gathering up

I've located and/or obtained a few more items in my quest to fill out a primarily hand-tool workshop.

Last week's trip to a flea market yielded a motley collection of spiral auger bits (from various manufacturers) for my braces. I had to paw through the dimly lit and rusty piles of tool-shaped objects to locate the most promising ones. My plan so far is to try to de-rust them using electrolysis, then sharpen and polish as required. I doubt the full range of diameters is represented, but I still have an iron in the fire for a complete set of Irwin or Jennings bits.

Today's antique market visit yielded a #4 Stanley "Handyman" H1204 plane - but not for me this time. With a little rehab work it should meet the needs of my brother-in-law for his recent woodworking interests. The Handyman line was a little on the light side in terms of construction, but can still be made functional. Should he reject it, I can easily turn it into a scrub plane for my own meager efforts.

While perusing a garage sale last month, a friend of mine grabbed three drawknives he thought I might be interested in (yes, I have great friends). Two of them are in excellent condition, merely requiring sharpening. The third is a little wonky in its handle-to-handle alignment, leading me to believe it was run over at some point - it may yet be made useable, though.

I'll be very interested to try the Lee Valley froe that I picked up last week. An old maple tree on our property had to be cut down before it fell down of its own accord. I've kept the majority of the wood from the trunk; the sections may or may not prove workable at this point. A couple of old wooden baseball bats will stand in as mallets until I can fabricate a proper whacking stick for the job.

Between the drawknifes, the froe and the various bench planes I already have, I anticipate being able to extract some usable lumber from short sections of tree trunks. This could turn out to be well beyond my capabilities, but I am sufficiently interested to give it a try. I can't see simply burning the entire maple that grew for 50+ years on our property without trying to capture something permanent from it's carcass. There are a number of other possible sources of stock in my area that could yield enough material for boxes, small cabinets, and basic furniture components. Given the price of good wood at the retail level, I think it deserves an attempt on my part.

Still outstanding on the list of desired items are a shoulder plane for cleaning up dadoes & tenons, and a #7 or #8 jointer/try plane for dealing with the long edges of boards for glue-ups; there's not much else I can think of that can't be made in-house. Sure I'd love a full set of chisels, some sash & panel-raising planes, and an infill smoother but these are all going to have to wait.

There is still a good deal of work ahead of me in cleaning up and tuning the vintage items I have already gathered. In an oddly comforting way, I'm really looking forward to the process. I'd better start thinking about a proper tool chest to put them all in!


to buy or not to buy

Yesterday I visited A&M Wood Specialty (again). They were celebrating their 40th anniversary with an open house event. Lie-Nielsen Tools were there, as well as a luthier, Sauer & Steiner Toolworks, and Steve Der-Garabedian, the instructor who has taught me a lot about working with wood recently.

Sauer & Steiner make some of the most beautiful infill planes I have ever seen, but their cost is well outside my range. I didn't think anything but a scraper could take shavings as fine as I was able to make with their planes.

Had a good chat with Steve about the processes and equipment necessary for veneering using a vacuum system. He pointed me to Joe Woodworker's site for the relevant info on making your own vacuum rig. Lots of other great info there as well.

Despite the generous offers on shipping & brokerage, I did not make any purchases from Lie-Nielsen. Their staff gave great demos of many plane types and various techniques. They also took the time to describe why you would use certain blades and differing frog angles to work different woods.

Oddly enough, I have (almost) enough tools for what I want to do. I know, it sounds very unlikely but it is true. Trying to work primarily with hand tools does impose some limits on what you will buy. You can go wild accessorising a table saw, but there's just not much to add to a 7 tpi panel saw filed for ripping.

I am, of course, still looking for a few items - such as a #7 jointer plane, 3/4" shoulder plane, crosscut carcass saw and a full set of auger bits. The only critical one is the carcass saw at the moment. I will try to resurrect a small, fine pitch "toolbox" saw and give it a shot, but I fear that the lack of an integral spine will create some problems achieving the accuracy I am after.

I ended up purchasing nothing at all; not even more wood for projects. This time it was the knowledge that was of the most value.


draughty in here...

I used to own a draughting board. I made it in the Wood shop at high school. Most of a 3/4" thick, 4'x6' sheet of cabinet grade ply ended up as the top. The frame and legs were made from 5/4 poplar, with through mortises and lapped mitres. Based on the finished results, the teacher asked me to make him a table, too (a great compliment, frankly). Everything from deck design to charcoal sketches and Dungeon maps happened on this spacious worktop. Many years later, it was sold to a fellow who did technical illustrations. I vaguely regret the decision to do so, but I'm sure it did the job for him.

One of my classmates had made a smaller "artists" table with a tilting top which was equally adept at doing small draughting jobs (up to C size). I inherited this board when he passed away and enjoyed using it as a sketching surface for several years. A fairly talented watercolour artist was thrilled to become the new owner of this table as her primary work space; I'm sure its creator approves.

Fast forward a few years; I was required to take a course on technical drawings as part of the machining programme at a local college. It was supposed to be "Interpretation of Engineering Drawings" which, as the title suggests, is an analytic exercise. However, by the time this course was to begin, it had somehow magically transformed into "Introduction to Basic Drafting" (sic). Back to the drawing board, indeed. Surprisingly, I was able to locate my cache of supplies from high school, avoiding an extra cost but not the disappointment at this ham-fisted re-jigging of the curriculum.

The college was in the middle of an upgrade effort at the time and, as luck would have it, I was able to obtain one of their old, parallel-equipped boards for homework completion. A good size and more convenient than using my venerable T-squares. Upon finishing this programme, the board went on to a college girl undertaking Interior Design. I hope it serves her well.

While I have some facility with CAD software (both 2D and 3D) there are still many tasks which are made more pleasant by having an actual, physical board to putter about upon. My better half recently located a portable board of decent size which I quickly commandeered and re-assembled. It is equipped with a sliding parallel and is meant to be used while resting on another table top, making it dead easy to put away when not needed (a triumph compared to having a 4'x6', limited purpose table sitting in the room). Once again the pencils & erasing shields are out...

Seems I can't really live without a draughting board of some kind. I guess I'm just old fashioned.


vote early, vote often

Shopping has become a necessary evil.

Some stores take the evil part too seriously.

All you need are a few small items. That's it. Nothing rare or exotic. No special orders.

You get to the shop, and are presented with any or all of the following:

  • no items left in the bin, despite assurances from the online inventory check
  • a single item left in bin, but damaged in some way
  • item in the wrong bin
  • item with no bar codes
  • staff that don't know what they sell (notes 1 and 2)
  • staff that don't know what you're talking about (notes 3 and 4) 
  • you are forced to use "self checkout"
  • the self checkout is filthy and badly labelled with poor instructions
  • the self checkout scanner is scratched up so badly it can't actually read the barcodes
  • the on-hand staffers are computer illiterate and can't actually help you

You can help!
Vote with your money! 

Stop spending your cash at places like this! 
With luck, it will make them go away!

note 1: The staff didn't know the difference between aircraft shears and tin snips, nor did they know why the handles on the shears come in different colours. 

note 2: After hunting through the shop fruitlessly looking for "stain pens" to touch up damaged furniture, the staff said "we don't sell those kinds of things". On the way out via a different aisle, a wide array of these items were found hidden in an area that had nothing whatsoever to do with stain, furniture, or even pens/markers.

note 3: On two seperate occasions, I needed elevator bolts and Chicago bolts. The fastener aisle was, as usual, a mess in terms of any logical presentation. Not a single person had any clue what these items might look like, and only a couple had the vague idea that I might want to "look in the section where the bolts are".

note 4: I needed to mount some pictures in frames with glass and backing boards so I went looking for glazier's points. Blank stares from the shop staff. I did get sent to a big aisle full of pre-hung windows. That salesperson also had no idea what these strange mystery items might be or where they could be found.


wooden it be nice

Made a trip to A&M Wood Specialty last week. Wow.

I had gone there looking for white oak to replace the seat slats of a park bench left behind by the previous home owners. The bench is mostly heavy metal castings (iron?) but the seats themselves are still wood. It deserves to be saved; maybe next year I'll have it media-blasted and properly painted.

When he was free (it's a busy place), I spoke to Jerry - who talked me into a couple of slabs of Iroko instead. The wood came out of their thickness planer looking very nice indeed; almost too nice to sit on. According to what I've read, it won't require a protective finish when used outdoors. In addition, apparently, Iroko trees are inhabited by malevolent spirits who can drive people mad and cause them to die suddenly. Not the sort of thing that comes up in a typical "suitable applications for wood" conversation, though.

These will have to be ripped to width, cut to finished length and have the edges eased all 'round. I found a 10" Freud ripping blade on sale for $36 to replace the abused finishing blade that came with my used DeWALT contractor's saw. Come to think of it, the saw itself has been slightly abused; nothing irreparable however.

I'll pick up some stainless fasteners for the job. Yeah, they are a bit more expensive, but this stuff will be sitting outside for the rest of its life.