Too Busy to Sharpen

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I criticized a carpenter working for me recently for using dull tools. He excused himself by saying that he had been too busy to sharpen them. He had been working for weeks with a dull saw, and with a plane which had notches in it, leaving ugly ridges on the boards he was planing.

He had probably wasted more time in working with dull tools than would have been required to sharpen them several times, to say nothing of the inferior work he was turning out.

There are multitudes of people who never do good work because they never prepare for it, never put themselves in a position to do good work—they never sharpened their tools; never trained themselves for it, and they go through life botching their jobs…

Orison Swett Marden

North Judson News – December 24, 1914

—Jeff Burks

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What Will Become of Me?

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A tall pine-tree had been cut down in the forest, and dragged away to a back yard, where it now lay chopped into blocks of wood for fuel, piled up on the top of one another. Near the yard, on the other side of the hedge, was a garden with a green lawn, and out amidst the foliage there peeped forth a charming villa, where a family from the neighbouring town were wont, during the summer months, to come to live, and inhale the balmy air and bask in the country sunshine.

During the long, dreary spring the wooden logs had plenty of time to reflect on their future, but the majority of them were agreed that there was not much to reflect upon, for the fate of a log of firewood was once for all decided, and could not be altered.
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Router Plane Fix

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Worked like a charm.

The old Stanley router plane turned up in the mail from a colleague in the States a while back, the box a little crunched and the threaded adjustment shaft was bent. Not a huge problem, but the thing was that it made it impossible to set the iron for anything less than about 3/8” (9 mm). The question was; leave it as is, or try to bend and risk breaking the shaft? Not needing the plane right then, I decided to think about it…

Felibien router plane 1

The bent shaft made it impossible to decrease the depth of cut.

The other day when cutting some tenons for a desk for my daughter Rachel, I decided to try to fix the shaft. I figured even if I broke the shaft the plane would still be usable, as the thumb nut is only used for fine adjustments.

I had had a similar problem on a Record 044 plow plane I bought online a while back. It seemed at the time to be an incredible bargain. When it arrived, I could see why. Sharper eyes than mine… There is a machine screw that holds the irons, of different widths, up against the body and a pressure foot to hold the iron against its bed. Whoever bought the plane way back when seemed not to have understood how the screw and the pressure foot worked together, and had cranked the screw so hard he had bent it. Taking a closer look back at the photos online, you could see the problem, but I hadn’t noticed. The iron couldn’t seat properly and from the looks of it the plane was put back into the box and never touched again. None of the irons had ever even been sharpened.

For the plow plane, I took three regular nuts and threaded them down the screw, aligned them and clamped them in a metal vise and used a big Cresent wrench to bend the screw straight. Worked fine, but in this case, the shaft was a true 1/4” and the 6 mm nuts I have here in France wouldn’t fit. So I knocked together a little jig in 5 mm ply to protect the threads from the vise.

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The soft aspen-cored okoume 5mm ply was perfect for the job.

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The 5 mm ply was the perfect thickness to leave space for the 1/4″ threaded shaft. You can see the slight indent where the wood compressed around the shaft.

Worked like a charm, not 100% straight, but fully functional.

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The iron was in pretty good shape, and 15 minutes on the stone got it done.

felibian router plane desk copy

Rachel’s desk

Oak and black locust, with maritime pine as secondary wood.

felibian router plane desk 2 copy

I have always liked a low angle for my wrists for typing, so I added an old-fashioned typing tray, wide enough to take a big laptop or a wide keyboard, with a drawer to store it behind the hinged center piece.

I ended up taking it to a joiner I know to cut the profile around the edges of the top on his table moulder. The end grain of the black locust was just too splintery to cut across it with the moulding plane I wanted to use, even with a sacrificial block clamped onto the end to keep it from tearing out. Other than that, I used a thicknesser, and then the rest was hand tools.

There is a reason it is a cliché among woodworkers to speak of the satisfaction of building something for your family that, as long as it lives in a home, will last centuries: It really is satisfying.

Now, if only someone could tell me what eschauffent means…

- Brian Anderson

Brian Anderson is a translator and woodworker living in France. He is translating the woodworking parts of André Felibien’s Des principes de l’architecture, de la sculpture, de la peinture… avec un dictionnaire des terms for Lost Art Press. The book is due out in the Autumn of 2014. Anderson translated Grandpa‘s Workshop for us.

 

 

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Folding Campaign Bookcase Complete

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For the last seven weeks I’ve been building this folding campaign bookcase using sapele I purchased from the dearly departed Midwest Woodworking. My logbook says I have about 50 hours in the project. It took seven weeks because I was interrupted by travel, teaching and taxes (to name a few things).

Some details:

Overall dimensions (open): 37” long, 27” high, 10-1/4” deep.
Hardware: Most of the hardware is from Lee Valley. The corner guards, brackets and campaign pulls were vintage stuff from eBay (though Londonderry Brasses carries the exact stuff I used). The lock is from eBay as well. See here for details.
Finish: Garnet shellac and black wax.
More details on construction: Coming this fall in Popular Woodworking Magazine.

The piece is away for photography and then to the customer. Now I can get started on making some birdhouses.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Split and Sawed Shingles

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I have been interested in the communications of your correspondent in regard to shingles. I have had over thirty years’ experience in building and repairing roofs. I have taken rifted pine shingles from off several roofs that were worn entirely through, at the line where the water falls from one shingle upon the next one below, while underneath the courses the shingles were as bright as when first laid.

Such is not the fact with sawed and cut shingles, from any kind of timber. The reason is, that sawed and cut shingles are cross-grained, so that water runs through the pores of the wood,—wets the under course, and, in wet seasons, seldom if ever dries.

The agents of decay are, air, water and heat. All are combined on a roof to produce decay, and you have the effect on all roofs made of sawed or cut shingles. I have replaced many roofs of sawed shingles, but they never were half worn; they were rotten and unfit to remain longer.
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A Barrel of Shavings

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A Carpenter can no longer be judged by his shavings. Machinery and improved tools is knocking to pieces the old-fashioned mechanical way of lots of sawdust and any amount of shavings in housework.

On this point the Springfield Republican remarks:
“A prominent city landlord, who is putting up many of the wooden houses in a district which is being rapidly filled, when asked by an old resident for a few barrels of shavings the other day, replied: We don’t have any shavings in the houses now; they are all made at the mill and you will have to go there for them. I don’t believe that the carpenters now a-days make more than a barrel of shavings in building a house. Modern residences are put up pretty much as Solomon’s temple was, the parts are brought together all prepared and fitted, and it is short and easy work to put them together.”

The wooden house is turned out of a saw and planing-mill, much as if it were a toy-block. Like ready-made clothes, the average mechanic can put up a ready-made house, while there is still the same opportunity for elaborate workmanship and outlay as in fine clothing.

The Builder and Wood-Worker – September, 1887

—Jeff Burks

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On the Stump and the Axe

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For some reason I never considered a tree stump as essential workshop equipment until I met Richard Maguire.

Maguire, a lifelong furniture-maker and bench-builder, uses a stump and an axe in his shop and counts it among his essential workshop kit. I’ve always favored sawbenches (yup, I hew on them), but I am coming around to Richard’s way of thinking.

Especially after playing a few (OK, 126) rounds of the Hammer Schlager game, the best stump game ever.

This week Suzanne Ellison sent me this photo from the Victoria & Albert Museum archives. Lady Hawarden Clementina took this photo at Dundrum House circa 1858. It is a fascinating photograph. Not only for the workbench, the chest in the foreground and the awesome hats, but for the stump and the axe.

— Christopher Schwarz

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