Thursday, March 25, 2021

On the tools...

I am from the ones who think that what we are now or at a given time is the sum of our past experiences, choices we made and people we met. The reason why I like woodworking is maybe the result of people I had the chance to meet before, who influenced my life, like my great grandfather who was a sawyer and carpenter.

Some 25 years ago, while doing some volunteering in a museum in France, I met a wood carver who was invited to that museum for a cultural exhibition. The name of that person was Norbu-la and he was coming from a Tibetan refugee village in Dharamsala in north India. The goal of that exhibition was to showcase art of wood carving in Tibetan culture by carving a Tibetan altar made of teak.

Norbu-la, Tibetan carver in front of his teak altar

During his stay I had the opportunity to spend quite some time with him and to learn about how he was working and to give it a try.

Example of the carver skills...
...and of mine!

This was also an opportunity to look at the tools he was using, especially that these were mostly homemade.

The carver tools, squares, saw, chisels, marking gauge.

Among these tools some are particular to notice.

First of all, the coping saw. That saw was made with a piece of bamboo, shaped into a U form. Bamboo being very flexible it was keeping the tension on the blade like a spring, very clever. 

The saw blade itself was very particular. It was made using a steel wire reclaimed from old tires inner reinforcement wires. The steel was quite mild but still very resistant. The wire was rolled on one side of the bamboo frame, serving as a reserve, and attached at the other end. Before being usable, the carver was cutting very small teeth in the wire using chisel and mallet. When the blade was broking, he would just unroll a new piece, cut the teeth and back to work.

Surprisingly that saw was cutting very well even in hard wood and was very nice and easy to use. The bamboo frame being very well balanced and the saw was easy to handle.

Other tools to notice were the carving chisels. A lot of them, the smallest ones, were made from motorbike wheel spokes. From what he told me the steel used for spokes is a very good quality steel that can handle a heavy tension. They used the spokes as the raw material that was forged into the final chisel. I can assure that these chisels were razor-sharp, my finger will never forget how easily it was to deep cut it.

To sharpen these chisels, the carver was using a black stone, that he carefully selected in the bed of a river and broke in two pieces to have a flat face. I do not know what kind of stone it was but it was very soft to touch and had a fine abrasive grain. He poured water on the stone and honed a chisel for a minute and he was done. 

So looking at the quality of his work, and the simple tools he was using, one question comes to my mind:

Are the tools making the man, or the man who makes the tools?

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Another box

Following one of my previous post the last part of my box to be done is the cover and handle. The cover is a simple pine board but I wanted the handle to stand out of the box so I used a piece of mahogany to make it.

I started with a small 11/2x5x1/2 mahogany piece that I marked to cut each end round. I then roughly saw the corners and got the final round shape with a chisel.

Rough cut with a saw... shape with a chisel

I then rounded the edge, first using a plane to get a bevel all around then sanding the remaining waste.

First handle part done.

I did the same for the second part, except that I started from a 1x41/2x1/2 piece of mahogany that will only be half rounded on its edge.

Two parts done.

The handle is made by gluing the two parts stacked.

Handle final shape.

I applied 4 coats of wiping varnish, by penetrating in the wood it highlights the reddish color of the mahogany.

Handle afixed to the box.

The handle is set to the box using four small wood pegs dark stained. The little wood pegs are protruding 1/16" from the top of the handle to give a "nailed" look.

Overall I am pleased with the end result. The handle could have been a bit more evolved in its shapre or better designed but I like the way it stands out from the box.

It was initially planned to be used to contains my wife birthday gift but as usually I was late so it became another gift by itself.

A simple box

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Anatomy of a Peugeot plane

Few days ago, I received an email from Simon living in Netherlands about the dimensions of one of my Peugeot plane. Simon got a Peugeot blade assembly and wants to build the plane that goes along. So I made some pictures and drawings with measurements and here is the anatomy of a Peugeot plane.


Peugeot 48

The plane is a Peugeot 48 (what is also the blade width measured in mm) and is made with Cormier wood (French naming) or Service Tree in English. For the naturalists, its scientific name is Sorbus Domestica.

Its length is about 93/8 inches (or about 238mm) what makes it a smoother plane.

Its particularity is the mechanism to move the blade.

Blade assembly, top view
Blade assembly, side view

I tried to be as precise as possible in my measurements, in inches as well as millimeters, but there may be some small deviations.

Side view

The picture below shows the side view of the plane wooden body (blade assembly and wedge removed).

Plane body, side view.

Below is a drawing with all the dimensions I was able to measure.

Plane body side dimensions.

One thing that surprised me is the 80 degrees angle of the front side of the mouth that I believed was vertical but is not.

Top view

Below is a picture of the plane body top view.

Plane body, top view

Note the notch in the blade bed that receives the adjustment screw mechanism.
Below are the corresponding dimensions on a drawing.

Plane body top dimensions

About the wedge

Below are two pictures of the plane wedge. Sorry for the shadow but I have no professional studio light so this as the best I could do.

Wedge, top view
Wedge, side view

Finally below is a drawing of the same views with the corresponding dimensions.

Wedge dimensions

Hope this will help, and if anybody is making a clone of it, please send me a picture.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A Story of Box and Dovetails

Last weekend was my wife birthday and instead of wasting some paper I thought about making another box to wrap her gift.

I used some Pine leftover from another project and adapted the box size to the available length. Of course the box had to be dovetailed so I thought of sharing my adventures with dovetails.

Tails or Pins, who's first?

I read enough opinions and discussions about this subject to know that there is no answer to this question but only a personal preference. Speaking about personal preference, mine is to start with tails. The reason for that, if there can be any reason, is that I find easier to cut the tails and use them as a template to mark the pins than the reverse. At the end I don't think this makes much difference if you are used to the way you choose.

Dovetail Design & Marking

When thinking about my dovetails, the first thing I am looking at is the space I will need at each end for example to hide a panel groove. 

Tails marked on one board.
If I take my box as example, the bottom will be made with a 3/4" thick board that will be joined to the box with a 1/4 tongue and groove so I needed 3/4" at the bottom to hide the groove.
I then set the size of my tails to fit the number I want and I start to mark them from each side. The central pin will take the remaining space. I like when the central pin is larger than the others, it "breaks" the visual while keeping the symmetry.

To mark the tails I use a simple pencil with a well sharped tip. After having made some mistake I am now very careful to properly mark the waste part too.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Henry Brown brace from Sheffield

It has been a long time since my last post, but still the butcher is alive and well alive. I have been busy with some gardening work, landscaping and all sort of outdoor pleasures but now that winter is back at our door it is time to be back to woodworking.

For a long time now I wanted to get a wooden brace for the beauty of the tool but also to use it. I always found some either too expensive or in very bad shape... until recently.

I was lucky to find a very nice one, made by Henry Brown from Sheffield. I think this one was made sometime around 1810 to 1830 but not sure exactly.

Henri Brown brace.

The knob handle is solid, turn perfectly on the main body and does not wiggle. It shows only a very fine crack in the wood that looks more like a wood aging crack than coming from any abuse. This will be nothing to prevent its usage.

Medaillon on the knob,
Henry Brown from Sheffield.

The brace mouth is very clean, the square is almost perfect and does not show any damage nor much wear.

The brace mouth in very good shape.

The mechanism to release the bit is also working nicely, I just oiled it a bit so to make it smooth. On this brace, instead of a push button, there is a small lever that push the spring holding the bit.

The bit release mechanism.

The bit is tight in the mouth and have no room to wiggle.

Brace bit tight in the brace mouth.

Now that I have the brace I was looking for, I need to clean my bits collection so to get them shining. I have a bunch of them so it took me few hours to give them all a good Evaporust bath. While they were bathing I took the opportunity to make an holder so they won't just lay in a plastic box and be forgotten.

The brace and my bits set.

These bits are all in usable state and sharp and I tried every one of them. However I guess that some will be used more often than others. I doubt I will use the reamers very often.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The strangest brace I ever saw

I just went over the strangest brace I ever saw and thought this one was worth a post, so here it is:

A strange brace.

It looks like a mutant born from a brace breeding with a hand drill and apparently can be both. If one is interested it is currently for sale on EBay.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Almost there...

In my last post I started to work on the two shelves that will go in the middle and at the bottom of the vanity I am building. 

I cleaned the tenons on each board and marked them so to remember where each one was going.

Each board is marked to recall its place.

The next step was to make the mortises in the rails used to assemble the shelves boards so I marked each mortise on one rail.

Mortises marked on one rail.

I then put the opposite rail side by side and used the first one to mark the second one. This allowed me to get mortises perfectly facing each other in both rails. In case of a slight misplacement on one rail it will be reported to the other.

Using one rail to mark the other.

I chopped the mortise waste using a mortising chisel. Each mortise is 1/4" wide and 1/4" deep.

First rail done.

After about an hour of fun, both rails were done and I was able to clean the boards for the first dry fit.

First shelf dry fit alone...

... and in its final place.

One more shelf to go and one more hour of fun and I was able to see the final result.

Both shelves in place.

Now that all parts are done I will be able to tackle the last adjustments and cleaning then will finish parts before final assembly.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Vanity taking shape

Now that the raised panels for the vanity side are done I did start making the frame that will receive them. I first cut the four legs to length and planed them square to 11/2 x 11/2.

Two of the 4 legs.

The side panels are set in a groove made in each leg. To make this groove I used my small Record #43 plough plane.

Making the grooves.

However, as it can be seen in the picture above, the groove is stopped at a point in the leg. To be able to use the plane I had to make the groove end using a chisel first so the plane can work for the remaining waste.

The end of the groove is first made with a chisel.

After having made the matching tenons and grooves in the top and bottom rails I was able to do a dry fit of each side of the vanity.

The two sides of the vanity.

I then tackled the rails for the front frame and matching mortises in the legs and was able to dry fit the base vanity assembly.

Base assembly dry fit.

I did the same for the bottom rails and did another dry fit with the doors inserted.

Another dry fit with doors inserted.
The next thing to take care of are the two shelves. These two will be made with separate boards assembled with tenons in rails mortises.

The two shelves will be made with separate boards.

The middle (darker) board is birch, like the raised panels while the other ones are pine.
I am not sure yet what will be the finish for this vanity. My initial idea was to stain the pine dark and keep the birch natural. Now I start thinking that I like the contrast of clear pine and natural birch. I will think about it over night to get some inspiration :)

Monday, April 27, 2020

Big slab planing and a drama (sort of).

Long time since my last post. We just came out from 3 weeks of vacation (at home of course) that we spent doing some long due home renovations.
Still I took the opportunity of the nice weather coming back to start planing some big slabs of white pine to prepare them for the bench I want to build. It is a joy to plane outside under a shining sun!

Start planing the slabs.

This was also the opportunity to play with the latest tool I got, a Millers Falls #88 jointer plane fence. I got it in perfect shape, it just needed a bit of cleaning and was ready to be back to work.
I mount it on my Stanley #7 and used it for the first time. At first it was a bit strange to use but when I got used to it I found it nice. With this, it is easy to follow a long straight edge.

Trying my Millers Falls #88 jointer fence.

After a while, and a bunch of shavings, it was time to clean up the deck a bit.

Time for a good sweep to collect the shavings.

And then came the drama... My Stanley #7 was resting peacefully on the slab when I heard a big "bang"... the plane felt down on the deck. The result was immediate:

Resulting effect of a fall.

I was lucky enough that my deck was made in wood so the shock was not too hard on the plane sole and the only damage was a broken tote and a slightly bent threaded rod.
It was easy to get the rod back straight. For the tote I used epoxy to glue it back in one piece.

Tote glued back in one piece.

After slight sanding and a coat of finish, it will be almost as new.

Anyway, lesson learned: When the job is done, put the plane back to its shelf!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Making laminated raised panels

After making the doors for my bathroom vanity I need to make side panels of the same type that is to say that these panels will have a pine frame enclosing a birch raised panel.
Considering the size of these side panels I needed to make the birch panels by jointing two 6" wide boards. I cut the boards to length, adding 1" for the tongues, and planed the edges with a jointer plane.
After a quick dry fit I started gluing the panels.

Jointing boards.

At the end I got two 11"x165/8".

Jointed panel.

In order to make the raised center I needed first to cut the tongue all around the panel and then to plane the raised bevel. I started by marking the boards.

Board front face marked...
...and same for the back face.

On the front face, the first mark is the tongue, the second is the end of the raising bevel. On the back only the tongue is marked.

Using my favorite rabbet plane, my Record 778, I started planing the tongue cross grain.

Starting the tongue cross grain on the back.

Then went with the grain to get it done all around. The tongue is 1/4" deep and 1/2" wide.

One face done.

When the back face is done I did the same to the front face.

Both faces done.

The remaining step was to plane the 1" wide bevel from the tongue to the marked line.
To plane the bevel, this time I used a Millers Falls #8 to remove the bulk and finished with my shoulder plane.
I ended with my two side raised panels.

Rough planed side raised panels.

Next I will start finishing these panels and will work on the frame.