Full Chisel Blog

July 31, 2008

Modern Finishes (& Glues) are Crap!

Filed under: Finishing,Hide Glue,Restoration,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 10:15 pm

Modern finishes are crap for a variety of reasons, most importantly they are rigid inflexible films that will de-laminate when the wood moves.  They cloud the surface with a petroleum distillate based plastic coating that does nothing to enhance the look nor provide real lasting protection.




I have used modern finishes during those moments when I was required to do so, but when I have a choice, which now is all the time, I choose traditional finishes as I do traditional woodworking and I restore antiques so I have to use traditional finishes.  Using modern finishes and glues will greatly reduce the value of antiques and modern finishes and glues only have 50 to 60 years of history, shellac goes way back and hide glue to paleo times.



They have failed to synthesize shellac or hide glue and the modern varnishes, lacquers (not to be confused with real lacquer, Rhus vernicifera) and modern glues are weak attempts to improve upon the past.  The problem is there was no need for improvement.  The only need was to make those things cheaper, which they did after WWII.  With the introduction of poly vinyl chloride, poly urethane and other nasty hydrocarbons, were cheaper to make than going out and collecting shellac or making glue from hides.



Well cheaper is usually never better, and with the increase of a barrel of oil (not linseed, walnut or whale) going up we shall see.  And there are dangers in the manufacture of PVC and other complex petrochemicals, to the workers who make it and people who live near these chemical manufactories.



The problem with the plastic film finishes is that they are not flexible and can not move.  And of course wood moves, so a finish that does not move with the wood will de-laminate and flake off.  They are particularly susceptible to moisture and can trap it underneath the surface and cause mold, fungus and other damage.



The problem with plastic glues is the very same thing they don’t move, but do creep, clog up tools with swarf, interfere with stains and finishes, ruin your clothing, are a pain to clean up, are impossible to re-glue or reverse and are generally nasty.



Now of course I am a traditional woodworker, so traditional finishes and traditional glues are a natural and restoring antiques require the use of proper tools, materials and techniques, so as not to cause any damage, change history or screw things up.



Is anything more shiny than a French Polished surface?  I think not.  Is there a finer first treatment for wood than linseed oil?   Well maybe Walnut Oil.  Is there a finer varnish than a good Copal Oil Varnish, nay I say.  Although I am courting Turpentine Varnish and hope to make up some Mastic and Burgundy Pitch Varnish in the near future, as soon as I get the Tinsmith to make up a couple of tin varnish cans.



There are hundreds and hundreds of old recipes for traditional furniture finishes, paints, varnishes, stains, dyes, fumes and treatments for wood that should provide a sufficient number of options to keep one busy for years.  These old methods need to be preserved instead of ‘replaced’ by cheap crap. 



The new finishes are ‘dead’, they have no life, they do nothing to ‘pop’ the grain of the wood, they just lay there in a dull haze (with a slight blue tint) and obscure the true nature of the wood.  And of course not being able to move will flake off when the wood moves, because wood moves.



How does this relate to modern woodworking?  Well the wood is still the same.  It still behaves as it did 100 or 200 or 400 or 800 or 64,000 years ago, it is still wood.  And there are finishes that are hundreds and hundreds of years old that are still in good condition.  The introduction of modern finishes and glues is recent and that is when all of the trouble started.



We are an arrogant breed, we think that we can do things better, and of course there are things that I am happy have gotten better, water quality and antiseptics at the top of my list.  But when it comes to woodworking, it reached its zenith in the mid nineteenth century, continued somewhat through the Industrial Revolution then continued to diminish until the mid 20th century and the introduction of petrochemical alternatives.





I am sorry for beating around the bush on this issue, straddling the fence and vacillating between indecision and not being able to make up my mind or being wishy-washy, I think this is important.





July 30, 2008

Yesterday in the Shop

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Restoration,Sawing,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 10:36 am

Yesterday in the Shop, I got a bit of work done and discovered another saw blade hiding in a pad saw.



Here is a small pad saw blade.  It is probably broken off a bit on the tip, it is 10 ppi, taper ground and no set to the teeth.


pad saw blade



Here is the touch-mark, Disston & Sons Phila.


touch mark



Here is a pad saw that belongs to a friend, he brought it by for me to look at.  The saw pad itself is typical boxwood handle brass ferrule and iron screws.  The blade is also taper ground and appears to be its original length and has no markings.



Another pad saw 1



Here is a close up of the blade, it is 16 ppi and is sharpened bastard rip.


pad saw blade



It also has set teeth, even though it is taper ground.  The set is proper, just the tip of the tooth, not at the root of the tooth.


pad saw tooth set


And I also made a new bow saw from a bucket of bow saw parts, fit up the handles, cut the slots for the blade, made the toggle and it is ready for a blade.


bow saw


I have about 30 blades (1/4″ wide) but they are not at the shop, so I will have to wait until I am back in the shop to fit up the blade.  My bow saw at the shop has a cranked dovetail blade and I need another with a regular blade (and fine tooth 11 ppi) for curved work.



This came in in the afternoon for repairs, it is a Saxony Wheel for flax or cotton, has been refinished, the modern plastic finish is nicely flaking off as it usually does.   Have I mentioned my dislike for modern finishes, they are plastic crap that fouls the wood with a cloud of inflexible haze.  Wood moves, didn’t they get the memo?  I feel a blog post on this subject is long overdue.


spinning wheel


It has some problems.  This wheel belongs to a visitor to the park and she wants it put in good order.  The mother-of-all is missing, the flyer has been replaced, but the bobbin may be original.  The treadle is missing a piece of wood and the leather hinges are worn out and will be replaced.  The base is white oak and the turned parts are birch.


What is unusual about this wheel is the style of the turnings, looks like Sheraton Bamboo, so I will use the style to replace the uprights for the bobbin as well as the distaff, which is missing.


wheel problem


Like a gaping opening between the two pieces of chestnut making up the wheel.  I will remove the spoke pegs, shorten the long spokes and reassemble.



spoke pegs


The spoke pegs go through the rim and hold the end of the spokes, the spokes are not socketed into the fellows, but are butt joints secured with the pegs.  I will post more pictures as I tear into this sweet little wheel.




July 29, 2008


Filed under: Mortice & Tenon,Proper Tools,Sawing,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 9:18 am

Restoration may not be the right word to use at least on the Beam Compass. 


 Frame Saw, before

Here is the bow saw before, now I did wash and clean the parts and scrub as I could I couldn’t remove the patina, just the crud on the surface.


Here is some mortises I had to make for a stretcher for an old bow saw I picked up last fall, figured it was time to make the replacement.  The original stretcher was broken and repaired several times and it was too short for the blade in the saw.  Neither the saw blade nor I suspect the stretcher are original to the saw.



Stretcher Mortise


This shows both mortises being cut.  I left some extra on the ends to reduce splitting.


  drilled mortise

Here is the one that I drilled first then chopped the mortise.


 chopped mortise


Here is the one I just chopped without drilling.  And I think that pre-drilling the hole actually saved time as there was some place for the chips to go.  It was faster and the hole in no way interfered with the chopping, but rather help in the process.

 Frame Saw Restoration


Here is the finished saw restoration.  Because the arms are symmetrical it was possible to reverse them.  Apparently the tension had been left on, and the arms developed a slight bow (aside from being a bow saw), so I reversed them and it fit just fine.  I also noticed something different about how the blade is attached to the handles.  Instead of the normal slot with the pin near the end, the kerf for the blade went all the way to the handle and was pinned near the handle.  This means more wood is ahead of the pins for strength and the pin can not fall out because it is inside the arms.

 Beam Compass

I had a nice old beam compass, missing captive wedges and a broken beam.  So I ‘restored’ this one.  I am not sure I can call this a restoration as I replaced half the parts.  The replacement beam is mahogany and the temporary wedges are pine.  When I get them fit up properly to each arm of the trammel, I will replace them with a hardwood replacement.



 Beam compass detail

Here is a close up of the heads.  It has a fixed head on the right and the center head have a blunt point and a sharp point.  The points for marking and the blunt points for a fixed point hole or in an ellipse engine.  The head on the left holds stubs of pencils in it for laying out circles, arcs and ellipses.


I am not sure it is a restoration as half of the pieces are replaced.



July 27, 2008

Reconsidering the Rip Saw

Several things lately have got me thinking about Rip Saws.  The first is a couple of rip saws one of which I restored and one of which I re-handled.  Another item of interest came up when Adam Cherubini on his blog Art & Mysteries talked of the cabinetmakers at Williamsburg not using cross cut saws, as none appeared on inventories and the historic record only indicated rip saws.


Now at first I thought that they just didn’t record anything about cross-cut saws, but other records don’t necessarily indicate anything else.  Now in Smith’s Explanation or Key to the Various Manufactories of Sheffield in 1816 only mentions two man cross cut saws.


Holtzapffel, London 1846 doesn’t specifically list cross cut saws and most of the teeth are quite coarse from 3 1/2 to 10 Points Per Inch.  But there are early blades with finer teeth and they may or may not have been sharpened crosscut.  I have bought a new saw or two in my day and I have always just sharpened them as they were never up to my standards, so I am wondering if the manufactories just didn’t offer their saws in one tooth pattern, but in different sizes, knowing full well that the craftsman would immediately sharpen it to their preference?


Now maybe this is another case of familiar oversight, not mentioning the obvious as it was common knowledge, I don’t know?  Certainly the rip saw would be the easiest to make, no double angles for filing, but straight across.  And while the handles were farmed out to the cottage industries around the industrial centers, the blades were all made in factories and mass produced, by hand on water or steam powered factories.


There are two saws that I have recently put in good order that have prompted this reconsideration of the Rip Saw.  The first is the Spears and Jackson 7 point half rip saw that I have gone on and on about and the other is the recent addition to my arsenal of toothed tools, the small 18 inch 16 PPI rip saw that I have re-handled.


This little saw, however has turned my head.  After 36 years, you can still learn something, if you can afford to pay attention.  I have mentioned this sweet little rip saw previously and here is what it looks like finished.

Little Rip Saw finished

Thanks to Mike Wenzloff for the saw nuts (the check is in the mail) and they worked great, there was some hand holding as he sent me a detailed email on how to install them, although I didn’t have some of the tools he described but got it done with a twist auger and a gimblet, worked out fine.


The strip of wood below the saw is a piece of pine I ripped off a 3/4″ board and the results were astounding.  I rarely have this kind of epiphany but this one has got me thinking.

Small Rip Saw, off side

Here is the off side of the saw showing the split nuts, finished flush to the wood.  My saws are not fancy, they are functional and work for me.

Rip saw results

And here is what the wood looks like when it is cut with a 16 ppi rip saw.


I have to reconsider the rip saw, I used it to cross cut some hardwood dowels today for a repair and the cut was surprisingly smooth, who would have thought?  I did try cross cutting a 3 inch wide board and it was just too slow so I did pick up my small cross cut saw to finish this cut, so I won’t be resharpening my cross cut saws to rip anytime soon.  But this got me cogitating.












July 26, 2008

Interpreting the Past – First Person

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 9:26 am

I have worked for living history museums on and off since 1976 and during virtually all of that time I have done first person interpretation.  For those of you that don’t know what that is, it is role-playing, in other words when you walk into my 1857 Cabinet Shop, you walk into the mid nineteenth century, everything is correct to the period and the discussion is done as if it were 1857.


Now there are those who don’t like this kind of interpretation and prefer third person where the interpreter says “this is a …’ and ‘that is a…’, and ‘this is how the pioneers did that task…”, which is nice if there is a lot to see in a museum, but it doesn’t get the people involved.  It seems to me to be a dull and not very informative method of passing on history.


People don’t like first person interpretation because they feel ‘silly’ or ‘awkward’ role playing and are not comfortable enough with the history or not knowledgeable enough to pull it off correctly.  When done properly first person interpretation is a great experience for both the interpreter and more importantly for the guests and visitors.


I choose first person because it immediately gets the people into the historic mindset.  All I have to do is ask the people ‘are you from around these parts or just on your way to California?’  (Interpreting Utah in the 1850’s after Gold was discovered).  They usually then understand they are in the context of the daily historical life going on around them.


Then there are those visitors that take it upon themselves to bring you out of ‘character’ by asking modern questions.  These are easily dismissed by saying ‘I have no idea what you are talking about’ or ‘I believe you are talking in tongues’ or just saying ‘I don’t know’.  I actually relish the times when I get someone who keeps it up and I never come out of character (unless of course there is an emergency or the people have a legitimate modern question.  I answer these questions quietly to the person asking, and then it is back to first person.


Then you get visitors that are fascinated about being in the past, ask questions and get involved in what is going on.  They become immersed in the history and the context of a pioneer village and the interaction between interpreters reinforces the ‘image’ or ‘feeling’ of what is happening all around.


On rare occasion and I really love this part of my job, some one, usually with a history background will come into the shop, see what is going on and start asking questions that can be a challenge.  Who was the Secretary of War?  What is the value of Gold?  How do you feel about the Kansas issue?  These are the easy ones; I have got into lengthy discussions about the Second Coinage Act, the United States Army marching against the Mormons in 1857 or the state of agricultural production of the period.


So when doing first person interpretation it does require a familiarity with the history up to the time period being portrayed, but there is always the perfect out, merely by saying ‘I don’t know’.  First person requires an ability to act and play the necessary role.  I have seen this turn shy people into extroverts and their new persona frees them from their fears and allows them to interact with people.  And when you have this historic interaction, the guests and visitors get involved in what is going on, history.


This also lends itself to a ‘hands on’ experience.  I love to have kids straddle the shaving horse, hand them a big sharp drawknife and tell them to pull it toward themselves.  Then I look at the parents whom are wide-eyed and concerned for their child’s safety.  I reassure them that they run out of pull when the blade gets close to them and unless they touch the blade (which I encourage them not to do) they can not get hurt with this dangerous looking tool.


To have a child shave off the edges of a split of pine with a spokeshave or plane a board with a coffin smoother, they frequently keep the shavings as a memento of their visit.  I am intrigued by the fascination people have, adults and children alike with a brace and bit.  When I am drilling a hole through a board with a twist auger, I will ask one of the visitors to put there hand under the board and let me know when the bit comes through.  Well no one wants to do that because of their modern thinking about power tools.  I eventually get someone to put their finger under and they let me know the second the pilot screw just barely breaks the underside.  Then I say “see I told you it would be alright’, and they get a good laugh.  I also say ‘don’t try this at home’.


Interpreting in the first person seems natural to me and I have no problem staying in ‘character’.  I can get my work done at the same time getting the visitor involved ‘hands-on’ to touch and feel the tools and furniture.  I also tell them ‘that my tools are all very sharp, so when you cut yourself don’t bleed on the tools or furniture, it rusts the tools up something awful and it makes the furniture hard to sell’.  They get the idea, but more importantly it means they are in a working cabinet and chair shop.  Some are actually surprised that it is a working shop and not just a static museum exhibit or just a staged demonstration.


People want to know about the past and as far as I am concerned the best method of teaching about our heritage is to be in the ‘first person’ and give them a total immersion into our history.







July 25, 2008

W.W.Richey, Louisville, Kentucky Coffin Smoother

Filed under: Hand Planing,Laid Steel Tools,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 9:08 am

Now I have had this plane for some time, I had a thin Stanley blade for it but it wasn’t right, way too thin leaving a gaping mouth.  It is a single iron plane and the new irons just didn’t fit right, nor look good.

Coffin Smoother

Here is the touch-mark, The owners name is stamped above.Touchmark


So I put the fine laid steel blade I got from Galoot-Tools and it was almost too thick, but left just enough mouth to cut, and cut it did.  The wedge rode a little high out of the throat but it did hold it in place.

I just planed a bit with this as the plane is probably worth some money, so I don’t want to use it much.  I have 4 or 5 other coffin smoother’s, so I really don’t need another one.  That will not stop me from getting another one if the price is right.  This plane was a gift from a lawyer friend of mine, I hope he doesn’t find out how much it is worth.

Smith single iron

I also used the Joseph Smith Sheffield iron in this plane, the blade was thinner, so a wider mouth and the wedge fit better.  It also planed a piece of pine nice and smooth.  I think I will find out what it is worth and


July 23, 2008

Hand Saw rehabilitation

Filed under: Restoration,Sawing,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 9:01 am

I have posted pictures of this saw earlier it is the Spears & Jackson Half Rip Saw, with a broken upper horn on the handle.  I did not have a large enough piece of beech to do the repair, so I put it off.  Well last weekend at the local flea market, I came across this saw, I noticed it had a replacement handle (of beech), so I thought it would be good for doing this repair.

small rip saw

And I thought I could make a new handle for the fine little blade.  The blade is old, I don’t know how old, it is 18″ long and is sharpened 16 TPI (PPI) and as a rip saw.  The blade has no markings but was re-punched for the new handle. 

S&J repair

So, I cut off the horn from the replacement handle and prepared it for gluing.  I removed as little of the original as possible to get a flat surface for gluing.  I toothed both surfaces and treated them with garlic.  I was going to clamp the piece on but ended up just leaving it overnight.


The following day the new horn was ready to shape.  I use a #49 & 50 Nicholson rasps to rough shape then went to cabinet files, bastard first then smooth cut.  I used a chisel to shape it near the original wood on the top where it curves down then finished with a card scraper.  (A bit of hot shellac stick for the fine line on one side that wasn’t quite right).

Horn restoration

So with this one complete, I still had that little rip saw to handle up, so I chose cherry to match my other saw handles, and I chose the same pattern for this saw handle.

With a little handling the shine should go away.  I matched the color with shellac and burnt umber pigment, it took a couple of thinner applications to get the color without obscuring the grain.  Now it is onto the new handle for the little rip saw.Drilling handle

Now I have used these Duck Bill Spoon Bits before but only in pine, so I thought I would put it to the test on some hard cherry, and to my delight the holes were perfect.

exit holes

Even the exit holes were perfect, sweet bits, I am impressed.

Now yesterday I felt (and actually looked) like that drawing of the Boutique Saw Handle Maker that was on Joel’s Blog.  (I should do a vignette).  It only took about 10 minutes to cut out the handle and 10 minutes to cut out the hand/grip hole. 

Sawing handle

The bow saw is a new reproduction made by Clay and is English.

I used the same rasps and files for shaping the handle.  I then used a scraper to smooth it out.  I cut the slot the the S&J half rip saw (above) as it was the only one I had that was the right thickness for the new blade.

small rip saw handled

The handle looks big now, some of that is the fact that it is in the ‘white’ and does not have a finish.  It will look smaller when it has a finish.  I did try out the saw cutting dovetails on some 3/4″ pine and it worked just fine, took a bit longer but produced smooth cuts.  I split out the wood to examine the kerf and it was nice and smooth, I can’t wait until I can actually use this fine little saw.  Now all that remains until I can really use the saw are a pair of split saw nuts (I think I am on a famous waiting list).


July 22, 2008

More Folding Lap Desk

Filed under: Historical Material,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 9:35 am

Well I was doing some other things today and only got a bit of work done on the lap desk.  I did fit up the interior pieces that will be the leather covered writing surface.  The leather will act as the hinge for both pieces.  I will of course glue the leather hide down with hide glue, that is simple.


The inner pieces are thin soft maple, I will strengthen them with a couple of battens on the underside.


I also took care of my dovetails, they look great now.  (Plaster of Paris or whiting (calcium carbonate), wood flour, hide glue and water).


Scraping and a bit of sanding, a coat of paint and the exterior is completed.  The interior will require a bit of fetteling to get everything fit up properly.  I need to order a lock to secure the lap desk and I have the accouterments to furnish it properly.



July 21, 2008

Folding Lap Desk

Filed under: Dovetails,Hand Planing,Historical Material,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 9:55 am

These were very common in the nineteenth century, it is in effect a briefcase or laptop of the period.   Most were constructed of common secondary woods, pine, poplar, chestnut, etc and covered with fancy veneer such as rosewood, mahogany, etc. and even stringing, inlays, marquetry and metal mounts. 

When folded up, it had a lock to keep it together and private, and when opened provided a slanted writing surface plus two storage areas for papers, ink, quill, sander or blotter and other accouterments needed for proper correspondence to conduct business in a neat manner.  They were for use in the household, at the shop for business or while traveling.

The construction of the carcase varies from through dovetails to half blind dovetails, like I selected for this example.  Again another one of those items I can cross off my list of things I have always wanted to built.  If that list wasn’t getting bigger when I see new things, it would be getting smaller because I am actually building many projects that I have planned to do sometime in my life.

I will make a variation on this particular one as I will just paint on the veneer and the stringing.  There are painted examples (a few leather covered also exist) but most are veneered.  So don’t say anything about the dovetails, they will be filled with putty and painted and you will never see them.

I started out with the four sides glued together, held with a rope tourniquet and toggle.  I use ropes and toggles for clamping all kinds of objects, especially chairs and for repair work.  A mostly overlooked technique, it is as about as cheap a clamp as can be had.

Box, glued up

Here is a view from the side showing the half blind dovetails.

side view

Here is a view on the inside, alright, I did saw past the score line, but it is on the inside, so who cares.

saw marks


Here is what the box looks like all closed up.  The top and bottom are cut to fit, glued and nailed in place.  Should I worry about cross grain, yes, just as much as the original craftsman did.  And most of the time on old lap desks there are problems caused by this.  Together with the fact that most are only veneered and finished on the outside, but with smaller pieces, this single side treatment isn’t much of a problem.


And this is what it looks like open with the hinges installed.  I made a fundamental mistake when laying out the position of the dovetails, can you spot the glaring mistake?  If not I probably won’t say anything.


Now I thought that the second set of hinges I ordered were like the first set, but oh no, the leaf in between is bigger, so it left a big gap at the back.


This required me to remove the hinges and re-mortise them a bit deeper to remove the gap.  Wow, that nasty mistake rears its ugly head, won’t do that again, and I have another set of hinges so I will build at least one more.  I want to copy the one that is in Baltimore that was used by Edgar Allen Poe.  It is a big one and has a table base for use when not traveling.

I am fashioning the writing surface(s) from some thin soft maple I have, the hinge will be either leather or cloth, depending on what I choose for the writing surface.  If I use cloth, I will paint it to look like leather, with a little glycerin in the paint to keep it flexible.  I will also add a bit to the hide glue for that same purpose.



July 20, 2008

Using a Workbench

Filed under: Techniques,Uncategorized,Workbench — Stephen Shepherd @ 6:17 pm

I presume you all know how to use a workbench, so some of this may be old hat, but that is not going to stop me.  A workbench is a bench where you do your woodworking (I love stating the obvious) and it shouldn’t interfere with getting work done.

As I have mentioned before my workbench tops are made of softwood, as I don’t want my workbench to damage that which I am working on.  Now while I mostly use pine for what I make, it is more important to me to have a soft top on the workbench.  People ask if it doesn’t wear out?  Well I am sure that the top of my bench will only last a hundred years or so, I can’t imagine wearing out a bench top.

Probably the most important thing about a workbench is that it should be solid and not move on you when you are using it.  If a bench wobbles, moves, sways or jiggles when you use it makes what you are doing difficult as the work is moving in unwanted ways.  Accuracy diminishes when the work moves when it is not intended.  If it is not stable and moves when you work on it, I am not sure it can be called a workbench.

Nor do I think workbenches should be built like a piece of furniture, while they look wonderful and could be in most peoples living rooms, and are great examples of the fine craftsmanship of the woodworker, I think most will be reluctant to use the bench for fear of damaging its pristine look.  That interferes with getting work done.

The reason I built this type of bench is that I am not sure a vise (permanently) attached to a workbench was not a time-saver and gets in the way.  I have two other benches in my shop with tail vises and face vises, they are identical benches, one has been raised up 5 inches (with a cleat under the trestle feet, the other one is lower for planing and both have the nasty tool tray holes, one has been rehabilitated and the other one is in therapy (its crap tray is going away soon).

I have noticed problems when using the tail vises in conjunction with bench dogs.  The screws on these vises can exert an enormous amount of pressure and it is easy to deform boards, even thick long boards, by over tightening.  When holding thin stock it is almost impossible not to bow the board one way or another with just light pressure.  I did some playing around the other day and it was difficult to get the board solid enough within the dogs to hold it without causing it to bow.

It is also much faster to plane boards against a stop or catch than it is to secure it between dogs.  The wood can be easily turned, flipped and smoothed without the vise causing the boards to bow, and it just takes too long, tightening, loosening, adjusting the dogs, not a labor saving devise.

The jam cleat or arrest is also much faster and using a face vise for edge planing, and a surface V-shaped jam cleat holds boards well for edge planing.  Just push the board in place and work, then pull it out, reverse push it in again and you are back to work.  I guarantee that it is much faster with no fear of distortion.

I also like the feel of the wood when I am planing it against the stops or catches and it requires a different technique, that actually improved my hand planing.  Because the rear end of the board is not supported when using just the catch (planing stop), you must exert more pressure on the rear of the plane, especially when off planing the end of the board.  One difficulty is planing a thin board with a bit of a cup to it or a chip of wood under the wood causes it to come up off the stop.  This can be avoided by having an iron toothed crochet (catch) set in the stop to prevent this from happening.

With the increase in heel pressure on the plane there is less of a tendency to plane more on the near side of the wood.  Free planing (not in a vise) is also much faster as the wood is easily reversed for proper grain orientation for planing, and easily flipped over to finish the reverse side of the board.  And having two stops allow you to use them in conjunction with each other to hold round or oval pieces or a corner into the two stops to plane on a skew angle to the grain.

 I am building a folding lap desk 12″ by 16″ by 6″, half blind dovetailed, nailed in bottom and top.  I prepared all the boards on the bench, did the dovetails using a hold fast to gang saw the front and back and did the half blind pins on a side rest (bench hook).  I planed the top and bottom flat before gluing in the top and bottom, using the two stops set all the way up.  I also used the stops to hold the box when smoothing the tops and edges.  I did use an end vise on another bench to hold the box when I ripped it apart.  I finished up the slopes with a smoother, again free planing against the stops.  I mortised the hinges against the stops.  I will post on this box soon.

I do need a vise for sawing, and it is my intention to build a proper sawing vise, then I will never have need for an end vise, which is just fine with me as the Best Woodworking Workbench in the World doesn’t have one.

I am also well pleased by the with the jam cleat (Not a Crochet) on the left front edge of my workbench.  I am contemplating and making inquiries about Moxon (see the thread at WoodCentral) and would like to figure out how that thing works.  The jam cleat or arrest works well with just one peg to support the height of the board at its proper location.  Push the piece in and start planing.  You can also use the bench as a height reference by allowing your fingers to touch the bench, so you can get a feel for the height as you plane.  Any time I can bring another sense into play, rather than relying on sight to check for smoothness or straightness, the better, especially as one ages.

Who says you can’t teach an old dog, old tricks?  Forcing myself not to use an end vise or face vise has been an interesting experiment and the results of which I will continue to practice.  It has not been difficult to wean myself from using vises, and had I not had this particular notion perhaps I wouldn’t have learned some valuable techniques.

I of course am not claiming authorship to any of this, I just looked at what was available during the early nineteenth century in terms of woodworking technology together with the extant examples we can examine and extrapolate and I put 2 and 2 together and got 22.


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