Full Chisel Blog

October 30, 2012

Traditional Veneer Hammer in Wrought Iron

Filed under: Clamping,Hide Glue,Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Techniques,Veneer — Stephen Shepherd @ 12:37 pm

I have always used what I considered the American pattern veneer hammer made of wood with perhaps a brass blade, but generally hardwood such as boxwood or lignum vitae.  The one on the right is my first veneer hammer with a brass blade, I made this about 40 years ago.  The one on the left is the American pattern.

A while back I taught a workshop on hammer veneering and the class made veneer hammers, it was a fun class at the Nevada WoodChucks.  We built the American pattern with one fellow turning the head as well as the handle.

Recently a friend borrowed my veneer hammer for a big job he had designed and built.  Then I found myself in need of a hammer for a restoration job.  I borrowed an all metal German Veneer Hammer from a friend to do the job in a timely manner.  I really liked the way it worked and was able to warm the head to aid in the hammering down of the veneer.

I did some research on old metal veneer hammers and came up with a traditional style in the size I wanted, and these are generally considered Continental patterns and this one is French or German in influence.  And it was constructed from a wagon wheel out of wrought iron, forge welded together to make the proper thickness by master blacksmith Mark Schramm.

The handle is split hickory, wedged with beech and glued in place with Fish Glue after I etched the eye with garlic.  Washed it off with alum and water to make the glue waterproof and I will finish with Moses T’s Reviver [a lean oil] followed by Moses T’s Gunstocker’s Finish [a fat oil].

I have a big veneer job to do so this will fit the bill.

[I have also seen this type of hammer with the head mounted with the blade inside toward the handle, which is correct?  I think this way with the maker’s mark on the underside.]


October 15, 2012

Testing Woolen fabric for French Polish Pad, Fad, or Rubber

Filed under: Alchemy,Finishing,Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Techniques — Stephen Shepherd @ 8:58 am

I recently read of a traditional technique for preparing a rubber, pad, or fad for French polishing, and this technique differs from others I have researched.  I switched from cotton balls as a pad filler to raw washed wool, which I am very happy with how it works and lasts.

However this new method looked interesting, so I asked my favorite seamstress if she had some 100% woolen fabric that I could use?  She brought by enough for my specifications, but wider, so I could rip it to the desired size.  I thought that before I went ahead with French polishing, I should test the fabric to see if it would bleed any of the dye.

Sure enough after some alcohol and placed in a glass jar for an hour or so, then I took it out and placed it on a paper towel and you can see what happened.

I told the seamstress of the problem and she said she had some light brown herringbone wool fabric which she dropped off.  I did the same test and no bleeding, so I will use this next time I polish.

I will also post the new/old technique soon and see how well it works.


October 10, 2012

What would Leonardo do?

Filed under: Documentation,Historical Material,Of Interest,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 7:03 pm

A friend and I recently visited a local ‘new’ museum ‘The Leonardo’ in Salt Lake; it is based in the old library building when the Salt Lake City Library moved to its new location.  The web site was not clear about the charges and it ended up costing double of what we thought.  Spent the money and spent a couple hours looking over the exhibits.

I did spend a few minutes touring other parts of the museum and it looks like there is some interesting interactive hands-on stuff.  And what I am about to say in no way reflects on ‘The Leonardo’ museum or its staff in any way, they are doing the job they were handed.

The reproductions of the paintings and drawings were superb; the paintings were life size giving a much needed prospective as to their physical scope.  And the measurements were in both metric and inches, which I appreciate.  The analysis of the Mona Lisa was extensive with wall size enlargements in a variety of lighting conditions gave remarkable detail.  Even a photograph of the back of the Mona Lisa showing a couple of butterfly double dovetail repairs to a split in the original solid poplar panel on which it was painted.  Even a color copy of the newly discovered ‘Leonardo Da Vinci’ painting on parchment, which is lovely [I can’t believe I used that word].

And now  to the traveling exhibition called ‘Da Vinci The Genius, An Inspirational Exhibition’ created by Grande Exhibitions, The Anthropos Foundation, Italy and Pascal Cotte, France.  My first problem was naming an exhibit after a town in Italy, that I can let slide.  The placards placed next to objects were obviously written with a bias ‘a beautiful drawing of a terrible machine’, please don’t interject your personal opinions, just state the facts.  Also one that  particularly caught my attention was the placard describing a hydraulic saw, obviously from the drawing a water wheel operating an up down sawmill; and the object next to it was some sort of hands on mechanism that didn’t work and certainly wasn’t anything resembling the drawing.

Many of the objects had been constructed for a hands-on experience, which is a wonderful idea, however many of them did not work or had missing and broken parts.  I had hoped to get some detail on the screw cutting machine, what I got was disappointing to say the least.  No screw cutter which they called a die, machine couldn’t possibly work.  And this was how it was with several of the devices that were ‘reconstructed’ in wood, metal and other materials.

Then the construction details immediately began to stand out, obvious modern planer marks on the wood, lots of shellac though, everything was slathered in shellac.  Modern Philips head screws, hex head bolts and plumbing pipe for gun barrels.  Lots of plywood, some thin Baltic birch and some A/C Doug fir, must have imported that stuff into Italy from North America.

And where did they come up with the size of how big to build them?  While I can see that they can be of some benefit to actually seeing the object in person, if it were the correct size or scaled in such a manner as you can determine its actual size would be a big help in understanding the man’s obvious genius.

Somebody made a lot of money making those devices; it is too bad they didn’t invest the money into research and actually building them correctly.  I mentioned it to a fellow who work there and after a bit of hesitation he said that they were mock-ups.  I came up with another ups, kept it to myself and said they were actually mockeries.

The accompanying pamphlet was not terribly informative, lots of fluff plenty of white space for notes and drawings, I saw no one taking notes and advertising took up half of the ‘program’.  The audio guide was an additional charge, which we declined, we had our own verbal conversations, many disparaging remarks.

All part of what I call ‘sport museuming’, I did complain as best I could, not wanting to offend the staff as they had nothing to do with the poorly thought out and ineptly constructed models of Leonardo’s sketches.  Most people, wait nearly all people who view this exhibit will not know the difference, but I and my friend obviously do know the difference and I know many others that would also be disappointed as to how modern people interpret the past.

How difficult can it be, just use 500 year old tools, materials, and techniques?  Nothing to it.  Could I do a better job, well hell yes.  Look, if you are going to do history, you better get it ‘exactly right’ or don’t bother at all.



October 9, 2012

Preparing a Holdfast to hold fast

During a Hand Tool Chat over at WoodCentral a few weeks ago the topic of clamping was discussed and holdfasts came up in the conversation.  We were talking about a proper sized hole and the desired thickness of the workbench for using holdfasts.  A 1 ½” thick top is minimum for a holdfast, although I have used mine on 1” thick apron of my bench; and 1/16” larger hole than the diameter of the shank of the holdfast seems to be optimum.  Slightly larger holes will work as long as the holdfast can jamb from the top of one side of the hole to the bottom of the other side of the hole.

The holes for holdfasts should be straight up and down and as smooth as possible on the inside.  This smooth surface on the inside of the hole gives greater friction than a rough hole.  Then someone mentioned that a Celebrity Woodworker had said that to improve the ‘workings’ of the holdfast to roughen the shank with sandpaper.

At that point I remembered one of my three holdfasts had rough scale from the forging process covering the shank and I don’t use that particular one because it is rough and will destroy a hole after some use.  I did use it in a pinch but was careful not to drive it too deep.  I had just been too lazy to smooth off the shank and my other two have very smooth shanks and I use them all of the time.

I told the participants of the chat that that was probably not a good idea, because that would turn the shaft of the holdfast into a file that would abrade the hole every time it was used.  I argued that the smoother the shaft the greater the friction, same as the hole in the bench.  You don’t want a rough shank you want a very smooth shank.

So I set about rectifying the situation with my third holdfast.  I clamped it in the vise and using a mill bastard file dressed the shank by ‘draw filing’ the surface.  The scale came off leaving the shaft bright.  I also collected the iron filings for making iron buff and as an ingredient in ‘cultler’s cement’.

Now all of my shanks are smooth and ready for use.


October 7, 2012

Getting history correct – Bed warmers & Foot warmers

We have all heard the quaint story of how in the ‘olden times’ the pioneers/ancestors/colonists would fill their Fancy brass or copper bed warmers with the long turned wooden handles, with hot coals or embers from the stove or fireplace then use the bed warmer to warm the bedding material prior to retiring for the evening.

And those ubiquitous foot warmers in a variety of shapes; usually an exterior wooden frame to protect from direct contact with the heat, contained in a punched tin box with a door for loading ‘hot coals or embers’.  A wire bail handle is attached for ease of transportation and they were placed under lap robes or blankets in a wagon or sleigh to keep ones feet warm.

I have been wanting to correct this bit of arrant history for some time and finally decided to act.  Apparently people have heard this story and just accepted it as fact, and they keep repeating it in history books, etc., well I actually put it to the test.  It doesn’t work.

Putting hot embers in a bed warmer, closing the lid immediately starts to extinguish the hot coals, no air circulation.  Then if you take the slightly warmed bed warmer full of ember and move it around between the sheets and blankets, it leaves a mess, the fine ashes come out the holes on top and is totally unacceptable.

Putting hot coals or embers in a foot warmer then closing the door immediately reduces the available oxygen necessary for further combustion, extinguishing the fire within.  It doesn’t work.

And just how did they actually use these devices?  They heated up stones and put them inside to provide heat.  They stay hot, don’t need air circulation and don’t give off gases such as carbon monoxide, dangerous in a closed environment.  Look inside of an old foot warmer or old bed warmer, they are usually in terrible shape, full of dents from the hot rocks being repeatedly heated and used.



October 4, 2012

Oct. 4, 1857 U. S. Army Supply Wagons Burned

Filed under: Documentation,Historical Material,Of Interest,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 7:48 am

Wagon Train burned in 1857

[Property Destroyed By The Mormons]

List of subsistence stores in supply teams (Russell & Waddell’s) Nos. 5, 9, and 10 burnt by the Mormons at Green River, Utah, in the night of October 4, 1857.

2,720 pounds ham

92,700 pounds bacon                          No. of Rations 115,875

167,900 pounds flour                                                 149,244

270 pounds beans                                                       108,000

8,580 pounds Rio coffee                                            143,000

330 pounds Java coffee

1,400 pounds crushed sugar

2,970 gallons vinegar                                                 297,000

800 pounds sperm candles                                         80,000

13,333 pounds soap                                                    333,325

84 gallons molasses

134 bushels dried peaches

68,832 rations dessicated [sic] vegetables

705 pounds tea                                                            52,875

7,781 pounds hard bread                                            7,781

6 lanterns

H.F. Clarke

Capt. And C’s  U.S.A.

Made from bills of lading, Oct 10, 1857

Inventory of items burned during the raid by Lot Smith, et al.  For a total of approximately 323,339 pounds and at 5,000 pounds per wagon would be about 65 wagons.  This was during the largely forgotten Utah War when the President sent 2500 military troops [reinforced with another 3000] to eliminate the Mormon problem, fortunately cooler heads prevailed.

I wonder what that fire smelled like?



October 1, 2012

Hand Saw Season

Filed under: Drilling,Finishing,Moses T's,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Sawing,Scrapers,Techniques — Stephen Shepherd @ 3:46 pm

It must be hand saw season as two handsaws have occupied my time recently.  I made a small unbacked handsaw for a luthier friend as a prop to replace his plastic handle version that ruins otherwise nice photographs.  I don’t care if he uses it, but it must be in his photographs.

Simple version like my others I have made with square tapered octagonal curly maple handle; the nib on the end is for starting saw kerfs and is somewhat shaped like a violin scroll.  The tooth guard is aspen.

I shape the curly maple to rough shape with spokeshaves and hand planes but there is usually a bunch of tear out, so I go over the surfaces with a toothing plane, then using a card scraper removed all of the toothing marks leaving a smooth surface.  I then cut the kerf for the saw blade with a smaller saw for a tight fit.  I drilled two holes for the rivets through the handle, then marking the position of the holes on the saw plate, I drilled two holes through the metal.

That took some time, I had to use a punch to get a deep enough hole for the small drill bit to catch and start cutting.  I also drilled a hole for the nib/scroll, then used a jeweler’s saw and files to finish the shape of the pierced hole.  The outside shape of the nib was filed with a triangular file.  The saw is 13 tpi sharpened rip.  I had to sharpen it three times to get rid of the factory sharpening into decent shape.  Did have to set a few teeth, it was from an offset reversible dovetail saw, I sheared off the blade and cut it to length.

The handle was then soaked in water to raise the grain, after it dried, I scraped again and gave it a coat of Moses T’s Reviver [lean oil], after 24 hours a coat of Moses T’s Gunstocker’s Finish [fat oil], available here.  The handle is riveted on with brass rivets.





The other saw is one I traded from a friend, I had a long piece of curly maple suitable for a walking stick and he just got this at the local swap meet.  I am not sure of its use or whether it is a saw or an agricultural tool, but it sure looks oriental.

The blade is a uniform .057″ or 15 gauge in thickness, about 11 teeth per inch and all filed from one side, the other being a bevel.  It has a gutter forged along its curved length and held in the handle with two pins and a metal ferrule.  The wood is like ash, very light in weight and obviously hand shaped.  Interesting tool.



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