Monday, 10 October 2011

Up Against The Wood Wall...Again...

Chris Schwarz's Lost Art Press ran a series of articles on good ol' Mr. Studley's Tool Chest last week.

I first got turned on to Henry O. Studley's tool chest back in the late 80's when Lee Valley Tools used an image of it for one of their catalogue covers. When I built the house I was living in then, I added one of the major items I had always wanted; a built-in magazine rack and book shelf in the can. That catalogue sat in that rack for over a year and I spent a great deal of time studying that cover while doing...ahem...other things, trying to figure out how Studley did it. Studley's work is beyond amazing.

I believe credit for this image should go to Fine Woodworking magazine,
but I have enhanced it considerably since finding it.

What I didn't know until recently was that Studley built a workbench that matched his tool cabinet. Chris has also written an article about it; a teaser for Don Williams' book about Studley's work.

This is Chris Schwarz's image of Studley's workbench, which he will probably kill me for
because I messed with it; straightening out camera distortion, changing the
lighting a bit and getting rid of the distracting background.

I tried to build a modified version of Studley's tool cabinet with no luck, even after making three attempts to get it right. The biggest problem is that I ended up buying more tools than ol' Henry. Who knew I would enjoy the hunt and the purchase of old tools as much as I enjoy using them? The second problem is that I don't have room for a workbench and a floor-style tool cabinet, and won't have for the foreseeable future. Another major problem was that I kept ending up with odd shaped areas that wasn't large enough to hold anything I owned, or any that I planned to purchase. It was a livable irritation, but an irritation nonetheless. After completing the plant shelving unit I have been working on for 10-months now, I plan to build a combination bench and tool cabinet, sort of like a Melhuish No.100, but one on steroids.

This example of a Melhuish No.1 was sold by David Stanley
Auctions in 2004 for a few cents off of $3000.
Chris' latest entry in this series is in regards to how much flak he has taken for being involved in the Studley project in the first place. I haven't been running up against this situation as long as Schwarz has, but I have probably bounced off of it more often than him. Being one of these guys who questions everything, then has the cajones to actually question the answers, I have run up against the "wood wall" Chris is talking about in this post more times than I care to image. Recently, an example of this just played out, and again, it was instigated by a Chris Schwarz post.

Chris ran an interview with Konrad Sauer from Sauer & Steiner Toolworks regarding his newly designed "K13". This new plane design for Sauer started to sprout legs on some previous thoughts I had on planes, thoughts that I had been forming for a while. In general, these thoughts were directed, overall, to the height of hand placement while using a traditional plane, and specifically, dealing with the high Centre of Gravity those high hand-holds produce.

This is an image of the Sauer & Steiner K13 Panel Plane. Sauer's customer
wanted a plane that oozed speed. Me? I just want one that doesn't
feel like it is going to fall over all the time.

Sauer brought the front knob down considerably and gave the lines more sweep as they moved towards the rear of the plane for an appearance of speed. I'm not interested in a fast looking plane, mainly because I know that saying "speed" and "hand planing" in the same sentence is an oxymoron. I was, however, very interested in that lower front knob. By the time I finished reading the interview, my thoughts had legs that ran as long as the knees. By the time I had finished reading everything that was posted about it on the Sauer & Steiner blog, they had ankles, arches and even toes.

I didn't find one comment about the low knob causing problems during planing anywhere. In fact, all I read was the exact opposite. As a result, I kept asking myself, "why keep the tote and knob so high?"

I "get" that planes have a traditional design and the world of woodworking has been following the basis of that design for centuries. I "get" that a high centre of gravity has been build purposely into the planes by utilizing tall totes and knobs. I "get" that the reason for this is so the user can better gauge the tool's plumb during use. I "get" all that. I also "get" that everyone in the world, for centuries, thought the world was flat, too.

My belief is that, while the high centre of gravity offers a built-in gauge for plumb, this benefit may be outweighed by the possibility that the high centre of gravity adds more to being off plumb than the operator of the tool could manage without it. Plane the edge with a block plane and you stand a far better chance of remaining on plumb than when you plane the same edge with a bench plane, at least for me. I think it is because the high COG forces the plane out of plumb more than the operator does. Please don't tell me about the guiding finger of the forward hand, I already use it. You still have to push the plane with the tote, and that is where the wiggly-wobblies come into play.

I also think the angle of the operator's wrist has a lot to do with getting off plumb too. To plane properly on a proper height bench with a traditional designed plane, you end up with a crook in your wrist that is not conducive to keeping the plane plumb. It is also not conducive to varying the pressure between heavy forward and light downward, and light forward and heavy downward either.

Lowering the tote would cause its angle to reduce, resulting in the operator's wrist being less-cocked. A more natural angle to the wrist means less stress on it, less weight trying to throw it off plumb and easier variance of pressure. At least that's how I see it, although the only way I could prove it is to have one made and try it out, an expensive exercise in experimentation if ever there was one. That is because there isn't anything written about this, and I sure haven't seen a plane made this way. Why? I have no idea. It could be that I am so wet with this, I'm drowning, or it could be that we have all been following this design religiously for so long, going against it would be, for a plane maker, like falling on his float.

I know the most common answer to this question before it is even uttered. "If I learn to use the traditional plane design properly, I will see the high COG as an advantage. Until I do learn how to use it properly, the high COG will always work as a disadvantage. From my perspective, whether I have learned to use a traditional plane properly or not is an irrelevant argument. With enough practice, you can train yourself to overcome pretty much anything, even swinging a golf club in its proper, but unnatural way.

Maybe in time I will be able to put this thought to bed, but in the meantime, I actually was stupid enough to write it all down and send it to a plane maker I know and am considering using. I think my quest for answers wasn't met with the same joy as it saw when written. In other words, I haven't heard from the guy since.

As to Chris' report on meeting the "wood wall". I left the following comment...

"I have come to believe that there isn’t any species of wood out there that is quite as unbending as the average dedicated woodworker’s mind."



P.S.: Considering that dropping 4 to 6-grand on one plane is not conducive to my wife's belief that she shouldn't have to hide from our bank manager when she visits the bank, I will be listing some duplicate and "ok, I like it, but I don't love it" tools I am selling very soon. All proceeds from the sale of these tools will be going to the "Infill Plane Payment Foundation". I am just working on the images of the tools included which are:
1 - tack hammer - not so new - not so expensive
8 - Stanley Everlast chisels - conditions from "its ok" to "hey, that's pretty good"
1 - General Angle Divider with its original box
1 - Stanley Speed Drill with most of its original bits
1 - solid wheel Stanley No.624
1 - very good Stanley No.5 Type 11 plane 
1 - never used QTG laser beam level with case and - are you ready for it - original batteries still unused - wow!
I should have these posted before the end of this week.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Overcoming Life's Little Irritants, And Making Bigger Ones In The Process...

My ever beautiful, vivacious, kind, loving, but completely irrational wife insisted on “anything but an iPhone” when it came time to update her cell phone recently. This is probably due to my actions, more than hers.

Come on. Be honest with me. How many of you, while involved in something your really into, have either turned off your cell phone’s ringer, or turned the phone off completely? Then, when questioned by your wives why you didn’t pick up the phone when she called, you have answered with; “Gosh, it didn’t ring the whole time I was there. It must have been a bad signal”?

I used that con so many times, my wife believe the iPhones are crap. They are, of course, but don’t tell the members of the Apple cult that or you will be taking your life into your own hands.

So I bought my wife a Blackberry Tour.

If I were “joe-executive”, I would buy a Blackberry in a minute. Hands down, it is probably the fastest, most reliable cell phone out there that is configured and formatted with the businessman in mind. But I’m not joe-exec, so the thing is just a pain in the ass for me, but hey, it’s my wife’s phone so I don’t really care. Hers or not, it did presented me with a dilemma.

I started to write an explanation of the whys, hows and whatnots of this dilemma, but when I realized that I was typing away on page number 10, I wiped it all out and instead, will give you the abbreviated version.

Bluetooth equipped (as per all cell phones these days)
2007 Ford Fusion
Not Bluetooth equipped - became standard in 2008 (figures)
To set up the common frequency between two devices and establish the encryption they will use to attempt to keep the contents of their communication private
Pairing Devices
Available aftermarket ranging from $9 to $1000
Mounted by  suction cups larger than my wife’s bra, clasps that scratch the dashboard piece just showing them to each other, or possible positions result in wiring hanging down in front of the driver
Make my own
The following “hands-free” cell phone unit that will mount the phone without damaging the dashboard components and will allow the phone conversation to be heard through the car’s stereo

Product used
Griffith Hands-Free Microphone and AUX Cable
One wire from the phone to the mic, mic plugs into the auxiliary jack on the car’s stereo
Fusion has auxiliary jack buried in the console glove box
Buried the wires between the phone and the mic in the phone’s mount pad, installed the mic in a tower beside the phone, allow the pad to swivel and make everything robust enough to take my wife’s abuse
3-hours per day over a 4-day period
Last procedure
Drilled pad for swivel mount
Procedures remaining
Drilled through the damned buried wiring!!!
None - its pure junk now!!!



Sunday, 2 October 2011

Was It A Tool Show Or An Economics 101 Lesson...

The Tools of the Trade Show took place today in Pickering, Ontario. This is one of the very, very few vintage tool shows that takes place in Canada, and probably the only one of its size in Ontario.

I arrived late with a wife who was ticked because I had been hocking (Yiddish for pestering) her all morning to hurry up. She slept in, buggered around until 10:30, and wondered why I was a tad upset the entire 20 mile drive to the show's location. It started at 10 and we didn't arrive until almost 11:15. I had visions of viewing nothing but empty tables.

Boy, was I wrong.

The Pickering Recreational Centre, where the show was held, has a huge parking lot and it was filled almost to capacity. Dozens of people were leaving as we arrived, and a fair number were hanging around the entrance, standing in the rain, as we approached. We pulled up with me thinking my chances of finding something I wanted were slim, and that feeling increased as I saw all of this taking place around me. We walked through the doors, paid the 5-bucks a head entrance fee, and hit the event hall.

The hall was full of both people and tables.

The tables held tools and the people didn't.

What the hell was going on here?

I did my first circuit around the room. In general, I wasn't impressed with the quality or type of tools that was being displayed.

I did my second circuit around the room. In general, I wasn't impressed with the price displayed on many of the tools.

I did my third circuit around the room. In general, I wasn't impressed with how the sellers were dealing with the lack of sales.

I did my forth circuit around the room. In general, I was ticked with a lot of the so-called buyers.

The Quality of Tools
For the most part, many of the usual dealers were present and accounted for, although one of the first things I noticed was that MJD Tools was missing this time. While there was the odd quality piece of enticement sitting front and centre of some of the booths, most displayed mainly cheaper, not-so-rare stuff that probably ¾ of those attending already had.

Doug Orr's booth displayed the highest number of quality pieces, a Clifton No. 4 in particular, one of their first offerings, certainly caught my eye. Wider than a Stanley, done in green instead of black and displaying a lot more bling, it is a plane that will shock you when you first pick it up, as it weighs a ton. At $245, it was a good buy for those that wanted an excellent plane or collected original Cliftons. That isn't me, though, so reluctantly, I put it back. I also noticed a couple of amazingly large goose-wing axes laying on his "magic carpet" section, but putting an axe in my hands is just asking for trouble, so I didn't even get close.

Dave "ToolRush" Carriere's booth was not quite as loaded this time around as last, and overall, the quality of tools wasn't near the last show's level. I did notice something impressive about Dave, though. I can't remember if it was the last show or the one before it, but I do remember asking him if he had any Stanley #50 chisels. He said he didn't have them at that show, and gave me his card. I forgot about giving him a call, but I remembered the minute I saw a "Harlequin" set of #40's sitting front and centre at this event. Good on him. He remembered someone asking and included them.

Sauer & Steiner Toolworks, were absent at this show. I missed them. I didn't miss making a fool out of myself with them like I did at the last show, but I missed their new No. 3 that I was looking forward to seeing in the flesh.

Type of Tools
The group that this show is sponsored through is, The Tool Group of Canada. Because of that, I shouldn't complain that some of the booths mainly displayed vintage tools and machinery from the blacksmith, electrical and plumbing categories, as all of these are encompassed by the group's interests. The first tool I looked at after walking through the doors was a beautiful miniature metal lathe with a sold sticker on it. Damn! All of that said, while the last show had more vintage apple peelers than I could count, in truth, I thought this show included too much of the "other" categories, but I'm biased as I love old woodworking tools. I know those in charge will say I'm nit-picking here, but the show has a name for woodworking tools, has leaned severely in that direction since I started attending it, it is what I go to the show for, so when I see floor space taken up by a mechanically-driven-left-handed-reverse-counter-boring threading machine, when it could display a mother-load of vintage Stanley planes, I get a little disappointed.

This wasn't at the show. I just enjoy messing with images like this.

They were wayyyyyy tooooooo high - 'nuf said.

I heard way too many complaining to their friends that they weren't making any sales. The fact that they were so busy commiserating with each other, they weren't readily available to answer some questions I had for some, meant that their crying in their beer actually cost them a few sales. A few that I was able to lay a few questions on weren't the dealers themselves, but stand-ins, and they couldn't answer them, so again, a few tools I was interested in buying went unsold.

There was one tool that I was really interested in buying; an old, craftsman made leg-vice. The problem with it was that it was the wrong way around. The sliding bar at the bottom was attached to the back leg with the front leg sliding back and forth on it. I believe it should have been the other way around, so that when the vice was closed, a chunk of wood wasn't sticking out across the floor in front of it. I noticed the incorrect set-up right away, and put down my bag and flashlight (its not the brightest lit show and I'm blind, remember) and had a close look at it to be sure I was right about it. I still would have bought it, as reversing it wouldn't be much work, but instead of acknowledging what I was saying, the seller decided to educate me on the finer points of leg-vices. If he had said, "Your right. Let's deal", I would have bought it for 50-bucks instead of the $55 he was asking. The point is, though, he didn't even suggest I might have been right about it, but instead, tried to convince me I was wrong. I think he went home with it.

Ok, guys. Listen up. At tool shows, the tools on the table in front of you are for sale. The guy behind the table paid big bucks to be there so he can sell them. He needs as many as possible to see them, pick them up and talk to him about them. That is how he sells them. That is how he feeds his kids. You and your buddy standing front and centre of the table and talking to each other about the last show you were at, or where you got coffee on the way to the show that morning isn't doing the seller a damned bit of good, in fact, your lack of consideration is actually costing him money, not to mention really ticking off those of us who haven't viewed the guy's wares yet, and can't. If you want to talk about something other than buying one of the tools sitting in front of you, move your butts off to one side so someone who might want to buy something - can.

Ohhhh. That vent felt sooo goooood.

By the way, being a rude bugger and eavesdropping on some of the "table-crowder's" conversations, I got the distinct feeling the majority of them were members of The Tool Group of Canada, who should have known better.

There was a lot going against the sellers at the Fall 2011 Tools of the Trade Show, including the sellers themselves. Mainly, though, it was just the fact that the whole thing is about selling discretionary items in a less than forgiving economy that caused many buyers to leave grumbling and empty handed, myself included. Hopefully, the economy will pick up for the next show in April 2012, and the sellers will be back, wiser and better prepared to deal.

I came home and went online to Jim Bode Tools and bought a couple of miniature wire cutters and pliers. I would have bought more but Jim hasn't completed the 2011 Economics 101 course yet.