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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!
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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 […]
Blotching is rarely the result of poor staining technique; rather it has everything to do with the grain and pores of wood. Different varieties of wood respond differently to staining. Some dense fine grained species take to stain beautifully whereas others seem to resent being stained.
I have been experimenting with some beech, which is a medium quality hard wood. The wood does not exhibit any figure but appears to be even grained and consistent in look. The wood is not very stable and I found it moves, twists and warps quite unpredictably.
I was given some and thought I could use it for faux panelling. The wood is relatively easy to work though hard and the panel strips came out rather well.
I decided to stain the beech panels strips (rails and stiles) as well as some very unstable Pine I had made some shelves with. The Pine was doused with heavy purple dye and there was no problem there.
|Ash stains rather well|
I stained some Ash and found it stains rather well. On the other hand, beech, stained with oil based Varathane stain was a complete disaster. It blotched badly and pre-treating the wood with wood conditioner (Varathane) made no difference whatsoever.
|Beech prior to staining|
|After Stain - ugly blotches|
|Stained after applying one coat of Shellac|
|Stained after two coats of Shellac - much more uniform effect|
I then applied a thin wash coat of Shellac on the wood and tried staining. It worked well; two coats of Shellac worked even better. No blotching at all!
Just proves how useful Shellac can be and the importance of testing prior to staining.
24 March 2015
The weather just doesn’t seem to want to break. I’m looking forward to some spring thaw.
I’ve posted a nice restorable Jointer for sale, https://timetestedtools.wordpress.com/tools-for-sale-2/
I know several have inquired about a jointer.
I picked up a nice Siegley #2 recently for my collection. I believe it’s a type 5. I plan to post on my website soon. I also picked up a Sargent #3411 in nice shape. This is a type 1. I resisted the Sargent Transitionals for as long as I could. They just seem to call my name.
Please join in the conversation on the tool forum. There are lots of woodworking sites to chose from, but very few dedicated to the collecting of vintage tools. http://timetestedtools.forumchitchat.com/
Thanks for looking
This video of an impressive display of Japanese joinery has been all over the interwebs, but folks keep sending me the link, so here you go.
(Thanks to everyone who sent me this link.)
|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
The good news, is I was able to salvage the doors, and this project is now almost finished!
|As it stands now. Only a little a little adjusting to the doors and touching up of finish remains.|
It was kind of hard to show in a photograph, but the problem was essentially the same on the bottom of the cabinet:
|When I lined up the sides of the door panel, the top and bottom were obviously out of square.|
While evaluating the problem, I realized that if I lined the sides of the door panels up, the tops and bottoms could be flushed up without losing too much. The top door was a bit oversized in height, anyway, and I think the bottom door will be fine.
I am considering leaving the bottom wonky like that. If I plane it square, I might have to laminate a spacer there to compensate for the look. The Frau didn't notice it until I pointed it out, so we'll see if I can live with it or not.
A challenge was how to plane the parts of the doors with the rabbets so the glass would fit.
I set the doors up so one side of the rabbet was flush and needed no adjusting. The other side, I marked where it needed to end up. This means I need to taper this edge of the door until I meet the mark.
|The first step was to crosscut the batten. I think going right to the plane would just be asking for blow out.|
|I used a dull card scraper to remove most of the paint. A few swipes with my jack plane and I am at my line.|
Now that the top edge is square, I CAN use a marking gauge to re-define my rabbet. That will have to be re-cut.
|Marking where the rabbet now needs to be.|
I considered using my plow plane, but thought that running the fence against the paint on the show side of the door would create some problems for me down the line. What I did instead was to remove the fence entirely from my Veritas plow plane, and use it freehand. The rabbet was defined, after all. All I had to do was sink the rabbet a little farther until I reached the line from the marking gauge.
|Fence-less plow worked a charm.|
|Finished rabbet. You can see the wood that was removed, as there was paint on the rabbet before this step.|
|Now, the glass panel fits and the doors line up.|
I did wind up buying some better cup hinges. I had bought the cheapest ones I could find before, and they were difficult to install and line up. I spent about 10 Euros per pair for the new ones. They came with a template to aid installation, and worked with absolutely no problems.
A comment on my last post had me thinking that I hadn't really done a proper job of explaining how this door goes together with the glass. Here are a couple of pics that hopefully explain better how the glass is captured in the rabbet by the batten.
|Glass captured in the rabbet by a cross batten.|
The next step is to install the lights. We found some really cool low-profile LED lights that were perfect for this project. The package came with three lights that plug into one socket. Very efficient, as the whole contraption only uses 7.5 watts!
I decided the interior of the glass cabinet looked best with two of the lights. I put the third on the top of the cabinet to shine on the ceiling.
|Here is the cabinet with the door open.|
|I like the look.|
|The bear is looking at my lighting job.|
All in all, this mockup is a success so far. I learned some important lessons in construction of a cabinet like this, and spent relatively little money on it. The Frau was looking online for vitrines, and the ones she liked cost about ten times the price of this one.
Ironically, now that this cabinet is in the place we want the final piece to be, the Frau has decided a vitrine is not what she wants there. Perhaps a side table instead. I am really glad we didn't get stuck with an expensive store bought piece of furniture!
Bernard E. Jones, The Complete Woodworker, 190?
I posted else where on this blog about making straight edges from one of my favorite woods, California laurel.
My mistake was making only one straight edge from the laurel, I should have made two.
Two straight edges the same length are easier to check for straightness, you just put the edges together and look for a gap, then you can plane the edge straight again.
I realized I need an 18 inch straight edge, instead of a 17 inch straight edge, to check the flatness of the fret board that I recently put on a copy of a 1930 Santos Hernandez guitar.
My stock of California Laurel is getting low, what I have is reserved for another blanca guitar, I have some nice eastern black walnut on hand so it was off to the table saw.
I ripped out two slats, clamped them together and jointed the edges. I didn't taper the pieces as per instructions given by Jones in the aforementioned book (or what some former editor[s] of a woodworking magazine says you are supposed to do), I left them chunky so when I go to re-shoot the edges all I have to do is butt the ends up against the bench stop. I don't have to chuck them into Shop Fox vise, just fix them and go back to work.
I do plan on beveling the edges as Jones suggests doing, those edges give a better reading when placed on the surface that is being observed.
Ah, just what I needed!
The guitar is now fretted and after I run some errands tomorrow morning, I get down to the business of carving the neck.
Once that task is completed I will then have three guitars - a Torres FE19 guitar, a 1961 Hernandez y Aguado guitar and this Santos - to French polish!
Stay tuned, I will be posting photos of the latest 1930 Santos Hernandez style guitar!
When planning to make an epic mistake on a project there are several areas that can go un-noticed until you are quite far into a project. Poor plans can lead to a missed cut usually in the latter portions of a project when the only option is to head back to the lumber yard for a new piece of wood. Bad measurements can have the same results and usually occurs when when you forget to add an inch to your measurement due to the damaged tape you refuse to throw away. Typically I prefer to layout a project incorrectly and then proceed to chop out several mortises before realizing they are on the wrong side of a leg. Not today, well not yet anyway.
Laying out the locations of mortises is something that I take very slowly checking and double checking to insure they are in the correct place. Fortunately today when I checked I found the problem immediately and was able to make a correction before chopping began. I’m sure I will make another mistake further along.
The rest of the day was spent dimensioning lumber and planing to the correct thickness. By the end of the day most of the parts were ready for joinery. I’m hoping over the next week to get the mortises chopped out so that next weekend can be spent fitting the tenons and gluing up the top and bottom shelf.
My mistake of the day was forgetting to publish the blog. Fixed today!
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 […]
We finished up another great chair class on Saturday evening. Here are the students with their finished chairs. I made a chair along with the guys but did not get a chance to paint it. Some of the guys took there chairs home in the red and plan to put a black coat on […]
The Amateur Carpenter
In my opinion every professional man should keep a chest of carpenters’ tools in his barn or shop, and busy himself at odd hours with them in constructing the varied articles that are always needed about the house. There is a great deal of pleasure in feeling your own independence of other trades, and more especially of the carpenter.
Every now and then your wife will want a bracket put up in some corner or other, and with your new, bright saw and glittering hammer you can put up one upon which she can hang a cast-iron horse-blanket lambrequin, with inflexible water lilies sewed in it.
A man will, if he tries, readily learn to do a great many such little things and his wife will brag on him to other ladies, and they will make invidious comparisons between their husbands who can’t do anything of that kind whatever, and you who are “so handy.”
Firstly, you buy a set of amateur carpenter tools. You do not need to say that you are an amateur. The dealer will find that out when you ask him for an easy-running broad-ax or a green-gage plumb line. He will sell you a set of amateur’s tools that will be made of old sheet-iron with basswood handles, and the saws will double up like a piece of stovepipe.
After you have nailed a board on the fence successfully, you will very naturally desire to do something much better, more difficult. You will probable try to erect a parlor table or rustic settee.
I made a very handsome bracket last week, and I was naturally proud of it. In fastening it together, if I hadn’t inadvertently nailed it to the barn floor, I guess I could have used it very well, but in tearing it loose from the barn, so that the two could be used separately, I ruined a bracket that was intended to serve as the base, as it were, of a lambrequin which cost nine dollars, aside from the time expended on it.
During the month of March I built an ice-chest for this summer. It was not handsome, but it was roomy, and would be very nice for the season of 1886, I thought. It worked pretty well through March and April, but as the weather begins to warm up that ice-chest is about the warmest place around the house. There is actually a glow of heat around that ice-chest that I don’t notice elsewhere. I’ve shown it to several personal friends. They seem to think it is not built tightly enough for an ice-chest.
My brother looked at it yesterday, and said that his idea of an ice-chest was that it ought to be tight enough at least to hold the larger chunks of ice so that they would not escape through the pores of the ice-box. He says he never built one, but that it stood to reason that a refrigerator like that ought to be constructed so that it would keep the cows out of it. You don’t want to have a refrigerator that the cattle can get through the cracks of and eat up your strawberries on ice, he says.
A neighbor of mine who once built a hen resort of laths, and now wears a thick thumb-nail that looks like a Brazil nut as a memento of that pullet corral, says my ice-chest is all right enough, only that it is not suited to this climate. He thinks that along Behring’s Strait, during the holidays, my ice-chest would work like a charm. And even here, he thought, if I could keep the fever out of my chest there would be less pain.
I have made several other little articles of vertu this spring, to the construction of which I have contributed a good deal of time and two finger nails. I have also sawed into my leg two or three times. The leg, of course, will get well, but the pantaloons will not.
Parties wishing to meet me in my studio during the morning hour will turn into the alley between Eighth and Ninth streets, enter the third stable door on the left, pass around behind my Gothic horse, and give the countersign and three kicks on the door in an ordinary tone of voice.
Great Sacrifice of Bric-a-brac
Parties desiring to buy a job-lot of garden tools, will do well to call and examine my stock. These implements have been but slightly used, and are comparatively as good as new. The lot consists in part of the following:
One three-cornered hoe, Gothic in its architecture and in good running order. It is the same one I erroneously hoed up the carnation with, and may be found, I think, behind the barn, where I threw it when I discovered my error. Original cost of hoe, six bits. Will be closed out now at two bits to make room for new goods.
Also one garden rake, almost as good as new. One front tooth needs filling, and then it will be as good as ever. I sell this weapon, not so much to get rid of it, but because I do not want it any more. I shall not garden any next spring. I do not need to.
I began it to benefit my health, and my health is now so healthy that I shall not require the open-air exercise incident to gardening any more. In fact, I am too robust, if anything. I will, therefore, acting upon the advice of my royal physician, close this rake out, since the failure of the Northwestern Car Company, at 50 cents on the dollar.
Also one lawn-mower, only used once. At that time I cut down what grass I had on my lawn, and three varieties of high-priced rose bushes. It is one of the most hardy open-air lawn-mowers now made. It will outlive any other lawn-mower, and be firm and unmoved when all the shrubbery has gone to decay. You can also mow your peony bed with it, if you desire. I tried it.
This is also an easy running lawn-mower. I would recommend it to any man who would like to soak his lawn with perspiration. I mowed my lawn, and then pushed a street-car around in the afternoon to relax my over-strained muscles. I will sacrifice this lawn-mower at three-quarters of its original cost, owing to depression in the stock of the New Jerusalem gold mine, of which I am a large owner and cashier-at-large.
Will also sell a bright new spade, only used two hours spading for angleworms. This is a good, early-blooming and very hardy angle-worm spade, built in the Doric style of architecture. Persons desiring a spade flush, and lacking one spade to “fill,” will do well to give me a call. No trouble to show the goods.
I will also part with a small chest of carpenter’s tools, only slightly used. I had intended to do a good deal of amateur carpenter work this summer, but, as the presidential convention occurs in June, and I shall have to attend to that, and as I have already sawed up a Queen Anne chair, and thoughtlessly sawed into my leg, I shall probably sacrifice the tools.
These tools are all well made, and I do not sell them to make money on them, but because I have no use for them. I feel as though these tools would be safer in the hands of a carpenter. I’m no carpenter. My wife admitted that when I sawed a board across the piano-stool and sawed the what-do-you-call-it all out of the cushion.
Anyone desiring to monkey with the carpenter’s trade, will do well to consult my catalogue and price-list. I will throw in a white holly corner-bracket, put together with fence nails, and a rustic settee that looks like the Cincinnati riot.
Young men who do not know much, and invalids whose minds have become affected, are cordially invited to call and examine goods. For a cash trade I will also throw in arnica, court-plaster and salve enough to run the tools two weeks, if ordinary care be taken.
If properly approached, I might also be wheedled into sacrificing an easy-running domestic wheelbarrow. I have domesticated it myself and taught it a great many tricks.
Remarks by Bill Nye – 1886
Filed under: Historical Images
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.
I took kindly to woodworking. In fact, I was brought up in the woods until I was seven years of age. During these first seven years of my life I saw my father only occasionally, for he was a cabinetmaker by trade and worked in a smart little town about sixty miles distant from our forest farm and came home after intervals of about six weeks to remain with us but a day or two. When I was about seven years old my mother died and the remainder of the family father took with him to the town where he worked.
I went to school, but had a chance to run in and out of the shop as I pleased, and just about as the child learns to speak his mother’s language by sights and sounds long before it is sent to school, so I learned a great deal about cabinetmaking long before I took any tools in my hand to actually learn the trade.
My father also told me many interesting stories about his apprenticeship, the “scrapes” he got into when he was a boy, and although he told these same stories over many times they were always new. When he learned his trade he was legally “bound out” and hired at his “master’s” home. This was in the state of Connecticut.
No machinery was used in his day and he told me how tired he got as a growing boy sawing up the material by hand for a dozen cherry kitchen tables and what hard work it was to dress up the cherry boards with a jack-plane. He said he would work so hard all day planing by hand that some nights he could barely sleep, and in the morning he would find his sleeves rolled up clear to his shoulders in such tight rolls that he could not easily get them down. He did it in his sleep.
He would proudly show me a set of planes that he used when he was an apprentice. The jack-plane in particular was worn down a great deal. Where his left hand grasped the sides of the plane were hollows plainly seen in the hard beech where his fingers during the long years of hard toil had actually worn the wood away.
The cabinet shop was the important factory of the village. As I think of that factory, with no machinery but a turning lathe, and that run by foot power, and of the factories in which I have worked where it was about all machine work, I wonder how workmen got along at all then. But they usually were better mechanics than they are today. The cabinetmaker’s trade was much more comprehensive, and the journeyman had to carry a great number of tools.
My father could make any kind of household furniture from an expensive sideboard of mahogany or rosewood to a basswood towel rack. He also made organs, melodeons and pianos. But in this particular shop, owned by a Mr. Knight, he made mostly veneered furniture. That is to say he made bureaus with ogee drawers and other styles of soft wood and veneered them with rosewood, mahogany or black walnut. Coffins also were made in this factory, and while the furniture was made in the basement, a gloomy place, the wareroom was in the same building in the room above.
I used to watch my father with interest lay the veneers. Sometimes he would have me heat the “culls” and bring them to him when he had everything ready. And when he had a lot of bureau frames all mortised, the tenons fitted and ready to glue up he would let me help him handle the clamps while he drew them together. As we piled them up in one corner of the room I thought what a lot of work in so short a time. These were some of my first lessons when but a small boy with my nose scarcely reaching to the top of the bench. I expect I bothered about as much as I helped, maybe more, but I was learning all the time.
My father enjoyed a joke and was much given to fun. He was quite ingenious, and I was greatly amused by a good joke he played on a fellow who worked in the varnish room. The latter would come down stairs, take a seat on the end of father’s bench and ask all manner of questions about his tools, always handling everything about the bench—a regular Paul Pry.
I saw father making at odd spells a neat little box with such a nice cover, all out of rosewood. He had a little brass fastener to the cover, also brass hinges. He then skinned a large rat and put a coil of spring wire into the skin, and so crowded it into the box and held it down by the cover that on touching the fastener to the cover the rat would, unless you were prepared for it, jump right into your face.
When he got it all finished and in working order he left it carelessly on the back of his bench. After a while this “nosey” chap came down, and taking a seat on the bench, with his legs dangling lazily down, espied the box. “Hello,” said he, “what you got here?” and proceeded to investigate it. He soon had his thumb on the fastener. Instantly the cover flew up, and the rat, leaping out like a thing of life, struck him square on the end of the nose. Flinging the whole thing from him he rolled off the bench into a pile of shavings.
As my father’s work was all day work he occasionally was called to “tend” the wareroom; that is, to sell furniture to customers. There was a certain man in town who was notorious for “haggling” over the price of everything which he wished to buy. One day while my father was in the wareroom this fellow came in to buy a bed.
Father put the price a dollar and a half higher than the bedsteads sold for. The other began to beat down the price. Father “haggled” over it in a way that tickled me exceedingly, but coming down all the time. Finally when he was yet a half dollar above the regular price he slapped the customer on the back and generously exclaimed: “I will throw off 50 cents more if you won’t tell everybody in town about it.” So he took the bed at the regular price and went off happy with the promise that he would tell no one.
In all shops and among all trades there will occur disagreements between workmen. Sometimes the trouble arises over the work, but more frequently over outside matters. I have worked in shops where it seemed as if half of the men employed, about half of the time, would not speak to the other half because—well, I think at such times they were all half fools.
My father got “out” with another cabinetmaker by the name of Bell. I do not know what began it. Both, no doubt, were to blame as is usually the case. Father was fond of pets of every kind and my older brother had brought from our wilderness farm a pair of red squirrels. They became so tame that they were let out of their cage and given the freedom of the shop.
There was no machinery and they chased one another about the place, running over the half finished furniture, stealing the beeswax and other things, greatly to father’s amusement but manifestly to the displeasure of Mr. Bell. One morning father found them dead. He believed that Bell had poisoned them the day before.
The men got into a wordy war and as they warmed up they drew nearer until Bell, who was the heavier man, goaded by cutting language, strode over to where father was working. As Bell leaned forward father stuck his nose bang up against Bell’s nose in such an impudent way that I thought he would be killed on the spot. I have seen all kinds of mix-ups in my day, but that was the queerest termination of a rattling hot air fight I ever saw. It did end right there. Bell backed up with not another word to say. Whether he was disgusted or terrified I don’t know, but he went back to work.
There was another cabinetmaker who was of much interest to me. Father held him up to me as a “horrible example” more than once. It appears that he was an educated man and an expert accountant. He could add up three rows of figures, “but drink was his downfall, and there he was toiling away in that basement cabinet shop, mostly making coffins at a small salary because he was so unsteady and given to drink, when he might, if he had lived a temperate life, have been an ornament to society and a power for good in the world.” Thus father lectured me and it did me good.
I used to watch the old fellow make coffins, the old-fashioned kind with angles in the sides for the dead man’s elbows. I watched him so much that I learned that trade by observation. Another thing I learned was to patch a pair of pants, using glue instead of thread. “Old Stanley” would do this. After he had mended the seat he would put on the pants and sit down on the mended part until it dried.
He was pretty good to me and boys generally. One day while sitting on the wareroom steps, just comfortably drunk and talking wisely to himself, because, as he said once, he “liked to talk to a sensible man and liked to hear a sensible man talk,” an acquaintance came along who was running for some office, and learning that Stanley had not as yet voted urged him to cast his ballot for him. Mr. Stanley looked up with his bloodshot eyes while he steadied himself by the veranda post, and with a wave of his hand he disavowed the other’s party and said: “Excuse me, friend, hic, I am no politician, but, hic, I can’t deny the symptoms.”
“Old Stanley” has been dead these many years, but my father, although very old, is living still, because he has always been a temperate man so far as abstaining from strong drink makes a temperate life. But in the broader definition of the word temperate I must confess that in the excessive use of tongue and temper he has been quite at fault and sometimes in danger of sudden death from the hands of a goaded and revengeful fellow-workman, as in the case of the cabinetmaker Bell.
It was while my father worked in this factory, where my first lessons in learning the trade were merely object lessons, that I witnessed the change from making furniture entirely by hand to that of using machinery, which later on I became so familiar with by constant use.
I have described several characters that commanded my attention in those early days, but I haven’t described the boss, Charles Knight. He was a large man, erect and well proportioned, wearing ever a silk hat, a man of few words and well dressed. When he paid off there was no envelope, no check or anything of that kind. He would come into the shop a few minutes before the hour of closing on each Saturday night, with a roll of bills in his vest pocket, and he would just stick his fingers in his pocket, haul out the roll, pay the workmen and so pass on from bench to bench.
He always had a roll in that pocket, and if a man wanted some money during the week, all he had to do was to ask for it and the boss would yank out the roll and say, “How much do you want?” and hand it over. That was the way he treated father. I don’t know but he might have had some different way with other workmen, especially “Old Stanley.”
He was a wealthy man, and furniture-making was a sort of a hobby with him, but I calculate he made it pay all the same. He had another hobby—that of keeping around the shop an old, toothless, rheumatic cat. I do not know whether the death of the old cat had anything to do with his putting in some machinery with power or not, but the machinery was put in and constituted quite as much of a pet to the boss as did the cat.
This improvement did not meet with opposition from the cabinetmakers, although machinery has, in the years that have passed, displaced hundreds of thousands of workmen. The growth of the country and the demand for furniture supplies have no doubt made machinery necessary, but right or wrong the boiler and engine were placed, and the machinery also, which consisted of a small jointer, a thickness planer, jig-saw, rip- and cross-cut saws.
The placing of the boiler and engine was a great event of the town, and when the machinery was put into operation there were a great many visitors to the factory. The boss was as near omnipresent as a mortal could be. He learned to run the engine and tried every machine. I think the noise of the machinery and its responsibility, together with the novelty of it all, helped him to forget his sorrow for the old cat.
But the output of the factory was greatly increased, and the men, my father in particular, enjoyed “ripping” their lumber on the saw and watching it move through the planer. This was far better than doing it by hand. Being a boy, I was not allowed to go within gunshot of any of the machines. But, boy-like, I could ask questions. I worked at this overtime and learned just what each machine could do.
The one year and a half which I spent around the cabinet shop, which included the transition from furniture made strictly by hand to that which was partly made by machinery, constituted my first lessons in cabinetmaking. Of course I had seen some furniture before this time. I understood I was born in a bed, but this experience about the factory where furniture was made was a decided help to me when a few years later I started in regularly to learn the trade.
I believe I was fitted by nature to become a woodworker, and had my father been a wagonmaker or millwright, a carpenter or cooper, I would have been taught by my father the trade that he knew. He saw that I would whittle something, for when I was even smaller and lived in the woods I would ask for his knife whenever he came home. He always demurred, saying, “You will cut your fingers,” for a woodworker’s knife is always sharp.
I would tease until he would hand it out with the remark, “Now you will cut yourself.” I invariably did, and it was generally the fore finger of my left hand. That finger is just covered with small scars of every possible shape. I was bound to whittle something. Father knew it, so he calculated to give me a trade where I could whittle away and bring in a little money thereby.
I have ever been interested in all kinds of woodworking occupations, and I think there should be a more fraternal feeling existing between these craftsmen. I am glad to know that there is a magazine published which is devoted to wood craft. While much of patternmaking is intricate and new to cabinetmakers, yet there is much after all which is common to us all —the use of glue or varnish, the importance of seasoned lumber, the knowledge of machinery, the care of tools, the training of apprentices, the conduct of workmen one toward another and toward the foreman and proprietors—this knowledge and these relations seem to require a trade journal as a medium through which expert testimony from among the best representatives of the various woodworking trades may be given to the world.
It appears sometimes to those who have no trade that the men who work in the shop have a humdrum, monotonous life. This is not true, for among those who toil the hardest there is amusement even while they toil. I have never worked in a shop yet where we did not have a little sport. There is always the fellow who is the butt of all good-natured fun, the joker, and the clown. If I had written down all the original witty remarks and funny sayings, and comical capers that I have heard and witnessed, I would have a book which if published would surpass all the sayings of Mark Twain, Bill Nye, Josh Billings, or any other combination of wits that ever existed.
I worked beside one fat Irishman for seven years who for original, witty remarks alone would make any humorist that I ever heard of look like “thirty cents.” Most of these witty remarks and humorous sayings which I have referred to as having originated in the shop at the bench pertain largely to wood craft. They are a part of our trade. Some of these witticisms have already appeared in the columns of Wood Craft. May we see more of them, for “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone.”
Wood Craft – December 1905
Filed under: Historical Images
Sometimes chopping the mortise just doesn’t make sense, and adding a center line with a knife makes boring it out super easy and fast. This is just another arrow for your quiver as every mortise seems just a little bit different and having several ways to make them will always serve you well.
Today’s winner is Ross Whitaker. He chose a copy of “The Hand Plane Book” by Garret Hack. One of my favorite titles! Congrats Ross! If you haven’t yet registered to win prizes visit the Chips ‘n Tips page for details.