Friday 14 November 2014

I Just Can't Leave Things Alone...

I'm a few days late getting this article posted but as my old man used to say when he was in the same pickle, "Better late than never".

This article is about how I ended up correcting a 70-year old mistake on my uncle's army service records. I put it together for publication in our local newspaper as an interest piece for their Remembrance Day edition. While they rewrote it, which is fine, it made my day to see his story get out in front of the public. There are so many men in all our histories who died believing they were doing what was right. Sadly, while we have all benefited from their ultimate sacrifice, most are diminished to a vague memory that is conjured up on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month every year. We owe them far more than that.

Lest we forget.
Correcting a 70-Year Old Mistake
William James Andrew Mitchell
Dec. 1942
The following article is about a local boy who never came home from the war and how his nephew, who he never met, corrected a mistake in his records 70-years after it was made.
William James Andrew Mitchell was born on October 4, 1916 in Peterborough, but at the time he enlisted in the Canadian Army, his had moved to the newly created corner of Ivan Road and Meadowvale Gardens in Highland Creek. The family lived in a small cottage his father had built on a double lot just after their purchase in the spring of 1934. Because of the size of the property, the family was able to augment their income by everyone pitching in to raise chickens and grow fruits and vegetables. Billy, as his father called him, had graduated that same year with a motor mechanics certificate and that fall he started working as a mechanic at Leno’s Garage, the only auto repair shop in the village.
Billy's father, William, or Will as he was known in the family, had firsthand experience in war, having served with distinction during WWI in France. Even though he had returned to active duty in 1940 as an instructor at #20 Basic Training Camp in Brampton, he didn't want his oldest son to have to witness what he did (by the end of the war, the senior Mitchell held the rank of Company Sergeant Major and was the camp's administrator). Against his father's wishes, Billy finally enlisted in the Canadian Army on July 16, 1941.
Billy spent the first 17-months of his service being kicked around Canada and then spent another 19-months doing the same in England. Over those 3-years, he was transferred 20 times, a result of him being shipped wherever and whenever his skills as a motor mechanic were needed. During that time he participate in numerous Driver and Motor Mechanic training courses, eventually earning the army’s highest trade classification for both, as well as their accompanying pay hikes. When his nephew reviewed his service record for the first time, he noticed that his uncle had also participated in an unusually high number of courses in Rifle Training, Bren Gun Training and Combat Techniques, far more than his nephew had seen in the other service records he had reviewed. When Billy finally arrived at the front in France on July 3, 1944, he was a well-trained motor mechanic with a high level of combat skills. The unit he was attached to, however, saw him differently.
Billy had been transferred to The South Saskatchewan Regiment (SSR), a regiment that had the sad distinction of having one of the highest attrition rates in the Canadian military. The SSR were part of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division who were prominent in the allies' actions to push the enemy westward. To them, Billy was what they needed most; a highly trained soldier who could, in a pinch, fix any vehicle they might have a problem with. In other words, Billy, who was then a few months shy of his 28 birthday, was suddenly “regular army”.
Within a month of joining the SSR, Billy had been promoted to Acting Lance Corporal. The day after that promotion, he also earned himself a Military Medal. The Military Medal Citation states that while on patrol, Billy came across another SSR patrol that was pinned down by an enemy machine gun nest. Realizing the precarious position the other patrol was in, his first action was to divert the enemy’s fire away from the pinned patrol and onto himself, getting himself wounded in the process. Wound or not, he then went “forward toward the machine gun post and, firing his weapon from the hip, destroyed the post”. The weapon Billy was doing his James Cagney impersonation with was a Bren Gun, a 10.5kg (23lb) gas operated machine gun that spewed 600 to 800 rounds per minute and is believed to be Billy's weapon of choice.
Ten days later, Billy was promoted to Acting Lance Sergeant and six days after that, Billy was “killed in action”. He was still two days shy of his 28th birthday.
Billy's parents were devastated by his death. Because Billy didn't want his mother to worry, he never told his parents he was in the thick of it as "regular army". As far as his parents knew, Billy was behind the line doing what they thought he did best; fixing machinery. Because he wasn't a commissioned officer, there was no record regarding the circumstances of his death so they didn't have a clue what happened to him. Thankfully, once the war was over, one of Billy's mates came to their rescue.
Joseph Potash was an American citizen living in New Jersey when the war broke out and he wasn’t pleased that the United States didn't declare war on Germany right away. His answer to this was to head north and sign up with the Canadian Army. He and Billy had met originally in England during Billy’s brief attachment to Joe's unit, the 2nd Heavy Anti Aircraft Artillery Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. Although Billy was soon transferred out of the 2nd, they never lost touch with each other. Both were finally transferred to the front within days of each other and once in the thick of it, they saw each other often as the 2nd Heavy Anti Aircraft Artillery Regiment was the outfit that gave The South Saskatchewan Regiment their artillery support.
Not long after the war was over, Joe bundled his young family into the car and they headed north to visit with Billy's parents. During their first meeting he related to them what he had been told about how Billy died. As an Acting Lance Sergeant, Billy was leading multiple reconnaissance patrols on a daily basis. On the evening of October 3, 1944, he lead a patrol of 12 men out to look for enemy patrols, stragglers and snipers in and around their location at Camp de Brasschaet, Belgium. Upon returning to their line, it was discovered that they were one man short. After Billy had submitted his patrol report, he asked for and received permission to retrace the patrol's course alone to see if he could locate his missing man. While doing so, Billy mistakenly entered an area that hadn’t previously been swept and stepped on a land mine. On October 4, 1944, a patrol found his body, an unnecessary death as that same morning, the missing man found his line.
When Billy's nephew viewed his records for the first time, he realized his uncle wasn't getting the recognition he deserved. Every database his nephew had accessed to find information about Billy had his rank listed as “Lance Corporal”, yet the last two entries on his service records stated differently. The second last entry in his uncle's service records listed his promotion to Acting Lance Sergeant and the last one stated, “Killed in action”. There was no entry that demoted his uncle back to Lance Corporal and because of the army's unwritten rule that a soldier retains the rank he held at the time of his death, his nephew knew that the rank his uncle had been remembered with over the last 70-years was just...wrong.
The issue of the incorrect rank bothered Billy's nephew for a few reasons. 
If his uncle was a Lance Corporal, then when that patrol returned to their line, he wouldn’t have been allowed to leave again to try and locate a missing soldier. Instead, as a Lance Corporal, it would have been more likely that he would have been ordered to get some sleep. 
Then there was the reality of what an "Acting" promotion really is. While there are a few reasons why a soldier would be given an "Acting" promotion rather than a full one, the most common reason was to use it to test a man’s moxie, to see what he is made of and whether or not he can handle the responsibilities of the rank. When Billy got that last promotion, he wasn't handed the two extra chevrons for his sleeve that denoted his new rank, nor did he get the higher pay rate and the few other minor benefits that came with it. What he got was the responsibilities of the rank and nothing more. 
When Billy's nephew put together everything he had discovered he quickly realized that Billy was killed in action because he chose to fulfill the responsibilities of his temporary rank to the best of his abilities, yet for the past 70-years, he wasn't being remembered with the rank that gave him those responsibilities in the first place. 
The definition of an "Acting" promotion also explained why Billy's rank was incorrect. When his body was recovered, Billy was still wearing the rank insignia of Lance Corporal, a single chevron. Given that the soldiers who had the gruesome task of collected the war dead weren't the ones who fought beside Billy, they wouldn't have known about his new "Acting" rank, so they used the rank they saw when recording his death. What surprised Billy's nephew most is that his grandfather didn't spot this mistake and fix it then. 
Armed with what he knew, Billy's nephew wrote the Department of Veteran Affairs, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Library and Archives Canada and a few other departments explaining the mistake he had discovered and why he felt it should be corrected. They all replied within months and before long the databases’ listings started to change, displaying Billy’s rightful rank. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission even went one step further by first having Billy’s gravestone inspected to see if the correction in rank could be done on it and finding that impossible, they committed to installing a duplicate gravestone, but one with the correct rank as soon as possible. 
So as it stands now, from this time onward, Billy will be remembered as Acting Lance Sergeant William James Andrew Mitchell MM. If those who come across his listing take the time to understand what the information offered about him represents, they will gain a good understanding of who this man was and what he stood for.

This is the newspaper's version of the story...

Lest we forget.



Thursday 23 October 2014

Dressing Stock For Drawers...

Given that my son hasn't seen the light yet when it comes to working wood without horsepower, I decided to make him a little video to show him what he is missing.

Here I am taking ¾" thick recycled oak and planing it down to ½" to use as drawer sides using my Stanley No. 5 and No. 6. I have converted the No. 5 to a scrub plane by grinding an 8" radius at the cutting edge of the blade so it hogs material at a satisfying rate. The No. 6 is running a "stock" blade, but one that is bloody sharp.

Dressing one drawer side takes about 30 minutes from start to finish, but I have chopped that down to a less than 5 minute video. I hope you enjoy it...



Tuesday 7 October 2014

Quick Portable Vise Update...

It has been a hell of a long summer for me this year. I had some health issues that laid me up pretty good these last six months so as a result, I did very little since my last post and the little that I did do, I didn't feel much like posting about it. Thankful, I'm up and at it again, feeling better than I have felt in a couple years so I hope to be making a lot of sawdust over the winter months to catch up on things. I still have to go through a couple of more procedures, but they will be like a walk in the park compared to what I have been through.

So without further adieu...


This, of course, is the portable vise I have been writing about for the past 10 months or so. I did finally get it all together and actually used it in ernest for the first time today. I can't believe the difference it makes - it is astonishing. It is surprising how little torque I have to give the handle to secure the board. When I first set up the ¾" x 2" x 22" hunk of oak you see pictured above, I tightened things up what I thought was needed and when I hit it with the plane, I realized that the centre of the board had bowed up off the vise. I backed the thread off 1½ turns and tried it again, expecting the board to shoot off the table but no, it held its position and suddenly hand-demensioning a board became a hell of a lot easier.

Some of the final steps I took with the vise was chamfering all the holes to reduce splitting when they were under stress, adding a sliding cover to the storage area at the back of the vise, scrapping the whole thing with a card scrapper and then coating the whole thing with a couple of coats of wax. Because it is so damned heavy, I also added a carrying handle on the right side, some of which can be seen in the close-up shot below. 

While this thing was far more work than I thought it would be, its performance under use is way beyond my expectations.



Saturday 5 April 2014

They Gave Plumbers Their Own Saws???

This ugly little brut is the latest addition to my H. E. Mitchell tool collection...

This saw is interesting on a couple of counts...

How I came by it is a story about the kindness of others...

A few years ago, after researching Henry Mitchell on, I came to the conclusion that W. L. Goodman was a little off in his "British Planemakers from 1700", regarding when Henry started his own tool making business. Goodman had him listed as starting in 1855, but Henry was born in 1839, so at 16-years of age, even back then, Henry would have been too young to go off on his own. I believe he opened his first shop in 1866 or '67 in Eastbourne, Sussex, a business that went into bankruptcy in 1868.

I ended up contacting the group that took over the updating of Mr. Goodman's book and sent them off my research results and conclusions. Whether or not it was accepted or not, I don't know, but they did ask me to contact a Mr. Simon Barley, a noted saw expert in England, and offer him my same findings. I believe the reason for this was that Henry always advertised as "H. E. Mitchell - Saw Maker", even though he made a full array of jointing tools. Mr. Barley was receptive, said "thank you", I said, "your welcome", and that was the end of it, up until a couple of weeks ago.

Somehow, Mr. Barley remembered me when he came across this saw in his travels. While I think that is a bit astonishing in itself, he was also kind enough to contact me and offer me the saw for far less than a reasonable price, which I accepted. Within a few weeks, the saw was sitting on my doorstep. In this day and age, to me, that was truly impressive.

The saw, in itself, is an interesting one...

When I first viewed the photos of it that Mr. Barley sent me, I thought it was a "Pruner's Saw", but he explained that it was actually a "Plumber's Saw". Both edges of the blade are toothed, one at 12 teeth-per-inch and the other at 8. Neither run of them have much of a set to them, so I would class each as set for cross-cutting. While Pruning Saws are similar to this one, their course edges are set with 4 to 5 double-teeth per inch. On this one, Mr. Barley explained that the 8 tpi edge was for cutting wood while the 12 tpi one was for cutting lead pipe. Go figure! He also stated that the saw was produced around 1900.

Then there is the maker's mark...

This saw came with two maker's marks; the one I am interested in, being, "Mitchell - Brighton", and another, the Isle of Man coat of arms with the initials "J" and "T", the mark used by Joseph Tyzack & Son. What's up with that?

My first job with the saw was trying to figure out why it had the double maker's marks, hoping dearly that I wasn't going to put credence to the thought that was running around in the back of my head that ol' Henry was a bit of a rouge and wasn't beyond re-stamping someone else's work.

First I looked at the etchings themselves. They were obviously made from different transfers, as one was sharp and intricate while the other was course and uneven. They were, however, well aligned with each other and there was no evidence that the Mitchell mark covered up the usual "Joseph Tyzack & Son - Sheffield", which is commonly displayed with the Isle of Man coat of arms. I came to the conclusion that the saw came from Tyzack with just the coat of arms, which, after a little research, I discovered was odd.

I then looked for a medallion, but sadly, one wasn't used on this saw as the cheeks are too small. If it had a "Warranted Superior" medallion, then it would have been put together by Mitchell. If it had the Isle of Man coat of arms, it would have been a Tyzack tote. Not having a medallion wasn't going to help me, so I looked at the tote itself.

It is pretty hard to credit any given maker with a saw tote that is over 100-years old. They get beaten up, reshaped and replaced over the years, so who knows if this tote was even the original. What I did note, though, was that this tote was shaped along the lines of other Mitchell totes I had seen (most in pictures) and didn't appear anything like any of the Tyzack totes I had looked at. Tyzack totes have a very pronounced line where the bottom round-over of the grip meets the flat of the handle. Disston has that same line, but Mitchell totes are much softer, the line being far from pronounced. There are a lot of "W. Tyzack" saws out there, but one by Joseph are much rarer, so finding images of them to compare this tote to wasn't easy. The few that I did find though, had one major difference over the W. Tyzack totes, and that was how the clips were formed. J. Tyzack had softer clips while W. Tyzack kept a distinct flat on their face. Mitchell also uses a flat clip design, but his designs are also much finer. Mitchell liked to remove as much meat as possible from his totes and this one is no different, odd considering its use.

I then put this together with the information I had about H.E. Mitchell...

Mitchell converted his business, "H. E. Mitchell - Saw Maker" to "Henry Edward Mitchell & Co. Ltd., makers of iron furnishings for stores and offices. I can't figure out who ran this new corporation for him, but it might have been a son-in-law, as Henry, himself, wasn't involved in its day-to-day operation. Instead, Henry opened up a one-man saw shop in the back of his oldest son's grocery store in Howe. I think he did this because, while he saw the writing on the wall regarding the demise of the hand tool business, he didn't want to give up without a fight. It didn't last long, as he closed his little shop down towards the end of 1900 and retired to his country home, “Hatherley Villa”, in Keymer, a small town just north of Brighton.

My conclusion about this saw...

Looking at what evidence I had accumulated, I came to the conclusion that H. E. Mitchell "probably" filed the teeth of this saw on a blank he bought from J. Tyzack and Son, not an unheard of practice. I also think Mitchell made the tote, and to prove, probably more to himself than to his customer, that he was still in the game, he re-etched the saw with his own mark, but doing so in such a way as to suggest a "partnership" with Tyzack in the making of this saw.

That's my story about this saw, and one I'm going to stick to.
I have used terms about saw totes in this post that I didn't know without looking them up, so to save grief for any of you that are in the same boat I was in, I have made up an illustration that will give you the names of the basic parts of a saw tote.



Sunday 9 March 2014

Vise Head...

It seems like forever, but I am slowly getting this portable vise together. I just finished the head of the vise today...

I made the garter for the 1½" thread from some ⁵⁄₈" walnut and sunk it in the oak ³⁄₈", rounding over the edges of both just to soften up the look of the vise a bit.

Once I had the garter set, I rounded over the holes on the face for the two stabilizers so they matched. The two maple stabilizers had their outward ends rough-rounded and an ¹⁄₈" tapered slot cut into each, 1¹⁄₈" long and going with the grain. I then used a small gouge to cut slots along the grain all around the ends of the dowels so the glue would have something to grip.

After coating each end of the stabilizers with glue, I pushed them into place, leaving them a ¼" proud of the surface of the oak so they would match the protrusion of the garter. I coated the walnut wedge with glue and stuffed more of it down the slot and whacked each home with a mallet.

Once the glue set, I trimmed off the excess wedge and sanded the ends of the stabilizers smooth.

The handle is a hunk of ¾" maple dowel with ends made from black walnut. I drilled out the centres  of the ends with a ¾" forstner bit and cut their outer diameter round using a 1¼" plug cutter. The tops were then sanded so they have a slight crown and all the edges were rounded over. I then installed the dowel and glued the ends in place.

I currently have half the dovetails cut in the frame so, hopefully, within the week I should be showing off the finished vise. At least that is the plan.



Tuesday 25 February 2014

No Snickering - Thank You Very Much...

Okay, I admit it. I chickened out.

I glued a couple of pieces of scrap together and planned one edge down to a 14° angle to use as a saw fence to cut the pin slots for this sliding dovetail.

I just didn't want to take a chance and possibly screw up a lovely chunk of oak using a new technique, so I went with what I know...

They turned out pretty good, though, so I'm happy...



Monday 24 February 2014

Chiselling a Square Cut...

I had to trim the two ends of the centre stock for the portable vise and, frankly, I was a little worried about it. I'm just not very good at making square cuts with a saw. I'm sure it is an eyesight thing, and because I don't have any depth perception, it is damned near impossible to tell if the saw is at right-angles to the stock or not. I've tried different things to find a work-around, but I haven't been successful.

While checking out some woodworking videos on youTube the other day, I came across a post belonging to Paul Sellers, a woodworker in Wales, at least I think he is Wales. The post is "Part 3" of his, "How to build a workbench" and is titled, "Cross cutting the top", which seemed right up my alley at that moment. I watched the video and when it came time to bite the bullet and do the cuts, I decided to do it following Paul's instructions. It was a good decision

I marked out the cuts with a box cutter, fitted with an extra sharp blade. I then took a ¾" chisel and starting about ³⁄₈" on the waste side, I chopped out a bit so the wood angled into the knife-cut. I even went beyond his instructions and did the same to the ends that would face away from me while I worked the saw, but as it turned out, this second trough wasn't helpful to the saw, but it was for me. I could see it better than a line, so it helped me see where square was.

This is what the glue-up looked like when I was ready to take it outside and run a saw through it...

I have worked this trough-guide trick before, but only for short cuts. I do use a slight variation of it often for cutting dovetails, but I have never used in on a cut as long as this one or with stock as thick as this one. The theory behind it is that a saw is like electricity or water; it likes to take the path of least resistance. The saw will tend to follow the square cheek that the knife cut and if it decides to wander, it will be more likely to wander away from the perpendicular-cut wall. This is where the ramp that you cut with the chisel comes into play, as its angle will try to force the saw back against the square face, which just happens to be the line you want the saw to follow.

With this cut, though, Paul's instructions were a little different from what I was used to. What he suggests is that you follow the knife-line across the top of the cut, but angle the cut away from plumb across the bottom, leaving a little material on the waste side of the line. I used an old Diston full-sized crosscut and made the cut.

Once the waste was gone, I stood the block up on its end and using a Veritas Low Angled Jack, I  planned away the waste down to the line, doing so halfway across from one side, and then turning the stock around and finishing it off from the other.

I have to admit, Paul's instructions make cutting a very square end to a very big board very easy.

I was so impressed with the results, I decided to use the same process to cut a sliding dovetail in the side rails of the frame...

I'll let you know how I make out.



Saturday 22 February 2014

Sometimes I'm Just Not In The Mood For A Little Tail...

I was just getting ready to layout the tails for the dovetail joints in each corner of the frame for the portable vise, but as I started to set up the dividers to mark-out some really cool, thin-tailed doves, a thought hit me that maybe what I had in mind was not the best way to go for something like this.

I am so enthralled with dovetail joints, I didn't even think about it. I just started to go at them with my only thought being how they would look, not how they would perform. I decided to hold off for a bit and take a serious look at what this type of joint is all about.

The first item on my new agenda was to create a couple of dovetail illustrations in different styles so I had some visuals to ponder.

The first illustration I created was the dovetail joint I was planning to use, one with thin pins...

I then created a dovetail joint with equal sized tails and pins so I could see the difference...

With my illustrations in front of me, I sat back and tried to remember the different points about them that I had read in the past.

The most common praise for dovetail joints that I remembered was about their ability to deal with wood movement. I came to my first conclusion that this, to me, isn't an issue in this application because the pieces being joined together are all sawn in the same manner and will share the same environment. For me, movement would only be relevant if the dovetail joint is used to joint two boards of different species together, or one board would spend its life in a damp environment while the other in a dry one (how that could happen, I have no idea).

So if wood movement isn't a factor in this application for using dovetail joints, what is?

Well for one thing - stresses!

Somewhere I read that dovetail joints, due to their mechanical design, deal with stresses quite well. Thinking about it in layman's terms, I came to the conclusion that the stresses on the joint come in six directions; forwards and backwards, up and down and out and in. If you have a look at the illustration below, you can see how a dovetail joint deals with five of these six directions, and why it excels at each. The angles of the tails and how they fit to the angle of the pins handle forward stress while the cheeks between the tails deal with the backward stress. The cheeks of both the pins and tails resist the upward and the downward stresses while the cheeks between the pins alone deal with the inward stress. The thing is, I also realized that a dovetail joint can't deal with outward stress.

Thinking about it, I realized that the way a dovetail joint goes together is its achilles heel. The straight pins allow the tails to slide into them during assembly, but they also allow stress to reverse the process as well. If you cut both the tails and the pins on the angle to help the joint deal with the outward stresses, you wouldn't be able to assemble the joint. 

My second conclusion was that, when it comes to keeping the joint together, the dovetail joint excels in five out of the six stress directions.

Is there a way to overcome a dovetail joint's achilles heel?

Yes - glueing!

You wouldn't glue two boards together using a butt-joint because glueing end-grain surfaces, even to a long-grain surface, is a waste of time. A glue joint only works if the surfaces being glued together are both long-grain.

If you look at either of the two dovetail illustrations again, you will note that both the side-cheeks of the tails and the side-cheeks of the pins, where they come in contact with each other, have long-grain surfaces. It is these surfaces that hold the joint together, and while we all like to spread a little glue on the cheeks between the tails and pins, we are really wasting our time as they are end-grain, and have no glueing integrity.

My third conclusion was that these long-grain glueing surfaces are another beauty found in the dovetail's design. It creates long-grain glueing surfaces where none existed before and it is these glueing surfaces that not only add to the joints mechanical strength, but compensate for its achilles heel as well, the one stress direction the joint can't deal with.

So would more tails result in a stronger joint?

It depends!

In the case of the first two illustrations, from a glueing perspective, the narrow pins have the distinct advantage. The traditional dovetail layout has two tails and three pins, but by narrowing the pins considerably, an additional tail and pin can be added. This addition adds 50% more long-grain to long-grain glueing area, which is considerable under any definition.

This was the style of dovetails I had planned to use on the portable vise frame, but looking at the illustrations, I came to my forth conclusion that the joint, with thin pins, won't be strong enough. True, there is lots of that wonderful long-grain to long-grain glueing area, but I think what the thin-pinned joint gains in glueing strength, it looses in pin integrity.

If you compare the two illustrations of dovetail styles again, it is pretty obvious that the 50% addition in glueing area came at a cost of almost 40% in pin material. For the application at hand, I think the thin-pin style isn't up to the task.

In traditional drawer construction, the tails are always added to the side pieces. This is because the mechanical ability of the dovetail joint helps it withstand the stress of the drawer being pulled out thousands of times over the course of the piece's life (foreword stress). It can do this because the tails are wedged-shaped, so the drawer face can't be pulled away, unless, of course, the stress is so great the puller breaks either the tails, the pins or both.

In normal use, a drawer has to endure very little outward stress. The only time this stress direction would effect a drawer is if it is owned by someone like my wife, a lovely lady who loves to stuff 10 cubic feet of clothes in a drawer designed to hold 6, or thinks that they put two drawer pulls on wider drawer faces for looks as any drawer, no matter what its width, can be opened with one pull. Under normal use, however, the long-grain to long-grain glueing surfaces can easily withstand the outward stresses. If a dovetail joint holding a drawer together does give-way, it is either because my wife is using it, or it is a result of glue failure.

The portable vise, however, is a horse of a completely different colour. There will be constant stresses forward on the front joints and backwards on the rear joints, the results of clamping a piece of wood between the two. What also has to be considered, though, is that not all the stock placed in this vise will be square-ended, meaning there will be a considerable amount of stress in the outward direction as well. As the vise is tightened on oddly shaped stock, the stresses will try to rack the vise, putting far more outward stress on the dovetail joint, the one stress direction that the joint is incapable of coping with. These outward stresses can only be coped with by not only the integrity of the glued surfaces, but the integrity of the tails and pins as well.

As this frame is made from 1½" by 3½" stock, two beefy tails will give me enough long-grain to long-grain surface to create a more than adequate glue joint to handle the stresses. If I used the thin pin design, however, I very much doubt that they would be strong enough to handle the outward stresses, resulting in failed joints over time. They wouldn't fail because of problems with the glue, they would fail because the pins would break off. A problem, after all the work I am putting into this vise, that I would rather avoid.

After all this deep thought while contemplating dovetail joints, it is time I headed off to layout some; all with equal sized tails and pins.



Wednesday 19 February 2014

Boat Anchors Don't Come Cheap...

While searching around the web the other day looking for vintage tools I came across again, a site that offers up a treasure trove of owners' manuals and other information on, as the name suggests, vintage machinery. While I don't have the interest in power tools that I once had, I did read the owner's manual for my old man's 1949 Beaver 8" Tilting Auger Table Saw, Model CS3200, again, as well as the company's Products Catalogue and some other publications.

The following image is a compilation I made up from the different catalogues...

The "Beaver" brand was the trade name for machinery manufactured by the The Callander Foundry & Manufacturing Co. Ltd. located in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. They started operations in 1917 producing grey iron, brass and aluminum hardware and building items. In 1933, Callander took over a small company that manufactured woodworking tools and added these to their growing list of products. After the war years, a period in which they pretty much produced nothing but military components, Callander expanded their Beaver brand of tools and added some new twists to many of them.

One of their more innovative design additions was a new tilting arbored table saw mechanism that could be produced cheaper than all the similar products produced by their competitors at the time. What they developed was a lighter motor mount that was an integral part of a lighter arbor mechanism, without giving up strength but still allowing it to tilt with the motor. They claimed the new design was as good or better than the existing design, but much, much cheaper to produce.

It was this particular innovation that first caught the attention of the newly formed Rockwell Manufacturing Company. Rockwell was so impressed with this new design, in 1953 they bought the rights to the Beaver brand of tools. In 1954, Rockwell Manufacturing Company came back and bought out all of Callander's remaining assets, rolling them over and into a new company, specifically named "Rockwell International".  It is pretty cool to discover that the largest woodworking tool manufacturing company in the world started out using a Canadian manufacturer as their base.

Reading through the information about this 8" table saw also produced some other surprises for me.

My old man's example of this saw is still my favourite tool, bar-none. Its only drawback was its weight, which I always calculated as being about 80-pounds. Reading now that it actually weighed 147-pounds not only surprises me, but ticks me off a bit as well. I remember being 11 or 12-years old and having to haul that thing from the trunk of the old man's car to wherever we were working and constantly getting shit when I got there because I always seemed to end up hefting it using the fence guides. Discovering the weight of that saw now makes me wonder how I grew up with the ability to talk with a low voice - if you get my drift.

Another surprise was the cost. The list price for this saw, back in 1949, without the stand, was $119.50, which would be equal to $1250.00 in today's dollars. That is a heck of a lot of money for a portable table saw, if you could call it that, especially when the average carpenter plying his trade in Toronto in 1949 would have been making, at best, $1.25 an hour. I have a feeling the old man probably had to forgo his beer for a few weeks to get it. That must have killed him.

Oh, ya. The first woodworking project I ever assisted my dad with was when I was 7-years old. It was a "hot rod" (push cart) for me and every stick of wood that went into it was cut on that Beaver table saw - curves and all. I knew the old man missed it when it came to the proportions, but I didn't care. To me, it was one sweet ride...



Sunday 16 February 2014

It Just Might Work...Maybe...

This is where my portable vise stands as of this afternoon...

The 16-pieces that make up the meat of the vise are now all drilled, glued up and rough-blocked (that is the term for truing up a car's body panels but is that the correct term for truing up a piece of wood?).

Even though drilling those 32 - ¾" dog-holes was monotonous, it was an easy and relatively enjoyable task doing them on the drill press. I didn't through-drill them, but that might change by the time it is done. While I was blocking it, I found that it was quick and easy to fill the holes with shavings, but getting them out was a real bitch. My original thought was that it would be easier to keep my work area clean with blind holes, which would reduce the spread of crap from getting under the vise. After spending 10-minutes earlier, cleaning out all the holes with a awl before turning it over to work the bottom side, I'm rethinking that one.

Cutting the runways for the two maple stabilizers and the walnut screw was a fun task. I cut slots in the pieces that they run in and used a round plane to cup the surfaces of the pieces that face them to get the width needed. They all slide in and out smoothly and evenly, so I figure I made a good choice regarding how to cut them.

I still have to cut the ends square, but I am going to have to wait for some decent weather so I can do that on the outdoor bench. Cutting stock is a dusty job, too dusty to do indoors. The weatherman is actually calling for warmer, sunnier days starting Tuesday, so the minute the temperature gets close to (or hopefully above) freezing, I'll be out there with saw in hand. I'm going to try that H. E. Mitchell Tenon Saw I purchased recently to cut them, not just because it is a good, heavy backsaw, but because I want to see how it works.

I have shown a piece of 2x4 oak stock to the right of the vise's body which will become its right frame-rail. I bit the bullet and bought new stock for the frame for no other reason that aesthetics. I figured the 1½" by 3½" boards would look a lot better than 2 - ¾" boards glued together, given that the body was glued up with material of that thickness. I am going to keep this material at its 3½" height, but rip some cut-outs along their bottom edges leaving extra material in each corner to act as feet. I think the vise needs feet as I can't count on the work surfaces I will use it on being level. Feet will make it easier to stabilize the vise by sliding narrow strips of cedar shingles under them as required.

I still haven't given up on setting this vise up to use as a shooting board, but I have decided all the shooting board parts will be detachable. The reason for this is I want to add a storage box to hold the bits and pieces the vise will need, such as dogs and clamps, and if everything is connected in one piece, I'll have to rent a crane every time I want to move it. The drawing below shows how the vise will look when the frame is done, showing the where and how of the storage bin...

That's it for now. Catch ya' again when I get the frame done.



Friday 7 February 2014

Will a Round Peg in a Square Hole Work...

How many of you guys miss new additions to Kari's blog, Damn I miss that girl. I hope she is doing well and still makin' sawdust.

So I got the body pieces of recycled oak stripped on their glue-up faces. It didn't take as long as I expected, but it still took a fair bit of time. I'm not really big on killing myself for my hobby, so when I get involved in boring, physical jobs like this, I'm not one for sticking to it. I do this, after all, for the pure enjoyment and somehow, slugging my guts out for hours on end doesn't quite have that ring to it.

I have done some gluing up with these pieces, making four glue-ups with three pieces each and one with 2 pieces, leaving two other pieces on their own. I decided that putting the entire thing together and then drilling all the holes was more work than necessary, given these pieces are only 24½" long by 3¼" high. I can see dealing with the holes after the assembly is done if your making a 12' bench like Richard is over on The English Woodworker blog (read about it here), but not one that is only going to be 31" long soaking wet.

I spent a lot of time thinking about whether or not square or round holes would make any difference to the function of the screw and two stabilizers and couldn't think of one reason why they wouldn't. I came to the conclusion that as long as they all ran in close-quarters to their holes, whether those holes had square corners or no corners at all didn't make much difference. As a result, the hole for the 1" stabilizers in the two single pieces will be cut with a saw, rather than a drill, and the two-piece glue-up for the 1½" screw will be done in the same way. I will have to plane their facing pieces a bit with a round plane to expand the holes to fit, but again, doing them this way is far more exact than trying to drill 14" deep holes on the true after the assembly is completed.

The four glue-ups of three pieces each are for the dog-holes, a slight change from my original design. Whether these holes are drilled before assembly or after doesn't make a lick of difference to the way the dogs will work, so why not speed up the process and ensure they are square to the top by drilling them all out on my drill press before assemble? Sounds like a plan to me.

I've labelled the pieces here so you can see what they are for.
To ensure that I have a flat, square surface to work from, I planed down the bottom surface on all of them by first wasting material using a No.5 with a convex blade, then smoothing them out with a No.6. This way I'm sure the dog holes will be square and the screw and stabilizers will run true.
This shot shows a bottom surface after making it true
and square, as well as the tools used to do it. All
seven glue-ups have been treated the same way.
I'll get back to you again after I have drilled the 32 dog-holes and cut the three passageways.



Tuesday 21 January 2014

I'm Sure I Did This Once...

This is my first time working with recycled wood. There is a tree-hugger out there somewhere that owes me lunch.

This oak originally made up my wife's plant stand, that big monstrosity I made and wrote about a few years ago. It is a long story why this plant stand came to be garbage in a few short years, but to explain it, I'll try to incorporate some brevity, although that certainly isn't my long-suit.

I started making this stand not long after my in-laws had moved in with us. At the time, my wife and her mother had agreed to disagree about everything that encompassed co-existing together in the same domicile. I loved my mother-in-law dearly before she move in with us, and I love her to death now, but the reality is, the poor ol' girl had a childhood, if that is what it could be called, that was more horrific than anything I could ever imagine. Through no fault of her own, what she endured back then had warped her perspective on life, as well as all those within it. As she aged, those issues became magnified and although she barely stands 4' 8", she became a force that is beyond being reckoned with. As a result, my poor wife went through royal hell and back trying to cope with her.

While I always knew my mother-in-law had issues, I agreed to have them move in with us because, having watched her with my wife for over 30-years, I felt the last thing she would ever do was endanger the relationship she had with her daughter. We all make mistakes, I guess. Within a few short months of them moving in I had realized that the situation was unliveable, having come to this conclusion long before my wife was forced to finally admit it to herself, as well as me. At the time I had to think long and hard about what to do about it, and in the end, I chose to do nothing but live within it. That may sound strange, but I came to this conclusion after remembering something I had read a long time ago. It was either an old proverb written on the inside of a pyramid wall, or graffiti, written up high on a bathroom wall, I'm not sure which, but it said; "Lo I say unto you, suffer the man who darest to come between his wife and his mother-in-law, for he shall soon become dead meat", or something similar. OK, this proverb/graffiti story is bullshit, but the message is true. I knew that I had let my wife have her lead and try to ensure that her actions towards her parents were of her own choosing, all made with a rational mind free from anger. If I chose to dissolve the arrangement, guilt would cause her to resent me for it later, and if I let her make rash decisions about it, guilt would cause her to resent herself. I figured that my wife and I would be together long after her parents were gone, so, for me, not doing anything was an investment in that future. As things turned out, all I did for the more than three years we had them with us was to keep my mouth shut and stalled every time she insisted we were throwing them out. It was a long, long three years.

Yes, I remember...brevity...

I didn't build the plant stand because I felt horrible for not being able to "fix it" or to have an excuse to hide. The only reason for creating it was in hope it might give my wife something to escape to. I put it together unfinished, doing so in a way that allowed any or all the pieces to be removed for finishing, giving her a workable product as quickly as possible. I also gave her a crate full of young orchids at the time, so not only did she have somewhere to work, but something to work on. I chose orchids because I had read they were a bitch to grow. The whole thing didn't work as well as I had hoped, but it worked well enough for her to find some diversion with it.

In the end, the health and mental faculties of the two old souls deteriorated to the point where full-time, professional help was needed. My wife and I moved out and left her parents in our condo, letting them live there until they no longer needed it, while we moved into our current home, which has a huge bay window that is just perfect for growing orchids. This made the stand unnecessary, so I tried it for displaying tools on in my office, but because the shelves were few and far between - literally, I chose to disassemble it and keep the wood for another project.

Just to finish the story, in case you might be interested, my wife's parents moved out of the condo a few months ago, taking up residence in a full-care retirement home. As I write this, my mother-in-law, bless her heart, is in the hospital suffering with a blood clot which the doctors are having a devil of a time locating so they can remove it. My wife is very slowly getting her wits back again and is currently staying at the retirement home with her father, ensuring that his dementia doesn't overtake his emotions caused by his wife not being around. And me, I'm relieved everything turned out for the best and I am currently removing the stained, varnished and steelwool-rubbed waxed finish off of the hacked up boards that once made up that plant stand so I can use them to build a portable vise. Sad, really.

Sad, and a bitch of an amount of work. I've stripped wood before, but only with chemicals. This time I chose to scrap the finish down to bare wood with a paint scrapper, resulting in all the surfaces needing to be re-trued. I didn't start out this way. I first sharpened a trashed blade for this purpose, but found the finish was so thick and slippery, the blade just skated across the board, removing zero to very little in the process. I had no choice but to go the scrapper route, discovering that it took an hour to do both sides of one 26-inch board. Given the stack you see in the background of the photo, I figure I'll be preparing stock for the next month and not much else, hence my opening statement about the tree-hugger that owes me lunch.



Saturday 18 January 2014

What Really Defines a Canadian...

I'm not sure which defines me more as a Canadian; the fact that I had to shovel snow and chip ice off my deck and outdoor workbench so I could rip all this recycled oak down to width, or that I have been bitching about how I froze my butt off doing it to anyone who will listen ever since?



Wednesday 15 January 2014

I Just Have To Mess With It...

If the projects I currently have on my plate were actual food, I'd be a bloody glutton. Here is what I am milling wood for today...

This is a remake of the plans for a portable vise that I have been mucking with for the past few months. As you can see, I never know when to leave things the hell alone.

First, thanks to Anonymous, whoever and which one he is, it is now being made of red oak, recycled red oak to be exact. As it turns out, it is surprisingly light for its strength and ability to take a beating.

Second, the vise bed hasn't changed much except it is now going to be constructed out of ¾" stock because that is what I have a ton of in my little material stash.

Third, I am adding a shoot board to one side of it. Only time will tell if this is brilliant or idiotic, but I came up with this because of a revelation I had the other night - I'm getting seriously lazy in my old age. I expect to use this vise as much as I do my makeshift shooting board, so if I make two separate units, I would have twice as much to carry. 

Forth, because I have learned the hard way that shooting boards require some sort of adjustment ability on their fences because, for a multiple number of reasons, they get out of whack occasionally, I'm adding one here. The three items at the bottom-left of the line-drawing show three views of the adjustable fence. It is a pretty simple design, actually. This mental-midget brainwave has six parts. 
  • Two brass pins that match the dog-holes in the vise, made out of brass because a leap of faith told me they might last longer than wood pins, but also because I can drill down their length and tap them.
  • Two bolts; one that will act as a pivot for the adjustments and another to hold the adjustment for, hopefully, longer than one or two plane runs.
  • One 1¾" x 1¾" strip of oak that has the brass pins attached to it so it acts as the anchor for the fence.
  • One 3" x 2½" strip of oak that has a wedge shaped cut-out that fits over the lower strip of oak, giving a ½" of adjustment at one end while being fixed in place at the pivot end.
The only other thing I can add to it is the vise will have 2-across dog holes from the head of the vise to just beyond where the screw and stabilizers end. From that point to the end of the vise there will be 4 dog holes across the width of the bed. While these holes may be used to secure stock, they are really there for the fence, allowing me to move it quite a bit forward so the plane has travelling space after the stock and I won't have to reach as far while using it. It also allows me to move the pins that hold the fence outboard so they can better take the beating I am expecting to give them. Also, the bed that the shoot plane will travel along is ramped downwards 1¼". Research has told me that there isn't any advantage to a ramped shoot board but I am going to ramp this one simply because I think it will allow the blade wear to be spread over a wider area, increasing its use between blade sharpenings.

Lastly, the plans do not show any bench hooks but that is because I haven't quite finalized how I'm going to add movable hooks. If I can move them, I can set the thing up to work from either side or end of the bench.

Only time will tell if this is brilliance or bullshit, so we will have to see. I'm heading to the outside bench today to freeze my butt off while ripping a bunch of 5" wide oak down to 4". Hopefully this project won't take as long as those damned blade retainers I am also currently making for a frame saw. I thought I could bang them off quite quickly, but it isn't quite the job I thought it would be. So far I have the threads cut on the blade tightener, but that is about it. Because my lathe isn't set up yet, I had to hand-file ⁵⁄₈" square brass stock down to ½" round...



Monday 6 January 2014

Up, Up and Away...I Hope...

Am I imagining things, or are the prices of planes going up?

I have been pondering this possibility for a while now. I think the online dealers' prices have been slowly creeping up over the past couple of months and while the typical eBay junk is still the same,  the eBay dealers' prices are also climbing a bit. I thought maybe it was my imagination, but after having a gander at Leach's preverbal tool list this morning, I'm starting to waver between possible and probable.

Here's a few examples that have caused me to firm up my opinion a bit...
ST12 #2 smoothing plane; a cleaned ca. 1900 example, with a 1930's iron, a no-harm bruise at toe, lever cap is a #3 ground narrower to fit the plane, it's a solid worker in all regards, and priced for someone who doesn't wish to pay the MSRP of a pristine example; top right: - $175.00
I also came across one of these on eBay this morning that was a tad rough around the edges, but over-all not a bad type 7 that an eBay dealer was selling for $295.00.

I have two of these, both bought from dealers and both graded on the cusp of excellent-workers and good-collectors. One I paid $45.00 for and the other, $125.00, both within the last 5 years.
ST68 #7 jointer; a type 11, with all original parts, made ca. WWI, no damage, nicely cleaned, 90% japanning, all it needs is honing; bottom: - $185.00
I bought a type 7 three years ago from a dealer for $175 and its condition is so good, I thought it was still under warranty.

As an aside, Patrick had one listing that really firmed up my decision to never buy a No.1...
ST51 #1 smoothing plane, damage, offered for parts; the nose section snapped off, it has a good "STANLEY" embossed lever cap, sweetheart logo iron and cap iron, and frog; top of tote is gone; the front section can be ground clean to make it a chisel plane, or you can grab parts off it for your plane; top left: - $345.00
A couple of years ago another dealer had a box for a No.1 listed for $1400.00 - just the box. Now Patrick has the back half of one listed for $345.00. I get the rarity of this plane is what drives the price, but still...sheesh. The only reason it is rare is that no woodworker worth his salt wanted one of these silly little things when they were new.

By the way, if you aren't getting them already, you can sign up to receive Patrick's SuperTool monthly lists by emailing him at

So is it possible that plane prices are creeping up? I'm still not sure because that isn't supposed to happen. There has been an unbelievable number of vintage planes that have been dumped on the market over the past few years, mainly coming from collectors who are liquidating, or from their heirs who want nothing to do with a bunch of old tools. When supply outstrips demand, prices fall, so how can inflationary prices exist in the market? If it is

This probably isn't the time to mention this, but I am still looking for a good type 7 No. 6 Stanley, and if anyone knows a screw from another plane that will work to holding a Stanley No.386 fence to a plane, I would appreciate you letting me know. Finding replacement thumb screws for this fence is a real bugger.

I had to stop working on the mount for my Stanley No. 50 because I want to tie it into the mount for my No.51 that is going to run up beside it. Here is where it stands today with the template for a layout for its mates...

It really was a difficult plane to design a mount for, which ended up with more dips and dives than I expected. The entire thing is made from a glue-up of walnut with all the grains running vertical.

Here is the plane head-on. With all its bits and bobs, it is 3" wide, but because the widest part of the actual plane body is the tote that is slightly thicker than ¾", there is a lot of empty space around it, making the mount look like a 1950's era continental kit...

Because I have a lot of resawing to do for this project, I decided it was time to make the Frame-Saw I bought blades for about 4-years ago, so that will be what I will be posting about next. Because I do not have my lathe up and running, I'm currently rounding off parts of some ⁵⁄₈" square brass stock by hand so I can thread them. I should have photos and my usual verbal diarrhea about them up within the week.