Category Archives: Tools

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English Layout Square

I hope you had a nice Holiday!  I sure did.  I got a chance to spend some quality time in the shop the last few days.  This English Layout Square is a project I have been meaning to take on for some time, but just never got around to it.  After seeing the re-run of the Woodwright’s Shop online where Roy and Chris built this, I had to make one too; it looked like too much fun to pass up.

I stopped by Home Depot for some errands and decided to get a 1/2″ piece of poplar to do this English Layout Square.  I knew it would not take long to build and would be a fun project.

This project was also published in the December 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking, and there is a free Sketchup drawing available as well.  That is what I used as a reference and I was able print out the nice curves, and transferred them to templates which I made out of some scrap maple.

It took me two days to complete the square and another day to tune and apply the finish (boiled linseed oil and paste wax topcoat).  I also took the time, while the linseed oil was drying, to make the holder out of some cherry and scrap poplar; it really accents the square and keeps it secure on the wall.

This may look like an easy project, but it did challenge my budding skills.  First, I had to make some pretty accurate cuts on the half lap joints.  Then, clean them up with the router plane…I love the router plane; it makes flattening cheeks on a half lap possible.  I also got to use my shoulder plane to true the shoulders and really make a clean joint.  I also had to cut out the areas between the horizontal stretcher with a saw and chisel – this is harder than it seems.  The final challenge was the half laps on the legs.  You cannot just saw these out.   I used a saw to cut 3/4 of the way and used a chisel to remove the bulk of the waste and then switched to the router plane once again to flatten it out.

After all that cutting and fitting, my joints were flat and tight.  I am really pleased with this square and hope to get many years of use out of it.

Here is a picture of the square out of the holder.

I spent s little more of my Holiday thinking about future projects.  For a Christmas present to myself, I bought John Alexander’s “Make a chair from a Tree” DVD video how-to, and I also bought a used copy of the book which is out of print  (real pricey) second edition book by the same title, originally published in 1994.  I am inspired to make some chairs from newly dead trees and start a whole new aspect of my woodworking journey.

Here is another book I own that was also authored by Alexander, as well as Peter Follansbee, titled “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree.”  For the project in this book,  I will need to complete my lathe first in order to make the legs…but it is on my to-do list.

-Aaron

A Good Day

Mystery Mallet, Popular Woodworking, Saw Box

You know, woodworking is so much fun.   I just love the chance to carve up some wood with sharp tools and a little skill; after which, you have something new that you made, and can be proud of.  After my previous weekend escapade (see A Bad Day post), I was in the need of some serious fun.  The chance came in the form of a class at Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School.  I was scheduled for the Mystery Mallet class on Saturday.  This is a whole day class where you make an intriguing and beautiful woodworking puzzle.  The class fit the bill perfectly to balance the experiences of the previous weekend.

Whenever I take classes at the Woodwright’s School, the time passes so quickly.  I guess that is a good indication that I am having a good time.  My neighbor, Bob, and I signed up together for this class.  I always enjoy taking classes with Bob as he provides both humor and frankness to any situation.

My neighbor Bob listening intently

Roy really does a great job of teaching and making you feel at ease.  He is very supportive, and I always learn some new technique or tip to help me improve my skills.  I was a little nervous about taking this class as it does require some precision cuts, and as I mentioned in my last blog,  sawing is one of the areas where I need more experience.  It turned out that my nervousness was unfounded, as Roy showed us some techniques that help keep your cuts clean and straight.

Roy attempting to teach me how to saw

For the most part, the day went very smooth.  I was pleased to see that I was able to do all the cuts very accurately, and I did one the best mortices I have ever carved.  This really gave me a lot of confidence for what was to come.  I was also pleased with the pace of my progress; I was keeping up with the class.  You see, I like to take my time in woodworking, so sometimes I lag the class.

At lunchtime, we ate at the S&T Soda Shoppe (they make the best milkshakes in the world).  This is always a great way to slow down and discuss the class and other topics with Roy and to get to know your classmates.   I also saw Will Myers there; he is the instructor for the Moravian Workbench class that I am scheduled to take in June.  I had met Will in a previous saw sharpening class taught by Bill Anderson.

After lunch, I went to Ed Lebetkin’s tool store.  Boy, this place is wonderful, but care must be taken to not empty my bank account.  My wife, Beth, is pretty understanding, and knows when I go there I usually buy a tool….or five.  This time, I only bought a 24″ folding rule and a #12 hollow moulding plane.  This was money well spent as I needed both of these items.  The #12 plane was a match to my #12 round moulding plane that I already own.  Fortunately, I was through with my purchases when I heard Roy hitting the ceiling with a board, announcing class was commencing.  I hurried downstairs to the classroom, not wanting to miss one minute of class time.

I saw the way

I did not mention it before, but there is some risk involved with this project; it can just “explode” during final assembly.  I know it sounds a bit dramatic, but that is exactly what happens sometimes when assembling these mallets.

Back in the classroom, the class proceed as scheduled until Roy stopped the class to assemble a student’s mallet.  The whole class held its breath as Roy and the student drove the handle into the mallet head.  They finished, and the handle bottomed out; now the moment of truth:  Time to release the vice holding the mallet head.  If everything is good, there will be silence; if not, there will be a “CRACK!”  Fortunately for the student it did not crack and it looked good.

I finished mine next.  I followed Roy’s advice and made all the necessary adjustments to the handle.  I fit it in the top as a test and everything looked good and not a bit tight.  Roy asked me if I wanted to proceed and I said “Yes…” and then he said “You know it could go very wrong,” and I said “Let’s do this” and he said “OK….”

We started hammering away at this thing and it was slowly proceeding, moving very little with each mallet blow.  Roy stopped for a second since we had stopped progressing and decided to get out the Big Mall.  We proceeded to hammer away at it until it bottomed out.  Then we removed it from the vice and found that there was a section that had caught and split off.  Roy knocked it back in place and pronounced it done.  Not planning to actually use this mallet for wood working, it looked pretty good with only a small crack where it had split.  Roy said with some block planing and a little wax (a lot as it turned out), it would look great.

Roy be-knighting me

The rest of the class finished up in short order; all did a good job on their respective mallets.  I had Roy sign the Popular Woodworking article featuring the “Mystery Mallet” and we said our goodbyes.  All in all “A Good Day.”  As I previously mentioned, my next class is in June and it is a five-day class, after which I will have a great workbench.

That week cannot get here soon enough!

-Aaron

p.s. Roy wrote a great article about how to build a “Mystery Mallet” for Popular Woodworking (April 2012 issue # 196) pictured in the beginning of this blog post.

Tools, Tools, Tools!

On Saturday the 15th of September, my brother, Berry, and I went to the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association annual tool meet here in Raleigh, NC.  This is one of my favorite meets as it is not far from my home, the weather is usually not too hot, and there are tons of tools and experts to tell you all about them.

Here are some of the highlights of this years meet:

  • An Estate sale with a lot of different quality levels of tools and lot of bargains
  • Lots of vendors
  • A talk from a couple of members about the “Antique Roadshow” and “American Pickers”
  • Bar-B-Que otherwise know here in this area as a “Pig Pickin”
  • A tool auction

I love the excitement of the meet and how everyone loves to talk tools.  I learn so much, and like to talk to the “Old Timers.”

Height Adjustable Cast Iron Legs

The real action for me this year was the Estate Sale.  The prices dropped throughout the day, and if your item was not snatched up before it got to your desired price, you could get some pretty good deals.

I purchased several items during the meet (I’ll spare you the detailed list) but the one that has the most potential is:

A set of iron workbench legs

I know they don’t look like much now, but when I get them sand-blasted, painted and installed under a marble or stone slab it will be a whole different story 🙂

Now just 362 more days (give or take) until the next meet.

-Aaron

 

Tool Mod Disaster

 

It all started when I followed Chris Schwarz’s advice and bought the Glen-Drake Tite-Mark marking gauge.

The Tite-Mark gauge has been as useful as Chris described it, and I love this gauge! It is not the problem.  I also have a 90’s version of the Veritas marking gauge from Lee Valley tools[1].  This is a nice gauge also, and I have used it for years without a problem; however, after seeing how useful it was to fully retract the blade into the body of the Tite-Mark gauge, I came up with what seemed to be, a brilliant idea:  I would drill out the body of the Veritas so I could fully retract the cutter in it.  It is brass and easy to work … right?

I  proceeded to secure this gauge in my wood clamp and started drilling away.  So far so good.  I was making good headway, and then disaster.  The body fell away, leaving only the face of the tool in the clamp.  Apparently,  this was NOT one solid piece of brass. It is made of a solid brass faceplate, with a cylinder turned on it that is inserted into the mystery metal body.  Now I only have one functional gauge again.  Oh the sadness,  I now have a base comprised of two pieces where there was once one.

Actually three pieces, but the base should be one

Determined to fix this, I planned to finish drilling into the black base about 2mm further, drill and tap 2 screws through the faceplate and into the base, and secure with two brass metal screws.  This should be sufficient to rejoin the two parts and I will have achieved my initial goal, albeit with a little extra work.

My plan was to drill screw holes and tap them to fix the faceplate to the base.  After careful examination, I noticed the base was not very thick and the screws would not be very deep, and therefore weaker.  What I decided to do, was finish drilling down to the needed depth in the base, and then glue the faceplate to the base after I finished.

Things never go as planned.  As I started drilling, the remainder of the brass tube came out and got stuck on the drill bit.  After extricating the small brass ring from the drill bit, I noticed a small rubber grommet coming out of the hole.  This grommet provides friction for the rod and helps set the depth more accurately, so I had to make sure to get this grommet fixed back into place.

I decided to file this small ring flat on the drilled side and slide it back into place to hold the rubber grommet in place. After mixing up some epoxy, I glued the faceplate back on the base and now it is a fully functioning gauge with a retractable cutter.  Yea!

[1] The current Veritas gauges now have the retractable cutter.

-Aaron

A Trip to the Store

One of my favorite places for purchasing old tools is located right here in central North Carolina.  The store’s name is “Antique Woodworking Tools” and is run by Ed Lebetkin.  Ed is very knowledgeable and  very friendly. He has a huge array of hand tools in stock.  His store is located above Roy Underhill’s Woodwright School and if you sign up to his mailing list he will send you his store schedule.  So if you are ever in Chatham County N. C. near Pittsboro, do yourself  a favor and stop by his store and you too may leave with some new “olde” toys.  Also, Ed does buy as well as sell, so if you have tools you do not need, or want to offer up for store credit, make sure you bring them along as well.

Here is Ed’s Contact Information:

Antique Woodworking Tools
Ed Lebetkin
edlebetkin@gmail.com
919-967-1757

89A Hillsboro St
Pittsboro, NC

Thanks to Chris Schwarz for this video of Ed’s store