Because the Roorkee chair has leatherwork and turning, many woodworkers ask me about the basic toolset needed to build one of these chairs. When I teach a class in making a Roorkee chair, here is the core set I recommend.
1. Full-size Easy Rougher from EasyWood Tools with an R4 cutter. I am not a turner. I am a furniture maker who turns. So when I teach turning, I look for the easiest path. With the EasyWood tool I don’t have to teach sharpening. And I have to teach only one grip on the tool. This one tool does all the cuts on the chair, and it does an excellent job. The full-size version costs more than the smaller versions, but I find the bigger tools easier for beginners to use. These tools are available everywhere, but I prefer to buy direct from the maker because it puts more money in their pocket.
2. If you plan to make more of these chairs, I recommend you buy the Veritas 5/8” Tapered Tenon Cutter. You can cut the taper on the lathe, but this pencil-sharpener-like device ensures your tenon will be a perfect fit in your socket every time.
3. The tapered hole is made using the Veritas Large Standard Taper Reamer. I prefer the less-expensive standard version because it can be used in a brace, electric drill or drill press. The more expensive professional reamer is used in a brace only.
To finish the woodwork part of the project, you’ll need some drill bits (1/16” up to 5/8”), marking and measuring tools, screwdrivers and a block plane (or sandpaper) to clean up the flat sections of the legs.
The leather can look daunting, but it actually is quite easy and is accomplished with just a few tools.
4. For cutting the leather, I recommend a sharp utility knife (be sure to buy some of the heavy replacement blades). Any utility knife will do, though I don’t recommend the spring-loaded ones where you have to press the blade out continuously during the cut. That kills your thumb. I touch up the cutting edge of my utility blades on my sharpening stones or a strop. I can usually cut out two or three chairs on one blade.
5. To punch holes for the belting and rivets, I recommend the Tandy Mini Punch Set. I have a nice rotary punch, but this inexpensive set gets you started at a small fraction of the price of a good rotary punch.
6. When punching holes, you’ll need a mallet and a backing board. With leather, I prefer to use an old poly cutting board as the backing board.
7. To set the rivets, you’ll need a rivet setter. Because I use No. 9 copper rivets, I recommend the No. 9 Craftool Rivet and Burr Setter, also from Tandy. You’ll also need a tool to snip the the rivets to finished length. I use my nippers, which work well.
If you get deep into the leather work, you’ll find there are a lot of tools you can buy that will simplify and automate a lot of the processes (such as specialized punches that make the decorative belting ends). If you want to buy one extra tool to make your life easier, get the Craftool Strap Cutter. It cuts straps and belts with astonishing speed and can save you an hour of time on each chair.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Campaign Furniture
American black walnut is one of the most beautiful woods on this planet. I like the way it doesn’t rot, I like the way it mills, I like the way it dries, I like the way it works, and I like the way it smells like money. Walnut is one of the most valuable trees, and right now, it’s the most requested lumber from my customers.
I sell walnut as fast as I can cut it and sometimes even faster. Whenever I have a chance to pick up a walnut log, I do it. There is nothing better than finding a good quality walnut log and turning it into lumber. Well, except for finding a veneer quality walnut log and not turning it into lumber. A veneer quality log is so valuable that I make more money by just selling it to a veneer buyer than I do by milling, drying and planing all of the wood from the same log.
To be veneer quality, a log has to be perfect or close to it. It needs to be straight, round, defect free, and, if it is to be very valuable, it needs to be large (24″ or larger on the skinny end, inside the bark). The log also has to have one other key characteristic – no freakin’ visits from a yellow-bellied sapsucker.
In the veneer business, they call it bird peck. I just call it bird _____ (you fill in the blank). Bird peck is a defect caused by a woodpecker called a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker digging holes in the tree to find bugs and to get the sap flowing out of the holes which attracts even more bugs. These holes eventually heal over, but they leave dark marks in the wood and make veneer buyers head the other direction. Bird peck can take a log destined for a veneer mill that would sell for $7 or more per board foot and make it only worth $2 per board foot when it ends up at a regular sawmill.
Even though I get a lot of logs, I don’t get veneer logs very often – maybe only a couple a year. Recently, I had what looked to be the most valuable log of my career, except for, you guessed it, the ol’ Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. The log wasn’t giant, but it was big and long (24″ x 13′) and straight. It could have been a little more round, but otherwise it looked great on the outside.
When I was cutting the tree and harvesting the logs, I saw a couple of bird peck marks in the top logs, but hoped that it wouldn’t be so bad lower in the tree. After all, birds should more often be up in the tree instead of down in the tree. I trimmed the top of the log more than a foot, but I couldn’t get the log to be clear. Every cut I made still showed at least a couple bird pecks.
At that point, I stopped cutting and decided to see what the veneer buyer had to say. I remembered selling logs in the past that showed a little bird peck and the price was lower, but he still bought it at a good price. I figured I had nothing to lose, and I couldn’t do anything about the bird peck, so it was time to sell it, or try to. The buyer, Damian from Tracy Export, had always treated me fairly, and I expected him to offer as good a price as he could.
I pulled in to the yard in Columbia, Illinois with the log on my trailer and expected Damian to be in awe of my big walnut and to start throwing money at me. I prepared by practicing my straight face and trying to not look too excited. Anyone that has ever met Damian can tell you that he does all of that naturally. He is always straight-faced and is never the giddiest of the bunch. Outwardly, he looks like he would break you in two for fun and not even blink. He has always been helpful and courteous and we have had some good discussions about wood, but he would never be accused of being soft. I imagine his rough exterior and no-nonsense approach serve him well as a log buyer.
It wasn’t the best day weather-wise and the cold rain didn’t help raise Damian’s mood. He grabbed his log scale and cant hook and headed towards the trailer. He was ahead of me and I couldn’t see his face, but I was sure he was saying to himself how good the log looked.
Within a micro-second of looking at the skinny end of the log, Damian’s cut and dry attitude somehow became even drier. He saw the bird peck immediately and had no interest in the log for veneer, not even a little. He said that the log would go to a sawmill and most likely would be cut into flooring and he offered me $2 per board foot. The same log without bird peck could have sold for as much as $2,100, but as is, the offer was only $600. At that price, it made more sense for me to cut it and make one of my customer’s happy than it did to sell the log, so I drove back to my shop with the log still on the trailer.
Since then, I milled the log and got a chance to see the inside. Much of the log was perfect, but there were areas that had bird peck. Buyers like Damian avoid these logs because they just can’t tell how much of the inside will produce high-grade veneer. Since they are paying top dollar for veneer logs, it just makes sense for them to only buy the best logs for veneer and avoid the questionable ones.
The good news for this log is that it made very nice slabs that will end up in some very nice furniture. Even the areas with bird peck are still perfectly usable, though they lend themselves to more natural pieces, which just so happens to be what most of my customers prefer. After all, it is actual wood produced in nature and not perfect wood that came out of a machine. At least that’s what I tell myself when the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker comes to town.
After making a few spoons with my current knives (a short Frost knife and one or two chip carving knives), I determined that I needed a longer knife for shaping handles. I searched for Sloyd knives at all my usual, favorite tool companies. Lee Valley had discontinued theirs. There was nothing at Tools for Working Wood. Nothing at Highland Woodworking. Ditto at Woodcraft.
In desperation, I did what any half-sane person my age would do. I Googled “Sloyd knife.” To my surprise, Amazon was offering a 4″ Morakniv Sloyd knife. It was very well-reviewed and priced under $15.
I balked. I usually steer clear of new, cheap tools because, well, when it comes to real tools, you usually get what you pay for. But between all the positive reviews and the low sticker price, I took a gamble on this knife. I’m glad I did. I’ve since gotten a second one.
After using the Mora knife for several spoons, I find that it is comfortable to hold (if you are used to holding a standard Sloyd knife handle). The blade is long enough to take a good, long shaving with the right technique. It also holds its edge very well. I used the knife to carve a spoon out of dry black walnut, pausing to resharpen only once in the process. Other knives I’ve had would have required two or more resharpenings over the same period.
The knife comes well-ground and somewhat sharp, but it’s not ground correctly for good Sloyd technique. A proper Sloyd knife should not have a secondary bevel. Rather, it should be sharpened more like a double-bevel chisel or drawknife, with two primary bevels going all the way to the edge. This allows the user to register the knife edge firmly on the workpiece and make long, straight cuts. The problem is that this knife comes with a secondary bevel on both sides.
I decided to lap one of the primary bevels flat and retain the secondary bevel on the other side, so as not to end up with too shallow a bevel, which would make for a fragile edge. This way, when I make long strokes away from myself, I can register the wide bevel on the workpiece. When I turn the knife around and make shorter cuts toward myself, I have a much smaller secondary bevel registered on the workpiece, but in this position I am usually making short cuts, and it works out okay. The secondary bevel on one side also allows me to cut curves of a slightly tighter radius than I would otherwise be able to.
Overall, the Morakniv is a good knife, though perhaps not a suburb one. If I continue to plumb the depths of traditional greenwood carving, I will eventually trade up to an artisan-made model. In the meantime, if you are just beginning to learn greenwood carving, as I am, it’s hard to go wrong with the Morakniv.
Tagged: Amazon, Mora, Mora knife, Morakniv, secondary bevel, sharpen sloyd knife, sloyd, sloyd knife, Sloyd knife sharpening
Having my stuff stashed away in a few storage sites is a bit rattling. I have some tools here at the house, and one workbench. It’s tucked tight into a mixture of kids/grownups/and general clutter; snow-boots, the “shipping” department -(a mass of re-used cardboard boxes and misc materials) the path to the bathroom, and this desk where I write, pay bills, and read about woodworking, birds and a tiny bit of news. I finally decided the other day to quit waiting until I get things “set up” and instead just shoved junk aside & carved an oak panel. It was like riding a bike.
It being winter, I have dipped back into some of Henry David Thoreau’s journal. Somehow winter is when I read this book; “I to Myself” is the edition I’m using. Got to the part about firewood heating you twice, an oft-quoted section. But reading before and after that part was a treat:
“One-eyed John Goodwin, the fisherman, was loading into a hand-cart and conveying home the piles of driftwood which of late he had collected with his boat. It was a beautiful evening, and a clear amber sunset lit up all the eastern shores; and that man’s employment, so simple and direct, – though he is regarded by most as a vicious character, – whose whole motive was so easy to fathom, – thus to obtain his winter’s wood, – charmed me unspeakably. So much do we love actions that are simple. They are all so poetic. We, too, would fain be so employed. So unlike the pursuits of most men, so artificial or complicated. Consider how the broker collects his winter’s wood, what sport he make of it, what is his boat and hand-cart! Postponing instant life, he makes haste to Boston in the cars, and there deals in stocks, not quite relishing his employment, – and so earns the money with which he buys his fuel. And when by chance, I meet him about this indirect and complicated business, I am not struck with the beauty of his employment. It does not harmonize with the amber sunset.”
He goes on, then comes to this one:
“As for the complex ways of living, I love them not, however much I practice them. In as many places as possible, I will get my feet down to the earth.”
words to live by.
Meanwhile, the other day I ordered a new bowl/drinking cup from Jarrod Stone Dahl.
Did you see his feature at Popular Woodworking? http://www.popularwoodworking.com/woodworking-daily/green-woodworking-linking-past-future
His work would harmonize with an amber sunset for certain.
I was so impressed with the results, I decided to use the same process to cut a sliding dovetail in the side rails of the frame...
I'll let you know how I make out.
I'm at the stage now with the shop where I have the tools and the workflow in place to accommodate my design and construction methods. I have a few more tweaks I want to make here and there, and a shop is never truly done. But for the most part I'm at a point in the evolution of my shop that I'm tuning rather than filling major gaps.
I have also completed the design and dimensioning phases of my next project, which will be my next series. In my time off I also spent some time and money to upgrade my entire video and audio setup as well as my production software. As a result, you should see a much higher quality of production in this new series (sadly the shop tour was done entirely on my old equipment).
If you have any questions about my shop setup, rationale for various decisions, or feedback on any of the tools and processes, just shoot me a comment. As always I'm happy to respond (at least when I'm not at 40,000 feet).
Right click to download the HD version of this video
Glue is something that I try to avoid as much as possible. Carving rarely needs glue, but box making does and so does the most recent project (more on that in another post). For most work, I use Titebond glues. The glues work well, but I really dislike the bottles. How does this work for you? Pick up the bottle, turn over and shake 1, 2, 3 times to get some glue near the tip. Then, pull open the tip … or most likely wrestle with opening the tip. After two good yanks, the tip is still stuck. So go find pliers. Then, find the slot in the nozzle blocked. Scrape it out; danged stuff really sticks on the cap almost as well as the wood. Phew, finally open. Squeeze and use. Clean the tip off this time before closing. One big PITA, and that’s NOT pita bread.
Being the cook, and grocery shopper, I’m seeing more and more products being sold in bottles meant to be stored inverted. SOME of those bottles actually have valves built into the lids. Two notable examples are Wallmart’s Great Value brand honey, and Heinz’s tomato ketchup. Wondering how well that valve handles glue, I cleaned out the last empty honey bottle and refilled it with Titebond glue.
Wonderful!!! Pick up the bottle, flip the lid, squeeze and spread. Set the bottle back down closing the lid all in one motion. No, it doesn’t have a long pointy nozzle, but how often do you really need that type of nozzle? Tilt this bottle a bit and there’s plenty of control. It works a bazillion times better than Titebond’s bottle. What’s more, the lid’s plastic surface is super slick and doesn’t hold on to spillover glue the way Titebond’s nozzles do. What little glue gets left on the lid slides right off.
Goodbye Titebond bottles; I’m sticking with the sweet ones now.
Tonight I had planned on writing about my recently completed tool box project, what I like about it, and what I would change if I were to build it over again. But, I had a long and tiring day at work, and I don’t feel that I have the energy to write a somewhat entertaining and coherent blog post right now. Still, I am at the computer and of the mind to at least write something. So rather than tax my mind and actually think, I’ve decided to do what a lot of other woodworking blog writers do and just blindly repeat what I’ve read on some professional blogs. So here goes nothing…
Sawstop sucks. I buy my tools used. Don’t buy new tools. New tools suck. Lie Nielsen is the best. Lie Nielsen is overpriced. Amateurs don’t deserve Lie Nielsen tools. Amateurs should purchase the best tools they can afford. You have to purchase from a Lumberyard. Real Woodworkers rive their stock. Real woodworkers don’t use power tools. I hate power tools, but sometimes I use a table saw. You have to read the Anarchists Tool Chest. I only use three tools. My rasp is hand hammered. I hate Ikea. Ikea makes everything out of particle board and cheap veneer. Ikea is killing craftsmanship. I’m an anarchist. I call my tools ‘pointy things’. Home Depot sucks. Ikea sucks; I said that before. Ikea sucks. I’m on a hand tool journey. Moderns are stupid. Moderns are lazy. I call people Moderns. I left a comment on so and so’s blog and he replied so now we’re best friends. Steve Gass should be tried for treason. My tool set cost ten dollars. My shooting plane cost five hundred dollars. My workbench is a foot thick. Only buy hardware from a blacksmith. Amateurs suck. Amateurs must save the craft. Amateurs can’t sharpen. Your chisels suck. Amateurs suck. I call woodworking the craft. What you are doing is bad for the craft. What I am doing is good for the craft. The Kreg Jig sucks. The Kreg Jig is bad for the craft. The Kreg Jig is everything that’s wrong with woodworking. I’m a process oriented woodworker. I woodwork to preserve the craft. The craft is in danger. Norm Abram sucks. I never watched the New Yankee Workshop. The New Yankee Workshop is bad for the craft. You have too many tools. You don’t use the right tools. You shouldn’t be using that brand. Real woodworkers don’t use those tools. Buy this tool. Buy that tool. Don’t buy here. Buy there.
Wow! That was easy. Having somebody else think for you really is fun! Who would have thought that you can write an entire blog post without having one original thought? I’m a changed person. I’m thirsty; where’s the Kool Aid?
I collect these little books. They were published by Evans Brothers in the 50′s and 60′s. A great set of books, edited by Hayward and others. The Woodworker Handbooks series covers a lot of ground.
Thing is, I’m missing a few, so thought I may as well put the word out and see if anyone has the last ones languishing in their cupboards as I would like to complete the set.
Before you get too excited, these are pretty common, (so don’t book a holiday just yet). I have paid 8UKP for one or two, but in general pay around 5UKP. (I’ve bagged a few on eBay for 99p).
If you have any of the below, please let me know and I can put this current obsession to bed.
Missing ones are:
Timbers for Woodwork
(I think there might be one more?)
*They all need to be in the same series style of the ones shown, ie, the black-banded covers. Good condition please. Wear is ok, tears aren’t.
Let me just start by saying that there is no such thing as the “End All – Be All” workbench. Workbenches come in all shapes and sizes. The selection criteria is based on the ergonomic needs of the user and the type of work that will be accomplished on the bench. Remember, the workbench is just a great big clamp. And, various types of work require varying methods of work holding (clamping).
Many of you already know that I work several hours a week at the local Woodcraft Store. We’re very fortunate to have a staff that is made up of experienced woodworkers. Of course, experienced woodworkers are used to working in conditions of their own design. Those of us who continue to do a great deal of hand work, have complained that our benches are simply not heavy enough for our uses. So recently we all agreed that we would build a demonstration bench that would be well suited to all methods of hand work. It fell to me to determine what would be the appropriate design. So I began extensive research into the matter.
The Roubo bench has gained renewed popularity in recent years. It is a heavy bench that lends itself well to a number of tasks.
While the Roubo is excellent for doing heavy work, there are other bench designs that are better suited to doing finer, lighter detail work. The German and Swedish style “cabinet makers” benches are a case in point.
This style bench, however, may fail to provide adequate work surface area and weight for many preparation and assembly tasks. I wanted to find a bench that would, for example, allow us to joint long boards and “thickness” plane, as well as hold drawer sides for dovetailing. It was obvious that some type of compromise had to be considered. There are a great many contemporary designs. But, more often than not, these designs have grown out of need for specialized work holding, so I found myself looking back to historic models. There is good reason that there are several historic designs found all over Europe and the Americas. They work! So I went back to the books.
The design I kept coming back to was what is commonly called the “Nicholson”. Of course Nicholson did not design this bench (and it’s ever so likely that A.J. Roubo did not design his namesake). He simply illustrated, what had evolved to become known as the English Joiners bench in one of his books on trade skills in the mid nineteenth century.
The “Nicholson” has a broad work surface. The bench is substantial. And, it is a work holding “tour de force”. Bench screw vises can be placed anywhere. Planing stops can be placed “in length” or for cross planing. The large aprons on both sides permit the use of holdfasts on the vertical as well as horizontal surfaces, allowing the user to secure workpieces like “six board” chest parts for dovetailing with ease. A crook (or crochet, si vous preferez) can be mounted at the end of one of the aprons, making holding larger pieces for jointing a simple task.
Several years ago at WIA in Cincinnati, I saw a “Nicholson” derivative that had been built by Mike Siemsen’s School. It was a great design. It was built from construction lumber, keeping the cost low while providing the user with an excellent, all-around working bench. It incorporated a split top with a stepped cross planing stop, a very useful device. I must say that the one thing that stuck with me from the WIA show was that little workbench.
My only major concern was that it still might be a little light for really heavy work. And I would caution anyone using construction lumber to be attentive to it’s moisture content and make allowance for movement in service.
I went out to Sharples Domestic Hardwood and selected lumber for the new bench. Top will be maple, aprons of ash and the frame from red oak. A quick calculation would suggest a weight of 350 pounds (give or take). Stability shouldn’t be an issue. However, finding staff members young enough and strong enough to assemble and move the thing, might be.
We’ll start construction on March 1st. The project will be completed over the course of five weeks. You’ll be able to follow the progress here, or you can come to the store and see for yourself. It should be fun and keep the old guys on their toes.
In the June 2013 issue (#204) of Popular Woodworking Magazine I wrote about Wharton Esherick (read the article here) and got a bunch of e-mails regarding some of the pieces pictured in the article. One piece in particular seemed to garner more attention than the others, however. Wharton’s three-legged stools evidently were not only popular with his patrons, but with magazine’s readers as well. The funny thing about getting requests […]
Sometime back, in the canyons of my mind, I said we would do a blog or a video on making a French cleat. Why it’s called a French cleat I doubt anyone knows, but I will hold to the term in anticipation that a Frenchman did indeed hang a cabinet from a wall somewhere in a French colony or even France. Here in Wales I made a cleat. Would it be a Welsh cleat? I only knew this as a Reverse or Split cleat. All three would be correct terminology and there may be others too. A cleat is a common enough woodworking term. Things are “cleated together” if a cleat of 1 x 2″ wood traverses two boards or more across any joined edges and they are nailed through all components with nails. Nails are also referred to as cleats. You get cleats in sports boots, sports shoes and cobbled boots and clogs of different types; nails driven and bent over are sometimes called cleats and then there is a common stick of wood called a cleat that undergirds a shelf or mantle to strengthen and attach them to the wall as an anchor.
The concept of the French cleat is indeed a simple one and you can buy commercially made metal cleats that allow two parts of metal to interlock and so hang panels as large as 5’ x 10’ from castle walls. That is how the walls of my workshop display panels were hung when we had the Slavery Exhibition here in my workshop at Penrhyn Castle a few years ago. Wooden cleats on clocks and shelves full of books and heavy items resolve concerns of adequacy. A French cleat, or even two or three, will hold things securely to the wall by an interlocked method that makes the cleat almost unnoticed when the project is hung in place if you pick your cleated positioning well.
Sizing is determined mostly by the ability to securely screw the cleat to the wall and leave sufficient wood around the screw head to preserve the integrity. The screws can be left visible or concealed behind a wooden plug of like wood. That choice is yours.
Another aspect of the French cleat is that the cleat can go directly under a jointed or housed shelf, or, if the unit has a back to it, fixed entirely out of sight behind and to the back altogether. The main advantage of the French cleat is that the cleat can be fixed to the wall without holding the weight of the object being hung.
First I cut the cleat wood from flat stock 21mm by 38mm (7/8” x 1 1/2”). I use my fingers as a parallel guide to the edge, eyeball about one third the width,12mm (1/2”), and run the line. I then turn the cleat side to side and run the same line from the opposite edge and the opposite face.
To fix the cleat to the underside of the shelf I cut two recesses near the ends of the cleat. I give a little space around the screw. These recesses and the screws are not seen when the shelf is hung in place.
Cut the recesses as shown with a sharp chisel. Take care with along-the-grain-cuts as they are near to the edge and can split if the mallet blows or pressure is too much. Go gently and in small bites. That’s my advice.
Hanging the Shelf
Choose the position you want to hang the shelf and calculate the position of the reverse cleat. This is best done having someone hold the shelf and marking the underside of the cleat and the inside faces of the sides of the shelf itself. If on your own, hold the shelf in place and do the same, trying to feel how it will look. his usually works fine.
The shelf unit should now hang just fine. If you want to fix the two parts of the cleat to each other, screw through the top and the top cleat into the cleat fixed to the wall. This is not generally necessary, but, in a public place or a place with young children, you may want the added security measure.
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The value of a classical education is in laying a foundation for your work to follow. One learns joinery to learn accuracy plus patience. There are a dozen or more ways to build a box but each situation requires an evaluation and then a decision. Your decision on joinery will depend upon several factors: knowledge or skill, tooling options, economy or speed, and enjoyment.
If you take the time to build your skills in a variety of approaches, then you can choose a joint for example that fits all the requirements of the situation. A nailed butt joint might be perfect when you’re in a hurry or the piece is not precious. It might be completely inappropriate for a shrine to your sainted mother. On the other hand, if you’re building mom a present and the birthday approaches then hand cutting dovetails might take longer than you have. Splined miter joints are just as pretty but faster. Both work for the job.
This week we are studying joinery skills with our students. With these methods in hand, you’ll be able to take them to apply in a variety of jobs. Like Bruce, one of my first Mentoring students, did in his box here. Come to the Studio to learn methods for work.