Full Chisel Blog

September 29, 2009

The Net

Filed under: Historical Material,Nautical,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 6:18 pm

No, the other one.  And while it does look like a Web, it is simply some loops and hitches.  The size of the openings is determined by something called a spool or mesh stick.  I have made several nets from a variety of material.  This one is of cotton twine.

It is 9 inches in diameter and 28 inches long.  It is that size because there are 16 hitches on the bottom and the size of the mesh stick.  It is that length because I ran out of twine, got a bit carried away.  The maple netting needle was loaded up six times to get this length.  It is the smallest one I have made but felt good in the hand and worked well.

So it ends up being a fishing net, which of course is illegal to fish with today, but it was fun to make.  Would be good for collecting potatoes, apples or other fruit or foods.  Historically nets and netting was a common item especially along the coast.  But it can also be handy in rivers and lakes.  Making a net is a singularly rewarding experience and gave me a connection to the past.  I was even playing 18 and 19th century Whaling and Sailing songs in the background.

So, ‘Farewell and adieu to you Spanish Ladies, Farewell and adieu to you Ladies of Spain, for our Captains commanded we sail for Old England and hope in a short time to see you again.


September 25, 2009

Toggles and Ditty Bags

There was a request for pictures of the toggles on my haversacks.  So here are some of my toggles.  The toggle is interesting, in that they are buttons with a lever (well two levers), they are a button that does work.  Toggles are buttons that don’t come un-done or ‘unbuttoned’.  And toggles are much stronger than buttons and in some cases stronger than iron*.

The bag on the left is the one I regularly carry, made of linen and treated with linseed oil and glycerin.  It has adjustable strap that is secured with brass fork buckles and at one end is a hand carved wooden toggle in a hitched button hole (the irony of that just occurred to me).  I put this on to hold my leather drinking jack when it was empty, I seldom use this toggle.  The main toggle is a S scroll carved of boxwood, hitched to the bag with linen thread.

The white canvas bag on the right has pine toggles that capture/are captured by loops of cotton webbing that is looped and sewn to the bag.  The center toggle captures a loop on the front and back of the bag to prevent it from sagging out in the middle.  This bag has been washed several times and the pine came through just fine.

The lower toggle is a toggle/becket belt, the toggle is inserted into the becket to secure ones trousers.  I also have a canvas riggers bag I made with the same arrangement for a carrying/hanging handle.  The pine toggle is drilled and the rope goes through and is secured with a self or becket splice.

*Interesting toggle fact, on whaling ships to lift large strips of blubber into the rendering pots was done with hemp rope and 6 inch wooden toggle, either hickory or white oak.  A slit was cut in the blubber and a loop or becket of rope was fed through and secured with the wooden toggle.  They didn’t use metal hooks as some of these pieces of blubber were heavy enough to straighten out 100 pound wrought iron hooks.

Another item I have been working on is a Sailors Ditty Bag.  Don’t ask me about my ditties.  I have no idea where the name came from, but they were interesting projects.  The small bag is made of thin leather with round leather lanyards and secured with a pierced leather washer and topped off with a 4 strand square sinnet.  The bag holds 50 gold Presidential Dollars and would make a good ‘life preserver’.


The canvas bag was a nightmare to hand sew, it was a little too thick, I should have used a lighter weight material.  I had Diamond Jim Davis punch the holes, I do have a punch but I wanted to hitch the button holes at work.  Well my fingers only lasted for 3 button holes, I have blisters on my fingers.

The bag has a temporary lanyard of sisal, but it is done as it will be when I get some cotton cord.  It starts with a 3 strand flat plat at the top, followed by a 6 strand Matthew Walker Knot, then a length of 6 strand right crown sennet, another 6 strand Mathew Walker Knot then the lengths down to the bag.  A Turks Head knot slides down the lanyards to close the top of the Ditty Bag.

I need to find a space to sling a hammock.


September 20, 2009

“I see you are a sailor”

Filed under: Historical Material,Nautical,Of Interest,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 10:39 am

is a line from a 1970’s Comedy album, can you name the group?  I have always wanted to use that line, so there it is in all its humor.

Well, I have been a sailor, I have crewed on an M-16 Scow, 23 foot Aquarius, both a 27 & 37  foot Erickson, a Flying Dutchman, a catamaran and an Olympic class Star to name a few.   I have made pulleys, snatch blocks, cleats and deadeyes as well as a sewing hook, netting needles, fid and bodkin and marline spikes.  I made parallel rulers and compasses used in navigation.  I can work a sextant/octant (with or without an artificial horizon), theodolite, read a map, take celestial observations and still get lost.

Just give me a piece of string (twine, marline, rope, &c.) and I can be amused for hours.  I mastered my first knot at age 11 in the Boy Scouts, a reef knot (square knot) and mastered the Turk’s Head Knot about a week ago and made this Thump Mat, the round one is a flattened out Turk’s Head knot.  The oblong one is an Ocean Plat Mat or a Sailor’s True Lovers Mat, which I mastered yesterday.

I have mastered the wall knot, the crown knot, of course the sheep-shank, bowline (even with a bight), I can tie a manrope, a dogleg and a Matthew Walker knot.  For you land lovers a knot is tied in a single piece of rope and a bend is when two ropes are tied together and a hitch is a knot tied on something else.  There are several good books on seamanship is D’arcy Lever’s Young Sea Officers Sheet Anchor, for sailing Hervy Garrett Smith’s The Arts of the Sailor,  for rope and knots Percy Blandford’s Practical Knots & Ropework.  And of course the bible of knot work Clifford Ashley’s Book of Knots, with several thousand knots I should be busy for a while.

I have been working on cockscombing, coachwhipping and needle hitching which has some applications to woodworking.  I can add fancy coverings to tool handles and cover glass bottles with protective hitching.  I have used some hitching on the ink pens I make and will add the leather Turk’s Head to the ends of a couple of chisels when carving without a mallet.

There is an old saying ‘if you can’t tie a good knot, tie a lot.’  I think it is quite possible to learn how to tie a proper knot.  At least a timber hitch.  And the terminology is fun, I will learn to make a baggy-wrinkle, do some fender hitching, try and remember the Carrick Bend and have become a fan of toggles.  Toggles are interesting devices, it is like a button with a handle or lever and is made of wood.  I have several on my haversacks, my rigger’s bag has one and I find them handy for other applications.

I have plans to sew up my own ditty bag, but don’t know if I will invest in a pair of slops.

I have read a couple of Patrick O’Brian’s works, Master & Commander was great.  Moby Dick by Herman Melville is a classic, with some fine humor. Then there is Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Richard Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast are a must read.

Sailing and wooden ships played a significant roll in exploration and subsequent exploitation of the New World, it can also provide us with a lot of information about woodworking.  The Great Ship Vasa lost during its maiden voyage to the ship wreck of the Dutch ship in Nova Zembla in the 17th century show the ship’s carpenter tools used to keep these ships afloat (well the Vasa sunk because of its design).  Also our ancestors all arrived here from Europe in wooden ships.

“We have got the Weather Gage”, “Ready about, helm’s a lee.”


September 19, 2009

Of the Diagonal Scale

For your general use and amusement:





The chief use of such a scale as this, is to lay down any line from a given measure; or to measure any line, and thereby to compare it with others.  If the large division of oE be called units, the small divisions in Co will be 10ths, and the divisions in the altitude oB will be 100th parts of an unit.  If the large divisions be tens, the other will be units, and tenth parts.  If the large divisions be hundreds, then the other will be tens and units, &c. each set of divisions being tenth parts of the former ones.

For example, suppose it were required to take off 244 from the scale: fix one foot of the compasses at 2 of the larger divisions in oE, and extend the other to the number 4 in Co; then move both points of the compasses by a parallel motion, till you come at the fourth long line, taking care to keep the right hand point in the line marked 2; then open the compasses a small matter, till the left-hand foot reaches to the intersection of the two lines marked 4. 4, and you have the extent of the number required.  In a similar manner any other number may be taken off.

From Hawney’s Complete Measurer, 1801 Philadelphia


September 18, 2009

What we can learn from History

Filed under: Hide Glue,Historical Material,Moxon,Of Interest,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 5:56 am

We get to look at and work with old tools and some things don’t change and others do.  We have this historic record in books, publications, newspapers, advertisements, etc. of the period and they can shed a good deal of light on what was being done in the nineteenth century and earlier.  We get works like Diderot, Roubo, Moxon, Holtzhaffle, et al and those are great sources in both what they provide visually and verbally but they can also have another important piece of history.

Moxon said to avoid adding weak beer to Hide Glue to thin and extend its working time, saying that that didn’t work.  Well apparently enough people were doing just that or he wouldn’t have spoke up against the practice.  This is just what some people were doing.

In other publications, if the author say not to do something, that needs to be looked at, as apparently there were a number of people doing it to justify a caveat.  Not that you are reading anything into the history, but sometimes what is said can have more meanings than just on the surface.

Glean what information is there and look at what is not.  Some methods were not described by some authors as it was common knowledge.  Well that is fine if you have the common knowledge of the 17th, 18th or 19th century but not all of us have that.  And how close was the author to the trade?  Did they have passing knowledge and put together data from other sources or did they actually know the craft?  Moxon knew bookbinding, publishing and mathematical instrument making, how much did he know of bricklaying?

But at least we have that information and we can look at it from all angles, with different perspectives and with differing view points.  We should analyze the stuff, we should scrutinize the information and we should put it to the test to see if it works and what contribution it can make.


September 17, 2009

Strike Block / Miter Plane

What ever it is called turned out to be a nice plane.  I would like to thank those who contributed to my ability to complete this plane.  Although I just put the first coat of finish on, I will post a picture of the plane with finish on tomorrow, the oil is drying.


I did relieve behind the mouth of the plane, I slightly sprung the wedge and cleaned up the throat.  The laid steel Japanese chisel that I converted to Western did the bulk of the end grain work on the throat, not the bed.  I used a variety of chisels and even scrapers together with floats to bed the iron.  I also did the soot trick for final bedding.

I took Rob Lee’s advise and took off the back of the wedge, rounding it over and exposing the blade for ease of adjustment.  I tried it on hardwoods, softwoods, with the grain, end grain and miter, all cut superbly under normal conditions.  I did discover that the front of the throat was sharp on top, so I put a cupids bow decoration and the sharp edge is gone.

Another thing that I discovered, well ripped off Moxon was using the plane upside down.  Who would have thought?  I hold the plane upside down and pass the work over the blade.  This was mostly smaller work, but it did round over the edges of a small netting needle I made from maple.  I like using the plane upside down, you can see what is going on.  This of course only works on narrow smaller length pieces, but it works quite well.


I also made a 40-50-90 degree triangle of mahogany for the plane making class I have coming up in November in Reno and a bedding guide from maple.  These will be handy for plane layout as was the 30/60/90 degree triangle I used to make this plane.


September 16, 2009

Seamstress Chest

Here is a pine chest that I made a couple of years ago, traded off a couple of months ago and finally got the right handles fixed to it today.  It is entirely hand made, all surfaces hand planed and scraped, the corners are dovetailed, although you can’t see them under the paint.  It is glued together with Hide Glue and some nails were used to fasten the top and bottom.

It is 11 1/2″ deep, 23 3/4″ long and 12 1/4″ high is made of pine and painted and grained to imitate mahogany.  It has gold striping, butterfly hinges on the back secured with clinched nails, an iron hasp secured with slotted iron screws and the lifting handles attached with clinch nails.


I first layed out the location and used a brad awl to make a hole without removing any wood.

I then pounded the nails through the handle and hole in the box.  I used the steel ‘anvil’ to deaden the blow when driving the nails home.

I then bent over the ends of the nails before I clinched them into the pine on the inside of the box.


This is how the iron lifting handles look from the outside.  The handles are from Van Dykes Restorers as are the nails.  The butterfly hinges and the hasp and padlock are also from Van Dykes.

A light coat of linseed oil and it will be ready to deliver this weekend.


September 12, 2009

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop


A good friend of mine Ken Pollard has finally created a new web site for his business of making and repairing stringed instruments.  It is the Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop in Idaho.  I have known Ken for more years than I care to admit to, we first met because of our interest in shooting muzzle loading guns.  With Sir George Stapleford we three became a trio of history buffs and good friends that for some reason lasted.

Ken has many talents, not all known to the public* and because of his background in Physics, I asked him to write the Foreword to Hide Glue – Historical & Practical Applications, which he graciously agreed.  Hide Glue is a crucial part of musical instrument construction and repair and Ken uses Hot Hide Glue in his work.  I am still trying to get him to give liquid hide glue another chance, even liquid fish glue, perhaps some day.

* hard tack souffle, roast magpie and he wears a skirt kilt.

If you have an old violin, viola, cello, bass, &c in need of repair Mr. Pollard would be happy to put into good working order, using the finest materials and with the greatest dispatch.


September 11, 2009

Caned Chair

This is one of a set of chairs I am repairing for some friends of mines friend, I actually have never met this client.  It has a bamboo motif with machine woven cane seat.  Someone stepped in the middle of this chair.  On a side note: do not stand on ANY chair, they are made for sitting. 

My six word epitaph will read: Keep your feet off the furniture!

The first thing is to make a cut around the outside of the spline that holds the woven cane in place.  As you can see the mottled finish continues onto the caned seat, this I will have to replicate when I put the new seat back in place.  My friends ordered the machine woven cane and spline, so I didn’t have to fuss with that part.

With this type of chair the hardest part is removing the old seat and this one proved to be obdurate.  They used plenty of white glue to fix the cane in place.

After I scored around the outside of the spline to give a clean line and not chip the finish off in the wrong places, and there were a couple of chips that will need attention when the finish is applied, I cut an X in the old cane bottom from corner to corner.  I then used a 1/8″ chisel to remove some of the spine, lots of glue it was a nightmare.

I then ripped out the seat bottom and turned my attention to removing the rest of the spline.  Once I had chiseled out enough but not all the spline and captured cane, I filled the groove with water to soften the glue.  I then scraped out more of the dross and put more water in the groove.  It took 4 applications of water to finally remove all of the old white glue and debris.

Needless to say I will use Hide Glue to replace the cane making the next guys work much easier.  Overall I spent about 3 hours removing the spline.  I will have some time next week to put on the new  seat bottom.  I will soak it in water and glycerin until soft then glue it in place and remove the excess.  I will show the process as it gets underway.

Then I will do the touch up work and make the seat match the rest of the chair.


September 9, 2009

Strike Block Plane

Or is it a miter plane?  It is a 30 degree, bevel down wooden plane.  It is not particularly a copy of anything, but took me to another level of plane making.  Now as I have said before I am not a plane maker, although I do make planes, and of course that doesn’t make any sense.

I will be teaching a plane making class for the Nevada WoodChucks in Reno in November and we will be making the coffin smoother/Moxon smoother with a small blade.  This plane is a bit different the blade is much wider, 2″ and is a laid steel blade from Chris Sholtz at Galoot Tools.  It is a wonderful blade and I have wanted an opportunity to build a plane, a metal miter is not in the near future.

Made of maple with a brass rod to hold the maple wedge the plane is 11 inches long and not quite 3 inches wide and a little over two inches thick.  I did pre drill some of the throat then used a firmer chisel to get the proper shape.  The 30 degree triangles I made came in handy to layout the bed of the plane.

I also used a float to help form the bed.  I made inquiries over at WoodCentral to get an idea where to place the wedge bar and it is in the middle of the throat.

I spent 6 hours on the plane and it looks like I spent 6 hours on the plane.  Another hour of tweaking the edges and applying Boiled Linseed Oil and I am done.  Nothing fancy but it does cut nice both with the grain and end-grain.  I tried a piece of poplar and a piece of pine which had a knot and the end-grain was smack smooth.


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