Crucible Card Scrapers are in Stock

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Another massive load of Crucible Card Scrapers are available for immediate shipment from our warehouse. The price is (still) $20 plus shipping.

The scrapers come with a magnet attached, which absorbs heat while scraping. And they come in a paper wallet, which is ideal for protecting the tool when it’s not in use. I say these things so you don’t throw them away and then ask us to send them to you….

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Crucible Tool, Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Our New Sponsor

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Lately, I’ve been thinking, “Why not grab some of this internet sponsorship cash?” And so we have taken on a sponsor – the Malodorous Rubber Mallet Co. I’ve agreed to use the company’s mallets in social media photos and will be impartially reviewing the mallet against all other mallets ever made in this dimension (and others) in the coming weeks.

All I can say at this point is that this mallet is so good that you can smell it coming. It offers the Perfume of Percussion. The Whiff of Whacking. The Bouquet of Beating.

Posted in Satire, Uncategorized | 39 Comments

Working on a Work Vest

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Geologists know the value of a good vest. No, Chris won’t be modeling ours sans shirt. Don’t get your hopes up.

Our Chore Coat has been popular so far, so Chris and I wanted to follow it up with another garment that would be useful, not just merchandise. His idea was a work vest that’d layer over a shirt or under a coat, with plenty of pockets and a low collar. Sounds good, I said, and we were off to the races.

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Tatra Mountain guides wore leather vests. 

We kept it simple, with three outside patch pockets, a low band collar for ease of layering and an inside divided pocket for a pencil, marking knife, 6″ ruler, Sharpie, lumber crayon, paintbrush, tire pressure gauge, Slim Jim, asparagus stalk, Timberlok, cigarillo, chopsticks and other workbench essentials.

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Dick Proenneke made a cut-off vest to be layered under his overalls. 

We’ll be producing a limited run of these vests – probably no more than 100 pieces – out of a beautiful English-woven moleskin fabric. More on moleskin later. (It’s not made out of dead moles. But it is awesome.) Later versions of the vest will be made using a cloth that is easier to get.

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Furniture builders wear vests too.

We’re glad to be working with Sew Valley in Cincinnati again. They’re growing and improving every month and we’re delighted to support them as best we can.

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Russian firewood haulers? Yep. Vests. 

Expect to see our final prototype later this month.

— Tom Bonamici

Posted in Uncategorized | 27 Comments

Scrapers, Hammers & Thanks for all the Fish

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This week I’ve thrown myself into production for Crucible Tool along with help from Megan Fitzpatrick and Brendan Gaffney. Today, Megan and I finished up 600 card scrapers and sent them to the warehouse. They should be for sale by the end of the week – so take this as fair warning.

We have a new jig for machining the scrapers in a CNC mill. This speeds the process and eliminates the abrasive polishing of the edges. That’s a win for everyone’s lungs (and fire suppression equipment). Abrading metal blows. And burns.

Speaking of abrasives, during the last month, we’ve redesigned the way we make hammer heads to reduce – and almost eliminate – the abrasive grinding processes to make the heads for our lump hammers.

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I know that some of you simply want your hammers and don’t care about how they’re made. If that’s you, know that we should have a batch of hammers for sale next week. You can now go back to your cat videos.

For those interested in how your tools are made, here’s what we’ve been up to. When we started making the hammers we machined the heads and then had five abrasive processes to finish them. We used three grits on the flat faces and two on the striking faces.

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With the magic of changing the tool paths, we’re down to one abrasive process. We’re hoping to eliminate that one as well and just have a little power buffing.

The heads won’t look different to the naked eye. All the facets are the same. The striking faces are the same dome shape. But the surfaces look a wee bit different under a loupe. I think they look better.

Note: After five minutes of hard use, all our hammers look about the same.

All these changes will make the heads easier to make. And it’s safer for the machine operators. So thanks for your patience (like you had a choice).

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. Before you email John and Megan Bates: No, we’re not working on dividers. That tool has been suspended until it can be redesigned.

Posted in Crucible Tool, Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Trees – “Giant Organic Recording Devices”

Wood samples for research at the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research at the University of Arizona. Photo: Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times.

Today’s New York Times has an interesting article about dendrochronology and related fields of research.

You can read the article here.

Suzanne Ellison

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Snap a Line!

Mudejar carpenters of Teruel Cathedral, Aragon, Spain, 12th-16th c.

When I was 7 my father called me out to the patio to help him as he was building a bookcase. He told me to hold a string to the end of a board, hold it tight and don’t let go. He snapped the string, there was a mini-explosion of dust and a blue line appeared on the board. My reaction was something like this:

So, you might not be surprised I have a collection of line snaps.

It’s Ancient

What I find appealing about snapping a line (besides the magic blue line) is it is an ancient method used by carpenters, masons and artists. It is not complicated and it works. Ancient Egyptians used red and yellow ochres and black inks for their lines. We can still see traces of the lines used on wall paintings to divide panels and keep figures in alignment.

Tomb of Horemheb, Saqqara, 18th Dynasty, 1319-1292 B.C.

One of the folktales about Lu Ban, legendary carpenter of China (born around 500 B.C.), is about how he taught stone masons the use of the ink line marker. It is said the ink marker was one of the tools he always carried with him.

Lu Ban snapping a line.

It’s Biblical

Isaiah 44:13: The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line…

Construction of Noah’s Ark, Northern Italy, ca. 1300.

Although we can’t see what kind of marking tool is used, the carpenters in the third row down on the left are about to snap a line.

Hours of Catherine of Cleves (MS M.917, 105r), Utrech, ca. 1440, Morgan Library.

This is captioned as “Solomon observing the measuring of the timber.” We know the carpenter is going to snap a line.

Detail from the restored Construction of Noah’s Arc, fresco by Piero di Puccio, Camposanto di Pisa, 14th century.

In this Ark scene it appears a line will be cut at an angle across the board rather than the board’s length. The ink pot is near the foot of the carpenter in blue.

Engraving of the painting known as The Raboteur, attributed to Annibale Carracci, late 16th or early 17th century.

It probably isn’t too far off the mark to state most of the line snapping in the New Testament is to be found in scenes of Jesus helping his Joseph. Here again, only the line can be seen.

It’s Universal

The scenes on the left and top right are from various sections of the “Lu ban jing” written around 1600. On the left a line is about to be snapped; at the top right the carpenter’s modou is on the ground (look for the wheel). On the bottom left is a Korean carpenter with his line marker positioned with his other tools. The artist is Kim Jun-geun, who documented many tradesmen in a vernacular style (late 19th to early 20th century).

In the foreground the older carpenter holds the sumitsubo and is about to snap the line as the apprentice holds the end.

Portion of the scroll Kasuga Gongen Kenki Emaki by Takashina Takakane, ca. 1309.

This scroll was made using paint and ink on silk. It shows consecutive tasks: marking a log to be split, snapping a line on a board to be cut or split, carpenters sitting on a board and splitting it in two.

Processing beams for use in mines, France, 1529, BnF.

In the middle of the scene the inked line has been stretched and the square ink box is nearby on the ground.

Both of these images are 16th century German. On the left the line has been pulled from the ink box, on the right the reel with wound-up line is on the ground with a round ink pot(?) to the right.

Tools: Rotating Spindles to Chalk-O-Matic

Left: Ancient Egyptian mason’s line, Middle Kingdom tomb at Deir el Bahri. Right: carpenters, Madras, India, ca. 1785, V&A Museum.

The mason’s line has a rotating spindle and bears a strong resemblance to the spindle held by the Indian carpenter (top left in the painting).

From ‘Ancient Carpenter Tools’ by Henry C. Mercer.

The majority of the spools and reels shown were types used in Europe and the Americas. The one outlier is the Korean line marker (bottom right) from Kangkei (now known as Kanggye). Note: Henry Mercer wrote “twanged.”

The Japanese sumitsubo is still used today (as are more modern line markers). The 20th century Stanley chalk line with the very American name “Chalk-O-Matic” is still found in many a tool box.

As the handle on the sumitsubo is turned, string unwinds from the wheel and is pulled over ink-soaked cotton wool in the bowl and exits through the hole on the end. Chalk is enclosed in the Chalk-O-Matic and as the string is pulled out it gets a nice coating of blue chalk and basically works the same as the sumistubo.

My favorites: on the left a beautifully scaled fish sumitsubo; top right is a Chinese shipwright’s mondou (from the book “China at Work” by Hommel), bottom right is another boat-shaped sumitsubo (Skinner Auctions).

Woodblock, Edo Period, Harvard Art Museum.

The Japanese sumitsubo and try square are often pictured together in woodblock prints. And there’s a reason for that.

Taking another look at a detail in the Takashina Takakane scroll you can see both carpenters in the foreground are using a sumitsubo and a square as a plumb-line.

Suzuki, Masaharu, 1874 in “Wood and Wood Joints: Building Traditions of Europe, Japan and China” by Klaus Zwerger.

Another illustration of how the two tools are used together as a plumb-line.

Back to Antiquity

Ancient Greek carpenters also used snap lines (of course they did). They used red and black lines. Although I don’t have an image there is a passage from “The Greek Anthology” by W.R. Paton in 1916 that you might like to read (a translation of the Anthologia Palatina). Numbers 204 and 205 are by Leonides of Tarentum, a poet from the 3rd century B.C.  Click on the image to make it easier to read in either Greek or English.

The gallery has a few more selections.

Suzanne Ellison

Posted in Asian Woodworking, Historical Images, Personal Favorites | 40 Comments

The American Welsh Stick Chair

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I try not to call my chairs “Welsh stick chairs” for several reasons. I don’t live in Wales. I don’t have access to the craggy timbers used for the seats. And I don’t have hedgerows where I can harvest sticks, armbows and crest rails.

You might also be thinking: “Yeah, and you’re not Welsh – Herr Schwarz.”

My opinion: I don’t consider blood to be the sole requirement to become a member of a community. People can be accepted into – or rejected from – a community despite their DNA. I’ve got a fair amount of English, Welsh and Irish blood (47 percent), but that gives me no claim to the Welsh stick chair – or any other.

I’m an American. I’ve lived here my entire life. And my design aesthetic, wood choices, tool selection and goals are typically American (for better or worse).

And so I’ve decided to describe my chairs as “American Welsh Stick Chairs.” To my mind, this fits in with the long American tradition of taking furniture forms from the U.K., Europe and elsewhere and adapting them to our tastes and our timbers.

We took U.K. styles such as Jacobean (1603–1625), William and Mary (1690–1730), Queen Anne (1702–1760), Georgian (1714–1830) and Neo-Classical (1750–1830) and taught them an American accent. This continued into the later 19th century with both the English Victorian and Arts & Crafts styles.

When all those styles landed here, we altered them to suit us. (Note: This is not a uniquely American practice. Locals have always played with imported styles.) In many cases (but not all) Americans tended to simplify the styles. We removed ornamentation. We used local woods (or exotics).

In my heart, I think that’s what I’ve done with my beloved antique Welsh stick chairs. I use New World woods, because this is what is available. Getting timbers with swirled grain for the seat is a struggle for me (so far), and so I use what I have – street trees, mostly. But they don’t compare visually to the Welsh ones.

Because I have access to dang-straight wood, I make my sticks, legs and stretchers so they follow the straight grain. A old Welsh chairmaker might have used a branch for strength in these cases, and the branch might have had some wiggle to it.

I’ve also tried to lighten the older forms, which I consider both an American trait (historically) and a modern one (in general).

And so for me, the term “American Welsh Stick Chair” fits. “American” because it was made in the Americas. “Welsh” because that’s the tradition it was derived from. “Stick” because sticks. And “Chair” because I don’t make love spoons.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Welsh Stick Chairs by John Brown | 14 Comments