C. Eric Stoehr, Bonanza Victorian-Architecture and Society in Colorado Mining Towns, 1975
Those of you who follow my blog know that I work 7 months out of the year as a historic preservation carpenter for a government agency.
My latest project is working on a house that was built in the 1860's and it is need of some maintenance. I am replacing the worst pieces of siding, I've removed most of the sashes so that cracked lights can be replaced and re-glazed, and then I and another worker will scrape paint and prep the building so several volunteer groups can doing most of the painting.
This house is not stick built, it is really a log house! The timbers are hewed on 2 sides and joined at the corners with true dovetailed notches. The roof and attic are framed with full dimensioned lumber, the furring strips that hold the siding are also milled lumber. Whoever built this house was a highly skilled carpenter who knew how to use an axe. I haven't found out what the exact date of construction was, I was told 1860, I think it was a little later, because I don't think that there was a sawmill working in the vicinity that early. I'm guessing the construction date is closer to 1863-64.
To continue Mr. Stoehr's quote on the Greek Revival style:
Although no pure examples of the Greek Revival appear in these towns, a frontier adaptation of Greek detailing was present. The pedimental lintel used over the doorways and windows was a simple detail that could be added to the otherwise plain log and vernacular structures.
That statement fits this house to a "T"!
Just a little over a mile to the east of this house, there is a fancier Greek Revival house that has seven gables, it's a show piece of architecture for the little community it is part of.
I am grateful to be the lead carpenter on this sweet little house that others think is ugly, it is a wonderful part of our nation's heritage.
If you were involved in woodworking before 1970, you probably owned a rip saw, a crosscut saw, a small back saw, and a miter box saw. As far as “plate” saws, that was it. Those were the choices. And they were the tools that working carpenters and joiners used to earn a living. Small back saws, used for joinery (especially decorative sash work), were always delivered with a low fleam, meaning that they could be used for cross cut or rip work (dovetails). It may be the case that over the years a small back saw began to look like a “rip filed” saw, but only because it’s a helluva lot easier to file a rip tooth than it is one with fleam. And, sometimes, the path of least resistance is the one chosen by a man who has worked hard all the day and would like to get out of the shop and be off to slake his thirst.
Now there is a huge selection of handsaws available to the enthusiast. There are dovetail and tenon saws to suit every taste. Brass backed, resin spined, exotic wooden handles, it’s simply incredible, the selection that is available to today’s woodworker. I just don’t know how the “old guys” got along. Then I am reminded that I have numerous drivers that have promised me another five to ten yards on the golf course…and I hear Ben Hogan speaking from the past, “it’s never the arrow, it’s always the archer.”
In times past, most carpenters and joiners used rip saws for cutting tenon cheeks. Yes, that’s right! Panel saws, filed rip! The illustration above is from Ellis’ 1902 work, Modern Practical Joinery. The guy’s using a rip saw, a big rip saw to cut furniture tenons. The typical joiners tool chest would contain three or four “plate” saws, a coping and/or turning saw and, perhaps a compass saw. (And, if a carpenter was doing flooring work, he’d have a flooring saw.) That was it. A man depended on his skill and his imagination, not just his tools, to get the job done.
My sawing position is little different than the guy in the above photo. I would guess that I’m a foot taller (the result of enriched milk products) and my choice of panel saws is somewhat different. I’m using an Atkins 70 1/2 “Toolbox” saw, 7pt rip with a 20″ cutting edge. It’s a lovely little saw and it didn’t cost much, $15.00, at the outside. It has a little surface pitting, but that simply serves to reduce drag. It’s probably close to 100 years old and it’s as true as ever.
Atkins produced some very fine saws. In my opinion, every bit as good (if not better) than the Disston line. They touted the ergonomics of their handle, maintaining that the hand position of the sawyer was better placed to use the highest possible amount of available energy. Here we go again with the 5 to 10 yard thing. But it does “hang” remarkably well.
So a logical question to ask would be “can’t you cut closer to the line with a finer back saw”? Eh? Not so much. And remember that when you’re cutting tenons by hand you will be doing some fitting. You’ll be trimming tenons to thickness, usually with a plane, rasp or float. And, when using a backsaw, the “start” is critical as it establishes the line that the saw will track to. A panel saw can be “steered” and will allow for minor changes in direction.
Finally, here’s my point. Choose projects that intimidate you. Force yourself to master the tools you possess. Don’t fall into the trap of avoiding more difficult work until you buy that $10,000 sliding panel saw. Remember that much of the finest furniture ever built was created by men who stored ALL of their tools in one small tool box. Game On!
And yes, that is a Delta tenoning jig on the back bench. Not sure how it got there. But, when you’re in a hurry…
When I was first invited to make the trip to the 2014 Lie-Nielsen Open House, I could not believe my good fortune. I had no idea what to expect, but after talking with several friends about it, knew that I was in for a treat. I was not prepared, however, for just how lucky I was, and how special it would be.
For two days last week, Warren, ME felt like the center of the woodworking universe. That may be a bit of hyperbole, but the attendees, demonstrators, weather, food, and a common and binding interest did all coalesce to create an unforgettable event.
The mood was set when I pulled into the LN headquarters, several red and white buildings amongst the green Maine woods. I set up in their classroom, a delightfully timeless room with vaulted ceilings and large expanses of windows that admitted copious natural (and very dramatic) light, and spent the next two days taking in the highlights. There were so many of these that I could not possibly relate them all. These are but a few.
- Meeting a few of my customers and readers. It’s easy to wonder if anyone reads what I write, and so it never fails to surprise me when someone introduces themself and says “I read your …” Putting faces to names is always good, though I am not sure my readers share that sentiment.
- Meeting Frank Strazza. His work is amazingly precise, and he makes it look easy. If I ever make it to Texas, Heritage School of Woodworking is on my short list of places to visit.
- Watching Deneb Puchalski and Roger Benton (of ReCo Lumber) put on an impromptu dovetail demonstration. There is a video out there of this, and as soon as it is shared I will post it here.
- Using one of my Roubo frame saws to resaw a small piece of wood with Christian Becksvoort.
- Talking to Megan Fitzpatick again (my daughter is insanely jealous, as Megan is one of her heroes), and meeting Matt Kenney for the first time. It is obvious that both of them care deeply about the craft and their respective magazines.
- Meeting and talking with the Lie-Nielsen staff. Simply a great group of people.
- Peter Follansbee’s short presentation at the lobster bake. To call it captivating is an understatement.
In my rush to get on the road, I left my camera at home. I will not try your patience with my cell phone pictures, as there are many good pictures up on LN’s Facebook page, as well as the short video below (from the LN YouTube channel).
Thanks again to everyone who showed up to make this a memorable event, and especially to the Lie-Nielsen staff for all of their hard work in making it happen.
Ya know, saying “it’s all downhill from here” is probably something that a guy should never say. Like saying “traffic is really light today”, it invites a giant pile up and hours of delay. But, there, I already said it.
Cutting the pierced details on the table skirts was stressful. Overall I did a pretty good good job, but it’s amazing how your eye can pick out the tinniest little irregularity. I sawed “right on the line” when cutting these, but that meant that in come places I was just leaving the line and at the other end of the spectrum I was just erasing the line. That is a variance of .010″ to .015″ (about 1/64″), but it’s obvious to my eye. (and even with contacts my vision is still a little dicey).
So I did the best I could, and I’ll clean them up with a file and sandpaper and call it good enough.
First I sawed out the detail to match the first, more complex design.
Then I printed out the other two templates. I used the same approach of laying down blue tape first, then using spray adhesive to affix the the template. This works well, the whole mess peels off easily. I did a sample piece with just the template and spray adhesive and even after washing with acetone and scraping the wood is still gummy. I marked the locations for the end-drill reliefs, drilled the holes and was ready to roll.
I expected these to be easier to saw out — and they were — but straight lines really seem to show off any irregularities much worse than curves. I sawed them and didn’t fret (no pun intended) about undulations. Then I told them to the bench and did some hand work to try to true the cuts. I’ll probably do a little more fine tuning on the sawn reliefs when I go out in the shop this morning and look at them with fresh eyes, but I think these are close to being close enough. Maybe. What do you think?
After I deal with the cloud lift detail along the bottom I’ll sand the faces of the skirts and break the edges of the pierced areas, which will soften things up a bit.
I did a quick dry fit to see how things are looking, I think this is going to be nice when it’s finished.
Next, cloud lift detail on the skirts, water fall detail on the legs, rounding all of the edges and sanding. Once I get the base glued up I can make the table top with the breadboard ends and fit the lower shelf. Hopefully it won’t be too hot today to keep working.
In the above video I show a simple tutorial on how to make a wooden straight edge for traditional woodworking.
A straight edge is an essential measuring tool used when flattening & straightening your boards, and a perfect beginner’s project to hone your traditional hand tool woodworking skills!
WOODEN STRAIGHT EDGE vs. METAL STRAIGHT EDGE
Why would traditional woodworkers want to use a wooden straight edge when they can purchase precision-ground metal straight edges? While metal straight edges are useful, they simply don’t have the same advantages as a wooden straight edge. Why?
1. MORE REPAIRABLE: Wooden straight edges can easily be retrued or flattened if they are ever dropped or if they ever go out of true. Accidentally knocking a metal straight edge off your workbench is a death sentence to that tool.
2. LESS EXPENSIVE: Wooden straight edges are practically free to make (or very inexpensive). All you need is some good stable quartersawn hardwood. Good metal straight edges start off around $50 and shoot way higher than that.
3. LIGHTER: The wooden straight edges are quite lighter than metal straight edges, and don’t weight down your already-hefty tool chest.
4. SOFTER: It’s less likely that you’ll ding your workpiece with a wooden straight edge than with a metal straight edge. Believe me, the sharp corners of a metal straight edge can mess up a project.
5. MORE BEAUTIFUL: A wooden straight edge is much more beautiful to look at than a manufactured piece of metal.
6. MADE BY YOU: A tool made by you is much more special to you and your posterity than something that you purchased.
TOOLS THAT YOU’LL NEED
Even though I have a nice tool buying guide (here) I’m still often asked for links to the tools that I use in my videos, so here they are:
- Lie-Nielsen’s Tenon Rip Saw
- Lie-Nielsen cross cut back saw
- Chris Yonker’s 12″ bow saw on ebay or a simple coping saw like this.
- Lie-Nielsen low-angle Rabbet Block Plane
- Vintage Stanley No. 7 Jointer Plane
- Auriou course 10 grain / 9″ cabinet rasp
- Auriou 13 grain / 7″ modeler’s rasp
- Irwin Quick Grip Clamps
- Staedtler Mars 780 Technical Mechanical Pencil
1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT WOOD FOR A STRAIGHT EDGE
Stability is the most important factor when choosing wood for a straight edge. I recommend using well-seasoned (dried) 1/2″ or 3/4″ quartersawn hard wood. Quartersawn wood will have vertical grain…see the above photo’s vertical end grain. Notice how it runs straight up & down, and extends mostly straight down the face of the board. Also avoid any lumber that has knots.
Good wood species include beech wood (see above photo), walnut, hard maple, cherry, mahogany, etc.
2. DIMENSION THE WOOD
Use hand saws & hand planes to flatten, square up, & cut your board down to roughly 36″ long, 2-3″ wide, and around 1/2″ thick. Not sure how to square a board? See my tutorial. You can make your straight edge most any size, but the longer the straight edge is, the more accurate it will be.
Take special care to “true” the bottom edge of your straight edge. If it ever goes out of “truth” then use your jointer plane to bring it back.
3. CUT OUT THE PROFILE
You can leave your straight edge rectangular, but it will most likely get mistaken for scrap wood! So I add a nice profile. The profile can be whatever you want. Some people argue that adding an arc helps by exposing more end grain, thereby stabilizing the wood. I’ve heard debates on this subject, but I like the look of an arc so I do it anyway. In my video I show how to setup a simple template to draw a perfect arc on your straight edge:
I love to draw an ovolo on my arc (see below). I borrowed this design from renowned traditional woodworker Bill Anderson:
Cut the profile with a simple bow saw or coping saw. I use a tenon saw and a cross cut saw to make relief cuts prior to using the bow saw.
Then I use a sharp block plane to smooth out the curve. Keep your eyes on the curve that you drew, and make sure to not plane past it much.
A couple years ago, if you would have told me that I’d spend over $100 on a rasp, I’d laugh at you. Now I’ve purchased two at that price, and use them all the time. These Auriou French hand cut rasps make quick work of shaping profiles like this.
4. APPLY A FINISH
You can apply your favorite finish, but I prefer to keep with a more natural look rather than a “plastic” shiny finish (like Polyurethane). I typically use a traditional finish recipe (boiled linseed oil, beeswax, and turpentine) but lately I’ve been trying a surprisingly nice finish made by Minwax called “Antique Oil Finish“. Here is the best price I found.
I had originally thought that mass-produced finishes weren’t very desirable to traditional woodworkers, but was recommended to me by Bill Anderson. Larry Preuss, an expert plane maker from Michigan, recommended it to him.
Don’t worry about applying finish to the bottom “true” edge. You’ll eventually re-true the bottom. That’s it folks!
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Several tools used in shaping the handle: saw, 3/4″ chisel, spokeshave, rasp and file.
Where the fingers grab the handle I used a saw and chisel to remove the bulk of the wood. No photographs of this process, but here is a link to previous post (saw vise curves). For those of you who like using a coping saw that would work just as well.
The remainder of the shaping was a process of removing wood until the shape began to appear and smoothing until it is comfortable in my hand.
This is an experiment. I was recently putting in a materials order and I noticed in the ‘odds and ends’ department they had ¾” threaded maple dowel rod. For a few dollars per lineal foot, I thought it would be worth putting in the cart. When it arrived, I set out to build a double screw.
I grabbed two pieces of cherry I had laying around and drilled holes for the screws. First I drilled a pilot hole where the screws would go. This gave me my alignment between the two jaws. Then the outside jaw was drilled with a ¾” hole so it would free float on the screw. The inside jaw was then drilled about ¾ of the way through with a 1” forstner bit. Before breaking through, I switched to the ¾”bit to exit out the back just big enough for the screw.
The next day I turned a couple simple handles, bore out an oversized hole in the middle, and used epoxy putty to permanently attach the screw into them. (Don’t wax that end of the screw! ) I toothed the jaws of the vise for better grip and the next day I gave it a go. It works wonderfully. For small work, the ¾” screws are fine and because the threads are epoxy they are super strong.
This may all sound convoluted. I know if I were reading this, I would be saying, “Why don’t you just get a tap and die set?” The answer is: this was a quick and fun experiment and it’s a way to use materials laying around the shop to make something that works just as well (hopefully... this is an experiment, you know). I will be getting a tap and die in the near future but this was fun in the meantime. The second answer is that I am curious to see the holding power of epoxy internal threads as I imagine this being useful information for my conservation work.
Wood on wood is light, frictionless woodworking at its best and no metal-cast spokeshave offers anywhere near the senseasesiness to the hands of woodworkers than a wooden bodied spokeshave. There you go, it’s said and done. I was really raised on the Stanley and Record 150’s and 151’s and have used them all through my life.
My first time with the all wooden tang-type spokeshave shown here came at the same time and remains etched in my brain as an ever present physical impression of total harmony. Until this happens for you you can never understand why they were and are so ever popular for certain types of shaping work. Shaping and shaving a mahogany neck for a new guitar, a maple cello neck or carving out the four-foot outspread wings of a soaring eagle seems little more than peeling skin from an apple or a potato. The wooden spokeshave can still be had from secondhand tool dealers and of course eBay fairly easily and inexpensively but there are no guarantees until you have it in your hand and can actually test it out on your own wood.
Above you can see a well-used traditional tanged spokeshave showing the wear that occurs when used on narrow work. This still has many decades of use for my work.
Things can and do go wrong, and several things make this type of spokeshave work or work not, but usually you will be able to tell if they are neglected by the images provided. Two woods make the best spokeshaves and were indeed the most commonly used, beech and boxwood. These two woods resisted wear well and left no marks on the wood being worked.
Several years ago I bought some Veritas kit components (shown above) for making spokeshaves with. I wasn’t sure if the results of these would give me the same feel as the twin tanged ones shown higher but, thankfully, I was satisfied they were close enough to the traditional models for me to recommend anyone to go ahead and make them. Since then I have bought them to teach others how to make and use them in classes on tool making I used to hold in the USA..
Adding the brass wear plate defies the lightness of use by introducing friction. It’s the choice you make determined by what you will use the tool for. I have both. I found it better to use it without and then repair as needed as shown here. The reason for the change of wood to maple was the Padauk I used leaves red marks on light coloured woods.
Here shows the repaired padauk spokeshave
These brass adjusters give very precise setting to the cutting iron in relation to the wood or brass forepart to the sole. The instructions come with the fitments you buy as a kit from Veritas but you should not hesitate to consider other shapes that you might want if customising handles and such. This is an interesting all-day project and everyone interested in owning a good wooden spokeshave should set aside time to make one.
Also, I am looking forward to the time their designers come out with a similar kit for a chair travisher.
There’s more to be said on wooden spokeshaves, much more, but we can save that for another day.
We had a terrific day creating parquetry panels in The Barn today. Joe and Josh were on the spot at 9 AM sharp, and after introductions all around we got to work. I quickly reviewed all the materials, processes, and tools, and within minutes we were underway. First, they glued up sawing jigs. A bit later we layed out and sawed the kerfs for these bench-hook style tools. I will blog about this process on Monday night. Then, we moved on to creating sawn veneer strips with my min-bandsaw, which is pretty much dedicated to sawing veneer for parquetry these days. Joshua opted for some of my vintage and tight grained Bald Cypress, and Joe brought a piece of superb true mahogany. We ran it through the planer quickly to verify planarity, then sawed it up with the bandsaw. The we got to cutting parallelograms for the assembled pattern. And sawed. And sawed. It takes a pile o’ lozenges to create a completed pattern. After lunch I reviewed the working system for assembling the pattern (about which I will be blogging later next week) then fired up the glue pots and we were off to the races. All three of us were creating parquetry panels; Joe and Josh were making small table tops, and I was working on one of four panels for an upcoming tool cabinet. By the end of the day each of us had completed the “field” of the panel we were creating. All in all, a very good day.
In the review, Deutsch writes:
“The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” is not your average beginner’s book, and its author is not your average seasoned woodworker…. Schwarz’s writing style is unlike what you’ll find in any other woodworking reference. He speaks to you in a friendly and frank nature. It’s as if this book is his diary or a long correspondence to a personal friend.
While I don’t always agree with Schwarz’s approach, I feel this book should be standard reading for anyone who hopes to one day to call themselves a woodworker.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: The Anarchist's Tool Chest
I'm just starting to make a small coffee / side table from some lovely English Walnut. After trimming and flattening the board ended up 42" x 16" x 1 1/2" thick. There were knots and cracks on both sides which I filled and stabilised with a fair amount of Epoxy resin.
The shot below shows the first flood coat of oil which shows the beauty of this fine board. It would be nice to continue the hand rubbed oil finish but the epoxy will stand out as a shiny patch. So it will be finished with three coats of matt Osmo Hardwax oil which will build up and harmonise the sheen as well as providing good protection.
All month long the folks at Shop Woodworking have a fantastic deal on a value pack filled with tons of great information for the hand tool user looking to further expand their knowledge of how to get the best results from their tools with the “Hand Tool Builder’s Collection”.
According to the description, you’ll save up to 64% on this collection:
“Using hand tools in your woodshop is a fun and traditional way to make interesting projects. The pride that comes with making your own tools is something that can’t be explained. This collection comes with instructional videos, downloads and books to help you complete your collection of tools and set you on your way to making new and interesting projects. This collection contains 14 of our best hand tool guides to teach you to build a multitude of tools; a custom backsaw, a wooden smoothing plane, work benches of varying styles, tool cabinet, bench hook, and so much more!”
From DVDs like “Build a Custom Backsaw DVD with Matt Cianci” to “Build a Sturdy Workbench in Two Days with Christopher Schwarz” all the way to Jim Tolpins’ book “New Traditional Woodworker.”
This is a great opportunity to add some of the best titles in this genre of woodworking to your library, don’t miss out on the savings!
I emailed them to inquire about purchasing a replacement handle – I assumed they would be willing to sell me a handle to get my saw working again. I was wrong.
Instead they sent me a replacement, gratis. Wow, right? I certainly didn’t expect that, but it really made my day. The handle showed up in Wednesday’s mail (having shipped Monday from Maine to California). I installed it last night and I’m back in business.
This weekend I’ll finish the details on the base of the little Greene & Greene table I’m building. I hope. I’d like to see it glued up and done soon.
“The Naked Woodworker” DVD is off to the pressing plant in Virginia, and I am uploading the massive movie files to our store’s servers as I type. So here are details on the project, when it will be available and pricing.
“The Naked Woodworker” is unlike any woodworking product I’ve worked on. It started last May when Mike Siemsen and I were talking at Handworks in Amana, Iowa. While examining his workbench there, we began throwing ideas back and forth about how to capture his bootstrapping methods and bring them to a wide audience.
The core principle: Buy a few good vintage tools, fix them up, build a sawbench and a workbench. Do it fast, well and with no machinery or woodworking power tools.
In February, John Hoffman and I drove up to Siemsen’s shop in Minnesota to film the DVD, the first for Lost Art Press. On Saturday morning we hit the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association’s regional meeting where we filmed Mike sifting through, evaluating, haggling and buying the tools we’d need. (Personal note: If you like handwork, join MWTCA. It’s inexpensive to join, and the rewards are extraordinary.)
On the second day, Mike built a sawbench and a fully functional workbench using home-center materials. Both the sawbench and workbench are amazingly clever. You don’t need a single machine or power tool to make them. And they work incredibly well.
Mike finished up work on the bench just as his friends were showing up for his birthday party (hence the beers in the background during the final shots of the DVD). Everyone ate chili (at least, that’s what they were calling it) while sitting on the new bench and playing with the tools.
This spring, I edited the footage down to two short DVDs. One on buying and fixing tools. The other on building the sawbench and workbench. We also commissioned a very nice SketchUp drawing of the bench. And, most telling, we made a spreadsheet that details every tool, screw and stick of lumber we bought for the project. Both the SketchUp drawing and spreadsheet come with the DVDs.
We spent $571.40 for everything. Then Mike sat down and figured out what the prices would be if you paid for your tools more on the high side of things. That price: $769.40.
We hope this project will inspire new woodworkers to just dive into handwork and get started. I talked to too many people who are hesitant about where to begin, how to begin or think they have to buy every tool in the catalogs to begin. You don’t.
We also think “The Naked Woodworker” will be a great thing for experienced woodworkers who need a quick workbench and some sawbenches.
“The Naked Woodworker” will be available in August in two forms: A DVD set for $22, or a download for $20. The download will be available for international customers. We don’t know if any of our retailers will carry this product as of yet. If they pick it up for their catalogs, we’ll let you know.
Next month I’ll post some video samples from “The Naked Woodworker” so you can get a taste of the project.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. There is no nudity in “The Naked Woodworker.” Thank goodness.
Filed under: The Naked Woodworker DVD
These pieces are often cut using a jigsaw, bandsaw or fretsaw but most home woodworkers in India are unlikely to have a bandsaw or a jigsaw. Although jigsaws and bandsaws do cut quickly they are not essential tools.
Cutting shapes by hand with a fretsaw can be a tedious process. Fortunately there is a much simpler process which only requires a few cheap hand tools.
Tools required: hand saw, chisel and mallet, rasp and sandpaper.
Step 1: Draw the profile or shape that needs to be cut.
Step 2: With a hand saw make straight cuts across the part that needs to be removed.
These cuts need to be made along the entire length of the portion to be cut out.
Step 3: Using a chisel and a mallet knock off the waste portion. The cut parts chips off easily.
Step 4: Use a rasp to clean the shape.
Step 5; Finish the shape with sandpaper.
This is a quick method which has been advocated by great woodworkers such as Paul Sellers and can easily be mastered by the novice woodworker.
18 July 2014
I got my seedlac from shellac.net. On their website, they say that they ship internationally.