A reader has been making a piece of work which has involved the use of a tenoned rail some 12 ins. wide, and tells us that he has had difficulty in sawing the tenons. Whilst it is possible to saw the tenons, we should not advise it. It would take too long, and it would be difficult to keep the saw true across so wide a tenon. We give here the simplest method.
We show a wide rail in Fig. 1, the cutting of the double tenons of which is a typical example of the process to be followed. A similar case of even wider tenons is that of, say, a table top with clamped ends, the last named being mortised for tenons cut at the ends of the top.
Mark out the joint in the usual way, squaring in the shoulders and marking the tenons with the mortise gauge. The chisel is used for marking the shoulders, and a shallow sloping groove is cut on the waste side as at X, Fig. 2. This forms a convenient channel in which the saw can run when cutting the shoulders, the next operation. The tenon saw can be used for this. Saw down to a fraction short of the gauge line, and be careful to keep the saw square.
Assuming that the grain is reasonably straight, chop away the cheeks with a chisel as at B, Fig. 2. Do not attempt to remove all the waste in a single cut, but start the chisel about halfway down, and finally take it to within about 1/8 in. of the line. Of course, the grain must be watched. If it tends to run downwards the chisel cannot be used so close to the line. If it runs upwards, it can be taken almost on to it. A fairly wide chisel is desirable for this work.
Now take the rebate plane and work across the grain, the side of the plane pressed against the shoulder as in Fig. 3. If you have the metal type of rebate plane you can set the depth gauge so that the plane ceases to cut when the tenon is reduced nearly to the gauge line. Be sure that the cutter does not project on the shoulder side as this will damage the latter. At the near side the grain is sure to splinter a bit, but this does not matter. It cannot splinter on the shoulder side as it has already been cut with the saw.
To finish off use the jack or any other bench plane as in Fig. 4. Carried out in this way the reduction of the wood is quite rapid, certainly quicker than when the saw is used throughout, and it enables the tenon to be trimmed to within fine limits. The remainder of the work, that of cutting the separate tenons and the haunches, is as in normal tenoning.
One sometimes gets in an indirect sort of way, a remarkable light on the things that people used to make and use. A man may explore all the usual channels in an endeavour to investigate a subject with little result, and then tumble across a piece of information entirely by accident.
The writer recently experienced something of the sort when visiting the Royal Academy Exhibition of 17th century art still on view at Burlington House. One of the pictures is the famous “Christ in the Carpenter’s shop,’’ by Carracci, and it shows Christ as a boy watching Joseph at work at his bench.
The point of interest is that Carracci painted in his picture the sort of bench and tools with which he himself was familiar in his age. In other words, the tools shown are the sort that carpenters used during the 17th century in Italy.
Some of them are extraordinarily like the tools we have in use at the present time. There is a frame saw identical with the kind still used by German woodworkers to-day. It is rather like a large bowsaw, but has a much wider blade. It is used for much the same purpose as the handsaw with which we are familiar. Then there is a claw hammer that might have been bought at a modem tool store, except that the head is square instead of rounded; also the handle. Passing through the bench is a holdfast, similar in principle to the modern type but without the screw arrangement. The carpenter placed the end over the wood to be held, and struck the pillar passing through the bench, so that it wedged itself in. A sort of small adze intended for use with one hand is interesting. It is rather like a small axe, but with the blade turned at right angles with the shaft. The latter is curved, and finishes with a curved scroll which would prevent it from flying out of the hand. Joseph himself is engaged in marking out a board, and is using a chalked line to mark a straight line.
Most interesting of all, however, is a trying plane which lies propped up on a box beneath the bench. It would be about 22 ins. long with a cutter of, say, 2-1∕ 2 ins. Its depth appears to be certainly no more than 2-1∕4 ins. Probably it may have been deeper originally, and became thinner from having been planed true many times.
One feature that immediately arrests the attention is the pitch of the cutter. It is extremely high; so much so that its action must have been almost that of a scraper. Yet there are scrolled shavings lying on the ground such as one might expect to take off with a plane of normal pitch. It is, of course, possible that the artist has gone astray in this respect, and that the cutter was set lower, but, as shown, it is not more than 15 degrees out of the vertical. It must have been extremely hard work using such a plane, and the shaving can only have been thin.
There is just this in it; planes in those days had no back irons, and the tendency would be to make the pitch as high as would be practical to minimise any tendency to tear out. So high an angle, however, seems an exaggeration.
There is one point which has puzzled us a good deal; that is the rounded piece immediately in front of the cutter. When, in the first place, we saw a black and white photograph of the picture, we immediately assumed it to be a shaving. On examining the actual picture, however, there were several things to suggest that this was not the case, but that it was in reality a handle formed out of the wedge. The detail is admittedly not clear, but whereas all the shavings on the floor are light, the detail in question is of the same colour as the rest of the plane. Many old trying planes had handles at the front, though in front of the escapement. One would imagine that a handle just in front of the wedge would be liable to cause the shavings to choke, but, there it is. Readers may like to consider the matter for themselves and draw their own conclusions.
A reader has sent us a sketch of the teeth of a saw he wishes to sharpen. These are the farmer’s American or lightning type, and are intended for cross-cutting. He enquires the correct bevel and set to give the teeth. We give the reply here as it will probably interest other readers.
The sharpening is rather different from that of the ordinary cross-cut handsaw. In the latter the file is held at an angle varying from 45 to 60 degrees with the line of the blade and is kept perfectly horizontal. The back of one tooth and the front of the next are sharpened in one operation. In the lightning tooth one side of one tooth only is sharpened at a time. There are three distinct operations, of which the first is gulleting (A, Fig. 1), in which a special file with rounded edge is used. In this the file is held at right angles with the blade and perfectly horizontal. The filing of the long edge of the end teeth follows and for this the near end of the file is dropped so that it points upwards at an angle somewhere in the region of 45 degrees and at about 80 degrees with the line of the teeth. The exact angles cannot be given because it is largely a matter of individual handling. However, the bevel at which to aim is one in which the teeth are in alignment with an ordinary three-cornered file when rested horizontally across them at 60 degrees, as in Fig. 2.
The professional sharpener does not need to do this, but it is a handy test for the inexperienced man. Fig. 1 at B shows how the long edge is sharpened. The short edges of the end teeth and the middle teeth follow, and for these an exactly similar process is followed (see C). If, after several sharpenings, the teeth tend to get out of shape, they should be corrected by running the file straight across at right angles and horizontal. When true the sharpening as already described follows.
With regard to setting (this of course precedes sharpening), since lightning tooth saws are generally used for green wood which is liable to cling, a full set is desirable. If an impression of the points of the teeth is taken on paper it will generally be found that they will register about twice the thickness of the blade. D shows about the right amount of set. As in all other saws, the set should never extend more than halfway down the depth of the tooth (E).
Anyone using the Stanley or Record combination and multiplanes, or indeed any form of rebate or grooving plane, will no doubt have experienced difficulty in holding the work in position when it is too small or too awkward to be held in the vice. Here is a gadget that is extremely useful in overcoming that difficulty.
Made of hardwood, it is capable of accommodating material of almost any length, up to 15 ins. in width, and of thicknesses varying by sixteenths of an inch from 1/4 in. to 1-1/16 in. The one side of arm “A” (see Fig. 2) takes pieces 1/4 in., 1/2 in., 3/4 in., 1 in., thick, the other 3/8 in., 5/8 in., 7/8 in. Intermediate measurements from 5/16 in. to 1-1/16 in. can be obtained by inserting a 1/16 in. thick washer under arm A. Other measurements can be arrived at by using thicker washers, though 1 in. is normally ample, anything thicker being suitable for the vice.
The diagrams show the construction of the device and call for little comment. Arm A is attached to slides E by 2-1/2 in. bolts, the heads of which are sunk. Note also that the head of bolt X is sunk below the level of pieces B and D (see Fig. 3).
To attach the device to the bench it is necessary to cut a number of mortises, 1-1/4 in. by 1/2 in., 6 ins. apart along the edge of the bench. Where the vice is flush with the edge of the bench the mortises will have to be cut in the bench top, but where the vice projects any distance an extra fitment can be screwed in position. The mortises in no way interfere with normal work, and once cut require no further attention. Two hardwood stops are then all that are necessary to hold the device rigid on the bench. These should be about 4 ins. long and a tight fit in the mortises.
The method of use is as follows. Attach the device to the bench by means of bolt X passed through one of the mortises. Now drive the stops into the adjacent mortises, allowing the one towards which the planing is to be done to project above pieces B and D. This will act as a planing stop. The rear stop is driven below the level of B and D and serves merely to prevent the device swivelling due to lateral pressure. Here it may be noted that the outer edge of piece B projects a little over the edge of the bench as in some cases it may be required to act as a guide to the plane. Where a long strip is being rebated, for example, the front stop may be driven below the level of B and D and, the device being fixed in the middle of the bench, the bench stop used as the planing stop.
The work is placed on top of the device, its near edge projecting slightly beyond the edge of B and its end against the planing stop or the bench stop. Arm A is slid up to the far edge of the work and bolts Y tightened. Fig. 1 illustrates the method. By this means the work is held rigid.
In some cases, when the work is narrow, the construction of arm A does not permit of the work being clamped down, as the projection of A interferes with the plane. The method then is to reverse arm A, as in Fig. 4 in which case it serves merely as a lateral stop and not as a cramp.
The practical working of wood is largely based upon an extraordinarily simple fact; a fact which every man who goes in for woodwork, even in an elementary way, soon comes to discover for himself. This is that it is easier to take a tool right through than to stop it short—at any rate so far as hand tools are concerned. Men in the past found this out at a very early period, and traditional methods of construction have been based on and developed around this simple truth, but it is rediscovered daily by every man who picks up saw, plane, file, and so on.
Consider the number of times you experience this; how much easier it is to work a through groove than a stopped one; how simple it is to take a saw right across a piece of wood, but what a different proposition when it has to be stopped short as when sawing the sides of a stopped groove; how straightforward it is to plane an edge straight, yet what a nuisance it becomes when it is stopped at one (or both) ends and you cannot use the plane except at the middle (haven’t you been tempted to plane the edge straight and plant on the stops afterwards!); how a simple chamfer can be formed with the plane in a few seconds, but takes probably ten times as long when it is stopped; and so the list might be continued. These points are brought out in Fig. 1.
Of course, it does not follow from this that grooves are never stopped or that chamfers always go right through. Sometimes you cannot help yourself; possibly the one may be a constructional necessity, or the other so attractive a feature that it is worth the trouble involved. But there is no point in work for its own sake; it is much better to go about things in a simple way, especially when the involved method carries with it no corresponding advantage.
It is because of this that it is generally easy to tell whether a design is the work of a practical man; or, to take another aspect of the same thing, why a design by an artist invariably requires the cooperation of an experienced woodworker to convert it into terms of practical working. A simple example came to our notice recently. The sides of a drawer had to be grooved to fit suspension runners attached to the cabinet sides. They were shown stopped at the front as at A, Fig. 2. Surely no practical man would ever have given such a detail to be worked by hand when it would have been just as easy to arrange things as at C in which the plough could be taken right through before assembling the drawer. In fact the arrangement at B could have been followed, so enabling the runner to afford support almost to the extreme front.
This running-through business is of particular interest because it is largely peculiar to wood, and it is partly due to wood being a natural material which must be used in the form in which it is found (we are ignoring here made-up materials such as laminboard, plywood, etc.). Some materials (metal, plastics, etc.) can be cast or moulded, and projections and stops present no more difficulty than flat surfaces. With timber you fell the tree, convert the log, and then think in terms of so many straight pieces of material. Another point affecting the thing is that wood is comparatively soft so that you can set a metal cutter in a stock (that is, make a plane) and take off shavings, the device having the advantage of helping to make the work straight and true. But of course you have to be able to take the tool through without hindrance.
Perhaps a better appreciation of this point is to compare it with the method used by the stone mason. You cannot use a plane on stone; you have to chip it away with chisel and hammer. There is therefore no point in running through. If a mason has to work a moulding around, say, a window opening, he does not form the joint right at the mitre. Instead he carves a special corner stone as in Fig. 3, this having the two joining mouldings carved in it. Thus we see how a fundamental difference in methods of working has evolved a technique peculiar to the material, this basically affecting the design.
This brings us to an interesting point. The carver in wood uses tools and methods of working which are similar to those of the sculptor in stone. He uses gouges and chisels as distinct from the planes and ploughs of the joiner or cabinet maker. Consequently the running-through idea does not apply to him. When therefore a wood carver makes a piece of woodwork he often carves it in the solid rather than joins pieces together, and the mitres of his mouldings are like those of the mason. In fact, the same idea is occasionally carried out in joinery in which a timber framing is used. In Fig. 4, for instance, the joint in the moulding is not on the mitre line, but runs straight across in line with the shoulder of the joint. Clearly the moulding plane could not be used on the uprights, and the corner would have to be cut by the carver. This joint is, in fact, known as the mason’s mitre, and the corresponding joiner’s mitre is given in Fig. 5.
It is an interesting thought that if the technique of woodwork had developed through the wood carver rather than the joiner, the mason’s mitre would probably have become the rule rather than the exception.