I love working with a sharp blade in my handplane

Tonight I was in the garage, working on a clients project, a tv console. This particular project is a huge deal for me, as I’ve designed it completely myself. No pictures to go by, no magazines to look it. This is truly an original design.

I got the legs all dimensioned properly, and then I started working on the side stretchers….the horizontal pieces that connect the legs together. There are 2 on each side, top and bottom.

At one point after cutting them to final width, it appeared to me that they weren’t quite the same width. They may have varied by as much as 1/64th, maybe 1/32″. A few passes with the handplane knocked down all the high spots and brought them all down to the same width. And the finish is absolutely satin….

And it made for a cool picture.

 

In memoriam of J. A. P.

 

Dear sir, I bought your saw off of eBay at auction, and I just want to gush about it. This is a picture of your saw.

It is a Disston 14″ back saw. I don’t know how you acquired it, but the guy I bought it from got it an estate auction near Chicago. I’m weighing it because it is so much heavier than a similar saw that I bought a few months ago. Same manufacturer, too. I have a theory about the weight difference, if you’ll allow me the courtesy of going into somewhat of a focused ramble.

This saw cost $8 dollars in 1880, based on the purchase price of what I bought the saw for in 2017 and the inflation of the dollar over the 137 years since then. The math nerds that are following my site (if there are ANY math nerds following my site) will quickly say, “to the internet!!” and deduce that I paid $185 dollars for the saw (shipping included!). Whatever. It’s a beautiful saw, and it was built when craftsmen made their living from their tools.

Your saw weighs over 22 ounces, back when steel was relatively expensive. The modern saw weighs just over 12 ounces, when steel was relatively cheap. Why is that?

I think that your saw was made to be used and resharpened and used and resharpened. The weight makes it easier to cut wood, but it isn’t so heavy that the user gets tired. Your saw was made for a person who earned his livelihood, while the modern saw was stamped out and given a plastic handle and made to be as cheap as possible and then disposed of when it got dull because hey, it’s cheap, right?

Your saw cuts BETTER, the kerf (the groove or slot that the saw leaves behind) is THINNER, and it cuts FASTER. These are all things that are benificial when you are making a living from the tool.

Truly, in this case, they don’t make them the way they used to.

 

What did you make with this saw, J. A. P. Is any of your work still in use today? how did you acquire it? Who did you leave it with after you slipped the mortal coil? Was the chip in the handle there when you got it, or did you drop it? Did you wonder, as I do, who used it before you? Did you feel, as I do, that I need to craft fine things with this saw so as to honor those craftsmen before me?

I love your saw. I treasure it. I am going to make great furniture with it that will last for generations. Thank you, good sir.

——————————————————————————-
Drake,
I like you get excited about these old beauties. This was obtained at an estate of a elderly carpenter / woodworker who passed here in Northern Illinois. You could tell though that he was a perfectionist by the amount of quality tools he had obtain and how he cared for them. Also some of his work was on display in several toolchest he had made that were all finely dovetailed [ it is possible he might of used this saw to make, who knows. ] My uncle was a master cabinetmaker and taught me how to identify quality work and tools at a early age. When I retired I decided to search out these fine hand tools with all their character from use in the trade, and get them back into circulation for others to appreciate. I wish I had more to tell you but as I said the gentleman had passed – I wish I could have talked to him.
I have and will be listing other tools from the same estate [ I have this saws’ younger brother – a 12″ backsaw ] up now along with a nice take down square of his. I hope your new saw serves you well and the spirit of the older gentleman guide you in your projects. Thanks again for putting this beauty back into service.
Rich

Sharp tools, revisited

I’ve always wanted to learn how to sharpen a saw.  Yesterday, with the power of the Internet (praise be unto Al Gore for his creation), and a file and a special tool called a saw set, I took a dull saw and turned it into a less dull saw.

I had bought a book off of Amazon called  “Keeping and Cutting Edge: Setting and Sharpening Hand and Power Saws” .  That gave me the fundamental knowledge.  Then, to the YouTubes!  I ended up watching a few videos by Paul Sellers, got my saw and a file as I watched the video, and went to work

It turns out like most any task, the actual execution is simple, but mastering the skill is hard.  However, I was able to smoothly and easily handsaw through a bunch of poplar and red oak, so I must have been doing something right.

I saw this saying the other day, attributed to Abraham Lincoln...“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  I think it is applicable to saws as well.

Tool boxes part deux

By now you know that I’m very keen on the “home for every tool, and every tool in it’s home” concept.  I want to discuss carpenter’s tool chests for a moment.

Chris Schwarz is sort of a hero of mine.  He’s a writer for Popular Woodworking and a master craftsman, and he’s dedicated to using hand tools to the greatest extent possible.  He works using tools that fit into his tool chest.  He’s got a few saws, some planes, several chisels, a brace and some bits, squares, etc.  It’s not the tool chest built by H. O. Studley, but it is functional.  And when something serves the purpose for which it was built, and does that one thing very well, that to me is functional beauty.

Stand by for future blog posts as I design, layout, and construct my carpenter’s tool chest later this year.

Tool Homes and The Design Process

So I’m a little bit of a fan about “every tool has a home, and a home for every tool“. I bought some Kobalt sockets from the local Big Blue Box. I then measured each tool and modeled them up in SketchUp.

Here’s what the model looks like:

Socket holder design (SketchUp)

This model will guide me as I lay out the drilling locations and gives me dimensions for the socket holders.  When I build the box to hold the socket holders, the model will serve as a guide for the wall dimensions, but I’m going to make the box elegant with dovetails and/or finger joints at the corners.  Those are time consuming to model in Sketchup.

Practicing

Today I had some free time, so I practiced sharpening some of my tools. Sharp tools are such a pleasure to use. Dull tools are so NOT a pleasure to use.
I won’t bore you with the details, but a quick grind on a grinder, then 50-100 strokes on the med grit stone, then 30-50 strokes on the fine grit stone gives me a good cutting edge.

Sharp blade

One sharp blade! And I didn’t even strop or hone with 12,000 grit yet.

Is it the sharpest blade in the world? No, it isn’t. Is the blade sharp enough to be very serviceable? Yes. Yes it is.

Two lower-end hand planes that get the job done because they have a really sharp blade.

You need a sharp blade when doing dovetails, or using a hand plane. These are two planes: a #5 jack plane and a smoothing plane. They are fun to use because they are really sharp. Legend has it that you can get cut just by loo OWWWW! king at them. (I stole that line from Kung Fu Panda).
Sharpening is a skill, just like any other skill. Practicing makes the skill easier to do and accomplish.

A Home For Every Tool

Everyone needs a home. Everyone wants a home. Home is where the heart is. Home is where the journey starts. HOMES is the mnemonic device to remember the names of the Great Lakes. (How’s that for a total non sequitur?)

I’ve got a saying that I’ve found myself repeating a lot lately. Every tool needs a home, and there needs to be a home for every tool. Yeah, it’s a ripoff from the Shaker’s expression, a place for everything, and everything in it’s place.

But what if your tools are homeless? Are your tools like most peoples’, a jumble in the bottom of a drawer? In a cold, soulless metal box? Or worse, in a plastic (gasp!) container?

plastic socket holders

Plastic socket holders

That’s like the skid row of tool homes. Hey, I’ve got more than a few of the plastic drill bit cases, or a blown plastic caliper case that’s hard to open, or the “139 piece screw bit case” from the Big Box. Yeah, I’m guilty.

But your tools deserve better. Your tools need a home.

I am building a series of nice tool boxes, from oak and cherry and maple and walnut. They will house your sockets and wrenches and ratchets and adapters. I’m still working on the exact layout in SketchUp, but I have built a prototype for a Kobalt set I picked up from Lowe’s a while back. Metric, because that is the Preferred Solution (a topic for another blog post). When I got them home, I went to store them on one of those sticks with the studs that you snap the sockets onto. I bet you’ve got three sitting around with various sockets stuck on them. And I thought, there’s a better way. A more beautiful way. A way to look at the box and instantly know if a socket is missing or not. A socket box that you will give to your grandchildren, and THEY will give to THEIR grandchildren.

 

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“Custom”

I want to talk about what custom means to me.  Custom means that whatever you build has never been built exactly like the way you’re building it.  Ever.  Custom means that the piece of furniture, or the book case, or the country chandelier, or the end table, or the headboard, is built to your specs.  It’s designed to fit your space.  It’s finished to suit your taste, your colors, your style.  You are getting an original piece built for you.
But it is so much more than that.  Custom, to me, is intimate.  You’re not buying a mass produced piece of particle board that’s put together with tab A going into slot B.  You are buying access to the fabrication shop.  I will seek your input in the design process.  I will seek your input during the finishing process.  You get full ability to turn the design in your head into reality.  I’m just here to help assist make that design solid.  Tangible.  Yours.
I love to make and build things.  I love to take a picture and a question, “Could you do something like that?” and make it happen.
I’m really excited about opening up this business.  I want to see how well I can take your dream, your vision, and your style, and meld it with wood and light and metal and leather and make something that is yours in every sense of the word.