Full Chisel Blog

September 29, 2013

Flame Grain Oak Roller for Painting and Graining

Filed under: Finishing,Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 7:08 am

It is an interesting story as to how I came about owning and original flame grain oak roller, only one of two I have ever seen.  I was at a flea market in Indianapolis, Indiana back in 1978 and as I was walking around I had picked up a few old medicine bottles from a dump dig in Cincinnati, nice thin hand blown bottles, which I ended up selling, I happened on a fellow selling all kinds of things.

On top of one of his cases sat this flame grain roller, I picked it up to admire and inquire as to the price.  The fellow immediately said ‘do you know what that is?’, and I said ‘yes, it is a flame grain oak roller’ although at the time I had never seen one before but knew what it was.  He said ‘you are the first person to know what it was, and you can have it’.  I was astounded, thanked him and have kept and used it since then.


I describe how it is used in ‘Shellac, Linseed Oil, & Paint – Traditional 19th Century Woodwork Finishes’ and it is a great tool.  I had in mind making and selling them however Mr. Diamond Jim Davis, Master Leatherworker, who made the new one had difficulties in making one, he said it took him 3 tries and a day to complete.  Plans for selling them will have to wait.

flame grain roller

I will have the wood cylinder turned and Master Blacksmith Mark Schramm will make the iron handle and I will have a new functioning flame grain oak roller and will retire the original.  The original is made from some sort of composite material that is tacked to the wooden roller.




September 23, 2013

Spinning Wheel Restoration – Well Documented

This is the first Spinning Wheel restoration on a well documented wheel; I know who made it, where it was made, and when it was made.  It is an unusual wheel in that it is a 20th century interpretation of a much earlier wheel, without the benefit of knowing how old wheels were actually constructed.

When the client brought in the wheel to have a new crank made [the previous one was soldered onto the shaft] and it was missing a garter on the tensioner; they also brought in the documentation including a set of blueprints from Popular Mechanics from which this wheel was made.  It was made by a family member in southern Utah from local black walnut.  Black walnut is not native to Utah but many trees were planted in the early pioneer period.

This paper pattern was also with the documentation materials.

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The plans for this spinning wheel were ordered in 1962 for $1.55.

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Here are the blueprints.

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After Mr. Croft finished the spinning wheel it was featured in a local newspaper.

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Master blacksmith Mark Schramm made an iron crank, from the original blueprints, it is threaded into the brass shaft and will not break off like the previous crank.

I made a small walnut garter to hold the tensioner, but I also had to file down the hickory shaft where the threads on each end as the walnut had shrunk a bit and was too tight to function, reducing the size where it was in the walnut made if work smoothly.

I then put a coat of Moses T’s St. John’s Oil on all of the parts, made a few adjustments and the wheel was finished.

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Interesting project, great documentation and a working wheel.  Also available spinning wheel parts here.



September 20, 2013

Extrapolating Furniture Parts from Photographs

I first received an email with a photograph of a walnut table leg, early nineteenth century [client said 1860’s, I think it is 1840’s] dining table from Virginia and was asked if I could make one as the 5th [center] leg was missing.  I said ‘yes’ and got a couple more photographs with a tape measure in the photograph.  Another email or two and I had other dimensions I needed.

walnut table leg7

I then made a scale drawing of the leg and worked on that until it looked correct and then proceeded to make a full size paper pattern of the leg.  With the help of Richard MacDonald [Master Wood Carver, who loves to turn] turn the leg from the pattern.

I then ripped the waste wood on the taper of the octagonal part, to a square taper.

walnut table leg9

Next I layed out the octagonals with a white pencil, easier to see on walnut than a graphite pencil.  I planed the first one by hand then decided to use a chisel to quickly remove the excess then my two small coffin smoothers [one set coarse, the other set fine] to smooth out the rough chisel marks.

walnut table leg8

A card scraper finished up the flats and it is ready to go.  Yesterday when the client called I had just finished up the work, it will be picked up today and be on its way to Texas.  They have a furniture restoration guy there that will cut it to length and do the finish work.

A fun project, the rendering took a bit of time but was well worth the effort and the customer was happy, just picked it up.


September 18, 2013

Spirit Torch or Alcohol Lamp

Filed under: Alchemy,Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 8:46 am

I use an alcohol lamp all the time and while I was adding some ethanol to my lamp with a pipette I accidentally sucked some straight grain alcohol into my mouth, twice.  Can’t do that with denatured nor would I dare.

I learned this trick from ‘Conversations on Chemistry’, 1822, an interesting book written by a woman who first apologized for knowing so much and saying her knowledge was just recently acquired.

This is your alcohol lamp on alcohol, and is combusting.


spirit torch1

This is your alcohol lamp on alcohol with platinum wire, and is incandescent.

spirit torch2

This makes it difficult to blow out and the glowing wire reignites the wick.  The wire is also hotter than the open flame, although I had no instrument for measuring that amount of heat.

When I first made the platinum wire ‘spring’ I dropped it on the floor, being platinum and being a spring, it took me 20 minutes on my hands and knees to find it; I now keep it in a small corked glass test tube.


September 12, 2013

New Spinning Wheel Flyers for Sale

Here is the second prototype of the Spinning Wheel mandrel, flyer, whorl, and bobbin made to fit a wheel I need to restore.  The first flyer was for a friend’s wheel which I will be restoring as well.  They are different size as are all flyers.

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My flyer is an inch shorter than the other flyer, below is a picture to compare the sizes and both U-shape and V-shape flyers.

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Because all flyers are unique and will be custom built to each particular spinning wheel, there is an important measurement that must be provided so the flyers will work properly on the wheel.  See illustration below.

spinning wheel mother of all

Measurement is taken between the two [leather] bearings on the maidens on the mother-of-all.

You can order your new flyer at the Full Chisel Store.


September 10, 2013

The most common missing parts of Spinning Wheels..

are now going to be available to replace the missing mandrel, flyer, whorl, and bobbin.  Cut the wings of the flyer to proper shape and installed the hooks.

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Working on the second prototype to help determine pricing.  Should have it finished up by tomorrow.  Will also price bobbins separately.


September 8, 2013

New Spinning Wheel Mandrel, Flyer, Shaft, and Bobbin.

At last I got the entire prototype built and dry assembled and it functions as expected.  The first photograph shows the two shapes I will offer, both U-shape and V-shape flyers.  The flyers, whorl and mandrel vary slightly with each wheel and each complete unit is made to fit existing wheels where these are missing.  A simple measurement between the leather bearings is provided and the assembly is custom made to fit.

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The second photograph shows one prototype finished, I am working on the second whorl, the mandrel, and flyer are done and fitted together.  I will roughen up the surface of the metal, wash it with soap and water, then alcohol before etching with garlic.  I will use hot hide glue to attach them together.

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The mortise in the flyer is not that easy to make as it is endgrain and the unusual shape of the mandrel makes this a challenge.  I used charcoal to cover the mandrel, which transfers to the mortise to show where wood needs to be removed.  I don’t use graphite as that will interfere with the glue and the charcoal will not.

Will have the pricing soon.


September 5, 2013

New Spinning Wheel Mandrel, Flyer, and Shaft…

and the Bobbin is in the queue.  The mortice or hole through the maple flyer was fashioned to the proper taper and square shape with files and a small carving knife.  The hole for the shaft was drilled before the piece was turned.  This provides a center for the terrorizing turning process, this is a real knuckle duster.

new flyer1

The waste material is removed and the wings thinned down.  This is the first flyer and while I will use it on the wheel I am restoring, the next and future versions will be more of a ‘V’ shape than this ‘U’ shape.  Apparently spinners like the wider flyer shape to get more thread on the bobbin.

new flyer

As you can see from the two different size mandrels that all wheels vary it the spacing of the maidens; the important measurement is between the two [leather] bearings.  I will roughen up the mandrel where it goes through the maple flyer, then etch it with garlic to prepare it for hot hide glue.

The Whorl [double pulley that powers the mandrel] is end-grain maple, with two different size pulleys for two different speeds.  The mortise for the nut was difficult to chop, being end grain and is slightly undercut to hold the nut in place.

The nut is made from some pure tin tubing a friend gave me; I split the tube and hammered it flat, then using a pair of compasses I marked out the size and cut it to shape.  I then drilled a hole and used one of my new/old rinders to make the hole the proper size.

Forcing the left hand threads of the mandrel into the hole and used it to form the threads on the soft metal nut.  I then peened the tin around the edges to expand it into the undercuts of the mortise.

Now it is on to the Bobbins, which are made of three pieces, the ends being end-grain, the V-groove is deep and should be interesting.




September 2, 2013

When you can’t take the chair apart…

because of nails in all of the joints.  Nails do nothing to increase the strength of the chair, but do weaken the wood where the nails were used.  This chair belongs to a friend, it was ‘unfinished’ furniture, table and chairs in oak.  Why the original manufacturer used nails is beyond my comprehension.

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Not being able to disassemble the chair to deal with the break or perhaps replacing it, it was necessary to repair in place.  I clamped the stretcher then cut a small mortise across the break to receive a loose tenon to strengthen the fracture.

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The depth of the mortise is to the end of the cross stretcher.  This is an inherently weak joint, exacerbated by the through nail weakening the joint even further.  The above picture shows the break spread open to receive hot hide glue.

I used 192 gram strength ground hide glue from Joel at Tools for Working Wood, high quality ground hide glue; 1/2 teaspoon glue, 1 teaspoon distilled water.  This is the smallest batch I make, put it in the glue pot, the pot on the stove and when the water jacket boils over, the glue is ready in minutes.

davis side chair3

I used a tourniquet and a couple of wood end cam clamps as well as a wedge of pine between the front legs to close up the fracture, not the easiest clamping job, but I accomplished the task.

Using a flat chisel I pared the excess oak away to bring the tenon down to the curve of the stretcher.  Then some shellac with yellow ocher and burnt umber to get the color match and a bit of beaumontage to optically hide the fracture and joint around the loose tenon.

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Cursing the inappropriate use of nails.



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