I’ve been inundated with questions for the live stream Q&A that Chris and I are doing on Saturday at 11 a.m. Eastern on January 30, so I’m afraid we won’t be able to answer all of them before it’s time for our weekly Saturday lunch at Crafts & Vines (outside and socially distanced, of course). So, I’ll be tackling some of them on the blog. Here’s the first.
Q: Where would you recommend for purchasing nails for period pieces?
A: This is an easy one, because as far as I know, there are only two possible answers, and the appropriate one depends on what is meant by period.
From the early 19th-century until the late 19th-century, cut nails were easily available (more easily the later one gets into the century). Today, as far as I know there is but one maker of cut nails: Tremont Nail (now owned by Acorn Manufacturing). So barring reclaimed nails from a salvage place, that’s the only supplier (I think). Tremont nails can be ordered direct from the company, but are available in smaller quantities from some retailers (Lee Valley Tools and Tools for Working Wood among them).
For period work prior to the early 19th-century, the only truly appropriate choice is blacksmith-made nails. But they are not cheap…so I would use those only when I’m wholly committed to authenticity. For these, make friends with your local blacksmith, and expect to pay anywhere from $1 to $3 per nail.
If, like me, your wallet isn’t quite so well-stocked, consider using Rivierre square-shanked nails. These have the look and shape of blacksmith-made nails but at a far more affordable price. They are available in the U.S. from Lee Valley Tools. Another option is Tremont “wrought head” nails. These are tapered, cut nails, but the heads look kind of handmade (and they’re available in a black oxide finish).
p.s. If you want to read a lot more about cut nails and square-shanked nails, and how to use them, I wrote about them at length on the Fine Woodworking blog.
For the first time ever, we have the ability to live stream stuff from our shop in Covington, Ky. It’s still pretty low-tech (it will be through a laptop camera) but it’s a start.
To break in the new technology, we will hold a live “Question Time” session at 11 a.m. (Eastern) on Jan. 30. Megan Fitzpatrick and I will answer as many questions as possible about woodworking, publishing and possum menstrual cycles as we can handle in one hour.
You will be able to tune in live, or watch the recording later. Here’s how to participate:
Send your questions *beforehand* to Megan at email@example.com. The earlier the better. Please make the subject line of your email “livestream question” to ensure it’s not a question about where your darn book is. Like I said, we are happy to answer any sort of question about woodworking, woodland animals or our books. Please send your question as early as possible so we have time to make up a response that involves an Estonian limerick.
Tune in at 11 a.m. Saturday (Eastern). Use this link to watch it live. We’ll also put up an embedded window on the blog Saturday morning to make it easy for you. If you cannot watch live, we will post the recording sometime Saturday afternoon on the blog.
Please remember: We are not professional actors. The talk will likely be PG13 (partial nudity, strong language, adult situations). So take that into account if you are working at a day care facility.
Most of all, please send questions beforehand so we don’t have to make some up.
In order fully to understand the workings of the metal plane it is a good idea, particularly for the beginner, to strip down the plane to its smallest component. If you have an old or secondhand plane this is a good opportunity to renovate it. Even if the plane is mis-assembled and maladjusted, no damage can be done to it. Figure 1 shows the structure quite clearly and gives the correct names to all the components. It will be seen that there are three distinct adjustments.
The depth of cut, that is the thickness of shaving removed, is controlled by the cutter adjusting wheel. The wheel running up and down a left-hand thread operates the Y lever. This in turn engages in the Y lever socket of the cap iron (or breaker), which it moves up or down. The blade is secured to the cap iron and is moved by it.
The second adjustment is lateral. The lateral lever has a circular stud at its end. When the plane is assembled it must be made certain that this stud fits into the slot in the blade. Movement of the lever thus moves the cutting edge sideways, preventing one corner from digging in.
The third adjustment is commonly called closing or opening the mouth. The whole frog is moved forward with the blade and the effect is to alter the size of the gap in front of the blade. The lever cap screw should be just sufficiently tight to make sideways movement of the blade with the fingers difficult but not impossible.
Our retailers have been asking about the tools and books we have planned for 2021. If I have to write this explanation up for them, I might as well let y’all have a look, too.
If a book or tool is not on this list, that means I don’t have a timetable for it. So if you ask when Andrew Lunn’s sawmaking book will be released, my response will be: crickets. Please don’t be offended by this – I simply don’t have any information to give you.
These are roughly in order of when they will be released. Like many manufacturers, we are fighting supply-chain breakages from the paper mills all the way up to the cardboard box supplier we use to ship products.
“The Workbench Book” by Scott Landis We are still taking pre-publication orders for this book. We expect it to ship out in early February. We are also working on getting its companion book, “The Workshop Book,” to the printer by Feb. 1.
“Make a Chair From a Tree (Expanded and Revised Edition)” by Jennie Alexander with Larry Barrett and Peter Follansbee At long last, this should go to the printer in February. We still don’t have a retail price, but I suspect it will be less than $40. This book has been a group effort from people all over the country, and I hope you will be pleased. The layout is just about complete. We have a couple drawings and photos to add. And then some editing. Look for it this summer.
“The Woodworker’s Pocket Book” Edited by Charles H. Hayward This is a book I have wanted to reprint for many years, but we kept hitting obstacles. First printed in 1949, this small handbook (4” x 6-1/2”) is perfect for the hand-tool woodworker. It is filled with finish recipes, workshop geometry, details on tools, practical wood advice, moulding charts from different furniture periods – plus tons of information on using nails, screws and other fittings. I’ve owned a copy for many years and use it all the time. This book is at the printer and should be out in late March. The price will be $13, which is a steal as the book is built to take a beating. We also hope to offer a special slipcase (for an added charge) that screws to the inside of your tool chest or cabinet and keeps the book where it should be – by your tools.
“The Handmade Life of Dick Proenneke” By Monroe Robinson Kara just posted this update on the book last week. So I won’t repeat after her. Linda Watts is now designing the book (the proofs I’ve seen are gorgeous), and Elin Price is still making the illustrations. I don’t have a timetable for this title yet, but I suspect it will be released at the end of the summer.
“The Dutch Tool Chest Book” By Megan Fitzpatrick This is the working title. For all I know, the real title could be “Come Hither, Monkey Bride: A Guide to Dutch Tool Chests.” Megan is doing everything she can to get this book out this year. It will show you how to make two Dutch tool chests with a lot of different variations in the back, lid and how the interiors are arranged. The book will go into great detail on all the handwork, so if this chest is your first hand-tool project, this book will be a great guide.
Crucible Tool We are hard at work on three new tools and hope to release all of them this year. One is a cast planing stop that works like a blacksmith-made stop (with a super-sneaky improvement). The second is an adaptation of A.J. Roubo’s miter square. This square, which has almost disappeared, is insanely useful for hand-tool woodworkers, especially for edge-jointing. And the third tool (fingers crossed) is to bring back our Crucible dividers, redesigned so they are less expensive (and can be manufactured without my wanting to pluck out my own spleen with barbecue tongs).
There also are a couple other books that might make it across the finish line in 2021 (“Guerrilla Chairmaking” is a contender). So stay tuned.
And finally, thank you for all your support and patience in 2020. We shipped 50,502 books and tools directly to customers last year (and sold thousands more through our retailers all over the world). We are still a tiny company. John and I are the only “employees”; Megan, Meghan and Kara are all part-time (but absolutely essential) contractors. So we still feel like we are gulping for air at times. We make mistakes every day, but we try to do a good job and make things right.
There are many options for the box that traps the steam and holds the parts to be bent. Schedule 80 PVC pipe works fine, but I think it’s expensive overkill. I’ve seen schedule 40 pipe melt when hooked up to a powerful steamer.
I prefer a CDX plywood box that is barely large enough for the bend at hand. I’ve found that a box with an interior of 4″ x 3″ x 62″ is large enough for almost all of my needs. Don’t bother to paint or seal the wood; you’ll simply be trapping the moisture and inviting mold growth. To function, the box shouldn’t be NASA airtight; as a matter of fact, you should see steam leaking out, which lets fresh hot steam circulate to all regions of the box. If the steam can’t circulate, then you are relying on conduction, which doesn’t transfer heat as well as convection. I keep a thermometer in the top of my box and with this sort of box, the temperature climbs to 210°F. Standard woodworking glues won’t hold up to the heat and moisture so I rely on polyurethane glue, tongue-and-groove construction and screws to hold my box together.
To allow the cooled condensed vapor to drain, the whole box should be at an angle and have a drain hole at its lower end. I usually put the port for the steam hose in the center of the box near the most extreme part of the bend. To prevent steam burns, the door of the steamer should hinge on the side so that your hand is never above the open door. Steam burns come on fast and can do plenty of damage. I usually put the end of the steamer with the drain port on a lid from a plastic tub to collect the liquid that drains out.