Thursday 30 December 2010

Never Take A Coin At Face Value...

The image below is of a pretty beaten up coin that is actually a French 10 Centimes bronze coin from 1855. The unidentifiable imprint on it is an eagle with his head turned to the right while it clutches a quiver of arrows. The inscription, “Empire Francais Dix Centimes” that is embossed around the circumference translates as, “French Empire Ten Cents”.

Based on the condition as seen here, the value of this 145-year-old coin is about a buck.

The value of this coin, however, is based on which side you look at. Flip it over and its value shoots up 10,000% because stamped into the face of this coin is; “Mitchell, Saw Maker, Brighton”.

So what was ol’ Henry up to defacing Emperor Napoleon the III’s coins?

He was creating a “coupon”.

While throughout history, men have been putting one stamp or another in coins, during the latter half of the 19th century, this practice became a very common practice in commerce.

While the basis of offset printing was invented by Gutenberg way back in 1452, it was an extremely labour-intensive process, as was the paper that was printed. These two facts conspired to cause printing for basic advertising to be beyond the financial grasp of the average shop owner. While the Linotype machine was invented in 1886, it did not come into widespread use until the beginning of the 20th century.

The Linotype machine was a pretty fascinating piece of work, for those of you that are interested in machinery.  Using a keyboard, the “Compositor” would punch in the text. The machine would then use that information to assemble a line of text using molds of each letter, called “matrices”, setting them side by side as needed.  The machine would then cast that mold into a “slug”, which was one line of set text. It then assembled the slugs in the “galley”, assembling them in the required order so as to define the story. When the printing was completed, the slugs were melted down and the material used again for the next run.

Added to this labour saver was the cost cutting in the manufacturing of paper, switching from the standard practice of using linen fiber to using wood pulp.

So all of this helped reduce the cost of printing at the beginning of the 20th century, but that didn’t help poor ol’ Henry back in about 1870. In his shop on North Street in Brighton, he was producing everything from ultimate braces to saws, but remember, this was the latter half of the 19th century. One of his complex molding planes with a single blade would sell for less than 75 cents. To bring up his volume so he could purchase stock at better prices, Henry had to advertise.

Like many small businesses at the time, Henry turned to “Counterstamping” coins. Because it was against the law to deface the British currency, Henry brought in hundreds of 10centimes coins from France and beat the hell out of those. He then handed them out as change to put them back into circulation in the hopes that they would find their way to someone in need of a joining tool. When the coins were presented to Henry back at the shop, he would give the bearer credit for the value of the coin, worth about 3 British pennies. By today's standards, given the price of hand-made wood planes, that would equal a $30 to $45 discount, not a value to sneeze at.

I purchased this coin from Rich Hartzog who operates World Exonumia, a dealer in historical coins, medals and tokens. It is purported to have once been a part of Dr. Gregory G. Brunk’s collection, Dr. Bunk being a noted authority on counterstamped coins. Mr. Hartzog has published some of Dr. Brunk’s books on counterstamped coins and is currently assembling the second update of Brunk’s title, “Merchant and Privately Countermarked Coins”. From the research I have done, I do not believe there are too many of ol’ Henry’s French francs left.

While there is the acceptance that this coin has two values; one as a French 10centimes coin and the other as a Merchant’s form of advertising, I am hoping there is a third value to it now. Adding it to my small but growing collection of H.E. Mitchell planes and I am hoping it might have just increased the value of the whole lot by more than the value of the coin. That was the rational behind its purchase, but only time will tell if it is a workable one.

Profitable or not, I have spent a number of enjoyable hours this week researching the history of these coins and in doing so, I learned a bit more about ol’ Henry Mitchell. He was obviously a bit of a hustler.



Tuesday 28 December 2010

My Wife's Christmas Gift...

How many kind, considerate, loving husbands give their wives a plant stand end for Christmas?

I bet not many.

I know. What the hell is a plant stand end?

Its this...

...hey, at least I didn't put a bow on it.

Ok, I didn't get my wife's plant shelving unit done for Christmas. I'll admit that I didn't get as much done as I should have. All right. I'll be honest. I didn't get as much done as I could have, but it is coming together. Honest.

This is my first shot at building a frame and panel piece by hand. As with all the past projects I have done in this manner, I'm shocked at the time and labor that goes into it. Man, hand tools are a lot of work.

I have three plow planes; the Mitchell woodie, a Stanley 50 and a Veritas Small Plow. I didn't bother with the woodie because I don't want to mess it up any more than it is. I tried the Stanley, but found it heavy and difficult to push, so I ended up using the lightest plow out of the bunch, the Veritas. This surprised me because everyone says that the heavier the plane, the better the going, but I didn't find that at all.

I plowed out 1/4" rabbets along the entire length of five 1" by 4" by 6' pieces of oak, the fifth one plowing out both edges. I then cut this last one up into 8 - 4 3/4" and 2 - 13" lengths. Using a rip dovetail saw, because I didn't think I would ever need a tenon saw, I cut the tenons on both ends of these 10 pieces.

I then did something I have never done before. Where the plans call for overlaid trim, I made up poplar spacers. I have always not bothered with secondary woods in builds like this, but I guess the possibility of easier going with the plow made me get cheap with the oak this time. There are three of these fillers along the height of this side piece, one at each end and one at the step where the cupboard section steps back to the shelving section. In truth, the poplar was a tad easier to work with than the oak.

The very bottom panel is a glue-up of three 6" pieces of 1/4" oak and the other three are single pieces. As it turns out, Home Depot sells 4' lengths of oak in multiple thicknesses. At 12 bucks a pop for 6" widths, it ain't cheap, but I'm still not ready to take on dimensioning lumber by hand yet. 

So I have one side complete and the other almost ready for glue-up. All of the shelves are also glued up and ready for beading.

While much slower than I expected, I am getting there and should be ready for assembly by the middle of next week. 

So how was my wife's reaction to just getting an end for Christmas? Well, I don't think she was as happy with it as she was with the mink coat I gave her a few years ago. Then again, these things tend to loose something when you have to explain what it is.



Saturday 18 December 2010

Having An Imaginary Donnybrook With My Old Man...

If the old man were around today, we would be having one of those discussions that used to cause my mother and sister to hide in the kitchen wringing their hands in anticipation of the inevitable fight.

I was always into building things but my problem was, as I have admitted in the past, I was a rotten little kid who had the focus of a tsetse fly. What limited focus I did have was all used up by the time I figured out how to build whatever it was that I wanted to make. There just wasn’t anything left over when it came time to use the tools properly, or put them away once the task was done. The result was a lot of my old man’s tools got destroyed between the time I was old enough to hold a screwdriver and my teens.

My dad was a walking contradiction, being about as inconsistent as you can get in just about everything he did. When I ruined a tool of his, he would give me a cuff, call me about every expletive you could imagine and threaten to “lock these &$!@? tools up under lock and key and you’ll be an old man with a long white beard before you ever see them again” (just a note; I am not that old right now, but I definitely have a white beard). He never did do what he threatened to do, though. There was never a time in my life when my old man said, “like hell”, when I wanted to use one of this tools. He made that “like hell” statement with just about everything else he owned when it came to me, but never once in regards to his tools. In truth, he encouraged me to use them, explaining when and how to use each one with patience that was quite beyond me.

All of that said, he also never missed an opportunity to remind me of each and every item in his toolbox that got caught in the swath of my destructive ways. If the job at hand required a particular tool that was no longer pristine, or gone altogether, he was very quick to point out the shortcomings of our tool repertoire and notably pointed about why we were short the article in question. Hell, in truth, we didn’t even have to be working on something together for him to bring up the topic.

He was around the age I am now when his health started to seriously nose-dive. I got a call one day telling me to get my butt home as the doctors didn’t think he would make it through the night. I drove the 120 miles in about an hour and spent that night sitting beside him, literally holding his hand so he would know he wasn’t alone. I don’t know if he was in a coma, or drugged stupor, but he only opened his eyes once that night. When his eyes did open, he looked at me, smiled, and quickly drifted back to wherever he was before.

He pulled through that night and was home within the week, but that night changed our relationship. I guess we both finally realized what we meant to each other because not only did we finally become father and son, but we became good friends. Before this I would venture home to visit my mother when I knew he wasn’t around. After, I tried to make it home at least once a week, if not twice, just so I could spend some time with him. In the summer, we would sit out on his front porch drinking a beer or two, talking about whatever came to mind, or not talking at all, both of us understanding our inabilities at making small talk. Sadly, he only lived for another five years after this, but I can’t tell you how thankful I am for those short five years. They made up for a lifetime of mistakes.

There are two reasons for writing this tearjerker tonight. First, it is coming on Christmas and in our house, my father was Christmas. He would start fussing about it at the beginning of November and would go completely overboard in his preparations for his grandchildren, who meant everything to him. Although I married into a Jewish family, it is not my wife’s religion that causes me to no longer celebrate Christmas. I gave it all up a year after the old man died because Christmas just wasn’t Christmas any longer without him.

The second reason for bringing all of this up is because it was during one of these visits with him, one of those afternoons that found us sitting on his porch, beer in hand, that he raised the subject of his Stanley No.150 Miter Box. Remembering this particular conversation this week, I can’t remember what conclusion I came to for him bringing it up after forty years or so. I just don’t know if he was still pissed with me for leaving it out in the rain all that time after the fact, or if he was just using it to give me a “shot”. The old man had a warped sense of humor, something I inherited. He also lacked the filter which removed the contaminants in the thoughts that came out of his brain before they became words escaping his mouth, another trait I possess thanks to that crap shoot we call the gene pool. It took me a lifetime, but back then I had finally learned that these “shots” were his idea of fun and he didn’t voice them with maliciousness in mind. Because of this, I’m not even sure if I even wondered why he brought it up at that time.

Intentional or not, that conversation hit the mark. I was always conscious of running those tools and once I got the hand tool bug, I made a point of replacing each and every one with the best example I could find. Too late for him but at least I know I eventually set the record straight. The Stanley 150 was replaced with new/old stock almost 50 years after the day it got ruined. It started to rain in the middle of a "hotrod" build and I had it together enough to put everything else away, including the back saw, but for some reason, that miter box got left outside for about five or six days, if memory serves me correctly.

That conversation did come up front and center this week, though. That shot at me for buggering up that tool came back to mind like he spoke it only yesterday. So what was the trigger for all of this? That conversation came to mind because I realized this week just what a piece of junk the tool in question really is.

I have been working on a design for a shooting board with a dedicated plane for over a year now. My workload has been horrendous these past few years, so time for woodworking has been very limited. In dribbles and drabs, I finally got to complete a half scale prototype of it last month. There are a number of mechanical metal parts to this design, parts that are not available off the shelf. To ensure their quality and reliability, I approached Raney Nelson of Daed Tool Works last year to see if he would mill the parts, which he agreed to do – if the design worked. The prototype was mainly for him. I say, “was”, because as I was packing it up to ship to him, I realized that what I had produced was just plain embarrassing. Raney is the guy who cuts dovetails in steel for plane parts and assembles them without being able to see a sliver of light between them. What I was about to send him had joints that you could drive a truck through.

I had some issues when I assembled all 18 pieces but I didn’t think it was that bad. I was even pretty proud of it the few times I used it to check its functionality.  Sitting upside down in the packing box, though, it seemed to me that all the crooked joints were actually growing worse the longer I looked at it. I ended up just closing the lid and setting it aside. God, it was pitiful.

Knowing what I had used to cut it, I mounted the Stanley 150 in the vice and started to do some test cuts. What I discovered was that I couldn’t place the teeth of the blade in the same place twice. The pressure plates on the arm that controls the saws vertical angle wouldn’t hold the blade consistently plumb so there was no way in hell it would cut through a board and come out the other side square to the line it started at. That’s when that conversation with my old man on his porch came to mind and I thought, “How the hell could you be upset with me for trashing that piece of crap forty years earlier when all I did was give it exactly what it deserved.” Needless to say, I was giving the old man a what-for for a considerable time afterwards.

I took the entire box apart and consider each and every piece of it. I filed off some cast burrs on a few pieces and reassembled it, paying very close attention to the tolerances. Testing it again, I found it to be better, but still no cigar. The only way I could get it to cut properly was to tighten the plate pressure on the saw blade so much that I could barely pull and push the saw to cut another test piece.

It was during this second test that I discovered another problem with the design; the bed is too short. As you cut through stock, it has a tendency to ride up on the saw blade resulting it the stock shifting one way or another, depending on the side with the greatest overhang. I was having this problem rear its ugly head while I was cutting 2’ pieces. How the hell my old man cut 8’, 10’ and 12’ moldings, I have no idea.

I removed the stock bed and replaced it with a wider and longer hunk of poplar. While I was at it, I also made some feet out of oak so it was lifted off the bench when I clamped it in and would stand a better chance of sitting square if there was some junk on the bench.

The thing is still not perfect but my second shot at cutting up the stock went much better than the first go-round. While cutting up all the pieces is a bit of labor, the worst part of it all is having to re-cut all 38 rabbets. Those are seriously labor intensive.

I’m going to replace this piece of junk with something, although I don’t know what yet. I’m sure I can find some wacky looking thing from the turn of the century that can make this thing blush. Once I do, I’ll put it back to original and put it up on the shelf and let it collect dust. It’s about all it is good for. The thing doesn’t even weigh enough to make it a good dingy anchor.

I know this thing was all the old man had and all money would allow, but damn. He made me feel so guilty for all those years because I destroyed his, but from where I stood, he should have thanked me. I do know that if me mom and sister were in the kitchen listening to me this week, they would have been damned happy the old man wasn't around any longer to hear me. It would have been one hell of a donnybrook.



Article written by Walter W. Jacob about the history of the Stanley 150 Miter Box can be found here.

Sunday 12 December 2010

Introducing a New Site...

While there is not much on it at this point in time, I have started a second blog.

Over the past year I have come to believe that wooden moulding planes are seriously cool. As a result, I have decided to dedicate some time to researching them to find out what they are all about. To this end, I started assembling a bit of a library on the subject a few months ago and leafing through them before I got down to business, I was shocked at the mass of information I'm going to have to digest. It is astonishing how such a simple tool can involve such complex properties. As such, I need a vehicle to correlate and display the information I gather for future referencing. This site is it.

Any and all are welcome to participate in this learning adventure. If you have something you wish to contribute, contribute away. If you have a question you need answered, ask away. This site is a learning site, not a teaching site and hopefully, it will be a two-way street.

Currently, I am working on line drawings that will explain the parts of a moulding plane. The main image is complete and has been posted for no other reason than I was impatient to get something up there. Over the next few days, this graphic will be completed and ready to show all of us what is what.




Friday 3 December 2010

Hyperkitten Adds More Than Another Plane To My Stash…

It is a strange thing about people who make their living from computers. When they want to take the usual coffee break or whatever, most that I know never leave their monitors. I’m the same way. When I think it is time to take a break and clear my head, I wander off into the woodworking cyber world and check out whose doing what, or who’s selling what.

During these little treks I have often visited I have found many of the projects listed there to be well documented and complete, so it is an interesting site. It was on this site that I discovered an extensive how-to for making a Frame Saw, something I am very keen on making. On a previous visit, I noticed that tool sales had been added to the site’s repertoire, but for some reason, it just didn't connect. After seeing this site mentioned in Chris Schwarz’s column, though, I decided to take a more serious look at his offerings.

I noticed he listed some wood moulding planes, but none included were examples of H.E. Mitchell, the only maker I am collecting now. As I usually do, both to see if there is a possibility the vendor has one that is not listed, plus to check out how they respond to customer inquiries, I sent off an email to the site asking two questions; did he have any examples of ol’ Henry’s planes and could he recommend a blade for the frame saw I am planning to make in the very near future using his instructions.

Knowing that the site was just listed that day in the Popular Woodworking blog, I figured the guy would be swamped with emails as no one makes or breaks a woodworking tool business faster than Schwarz, so I didn’t expect to hear back for a few days. Surprisingly, a few hours later, Josh, the site’s operator replied. Not only was he fast on the button, but he came back with a positive regarding a Mitchell plane and with information regarding the saw blade.

I jumped at the plane, even though I knew I already had one of the same profile. We struck a deal; I sent off the payment and today, the plane arrived.

In actual fact, the plane was not the same as mine, but slightly different. I still haven’t got my head around the different profiles, but both of these are sash planes that include a cove. The difference is, mine is a 1¾” with a ⅝” cove, with the designation “1”… 

…while Hyperkitten’s is designated with a “2”.
They look pretty much the same, but when I turn the images into line drawings and overlap them, the difference starts to become pretty obvious…
When the No. 2 was created, the mother plane was shifted to the left slightly. Whether this is intentional or not, I have no idea, but I am sure someone could clarify it for me.

When I compared them, I read that shifting of the cove to the left as a way of allowing for a shallower cut, giving a slightly smaller cove.  I then assumed that Sash planes came with different sized coves and the number designation was similar to Hollows and Rounds. When I mentioned this to Josh, he quickly set me straight, and I thank him for it.

Josh mentioned that the mouth of the planes should be different, one being larger than the other, and sure enough, the No. 1 plane’s mouth is 3/16” across the width of the blade. The No. 2 is a quarter of an inch across that same area. Every other measurement that I made in all the other areas of the mouths on both planes are exactly the same, and I mean exactly.

As Josh explained it to me, the wider mouth allowed for the blade to be set rank to hog off material. The narrower mouth was so the final finishing passes could be made with thinner cuts. This allowed for faster production while still maintaining quality.

When I put it all together, the No. 2 plane, with the wider mouth, is the first plane to tackle the board and then it is gone over again, once the profile has been pretty much cut, with the No. 1 to clean and smooth things up. Brilliant.

Now those that have read my posts in the past know that I am rather anal about things matching, wanting everything to not only be matched by manufacturer, but by production dates as well, and if things end up in pairs, it is a huge bonus for me.

Well solely by accident, guess what? I have a matched pair of H.E. Mitchell Sash Planes.

Brilliant. Just bloody brilliant.



Monday 29 November 2010

A Bunch Of This And That...

Black Friday/Cyber Monday

I hope you all found the fantastic deals you couldn’t refuse on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Strange, isn’t it, how terminology is adapted from one application to another, resulting in completely opposite meanings.

When I hear the term “Black Friday”, the first thing that pops to mind is that my already black and blue retirement plan just took another sh_t kicking. Instead, in this application it means that the retailers hope to be in the black part of the ledger by the end of this particular Friday, the traditional “lets get out and spend” day in the United States.

While not a thumper about it, I am quite strong on the idea of Canadians shopping in Canada, as Americans are about supporting their own economy. This year is a little different for me, though. This year I am advocating “Cross Border Shopping”. That’s right; all you Canucks should head over to your nearest state and shop your brains out.

Here’s why I say this…

I read an article in the paper the other day about a old guy who had to replace his clock radio so he went to the local Canadian Tire store, a chain that started life in automotive supply and over the past 100 years or so have spread out to carry just about everything, doing justice to none. The old man picked out a radio he could afford and went to pay for it. The price of the clock alarm was $9.95, Added to this price was the new Ontario Eco Fee, a fee for disposal at the time of sale, which added $2.75 to his bill. Then the standard “harmonized” sales tax (8% provincial and 5% federal) was added not only to the selling price of the radio, but to the eco fee as well, adding another $1.87 to his bill. This brought the total of that $10 radio to $14.56, almost 50% more than its purchase price.

All of this, to me, is just way over the top. Add it to all the other ridiculous ways our multi-levels of government here in Canada are reaching into our pockets and it becomes time to call a time-out.

Save the planet, please! I’m all for it and I’ll even help you. Doing so on the backs of some poor old guy on a fixed income, though, is beyond reasonable. I just think it is time the governments got taught a lesson.


Interesting Site

I was sent a link this morning for Yes, the name is a little out there for this day and age, isn’t it, but as the site’s owner explains, it is a play on his name that his parents gave him years ago, so it is not used to cause offense.

Ray, the owner, is seriously into woodworking and creates some amazing projects. He has made everything from a carving knife holder to  tables, desks and cabinets. It is not the projects that amazed me with this site, nor the craftsmanship that he obviously applied to each. It is the pure number of things he has created that blew me away. I have no idea how many he has displayed on this site, but whatever the tally, the number will be incredible.

Take some time and have a look around. He is extremely talented and amazingly innovative. It is worth the click.

Here is an image I lifted from his site. It is just a simple fence, but to me shows this man’s creativity. How would you like to wake up one morning and find this running along your driveway? I know I would, and I don’t even have a driveway.


Time To Make Some Sawdust

Things are slowing down for me considerably by the end of this week and I am going to have just over a month where there will be few demands on my time. To celebrate a slow work schedule for a change, I am going to get to work and enjoy myself. While the project at hand is not really my cup of tea, it will fit in with some of my wife’s other pieces and given it has been a while since I have really built anything, I'm looking forward to it.

Early this year I tried to get my wife interested in growing orchids. Not only has she become enamored with them, she is starting to try her hand at herbs and other green things. To me this is great, and to give her even more incentive, I want to make her a plant stand with grow lights.

For those of you that are not familiar with orchids outside of what you see in the florist shop, without flowers, they can be the ugliest things God ever created. When they flower, their hot. When they aren't, their not.

I should explain why the design of this thing is not something I would choose to build or buy. Shortly after my wife and I were married, my wife asked me to take her to an antique show which I agreed to do, but only if she agreed to leave her wallet at home. We attended that event as, surprisingly, she agreed to my terms, but what did I know at the time, I had just married the woman. Walking the aisles she came across a craftsmen styled sideboard which she wanted. I'm huge on the Craftsman architectural style but not enamored at all with the furniture style. Knowing that she didn't have her wallet, I figured why upset the apple cart. I told her that if she could figure out a way to pay for it, she could buy it. Man, I was so naive back then. I went off to look around some more and left her to her quandary.

When we hooked up again, nothing was said and we wandered around the show some more and did a little window shopping afterwards, as well. When we pulled into the driveway that evening, there was a rather large truck parked in it. It was the dealer delivering her Craftsman styled sideboard. The way she settled the problem of not having her wallet was to tell the dealer that when he delivered it that evening, her husband would cut him a cheque.

So this almost-Craftsman styled, solid oak monstrosity will sit in the diningroom. Even though it stands 6' 4" in height, there is only enough height for three shelves. This is because of the 4" facings along the underside of each shelf to hid the florescent grow lights. I will be 5' wide, though, so hopefully it will have enough shelf space to hold all her green-thumb endeavors. I included four doors across the bottom to give her some hidden storage for dirt, pots, watering cans and other sundry items.

I hope she will enjoy using it as much as I am going to enjoy building it. I started doing the glue-ups today, and here is what the end result should look like…



Friday 29 October 2010

Sorry, I Don't Do Windows...

I caught a Stanley No. 10½ a few weeks ago from Jim Bode Tools. It is an "S" cast, probably manufactured around 1900, so it fits with the rest of the planes I have. It has the adjustable throat, about 85 to 90% of its japanning, the "Q" blade (now that I know what that is), and is in pretty nice shape, overall.

So the series is filling in slowly as now I have a 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10½, 48, 49, 66, 71 and 72, most sporting the "S" casts, all possibly produced between 1899 and 1902. I have a 4, 7 and 78 as well, but they are all Type 18's, purchased by my old man in the late 1940's. I will keep these for sentimental reasons, but I will add the same numbers to the older set. There are a few that I won't purchase, come hell or high water, though. The infamous No.1 is one of them, as I would never use it, not to mention I think it is way overpriced.

Once the plane set is complete, I'll do the same for saws. While I have a fair set now, there are a few I would like to add.

The joys of tool collection and being anal enough to want them all to be from the same time period. Go figure.

So here is the 10½ the day it arrived...

Here is the same shot of it after I got through cleaning and waxing it...

I stripped it down and placed it in a bath of Lee Valley's "Evapo-rust". This stuff stinks, but it is a non-acid and non-toxic and requires no work at all. I left the whole lot in the bath for 36 hours, pulled them out, wiped them off and gave them a coat of Minwax's Paste Finishing Wax. The wax is applied with #00 steel wool on the japanned parts and #1 steel wool on the raw metal, followed by more using the #00. The tote and knob are wiped down with 90% alcohol, then given multiple coats of the Minwax using #000 steel wool. I still have to check the sole for flatness and if it is out more than slightly, I'll flatten it, and I also have to sharpen and polish the back of the blade.

This process probably makes any die-hard collector cry and no doubt, costs me a few bucks in lost value, but what good is a tool if it isn't in pristine working order? I can't, for the life of me, figure out why 100 years of crud and abuse makes a tool worth more. It may, in fact, have a higher value, but not to me.



Thursday 21 October 2010

Its Nice To Have a Little Pot Around the Shop...

When time becomes a commodity that is easy to come by, I hope to have everything I will ever need to while away the hours making little pieces of wood out of big ones. Hopefully, some of those little pieces will be usable as veneer.

There was a time when I thought only cheap furniture was made using veneer. Amazing what you learn when you read a book.

So now veneering is right up there on the top of my list and to facilitate it, I have been looking for vintage tools and toys of that trade. My first purchase was a disaster; the French saw that turned out to be a trim saw, but hopefully I have done right by this latest purchase.

I have no idea when this glue pot was produced, but I sure like the look of it. I have been looking for a glue pot for some time now, ever since receiving my copy of Stephen Shepherd's book, "Hide Glue, Historical and Practical Applications". I have seen a number of traditional styled pots come and go on the market, but I wanted something a bit unusual. Finally one came up on

This was the first one I came across that was made of brass, all three pieces in fact. The outer pot reminds me of the bottom of an artillery shell, and weighs about as much. The inner pot is about half its weight with one small steam hole and the lid is just pressed sheet. Its only marking is "W. Pehrson", a producer whose name does not come up on the internet.

As we said back in the 60's - "Good stuff!" (ok, we didn't actually say "stuff", but you get the idea)



Additional Comments added October 22 at 10:45 a.m.

Waking up this morning to PeteW's comment about this glue pot, I clicked on his link and checked out the very same item listed in one of MJD Tools' auctions. They had it listed with another brass item as... 

"Two Unusual Desktop Items including a brass inkwell holder by W. Pearson".

My God! Did I screw up AGAIN??????

Here is an enhanced photo of the mark...

I took this out of a shot I took of it through a loop...

The mark is definitely "W. Pehrson".

I'm no expert on inkwell holders, but I can think of no reason to manufacture an inkwell holder that has the inner pot much smaller than the outer...

Nor can I think of any reason why they would put a carrying handle on an inkwell holder or include a vent hole in the top of it...

Now I admit that logic has failed me before with calculating what a tool is or does, so I did a search of "Inkwell Holders" on Google. An "Inkwell" is "a small well holding writing ink into which a pen can be dipped". Trying to come up with an as clear definition for an "Inkwell Holder", however, was a different story. The best definition is "a hole to hold an inkwell", but there are many sales listings for these things that call the decorative base that has a hole in it to hold an inkwell an "inkwell holder", although I surmise by the very few articles on the subject that I found that this is an incorrect use of the term.

As a result of no factual information about this manufacturer or this item, I am only left with logic.

  • There is a half inch of space all around the inner pot which would be perfect for holding heated water.
  • There is the hole in the top of the inner pot aligned with that space that would be perfect for letting off steam.
  • There is a handle attached to the inner pot which would make removing it easy to top-up the water bath when it runs dry and through its use, would make it unnecessary for the user to touch the heated base.
  • Brass is the third most conductive metal for heat available.
  • If it isn't a glue pot, it sure as hell is one now!

    I truly appreciate any and all comments on this blog. Sharing information and helping each other, to me, should be as natural as falling off a log. I don't understand those that see an area where a few typed words would help another individual but they don't bother for whatever reason.

    Just don't scare the hell out of me first thing in the morning when you do :o)
    (That was a joke, PeteW. I do appreciate you bringing that listing to my attention and please, keep commenting)



    Friday 15 October 2010

    Simple Solution...

    I'm still messing with these new window sills. It is a stupid little job that involves a little ingenuity to overcome past poor workmanship.

    I had to make the stool for one window run out of two pieces of oak and when I did a dry fit, I found they didn't line up across their surface. I cut them to hit a high spot, but the twist in the top plate did me in. Keeping the front in line with each other was easy as I am adding a 1 x 2 to the bottom front edge to give the sill a thicker appearance. The problem was the back of the joint.

    The easiest solution was to add a piece to the back of the stool. The problem was, I no longer own a router and I had never done something like this by hand.

    I ended up using my Veratis Small Plow Plane, adjusting the depth of the blade down with each stroke to cut deeper each time. I then cleaned it up with a chisel and laid in a piece of pine, planing it down flush when the glue dried. I didn't even bother to try to square up the ends. Instead, I just curved them so it wouldn't look like a dog's breakfast.

    It worked, but it was a bit of a female dog to do. I think there must be an easier and more accurate way to do blind rabbet like this, so again, if anyone has any direction they can give me with this, it would be greatly appreciated.

    The learning curve with handtools is unbelievable.



    Wednesday 13 October 2010

    Who the Devil is H. Lyons...

    Another plane has been added to my H. E. Mitchell plane collection, this one being a small plow and one with a new twist. On this example, poor ol’ Henry’s stamp has been over-stamped with one for “H. Lyons” of 15 Nurse Street, although no city is included.

    Goodman’s, British Planemakers from the 1700’s has a listing for a “D. Lyons” who made planes from 1873 to 1877, but no listing at all for an “H” Lyons. I have a feeling he was a dealer, not a maker, and for some reason, thought putting his stamp on top of the makers stamp was acceptable.

    If any of you have run across this situation on one of your planes, or have any information on Mr. H. Lyons, I would appreciate hearing from you.

    While I am asking for help here, I will add that I am trying to put together a list of common British and American plane profiles along with their common widths from the 1700’s to today. This has, surprisingly, turned out to be a difficult task. I can’t believe that I am the first person to ever think such a list might be interesting, but finding any previous lists has eluded me. Whatever information I do come up with will be posted on the web for anyone who is interested, so whatever information you can offer would be greatly appreciated.



    Sunday 10 October 2010

    Irony (ī′rə nē, ī′ər nē)...

    noun pl. ironies -·nies 

    A combination of circumstances or a result that is the opposite of what is or might be expected or considered appropriate

    If you recognize the saw in the above image, you will appreciate that it is the saw that was the subject of some hub-bub I caused while writing about it a short while ago.

    I had done some research before buying it and all that research stated it was a Veneer Saw. At 19" in length, a number of major dealers and other authorities felt that it was manufactured for cutting large sheets.

    The day this saw was delivered to me, Lee Valley's July Newsletter showed up in my InBox and surprisingly, their "What Is It" article featured a perfect match to my new saw. Written by D.S. Orr, the article basically stated that there were a number of suggested uses for this saw, but cutting veneer wasn't one of them.

    I was perplexed. Not only had I purchased it as a veneer saw, I had also just paid Daryl Weir to retooth this saw as a traditional French veneer saw. I went into research mode and ended up talking to one of the most respected marqueteur and 18th century furniture restorer in North America, W. Patrick Edwards. He informed me that the saw was a trim saw for use with a mitre jack, and writing about it, I got carried away and ended up inadvertently being pretty insulting to Mr. Orr.

    To explain one more time, I had no idea who Mr. Orr was at the time, I had tried to contact him about it but didn't hear back and I couldn't find anything about him while doing extensive searches on the internet. Because of all of this, I stated I couldn't put weight on what his article stated simply because I just didn't know who he was.

    Man, did I end up eating crow. Doug Orr is one of Canada's leading vintage tool authorities. He has contributed to a number of worthy publications and his opinions on all things in the vintage tool area is highly respected. It also turned out that he is a hell of a nice guy and I had already done business with him the previous year. I have also learned that Mr. Orr works at not being known, hence the reason I could not find out anything about him on the web.

    Which brings me to starting this post with a quote from, defining the meaning of "Irony".

    Mr. Orr is one of the individuals behind the Tools of the Trades Show that is held bi-yearly in Pickering, Ontario, Canada in conjunction with the Tool Group of Canada. This show not only draws a fair crowd of collectors, it also boasts an impressive roster of dealers. Even Live Free or Die Auctions of Martin J. Donnelly Antique Tools fame has a booth at each event. I had met D.S. Orr about 8 months before writing this article when I purchased a couple  of wood molding planes from his booth, one of them the H.E. Mitchell ogee that I wrote about in the previous post.

    I headed straight to his booth the moment I walked through the door for two reasons; to face my medicine, and to see if he had turned up any more Mitchell planes. He was gracious, funny and helpful. We talked about the article, his; not mine, thank God, and he mentioned that he had turned up more research to support his argument because, while I do not believe the saw was originally designed as a stair or floor saw as his article stated, he does not believe it was used as a trim saw either.

    Are you catching the irony of all of this?

    It would be ironic enough that the large Mitre Jack that is in the image that accompanies the "Scie a Recaler Boite a Recaler", a Trim Saw for use with a Mitre Jack, was purchased at that Tools of the Trade show, but I'm not done yet.

    Yup, it was purchased from D.S. Orr.

    Not only was he very gracious about my purchase, he even gave me a discount to boot.

    Now that is a gentleman.

    And that is also a textbook definition of "Irony".



    Friday 8 October 2010

    Getting Silly...

    Strange stuff this working with hand tools. Coming from a power tool background, like most, I am used to banging off most jobs in a few short hours. Switch over to hand tools and the same job takes days.

    The condo corp decided it was time to change some windows. The crew ripped out the old and popped in the new and did a relatively good job of it. The one thing they didn’t do is replace the inside sills. That would be an improvement of a private residence, and they are not paying for that, so I got stuck with the job.

    The original sills were just drywall, prone to the usual cracks, shrinkage and other sundry ailments of plaster in an inconsistent environment. I decided to make the change to oak, now that the opportunity arose.

    The last house I built had oversized trim from crown to floor, which was v-groove and pegged, all in oak, and all stained ebony. This ran throughout the entire first floor. Within five years I hated it, but it cost so damned much, I couldn’t bare to rip it down. It may have been the dark stain that I tired of so quickly, but I think it was more the dark slashes and flecks that makes up the harsh grain in oak that got to me the most. That said, this time around only the sills are being done and they will only be varnished.

    In my power tool days, lumber was only purchased rough and I would dress it on the jointer and planer. No longer having those tools available to me, I hefted my trusty Stanley No.5, then put it away and headed off to Home Depot to check out the prices. To say I was shocked at what I discovered would be an understatement. Not only was the pricing beyond ridiculous; the wood was junk; warped, twisted, full of knots and good only for firewood. After some hustling, I got a fantastic deal on some great oak, which is now stacked in my livingroom. All I could get was 1” dressed and window aprons were out of the question so I grabbed some 1 x 2, 1 x 4 and 1 x 6.

    Today I put together a shorter section to make sure what I had in my head would work attached to the wall.

    Stanley No.8 Type 8

    I cut a 1 x 6 to length and ran my new No.8 over it to make sure it was flat. I did the same to a length of 1 x 2, and when I figured they would match up tight, I glued them together to make the edge appear to be 6/8 stock.

    Once glued, I set the Stanley 72 to an eighth and chamfered the lower-front edge, then set it to three-eights and did the same to the top edge.

    While this structure is the typical metal studding found in high rises, the single top-plate looks more like a roller coaster track than the base of a window opening. Not only does it rise and fall, but it twists like crazy as well. There is not enough height to add a piece to it to straighten it out so my only choice is to fix the apron solid to the sill and use it as the main connection surface. I’ll just shim the back of it every three feet or so and glue the whole lot in with construction adhesive.

    As I could only get 1 x 4 to use for the apron, I had to treat the lower edge and I had just the ticket for this. Last fall, while at the Tools of the Trade show just east of Toronto, I purchased a molding plane from D.S. Orr, yes, the same D.S. Orr that I posted about so disparagingly a couple of months ago. I didn’t know who he was until I spoke to him after those posts. Anyway, H.E. Mitchell made this plane, which is why I bought it. He is really a relatively unknown maker from Brighton, England who operated a shop there in the later half of the 1800’s. I think he is possibly a cousin of my great, great grandfather, and because of that, his wood planes are the only ones I will purchase now. Don’t tell my wife, but I picked up one of his plow planes on eBay the other day. Great stuff!

    So with a 1 ½" wood molding plane in my hands, I tackled a 4' piece of oak, cutting a ogee along one edge. A half hour later, I was soaked with sweat, but I had a beautiful edge on that board. Its no wonder men only lived until they were about forty-five or so during the last century. Doing something like this day in and day out would kill ya real quick.

    After gluing and pocket screwing the apron to the stool (don’t look at that word like that, stool is the correct name for it), I ran over the lot with a scraper card and plopped it into place to check the fit.

    I then quit for the day.



    Tuesday 28 September 2010

    Is that a big plane you have there, or are you just glad to see me...

    In my never ending quest to spend my son's entire inheritance, one of my latest additions to the collection is a Stanley No.8 Type 8.

    It is funny how you learn things in this collecting game.

    I got an email from Jim Bode of saying;
    hey mitchell,
    picked up an awesome no.8 type 8. it is near perfect with very light pitting on the right side any a tiny check on the front knob. q logo iron has an inch to the slot. japanning is glossy and 97%. all original parts.

    I bought it simply because Jim told me to, (there's trust for you, eh?) but not before replying; "Ok, what the hell is a "q logo iron" and what do you mean, "has an inch to the slot"? The rest I understood.

    So Jim patiently replied to my queries and my knowledge of all things Stanley grew a tad more.

    A "Q Logo" iron is one stamped with the 1892 patent date. How you get a Q out of 1892 I'll never know.

    As it turns out, "An inch to the slot" is a little easier to comprehend. What Jim meant was, the distance between the slot that is cut into the blade so it will travel on the cap iron screw and the working end of the blade is one inch, meaning I can hone away that much material before the blade is garbage. 

    Once that was explained, another question popped into my head:

    How many times do you have to sharpen a plane blade to wear away 2 1/2" of steel?



    Tuesday 21 September 2010

    Good Things Come To Those Who.....Oh, Hell - I Got It! I Got It!...

    As my old man used to say, "Gotca', ya bugger!"

    Those words usually meant I was in for it, but not this time. This time, its a good thing.

    After over ten months of endless solid main gears, I finally found one...

    Just about every day for ten months found me doing searches for a Stanley 624 drill on eBay,, and every other site I have bookmarked. Just about every day for ten months all I found were solid main gear examples which were far too new for my collection.

    Finally, one stared me in the face. I was so used to not finding one that I continued on before the nickel dropped that I had just seen what I had been looking for. I actually had to backtrack to bring it up.

    With most of its original paint intact, nothing broken and not even really dirty, from my perspective, it is a fairly decent example of what I consider to be a relatively rare tool. There may be a number of them out there, but they are definitely not for sale. I have no idea how old it is or what it is worth, other than what I paid for it, but to me, its worth at least ten months of work.

    I figured when I finally found one, it wouldn't come cheap as, after all, when demand outstrips supply, the price rises. As I got this one for 17 bucks and I was the only bidder, I figure the demand in all the world for one of these was yours truly, so that wiped out the demand/supply theory.

    It is missing its side handle, but it just so happens I have one. Not mentioned in the listing were the three original bits that were stashed in the handle. The cap was turned on pretty tight so I doubt the seller even knew they were there. I'll get in touch with Jim soon to see if he can come up with the complete set for me.

    In truth, when I opened the box and held it in my greedy little hands, I quickly realized why there are not many of these old eggbeaters around. I had read somewhere that the spoke gear was pretty fragile, compared to the Miller Falls and Goodall/Pratt. So fragile, in fact, that most were broken. They were not kidding. This was not one of Stanley's better designs.

    When I get this one cleaned up and I get the Miller Falls back from where Mr. Kuc is working his magic on it, I'll shoot some photos so you can see the difference. There is some serious metal missing from this Stanley.

    That's ok, though. I like rooting for the underdog, literally.



    Monday 30 August 2010

    One More Bench And I'll Scream...

    When Christopher Schwarz started to build his recent Roubo workbench, I thought he was nuts. I appreciated it, because I have been mulling over the bench I want to build for a couple of years now, but I still thought he was nuts. Realistically, the guy has enough workbenches to fill a barn, yet here he was, building yet another one.

    What didn't dawn on me at the time, but has caught up with me since, is the fact that Chris has a sixth sense when it comes to the average woodworking hobbyist's quest for knowledge. If you think this is a bit of an overstatement, check out the flood of new posts on the web about benches, many added since Chris started his latest example. It is what I call, "the Schwarz bench tsunami".

    Could I read one more post about the world's most perfect workbench?

    Absolutely not!

    Could I write one?

    You bet!

    Here's the thing, my shooting board is coming together nicely. I have almost completed the prototype for the fence adjustment which I think is pretty cool, and it should be in the mail to DAEDWoRKs sometime this week. I have asked Raney to turn the final version for me, although I think he is a little skeptical that it will work. Now that I have a working model to prove he won't be wasting his time, I am hoping we can come to an agreement for its creation. Raney does amazing work with metal, his planes being what I consider to be hands above many of the others. If I can get him to agree to build it, I know his contribution to the board will make it incredibly special.

    As I now have a handle on the project at hand, I can now start to think about the next one. I have chosen to build a workbench for three reasons. The first is the most obvious, you can only work without one for so long before you start to go batty. The second reason is because of the current project. This shooting board will probably become my most used tool, but with an overall size of 30" wide by 38" deep, it is a huge sucker. It is designed to mount on its own stand, but until residences change, room for that to happen will have to wait so it, at least, needs a bench to sit on. Finally, I have been going through the processes of what I want in a workbench for at least three years now, so it is about time.

    The result of all of this is...

    If working on a folding WorkMate these past few years has taught me nothing, at least I have learned that no matter what, a bench needs weight. My planes and I have chased that little sucker around the room long enough, thank you very much. But how do you add weight when you don't want a huge bench? Not to mention not wanting to break the bank?

    My first idea was to add storage for tools under the bench. I would think that is the quickest and most economical way to add some serious weight to anything; fill it up with what you already have. I threw this idea out the window in a heartbeat, mainly because of a bench my old man and I built years ago.

    The old man got this brainwave that searching for fasteners was a waste of time, especially if you could have them right were you need them - at the bench. He came up with this design for a bunch of bins along the bench front, and when we were done building it, we had a bench with three rows of eight bins, each of which tipped out to reveal what they contained. Needed a #8 by 1 1/2 screw? No problem; middle row, forth bin from the left. It really was an ingenious system, except for one thing; every time you reached in one of those bins for a screw, nail or dowel, you came up with a hand full of sawdust and shavings. Because the bins didn't seal, every bit of trash produced on top of the bench ended up in them.

    I learned very quickly to hate any bench that wasn't open to the floor as you just couldn't keep them clean. My old shop had two benches and not only were both open to the floor, but their stretchers were placed a foot off the floor so I could get the ShopVac head in to clean underneath them properly. There is nothing worse than dust-catchers in a shop.

    After selling the house and moving on the boat, I inherited a whopping big bench that someone had left in the yard years earlier and it had the same arrangement; a top, four legs and four stretchers. It was a great big old thing that had sat out in that yard for years and was so full of moisture that it would never dry out, but man, it weighed a ton.

    I then ended up sharing a shop with a friend. He had built his benches with a shelf under each to store everything from tools to garden paraphernalia. What a mess. You just couldn't keep anything clean, no to mention find anything.

    Hence, storage under a bench was definitely out, or was it?

    A month or so ago I was doing some cooking in the kitchen and grabbed a knife from the drawer. When I hit the drawer face with my hip to close it, the nickel dropped.

    When I put this kitchen together, I used self-closing slides for all the drawers. Checking out the Valley site, I discovered that they sold dampeners for spring loaded doors as well. If the drawers and doors can't stay open, and they have a relatively good seal when closed, I can store tools under a bench and not have to worry about the drawers and cupboards filling up with bench top waste.

    Sounds like a plan to me.