During one of our trips around Inle lake we encountered a guy making a bunch of simple chairs and tables. Morticing by hand, despite the router in the background. And he also used one of these typical Asian handplanes. This one has a double iron, bedded somewhat steeper then the 45 degrees we usually have overhere. It looks very homemade like. Another regular tool in Asia is the framesaw.
The highlight of handtool working certainly was this small boatyard, also in Inle lake. First time ever I saw pit sawing in real life! Another nice picture is the planing bench, very simple, but effectively enough, I guess.
Ripsawing by hand. Of course, what else?
And finally a picture of handplaning with one of these Asian planes. Good to see how they use these in real life. They probably use them in every possible way imaginable, but this handposition is unique to these kinds of planes.
That's all about the woodworking I've seen in Burma. It is a unique country. Because of its isolation during the last decades, you get a glimpse of the old ways of Asia. But Burma is changing really fast now, so if you want to see it yourself, don't wait too long. One last picture, the famous and unique rowing technique of the fisherman in Inle lake.
Part 4 of a British Introduction to Japanese Planes
What we in the West do not realise is that a plane comes to a maker as a kit of parts. He would buy the blade and maybe the back iron from the blacksmith but they may have been made by two smiths. The body would come from a Kanna maker down the road. These are the three parts that have to be made to fit together and it’s YOUR job to do it.
Note that there are only three parts. There is NO WEDGE to press it all together.
What we have instead is a tapering blade and back iron that tightens as it fits down in the body of the plane.
Most plane bodies are cut at an effective pitch of 38° this works well for them as they are cutting mostly softwood. If we are to plane hardwood to a shine we need a slightly higher pitch. My advice has been to go for 41°. Higher and you tend to loose the polish and have a harder pull on the plane body; lower and you get tear-out.
Getting a body made for a specific blade is not a problem. I will give a source later.
Back irons need some explaining. We have cheap bits of low-carbon steel that flap around like mother’s washing. The Japanese have laminated steel back irons that are made to sit a HAIR’S THICKNESS behind the edge. The contact with the blade is honed smooth and there is an angle ground at the point of contact with the blade about 0.25mm wide of about 70°. See the photo. This surface is to drive the shaving immediately up after being cut by the blade.
High-tech stuff this back iron.
Earlier planes were made to function without back irons, but this was in softwood. I believe we would not get the result we want without a back iron. Maybe wrong, but that’s the gut feel at the moment.
Next we will be fitting blades to the body.
Filed under: Handplanes
I bought this 12" diameter elm bowl by Alan Peters on E Bay last week. I was the only one to bid, where were you all! It dates from the early 1970's and was bought from the Oxford Gallery. There was no damage but it was in a pretty sorry state. It looked very dry and had a array of stains and scratches so I decided the best thing to do was to sand it back and re finish it.
I used the domed head attachment on my Kirjes pneumatic sander for the inside and the standard drum for the outside. This is a wonderful machine and gets a lot of use in my shop (I have two).
I sanded through to 220 grit which took about 15 minutes in all.
In keeping with Alan's approach I used an oil finish and here it is after the first flood coat.
Below is the final finish after four coats, allowing the wonderful rich colour of the elm to come through. A bit better than when it arrived!
I’ve built and worked on many Nicholson-style workbenches. And I’ve built and worked on many knockdown workbenches. This workbench is an effort to harness the advantages of those two forms and eliminate (or minimize) their disadvantages.
As I mentioned before, this bench is inspired by the get-it-done Nicholson bench shown in “The Naked Woodworker” DVD by Mike Siemsen. Also, planemaker and chairmaker Caleb James make a bench similar to Mike’s that uses barrel nuts to knock down. And wait until you see the vise Caleb made for it. It’s powered by holdfasts. Details to come.
There are myriad ways to build a knockdown bench. Here is what I was after with this design:
- You need only one tool to assemble and disassemble it (a 9/16” ratchet). You can install the hardware with one hand – no reaching inside the bench to hold a nut or other hardware.
- No faffing. I wanted to be able to assemble or disassemble the bench in about five minutes. Less time messing around means more time woodworking.
- Flat. I wanted to keep the disassembled components as flat as possible so they could be easily transported.
- Cheap. I spent $130 on the raw materials for the completed bench. (In truth I spent $250 purchasing bits of hardware to experiment with that did not end up on the bench.)
- Solid. One of the disadvantages of some Nicholson benches is the top feels springy or bouncy when you work on it. While you can add blocking to the underside to add thickness, I have found a method I prefer: Skip the “bearers” or “ribs” that go below a traditional Nicholson top and simply double up the thickness so the top is 3” thick in all the critical areas.
I could write an entire blog entry on why I prefer this method, but I really haven’t had enough coffee to go to that dark place in my mind that deals with the modulus of elasticity.
Some inevitable questions about this bench, and some answers.
- How does this bench compare to every other bench you’ve built? Is it your favorite?
As long as a bench makes it easy to work on the faces, edges and ends of a piece of work then that bench is a friend. I enjoy and – have no problems – working on a bench without screw-feed vises. You might have a different preference.
- Why no vises?
To keep the cost down. Someday I might add a leg vise. Maybe not.
- Will the plans be available?
Eventually, sure. I have to tune up my SketchUp drawing to make it presentable. Then I’ll post it in the 3D warehouse and put a link on this blog. First, I have some books to finish editing.
- I don’t have yellow pine in my area, what other woods will work?
Almost any construction lumber will do. Go to a home center or lumber yard and buy the stuff they use for joists in residential construction.
- Aren’t you just trying to sell product with this post?
Indeed. If you don’t purchase everything in our store right now, then you are a depraved human being. Fat, ugly and unloved. And by the way, this bench build was sponsored by Union Carbide and Brown & Williamson. You don’t need vises – you just need a Viceroy cigarette!
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. Apologies for not getting this video up yesterday. I shot it, but it took hours to process the video and post it to Vimeo so it could be shown in HD.
Filed under: Workbenches
Anyway, here are some nice ones from the monasteries. these cabinets probably have some religous purpose, but I couldn't find out what purpose. Quality of the pictures isn't great, because these buildings are very dark, and I am not a great photographer anyway. Click on the pictures to see larger images.
And I liked this simple bench. Simple as it is, it looks like a nice project for a garden bench.
Here’s a quick tip to clean glass panes or windows. Forget Windex Glass Cleaner. Forget those local community car washes that use newspaper to clean car windows. The best way to clean glass is with – wait for it – steel wool. That’s right steel wool. There’s no need for any liquid cleaner, but you have to use the right steel wool. You should use #0000 (four aught) steel wool.
I learned this tip from a friend years back. He was in the automotive repair and body shop business and was forever cleaning windows. At first, I thought he was pulling my leg (that’s Midwestern for joshing me, kidding me or otherwise telling me stories). As soon as I got back to the shop, however, I gave it a try. The results are great. I never turned back to any other method for cleaning my glass windows. Give it a try on your home windows, too. But make sure you’re not scrubbing any UV film coverings.
Build Something Great!
I had a few people comment that reading the blog was pretty tough on a mobile phone, so last night I made a few modifications and activated a mobile theme. Having just been on holiday, I spent a little more time than usual looking at my blog on my own hone and zooming in and out all the time was indeed very tedious. Now if you go to Hackney Tools using your phone, it should be a lot easier on the eye, with text at a more legible size.
There are quite a few other changes I’d like to make to the site and I would appreciate reader response on what works for you, or not.
Being a ‘hobby-level’ tool dealer, it’s important to me to have my contact details to the fore, but what I enjoy doing most is blogging about tools, traditional technique and makers of fine tools and furniture. So there is always a tension between trying to present a ‘half and half’ approach to the blog, and trying to enhance that with the design.
I guess I’ll carry on noodling along making incremental changes for now, but one thing I really would like to change is the ‘For Sale’ page. I always envisaged selling tools without getting eBay involved. However, listing tools for sale can be quite laborious using manual coding, especially as the tools themselves are relatively cheap. What I need to do is upgrade the page to use an e-commerce solution such as WooCommerce, or Shopify, or something, so that people can click to buy and check out with Paypal.
Honestly, I have looked at all these solutions to some extent, but I do worry that something of the ‘personal touch’ is lost by having a page which looks so commercial. Most of my tools sell after someone has been in touch and we have had a chat about the item, this is something that woodworkers and craftspeople seem to appreciate as an option.
My other worry is that listing global shipping options for tools seems incredibly laborious. Spending half an hour listing a few screwdrivers with all the shipping options seems rather counter-intuitive. How do other people do this? I assume there are faster ways of photographing inventory, listing it on your site and activating it for sale. It’s easy when your items are all the same weight, such as t-shirts, you can apply shipping rates and know you have all the bases covered.
If anyone has direct experience of integrating e-commerce solutions with WordPress blogs I would appreciate tips on the best way forward. I don’t have lot of time I can put aside for the blog, but I need to make the tool-dealing particularly a smoother operation, mainly so I can get more up online and shift away from eBay.
(The theme I use on this blog is the excellent Graphene theme).
The Bagay Kaung in Inwa, close to Mandalay and a former capitol of the country. It is made in 1834 and still in use as a monastery.
In the town of Mandalay there are two very nice ones. The Shwe In Bin Kyaung which had a serene quietness when we arrived. Rich Chinese jade merchants build this one in 1895.
The famous Shwenandaw Kyaung which is the most richly carved monastery with lots of (fading) gilding inside. It was first the royal appartment from King Mindon who died in 1878, but later moved out of the palace walls and converted to a monastery, luckily because the palace was completely ruined in WW2.
The past couple years I’ve been picking up wooden planes and other period appropriate tools for my 1790s historic interpretation. As I continue to steal away a few minutes here and there to work on my traditional tool chest, I am also making good headway on the tool acquisitions. My most recent procurement was a wooden bodied coffin smoothing plane. I had always used my metal bodied #4 before for this final surface work but that was not quite authentic enough for the reenacting events. (No… I’m not a stitch counter.)
Until recently I hadn’t picked up a wooden smoothing plane because I wasn’t finding any that were suitable for good use. I recently got over that hurdle and just bought one that needed work. Besides the usual grime and dust, there were three main issues I needed to deal with: 1. The cutting iron was basically used up 2. The iron cap was warped 3. The mouth was too wide. The only reason I confidently picked this one up was because there was a James Cam iron in the miscellaneous plane iron box. It was about a ¼” too wide but nothing a grinder couldn’t address.
|Note the gap on the cap iron|
Back at the studio, I ground the replacement iron slightly narrower to fit and sharpened the cutting edge. For the cap iron: I toyed with the idea of heating and bending the warpage out of it but I eventually just decided to apply some JB Weld at the top to offset the gapping. After it was cured, I screwed the iron and cap together and it worked beautifully. Now the front edge is leveraged nice and flush to the “back” of the iron. Stupid easy fix.
|Goober it on and let it cure|
The last issue I dealt with was the mouth. I decided to patch it in the manner of the 18th and 19th century repairs. When their plane soles wore down considerably, the mouth concurrently widened. For most planes this is basically inconsequential but for a smoothing plane it’s pretty important to keep it tight.
|Establishing the line|
A patch was cut of quartersawn white oak because I didn’t have beech on hand. The hardness and shrinkage properties are very close to that of European Beech so I think we’ll be okay. After the patch was cut, the grave was scribed onto the plane sole. The line was then deepened by chopping and slicing the waste away to establish a nice notch for the walls of the patch’s grave.
|Trimming the walls|
|Ready for glue|
Then I pulled out a power tool. Yes, you read that right. You thought I didn’t ever use such a thing but I do on occasion find certain electrically powered tools very useful. (Like my bandsaw or drill press!) My small laminate router is great for excavating the majority of material for flat bottom graves for patches. After the waste was removed the walls were shaved and chopped with a chisel. The patch was then adjusted for fit and was glued into place. After leveling it the next day, I adjusted the mouth ever so slightly to even it out across the cutting edge.
|Ready for trimming|
|All flush now|
|This is what you're after|
I love this little guy. It works so beautifully. Nice translucent shavings. (Everybody likes to call them “gossamer”.) I am really starting to get the hang of using and adjusting wooden planes and even enjoy using them much more than metal bodied planes... I’m a convert. I find myself reaching for them more and more. If you haven’t tried them out, you really should. Lighter, smoother, and sooooo two centuries ago. Exactly what I was looking for.
This week, I began building two saws, each with a different story behind it. First, the stories.
A few months ago, my next-door neighbor was cleaning out her shed and threw out a lot of junk. My oldest daughter, K, was rummaging through the junk pile looking for whatever a 7-year-old might consider a “treasure,” and she pulled out an old saw plate. It was a skew-back, about 22″ long, with at least two different sets of holes drilled for the handle. The teeth were well worn and a little uneven. Clearly this saw had seen a lot of use, and not a little repair. But the plate was dead-straight, so I put it aside, promising K that I would make a kid-sized handle for it someday.
My old broomstick-handled Crown dovetail saw has seen better days. But recently, I acquired a dovetail saw kit from Isaac Smith at Blackburn Toolworks. The kit consists of a toothed saw plate, a spine, and two saw nuts. The kit has been sitting on my workbench for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve been itching to get it assembled. When I got the kit, I also ordered some saw nuts for K’s saw.
If you want to make your own saw, I highly recommend that you read Isaac’s series of blog posts on how he makes a saw from start to finish.
Selecting the wood for the handles was pretty easy. I have a lot of spalted pecan on hand, and it makes beautiful tool handles. This wood is tough and difficult to split, so I can make a relatively delicate saw handle without worrying much about whether the handle will break if I drop it. I chose stock that was rough-sawn to about 1″ thick and planed it down to about 7/8″ thick.
I also downloaded a template for each handle. For my own dovetail saw, I used the medium-sized dovetail saw template from Blackburn Toolworks. For K’s panel saw, I used the Disston D-7 pattern from Dominic at TGIAG, but I printed it out at 80% of full size so as to fit a child’s hand.
After cutting out each template, I used a glue-stick to adhere each pattern to the wood. I tried to orient each one to get the best figure out of each piece of wood. Then I took the wood down to the drill press and drilled out several holes with Forstner bits. That makes for very smooth, even curves. I didn’t have all the recommended sizes, and the sizes listed on the smaller template were now wrong because I had scaled it down. So I just picked the bit that seemed the closest to each radius, and that worked fine.
While I used the bandsaw to waste away a lot of the remaining wood, my turning saw came in handy for the inside of K’s handle. I also used it to cut out a number of details in both handles. When properly tensioned, the bow saw is extremely accurate.
The most delicate operation is sawing the slot for the blade. If the slot is sawn crooked, the saw won’t work properly. First I marked out the slot with a marking guage. There are a number of ways to cut the slot itself, but I figured out a pretty simple method.
I laid my stair saw on the benchtop and held it down with holdfasts. Then I moved the workpiece back and forth to mark out the slot. This handle is exactly the same thickness of the stair saw, which is on purpose.
The other handle was a little thinner, so I raised it up on a sheet of paper so that the saw blade hits the exact middle. If I were making a handle from thicker stock, I would put paper under the stair saw instead.
I didn’t cut the whole slot with the stair saw; I only went about 1/4″ deep all around. Then I put the saw handle in a vise and finished the cut with a regular hand saw.
Shaping the saw handle required a number of half-round rasps and files. Although I’m working to pencil lines, it is largely a matter of freehand sculpting. I’m not dead-set on copying every detail of a pre-existing saw, so the sculpting remains somewhat spontaneous.
Clamping a large handscrew upright in a bench vise is a good way to hold the work.
At the end of the day, I have K’s saw handle all shaped and ready for scraping and sanding–as well as drilling the holes for the nuts.
Next up: shaping my dovetail saw handle, and doing a little metal work.
Tagged: Blackburn Toolworks, dovetail saw, pecan wood, saw building, saw handle, saw making, saw plate, spalted pecan, stair saw, TGIAG
Some days seem quite ordinary and I suppose that they are really. John and I ate breakfast and went to the car boot sale a mile from the house. It was quiet but we bought a few things between us as we walked around the booths and aisles. I had wanted a hand cranked grinder for some time but couldn’t find the one I wanted and then there it was lying rejected on a concrete floor. £7 seemed a good price to pay of it worked and it did. I found an old mahogany table 4’ square in two 1’ laminations with 1’ drop leave all 4’ long. It had aprons and square tapered legs so we bought it for £35. The wood was lovely of course. It will make a fine tool box or something more practical than a table with wide drop leaves to wide to sit at. Another Stanley brace and a very nice wooden spokeshave seemed most ordinary and then I saw two nicely made panel gauges I thought should belong to someone other than Bill the vendor selling them…mostly because they were nicely not ordinary in that setting. I should have bought them really…to give them the home they deserved.
This wasn’t the one we bought but it was there at the sale
Back at the shop the table seemed quite settled when someone walked in and said that they really liked the table. The table had nice mahogany but the design was as I said, quite ordinary. Soon it will be a most beautiful something.
I cut these notches with an ordinary knife and a chisel. They sliced the wood neatly and exactly as I placed the square on the increment marks I wanted. The inclined incisions are critically important to my goal, yet my goal is quite ordinary. It took a while to develop this and when it was done it was less to me than the effort I put in to achieve it. John sharpened more tools and we talked the whole time about things that mattered to him and then things that mattered to me. Mostly we shared the same pockets were what we liked we enjoyed over a coffee and the same music.
People drifted in and out all week as all of these things that are ordinary to us occurred minute by minute. I think that it’s a true thing that when we do things over and over for a length of time, like slicing notches for an hour, they become ordinary to us. What’s ordinary to me is often extraordinary to those who come from somewhere ordinary to them. Surely that’s an important thing to grasp. Two small girls came in to the workshop. Elena and Lucy. They were lovely to visit with and so too their parents. I wrote their names neatly on an ordinary piece of pine in pencil and then erased them with my plane. The shavings were quite thick and I showed them how I had erased their names from the pine block. They were amused and perhaps a little sad to see their names disappear with one swipe until I pulled the shavings and the names from the throat of the plane and curled them around their wrists. I don’t know what a pine bookmark shaving will mean to them in their future, but their young noses will remind them of some ordinary minutes with an ordinary man when a name disappeared and reappeared for them to keep. I concluded that there is nothing wrong with an ordinary day shared with ordinary people because ordinary things we do with our hands affect us all very greatly.
Throughout the past week time was spent shaping the stool seat. As demonstrated by Paul Sellers I sued a #7 gouge. this is the first experience with this tool and it has been fun. Took a little time to work out the sharpening technique, but all is well.
The most surprising aspect is how little time it took to get the shape I wanted. If I am calculating correctly approximately two hours over a couple of evenings. There are a few areas that need to be smoothed and some shaping in the front to ease the edges, but the bulk of the work has been completed. In the background f the photograph is the plane that I began last winter specifically for this project. It worked fairly well and helped with the smoothing ofter using the gouge. Doing this project again i would make a smaller plane.
I’m playing with some different ideas for the final details on the Mission-ish bookcase. I think the basic bookcase with the Greene & Greene stained glass panels I posted earlier has a lot of merit. Even without any inlay the glass will add a lot of “zing”.
I wanted to try something more traditionally “mission”. This version has basic leaded divided panels in the doors, and a original Ellis inlay design. It would be more subtle.
The inlay design I’m using is out of Bob Lang’s “Craftsman Inlay Designs” book — which is out of print, but all the same designs are in his “Great Book of Shop Drawings for Craftsman Furniture“. This design is intended for a table leg, so I cut off the bottom extension to make it fit in the smaller horizontal space. I could add some more elements to better fill the horizontal space, I might also play with different designs. My cad software isn’t doing a good job rendering this design, there are some visual glitches, it’s supposed to be pewter and copper
I’m going to keep playing with different design ideas, but I’m holding off on doing a full layout of most of these in CAD for now as that will be a giant time sink. If I decide to go with the design from the Earl C. Anthony house for the glass it will be faster to print out the original photos to scale and use that as a guide to draw out the pattern for the glass.
Several times a year it’s inevitable I’ll get asked if I ever experience “woodworking burn out?” So let me state without a doubt “YES!”
At some point we need to step back and do something different. It happens in all aspects of life, with a variety of activities, so it only makes sense it’s going to happen in our hobbies and passions.
Personally, I’ve identified a few times throughout the year that it’s almost certainly guaranteed to occur. The beginning and end of summer, and right around the Christmas/New Year holidays.
These are times of the year when my focus is anywhere and everywhere else but in the wood shop, and if I’m working on a project at that time, I can assure you I’m completely miserable until it’s completed.
In fact, the more I think about it, I also experience a little short-term burn out towards the end of any large project I’m working on. It kind of makes sense if you think about it.
Typically the beginning and middle of a project is exciting and new because you’re very active in getting the process underway. Lumber is to be milled, joints are to be cut and eventually assembly is just around the corner.
But once it hits the glue-up and finishing stages, I’m still excited to see all my hardwork come together, but frequently it’s starting to feel like “work” instead of relaxation.
It’s very counterintuitive really, given that all the milling and joinery work can be so tedious and time-consuming, but I think what makes it a little bit exciting is that you’re kind of uncovering something new.
Every new layer of wood revealed by the milling process is turning a rough and dirty board into something beautiful. And everytime you shape the pieces, for the joinery, you’re creating and manipulating the board.
You’re creating something unique and different out of something that was rather ordinary.
Still, without a doubt, at some point burn out hits us and we find ourselves struggling to get into the shop. Should we force ourselves in at this point? Or is it better to stay away and wait for the muse to draw us back in?
I addressed this issue back in 2008 in episode 313 “Downtime Monday”, and while I might not always agree with some of my earlier advice, this still sounds like exactly what I do today.
How about you? What’s your way of overcoming or avoiding burnout?
The video shoot of Alf Sharp building a Newport Tea Table continues. The legs are shaping up quit nicely, as you can see in the short video below as Alf discusses the knee carving on the Goddard design. (If you missed Alf’s comments on carving the open talon Ball & Claw foot on this table, click here.) It’s great to watch a talented woodworker doing what he does; I’ve picked […]
I discovered some nice woodworking things during the trip which I would like to share over the next few blogs. Wood is still a major building material, together with bamboo, especially in the country side. You'll encounter plenty of wooden buildings like these stilt houses in Inle Lake.
Usually they are build in a quite crude manner, but sometimes you see some embellishment, like this one.
They use a lot of teak wood, which is abundant in this country. A famous one is the U Bein bridge, leading to a small village. It is 1.2 km long.
The wood is decaying, despite it being teak, and I think a restoration is being proposed.
“(17th century author Joseph ) Moxon … in discussing the “Barbarous ∫ort of working which is u∫ed by the Natives of America” says that “they know neither of Rule, Square, or Compa∫s; and what they do is done by Tedious Working, and he that has the be∫t Eye at Guessing...” This sort of craft-work, barbarous to Moxon is typified in objects we now place a positive value on as being “handmade.” In eras when everything was hand-made however, the aim of the careful worker in the European tradition was to reduce variation by skill and increasingly, by ever more complex tools. Such perfectionism was pursued into the machine age resulting ultimately in techniques that typify workmanship of certainty. The aim of industry after all is quality control, which means the absolute reproducibility of a desirable result.” -J Thornton, The History and Technology of Waveform Moldings