Monday, January 31, 2011

Handling a tanged chisel

I have a weakness for old square sided firmer chisels, so when I was at the PATINA (Potomac Antique Tools and Industries Association) meeting and auction last weekend and saw a nice 1 1/2" un-handled tang firmer for $6, I had to pick it up. Yesterday I had a little free time so I decided to make a handle for it. This was my first chisel handle and also my first time working with beech. I had a little laying around the shop that I was given a while back and thought that it would be ideal for a handle. I really like the way the beech worked with hand tools. Takes a nice, crisp edge. Made me wish I had some larger chunks for making a few wooden planes.
The process of making the handle was nothing groundbreaking, but here it is. I started off with a 2" square piece of beech and cut it a little over the length I wanted. Made sure one end was square and then marked the center. Drilled a hole in this end just a touch smaller that the tang where it meets the bolster to a depth of half the length of the tang. Then I switched to a bit a touch smaller than the tang width at it's half-way point and drilled this to the full depth of the tang. This allowed the chisel to go into the handle with about a half inch gap between the handle end and the bolster. The drilling was done with brace and bits. From here I marked the outer edges of the bolster on the handle end, removed the chisel and drew lines from there to the other end with the taper I wanted. Then it was just a matter of sawing close to the line and finishing up with a plane. After I had a square, tapered handle, I needed to knock the corners off to make the square an octagon. For this process I clamped my plane upside down in my twin screw of my bench and used it like a jointer, running the corners of the handle over the blade of the plane. This works really well for this and other small pieces you may need to plane. Just watch your fingers. After I had an octagon shaped handle, I trimmed it to length and then took a sharp paring chisel and pared bevels on the end of the handle for comfort. With the handle shaped, I inserted the tang in the hole, squared up the chisel blade to the handle, and whacked the butt of the handle on some scrap wood on my bench to seat the bolster flush to the handle. Done.
With me drilling the hole for the tang by hand, the handle is just slightly out of plumb with the chisel from side to side, but not enough to hurt anything. Overall, I'm very happy with how it turned out. I see more of these handles in my future as I just can't seem to pass up a good deal on a orphaned firmer.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shave Horse

Well hello again blog reader. It's been a long time between post. Hadn't really done anything blog-worthy lately. My shop time has mainly consisted of a few started, but yet unfinished projects.
This past weekend I finally found some time to do a project that had been on my to do list for well over a year; a shave horse. And I have to say, this was one of the most fun pieces that I have ever built. I think what made it so much fun was going into it with the attitude that it was a functional piece of shop equipment that I didn't have to strive for museum quality on. As a matter of fact, on a piece like this, I think a little bit of crudeness, (or homemade ingenuity), adds character to it. At least that's my view of it. I love pretty tools as much as the next guy, but I just don't think I'd want a mahogany shave horse with bamboo turned legs and moulded ogee edges. No, for a piece like this I think southern yellow pine with drawknife and spokeshaved legs and the edges of the seat just clipped with a fore plane is just right.
This is only the third piece I've done with just hand tools. I'm really wanting to get to the point where I can ditch my table saw and I'm really getting close. All the material, minus some wooden dowel that I used to hold some round tenons together, is construction grade 2 x 12 southern yellow pine that I got from Home Depot on a recent trip to Colonial Williamsburg. SYP is not available where I live; have to go a few hours south. And it really is an ideal wood for shop equipment. Much more heavy and dense than the "white wood" or whatever they call the construction lumber here in Maryland.
Using plans found on Jennie Alexander's Green Woodworking website as my rough draft, I started off by cutting to length and ripping to width the boards for the bench and the ramp. This was done with a Craftsman 10 TPI cross-cut saw and my old Disston D-8 thumbhole rip saw, 5 TPI. Incidentally, I'm really becoming found of the overhand rip method, similar to what's shown here, only I saw toward me rather than away from me. This is much easier on your arm muscles, I can saw for much longer stretches without stopping from tiring out, and because you are sitting and not hunched over, it's much easier on your back. So, after cutting these boards to size, I cut 1 1/2" strips for the legs and then just trued things up with a fore and jointer plane. I then laid out and drilled 1" holes in the bench for my legs and then used a tapered reamer to make tapered holes. I then used a drawknife and spokeshave to shape the legs roundish and to taper the tops to roughly match the tapered holes in the bench. I definitely need more practice with that reamer. My holes were slanted just like I wanted them with the brace and bit, but got out of whack when I went at them with the reamer. No big tragedy because it's just a shave horse, but I gotta get that straightened out before I build any windsor chairs. :)
The ramp was attached to the bench with a wooden pivot much like Peter Follansbee used on his shown in his blog.
The round tenons that were used to hold the treadle together were fun to make. I just laid out a one inch square centered on the end of a 2" x 2" piece of pine, sawed the tenon cheeks down as far as I needed the tenon to be long, and then cut the shoulders to remove the waste. I then drew a 1" circle on the end of the square tenon and went about pairing away anything that wasn't that circle. These cross pieces were put into 1" holes on the treadle sides, the tenons drilled and held with some dowel I had laying around the shop.
I'm really happy with the way this turned out, especially for being just a little more than a days work. I haven't had the opportunity or the need to put it through it's paces yet, but I did try some scrap on it and it has tremendous holding power. This was a really fun project to build and if any of you have been thinking about it, I highly recommend that you make a shave horse for YOUR shop.