Full Chisel Blog

March 31, 2009

Reversing Wear

This is a bureau or chest of drawers.  It has two glove boxes on top and those drawers are in good shape internally.  There are problems with the mahogany veneer on all drawers as well as the carcase.  The first part of the process is to replace all of the wood that has worn away over the years.

The top large drawer with the fancy double curved front has the most wear.  Here is a picture of the wear and the white birch used to fill in that which is missing.  I kept as much of the original as possible and only replace that which was missing.  I had to measure the height of the drawers to determine how much wood had been worn away.


This is the lacuna that has been glued in place.  After I shaped them, I used a toothing plane blade to score the surfaces to provide a key for gluing.  I also prepared the old surface with the tooth to flatten and remove any wax or soap that was used to lubricate the drawers.  This is an important step to get a good glue joint.


Now a couple of drawers had more significant damage but it varied.  This end had broken off at the groove in the drawer side that secures the bottom.


This end required I make a rabbit to secure the new piece.  The rabbet that forms the repair and groove had to be laid out and scored with a knife as it is angled.  I then used a chisel to remove a bit of wood, then used a rabbit plane to make the rabbit freehand.

I also had to remove some nails that were used to ‘repair’ the damage.  I would like to go on record to say that NAILS SHOULD NEVER BE USED TO REPAIR!  I will remove at least 20 ‘repair’ nails from this piece, already have nearly a dozen from the drawers.


The nail on the right missed the side so I could drive it out with a nail set.  The nail on the left did catch the drawer side, so I had to snip it before removing.


I could then remove the top part with needle nosed pliers and the lower section was now exposed so I could drive it out with a nail set.  Notice that the nail was also glued in place.


I also had to remove a bit of wood on a previous ‘repair’ to allow the larger nail to be removed.  This piece doesn’t get in the way, but I will remove it later as it overlaps the rabbit in the front.

In order to make the necessary rabbit for the new work to go into, I used a straight edge and knife to make the cuts with the grain.  I was able to remove all of the wood at once.  Marking out and planing the replacement piece took much longer.


Before I glued on the replacement piece, I removed all of the previous ‘repairs’.  I also had to make these wide repairs with dovetails on the front edge at the drawer front.

While I was working on the bottoms, I noticed that on a couple of corners they were cut off.


It might be difficult to see, but it is at the end of the rabbit on the bottom end of the drawer bottom.  The front is also has a rabbit to go into a groove in the back of the drawer front.


This is a better illustration of what was going on.  The corner was notched to prevent the end grain from splitting out.

This is a fairly involved restoration which I am doing for a friend of mine.  I am going to have to double up the veneer for repairs as the old stuff is much thicker.


March 26, 2009

Moxon Miter Square

This is another one off the list, however I did make one similar to this one except it only had a ledge on one side, that was over 30 years ago and I didn’t know better.  The first one I made was a single piece of wood and in maple.  This example is in mahogany.  I made this one as it was described in Joseph Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises, The Art Of Joinery, the 1703 edition. 

Miter square slot

The handle of the miter square was too short to plow a groove, so I set up my mortise gauge to the thickness of the tongue and marked the edge of the thicker stock (handle).  I used a rip saw to cut the two kerfs and removed the waste with a 1/4″ chisel.  The tongue is 5/16″ thick and the handle is 1 1/8″ thick.

Miter square

The tongue is the tenon that slips into the slot or plow or mortise in the handle.  It took a bit of fussing but I eventually got it perfect.  I did use the modern miter square to check angles, but ever since I got this one I have been disappointed to its ability to mark only short miters.

The dimensions of the Miter Square are taken from the original engraving and extrapolated as per the description in the text.  There may be some distortion but this is how it is described.

I did a test between the two and using the modern miter square and a straight edge I drew a long line at exactly 45 degrees.  I then checked it with the Moxon Miter Square, which was spot on.  While some say that this is not as accurate as one with a longer handle, that is just not the case.

This miter square is dead on. and of sufficient length to actually be useful.  The modern one has way too short a tongue for anything beyond tiny miters.  The Moxon Miter Square can do big miters as accurate as any other miter square.

When the glue dries, I will pin the tongue into the handle, break the very sharp edges (I bled during the glue up) and give it a good finish of linseed oil and turpentine (50/50).  I will probably drill a hole in the tongue in order to hang it in my tool cabinet.

Here is the Moxon Miter Square with the tongue pinned into the handle and one coat of Moses T’s St. John’s Oil.  I will add a couple more coats as these dry.  I would have used an Archimedes Pump Drill to drill these small holes, but after a discussion on another board, I decided to drill some precision holes with an egg beater hand drill.  The holes are 3/32″ in diameter and the pegs are square birch toothpicks with the corners taken off to form tiny octagonal pegs.  They are secured with glue and pared off flush with a bench chisel.

Miter Square 4

I like my new square and will now sell the modern rosewood/brass and steel version, while it looks good, it is just too small.  And this one looks so much better and can mark large miters with great accuracy.

Miter Square 3

And if I perchance drop this on my work it will not damage it as would one with metal parts.


March 24, 2009

Clockmaker’s Lathe Plans

A couple of years ago I was asked to make plans for a small bench top turning lathe.  It is not that I am slow (well that may be true), but I just couldn’t come up with a final design until after I had read Mechanick Exercises section on Turning that the break through happened.

I am preparing to offer plans for a Bow Lathe, influenced by Moxon’s work as well as a small iron (& brass) watchmaker’s lathe which I own.  This lathe however is made entirely of wood, hardwood such as maple is recommended, with the exceptions of small thick leather washers used to protect wooden parts.

Clockmaker's Lathe 2


This is from the drawing of the plan.  The parts are drawn full size and is easy to make.  The only speciality tool required is a 1/2″ wooden tap and die set to make the thumbscrew and pike/screw.  The lathe can be used to turn between centers or mandrels can also be used to hold different stuff.

 All instructions and directions for construction are included.  The full size drawing can be used to make patterns or templates to make the necessary parts.  While a lathe is a precision tool, you can turn between two nails in fence posts, so one should not be intimidated by the thought of building a turning lathe.

For small work there is nothing like a small bow lathe.  The tool only cuts on the ‘pull’ stroke and it rides on the off stroke, but once you develop the rhythm it is easy.

I am working on the instructions/directions sheet as we speak and hope to have the plan set for sale, soon.


March 23, 2009

Presentation Smoothing Plane

Filed under: Hand Planing,Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 7:46 am

I never thought I would make a ‘presentation’ tool, that is what I get for thinking.  I was asked to make this plane for the retiring president of the Nevada Woodchucks in Reno, Nevada.  This was the end of last year and I was able to deliver the plane during my annual holiday visit to the Truckee Meadows.

Here is the happy recipient of the Coffin Smoother.


He looks like he liked it.


And here is the plane with its pyro-engraving.

Smoother, engraved

I would like to thank Tom Dowd for the order and the photographs I included here.  I have also been invited to teach a Workshop on plane-making for their club.  Not sure if it will be this spring or in the fall.


March 20, 2009

Warning, some modern tools were used…

in the restoration of this small Victorian Shelf.  I did after all have to make some plywood!  The fretwork in the sides of this shelf unit was damaged and originally made out of 3 pieces of one eight inch birch, laid in alternate layers making an overall finished thickness of 3/8″.


I selected a piece of white birch and crosscut a small piece the correct size, then ripped it into thirds.  Well they were too thick, so I planed them, it wasn’t pretty, then toothed the pieces to prepare them for hide glue.


I warned you.  I borrowed a few clamps from my neighbor and glued and clamped the pieces together.


The drawing shows what I need to make in terms of the lacuna in the original, I made extra.


This is the edge of the plywood that I needed for this restoration project.


I did use another neighbor’s scroll saw, yes a noisy power tool, just like how the original was made.  However I didn’t need to pierce any pieces as there was open access to every entry point.


Now this picture may make it all very clear.  I fit the missing piece in such a way as to remove the least amount of the original, and still make a substantial structural repair and when it is done not be visible.

I will glue it in place, fill any voids and finish with pigmented shellac.  I have a few other chips to repair before I do any finishing.  But I thought I would post this as it sits today.


March 19, 2009

Chair Maker’s Bib

After seeing the recent 1923 Swedish film of the clog maker, chair maker and spoon maker, got me thinking about my list.  One of the craftsmen wore a leather bib apron, just at his chest and this reminded me that I needed to make another bib.  I am not sure what happened to the last one I made, but I need another one.


This is the best picture I could take of the bib in situ, I do apologize for the lack of focus.

I do a fair amount of hand work and am constantly using my chest to support my work and I need more protection than an apron.  My regular apron is from the waist down, I do have another that has a bib but it doesn’t offer enough protection.

Chair Maker's Bib

Bibs were traditionally worn by Chair Makers and was sort of a status symbol, as they were often decorated.  The depression in the middle is to receive the knob of a brace.  There are other countersunk holes to allow a brace with no knob to be used.  Now I need to make a dedicated brace for the bib.  The brace instead of a knob has a sharp point that is set into one of the holes on the bib.  Pressure can then be applied, distributing the force across the chest.

I will do a bit more decoration and embellishments.  I am also going to make a canvas and leather backing for the breastplate to keep the wood from abrading my clothing and adding a little padding.  This was one of those items that has been on the list for a while.  For now the list seems to be getting shorter, well except the dedicated brace.



March 18, 2009

Stradivarius Scrapers and The List

Filed under: Historical Material,Moxon,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 2:18 pm

Well, about that list, apparently it can get longer and shorter in a matter of days.  While I had not intended to ever make a set of Violin Scrapers, apparently I couldn’t help myself.  But before I show you the scrapers let me show you where they came from.

Now I should warn the faint of heart, an old saw was sacrificed in the production of these scrapers.  Now rumor has it the violin makers would use broken sword blades and Moxon mentions using old broken knife blades as scrapers.  Well, I just made rough copies of the originals.  But first of all the sacrificial blade.  This blade was badly pitted, had a break and another fracture, so it met a good ending.

Scraper Saw

I will make at least 1 if not two saws from the tooth section of the saw.  The other pieces will be fashioned into scrapers.  I even make small scrapers out of the end pieces with holes.  I think I will mount the nicker nib in a special place.

Stradivarius Scrapers

These are the scrapers based on the image provided by Ken in his previous comment.  I am not sure of the scale, so I made them all to the same proportions to each other.  The longest scraper is about 5 inches.  They are not sharpened and in need of their own wallet to protect their edges.

So while not on my list a few days ago, this one is now off the list.  I do like their shapes.  I need to seriously reconsider this list thing.


March 15, 2009

New Tools

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Sawing,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 4:17 pm

I just picked up this Meat Saw at the Swap Meet.  I am not sure why, but I have always wanted to own one and now I do.  It is one of those saws on my list, now for a good tooth pattern ice saw and that list will get shorter.  The small boy attending the space where I bought this said it was $5.00, I said $4.00, he looked around for an adult then nodded yes.  I felt ashamed for an appropriate amount of time, then picked up a small rusty float for 25 cents.  It was a good day.

Meat Saw

The back is bent, it was originally straight, the wing-nut has been replaced, the blade has alternately set teeth and sharpened crosscut.  There is also residue of flesh and bone near the blade at the tensioning nut.  The eye for the tension bolt is forge welded.  The end slot appears hand cut as it is just slightly off center.


I presume the 2 stands for 2 feet as it is that long.  Beech handle and saw bolts and caps.  Warranted Cast Steel, made in Philada USA by Henry Disston & Sons.  I hope some Disston collector must have it and I want more than I paid.

This last week I was in need of a small semi-diameter (Moxon influence) scraper to remove any risings left by the gouge.  This is for the fine hollow thread grooves in tatting shuttles.  I then shaped up a set as I still had some saw blade left over from the tenon saw project.  I cut them up with metal snips and shaped them on the grind stone.  I then whet the sides and draw-filed the radius’.  I then turned burrs on the convex edges.

Tombstone Scrapers & Wallet

I made a wallet of of hair cell pigskin, sewn with waxed linen thread.  The flap is to protect the burrs turned on the convex edge, on both sides.  I still need to make a secure strap or button to hold it closed.  It will keep the small scrapers in one place and protect their cutting edges.

I am sure these will get used and they were easy to make.


March 14, 2009

Joseph Moxon, in the original tongue

Joseph Moxon

I am in receipt of a beta digital version of Joseph Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises or the Doctrine of Handy-Works, the 1703 edition.  Perhaps I am use to reading old documents with the long ‘s’, (f) as well as the varieties of spelling and the somewhat constructed sentences are wonderful reading.  And contrary to popular belief, it is written in English!  The digital and hard copy versions of this work are going to be made available soon and I will announce when it is released as will the publisher, I am sure.

And while the Art Of Joinery is but one section of the entire book or set of pamphlets that made up Handy-Works, which also includes Bricklaying, Turning, Carpentry, Blacksmithing and making a Sun Dyal.  A little is known about the early pamphlets but it appears that at least one was documented as selling for 6 pence during the time period.  That would make it between a quarter or a third of a days wages for a craftsman during the time of publication.  Other values are also given to help put it all into prospective.

Reading the available version of the Art Of Joinery, like everyone else felt that Moxon just didn’t go into detail about certain aspects and covered others only in passing.  After reading the entire work it is apparent that much is covered in other sections of Handy-Works, that is relevant to woodworking, even the sections on Bricklaying and Blacksmithing.  The section on making the sun-dyal has a lot of math and layout that is helpful with joinery and the section on Blacksmithing talks of tools, hardening and the iron and steel available.

In the Turning section the gouge is compared to the Joiner’s Fore Plane or the Carpenter’s Jack Plane.  Also in this section Moxon talks about turning moldings like the Joiner’s Molding Plain, yet nothing about molding planes in the Joinery section.  Slate and spittle, Moxon talks of water-stones.  The grindstone  indicate a coarse stone for grinding and a fine whetstone for whetting, and finish up with a a spit polish on slate. 

The cross references to other sections probably indicated that although they were sold separately they were intended to be considered as an entire work and Moxon did not bother explaining every action in each section.  There are references to ‘as you were taught…‘ in previous sections that indicates continuity.

In The Art Of Bricklayers Work, we learn to dissolve human bodies in lime as well as Vitruvius’ recipe for mortar.  Moxon also states that the brick mason is mentioned before stone mason in the Holy Writ.  Many of the masons tools have wooden parts or are made of wood.  Much geometry and layout work is done in this section, but applicable to other trades.  There is also some interesting talk of cements including bullocks glue.

And why discuss a sun dyal in the age of clocks and even pocket watches?  Well, how do you set your clock in the 18th century?  You use a sun dial, many clock makers included a small sundial to set their clocks.  There are also some interesting uses of compasses mentioned in this and other sections of Moxon’s pivotal work.  I think people underestimate the contribution that Joseph Moxon made to the trade then and especially now.  What a wonderful resource an insight into the past not given in other works.

By talking of all of the trades, Moxon set the work in the context of the culture of the time period.  We can see the inter-connections and inter-dependence on each of these trades.  Published in England, I am sure these pamphlets saw there way throughout Europe and undoubtedly to North America.  Others followed and published the latest information and many guides, directories and design books were subsequently published but Moxon was the first.

Mr. Moxon has opened up, with incredible detail a microcosm of the trades to give us a reference of where our craft originated.  This is the real thing, it is an actual first person description of what was in front of him.  It is his articulation of what was going on at the time, almost in real time and that is a valuable insight.  Engravings were done by engravers and some mistakes in left / right and perspective is sometimes askew, but given that and making the necessary corrections, these engravings also add to our knowledge of the history of woodworking.

Not only all of this, but some of the tools are fun to make and when working with tools based on over 300 year old designs, the feel in my hand today also gives me a real connection to the past.  And now I know a dawk from a rising and I don’t want to job my tool, too deep into the stuff.  I will make good riddance to that which is beyond the verge.

And I will boar my friends in great detail.  One suggested I get a wig.  What do you think?

Af always, I remain moft refpectfully,

Stephen Shepherd

March 13, 2009

Another Clock Reel

Here is an after picture, which looks exactly like the before picture as the only restoration work was done on the inside.

Clock Reel

The original is made of poplar, the legs and hub are of walnut, the spokes are chestnut and the ends are maple.  There is maple and white oak on the clock works.

Clock reel 3

As with most clock reels something happened to cause binding and invariably a couple of side grain teeth are broken off one or more of the gears.  Sometimes the worm gears get damaged but by and large the big problem is with the gear teeth.

Clock Reel 7

The ‘weasel’ on this particular reel is made of maple and makes quite a ‘pop’.  Yes that is where it comes from.

Here is the gear prior to restoration, showing two teeth that are missing and two teeth that are damaged.  I determined that I should also replace the damaged teeth as well.

I followed the lead of the famous English Cabinetmaker/Clockmaker John Harrison and put the grain of the teeth in their best advantage.  The gears failed because of the weak side grain of wood.

Clock reel 4

Here are the interior workings of the clock reel.

clock reel 5

This is the repaired gear in place in the mechanism.  I noticed that during the restoration that the top and the board on the right side are replacements, probably made of cypress, but I am not sure.  This caused the problem as the hole for the mandrel was too small, bound up and caused the damage to the teeth.  When the teeth are missing the clock mechanism will not work and the weasel will not pop.

clock reel 6

I slightly enlarged the hole for the mandrel put it in place and it worked just fine.  The reel functioned perfectly and made its pop at the proper time.



Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress