Thursday, October 29, 2009

Making A New Turning Saw - Part II

Well, I shouldn't have been so overly optimistic about how much I would get done in Part II. I did make some progress, but I'm no where near finished. What else is new?

I started on the stretcher: cutting the curve with my remaining turning saw (the one that was supposed to replace the prototype, but which I don't enjoy that much), truing the curve with a round sole spokeshave, removing the old finish with a jack plane, and beveling the edges with both round and flat sole spokeshaves. Here are a few shots of the results:

I didn't finish the arms of the frame, which Salaman refers to as "cheeks", but I did get them roughed out with the saw:

The inside curve was awkward, but I found a way to get at it. And sawing while kneeling on the floor was kinda fun...

And finally, here's a shot of the saw so far:

It's still a little chunky, and a bit on the heavy side, but I think the final shaping will take care of both of those problems.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Making A New Turning Saw - Part I

My "prototype" turning saw finally died. It was a quick and dirty project that was never intended to last. The original idea was to work out the bugs in the design, and then move on and make/use a nicer saw. It didn't end up that way. In fact the prototype was superior, and was my turning saw of choice over the years while the "nicer" saw hung on the wall.

Here's a shot of the DOA saw:

The epoxy that held the brass pin in the handle finally let go. I could just fix it, but as good as this little saw was (way better than you might guess from looking at it) I've been wanting to build that nicer saw that really works too. I though this was probably the time.

The new saw will be made of oak. I still have some left from the broken library chair episode. After making some cardboard templates, I traced the design onto the stock. I decided to make the handle convex where my hand will hold it, much like a panel saw handle, rather than the more standard concave bowsaw handle. I'm not sure if this will end up being a good idea or a bad idea. I'll know soon enough.

I prefer to do the mortising while the stock is still square. The setup is easy with the holdfasts. The big (giant!) mortise chisel and mallet do the grunt work and the smaller chisel is for cleaning out the chips and flattening the bottom:

The mortising sequence - start in the middle and work to one end (not quite to the layout line):

Back to the middle and work the other way:

Continue until the mortise is deep enough, then clean up the ends:

After laying out the tenons with the same gauge setting used for the mortises, I cut just outside the lines with a backsaw and trimmed with a shoulder plane to a snug fit.

Here's the saw so far - looking very chunky in its unshaped form:

In Part II I will shape the frame parts, make the blade assembly and create the tensioning system. After that, I'll try it out.

If history repeats itself, I'll be regluing the prototype in Part III.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Couple of Roy Underhill Interviews

Well, not much has been happening in the shop lately; my whole family has been sick. Yuck.

But I did run across a couple of interesting Roy Underhill interviews on the net. Both are from Mother Earth News.

This one is from October 2008:

Woodworking with Hand Tools:
Author Roy Underhill takes us from forest to furniture with historical woodworking techniques.

And this one is much older, from November 1985:

Have Broadax-Will Time Travel:
Conversation with the host of PBS' The Woodright's Shop television show.

I enjoyed reading them both (despite the somewhat awkward site layout) and thought others might as well.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Thoughts On Acquiring Old Tools

Some hand tool woodworkers are lucky enough to live in areas with readily available old tools; others are not. I fall into the latter category. I occasionally get questions from others living in similar old tool wastelands about where and how I get my tools. I recently received an email from a reader named Martin that asked about finding old tools. He ended his email with this question:

"So I guess I'm asking, what's your strategy?"

Here's my (slightly edited) reply, which might be of some use to others:

Hey Martin,

I'm not sure I have a strategy - it's more like an obsession :)

But I'll try to organize my thoughts (might be hard just now - 7th graders are wearing me out - I must be getting old!)


1. eBay! I'd say approximately 50-60% of my old tools have come via eBay. See below for more info.

2. New England. About 40%. I've taken two trips back East and sent home coolers full of old tools each time. The coolers are a cheap, practical way to protect the tools and are then reusable back home. Of course, it is a little hard to explain why I have a shed full of coolers...

3. Various other non-Alaskan settings Oregon, Texas, Ohio, Kentucky. 5%. Basically, anywhere I go I scour the area for any place with old tools - flea markets, junk stores, antique stores, thrift stores etc. Basically, I can't drive past any even remotely potential source without saying "Hey, that looks like they might have old tools in there!" Have I mentioned that my wife is a saint?

4. Local Alaskan sources - 1%. Just not much here at all...but I keep looking!

Here's a nutshell version of my eBay rules:

1. Know what you are looking at. Knowledge is king. Most sellers don't know squat about what they are selling - "complete", "mint", "light use", "great condition" etc. mean nothing. You need to know enough to judge for yourself. There are endless examples of this: dado planes with no nicker iron called "complete"(avoid), #78 duplex rabbet planes "missing the front blade" - it only ever had one iron (not a problem - and could be a deal if others don't know that...), "unique block plane" that is really just a broken #3 etc.etc.

2. The web is your best friend. Use it to help with rule #1. If you haven't found it yet - try Patrick Leach's Blood and Gore for information on Stanley planes, the Disstonian Institute for Disston saws etc.

3. Pictures are key. The more quality pictures, the more you can apply rule #1. Spend time studying the pictures.

4. Feedback is useful - to a point. I've had excellent transactions with sellers with very low ratings - but I stay away from those with numerous negatives, or even one negative that has an unsatisfactory response.

5. Know what you are willing to pay - don't get sucked into the bidding frenzy. I've seen used LN planes go for more than LN charges for the same plane new! And at least one person is regularly selling a book for over twice what Lee Valley (the publisher) charges for it. Crazy.

6. Spend some time doing searches of "completed" auctions - this will let you know what range of prices things have gone for recently - maybe that deal isn't really as good as it looks. See rule #5.

7. Snipe. Bid your maximum price (see rule #5) at the last second. If you get it great - if not, there will be more. In my opinion, bidding early only lets others talk themselves into outbidding you - hence the sillyness mentioned in rule #5.

8. Be ready to learn how to fettle. Sometimes you can score tools ready to go. But mostly you need to work on them a bit. Don't rule this out - it is a tremendous learning opportunity.

9. Be ready to be disappointed once in a while. But really, if you are applying rule #1 and rule #5 this won't be too often. I've bought hundreds of tools on eBay and only been flat-out ripped off once, and extremely disappointed twice, and both of those were because I did not fully appreciate rule #3. My fault really.

10. Completely read the sellers listing - paying particular attention to the shipping section. Probably more important to me, as most sellers don't seem to know that Alaska IS on the continent...

11. Have fun with it. It's an auction - not a store.

Thanks for asking this question - I've never really thought about this in any concrete terms. I might do a blog post on this...

Take care - Dan

And of course, these are just my opinions. I know others may have very different strategies that work great for them.

Good Hunting!