Full Chisel Blog

April 30, 2012

Traditional Quilting Frame – tension mechanism

With the exception of the two strips of cloth that needs to be attached to the two 10 foot axles, the traditional quilting frame is complete.  The strips of cloth will be held with carpet/upholstery tacks, alder [Alnus spp.] is known for its tack/nail/screw holding properties.

I fitted each gear to the axles and marked them for ease of reassembly.  The gears need to match on each of the axles.  The gears are timed or clocked, so the pawls hold the gears in the same place on each end of the axle.

With the gears on each end of the axles and the axles installed in the frame, I positioned everything and marked the screw holes for the pawls.  I used a gimblet bit to drill the screw shank holes and a 2 burr countersink for the heads of the screws.  I made 4 small leather standoff washers and installed them between the pawl and the frame.  Instead of marking every hole, I positioned the pawls to mesh with the gears properly.  I put a bit of Moses T’s St. John’s Oil on the areas of fresh worked wood.

This project tested the limits of my small shop, with it set up, I can barely make it through the door.


April 29, 2012

Traditional Quilting Frame – gears, pawls, & a bench

I am making this for a friend and with the help of George Merrill, I got it done in record time.  Here is a picture of the quilting frame bench.  You can see the frame here, and the gears in an early stage here.

Constructed of knotty alder, the legs are mortised and tenoned into the seat and held with wedges, all construction is glued with hide glue.  It is finished with Moses T’s St. John’s Oil.

Here are the gears and pawls, I will drill, countersink and install a stand off washer of leather.  The gears have to be timed or clocked so they match up on both sides, I will mark them so they can be installed in the proper position when set up.

The gears come off for storage, so it is important they go back on the the proper position.  Need to make arrangements for the cloth to be tacked on both axles and it is ready for delivery.

If anyone is in need of a traditional wooden quilting frame, please let me know.



April 28, 2012

Quilting Frame

The frame is mostly done, still have to fit the gears onto the ends of the axles and fit up the pawls.  The frame is made of alder, unfortunately it is not available here in lengths over 10 feet.  This frame holds a 10 foot quilt blank, so the axles and stretcher need to be longer.

This was accomplished by laminating the pieces and overlapping the joints.  Of course it was glued together with hide glue and finished with Moses T’s St. John’s Oil.

I would like to thank George Merrill for his assistance on this project.


April 27, 2012

Wooden gears for a quilting frame.

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Sawing,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 10:48 am

A friend has ordered a 10 foot quilting frame based on a traditional design.  Here is a picture of the drawing, showing the gears and pawls as well as the construction methods used in the fabrication of this quilting frame.

The frame (and bench) are constructed of knotty alder, avoiding the knots it critical areas.  The gears are not free and layed out the gears then cut them with both a rip and crosscut saw depending on the grain.

I lined up the grain so they all matched and held together with a temporary bolt.  I then gang cut the gears at the same time.

The gear on the lower left hand side has been completed, slightly beveling the sides of the gear teeth and chamfering the edges.  I will continue on the others, then chop the square mortise in the gear to accept the 10 foot plus pole that holds the quilt.



April 26, 2012

Fish Tail Mortise Chisel

Sure you have heard of dovetail chisels, how about a fish tail chisel?  I became aware of this tool when I was an apprentice.  I had asked my master about the large European hinges I had seen on old armoires and other large cabinet work.  He said that they were called ‘fiche eisen’ or fish iron not for the hinge but for the tool to make the hinge.

On my recent visit to New Orleans and the Historic New Orleans Collection I saw many examples of this hinge and the reason for the name ‘fiche’ was that it was French for pin.  I then related my story about the name of the hinge and it was well received.

This type of chisel makes the long narrow mortises necessary to install this type of hinge.  Once it is secured in the mortise it is held nails or screws.  When using this type of chisel, frequently the inside backs of the case would have blow out where the chisel emerged.  This damage doesn’t show [not on the money side] and is evident when you examine a number of old pieces.

The chisel would be pounded straight into the work and the waste is forced to the middle.  Small pilot holes were sometimes drilled to give relief for the chips.  A slight wiggle of the chisel and another blow with the hammer and it continues to cut the narrow mortise hole for the hinge leaf.  For longer mortises, the chisel would be positioned to cut any length mortise for larger leafs on the hinge.


April 23, 2012

Shepherds’ Compleat Early Nineteenth Century Woodworker

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Publications,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 4:55 pm


I am happy to announce that Shepherds’ Compleat Early Nineteenth Century Woodworker is back in print.  It is available from Tools For Working Wood in New York or also in the Full Chisel Store.


April 16, 2012

Finishing Louisiana Furnishings

Is the title of the lecture I am presenting on April 20, 2012 [my birthday] to The Historic New Orleans Collection in the Big Easy.  More information is available on their web site.

I shipped my tools last week and they have safely arrived in New Orleans.  I didn’t want to explain steel graining combs, checker rollers or a toothing plane blade to airport security.  I think I will be carefully scrutinized as it is, without raising any other red flags.


Looking forward to seeing Acadian and Creole Furniture from the 18th and 19th century including a large collection of Campeachy Chairs.  A lot of French influence in the furniture design, I will be looking at the joints and construction techniques.


Should be a fun trip as this is my first airplane flight in 14 years, I think things may have changed.  Looking forward to some gulf shrimp and other local cuisine.


April 12, 2012

Plow Plane from Columbia

A friend of mine brought this back from Columbia several years ago and has decided to sell it as it has no blades nor a wedge.  I told him I would try and find its age/origin and sell it for him.








It is an unusual plow plane with a rather large fence [two piece box joint] and a handle that is dovetailed into the body.







The plane appears to be made of birch, the handle and wear side of the fence appears to be hornbeam.






It has an iron skate with a brass plate for the screws, it also has an adjustable iron depth stop in good working order.









You can see the box joint between the wear plate [hornbeam] and the fence [birch]. also note the finger groove in the bottom of the fence.

I will make a wedge and supply one blade with the plane when I sell it for my friend.

Anyone know anything about this plane?


April 4, 2012

Making a Veneer Saw

There are several current models of veneer saws being produced, the nicest is perhaps the one offered at Tools For Working Wood with interchangeable blades.  I have made a couple, and have orders for two more saw blades.  I needed to make this now as I need to cut some walnut burl veneer for replacing the top of a sewing machine cabinet for a friend.  There is no way to cut this crispy veneer without a veneer saw.

This is the end of a saw blank for a patternmaker’s saw, which was longer than I intended, I cut and snapped the end off to make the veneer saw.  The tip already was slightly curved which helped in the shaping process as veneer saws are severely breasted.

I had to remember to file all of the teeth in the same direction, which took me a bit of time, I kept skipping a tooth.

Once the teeth were all filed in the same direction and with the curve or breast formed, I filed off the teeth to knife points.

I drilled two holes in the saw plate and countersunk them on the proper side for mounting to a wooden handle.

This is my current veneer saw [on loan]:

















April 3, 2012

Gibson Mandolin A-1 repair

This particular mandolin was made in 1911 according to the Gibson Archive and is in fairly good condition considering its age.  I usually don’t work on ‘modern’ items but this is for a friend.

I have repaired several stringed instruments in my time and when they have water damage it is generally on the bottom or the sides from sitting in water.  This one however has damage to the very top of the peg box.

The mandolin has what appears to be a birch body stained mahogany, spruce top, cherry laminated neck with a strip of ebony or ebonized wood in between.  It has an ebony finger board and ebony veneer on the peg box which is damaged as is the cherry substrate.  It is trimmed with ivory celluloid and mother of pearl.

I will put a small cherry end grain dovetail Dutchman to prepare it for the ebony veneer, it will also be toothed as there is evidence of toothing plane was used to prepare the woods for gluing with hot hide glue.

Should be a fun restoration project.



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