Full Chisel Blog

May 27, 2014

Spindle Wheel – New Mother-of-All, and Spindle

spindle head0This is a photograph sent in by a customer and in need of a new spindle head, maidens, and mother of all, and spindle.  They sent me the tension device on the left, an unusual two standard model with a tilting head and tightening nut to provide drive band tension.

spindle head1The uprights [standards] are made of chestnut, the block is birch and the nut is white oak, an American Wheel.  There is a name stamped on the end of the table, hard to see or tell exactly what it is but perhaps ‘NORTON’.  The new upright post that fits it the block is reclaimed chestnut and the Mother of All cross piece is birch.

I had to make a tapered reamer to match the tapered socket hole in the block, the first one was from soft maple and shattered during the third hole.  A new one of hard maple works much better.

tapered reamer1A slot is cut in the center and the blade is from an old saw and is draw filed square on the edge profile, it has four cutting edges and is used in both directions.

tapered reamer2The two maidens are also made of reclaimed chestnut and these are turned to fit the holes that have been reamed out with the above reamers.

spindle head1a

Here is how the detail on the maiden looks, after details on the existing standards.

spindle head2And here is the entire mother of all with the exception of the metal spindle, flange and drive pulley.  I will finish this piece first, the flange and pulley are made of maple which requires a different finish schedule.

spindle head3I will also permanently attach the single upright post into the birch cross piece with hide glue and a wedge, a little too small for a peg, either method is appropriate.  The maidens are just friction fit as is the mother of all into the tension block.

I also have to drill holes in the maidens to hold the corn husk bearings.


October 7, 2013

Spinning Wheel Flyer – grain orientation

This is my first order for a custom made spinning wheel flyer, mandrel, whorl, and bobbin[s] for an existing wheel.  The owner sent photographs with a measuring tape and confirmation of the distance between the leather bearings.  They can be ordered here.

first order flyer3

While it may look like this is just using up some useless scraps of maple with nasty knots, this wood was chosen because of the knot and the way the grain runs in the board.  The grain runs around the knot in such a way as to follow the pattern of the U shape of the flyer.  It is also a great use for useless scraps.

first order flyer4

The wood, in this case hard maple, for any flyer should be flat sawn and not quartersawn for proper grain orientation for maximum strength; no short grain as would be presented if the board was quartersawn.

first order flyer5

A hole for the mandrel is drilled in the end of the board, a corresponding hole is made in the opposite end, and are used to center the wood on the centers of the lathe.  Excess wood is first removed with a saw then it is turned on the lathe.  This can be a harrowing experience as the flat board flies past ones knuckles at an alarming and distracting manner.

first order flyer6

Because of the unusual grain around a knot the finished flyer off the lathe has some nasty splits along a couple of edges, but because the ends of the flyer are tapered thinner, this can be ‘easily’ planed off, then scraped with a card scraper.

first order flyer7

After raising the grain with water, I scraped it again and it is ready for the mandrel being made by a machinist friend of mine.  Now it is on to making the hooks and the soft metal nut in the whorl.


September 20, 2013

Extrapolating Furniture Parts from Photographs

I first received an email with a photograph of a walnut table leg, early nineteenth century [client said 1860’s, I think it is 1840’s] dining table from Virginia and was asked if I could make one as the 5th [center] leg was missing.  I said ‘yes’ and got a couple more photographs with a tape measure in the photograph.  Another email or two and I had other dimensions I needed.

walnut table leg7

I then made a scale drawing of the leg and worked on that until it looked correct and then proceeded to make a full size paper pattern of the leg.  With the help of Richard MacDonald [Master Wood Carver, who loves to turn] turn the leg from the pattern.

I then ripped the waste wood on the taper of the octagonal part, to a square taper.

walnut table leg9

Next I layed out the octagonals with a white pencil, easier to see on walnut than a graphite pencil.  I planed the first one by hand then decided to use a chisel to quickly remove the excess then my two small coffin smoothers [one set coarse, the other set fine] to smooth out the rough chisel marks.

walnut table leg8

A card scraper finished up the flats and it is ready to go.  Yesterday when the client called I had just finished up the work, it will be picked up today and be on its way to Texas.  They have a furniture restoration guy there that will cut it to length and do the finish work.

A fun project, the rendering took a bit of time but was well worth the effort and the customer was happy, just picked it up.


June 24, 2013

Restoring a Coach-maker’s Brace

I have a few coachmaker’s braces, those with wooden knobs and handles and iron bodies, I also have one all metal Fray&Pigg brace, they are called coachmaker’s braces as they don’t break when you step on them.  Frequently coach shops floors were covered with shavings and stepping on a wooden brace hidden in the shavings would indeed break.  That is the story, sounds good to me.

This particular brace is made of iron and cherry, there is a brass bearing between the head and the iron body.  It has seen enough use that the inside of the handle had been rind out making it fit poorly on the metal body.


I used a fine blade in a jeweler’s fret saw to cut the glue joint and unfortunately one of the iron pins added for additional strength to the split handle.  It is necessary for the center handle to be split in order to attach it to the iron drill body.  The center section had some rust and pitting and was quite rough.  I used a file and some emery cloth to remove the rust and smooth out the metal to prevent it from further rinding out the wooden handle.


Using a sharp gouge, rasp, file and small tombstone scraper I smoothed out the center that had been rind out in order to make the replacement wood fit properly so it could be glued into place.  Holding an egg shaped object in the hand while using sharp gouges was a dangerous operation, I paid close attention.  When using the round rasp I did manage to rasp myself.


Making the replacement part I had a couple of failures; my first was that the drill drifted following the grain of the cherry.  The next one split the minute the pilot screw entered the wood.  I then double clamped a piece and got a good hole through the end grain of the new piece of cherry.


Once I had it apart I had to use my small prick to excavate the iron pins, one from one side the end and the other pin from the through pin.  I then had to add material into the excavation, I chose to make a small square mortise on one side and after that tedious process I did the other side with a round bung plug.







I then had to cut the new bearing in half in order to glue it into the two halves of the handle.  I used a clear plastic block and a wooden clamp to get them in the correct position and allowed the Fish Glue to dry overnight.  The next day I used a toothing plane to smooth the surfaces flat prior to gluing it back together.


With a round rasp and round file I made the wood fit the metal then glued it together and clamped the egg shaped handle with an upholstery spring clamp and allowed to dry overnight.  I then made new iron pins, flattening them out on the end like the original.



A coat of Moses T’s Gunstocker’s finish and a bit of black iron oxide dry powdered pigment I got the filing marks that smoothed the wood to match the un-filed surface.




May 3, 2013

The Complete Cabinet Maker And Upholsterer’s Guide – J. Stokes 1829


Gary Roberts over at Toolemera has done it again and reproduced a fine tome from the nineteenth century.  The book has many full color plates, hand colored engravings and Mr. Roberts has reproduced the entire book in color, so the pages appear as they would in an original edition.

Mr. Stokes has done an excellent job at assembling material from his peers and predecessors, which I won’t call plagiarism as it was common practice.  Some of the engravings have the long f for the s, indicating an earlier time.

The book is however full of very useful information about lay out, perspective, drawing, design and construction of furniture, with an emphasis on finishing, which I found fascinating.  This is a great hardbound edition of an historical work that is a pleasure to hold in ones hand and read about the past and the ways of old.  Add this one to your bibliotheque.


April 27, 2013

Hand Forged Glue Scraper

Filed under: Clamping,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Scrapers,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 11:38 am

Master Blacksmith Mark Schramm made this specialty glue scraper for a friend that makes wooden blanks for snowboards and skies.  He has a rack of specialized bar clamps to clamp the blanks of aspen together.  In the coarse of gluing the pipes get covered with glue, making alignment of the boards difficult, so he needed a solution.

glue scraper1


glue scraper2


My friend and his young son that he is teaching to turn made the handle and used a piece of copper pipe for the ferrule and the wood came from a pallet.  The blade is made to fit the curve of the pipes and makes quick work of the dried glue.

Nice work Mark.


March 24, 2013

Card Scraper Wallet

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Scrapers,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 11:34 am

scraper wallet1I have been meaning to make one of these for a while.  I had recently admonished a friend for not having a wallet for his scrapers, then later realized I didn’t have one for my larger card scrapers.

I have one for my small set of Tombstone Scrapers out of some nice brown pig hair cell leather I picked up from the local leather supply store.   I also made a wallet for my graining combs.  This stuff is very durable, I have a tobacco wallet that has lasted very well, although I will need to repair some of the linen thread that has worn away.

scraper wallet2

I did the pattern with a piece of paper 8 1/2″ by 11″ then added another piece 4 1/2″ by 8 1/2″ to provide space for a half a dozen assorted card scrapers.  The goose-neck scraper determined the size of the center pocket.  I used a ponce wheel with 10 teeth per inch to layout the stitching spacing, using every other mark and an awl to make holes.  I had the awl backed up with a scrap piece of soft wood.  I temporarily clipped the leather together to insure good alignment before making the stitching holes.

scraper wallet3

Using waxed linen thread I double stitched with two needles, pulling the thread tight and pounding the thread flat as I progressed.  The stitching between the pockets is spaced every 3/8″ apart.  I cut out wedges of leather between the three flaps so they lay flat when closed.

It was a fun project that I should have done much earlier.  My appologies to Tom.



January 16, 2013

Boxwood and Slate

My Christmas gifts arrived

This year my family changed from the usual gift exchange in the spirit of giving to a you can steal someone else’s gift in the spirit of taking.  My objections were overruled and I decided to play my own game.  I bought a gift card from Lee Valley, so that no one else in my family would be interested.  After choosing lots [my comment about deciding who is to die in a survival situation, got some chuckles] I was number 4 to draw and chose my own gift.  My sister objected and I told her she couldn’t change the rules in the middle of this evil game.  Needless to say we will be going back to the regular gift exchange next year.

Cashing in on the free shipping offered by Lee Valley, I picked up several turned and threaded boxwood containers.  I could not even buy the wood locally to make these at this price, not including labor.  Great items and very well made.

boxwood containers

I tried to order a staple-less stapler, but for some reason they can mail them to an address in the US.  I wonder if they are considered as personal protection devices or the magazine is too big?  Strange.


I also purchased a piece of slate, had to order the middle size as they do not ship the large size for some reason.  I thought it would be flat on one side but it was split and had uneven surfaces.  I checked their website and that is what they listed.


I however wanted to use it for writing with chalk or soapstone so I needed to smooth the surface.  I started with a coarse file and float, then converted to a piece of industrial sanding belt that had grit the size of cracked pepper and got it flat.  I then used a card scraper to remove the scratch marks.  The scraper was great, I did have to resharpen it during the process, the slate was abrasive to the scraper.  [I do have a piece of English Slate sharpening stone and it is very hard].


January 11, 2013

Shepherds’ Compleat Early Nineteenth Century Woodworker – First Review


This is the first book review of my first book that was originally published in hardbound in 1981.  This review appeared in Smithsonian Magazine April 1982.





I found this while doing research at the University of Nevada, Reno at their excellent library.

Now I need to find the reviews in Workbench Magazine, Soldier of Fortune Magazine and Museum of the Fur Trade Quarterly.

Available at Tools for Working Wood

and The Full Chisel Store or from Amazon.  Amazon also has original hardbound editions for sale.


December 6, 2012

Traditional Molinillo / Chocolate Pot Stirring Stick

I got an order from the Tinsmith over at Hot Dip Tin for a couple of chocolate pot stirring sticks or molinillos for his chocolate pots.  I looked at many designs mostly from Mexico but did see a few European style from which I took the pattern and created my own version.

While looking around for a piece of maple to make them from, I came across some maple balusters I have been packing around for several years and immediately saw that I could get a stick from each one.

Probably would have been easier to chuck it up and re-turn the top handle, but I chose to shape it with a drawknife, spokeshaves to get the rough shape.  I sawed off the ends and used chisels to carve the round bottom part, both a V chisel and flat chisel to form the reeds.  I used carving gouges to shape the fluted transition to the round handle.  I also used my tombstone scrapers for the final shaping.

I raised the grain and lightly sanded the finished stir stick and applied a coat of Hemp Seed Oil for the finish.  Yes hemp seed oil is a drying oil like linseed oil, walnut oil, and poppy seed oil.

Now to make the other one.


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