Sunday 28 February 2010

Wooden Mechanicals...

While I have started building my "be-all and end-all" Shooting Board, I haven't fully settled on the design as yet.

Yes, I know. It is a bit arse-backwards, isn't it?

The board needs a secure stay to hold the board at 4˚ angle so I went online this morning to see if I could come up with some help in designing one out of wood. While I wasn't successful with this particular quest, I did come across some interesting postings under the search, "Wooden Mechanisms".

Here are a couple that I found most noteworthy...

The first example blew me away so much I followed the link to the creator's website where things just got more impressive by the click. Here's his site link...



Saturday 20 February 2010

I Saw The Light...

I started in woodworking when I was about 8, getting involved with my old man’s builds just so I could spend some time with him. By the time I was about 14 he had me trained and capable enough to do every dirty job that ever came up so he wouldn’t have to. If there was a need to anchor a hunk of wood or throw down a chunk of pink fiberglass insulation in a tiny little spot some where way off in the most desolate corner of the attic under the lowest eves in the entire house, I was my old man’s man for the job.

While it is the jobs that had me crawling on my hands and knees through that damned itchy pink crap that I remember the most, the reality is that he also taught me the good stuff too. I might not have been the brightest bulb on the tree, but his teachings about how to get the most out of a tablesaw allowed me to show my 8th grade shop teacher a thing or two about getting almost finished surfaces while dimensioning lumber.

This is not to say he didn’t give me any instruction regarding working with hand tools, because he did. Sadly, that instruction was only preliminary because old pop thought the days for hand tools were seriously numbered. While I can’t believe I’m going to use this term, and God help me for it, but for you younger guys, you have to understand that “back in those days’” power tools were just getting popular as better manufacturing processes and higher volumes started to bring their prices down so the masses could afford them. As a result, what Stanley did for hand tools back in the 10’s and 20’s, companies like Skil did for power tools in the 50’s and 60’s and when it came to them, my old man was at the front of the crowd.

There were a number of times I had to use a handsaw back then, cutting trim and the like, and I used to hate it. If I had a nickel for every cuff I got, followed by a gruff, “Let the damned saw do the work. You just guide it”, I’d be a rich man today. Of course if I had to pay a nickel for every, “I am letting it do the damned work”, answer that I gave, I have to give it all back again.

I hated handsaws. I don’t know what it was about them, maybe a hand/eye thing, but “cutting to the line” wasn’t in my repertoire. I’d have my tongue gnashed between my teeth, my finger pointing where I wanted to go, my driving shoulder directly over the stock, my drive elbow in line with the saw and my arm swinging back and forth in straight line sweeps and I would still watch in horror as that damned, stupid saw would start to track off one way or another on its own. Worse, I’d get through the cut, survive the old man’s cuffs and end up with an edge that looked like it had be whacked out with a hatchet, rather than pop’s prized Disston panel saw. If I was close to the line on the top, I was way off of it on the bottom, or visa versa.

When I was forced to give up the power tools and start working solely with hand tools the first ones I added to my collection were saws, thinking that if I had an array of them, I might stand a better chance creating successful cuts with them. In truth, I found that over the years I hadn’t got any better, and while I thought I had everything under control, “Let the damned saw do the work” was, and is, constantly ringing in my ears every time I pick one up.

To tell you the truth, I always thought that was about as stupid a direction as anything I ever heard before or since. I mean, come on; the saw doesn’t go up and down on its own. If I don’t use the physical force to do it, there is no way that board is going to get cut.

As a result of being saw challenged, I found little tricks to limit the need to use them, or if I had no choice, to allow for my expected mistakes. I replaced my old man’s Stanley 150 miter-box that I had left out in the rain 50 years later and purchased three backsaws of different sizes to use with it as well. The vast majority of cuts I have made since have been with that set-up. Because I never know which way the saw would wander, when I do my layout for cuts that can only be made “free-hand”, I allow anywhere from an eighth to a quarter to the length, knowing there will be some clean-up later. Hell, I have even found myself changing a design just to avoid having to cut a piece free-hand with a handsaw, that’s how bad I am with them.

For some reason, today, a miracle happened, the sawdust parted and I saw the light.

With the help of some of my fellow bloggers’ comments and some more research, I have changed my design for my “be-all and end-all” shooting board. I am sure much to Rob the Blogbloke’s chagrin; I am keeping the construction of it in furniture mode. I have a few shop fixtures in my cabinet that I didn’t make, but ones that are beautifully made in beautiful wood and every time I use them, well – they just make me smile. I am hoping this shooting board will do the same.

The first order of business for this build is to make a rather large wooden hinge, something I have never done before. I’m building just half of it to start, so if I screw up, I’ll only have to throw away a $20 hunk of wood, rather than $40 worth. Starting with a 1 ½” by 4” by 20” hunk of mahogany, I have to turn it into a hinge plate which means a ¾” by 2 ½” strip, the full 20” in length, has to come out of it. I thought about how to do this long and hard over the past two weeks, trying to figure out how I could avoid having to make these cuts with a hand saw, but to no avail. A handsaw it is and a handsaw it must be, and a course rip one at that.

With my heart in my mouth and my breathing nonexistent, I clamped the hunk into the vice and picked up the saw. As I started the cut, every word of my old man’s directions came back; all heard so clearly in his gruff and impatient voice that I almost turned around to see if he was standing behind me again. I started the cut, and as this had to be a blind cut, I worked the cut across the face of the wood, using my knuckles as a guide as I did, getting the saw’s teeth to level out as I went along.

Amazing. Just friggin’ amazing. As I was running that saw down through the wood, I started to hear a little voice in the back of my head saying, “Your letting the saw do the work”. Before long, it was screaming, “You’re doing it! You’re doing it!” Finishing one cut, I flipped the board and started the second, working, surprisingly, in the same manner. I was absolutely amazed at my progress and even said out loud, “So this is what the hell he was talking about. You go saw!”

It took over 50 years, but when the off-cut popped free, I realized that I finally got it. My blind cut was almost perfect, both cuts ending together and even, with no over-cut at all, but most amazingly, the cuts themselves were as smooth and free of rash marks as any of my old man’s cuts that I can remember.

While I’m proud of my accomplishments today with what most would consider a couple of basic cuts, there will still have to be some serious dressing of the resulting facings. You see, because I figured these cuts were going to be the same as all the others I had made in the past, each one was made giving an extra eighth of an inch for saw wander and for the first time in my life, I finally cut to the line.



Wednesday 10 February 2010

Visiting a Past Life...

Going through some old CS’s today, looking for a long lost image file I know I have somewhere, I got side tracked when I came across some shots taken from one of my past lives, to wit, pictures of my old dink from my boating days.

I bought this 11 footer trashed and after some serious swearing while replacing some ribs, laminating the hull, adding a bit more keel to it and, in general, bringing the thing back to life, I thought I ended up with a rather pretty little boat.

Using it as a tender, I fitted it with an 8 h.p. Merc and because of the weight, it would plow through a chop like a tanker; probably with a top speed of about 8 knots mind you, but it certainly was a stable little bugger.

I then came up with the bright idea that I would turn it back into its original configuration as a sailing dink. I laminated and shaped multiple layers of ¼” marine ply for the dagger board and rudder. Once I had the dagger done, I cut what I thought was a huge hole in it towards the bottom and filled it with lead, which probably was the hottest, dirtiest, stinkiest job I have ever performed. In retrospect, I am positive that hole wasn’t nearly large enough.

I think where I truly went wrong with it was when I fitting it out with a sail and mast from a wrecked 16’ Hobie Cat. It might have been a tad too much cloth for the little feller, but after completing the fitting out, just like Captain Jack Aubury, I set sail and went right at 'em.

That first ten-minute run was truly the scariest hour of my life. I have never maneuvered a faster or more unstable boat in my entire life. In a very light breeze that thing shot from one side of the marina to the other and all over the place in between. My main concern above all else the entire time was out there was just trying to keep me arse in the cockpit.

When I finally got back to the dock, one of my neighbours asked, rather sternly I might add, “Just exactly what do you think you were doing out there?”

My answer, “I’m not sure, but I think probably about 30 knots!”

The pictures of it under sail are ones where I am not at the helm. The captain is a much braver sailor than I. These shots were actually taken on its second sail, two days before the new owner took delivery of it. You bet I sold that thing as fast as I could find a buyer for it, but the silver lining in it all is that I made a bloody fortune on that little boat.



Sunday 7 February 2010

The Wild and Wonderful of Tool Collecting...

So I have been busy spending my kid’s inheritance, but he shouldn’t mind as I’m having a blast doing it.

So taking you around the image above, the three Plane Floats at the front left have taken about six or seven months to get them to this point. The old one was purchased from The Best Things just before Christmas. I had it shipped to Jim Bode of, who made two copies of its handle for me. These were used to complete the two other floats, which were purchased without handles some time ago. Those two were hand-made by St. James Bay Tool Co. out of Arizona.

Behind those floats are four Stanley squares. The little wooden one is a 4 ½” No. 20, a Sweetheart era one with a full Stanley Tool sticker on the handle. The larger one is a pre-Sweetheart 6” No. 2. In front and behind the No. 2 are two 4” No.14’s, two purchases that include a saga that came to an end this morning.

I will try to make the story of these two squares as short as possible. I purchased the first one just before Christmas from When it arrived, I checked it out and set it on my cabinet and forgot about it. Christmas day, my wife decided to clean up my office and asked me to put away some tools when she was done. Complying, I picked up the little square and it fell apart; the little, what Jim Bode says is the proper name for this thing, “screwpinwiththeelipticalgroove” having fallen out and disappeared. Needless to say I was a little p.o’d, not only for my wife's decision to clean on Christmas day, but also for messing with my stuff with the resulting loss of a irreplaceable part.

Two weeks into the New Year I found another No. 14 on eBay, being sold with the little No. 20 by shopdweller, who turned out to be a hell of a nice guy. Again my wife intervened to mess me up, asking me to take her shopping the day the listing ended, so of course I missed it. As the bidding for these two squares didn’t hit shopdweller’s reserve, I emailed him, asked him what he would take for them, we struck a deal, I purchased them and had him ship them to Jim Bode. Jim turned a new screwpinwiththeelipticalgroove for me and sent the whole lot on to me.

This morning, as I was sorting and putting the things that had again accumulated on my tool cabinet away, I saw a shiny thing flash as it went tripping off to the floor. Not knowing what it was, I started to look for it. First, I just got down on my hands and knees and searched, with no luck. I then grabbed the flashlight and searched with that, again with no luck. Finally, I grabbed a Pocket Magnet Retriever I had recently purchased from Lee Valley and started dragging it around all over the place. Well I came up with a shiny thing, I don’t know if it was what fell or not, but I was not happy when I saw what it was. Yup, you guessed it, it was that damned missing screwpinwiththeelipticalgroove that I had just spent a lot of money and jumped through hoops to replace.

Just as an aside to this story, the reason I own a Pocket Magnet Retriever is that two weeks ago my wife dropped a copy of the key to the car’s locking gas cap down between the seats and neither of us could see it. I told her not to worry about it as the cap came with two keys. I decided one would go in the little overhead storage place mounted to the car’s headliner and the other I gave her with the instructions, “Put this somewhere safe where you will remember where it is when we need it”. I would expect you figured this one out as well as, yes, she didn’t remember where she put it. My first attempt to retrieve the key in the known location was to buy this magnet thing and try fishing for something I couldn’t see with it. As that didn’t work, I had to remove the entire seat assembly and the carpet below it to find it, a job which was successful in its purpose the day before the gas gauge hit the almost empty mark again.

Now don't go thinking I'm trashing my wife here, relating all these little trials and tribulations within these pages. God bless her, as without her, I'd be lucky to own a screwdriver, let alone all the wonderful tools she has helped me accumulate over the years. Just between you and I, though, she is a bit of a forgetful klutz.

Ok, back to my tools.

Having just purchased and watched Chris Schwarz’s DVD, “Handplane Basics – A Better Way to Use Handplanes”, I was impressed by the amount of wood he removed from a plank using a Stanley No. 5 with a curved blade. As I also realized that this set-up and use would result in this plane taking a serious pounding, I went off to find one that was good, but cheap because I figure I will end up beating the hell out of it. I found the one you see in the back of the photo on Antiques of a Mechanical Nature. While the base of it is what they claimed, a Type 12 from 1910, I think it has a few Type 11 parts on it and as is the way with such things, no one will ever tell if one of the users put this assembly together, or it came from the factory this way. This was my first purchase from Larry and Carol Meeker and I found them to be very professional and straightforward.

In front of the No. 5 is a No. 49, the smaller of the tongue and groove pair. This plane was purchased from Patrick Leach of Superior Works – Patrick’s Blood and Gore fame. I found it on one of his more recent monthly lists. It is in very good shape and finding a No. 48 in the same condition to go with it is turning into a chore.

The handle sticking out in front of the No. 49 is actually an old awl that I grabbed from There was absolutely no reason to buy this one as I already own a few, but as it turns out, I seem to have a thing for old, long, wooden-handled awls, and this one is a beaut.

To the right of the awl is the No. 3 that you have seen in the previous posts, as it is the one that I turned into an iPhone dock. I have used this plane a lot now, sadly, though, not for its original purpose, but as the dock.

Last week I received the Stanley No. 2 on the far right. Now I fell in love with that No. 3 the minute I had it out of the box and assembled, but I went absolutely nuts about this No. 2. What a spectacular little plane; a Type 8, it is in even better shape than the Type 9 No. 3. It took Jim of a couple of months and about five tool shows to find this one for me, and the man certainly has an eye for quality and value. I won’t tell you what I paid for both the No. 3 and No. 2, but I will say I have seen far worse examples sell on eBay for a lot more recently.

And mentioning eBay, I have to ask, what’s with all the junk on that site lately? I don’t know if my eye is getting better, or the tools are getting worse, but I haven’t seen much on that site worth buying for some time now.