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The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator

This "aggregator" collects all of the woodworking blogs I read every day - or try to anyway!  Enjoy!

Do you have a suggestion for a hand-tool woodworking blog you would like to see here?  Tell me via the CONTACT page.  Thanks!


An Experiment: Changing Smoothing Planes for a Year

Chris Schwarz's Pop Wood Blog - 5 hours 39 min ago

I’m the weirdo who counts the number of steps and hand motions it takes me to brew a cup of coffee. And I’m always looking for ways to shave away a few minutes here and there from my routine activities (for example, brushing my teeth while simultaneously fetching my clothes for the day). So it’s no surprise that I also do this in the shop. During the last couple years […]

The post An Experiment: Changing Smoothing Planes for a Year appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Categories: Hand Tools

HB Tansu #3-Progress 19

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - 5 hours 47 min ago

Genius, lunacy or somewhere in the middle?  Committed, yes.  Needs committed???


Part 18 Greg Merritt


Turbine Whine

The Barn on White Run - 6 hours 41 min ago

Yesterday was a gorgeous cool spring day, and I was comfortable enough with the progress in preparing for the Studley exhibit that I took 90 minutes to to make some repairs to the hydro power waterline and get it up and running after a fashion.  We are not expecting any more hard freezes here, although there is the expectation for some snow flurries tonight and probably a couple more weeks of frost concerns for the garden, so the time was auspicious for the reactivation of the system that had been down since it froze solid in mid-November.

Once I get recovered from the exhibit I will tie it all back together (the top 300 feet of pipe is not yet attached and the intake now is simply laying in a trough at the bottom of the stream, with a head of about 100 feet) to maximize the power output, although I don’t really even need the power right now since I am not doing much in the way of electricity intensive work.  But next month I will be building the prototypes for the workbench build in September, and that will require some wattage.

For now, I have the system running and the soft whine of the turbine is just barely audible above the vigorous flow of water running by.

Updating a Hallway

MVFlaim Furnituremaker - 9 hours 54 min ago

The past few days, Anita and I have been working on finishing up the dining room and hallway. After I struggled to throw up the crown molding, attaching chair rail felt like childs play. The trickiest part was coping both ends at the end of the hallway.

 photo hallway1.jpg

After the chair rail was nailed up, I attached the rectangular boxes I made with my molding planes. Then Anita caulked and painted everything white on the bottom, and a light grey on top. She bought a custom rug from Pottery Barn that fits the hallway nicely. Now she plans on hanging some pictures on the wall and get a new light fixture to spruce things up. This was a cheap and easy way to make a hallway look more elegant.

 photo hallway2.jpg

Here is a close up of the faux wainscoting boxes I made. They add quite a bit of detail to the walls.

 photo hallway3.jpg

back in black

Two Lawyers Toolworks - 11 hours 54 min ago
Saw making was slow, due to health reasons. Klaus couldn't work with wood for a long time and I had some seriuos Problems in handle making. But during the last christmas holidays Klaus tried to restart the handle making. He found 2 woods that allow him to work. They're Ebony and Olive. So we began to reduce our backlog by making the ordered Ebony and Olive handeled saws. One of this saws you see in the pictures. Then something new happend to us. For the first time we made a saw and the customer didn't want to get it. A leftover.

Es war etwas still ums Sägenmachen. Klaus Allergie hat über ein Jahr das Arbeiten mit Holz verhindert. Weihnachten 2014 hat er versucht, mit Ebenholz Griffe zu machen, damit wir was zum zeigen für die Enkel haben und es hat geklappt. Mit Oliven und Ebenholz kann er wieder Griffe machen. Seitdem arbeiten wir unseren Rückstand auf. Eine diser Säge zeigen wir unten. Mit der Säge haben wir etwas Neues erlebt: Der Besteller hatte es sich anders überlegt. Sie ist also ein Sitzenbleiber.

It's a lefthanded (can be sawn with tthe other hand, too) saw for a medium hand. 9 1/2" long, 1 3/16 " (29mm) cutting deepth, 18 tpi rip. Es ist eine Linkshändersäge (Schraubenköpfe und Etching sind auf der linken Seite.) 240mm lang, 29mm Schnitttiefe, 18 tpi längs

Klaus made test cuts. The fine blade pitched at 18 tpi is something really enjoyable to saw with. There is one pic that shows a board (Cherry, 1/2") that has a bundle of cuts. Within 3 inches there are more than 80 cuts (probably 84 or 85 if I counted correctly) that were sawn with this saw. 

Klaus hat Probeschnitte gemacht. In etwa 12mm starker Kirsche hat er auf 75mm Breite etwa 84 Schniite untergebracht. Wir haben also nicht alles verlernt.

Categories: Hand Tools

One-stop Shop for Woodworking Information

Popular Woodworking Editors Blog - 11 hours 57 min ago

At ShopWoodworking.com, sure, you’ll find all the woodworking magazines, books, videos and webinars we produce. But ShopWoodworking.com is also your one-stop woodworking shop for many of the best books and videos from other publishers and producers, too. I’m always on the lookout for good information that I think we should carry in our store, and I personally recommend to our buyers items we should offer – and where allowable, we […]

The post One-stop Shop for Woodworking Information appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.

Categories: General Woodworking

Bath Vanity Update

I'm a OK guy - 13 hours 23 min ago
The day job has been taking most of my time so progress on the bath vanity is slow. I looked at using a wood top and tried several finishes but all but the Applebee's bar finish water spotted. It's a shame but it is what it is....ordered an Ebony composite top for the base, it should look OK.

I've made the boxes for the drawers, used Soft Maple.  It has been awhile since my last use of Soft Maple, I forgot how nice it is to work.

Here is the set up for cleaning up the drawer boxes:

And the box cleaned up:


Inset drawers lead to revealing work

Matt's Basement Workshop - 15 hours 15 min ago

As the construction of Madison’s tall dresser was rolling along at a much faster pace than most of my large projects go I kept telling myself not to jinx it by saying something stupid like “I’ll probably finish this one up in record time!”

8 drawer tall dresser

Sure enough, just as I neared the finish line the month of April came along and all my best plans went flying out the window. I’d name all of the reasons why but most of them begin and end with me in the middle of the explanation.

So rather than boring you with excuses let’s talk a little about what’s coming up in the final build episode of the Tall Dresser Series.

At this point everything is built and the only thing left to do is the final touches. As I’ve mentioned before, the final touches on any project tend to be the most tedious and time-consuming.

For example in my situation I still had to finesse the dimensions of the top (okay actually I just needed to cut it to size,) and then I still had to tweak the reveals around the inset drawers, all 8 of them!

reveals on an inset drawer

Equal reveals around an inset drawer make it appear to be floating…

I discovered a long time ago that when it comes to building a project that’ll have drawers I prefer to make them inset versus overlay, even though overlay is hands down the easier of the two to build. Why?

With overlay-style drawers even if you get a little sloppy with the face carcass or drawerbox construction, the drawer fronts can usually be positioned in a way that compensates for the error.

In other words, you have a way to hide your mistake (until someone attempts to use it and then wonders why it opens or closes the way it does.)

For inset-style drawers, if you make an error it can sometimes be magnified even greater when the drawer is fitted into the opening. So in my opinion it takes a little more effort to insure your construction is good from the start (something I know we all strive to do anyways.)

What I also like about inset drawers is the reveal line (or shadow line if you prefer.) There’s something about a beautiful reveal line that runs uniformly around the drawer front.

It’s always been something I’ve considered to be the mark of a good craftsman.

Sure some place the dovetail on pedestal but I strive to create reveal lines that leave the inset drawer looking as if it’s simply floating in the opening.

Are you an inset door/drawer woodworker, or do you prefer the look of the overlay-style? There’s no wrong answer, just inspiring conversations.

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Categories: Hand Tools

My Transmutable Bench

Northwest Woodworking - 15 hours 26 min ago

In the middle of a storm, commonplace things change. My bench for instance. When building a piece for a deadline, my recognizable bench becomes a place of chaos, a haven for every tool, every piece of scrap wood, for every note and drawing, dull tool, and a ready to hand assortment of screws and sandpaper, most of which I will not use. A place for everyone and everything. Emptying it will take days.  It becomes not just a symbol of my own tumult. It is a signal of the state of my mind. Seemingly hundreds of items collect across it at once and I am able mostly, if no one disturbs the clutter, to find the things I need in order to build. But it is transformed before my eyes. It is a tableau of my life, of my mind. It is stunning and I say it is a sign of intelligence with so many “ideas” strewn about.

You on the other hand may find it vaguely recognizable if true.

Bench tumultous

Categories: Hand Tools

16 Years and a Coat of Paint

The Renaissance Woodworker - 15 hours 28 min ago

Spring is a wonderful time of year. After months of huddling in the darkness and shivering in front of my shop space heater, I can now open the garage door and let in some natural light. There is nothing that puts me in a happy place more than listening to a baseball game on the radio and working at the bench with the sun streaming in from the garage door.

Unfortunately with warmer weather outside, Mother Nature shows up to monopolize my weekend shop time. Grass needs to be cut, plants planted, mulch spread, and all the general spring cleaning stuff that goes on inside and outside of the house. So it is that when I’m finally able to open the garage door, I rarely am able to scrape together the time to take advantage of it. Soon enough, I’ll be closing the garage door to keep out the heat and humidity. But maybe Mother Nature’s plan to pull me from the shop each Spring has backfired this year.

Pine is not a good exterior woodWhile cleaning off my deck this weekend, I started to slide one of my Adirondack chairs out of the way when the back slat I had grasped snapped easily off the back. Shocked I reached for the next slat only to have it break too. Then the third broke away right at the point where it is screwed into the back. This pair of Adirondacks is 16 years old and I built them from big box Pine lumber. Maybe I knew better than to use Pine for exterior furniture, maybe I didn’t back then but probably I figured that since I was painting it, it wouldn’t matter what species I chose. I was wrong of course and water will always find a way to rot the wood. It just so happens that I helped it along by drilling holes for screws. I used stainless steel screws (which I will salvage) and I plugged the holes afterward but water always wins in the end. A little closer inspection and I am finding some squishy parts all over the chair. It bears my weight right now, but I can’t honestly say that I’m certain it will for much longer. It looks like Mother Nature has just given me a reason to grab some Spring shop time and its time to dig out my faithful New Yankee Workshop Adirondack templates again.

Still I can’t help but be satisfied with the 16 years of service these chairs gave my wife and I. This is where we sat and ate many a burger and hot dog. Where we sat and watched fireworks on the 4th of July from our back yard. Where I enjoyed a cool drink after each grass cutting. Where I fell asleep one Saturday only to be awakened by a freak thunderstorm and hail.

It goes to show you just how much a coat of good paint does to protect the lumber underneath. These chairs even spent a few summers in the grass in direct contact with the ground and yet they kept on going for 16 summers. So perhaps I’m sad to see them fail, but mostly I’m proud of something that I built so early on in my woodworking career has held on this long in the elements.

Red Cedar Adirondack chairsWhen I build the replacement pair, I won’t be over engineering them and trying to get fancy with my joinery. I have built many many pairs of this same chair for friends and family over the years and truly its a design that I don’t feel like messing with. The one change I will make is the wood species, and will use a good exterior wood. Probably Western Red Cedar because it is rot resistant and lightweight. I have another pair of these chairs on my front porch that I never even applied finish to and they are going strong 12 years later. My in-laws have a set of Cedar chairs that are now 15 years old that live out in the grass of their back yard that are just as sound today as the day I made them. Cedar or Cypress would be a good choice here because of the weight.

I did build one pair out of White Oak and that is an excellent exterior wood, but it also makes for a VERY heavy Adirondack chair. My wife’s God Parents have that set and they don’t ever move them because of the weight. There are many other options and certainly anything that grows in the rainforest is a good choice. But then your humble Adirondack chair starts to get a wee bit expensive. If you plan to paint them then that just seems a crime to cover up something like Jatoba or Utile or Teak. Left unfinished all of these woods will turn a nice silvery gray and that’s what I plan to do with mine. In the end I’ll probably choose to use whatever species I can easily get my hands on cheaply and in the right sizes.

Then again, I do work for one of the largest importers of Teak in the North America, seems almost an injustice not to take advantage of that.

Now that I think about it, after building what at last count I believe to be 24 of these chairs the build has become a bit routine. Dare I say, even mundane. This pair will be the first that I will build without the use of any power tools (other than my planer) so that actually should be pretty exciting. I find rebuilding a piece by hand that I previously built using power tools to be very educating and a good indication of how my working rhythm has changed over the years. This build should be the same experience with lots of turning saw and spokeshave work and how can that ever be a bad experience.

Categories: Hand Tools

Maybe you don’t need those long clamps.

Tico Vogt - 19 hours 1 min ago

There are ways to create long clamps, such as coupling sections of threaded pipe for Jorgensen clamps.

Jorgensen Pipe Clamp

Body Clamp Extenders, making a custom clamp bar from timber using the Record Clamp Heads

Record Clamp Head

or hooking the ends of Parallel Clamps together. They all work and have come in useful for me at times, especially constructing cabinet boxes.

I’m currently building a table with long side rails. The tenons were sawn on my band saw (using the soon to be released Vogt Drill Press/Bandsaw Fence) because the length and weight make it impractical to work vertically.

R S Sawing tenons

My alternative to using long clamps when gluing them into the mortices on the legs is to use a handscrew clamped to the long side rail and a block on the back face of the leg post.

R S Long Clamp 1

A piece of carpet underlayment both protects the rail surface and keeps the handscrew from slipping when the F clamps are tightened.

R  S Long Clamp 3

For me this works better than trying to glue two legs on either end at the same time with unwieldy long clamps.

R S Long Clamp 4

It’s a simple matter to glue and clamp the short end rails. Again, it proved convenient to rest the long rails on a higher surface (my table saw auxiliary table in this instance) and allow the legs to suspend. One side rail can be clamped along its length to the table and the interior diagonals measured with pinch rods. Fractional adjustments are easy to make simply by pushing or pulling the opposite rail.

R S Pinch Rods

As the glue is hardening I can take the length for the sliding dovetail intermediate cross rails.

R S Sliding Dovetails

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… and there was light.

Je ne sai quoi Woodworking - 19 hours 15 min ago


Since my bench was finished a month or so ago, it has been a struggle to see what I am doing as it is located in a part of the shop which is devoid of light. Recently I bought this basic study lamp and attached it to a short board to improve it’s maneuverability. Here are a few pictures to show how it lightens up my life.


Clamping it to the bench enables me to have it hanging over the bench’s edge.


It can also be clamped in the twin screw vise, legvise or my sliding deadman-cum-legvise. This helps to set it up as a raking light (second and third photo).



It is incredible how much more accurate every aspect of my work has become since using a simple bench light. It is highly recommended.

Although I really like and prefer Japanese hand tools for most...

Giant Cypress - 19 hours 48 min ago

Although I really like and prefer Japanese hand tools for most woodworking, I do have some machinery. This 10″ jointer/planer combination is one of the machines that I have. I spent yesterday replacing a stripped gear in the mechanism that raises and lowers the planer bed. This required a few rounds of turning the machine upside down, disassembling some parts of the machine so that I could reach the gear, reassembling the machine, and turning it upright, only to find that I needed to turn the machine upside down again because something didn’t align correctly when I put the machine back together. With the weight of the motor, this gets old quick.

Although I do very much like my jointer/planer combo, tuning up hand tools is so much easier. Hand tools FTW, again.

base is ready for the drawers......

Accidental Woodworker - 22 hours 22 min ago
I'm making good progress on the table. I'm feeling better about it and other than being stressed out about gluing it up, I'm not stressing about the deadline. I know that I can comfortably meet it without any problems. I just have the table top left as the last big ticket item to do.

That I may stress out on a bit because it'll be my first time in the batters box on something this big. I have made other table tops with bread board ends but not in cherry. Expensive, don't make a mistake cherry. Nor have I made one this large. My largest table was 60" x30".  I wonder which works better with excess stomach acid - Tums or Rolaids?

sneak preview
I still have another board to put on this table. I'm not a fan of a big overhangs and I'm not doing that on this table.  The sides will be about 2 to 3 inches and the ends will be about 6" or so. This will be good enough.

I have 3 of these black knot holes
I like this characteristic of cherry a lot along with the gum pockets and black streaks. This one I'll fill in with epoxy that I'll dye black.

This knot fell out and you can see right through it. This one will be a bit trickier to fill with epoxy dyed black. I also have some ripple marks from the planer to remove.

I'm a sapwood lover too
I would like to incorporate this into the table. I have boards that have sapwood on the edges that I could pick two of them and use them on the outside edges. This I'll have to get the ok from daughter #2 and her husband first.

the base is rock solid
All the joints stayed together when I took the clamps off. Nothing groaned, moved, or creaked on me. That is always a good sign on a project like this.

corner blocks
I'm going to use the corner blocks that came with the legs. I am also putting a button in them too. I want to make sure that the corners are held down tight to the top of the apron and the leg.

spax lag screws
Ken Hatch from 'I'm a OK Guy' recommended these. I did a bit reading on them and I liked what I read. I don't like the lag screws on the right as I don't have good luck with them. We'll see what shakes out with the spax ones.

more table supplies
I also got a box of 8 x 1 1/2" spax screws to use on the buttons. A quart of black paint for the base. I bought flat exterior house paint and it was $12. Interior flat paint was $21 a quart. I'm using the house paint and I'll put a couple of coats of shellac over it. The furniture buttons are for the table. I'm not a fan of these but the table will be moving around a lot from now on and I don't want the bottom of the legs to get chewed up on the concrete floor.

banging them home
These raise the table about 3/4" and I'll let my daughter decide if she wants to keep them.

no stupid wood tricks overnight
The piece of poplar I'll be sawing in half length wise. That will give up the two drawer fronts for the table.

go no-go stick
Time to check that the runners for the drawer guides are parallel. I got this so that it is dead nuts on the front drawer opening.

it's off at the 24" mark
The sides of the drawer are only about 22" long. I am going to check and make this parallel out to 24".

10 minutes work with the tenon and bullnose plane
I stopped once the stick could go from the front to the 24" mark without binding or stopping. I repeated this on the right side drawer too. The left drawer is 3/16" wider than the right one so I had to make a new go no-go stick for it.

cleaning up the bottom
Cleaned up the hide glue drips and runs and flushed all the rails with the bottom of the aprons.

painted the bottom
This is the one and only coat of paint going on the bottom of the base. I got the first coat on the legs and they will be getting at least two more coats of paint. Legs take a lot of abuse.

two hours later
There are always holidays that are missed. I flipped the base this way and I painted these missed spots and then flipped it the opposite way and painted the spots missed there. After I got the holidays done, I drilled and set the remaining pegs in the legs. I'll trim them flush tomorrow.

marking gauge went out to La-La land
I used two marking gauges and both of them caught and followed the grain.

trying to correct it made it worse
tried a new marking gauge
I used my table saw as a marking gauge for this set of drawer parts. I set it for an 1/8" deep and made a groove around the four edges of all of the drawer parts. Instead of a scribe line, I have a flat to plane down to.

first drawer set done
second set of drawer parts
On this set I used the tite mark and I used my bevels on the four edges. I like this way much better than the table saw one. I won't be using that way again but I couldn't think if another way to do it. I didn't have much extra to plane off the errant marks and redo them.

got my feathers
Drawer set #2 came out much better then the first one. All five of these parts are flush to each other. On set #1 they weren't. I had to fuss and play with them a lot to get them close to each other. I thought the flat would be easy to plane down to evenly but it wasn't.

sawed the poplar in half
I'll be thinning this down to 3/4" for the applied drawer fronts. I also want to use one of my molding planes to do a profile on the four edges.  I'll try and do the thinning tomorrow.

stickered the parts to let any stupid wood tricks happen
clean up is the last batter
This bucket of shavings is what I produced in thinning the drawer parts from 3/4" to 1/2". I should be able to get the drawers done and fitted this week. Next weekend I want to start on the table top.

accidental woodworker 48 days to go

trivia corner
What is a yurt?
answer - a domed circular tent used by Mongolian nomads

new molding iron jig........

Accidental Woodworker - 22 hours 32 min ago
Last week a posted the specs on a molding iron jig I made and one of the irons I used to highlight a point I was making didn't work in the jig. That has been bugging me every since and today I scratched that itch. I thought that the one jig would do every molding iron I had. I was wrong.

the first batter up is making a correction to the first jig
What I call the lateral stop on the original jig is too short. The new lateral stop is about 3/4" longer and it should now work for my small irons. I'm going to make my slot to follow the screw holes. The screw holes are offset on the mending plate so you don't put both screws in the same grain line.

new lateral stop done
The gap isn't much larger than 2 hairs and some air. I left part of the bend when I hacksawed this in two. That little up turned piece makes a handy grab point to move the stop in and out.

the itch
This is the molding iron I grabbed and you can't sharpen the entire profile of the iron in this jig. The profile runs all the up to the back on the right side. In order to sharpen and hone this part, the iron would be off the platform and there won't be any support for it. I have learned that the tangs on the molding irons aren't consistent in thickness along the length. You can easily bend the business end down before you have a chance to get out an "aw sh.......".  You need the entire iron supported against any force and pressure from sharpening.

no support
 I sharpened this as it is here but I kept a couple of fingers underneath at all times. This negated having two hands free to work on the profile. I thought of putting a screw here or half lapping a piece of wood underneath it but I didn't like any of them ideas.

new jig needs some hold down clamps
I'm going to make them out of a L shaped mending plate. I need two of them and one plate will give up both.
new jig done
I made this much like the first one. The big change was placing the platform on the right hand bottom edge. This platform isn't as large as the original one but it will work for the few irons I intend to use it on.  The tang groove is a bit over 3/8" wide and a hair short of 1/8" deep. These I carried over from the first jig.  All I really did on this jig was to move the groove/slots from the left to the right side.

I used two threaded inserts and I found some thumb screws that I had forgotten I had. I like these a lot better than PH screws because you don't need to hunt down a screwdriver.

replaced the PH screw on the original jig with a thumb screw
I am also thinking of swapping out the toggle clamp for a mending plate hold down like I did on jig #2.  I don't have any more 1/4-20 thumb screws so that will have to wait.

made another upgrade to the original jig
On jig #2  the post I screwed it too is the thickness I cut this original one down to now.  I can tilt both down a pretty fair distance.

need a place to stow them
I think I'm done with molding iron jigs for now. Or until I find another iron that won't work in either jig. Distraction over, time to get back to work on the table.

accidental woodworker

trivia corner
What did the Englishman Edwin Budding invent in 1830?
answer - the lawn mower

Mending a saw blade

Mulesaw - Sun, 04/26/2015 - 11:23pm
After breaking the saw blade for the mulesaw, I tried using one of the other blades that I have.
Two blades have a different tooth configuration, and it became obvious, that this configuration is not perfect for wide hardwood trunks.
I decided that I might as well try to see if I could repair the blade, since I don't know where I can buy a new one. And if the repair job didn't work out, It would be sort of a Life of Brian thing: You come from nothing and you're going back to nothing - what have you lost? Nothing. (Except a bit of time and a few welding electrodes).

At first I straightened out the broken pieces since they were a bit bowed on the ends.

Next I ground the broken edges to prepare a groove when they were fixed in their correct position.

To make sure the blade was properly aligned, I clamped the pieces to a piece of wood with a straight piece along the back of the blade.

I found my old portable electrode welding machine (ESAB Caddy) and some welding electrodes.
My go to electrodes for this type of repair job is ESAB OK 53.05 There might be some more correct types out there, but I always have some of the aforementioned electrodes on hand, as they are really versatile.

The welding could have looked better, but welding thin steel with an electrode welder is not easy. At least not when you have an electrode of 2.5 mm in diameter which is better suited for thicker material.

After welding the blade I used an angle grinder to clean up and level things out on the blade.

I tested the blade, and it went OK for about 8", then it snapped again, but I could see that my welding wasn't very good at that spot, so I just welded it again, and then it held.

So all in all the project was a success.

The blade on the workbench.

Broken edges ground to form a groove.

Holding the blade in position.

Welding complete.

Welding ground with an angle grinder.

The mounting system of the blade.

Blade inset in the tightening/holding device on the saw frame.

A whitebeam plank sawed with the mended blade.
Saw is shown to give and idea of the size of the plank.

Categories: Hand Tools

Traditional Units of Measurement in India

The Indian DIY & Woodworker - Sun, 04/26/2015 - 9:31pm
Wooden ruler
Today woodworkers in India use inches or centimetres for most measurements, assuming that the imperial and metric systems are the only systems of measurement available. But that's not quite true; in some societies notably Japan, the pre-Western systems of measurement continue to co-exist with traditional ones. For instance, traditional Japanese rulers are still marked by the ancient length measures such as "bu", "Sun" and so on.

In India too we had the traditional measures of length. Those relevant for woodworkers were anguli (literally finger), haath (elbow to end of middle finger) and gaz. The problem was, unlike in Japan, these measures were not properly standardised and differed according to region.

For instance, the gaz (which is roughly equivalent to the British yard) measured 36 inches in Bengal, 27 inches in Bombay, 33 inches in Madras and so on.  It would appear that Bengalis had the longest arms and the locals of Bombay the shortest but this clearly could not be the case; why these different measures were adopted is lost in history. Perhaps it has something to do with our national character.

For some reason, even during Mughal times, Indians could not decide on a single uniform measure of length. This is one reason why the traditional measure of land, the bigha introduced by the Mughals, continues to vary in actual size in different parts of India. Clearly, Indians have always agreed to disagree.

Traditional toolbox: Accuracy is not a great concern

Yet, at one stage in history Indians were extremely fastidious about the right measure of things. Archaeologists found superb and extremely accurate rulers made of ivory in the Harappan site of Lothal. Historian Ian Whitelaw (2007) writes that a ruler excavated from the Mohenjo-Daro site "is divided into units corresponding to 1.32 inches (33.5 mm) and these are marked out in decimal subdivisions with amazing accuracy-to within 0.005 of an inch. Ancient bricks found throughout the region have dimensions that correspond to these units."

Somewhere along the way we lost the measure of things and our civilisation fell apart. The gaz became elastic as did the bigha and everything else. Our real estate companies continue to cling on to the variable concept of measurement of area, duping millions of Indians in the process.

Fortunately, today a metre of cloth or a yard length of wood is the same size all over the country. If you order a three foot long table you will get one and no one will argue about the variable surface area of the table as do realtors about the carpet area of flats.

Avarice and fraud, notwithstanding we have to thank the government for small mercies.  On April Fool's Day in 1957, the Indian government formally adopted the metric system and thereafter strove to enforce order in measurements throughout the land.

Today, there are numerous laws and punishments for short changing, under weighing and giving less than promised but none of these have proved a deterrent to those Indians who continue to believe in flexible systems of measurements. May their angulis and other appendages shrink accordingly.

Indranil Banerjie
27 April 2015
Categories: Hand Tools

The Inequitable Appreciation of Hand Work

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Sun, 04/26/2015 - 9:10pm


I wish to enter a protest—“a kick,” as we say in the shop. I bought a magazine the other day, one of the dignified kind supposed to give a busy man a glimpse of some of the important things happening in the world, and to give it in a fair, open, unbiased way. In it I found an article at which I here kick.

It was one calling attention to a revival of certain kinds of skilled hand work whereby some people, with a good degree of skill and originality. are able to make wares that command a relatively large price because of the fact that they are made in small quantities and cannot be duplicated at the nearest store, the trade mark of the maker being the chief item of value as showing that the article is unique.

So far I have no reason to object, believing as I do that it is good business to work at that which brings in the best returns for the effort expended. What I do object to—and that most vigorously—is the insinuation that the every-day worker is below these in honesty and usefulness.

Allow me to quote from the article: “Machine-made things we must have and always will have, and it is fortunate indeed that machinery can and does supply many human wants at such low cost. With it all there remains a survival of the old mediæval love of the honest, hand-made thing.”

The insinuation in this quotation that the ordinary product of the shops and factories is not honest; that those working in such places are on a lower plane, personally and as to usefulness, than the world at large, is what I object to. Such writings, while seemingly insignificant in themselves. assist in creating a lasting impression To just such things do we owe some of the feeling that is all too common, even in this country, that to be a doctor or a lawyer, a preacher or a banker is more honorable than to be a mechanic.

Take away the mechanics. and the advancement caused by the low costs made possible by the very machinery here so slightingly spoken of, and the world’s progress is stopped and we are at best in a state of semi-civilization.

As a machinist I want to take my stand as belonging to a class second to none in importance to the world. There are other callings in the same rank with us, and they are the other trades: the molders, blacksmiths, steel makers, iron workers and others intimately allied.

To insinuate that a few workers, however excellent their product, whose chief aim is to get large prices for things the greatest values of which lie in the fact that they are possessed by but few, and who have it not in their power to make life easier or more pleasant are in a class by themselves, is an unjustice to every honest toiler in the land. We as individuals should promptly resent these things that tend to create a false impression as to our importance to the world.

This may seem like a small matter to many, but, friends, look around you and see how many young people prefer to follow vocations where they can be pseudo-genteel at starvation wages rather than throw their energy into shop work.

Just as a few drunken mechanics can create an impression in a community that they are fair samples of all good mechanics, so such ill-considered writings can create an undercurrent of feeling that shop work is lowering, and that to engage in making anything made in large quantity by the aid of machinery one must give up a certain measure of manhood or womanhood. Whatever other differences we may have we should be as a unit in upholding the honesty and dignity of labor in general and of our own calling in particular.

“He came from poor but honest parents.” Who has never noticed such a sentence in describing someone who has acquired wealth or distinction? How would this look: “He came from rich but honest parents”? It would be resented by every rich man that read it, but isn’t it just as false when said of the poor?

More than once have I been asked by parties in the trade as well as by parties not in it, “Why is it that most of the best machinists are intemperate men?” To this I can reply that in my own experience they are not. The man who gets drunk is usually far from modest in telling of his ability, especially when drinking, and a great many people seem to take him at his own valuation.

The really valuable mechanic has very little time to “blow his own horn,” and so his work is often not appreciated, except by those who come in closest contact with him. A good man may become addicted to the use of intoxicants, but his value is never increased thereby, neither is it safe to reason: “Good mechanics get drunk, therefore if I get drunk I will be a good mechanic,” although I regret to say that I have known a number of young men who seemed to follow such a line of reasoning.

I do not wish to trespass on the patience of my fellow-craftsmen, but it does seem to me that a little effort spent in producing a proper understanding of ourselves by the community at large will bring just as good returns as getting out a formula for the flow of water. We should all labor to produce an “atmosphere” (as the artist would call it) of respect and admiration for our calling.

In some callings a man is looked on as a gentleman because of his calling, while in others it is considered that if he is one it is in spite of his calling, and we should see to it that our calling is not looked on in the latter way for the lack of information.

W. Osborne

American Machinist – July 24, 1902

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

The Revival of Skilled Hand-Work

Lost Art Press: Chris Schwarz - Sun, 04/26/2015 - 9:05pm


In New England a good workman is described as a “Master-hand at his trade.” Within the past few years a new and superior workman has appeared who is his own designer, skilled worker and dealer—in brief, his own employer. There are women also who are designers and workers and are their own saleswomen.

The upper West-side apartment district of New York may not appear to be the best place to find the shop of a Master-hand. A few steps from prosaic Columbus Avenue, on One hundred and Fourth Street, lead to a small brick dwelling. There is a high stoop and a large basement window and a few stone steps lead down to a lofty basement room having a fine north light.

Here at a table sits a young woman clad in a long check apron and busy with skilful fingers upon a mass of New Jersey clay. Slowly, inch by inch, the mass grows up into the form of a beautiful vase. She has the usual sculptor’s tools, nothing more—not even a potter’s wheel. She has had a sculptor’s training, is an art student and practical designer and potter.

About the room on shelves are black terra-cotta vases of every form and size from little flower bowls up to great garden vases. All are of her own design and workmanship. Everything is her own handiwork except the firing, the smaller vases being fired at a Harlem pottery, and the larger vases fired at Perth Amboy.

Every vase is for sale and many more have been sold and distributed. At intervals cards are sent out for a studio reception sale and the little room is crowded for hours and empty when the last guest carries off the last vase. The young woman’s mother assists in the little shop and this-makes the whole plant, a basement room, two Master-hands and some Jersey clay.

East Twenty-Third Street is never lovely and it comes with a sort of pleasant surprise to take an elevator to the top floor and escape from the dreary street into the silence and reposeful peace of a charming little studio-home. A young woman welcomes, in soft Southern speech, to her home and her workshop. She begs to be excused from mere social forms. She can talk and work, and sits before a great wooden chest and takes up her wood-carving tools, and while she talks the beautiful foliage seems to grow under her skilful fingers.

With enthusiasm she discourses upon the wood and the design of the chest. The design is her own and the only thing she did not do was the actual putting together of the chest. Why should she waste her valuable time on work any carpenter can do? All else, design, carving, fire etching, coloring, ornaments, handles, hinges and locks are her own work except the heavy forging of the handles and clasps.

She is the Master-hand of the whole job and when finished it will be a beautiful chest, fit for the outfit of a bride. In the next room another girl is at work upon another beautiful chest. On the walls are mats and other useful things in leather, colored, tooled and fire-etched. The place is a shop and it is also salesroom and the home of the Master-hands.

Not far away, on East Twentieth Street, is another still larger shop. Here two women, Master-hands in copper, design and make copper vessels and utensils for parlor and kitchen. Strong, well made and beautiful, the things give a new dignity to the art of the coppersmith. On the walls are fine fabrics stenciled in colors in novel and attractive designs. On the tables are mats and useful things for the desk in tooled and colored leather. The Master-hands do everything from the designing to the making of the finished products and the studio workshops are combined workrooms and salesrooms.

The top floor of a first-class apartment house overlooking Riverside Drive is not the place where we might expect to find a first-rate Master-hand busy with pencil and tools. She sits by a window giving a splendid view of the Hudson, at work developing her own designs upon leather, using novel tools invented in her own shop, and talking with honest pride of her work and her success as a Master-hand.

If these new working women, Master-hands in their trades, were alone they might merely pass as dreadful examples of the danger of trying to be eccentric. If there were no other shops but these four to be found they would certainly not be worthy of any special mention. They are here described because they are types of many shops scattered all over the country and because they are in convenient reach of any one in New York interested in a new phase of industry and labor.

The Master-hands have opened shop in at least twelve of our cities and towns. They now design, make and sell furniture, ironwork, copper and brass, lace, rugs, carpets, violins, tiles, pottery, fine chinaware, leather work, chests, jewelry, silverware, buckles, clasps and other enameled ornaments, baskets, woodenware, terra-cotta vases and architectural ornaments. Some of the shops print and bind books and others design and make stained-glass windows.

It is very difficult to say exactly how many men and women are thus employed in their own shops or are at work at home, either the whole or a part of the time. Good authorities place the number of regular shops where the makers are self-employed at about fifty, but as new shops are opened every month, particularly in small towns, it is safe to say that at least one hundred Master-hands are now earning a living in their own shops. Besides those who give the whole of their time to the work there must be at least two hundred other skilled workers who give a part of their time to these various handicrafts.

In nearly all the shops the Master-hands are also their own salesmen, but it did not take long for far-sighted dealers to see that the Master-hands were creating a new business. So we find in some of our larger cities stores more or less devoted to the exhibition and sale of the products of these new shops. There is one store of this kind in Boston and a most attractive store has been recently opened in New York for the sale of the beautiful products of these new shops. The Master-hands very quickly discovered that the studio is not the best place in which to sell the goods and sent their goods to the stores, greatly to their advantage, though all continue to exhibit and take orders in their little shops.

It is not easy to say how this new and promising business sprang into such sudden success. That it is successful is beyond question and, best of all, the demand for the goods thus made rapidly increases from month to month. In a certain way the business is the natural outcome of the work of the Exchange for Women’s Work. There are now eighty of these exchanges for the sale of work done by women. These exchanges began as places where embroidery, lace, cake bread, pickles, and other home-made things could be offered for sale. They give employment to many hundreds of women and distribute hundreds of thousands of dollars among the home workers every year, the New York Exchange distributing in 1900 $55,000.

A portion of these workers have become Master-hands, but the majority of the Master-hands sell their work through the dozen or more Arts and Crafts Societies, now established throughout the country. A few of the Master-hands sell only at their own shops and advertise their goods through the press. In one or two instances a number of workers have united and do their work in one shop and have one salesman for all their products. In several instances the shops are a part of larger plants making other things, a furniture shop and forge being attached to a printing and bookbinding concern.

In every instance the Master-hand, whether man or woman, is his or her own designer and makes the finished product wholly or in large part with hand tools only. All are highly trained designers and artisans and all must have more or less art education. The whole business is based upon hand work and it must be skilful, honest and inspired with real love of the work.

There can be no eight-hours-a-day business, for the worker, fired with a real love of the work, is greedy of every minute of daylight. He has no time for the folly of the saloon. He never watches the clock or slows up just before whistle time. There is no whistle on the new shop, no shop rules, no foreman, no time-keeper. The workman is boss and the boss is the worker. There are no wages, but profits. There is no employer, liable to fail or to die and throw the worker upon the streets; for the worker deals, either directly or through a store or society, with the public and the public is the universal paymaster and can never die or fail.

The buying public has evidently discovered the Master-hand. The useful, the practical and the cheap must be the products of the mill and factory. Machine-made things we must have and always will have, and it is fortunate indeed that machinery can and does supply many human wants at such low cost. With it all there remains a survival of the old mediæval love of the honest, hand-made thing.

We like to have and use the real hand-made, the thing that is wrought by skilled hands, inspired by a love of work and touched with the tool marks of the Master-hand. It is this love of the hand-made that has developed and sustained the new shops. The buyer will pay well for the unique thing, the one thing bearing the Master’s sign manual stamped upon the thing itself.

The public patronizes the Arts and Crafts Societies, because it believes that the things upon their shelves are the real things. It learns the value of personal trade-marks and it buys by the trade-mark rather than by the advice of the shopkeeper to whom the “just as good” is the only trick of his trade he knows. For the superior workman tired of the shop and factory, for the man who wants to work for the love of good work, the Master-hands are an example and an inspiration.

Charles Barnard

The World’s Work – July, 1902

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images
Categories: Hand Tools

HB Tansu #3-Progress 18

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Sun, 04/26/2015 - 6:20pm

Over the past week and this weekend I was able to acquire the needed material and complete the construction of the remaining three drawers.  I was also able to cut, fit and install all of the drawer bottoms.  There is nothing new in any of those process, so I spare you the boredom of the play-by-play.  Instead I’ll bore you with the play-by-play of adding some of the decorative elements.

The first decorative element I added to the drawer fronts was a perimeter bead.  Pretty simple to do.  The inner portion of the bead is formed with a flat head screw installed in a block of wood.  The remainder of the bead is formed with a plane and a little sanding.  That’s the long grain beads.  The end grain bead requires a little more effort, but not much.  The screw is used as a gauge, then the inner wall is knifed in.  A chisel is then used to remove the waste to form the inner portion of the bead.  The outer portion of the bead is completed in just the same manner as with the long grain.

Gauge the end grain bead. Cut the inner portion of the long grain bead. Knife in the inner wall of the end grain bead. Chisel out the end grain waste. Shape the outer portion of the end grain bead with a skewed plane. Shape the outer portion of the long grain bead. Clean up with a little sanding.

With the bead in place, I then installed the holes for the drawer pulls.  The drawer pull will be installed 15mm above center on the drawer front.  More about that later.  Since this will be the same on all of the drawers, I set a pair of dividers to make my life easier.  So all I needed to do was to find the center of the drawer front then use the dividers to locate the hole for the pull.


I also wanted to add a textured area below the drawer pull.  Since I already had the dividers set, I used them to scratch a circle to delineate the area to be textured.


Then I drilled the hole for the pull and used a countersink to clean an ease the edge of the hole.

hbt3-106 hbt3-107

I then made a decorative punch out of a scrap piece of steel.  A little file work was all that was needed to have it ready to work.


The punch is then tapped with a hammer to create texture.


I repeated the above process for all of the remaining drawer fronts.  With that done it was time for a little Hillbilly Inlay.  Don’t act surprised, you knew I was gonna’.  I developed a new pattern for this build.  It is created with two gouges and a knife.

Pencil in the 45's from each  corner. Create the inset.  Dividers ensure consistency. Large gouge sets the perimeter. Smaller gouge adds a little flare. Knife in a few lines. Finally rub in the coffee.

I still need to take the wood burner to the bead trench to create the perimeter line on the drawer fronts.  I think the black line will also help to tie the pine in with the walnut.  Still a good bit to do before the finishing process can be started.  Even so, I couldn’t help but wipe a quick coat of BLO on a couple of drawer fronts to get a sense of what they are going to look like.  It’s a crappy photo, but gives the general idea.


Greg Merritt



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