Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Woodworking is a Gateway Drug

I always thought (naively, I am beginning to suspect) that as a woodworker, I would while away my free hours making wood shavings and dust. And also, sweeping up said byproducts.  As I began the transition into hand tool woodworking, I quickly realized the error of that thought process.  Many of the tools I need, or will need, are currently produced and available from contemporary manufacturers.
However, they are either shoddy imitations of the vintage tools they approximate, or priced beyond a point that I feel comfortable with.  I don't really want to explain to the children that they won't be able to go to college, but wow do I have a great shop.

So, I have begun seeking out vintage tools that require a little love, shall we say.  Along the way, I have had to do a lot of research, reading, and experimenting.  And all of these have led to acquiring new skills and a new comfort level with metal work (other than the historic sheet metal work I need to get back to soon).  And no project has been as challenging as the Stanley 246 mitre box that is currently in the center of my bench.

Once more, fresh from Craigslist.

Certainly, when I first brought it home, it didn't turn any heads. except for the children maybe, but then only because they had seen Roy Underhill use one.  The paint was badly worn, numerous blooms of rust, some more than just on the surface, and several missing parts.  Thank God for the internet and the knowledgeable woodworkers and tool collectors who generously share their information.

Step one of course was dis-assembly and assessment.  I could have gotten away with a very serious cleaning and put it back to work.  But why make things so simple?  Besides, if I have to take a tool apart to clean it, I may as well do the best restoration that my skills allow.  Our shops and our tools say a lot about us as craftsmen, and several decades from now when I am finished, I would like mine to speak of a conscientious workman who made the most of what he was given.

So as the Saturday morning of a long weekend dawned, I began the cleaning and stripping of the larger parts (many of the smaller parts were de-rusted and cleaned nights last week).  

Smaller parts undergoing rust removal.

More of the same.

In removing the rust, grime, and at least two layers of paint from the main frame and legs, I was presented with a surprise.  Apparently, a past owner had done some minimal embellishments.  There was evidence of some red detail painting on some of the parts.  Never one to refuse the opportunity to milk a project, I decided the tool deserved to return to its prior glory, and added a step.
This scale wasn't even recognizable when I brought the box home.

The frame repainted and part one reinstalled, the Stanley plate.

Repainted.  It wasn't much, but I really liked the contrast of colors.

After repainting and my brief foray into tool decoration, I began the reassembly.  I should have taken better pictures prior to taking the whole thing apart, but a few minutes of trial and error and I had the basic assembly back together.

Glamour shot number one.

And another.

Realizing that my Labor Day free time was coming to an end, I stopped there to clean up and took a little time to lay out the new wooden deck.  I used half inch oak and cut the shape.  Then off to my trash can for some ammonia fuming.  Not thinking, I didn't cut the dadoes prior to fuming, so I may be repeating that process.  I'll at least have the photos of the fumed board soon. 

This day in (Mostly American) History:

1664 New Amsterdam renamed New York under British rule
1941 Siege of Leningrad begins
1943 Italian surrender anounced during WWII
1945 American troops partition Korea
1974 President Ford pardons Richard Nixon
1998 Mark McGwire "passes" Roger Maris with his 62nd Home Run*

Thursday, September 3, 2015


Another year has come and gone, punctuated by another birthday.  One of the many highlights of the day was the gifts that I received from my loved ones. One that made me laugh was a fantastic t-shirt from my wife and children.

Am I really that bad?

I was also fortunate enough to receive some gifts for the workshop.

New additions to my sharpening kit.
As I have evolved into more of a hand tool woodworker, I have begun to realize the limitations of my former sharpening kit.  I had smaller soft and hard Arkansas stones in a smaller size.  The stones were fantastic for learning the basic processes involved in sharpening and the size of the stones were no hindrance when it came to sharpening chisels.  Having progressed to planes, I began to see some limitations.  Enter this gift.  Each of these stones measures 3x10.  Also, I have added the Black Arkansas stone for a much nicer polishing.  The Veritas MK II jig is also a useful addition, making it easier for me to create repeatable bevels on the wider plane blades.  The very next day I spent a couple hours finishing the restoration of my Stanley 4 by honing the blade and putting it to work.  After some fine tuning, I was very pleased with the results.  More on that in another post.

Continuing Education

Thanks to the sale at Popular Woodworking, I also added some new DVD's to my collection.  The next frontier for me will be saw sharpening and maintenance.  Hopefully these will be a good start.

And of course, my little gift to myself, the vintage Stanley 246 I mentioned last week.

A gift to myself.

I was able to download a great deal of original information from the web and have begun the dis-assembly and cleaning process.
The first of the parts being treated.
After the bath, more work to do.

Hopefully the weekend, will bring enough shop time to continue the process and make a major dent in the work remaining on this project.  And maybe even a little time to start viewing the new DVD's to gear up for working on the mating saw.  We shall see.

Finally, a heartfelt thank you to my wife, children, and parents.  I am truly blessed to have each of you in my life.  I hope to spend many more birthdays with all of you.

Today in (Mostly American) History

1777 The Stars and Stripes is flown
1783 Treaty of Paris ends the American Revolutionary War and establishes the United States of          America
1861 Confederate forces march into Kentucky
1919 Woodrow Wilson begins a tour in support of the League of Nations
1943 Allied invasion of Italy begins

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Time for Reflection

Today, I turn 40 years old.  There, I said it.

All kidding aside, numbers don't bother me as far as age goes.  But birthdays are a time of reflection for me, especially the ones that end in zeroes.  It's another year in the books so to say, and another year beginning and bringing with it new opportunities.  It is definitely a time to take stock and make plans.

Forty, though, is a little different.  Statistically speaking, I realize that I am in the neighborhood of the half way mark in life.  I am fortunate to be able to look back and realize that I have accomplished a great deal in my forty years.  I have been blessed with a great family (thank you mom and dad for all that you are in my life), wonderful experiences, and many opportunities to gain knowledge and skills. For the most part, I have been able to pursue my interests and dabble in many different areas,

The last year (or seven) has been one of change.  I was blessed to meet and marry a woman who is, at least to me, the picture of perfection.  A truly amazing woman, friend, mother, wife and genuinely good soul.  I have been graced by the presence and love of two wonderful children.  We have made great progress in household renovations (one of the main reasons this blog has been so quiet these past few months) and reclaiming the yard from years of neglect.  Back in January I started this blog as a means of interacting with fellow woodworkers, and it has been a tremendous experience.  Among others, thank you to +Ralph J Boumenot,  +Jonas Jensen and +Robert Demers for all of your advice, encouragement and support. As I get this blog back up and running, I hope to continue talking with each of you and hopefully many more.

Realizing that I have lived such a wonderful forty years, it brings me to what will hopefully be the next forty plus.  There are so many things that I still hope to accomplish in life.  Of course continuing to be a better son, husband and father.  Professionally, I have many goals, not the least of which is finally going to graduate school.  Physically, I have been working for months at taking better care of myself.  Plenty of cardio and weights (although not nearly the way that i worked out a couple decades ago) and a more healthy diet.

But for the purpose of this blog, I am very excited about dedicating myself to finding more time in the shop, taking classes and pushing myself to become a better all around craftsman.  That's not to say that I've been completely inactive.  I have had a number of small projects pass through the shop and I have a backlog of material for posts which I promise to get to in the coming days.  But I do need to be conscious of better documenting my work with photos and actually making the time to update here regularly.

And on that note, my latest project...

Stanley 246

I just blundered into this miter box and it's saw on Craigslist on Monday.  I have been using a shop made miter box for some time, waiting patiently for the opportunity to upgrade.  While the Stanley 246 would not have been my first choice, the price was right and at least this will be good practice in restoring it to working order.  The saw definitely needs some work, sharpening at a minimum.  I am not sure how effective the box will be when I finish, but I will definitely have some fun with the process.  I began the dis-assembly last night with the help of original documents I was able to find online.  Hopefully I will have some time to get to it this weekend, if not before.  I'll update my progress as I go.

Also, in the next couple days, I'll share some of my woodworking related birthday gifts.

This Day in (Mostly) American History

1804 Lewis and Clark promote Patrick Gass to Seargent
1862 Second Bull Run campaign begins
1920 19th Amendment Adopted
1939 First Televised Major League Baseball game 
1944 Charles DeGaulle enters a liberated Paris

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Six months after her surgery and a grueling therapy schedule, my wife has returned to work at a new job closer to our home.  She is loving the work, but it is a change for both of us.  Yesterday began week three and little by little, we are acclimating ourselves to our new schedule.  Couple that with spring break for the children, (very different form my last spring break: rumor has it that I had a great time) and spring bringing a tremendous laundry list of outdoor chores and repairs after our harsh winter, and we have the makings of a dead period here on my blog.  I have been finding shop time where I can, finishing some small projects that have been languishing on my bench for some time. That said, I have a decent amount of material to share here if I can only find the time to sit down at the computer and write.

So today, I would like to post my first completed project, just to prove that I am in fact, still alive and mostly well.

My Grandfather's block plane, finally reassembled and ready for work.
I began work on this plane hoping to do a very basic job of cleaning it up and returning it to work.  I had inherited the plane at a time when I was either not capable of, or unwilling to use it in my work. Roughly ten years of Rhode Island moisture in my basement had taken its toll.

A picture from an older post showing the before.
Some would say that I have a serious problem with OCD, I just think I get enthusiastic about positive results.  Long story short, the plane ended up completely disassembled, paint and rust stripped, repainted, sharpened, and honed.  As you can see in the first picture, I've got the plane adjusted to take a nice fine shaving out of a nasty piece of scrap pine.

Inspired by my results, I have started down the same path with a vintage Stanley #4 that I ran into at a junk store.  I'm working on it slowly, as I also have a couple of small woodworking and a finishing project that I am alternating on (which is to say that I am creeping along on all of them).

As we continue to get used to the new rhythm of life and spring yard work gives way to summer, I hope to get back to more regular posting here on the blog.  Thank you for for your patience and I hope you will keep reading along.  I have some bigger projects on the horizon.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A much needed diversion.

This post will be a first for me.  Rather than begging the readers' pardon for a lack of posts based upon a lack of shop time , I will now note that I have actually been able to spend a great deal of time in the shop working on numerous small projects and experiments.  I've actually been so busy working, that I've had little time to report on my progress here.  Needless to say, I'll try to catch up in the coming days and weeks.

This post however, will be  about a little diversion that my son and I embarked upon a few nights ago.  And in the process, I was reminded how a little work time can bring the generations together.

My son received a wonderful gift some time ago.  It was a kit to build a wooden monster truck.  At six years old, he was excited to get started.  Being slightly older, and very busy at work, in the house, and in the shop, I was less enthralled.  But finally, my son won me over and we decided that we would open the package and read the instructions and plan our strategy.

Work begins on our "workbench", the dining room table.
I am embarrassed to admit, the project turned out to be much easier than I had anticipated.  I had assumed that the kit would require painting, but lo and behold, stickers were provided to complete the truck.  And so, as I am wont to do, I got a bit carried away and our planning session became a full blown construction session.  He was very excited, and insisted that mama and sister not look until we were finished.

The kit was perfect for the younger, aspiring woodworker. 

Everything but the hammer was included and all of the holes were pre-drilled.  As a result, the project progressed quickly.  I did start most of the nails for him and held the pieces while he hammered.  I wanted his first real building experience to be positive.  He can learn about the fun of hammer meeting thumb sometime down the road when he is a little less pain averse.

The finished dalmatian monster truck, complete with ears and tail.

All in all, it was a great project for father and son.  It was a learning curve for me, as I had to tread the fine line between "helping" and teaching.  In the end though, he was a great listener, and was able to learn some beginning lessons in woodworking despite my shortcomings as a teacher.  We were also able to bond over my hobby, and hopefully one that we will share again in the future.  I see a birdhouse in our future this spring. (As an aside, mama and sister were duly impressed with his craftsmanship.  Sister will however, not be allowed to touch the truck without permission.)  Thanks go out to my parents for providing the gift, sorry it took so long.

The proud carpenter and his first project, gotta love the urban camo PJ's.

This Day in (Mostly American) History

1783: Congress ratifies the peace treaty with England
1865: Abraham Lincoln dies the morning after being shot by John Wilkes Booth
1894: Bessie Smith is born
1912: The "unsinkable" Titanic goes down in the North Atlantic
1947: Jackie Robinson breaks the color barrier in Major League Baseball
2013: Three parish and hundreds are badly injured in the Boston Marathon bombing

Monday, April 6, 2015

Necessity is the mother of invention (learning something new)

I had mentioned last week that a new project had moved to the front of the line.  Last night, after I finished up some work on another project, I got started.

My next project.
I hesitate to call this chair an antique, well-used would probably be a better description.  My wife and I purchased this chair a couple years ago because it loosely matched our dining room set and we were guessing that we would eventually need more than our six existing chairs.  It came as part of a pair. We knew at the time of purchase that we would eventually reupholster the pair. But when catastrophe struck last week, eventually became now, at least for this chair.

Joint failure.
Certainly, I am no Don Williams, and this chair is definitely not among America's treasures.  But it is a useful and necessary seat.  So down to the shop it went.  My first step was to remove the seat.  It was an extremely easy job as three of the four screws holding it to the glue blocks were overly loose.  The fourth was a Phillips head replacement.  That accomplished, the chair frame will be more accessible for gluing and clamping.

The seat.
At this point, I decided to continue along and remove all of the old upholstery from the seat board. The embroidered cover, a muslin lining, horsehair fill, burlap underlay, and finally the webbing straps gave way to a very loose seat frame.

Some of the layers.

The frame discovered.

Factory made and doweled together.
The loose frame, will probably require some work before I reupholster it.  As it is so far, I have already glued a chip back into place.

The chip.

The treatment.
Now on to more decisions.  How much work should I put into the chair.  Aside from the structural issue and the upholstery, there are several additional issues with the chair, including sloppy repairs and some more than average wear to the finish.  I'll be discussing this with my wife over the next few days and coming up with a plan get the chair back into service.

Wear and tear.

Excess glue from a repair made by a previous owner.

More wear to the finish.

And a plea to all of our readers: Any suggestions as to books or videos on upholstering?  I'd like to have it be as close as possible to the original, but being a newer reproduction, we will be willing to make some compromises for cost an comfort.

And finally, I hope that all of our readers who observe Easter had a warm and joyous holiday with their families.  

The candy binge commences.

This Day in (Mostly American) History

1776: The Continental Congress opened all colonial ports to international trade.
1830: Establishment of the Mormon Church.
1832: The Black Hawk War Began.
1841: John Tyler Inaugurated as 10th President.
1862: The Battle of Shiloh began.
1896: The first modern Olympic Games began.
1909: The expedition led by Robert Peary reached the North Pole.
1917: The United States entered World War I.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The search for tools continues.

While my shop time has been limited, and several projects lay languishing on my bench, I have found some time to be a be a seat of the pants woodworker.  I've been keeping up with all of my regular blog reading.  One thing that has become obvious from that, is that if you have contact with enough other woodworkers, you're bound to be working on some of the same or similar projects.  It's nice to get other woodworkers input either before or during a project.  You have all been very helpful to me.  Especially the non-professional woodworkers who's thoughts and issues often mirror my own.

The other aspect of virtual woodworking that has consumed some of my time, is expanding (or trying to) my tool collection.  Since I tend to rely on vintage tools that I rehab myself, I try to look down the road and anticipate what tools I will need in the future.  This allows me to hunt for favorable prices on users that won't take weeks to rehab.  It also gives me the time to work on them before they are needed.  It's not always easy to get into a good work flow, so once I do, I hate to break it to work on a tool for the next step.  My luck in this pursuit is streaky at best, but I am always grateful for what I am able to acquire.  Lately, I've had a mini-streak of good luck.

I've been searching for some time for a brace.  My antique store finds have either been junk or priced beyond what I thought was reasonable.  Same thing on EBAY, especially considering the addition of shipping.  But I finally found the right deal, an old Millers Falls.  It's definitely a user, but it's fully functional and the price was right.

This one won't require too much cleaning.

My next two finds are based on my spring cleaning.  One of the old projects I'd stowed out of harm's way prior to my hiatus from woodworking came to light.  And I couldn't resist putting it on my to do list.

The beginning of the base of a tall case clock.  

When my grandfather passed away, I inherited a set of plans for a tall case clock that he had built for my mother.  After living with that clock on a daily basis for more than a decade prior to leaving home for college and work, that clock came to symbolize my grandfather's craftsmanship to me.  So when I felt able, I began to build my own.  The plans are a "traditional" design, probably from the 1970's   I didn't want to build the clock exactly to the plans, I envisioned something that was influenced by historic examples that abounded in my new home state.  When I began the clock, I was almost exclusively a power tool woodworker.  Switching to hand tools really won't have too much of an affect on my plans, but I know that I'll have to find a way to make the mouldings for the transitions from base to waist, waist to hood, and on the hood.  I got a copy of "Mouldings in Practice" by Matt Bickford for Christmas and realized that hollows and rounds would be my best bet.  My search is not limited to any particular sizes (I hope to build the vaunted half set) but the mouldings around the waist are going to require some larger coves.  Enter my first stroke of luck.

My first set of hollows and rounds.

I found these beauties on EBAY, and I'm guessing due to the larger size (16), I had no competition and was able to acquire them very reasonably.  They are in fantastic shape, even sharp right out of the box.  A huge thank you is due to the previous owner.  I also bid on some additional sets from the same seller, but as those were more commonly used sizes, i bowed out of the bidding well before my competition.

Mere days later, my luck was still in place.  I found a usable set of 18's, also on EBAY.  Again, no competition and another addition to my growing collection of hand tools.  

The 18's just out of the box and in need of some work.

The shipping of these planes provides an odd and (for me) unsettling story.  I received an e-mail while at work that they had been delivered.  When I got home that night, I had forgotten about them, until my family and I were out for dinner.  When I remembered, I asked my wife, but she said they had never arrived.  It really ruined my night (Wednesday) and most of the next day, but I held out hope.  By Friday night, I had come to the realization that they were probably stolen off my front steps.  When the thief of thieves opened the package, I was sure that one more set of planes would be bound for the landfill.  But surprisingly, early Saturday afternoon, the package mysteriously appeared on my porch.  The box was pristine, completely unopened.  I still don't know what to make of it, but I am very thankful that they finally found their way to their new home.

The second set of planes was in need of a lot more work.  I won't go into that here as +William Lattanzio did an excellent job documenting his work on a set of these planes here: https://confusedwoodworker.wordpress.com/2015/03/15/rehab/.  Thank you for your help.

I have a long way to go to complete the set, but at least I've ticked two off the list.

This Day in (Mostly American) History 

1513: Ponce de Leon reaches Florida.
1777: Ebenezer Learned promoted to Brigadier General.
1863: Riots in Richmonnd , Va. over food shortages.
1865: The Army of the Potomac captures the Confederate lines surrounding Petersburg, Va.
1902: The first female judge passes away in Wyoming.
1917: Woodrow Wilson asks Congress to declare war.
1941: Erwin Rommel recaptures Libya.
2005:Pope John Paul II passes away.