Saturday 28 November 2009

Hey Slick....

Just a quick tip I discovered by accident the other day.

I don't like mouse pads when I work on the computer as they are just another thing to have to deal with and laser mice do not need them as they will work on anything, including weird surfaces like your leg (don't ask how I figured that one out). The top of my desk is birch ply, stained with multiple coats of varnish. To get the surface as smooth as possible and keep it slippery for the mouse, I am forever rubbing it down with Minwax Paste Finishing Wax, using very fine steel wool to apply it and not being shy about giving it a good go.

The other day, my mind off in never-never land, I picked up the wax can from the storage cabinet, popped the lid, grabbed a new hunk of steel wool and went at it again. It wasn't until I was at the polishing stage that I realized something was different as the shine was higher this time around. It also seemed to feel different to me when I wiped my hand across it, so I grabbed the mouse and gave it a go. The thing worked like it was on ice.

I grabbed the can and as soon as I did, the size of the can immediately clued me in to my mistake. I had, for some unknown reason, grabbed the can of Lee Valley's Waxilit, a sliding agent and glue release, instead of the Minwax.

The difference between the two is unbelievable. I am now on day 4 with this first application, and the mouse is just as slippery over the surface as it was on day one.

I think, for this application anyway, Minwax and I will have to part company.



Sunday 8 November 2009

It is not the size that counts, it is how you use it...

One of the biggest problems I have with my little shop of horrors is room to work. In truth, there isn't any, room that is. The shop is actually my office; the third and the smallest of the three bedrooms in our condo. Many visitors have mentioned that they never thought one small room could hold so much stuff. I give each of them credit as not one of them has used the word "junk" when making that statement.

The room has a double-width closet with space going from floor to ceiling. I was able to store most of my old power tools in this space through the use of a rather strange maze of shelving. Some others are stored under our bed and still others are stored at a friend's shop. While I do not want to even look at them, let alone use them, I do not have the heart to give them away. They are old friends, old friends waiting to turn on me, but still old friends.

Front and centre in the shop now are my hand tools, many of those that I have purchased lately lined up along one work counter, the tool cabinet I am building wide open so I can see every tool stored in it, and other assorted pieces spread hither and yon. The reason for the visitors' comments is due to all the other stuff my pride and joys share space with. Along with the tool cabinet, which has a built in bench, is a portable vice bench, one that needs replacing in the very near future, a full multi-stationed computer studio, books, miscellaneous mementos and other assorted sundries. One glance through the door and you quickly realize that building Norm's bonnet topped highboy is out of the question.

I will admit that I haven't picked up a tool and used it in a couple of months. My connection to all things wood lately is buying the odd one that strikes my fancy as they come across my bow, so-to-speak. With time being the illusive commodity it is these days, I haven't even been able to actively pursue any of those tools I definitely want to add to my collection, but instead, have taken to placing orders for them with the one tool dealer I trust, It is a strange way to participate in a hobby, but I guess it is better than nothing.

There is the future to look forward to, though. There will be a day, I hope, that we will be moving out of the city, the computers will be off more than they are on, and my time will be spent using all these beautiful tools I have collected. The reality is, though, I have no intention of building Norm's highboy, but instead, build only what can comfortably fit on a small to medium sized bench. The relevance of size has completely disappeared from my head and I am looking forward to spend many an hour doing nothing more than creating complexities in joinery.

With this type of future work in mind, I have started to look for smaller than normal tools. With this in mind, I sent off an email to Jim Bode a few weeks ago asking him to locate a Stanley No. 2 and a No. 3 for me, an order he tells me is half complete at this point. I have also made a few other purchases from him lately, most along these same lines, some of which are displayed in the image below.

While not all the tools I have purchased over the past couple of months a represented here, these are my favourites from this latest group. The Stanley No. 4 in the background was one of the planes I purchased from my father, an inclusion in the shot to give you all a reference for size.

The first of these tools to come to me is the Stanley No. 62 Rule in the front, a present to me from my wife, which I thought was rather touching. Sadly, it is missing its alignment pins, but I will cut a few and pop those in one day.

Next came the coping saw, this set actually working in the reverse of my topic here. I purchased the smaller one two years ago at a Vintage Tool Market they hold once or twice a year close to Hamilton, Ontario. It is, without a doubt, the worst advertised sale in the history of capitalism as I have been watching for an announcement for the next one since leaving the one I attended and haven't seen or heard a thing about it yet. Sad, really, as this neck of the woods holds very few events like this. Back to the saw, the seller had no clue who made it, but because I liked it so much, I purchased it anyway for $35.00. A few months ago discovered a full sized example on the Sindelar Museum's web site. It was in excellent company in their Saw Section, so I called Mr. Sindelar to ask him about it. He asked for an image of the saw, which I sent, but I have yet to hear back from him and doubt I will. I would bet he could spend all his time answering questions from nuts like me, so I can understand his reluctance to set the precedence. Just after that this same saw was on the cover of a Lee Valley catalogue, so again I called asking for information. They replied, at least, although they did not know any of the history regarding their example. Shortly after that, the larger example shown here came up for sale on eBay, but sadly I missed bidding on it. As it didn't sell, I wrote the seller and asked if he could relist it, which he agreed to, and a month later he posted it and I purchased it as it is a perfect match to the smaller one. I think I paid him $10.00 for it, but he didn't know the history of it either, so I am now the proud owner of a pair of matching saws and haven't a clue who should get credit for their beautiful design. What I do know is that they are European, probably from Germany, and if you have any more information about them, I would truly appreciate hearing from you.

Next to arrive was the pair of Plane Floats that I purchased from St. James Bay Tool Co. Bob Howard is the operator of this company and makes these floats himself. He also produces a beautiful line of planes for those who are interested, and has a brick and mortar in Mesa, Arizona.

The blame for my purchase of these floats lies with Rob, over on Blokeblog. He has been very free with his information regarding building a Shooting Board and while reading his offerings on the subject, I became enamored with concept of tackling one for myself. While all of the responsibility for the shooting board build lies with Rob, I have to take the credit or otherwise for deciding at the same time to build a matching plane for it as well. I have the wood and I have the floats. Now all I need is a blade, an adjuster (looking for a long Norris style), some brass and some time. And oh, yes, a plan. While I am on this subject, if anyone has any suggestions regarding handles for these floats, again, I would much appreciate hearing from you.

Next to come up is the Mitre Jack, although not old by any stretch, one that is beautifully made completely from mahogany, but most important to me was that it was small. Overall, it is only 9 1/2 inches long and stands about 4 1/2 inches high. I purchased it through, and I wasn't in love with it before purchasing it, and even less after it arrived. The afternoon after its arrival, I did what I always do to a tool purchase, and stripped it down, cleaned it and laid on a coat of wax. After buffing it up a bit, the thing came alive in my hand, so over the next few days I ended up applying 9 coats of wax. With each coat it blew me away that much more and now, fully waxed, it sits in the spot of glory in the shop so I can see it every time I turn around. On one hand I'm thrilled it turned out to be the bride, instead of the bridesmaid, but on the other, it looks so wonderful now, I may not use it, but I'll put together a pair of waste jaws and give it a go before making up my mind.

The final purchase was last weekend and is a result of an email to me from Lee Valley. This email was their announcement for two of their latest products; a miniature shoulder plane (#05P8001) and a smaller than normal marking gauge that they are calling a Pocket Marking Gauge (#15N0201). If you look on one of the top surfaces of the mitre jack, you will find this little plane while the marking gauge stands before it.

Upon receiving the plane, I disassembled it and swiped the blade across my strop a few times to see what it was going to need. Like all things Veritas, though, it was flat, relatively sharp, and ready to use. I reassembled it and took a few strokes with it along a short bit of walnut and found it more than usable, it offering up some very nice, fine shavings. There is an issue at the start and end of the board, especially because of its length, but that, I think, can be overcome with some experience with it. It is a bit of a buzz that, at 2 1/2 inches long with a 1/4 inch cut, it looks and works exactly like its larger brother, right down to a scaled down version, threads and all, of their Norris style blade adjuster. This adjuster is so fine in its adjustment, I thought it was broken when I adjusted the blade for the first time. It is, despite its size, a very well made tool.

That said, there are a couple of issues with it, the main one being that it appears to be, so far, a stand-alone product. By "stand-alone" I mean that Lee Valley has not even so much as hinted that this offering will be part of a planned "family" of miniature planes, and I don't like that idea one bit. Maybe it is from being raised poor and having my choice of many styles and sizes of water glasses from my mother's cupboard, only because no two glasses matched, but I really have a thing for matched items, especially tools, and I do not think I stand alone with that attitude. I believe it should be part of a set and will be extremely disappointed if it doesn't end up that way. This should be just the first in a series that includes 1/8, 3/16, 1/4, 5/16, 3/8, 7/16 and 1/2 inch sizes. While I do not think any should be any shorter than this one as this 1/4 has reached its limit in size when it comes to using it, but I do think that as they grow in width, they could grow in length by 1/2 inch increments.

The other issue I have with it is a flaw I also consider to be very large, and very serious. I comes in a storage case that is not too shabby, although I am not big on these things and usually throw them away (some collector, eh?). The case does have one thing that the tool doesn't, it has "Veritas" stamped in the bottom corner of its lid lining. When I noticed the lack of this mark on the tool, I took it apart again and discovered that there are absolutely no makers marks on the tool anywhere. For a tool manufactured as well as this little guy is, that is, or at least should be, downright illegal.



Friday 23 October 2009

Norm's Gone?

Ol' Norm is closing up shop and the New Yankee Workshop will be no more. Bummer.

The New Yankee Workshop was, for me, something that I looked forward to on and off over the years, so many years in fact, that I remember when both our beards were grayless. While not a true member of "Normamania", I did appreciate his abilities and enjoyed watching him demonstrate his techniques, many I had never seen before.

Norm and my relationship was not without its "issues", though. I stopped watching him for a few years after he built his bonnet-topped highboy, a beautiful piece I might add. I remember watching in fascination as he hand carved the bonnet's crown moulding. I gave him an old, "adda-boy" when he fitted a little sliding dovetail to one end to attach it to the cabinet. Sadly, I also remember that this was followed by a, "NO! Your not going to do that", when he picked up his damned air nailer again to attach the other. As he shot those nails in that beautifully carved moulding, my thumb hit the remote's Off button and that was the end of Norm and my relationship for a while. I came back to him, though, but things were never the same for us after that highboy show.

I'll miss Norm. I just won't miss his damn air nailer.



Wednesday 21 October 2009

A Great Source of Information from Down Under...

Having been busy meeting deadlines lately, so I have been remiss when it comes to this blog. I haven't had time to pick up a tool lately, either, so that is another thing that I have to correct.

I haven't been completely away from the woodworking scene, though. I have picked up a number of new additions to add to the "never ending tool cabinet rebuild", and I wish I had some time to take some images and post them here, as some of it is truly nice stuff.

I have also been putting together a series of posts here, all to do with the subject of Collecting Vintage Tools. There were a few posts on this topic a few weeks ago that popped up on both Dan's Workshop Blog and the Woodworking Magazine's Blog and they got me thinking. In general, online vintage tool sites are both difficult to find, and difficult to navigate once you find them, so I felt that discussing these issues from start to finish was in order. As it is turning out, I think the series will be useful to many; those that buy vintage tools online, those that sell them, those that have an interest in navigating the internet, and those that have a site that they want to advance, no matter what the topic.

The first installment will be a general discussion about the supply and demand for vintage tools. The second will give a quick explanation regarding how the internet, and search engines like Google in particular, work, plus how we can all make it easier on ourselves to find online sellers. In installment three, I will be taking on the different dealers' sites, making suggestions how they can better serve those of us who buy from them, plus a quick run-down on how they can, at no cost at all, move themselves up the hit list on search engines, again, making it easier for us to find them. In installment four, I will open the doors to my Bookmark file for vintage tool sites, giving some opinions on what is good about them, and what is bad, along with the reasons why they ended up in one of my four categories; Daily, Weekly, Monthly and When Bored. Finally, the one I am truly looking forward to, is the last Installment, number five. My favourite online vintage tool dealer, Jim Bode of, has agreed to answer a number of my questions regarding what he does and how he does it. It will be a quick look into the business of selling vintage tools and one that I think will be seriously interesting.

I will not be posting any of this series until all five installments are completed. Expect the first post to be up and running on November 15th, then each additional installment will be posted weekly.

I would also like to mention here another true "find" on the web, this one a site from a part-time woodworker and tool collector from Australia. I found Derek Cohen's site, "In The Woodshop", by accident this morning while doing a search for shooting board plans on Google. Once there, I couldn't leave until I had read each and every post. I will be returning often as it is a repository for a wealth of information. On his home page he has links to different sections that display his interests; Building Furniture, Tool Restorations, Shop-Made Tools, Tool Reviews and Sharpening Techniques, along with a couple of other categories for Commentary and Links.

Not only does he have a pretty amazing little shop full of nothing but the best in tools, but he uses them and enjoys them. In his articles he has covered everything from building chest of drawers to building shooting boards and making his own planes. Some of his tool reviews are the best I have ever read. Check it out....



Friday 25 September 2009

Hand Plane Essentials – the Full Tour…

I got an email from Christopher Schwarz a while back offering me a signed copy of his new book, “Handplane Essentials”. I was seriously intrigued by this offer. It was not the book, as it was all ready a given that I was going to get a copy. It wasn’t even that the author, the guru of planes, had signed it. I seriously considered this offer solely because the particular copies he was hawking included a little drawing created by his daughter below his signature. Being a sucker when it comes to kids, I was just incredibly impressed by the whole concept. She is a lucky kid to have a father that would stick his neck out like that to include her in his work.

I bought the book, but not through Chris’ offer, but instead, from Lee Valley Tools, a company I support whenever possible. Now don’t start thinking I believe in “Protectionism” because the reality is, I believe that concept to be ridiculously counterproductive. I bought the book from Lee Valley solely for selfish reasons.

Canada has one-tenth the population of The United States. Lee Valley, and its tool-manufacturing arm, Veritas, sell worldwide, but also operate 13 stores across the country. Compare that to a company like Rockler, which operates, between owned and partnered, 90 stores across the United States and you get some idea about what this Canadian company is up against. Now add in exorbitant taxes, ridiculous levels of government red tape and high overhead, and you have to wonder why this company stays in Canada at all. Trust me, it ain’t easy being Canadian, despite what you read, and even harder to be a successful corporation here. I just figure if enough Canadians are like me and stay loyal to this company’s retail outlets, we will give them an incentive to stay here and not be like the many others who moved south of the border in search of greater profits. Protectionism tries to keep others out. Loyalty tries to keep ours in.

Ok, enough of that, on to the book.

A while back, after downloading the teaser and having a look, I gave credit to Al Parrish for the fabulous photography in this book. At that time I didn’t know who did the design and layout of it, but thought they deserved some recognition as well, as this is a truly well-done publication. The first thing I did when I got my hands on my copy was to look through the title pages to see who did what and discovered that the Typographer of Essential Handplanes was Linda Watts. If I went looking for the designer’s name, you know I had to be impressed with her work.

The bottom line regarding Christopher’s work in this book is that I’m glad I bought it. It is a comfortable read, forces one to think, and is packed full of information.

First and foremost is Christopher’s style of writing. While his topic is technical, his writing structure is relaxed and informal. As you read it you get the feeling that he is talking to you about planes while the two of you are having a beer together at the local pub. His ability to achieve this, “Hey, buddy” attitude throughout the book is the anecdotal information he adds to almost every article, most quite funny. After reading the book I know he has a reserved respect for some of his past shop teachers, gets a charge out of some of his own students, can easily be made to spit up his coffee, has a wife that owns cats and often shops for tools at antique shows and flea markets. Chris also has some rather strange phrases that he throws out that make you pause. Thankfully, he does not give explanations of them because, frankly, I never want to know just how wet a Louisiana’s underarm is. All of these little charmers are included by Chris to bring his human side into his technical writing, making the reading and learning experience far more enjoyable than it should be.

In fairness to Christopher, he has acknowledged in several articles published during the lead time for this book that it is a compilation of his past articles on handplanes, and he wasn’t exaggerating that point. There is a fair amount of repetition in it, more than would be necessary in a 312 page publication that focuses on one topic. The book does, however, touch on just about every aspect of handplanes that you can think of; from buying them, through using and sharpening them, to selling them on eBay. Where the information excels, though, is in his constant comparisons between vintage and new that are found throughout the book. As someone who is starting to look at adding some more planes to my collection, I found these observations helpful and informative. I also enjoyed learning more about the less common types of planes out there as Chris included articles about Miter, Moulding, Rabbet, Plow and Shoulder Planes; all covered by one article about the plane itself, and a second describing how to use it. With his descriptions of some of the processes, you will have to go back over the content two or three times because the first time around, you have no idea what the hell he is talking about. In those rare cases, though, the fault lies with the complexity of the process, rather than the inability of the writer.

While I am more than impressed with the book and found it to be well worth the forty bucks it cost me, I am not without my criticisms, although few.

The major complaint I have with the book is its lack of graphics to help explain the technical aspects of many of the processes covered. True, there are many photographs included, and while they are well done, some information requires a technical drawing to truly get the point across, and these are seriously missing in this publication. An example of this is within his article entitled, “Squaring Boards Using Handplanes & An Historic Book”. Six technical photographs accompany this article, and while they are all well done, they just do not give the viewer as much information as a well thought out graphic would. The two photographs that show planes running either across the grain, or at an extreme angle to it, freeze the planes’ travels at mid point, the least problematic point in a plane’s stroke. It is easily understood that a long soled plane will bridge the hollow in the middle of a cupped board. Where the problem lies for the inexperienced is in the start and end where the sole isn’t supported at both ends by the high points. Displaying one good graphic that could show all three points of a stroke; the start the middle and the end, would be a huge benefit in determining how to handle the entire stroke. There are a few more examples that would be better served by an accompanying illustration, but this one alone exemplifies their omission.

While overall I was extremely pleased with the book, I have to admit that a nag seemed to grow in the back of my mind as I progressed through it, a nag that keep saying, “There, see, he isn’t as lax about technicalities as he leads you to believe”. Christopher makes many comments throughout the many processes he covers which point out areas where he believes such things as blade angles and the like are not that relevant, or where perfection in grinding them is not necessary. Some of his comments also lead the reader to believe, at least this reader, that Chris isn’t too impressed with those that chase perfection in all things plane, and that planing is a technique, not a science, the way some treat it. My background with handplanes has always led me to believe that, whether that concept be right or wrong. However, throughout the book, many of his technical explanations belie this attitude, which results in that nagging in the back of my mind. On the one hand, my reason for respecting Chris for his instructional work is because, in my mind, he isn’t anal about what he is describing. On the other hand, I could actually see his butt cheeks tightening as I read some of the explanations he included in this book and believe me, that is a mind-image I would rather not see.

With all the content, descriptions and advice included in this book, there is one that stood out for me like it had neon lights around it and reading it resulted in a rather hilarious result. To explain, like most married men, the one room in the house that I feel left alone in is the can, and much to Chris’ chagrin, that is where Handplane Essentials resided until I had finished reading it. Reading along, I came across the line, “Teaching yourself to use a handplane without guidance is a challenge”, and when I read it, I let out a rather loud “No Shit!”, a profanity that is common for me, but one that is not normally stated with such vigor. After finishing that article, and – ahem - “finishing up” in general, I went off to the kitchen. When I got there I found my wife cooking something, and when I walked in she pointed to something on the kitchen table. I turned to have a look and discovered two plums sitting in a small bowl and listened to her comment, “Eat those, they may help you”. With great embarrassment, I explained that my comment was figurative, not literal, but I did thank her for her concern.

So what brought on this reaction? Let me explain.

My exposure to handplanes before switching over to hand tools is limited more to the results of planing, rather than the use of a plane. As a carpenter who specialized in kitchen cabinets, my old man always worked on a site, rather than in the shop. Because his toolbox was often his workbench, it was always full of shavings and it was my job on Saturdays, before he went off to the Legion, to clean them, as well as the sawdust, out. I remember collecting those shavings and playing with them, as the lengths of those paper thin strips of wood fascinated me, as well as how those really thin lacy ones felt when I rubbed them between my fingers.

Sadly, by the time I was old enough to help out in the shop and job site he had pretty much stopped using planes except for the occasional swipe or two. Patience was not his virtue, so when the price of power tools came down enough that he could afford them, he found himself a new altar to pray at. His most revered purchase was a radial arm saw, purchased in 1967 and produced by Skil. What that man could do with that saw would make old Norm green with envy. The result of all of this was that my instruction, and believe me, I got a ton of it whether I wanted it or not, was limited to all things with a power cord.

One time stands out, though, a time when he brought out his Stanley Block Plane. There are two reasons this occasion stands out to me; the first of which is that this was a very rare joint in his work; one that didn’t fit as tightly as his joints always did. In truth, I believe I had something to do with its slight misalignment as when the old man cut a miter joint; either on the tablesaw or the radial saw, you couldn’t slide a cigarette paper anywhere along it, they were always that tight and true. This was a consistent accomplishment that I was never been able to achieve and having seen the results of many professionals, both on and off the television and web, I can attest to the fact that not many others have achieved his deft control either. My second reason for remembering this incident is that it was one of those very rare times that I volunteered a question, asking him to explain the tool a bit to me because I was intrigued by it.

In answer to my question, my father gave me a quick run-down on planes. I remember him explaining the different angles of planes, some of what to look for when you apply them to wood, and which one to use for different applications. He didn’t, however, explain to me any of the technicalities of it, and in fact, volunteered the admission that he just didn’t know them, which, at the time, surprised the hell out of me because I thought my old man knew everything there was to know about woodworking. What he did say, though, was that if you use it, you quickly learn what works and what doesn’t, and like any tool, you soon develop a “feel” for it, knowing how to get the most out of it “instinctively”, which was a huge word for him, considering his grade 5 education.

Now I don’t know whether or not my old man was full of it when he told me about developing a “feel” and “instinct” about a plane, but I can tell you that I am not my father’s son when it comes to teaching myself about getting the most out of one, which is why I bought Chris’ book in the first place.

I will tell you one thing I know for a fact, and that is that buying this book is truly a worth-while purchase. It may not make you a better planer, but after reading it, at least you will know why.

My copy does not have a little hand-drawn picture on the title page, though. Bummer!



Thursday 17 September 2009

Bloggers should be careful what they type...

Back in April of this year I added a post where I talked about how a beautiful piece of wood could make your woodworking mistakes all but disappear. Since then, I have been getting a comment added to that post every so often from someone in China.

Each post is slightly different than the previous with the one I received today displaying as this...

出張ホスト said...


Now as I don't read Chinese or Mandarin, and as I do not know a soul in any country in the Far East, my curiosity got peeked and I started to wonder what the person had to say. Taking them into the Google Translation pages, I pasted each, set the translator to the few Far Eastern languages that they offer and hit the button. Google came back with a few words here and there in English in each one, but not enough in any of them to figure out what is being said until I put the four together.

Without explaining what are in those comments, I will just state that the title for that post has been changed from "Questionable Skills? - Whack Off a Nice Piece of Walnut" to "Questionable Skills? - Try Using a Nice Piece of Walnut"

Enough Said?

Oh the joys of the internet.



Friday 11 September 2009

Congratulations - IT'S TWINS!...

I finally found my match to the 12" Jackson Dovetail Rip I purchased just over two years ago. They are actually very close in appearance; same length, same medallion, same handle. It would be a safe bet to say they were both manufactured at roughly the same time, somewhere near 1880.

Jackson saws were made by Disston as their secondary line, the two I just matched being the cheaper example of the Disston No. 70. While called "seconds", which makes them sound rather, oh, I don't know, cheap, the research I have done on this line tell a different story.

Disston produced a line of saws at a lesser cost than his first line, naming this line "Jackson by Disston". Because old Mr. Disston was, well, Mr. Disston, he was careful about where he cut the costs. With his obsession for quality and maintaining his name, he found only two areas where he could bring the price down; the finishing of the steel and in the wood used for the handle. The Jackson line had their handles made from beech, a cheaper wood than the apple used in the first line, but he used the exact same processes to produce both, so their shapes are exactly the same. That addiction to quality also forced him to use the same material and manufacturing processes for the blades used in both lines, except where the Disston line received a final polishing, the Jacksons blades got only a bit of dusting. Even their backs came off the same line, but once produced, the Disstons had theirs brass plated while the Jacksons were left in bare steel. The results are two lines of saws of the exact same quality, one just being a little prettier than the other.

After 125-odd years later, though, who can tell the difference? The Disstons' brass plating on the vast majority that I have seen has long worn away. Their blades that received all that extra polishing are just as dull, as the patina of these fancy saws now matches the ones on these examples of its poorer brother. While the Jacksons sell for less, then as they do now, I can attest to the fact that they are rarer, having spent the last two years looking for the match to the rip cut I bought from Woodnut4 on eBay. I found this match on eBay, purchased it for $47 and had it shipped directly to Woodnut4. For an additional $50, Daryl cleaned it up and sharpened it as a cross, bringing back its performance to equal what it once was when first produced.

The rip Jackson was my pride and joy as working with it was beyond anything I had in my hands before. Now I am doubly proud, because now I have an actual pair of them.

While not quite the match I was hoping for, I also picked up another Disston No. 68. The first one has a 12" blade while the new addition's is only 10". The etching on the one I just received is a little different than the first one as well, and as it displays a font that is a little flashier, I believe it to be the oldest of the two.

I purchased these saws to do duty while making smaller items, and frankly, I very happy that they are different. The latest purchase, being smaller, has made me realize that it is better suited to my needs, so now I will go along merrily looking for a 10" match for it.

Obviously, for me, finding these things is just as big a kick as using them.



Tuesday 25 August 2009

Stanley No. 197 Fluting Tool

This is a tool I picked up last week; a Stanley No. 197 Fluting Tool. Jim Bode listed it as being "Very Rare" and I believed him, as I had never seen one before.

Checking out the four Stanley catalogues I have, ranging from 1897 through 1958, I couldn't find one listing for the thing. It does have "Stanley, Made in USA" stamped on the ferrel. Searching the web, the only other reference to one that I could come up with was one displayed in Bob Kaune's, "Seldom Seen Archives" page. His example has a completely different handle than this one.

Here's the rub. I have no idea how to work it.

Any suggestions?



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, 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.



Wednesday 22 July 2009

Meeting Another of Life's Milestones...

Life is full of milestones and I think I hit another one of them this morning. While this post has nothing to do with woodworking, it is about tools. To be specific, it involves the tools shown below being packed up in little boxes, so bare with me as it is an (sniff) emotional moment for me (sniff).

Throughout my life I have been a pretty avid car-nut, a statement collaborated by the fact that my current ride is the 48th car that I have owned. I have had everything from a 56’ Ford; that I shoehorned a Lincoln 430 cu. in. V8 into, to a Jaguar XJ and a BMW 733i, the worst car I ever owned, by the way.

As a kid, buying old junkers for fifty bucks, fixing them up and selling them at a profit was not only a hobby for me, but also a way of putting food in my belly sometimes. I was so prolific at this; I once got a letter from our government informing me that if I bought or sold one more car within that fiscal period, I would be charged with operating a used car dealership without a license. Back then, although I have no idea what the rules are now, you were allowed to buy or sell 12 vehicles over a 12-month period. I had gone through 11 when this letter arrived.

The record for the shortest length of time I owned a car is 23 hours. It was a 56’ Buick Holiday four-door hardtop, one of three GM products that I ever bought. Sorry, I’ve always been a Ford man. That old Buick had all the options, including “Chrome Delete”. Back in those days you could order a car from the dealership in any configuration you could image, including taking things that came as standard fare off of it. The only chrome this one came out of the showroom with was the bumpers, grill, the portholes on the front fenders and badging. I bought it off a farmer who had it sitting in his field for who knew how long, drove it from his place, just outside of the city, to a car wash, where I removed all the evidence of it ever being a chicken coop, and then drove it down the main drag on my way home. I was stopped on that trip and asked if it was for sale. I replied with the affirmative, and the next morning the guy showed up with four times what I paid for it and drove it away. I never even had a chance to have the ownership changed.

The car that I owned the longest was a 72’ MGB. I loved that car and owned it for seven years, three of which had it sitting in my driveway awaiting a rebuild. One day I had to move it so I removed the cover, opened the door and climbed in. My foot didn’t stop until it hit the ground as the floor had rotted away. When I extracted my leg from the hole and stepped back to look at things, I had discovered that not only had I removed a good portion of the floor, but as a result of this, the unibody had jackknifed; the centre of the car being about three inches lower than the front and back. I went inside, heartbroken, and called the wrecker to take it away. This was my second “B”, the previous one being a 67’, and is the only car I ever owned that I miss, even to this very day.

My original plan for that 72’ “B” was to swap out the engine for a little 210 cu. in. Buick V8. This is a pretty common conversion in England as Rover used this engine for years. Up until recently I had it in the back of my mind to buy another and build it, a few years ago changing the engine swap plan from the little V8 to a turbo rotary.

Time, as we all know, has a way of catching up with us. Lifestyles change, ideas change, and often it is our abilities that change. Sometimes these changes are for the better and sometimes for the worse. Often these changes force us to face the fact that some of our dreams will never be met. Two things that came up this summer forced me to realize that my dream MGB will never be built, at least by me.

A few months ago I decided it was time to change the plugs on the car. Due to my eyesight problem, the government will no longer allow me to drive, so the 2007 Ford Fusion that we currently own is technically my wife’s ride, but it is my job to keep it out of trouble. One day I decided to lift the hood and see what I was up against swapping out the plugs. My God. What a nightmare; plugs fitted in the old Hemi configuration, individual coils atop of each one, plug wires that seem to come out of no-where and disappear into the weirdest of places, and an absolutely impossible gap to work in between the back three and the firewall. I closed the hood and walked away defeated.

The second decision-maker arrived just after that in the form of a doctor’s report that I won’t get into. It was nothing serious health-wise, but catastrophic car-building wise.

As a result of these two unconnected events, I decided it was time to turn my mechanics tools over to my son.

I have a kid that any father would be proud of. He is slowly working his way up the chain of command as a chef, employed by one of the major hotel chains. He has been shipped from Toronto to Arizona to Egypt and back again over his short career, and is currently residing and working in British Columbia. His first car build was a 1987 Mazda RX7 and he did some great work on it. Sadly, it was stolen while he was away from home visiting me. He ended up replacing it with a new Scion xT, a car not currently available in Canada. He has taken what was a relatively impressive car in its stock configuration, to one of exceptional performance and beauty. It now sports a turbo charger, headers and a sport exhaust, just to name a few of his modifications. Aw, the things your kids do to make your chest grow proud.

Actually, my son’s love of cars came as a bit of a surprise for me. We had talked cars often, but his conversations leaned towards the exotics; Porsches, Ferraris and the like. As a “there is no replacement for displacement” kind of guy who is more at home on a dragstrip than a raceway, I neither liked nor knew much about exotics, so the conversations didn’t go far. When he approached me about buying a second car, one he could play with, I was surprised. When he ended up buying a newer version of a car I owned when he was a kid, I was shocked.

The day he called me and told me what he had purchased, I hung up the phone and went to my toolbox and had a look at what I had. Taking inventory I realized that everything in the box was the old SAE size, which wouldn’t do him any good on his imports and newer cars. I committed there and then to put together a decent set of tools for him to improve his enjoyment with his new hobby. It seems that my father’s statement that, “You can’t do a proper job without the proper tool”, is being sent along to another generation.

Over the next five or six years I watched the sales, eBay, and other assorted suppliers of mechanic’s tools and purchased the items necessary to fill out the selection. I picked up a Snap-On torque wrench for a song, was able to collect the complete set of sockets in all their drive sizes and configurations, and even was able to scoop some odd-ball items like stubby wrenches, in both metric and SAE, for a fair price. I even went as far as to strip down the old toolboxes to bare metal and repaint them. While I was working away at collecting these tools for him, I used them occasionally, but mainly they sat idle in my office as, with my son’s constant moving every few years, I didn’t think he would want to be bogged down with cabinets this large. I also wasn’t ready to let them go, in all honesty. That MGB was still in the back of my mind.

So this summer I woke up to the realizations that there will be no more car builds in my future, my son will probably be moving around often for the foreseeable future, and to own tools is to move them, so now is time to pass on the tools. I know they are going to a good home and my son will treasure and enjoy them, so this has taken a considerable amount of the sting out of giving them up. I do have to admit to getting a bit choked up this morning when I started to pack them up.

I am flying out for a short visit with my son next month, the reason I started to pack them up. If I take them with me, a rather large shipping charge can be avoided as paying for an overweight suitcase is much less than what FedEx has estimated. Most importantly, though, it will allow me to witness his enjoyment as he unpacks them all. When I return, I’ll make arrangements to have the cabinets shipped to him, as it will be a lot more economical without a couple of hundred pounds of tools filling them.

So there you go; another milestone in my life met and recorded for posterity.

Enjoy the tools, son.




Friday 17 July 2009

A Way to Take the "Screw" Out of Purchasing a Vintage "Screwdriver" Online...

First, let me apologize for the title as this post has nothing to do with screwdrivers. It is meant to touch on the topic of protecting yourself when purchasing vintage tools online, so while no screwdrivers are discussed here, the contents could be applied when and if you ever purchase one. Using the term "Screwdriver", however, allowed me, I hope, to be blunt, without being rude.

Collecting vintage tools has become a serious and enjoyable hobby for me. Spending time seeking out and purchasing these tools is a real blast. Paying for those purchases, not so much, but when you finally get them in your greedy little hands, the buzz returns in multiples. The two most enjoyable parts of the equation are the researching of the tool once I find one I want to purchase, and of course, the end result - owning it and being able to use it, or simply just look at it.

When I first started down this collection road, I got truly taken on the purchase of two saws. One was a Disston D-12 that turned out to be so bent, it is better suited for cutting circles than anything else. The other is an Atkins Rip that had been sharpened so many times it looks more like a keyhole saw, than a rip saw. In my defense for these two stupid moves, I will state that they were my first two purchases of vintage tools on eBay. When I made them, I had no idea what I was doing.

While it took getting taken twice, no-one had to hit me across the head with a two-by-four the third time. I swung into research mode, learned to study the images provided in these listings and worked to take the emotions out of these purchases. Since then, I have probably made thirty-odd more purchases, and I am quite satisfied with each one. Some were true deals, some were true steals and some were true must-haves at any price, which I acknowledged before I hit the submit button.

While educating myself to some extent has protected me so far from being taken again, the questionable practices of some sellers on the internet still remain; ready to take advantage of the newbies. One such listing on eBay has the following, short description; "Nice Stanley chisel, no cracked handle here, also a nice tip as well!! Check out my other listings!!!”

Have a look at the image that accompanied this description. It does show that the description is true; it does have a nice handle and the end isn't too bad. It also shows, to me at least, that everything in between is nothing but junk. Do my eyes deceive me, or is this thing seriously bent? It also might have been heated at some time, maybe to try and straighten it out, as there is something seriously wrong going on just above that "nice" tip?

One of the ways you can protect yourself from unscrupulous sellers is to take full advantage of the images they provide. An example of this is how I handled the purchase this week of a Stanley No. 72 Chamfer Plane that I ended up buying for, hopefully, a very reasonable price. The jury is still out on whether I did well with it or not as I am currently awaiting its arrival, but I did do all I could to ensure I would be happy with the deal.

I must acknowledge that this particular purchase is the first one I have made that breaks one of my own rules; “never buy a tool I wouldn’t use”, as I fully expect never to put this tool to wood. My reasoning behind this purchase is purely aesthetic; I fell in love with this tool the moment I first laid eyes on one as I believe it has exceptional proportions and is a very clever design. As a result, I just had to have one. Having watched for one at a reasonable price for quite some time now, I can tell you that discovering one for under their normal price range of $375 to $400 is next to impossible. When this one came up on eBay, the bids were far below what was expected, and to me, this is a huge warning sign. If the collectors on eBay are not willing to open their wallets for a known collectable tool, something is not right with it. The images that the seller provided were adequate, but they were your typical snapshot. They showed signs that the seller was trying to show the tool honestly as he had placed the tool against a plain background and didn’t distort the angles. Because of the exposure, however, seeing a true likeness of the tool wasn’t possible. I grabbed a capture of the image as you can no longer save images off of eBay, with the results of that capture shown below.

I brought the file into Photoshop and after a little manipulation, I felt I had a good rendition of the plane. For those of you that know Photoshop, I added a Curves Adjustment Layer set using three Control Points and applied an Unsharpen Mask. Comparing the image to a known and trusted one, I fully realized that it wasn't in the pristine condition that true collectors like, as well as it being an example of a later production model, which is probably the reasons why the price was below average. How a good collector sorts the good from the not so good, I have no idea. Do they all know Photoshop like I do? The image below is a result of these manipulations.

Unlike the seller for the chisel shown above, this seller was more honest in his description, even though his statement that about 85% of the japanning remained might be a little overstated, as the manipulated image showed otherwise. This is probably not intentional, as I suspect that the value he came up with was based on not knowing which parts of this particular plane were originally japanned when it came from the factory as the No. 72 comes with a lot more of that coating than other Stanley planes. The point here, though, is that having done the research and investigated the images offered as best as I could, I had all the information I needed to make a rational choice whether to purchase the plane or not. As I really wanted an example of this one, but knew it would be one that would end up being a dust collector, I placed a value on it which turned out to be enough to be successful. I ended up purchasing the plane for what I consider to be a reasonable price of $250. I feel it was a fair price for a Stanley No. 72 in this condition and one that I feel could be realized if I choose to sell it later on.

Now that I have it, I have to figure out what to do with it. It is not the cleanest tool I have ever purchased, nor the worst, for that matter. I do, however, want to clean it, and this is where conflict rears its ugly head. If you go online and check out the articles regarding cleaning a vintage tool, most will tell you not to touch it, other than a wipe down with mineral spirits or the like. This category of collecting is like any other category; the more it is in original condition, the more it is worth. I have this dilemma with antique furniture as well, and from my perspective, it boils down to what you are willing to live with. I own a beautiful sideboard from the Art Deco period that is made with serious quality and craftsmanship, built from solid mahogany. When I bought it years ago, for a song I might add, it had some stains and markings on its top left by some klutz who owned it before me. I do not care how magical the piece, if it looks like it shouldn’t, I’m not going to live with it, so I stripped and refinished it in a New York minute. Actually, I did this twice as I unknowingly stained it darker than I should have the first time, and realizing my mistake, did it again. Is this sideboard not worth as much now as it could be? Absolutely. Am I happier with it now than I would be if I had left it alone? Absolutely.

Unless someone can convince me otherwise, I have a feeling that the moment I receive this plane, it is going to be dunked in pot of Evapo-Rust that Lee Valley sells just for this purpose.