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.
I’m staring a new blog series about my tools, their use and origins. I’m kinda obsessed with my tools. They fascinate me and I just sometimes go into my shop to clean them and marvel at their beauty and design. I would like to say upfront, this is my choice of tools. You may agree or disagree with my choices, but ultimately the tools I choose are my decision and not really subject to anyone else’s opinion. I do listen to others about what tools they like and some people with lots of experience I listen very carefully, but I’m not bound to any one philosophy or system or cult of personality. I have made many tool choice mistakes and will make more in the future. But I try to stick to one maxim: “Buy the best and most appropriate tool you can.” If you can’t afford to purchase a particular tool, make something and sell it to get the money to buy the tool. Sometimes I get lucky and find just the right vintage tool at an estate sale or garage sale, but lately I have been buying new very high-quality tools as I am not necessarily a vintage tool collector.
The tools in this series are just a snapshot in time of the tools I have now and not a definitive list of “must-have tools”. I have arrived at this current set of tools over about 10-years time and have chosen these based on experience, mainly, and also how much I like/love using these particular tools. I also love making tools. It seems every tool I make fills me with so much satisfaction that I wonder how I got this far in my life without doing this all along; better late than never.
This first entry is about my marking and measuring tools. Like all tools presented in this series, I use some tools more than others, and I will try to point out my favorites.
Awes are a group of tools that have a pretty wide variety of shapes, sizes and uses. I also dabble in leather work so I have a few more not pictured here. Here, I have a homemade scratch awe that I made from 1/4″ O1 tool steel, a brass pressure fitting and some cocobolo wood that I had on hand. This homemade awe (my new favorite) was inspired by one featured by Bob Emser from the “The Art of Boatbuilding“, but I made my own design and parts. It has the steel as a “full tang” construction, so it may be struck by a hammer; something I wouldn’t do for the other two Czech Edge awes. The middle awe is a “Bird Cage Awe” and is useful for “drilling” out a small starting hole for starting screws and also for my centers for my lathe. The awes on the right and left are considered “Scratch Awes”. They are for marking lines and puncturing holes. They are NOT for clearing out chips jammed on your plane mouth. Just one additional note about awes: Keep their points sharp.
Speaking of pointy tools, above is my collection of old and new dividers. I have been acquiring these for quite some time and the Starretts are my latest addition to the group. Dividers are awesome and have a variety of uses from drawing (scratching) arcs in wood to dividing up equal sections for dovetails to setting up drawer divisions. They can be used with a sector to scale measurement up or down. The new Starretts are my preferred dividers; very sharp and very smooth.
Marking Gauges are very handy for layout work. Having more than one is quite handy as you can leave them set during a project and keep your measurements accurate. If you only had only one, you would be changing it to different settings and you’d lose the exact setting of the previous measurement. The Tite Mark gauge is my favorite. This thing is silky smooth and dead accurate. It has a good weight in the hand and oozes quality; it’s a pleasure to use.
Bevel gauges help you reproduce an angle or cut a specific angle. I may have a bevel gauge problem as indicated by the the image above. My two favorite are the antique Stanley (4) and the new Woodpeckers (3). They both have the locking mechanism on the bottom that wedges the blade and hold them immovable until loosened. The other vintage ones are usable, but you need to take care not to bump them or your setting will move. I really wanted an angle finder for some time and just this year bought the very nice Veritas one in the image above. I have used it a lot and I consider this essential kit.
What can I say about squares? They are great, especially the Starrett combination squares. They are so versatile and nice to use. I also love using the try square I made from beech and walnut. It is light weight, very accurate and easy to true. I made two of these squares about a year ago. I use them both. All three are my favorites. Don’t make me choose.
Rules rule! I mean that. Some people do not see the the need to measure stuff and that’s ok. I may be doing it all wrong, but it’s my way and I love to measure. Mind you, I mostly take measurement right off the piece, but measuring is still necessary for rough stock breakdown and sometimes to make sure you have enough stock to finish a project. The Veritas Sliding Square is not, in my opinion, essential to the work that I do, but I sure do use it a lot. It has many uses and I would not want to do woodwork without it. I have had this square for over 20 years and it’s still going strong. I also want to mention number (3) above, it is plastic and cheap and not my first choice. I like that it is metric and is a folding meter ruler, but besides that fact, I can use this a my sector. With its 25cm ( 9.84″) length of it’s legs, it makes a halfway decent sector. It works and I have used it as such. At some point I’m either going to have to make a really nice sector or buy one (good luck doing that I say to myself). I wish someone (I’m looking at you Tools For Working Wood) would make a nice sector kit so you could make your own out of your own wood.
Marking knives are very personal and everyone I talk to has an opinion. I look for three qualities in my marking knives. 1) They must make accurate cuts in wood; 2) They must be easy to sharpen; and, 3) They must be comfortable to use. I love the Blue Spruce marking knife for marking out dovetails, I love the last two for general marking. I regularly use all three
I just like using a plain old #2 pencil; it’s what I mostly use. I use the white colored pencil for marking dark woods and the double-ended sharpie for thin and thick markings on my irons and metal bits and pieces. I love the Fisher Space pen for it’s resilience and that it just works. I do not user the pen on wood just notes and drawing on paper.
More Homemade Tools
I’ll say this again, I love making tools and I have used the three above extensively. Wood makes such a great Square and Straight Edge that I don’t like using the metal equivalents. I covered making the English Layout Square in a blog post “English Layout Square” in December 2012. The Panel Gauge is soooo nice! This design was inspired by the Lie Nielsen version and it is not wobbly and is very accurate; I would not change a thing about it.
These trammel points are beautiful. I purchased these at an MWTCA tool event for $20 and they are awesome! I have created a split pointed beam for them so they can be used as pinch rods as well. Double duty! The Dovetail Marker is not necessary kit, but a quick fix for marking out this joint.
I love my tools, not as much or in the same way as I love my wife or kids. But they do allow me to manipulate wood to make useful and beautiful projects. They give me a sense of wonder at what humans can accomplish and give insight into our ingenuity. When I use them, I feel a close connection to my ancestors and feel how they felt when using them. I hope my kids or future grandkids find these posts useful if they choose to become woodworkers. I hope they can feel a connection to me when using my tools like I do when using my grandfather’s old tools. Tools, like music can connect people across the centuries and from different parts of the world.
You might not know it, but I have been looking for a brass hammer for some time now. I need a brass hammer to tap my wooden plane’s irons to set them at just the right cutting depth.
You see, brass hammers are preferable to steel hammers as the brass is softer than the plane iron and will not damage it where the steel hammer will “mushroom” the steel and that is bad.
I went to the MWTCA tool meet yesterday and I happened across this nice little beauty in the rough for $5.00. A real bargain, as these babys can cost a lot of dough new. It had a brass head and brass handle with a duct tape grip.
I could have just left well enough alone and used it happily, but I just had to make it better.
I had to get that duct tape off of there because it was pretty nasty and really old so it was breaking down. This came off with a knife and the brass rod handle was in good shape. I was really struggling on how to properly put a wooden handle of the brass rod. This decision was made for me, as I was cleaning the head the brass rod came right out of the head.
The high end tool manufacturer Lie-Nielson used to make a really nice cross-peen hammer and I liked the handle shape, so I decided to mimic that shape.
I had to re-drill and enlarge the hole in the hammer head so it would accommodate a wooden handle. I drilled half way through on the top of the head with the next larger size bit so when I wedged the handle it would not would not come off.
I had a nice piece of cherry that was perfect for the job. So 30 minutes on the lathe and I had me a new handle. The Lie-Nielson cross-peen hammers have a more slender handle than what I made for my handle. I made my handle a little thicker to accommodate the heavier head on my hammer. The hardest part of this whole project was fitting the cylindrical head to the cylindrical handle and getting it to fit.
This is what I ended up with. Quite a change from the hammer I brought home yesterday! I am really happy with this and I hope it gives me many years of good service.
You may recall from my previous post, that my half-finished spring pole lathe had become a temporary “bookshelf” due to an injury. Now, oh happy day, it has been repurposed into a functioning lathe! This project, by far, was one of the most difficult I have undertaken. I don’t mean technically difficult, but physically difficult. But let me say up front that it did not have to be this way. Sometimes, we work against ourselves and are our own worst enemy.
I believe improper bench height was to blame for my injury which snowballed into the delay of my lathe project, my absence from a week-long, much-anticipated class at Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School, and the ill temperament of my wife. When I purchased my bench, I was not aware of the proper bench height. I have since read and learned more about benches and I determined that by cutting off 4″ it would be the perfect height for most of the work I do.
For me, it was a hard lesson learned. I say to you: Make sure the surface you’re working on is at the approbate height for the activity you are engaging in. You do not have to have two or three benches to do all your work, just build appliances to add to your bench or to use on the floor to keep the work at the correct height. Use a knee-height saw bench to do ripping and crosscut sawing. Use a “Moxon Vise” (this is my next appliance) attached to your bench to do dovetail work higher up. Do chopping and planing work at normal bench height.
Even with the injury, I have loved making this lathe! It is a joy to use and is a wonder of engineering. This design was created by Roy Underhill, adapting a centuries-old spring pole tradition and modifying it to his need to have a portable lathe to take to shows and demonstrations to create interest.
I made several modifications to the design for my own use. For one, I used copper wire to connect the pole to the short side of the rocker arm; I used what I had on hand – just 12-gauge electrical wire. I also used it to fasten the 3/8″ leather strap to the long end of the rocker and the foot board. I used a leather belt to connect the two spring poles. The original design used a flattened piece of copper pipe, I was hoping the leather would give me some “lively” action and it does. Plus, if it breaks while I’m away from home, I have an awl and can punch a new hole in the belt I am wearing at the time and be back in business in two minutes!
I was going to use weaving loom shuttle points for my centers, but I did not have an easy way to fasten them in a way that gives me room to work between the piece being turned and the tail or head stock. So I opted for a 1/2″ 13 x 1′ steel rod which I ground into two pieces (one 7″, the other 4 1/2″), then ground and polished the ends to a point. I also ordered some weld nuts, 1/2″-13. These allowed me to fasten the threaded rod to the head and tail stock.
Notice the “Plain Finish Malleable Iron Handles, 1/2″-13 Threaded with Through Hole.” These were installed to operate the screw in and out on the tail stock and also to tighten the poppet on the tool rest. I also bought a bar of brass (3/16″ thick, 3/4″ width, 1′) to use on top of the tool rest. I was thinking the brass would not mar my tools but would protect the wood from tool damage and is replaceable if it wears out. After using this for a little while, it has become evident that brass is not going to work the way I had intended. Brass is so soft that my tools are catching and digging into it and keeps the tools from “skating” along the tool rest. I will be replacing the brass with steel soon.
Here are but a few of the many things I want to make with the lathe: Spinning top, a three legged camp stool, handles for my long suffering chisels and files, blanks for wooden screws, a new pump drill, and new handles for my turning saw.
The finish on the lathe will be just 3 coats of boiled linseed oil (boiled means it has additives so that the oil dries and hardens). I believe this lathe will be around for a long time. One great advantage of building a machines like this is that if it ever breaks you know how to fix it. Using a tool you make yourself gives you great satisfaction and really energizes you for the next project.
This type of lathe lends itself to green woodworking. A lot of chair legs and spindles are made with green wood. Some turners turn the parts most of the way and then either kiln-dry the parts or wait for nature to do it for them and the turn them one last time to the finished size to remove the oval shape that comes when wood dries.
Roy said in his book, “The Woodwright’s Guide: Working Wood with Wedge and Edge,” – “I want you to make this lathe.” Well, I did and I glad I did. This tool is a real pleasure to use and does good work. It is not loud and and allows me to enjoy yet another dimension of my favorite hobby/obsession/therapy.
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