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This article first appeared in the December 2013 issue of The Highland Woodturner.
There was an accident involving a ceramic coffee container, which was a gift from my in-laws. More specifically, I accidentally dropped and shattered the lid of the container. After pondering this tragic accident, I realized I could turn a replacement lid.
When I injured my shoulder last Decemeber, I was 96% of the way through a set of KS shoulder planes. I was on a roll, I was totally in the zone and it all came to a grinding halt. All that remained were the chamfers on the smallest size - the KS.5.
I walked past that plane for months, wondering and waiting for the day that I could get back to working on it. I knew I wasn’t ready most of the time, but there was a moment where frustration (and my shoulder) started to feel like the time was getting close.
I was also really worried that the chamfers on the last plane would not match the first 4. I knew my pace and method of work had changed significantly and wasn’t sure if that would factor in or not. I am thankful that pace and strength didn’t seem to change anything. It was a real thrill to be able to unite the full set of completed planes.
Construction Lumber and Just a Few Tools
What is the best beginner workbench? Wow, that’s a loaded question! Its one I get all the time. Usually I tell beginning woodworkers to hold off on building a bench right away because they don’t know what they don’t know yet and a workbench isn’t actually needed to get started.
For example, I’ve built a few things in the garage of my in law’s place in Maine using a sawhorse and a rickety table. But the time has come to build a proper workbench in that space. This workbench is designed to be possibly the first bench that a new woodworker would build. Though it could also end up being the workbench you use for many years as it is rock solid and highly functional. It is built using just construction lumber, 7 boards to be exact, and just 4 tools.
The beginner’s workbench should be simple to build, yet highly customizable for the future. It should be a rock solid, blank chassis that doesn’t require a lot of lumber or tools to build.
Its a straightforward built that introduces the new woodworker to some key concepts while not sweating the details that could make this project drag on for months and months. While hardly a new design, I think the approach I took to it could enable the brand new woodworker with no tools and no bench to actually get started building and come out of this experience a better woodworker
Full Build Coming Soon...Semester .5 at The Hand Tool School will be a back to basics course designed to speak to the brand new woodworker who has no tools and has possibly never picked up a saw or plane.
It will consist of a few introductory lessons and then many applied lessons in the course of building 3 essential projects for their shop. Its in production now and scheduled to be released this Fall. Watch this space or subscribe to my email list to be the first to hear about it when it become available.
First off I would buy another of these in a heart beat even though I only have one days worth of experience with them. I've got other replacement Stanley irons, one from Hock and another from tools from Japan. The Hock is an excellent iron. Good steel, takes and holds a good edge, but it is thicker than the original Stanley as is the one from Japan. The Japanese one I haven't tried yet but I expect it to rival the Hock iron.
Let me get this out before I go any further. I am not a plane iron expert nor an expert in metallurgy. This is just my opinion on a subject, right, wrong, or indifferent. For well over one hundred years Stanley made plane irons thin. I have yet to read anything saying that thin irons are prone to chattering. It is my belief that thin irons are/were more difficult to make from what I have read on the process of making them. The thinness while hardening them could cause them to warp. Stanley must have found a way to control it because they made boatload after boatload of these irons. Thicker irons don't have the warping tendencies that thinner iron do.
And this is my big opinion on why thicker irons came into use. It was because they were easier to manufacture. Now that they were saving money in the manufacturing costs they had to justify why they were selling thicker irons. This is where the marketing gurus came up with the thicker irons don't chatter BS.
I will always go with thin because of my opinion on thick vs thin,. The couple of times I recall (a bazillion moons ago when I was belly button high to a 7 foot cigar store indian) getting chatter was because I had the iron set too deep. It wasn't because it was thin. It was operator error.
|Ray Iles spare iron for the 5 1/2|
|it isn't square|
|see the out of square|
|the Ray Iles on the left and the Stanley on the right|
The Ray Iles iron is 0.099 inches thick - 2.49mm thick
The Stanley iron is 0.0735 inches thick - 1.89mm thick
The difference between them is 0.0255 inches - 0.6 mm. I did all the measurements just behind the bevel on both irons.
|I have to road test it now|
|starting to get shavings|
|a little too thick|
|from thick to wispy|
|thin stock in the vise|
|I prefer the fractional calipers|
|checking to see if it is laminated|
|same thing on both sides|
|front side of the iron is the same as the back|
|might as well see how flat the back is|
|these feel better today|
Who is David Adkins?
answer - it is the birth name of the comedian Sinbad
My exploration of seating continues with a couple of Shaker inspired stools. Many, many moons ago, long before GPS, we made a trip to Nashville for a friend’s wedding. We had very little money at the time and knew this would be the only trip for that year. Unfortunately our time in Nashville was less than pleasant, other than the wedding. Anyway, on the trip home we began looking for any stop that would salvage the trip. My wife scanned over the road atlas and stumbled on the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill just outside of Lexington, KY. So, on a whim, we routed ourselves to the village.
We arrived late afternoon on a Saturday and were pleasantly surprised that they had overnight rooms. As luck would have it there was a room available. Not only that, they had a dining hall that served family style meals. So we moved into our room and walked to the dining hall and had a very pleasant dinner by candlelight.
The next day we toured the village and I poured over the furniture and buildings as far as they would let me. This was long before I had any tools or even a shop space, but the desire, the desire to build was there. The last stop before leaving the village was the gift shop and there I bought three little books of scaled drawings of Shaker furniture.
That’s a bit of back story, but I thumb thru these books every now and again for inspiration. This time around the stools caught my eye. Actually the rocker has my interest, but I figure the stools will be a good way to get my head around the process. These are simple stools and should nestle nicely with the kitchen island that I converted my old workbench into.
I like most things Shaker, there is an elegant simplicity in all that they built. The one thing I have never been a fan of though is the woven tape seats. Seats woven with muted earth tones are OK, but the brighter colors just look out of place to me. So my stools will have seats woven with fiber rush. It looks simple to accomplish and I personally like the look.
After playing around with the proportions and a little time at the drafting board, here is what I came up with.
Not too different from the original Shaker design, just tweaked slightly. I’m building these stools with what I have on hand. The legs will be red oak and the stretchers will be white oak. The seats will be woven from fiber (paper) rush. I’ve gotten off to start turning the eight required legs. The goal is to crank out one leg after work every evening. So far, so good. I’m three for three. I’m actually getting pretty quick at it. Quick being a relative term. The story stick is a handy thing for this repetitive work too.
I deviated from the Shaker simplicity and added a single bead to the leg as well as a little wood burning. You know I can’t not add some wood burning. Just one more reason I would have made a lousy Shaker.
I so enjoy designing and building pieces and, as I always have, it’s predictable that I always will. Whereas I always got a buzz from people choosing me to design pieces for their home or their office, and then of course making them too, I now have something even more special in my work. It’s …
This is an excerpt from “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years: Volume IV” published by Lost Art Press.
From the earliest pre-historic ages man has tried to express himself in some form of decoration, first in flint and then in wood. To a large extent he is dated and the degree of his culture determined by what he has left to trace his existence.
Woodcarving has been a feature in every civilisation, and all through the centuries we find that days, weeks and often months might be spent on the knife decoration of some weapon, tool, paddle, or domestic utensil. It is interesting to note, however, that, when carving first became a recognised craft in Europe, it was devoted to church woodwork long before it reached the humble home. In our own country little carved furniture can be traced further back than the sixteenth century although many earlier church coffers, chests, and seats with carved decoration are to be found.
Just, too, as woodwork design was borrowed from models in stone, the carpenter in his carving followed the prevalent Gothic mode. Early Tudor carving is almost exclusively Gothic in character (Fig. 1, A and B). Occasionally we find crude representations of figures, or of horses, deer, or birds, and sometimes a medallion with a bas-relief head; but as a rule the carver, timid of freedom, restricted himself to geometrical patterns (Fig. 1, C, D, E). Of these there is a great variety, many showing marked ingenuity, but it was not till the Elizabethan period that we have something of the freedom indicated in the type of design shown at F. The “linenfold” panel had been common from an earlier period, but in Elizabethan times cupboards, buffets, four-post bedsteads were freely carved, the bulbous form of pillar and leg (Fig. 3, K) being a feature of the period.
Throughout the different periods it is instructive to note how well adapted the decorative carving was to the general design. In early Tudor days the carpenter trusted largely to simple incised work or gouge cuts, and little was attempted in the way of modelling. Even during Queen Elizabeth’s time carving was kept in low relief, and it was not till the somewhat heavier Dutch influence was felt in the Jacobean age that we find bolder scroll and leaf work.
Mouldings were freely carved, their differing contours offering scope for individual enterprise. As the tool kit developed work tended to become more delicate, till in time certain cabinet makers specialised in carving. The amazing work of Grinling Gibbons in the the seventeenth century may be regarded as exceptional. Influenced by Italian and French modes he was, in a sense, before his time, and no other English woodcarver has ever reached his fame. The brothers Adam introduced a new technique towards the end of the eighteenth century, and their delicate husk festoons and pendants in conjunction with graceful vases, paterae and fluting are more typically British than any other form of decoration bequeathed to us (see Fig. 2).
Has the carver disappeared? Practically so—at least for the moment. During the nineteenth century he had to rely chiefly on the designer who, discarding earlier British motifs, showed a leaning towards the conventional and more elaborate Italian models. The introduction of manufactured pressed carvings shocked the purist; and later, when “strip detail” came to take the place of hand-carved mouldings, the craft became suspect. This, with the high cost of labour after the 1914 war, drove the woodcarver from the field—an irreparable loss till, perchance, the world again becomes rich.
Turning. There can be little doubt that, to the potter’s wheel, we owe the origin of wood turning. The earliest form of pole lathe, too, has lingered to the present day and may still be found in our woodlands. In the development of wood turning one point to observe is that it did not follow architectural features in stone so closely as, say, cornices, pediments, and mouldings. The craftsman soon discovered that, in wood, much more was possible than in stone. Thus, unless the design was definitely based on some architectural model, the woodworker struck out on a line of his own. This became more noticeable when domestic furniture came to be decorated. On ecclesiastical woodwork the line of the architectural column, tapering from plinth to capital, was followed; but, even from early Tudor days, we find that, in the case of turned legs, the taper was inverted. This is seen in examples such as A, B, E, G and H at Fig. 3. When, however, the turning took the form of a baluster (see D) the taper was usually reversed, or (as in K) the columnar part kept throughout at the same diameter. This freedom from the rigidity of classical Greek and Roman models has been a feature in turning down through the centuries.
In an article which is a mere sketch it is impossible to do more than indicate the features of different periods. Examples, however, are well worth close study whenever one has the opportunity. Very few people understand the problem involved in planning a graceful piece of turning. Everything depends of line and proportion. One thing to remember is that the diameter is the same from whatever angle the column is viewed. On paper, in elevation, a 2 in. square leg looks the same as a turned one of 2 in. diameter; but, when seen from an angle in the finished piece, the turned one appears to be only about two-thirds as heavy as the other. This the designer often overlooks, although he is more apt to make the square leg too heavy than the turned one too light.
The early craftsmen played for safety, and thus in Tudor, Elizabethan and early Jacobean days we find turnings of the “bulbous” type which bordered on the heavy side. A change emerged during the reigns of William and Mary and Queen Anne, till, later, Sheraton gave us examples which, in delicacy, have never been surpassed. Early Stuart work came largely under Flemish influence, but the typical Jacobean “twist” turning, continued through Queen Anne’s reign, gave us a form which has ever since been popular. The nineteenth century failed to produce any new pleasing model, the tendency being to accumulate members without any real meaning. Mass production rather cheapened the craft, furniture makers finding it easier to purchase a set of stock legs than to turn new ones from designs of their own. For this reason it is well to keep before us the old models in which every detail was considered in its relation to the whole piece.
— Meghan Bates
Filed under: Charles H. Hayward at The Woodworker
A workbench designed for hand tool woodworkers but made (partially) with a CNC. Each bench features a unique 3D carved leg vise. Here’s a video introduction into how they were made. The BARN workbench was designed for the Bainbridge Island Artisan Resource Network. BARN is a Seattle area community group that built a wonderful community facility for artisans to share resources, education, and workspace. To give them a hand, I […]
Traditional chairmaking starts with a shaving horse and a drawknife. Used with both green and dried wood, woodworkers have relied on these two tools for centuries. Simple to use, there are just a few things to be aware of before getting to work. In this short video, Windsor chairmaker Elia Bizzarri gives a valuable overview of what features are important when choosing a shaving horse and talks about proper grip, […]
In this episode of 360 with 360WoodWorking, American Association of Woodturners (AAW) board member David Heim shares the benefits of membership to AAW, discusses an upcoming AAW event, which is held in Kansas City on June 23 – 25 in 2017, and explains what his responsibilities are as a member of the board.
Join 360 Woodworking every Thursday for a lively discussion on everything from tools to techniques to wood selection (and more).
I had posted a query on the Saw Mill Creek site about plow planes. I have the Record 405 (Stanley 45 equivalent) and it has 26 irons. I have only used 3 grooving irons so far. I like it and I don't like it. I am a single purpose use tool type guy and don't mind that. The 405 does a lot of things and is a multipurpose tool. It can be finicky and pain to set sometimes but it does work once those frustrations are dealt with.
I wanted to get some feed back on guys that have used a 405 or 45 and also used the Lee Valley small plane or other plow planes. And as an added bonus, also had used a wooden plow plane. I am letting the 405 go to greener pastures shortly. After reading through the comments, it became clear to me that small LV plow was a favorite. Didn't get any comments on wooden plow planes.
I had seen and fondled the Lie-Nielsen plow plane at the Second Hand Tool gathering in Amana a few years ago. It was a damn good looking plane. Lots of mass with a great presence in the hands. I haven't heard anything more about it since then. I'll probably be dead before it hits the street so I pulled the trigger on the Lee Valley small plow plane. I looked at the Lee Valley big plow plane coming soon but I like the simpler, uncluttered look of the smaller plow plane.
Ken Hatch left a comment saying I wouldn't regret the LV plane. He uses it and he also has experience with a Stanley 45 and 46. I respect his opinion and I pretty much had my mind made up after reading it. I would like to have the LN version but I'm not waiting. I should have the LV maybe by monday. After I get it I will offer my 405 for sale first on the blog and then elsewhere.
|the shelves are clammy feeling too|
|cleared customs ok|
|iron for a 5 1/2 and a Preston spokeshave|
|it's about 2 1/4" wide|
|almost as thin as the Stanley|
|ground at 25°|
|don't like this|
|old Preston iron on the left and new replacement Ray Iles iron on the right|
|the slot sides and top cutout line up (new on top of the old)|
The slot on the Ray Iles is bit longer and the concave slot at the top lines up perfectly with the old iron underneath.
|it's too wide for the Preston chamfering spokeshave|
|new spokeshave iron on the left and Preston chamfer iron on the right|
|the two slot long sides line up|
|replacement chamfer iron?|
|just a few spots on the front to touch up|
|small detail brush|
For Mike Hamilton: I'm an idiot because I removed your comment when I thought I was publishing it. My apologies for that mind fart. If I remember you asked if I was going to bake the frog? This is oil based black enamel paint and I won't be baking it. On the flip side of the coin, can you bake this to make it more durable? Now I have a bug in my ear to silence.
Who was Gary Knox Bennett?
answer - he invented the roach clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFaot87a7CM)
In 1808 Thomas Jefferson wanted a comfortable chair to rest his aging body. He ordered three Campeachy chairs from New Orleans. The chairs were sent by the most efficient and speedy means of the day: by ship. Unfortunately, the ship was lost at sea. Years later another order was placed, the ship arrived in Richmond, Virginia and Jefferson had his Campeachy chairs (or as we know them Campeche chairs).
From the earliest days of the American colonies carpenters, sawyers, shipwrights and other craftsmen were recruited from Britain and other parts of Europe to build everything for the new settlements. Ships of all sizes were needed to move goods and passengers along the coastline, along rivers and bays. Major coastal and river cities, smaller settlements and plantations all had shipyards to build and repair all manner of boats.
All the shipbuilding tools should be familiar to the modern shipwright or any woodworker. It is thought that when Ake Ralamb started out publishing his scientific encyclopedia he was not saying these tools are new, rather these are the tools that have been traditionally used for shipbuilding.
Masts were generally made at a separate site from the shipyard and required another set of tools. The complexity of the construction depended on whether or not the mast was made using a single stick.
Here is an excerpt on making a single stick mast from ‘Masting, Mast-making and Rigging of Ships- Ninth Edition’ by Robert Kipping, 1864:
If you find that hard to follow, Charles Desmond’s ‘Wooden Ship-Building’ from 1919 has a simplified description of making a spar by essentially the same method:
“The spar is first worked to shape by hewing in the manner shown [1.]
…and when this has been done, and the stick is fair, the sparmaker dubs off the square corners and makes portion of the stick that has to be rounded eight sided. Next he makes it sixteen sided, by again taking off the corners, and after this has been done the stick is rounded and made perfectly smooth [2.]
Of course as a spar has a rounded taper from butt to point of greatest diameter, and from this point to top, it is necessary that sparmaker “lay on” longitudinal taper lines very accurately and work them.”
If the tree procured for a mast was examined and found not sound, or as the supply of massive mast trees was exhausted, another method was used to make masts. As Robert Kipping phrased it in his treatise, “They [the masts] are therefore composed of several pieces united into one body…seems to fulfill the old adage of “a bundle of sticks that could not be broken when so united.”
The Library of Congress has a short article on the history of the old (and very long) Mast House at the Norfolk Navy Yard. The description of composite mast fabrication using coaks (scarf joints) begins on page 5 and you can find it here.
When our waterfronts were crowded with sailing ships and the wooden masts and yards swayed as though blown by the wind the oft-used “a forest of masts” was a fitting description. Although there aren’t as many wooden ships on the water they are still made, and with tools and methods that haven’t changed much in the last few centuries.
Filed under: Historical Images
When I got to inspect the two Roman workbenches at the Saalburg fort outside Frankfurt, Germany, my hands shook so much that I had to take a break. Close contact with ancient woodworking technology unsettles me.
Why do I become a blubbering idiot trying to kiss Kim Shoulders for the first time on the 8th-grade dance floor while they play Little River Band’s “Cool Change?”
It doesn’t have to do with a reverence for pure history. Most historical sites I visit are aesthetically interesting at best. I don’t have an emotional tether to paintings of the Christ child or the architecture around Him. Instead, I get unnerved when I find clues that help me as a furniture maker who is trying to push into the future.
Obvious example: Tail-vise technology. The more I studied workbenches, the more I realized that I didn’t need a tail vise. After shedding the tail vise, my workbenches became simpler and my operations followed suit. When I encounter tail vises at schools and other shops I step aside like they have the bad herpes.
Second example: Staked furniture. Once I understood how the technology worked, the time it took me to build a chair, stool or table was slashed in half (or maybe more).
I honestly and truly think that we are a retrograde society when it comes to woodworking. For much of our time on this earth, almost everything was made from wood plus small bits of iron or steel. Today, most of us can send a text across the planet, but we can’t cleave a piece of wet wood to create an unimaginably strong chair leg.
And that’s what I was trying to explain to my German students at Dictum GmBH last week as we worked together and then drank beer under the Bavarian horse chestnut trees. I don’t want to return to the past. I want to capture what they knew so I can make my march into the future much easier.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Roman Workbenches, Uncategorized
This past weekend, I taught a 2-day workshop at Lie-Nielsen we called “Cut the Cord: Build a Table with Hand Tools”. My goal for the weekend was to instill a pre-industrial mindset and approach into the minds of the 15 students in attendance. The project was a taper-legged table from rough cut white pine (a simplified version of the table in our upcoming "Tables" video in our Apprenticeship series ). They needed to work fast - no time for fussy nitpicking. To set the tone, we looked at some examples of pre-industrial work and then watched a brief early 20th-century film of Swedish woodworkers. They were all blown away at the workmanlike pace these guys kept. Then I sent them to their benches with a stack of lumber.
The students worked their butts off. Most of them had never done woodworking like this before. At the end of day one, there was a mountain of shavings that I’m told surpassed any other workshop they’ve had. I was impressed.
The heart of this class was learning efficient stock prep with hand tools, working with reference faces, and drawbore mortise-and-tenon joinery. It was fun to see students relieved to find that usually the most efficient way to do each step is also the simplest. I joked about how my approach was “very scientific” and “calculated” as I undercut most everything and ripped wood off with the foreplane.
At the end of the second day, many of the students were drawboring their joints. If we had a few more hours, we would have had several standing tables. It seems everyone went home happy and exhausted. They told me they learned so much and were so glad they came. Mission accomplished.
I loved this class and am working to refine it to make it even better so that students can get even more out of it. There has been some talk about possibly doing it again next year. No promises but it would be fun.
Thanks to Tom and Deneb at Lie-Nielsen for having me. I am honored to be able to teach at such an incredible hub of knowledge and skill. If you can make it out to any of their workshops, I highly recommend it.
Woodworkers often find themselves doubling as the resident fixer-upper. As the go-to person who has the tools you’ll often be asked to “fix this” or “build that” for the house. I recently did some window repair on my own house, and I must say that all of the things I’ve been learning about the craft helped me do a better job than I might have a few years ago. Regardless of what you […]
It’s been a bit of a while since I’ve blogged about woodworking, but I’ve decided to take a bit of time to let you all know what I’ve been doing.
To quickly sum up, I’ve been using my pointy things to make boxes from bits of wood. The backstory is a bit long and convoluted, so I will save that bit for another post. In any event, it has all been very therapeutic; I sharpen my pointy things, get some bits of pallet wood, clean up those bits, and make boxes out of them. The nice thing is there is very little measuring involved, if the bits of stock are small, I make itty-bitty boxes, if the bits are larger, the boxes are a bit larger. My pointy things don’t care; it’s all wood to them.
I understand that this post is a bit brief, but I had just a short bit of time to compose it. Hopefully my next bit is a bit longer, and explains my new obsession with boxes a bit better. Until then, I’ll keep my pointy things pointy and my bits of wood bitty.
The technique of split turning is most commonly associated with furniture from the 16th and 17th centuries but can be used for any project that requires a half round column. Curtis Turner recently used split turning to turn a curved sanding block, and he wrote about it in the June issue of The Highland Woodturner. This is a great project for practicing this technique while also creating a useful tool for your sanding needs.
My skew and I have a troubled relationship. It is by far my favorite turning tool and when things go right I feel I can do anything. We also fight a lot. To the level where those “never again” words cross my lips. It usually takes some form of counseling to get us back together. Our latest blowout was over rolling a bead. I think video is one of the best […]