Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Shop in Shambles

Well, it's been quite a while since I've posted anything on here. Just wanted to touch base and let anyone reading know that I haven't been abducted by aliens or even worse, sold my tools and given up woodworking. Been engrossed in home improvements for the past month and a half or so and my shop has suffered for it.

These pictures are the results of installing 92 boxes of laminate hardwood throughout the house as well as replacing all the standard baseboard with 5 1/4" tall colonial and replacing all the standard door casings with plinth blocks, fluted trim, and rosettes. This has been quite an undertaking, especially with the holidays mixed in, but I'm on the downhill slide now. All the floor is down and about half the door trim and 3/4 of the baseboard is installed and painted. So hopefully I'll be able to get back out to the shop in a few weeks to finish up a couple more saws and maybe an actual piece of furniture or two.

Seeing all my hand tools covered in a thick layer of saw dust is pretty painful and really makes me appreciate the joy and relative cleanliness of hand tool woodworking. Of course, all my prized hand tools could have been spared this sad fate if I had the shop I wanted. The garage would be the home improvement shop and my "real" shop would be nice and clean and organized. A safe haven for me and my non-tailed tools. Oh well, someday. :)

Meantime, here are a couple pics of what the new floors and trim look like.

P.S. The picture of the bedroom is my oldest daughters room. I just changed paint colors in there and Jen (my wife) and I haven't had a chance to get a new, more color coordinated bed spread yet. Didn't want anyone seeing that and thinking my style sense is THAT bad. :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Another One for the Till

Finished this panel saw shortly after finishing the 19" tenon saw. Thought I'd just do a short post with a few pictures. This one has a 22" saw plate, .032 thick, filed rip at 8 ppi. Rake angle of about 5* relaxed. No fleam on this one. The handle is beech. I filed the first 2" at the toe at 12 ppi in hope that this would make it easier to start. I think in theory it was a good idea, but I should've filed it this way for maybe the first 4" or so. The 2" just isn't enough to really get it started, at least not in my few test cuts I made. Built this one for when I want a cleaner cut in 3/4" stuff than what my D-8 5ppi could give me, and for rips in stuff thinner than 3/4 stock. Again, all I've done is a few test rips in 3/4 pine, but so far so good.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Good Weekend

This past Saturday, the newly formed Chesapeake Chapter of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers (SAPFM) held it's second meeting in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. As this chapter has members from a wide geographic area, we try to have meetings in a variety of locations as to try to be fair to everyone. This meeting was quite some distance from my house; more than a three hour drive, but the first meeting was so good that I really didn't want to miss the second. It did not disappoint.

The meeting started out with a little bit of chapter business and then it was on the the fun stuff. Member Fred Walker (chapter coordinator) had graciously offered to tutor members on building a Chippendale side chair and he was first up, discussing the style and construction techniques of the chair. I can't imagine too many people knowing more about these chairs than Fred. Mark Maleski (secretary/treasurer) then showed his progress on the chair that he was building under Fred's tutelage and discussed what he'd learned and his failures and successes. Impressive stuff to say the least.

Next up was show and tell, one of my favorite parts, where members can bring in things they've built or are in the process of building. There was a beautifully constructed 18th century style tea caddy, a stunning tiger maple keepsake box, and my personal favorite, a 17th century style joined stool ala Peter Follansbee/Jennie Alexander. I brought my new tool chest, Seaton chest inspired firmer chisels, 18th century style tenon saw, cross cut and rip panel saws (more on the rip panel saw in a future post). Judging by the number of questions I received, there seems to quite a bit of interest in tool making. Obviously, it's something that I thoroughly enjoy.

Then came our featured speaker for the meeting, Chuck Bender of the Acanthus Workshop. Chuck is a master craftsman who has been building period furniture for over 30 years. In 2007 he started the Acanthus Workshop where he teaches a variety of classes to all skill level of woodworkers. The title of his presentation was The Good/Bad/Ugly-Design and Construction. One of the main objectives of the talk was to get us to recognize good design from bad. Chuck had put together a wonderful slide show featuring some beautiful period pieces, as well as some that just didn't quite measure up. This was an effective presentation as it really gave you a chance to see what visually worked on these pieces and what just did not, using not some golden rule formula, but just your natural sense of proportion and what looked right to the eye. I said earlier that I couldn't imagine too many people knowing more about Chippendale chairs than Fred Walker, well I'd say Chuck is one of those few who knows at least as much.

In addition to all this, the members of this chapter are fantastic. Just to name two, at this meeting were blogger's extraordinaire Kari Hultman of The Village Carpenter blog and Shannon Rogers of The Renaissance Woodworker blog and The Hand Tool School. I had the opportunity to talk to both quite extensively and they are both great people. Kari is one of the most passionate woodworkers you'll ever meet and so talented in so many areas of woodworking. And she shares my love of toolmaking. :) Shannon educated me on different varieties of furniture wood and answered all my questions about the different varieties of mahogany on the market. He knows a LOT about lumber. (He works at McIlvain's Lumber)

I'm so glad that I was able to attend this meeting. It was well worth the drive. Although our chapter is in it's infancy, it's off to a wonderful start. Our first meeting's feature speaker was Kaare Loftheim, journeyman cabinet maker at Colonial Williamsburg. Kaare is one of my favorite people to learn from. He is knowledgable, talented, and has a wonderful sense of humor that make his presentations a lot of fun. Our third meeting is already set to take place at McIlvain Lumber in the Baltimore suburbs with Don Williams scheduled to be our featured guest. Don is the Senior Furniture Conservator at the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Materials Research and Education. Don is a master at furniture refinishing amongst other things. He is the mastermind behind the Andre Roubo translation project and author of the upcoming book about H.O. Studley, of the famous Studley tool chest. Not a bad first three featured presenters! Thanks to Bert Bleckwenn (Chapter President) and all others who give of their time to make our meetings great. I encourage anyone interested in furniture making (or tool making) to come to our next meeting and check things out. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Testing the New Tenon Saw

Well, my impatience got the best of me as I thought it would and I set the teeth on the new tenon saw last night using my old triumph saw set. It's actually not a bad tool. I think I just need to get used to it, and get used to setting teeth in general. I am a novice at saw sharpening.

That being said, I decided to use a trick that I just saw posted on Chris Schwarz's Popular Woodworking Blog. It's a video of Mike Wenzloff showing a trick that his grandfather taught him. Basically, you intentionally overset the saw slightly and then wrap a piece of paper around the saw plate and squeeze the teeth in a smooth jawed vise, like a machinist vise. The teeth punch through the paper, but the paper doesn't compress on the plate above the teeth, leaving you with a consistent set on each side of the plate the thickness of the paper you used. Actually, at least in my case, a little more set than the thickness of the paper. I'm a little guy and I don't achieve quite the foot pounds of pressure that Mike does. ;)

I set the saw at home last night and then took it to work today where I have access to a machinist vise. I first used a sheet of legal paper and this left a little more set than I wanted. Then I switched to a sheet of newspaper and this was just the trick. The saw plate is .025 and the teeth after the vise squeeze mic out at .035. So .005 of set on either side. Right or wrong, this is what I was aiming for.

I put the saw to the test tonight. First I made some cheek cuts in a piece of 2 1/2" wide polar. Ate right through it like butter, nice and straight. Next I put a piece of poplar in the vise with the face toward me and tried to track some lines. The saw did well but turned slightly left on the last stroke or so on some but not all of the lines. Could've been my sawing skills, I'm not sure. What I do know is the saw cuts very quickly with no effort. That heavy brass back really propels it through the wood. 7 strokes and I was to the max depth of the saw. The cuts were a little ragged on the back side so I hit the saw with a couple strokes of the file with just a slight, maybe 5*, bit of fleam and made some more cuts. That little bit of fleam smoothed things out a bit. Less ragged on the back side and no loss of speed so I think I'll keep it at that.

Backside before fleam . . . . . . . . . . . . . Backside after fleam

I'm happy with the look and feel of this saw and based on the test cuts I think I'll be pleased with the performance as well. I really think that the Mike Wenzloff trick is a great thing for someone inexperienced with setting saw teeth. I highly recommend you try it. I know it really helped me. And if it's good enough for Mike Wenzloff. . . . . .

Next up, I'm finishing a 22" rip filed panel saw build. Wasn't I supposed to be starting on a blanket chest? Dang.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Brute of a Tenon Saw

Got this tenon saw pretty much finished the other night. All done except for setting the teeth. I tried to pattern the handle after the tenon saw in the Seaton Chest, while the saw plate size I got from an illustration in Smith's Key. The handle feels really good in my hand and I was happy with the way it turned out; until I took pictures and looked at them. It was then that I realized that I took a little too much out of the handle opening at the top leaving things just a bit thin at the top in front of the horn. I think the picture actually makes it look thinner than it is, but I think I'll try to leave more meat there on the next saw. Don't foresee a problem functionally, just aesthetically.

The saw plate is a piece of 1095 spring steel from McMaster-Carr, sized and shaped on a sheet metal shear at work. Cut the teeth in by hand with saw files. The back is a folded brass back that I purchased from Mike Wenzloff. One inch wide and in excess of a quarter inch thick. A hefty hunk of brass to say the least. Well worth the price to me as I have no good way to bend metal this thick. The handle is quarter sawn, well, more like rift sawn, beech.

Vital saw stats: 19" long saw plate. 3 9/16" depth under the spine at the handle, 3 1/16" at the toe. Teeth are 9 ppi, filed rip with about an 8-10* rake angle. Saw weighs in at a hefty 2 pound 5 ounces. I think with the heft of this brass back, it's just going to be a matter of getting it started on the line and then just let 'er eat.

I haven't set the teeth yet because I'm looking for a 42X saw set to try out. If I get impatient before I find one, I'll just use my old Triumph set.

Once I get the teeth set, I'll post some in action pictures and give a report on how this beast preforms.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tool Chest Complete and Loaded

Word of advice; don't start something, get it to the point of being useable but not quite done, and start using it. If you do, it's very easy to keep using said project in it's unfinished but useable state for months. Or longer. I fell into this trap with my tool chest. If you follow this blog, you may remember that one of the reasons that I built this chest was to have a way to transport my tools to Pittsboro, North Carolina and my class at the Woodwright's School last May. The chest served it's purpose well on it's trip south and back but once back in my shop, I continued to use it in it's unfinished state until I finally made the decision a few weeks ago to get off my duff and get it finished.
Basically all that was lacking was a lip for the top, an applied batten to team with the lid to create a dust seal, and a skirt moulding at the base of the chest. The lip for the top consist of three pieces of poplar, a front and two sides, dovetailed at the corners and then just glued and nailed on to the edge of the chest lid. The upper batten I made of red oak, mainly just for contrast. This wraps all the way around the chest and is chamfered on the underside, dovetailed at the corners, and has a 3/16" bead around the top on the front and sides. I attached this with straight slot flat head wood screws from the inside of the chest.
To give the chest a touch more height and to keep the floor of the chest from sitting directly on the concrete, I attached two battens, ran from front to back, to the underside of the chest bottom. The base skirt is also red oak, through dovetailed at the corners with a mitered pin on top. The skirt was then chamfered all the way around. I attached this with wood screws by carving pocket holes into the bottom of the chest carcase sides and screwing into the skirt. I did it this way to avoid any exposed fasteners or fastener holes on the outside of the skirt. I also left the skirt up about a strong 32nd so the battens are carrying the weight of the chest rather than the skirt. This also avoids the chance of the skirt chipping if I slide the chest across the floor.

All the poplar parts of the chest were painted with two coats of barn red powdered milk paint and then, for a little protection, a few coats of danish oil finish. The oak parts were just finished with the danish oil. I was a little concerned whether I would like the paint/oak combination but I'm pretty pleased with the look. I also put some danish oil on the inside of the chest.

This is by far my biggest and most involved hand tools only project. Well, I did use an electric sander before applying the finishes, but other than that, all hand tools. I'm very happy with the way it turned out. My wife likes it too. So much so that now my next project is to be a blanket chest of similar design, only larger, for the foot of our bed. Well, I may try to fit a little saw making and chisel making in there somewhere too. Wow, I really need to be retired from my day job to get all this hobby work done. ;)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bench Addition

I saw some pictures of a few other benches on line that had this feature added to them and I liked it, so I thought I'd treat my Nicholson to one. So far, it's been a nice addition. It's purpose is not a permanent storage spot for tools, but rather a place to temporarily store tools that are going to be frequently used for the project at hand. That's why, other than the few spots on the left made for chisel storage, the slots are left open with no individual slots for specific tools, because the tools stored here will change based on the project. The obvious benefit is that it helps keep your bench free of tools on the work surface and eliminates the chance for a chisel to roll of the bench top.
I've never used a bench with a tool well but I've heard the major complaint about them is that they are a place for shavings and miscellaneous junk to gather. This rack seems to have the tool well's advantage of keeping tools close at hand without the disadvantage of inviting unwanted junk to gather.
I just used some SYP left over from the bench build for the rack. The slots were laid out to the widths I wanted, marked the depth, sawed to the depth line every inch or so with a crosscut backsaw, and then the waste was chiseled out. A little work with the paring chisel to somewhat smooth things out and it's ready to mount on the back of the bench. I just used 1/4" lag bolts from the home center to attach it. Eventually, I'd like to replace these with square headed lags, strictly for aesthetics.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Something Completely Different

Cool fall weather makes me think of two things, being able to work in the shop without sweating and football. Specifically fantasy football. I'm in three leagues again this year and am defending champ in my big money league. Our draft is tonight and I wanted to add a little something in addition to the cash prize, a trophy to be presented to the champion of the league for him to hold for the year. This is what I came up with. Not exactly original, but pretty cool I think. It's based on the Lombardi trophy, given to the NFL Super Bowl Champ. My version is, not surprisingly, made of wood. It started out as 4 pieces of construction grade yellow pine 2 x 6's laminated together for the base and 4 pieces of construction grade 2 x 6 mystery wood from my local Lowes laminated together for the football shaped object on top. Once the laminations dried, the base was laid out as a tapering triangle shaped obelisk type thing and sawn to shape with a 5 point rip saw. The football was laid out on all four sides and then sawn, chopped and finally sanded to shape. I had illusions of doing this entire project with hand tools but soon found out that was beyond my skill range. There was a LOT of work on the belt sander required to get that thing into football shape. The other tough thing was getting the top of the base scooped out so that it cradled the football without having major gappage in that connection. I did this with a variety of carving tools, scooping and fitting and scooping and fitting and scoop..........well, you get the idea. A time consuming process to say the least. Once the two pieces were glued together and the glue dried, I did some final sanding and then sprayed the whole thing with a couple coats of a copper color "hammered" paint. This gave it a pretty cool finish.

I learned a lot from this project. Number one, I don't miss using power tools. The shop was in a fog the whole time I was sanding the football to shape and when all was said and done everything in the shop was covered in a layer of saw dust. Number two, southern yellow pine has got to be one of the worst woods to carve. Those rings of resin are incredibly hard. And finally, I learned that this will be the ONLY Lombardi trophy I ever make. :) What a PITA it was. But now that it's all done, I'm glad I made it. And knowing how much work went into this damn thing will give me that much more incentive to win the league and hold on to the trophy for another year. Wish me luck in the draft!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Some exciting news if you like old tools (At least I'm excited)

As you know if you've read my last few blog entries, I have quite an affection for the book The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton. I've had my copy for about 4 years now, having bought it at Colonial Williamsburg's Working Wood in the 18th Century conference. The DeWitt-Wallace Museum bookstore had acquired copies to sell in conjunction with that years topic; Tools, Tool Chest and Workbenches. I bought a copy for $24. Quite a bargain I thought at the time. Even more so now, as I just checked Amazon, who has 5 used copies available from $148 to $270. I wouldn't even sell my copy for that price.

I give you that background to tell you this. The Tools and Trades History Society, who published the book in 1994, states on their web site that "A new enlarged edition of The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton is due for publication in the autumn of 2011." This got me pretty excited so I got in touch with the Society through e-mail and tried to get some more information. They don't have a release date as of yet, but hope to release it before Christmas. The gentleman who responded to my e-mail told me that the last he heard, the book was being proof-read. The really good news for me was that he said it would be available to the general public, not just Society members, though he doesn't know yet what the price will be.

I will be anxiously checking their web site daily, like a fat kid waiting for cookies to finish baking. I'm not sure what "enlarged" means; whether it means more content or just actually a bigger size. I'm betting on the former, but either way, you can bet that it'll be on the top of my Christmas wish list.

P.S. I apologize if I offended any cookie loving fat kids. I love cookies too! I've just been blessed with a speedy metabolism. ;)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

18th Century Style Chisels: First Two Complete

Just finished my first 2 chisels in what I hope will eventually grow to a set of 8 to 10. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am basing these chisels on the firmer chisels in the Benjamin Seaton Chest. These first two are a 1" and a 3/4" chisel. Both chisels have pretty much identical measurements aside from the width. The blades are 3 3/4" from tip to shoulder, and 6" to the bolster. They taper from about a shy 3/16" at the bolster to a very thin 1/16" at the start of the cannel. According to the book, The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton, bevel edge chisels were did not show up on the Sheffield list until 1870. That is why these chisels taper so thin at the tip. This style chisel was made for trimming dovetail sockets and delicate work, while thicker firmers were used for heavier work. Just to give you an idea of how certain tools are for certain specific jobs, there were 61 chisels and gouges listed in the Seaton Chest inventory. Quite a collection by modern standards.

The beech handles are 5 1/2" long, 1 1/4" wide, and 1" thick at the end, tapering down to be flush with the bolster. These measurements, as well as the measurements of the steel, are the same as these size chisels in the Seaton Chest. The corners are knocked off to create an octagonal shape to the handle that is both traditional as well as very comfortable. The handles is finished with multiple coats of Formby's Tung Oil. They feel really good in the hand.

As these will be used mostly for paring and not receive a lot of heavy beating, I sharpened these to a 20* bevel. Though not as sturdy as a typical 25* bevel, the lower angle makes for a sharper edge. Both these chisels sharpened up very nicely and are extremely sharp. Time will tell how the edges hold up.

These chisels turned out just as I'd hoped aesthetically. I really like the look of the beech handles. Very traditional, at least for English tools. I hope to get a chance to put them to wood this weekend and see how they preform. I'll let you know.

Thanks to George Wilson, Mike Siemsen, Dean Jansa, and Bob Rozaieski for their advice on tapering and heat treating the steel.

A picture to show the difference between a modern premium chisel and the style in the Seaton Chest.