Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

sharpening revisited

So, I am ever adjusting my means and methods to achieve some accuracy for historical events where we participate. Last week I was discussing sharpening with a friend that does pottery. I had asked her to make a container that I could soak my sharpening stones in to replace the yellow plastic box I had been using. I told her I am using triangular ceramic files which led talking about the practice of using the unglazed bottom of mugs and plates for sharpening kitchen knives and such. She was not aware this could be done but immediately realized it could work, depending on the material. Then she told me about a back step made of slate that had been used for knife sharpening. I had heard of sharpening with slate but had not considered it for my self. Until today. I took a piece of a broken sandstone grinding wheel, soaked it in water, and used the side to grind the surface of a piece of slate I had in the shed. The slate and the sandstone worked to level each other. Voila! My new old sharpening kit; 2 stones + water + leather strop. I tried it on a chip carving knife with good results, then on a scraper with really good results.


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Art, really

These photos are from the 20th annual Smyrna Opera House art show.  I don’t usually do art stuff, but I’ve had some ideas and raw materials for a couple of years now and I thought I’d give it a go.

The first three photos are of Table; top, front, and left side views.  The top is a piece of white oak, probably cut from one of the *buttress* projections at the base of the tree, with a satin lacquer finish.  It is irregular in thickness but has a wonderfully figured grain structure.  The *legs* of the table are a branch from a magnolia tree. The surface coloring of the branch just didn’t work well with the top so it has been coated with a blending of moss green and mustard latex paint.  The bottoms have 1/8 inch thick leather pads.  It stands 23 inches tall, 27 inches wide, and 18 inches deep.  As it did not sell at the art show, it is available for $225.00.top


















The next photos are the top, front, and left side of Milking stool.  The scooped top is a slab of timber cut from an elm tree trunk.  The base is from an apple tree.  It stands (or sits) 16 inches tall, 13 inches wide, and 11 inches deep.  Although perhaps a little too tall for actually milking, it is quite sturdy and comfortable.  The wood is coated with satin lacquer and the ends of the legs have 1/8 inch leather pads.  It is available for $115.00.


















Next is Compote 2, made form a single piece of spalted maple.  The three parts were turned on a spring pole lathe.  Although I generally use freshly cut wood, for art’s sake, I made this from a piece that was somewhat dry and cured.  The variation in coloring is due to the difference in the orientation of the grain.  The grain of the bowl and base are horizontal to the surface it is sitting on; the stem is perpendicular.  The diameter of the bowl is 9 inches and it stands about 6 1/2 inches tall.  This piece is no longer available.
















Finally, Blackstone Wallace Nutter.  This is a cut off from a length of black walnut lumber used in a project several years ago.  Unfortunately, the top 2 or 3 inches are not in the photo.  Wallace is 6 inches wide at the bottom, 32 inches high, and ready to be hung with picture hanging cable attached.  He sells for $85.00.










Other bits of information as to the origins of these pieces is available.  When they are purchased I will update this entry.  Thanks for looking.

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Bark Peeling Stand

A friend of mine, who makes folk art walking sticks, needed something to hold the sticks so he could peel the bark with a draw knife. He also wanted to stand while he works. I suggested if it were portable, he could take it to events and incorporate some demonstration into his presentation. It’s a simple platform with treadle clamp. The upright jaw is a piece of 3/8″ square stock with the end flattened and bent. The spring is a piece of osage orange which lifts the clamp when you want to release it for re-positioning. I let the rear bridle joint stick up so it could keep the stick in line. All the main pieces are white oak left over from the last time I needed a new spring pole for my lathe. The brace is a piece of apple. I cut about 4″ off the rear leg to give the table some lift at the working end. The 4″ piece was split in half and hangs from a leather thong (this wasn’t done until later) so it is convenient to place under a crooked stick at the far end to keep the work down on the table











clamp - Copy




The iron clamp is covered with leather to keep it from cutting or staining the freshly peeled stick.






treadle 2



A small osage fork/treadle hangs from the osage spring. The leather allows the treadle to be positioned in the best place to allow the worked to be addressed from the best angle. It also lets you change position as needed or to stand on the other leg when one or the other gets stiff from just holding the treadle down.


The whole contraption can be picked up with one hand. I showed him how to hand a sand bag from the back end if he thought it needed a little ballast to keep it from hopping up when he caught a knot or some tough bark.
Fun stuff; building something to help someone execute their passion.

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Reading and Ranting

Well, hasn’t it been quite a while since I’ve put anything here? I’ve been more and more busy as time has passed but I really haven’t done much to write home, or abroad, about. I will be putting up some new posts about: 1. started turning bowls and plates but also having to make my own tools to do this; 2. built a new travel lathe; 3. teaching my first class on green wood woodworking. Blogs with pictures, soon.
For right now, I have put together a list most of the books I have read, pretty much in chronological order, that have brought me along the path to where I am today, to be used as a handout for the class. (I’m told handouts are a must for this sort of thing.) I’m listing by Title, Author, publication date of the edition I own, and in parentheses, the original year (****) of publication as well as the ISBN, and finally, a small note about why the book is included in the list. Some of them are reprints of very old books. All seem to be from the early to mid 1900s.
I don’t seem to have much use for very new woodworking methods and notions. They all seem to be meant to sell us on the notion that we can’t do as good a job as a machine; as though the only acceptable standard should be “Get professional results, first time and every time”. Otherwise, we are wasting our time and resources in foolish pursuit of some unattainable excellence. Now, in terms of turning out massive quantities of a particular thing, I believe machines are the thing. In terms of accuracy and workmanship, not so much. Of course we must factor in the learning and practice of tool manipulation as part of our human adventure. In making things of wood, mistakes will be made.
The level of our abilities is being eroded away and reduced to low skilled mass production, both in our employment and in the day to day accessories of our personal lives. As woodworkers, instead of individuals with good skills and work ethic brought on by personal, hands on work, most have become a society of consumers whose main function is to serve and support the woodworking gadget industry. To our shame, little or less than what can be done with hand tools is ever produced. Countless power tools lie unused and even un-boxed. The limitations of tooling due to budget and a lack of practical experience as well as a lack of design capability keep most of us from ever actually making anything. If you can’t win, why play? In any case, not everyone who can purchase woodworking tools and gadgets will have the innate ability to produce at a level of true satisfaction. At least not immediately.
So anyway, here is a list of books from which I have derived instruction, inspiration, a philosophy of workmanship, and a broad general knowledge of woodworking over the last 42 years or so. Some I have not read completely. Some I have read several times and have gone through 2 or 3 copies. I refer to all of them as the need arises.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull- Richard Bach ISBN 978-0-684-84684-2 As I do not currently own this book. Lessons learned about how to go about self fulfillment in my pursuit of skill have been invaluable to me.

Audel’s Carpenters and Builders Library No. 1 through 4
LCCC 74-99760 (no ISBN in my copy) 1972 printing (1923) Lots of old school stuff.

Cabinet Making for Beginners- Charles Hayward (1948) Amazing that this was what he considered instruction for beginners in his day. Certainly a call to best practices in workmanship. ISBN 9780713514209

Craftsmen of Necessity- Christopher and Charlotte Williams 1974 Best book on “organic” wood working. Probably what led me to build my lathe as I did. Never throw away a good stick. ISBN 0-394-71022-3

A Museum of Early American Tools- Eric Sloan 1992 (1964) Drew me toward a love for pre industrial wood working tools and techniques. I wore out 2 copies. ISBN 0-486-42560-6

A Reverence for Wood- Eric Sloan 2004 (1965) Gave me an appreciation for what I was working with; wood, a once living material. Also on my 2nd copy.
ISBN 0-486-43394-3

Country Furniture- Aldren Watson 1974 (1957) Eric Sloan text tied to daily living in early America. Lots of good technical information about wood properties as relates to making things. ISBN 0-690-001909-8

Planecraft; Hand Planing by Modern Methods- C.W.Hampton & E. Clifford 1983 (1934) All about design, purpose and use of hand planes to do every thing you think you need a router for. “3 small cuts are more accurate than one big cut”

Country Woodcraft- Drew Langsner 1978 The introduction to this book reflects my woodworking philosophy and readily describes why I do what I do, pretty much. ISBN 0-8757-201-7

Adventures in Wood Finishing- George Frank 1981 Good read. Great life story. Best old school on wood treatments and finishing. ISBN 0-918804-06-X

The Practical Wood Turner- F Pain 1957 This is the very best book you can get on wood turning. Pain once taught a blind man to turn. My copy doesn’t have an ISBN

Modern Practicle Joinery- George Ellis 1987 (1902) When I was doing trim and stair work, this was very useful. It’s a little dry. ISBN 0-941936-08-2

Handbook of Doormaking, Windowmaking, and Staircasing- Anthony Talbot ed. 1980 Sort of an abridged version of Modern Practical Joinery; lots less science.
ISBN 0806988967

George Nakashima Full Circle- Derek E. Ostergard 1989 Furthered my appreciation of wood and workmanship, but not nail guns. ISBN 1-55584-376-X

Manual of Traditional Wood Carving Dover 1977 (originally Cassell’s Wood Carving 1911) A fairly exhaustive study of historical wood carving with a chapter on plaster modeling.

The Book of Wood Carving: Techniques, Design and Projects- Charles Marshall Sayers 1978 (1942) Best basic wood carving with excellent practice excercises; Manual of Traditional Wood Carving boiled down the essentials and without the plaster. ISBN 0-486-23654-4

The Nature and Art of Workmanship- David Pye 2007 (1968) An inspiring perspective on quality and excellence in doing what we do.
ISBN 970-0-521-29356-3

Green Woodwork; Working with Wood the Natural Way- Mike Abbott1998 (1989) A very good set of instructions for building a Pole Lathe as well as for constructing some furniture. Notes on wood behaviors and structure.
ISBN 0 96819 18 1

Country Chair Making- Jack Hill 1997 (1993) Somewhat power tool oriented but with good instructions and drawings for making a number of traditional British chairs and stools.

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The Next Phase

The next phase
I have been asked several times when I would have bowls for sale again. When I went to pole turning, I built the lathe to do spindle work, so there was not enough room between the turning centers and the top of the bed beam to make more than a 5 inch diameter piece.
Last Summer, I re-worked the turning center supports to allow more clearance, about 7 inches, so I can make bowls and plates of useful sizes. Still, until last week, I had not turned any bowls or plates. I had some tools that would somewhat useful for the work; an old sabot maker’s hook knife ( longest of the handled tools in the picture) and several hook tool inserts that were too hard to sharpen and so brittle they broke. I realized I would have to “get tools” if I wanted to continue. I have resisted making tools, hoping I could find a local blacksmith who could provide such service, but I have not found anyone in my area that was willing. Buying real bowl hooks is expensive and, as I said, the current thinking seems to be that the tool needs to be super hard so it will stay sharp longer. I have found that, with green wood working, this is not really an issue. All of my spindle tools can be shaped and sharpened with hand files and honed with regular sharpening stones, as it would have been in the 17th and 18th centuries. After snapping off the extra hard hook tool end while attempting to make a bowl, I set myself to being able to forge my own tools. I knew enough about metal work but lacked practical application; experience.
I went to the hardware store and bought a bottle of MAPP gas. Then, I gathered together a cross peen maul, a ball peen hammer, and an anvil made from a piece of rail road track. I annealed the broken hook tool to make it malleable. Then I heated it enough to bend the end around to form a new hook. That was it. I didn’t harden or temper the metal. I just touched up the edge with a needle file and went to work. Before, I had to use a diamond cone file to get any sort of edge. Now, I have a usable out-side bevel tool ( the shorter of the 3 handled tools in the picture). OK. Now some real excitement. Using a piece of 3/8 diameter round stock of questionable pedigree, I made a longish inside bevel hook (the piece laying next to the bowls). I thought I could use to under-cut the core. Not. Of course I tried it un-handled just to see what it could do, so I’ll revisit this tool later. Next, I took a diamond point masonry chisel (it was almost the right shape) and pounded out a short, straight hook with inside bevels .
With tools (?) and fresh materials in hand, I set about making a tool rest for my new endeavor. That done, I turned some bowls. I went through the bottom of the first one. Go figure. The rest, as you can see, were successful if smallish. I used quarter split white oak from the log in the picture so the width was quite limited. I also made a couple of plates, 7 and 8 ½ diameters, from tulip poplar.
All in all, a very satisfactory venture, with triumph, exhilaration, and success to a point. It is always good to finally break traction on something that holds one back from achieving personal goals. Beyond that, I find that bowl and plate turning, while more physically demanding than spindle turning at this point, could be somewhat additive. The return on effort is amazing. The end product is as fascinating as it is useful.

tools and bowls

tools and bowls

tool rest

tool rest

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Thanks to every one who stopped in for a look at what we have been up to this year.  2015 looks like a lot more and better. Please check in for comments, events, and new developments.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 20 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Tree fork shave horse 2.1

On February 15th, I posted a picture and comment about my second shave horse made from a tree fork. As it turned out, the “fork” didn’t work out all that well. So, I used the same fork frame and turned it around. The seat is supported much as the first horse and I reused the support, elevation board, and leather hinge from the first horse. Waste not. Anyway, the new design works pretty good and I have decided to name the new horse Bill because of a call for names of shave horses from countries around the world- https://www.bodgers.org.uk/BB/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3070


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