Full Chisel Blog

October 22, 2008

Disston Triumph

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Sawing,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 10:06 am

Now this type of Saw Set is not one that I use, I use a saw wrest.  During my move I have uncovered a number of tools that I forgot I owned and this is one of them.

Disston Triumph

This one is different from other pliers types I have seen before, and it doesn’t appear to crush the tooth like other pliers type saw sets.


Much of the original japanning is in place, there is a light surface rust, but no pitting.

Patent Information

This is just within my century of interest, but in the later decades.

Tooth anvil and punch

There is an adjustment to hold the teeth at a certain height/depth, and the anvil is adjustable.  What is unusual about this is that the tooth punch comes out first and holds the tooth against the anvil.

Tooth anvil and blade punch

Then the second punch comes out and pushes the blade while the first punch holds the tooth.  Clever idea, although I think it would be difficult to use, a saw wrest is so simple.

But I wanted to post this as I have not spoken well of pliers saw sets, and will have to temper my outlook.  I am still unsure about the pressure of the punch.  I think it also might bend the tooth at the root, which is not a good thing.  One more tool for sale.


October 21, 2008

Dealing with my Chisel Problem

Filed under: Of Interest,Proper Tools,Tool Cabinets & Tool Boxes,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 11:16 am

When I first built this Tool Cabinet, I built a three tier rack that held all of my chisels at the time.  Well I have sold a couple and picked up several, so there was a need for a change.  My chisel rack is full (he he).

Chisel Rack before

Besides I could not see what tools were what as all of my chisel handles match.  The original design was to alleviate the sharp ends of the chisels and gouges from cutting me.  Well it is a bad design and was in need of a remake.

So I decided to utilize the unused space behind the doors to the base of my Tool Cabinet.  I decided to put the chisels on the left side and I will put the gouges and carving chisels on the right hand door.  I cut up some pine, planed it and did a layout of the chisels.  I drilled holes for the screws with a gouge bit and cut the slots with a cross cut hand saw.

New Chisel Rack

This is the first iteration and the lower rack for the large chisels was mounted too high, so it had to be repositioned down an inch and a half. (I still need to replace that hooped chisel handle, as soon as I figure out how to remove it without damaging the handle, I give all my replaced handles to a friend).

The lower rack works fine and holds the chisels by their sockets, the three narrower chisels are in holes in the base and the others are in slots.  I will probably add leather tabs, similar to a Billiards Stick Rack, to hold them in place.

The top rack has a problem.  I was worried about a chisel falling from the rack when the door is open, and sure enough one of my chisels landed on the floor point first.  I am going to re-do the top rack with holes instead of slots as all of the tools have narrow enough blades to fit into a hole and be removed easily and will prevent the tools from falling out if the door is opened too quickly or slammed shut.

After I figure out all the problems I will tackle the gouges and carving tools.


October 19, 2008


Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Sawing,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 3:55 pm

Today at the local flea market, I acquired this hacksaw from that nice lady I have spoke of before, I wonder where she gets this stuff?  Well it was nice seeing her again and I beat her up on the price, I gave here a dollar less than her asking price of $5.00. 


The overall length is 22″ and it can cut 3″ deep.  The blade is 12″, a nice newer Starrett High Speed Steel hacksaw blade with individually set teeth, not the normal wavy pattern.  Note that the back has a belly or sway back and it looks like it was original to the manufacturing, this saw shows little wear.  And the back is also a bit out of being straight as it looks like it was distorted slightly with the addition of the touch marks.


It can hold a blade either horizontally or vertically with double slots and holes in the bolsters. 

Arm joint at handle bolster

The arm is tenoned into the handle bolster.  The bolster has a brass ferrule on an ebonized beech handle and has a tang that goes through the handle and is secured with a washer and is riveted over.

Tension bolster

The entire brace except the handle and ferrule are made of wrought iron and it is forge welded, the lap joint visible in the hole.  The bolster only fits in one way into the arm.  At first I thought the wing-nut was cast, then upon closer examination it is also hand forged of wrought iron.

Hacksaw Logo

Here is the logo, it looks like it is two separate punches as they are a bit off on register.  I can not make out the other tool, besides the hammer, it appears to have threads on its lower end?  J.D.S.&L., and nothing appeared on a search of the web.


October 16, 2008

The Whole Whorl

Filed under: Drilling,Historical Material,Of Interest,Restoration,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 9:34 am


I wonder how many alliterations and homonyms I can whup up.  I took the old whorl and laid it flat on my bench and positioned a large chisel in place to split it asunder at the iron mandrel.  I gave it last rights then…

Whorl together

With a whack of the hammer, the iron mandrel was released from its wimpy whorl.

Whorl apart

Here is the iron mandrel after it has been removed from the old whorl.  Note the square tang on the lower end.

Whorl mandrel

I then carefully marked the center of the whorl and transferred the mark to the tang at the bottom.  The tang is larger than it needs to be and the hole was actually not centered in the tang but was centered slightly off, but this will be corrected as the tang was over-sized, so it will not be a problem.  I then used a small gimlet bit to drill half way from both sides and the holes met up perfectly.  It is important that this hole is straight, hence drilling from both sides.  It needs to be enlarged for the shaft and a square mortise created for the square part of the iron mandrel.

Whorl reamer1

I used both of my tapered reamers to get the hole in the correct taper to the hole.  It is important the one on the inside is centered, the one on the outside can be adjusted, with the square mortise to get the mandrel in the proper place.

Whorl reamer2

I then got out my reamers to enlarge the hole.  And as it is with most projects, this became a project within a project.  I needed to sharpen the square tapered reamers.  This is easy, except the steel is hard, in that all that is necessary is to make the sides flat and the square edges are what are suppose to be sharp and do the cutting. 

The next step is fiddling with the square mortise in the whorl to secure the iron mandrel.  Then put on the iron wire hooks and a coat of shellac will prepare the piece for the final pigmented varnish that will complete the piece.


October 15, 2008

Springfield Industrial Drawing Kit No. 1

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 5:03 pm

A friend of mine picked this up for cheap.  It is an interesting kit that was made for manual arts training and was made by Milton-Bradley Co. Springfield, Mass.  The hole in the T-square allows the Kit to be hung on a peg or nail.

Drawing Kit front

Here is what it looks like from the back side.

Drawing Kit back

When the T-square is pulled out it releases the 45 and 60 degree triangles.

Drawing Kit in use

And here is the maker mark and information on one of the retainers on the underside.

Drawing Kit makers mark

It is an interesting patent date, Dec. 3, 1889.  The board and triangles are made of plywood but it looks like it has cut iron nails, which were replaced by iron wire nails 10 years earlier.

I am going to make myself one of these, but I will not be using plywood.


October 13, 2008

Spinning Wheel Whorl

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Sawing,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 9:09 am

Back to the restoration of the aforementioned Spinning Wheel, the last part to replace is the ‘original’ whorl which was a replacement and did not allow the bobbin to operate properly.  After determining that the replacement needed to be replaced, I drew an outline from the whorl, tweaked the design to get a better line.

 Cutting out the whorl

So I put the wood in the vise picked up my bow saw, put tension on the blade and gave it a whirl.

Whorl tools

The waste piece that came out of the middle has two notches, I did this in order to split off the excess and start the saw cut in the proper place.  I used a cabinet file (half round) to straighten up any irregularities.  I did lay out both sides of the whorl, as the thin pieces on the ends needed to be sawn from both sides.  I progressed slowly with the cuts to make sure it was on the line.  I didn’t want to stress the pieces by excessive shaping after it was cut.  I used a card scraper to smooth all surfaces.


The whorl is not quite finished as the tang on the bottom needs to be shaped round after the spindle is put in place.  I left it big and square for ease of holding when I drill the hole for the metal spindle.  This hole needs to be perfectly centered and absolutely square and straight.  Then it must or should be balanced so that it will not wobble or gyrate as it spins.


October 10, 2008

Small Sharpening Stone

Filed under: Mortice & Tenon,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Sharpening,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 8:53 am

While perusing the blog of the Village Carpenter, I saw a wonderful little box for a small sharpening stone.  I recently purchased an inexpensive soft Arkansas, hard Washita stone, glued to a piece of cedar.

Well it is a fine stone, but the base left something to be desired.  So thinking of that fine little sharpening stone container, I decided to make one for this stone.  I am sure the reason this stone was $2.00 is that it had a natural fracture, so my stone ended up being in two pieces, but allures.

I found an appropriate piece of blue mineral stained pine and proceeded to cut out, rip and mortise a little box to protect the stone.  Now because it was broken, I had to permanently (?) mount it in the base, in a shallow mortise.  The top could be thicker to fit over the exposed stone.

Sharpen Stone Box

After I ripped the piece in two, I used the stone and a pencil to layout the outline of the stone on the base.  I then used a sharp knife to score all the way around, paying attention to the corners.  I then used a chisel to worry out the waste.  I then used the router plane to smooth out the bottom to the proper depth.

 Stone container

The stone is still glued to its cedar base.  I turned it over on the side rest (bench hook) and used a broad flat chisel to split off and pare off the wood.  At some point the stone became two at the fault vein within the stone.  I carefully pared off the glue, then scraped it smooth.  The underside was a bit rough still had saw marks, which add a tooth to the liquid hide glue I used to glue it into the base, pictured above on the left.

 Sharpening Stone Box

 I had to face the stone after the hide glue had dried, then planed off the sides to thin and square them up a bit.  All in all, the box is just the right size.  I will finish it with walnut oil, being careful not to get any on the stone.  I do not use lubrication of any kind while sharpening, I use water to clean the stone after I have sharpened but I sharpen dry.

You will notice on the stone some glazing, most of this washes off with water but there were some persistent spots on the stone.  Well sitting beside my desk with the stone in hand, I picked up a pink erasure and it removed some of the glazing.  I tried an art gum erasure and that worked too, the kneaded erasure wasn’t of any help, but the real surprise was the gray abrasive ink erasure.  I have one that is half pink and half ink and the abrasive ink erasure removed all of the glazing.  Give it a try.


October 9, 2008

Squaring up

Filed under: Proper Tools,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 6:46 am

While moving and setting up my new shop, still in progress, I needed to use my large wooden square with a mahogany leg and maple tongue.  I grabbed another of my squares a smaller one of the same composition and checked the larger square.  One of them was out of square.

So I got another square and checked those, soon all my squares were out on the bench and the task began.  I found a straight piece of wood and scored a mark with the square against the straight wood, reversed the leg and checked the reading.  As you know this is the standard way to check a square.  I also got out a ruler and my slate board and did some calculations (thanks Pythagoras) to double check.

I determined that it was the large square that was out of square, but the others needed a bit of attention as well.  These squares are all about 10 years old and have seen plenty of use,  I don’t use the large square that much so I hadn’t noticed it was out of square.  The others had just adjusted with time and needed some attention at the corners where the wood had adjusted, so the wood was at slightly different levels.

The first thing I did was take a card scraper and gently go over all surfaces to remove any surface accumulations.  I used alcohol to wipe off pencil marks. 

Squares, etc.

(Left to right; Ebony and Holly, Rosewood and Brass, Teak and Beech, Mahogany and Maple, Teak and Beech and the two on the right are Mahogany and Maple.  The triangles are maple, the finished one has beech edges).

I also had a triangle made of mahogany with beech edges that needed to be squared and the miters trued.  The other two raw mahogany triangles had never been trued up, but had adjusted for a number of years, so it was time to bring them into good order.

The inside end of the tongue of the large square needed to be trimmed more than with just a card scraper.  I use the scraper to adjust the proud end grain on the squares, but the large square needed more work, it was out over 1/16″.  The corner joint was tight so the adjustment had to be made in the tongue.  I used a shooting board to hold the square while I planed off the necessary wood.  I also had to address the error on the outside which was not quite as bad as the inside, this I am not sure I understand why?  It required planing the leg, end-grain at the joint to true up the square.  This I did on the shooting board.  I relieved the edges with a slight chamfer to prevent the end grain from snapping off, as they were unsupported by any kind of back up, like the stop on the shooting board.

Square and tools

I then noticed that my shooting board was perfectly square on the ends, so I could use that to do preliminary testing, it was handy to have a ready reference to square.  I also used the protractor (which I made) to check angles as well as the miter gauge (which I first had to test for accuracy) to correct the triangles.  I also used the small miter shooting board for the small triangle.

I even check the ends of the tongues and legs to insure they are square as well.  I sometimes use the ends to transfer square marks, so I make sure all of the ends are square.  I also make sure all surfaces are square with one another.  This is more important when making squares, but it is a good idea to check older wooden squares as they can change shapes.

The mahogany/beech edged triangle proved to be a challenge.  I had to get the hypotenuse straight before getting the miters right then to the square corner.  The two ‘new’ triangle/squares were also not right, so following the same procedure, getting the long one straight first, then the miters then the square.

Not only do the squares need to be square, the tongues and legs need to be parallel and square in section, the parts need to be straight as well.  As the pieces were being brought up to square I check them with a straight edge.  I first had to determine the edge of the straight edge was straight, as I make my own straight edges (and rulers). 

I make most of my layout tools, so they need to be accurate, especially when using them to make other tools.  The first thing is a straight edge and the easiest way to get a straight edge is with a string line held taught, it is straight every time.  From there with a little mathematics or by just practical methods, a 90 degree line can be established, from that the miter angles determined.

I like the thicker legs on squares as this allows them to be set on end on a board with the tongue determining vertical.  The larger squares are thick enough, but when i make any new ones I will make them with fat legs.  I now use multiple mortise and tenons to secure the tongue to the leg and it is glued with hide glue.  The joints are tight enough that there isn’t any play, if however the joint is a bit sloppy yet held tight with hide glue, it is possible to warm the joint up to 145 degrees (F) then the square can be adjusted.

I will still periodically test each square to determine it is still ‘in square’.  I also use a pencil for layout or an awl, but I never use a sharp knife or sharp striking knife when using wooden squares.  I don’t think I need to explain why.



October 7, 2008

Cabinet Shop for sale!

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,The Trade,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 10:04 am

I am offering my entire cabinet shop, including the building and property (with water rights) for sale.  It comes in a nice antique style exhibit case with antique glass.  Oh did I forget to mention that it is a ‘scale’ 1 inch equals 1 foot Cabinet Shop diorama.  Or an expensive doll house.

Cabinet Shop

It is based upon an 1853 Western Pioneer Cabinet Shop with all of the tools that could have been in a shop of this time period.  There is a waterwheel (tub turbine) that powers the lathe and up down sash saw.  There is also a ‘great wheel’ to provide power in the winter time or when the water was low.

All of the tools actually work and the examples of furniture are to scale.  There is a pond, head race, mill race, wood shed and other exterior details, the interior is as it was in the past.  Two walls and one side of the roof are open for viewing, the walls are board and batten and the roof is shingled with cedar shingles.

 Cabinet Shop Interior

These images are from my old web site, this one shows a detail of the interior and the workbench in the background and the lathe in the fore.

The plot of ground for this model is 27 1/2 feet wide and 37 1/2 feet deep situated on a small stream at a convenient seasonal water source. The stream is dammed up and the water is diverted from the mill pond to the mill. The water is restricted overnight to fill the pond and the following day the retained water is allowed to flow. Metered at the weir (the head gate) to a constant rate down the wooden flume to the power the mill wheel at a uniform speed to provide continuous power for the powered tools in the shop. The metal grate keeps floating debris from damaging the mill-works. The property has a natural slope from the highest point to the lowest of approximately three feet. By damming up the stream an additional three feet of elevation for the water is artificially achieved. This gives the water additional force applied to the mill wheel to provide more power. The potential energy of the water is stored in the mill pond overnight or in a few hours during the increased spring run off. This small mill does not require that much flow in the stream to power the shop. Normal run off would probably power the shop during a typical days use. This provides sufficient ‘head’ to power the mill. The energy is released (kinetic energy) to power the mill wheel which in turn transfers force to the shop through a series of gears, pulleys, bearings, shafts and belts to deliver this energy to the power tools within the shop. Any excess water in the pond, not used for power is diverted over the spillway, which can be regulated. A drain gate in the bottom of the pond can also be regulated to control the pond level and is used to clean out the silt and deposits as required.

The shop building itself is 15 feet wide, 20 feet deep and 16 feet high to the ridge. It is typical board and batten construction over simple column or post and beam timber framing with knee braces at the corners. The sill is set on cut local stone foundation with simple lime mortar masonry. The length of the sill and rafter plate required end joinery, in this case a pegged scarf joint. Round log rafters, lapped and pegged at the top, held with pegged tie braces and joined to the rafter plate with a birds mouth (birds beak) joint and secured with wooden pegs (trunnels-tree nails). Additional reinforcements of rawhide or rope lashing were used where needed. The roof is of split and shaved cedar shingles (18 inches long) nailed to the lumber sheathing under-layment. Laid in a typical pattern with a 15 inch exposure, the bottom course is doubled and the cap is finished with board battens at the ridge. A four panel man door is typical of the period as are the 6 over 6 light sash windows. A transom window over the man door is to provide extra illumination and ventilation to the shops interior. Double barn doors allow large pieces of furniture and lumber to move through with ease.

The exterior lumber storage shed is constructed to allow air flow around the lumber while the roof keeps direct sunlight from drying the wood too fast, causing checking and other seasoning problems. This outbuilding is made using less sophisticated construction of the main building and demonstrates other techniques. A simple pole building, the posts are placed directly into the ground. Wind braces are added to the corners to strengthen the structure. Pegs, notches and lashing are used join the members. The roof is of typical pioneer construction using boards and battens. The wide boards are placed on the supporting structure and nailed in place. Thin strips of wood called battens are then nailed over the spaces between the boards, causing the water to shed from the roof without leaking through.

Only two sides of the building and half of the roof were finished to show the complete construction details. The other two walls and half of the roof were left unfinished to allow viewing the interior of this shop. This allows access to observations unavailable in any other form.

The exact layout has been altered to include all details within the given size. Traditionally the arrangement of shop, outbuildings, water source may have been further apart than they are depicted here. Everything was moved closer together to economize the space available.

The power to the shop is provided by water. The water diverted by the mill is fed through the sluice to the downspout, that concentrates the force of the water. This is referred to as the head-race. Upon entering the mill box the water strikes the paddles of the mill wheel. Based upon the Poncelette wheel, this mill is a rather typical tub mill or turbine mill. The force and weight of the water hits the blades of the mill and turns the main power shaft. Typically a tub mill is propelled by water flowing over the blades, turning the shaft, it is the weight of the water that turns the tub mill. A turbine mill required water to be forced through a nozzle, striking the blades and that force turns the wheel. This particular wheel uses both turbine and tub principles, not only the force of the water directed through the nozzle striking the blades or paddles which turns the shaft, the weight of the water inside the confined turbine housing also adds to the great power of the water wheel. The tail-race (the outlet of the mill) is on the up stream side of the tub mill to retain and maximize as much force of the water as possible.

The main power shaft has a lantern or pinion gear fashioned from a harder wooden log located on the top of the main shaft. This drives a crown gear that converts the vertical turning to a horizontal motion that will eventually power the shop. There are an odd number of gears in either the lantern or crown gear. This is called a ‘hunter’ gear or cog that advances one notch every revolution preventing uneven wear due to constant contact of the same tooth to the same gear. The power is transferred into the shop to a large wheel, jack shaft pulley and hand operated idler which acts as a clutch to engage or disengage the external water power to the shop. The power is transferred via belts to operate the turning lathe and the up-down sash saw.

Notice that all of the pulleys have convex surfaces. This is done to make the leather belts track properly. Leather belts tend to climb to the highest part of the pulley. If the highest part in the center then the belts ride in the middle of the pulley. If one of the parts of the mill-works malfunctions or a tool jambs, the belts will jump the pulleys acting as a safety feature to prevent further damage or injury. With the moving gears, pulleys, belts and tools powered shops and mills were dangerous and many injuries and fatalities were documented.

In the winter time when the water in the rivers and streams is frozen, an alternative source of energy was the grand wheel. Turned by an apprentice, this can provide internal power to the shops power tools when no external water power is available. A simple jam clutch above the grand wheel engages or disengages the jack shaft as necessary.

The hand tools and other shop accessories are typical of the period and have historical precedence derived from probate inventories and other period sources.

 The diorama/model itself is currently seen by almost no one, so I would like to sell it and hope that the new owner will exhibit it so others can appreciate this piece.  I have about 2000 hours in this project.  And for the price $20,000.00, plus crating and shipping.


October 2, 2008

“Making” a Laid Steel Chisel

Filed under: Historical Material,Laid Steel Tools,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 5:10 am

Now that is an overstatement.  But here is what I did and here is why I did what I did.  To the bewilderment of many I took a rather inexpensive ‘tourist’ grade chisel and altered it into a ‘Western’ style chisel, well sort of.

Japanese Chisel

As a friend pointed out, what I did was take a $30.00 chisel, spend $300.00 in time and end up with a $25.00 chisel.  Well I don’t think it is that bad, but he did have a point.  He also pointed out that I couldn’t possibly need more chisels than I already had.

'Flat' side

Here is what I did, I bought an inexpensive 9mm Japanese Chisel with a laminated steel bit, just like (well almost like) traditional English, European and American chisels of the nineteenth century.

I then carefully removed the handle after asking on other forums how to do this process.  I followed the directions and when the ferrule/socket ‘broke’ off, I thought my whole idea was preposterous.  Then I was informed that is how they were constructed and that was to be expected.


Actually not having the socket made fitting up the handle easy as it was just a square tang.

I then ground off some of the hollow ground part on the flat of the blade, a typical Oriental method of surface preparation, for ease of sharpening, etc.  That unfortunately is on the hard (steel) side of the chisel blade, so It will be a while before I get it flat.

New Handle

I did grind the soft top and removed the Japanese lettering.  While it doesn’t look like a tanged Western chisel of the period, the bolster is way too big, it is none-the-less a laid steel chisel that kind of looks like an old chisel.

Western Chisel

I do apologize to users of Japanese tools for this sacrifice of a perfectly good tool, but I want to assure you that it was done with a good heart.  These chisels are wonderful, you are very fortunate to have heirloom tools that reflect the heritage of the traditional craftsmen of the nineteenth century.  Here in the West, sadly we have no such personal connection.  Therefore I had to get the tool that most closely approximated a Western tool and ‘alter’ it to look somewhat like what my ancestors may have used.

 Is it a nineteenth century Western Chisel, no, but it is a laid steel chisel and I like that.  It is not quite right, but it is closer than any modern all steel chisel, which is just not the same thing.  I am making furniture from the early nineteenth century (and sometimes earlier), so I want to use the right tools, and this bastard tool is more right than anything else on the market today.

Would I pay good money for a proper laid steel Western chisel, Yes.  Even a rough blank.  If I can’t get what I want from Occidental sources then I must look elsewhere.  Would I recommend that people give this a try, absolutely.  I will never again buy a modern all steel tool and I will replace all the ones I currently have.  I want the real thing, I want laminated blades.

Am I being unreasonable?  Me?  I think I am being very reasonable.  I want the same tools.  I can tell the difference when using hand planes with laid steel blades, I can also tell when sharpening them.  I am sure I can tell a difference in my hand between laid steel and solid steel blades when working wood.  There is a different feel, the mass is different, it seems to engage the wood better when starting a cut, especially paring.  The laid steel tools require less sharpening than the solid steel and the old tools have a feel to them.  I am sure this may all be in my head.

If I can’t find old Western laid steel tools, I think that taking something close and making some alterations can at least give us something more closely approximating what was used in the past.  I like old tools, but they aren’t making them anymore.  I need a reasonable modern equivalent and for now this is the solution.


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