Full Chisel Blog

March 31, 2011


Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 12:05 pm

I had one of these several years back, not sure what happened to it, however I was in need of a new one.  I asked Master Blacksmith Mark Schramm to make me one.  This one is much fancier than the other one I had.  I have been waiting for the weather to improve [no wind] and it did so this morning.  I took the opportunity to burn some branches and other yard waste.  Don’t currently have any staves that need to be bent.


Took a very large pile and reduced it to a few cups of wood ash, which went immediately into the garden.

Now I need to get back to washing my linseed oil.


March 29, 2011

Staining with Spices II

Filed under: Finishing,Historical Material,Of Interest,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 10:06 am

Here is a sample in the previous post with a couple of additions.

The top sample is turmeric and lye, the center section is just turmeric and the lower sample is Annatto seeds {Bixa Orellana}.  All samples are in alcohol and all have a bit of alum added as a mordant.  The mordant helps fix the dye to the wood and reduces fading.  On exposure to direct sunlight these can be fugative, the mordant retards the fading.

While  you may think these posts are strange, just wait.  I am going to write about washing linseed oil and making boiled linseed oil from raw linseed oil using garlic.


March 28, 2011

Staining with Spices

Filed under: Finishing,Historical Material,Of Interest,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 10:28 am

Keeping up my culinary approach to woodworking I have been using some traditional dyes available right in the kitchen.  Kids you can try this at home.  Of course household vinegar and iron filings makes the stain ‘iron buff’.  Tea and coffee can be used to dye woods brown.  These are actually dyes rather than stains as there is some chemical reactions going on not just depositing fine pigments on the surface [stain].

I was going to do a sample of saffron dye, however it is terribly expensive, around $3,000.00 per pound.  I have some Annatto seeds which are currently soaking in alcohol.  I did pick up some turmeric (Curcuma longa) and not for making curry.  I mixed some up with alcohol and added a bit of lye (kids get your parents to help with this one).  It starts out yellow and with the addition of an alkali base (increasing the pH to above 7) it turns quite orange and imparts the following color to hard curly maple.  The sample has dried.

The alcohol I am using is some local Valley Tan (moonshine) so as to keep everything edible.  I will do another sample with the turmeric without the lye and the annatto seeds.  All of this of course will be covered in Shellac, Linseed Oil & Paint – Traditional 19th Century Woodwork Finishes, hopefully out by the end of April.


March 21, 2011


Filed under: Finishing,Furniture,Historical Material,Of Interest,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 11:06 am

Egg white woodwork varnish.  Yes that is what I said egg whites have been made into ‘glair’ for centuries and used as a water-white [clear] high gloss light duty varnish that is waterproof when it is dry.  And this is one method of sealing the sugar seal coat to prevent it from being sticky.

Egg whites are carefully separated from the yokes and the whites are beaten until then stiffen up and form what is called ‘stiff peak’ stage.  This is then placed in a wire sieve over a bowl and placed in a cool place and allowed to stand overnight.

The next day the liquid that is collected in the bowl is ‘glair’.  It can be bottle and stored, if it goes off it should be discarded and fresh made as necessary.

You can see it is a very light color, it was prepared in a stainless steel bowl.  This or glass or pottery should be used to keep the glair light in color.  Below is what happens when you prepare the egg whites in a copper bowl.

The glair takes on a yellow tint from a reaction between the sulfur in the egg whites and the copper.  It does produce a better meringue [no need to add cream of tartar] but no so much for egg varnish.  The glair itself is a non yellowing coating capable of high gloss.

Here is the sugar sealed piece of curly maple that has been treated with a few coats of glair.  I overlapped the glair to some unsealed wood and the grain is not nearly as deep as that sealed with sugar.  Sugar and glair both have a good refractive index.

And the touch test proves that it is no longer sticky.

I do admit that glair is a light duty varnish but it is none-the-less a very handy stuff to whip up and have around.  It is waterproof when dry [ever removed eggs from an automobile?], is high gloss and very inexpensive to make.


March 18, 2011

Sugar Pop the grain.

Filed under: Finishing,Furniture,Of Interest,Techniques,Uncategorized,Wood — Stephen Shepherd @ 12:24 pm

You have heard of ‘popping the grain’ of fancy woods like curly maple, etc.  That is usually done with linseed oil, but here is a water based alternative and is readily available; it is the sugar pop.  This is a piece of curly maple I selected as a sample that will become a tool or utensil handle, I scraped it smooth, raised the grain and allowed it to dry.  I then scraped down the raised grain and applied a coat of sugar.

I used cone sugar.  It is a traditional type of sugar and has a brown color.  When heated up with a bit of distilled water and allowed to thicken a bit, I brushed it onto the wood.  Now at this point some of you are saying ‘why the hell is he doing that?’.  ‘Wouldn’t it be sticky?’

I am looking for the next ‘sweet finish’!

No, that is not the reason I have done this and I certainly am not the first to do this, centuries old traditional method.  Sugar happens to have a very high refractive index.  It also forms a seal [called sugar seal] on the wood that will not allow linseed oil or oil varnish to penetrate.  It can also be used to isolate layers of shellac from having subsequent coats go through, but there are other methods to do that which I will discuss in an upcoming blog post.

Next post I will tell you how to make this ‘sugar pop’ coating waterproof.


March 13, 2011

Tool Making Workshop

The workshop ran smoothly, no one sent to the emergency room, everyone had a good time.  Here is a photograph of most of the graduating class of this workshop.  Two people finished early and did not attend the last half day session. 

Dick, Jan, Ed, Tom and Gene [Aileen and Rod N/A].

Some folks will need to do a bit more work to finish their tools, but at the end they  had both a double blade hacksaw and a stringing cutter/ marking gauge / slitting cutter, and they all worked.  I challenged them to figure out how to cut the 16d nails for the hacksaw blade pins with the hacksaw they were making?  Gene immediately answered the question, he said he would borrow a nail cut it off then replace one of the whole nails with the cut off then repeat the process.

We all had a good time, spent some quality time at Woody’s and they invited me back, might be doing the tenon saw/clamp.

I was given a piece of Vera wood, no idea what it is, very dense, green variegated with yellow and will add it to my collection.  Some research tomorrow at UNR libraries then returning home on Wednesday.


March 8, 2011

Tool Making Workshop – Nevada Wood Chucks

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Sawing,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 9:20 am

This weekend, I will be teaching two classes for the Nevada Wood Chucks in Reno; building a copy of Charles Plummier’s 1792 double blade hacksaw and constructing and using a stringing/inlay cutter.  The cutter can also be used as a marking gauge or slitting gauge.

A simple double bladed hacksaw [one coarse, one fine blade] with a threaded tensioner between the two wooden arms.  This is a very handy tool, but don’t loan it out or the people using it will snap one of the arms by applying too much pressure on the tensioner.  I have had to replace an arm twice, although I have never personally broken one.  I use this tool all the time.

The second workshop and tool is the stringing or inlay cutter.

This is one I made in 1998 and use for a variety of uses, mostly cutting inlay stringing.  The one we will make will be slightly different, thumbscrew instead of a machine screw and the fence will have two half round pieces attached to the fence in grooves on both sides of the beam to allow for doing inside and outside radius cuts.  The screw secures the cutters, which we will make from discarded street sweeper tines [spring steel].  There are two outside cutters that are sharpened on the inside bevel like a slitting gauge knife and there are one, two or more small serrated or toothed blades that clean out between the two cutters.  You can inlay up to about 1/4″ wide.

Should be a fun workshop.


March 5, 2011

The Grind

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Sharpening,The Trade,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 8:06 am

 I found this file on my computer and thought it interesting:

 The Mechanics’ Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazzette April 4 1835.

 We extract from the last Part of the Transactions of the Society of Arts the following valuable descriptive catalogue of a collection of hone-stones and grindstones, presented to the Society by Richard Knight, Esq., of Foster-lane :

 1. Grit or Sandstone.—Of this variety the celebrated Newcastle grind-stones are formed. It abounds in the coal-districts of Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, and Derbyshire; and is selected of different degrees of density and coarseness, best suited to the various manufactures of Sheffield and Birmingham, for grinding and giving a smooth and polished surface to their different wares.

 2. Is a similar description of stone, of great excellence. It is of a lighter colour, much finer, and of a very sharp nature, and at the same time not too hard. It is confined to a very small spot, of limited extent and thickness, in the immediate vicinity of Bilston, in Staffordshire, where it lies above the coal, and is now quarried entirely for the purpose of grind-stones.

 3. Is a hard, close variety, known by the name of carpenters’ rub-stone; being used as a portable stone for sharpening tools by rubbing them on the flat stone instead of grinding. It is also much employed for the purpose of giving a smooth and uniform surface to copper-plates for the engraver.

 4. Is a much softer variety of sandstone, usually cut into a square form, from 8 to 12 inches long, in which state they are used dry by shoe-makers, cork-cutters, and others, for giving a sort of coarse edge to their bladed knives, and instruments of a similar description.

 5. A stone of similar properties, but of a more compact and harder description, and therefore better adapted for sharpening agricultural instruments, and may be used with or without water.

 6. A porous, fine-grained sandstone, in considerable repute, from the quarries of Slack Down Cliffs, near Collumpton. and well known by the name of Devonshire Batts.

 7. Is a variety called Yorkshire Grit. It is not at all applied as a whet-stone, but is in considerable use as a polisher of marble, and of copper-plates for engravers.

 8. Is a very similar stone, of a softer nature, and made use of by the same description of workmen, and is called Congleton Grit Hone-Slates.

  9. Norway rag-stone. — This is the coarsest variety of the hone-slates. It is imported in very considerable quantity from Norway in the form of square prisms, from 9 to 12 inches long, and 1 to 2 inches diameter, gives a finer edge than the sandstones, and is in very general use.

 10. Charley Forest stone is one of the best substitutes for the Turkey oil-stone, and much in request by joiners and others, for giving a fine edge. It has hitherto been found only on Charnwood Forest, near Mount Sorrel, in Leicestershire.

 11. Ayr-stone, Scotch-stone, or snakestone, is most in request as a polishing stone for marble and copper-plates; but the harder varieties have of late been employed as whetstones.

 12. Idwall, or Welsh oil-stone, is generally harder, but in other respects differs but little as a whet-stone from the Charley Forest; but in consequence of its being more expensive, is in less general use. It is obtained from the vicinity of Llyn Idwall, in the Snowdon district of North Wales.

 13. Devonshire oilstone is an excellent variety for sharpening all kind of thin edged broad instruments, as plane-irons, chisels. &.c, and deserves to be better known. This stone was first brought into notice by Mr. John Taylor, who met with it in the neighbourhood of Tavistock, and sent a small parcel to London for distribution; but, for want of a constant and regular supply, it is entirely out of use here.

 14. Cutler’s green hone is of so hard and close a nature, that it is only applicable to the purposes of cutlers and instrument-makers, for giving the last edge to the lancet, and other delicate surgical instruments. It has hitherto been only found in the Snowdon mountains of North Wales.

 15. German razor-hone. This is universally known throughout Europe, and generally esteemed as the best whet-stone for all kinds of the finer description of cutlery. It is obtained from the slate-mountains in the neighbourhood of Ratisbon, where it occurs in the form of a yellow vein running virtually into the blue slate, sometimes not more than an inch in thickness, and varying to 12 and sometimes 18 inches, from whence it is quarried, and then sawed into thin slabs, which are usually cemented into a similar slab of the slate, to serve as a support, and in that state sold for use. That which is obtained from the lowest part of the vein is esteemed the best, and termed old rock.

 16. The same, with the hone in natural contact with the slate.

 17. Is a dark slate of very uniform character; in appearance not at all laminated; is in considerable use among jewellers, clockmakers, and other workers in silver and metal, for polishing off their work, and for whose greater convenience it is cut into lengths of about 6 inches, and from a quarter of an inch to an inch or more wide, and packed up in small bundles of from 6 to 16 in each, and secured by means of withes of osier, and in that state imported for use, and called blue polishing-stones.

 18. Is a stone of very similar properties, but of a somewhat coarser texture and paler colours, and thence termed grey polishingstone. Its uses are the same, and they are manufactured near Ratisbon.

 19. Is a soft variety of hone-slate, the use of which is confined to curriers, and by them employed to give a fine smooth edge to their broad and straight-edged knives for dressing leather. They are always cut of a circular form, and are called Welsh clearingstone.

 20. Turkey oil-stone.—This stone can hardly be considered a hone-slate, having nothing of a lamellar or schistose appearance. As a whet-stone, it surpasses every other known substance, and possesses, in an eminent degree, the property of abrading the hardest steel, and is at the same time of so compact and close a nature, as to resist the pressure necessary for sharpening a graver, or other small instruments of that description. Little more is known of its natural history than that it is found in the interior of Asia Minor, and brought down to Smyrna for sale.

 21. The French Burr mill-stone, so justly esteemed as the best material for forming mill-stones for grinding bread-corn, having the property of separating a larger proportion of flour from the bran than can be effected by stones formed from any other material.

 22. Conway mill-stone very much resembles the French in appearance. A quarry of this was opened near Conway, about twenty years since, which at first appeared very promising; but it was soon discovered that it was the upper stratum only that possessed the porous property so essentia], the lower stratum being found too close and compact to answer the purpose.

 23. Cologne mill-stone.—This substance is an exceedingly tenacious porous lava. Mill-stones are made of this material in great quantity near Cologne, and transported by the Rhine to most parts of Europe. Smaller stones, from 18 inches to 30, are much used for hand-mills in the West Indies for grinding Indian corn, for which purpose they are well adapted.

 24. Emery-stone.—No substance is better known, or has been subservient to the arts for a longer period, than this. The gigantic columns, statues, and obelisks of Egypt owe their carved and polished forms and surfaces to the agency of emery. It is obtained almost entirely from the island of Naxos, where it occurs in considerable abundance in detached irregular masses. It is reduced to the state of powder by means of rolling or stamping-mills, and afterwards by sieves and levigation.

 25. Pumice-stone is a volcanic product, and is obtained principally from the Campo Bianco, one of the Lipari islands, which is entirely composed of this substance. It is extensively employed in various branches of the arts, and particularly in the state of powder, for polishing the various articles of cutglass ; it is also extensively used in dressing leather, and in grinding and polishing the surface of metallic plates, &c.

 26. Rotten-stone is a variety of Tripoli almost peculiar to England, and proves a most valuable material for giving polish and lustre to a great variety of articles, as silver, the metals, glass, and even, in the hands of the lapidary, to the hardest stones. It is found in considerable quantities both in Derbyshire and South Wales.

 27. Yellow Tripoli, or French Tripoli, although of a less soft and smooth nature, is better adapted to particular purposes, as that of polishing the lighter description of hard wood, such as holly, box, &c.

 28. Touch-stone is a compact black basalt or Lydian-stone, of a smooth and uniform nature, and is used principally by goldsmiths and jewellers as a ready means of determining the value of gold and silver by the touch, as it is termed—that is, by first rubbing the article under examination upon the stone, its appearance forms some criterion ; and, as a further test, a drop of acid, of known strength, is let fall upon it, and its effect upon the metal denotes its value.

 29. Blood-stone is a very hard, compact variety of hematite iron ore, which, when reduced to a suitable form, fixed into a handle, and well polished, forms the best description of burnisher for producing a high lustre on gilt coat-buttons, which is performed in the turning-lathe by the Birmingham manufacturers. The gold on china ware is burnished by its means. Burnishers are likewise formed of agate and flint; the former substance is preferred by bookbinders, and the latter for gilding on wood, as picture-frames, &c.”


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