I took a break from basket making last week to finally build myself a dedicated lathe for turning bowls. Mine is based on the ones we used when I was a student this spring in Robin Wood’s bowl-turning course at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN. http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/bowl-class-tip-of-the-iceberg/
I think I first saw this style of lathe in the book Wood and Woodworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York, by Carole A. Morris (York Archeaological Trust/Council for British Archeaology, 2000), then in the work done by Robin Wood and others…
First off, I jobbed out the long slot cut in the 3″ thick beech plank. I traded Michael Burrey some carving work for his labor – I coulda done it, if I wanted to…
Then came boring the hole for the legs. Legs like these angle out in two directions; to the side, and to the end. I mark out two angled lines off a centerline to help me sight one angle for these legs. Then use an adjustable bevel aligned on this line to get the other. This is based on the ideas I learned from Curtis Buchanan and Drew Langsner in making windsor chairs. (Drew is teaching a session at Woodworking in America that covers in detail this notion – setting the geometry to get these angles right. http://www.woodworkinginamerica.com/ehome/woodworkinginamerica.com/WIA2014/?&& )
In a case like a bench, or this lathe – I’m not too concerned about these being “just exactly perfect.”
This spiral auger is probably a nineteenth century one; it’s about 1 1/4″ or so…some now call it a T-auger, but it’s really just an auger. The ones that fit in braces are auger bits.
A detail showing the bevel to help line things up.
Here’s a bird’s eye view – showing how the auger aligns with the scribed line on the bench. So you sight that, centered on the line, then the bevel takes care of the 2nd angle.
Here’s the two poppets set into the slot. One taller than the other, these could have been longer still, but I worked with what I had. These are oak cutoffs from timber work.
Now wedge from below. I just eyeballed the angled mortise, then made wedges to fit.
The shorter poppet gets a bent pike inserted in the top. Then I slid this over to the taller poppet, to mark where I’ll bore for the straight pike.
Jumped ahead a step or two – here’s the tool rest arrangement. The tool rest support is just wedged into a slot cut in the outside face of the taller poppet. The too rest is pivoted into the top of the smaller poppet. Simple.
a 14′ sapling, lashed at its bottom end to a small tree on the bank above me, then resting in the cruck of two 2x4s – Now, the transition from the relatively still craft of basketmaking, to the aerobic craft of bowl turning. I need some practice.
Caleb James, a planemaker and chairmaker in Greenville, S.C., built a very cool knockdown Nicholson workbench earlier this year that inspired me to design a version for myself.
His breaks down into fewer pieces than mine, but what is most interesting about Caleb’s design is his face vise that is powered by holdfasts. While I am sure this has been done before, I can’t recall seeing this on any workbench, old or new.
It’s definitely worth checking out all the details on Caleb’s blog.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Workbenches
In planning and preparing for the upcoming book “Virtuoso” and the accompanying exhibit of H.O. Studley’s magnificent tool cabinet and workbench (May 15-17, 2015), I invariably get the question, “Is it possible to have a piano built by Studley in the exhibit?”
My typical response was, “I have no way to know if any particular Poole Piano was built by Studley.” Studley’s job was to build the “actions” or complex mechanism of levers, pivots, rods and hammers that connect the keys to the strings of the piano (along with all their adjusting devices). Depending on the size of the piano factory, anywhere from two to 50 men, perhaps more, could have this job. That would make every piano essentially anonymous, bearing only the company logo.
Or so I thought until today. While spending a very productive afternoon with Tom Shaw and Randolph Byrd at Charlottesville Piano I learned something that will someday redound to the benefit of my research. According to these fellows it was something of a tradition for “action men” like Studley to sign the side of the first key of the keyboard!
So, if you ever encounter the keyboard from a Poole Piano, check the side of the first key. And if you see the name “Henry O. Studley” emblazoned thereon, please drop me a note.
By the way, Tom’s grandfather was a piano teacher and technician in Boston from 1907 on, so he was a contemporary of Studley, who worked for Poole until 1919.
Filed under: Virtuoso: The Toolbox of Henry O. Studley
I dismantled another piece this week and that was an oak fall-front writing desk I bought a few weeks ago. The desk is simple enough and made from solid oak and that was why I bought it. If I don’t like the desk or the style then the oak was worth the price I paid and more. I felt the desk worthy of saving and restoring and the top portion of you recall was made with mitred dovetails that hid the dovetails completely within the mitres. This aspect of the work was very neat and precise. I had however been a little troubled with the mortise and tenoned framework of the stand the desk was anchored to because two or three joints were loose and the desk’s upper weight seemed to readily part the shoulders. As I decided to take the frame apart my concerns were confirmed and suspicions verified.
Parting the joints I heard a sort of crunching crumbly sound not dissimilar to animal glue but I also knew the colour to be another glue I had used 50 years ago as a boy. Those I worked with touted this as one of the best glues and I accepted what they said to be true. Looking at it now I have shifted my opinion in some measure.
The glue he used
Cascamite is a synthetic resin used as an adhesive for general joinery usually for joints that are exposed to outdoors; windows and doors, door frames and so on. It was used on glue lines too where long edges were jointed for laminations. Cascamite is generally sold as a powder you mixed with water to a consistent thickness or viscosity and sets up during the cure which gives it its gap filling properties. It’s said to be suitable for load bearing and laminating. It leaves a clear glue line and will not discolour hardwood, its also mould resistant. After the glue is mixed you need to work with it quickly as it can quite rapidly change from thick liquid to a solid jelly and in about 6 hours (temperature dependent) sets rock hard. It’s touted as having excellent well proven adhesive for joinery, cabinet work or boat building and I know that to has its place, but seeing this piece 70 years on I feel questioning as to its long term efficacy.
Because the tenon thickness was undersized according to the mortise, a full width gap was evident on almost every one of the wide faces of the tenons. This surprised me because the overall piece was well executed. It shows the significant impact good joinery has on longevity and that glue generally cannot substitute for the levels of accuracy it demands. This for me is where harmony becomes evident in the word joinery which has its root in the word harmos. Now the tenons were all dead to size or slightly over width. Very different than thickness. You can use the extra width for tightness here but it substitutes for the real art of joinery. many joinery companies (or the staff machinists and assemblers) use foaming adhesives such as polyurethane glues to expand around the joints. This is only a temporary gap-filling fix (pun intended) for poor workmanship and the missing craftsmanship that’s become standard in the industry. It lasts long enough for the guarantees of a year or so but not really good practice.
I glued on the thin slither, jokingly called “special shim joinery” when I was a boy who made a bad joint, which pushed the other face to fully engage with the wall of the mortise too.
Inside the holes the glue was both brittle and fractured. it flicked of readily and was easily removed with the corner of an old chisel. So to chiselling off the glue from the faces of the tenon. I decided to thicken the tenons by adding thin veneers to the face of the tenons and then fitting the tenons back to the relevant mortise holes. I am also considering adding a mid rail along the long length to increase stability. I think wider top rails was an answer to the problem too. The weight of the top box is to much for flex in the legs. An inch extra and rightly fitted tenons would have meant no joint failure.
As an accidental/incidental/occidental tool collector, I am always amused to read or hear a serious tool collector trash talking a Frakenplane. Their definition of a Frankenplane is a Type 5 plane with a Type 6 knob, shorter one without the bead. Or a type 16 lever cap on a Type 14 plane. Let me show you a real Frankenplane.
Behold the Frankenplane:
I’m not sure what it was or how it became what it is, but it does exist and we must accept that.
We traveled to Baltimore to visit friends for Labor Day. On Sunday, my wife visited one of her best friends in Philadelphia. To give them some time to catch up and bond, I volunteered to go explore my old stomping grounds in and around Adamstown, PA. For those not in the know, this is an area self-billed as Antiques Capital, USA. There you will find about 5 miles of antiques dealers and flea markets (the good kind). Mid level and primitives, not much in the real high end and fancy. Still, a reasonable mix. Always interesting.
I found this plane at a shop that is usually loaded with primitives. And the Frankenplane is interesting in the clinical sense of the word. It is still there for only $30. If anyone really wants it, I will send you the location if you can provide a reasonable explanation for wanting it.
Did I buy anything for myself? Against my better judgement, I picked up the carcass of an early Stanley 45 combination plane. I believe it is a Type 3 or 4, 1888 to 1892. I paid $20. It’s my plane, I think I’ll keep. Until I get a better offer.
Although I usually feel like a competent woodworker, any time I am faced with metal work I feel like I’ve gone back to kindergarten. This project has, however, forced me to get a little more comfortable with metal working.
But first, one important photo I forgot to share last time around:
Work holding isn’t always easy when working with an irregularly-shaped piece. That’s where a handscrew held upright in a bench vise gets really, really handy. I place a spacer block behind one of the jaws so that the bench vise clamps only one jaw, leaving the other free to move. That way, I can easily reposition the workpiece with a turn of the lower screw.
Once the saw handles were shaped and sanded, it was time for a little metal work. Both saw plates needed trimming to fit the handles. The panel saw also had at least two separate sets of handle holes drilled in it, so I opted to cut that whole section off the back, shortening the saw by maybe an inch and a half. I marked my lines with a black marker, taped the saw plate to a backer board, and cut it off with a hacksaw.
In retrospect, I should have just used the tape itself as the layout line, but oh well.
The dovetail saw plate also needed one corner clipped to fit into the handle slot. I filed both cuts smooth. Then I shaped the brass spine with a file and sandpaper. (Not wanting to get metal filings all over my camera, I opted not to take any pictures of that process.) The work went quickly, as brass is quite soft and easy to work. The drawback is that the brass is also easy to mar with an errant stroke of the file. After sanding the spine, I took it down to my buffing machine and put a nice shine on it. I went back and forth between the sandpaper and the buffer several times before I was satisfied with the surface finish on the spine.
The next challenge was drilling the holes for the bolts and nuts in the saw handles. This presents a challenge, as the holes must be lined up perfectly. It’s easy to drill a hole through one side and then counter-sink it for the head of the bolt. But how does one counter-sink the other side? Normally, one would do this with a special drill bit called a piloted countersink. But since I had only five holes (three of one size and two of another), I didn’t want to buy a special bit. There is a way to do this with regular drill bits, and while it’s time-consuming, it works just fine.
First, clamp down the workpiece on the drill press table and drill the narrow hole all the way through. Then, without moving the workpiece, counter-sink the bigger hole to the necessary depth. My drill press has a decent depth-stop, so getting a consistent depth was pretty easy. The smaller hole should be perfectly centered in the larger hole.
Now turn the workpiece over, put your smaller bit back into the chuck, and (without turning the drill press on), insert the drill bit into the original hole. Turn it backwards a few times to be sure the workpiece is in the right place. Clamp down the workpiece; it is now perfectly centered on that hole. Back out the small bit, put in the larger bit, and counter-bore it from this side.
It’s a lot of changing bits in and out, but the results are precise enough for my purposes here.
I then drilled holes in the saw plates for the bolts.
For the dovetail saw, I considered squeezing the slot in the spine so as to hold the saw plate by friction alone–which is the traditional way of constructing a backsaw. In my imagination, it seemed like the right thing to do. But when I started to try to close the slot, I found that the brass is pretty springy. The more I thought about it, the more I saw that the likelihood of my ever wanting to remove this saw plate from the spine is about nil. So, in a moment of weakness, I reached for the super glue. A dab in each end of the slot, and the saw plate was solidly seated in the spine. Sometimes chemistry wins out over mechanics.
So, at the end of the evening, I am almost finished. I will need to trim the screws to final length, apply a finish to the handles, and sharpen the saws.
Tagged: backsaw, counter bore, countersink, dovetail saw, drill press, handscrew, spine
With all of the parts complete, I attached a couple of pieces for the screws and attached the seat.
Next the back support was attached with glue. I am still not sure of the size and shape of the back support but it is now attached.
Finally the seat is attached using screws.
Of course who could forget the little repair needed when I sent the chisel through the leg.
Recently I was reminded that there have been a lot of newcomers to woodworking and especially to hand tools. My philosophy on tools is quite simple. Tools were made to be used. Before you get your feathers ruffled, I am not against tool collecting. It is just not for me. Tool collecting serves a useful purpose in that it preserves tools for the future. One of my main objectives for this blog is to show people how to preserve antique and vintage tools with the purpose of making them available for use to a new generation of woodworkers. And I emphasize USE.
The pic above shows my Stanley #4 smooth plane. This is the plane I use for all smoothing work in my woodshop. It was made in the very early 20th century. I completely restored this plane with no regard to its collector value. But I didn’t go into the restoration blind.
I am often asked “should I restore this tool?” That is a complex question with no simple answer. So here goes. It is my opinion that the owner of any item has the legal and moral right to do anything they choose to with said item. A person may feel that preserving a vintage or antique item in its original condition is a moral obligation, but it is not. If you choose to do this that is fine and dandy, but you are not obligated to do so. So if you choose to restore an antique tool that is nobody’s business but yours. Some antique tools can be worth hundreds even thousands of dollars. If you were to restore one of these tools its value would drop dramatically. Therefore, you would probably not want to restore such a valuable tool.
Before you decide whether or not to restore a tool do some research. There is a wealth of information online to help you determine the value of a tool. For Stanley planes you can start here. In general, with Stanley planes, the older, pre 1900, specimens are the most valuable. Once you have an idea of the value of your tool you can make an informed decision as to whether or not to restore it. The idea is to preserve a tool for another generations use. If you do that by a good cleanup, a complete restoration, or wash it and put it on a shelf with the rest of your collection matters not.
As always, thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a comment. Oh, I have a feeling I’m going to hear about this one :)
In the coming week we’ll post the free SketchUp drawing for the knockdown Nicholson workbench I built earlier this month. But if you need an inexpensive and portable workbench, this one is for sale for $400, cash and carry. Sorry, sold.
I built the bench to prove the design concept, and also we needed a fourth workbench for my coffin-building event this weekend.
I didn’t expect the knockdown bench to be this good – I thought I’d have to tinker with it before I was happy. But this thing is solid and ready to go. No apologies.
The bench is made from Southern yellow pine and weighs about 250 pounds. The top is 22” x 72” and the benchtop is 33” from the floor. The entire bench can be assembled and disassembled with a 9/16” ratchet in less than 10 minutes.
If you are interested in the bench, let me know at email@example.com. The first one to say “I’ll take it” and comes to pick it up gets it. Sorry, I cannot ship this bench.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Projects, Workbenches
Drivel Starved Nation;
The picture below is a northern spruce beetle. it is two inches long and when it bites, it takes out a dime sized chunk of skin. I woke up one morning and one of these was trapped in my tent. Good thing I don’t smell like a spruce tree…
The CT-18 came in real handy while the varnish was drying on the Emma All Star Baseball. (This was turned by Michael Hosaluk, logo designed by Mark Siffrri, and yours truly burned in the stitching. It was signed by all that attended and you will see the finish piece later…
Beginning at noon on Wednesday, we started cleaning up. Big party Wednesday evening where some of the work was auctioned off only to the artists. The really good stuff was put on a truck for the Thursday evening auction in Saskatoon. I had never been to Saskatoon before but after seeing this truck, I knew it was going to be great time…
I serien vår med bilete av gamle snikkarverkstader har vi tidlegare hatt med eit måleri av Gustav Wentzel frå 1881. Han er ikkje den einaste målaren som har interessert seg for arbeidslivet generelt og snikkarfaget spesielt. Også målaren Fredrik Kolstø (Haugesund 1860 – Trondheim 1945) har måla menneske i daglegliv og arbeid. Mellom målarstykka hans er biletet “I snekkerverkstedet” som han måla i 1886. Dette året var han også ute på utlandsreiser, men motivet er nok frå Noreg. Kolstø starta som 16-åring på Bergsliens malerskole i Kristiania. Hausten 1877 reiste han saman med Erik Werenskiold og Jacob Gløersen til München og ble tatt opp som elev ved kunstakademiet. Også Gløersen har måla snikkarverkstader og det skal vi kome tilbake til seinare. Kolstø malte bilete i realistisk og impresjonistisk stil, gjerne med motiv frå Vestlandet. Han var son av kjøpmann Østen Kolstø i Haugesund.
“I snekerverkstedet”, måleri av Fredrik Kolstø, 1886. foto©: O. Væring Eftf. AS
Det er sparsamt med opplysningar om motivet. Det vi kan sjå er at Kolstø har klart å fange høvelspona mykje betre enn det vi kunne sjå i måleriet til Gustav Wentzel. Guten som sit på høvelbenken og et brødskiver kan vere ein lærling? Frå Danmark har eg kome over ei levande skildring av kvardagen for ein “læredreng” på 1890-talet, altså nokre få år seinare enn måleriet til Kolstø. Det er Jens Hendrik Berg som skriv om si læretid hos “snedkermester P. Jørgensen i Slotsgade i aarene 1895-99″ i Haderslev.
“Der blev kaldt på os om Morgenen af Mesterens Datter Kl. 5,15, og det skul nu gaa stærkt, en Stige blev stukket ned, efter at 2 Døre blev lukket op fra 1ste Sal, og ned i Gaarden, saa blev det stillet nogle Bænke op til Vandfade med Haandklæder og Sæbe, at Svendene kunde vaske sig, saa kom Mesterens Datter med en mægtig stor Bakke med Morgenmad og Kaffe (altsaa paa Værkstedet), som blev indtaget ved Høvlebænkene, det skulle jo gaa hurtigt, for naar det fløjtede paa Gasværket kl. 6, skulde alle Mand staa parat med Værktøjet i gang. Mesteren var der næsten altid samtidigt. Kl. 8 var der ½ Times Frokost med belagt Smørrebrød og Kaffe.” (En Læredrengs beretning, J. H. Berg, Aarhus, 1953.)
Med bakgrunn i skildringa frå Danmark kan vi tenkje oss at snikkaren får sin frukost eller morrabette (Morgenmad på dansk)? Sidan det ligg høvelspon på benken er nok dette litt ut på dagen etter at arbeidet er godt i gang. Å forlate høvelbenken slik frå dagen før var nok ikkje heilt bra om snikkaren arbeidde i ein verkstad med orden?
Snikkaren på biletet sit på framtanga på høvelbenken. Vi ser i enden på skruven i framtanga og det ser ut som det er ein treskruve. Lyset fell inn frå venstre kant så snikkaren har hatt godt lys til å sjå den flata han høvlar på. Det er langhøvelen som ligg på høvelbenken og mesteparten av spona ser ut til å vere frå kanthøvling. Truleg har han foghøvla emne til liming for å lage breiare plater. Elles ser vi vinkel og grindsag heng på ein spikar på veggen framom benken. Han har ein verktøyhald med nokre tappjarn eller skulpjarn og ein passar. Under denne heng borvinna og nokre fleire vinklar.
Arkivert under:1800-tal, Gamle bilete av snikkarverkstader
|Always Start With The Basics|
When I decided to open up my marquetry workshop to students, I had to decide what kind of curriculum to follow, knowing that I would have a wide range of students with a wide range of abilities and experience.
Therefore, I followed the musical format which I learned during the decades I was involved with classical music. At the age of 12, I saw a kid playing the violin on the Ed Sullivan show on TV. I immediately told my parents that I wanted to learn the violin. Fortunately, they were able to buy me a moderately good quality instrument and find someone to teach me. I went every week to get a lesson and made a good effort to practice daily. I was not always successful, and my teacher would always know when I had practiced or not.
There were fingering exercises, bowing exercises, scales in every key, and very simple practice etudes. It was all about technique. My teacher was a very old man, and had learned himself from a Russian teacher. He insisted that I learn the basics before I even thought about playing anything by some composer. He was right. I was soon able to join the Civic Youth orchestra, where I sat first chair, second violin section. (I never had any aspirations to play first violin. That takes a certain ego.)
In college, I naturally took music and had the good fortune to study with Bert Turetzky, a famous double bass player. He listened to me play my violin and immediately said, "Forget it. I need a viola player. Can you learn to play the viola?"
I went back to my teacher, who was in his 90's and retired and asked him if he could help me. He was generous enough to show me what I needed and I spent my college years playing the viola in the UCSD quartet. Some of the most rewarding days of my life.
My point is that, if I had not been shown how to hold the instrument, how to tune the instrument and how to execute the most basic technical aspects of it, I would never have been able to perform Schubert's string quintet in C major successfully.
Thus, since I only teach two weeks of classes every quarter, it is essential that I teach the basics. How to fit the chevalet to the worker. How to hold the saw frame and set the tension. How to make a packet and cut it. How to execute simple etudes over and over.
The first week is the Boulle method, where it doesn't matter much if you can follow the line. Most students are able to learn fast enough and have enough control to stay on the line by the end of the week. The second week is the Classic Method (Piece by Piece) where it is essential that you not only follow the line exactly, but are able to cut away exactly half the line consistently. That takes good eye/hand coordination, and that takes much more practice to master.
There is an etude which is in between these two methods: Painting in Wood. With this method, you do not have to follow the line exactly. The pieces always fit, since you are basically using the Boulle method of cutting the layers of the packet in super position. That means the elements of the design are cut at the same time as the cavities of the background, which is in the same packet.
With the Classic Method, the elements of the design are cut in a separate packet and the back ground is cut in a separate packet, so if you are not careful, they will not fit. The French developed the Classic Method and were able to keep most of the secrets of this process in Paris.
At the end of the 17th century, the rest of Europe began to evolve the Boulle Method into the Painting in Wood method, as the desire to create more naturalistic marquetry designs became the fashion. With Boulle, the packets were usually layers of ebony, pewter, brass or tortoise shell, and the overall design was either a positive or negative form of the design ("premiere-partye" or "contre-partye").
|Boulle Marquetry Project for Art Institute of Chicago|
I wrote an article explaining this process in detail in Woodwork, February 2008, where I show how I made one of my tall case clocks.
The success of this method depends on making sure the elements of the wood you need for the design are exactly in place inside the packet, and that you are able to include as many different species of woods as possible in the fewest number of layers. Generally, using 1.5mm sawn veneers, I limit my packets to 8 layers of veneer, plus the 3mm back board and the 1.5mm front board. When using 0.9 sliced veneers, it is possible to include as many as 12 layers of veneer.
I first make multiple copies of the design. Using those copies, I begin to place my woods in each layer where they are needed. Then I fill in the gaps with a scrap veneer so there are no voids inside the packet. I am careful to keep the outside corners of the design for proper orientation. I usually include at least two different species of woods for each flower, which gives me the option at the end of selecting the proper woods for the best effect.
Working from the back of the packet, I first start with a 3mm back board and a layer of grease paper. The back layer of veneer is always the back ground, which in this case is ebony. Note I have colored on the design those parts of the background which are isolated and would tend to get lost if I didn't pay attention while cutting.
|Layer F (Background Veneer)|
(Note there is no ebony veneer in this photo, since it was used in the project.)
Each of the following photos shows the design for that layer on the left and the layer of the packet on the right. Since this example is one I use in class, I have covered the layer of veneer with clear packing tape, and you are looking at the back of the layer for clarity, since it is covered with veneer tape on the face which holds everything together.
The next layer is generally either a layer of green or brown for the branches or leaves:
And so on, each layer with its design:
I make a final drawing and use it when I cut out the packet. This design shows me all the information I need to select the proper layer of wood from the plug of veneers, each time I cut them out. The rest is discarded. I keep only the woods I need for the picture.
One of my students, Paul Miller, seems to have also found this process interesting. After he returned to his workshop and built his chevalet, he sent us a card with the photo of this etude on the cover:
|Paul Miller's Card|
I really appreciate it. Soon he will be performing Schubert!
|Always Start With The Basics|
When I decided to open up my marquetry workshop to students, I had to decide what kind of curriculum to follow, knowing that I would have a wide range of students with a wide range of abilities and experience.
Therefore, I followed the musical format which I learned during the decades I was involved with classical music....
This weekend I built three coffins with the help of some friends and wrote a blog post about the experience over at my blog at Popular Woodworking Magazine. Check it out here.
These coffins and the details of their construction will be featured in the forthcoming “Furniture of Necessity” book.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Furniture of Necessity
When I die, I want to leave this world in the same way I lived in it. As a woodworker who has spent his entire life building furniture for myself and others, I couldn’t imagine being placed into a box that someone else made. In 2005, I read this article in TheNew York Times about Chinese coffins that were made much like a dugout canoe (and were banned by the […]