Hand Tool Headlines
The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator
This "aggregator" collects all of the woodworking blogs I read every day - or try to anyway! Enjoy!
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After workbenches and finishing, the questions we get asked most often are about hand-cut dovetails. So, we’ve put together a kit that includes the Woodjoy Precision Dovetail Template (the brass and black oxide one you’ve perhaps seen me use in the magazine and on the blog), an inexpensive but excellent marking knife from Lee Valley, Rob Cosman’s step-by step guide to dovetails, Ian Kirby’s book “The Complete Dovetail,” a Roy […]
|hide glue banding is stuck on|
|ditto on the yellow glue one|
|hide glue split off easily|
|yellow glue was marginally harder to split off|
|the back in place with the revision|
|without the revision and the back and bottom in place|
I glued the revision in with hide glue and set it to cook by the furnace. This little hiccup adds another day to the glue up sequence. All that is left is the sound hole board and the back/bottom. I am also thinking of applying the shellac to inside of the cradle before I glue the back and bottom on. That will add another day to glue up process.
|sanding the tops|
|first side almost done|
It took me a lot longer to do this one side than I thought it would take. I had planned on doing the other half too but I was a little frazzled after doing this one. Being careful eats up a lot minutes. I think tomorrow I'll be able to whack out a part of the second half.
I'll be able to assess how well the hide glue is doing it's job tomorrow too.
Who was the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia and Lord of Coventry?
answer - Lady Godiva
Whenever I purchase used (pre-owned) tools, I go into the whole affair with a little reservation. Overall, I’ve been very lucky with my vintage tool purchasing, and I really only came across one clunker that was unworkable. Last week I ordered and received a E.C. Emmerich shoulder plane from Highland Woodworking. Though I had managed to pick up several tools over the past few months, this is the first new (as in not pre-owned) tool I’ve purchased in quite a while. I went with the Emmerich for several reasons, one being the company’s reputation, another being the cost was within my budget, and most importantly they offered the exact style of rabbet plane I was looking for. This was little bit of a gamble in the sense that there are several respected makers from whom I could have purchased a rabbet plane without reservation. E.C. Emmerich has a good reputation, but they are a bit of an enigma here in America. I had never seen one of their tools in person aside from a jointer plane which was in a case, and not touchable. Still, I took the chance, and I am extremely happy that I did.
When the plane arrived I inspected it and to the best of my judgment everything looked great at first look. The sole was flat and smooth, there were no dings or nicks, and the iron looked good. I planned on using the plane right out of the box, but at the last second I decided to give the iron the whole treatment. I flattened the back, starting with the “fine” grit on the diamond plate, then using the 1000/8000 waterstones. The back of the iron polished up nicely and very quickly, there is a very minor hollow which I left just as it was. I then honed the bevel using just the water stones. All in all it took less than 10 minutes, and it was an easy going 10 at that. I was impressed with the first honing, a good sign.
To give the plane a test run I started with a piece of scrap pine. I scored across the grain and proceeded to make a 1 inch wide rabbet. In what seemed like a matter of seconds I had a smooth and even rabbet, easily the nicest I ever produced with a hand tool. The shavings were neat and full width even though I set the depth of the iron just by feel. I then used the plane on the long grain of some walnut. The walnut dado was already started, as it is a piece of scrap I want to make into a screwdriver rack, so I didn’t need to score it. Once again the plane produced a nice, smooth bottom. At this point I am very impressed.
Here are some initial findings: The wedge is much larger/wider than a traditional wedge, which I find to be a very pleasant surprise. I don’t have hands the size of the incredible hulk, but they aren’t small either (nor are they as nimble as they used to be). I’ve always had a bit of trouble with the wedges on vintage wood planes and could never seem to get a good grip on them. The shape and size of the wedge on the Emmerich plane make it very easy to handle for those of us whose hands aren’t as dainty as the average person. The iron is also heavier than a vintage iron, which is pretty much common place on most new planes, but the tang is rounded at the top, which to me is smart, as it should help limit mushrooming/deforming of the tang from setting it with a hammer. And one of the more impressive features is the round metal strike plate at the back of the plane. I have never, ever, been a fan of striking the back of a wood plane with a hammer or mallet to retract the iron/ loosen the wedge, nor will I ever be. No matter what, when you strike a wood plane with a mallet you are damaging it and there is no way to get around it. I understand that it has been done that way for hundreds of years, but I would be willing to bet that many planes were damaged or broken in the process. The metal strike plate appears to be a simple solution to an age old problem. I’m not sure if it has ever been done before, but this is the first I’ve seen of it. Lastly, the plane is made of hornbeam, the same wood used in many chisel handles. I love the feel, and though I don’t necessarily like to use the term “warm” to describe it, that is exactly what it is, warm and comfortable in the hand.
Though I am less experienced with rabbet planes than I am with other woodworking tools, I like to think that I know a good tool when I use one. This plane is easily the best rabbet, or shoulder style plane I’ve ever used. After using it for just a few hours I am hooked, and during that time I could not find one single complaint. The plane is well made, comfortable, easy to adjust, and it works very well; I couldn’t be happier that I purchased it. This is among the best money I’ve ever spent on a woodworking tool, and only $100 at that, including shipping. E.C. Emmerich may not be as well known in America as other tool makers, but they have a new fan in me.
I’m back from the first weekend of the chest class – and it went very well. Now I have to plane a slew of oak, like the students were doing all weekend.
But the family took a walk on bare earth today, and heard a bunch of loud crows – kept looking up to see what the trouble was…but it turned out to be right in front of us – this juvenile red tailed hawk, sitting on a fence post. We walked right near it, without spooking it. Here’s when I thought I was really close to it –
then the hawk just wouldn’t be spooked. So we left, and when we turned for home – still there.
closer still. I’ve got close to juvies before – for some reason, there’s times when they don’t care about us.
There are so many details to a finished piece that the process of readying a table for delivery almost becomes a subconscious march of affairs. As your hands become trained to spot the various stages each element of the piece present, you begin a dance to release it from the shop.
With the unexpected days off I've started the bath vanity joinery, It is pretty standard stuff, the front top stretcher will have a dovetail and the bottom stretcher double M/T. The sides and back will have split M/T joints which I expect will be pinned.
Here are few photos. The first is of one side of one of the dovetails. It needs the nasty bits cleaned but other than that is is ready to fit straight from the saw:
In honor of designer, poet, novelist and social activist William Morris, who was born on this day in 1834 (d. 1896), I give you this Shop of the Crafters Morris Chair article, by Christopher Schwarz. “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” — William Morris This chair is (clearly) far more in the Arts & Crafts vein than 1860s […]
|this is an encouraging sign by my back door|
|middle shelf has cooked|
The hole in the sound board is centered side to side but it's about a 1/4" higher than the center point. I don't think that this will have any influence on the sound but it looks better to my eye. I centered the one on the prototype but I like this slight off center look.
|router action upcoming|
|groove for the plywood back|
|scrap piece of 1/8" plywood|
|the banding surface is bugging me|
|it's proud of the surface a wee bit|
|planing the banding smooth with my violin plane|
|see the difference|
|experiment in gluing|
|samples are cooking|
|hat and test banding cooking away|
What is a funambulist?
answer - a tightrope walker
One of the dominant aesthetics in the interior design world of my early days in the furniture trade in Palm Beach County, Florida, was the lightening or even whitening of wood furniture and paneling, presumably to reflect the bright sunniness that was numbingly constant outside, especially in the winter when those with the financial means escaped the cold, grim climes of (mostly) New England. This was manifest in what decorators called “pickled” finishes for wood surfaces. During my recent luncheon presentation in Palm Beach, one of the topics my hosts requested was to address this one.
Traditionally this was applied over either oak or cypress, and I recall finishing what seemed to be acres of it. In fact the “whitening” of these woods was accomplished by two unrelated techniques.
One technique involves the deposition of white material into the grain of the wood, and the other requires the deposition of a thin uniform layer of white translucence over the entire surface. Though I executed both techniques on both oak and cypress, you will see from the results that one technique worked well for one wood, and the other, the other.
“Liming” of wood requires the deposition of, well, lime onto the wood, or more precisely, into the wood. In these samples I planed and scraped the panels, then lightly scrubbed them with a brass brush to wallow out the grain. In the case of oak, it resulted in the emphasis of the ring-porous nature of the wood, while with the cypress it created a muddy, unremarkable effect.
Once the surface was ready I took some hydrated lime from the hardware store and prepared some very lean gesso from the lime, water, and about 2-3% 315 gws glue. I first soaked overnight and cooked the glue in the water, then added powdered lime to the desired consistency.
This was brushed onto the surface, making sure to work it down into the grain, and allowed to dry completely.
Since the gesso was very lean, I was able to remove the excess gesso, that is the gesso not down in the grain, with an abrasive pad rather than the coarse burlap of days gone by.
Following that I applied a single coating of paste wax, and when that was hard I buffed it with a piece of clean cloth. This is a nerve wracking step the first time you do it as the paste wax saturates the lime deposit, making it disappear. Never fear, as the solvent in the paste wax flashes off, the white will slowly emerge again. The effect in oak is dramatic.
For cypress, the presentation is fairly undistinguished.
Fortunately, there is a technique that works wonderfully on cypress.
Yesterday I posted a picture of a Dutch Tool Chest I’m making. It’s just a busywork project, something to do for fun. It was decidedly less fun when I discovered that I’d done the joinery for one end bass-ackwards. Not really the end of the world, this is the cheap common pine. It’s also slightly cupped, even after flattening it, it cupped again.
And it’s not like I need a tool chest. Having said that, I’ll probably end up building two or three of these.
So, I cut one set of pins off, and re-cut them. No biggie. The sawing went much better, it helped that I put up more shop lights in the intervening time.
Last week, we shot the cover photo for the August issue. It’s a classic English tool chest sized for travel (though it holds almost a full complement of furniture making tools, sans moulding planes). The build was a collaboration between Christopher Schwarz, who designed and built the chest, and Jameel Abraham, who made the 3D marquetry panel for the lid’s interior (and Peter Ross, who made the hand-forged hardware.) Last […]
This post hit me while I was filing and sanding the handles on a pair of kettlebells today. That's good news for me, because it means the urge to write is coming back.
For the unaware, kettlebells are basically cannonballs with handles on them, used for weight lifting exercises. Some of the core exercises in kettlebell work involve grabbing the handle, and swinging the weights in a specific way, in some cases for up to 10 minutes or longer. (I'll get there someday.) It is thus of paramount importance that the handles are in good condition, lest you get blisters, or tear up your calluses. Rough spots in the castings are the primary culprits, as is the seam in the handle where the halves are joined on some of the cast iron models... like these ones. So, those rough or high spots need to be filed away, and sanded down. And as I was filing and sanding my merry way along this morning, it hit me, that it reminded me very much of some of my favorite tools... almost all of which are older.
I have an old, round-side Bedrock plane that has a hang hole drilled in it, the japanning is a mess, it doesn't have the original lever cap, and there's a broken spot on the back of the sidewall on one side. I tuned it up and tweaked it, and in general, it's one of the smoothest operating planes I own. And the broken spot is actually a plus: On most of my other planes, that's the part that digs into the side of my hand while I'm working, inevitably resulting in a blister if I have a lot of planing to do that day.
That's why this plane gets plenty of attention, and my customized Lie-Nielsen (Blade alignment screws machined into the sidewalls down by the sole, a Holtey S53 iron, as well as other more minor tweaks) sat on the shelf. The L-N is a very sexy tool, and I love the way it handles. But because it doesn't handle quite as well as that beaten up old Bedrock, it's now up on eBay.
Some of my other old tools are treasures, because of the patterns in the patination. I have an old, borderline usable wooden jack plane, that has light spots in the patina from where the plane had clearly been gripped and worked with, for many, many board feet. And it shows me where the pressure was landing, and just how the grip was aligning on the plane. That tells me how the previous owner... whose long experience was documented on this tool... had been holding the thing, and whether or not I'm doing it like he did. That's a lot of information.
Proprioception is defined as the sense of relative position of neighboring parts of the body, and strength of effort being employed in movement. In sports, and in some other skilled endeavors, learning the 'right' motions is facilitated by having your coach stand behind you, grab your elbows, or arms, or whatever, and then guide you through the motions. Proprioception cuts through the chatter, and you learn how the motion is supposed to feel, without being distracted by the horribly botched attempt to explain it in words.
This old plane is basically the next best thing. Lining my hands up with the markings in the patina, I can feel how the plane is 'supposed' to be used.
And that circles around to the issue of what something looks like, how valuable it is, and how valuable it's perceived to be. Having worked for chain retailers for 3 years, I saw a lot of tools in our catalogs, and in our stores. In the catalog, many of them looked very sexy. In person, in the store, when I compared them mentally to my own favorite tools, it was different. Lacking studio lighting and makeup, they looked slightly less sexy than they did in the catalog. And in the hand, not all of them felt the way that they should. They still looked pretty good on the shelf. But they didn't feel right. By comparison, some of my older tools... like that old Jack plane... look ugly in a way that my Army Drill Sergeant would probably have described as "Uglier than a bag full of smashed A-holes."
(Apologies to my more delicate readers. Basic training is a rarified experience.)
But all of that ugly aside, the tools in question just feel right. And they work well. They'd never sell in a catalog, and they'll fetch a fraction of a pittance on eBay... But the real value of a tool for the end user doesn't derive from how good it looks. The tool's value is in how well it works.
(That said, the tool's value for the online or catalog retailer does derive from how good it looks, because that correlates directly with sales. Lacking any other input than a picture, a pretty tool will sell better than an ugly tool.)
And this extends to the furniture I love to make. (I'm down these days, but not out.) I love big, heavy stuff, made of solid wood, that feels SOLID. Furniture that doesn't have the vibration and wobble that brand new Ikea products exhibit. Furniture that's heavy when it should be heavy, like a hayrake table, or light when it should be light... like a ladderback chair. I LOVE the feel of a finish that's topped with a film of (properly applied) paste wax. French polish is sexy and all, but when my fingers glide on the surface, and it just feels right... That's not something that can be faked. Properly broken edges aren't as crisp looking as a lot of the edges on the tables that I've used before, but they feel right.
I suppose from here I could devolve the conversation into a talk on the problems inherent in an internet catalog economy, the lack of personal, or at least personalized treatment, 'real' craftsmanship, or any of the other mantras that come up in woodworking circles.
Instead I'm going to close up, grab those 'bag of ugly' kettlebells (that feel much better, now) and get back to work.
Sometimes I will use a guide to chop, sometimes not. This was one of the times I've used a guide, mostly because I had one of the correct size. I could be wrong but I think it may be a little quicker to use a guide than not because once set up you can pretty much chop on autopilot.
Here is a photo of setting the guide up and checking for square:
|trinket tray divider|
|the other half dividers|
|quick peek at the cradle|
|cut a new hat for the cradle|
|knifing the bevel on the middle shelf|
|start with the #4|
|ready to check it out|
|off a bit|
|I'm happy with this|
|layout for the middle shelf|
|I have some trimming to do|
|dry fit is good|
|bevel for the hat|
Then I thought maybe one is wider then the others. That idea was tossed aside because I sawed all three on the tablesaw at the same time.
I then went out into La-La land checking the cradle for square in every possible position I could. From the back I could see that the cradle was cocked without the need of verifying it with a square. So I thought maybe the 3 pieces are all square but edges aren't. Maybe opposite edges are slanted and cocking the sides out of square. Nope, all edges were square too. On a bright note, I was able to use a clamp to pull the back of the cradle into square.
|went back to square one and I checked all 3|
|I can get two clamped but not all three|
|measured the same at top, middle, and bottom|
|this one and the hat are a 1/16 shy|
|spreader at the bottom|
|new hat and new sound hole board|
This works out doubly for me. First it will keep the bottom at the same distance as the top hat is. And secondly, it will give me a place to glue the bottom of the back to.
|glue up time|
What I did was accept that this is going to be a multiple day glue up. Period, and there was no getting around it. The first step I did was to glue the middle shelf. I left the sound board and hat in place dry to hold the cradle square while the middle shelf cooked. After the middle shelf had cooked for an hour, I glued the bottom spreader. tomorrow I should be able to glue the sound hole board and the hat. After that it'll be the back and bottom.
|test piece for the bottom|
|pretty good for just an eyeball|
|sharpened two more molding irons|
|one is a bit larger then the other - but the profiles are similar|
|I do like shiny|
|different size but both are sharp and shiny now|
|6 coats of shellac|
|I got two pieces dry laid|
|easy to cut to length with a sharp rap of the chisel|
I still have to pick out a glue to use for this. I haven't had good luck with instant glue so I'm reluctant to use it. This is a very thin edge to glue with hide or yellow glue and I don't what to deal with drips and runs. The dividers are already finished and I also have to contend with the blue velvet bottoms.
The front runner at this point is contact cement. I am not a fan of this stuff and I have used before so I have some experience with it. But I haven't used it for anything this small. I have some time left to think about this and see if any other choices pop up. I still have all the fun to come with sanding and scraping the top lid.
Who was the only actor to win an Oscar for playing Santa Claus?
answer - Edmund Gwenn - Best supporting actor in Miracle on 34th Street in 1947
I had some 1 x 12 pine boards, and a recently completed Moxon vise, so I thought “why not build a Dutch Tool Chest”? As I’m putting it together, I am starting to question the usefulness of this chest…
Once I finished with documenting and photographing the mirror frame, with special attention given to the areas of fracture and delaminated tortoiseshell, I began the process of cleaning it.
Like a legion of its brethren, this mirror had undergone a longstanding and typical process of being oiled periodically in order to spruce-up the appearance. In this particular instance, I believe the oil used was olive oil. Unfortunately, this process also contaminates every presentation surface, and if there are any cracks through which the oil can wick, the gluing margins as well. Equally unfortunate is that oiling tortoiseshell provides at best a temporary luster, while producing a long-lasting gooey residue that adheres airborne particles to the surface.
To address this I cleaned the entire surface of the mirror frame three times with naphtha on soft disposable shop towel pieces, until I was satisfied that the surfaces were clean. Somewhat more challenging was the incursion of the oil underneath the areas of lifted tortoiseshell. For these I not only needed to dissolve the oil but the transfer it to a spongy material in order to imbibe the oil into the sponge.
Once again I used the blue paper shop towels, cutting small pieces to gently slide into the openings of the fractured and lifted tortoiseshell with a thin spatula. Once in place, I used a dropper to wick naphtha into the paper sponge and let that wick up to the end, underneath the delaminated tortoiseshell, contacting, dissolving, and transferring the oil into the disposable sponge.
After a couple iterations of this, with two or three hours of contact each time, I let it dry thoroughly and tested one area and found it to be adequately cleaned in order to proceed.
I’m eager to wrap up the Moxon vise project and put it to work. Remember, this is an enabling step toward the next marquetry project. And if you followed that logic, you’re in the right place here.
Here is the high level view on this progress report. I’d done the woodworking bits already. Chopped hexagonal mortises for the front nuts, glued on the brace for the back, cut the decorative details on the ends and drilled holes for the acme rod. Check the comments on the last post for a great tip for inexpensive Acme rods and nuts.
So the next steps were really about final fit up, sanding (because that makes a great blog post) and doing the little bit of metalwork. My first step was to fix my TIG welder. It’s been down for probably 8 months, and I haven’t welded in probably a year or more. A far cry from when I had a small manufacturing business and welded nearly every day. That’s a lot of words to say “I’m out of practice”.
I’ll need to do some more metalwork projects to get back in practice. I’m sure I need some welded brackets and what-not for the shop.
Once the welder was repaired I made up the wing nuts as I had them in the plans. One large nut with two 1.5″ long pieces of 1/3″ round bar tipped up 30 degrees, and two 1″ steel balls. My welding on the was a little sloppy and inconsistent, but by the last bit I was starting to get into the swing again.
While I was working on making the handles I also sanded the vise and started applying finish. I’m experimenting with Tru-Oil after reading about it on the Benchcrafted blog. I’m always suspicious of finishes, after reading Flexner testing finishes it seems a lot of finishes are snake oil. I bought a bottle of Tru-Oil, and I really like it. This is probably my new favorite wiping varnish finish. It build fast and dries really quickly.
Since this is a shop appliance, not furniture or a musical instrument like Jameel makes, I sanded to 220 just to remove tool marks. Then I wiped on two thin coats, and let that dry. I sanded with 320, then wiped on two more thin coats. I rubbed with 0000 steel wool, and wiped on one last coat. More than enough gloss, and with finer grits this would be even nicer. The thin coats seem to tack up very quickly — in 5 or 10 minutes — and dry to the touch within an hour.
Then I installed the brass escutcheon plates I’d made. I’m liking it. You’ll notice I did add a mild stopped chamfer for saw clearance whencutting half blind dovetails. I also cold-blued the wing nuts, I like the finish.
Then I reinstalled the screws and the wing nuts I made, it seems to work pretty well. I need to glue some leather to the front jaw to help with clamping and then try this out — I wanted to give the finish overnight to fully cure.
It’s not a perfect piece, I got some small chip out where I was rasping the cyma recta detail (backer board next time Joe!), and there are a few other details that could have been better, but for a shop appliance I’m really pleased with it.
Glamor shots in use to come.
For the past few months I’ve been in the market for a rabbet plane, partially because I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket, but mostly because I need one to do some of the things I am planning for the future. The problem was I couldn’t seem to find a decent one on the used market, and when I did somebody always beat me to the punch. While I’ve always wanted to purchase the Veritas Skew Rabbet Plane (essentially a metal moving fillister), I also wanted a “traditional” wood version just because I like how they look and feel. There still are some makers of these planes: TIme Warp Tool Works, Matt Bickford, and Philly Planes to name a few, but my funds were limited to around $100, and this led me to the E.C. Emmerich web page.
I’ve known about E.C. Emmerich for some time. For those of you who do not, they are a German company that still makes many traditional woodworking tools. They have a good reputation, but the problem was I couldn’t find a distributor here in America that carried their full line; most seemed to carry their Primus Planes, but I was look for something more traditional. Eventually, I found that Highland Woodworking offered the Rabbet Plane I was looking for, so I used up the last of my gift card and purchased it this week. The plane arrived in just two days (way to go USPS!) And though I haven’t used it as of yet, I can say that it is a beautifully made plane. The sole is Lignum Vitae and the body hornbeam. The iron is flat and razor sharp, and appears to be ready to use out of the box though I will hone it. The plane has a solid feel to it that I like. The only thing that has bothered me thus far is the lack of instructions for the care of the plane. Their is an oil finish on the body, but I have no idea what that finish is. Generally, I would use linseed oil to clean and maintain a wood plane, and I’m under the assumption that this plane would be no different, but I would like to be sure. I will check out the ECE web page later to see what they recommend.
This past Winter, which finally ended on Friday (with 6 inches of snow falling for one last sucker-punch) has been a strange one for me in the woodworking sense. I didn’t build much furniture, but I managed to pick up some new tools, which I hadn’t planned on doing, as well as breathe some new life into tools I already had. I can say in all honesty that my plane collection is nearing completion. I would say that a plough plane and a set of #6 hollow/rounds will finish it off and leave me with every tool I need to do anything I need. Now, I just need a little bit of nice weather so I can get those tools working.