nice pieces are showing up in the shop for work. I look back on my career and realize that I have been fortunate indeed to have touched so many great objects and satisfied the needs and expectations of so many clients. Work is rewarding when it is so satisfying.
I look forward to my birthday next week, and turning 66. It seems like such a nice round number. I wonder what next year will bring? Always the optimist. I am excited to return to Marc Adam's School next year, and look forward to making another clock among other things.
In any event, last night I received the pdf files for the 2014 SAPFM Journal, which is now in the mail, and I would like to thank Carl Voss and others for their professional assistance. I realize not all the people who read this blog are members of SAPFM or perhaps even know about the group. It is a fantastic group of dedicated and highly skillful woodworkers, which was created in 2000. I joined immediately and have participated in past events with pleasure, contributing articles to the first three Journals. If you want more information or wish to join or purchase a copy of the Journal, here is the link: Society of American Period Furniture Makers
In the past decade the Journal has become one of the most important publications in the field of American furniture. However, there have also been some articles which included European furniture influences and these are important. That is why I wrote an article for this issue focusing on the diversity and importance of European furniture designs, "European Influences on American and Colonial Designs."
My goal with this article was to encourage more research into the wonderful ethnic contributions to style and construction which evolved into the American form of furniture. With all the news today about immigration we tend to forget that we are all immigrants and that is what is great about this country.
I am deeply honored to be recognized by this group and want to thank them for their tribute.
Alf Sharp has an almost unparalleled woodworking resume. Like many of us, his first woodworking involved home repairs and remodeling, and he soon began doing more trim work and carpentry (with the occasional furniture commission). And, like many of us, he’s in large part self taught; he learned by doing, reading and asking questions. But unlike most of us, he developed his skills over the years to such an astounding […]
The post Alf Sharp – Cartouche Winner & ‘Words with Friends’ Dynamo appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.
This is a must watch video and I'm sure you won't regret watching it even if you have many vices or vises. Beyond the primary focus, you will see an unassuming and highly proficient woodworker with a sense of humor. Mike is also the author of a video on making the Nicholson bench you see here that is published by Lost Art Press.
I have great respect for Mike and I hope to meet him someday. What you see in the workholding video is a more proficient and expanded version of what I learned on my own by spending a year without a vise on my new Nicholson bench. It was really fun to discover all of the things you can do and the techniques are very worthwhile even if you have a vise.
I am an economist and I worry about the barriers to entry to hand tool woodworking, which are considerable. Woodworking is reportedly in decline as a hobby. A video for people new to woodworking about making a very low cost bench and acquiring a basic set of tools inexpensively is a real contribution.
I wish we could convince Mike to produce a weekly subscription video series like Paul Sellers does. I know I would subscribe. C'mon Mike, let's go.
I have a few things underway right now, yesterday I wedged the bretstuhl. Too dark to shoot the finished result today. The kids approve, and it’s in use at our kitchen table now. Before I go further, some house-keeping. I had two presentations last week, and am now cleaning & sorting some bits before I get back to the wainscot chair project.
Today’s subject is links. Maureen has been knitting away, and has new stuff on her site. Felted & not. https://www.etsy.com/shop/MaureensFiberArts
Next, Plymouth CRAFT. http://plymouthcraft.org/ We’re underway, with some workshops scheduled and sign-ups begun. So if spoons, succotash or card weaving entice you, head over & click the buttons…
My spoon class is 2 days in January, winter is a perfect time for spoon carving. Along the lines of “give a man a spoon, or teach him to make his spoon…” or whatever that quote is. After these 2 days, you’ll be spoon-mad. The same applies for succotash or card weaving of course. We have started a blog there too…so sign up for that is you don’t have enough stuff to read as it is. http://plymouthcraft.org/category/blog/
Every year about this time, I write about the Regional Furniture Society http://regionalfurnituresociety.org/
Their annual journal comes out (or gets to me in the US) in December. I always look forward to it, and this year’s issue is just great. Maybe 6 articles on oak furniture – how could I not like it? their newsletters are even better. If you listened to me last year, then you’re reading yours now…if not…click the link.
That’s the links – there’s one other thing. A reader wrote yesterday and asked for more pictures of some 2-panel chests from Devon that I once posted. I have few shots of these creatures – I’ve seen 2 of them. I plan on putting one my versions of these in the upcoming (a year from now) book. Here’s some of what I have:
this one just exists as a chest-front…now separated from the rest of the object. I first saw it in England, then it sold to an American collector. Dated on the 10″wide center muntin “EC 1669″.
Here’s one of the panels; these are over 12″ wide.
The other one is still a chest, still in England. “R A P 1682″ on the muntin. These are both made from flatsawn stock, or varying quality. This one retains some of the pained background; photos are not as good as what I got above, no tripod on that trip. To my eye, these are the same maker.
When I made one, I changed a few things, as I often do. I hate the carved lower rail – I think it’s ugly. So I never do that one.
Here’s an oldie that got away, I think the same guy. We’ve never seen it. Also initialed “EC 1669″ – food for thought. Anyone sees this one, let me know. I’d love to see it.
Workshop patterns are a modern convenience, and nothing more. In our inexhaustible quest for absolute perfection we have come to rely on masonite and plywood too much. If I learned one thing from the recent visit Glen and I made to the Peabody Essex Museum to see the “In Plain Sight: Discovering the Furniture of Nathaniel Gould” exhibit, it’s that period furniture makers relied on patterns far less than I would have thought.
Today we have ready access to dimensionally stable materials from which to make our patterns. I try to keep a small supply of masonite and/or thin plywood available in the shop specifically for making cabriole leg, scrollboard, foot and apron cutout patterns. The fact that I’m using a material that is less prone to expansion, contraction, twisting and warping means I get more than just time and effort savings when I make a pattern: I get repeatability. I can make a scalloped-table apron today and make the exact same apron years from now with little or no variation. But that may not have been the case for the period cabinetmaker.
In looking at the details of several pieces of Gould furniture in the exhibit, it was clear the same basic design was used for drops along the bottom of larger pieces. What was pointed out by Kemble Widmer (the historian who pieced together the Gould mystery) is that the drops all exhibit signs of being laid out individually. Compass pivot points are visible in some areas and there’s just enough variation between the examples to see they were not made from a single pattern, and there are some good reasons why this might be so.
For the 18th century cabinetmaker patterns had to be made from the same materials as their pieces – wood. They understood their medium and knew that it tended to expand, contract, warp and twist; all undesirable traits for a pattern. Patterns made of wood are certainly better than no patterns at all, or are they? Cabinetmakers in the 18th century (and quite a few today, including yours truly) were pretty protective of their patterns – and lumber sources, finishing regime and customer lists. To keep hard patterns in a shop left a master open to theft by a disgruntled journeyman who might take the patterns with him when he left to work for a competitor or himself. Forcing the layout to be done each time means less likelihood of someone walking off with your intellectual property – particularly if you were the one doing the layout for others to cut out and prepare.
This is all speculation on my part, but the fact that the drops are of the same design while being clearly made individually opens more mysteries about 18th century cabinetmakers than discovering Nathaniel Gould had solved. I plan on looking closer at drops, and other furniture details, when I visit museums and collections in the future. Who knows what revelations await?
We all struggle from time-to-time with coming up with gift ideas to make for loved ones and friends. But there’s no need to worry you won’t have any ideas thanks to “The Last Minute Elf!”
The guys over at the Modern Woodworker’s Association are sponsoring this year’s Last Minute Elf project and they’re looking for your ideas to share with other woodworkers:
“This year, mark your calendars for the week of December 7 – 13 for the fun…we are looking for you to submit some creative ideas for easy to build projects for the holiday season. We are looking for you to show off your absolutely awesome ideas for holiday gifts can can be built quickly, finished easily and shipped in time to make that special someone tickled to be the lucky recipient.”
If you have some ideas you’d like to share, there are number of categories for you to consider: Best Turned project, Greenest project (using recycled materials), Best project that will fit inside a large USPS flat rate shipping box (12 inches x 12 inches x 5 1/2 inches), Best gift for a child, Best gift for an adult, & Coolest tip to build a holiday project on time.
There’s even an opportunity to win prizes for your suggestions. For more information, including how to enter your ideas, visit Tom’s Workbench by clicking on this link.
It is not always the screw’s fault. Yes, home-center wood screws are too soft. Some off-shore screw manufacturers use substandard materials and manufacturing processes. But sometimes it’s your screwdriver that’s at fault (or the, cough, screwer). Many modern screwdrivers are too soft or poorly ground. It’s enough to make you reach for a nail gun or hammer. Here is the solution to both problems: Gunsmith screwdrivers. Grace USA makes excellent, […]
This video is of Osami Mizuike, a maker of traditional Japanese scissors called nigiri basami. To me, the interesting part of this video comes in at 0:45, where it appears that he forge welds a harder piece of steel onto the softer backing steel that makes the rest of the blade and the body of the scissors. This part of the process looks identical to the corresponding steps in making Japanese chisels and plane blades.
For more information, there’s an article in Alto magazine detailing how he’s the last practitioner of this art, how he’s in search of a successor, and so on. I’m not sure exactly how true this story is, since there seems to be other makers of laminated blade Japanese scissors around.
(Thanks to Matthew Webb for the link.)
I don’t mean to imply that you should pick up a chisel by the pointy side, I want to share a method of using a chisel that solves a bunch of workshop problems that many people think require expensive and/or specialized tools. Hold the tool so it is vertical and with the sharp edge in contact with the work. Maintain downward pressure and the vertical position, and draw the chisel along, in the direction of the flat face and you have an incredibly versatile scraping tool.
In the photo to the left, my machine work left a little bit of stuff in the corner of the rabbet. I’m pulling the tool toward the camera and the little curl is the offending extra material getting out of the way. I cut the rabbet on the table saw with two cuts at 90 degrees to each other. When you set up the saw the choices are to fiddle around forever to get the blade height perfect, overcut a little, or cut a bit short and then get rid of the bump in the corner later on. It only takes seconds to clean out the junk with the back of a chisel.
I also use a chisel as a scraper to get rid of excess glue right after assembly. I aim to minimize squeeze out, but when beads appear as the clamps tighten up I grab the nearest chisel and scrape it off. If there is enough glue, I wipe off the chisel with a damp rag and keep scraping. That gets rid of all the glue, and I’m not spreading a thin film of glue across the work. Then I wipe the chisel to dry it, usually on my apron or pants. People who treat their tools as religious icons think I’m nuts, but it works for me.
In this episode of our podcast, I explain why you don’t need to have glue oozing out all over the place to get a good joint. What? You didn’t know about the podcast? New episodes appear every Tuesday and Thursday and you can find all of our podcasts here.
Peter Galbert’s upcoming book on chairmaking began more than two years ago with a short afternoon chat in Berea, Ky. It started as a DVD project with some plans. Then it was a booklet. Next, a book with photos and drawings. And finally, a massive opus on green-wood chairmaking with more than 450 hand-drawn illustrations by Peter himself.
Peter, who studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, has drawn out the process of chairmaking in such incredible detail that I think you could build a chair even if you never read a word of the book.
And while I say there are 450 drawings, that is a gross underestimation. There are 450 sheet of drawings (plus a couple dozen on the way). Many of these sheets contain as many as six individual illustrations.
Many of these illustrations were drawn four or five times over as Peter refined the look of the illustrations. As I scanned every one of these illustrations during the last five days, I was in awe of the scope of his work.
It is the Roubo of green chairmaking, and I do not say that lightly.
I’ve been making chairs for more than 10 years, and I am blown away by the clarity of Peter’s methods, his metaphors and his ability to explain complex problems with only a few sentences and a perfect drawing.
I hope to rise to the challenge of presenting this material. We are now on our second full round of scanning the drawings. All 450 illustrations have been processed and cleaned up in Photoshop individually.
As I type this, Linda Watts, the designer, is laying out the book in an 8-1/2” x 11” format so it has an open feel with plenty of white space to frame Peter’s illustrations.
We’ve decided to call this book “Chairmaker’s Notebook” because it has the look and feel of a technical sketchbook. It appears casual and airy, but is filled with big ideas.
When will it be ready? We hope to send it to the printer in January with a release in late February or early March. We have no information on pricing. But I do have one tantalizing detail to share. One of Peter’s friends is a bookbinder and plans to offer a hand-bound version of “Chairmaker’s Notebook.”
I know that many of you have been waiting a long time for this book. We are close, and it will be worth the wait.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Books in the Works, Chairmaker's Notebook by Peter Galbert
I need my friends to help me get the word out that I’m working to help woodworkers sell stuff.
Yes, you heard that right! I’m running a sales agency connecting artisans to interior designers. It’s reminiscent of the days, way back when, when I started UnpluggedShop.com and brought together hand tool woodworkers aggregating blogs in a way that made sense.
Interior designers and high end artisans are made for each other, but there are significant problems of scale, workflow, and culture. Unuqus bridges that gap. Our goal is to see more US handmade stuff leave craft shops and warm people’s lives.
If you do high end, custom work, please get in touch with me or go to www.Unuqus.com and click on Artisan Application.
At this very moment, I’m looking for a coffee table “not too heavy, not too rustic” for a client in the southern Indiana area to be ready within the next few days.
As far as I have been able to see on pictures of Gerstner chests, and on their home page, they use some sort of bracket for the fall front mechanism.
Hardware is fine for me, but I didn't feel like making any for this project. Besides there had to be another solution.
Drilling a hole in each side and putting a dowel there was my first idea. The problem with this route is the fact that the dowel needs to be placed very low on the front, so the drill would likely wander off through the side. There was also the problem of how to get the front in place, and then plug in the dowels. There was no way I could tilt the front and still make contact with the dados for the hinge dowels.
Yesterday I had a revelation (OK maybe just a bright moment..), and today I tried it out in real life:
I made a groove in the bottom of the front.
Next I planed a small stick that fitted tight into the groove. I drilled some small pilot holes for the screw itself, and some bigger holes for the heads of the screws, so they could be sunk below the surface. That way I could finish the stick by planing it while it was in the correct position. That ensured a level surface with the front.
I then trimmed the ends of the stick to the correct length i.e. a little shorter than the depth of the dado where it would end up running.
The final step was to round the two protruding ends so they would fit in the dado. I used a chisel for the initial rounding and a piece of sandpaper for the final touch.
I unscrewed the dowel stick, and inserted it in the case of the tool chest. Then I brought up the lid to the stick and screwed it back into the front again.
The great thing about this approach is that:
1) It works.
2) It is cheap.
3) It is repairable
A thing that seems to be unrepairable though is the stock for my drawers. I have reached a conclusion, that I'll take the project with me home, and then I will make some drawers of some stock that is more stable. I could also go the spruce way for drawers, but I don't feel like doing that So I'll probably make the drawers out of some elm at home one day.
Just about every woodworking project has a defining feature that can either make or break the piece. To my eye, the Enfield Cupboard’s defining feature isn’t the door, or the arches, but the built up cap moulding which runs along three sides at the top of the case. As I’ve discovered with other aspects of this project, the construction and installation of the cap moulding, which looks deceptively easy, is a bit more complex than it first appears.
Before I started this project, I knew that the cap moulding would likely be the most challenging part of the construction. I also knew that the cap moulding would be the feature that transformed this project from a basic cabinet to a more refined piece of furniture. Because the moulding is rabbeted and mitered, I took extra care to assure that the case was square as possible. Of course, every woodworker wants to be sure that his furniture is as square and plumb as humanly possible, but being slightly out of square on a larger case isn’t always the end of the world depending on how it is constructed. In the case of the Enfield Cupboard, the cap moulding is clearly visible because it is less than a foot below eye level to the average sized person, and the miters had better be even or the case will just look like hell.
The first part of the moulding construction involved ripping a piece of poplar from a 4ft long board I had set aside. Theoretically, if I was careful the 4ft piece would have been just enough to complete the moulding all from one board, but rather than take a chance I ripped another piece in order to construct two pieces. I cleaned up the edges with my newly honed Jack plane, and then I used the dado blade on my table saw to essentially create a groove, as in tongue and groove, along the front of the trim pieces, using a scrap board of course to take a test cut. I considered using my #48 plane to make that tongue, but the truth is I haven’t had as much success as I would like with that plane, and though this could have been the perfect time to practice, I also wanted to finish the moulding, and I simply don’t have the time for both practice and furniture construction, so I made the choice to actually get this cabinet built.
After the tongue, or astragal (the proper term), was finished I rabbeted the back of the board, just over ¾” wide and ¼” deep. I wanted the rabbet to be deep enough to cover any of the end grain of the face frame and the case itself. Though the original plans called for a smaller/shorter rabbet, I used my best judgment, and I think it improves the look.
The next step was carefully mitering the pieces. Thankfully, I have an Osbourne Miter Gauge for my table saw, which is highly accurate. I cut the first miter, checked, double checked, and triple checked the placement, added a little glue to the rabbet, and nailed it from the top using cut brad nails. After that, it went fairly quickly, and the miters were nice and tight with just a hint of seam. For the cove moulding I used the router table to make the cove and ripped it to width using the table saw, once again making two pieces of trim to be on the safe side. To attach the cove I used a pneumatic brad nailer, which is a tool I’ve used on only the rarest occasion while woodworking. At first I considered nailing the cove by hand, but rather than be lazy I took the extra fifteen minutes to get out the compressor even though I was only using it for around 20 seconds, as I knew that it would be the best tool for the job. Once all of the pieces were in place I gave it a little drying time and performed the scariest part: nailing the miters. Each miter got one nail, and one nail can easily ruin a miter with a miss hit, etc. I’m happy to report that there was nothing to report, and the miters held fast.
Once that was finished I cleaned up and called it a morning. Before I did anything else to the moulding I wanted to give it several hours of drying time. Last night I gave the “tongue” some rounding over with a block plane, and then I gave the rest of the moulding an overall light hand sanding with some 220 grit paper. Because I made each side piece long, I will have to saw them away from the case, but I will wait until next weekend to do that, as I want it to be fully dry beyond any doubt. I will also fully set the nails at that time. Once the sawing is finished I will finish the shaping and the sanding. I want the tongue to be rounded over, just barely.
The original plan called for a third piece to the moulding, a small bead under the cove. However, I do not have any way to make that bead, at least to make it look nice, so I will leave it off the case. I’m happy with the way it looks, very happy actually, so I have no desire to tempt disaster and mess with what I think is a perfectly good moulding.
Next weekend I will start on the door. The original does not have raised panels, but I’ve considered attempting to make them. I’m not sure yet. I’m also still on the fence about what color to paint the case. I will probably get some input from my wife on that subject, as this cupboard will probably end up in our bedroom. In any event, I hope to have the door finished before Christmas, and the cupboard painted before the New Year.
One tool I use on every build and every project in my house is a combination square. So it’s important to me to have good ones. That is, squares that are reliably square, and that lock tight and don’t slip. I have several inexpensive ones that are good enough for framing, but just a hair out – so I don’t use them for furniture work. For precise layout and measurements, […]
Ash Chisel Handles Are Still Great
Wooden handles are always preferred to plastic ones, at least that’s how I feel and that’s how most people feel, and and yet manufacturers of mass-market chisels seem intent on supplying only plastic handled ones with metal caps to protect the plastic from hammer blows. Plastic does of course hold up well, but, somehow, seeing the steel caps to me seems as though it launches the user into a different sphere of workmanship and I hear carpenters from time to time say they like the metal capped ones “because you can really beat on them and you can’t hurt them.”
On the other hand you might see boxwood as the choice wood for chisels because it’s so hard and long-lasting yet I think I see more chisels with split boxwood handles than any other. So, that begs the question, just what is the difference and the best choice wood for chisel handles?
Traditionally the three most common handles for chisels in the UK has always been beech, ash and box. These three woods reach back centuries with ash being the most common handle of all. In the US there’s an additional choice and that’s hornbeam which is extremely durable too.
Recently, John bought an Ashley Iles gouge that split with the first gentle blow and it took a bit of reconciling with the supplier and with Ashley Iles too. Eventually he got it sorted but ended up doing all the replacement work himself, but that’s another story. That said, tanged chisels still prove the best choice for me as we do in fact spend as much time pulling on the handle as we do shoving and tapping it. That means we want the handle to stay connected to the metal bit and tangs do stay holding inside the handle better than sockets. Don’t be deceived by thinking socketed chisels don’t split and tanged handles always do either. Socketed chisels have their own annoying problems too. If you do decide to buy an old chisel and the handle is not split, the chances are it will never split. You must decide if you want a handle that stays in place or one that pops out of the socket regularly enough to be annoying.
When I first discovered the German chisels made for Aldi and Lidl I had to take a second look because they were made using ash for the handle. I was surprised that they hadn’t gone the plastic and metal route because, after all, they are mass-manufactured. I was also very glad to see that they had indeed chosen ash because ash is about the best general chisel handle that seems to be the one that doesn’t generally split.
In a moment of up-cycling madness I decided to see what I could get from the existing Aldi and Lidl ash handles; to see if what I ended up with was a viable improvement in any way at all, but I wanted to make it doable without any specialised equipment such as a lathe and turning tools. Now it wasn’t at all because the chisel needed a functionality upgrade but simply to improve the overall appearance. I wanted to change the looks with the tools I had.
To remove the chintzy looking steel hoop and ferrule that cheapen the appearance I used a nail punch and tapped from each side. I was surprised how readily they came away as they are pressed on onto a shallow groove. I didn’t want to drill into the dimpled hoop because I wanted to keep as much original wood as possible.
To remove the ferrule I had to first remove the handle from the chisel. At first I used the same nail punch but found it pierced the ferrule and so used flat head screw driver (pic above) which worked best for this as it distributes the pressure over a wider area.
The nail punch quickly separated the ferrule working it from opposite sides.
With the ferrule removed I used the rasp to create a leading edge to receive the ferrule.
I continued to fit the brass ferrule by using the fine rasp to reduce the diameter of the wood. Once the ferrule fits far enough onto the end, about half way to two thirds on, I start tapping the ferrule onto the end. I follow marks on the wood as reference bruising to work my cuts to with a chisel. I keep trying the ferrule as I don’t want it to be loose at all but dead tight so that it must be finally hammered on.
With the ferrule secure and in place I use a flat file to file the ferrule flush with the endgrain of the handle.
The two recessed sides are nice to have as they help present the chisel to the work squarely and improve grip. I kept them in the chisel and simply removed the signage etc with a card scraper.
I used a spokeshave for the initial shaping and to redefine what I felt would make a better shaped chisel minus the metal hoop. By carefully removing the waste i just left enough to shape the final shape with the fine rasp.
Now that the shape is established I used the thin and flexible card scraper to clear off all rasp marks before final sanding with 240-grit sandpaper.
Knocking off the handle from the tang wasn’t hard either, although it was positively firm. You can see that the tang is indeed robust, which accounts for why we’ve never had a single chisel break or even bend slightly. Brass really improves the appearance of the chisel when compared to the original.
Another thing that proves the quality of ash as a handle wood for chisels is that, though the ferrules are unusually thin, and through shrinkage might be loose, the wood has never split on a single chiseling action in the school. All of my ash handled chisels are in good shape too. Where most ash chisels fail is not through the wood being a flawed choice but some brute beating on it with a heavy steel hammer. All metal hammers are hard on wooden handles including brass, copper and especially steel ones. Now there are some cutesy little ones with stumpy, curvy handles I’ve seen around. Not really too sure about them though.
The finished chisel shaping looks appropriate now and I like how it looks and feels.
A scrape and some sanding finishes all the shaping work in preparation for applying finish.
I apply three coats of shellac and coloured the first coat to take away some of the stark whiteness. A coat of wax paste polish makes it feel good to touch and I have good working chisels I can work with in comfort.
I have always felt the these chisels were well designed as far as ergonomics go. The best really. My changes did improve the feel a little more, but so marginally I could almost say it was unnecessary. But this is what ergonomic design is about. The chisels we generally accept as traditional were designed to come straight from the lathe. It was fast and effective to produce them this way and took only seconds per chisel handle. The Aldi/Lidl chisels are indeed turned and turned out in a heartbeat by rotating the blank into a cutter head. The simple flats scalloped top and underside added an ergonomic advantage over other chisels that create a near perfect chisel handle.
So here's the class after two days hard work, everyone finished their box comfortably in time, this was the fastest class I've taught and one of the best. Stuart came down all the way from Newcastle, an eight hour journey by train(s).
Here is Pete's box. He had only cut 20 dovetails before the course and he produced a near perfect box.
Below is Martins box, as he was more experienced he took on the box with a pivot hinged lid which is normally reserved for the three day class.
As I expected he did a great job. below is a close up of his curved and chamfered integral handle.
And this is the start of the black pig suede lining.
The rest of the class made a tilt top lid on their boxes, I like these.
Below is a shot of the mitred linings showing the tilt. All these were dry fitted to a tight friction fit, involving plenty of work on the shooting board.
Some people worked standing up whilst others worked sitting down as I do most of the time.
John had a different method, or maybe he was just praying to the dovetail gods!
They'll be more from the course in the next post.