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!


The Galoot Index

Galoot Index (GI)

A consistent set of indicators that reflect degree of handtool use in a project.

I’ve done a number of project postings on LJs and included a fictional, totally subjective numeric index meant to reflect my use of handtools vs. stationary routers, tablesaw jigs, etc. With the posting of my Six Board Chest (27 Nov 2011) came a few requests for an actual Official Galoot Index Manifesto.

None of the concepts that follow pretend to be totally unique in nature. It is worth noting, however, that a Google Search of “Galoot Index” found no specific use of the phrase as of 27 Nov 2011 except for Smitty_Cabinetshop’s application of phrase within Lumberjocks. That said, the Index is hereby delivered for free and open use by all Galoots with the hope that it openly encourages widespread hand tool use on wood projects.

Projects typically include the following core activities that can completed with either tailed apprentices or hand tools :

1. Rough dimensioning of material, to include sawing (rip and cross cuts), thicknessing, jointing and edging
2. Panels / Subassemblies
3. Joinery
4. Final Surfacing (smoothing)
5. Mouldings and Accents

A simple Galoot Index, then, would assign a two point value to each of these core activities (CAs). Points would be credited if the CA was completed using hand tools. Subjectivity remains, of course. For example, if rough dimensioning included the cross-cutting of a half dozen boards BUT those two of the four boards were ripped via table saw, the value could logically be greater than one but less than two.

Further exploring this basic approach, if CA1 was done entirely by machine and each of the remaining CAs were done entirely by hand, an 8 on the 10 point scale would be possible. If the identical project was worked entirely with hand tools EXCEPT for the addition of store-bought mouldings, an 8 of 10 GI is reasonable.

Assigning weights to each of the individual CAs above might be tempting. After all, prepping large panels by hand, from rough to finish, is exhausting and can’t really be equal in value to 4’ of handmade mouldings, for example. Well, a simple index overall carries the day for this author, warts and all. With that being said, however, let’s discuss critical requirements for GI applicability; the Galootness Litmus Test, if you will:

a) For purposes of the GI, hand tools are made of cast iron, wood (rosewood, hornbeam, apple, ash, cherry, etc.), brass, bronze and steel. Not plastic, aluminum or poly-anything. If you’re using a cast aluminum ‘tool’ and think it’s galoot, think again. Yes, that rules out the new SW Stanley planes because of their level caps, and Narex chisels because of their composite handles. And probably some other decent tools. Oh well. Galoots are stubborn by nature.

b) For a project to include a GI, hand planes must be used somewhere. Anywhere. No hand planes, no index. That’s the way it goes. Remember that hand planes can be used in each of the five CAs, so this shouldn’t be a huge hurdle. C’mon, get a plane and use it!

c) Use of a table saw, jointer or other non-hand tools can be offset on the index if the project uses tools of particular note. Like using a carpenter’s hatchet, drawknives or scrub plane. Galoots like to see obscure hand tools in use, with old and obscure being bonus point material. But quality new is good too, especially with tools that deliver unique capability.

d) Extensive use of a router on a GI project is suspect, especially if it involves a dovetail jig. It’s not an outright disqualifier, but the GI project better deliver some other kind of make-up galootness. It’s a Galoot Index, after all…

e) For joinery, varied methods are not only tolerated but encouraged. Backsaws, mortising chisels, shoulder planes, etc. are all welcome.

f) Moulding planes are cool. This includes Hollows and Rounds of wood and iron type (Record and Stanley bottoms come to mind), chamfer planes and beading tools. Use them and you get bonus points that cover the use of power tools in other areas. That is, as long as there are process pics. Oh, and extensive (documented) use of a #55 puts the project in rarified air…

There is no review board, so complete projects and talk about them on-line and with your friends with consideration of it’s Galoot Index. It will likely attract curiosity, and ultimately (hopefully) encourage interest in hand tools. Don’t like the index? Ignore it or create an index of your own. But above all, keep working wood and enjoy!

— Don’t anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. —
OldTools Archive

Using the Stanley No. 12R

A simple cove needed to replicate a piece of baseboard in our old house means an opportunity to use one the #45’s special hollow and round cutters. First, mark the desired profile on the edge of the board:


Notice the square rabbet that’s marked. I’ll use the #78 to remove the bulk of the material in this cut.




Time to outfit the #45.


The first passes pull only the narrowest pair of shavings.


But after a few more, the cutter ‘bottoms out’ and the cove is done!


That’s it, my first successful (and useable!) profile using the Stanley #45 12R. Thanks for looking!

Old Houses = Character

Yep, the houses and those that live in them, too.

My wife and I live in a house that was built in 1898 -it’s in it’s third century now!- and we love it. Of all the renovations completed thus far, we’ve not been in a position to refinish and reveal an original floor… until now. Here’s the floor in the master bathroom, from start to finish today:




The left side goes under the vanity, never to be seen. The rest, with all it’s character, has been revealed for the ages. Love the old look!