Full Chisel Blog

January 14, 2010


Spent some time in the shop yesterday and got work done on a few projects.  The first is the next spinning wheel (Ft. Ticonderoga) was to clean up the ‘repaired’ fracture on the whorl.  I spent about an hour cleaning off the modern glue (have I mentioned that I don’t like modern glues?) and have yet to decide on how best to repair this one.

And as with most spinning wheel repairs, the pulley and bobbin both require ‘Dutchmen’ repairs of end grain white birch.  I have repaired dozens and dozens of these fragile items.

The replacement pieces are held in by dovetails, cut with a fine blade brass backed Gent’s saw and secured with liquid hide glue.  It was cold in the shop so I had to warm the glue in a hot water bath.

I will shape them with a sharp flat chisel then they will require staining them to match the original.

I also took the time to cut the splines for the bamboo side chair that is having its caned seat replaced.  I may have to trim them once the seat is installed.  I will have to soak the factory woven cane in water and glycerin in order to soften it an allow it to be installed.  The hardest part of this job was removing the old glue, not old enough it was modern white glue.  Have I mentioned that I do not like modern glue?

I did some more work on the mahogany side chairs that I am restoring.  The joints were all loose and some of the dowels were broken and there were over a dozen nail repairs that did noting but damage the chair.

Here is one method of removing any loose broken off ends of dowels.  I used a scratch awl to make a hole then screwed in a pointed screw and extracted the loose stub of a dowel.

Some broken off dowels that were not loose required that I bore them out.  I use a smaller diameter drill bit and drill down the center of the dowel, then break off the excess.  I will run a proper size bit down the hole once it is mostly clean to prepare it for re-gluing.  These chairs were originally glued with hide glue, so the repairs are easier, but there are some repairs with modern glue, did I mention…

Here are all the parts ready to be assembled in a dry fit to make sure all of the replacement dowels are the right fit before I glue it together.

This also gets the necessary clamps together and set at the proper position for ease of assembly when the glue goes on.

I took the opportunity to repair a bamboo cane I found in the trash.  As it were a 3/8″ diameter dowel fit exactly down the hollow center of the bamboo.  As you can see by the handle, heat was used to bend the handle.  This is a cheap cane but a repair challenge I can’t pass up. 

I used thread served around the bamboo to hold it in place.  I used fish glue to repair the bamboo.  I will need to put a coat of shellac or two on the cane and it will be ready to use.  Another day in the shop.



  1. Interesting stuff, Stephen. I love the patches on the whorl. Is there a reason that you prefer removing all the excess with a chisel rather than lopping off a lot of it with a flush-cut saw? Just curious.

    Also, the photo of the nails used to “repair” that chair made me cringe, mostly because they look just like some I found in a chair I’m supposed to restore. Do you have a magical way of repairing the wood that gets ground up by this process or do you simply cut out the bad and replace it with a sound block of wood?

    Cheers — Larry

    Comment by Larry Marshall — January 14, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

  2. Stephen…I like your wooden clamp used to tighten the rope around the chair. Any chance you could show a close up of the clamp and give its origin? Remind me not to ask you how you feel about modern glues.

    Comment by Bob Simmons — January 14, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

  3. Larry,

    The short grain of the end grain just snaps off on the score chisel line and on some a long saw won’t work, I even have to take quarter inch strokes on the small saw to cut the dovetail angles.

    I just put a bunch of hide glue and wood flour or saw dust to fill it and a plastic block clamped flat to the surface of the wood needing repair. Then some hot stick shellac or pigmented filler, putty.


    The clamp is of nineteenth century origins, could be earlier, here is a link:



    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — January 14, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

  4. I agree with Bob, great clamp. I seem to be collecting non bar/pipe clamp plans and ideas lately. So another great one to add to my list. I am also jealous you seem to get more done in a day than I do in a month. You might hate modern glue but I really really hate nails and screws. Most people thank that they will hold better than joints and that if one is good then five must be great.

    Comment by James Ogle — January 15, 2010 @ 12:01 pm

  5. Thanks for the explanation, Stephen. I like the idea of using a plastic block as a press to repair the wood. I’ll have to give it a try.

    Back when you presented that clamp I immediately ordered a threading kit and made one. It’s a great tool.

    Cheers — Larry

    Comment by Larry Marshall — January 16, 2010 @ 11:07 pm

  6. James,

    I always collect all of the extra nails, screws and other fasteners that I remove from furniture and offer them to the clients, sort of a joke, and to let them know what I went through to remove them. Twenty two extra items of repair is my record for one small side table I restored.


    I have about a half a dozen clear plastic blocks I use for repair and restoration work. It allows me to view the repair as the hide glue squeezes out. I also make the glue up, then remove the blocks and wipe off excess glue then replace them, very handy for pressing a bunch of fuzzed up, fractured wood back to its original position.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — January 17, 2010 @ 7:28 am

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