Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Birth of a Tool

A dear friend sent me this link recently. Beautiful cinematography, Bon Iver soundtrack, and old world Latvian blacksmiths? What's not to love about that?

The Birth Of A Tool. Part I. Axe Making (by John Neeman) from John Neeman Tools on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Holdfasts Blacksmith Style

For my birthday, my dear wife let me commission a local blacksmith to make me a pair of holdfasts. After finding the right man, I got together some specs on what I wanted. I found out that the Koontz holdfasts were made from 11/16” cold rolled steel for 3/4” bench holes. This is what I was after.

I also decided that I wanted a shepherd’s hook style (like the later Koontz variety) rather than the low profile version. Boy, do these puppies hold securely! They are really easy to set, hold like the dickens, and are really easy to release. Check it out:

I had Jerry Gallant from Kenduskeg, Maine make them for me. He has an excellent 18th century style blacksmith shop that he works out of. His specialty is making reproduction cannons. Here is a video tour of his shop:

And here are his cannons firing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gZdnwS7G-U&feature=channel&list=UL

Pretty impressive, I’d say. If you don’t know a blacksmith in your area but want blacksmith made holdfasts, you can give Jerry at call at (207) 659-0118.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Making a Simple Try Square

I find that I often get time between glue-ups and finish coating to plink away at small little projects. I made a simple little try square out of cherry this week. It will be great for my reenacting at Leonard’s Mills next summer. This one is a 12” square. I also have a 6” in the works. It was a fun project. I just sort of made it up as I went along.

Straight grain cherry stock

Squaring the stock with handplanes

Used Dozuki saw to cut the bridle joint for the blade to fit into

Chopped out the waste with 1/8” chisel

Hot Hide Glue for glue up

Clamped my 6” Starret into the square to ensure it won’t slip

Drilled out two holes for the pins. I used a modern twist bit but then slightly angled the bit once through. This gave the hole a subtle ovality resembling antique drill bits. Then I shaped the cherry pins with a bench chisel.

Hot hide glue installation of pin

Everything trimmed flush. Make sure to check for square on all sides!

Marking out details

The coping saw makes quick work of this

Files to smooth out saw marks

Three applications of dewaxed bleached shellac applied by rag. Then scuff sanded with maroon synthetic steel wool and waxed with Antiquax in Liberon #0000 Steel Wool.


Ps. A few things I wish I had done:

1. Left the blade about 1/4" proud of the top of the handle. This makes truing up easier later. In fact, I may trim the handle down a bit so that I can have at least an 1/8" for later if it goes wonky on me.

2. Saw the bridle joint from both sides of the handle. This would make a cleaner looking joint. (Refer to Bob's video above for an explanation.)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Timber framing, Site Clearing, and Historic Reenacting

Pine T&G 1 x 10s handplaned, Waterloxed, and faced nailed with cut nails.

My family has had a lot going on lately. Been setting up our new house, putting down new flooring, building a timber frame chicken house, stacking firewood, and other miscellaneous projects. It feels good to be back in the studio moving some projects through again. The brisk air reminds me each day that winter grows closer and closer. I am looking forward to some hibernation here pretty soon.


A view of the studio site behind us.

This Saturday, my brother-in-law and a crew of buddies will be coming over to help clear some trees out for the studio building project. I began taking a few smaller trees down with my felling axe a couple weeks ago. After some heckling from the neighbors and an offer of help from my arborist brother-in-law, I’ve decided we’ll chainsaw the rest and use his big chipper.

The building site is at the top of a hill on our property which is on the other side of the pond from the house. Also, because it is on the road away and from our house a bit, it will be a good compromise for my family to have a shop at home, but yet still have a sense of “awayness”. We look forward to it.

I’ve also connected with a neighbor who will be doing the site work. We plan that work for early November. Both weather and funds will restrict us from moving much further beyond that stage before snowfall. We will have to wait until spring to get the rest of the building underway.


My family participated in the fall Living History Days at Leonard’s Mills this past weekend again. Julia and Eden demonstrated 18th century cooking while I was the lone woodworker there. I was not expecting that one! I had planned on hiding in the shadows of the others who have been demonstrating for years. But alas… It was fun.

Built a sawbench and a joiner’s mallet. You wouldn’t believe how many people couldn’t care less about period techniques or other various minutiae. Almost all of the comments I got were about “all those beautiful plane shavings”! Oh well. Making curly shavings is easy. I guess demonstrating was easier than I thought.

Julia, 18th C. Style!

The water wheel for the sash mill

The sash mill in action