The ‘Electric Horse Garage’ Lives

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The new roof on the Electric Horse Garage is complete. The electricity is in and flowing. The last bit of the puzzle (the ductless HVAC) will be installed on Monday.

That means we move the big machines next week, and I can begin the next chapter of my life.

Some details: Ignore the weird red trim on the front of the shop. That isn’t how it was supposed to look, and I’ll fix that next week. I also have to install some floor sweeps for the doors and hang the interior lights (LEDs). Oh, I have to assemble the 18” band saw. Build a mobile base for the mortiser. Finish the restoration of the old Powermatic drill press.

And touch up the paint inside. Repair the weird hole in the floor (can you see Zuul down there?). Trim and fill the weird pipes in the middle of the floor. Get some heavy anti-fatigue mats for the floor.

Crap.

Shops are never done.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Lost Art Press Storefront, Uncategorized | 27 Comments

The Living Wood

The Poringland Oak c.1818-20 by John Crome 1768-1821

John Crome, “The Poringland Oak,” 1818-1820, Photo © Tate, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported).

“Poets and painters have found in trees material for their art. If Gainsborough had been less successful as a portrait painter he would have given us some wonderful trees. As it is, in his few landscapes he has shown trees which are full of a kind of romantic vitality, springing full of life from the soil. Constable filled his great canvases with them, showing them in all their morning freshness as the kindliest feature of the English landscape. John Crome of Norwich painted trees with all the care which Gainsborough gave to portraits of fashionable ladies. In fact, his picture of the Poringland oak is a portrait. It shows all the physical details, the strength, stability and balance of the tree, and he has shown also its spiritual quality, something upstanding, fearless and ancient, which makes the bathers at the edge of the pool seem like mayflies of a day. It is just thise sense of reality, this glance at the transcience of human life, which the Frenchman, Corot, manages to evade. He found dreams among trees, but he casts a veil between himself and them as if he feared their strength, painting an ethereal beauty which had its roots in dream soil and not in the good earth.”

— Charles Hayward, The Woodworker magazine, 1936

Posted in Honest Labour, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Dovetailed Housings

Dovetailed-housings1

FIG. 1. SIMPLE THROUGH DOVETAILED HOUSINGS Both are strong, but the joints show at the edge. The depth of the groove should be rather less than half the thickness of the wood.


This is an excerpt from “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years: Volume III” published by Lost Art Press.

This type of dovetail sometimes creates a difficulty because of the length of the joint. It is, of course, essential that it grips throughout its length, and the usual fault is to make it tight in some parts and slack in others. The practical process is dealt with here.

In its simplest form this joint consists of a plain groove with either one or both sides at the usual dovetail angle cut right across the wood, and a joining piece cut dovetail fashion to fit, as in Fig. 1. It is a thoroughly strong joint and is satisfactory for many jobs, but suffers from two disadvantages. One is that the dovetail necessarily shows at the front edge; the other is that, since the one piece has to slide right in from the edge, it is awkward to make a joint that is tight enough to be strong, yet free enough to slide across. The wider the joint the more awkward it is.

Dovetailed-Housings2

FIG. 2. TAPERED AND STOPPED DOVETAIL HOUSING.


Tapered Dovetail.
To overcome these drawbacks the stopped and tapered dovetailed housing shown in Fig. 2 was introduced. It is extremely handy for carcase work, and forms a strong fixing for shelves and similar parts. Its special use is in tall structures in which the ends might be inclined to bow outwards. The dovetail effectually prevents this, yet it is entirely concealed by the stop. Note that the top cut (which is cut in square) is at 90 deg., whilst the taper is formed beneath. The dovetail is formed on this sloping cut. It will be realised that it is really a bare-faced dovetail and that the bare face is at the top. In this way the shelf is bound to be square.

When marking out the joint, square across the sides the over-all thickness of the shelf, cutting in the top line with the chisel and the lower one in pencil. Then mark in the tapering line with the chisel. The depth of the stop can be marked with the gauge (keep the gauge set so that the shelf can be marked with the same setting.)

Dovetailed-Housings3

FIG. 3. HOW GROOVE IS MARKED OUT AND CUT.


Cutting the Groove.
The sides of the groove have to be sawn in, and many workers find a difficulty in using the saw because this cannot be taken right through. There is no difficulty, however, if a recess is cut up against the stop as shown inset in Fig. 3. Chop it with the chisel to the same depth as the groove and work the saw with short strokes, allowing the end to run out in the recess. One side of the latter must be at the dovetail angle, of course.

To form a strong joint it is clear that the saw cut on the dovetail side must be at the true angle and that it must agree with that of the shelf. Fig. 4 shows how this can be assured. A piece of wood is cut off at one end at the required angle, 78 deg., and is held down on the wood with a cramp or screw and the saw held against the end as shown. Before fixing it, however, it is generally advisable to make a few strokes with the saw upright. This saves any tendency for it to slip owing to the angle. In any case the usual practice of chiselling out a small sloping groove is advisable (see inset in Fig. 4).

Dovetailed-Housings4

FIG. 4. CUTTING DOVETAIL SLOPE

The preliminary removal of the waste is done with the chisel, this being followed by the router. If this is held askew it will generally be found that the cutter will reach right under the dovetail slope—unless it has an extra high pitch, in which case the chisel will have to be used to reach beneath.

Dovetailed-Housings5

FIG. 5. TRIMMING SHELF DOVETAIL


The Dovetail.
In the case of the dovetail on the shelf the simplest plan is to gauge in the depth and cut a square rebate with the saw and rebate plane. Form the taper (also with the plane) and then cut in the dovetail angle with the chisel. It will be realised that the preliminary saw cut is deep enough to reach to the dovetail depth. If the work is done with the wood cramped down on the bench, a spare piece of wood with the end at the correct angle can be used as a guide, as in Fig. 5. Adjusting the wood away from or towards the work will enable the chisel to take up the true angle. In any case, it is intended purely as a guide. The advantage of the joint will become obvious when it is fitted, because it is loose until driven right home when it at once becomes a tight fit throughout its length. It should make a close fit, but over-tightness should be avoided as this tends to force the ends out of truth.

Meghan Bates

Posted in Charles H. Hayward at The Woodworker | 2 Comments

A Lesson in Sharpening

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Editor’s Note: Richard Jones, the author of an upcoming book on timber technology, takes us back to the 1970s when he learned a valuable lesson in sharpening while in training.

A perennial subject in woodworking magazines and forums is that of sharpening techniques. No other furniture-making topic seems to generate so much tedious verbose nit-picking and circular bickering in woodworking forums, along with the publication of innumerable “sure-fire” and “infallible” methods in blogs, YouTube videos and magazine articles. For somer reason, most of these espoused methods for achieving a sharp edge on a tool seem to take an inordinate amount of time and require a large array of bits and bobs to do the job. I sometimes wonder if the process of sharpening is the main objective of the exercise for the people who describe them rather than the means to working wood effectively.

Naturally, the subject is of interest because blunt tools aren’t much use. Preamble to many of these articles often causes a wry smile for they bring back memories of my initiation into the “dark” art. Many authors make points about those who struggle at it and possess a workshop full of dull tools. Conversely, it is sometimes said that those who can do the job tend to be fanatical about grits, slurries and bevel angles.

My experience is that there are really only two types of people when it comes to sharpening:

• Those who can’t.

• Those who can.

In the first group, those who can’t, you’ll sometimes see every sharpening system known to man arrayed around their workshop gathering dust. They have fancy grinders, oilstones, water stones, ceramic stones, diamond stones, guides, pieces of sandpaper, jigs, etc. And yet, just about every edge tool they own is chipped, dull and mostly useless.

In the second group, those who can, I haven’t observed much fanaticism about slurries, grits and bevel angles. In all the workshops I’ve worked in the only concern is to get the job done. It’s a case of, “Plane’s blunt – better sharpen it.” Dig out the stone, sharpen the blade, shove it back in the plane and use it. The equipment is minimal: a grinder, a stone of some sort and lubricant, a few slips for gouges and the like, and, perhaps, a piece of oiled leather charged with a bit of fine-powered abrasive for final stropping.

Going back to the 1970s, when I trained, learning how to sharpen tools was undertaken within the first few days. I don’t now recall precisely the order of my instruction, but it went something like this: I was handed a plane by the cabinetmaker I was assigned to and told, “Get that piece o’ wood square.” I’d done a bit of woodworking at school so I had a vague idea of what to do. I fooled around with that lump of wood for 20 or so minutes and got it something like square – all this under the watchful eye of the crusty old guy and his ever-present roll-up hanging out of the corner of his mouth.

“OK, I’ve done that,” I said. “Now what do you want me to do?”

I was told to hang about for a minute whilst he picked up his square and straightedge and proceeded to scrutinise my handiwork. This was followed by a non-committal grunt and some desultory foot sweeping of the plentiful shavings on the floor – the wood was probably only about 90 percent or so of its original volume.

“Now sonny, let’s do the next job,” he announced. “Pull that jack plane ye’ve bin usin’ apairt and let’s have a look at the iron.”

I did.

“Hold the iron up so’s ye can see the cuttin’ edge,” he instructed. (He was a Scot.) Again, I did as I was told.

“Now, can ye see it? Can ye see the line-o’-light at the shairp end there?” He wheezed as he tapped a line of ash onto the floor and stood on it. He was referring to the shiny reflection visible when cutting edges are dull.

“Aye,” I said, after a little eye squinting and other pretence of intelligence.

“How shairp does it look to you boy?” he enquired.

I thought about this for a moment or two, seeking the right response to my tormentor – for I hadn’t really got a clue what he was talking about. I finally replied rather hopefully and a bit brightly: “Pretty shairp, I’d say.”

He laughed out loud, and hacked a bit. “Dinnae be the daft bloody laddie wi’ me son. If ye can see it, it’s blunt. I could ride that bloody iron yer holdin’ bare-arsed to London and back and no cut ma’sel’. Get o’er here an’ I’ll show ye something.”

You can probably guess. Out came the oilstone from his toolbox and quick as a flash the iron was whisking up and down the stone, flipped over, the wire edge removed, and finally it was stropped backwards and forwards on the calloused palm of his hand. You could shave with it. I know, because he demonstrated how sharp it was by slicing a few hairs off his forearm. On went the cap iron and the assembly was dropped back in the plane. This was followed by a bit of squinting along the sole from the front whilst the lever and knob were fiddled with and that was it. He took a few shavings off a piece of wood and it went back in his toolbox. It took, oh, a few minutes.

“Now son, that’s a shairp plane. It’s nae bloody use to me blunt. Ye may as well sling a soddin’ blunt yin in the bucket fer all the use it is to me,” he explained with great refinement. “I’ve plenty mair o’ them in that box, an’ they’re all blunt. Ah’ve bin savin’ ’em for ye. There’s a bunch a chisels, too. Let’s get ye started.”

For what felt like forever I sharpened his tools for the one and only time I was allowed to under his rheumy-eyed and critical stare, and things gradually got better. After a while he stopped telling me what a “completely daft stupit wee bastud” I was, and a bit later he started offering grudging approval. I had to sharpen some tools more than once because he kept on using and dulling them. When I’d done the lot we stopped and surveyed the day’s work.

“Aye, nae too bad fer a daft laddie’s fust effort,” he commented darkly, sucking hard on his smoke. “I think ye’ve goat whit it takes. Time’ll tell, sonnie. Remember, ye’ll never be a bloody cabinetmaker if ye cannae even shairpen yer frickin’ tools. Lesson over. Dinnae ferget it.”

I haven’t.

— Richard Jones

Posted in Timber Book by Richard Jones, Uncategorized | 36 Comments

Chinese/Roman Workbench/Router Table – and a Palm!

chinese-roman

Brendan Gaffney sent me this incredible video – likely from Vietnam – where woodworkers are building stair components using a low workbench as a router table.

The low bench is exactly what you’d see in an ancient Roman or Chinese workshop. Most intriguing to me is the V-shaped bench stop at the end of the bench. It is exactly like the Chinese “palm,” a workholding device that Suzanne Ellison dug up and helped me research for the upcoming book “Ingenious Mechanicks: Early Workbenches & Workholding.”

Seeing it in use as a router table is amazing.

The entire video is interesting. The music, however, will make you batty.

Please do not leave a comment on the lack of “workshop safety” in this video. I will delete them. In showing you this video I refuse to open the door for criticism of their work, tradition or culture. You might think that you’re a more evolved being, but that’s really just your Superman Underoos talking.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Ingenious Mechanicks, Uncategorized | 27 Comments

Moxon’s Jointer Plane

Jointer-Plane

Moxon’s jointer plane. Ever wonder why the handles look so odd on the plane? I don’t think they’re particularly British. These illustrations were borrowed from the French.


This is an excerpt from “The Art of Joinery” by Joseph Moxon; commentary by Christopher Schwarz. 

The jointer is made somewhat longer than the fore plane and has its sole perfectly straight from end to end. Its office is to follow the fore plane and to shoot an edge perfectly straight, and not only an edge, but also a board of any thickness; especially when a joint is to be shet [shot]. Therefore the hand must be carried along the whole length with an equal bearing weight, and [al]so exactly even and upright to the edges of the board, [so] that neither side of the plane inclines either inward or outwards, but that the whole breadth be exactly square on both its sides. Supposing its sides straight, [then] so will two edges of two boards, when thus shot, lie so exactly flat and square upon one another that light will not be discerned between them. It is counted a piece of good workmanship in a joiner to have the craft of bearing his hand so curiously [in this way], even the whole length of a long board. And yet it is but a sleight [task] to those [where] practice hath accustomed the hand to [it]. The jointer is also used to try tabletops with {large or small}, or other such broad work. And then joiners work as well upon the traverse with it, as with the grain of the wood, and also angularly or corner-wise, that they may be more assured of the flatness of their work.

Its iron must be set very fine, so fine, that when you wink with [close] one eye, and [look at the iron with your open] eye, there appears a little above a hairs breadth of the edge above the surfaces of the sole of the plane, and the length of the edge must lie perfectly straight with the flat breadth of the sole of the plane. [With] the iron being then well wedged up and you working with the plane thus set, [you] have the greater assurance that the iron cannot run too deep into the stuff; and consequently you have the less danger that the joint is wrought out of straight.

Art-of-Joinery1

Proper edge jointing. Whether you use a straight or curved iron, this is the proper way to joint an edge. The fingers of your off-hand serve as the fence against the work.


Analysis
In Moxon, the primary job of the jointer plane seems to be working edges to make them straight and true. Not only to make them pretty but to glue them up into panels.

Now here is one area where Moxon vexes me. Moxon calls for the jointer plane to have an iron that is sharpened perfectly straight across, like a chisel. And the way you correct an edge is through skill – Moxon says it looks hard to the layman but is easy for joiners.

As one who has practiced freehand edge-planing with a jointer plane that has a straight-sharpened iron, I object. I think it’s easier to correct an edge with an iron with a slight curve. You can remove material from localized spots by positioning the iron to take more meat off one area.

This jointing technique with a curved iron appears in British workshop practice throughout the 20th century. It is today a fight as fierce as tails-first or pins-first in dovetailing. So give both jointing techniques a try and take your side. And just be glad Moxon doesn’t write a word about dovetailing.

One note here on long-grain shooting boards. Moxon doesn’t mention them, though they are frequently mentioned and employed starting in the 18th century. When you use a jointer plane with a shooting board to true an edge of a board, the iron of the jointer plane can be either curved or straight.

Both approaches work.

Several of my contemporary hand-tool woodworkers have suggested that perhaps Moxon simply could not see that the jointer plane’s iron is slightly curved. And indeed, the curve used on the edge of a jointer plane’s iron looks straight if you don’t show it to a second piece of straight material. However, I prefer to simply take Moxon at his word here. The joiners he observed use jointers with straight irons.

Art-of-Joinery

Criss-cross. Working corner to corner is a powerful technique for flattening a board. You can work both ways, though you’ll get more tear-out one way than the other.

Other jointer techniques in Moxon are quite helpful. He says you can traverse with a jointer and that you can work diagonally (corner to corner) across the grain with wide stock. Both of these techniques help flatten your boards because the jointer’s sole is removing high spots at the corners, which is commonly known as “twist” or “wind.” Note that Moxon says joiners use this for tabletops or other boards that are quite broad.

Other period accounts discuss other long planes. Richard Neve’s “The City and Country Purchaser” (1703) calls out two long planes: “The Long Plane,” which is about 24″ long, for faces of boards; and the jointer plane, which is about 30″ long, for edge joints.

Moxon’s instructions for setting a jointer plane can be interpreted as follows: Turn the plane over and sight down the sole. Close one eye. Peer down the sole and adjust the iron until you see it as a fine black line (about the thickness of a hair) that is even all across the width of the sole. That’s a good description of what it looks like. To my (one) eye, a hair’s breadth usually gets me a shaving that’s about .004″ to .006″ thick.

Meghan Bates

Posted in The Art of Joinery | 3 Comments

My Convoluted Route To Lost Art Press

Richard Jones - 208-Chlorociboria-MKuo

Chlorociboria fungus, which causes green stain in wood. Photo courtesy of Michael Kuo.

Editor’s Note: As Richard states below, his tome on timber technology is, indeed, nearing the finish line.

For some people it appears it’s easy to release a book. Publishers occasionally give the impression of falling over themselves to offer improbably favourable deals to those such as C-list celebrities for their as-yet-non-existent but soon-to-be-ghost-written vacuous blathering.

I don’t fit that category, but by 2014 my behemoth was near completion – nearly 180,000 words and more than 400 figures.

How to publish it?

Self-publish? Nope. I lacked the skills. It had to be a real publisher.

I didn’t expect finding a publisher would be especially challenging. My optimism, perhaps, came from earlier publishing experience. My woodworking articles had appeared in magazines since the 1990s. A first submission sold quickly at first attempt and success continued. All but one or two articles sold easily, sometimes twice – once in the U.K. and again in the U.S.

How hard could it be to sell a book? I was about to find out. There were possibly 10 unsuccessful attempts to find a publisher, a frustratingly slow process. It’s perhaps unwritten, but I’m convinced there is an ‘unofficial’ code of conduct between an aspiring author and a publisher. You send sample text to one and they sit on it for months, then they reject it. You move to the next publisher and do it all again. Try sending your manuscript to multiple publishers simultaneously – remember the ‘code of conduct’ – and word seems to get around the small world of craft publishers swiftly, and you’re blackballed by them all.

Eventually, a publisher bought the publishing rights, paid the advance and then … dissembled and prevaricated. A year later they changed their mind and relinquished the publishing rights. I was back on the dispiriting merry-go-round of publisher hunting and rejections somewhat softened by comments such as, “Great manuscript, but, er, not for us.”

Finally, a stroke of luck, or perhaps destiny – I don’t know. A couple or so years ago I asked Lost Art Press to review my manuscript. They expressed interest, but at that time were overwhelmed with ongoing projects. They felt it would be unfair to me to hold my manuscript for probably years until they could turn their attention to it, so they said I should try other publishers. Come spring of 2017, I’d unsuccessfully tried more publishers, and then contacted Lost Art Press again, explained the situation and, well, what was the worst that could happen? Another rejection maybe? I was taken aback: Their response was rapid and positive. And here we are, barely six months later, seemingly very near print ready.

— Richard Jones

Posted in Timber Book by Richard Jones, Uncategorized | 18 Comments