Teaching and exhibiting at Woodworking in America – and launching a tool company – proved to be an around-the-clock yack-fest. As a result, we are just now putting the finishing touches on the Crucible Tool website and will almost certainly launch it this week.
The other news is that we announced our second tool: 6” dividers that are being made on our Haas CNC mill in Raney Nelson’s Indiana shop. We had a handful of dividers to sell at the opening event and sold out of them. Raney is cranking up production shortly so that we have stock on them in the next few weeks.
Thanks to the foundry, we have a fair number of holdfasts to sell on the site when it launches (priced at $130, which includes domestic shipping), plus T-shirts ($25, including domestic shipping).
We’ll have lots more details about the dividers on the Crucible site, but the short version is this:
They are based on early 20th-century blacksmith-made dividers and can be adjusted precisely with one hand. But instead of securing the divider’s hinge with a peened pin, we have designed a mechanism that can be adjusted with a No. 10 spanner drive bit (included) so you can adjust the hinge’s friction when it becomes loose through normal use.
The dividers are made using O1 steel and are machined and hand-finished in our Indiana workshop. The price is $120, which includes domestic shipping.
Happy Monday! (Editor’s note: She wrote this on Monday; I was lax in getting it posted.) Hopefully everyone has recovered from Woodworking in America (or has stopped scouring Instagram for the most recent updates like I was) and is ready for a regular week of reading the forum and working. Remember, if you have a question about our products, procedures in our books or anything related to Lost Art Press, the fastest way to get an answer is our forum. Check it out here.
Is it Abnormal for a Brace to be Out of True?
Saul has a brace where the angle of the chuck to the crank arm is less than 90°. When using it, it causes the brace to oscillate. He wants to know if this is something common and if it is something fixable. Have you had a similar issue? Was it worth fixing?
Sea Chest / Pirate Chest Plans Adam wants to build a 1700s -tyle wooden chest similar to those used to transport goods on ships. He is looking for a source for plans or instructions. If you have any insight on where he could find some, let him know here.
Planing End Grain?
Stephan is puzzled by his recent planing experience and is curious to see if it is normal. He has an 8/4 x 14″ x 72″ ash slab that he is making into a bench. When planing the end grain he found that his smoother left the best finish if he planed radially, not simply across the end. He wants to know if this is a technique that other people use or if he and his ash are just weird. Comment here before he starts to think it is just him.
Scandinavian Planes Anybody know of a source for vintage planes from Sweden or Norway? Michael is on the hunt. He knows they are difficult to find but would love some help if anybody has some to offer.
A Novice’s Campaign Over 200 hours and two years later Todd completed an incredible campaign secretary. (picture at top) His daughter is crazy lucky to be able to call it her own. This is a beautiful piece and well worth the time! Congrats!
Yet Another Workbench Newbie… Also a shout out to Mark for finishing his workbench. I love the excitement when people finish their first couple builds and this is a great example. It looks awesome. Here’s to years of new builds coming from this one.
Soot was one of the earliest materials used by humans to decorate their surroudings. In the late 18th century and well into the 19th century smoke painting was a decorative technique used on furniture. It was cheap and the smoke could be manipulated into a variety of patterns, from waves of haze to leopard-like spots. If you are looking for a different and easy-to-use decorative technique give it a try.
On this blanket chest the smoke has been smudged and softened before a clear finish was applied. Smoke painting the drawer front inside the chest is an unusual feature.
White and yellow were the most common background colors used. This dome-top chest with a bright yellow background has the addition of a snappy red trim.
The Snow Hill chest is the oldest piece I found and it looks as though a graining tool was used to manipulate the smoke.
This upright chest from New England is dated early to mid-19th century. The painter used the smoke in a controlled manner to achieve a very regular pattern. I would guess that the “smoke trails” were smudged to soften the edges and increase the coverage of smoke.
Although not as common as the white and yellow backgrounds there are pieces with other background colors and they are especially valued by collectors of smoke-painted furniture.
A nice blue with a simple pattern and a racy red veering toward leopard spots.
Chests and boxes were not the only furniture given the smoke paint treatment. In the piece below only the table top of a drop-leaf table was smoke-painted.
If you want to try smoke painting make several sample boards first to practice the technique and determine the kind of pattern you prefer. Smoke painting is not a difficult process but it does involve using an open flame so there are several precautions. These are same precautions you would used when working with any flammable material.
It is best to work outside with another adult, avoid windy conditions and paper-covered surfaces. Have a bucket of water and a fire extinguisher nearby. The tools you will need are a candle and a palette knife or other flat tool. The palette knife is held at the tip of the candle flame to create a sooty smoke.
Apply a basecoat of milk paint to the surface. Use enough coats to get the depth of color you prefer. While the basecoat is still damp light the candle and use the palette knife to get a sooty flame. Hold the still-damp painted surface above the sooty smoke and move it around to create your pattern (this is where the second adult come in). If desired, once the smoke is on the surface use your fingers, a brush or other tool to smudge the soot. After smoking (the furniture, not you) let the piece dry. Apply shellac or other clear finish you normally use.
The gallery below has a several more examples of smoke-painted boxes, chests and a small wall box.
The use of the plane presumes a base on which the item being planed is fastened. For a long time a simple low working bench, in Avinurme, “tööjärg” (Fig. 56) served for this and on which also other woodwork was done. In places such benches are still used, particularly in Avinurme or elsewhere where home industry has persevered. The older generation throughout the country still remembers planing on the simple bench. The typical Avinurme workbench has two holes at one of its ends, and the board to be planed is fastened either against or between pegs driven in these holes, so that the person planing sits astride on the bench (Fig. 57). In other places there is often only one stick at the end of the bench. Mostly there are two holes next to each other near the middle of the bench and the board is fastened on the bench so it is possible to plane the edge of the board (Fig. 58). Sometimes there is a square hole in the center for the inverted wedge when holding the plane steady and jointing the edge of a board (see Fig. 94).
FIG. 58. Planing a board edge. Avinurme. Maetsma village. Photograph by author. 1949 Photo library 1127:14.
FIG. 57. Planing a base for a wooden container. Avinurme. Maetsma village. Photograph by author, 1949. Photo libarary 1127:13.
Such simple workbenches were still usual for Russian home-industry workers at the beginning of the past century. It also appears from representations of Nuremberg cabinetmakers from 1398 and 1444 that they, too, have used identical benches. Only in German drawings of the 16th century do we see higher and wider benches, although still simpler and more primitive than the benches known today. But in the 18th century, benches as represented in drawings and lithographs bear resemblance to the present-day bench.
So the carpenter’s bench (“höövlipink,” also “kruupink, tisleripink, puusepa pink”) as we know it today is no older that two or three centuries. It became known in the village later still, and its actual appearance can be placed within living memory of the older generation, i.e. at the end of the 19th century. Of course, there may have been estate carpenters who had acquired benches somewhat earlier, even a century or more. The rapid development of village cabinetmaking in the second half of the 19th century brought the bench into the village. The story of carpenter Juhan Kaseoks (born 1866) of Keila is characteristic:
“I didn’t have a carpenter’s bench earlier. About 30 years later  there was a little more. Ikmelt Jaan’s father, whose name was Prits, he made the first one. His father was as a very good carpenter. He even started to sell them. Masters bought them from him. I was working at the manor, I naturally had one too. My father-in-law, Maerus, did that work, and he had one too. But households didn’t have them. There was a bench instead of it.”
After the example of carpenter’s benches people from villages started to build at first simpler benches. So, for example, people remember how they provided an end screw to an ordinary low bench. An old-style carpentry product, a planing bench now preserved at the Estonian National Museum (Fig. 60), uses natural branches of the tree skillfully applied in critical functions. Also a bench with screws represented a certain stage of development. Kusta Sinijärv (born 1866) of Karja remembers: “In my childhood we already had a real carpenter’s bench with a screw. At first it had one screw, with one screw at one end. But now the bench has two screws, with one screw also at the side. The side screw came there about 50 years ago [ca. 1900]. An older planing bench (with a side screw) but without a lower drawer has been shown in Fig. 59.
So the carpenter’s bench developed into a generally obligatory carpentry tool. Only the Avinurme woodworkers who make wooden containers still use the old benches. Chairmaking joiners in Avinurme, however, use the up-to-date joiner’s bench.
In the next year or two I want to travel to South Korea and lately have been researching temple stays. One temple that is very appealing is Jeondeungsa Temple on Ganghwa-gun Island, Incheon. The temple is located within the Samnangseong Fortress and is the oldest Buddhist temple in Korea. Daeungjeon, the main hall, was built in 381.
Besides a week of fresh air and contemplation there are ancient trees and beautiful temple architecture to explore….and the legend of the lovelorn carpenter. It seems the head carpenter of Daeungjeon had love issues.
There are variations to the legend as one would expect after 1,635 years. Some say the head carpenter met and fell in love with a local woman who scorned him and stole his money. Heartbroken and miserable he carved four figures of women and placed each one under the eaves of the temple roof. The small crouched figures are easy to spot under the lovely wood and faded paint of the eaves.
My favorite version (of course it is!) is more specific as to the intentions of the carpenter: his wife grew tired of waiting for him to return and left him. He carved the small crouching figures holding up each corner of the roof to symbolize his wish for her to carry a heavy burden for the rest of her life. Omo!