Full Chisel Blog

February 27, 2013

The Painter, Gilder, And Varnisher’s Guide – 1850 reprint from Toolemera

Gary Roberts over at Toolemera has reproduced this wonderful work from the mid nineteenth century.  Having decided to redo some of his title covers, he asked me to do a drawing for the cover of this work.

book cover

The first drawing (above) was too busy [he said], so I did another drawing that wasn’t.  I think this is my first book cover on a book I didn’t write.  You can order the book here.

book cover painter and varnisher guide

It is an interesting book, the conversation is in the vernacular and context of the period, so it makes for good reading.  It also contains information that is useful for anyone doing finishing, gold leaf work and decorative painting.  A great addition to the library. (He did misspell my last name in the credits).


February 19, 2013

Clockmaker’s or Watchmaker’s Bow Lathe Plans

Also called a Turn or Fiddle Lathe and after several years and numerous requests I finally am finishing them and they will be ready for delivery soon and you can purchase them now.  Order Here

I posted about the lathe earlier, but things came up and it went to the back burner.  I have finished the second drawing for the wedge version, see drawing below.  The other version is for threaded wooden thumbscrews, see drawing above.  The entire lathe is shop made of hardwood.

fiddle lathe1

The plans are 11″ by 17″ and are full size.  Also included are instructions and a parts and cutting list.

The price is $15.00 plus $6.00 shipping to domestic U.S. locations.  There is an additional $10.00 charge for international shipping.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to finish this project, you know who you are.


February 16, 2013

Pivot Hinge made from the under-rib of a muzzle loading rifle.

Filed under: Documentation,Furniture,Hardware,Of Interest,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 2:43 pm
pivot hinge1

I didn’t have my gnomon, that is a Mini-Mag flashlight

Here is another documented example of what lengths cabinetmaker’s had to go to make furniture on the frontier of Utah in the mid nineteenth century.  It is a pivot hinge that has been fabricated from part of the under-rib of a half stock muzzle loading rifle.  The cabinet was made by Henry Dinwoody in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory in the mid nineteenth century.  It is a wardrobe and these are the pivot hinges for two large flat panel doors.  The secondary wood is pine and the primary wood is black walnut made from packing crates.

pivot hinge3

Brigham Young instructed the saints to have items shipped to the West in hardwood shipping crates and these pieces of wood used in this large wardrobe have neatly bung plugged holes where the nails secured the shipping crate together.

When I first examined this piece in the 1970’s and immediately noticed that the hinges were made from the gun part, just from the visible end profile, the under-rib has a particular shape that was easy for me to realize, as I had recently just completed my first black powder gun.

pivot hinge2

Years later I was able to further examine the piece and found a touch mark on one side of one of the hinges and it is illustrated in the photographs.  I am not sure what they are, any ideas?

Someone gave me an old under-rib and I have it somewhere in my collection of stuff, and I intend to make it into pivot hinges like this historic example.



February 15, 2013

Wit & Humour from the 1860’s

Filed under: Alchemy,Historical Material,Of Interest,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 8:11 am

From Wit & Humour 1860's


February 11, 2013

The Importance of Charcoal in American History

Filed under: Alchemy,Historical Material,Of Interest,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 10:24 am

Beehive Charcoal Kiln

The significance of charcoal cannot be over stated, it was one of the most critical resources in the history of American commerce.  Not only for making the finest iron and steel; the blacksmith’s used charcoal to fire their forges, tinsmith’s used charcoal to heat their soldering coppers, it is a valuable pigment, for drawing, purifying agent, filter medium, gas absorbent, ‘sweetening’ cisterns and barrels, fertilizer, heat insulator, charcoal briquettes, tooth powder, and ingredient in gunpowder.  It is also used to make potash which has many purposes.

There is also animal charcoal such as bone black and ivory black that make the finest black pigments, and for pharmaceutical applications burnt natural sponges were used.

Of course there were other consumers of wood produced from forests, steamships and railroad locomotives used wood to power their steam engines.  Wood was used to heat homes well through most of the nineteenth century.

According to some scholars the ‘collier’, the traditional term for a charcoal maker was more responsible for the deforestation of American than the lumberman, and the farmer.  It was a dirty and sometimes dangerous occupation, the fire once started required around the clock monitoring to prevent the fire from going out too early to the pile catching on fire ruining the whole batch.

Not all charcoal piles were the low dome shaped piles of wood, leaves and charcoal powder so commonly depicted, which had to be rebuilt for each new batch and torn down after the wood was cooked.  Some were permanent brick or stone structures and the beehive kiln was the usual choice.  The illustration shows three such kilns built in Central Utah in the mid nineteenth century.  It diagrams how the kiln is loaded and with the door sealed.  Once the wood had been loaded, it was ignited and the opening sealed.  The kilns were not completely air tight with small openings between the stones, rocks, or bricks that allowed enough air for proper combustion or carbonization.  It had to be observed to make sure the combustion continued but there was no longer the danger of being incinerated by falling through a traditional charcoal pile.

Next time you fire up the grill think of charcoal and its role in the commerce and culture of American life.


February 8, 2013

Double Leaf Hinge made from a wrought iron barrel band

Filed under: Furniture,Hardware,Historical Material,Of Interest,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 11:12 am

leaf hinge1

leaf hinge2

leaf hinge3

It is rare that one finds this particular style of hinge on a piece of furniture made from between 1847 to 1850, as the double leaf hinge usually dates from the late 18th century to the early 19th century.  It is also rare to find a documented piece of early Utah furniture, knowing the original owner from the family history but also be able to determine the original maker because of the construction and decorating techniques.

The piece of furniture is a large secretary with a fold down desk top with loafers to support and has an integral upper double glazed doors.  One of the doors was missing and one hinge was still attached to the carcase.  The intact door also had hinges made in the same manner.  This particular hinge has evidence that it was made from something else as it had a large hole on the underside [out of view] that shouldn’t have been there if it were made from sheet iron.

The hole, with evidence it had been punched is I am certain a hole from one of the two rivets on each barrel band from a water or whiskey barrel.  Out here in Utah in the 1850’s everything is repurposed because of the lack of supplies.  I have seen a pivot hinge made from the under rib of a half stock muzzle loading rifle.

double leaf hingeThe hinge is 2″ long, 1 13/16″ wide [open], [1 1/32″ wide closed], and the metal is .051″ thick, the pin is 1/8″ in diameter.

The drawing indicates how the hinge would look if it was unfolded.  There are two choices as to how the hole was arranged on the barrel.  Because of a small surface crack on the barrel, I think it was made from a fairly wide barrel band.  The grain in the wrought iron would go along the length of the barrel band.

Every other example from this period and place I have examined is the single leaf style hinge; see Shepherds’ Compleat Early Nineteenth Century Woodworker page 73.

Interesting piece of history.


February 4, 2013

Charcoal Iron & Steel

charcoal pile

Just read an interesting section in Material Culture of the Wooden Age, [1981] edited by Brooke Hindle, the article is entitled ‘Charcoal Iron: The Coal Mines of the Forest’ by Richard H. Schallenberg.  The article talks about many things including the process of bloomery and blast furnace iron powered by charcoal, comparing the differences between coal/coke iron and charcoal iron, the former containing sulphur and phosphorus introduced by the coke, these contaminants, together with more absorbed carbon contributing to a more brittle iron.

England and Europe with the exception of Sweden had converted to coal/coke iron processing in about 1815 due to the lack of wood to make charcoal while in America charcoal iron was produced until about 1945, due to the great abundance of wood for making charcoal.

‘Blast furnace iron was better than bloomery iron in all these respects.  It did have two serious drawbacks, however-the pig iron which poured from the blast furnace was hotter than bloomery iron and therefore contained more dissolved carbon, and the pig iron solidifies from a fully liquid state and therefore had a more crystalline structure than the bloomery metal.  Both these conditions made furnace pig harder and less malleable than bloomery bar, and thus it was a less useful iron in the manufacturing process of the day, which almost always were some form of forging.  Therefore, most charcoal furnace pig was ‘refined’ before being sent to market.’

‘Moreover, the hotter the iron, the more the dissolved carbon tends to form the chemical compound cementite [Fe3C], which is glass-hard and brittle.  Finally, the grain structure of coke and coal irons is coarser than charcoal irons, caused by the higher concentration of silicon in these metals.  Larger grain size makes the iron weaker, and also makes it more difficult to heat treat.’

‘To correct at least some of these problems, rather drastic refining techniques are needed for fossil-fuel-smelted irons.  The pig is melted, boiled, and the impurities burned out or chemically reacted with additives or refractory linings.  In the Bessemer and open-hearth processes, it is also alloyed to counter some of the bad properties.  Charcoal pig, however, lacked most of these drawbacks. And therefore did not need such extensive refining.  The charcoal pig was heated until it became soft and then was beaten under a trip hammer.  A certain amount of carbon was burned out in this way, as it was in puddling, but the main function of the continual hot working of the iron was to make it less hard and more ductile-the properties needed for forging.  That is, the heating of the pig iron ingot elevated the metal above what metallurgists call the recrystallization temperature.  If iron is mechanically worked above this temperature, the grain size is reduced, graphite particles are more uniformly distributed, and dislocations in the crystal structure do not produce hardening, as they would with working cold, rather relieve stresses and make the metal easier to work-i.e., make it more ductile.  Therefore, in the charcoal refining process the metal was not heated primarily to burn out the carbon, sulfur, and phosphorus, as was the case in puddling and Bessemer processing, but was heated so its internal structure could be rearranged above the crystallization temperature.’

‘Moreover, the repeated working of the refinery forge served also to spread thin filaments of slag throughout the mass of iron, giving the metal the fibrous, tough, shock-resistant and readily weldable properties characteristic of all true wrought irons.’

Better iron, better steel.  This method was used to make the Viking ‘Ulfberht’ swords.  I wonder how the Japanese made their iron and steel?



Powered by WordPress