I recently attended the Greenwood Wrights Fest 2022 and took the “Stool Making with Terry Ratliff” class where we made a Hickory Bark and Ash Stool. This was a very informative and fun class and Terry was an excellent instructor. I ended up finishing my stool at home by weaving the hickory bark seat. Thankfully, I had exactly enough bark to seat my stool ( my stool was a fair bit larger than the example stool). These are made with a very few and basic tools (Axe, Maul, Wedge, Draw knife, Shaving Horse, and sloyd knife) but the design is highly evolved.
We started by splitting and then riving out the billets for our legs. We shaped the legs with and axe and then on the shaving horse with the drawknife. You start by making a square leg a little larger that an 1 1/2″ on a side. The you make the square an octagon and your done. You make the rungs about 3/4″ from smaller stock and make the ends 11/16 round. The top rungs (where the seat is woven) you make in a wing like shape.
After getting all the pieces done, it’s time to drill the holes and assemble the frame. Finally, I wetted the hickory bark and wove the seat. Hickory bark is very supple when wet, but tough as leather when it dries. It makes a beautiful seat and only gets better with age.
Lets face it, I love my planes. They do so many jobs from rough stock prep with the scrub or Jack plane to fine surface smoothing with the No. 3 or No. 4 Smoothing planes. The plucky little Block plane can take off end grain with gusto.
I wrote a blog post about my planes here “Tools series part 3 planes” where I go into detail about types of planes I own and New vs. old Planes.
This entry is to just remind everyone that there are some really good resources and references out there about vintage planes, one such resource is Archive.org You can specify a topic like “Hand Planes” and you will get lots of results. There have been a lot of old and new texts added recently, so if you’ve not visited this site in a while, it may be time to go back and check it out.
When searching, you may want to narrow your search, just put “subject:”hand planes”” in the “Search” field and check the ” Search text contents” radio button and and you’ll get a large number of texts listed. When you get there on the “Sort By” bar, hover over the “Date Archived” and click “Date Added” menu item to get the latest texts added first.
There are generally two types of texts, “Books to Borrow” and “Community Texts”. You can borrow books from the Books to Barrow section if you create an account. You can freely download most books that are in the Community Texts section without an account. Just click on the text you’re interested in and it will be displayed on it’s own page. I like to right-click and choose “Open Link in New Tab”.
After the page loads Archive.org shows a preview and reading section at the top and text information and download links in the bottom section. I like the PDF format to portability so I usually click the “PDF” or the “PDF WITH TEXT” links to get a text searchable PDF link.
These search techniques apply to any subject on Archive .org. This site can be really fun to explore. So go find some cool references and if you find a particular gem. leave a comment so other folks can see it too.
These are fun to pursue on days when you just can’t get into your shop. I have found the old Stanley, Record, Millers Falls etc. catalogs invaluable for helping me identify and sometimes help me repair old planes.
Until next time, keep making shavings and sawdust.
Day 2 of the Anarchist’s Tool Chest (ATC) build. To start todays blog, I’m going to talk a bit about the workshop at Lost Art Press (LAP). This place is very special. Yes, special, special in a really good way. The folks at LAP have poured a lot of love, energy and obviously money into this place. The attention to details and the design choices complement this old structure. Each space in the first floor and the outside machine shop are setup with woodworking and efficiency in mind. They have turned a smelly, dank old bar into a beautiful and fully functional residence and workshop where they can ply their trade. It’s a real pleasure to work in such a historical and functional space. I would not hesitate to go back and take another class at this magical place. The people, the smell of wood and general atmosphere are very inviting. Also, they have the best coffee and pastries. The pastries come from local bakeries and are delicious. The are many local restaurants to choose for lunch and dinner. This place was such a pleasure to visit.
Back to my project at hand, the ATC build. Yesterday, I had mostly chopped out the dovetails for all four sides, they just needed some cleanup and fine tuning. This is a very satisfying process, seeing your hard work literally coming together. I had to wait my turn for glue-up as two other students were ready first and the shop only has so many clamps and one instructor.
After my box was in the clamps, it was time to start laying out the skirt boards these wrap around the bottom of the chest and help protect it from coming apart and the case from day-to-day use and abuse. The choosing of the sides and the marking are pretty much the same as the box itself, except the tails are on the sides 90 deg out from the front to help hold the box together (on the box the tails were on the front and back boards).
By the end of the day all 5 students had their boxes glued and stacked up ready for the next days activities. I had my skirt pieces marked and one corner chopped out.
The Anarchist’s Tool Chest(ATC) is the first book written by Chris Schwarz and published by Lost Art Press (LAP) in 2011. Ths book had a major impact to my woodworking mindset. Before the ATC, I was primarily a power tool user and used hand tools as an afterthought.
My interpretation of the Anarchist part of the title speaks to the philosophy of shrugging off the mentality of buying expensive (or cheap) poorly made disposable big box furniture and acquiring a set of high quality tools and making furnishings (and shop appliances) and chairs yourself that will outlast the maker. In other words, “Anarchy is a society being freely constituted without authorities or a governing body”. This frees the woodworker from the current state of systems put in place by organizations or corporations who would like you to buy their products and dictate what you should buy or if you desire, how you should make things.
Getting to the ATC, I noticed that LAP was having a class on the ATC in August 2021, taught by the excellent Megan Fitzpatrick. I decided I would love to build the chest for myself and I signed up for the class as soon as registration was open. I secured my spot in the class and got an AirBnB across the street. I was set. Because of Covid-19, we all had to be vaccinated, which is good as cases were increasing while I was there.
After introductions of the instructor and students, the first day was examining the boards for the sides, putting the cabinet makers marks on the pieces (the triangle that indicates the orientation of all the pieces as seen in the image above) then marking and chopping out the 28 dovetails on the main box. This was a lot of fun and I learned a lot from Megan and I think I have improved my dovetailing skills as a consequence.
No workshop tool discussion is complete without discussing workbenches and chests and other ways to safely secure and protect your tools. This week we will be focusing on workbenches. Workbenches are, to some, considered workshop furniture. I think this is incorrect; workbenches are a tool, and in my opinion, the most important tool in your shop.
Without a workbench, you cannot properly hold your project pieces to do basic operations. Oh sure, you can put pieces on saw horses and I have, but a nice bench makes a world of difference when it comes to comfort and efficiency. I can say after finishing my bench, all operations have become 100% better than my old bench. It stays put and does not “walk” all around my shop when doing simple planing and it is very stout when chopping mortices and hammering over a leg. Long boards are a breeze. I can work on small pieces and thin pieces too.
Disclaimer: I will be referencing Chris Schwarz of Lost Art Press and Roy underhill of “The Woodwright’s Shop” a lot in this and the upcoming blogs. Chris and Roy have heavily influenced me and countless others during this renaissance of hand-tool wood working. Chris and his team at LAP have propelled this craft to levels not seen since at least the early 20th Century. Roy with his three decades of woodworking shown on PBS’ “The Woodwright’s Shop” had a very early influence on me personally. I also want to thank the many YouTube content creators (links below) who have also given new life into the craft.
I started my seriously fun woodworking adventure late in life (I’ve been dabbling all my life, but really went all-in around age 50) and with very little knowledge of the craft (more on my lack of knowledge later). I mainly knew about power tools and didn’t fully digest Roy’s show content until I actually took a class at his Woodwright’s School.
Published in 2011, LAP’s “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” was truly a turning point in my understanding of the craft and reinforced my ideals about hand-tool woodworking, self-reliance and the state of todays furniture industry (it sucks by the way). I just finished re-reading “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” and it is just as fresh and relevant today, 10 as it was ten years ago when it was published. The good news is the state of hand-tool working today is much more widely accepted than a decade ago. There are also more tool makers today that recognize that woodworkers demand quality products and are actually making them.
My first workbench was purchased with an abundance of enthusiasm and ignorance. Those are a bad combination because the ignorance can lead you to a purchase an item that can kill your enthusiasm. Fortunately, this did not happen in my case. I just realized I just spent too much money (money that could be spent on materials for a real workbench) on a crappy and poorly designed workbench-shaped object. Okay, so now you know, so please don’t make the same mistake I did. Curb your enthusiasm a bit, and do your research before laying out big bucks for anything. Flashy ads and marketing hype are designed to tap into our lizard brains and trick us into wasting our hard-earned cash. Lesson learned; now let’s talk about real workbenches.
The Great Roubo
I have detailed my Split-Top Roubo Workbench journey on several earlier posts, just click on the Workbench tag under Categories on the right to read more on those.
The Roubo Workbench above is from A-J Roubo’s – L’Art du Menuisier – Planche 011 published in 1769. This is what a workbench should look like. Heavy, really heavy, stout legs, and rock-solid joinery.
I chose the Split-Top design to make the bench easier to move. It can be broken down into 6 major pieces and easily transported. You do sacrifice some joint rigidity using breakdown barrel nuts and bolts in the legs and securing the top to the base, but so far I have not had an issue with rigidity and fasteners coming loose.
There are many different workbench designs out there, but I found the Split-Top Roubo design perfect for my needs. I choose the BenchCrafted vises as they are the best metal vises made today. They’re not cheap, but they’re very nice and I love using them. They have smooth action and work with little effort. Do not cheap out on bench hardware, you will regret it if you do.
Here is a picture of my new bench stop made by Master Blacksmith, Peter Ross. This has yet to be installed on the bench but it’s a beautifully crafted piece and I look forward to installing it (soon) and using it.
Do you know how they make small drill bits? A little bit at a time.
Ok, now that we have the boring drill humor out of the way, we can proceed with the blog. I’ll be showing you my drills and drill bits. I have been through 3 electric drills in the time I have been using my hand drills. To be fair, one of the electric drills was used while I was doing some electrical contracting work. But the fact remains, electric drills are not as robust as hand drills and I love using the beautiful old drills from Millers Falls.
The drills pictured above are drills I have collected over the years through yard sales, CraigsList, tool meets, etc. I have upgraded over that time to the set you see above. The Millers Falls No. 05 is the drill I keep in my tool chest as it is small but very robust. The No. 77 and No. 2A are kept on my wall next to my bench ready for action. I made a side handle out of Maple for my No. 2A as it was missing one and I had an extra ferrel I was not using that was perfect for the job.
The “eggbeater” drills and braces are plentiful and usually not very expensive (but I have noticed the prices creeping up recently). They do not require batteries and they just keep working. If you buy one of these vintage drills from a dealer, make sure you can return it if you have any issues. Here are some things to look for before buying one of these vintage tools: Make sure they have all their teeth on the gears and have smooth action. On the eggbeater drills, three gears is better that two. They do require lubricating oil occasionally, and should rotate freely without any effort when checking the action without a bit. Check that the chuck jaws move in and out smoothly. Put a bit in it to see if it rotates straight. A wondering bit is a deal breaker as the threaded shaft (in eggbeater drills) is bent and that is an expert fix, unless you have spare parts.
You normally use the 4-sided shank bits in braces and smooth shank bits in the eggbeater drills. You can use the smooth shank bits in braces, but beware of slippage as your brace chuck design may not grip the bit as tightly.
Drilling is a skill that does take time and practice to get right. There are techniques that allow you to drill a specific angle or square to the wood. One technique for braces is the ring method. With this method you can put a ring on an auger bit to see if you are level or not. Check out this post from 2011 from LumberJocks on how to do this.
This set is an Irwin design. I bought these off of CraigsList for $60. There are also Jenkins bits on the market and they also work well with braces. I do not have a preference of the set types, I just happened on this set. The lead screw on the set above is a course design used for softer woods. I may still purchase a smaller set with fine lead screws for hardwood work.
I consider Brad-Point bits essential to my woodworking. I purchased this set from Lee-Valley in 2012. It is a very good quality high-speed steel set. One note on these bits: If you use them in a drill press, make sure to line up the exit hole with the bit. You do not want these brad-points hitting the metal of you drill press bed.
Some people don’t use twist bits on fine woodworking projects. I use them in areas that do not need to be pretty as they can and do chew up the wood. You can mitigate this a little bit by placing a sacrificial backer board clamped on the back to reduce the exit tear-out. They can also be used in metal on very slow speeds. I got the set pictured above at a MWTCA meet in Sept 2015.
The forsener bit set above is a recent purchase from 2020. I love these bits for clearing out a ton of waste very quickly. I only use these with power tools as the require a lot of torque. They a great for boring smooth-walled holes and nice flat-bottom holes. They do not usually tear up the top surface like other bits can.
I’m just scratching the surface of drills and bit types. The ones I have shown above are the most common in woodworking shops, but not exclusively. There are a lot of “specialty bits” that are used in all sorts of unique operations. I like to keep my tool set as focused as possible, but do buy the occasional speciality bit like when I was building my Split-Top Roubo Workbench.
Drilling is one of the most frequent activities in any woodworking shop. When you buy drills and bits, again make sure you buy quality. If you do, and you take care of them they will give you a lifetime of good use.
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Until next time, keep making shavings and sawdust.
Back in my early days while beginning my woodworking journey, I believed a chisel was a chunk of metal with a plastic handle. You’d pound them mercilessly to remove wood during construction. They were not precious or even to be well cared for. They were a rough tool, to be used and abused and forgotten about after the work was done.
My enlightenment began slowly. Yes, I had seen Roy Underhill use them to great effect on his show the “Woodwright’s Shop”. But until I started my personal journey, it did not click about their proper uses until later in my life. My first step was with a shop class. I asked the shop teacher to show me how to sharpen a chisel. He took me over to the grinder in the shop and proceeded to use it to sharpen my Stanley Handyman set (1/4″, 1/2″, 3/4″ and 1″) from the early 80’s. They were OK for use in a power tool shop and they did sharpen and hold an acceptable edge. They were also heavy, unwieldy and unbalanced. A few years later…OK, like 15 year later, I attended Roy’s Dovetail class; this is when I learned what sharp was and specifically a sharp chisel.
I went home determined to “tune” my Stanley chisel set, but then I though to myself, maybe if I got a new set and sharpened those I’d be in business. So I purchased a new Buck Bros. Set. I had studied up on sharpening a bit on the internet and discovered the “Scary Sharp” sharpening method using sandpaper.
Now armed with my new set of chisels and my newfound sharpening knowledge, I went to town sharpening these so-called chisels. After sharpening them, I excitedly started testing them on the edge of some soft pine and they cut it like butter. This is what I wanted, so I started a new project (using white pine) with them. It was’t long before I noticed they weren’t as sharp as when I started and then I looked at them closely with a magnifying lens. They looked like I had be pounding them into concrete. The teeth were jagged and chipped. Remember, this is soft pine (no knots either).
So I did the obvious, I resharpened them again and they had a beautiful gleaming edge and I resumed using them on my project. Next thing I know, they were back to the snaggletooth shape as before. This would not do. I was so disappointed and it was about this time that I read Chris Schwarz’s book “Anarchist’s Tool Chest” (buy it, read it, you’ll thank me later). In it, Chris goes into great detail on what makes a good chisel.
I had some old chisels I had been collecting for the past couple of years. I started cleaning them up and sharpening them. Some needed new handles, so I made some crude ones to get going (I made better handles later after I got my lathe.) I started using these old chisels and they were orders of magnitude better that those lumps of crappy metal and plastic with a label that said “Chisel”. They took a wonderful edge and kept it. They cut through pine, walnut, cherry, hickory and hard maple and kept on going. Now I was getting somewhere.
I needed a more complete chisel selection at the time. My vintage tools had some major gaps in sizes. After more research and some soul searching, I decided to save up some money and get the Lie-Nielsen Bevel Edge set (3/4″, 1/2″, 3/8″, 1/4″, and 1/8″). This was not a cheap purchase, but it was an investment. I had just proven Chris’ statement “Buy the best tools” or you’ll buy them twice, once for the cheap tool and second, you’ll buy the quality tool. Save yourself a step and just buy the quality tool and get to work.
If you are looking for the best chisel for you, you may want to go here to watch James Wright’s chisel comparison video (you may also want to subscribe to his channel, if you’re not already). He has performed a very exhaustive study of the currently available brands and the results are quite surprising and very interesting. This study will save you time and money in choosing your next chisel or set of chisels.
Based on James’s results, I ordered the Narex Richter 1″ Chisel to fill a gap in my set. This should be fun to compare to my LN set. I’ll let you know how I like it in a future blog entry.
There are several types of chisels available to the modern woodworker as I own just a few types, I will only discuss those in detail.
Beveled Edge Chisel – This is the workhorse of the chisels, It can be struck and removes moderate amounts of material. Its shape makes it ideal to use when making dovetails.
Firmer Chisel – Does very heavy work and takes a pounding, used mainly for cleaning out a lot of material quickly. Not a precision tool.
Pairing Chisel – Very thin blade for taking fine shavings and never gets struck with a mallet.
Mortising Chisel – This is the 900 lb. gorilla of chisels. It can take heavy pounding. It is used in hogging out mortises with abandon.
There are three basic types of Western chisel handles:
Tang – These are easier to manufacture and usually a little less expensive. They are, in my opinion, a little less robust but people have their own opinions about this.
Socket – More difficult to make but very robust. These are my favorite types of chisels and I have a pretty complete set of these. One caveat about these, never carry them by their wooden handle. It can shrink with humidity changes and the pointy bits can go careening down towards your feet and at best hit the floor dulling your tool and at worst imbed itself in your tender fleshy foot and you end up with a trip to the urgent care facility.
Tang and Socket – Most difficult to make and has it proponents. I do not currently own any chisels of this type.
I believe the Socket chisels are more robust, but people also swear by the Tang type too. As I have a lathe, handle creation for socket chisels is very easy and I have made quite a few handles over the years. You can see me rescue a Union Chisel in this video. If you don’t have a lathe, it may be easier to make handles for the tang variety. I just remember making a tang handle for a morticing chisel I used to own and it was a real challenge for me and I cracked the handle after I was almost through making it.
As with chisels, there are many types of gouges, and like before, I’m going to stick to the ones I own in this BLOG. Most of the larger gouges can be struck with a large mallet, while the smaller ones need a bit more finesse. Gouge Types:
Incannel Gouge – Used to carve a concave groove
Outcannel Gouge – Used to carve a convex or rounded shape
Gouges can be either straight or have a curved shaft. The curved shaft version allows you to work closer to the surface of a board or project. All of my gouges are vintage that I have collected over the years. I cannot recall where or when I acquired any of these, just that I have collected them between 2012-2019.
Until next time, keep making shavings and sawdust.
There’s something very satisfying about driving a nail home or hitting a chisel with a mallet where you take just the perfect chunk of wood off. Mallets and Hammers offer the woodworker a great opportunity to make their own tools. At least this was the case for me. I have made several striking tools and I love using them. Woodworking mallets are simple to make and can last you a lifetime (more on that later). Good hammers are easy to re-handle and a joy to use. I have just a drop in the bucket of types of striking tools available to the modern craftsman, but every one of them gets plenty of use.
The nail on the magnet pictured on the left, is a nail I found at the homestead of my 5th Great-Grandfather. It’s a forged 18th century nail used in the construction of his first homestead in 1756. He would have recognized most of the tools in my current shop (the metal planes are “New” inventions, but he would know what they are) as hand woodworking tools have not changed all that much in the 270 years since then. I keep it next to my hammers to remind me of what came before and to keep in mind the ingenuity, resilience and fortitude of our ancestors.
“When you wish to make mortises, you begin by fastening the work on the bench with the holdfast and as close to the workbench legs as is possible so that the hammering has the strongest support for the cuts.”
My hammers are used on every project. I’ve seen people with dozens of hammers, but I prefer to keep only the ones I need and will use regularly. My Vaughan 16 OZ Octagon Hammer is very nice. I bought it in 2012 from a local hardware store but it had a “singing” problem. Some hammers made with hardened steel sing or ring when struck. Some folks just accept it and others like me find it a bit annoying. I’ve looked for a solution for a while but I finally thought of a fix. Because it’s the claw that “sings”, I thought maybe some CA glue at the apex of the claw would dampen it. Sure enough it did, by about 70%. I can live with the reduced volume and it’s no longer a concern. I’m hoping the glue will not break off after lots of use, I’ll let you know it it does, but for right now I enjoying the softer songs it produces.
The 7 oz. Homemade Brass hammer (Jan 2015) was a really great addition to my hammer set. I blogged about it here and I have used it as my primary plane iron adjuster. It’s also used any time I don’t want the mar the surface of metal object I’m striking.
There are myriad of different mallets for different uses. But I will concentrate on just the few types I own.
I made my first mallets in 2010 from hard maple I bought from the lumber yard. The first was a small mallet like the one pictured above, made from an article in an old wood-working magazine. I laminated the head from three pieces of the maple. I was using this first mallet in my first class at the Woodwright’s School making dovetails. While I was chopping out some wood the head exploded into 3 different parts (my understanding of gluing was still in it’s early stages). I embarrassingly looked around me to see if anyone noticed the mishap (I was at the rear most bench) and thankfully no one did. Only the handle survived.
It was about this time that I was able to get a stump from a maple that my Dad had cut down on the property where I grew up. I shaped this head and put in on the surviving handle and it has served me well ever since. I made a second small mallet just like the first except I used a solid piece of hickory rescued from my wife Beth’s childhood home. The hickory used to host a tree-swing in her childhood and gave her many happy memories, but the tree was toppled by a storm. I liked this mallet a little better as the Hickory was tough as nails and weighted more than the Soft Maple version. We have since started using the first mallet in our kitchen for pounding chicken breasts flat.
The second mallet I made was made at the same time and manner as the first “exploding” mallet and it is used for my heaviest tasks. It works great and time will tell if it has the same fate as the first. It has lasted 10 years, so I think I’m good.
The third mallet is a Estwing 12 oz. Soft Face Mallet. I use this as a “dead blow” mallet even if it’s not really one. I like its weight and it does the job I need done. Granted I haven’t done any really “big” jobs that need that kind of persuading (except the Split-top Roubo Workbench), so I may have to resort to an actual dead blow mallet in that instance.
Lastly, I have a Lathe Maple Mallet I use to pound mercilessly on my lathe center to set it into a turned piece. The mallet “takes a hit for the team” and gets damaged on every use to spare my center from being damaged.
Small Soft Maple Head Mallet (replacement for the exploded mallet)
Small Hickory Head Mallet
Large Maple Mallet
Estwing 12 oz. Soft Face Mallet with 12 in. Hickory Handle
Turned Maple Lathe Mallet
Roy Underhill’s “Impossible Mallet”
What can you say about sledge hammers, they’re heavy and they “persuade” things to move. They are invaluable in splitting logs and processing raw timber. I have had the 4 lb. Sledge for probably 30 years and I do not remember where I got it. The 3 lb. Straight Peen Hammer was a more recent acquisition from a yard sale.
4 lb. Sledge Hammer
3 lb. Straight Peen Hammer
Batons, Gluts and Mauls
I only have one Baton, it’s used in my spoon and bowl carving kit. I turned this specifically for driving the meat cleaver I use for splitting wooden spoon blanks. It looks like a rolling pin with just one handle and that is probably what inspire me to give it this shape. Gluts and Mauls are usually made from tough wood stumps or tree sections.
Tools That Get Struck
Chisels (there are a lot of different types of chisels so I’ll create a dedicated blog about them in this “Tool Series”), Nail Sets, Steel and Wooden Wedges (not pictured). The Drawbore Pins are a couple of Craftsman Drift Pins that I pressed into service as Drawbore Pins. The nail set, punch set and wedges I’ve had for ages and could not tell you where I got them.
Old Nail Set set
Old Punch Set
Hammers hang out with a many different tools that help them do what they do. Dowel plates, vices and anvils, these are all tools that are used with my hammers. The Dowel Plate is exactly that, used to make dowels. Best used with green stock, the dowel plate can also be used with dried sticks. Just make sure to reduce the stick to a square or better yet an octagon to get the best results. This is a nice tool to have when you need just a few dowels of a specific size. The small vise is used in so many ways, I can’t list them here. The Narrow Gauge Rail Track Anvil came from my father in-law and its origin is from a small coal tunnel in Appalachia. The Small Iron Curved Anvil came from a yard sale. The anvils are used primarily for peening pins and rivets and also clinching nails.
LN Dowel Plate
Small Modelers Vice
Narrow Gauge Rail Track Anvil
Small Iron Curved Anvil
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Until next time, keep making shavings and sawdust.
09-Jan-2021Update: James Wright has recently released his comprehensive “Plane Iron Test Results Fast And To The Point” video. Do yourself a favor and watch this. You’ll be glad you did. I recently bought the Veritas PM-V11 2″ Blade for one of my smoothing planes based on his test results.
Planes and plane collecting can become an obsession. Like saws from my earlier blog entry, I have been collecting, acquiring and restoring them for over a decade. I am not a tool or plane collector per se. I collect and restore tools I’m going to press into service. If I do come across a plane I don’t need, that is a good deal and/or that needs restoration I will generally sell it in “farm fresh” condition or I’ll do a minimal restoration that preserves the history, patina and character of the tool while making it usable. I have sold or given away more planes than I currently own.
New Vs. Old
I want to address this upfront. You can spend your whole woodworking career and never use a brand new plane. The vintage planes (be choosy here, there are vintage crappy ones too) are well built, have excellent steel and can do excellent work. I love my old Stanley No. 5’s especially. I also love using the new Lie-Nielsen planes and their tools in general. The fit and finish are without equal and they are (in my opinion) the best production planes you can buy today. I own a complete set (complete set for me, not the whole set of Stanley Numbers 1-7) of old and new planes. I use all of them for different tasks and they all have earned their valuable space in my small shop. The LN planes are expensive, but I have been spreading that cost out over a decade, getting them as birthday presents and gifts. I have also sold miscellaneous (woodworking and non-woodworking) items and saved my money to purchase some of these. You don’t have to buy LN planes to be a good woodworker. I just really like using them and will continue to do so.
Also, you do not have to buy Lie-Nielsen planes brand new. You can buy them used and sometimes get a great deal. I bought my LN 40-1/2 Scrub Plane for about $85 ($175 new) second hand. It was a bit rusty, but It cleaned up beautifully and works great.
“Underneath all this shininess is poor materials, cheap labor, and one less sale for a passionate business owner that actually cares”
One other note, Matt Estleamade a great video on buying a cheap AmazonBasics #4 plane and spent the time to get it working halfway decently. He makes a very good point, if you’re set on getting a new plane, you can buy a cheap plane made by people who do not love and care about the craft and spend valuable time get it working ok, but time is money. What you get is a plane that will never perform like a LN or other top maker and “Underneath all this shininess is poor materials, cheap labor, and one less sale for a passionate business owner that actually cares” thus depriving a quality maker a sale. Why not skip the fettling step and buy a superb plane from a maker that cares about their craft and woodworking in general and you’ll have a lifetime tool.
Vintage Bench Planes
I have the following Stanley Bench Planes. No.4 Smoother, No. 4 1/2 Smoother, No. 5 Jack (set up as a joiner/smoother), No. 5 Jack (Setup as for rough stock removal), No. 6 Joiner, No. 65 Low Angle Block Plane.
Vintage planes are great. I love these olde tools and and I love to restore them. I have restored quite a few over the years and it never ceases to amaze me how nice they look after a good restoration. Some of these have come to me in a state that you would swear they would never make another smooth shaving. But after careful and thoughtful work, they become a valued member of my collection. I know the Lie-Nielsen planes are pricey, but to me I love using them and they only touch the wood after the vintage planes do their work. Lumber for the home center often has inclusions (who knows what, could be small sand, metal chips and other unknown plane iron killers) that chip plane irons. I do brush and clean the surfaces of the new stock, but there is no way to get everything. That being said, I do try to keep from harming these old workhorses. Here is the time line for these planes:
– Stanley No. 60 1/2 Block Plane – I got this at a community yard sale in 2018 in my local downtown for $5. – Stanley No. 4 Smoothing Plane – This is a family heirloom and I treasure it. – P&C 1940 – This is a Bailey Style No. 4 circa 1962 (rebranded Millers Falls No. 4). I bought this at a MWTCA meet in Jan 2017. – Stanley No. 4 1/2 Smoothing Plane – I bought this plane with store credit from Ed Lebetkin’s tool store in 2019. – Two Stanley No 5 Jack Planes – I bought these from eBay in 2019, to replace one I should not have sold, but I did, now it is gone so I had to replace it with two. – Stanley No. 6 Fore Plane Type 10 – I bought this plane for $15 at the Habitat Restore in Aug 2019. It was a major restore with a vintage correct lever cap and the iron and chip breaker from the No. 4 1/2. It now works great and it works great as a small joiner. I used it extensively on the workbench build.
New Bench Planes
I have the following Lie-Nielsen planes – No. 60 1/2 Low Angle Adjustable mouth Block Plane, No. 4 Smoothing Plane , No. 5 Jack Plane, the No. 7 Joiner Plane. These occupy the valuable real-estate in my Dutch Tool Chest or DTC.
The LN 60 1/2 Block Plane is a very nice plane of course. It is the nicest block plane I have ever used. It lives in a leather holster I made for my DTC.
Purchase Dates: No. 60 1/2 – I bought it at a LN tool event in January 2014 at the local College Crafts Center. No. 4 – Purchased online Nov 2017 No. 5 – Purchased Sep 2018 No. 7 – Purchased July 2011
New Speciality and One Vintage Plane
Here I have the following Lie-Nielsen Planes, No. 71 Large Open Mouth Router Plane, No 40 1/2 Scrub Plane, and Large Shoulder Plane. I have the following Veritas Planes – Right-Hand Small Plow plane and Right Hand Skew Plane. I have an vintage Stanley No. 71 Router Plane. I replaced the knobs with ones I turned myself on the Stanley 71 because the original had badly chipped black paint (and ugly wood) with aluminum nuts. I replaced the nuts with brass nuts (yes, I saved the old knobs and nuts IN case I ever loose my mind and sell this beauty.) Purchase Dates:
– Veritas RH Skewed Rabbit Plane – July 2012 – LN No. 40 1/2 Scrub Plane – May 2015 – Veritas SM RH Plow Plane – Jan 2012 – LN No. 073 Large Shoulder Plane – Aug 2012 – LN No. 71 Router Plane – June 2020 – Vintage Stanley No. 71 Router Plane – I think I purchased this at the MWTCA in 2012.
Making planes is great fun. I love taking woodworking classes and I made these two beauties at the Woodwright’s School under Bill Andersons expert tutelage. I normally don’t hesitate to take on a woodworking project on my own (although it’s more fun to have the company of like-minded individuals.) But plane making can be a little tricky especially when you are carving one from one chunk of wood and not using the Krenov Method. Bill breaks down the process into easy-to-understand steps and I ended up with two great planes. The Joiner Plane above is my longest plane. It is very light compared to my LN No. 7 plane and does a fantastic job on my longest boards. I put a Cocobolo front knob and buttons (not pictured) on the toe and heal for taping when adjusting the plane. The small Scandinavianstyle Scrub Plane hogs out material from rough boards with abandon and is fun to use.
– Larger Joiner Plane – Class date was March 2015 – See my blog entry here – Scandinavian Scrub Plane – Class date May 2015
That about wraps up my planes section. These are some of my most useful tools. I use them on just about every project.
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Until next time, keep making shavings and sawdust.
This week I’ll be talking saws. Besides the hammer and knife, the saw is one the oldest human-made tools. Saws come in such great diversity, with different shapes, sizes, type of cut, and tooth geometry. This will be a pretty long blog entry by necessity as I own quite a few different types of saws and they all deserve a explanation of use and a bit of history. I’ll be presenting my saws to you, explaining what I use them for and where I got them (if I can remember). Like other tools I own, my saws cover only a fraction of the saw types available. I tend to use the sharpest and fastest cutting saws of any particular type. Saws are only useful when they’re sharp. I’m not the best saw sharpener, but I do ok. I’d rather be cutting wood than sharpening saws. Rip saws are pretty easy to sharpen, but crosscut saws are a bit more of an art than science. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of science in saw geometry, but the actual sharpening is a lot more of a learned skill. Even so, it is one that is best learned if you plan to do any hand sawing of your work. I will include my saw sharpening tools in addition to my saws in this entry. So let’s get started.
My newest acquisition is the Knew Concepts Coping Saw. Let me first say, I have a love-hate relationship with coping saws. I love how small, easy to wield and how quickly they cut and the fact you don’t need to sharpen them, you just replace the blade (they come in various size teeth for different applications). I do not like that they are fickle wondering beasts and impossible to tighten. That was until I got the Knew Concepts saw. These things are impressive. They tighten down to a crazy high tension and cut like butter. Let’s just say I’ve removed the hate part of the this equation. Some of the positive attributes of the Knew Concepts saw: 1) Easy to load and unload the blades; 2) Easy to adjust blade rotation (not so on other designs); 3) Tightens the blade quickly; 4) Lightweight, and 5) The build quality is second to none. They are a bit pricey, but worth every penny. They are great for smaller jobs like cleaning out waste between dovetail tails and intricate scroll work in thinner material.
This saw is very similar to the Coping Saw but it does heavier work with its longer and thicker blade. If I need to do a lot of scroll work through thicker material I use the Turning Saw. This is a saw that I made from Gramercy Kit from Tools for Working Wood Turning Saw Parts (Pins and Blades). I used hickory for the frame, walnut for the tension adjuster and maple for the handles. I followed the plans provided by TFWW. One thing you may see on the handles I turned for this saw and tool handles I’ve made in general is the three adjacent lines (i do it more now than on my earlier turnings.) This is one way to show folks that I have made the turned part. If you have one of these saws, please un-tighten it after use so you do not weaken the wood.
Sawing is definitely a skill you can learn in a few minutes and spend a lifetime perfecting.
The two saws here are new from Lie-Nielsen. They are the Rip Cut 7ppi and the Crosscut 12ppi. There is nothing wrong with the antique saws I own, but I love the way the Lie-Nielsen saws cut and these are my day-to-day panel saws. One warning though, they only cut as good as you do, so you may have issues cutting straight lines, but after practice sawing a dozen or more feet of board with these, you’ll be cutting like a pro. I spent a lot of time perfecting my cutting abilities and still screw up some times. Just allow plenty of adjustment space on your cuts (especially at first) and you’ll be fine.
I love dovetail saws. There is something about the way they cut so precisely and quickly. I have two (three if you count the Veritas Crosscut Saw) dovetail saws. The top saw is one is a saw I made at Roy Underhill’s Woodwright School with Tom Callisto. It has 14tpi and has such a thin blade, I can’t even get my thin Blue Spruce marking knife in it’s kerf (I have to use my box cutter knife to mark dovetails in it’s kerf). But it’s a pleasure to use and beautiful to boot. The second saw is a Veritas Dovetail Saw 20tpi, that I bought in 2011 and I absolutely love this saw. It makes great dovetail cuts and is comfortable in the hand. The third saw is also a Veritas saw but it is filed Crosscut with 16tpi. It’s very nice to use for smaller precision crosscut pieces and makes a very clean cut. I got this from a friend and will treasure it always.
This saw is easy to sharpen and great to use. It does not see a lot of use in my shop, but it does get used. This saw is one I made on my own. I purchased the saw plate, nuts, handle blank and saw back from Tom Callisto. I shaped the handle and punched the holes in the blade and fitted the back. This saw has a beech handle and filed rip at 12tpi. It cuts great, but not so much in crosscut, but it’s not really designed for that.
The two of these are nice vintage crosscut Carcase Saws. The first one was made by Simons and has 12tpi 12″ blade and cuts quickly and easily. The second saw is a nice Disston filed 16tpi with a 14″ blade. Both of these saw are fine examples of excellent vintage saw quality and craftsmanship. The steel is perfect and the handles fit human hands. I use both of these saws almost daily and I would not part with them for even really good money. I bought both of these saws at a Mid-West Tools Collectors Association or MWTCA Tool Meet in 2013. I do not remember exactly how much I paid for them, but it was about $80 and $60 respectively.
Flush Trim Saws
Used to trim flush. The first one is a cheap box store saw with a handle I turned (this was one of my first turning projects and I’ll probably turn a new one (with the three lines 🙂 ) to get rid of the plastic junk that came with it. The second saw is a Japanese Single Edge Flush-Cut Saw I recently purchased from Lee Valley to put in my tool chest.
I don’t use it much, but when I need it, it’s very nice to have. This is a vintage saw that I got from a CraigsList purchase in 2013. The finish on the saw handle was in terrible condition and I just scraped of the old finish and put several coats of good ol’ Boiled Linseed Oil or BLO on it.
I’d like to take a minute to talk about saw restoration. I have purchased and acquired some vintage saws that were in a pretty sorry state, but had great potential. I don’t even consider restoration if the plate is deeply pitted or bent badly. I have an old and rare Disston and Morss #43 combination saw that I inherited from my father (if you haven’t guessed already, this is the saw in the first picture of the blog). It has A Straight Edge, Plum and Level Attachment, a Square, a Scratch Awe and Rule etched in the blade. I am in the process of restoring it to it’s former glory and I will reveal it in a future BLOG entry when done. It has a broken handle, a broken level vial and quite a bit a rust, but not too much, and is removable. I was able to salvage a replacement level vial glass the same size and the original from an old busted level. This should be a beautiful saw when I am through and I look forward to showing it in an upcoming blog.
They have their place but I dislike the handles. I’d hate to see what the creature looks like, that had a hand that would fit these monstrosities. I mainly use these saws to cut stuff I’d never have my “good” saws cut. Like laminates and plywoods, etc. They do all my “dirty” work and I generally use gloves when using them…have I mentioned I don’t like the handles? The Craftsman pictured on top is about 35 years old and can be filed sharp again, so I’m contemplating making a decent handle for it. The Stanley is about 20 years old and has hardened teeth. When it gets dull, I’ll have a chunk of wood with a crappy design and soft tool steel only good for scrap use (not tool or scraper applications like the older saws). Nice features, right?
Vintage Panel Saws
I have been collecting panel saws for over a decade. I started looking in yard sales, estate sales, FreeCycle and Craigslist. I look for old saws with straight blades and brass saw nuts and handles shaped for the human hand, not like the modern saws with handles shaped by accountants (not to diss accountants, I know and love several, they’re just not really good at advising on manufacturing designs for tools used by humans).
Above are two saws I restored a few years ago. They are both Disstons; the top one is a course rip saw and the bottom one is a very fine crosscut saw. They work great and they’re very comfortable in the hand. I mainly use the my Lie-Nielsen Panel Saws, as I do not want to keep sharpening and therefore shortening the life of the vintage saws.
Above is the kit for sharpening saws. It includes a Saw Vise, Saw Set (top), Veritas Saw File Holder, and various size triangular files. I bought the Saw Vise around 2012 at a MWTCA meet. I bought the Saw Set and Veritas File Holder from Lee Valley the same year. As you can see saw file handles art not a priority for me, l’ll probably turn a few in the future, who knows.
Well that’s all my saws. I hope you enjoyed seeing them and learning a little about them. Sawing is definitely a skill you can learn in a few minutes and spend a lifetime perfecting. There are a few tricks to sawing that makes it easer. I can cover these in a future blog entry if I get some requests for them. Until next time, keep making shavings and sawdust.