Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wooden plane mouth openings

This post is prompted by a thread on Woodnet, in which a fellow woodworker asked how wide a mouth on a wooden plane can be and still provide good results. I took this pictures of my user wooden planes (one shop made, two vintage, and a modern premium smoother) to illustrate.

The whole lot of user wooden planes

Mathieson try plane

Mathieson fore plane

Shop made jointer plane

That is a 1/4" wide chisel used as a gauge block. The shopmade jointer (single iron) has an opening of just about 1/16" of an inch. The Mathieson fore plane (double iron but not set up as such) has an opening of slightly more than 1/4". The Mathieson try plane (double iron but not set up as such) has a mouth opening of slightly less than 1/4". I do not have the precision measuring tools (virtually pointless in a woodshop) to measure the mouth on the Old Street Tool smoother, but if I had to guess I'd say its less than 1/4 of the opening on the jointer plane.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A real c.1780 Pennsylvania slant top desk

I was lucky enough to win a c.1780 stained maple desk from Skinner a couple of weeks ago. I had the desk shipped UPS Freight and, despite the best efforts of the truck driver who rolled the box end over end up to my porch, it it arrived undamaged on Friday. I couldn't be happier to own a legitimate piece of American history.

My desk in my library. That chair is an early 19th century Windsor which I re-seated.
This piece exhibits showcases many characteristics of typical period work. The joinery on the case bottom, even accounting for wood shrinkage, would not pass muster in most shops today. 

The case bottom. Missing one glue block.

Get the truck boys, plenty of room here.

This side is slightly better but still plenty of "errors" in the work.

The slant lid shows significant tearout that has been there for 230 years without people worrying about it.

Oh no! Tearout!!

The case is 42-in high, so you can see how wide the backboards are.

Overall, it just has the right feel for the time period, which is exactly what I try to replicate in the pieces of furniture I make. It clearly has had some repairs which I will document as well, but overall it is a very nice piece.This will be of great use to me in my home, and will be an outstanding reference piece for my furniture work.

If you would like to see more, let me know. Just for kicks, I may build a copy of it, so I may make measured drawings available if there is enough interest.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

MWTCA meet at Tillers International THIS SATURDAY 7-12

Just a heads up that MWTCA Area C is having their annual tool swap meet at Tillers International this Saturday. Starts at 8:00am and runs through lunch (which is provided for the cost of admittance and is usually some of the best barbecued chicken you'll ever have). You have to be a member (or the guest of a member) to attend. The cost is about $15.

For those of who you have never been to Tillers, here is a little about them (from the Tillers website):

Tillers International is a 501(c)3 IRS non-profit organization for international rural development, specializing in farming with oxen. Based in Scotts, Michigan, USA at our Cook's Mill Learning Center, Tillers offers classes in appropriate technology farming techniques, draft animal power, blacksmithing and metal work, timber framing, woodworking, cheesemaking, and many other farming and artisanal skills. Tillers also hosts interns, both international and domestic, and international guests for intensive periods of hands-on training. Whether you're looking for a new hobby, a new land or skill-based livelihood, or an opportunity to contribute your knowledge and skills to an international project, Tillers welcomes you and offers myriad unique, educational opportunities. 

They have a working blacksmith shop, small tool museum, a great woodshop full of hand tools, and they will sometimes get the oxen out for cart rides while MWTCA is there. In connection with the meet, there will be guys selling and trading tools, usually about 10-15 of us will have large tables full of everything from Stanley #1s, infills, wooden planes, chisels, etc. It is a great place to score good quality user tools at a steep discount from the antique stores.

I highly suggest you make it up to Scotts, MI for this meet this Saturday. If you're going to make it, let me know and I'll give the meet organizer a heads up. And if you need a member to sponsor you, just comment here or email me.

Hope to see you Saturday.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Quick half-blind dovetails... the hard part

A large number of 18th century furniture pieces I have studied exhibit deep saw overcuts on the drawer fronts. Some of these extend an inch beyond the baseline and are quite deep into the face of the drawer. They aren't simply to release the outside corner as some posit... they are far deeper than required for that task.

Given our lack of actual written "how to-s" from the period, my interpretation of these marks is that the original maker oversawed the baseline and then continued to saw down to release the inside corner of the waste. This makes waste removal nearly as simple as it is for a through dovetail.

I holdfast my pin board to the bench, face down, for sawing.
Just a demo, so no protective block on the holdfast
This allows me to saw the whole pin face by simply oversawing the baseline. To start, I simply tilt the toe of my saw up, and saw as deeply as I can to the end grain line. After that, I level the saw out and take shorter strokes with the toe of the saw to release all the waste down in the corner. 

Do this on both sides, pick up your chisel (I prefer to use a narrow chisel as this assists in breaking out the grain rapidly with less force needed. 

Once you have most of the waste chiseled on the inside face, put the board vertically in your face vise. Split down with a chisel to remove large chunks of the waste, leaving just a bit of wood to pare out down to your lines.

A couple of final paring cuts and you have a finished socket. Total time for this process in walnut is about 30 seconds (longer in this example because I had to keep stopping to take pictures). This is a fast and repeatable way to make these simple joints.

Bear in mind I'm a hard-core traditionalist and care very little for modern opinions and methods. Those saw cuts are evidence to me, not flaws. The men whose work I seek to understand did their jobs with speed and job-specific knowledge. The modern idea of "every surface is a show surface" is anachronistic to the period in which I have interest. The inside of a drawer front will never be seen by the end user and a true period craftsman would not lavish attention on such a surface when simply oversawing a short distance would speed the process.

You may wish to try this in your own work. Remember, though, the reason I do this is out of fidelity to the past. If you are doing modern work, I would caution you that many see this technique as a "shortcut" or as somehow less valid than spending 20 minutes chiseling with special-purpose tools to achieve a pristine inner surface. I have very little use for those people, but just keep this in mind.