Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dutch Style Tool Chest

I've wanted to make a better toolbox to store my eighteenth century tools in, but I couldn't decide on the design until the other day when I saw the one Christopher Schwarz posted on his blog. It’s a Dutch style chest that I've seen before in Jim Tolpin’s Toolbox Book.

I wanted a design that looked like it belonged in the time period I’m interested in and could hold all the tools that theoretically a person would need to build a house with in the eighteenth century, less of course my larger timber framing tools like axes and other odds and ends.  I also wanted it to be a little different and have its own unique character. I think the Dutch style chest fits the bill. A big plus is the lids steep slope which will prevent junk from accumulating on it like a traditional flat top tool chest.   

My chest is going to be larger than Schwarz as he stated his is for travel. My toolbox is 42 inches high by 16 inches deep and it will measure 40 inches long. I can still move it when I go to events I will just need to take some of the tools out which I normally do anyway with my small traveling toolbox that I use now. The box will contain saws on the inside lid, a tool well, a drawer for my slick and framing chisels, two shelves for planes and a shelf for my bow saw and panel gauge. My long planes will fit in front of the molding planes lengthwise. 

Here are a few pictures of the sides as well as my dovetail guide (it came in real handy with this build). Notice the benefits of the long vise of my bench. I really like being able to put pieces in it when I dovetail. I will post more as I progress.

By the way happy New Year!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Utah Bound

I’m on my way to visit my son stationed in Utah for Thanksgiving. Last year when I was there we went to the Golden Spike National Monument. You can see in the picture how exited he was to be standing at the place where the two railroads joined (ya not really). He did like the trains though. This year I have more excitement for him as I brought my rock hammer and geological maps. Utah by the way Rocks!..... I didn’t mean that as a pun.

I forgot to take detailed pictures of my forge as Cincinnatus requested, but I did include a photo of the fire box and clinker breaker. I purchased it from Kayne and Son Blacksmithing Supplies out of North Carolina. Yes it was expensive, and yes I could have welded one up, but it was easier to buy one and in the end it will outlast and work better than anything I could have cobbled together.     

The clinker breaker is the three sided iron item in the photo. The metal rod next to it is the lever to turn it back and forth. The clinker breaker is held in place between the fire box and cast iron elbow. In use the flat part is oriented to the top creating a gap around the side. The gap is small enough to prevent coal from fall though, but big enough to allow air from the bellow to pass unrestricted. When it gets clogged with ash and clinkers the handle is rotated back and forth breaking up and cleaned out the obstruction. By 
the way the disk with the handle is the ash dump that goes on the bottom.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Happy Days the Forge is Running

Happy days! I finally got my forge shed up and running. I’d been using a small rivet forge in the past and it was a real pain. It was tough to get metal up to heat and it always clogged. Weather was a problem as well as I forged outside and always had to fight the wind.  Now I don’t have to worry about the ever changing weather in Nebraska and I will have something to do all winter.

My bigger forge works great. It was given to me by a friend free of charge. All I had to do to was put in a new fire box and line it with heat resistant concrete to give it more heat retention. The best thing about it is that it has a clinker breaker. This is a device for breaking up slag and gunk that builds up in the air hole. No more clogged air holes. The blower is also way bigger than I had before and requires very little effort in cranking and it puts out a large volume of air.

For today I made a new holdfast for my bench, a part for an 18th century candle holder, and a hook for a door. I got carried away with putting bees wax on everything for finish and coated my hold fast. Now it doesn't  "hold fast” so I will have to burn off the bees wax in the forge to get it to work. My other hold fasts (you can see them on my previous work bench post) worked fine, but would get in the way when I used my plow plane as the arms of the fence would run into the bent arms of the hold fast. I wanted a new one that had a very low profile like the one used by the Dominy’s.  
Lots to learn as I know little about blacksmith, but boy I sure like it!  I intend to learn how to make hinges and other hardware for my furniture and tool projects. One thing I am getting better at is making nails and I plan on making a lot of them this winter. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

19th Century Meets Circa 1976 House Repair

It just occurred to me today that I’ve reached a tipping point with concerns to power and hand tools. This afternoon I was replacing some water damaged fascia board on the roof. I needed to cut a 5 foot section of 1x8 and cut a ½ inch dado about a ½ inch from the bottom.  The old me would have taken the board to the table saw and did it all there. The current me is somewhat lazy and uses his table saw as an expensive storage devise.

So I would not need to spend time and effort cleaning off the table saw, I grabbed my panel saw and plow plane and performed the job in about 15 minutes. All joking aside it really made think about the fact that in this case hand tools were way quicker than power tools.

I don’t see me getting rid of my power tools any time soon, but I’m finding that I’m becoming a better woodworker by incorporating hand tools and power tools. Another side effect of hand tool use is that the more I use hand tools the better I get at using power tools. I think it has to do with learning to work with the properties of wood which you really don’t get a feel for with power tools.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Felloe Saw

I’ve been planning on making a treadle lathe for awhile now. The design I settled on will have the drive wheel off to the side to accommodate for its large diameter. A problem I encountered is that I don’t have a band saw to cut the curved felloes and I want to make this lathe as much as possible with tools available from the late 18th century. No problem right? Just make a Felloe saw.

I’m in the mindset that bigger is better (not always a good mindset) so I researched old photos and came up with a saw that is 40 inches square. I used oak for the top and bottom stretchers and to cut down on weight I used pine on the sides. Al l the corners are chamfered for comfort as well as looks. I forged the hardware because I didn't want to have to use any tools on it when I tension the blade; also I wanted it to look 18th century. The blade is made from a 3/8th inch band saw blade.       

I think the saw looks great, but then my standards are low. The real issue is the saw is not controllable, the blade folds over and the saw will not cut to a line. I’ve tried hook tooth blades and regular tooth blades without success. All my blade widths have been 3/8 inch. Maybe I need to try a ½ inch blade. Do they make band saw blades of different thickness? Maybe its not ridged enough. Please if you have any suggestion let me know. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Filipino Bolo

I’m somewhat of a complicated guy, one part of me is interested in the Stone Age world the other the eighteenth century. I can make and use stone tools and I can make and use eighteenth century tools.  I’m not great at any one thing, but I can do them both satisfactory. I guess if I was to define my interests they would be in woodworking and wilderness survival. I find it interesting that people from both the woodworking and survival community are always asking the same questions. What tools are the best to have? For me, if I could only have one tool for either interest it would be my Filipino Bolo.

Of my 22 years in the military I spent 14 years as a Survival Instructor. While other people were learning valuable technical skill in the high-tech world I was teaching how to fall out of airplanes and how to properly skin rabbits while hiding from the enemy. It was the best time of my life and that’s where I got acquainted with the Filipino Bolo. Below are its advantages
  • Unlike an axe it has no handle to break
  • It is lighter and less cumbersome than an axe
  • You can dig with it (try that with your Gränsfors Bruks axe)
  • You can use it like a froe
  • You can use it like a draw knife
  • Like an axe you can cut large trees down with it
  • You can use it like a knife (I guess that’s kind of obvious)
  • The least unbreakable of any cutting tool I’ve owned
  • Easy to sharpen even with improvised devises
  • You can butcher small and large game with it
I have two bolos; the first one (top bolo) was purchased in the Philippines by a friend for $15 dollars US. I carried this while teaching survival and now I carry it for work. I’ve used it in all environmental conditions. Its total length tip to end of handle is 17 inches. It is about 3/16th thick and was made out of a leaf spring of a car and it has a solid tang. The handle is water buffalo. The metal is pretty easy to sharpen and I do that with a file. Notice the end is blunt; this is so you can dig with it. The sheath is made of mahogany, notice the belt hook. The duct tape is not holding the case together it is there to peel off to repair other items.

My other bolo (bottom bolo) I found on eBay for about $40 dollars US. Its fancier and I really haven’t used it much. It still is very heavy unlike a cheap bought machete. I like my beat up bolo better. I’ve dragged that thing around the world so I have more memories with it.

Here is a site I found on making bolo’s I have not purchased anything from this site so I can’t vouch for it, but they do have a good video showing bolos being made.   

Get a bolo you might not carve any cabriole legs with it, but they are a great tool to use in the yard and on the trail. Bolos are also an easy blacksmithing project.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Adjustable Mortise Gauge

With the wooden thumbscrew finished I turned my attention to constructing a much needed adjustable mortise gauge. The style I decided on has two adjustable beams with a nail inset in each end to act as a scratch awl. With this design I can adjust the width of the mortise as needed and I am only limited by the length of the two beams. Another feature I feel is a must when using a thumbscrew is the captive pad, it prevents the thumbscrew from marring the beams.

The wood for the gauge is from a white oak beam I salvaged from a barn that was built in 1867. It has a wonderful caramel color and is quite dense.  I am very happy with this tool.

When tapping threads in a piece of wood the same rules apply as making the screw. Use fine grained wood. Normally I would not use oak, but as mentioned earlier this oak is very dense and hard. I’m guessing it has to do with either the age or it could be that I counted 32 growth rings in the small section that makes the head. This tree had to be well over a hundred years when cut down in 1867.

The hole for the tap has to be straight and smaller than the diameter of the screw. If you buy a threading kit it should tell you what size drill bit to use. I just practice on scrap to make sure it’s the correct diameter and tap that before using it on my project. With this oak I used my post drill to make sure the hole was straight. Post drills are really more for metal, but I don’t have a drill press so I used it. When I made my slitting gauge I used an auger bit and just eyeballed the hole and got it straight. I think that was more luck than skill.

I used linseed oil to lubricate the tap and I ran the tap through it a couple of times. One side note; the linseed oil made the threads swell up and the screw would not fit at first. After an hour the wood soaked up the oil enough that the screw worked with no problem.

Below is a pic of my most useful marking gauges. This is strangely part of my bucket list. I want to construct as much as possible all of the tools of an eighteenth century carpenter and joiner like the Dominy’s. Then I want to build a small cabin using those tools and outfit it with the ironwork and hardware from my forge. Kind of strange I know, but I’ve given up on the idea of getting a job at a living history museum (there hard to find)  so I guess I will make my own. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Screw Boxes and Wooden Threads

Finished Product

Threaded wooden screws can be incorporated into a multitude of tasks and tools. In an earlier post I showed a plow plane I constructed utilizing wooden screws for the fence adjustment so I thought it would be an interesting post to explain how easy they are to make.

First a screw box and tap is needed. The one shown here I ordered from Woodcraft several years ago. I also have a router driven set from Beall Tool that makes outstanding threads.  Next suitable wood is needed. Use fine grain straight stock. I’ve used hickory, maple, yellow birch, and even cotton wood which I don’t recommend. The best wood by far is persimmon and it’s the wood I used for this post.

Rough Blank 
The screw I made in this post is ½ inch diameter. I planed the wood down to just a bit above a ½ inch and cut the wood into the shape of a ‘T’. Next I carved the lower part of the T into a shaft. This really isn’t hard. You could use a lathe to turn out rough blanks and I do for larger screws, but for the small stuff this is the most efficient way. Don’t bother carving the head of the screw yet. If your threading doesn’t turn out you haven’t wasted any work.

 I checked that the diameter of the shaft is correct by testing its fit through the guide block on top of the screw box. Some wood can be made to thread easier with a lubricant like mineral spirits. The persimmon I used didn’t need it.    

Guide Block On
The first threading I did was with the guide block on. With this screw being short I needed to back the screw out and remove the guide block so I could cut threads closer to the head. It’s also a good idea to make your threads longer than you need, you can cut the excess off later.

Next all that’s needed is to shape the head. I will cover tapping the screw hole in a following post that will detail how I make my marking gauges. 

Guide Block Off

Monday, July 23, 2012

Butter Churn

My churn is 10" excluding handle by 5.5"

Butter is not a bad word! Unfortunately those crazy scientist’s and medical doctors say we should go easy on it. Use it more like a condiment or just don’t eat it at all. Tell that to our forefathers who slathered it on everything they ate.

Interestingly the production of butter goes back some 4000 years. Butter was a way of preserving the byproducts of milk much like cheese, and was a valued food source. Ever hear of Bog Butter? They still find this stuff buried in peat bogs in Europe. Some of it is edible after 3000 or so years. Now that’s what I call long term storage! ( I think I might have been served this stuff in the service)

Bog Butter
I've wanted to make a butter churn for a long time, but could never decide on a design. Then one night I spotted a neat table top churn on eBay. Not too big and probably 18th century in origin. This was what I’ve been looking for. I never made any kind of coopered container before, but I really didn’t think it would be that hard. Wrong! I tried to do it with hand tools, but after two egg shaped failures. I decided to make a jig for my table saw so I could get a consistent angle and taper. The rest of the shaping was done with hand planes and spoke shaves. It took a lot of adjusting to get it water tight and even now I have to soak it in water so the staves swell up to hold liquid.

Original churn 
Making butter is not hard. All you need is cream, pasteurized is fine in fact I wouldn’t recommend raw cream due to safety concerns. Let the cream set out for 12 hours this gives time for the good bacteria’s to start producing lactic acid. The lactic acids weaken the cells of the milk fat and allows the butter to churn (congeal) easier. Basically the milk fat is contained in little vesicles that get popped like a water balloon by the action of the dasher. As the containers are broken the fat congeals and becomes a big mass separate from the byproducts referred to as butter milk.  

Everything ready to go the water in the churn
 is just to keep the staves tight it get dumped out
before the cream is added
Next you work the dasher at a gentle pace, about 12 min for my churn. After the butter fat has congealed you need to rinse it with cold water to get rid of buttermilk. If you don’t get rid of the buttermilk the butter will get rancid. In historic times a small amount of salt would be added to help in the preservation, but you really don’t need it if you’re going to keep it in the refrigerator. Your butter will most likely be white as the yellow in modern butter is food coloring. Natural yellow in butter is caused from carotene in the grasses the cows eat so it will depend on the time of year and type of feed the cows consume. It all tastes the same in the end.    

About 2 cups of butter from 1 quart of cream
The butter after it has been washed and salted

I know my instruction are vague, but it's just something you have to experiment with. If you’re interested in making something like this I recommend the book “How to Make a Coopered Bucket” by James D. Gaster. The third edition of Fox Fire has good information as well. Robert Krampf has a good tutorial on butter making on YouTube follow the link.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ore to Axe

I came across this movie the other day produced by Ken Koons entitled Ore to Axe. I rented it at Amazon, but was so impressed with it I’m buying a copy. 

The film goes through the process of making an axe literally from the ground up.  It details collecting and preparing the iron ore, to making the necessary amount of charcoal. From there, a smelter is constructed and the ore is turned into iron. The smiths then take the bloom and forge it into an axe. Along the way they transform part of the bloom into steel for the axes cutting edge.

The movie is not a detailed step by step process, but it's well done and extremely interesting. I highly recommend it.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Post Drill

Finished restoring an old rusty crud covered Champion #90 post drill for my forge shed. The drill was a mess and the whole thing was seized up. The guy I got it from told me it had been lying in his grandfather’s barn ever since he could remember so that’s at least 30 years. I believe the drill would have been made in the early 1900’s.  

 I tore the whole thing apart and scraped what dried crud I could and then used an angle grinder with a metal brush to clean up the rest. After a paint job and some lubrication, the drill works surprisingly well. These old post drills have some wobble in them but for what I’m using it for it won’t be a problem.  I also installed an adjustable chuck as I can’t find any bits made for post drills.  

Operation is simple, just put in your bit adjust the top wheel by turning it until the drill is in contact with the work and start turning.This type has a knurled knob up by the top wheel that lets you adjust the advance 1 or 2 clicks every revelotion of the handle. When the hole is drilled you flip up the feed paw and unscrew the top wheel to remove the drill bit from the work.

I also took a picture of my anvil and vice bench. Before the shed, I had been doing my blacksmithing outside. That’s hard to do in Nebraska because there is almost always a strong wind around 30mph. I will take more pictures of my forge shed once I get everything done. I can’t wait! 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Field Stripped Brace

I've had a few questions on how I made my brace pictured in an earlier post so I decided to provide some better pictures.

The one I made is a copy of an original that I believe dates to the early nineteenth century. The body of my brace is made out of yellow birch as well as the pad. I copied the pad from the original with its tapering octagon. In the future I think I will use hickory for the pads. The head of the brace is made out of hard maple because that was the only wood I had large enough to get the diameter I wanted. The head is held on by a friction fit wooden pin. I wouldn't make the pin permanent its nice being able to take it apart.

I love the brace and it works great. Make one there not that hard. The only hard part is finding bits. I recommend using only small bits like spoon or spur bits. You get too big and the torque will break the wood. Don't use auger bits save them for metal braces. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Unknown Plane

Had this plane for awhile and never been able to figure out what type of plane it is, I've never seen one like it. Any help identifying it would be greatly appreciated. By the way It's not marked as to the maker or previous owner.

It has what I believe is its original butcher blade. At one time it had an adjustable fence on the bottom like it does on the side but someone has placed a permanent fence on it and filled the holes with putty. It has a nicker blade so I'm guessing it's some kind of strangely made panel raising plane. Don't know why it's made in a trapezoid shape and cant understand why someone went through all the time of making the throat opening raised like they did. Seems it would have been easier to leave it one solid block.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Small Containers for Fast Fun

Sometimes when I get board I go out in the garage and work on projects that yield fast results. Some of the common items I make are small containers. Now days it seems silly to make such things because you can buy them cheaply or repurpose them out of trash. A few hundred years ago this wasn’t the case. If you needed something for storage on the frontier you probably made it yourself.

Here is some items I made in the past using what a settler would have available which include; earth, wood, and animal parts. No fancy tools were used in the construction and you don’t need to attend an $800 dollar class (not that there’s anything wrong with that if that’s what you’re into).

1.      Top large bowl made out of mesquite hollowed out by a combination of burning, and chisels.
2.      Small elm bowl.
3.      Salt container made from horn and wood.
4.      Two candle boxes. Candles made out of tallow were stored in protective boxes because they tasted good to pests like mice.
5.      The two stone bowls are carved out of soapstone.
6.      Two containers hollowed out of limbs. Larger one is wild plum that I used an auger bit on. The other is sumac branch which has a center consisting of spongy pith that is easily dug out.
7.      The last is my favorite container which is made out of Birch Bark. I love Birch trees.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Plow Plane

I made this plow plane a few years ago it’s proven to be a very useful tool. Besides using it for cutting groves like in a door panels it can be used in conjunction with hollow and rounds for making moldings. Check out the Blog “Musings from Big Pink” located on my blog links. The site has wonderful tutorials on the subject. 

The plane itself is made of yellow birch. I wanted to keep the character of an eighteenth century plane so I used rivets instead of screws to attach the skate to the plane body. I also made rivets for the arm of the fence. The rivets work real well. I have an eighteenth century plow plane that was made using rivets and after all these years they still hold the skate tight to the body.

I recommend making one! I feel this plane was easier than some of the molding planes I’ve made. Obviously buy a set of blades before you start then build the plane around the blades. I also suggest using wooden screws for the adjustment on the fence. I bought my threading kit from Woodcraft and have gotten a lot of use out of it on other projects. The alternative for holding the fence is using wedges but I find them a bit harder to adjust.    

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Dominy Inspired Workbench

    I took advantage of the unusual weather we’ve been having in Nebraska (it got above 70 degrees on Thursday) to do some repairs and modification to my Dominy inspired workbench. You could say the bench is somewhat green because I salvaged much of the oak out of a trash pile behind a tractor supply business. The top started out 6 inches thick but due to continuing warping has been planed down to about 5 inches. What I like most about this bench is its weight as it doesn’t move around at all when I’m working on it.

    The vise has been a bit of a problem because as the top warped the holes the vice screws go in have started to bind. I fixed that problem this week by taking a long in cannel gouge and enlarged the diameter of the hole. Now it works fine at least till summer comes. It gets extremely hot and humid in the northeast part of Nebraska where I live and it plays hell on wooden tools. The vice does not have garters I don’t need them and this allows me to clamp odd shaped stock. The length of the vice is also nice because I can clamp long boards and plane them without any support.

    A few other features are the new chisel rack in the back. The bench is narrow and this does not leave space for tools I didn’t want a tool well but after dropping a few chisel on the cement decided the rack was the best alternative. I really like it! I also have an adjustable bench hook. You will note in the photo that it has a recess in the top so it can be retracted out of the way. This is important to protect your hands and stock. Also I forged a couple crude bench hooks. I really like them and don’t know what I would do without them now that I have gotten so use to them. The bottom shelf is where I store my planes when not in use.

The last few photos are of my pug security system she also doubles as a bench dog. The house buried in the snow is a picture from two years ago at this time. Winds in Nebraska are strong especially in the winter. We also don’t have many trees around here so that makes it worse.