Sunday, 23 August 2009

I Do Use These Tools - Honest...

While it feels like my only exposure to woodworking of late is buying old tools, I do get to swing a chisel or two occasionally. Just to prove this is true, probably more to myself than you, I offer this post; one based on my on-going labour of love, my tool cabinet. Ok, sans the "love" part sometimes.

Here is where I am at as of today.


This is the left door, the area that has received all of my attention since last September. One may reflect that I may be a tad slow, may even comment on my joinery abilities, but one can never question my tenacity.

The bottom two-thirds of this image displays the door insert I made last October. On the two lower shelves of that insert, you might recognize the two drill indexes I made a couple of months back. Resting on those drills are two of my latest tool acquisitions, and above it, my latest creation; a rack for my chisels. All of this represents what this door is right now, and what I hope it will be, hopefully, long before Obama finishes his current term of office.

As my storage of planes in the main cavity project into this door, that center section with the number 71 and 72 can only carry one level of tools, the only area in the cabinet with this limitation. While some may think that these two planes are to be mounted together in this door due to their consecutive numbering, the truth of the matter is, these two tools are the only ones I own that somehow manage to miss being stabbed by the other planes when the door is closed. This area will also display my number 66, along with all of the accessories for these planes.

Just as a sidebar; I picked up that number 72 on eBay at what I consider to be a very good price, and to add to it, just this past Friday I found a beading attachment to match. As it was also going for a fair price, I picked it up as well. As a result of this purchase, this 72 is no longer a 72. With the beading attachment and its six molding cutters, it becomes a 72 1/2. Don’t ask me why as I have no idea. This is the way Stanley sold this particular tool; if you bought just the plane, you bought a #72. If you bought the plane with the beading attachment in the same box, you bought a #72 1/2. As there were no designations on either piece to let you know what was in the box at the time of purchase, when you put the two together now, you then get to use either number for identification. Silly, isn’t it? What is even sillier is that this #72 1/2 combination now sells for upwards to $1,000, but in 1914, it sold for $3.30, complete.

Let me get back to the tool cabinet. At the top of this door is the chisel rack I have been working on for months now. It is constructed using through mortises for the crosspieces and mitered dovetails for the frame. The rack is made to hold my set of Stanley #40 Everlasting Chisels, the bane of my existence. There are 12 chisels to the set, of which I currently have 9, and if you add to that the redundant sizes I have purchased over the months; that number climbs to 17. Thankfully, only the 12 have to be displayed, but even at that, they will not fit in a single row across the width of the door. Hence this two-sided rack; holding 6 to a side. The face side holds the smaller sizes, as they are the ones I assume I will use the most. Open the hinged rack and I will have access to the other 6. If I am working on a job that will require multiple sizes, I will be able to lift the rack off its case hinges (shown to the left, supplied by Lee Valley), and set the entire rack on the bench for easier access to both sides.

The crosspiece that holds the chisels by their shanks is made from 2 layers of 3/8” walnut and one layer that is 1/4”. This narrower center strip is laminated at a 45° angle to the other two pieces in the lamination so the opposing grains will keep it all together, hopefully. Below that is a center panel that protects the chisels from banging into each other when they are loaded into the rack. The sloping piece at the bottom is not only to protect the blades from me damaging them in the course of using the cabinet, but to protect me from the blades as well. Both sides are the same, however the bottom panel on the back side is not quite as high, facilitating the loading of the larger chisels.

Cutting the angled holes for the shanks was easy. As it turns out, in chair making, 12.8° tapered holes are commonplace. Surprisingly, the shank on these chisels is as close to that as pushing is to shoving, so it was off to Lee Valley again to pick up their larger tapered reamer. I drilled a 1/2” through hole with a Forstner bit and then reamed it to size with the reamer. Easy, peasy.


The thing is, at this very moment the whole thing is on hold. The original plan was to reed the entire front piece, its full 4” height, resulting in about 20 reeds. After doing two rows of two with the #66, I put the piece in place to have a look. It immediately struck me that doing the entire piece might result in too fancy a display, the exact opposite of what I have so far, and the exact opposite of what I am looking to achieve. As a result, I left the piece there, cleaned up, and as the cabinet sits right beside my daily computer workstation, I will contemplate where to go with it over the next couple of weeks. You don’t want to rush these decisions, you know. I also thought I might add a center piece at the top of the rack, as well, but again, second thoughts have taken hold. I’m afraid if I add a piece to the top, it will close off the view to the screwdrivers behind, again, killing my original overall plan for the tool display.

Finally, let me explain the “bane of my existence” comment regarding the Stanley chisels that I made previously. I have been collecting these chisels for almost a year now, merrily going along buying up every one I find that is a decent length and doesn’t have the Sweetheart logo. I try to stay away from the Sweetheart logo as, for me, it is a tad sissy, that mark. Anyway, as I got close to finishing off the set, I purchased a 2” example that was said to be the same as those I had previously purchased, but this one turned out to be slightly different than the others. Checking it out, I discovered that this one had four patent dates under a “New Britain, Conn” stamp. Jim Bode, at jimbodetools.com, educated me regarding what it was all about. There could be three patent dates, which means they were made before 1915, or four patent dates, which means they were made after that year. When the company wanted to show they were sweet on Mr. Hart, they changed the stamp to, “Made in USA”, with “Pat. 1493176” under it. The Sweetheart logo came in 1921 and ran until the mid-30’s. As it turned out, I was three shy of a full set of post 1936 chisels, four if you counted the older 2”. The problem I had is that I liked the look of the older chisels better. The three and four patent dated chisels have a fuller handle, reducing in diameter slightly closer to the shank than the newer versions, making it, in my estimation, easier to hold, not to mention a hell of a lot prettier.

Yes, you have guessed it, I am now starting again, purchasing only the four patent date variety.

You gotta’ love these things.

Peace,

Mitchell