Hand Tool Headlines
The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator
This "aggregator" collects all of the woodworking blogs I read every day - or try to anyway! Enjoy!
There are many reasons to use hide glue for furniture, and today I was reminded of one of them – hide glue sticks to itself.
This morning I assembled the uppercarriage of this wacky backstool and hit a serious snag. One of the spindles simply would not descend into its mortise enough. So I hit the assembly with a mallet. Then a heavier mallet. Then a hammer.
It would not budge. So I had to pull off the crest rail and remove the frozen spindle. It was locked in to the point that I had to saw it off and drill out the tenon. As always, I make extra spindles in case disaster strikes.
So while I prepped the new spindle, the hide glue on the other tenons and the mortises of the crest rail gelled and set up.
Had I used yellow glue, I would have been cornholed. I would have had to scrape the tenons clean and do something about the glue in the crest rail (I probably would have used a backup crest rail). Or switched to epoxy or any other number of more involved solutions.
But because it was hide glue, I relaxed as I did the repair.
Once the new spindle fit nicely, I reactivated the hide glue on the chair parts by painting on some slightly thinned hot hide glue. The spindle went in perfectly. The crest went on level. And then I finally exhaled.
Tomorrow I’m going to paint this backstool. It sits very nicely. Then I’m going to drink a bunch of beer and film me sitting in it to show you how stable it is.
The things I do for you readers.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. A couple weekends ago I did a two-day demonstration to the Alabama Woodworker’s Guild and, of course, I talked about hide glue. During a lull in my monologue I (jokingly) asked the club members if they wanted to hear my plan for dealing with ISIS.
Some wiseacre in the back piped up, “I’ll bet your plan involves hide glue.”
Filed under: Furniture of Necessity
It seems odd to even be thinking about building birdhouses right now when what I’m really thinking about most is shoveling my driveway. Looking outside my window, at this very moment there are maybe a dozen birds with little clubs banging on the house trying to get in where it’s warm. It’s like a scene from “The Walking Dead,” except the horde trying to get in is much smaller. And […]
As the title of this post says, The Dirty Fat Girl is for sale. She is a '08 Goldwing with less than 90,000 miles, built for Rallies and long distance riding in all weather. Some of the major mods are: Mega Monte Traxxon suspension, Phillps 4G HID running lights, three Garmin GPS, radar detector with laser shifter and screamer, trailer hitch, Windbender with farkel shelf and rake kit, new heated seat, Centramatic wheel balancers, reading light, TPMS. to name a few of the useful mods. There will also be lots of accessories for sale including three Motoport Kelvar riding suits, a couple of Fox Creek leather jackets, and many boots, helmets, heated undergear and other stuff.
The price for The Dirty Fat Girl is fair for both the seller and the buyer and is firm at $12000 USD.
I learned a lesson when I unpacked the ebony for the chopping board. It was rough sawn, straight off the bandsaw and dusty. Somehow I had imagined the ebony would be planed square and pretty much ready for glueing up. Since blanks for guitar fretboards are usually planed when you get them, I assumed this would be the case with these blanks as well. How wrong was I?
This meant I was in for a lot of work. I tried planing the wood with my hand plane. I managed to flatten the face of one of the pieces and was about to start on the second face when I noticed my plane was dull. Very dull. I sharpened up and planed the second side. Then, my plane was dull again, and I was way out of square. I tried a few more pieces but decided this was not going to work: I had to plane four sides of 28 pieces of ebony. At this rate I would have to sharpen my plane 112 times over weeks of planing.
I changed tactics and decided to use the machines in our shared workshop. I used a planer (on a very fine setting) and thicknesser to get the blanks flat and square. This went a lot quicker with better results. Since I hadn’t used the machines much until now, I also got to understand them a lot better.
Once all the pieces were planed I did a trial run and glued up the the board:
I did the final levelling and cleaning with my hand plane and cabinet scraper:
Up next, cutting the grooves…
This is a little late for Chinese New Year, but this is a terrific video from the Wall Street Journal about the Chinese New Year’s tradition of da shu hua (打樹花), which involves flinging hot molten iron against a wall in the blacksmithing town of Nuanquan. This tradition is over 500 years old, and the effect is astounding.
I think my favorite part is when the blacksmith Wang De (王德), who is 52 years old, says, “I think I can do it for another 20 years because I think I’m in pretty good health.”
At that point, he’ll be in his seventies, and still throwing around molten steel heated to 1600ºF, while wearing protective clothing made out of sheepskin for protection. That’s awesome.
(Thanks to Tools For Working Wood for the link.)
I am not one who has the ability to take the written word and put it into practice without a few fits and bumps and sometimes a lot of them. I do much better with listening to someone talking about it, seeing it being done, and then going to do it myself. Sometimes repeatedly until it's done to my satisfaction. The Digital age has become the teacher I was lacking in the 70's.
This is just my opinion, but compared to hand tool work, machines don't require a great of skill. I don't want to start any controversy on this or ruffle any one's feathers. It's just my opinion and I'm basing that on having done (and still do) machine woodworking and now doing most of my woodworking by hand. I am not saying one way is better than the other nor am I advocating one way over the other. That is a choice you have to make for yourself.
One thing I am doing with my hand tool work is experimenting a lot and trying out (for me) new ways of doing things. One thing that has always intrigued me about hand tool work is accuracy. I am reading "With Hammer in Hand" which is a book about the Dominy woodworkers. Two things about the book really stood out for me. The first is the 'crude' look of the tools they used. Even the professionally made ones newly arrived from England don't have a quality look that would pass today's standards. The other is the clocks and the furniture that they made with these tools. They look like they couldn't have possibly by made with what they had.
Furniture in museums from 1700s to the late 1800s is always something I will stare at for long periods of time. I know these are pieces of furniture that were made entirely by hand. There were 'woodworking machines' used but the power for them was supplied by the man himself. The trees were felled and lumber sawn from them and the woodworker made his project with it. Everything from tree to applying the finish was done by hand. That tree to furniture journey is mind boggling to me.
When I look at old furniture pieces I do so with an eye for straightness of the structure, what type of moldings there are, and how miters/angles fit up. I pull out drawers if I can and look at the dovetailing and the bottoms. What does the back of this dresser look like? I look at these for affirmation on how accurately that woodworker made this object. How tight are the miters? Are the dovetails over cut? What is the level of finish on the back of the dresser? The bottom of the drawers?
I have seen varying degrees of quality on various pieces. Some backs look like the boards used were found in the firewood pile. Others I have seen are finished to very high levels. The boards are all planed and tongued and grooved together. Some dovetails are tight and well proportioned and others look like something I would have done when I first starting doing dovetails.
A frequent place I look at is Jack Plane's blog "Peg and Tails'. He has pics of a lot of different furniture from the 1700 and 1800s. Some of the veneer work and banding is outstanding. All done by hand and it is definitely something to look at. Sometimes I'm not sure if what I am looking at has been effected time and the age as there are varying degrees of how well the work is executed. I tend to think its time that is the cause.
I've been on a miter journey into hell and back lately. I finally figured out a big boo-boo I was doing that was giving me results I wasn't happy with. I thought I had finally figured it out but last night I clamped a joint and it was open a bit. I could close up all four miters and clamp it but again, the miters were open slightly at the heels.
I showed the miters to my wife and she asked me what the problem was. She didn't see it so I am wondering if I'm obsessing needlessly about this. I keep going back to the old furniture I have seen, and newer furniture too, and I am struck by the variance in them, especially so with miters. Some are perfectly tight and some are slightly open and some are gappy.
I want to close my miters up and get them tight and seamless from the toe to the heel. If someone from the late 1700's can make a miter that way and still have it that way over 200 years later then I can do the same. That is what is going to be good enough for me. Might take me a few tries but I have something to shoot for and compare mine to.
Of the five Great Lakes, which is the smallest?
answer - Lake Ontario
I’m starting to make short introduction videos for every new video lesson I have on my online school just to give people an idea of what the lesson is about. They usually run about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes long and give an overview of what the lesson is about.
On my “to-do” list is to go back to some of the older videos and make an intro video for these also, but my “to-do” list is getting longer by the day – so I’m not sure whether that will happen soon.
I also have several full lesson videos on youtube and as a Free member of my online school:
The Youtube ads are really annoying and I haven’t figured out how to get them off my videos. One showed up for “Laser carving machine”. What??? I don’t even get paid for these, but if they’re putting them up there, I’m going to figure out how to get rid of them.
Enjoy the videos (ignore the ads).
Where the average woodworker shops for his or her woodworking tools and supplies has become a hot topic on some of the woodworking forums during the past two days. Most woodworkers realize there are cheap tools, great tools, and tools that fall somewhere in between. Most woodworkers also realize that there “knockoff” tools being sold on the market as well. Sometimes these knockoffs are serviceable, sometimes they are complete garbage. For my part, I don’t own any knockoff tools, at least that I know of, and though I would do my best to avoid purchasing knock-offs, I wouldn’t criticize others for doing so. Though I can’t condone purchasing knock-offs, I can sometimes understand how it happens, because there are two major problems in the world of woodworking: Mid-level tool manufacturers don’t really exist anymore, and, real hardware stores don’t exist (on a large scale) anymore, either.
Speaking for myself, the nearest actual woodworking store to my location is roughly 30 miles from my house; the nearest hardwood dealer (that is open to the general public) is more than 50 miles away. So if I want to go to a real store that has stock I can touch and salespeople I can talk to, I need to plan on spending at least a few hours just for travel time. That doesn’t sound like much, but considering I live in the most densely populated region in the country, you would think that there would be more than one woodworking store within a 30 mile radius of my house, but there isn’t. I can only imagine what it must be like for those who live in more remote locations, in some cases, there may not be a woodworking store within a day’s drive, let alone a few hours. That to me is a problem.
75 years ago, the average hardware store from small towns to big cities carried woodworking tools. I have an honest to goodness old fashioned hardware store right where I live. They don’t carry much in the way of woodworking tools anymore, but according to the owner they used to way back when. What is the difference between then and now? The answer is Stanley Tool Works.
Stanley Tools did one thing that Lie Nielsen, Veritas, and the plethora of smaller makers could not,cannot do, and will not do: they made it easy for stores both big and small to stock their tools. If you think good quality and affordable tools are important to the consumer, they are that much more important to the retailer. While I may not be a woodworking expert, I am an something of an expert in hardware and how a hardware store operates. Because Stanley was such a large operation, they could sell their tools at a reasonable price. This low cost allowed even the smallest hardware stores to stock those items on their shelves and still keep their overhead down. If you don’t think that is important you are very much mistaken.
Small businesses live and die on the stock they keep. There is a very fine line between carrying too much stock and not enough, as either can doom your business to failure. Much of the time, a business will err on carrying too little stock simply because it is less expensive on paper to do so. When the accountant looks at the books at the end of every quarter, one of the first things you are going to hear is, “You have too much stock”. Too much stock is a relative term, of course. ‘Too much stock’ doesn’t mean that you should be carrying only 900 ½ inch lock nuts rather than 1100. It means that you spent too much on stock, and it is hurting your overall profits.
Most small hardware stores simply cannot afford to stock high-end woodworking tools, even in a consignment situation it can get somewhat tricky. When Stanley got out of the woodworking tool business, so too did many hardware stores. Hardware stores both large and small will not carry woodworking tools ever again until a mid-level maker re-emerges, like Stanley used to be, and sadly that may never happen. There was a time that a person could walk to his local hardware store from small town to big city, and actually pick up real woodworking tools, handle them, and even purchase them and bring them home. The ability to see a tool on display, pick it up,get a feel for it, and then purchase it on the spot because it was reasonably priced and for sale right in your home town is a pretty powerful thing. That is something that is almost non-existent in the world of woodworking today, and it needs to change, badly.
Today, if you want to purchase a good woodworking tool you nearly always have to do it on the internet. I’m lucky in the sense that there just so happens to be a Woodcraft within driving distance to my house, even if it isn’t necessarily close. Woodcraft may not be a perfect woodworking store, but it is really my only option if I want to actually walk into a store and see real live woodworking tools in the flesh. I’m sure I’m not the only woodworker who is in that same boat. As far as I am aware, Lie Nielsen doesn’t sell any tools there, Veritas just a select few, and the boutique makers sell none at all.
I know first-hand the challenges of opening and running a “brick and mortar” hardware store as they are known in the internet age. I know that a lot of fat, pimple-faced computer/marketing geeks will tell you that brick and mortar stores are a thing of the past. Well, maybe that’s true, though I don’t believe it. But I do know that woodworking as an entity needs way, way more outlets than it has now. I can’t be the only person who doesn’t like having to purchase every woodworking tool online. I can’t be the only person that doesn’t like driving a hundred+ miles to purchase tools and wood. I have to think a lot of woodworkers would welcome a few more places to shop. And if I know anything about selling tools, I have to think that the proper amount of brick and mortar stores would in theory bring tool costs down, not up. I can’t tell you I have all the answers, because I don’t. But I do know that woodworkers need a lot more than $150 marking gauges, or tools that you have to order from 1000 miles away. We don’t need that option 10 years hence, or even 10 months hence; we need it now..
I’m pleased to announce that we’ve just contracted Jim Tolpin for an upcoming article on building a beautiful standing desk. I’m not quite ready to show it to you…but I do believe you may be able to find it online, or see it in some of Jim’s Instagram shots, wherein he’s doing a great job of fomenting shop envy (you’ll find him under the username jimtolpin…because he’s tricky). Jim is […]
Back in the good ‘ol days, I was on the payroll, but no one knew what my job was. So I could spend 4 or 5 hours at a time, watching for bald eagles in the winter… Now that I’m on my own, time’s a bit tighter. I gambled a couple hours today, came up empty for eagles, but got some shots of a red tail hawk shrugging off some crows.
When the hawk is over-exposed, the crow comes out with some detail.
This one’s got a nice diagonal symmetry to it.
First, please note that, apparently, the correct spelling is frustum, not frustrum. Hmmm…. You learn something new everyday!
Second, you might ask why am I talking about this? Isn’t this subject more appropriate to a blog on sheet metal work? Well, think about it. What if you’re designing a chair with a back that is laid out as a portion of a frustum? What if you want to make a brass lamp shade? How about a coopered pail? How about a dunce cap for your friends? I mean, the potential for this method is unlimited. Right? Okay. Maybe unlimited is a bit of a stretch. But understanding this layout may help visualize measurement of these shapes (or portions of them) in a number of scenarios. Remember diameter x 3.1417 = circumference.
If you should ever find yourself in the highly unlikely situation of having to layout a truncated cone, here’s an excellent tutorial site: http://leonjane.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-develop-a-Truncated-Cone#
I wonder sometimes if the reason old woodworking texts seem frustratingly incomplete to us is because there weren’t many words out there that could help one learn the craft.
Put another way: Why do most old woodworking texts begin with an exhaustive explanation of geometry and then refuse to tell us how to set up a smoothing plane?
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Furniture of Necessity
Peter Follansbee’s brain switches off when someone begins a sentence with, “You should….” Mine does a similar thing when I am told, “You can’t….”
Part of the beauty of modern communication – you can get a message rapidly to the whole world – is also its flaw – soon everyone is repeating that same message. If you repeat something long enough, it will soon become a facsimile of truth. (If you want to test this theory, start reading a lot about wood finishing.)
In some ways I am grateful that I did not learn woodworking in the Internet age. I did a lot of things that are so incredibly stupid that I have burned the evidence, lest it end up on someone’s blog. I made up joints that probably shouldn’t exist. And I built furniture that by all rights should have exploded by now (it didn’t).
Oh, and I spent the first six years of my life as a newspaper reporter being fed outright lies everyday.
So I like to test declaratives (three-legged chairs are tippy), assumptions (you need special tools to build chairs) and writ (you cannot bend kiln-dried wood) and common practice (drawboring is for timber-framing and old work). Most of the time I find that these ideas are based in some truth, but they have become twisted into holy law.
Woodworking doesn’t have a lot of laws. They are similar to the laws of physics, but not much more.
In other words, wood can be shaped by your mind and your hands, but not by words.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Furniture of Necessity
Advice on buying hand tools is always an interesting and provocative subject that has the ability to either enlighten or confuse those new to woodworking. On the surface there are many contradictory approaches to planning your first tool kit, dig a little deeper and this becomes tenfold. Ultimately there is no right or wrong and so the only satisfying end is consumers who are educated in their choices.
I read an interesting post linked to on the Lost Art Press blog this week which touched on one facet of this subject; copy cat manufactures. That is larger companies or manufactures who copy the work of the individual bespoke maker and sell it for cheaper. It would appear that this has become a growing problem which can all but cripple a small business, and yet for all intents and purposes no laws are being broken. For what it’s worth I thought I’d add my two pence.
Scolding companies can’t make a difference, so long as they’re making money they’ll be happy. The only thing we can hope to do is take away the demand through education. They won’t make what doesn’t sell. Now I am all for variety and options within the market so I don’t want you to think I’m suggesting that cheap tools should be banished, on the contrary I belive they are vital. And at the risk of seriously over simplifying things for making a point, I would like to suggest that we all have two routes to consider when buying tools. Either we want something that functions well for our needs, or we want something that functions well and also goes a step beyond so that it is a joy to own, a pleasure to hold, admire and use.
A mass produced copy can only provide the former at best, and yet it’s price mark will still hold some bearing to it’s copycat looks.
If you’re seeking cheap functional tools then go with a time tested bog standard one or take a look at something second hand. If you want individual design, quality and service then go to a small maker or reputable quality brand.
Strong principles are often a part of buying hand tools, it’s a passionate hobby and quite often we are drawn to tools not only because we need them but because we want them. If we can find a way to create transparency and education for the buyer then we will be taking a step in the right direction.
There are concerns about the type of lid fixing to the toolboxes we made where the lid is skirted crosswise to the main long axis of the grain of the lid with a lip covering the end grain at each end of the lid in the traditional manner. I understand the comments and the concerns, but then again, it’s not so much perhaps an exam piece but a near replication of something that has been common practice for centuries and so there I almost rest my case, well, initially at least, and with no pun intended.This lid shows evidence of some cracking from restriction from shrinking. Would I mind? Not at all! It’s a toolbox not prissy.
Slight evidence of end shrinkage but all is still stout and strong and the cracks are very small and short too. N problem on a ship bound the Americas!!
On all of my toolboxes and tool chests I use frame-and-panel, a method also very traditional, but of course it would be pointless to do a replication if you change everything because a better way was devised. The reality here is that no modern woodworker came up with a better way beyond reconstituting the materials common to the craft like a Pringle chip so that it stacks up in the box as sheet goods do and use MDF to get around the issues of expansion and contraction. Of course the life span of most MDF goods are not what we were promised when magazines in the late 70’s in the US were saying MDF was the new miracle material that could be a great substitute for wood and one that could be routed, sanded and stained and would change our need and use of wood. MDF was never a real alternative in furniture making for real woodworking but machine-only woodworking mostly; that is except for those building in ways to limit life expectancy and create fashionable and mostly but not always disposable product.
Putting ourselves in the place of men building boxes like these shown above, from the centuries before, helps us to place ourselves in true realms of realness when working people knew no such thing as the luxury of leisure time, disposability and short shelf-life furniture pieces. They didn’t buy wood as we would from Home Depot or B&Q in S4S sections pre planed and such. Boxes like these had no counterpart in the form of plastic alternatives and people traveled the globe, boxes in tow, stowing their chattels in cases just like these to contain some of their most valued possessions, not the least of which were indeed the tools of a man’s trade. For some, this traveling container was purely a transitional step to one of the colonies and a new life. When I moved to migrate to the USA I made twenty 3/4” plywood boxes glued and screwed together and skinned each side with 1/2” plywood. Strong and watertight, half of them were filled with my tools and the other half treasured family stuff. These boxes became cupboards and shelves in my shop and as far as I know are still wherever they were screwed to the walls in different workshops I left behind me as I moved on.
For others intent on protecting their tools in previous centuries it was more important to make something that was lightweight and strong and built to last. These boxes fulfilled their existence as being fit for purpose and, though perhaps in an era of unknown and uncertain futures, unable to predict what would happen, they have proven themselves worthy of total respect in the fact that we are using them now a hundred or hundreds of years later on. The boxes traveled continents and supported craftsmen through two world wars. They transported tools to and from work places and kept them safe in workshops too. No small thing and especially so when I think that I own several of them and still use them today for keeping and protecting my personal tool collections.
It’s interesting to see the responses people have had and the discussions issuing forth and yet no one actually acknowledged that hundreds of thousands of chests were built and used just like those shown here over at least four centuries. Was it that no one knew what we knew today? Not at all. Woodworkers did what was necessary. It took much more work to create the more sophisticated framed panels that also date back through at least half a millennia. This system was developed to make doors that would not shrink too much and panels that remained solid and constrained in a massive range of situations. Security was the key issue in eras when people really valued even the smallest of possessions in a none disposable or fashionable age. That meant that chests had to be durable, strong and fit for purpose at the very least.This box made about three months ago now shows no signs of degrade at all. Spring clamping like this works brilliantly well. This 2 1/2″ dog will draw both parts immovably together in two hammer blows. Make a few dogs in half an hour and you replace the need for too many clamps. After more than a century the top and the rim are still in solid condition.
I have noticed how much more people do obsess about things like expansion and contraction. I noticed this when I wrote on spring clamping wood where some people said I had it the wrong way around and I should really not have clamped the ends with a clamp at each end but with the one clamp in the middle and a slight concave rather than a convex along the edges of the conjoined boards. In actual fact you can do it whichever way you want, slight convex or concave. Back in history people used the nail dogs I showed extensively, which defies everything the naysayers said. Now then, that said, there are considerations in that people today live in an era of total air-conditioned immersion, where everything is conditioned to a certain dryness and temperature. The ends of boards supposedly dry out faster than say the mid section of a tabletop or, as in this case, a chest top. That’s not so interactively concerning when you nail on the end piece though over longterm exchanges of moisture can become an issue and might in some cases become problematic. But the problems can be adverse either way. I think too that gluing and nailing can occasionally be a problem because it is very rigid and immoveable but rarely is it actually so, and especially in Britain where we have pretty regular levels of humidity. The glue does seal the end grain pretty well and prevents the ingress of moisture except in long terms of exposure or immersion. In the US there are other considerations such as the differences I found between east and west Texas, Arizona and Arkansas. It’s simple enough as I said at the time. Keep the wood in the same conditions it will be living in if possible, let them acclimate, and then get on with the build. Your box will most likely be fine. Here and in other situations, people who believe this will usually never risk making a toolbox like this, even though it’s more likely to work out than not. It’s a shame really because the toolbox may never do what they’re fearful of at all.
I know most of you in the northeast are tired of this white stuff, but for us down here in Texas it is a rare treat! We are basking in the beauty and tranquility of a peaceful snowfall this morning. The fire is cranking inside the wood-stove. What a great day to be a […]