Full Chisel Blog

July 25, 2013

Philosophical Instruments: Drawing Machine

This one has been on the list for a long time, so it was nice to finally build this ancient, archaic and obscure ‘Drawing Machine’ as Leonardo named his drawing.  There are several woodcuts by Durer showing a similar device and this particular design comes from a British movie ‘The Draughtman’s Contract’, which I saw years ago and inspired me to build this one.  I can’t remember much of the movie but I do remember the instrument.

drawing machine

It is constructed of pine with waxed linen cordage, it is portable and comes apart for transportation.  It also has a threaded insert for attaching to a tripod.  I appologize for the modern tripod, a wooden one is also on my list, which doesn’t seem to be getting any shorter.

The framework is joined with open mortice and tenons at the corners, glued together with Fish Glue.  I carefully laid out where the cords whould be in 1″ grid based on an 8 1/2″ by 11″ piece of paper.  I drilled the holes from both sides to insure proper placement and knowing the small drill bit may wander.

The base holds the large frame and a holder for the small cross hair frame aperature, which is adjustable up and down depending on whether the large frame is ‘portrait’ or ‘landscape’.

drawing machine1

I also made a stencil using a ponce wheel, that matches the grid on the large frame.  A linen bag with some powdered charcoal leaves a grid on the paper when the bag is rubbed over the stencil, which can be used again and again.

My first attempt at using the drawing machine, it takes a little getting use to, but it gets easier.

drawing machine2

Fun project, I still have a bit more refining to do and a bit of embellishment, not sure when I will make the tripod.

Durer woodcut:



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.


April 3, 2012

Gibson Mandolin A-1 repair

This particular mandolin was made in 1911 according to the Gibson Archive and is in fairly good condition considering its age.  I usually don’t work on ‘modern’ items but this is for a friend.

I have repaired several stringed instruments in my time and when they have water damage it is generally on the bottom or the sides from sitting in water.  This one however has damage to the very top of the peg box.

The mandolin has what appears to be a birch body stained mahogany, spruce top, cherry laminated neck with a strip of ebony or ebonized wood in between.  It has an ebony finger board and ebony veneer on the peg box which is damaged as is the cherry substrate.  It is trimmed with ivory celluloid and mother of pearl.

I will put a small cherry end grain dovetail Dutchman to prepare it for the ebony veneer, it will also be toothed as there is evidence of toothing plane was used to prepare the woods for gluing with hot hide glue.

Should be a fun restoration project.



November 13, 2011

Nineteenth Century Pill Making Machine and…

a 12 gang large candle mold are what I picked up at an antique store, I was looking for a vintage cocktail shaker.  I went with a friend lets call him George Stapleford and I spotted the new candle mold, marked $39.00 on sale for $19.00, much less than I paid for a 6 gang mold.

My beeswax/tallow candles burn for 12 hours with proper attention to the wick.

But the real find was this ‘slicer’ or that is what the sticker said.  Then it got confusing it looked like it was marked $14.00 and that was marked through and 7.– was marked.  I took it to the counter and asked the price, $7.00 it was and after I paid I told them it wasn’t a slicer.

As I was paying George pointed out the name on the end WIRZ, sounded famaliar, could it be Dr. Henry Wirz the commandant of Andersonville?

On the top edge is is marked 3 Gr., and 346 [the top roller bar is also stamped 346] with 4 stars and then the letters WIRZ.  Made of mahogany and brass with iron screws this 24 gang pill making machine is 19th century, there are hand planing marks and plane blade chatter marks on the tool.

Have to look into the association with Wirz.


September 1, 2011

Purfling [inlay] marker or cutter

I picked this up on a trade, sent the fellow a copy of Shellac, Linseed Oil, & Paint – Traditional 19th Century Woodwork Finishes and I know I am happy with the trade.

This is for marking or cutting purfling inlay on musical instruments.  The purfling is the decorative and strengthening ebony/holly/ebony narrow stringing around the edges of violins, violas, and cellos.

This tool marks out and makes the initial cuts.  It is adjusted with thin metal shims between the two outside marking / cutting blades for different widths and there is some adjustment from the round fence by placing shims behind the cutter blade.

Have to send this off to a luthier friend to give it a try.


May 21, 2011

P. Guarneri tuning peg lathe

After finding photographs [see image below] of the rare tuning peg lathe used by Antonio Stradivari to make turning pegs, I realized I had an almost identical bow lathe.  This is a reciprocal bow lathe like those used by watch and clock makers.  This is slightly more fancy than the one in the Strad collection in Cremona, Italy in that the securing bolt for the tool rest can be turned out of the way while fashioning the tuning pegs.

Here is the one I have, it does not have the wooden bobbins for the bow belt to wrap around increasing the speed of turning.  This is a reciprocal lathe and only cuts on the pull stroke, or push stroke depending on how the bow string is wrapped around the stuff.  It is held on the bench with a clamp or vise and powered by a wooden bow with a leather or gut strap to provide the power.

I had no idea that this could date from the late 1600’s.

I tested the paper on the label with UV light and it did not glow like modern paper.  [P. Garneri Mant(ua)], I am sure it was added later.


February 5, 2011

Gilder’s Tip

I made one of these years ago and don’t know where it went.  So I bought a badger knot [for making a shaving brush, which I obviously don’t use] from Woodcraft and am cutting it up to make gilder’s tips and badger hair brushes.

I used a hair stacker than laid out a single file of hairs and glued them using fish glue to some nice laid card stock paper and put it under clamp.  I add a bit of glycerin in the fish glue to keep it flexible.  I am going to make more of these tips in case anyone is interested. 

My gilding kit is compleat again; gilder’s cush, with parchment wind screen, leaf knife and dog tooth [agate] burnisher {with leather sheath} and a gilders tip.  After I took the picture, I brushed the gilder’s tip in my hair to develop the static charge and flattened out that piece of gold leaf that had rolled on the corner when I opened the book of thin metal leaf.


October 30, 2010

Can the Sun run any slower?

Filed under: Historical Material,Instruments,Nautical,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 7:35 am

I know it happens every year at this time.  You pull out your trusty sundial, set the gnomon, orient to north and you get a reading that is over 16 minutes SLOW.  It has to do with the position of the sun everyday at noon.  When plotted over a year it forms an irregular figure 8.  And this time of year it is at its slowest.  In order to get an accurate reading you need the equation of time or an analemma, like the one below.

The vertical numbers are the declination of the sun and the horizontal numbers are minutes.  On the horizontal scale to the right of 0, it is plus or fast and to the left of 0, is minus or slow.

So keep this around to correct your sundials.

And yes it will run a bit slower before it starts to speed up.


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