Sharper with Time

Long story short, I was doing final smoothing on a top tonight and reached for the #2 for some very local tear-out. The plane chattered and skipped across the piece… What the ??

So out came the DMTs and strop. Back wasn’t flat, edge not good at all. Who sharpened it last? I did, and near as I can tell it was back in 2010 (I took the plane to a class and remember sharpening all my tools then; this one isn’t used often.

It’s sharp now, so maybe I’ll reach for it more.  My sharpening skills have really progressed, too. A very good thing. Oh, and the pic shows the #2 next to Heft and Hubris incarnate, the #8C.

As always, thanks for looking!


Chairmaking Diversion: Making a Staked Stool

The first thing I must do in this blog is give kudos to those that have gone before me (and done better posts, too). Specifically here.

So after seeing how staked furniture ought to be made, let’s go into the process I used to make my first piece. What’s the point of the build? Well, not a long time ago, I decided to make a four-sided box using hand-cut dovetails. It was hardly a show piece, but it held together and I was amazed at the idea I could build something strong without nails, screws or glue. This stool build is like that.

I started with a 5/4” piece of what I believe to be hickory. Toughest wood I’ve ever worked with. Drilling four holes in a hickory plank, aside from making the 5/8” auger bit smoke, was all just about all I could muster. Some basic layout was done with a compass, and a sliding bevel set a consistent angle for the holes to be drilled.


Straight holes weren’t the object of the exercise, though. So here’s where the tapered reamer made it’s first appearance. The reamer doesn’t eject shavings, but rather collects them in the bevel near the hooked edge. Tough going, but completed four very inexact reamings in about 10 minutes’ work.


Wait, where did those sticks come from? Well, how about a picture?


To work the legs, I went grabbed a drawknife and headed over to the shaving horse. Yeah, really. I found the horse in a run-down antique mart a couple of years ago and ‘had to have it.’ It’s been taking up space ever since, so there’s no way it was going to stand idly by when there are spokes to shave!

I have a source of very-straight-grained pine that was ripped it to four even sides before heading to the shaving horse. Once clamped in, the drawknife took four sided material and made it more like a leg’d shape; not eight sided, and certainly not anything that could be mistaken for round as that wasn’t the object. Just take them back from square.

From there it was over to the bench, where two separate tools were at the ready: a tenon cutter and a hollow auger cutter. The tennon cutter was set to the 5/8” setting…


And the hollow auger carried that size down about 3/4″…


A picture of the hollow auger cutter:


Then it was back to the shaving horse, this time with drawknife and the #52 Stanley spokeshave. After a bit of tapering (to match the work done by the reamer, duh!), I was ready to drive everything home. The ends were sliced cross-grain to take shims…


then the mallet came out.


Drove in the (ugly)shims then cut off the excess  with the Gent’s saw.

And then I realized something: The stinking system worked! I have a very, very sturdy stick stool!


Like the dovetail box many years before, I’m happy with this build as a proof of concept. I’ve now broken the ice, I’ve made staked furniture. Bigger and better things will certainly follow. That’s all for today, thanks for looking!

Chairmaking Diversions: Making a Tapered Reamer

To make basic stick chairs (and other stick-based projects), one needs a small set of task-specific tools. Not sure where this kick is going to lead me but the tool hunt is definitely ON, and started with the making of a tapered reamer. I have a stickered stack of apple splits that provided an excellent reamer blank; is there one in there?


A bit of planing with the cambered jack got me far enough along that I could mark center on one end and prep the piece for lathe work.

A ‘tool-overflow’ drawer in the assembly bench held several compass saws, one with a shop-made handle shaped from plywood. That made the ideal candidate for a reamer blade. Armed with that AND the only turning caliper thingy I own (see pic above), time to turn.

Cut the widest blade area, then took a measure at the middle, the one at the smallest end, connecting each as I worked the piece from left to right. Third pic shows the size and shape roughly matched to the donor compass blade. It took about 30 minutes to have the shape I was after, so over to the bench for the next few steps.


Cutting the slot to accept the reamer cutter was a perfect task for the Summerfield table saw.


With the cutter set in place, a few high spots needed attention with the #52 spokeshave (first ‘project’ use for that tool!). Chiseled a back bevel at the leading edge of the cutter, then turned a burr on the cutter’s edge. Finally, jointed the saw teeth to dull them a bit before cutting a hole for a dowel handle. From there it was ‘trial run’ time.


Does it work? Yes, actually. Here’s a profile pic attempting to show the cutter extending every-so-slightly beyond the reamer’s main body; this is the stuff that does the cutting. Note that I’ve since filed the teeth down a bit, which in turn improved performance noticeably.


More tuning required, but I was out of time to dedicate today. I’m happy with the build and will have this reamer doing what I need it to do soon enough. That’s all for today, thanks for looking!


Chairmaking Diversions: First, Become a Toolmaker

I’ve never aspired to be a toolmaker, although I did have fun with the tool or two that I’ve made from scratch (a mallet and, uhm, well… okay just one tool made from scratch). My workbench can be considered a tool, and I did make that, but as far as making a saw, or plane, or marking gauges, etc. etc. there’s just not much allure to me.

Necessity. Now *that’s* a motivator.

Having dedicated some quality time on the interwebz reading up on tapered and ‘bung hole’ reamers, I’ve come to the realization making my own reamer is more likely to get me what I need in terms of reamed holes. It’s the old story about the guy walking into the hardware store, proclaiming “I need a drill.” Well, he doesn’t need a drill, he needs a hole. I don’t want a reamer, but I want what a reamer can do.

None other than Jennie Alexander recommends shop-made as the way to go, and Roy Underhill demonstrates one while recreating a Shakespearian stick chair in an online episode I came across in my research. That’s good enough for me. For specifics, a Jennie Alexander webpage includes build tips and a recommendation to use apple wood. I have some of that stickered and ready to go! She also says the angles of compass saws are spot on for application in a shop-made reamer. I have more than a couple of those saws in the shop, so a donor won’t be hard to come by. It’s a noble purpose, after all.

Oh, and the tool that goes with the reamer is called a “rounder plane” per St. Roy, and the reamer is used in the making of it (a matched pair, if you will). So I need to make more than one thing now?

So for now, I’m not a chairmaker, but a toolmaker. *sigh* More to come!


Okay. So I’m minding my own business yesterday, as I’m somewhat apt to do, when I received notice of a blog post by LAP. The post itself didn’t rock my world; that blog is quite active each week and has been part of my (short) must-read list since my earliest hobby days. The Schwarz is very much in anarchist mode, which I couldn’t be more apathetic about in general, but followers of his blog will know his ‘furniture of necessity’ eyes have been cast on stick-built furniture for some time. Long story short, I generally find the form very appealing to my aesthetic eye, and have wondered if stick furniture was anything I’d ever try to tackle in my shop.
Well, back to the blog post. It included pictures of two chairs, and this is one that got my attention right away:

The ‘vernacular stick chair’ pictured above is in North Carolina, but said to be English in origin and brought to its current locale in the late 1940s. I don’t care where it came from, but I do love the form. And I want to build one (if not more than one). And that’s the point of this blog: This is the first chair I’ve looked at that ever made me think of actually building a chair. So build I will. When? Hah! How? Good question as well. But here’s what I think: I’ll start by preparing a list of tools needed to make stick furniture: a tapered reamer, brace and bits and a [the reverse-of-a-reamer thingy, whatever it’s called]. Oh, and showed the chair to the Design Board for concept approval (SWMBO).
So I’m off to collect all those things, and will be thinking of / researching construction methods in the meantime. As in, some blogs, maybe a St. Roy video or two, and other interwebz-based research. In the meantime, I’ve used this blog as an ideabook of sorts.
That’s all for now, thanks for looking.

Taming of the Skew!

Yeah, I’m stealing the title of this post from an episode of The Woodwright Shop seen recently, but it makes sense here too. Why is it appropriate? Good question, I’ll tell you.

It’s not infrequently that I find myself working on half-blind dovetails. Seriously. Every project I do that includes drawers or trays of some kind ends up having half-blinds. So there’s just enough experience behind this particular ‘want vs. need’ discussion to lean me in the direction of actually pulling the trigger on a new tool purchase. And at a cost that’s much, much less than a more domestic solution. Wait, new tool, and one that’s actually new vs. ‘new to me’, right? Yep. Straight from Stanley UK (by way of came the haul: a pair of 3/8” SW 750 socket chisels.


Wait (again), you say. Don’t you already have a set of SW reissues? Yes, I do, and I (still) love ‘em and wouldn’t trade them for any other, but take a look at the title of this blog again before taking your best guess at what’s in store for these Stanleys.

More to come, thanks for looking!