Full Chisel Blog

July 17, 2013

Arts & Crafts, Craftsman, Gustav Stickley Lamp Shade

A client referred by a local Antique Store asked me if I could make a ‘wicker’ top for their Stickley style lamp.  I said sure and they came to my shop with a picture of what they wanted and the lamp shade over which the wicker covering would fit.  So not knowing any better I said sure.

Between the time I said ‘sure’ and the time they picked up the lampshade I learned how to make the cover.  I actually spent more time thinking about making the shade to the actual process of weaving.  It also had a snowshoe weave pattern with which I was familiar as they are the same as the rawhide seats on my Quebec/Virginia ladder back chairs I make.

I first measured the diameter of the top and bottom rings, divided by two and multiplied it by 2 pi [6.28\, that math I hated in high school comes in handy come to think of it.  I then cut a rather thick piece of maple veneer to 5/8″ wide and 40″+ for the top hoop or ring then not having veneer material long enough I used a rattan chair spline, for factory woven cane, I had left over from another job.  I cut it to 62″ long and put a scarf on each end so I could glue them together.  The maple was also slightly scarfed and roughened with a file to increase the surface area for the Fish Glue.


With some scrap aspen I made a framework to hold both hoops 11″ apart in such a manner as I could weave the cane material, while keeping the hoops in place.  I purchased chair caning, 250 feet of 3.5mm, just over 1/8″ wide, it was the widest they sold and the shortest length.  I figured I used about 60 feet to complete the shade.


I first did a test with some linen string to make sure everything worked out, the first attempt had too many purchases; so I reduced the number.  The number of runs needs to be odd for the weaving to work out.  It is also critical that the strands running diagonally to say the right must be on top while the strands running diagonally to the left need to run on the back to make the final horizontal weaving possible.


Instead of soaking the cane material in water, I only did that to take the folds and kinks out of the pieces then allowed them to dry completely.  For use I just got the parts wet where I was knotting them to the rims.  I did a test of a piece that was soaked and cut it 12″ long when wet, it shrank over 1/8 inch in length which would cause problems.  So I just got it wet where it was looped over the hoops.


When I was ready to match the ‘fumed’ stain on the lamp I had the client bring the lamp base over.  They asked if it fit and I said I have no idea if it will fit.  There was a pause then they said ‘you must be very confident that it will fit?’, to which I said yes, the diameters of the hoops did fit on the test fit and the height is right.


The picture below is showing a couple of sticks and a holdfast to flatten out the upper hoop that got a bit of a dip in it during the process, it worked out fine.


Because the material will not fume evenly because of the different materials, so I used shellac with red iron oxide, burnt umber, yellow ocher, and a touch of black iron oxide to get a good pigmented stain/finish that matched the original.  I had help from my apprentice with staining the entire shade, the horizontal strands were stained before they were woven in place.  A bit of fish glue on the ends finished things up.



This is only the second Arts & Crafts period piece I have worked on,  I built a white oak bookcase for a friend.


July 14, 2013

Map Glass leather and wood case, with copper tacks

I have wanted one of this type of magnifying glass stand for a long time.  I recently acquired this on a large trade for many other tools, etc.  I had my apprentice cut out the round pine disk with a coping saw then using a rip saw cut it in half leaving two pieces 5/16″ in thickness and 1 7/8″ in diameter.

map glass1

I made a paper pattern for the leather for the case as well as 3 pieces of round leather, the lower pine disk has leather on both sides and the upper disk has leather on the inside and walnut burl veneer on the top surface.  The leather and veneer were glued on with Lee Valley Fish Glue, I really like that stuff.  I put a French polish on the walnut burl, then a thin coat of Moses T’s Gunstocker’s Finish.  I punched my mark in the bottom before assembly.

map glass2

Using a bone folder I put some decorative line work around the leather including the tongue that secures the case shut when pushed through the retaining strap.  The strap also had decoration on the front, it passes through slits in the leather I made with a sharp chisel.  Using a Hudson Bay pattern stitching awl, I punched square shaped holes for the waxed [beeswax and tallow] linen thread, in line so the points of the square holes line up.  This allows the thread to lay flat along the seam.  I also pounded the thread flat into the leather to reduce wear.

map glass3

map glass4

Using #2 copper tacks I affixed the leather to the sides of the disk after having applied fish glue to the leather and edges of the top and bottom pieces.  Tiny little tacks, but just right for this small project.

map glass5

I then cut thin strips of leather to cover the exposed pine edge; I scarfed the ends of the leather to lay flat where the leather flap opening is not attached to the top and bottom.  Using even smaller #1 1/2 copper tacks to attach the exposed pine edges finishing off the case.

It was a fun project and took my mind off a truely challenging project that I will post soon.



May 9, 2013

Scorching Sand

scorching sand

I am in need of some scorching sand for heat shading veneer and for hardening goose writing quills.  I got a couple of cups of sand from a friend, it was left over from an out door cook oven.  It is coarse construction sand and was in need of cleaning.

I first ran it through a coarse sieve [12 wires per inch], the stuff that didn’t make it through went into the garden.  I then ran  the sand through fine brass screen [20 wires per inch].  The stuff that didn’t make it through I separated out and saved it for future use, thinking I would still need to wash it when I was done.

Everything that fell through the fine brass wire screen contained all of the fines and dust, which I assumed I would have to wash it and dry it out.  As I was pouring the sand from one container to another the wind blew some of the fine dust away.  Now I was winnowing the sand and in about 15 minutes it was very clean.  I didn’t have to wash it after all.

The size of the sand really does not matter for scortching wood or hardening quills, but it is nice to have two different sizes of winnowed sand.



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.


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.


October 30, 2012

Traditional Veneer Hammer in Wrought Iron

Filed under: Clamping,Hide Glue,Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Techniques,Veneer — Stephen Shepherd @ 12:37 pm

I have always used what I considered the American pattern veneer hammer made of wood with perhaps a brass blade, but generally hardwood such as boxwood or lignum vitae.  The one on the right is my first veneer hammer with a brass blade, I made this about 40 years ago.  The one on the left is the American pattern.

A while back I taught a workshop on hammer veneering and the class made veneer hammers, it was a fun class at the Nevada WoodChucks.  We built the American pattern with one fellow turning the head as well as the handle.

Recently a friend borrowed my veneer hammer for a big job he had designed and built.  Then I found myself in need of a hammer for a restoration job.  I borrowed an all metal German Veneer Hammer from a friend to do the job in a timely manner.  I really liked the way it worked and was able to warm the head to aid in the hammering down of the veneer.

I did some research on old metal veneer hammers and came up with a traditional style in the size I wanted, and these are generally considered Continental patterns and this one is French or German in influence.  And it was constructed from a wagon wheel out of wrought iron, forge welded together to make the proper thickness by master blacksmith Mark Schramm.

The handle is split hickory, wedged with beech and glued in place with Fish Glue after I etched the eye with garlic.  Washed it off with alum and water to make the glue waterproof and I will finish with Moses T’s Reviver [a lean oil] followed by Moses T’s Gunstocker’s Finish [a fat oil].

I have a big veneer job to do so this will fit the bill.

[I have also seen this type of hammer with the head mounted with the blade inside toward the handle, which is correct?  I think this way with the maker’s mark on the underside.]


July 31, 2012

Oak Sewing Machine Cabinet Repair (5) Veneer work & applique repair

Finishing the outside veneer repair work, I could easily work off the side grain veneer repairs with a sharp chisel, however the end-grain took some additional work.  I clamped my big plastic glue block to the end of the cabinet at the proper location in line with the edge.  I then used my thin saw and the block as the fence to trim off the end-grain veneer.

I opened the top to clean the inside and do one veneer repair.  It is not often I get to use my Ram’s Horn coachmakers layout curve, but it worked perfect for this repair.  The sweeping curved line is easier to disguise and fun to do.  I clamped the curve on the work, put pencil register marks and using a sharp knife cut through the old veneer.

I then clamped the Ram’s Horn on the veneer over a scrap of wood, using the register marks and using the same knife cut out the new veneer.  Fits perfect, as soon as a small missing piece of substrate dries, I will glue in the new veneer.

I removed the small drawer and cleaned it out.  It has some water damage loose parts, missing glue blocks and the applique on the front was loose and cracked.  I used a putty knife to get some Fish Glue under the applique and on the drawer front and in the crack in the curl end.  I used a spring clamp to hold the crack together and two clamps and a plastic glue block to hold it down.

I hope to start the finish process soon, staining, filling and a coat of shellac or two.


July 12, 2012

Oak Sewing Machine Cabinet Repair – III

A couple of corners of the lid are damaged down through the substrate veneer, the front corner had a small piece of the substrate missing and I replaced it with some very thick veneer and clamped it in place.  After it dried, I trimmed it with a sharp chisel before matching a piece of harvested veneer.






I harvested some veneer from the back corner of the sewing machine cabinet top.    I used a veneer saw to cut the veneer next to the lid.  I then used a hot clothes iron to soften the original hide glue and with the help of a pallet knife successfully removed the piece of quarter sawn white oak veneer.  It did have a split and a couple of fractures which I used veneer tape to hold together until I glued it down.

I did some minor gluing with liquid Fish Glue on the substrate veneer in the area where I harvested the veneer.  Again using clear plastic glue blocks, the glue doesn’t stick to them and you can see how it looks under clamp to insure it doesn’t move.

I usually do veneer repairs with slanted or angled joints, but on this one I tried a slightly curved cut on the end grain joint, this follows the medullary rays.  While I was cutting the old brittle veneer I had to strengthen some splits with veneer tape.

Using spanner beams to apply pressure where needed on the clear plastic glue blocks and I think it turned out alright.

I still have to trim it and do a couple more small chip repairs.  It is coming along nicely.



July 10, 2012

Oak Sewing Machine Cabinet Repair – II

The edge substrate, and veneer repair went well, now it is time to repair the main split.

I used the same technique with a pallet knife to introduce the Fish Glue under the veneer, making sure both surfaces and all areas in the void have glue.  I then pressed down the clear plastic clamping block and forced out some excess flue.  I wiped off the block and veneer, dried them with a rag then added clamps.  I used the wood beams to force down the ends of the clamp block.

I can work on other areas of repair while this dries today.


April 4, 2012

Making a Veneer Saw

There are several current models of veneer saws being produced, the nicest is perhaps the one offered at Tools For Working Wood with interchangeable blades.  I have made a couple, and have orders for two more saw blades.  I needed to make this now as I need to cut some walnut burl veneer for replacing the top of a sewing machine cabinet for a friend.  There is no way to cut this crispy veneer without a veneer saw.

This is the end of a saw blank for a patternmaker’s saw, which was longer than I intended, I cut and snapped the end off to make the veneer saw.  The tip already was slightly curved which helped in the shaping process as veneer saws are severely breasted.

I had to remember to file all of the teeth in the same direction, which took me a bit of time, I kept skipping a tooth.

Once the teeth were all filed in the same direction and with the curve or breast formed, I filed off the teeth to knife points.

I drilled two holes in the saw plate and countersunk them on the proper side for mounting to a wooden handle.

This is my current veneer saw [on loan]:

















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