28 November 2010

Medieval carpentry - 3

Third posting in a series about medieval carpentry.  This time Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune ,  it opened its doors in 1452,  and with 1453 a possible closing year for the middle ages it could qualify as medieval. They have a collection of old chests on display, post medieval in date if not in style, the oldest pieces are from the second half of the fifteenth century.  I was surprised to see that even those old chests are mature examples of frame and panel carpentry,  giving the impression that already in the middle ages carpentry had solid joinery foundations.  Only the carving improves and the sixteenth century chests have a more advanced decoration.
This time again I ran into some illustration problems,   it took months to set my hands on the pictures and the poor shaken quality made me throw half of them away.

09 November 2010

Woodworking course - 9

My project is started, discovered that I am better of bringing something to measure widths when buying wood.  Used a Excel sheet to get most things sorted out.  As I go for small, tapered mortise and tenon joinery,  I am in for a maximum of problems.  Before long I will claim it is a basic prototype of a single unit series,  time will tell.
I started with jointer planer and panel saw and then made a panels with biscuits.  The biscuit jointer is some abused Elu (now Dewalt) model.

As Steve Branam remembered us to Just Say No To Cast Iron Holdfasts,  I checked two older holdfasts still hanging in the clamps rack.   These are part industrial product,  part hand forged.  It is hard to date them but they are certainly not new, the current workbenches don't have any holes for a holdfast.  The bottom is also mushroomed from releasing the holdfast and would not fit a tight hole.

07 November 2010

Sharpening - Frank Klausz

This is the third of a number of posts about sharpening.

Via Taunton press Frank Klausz produced a DVD Hand Tools,  tuning and using chisels planes and saws. 

Off the shelve
Chris Schwarz talked about high end chisels in a recent post Yuppie Tools: A True Accounting.  He makes a case for a new Lie-Nielsen, $55 chisel that is built to last several lifetimes.  For this he relates the cost of a used high-quality (possibly also built to last several lifetimes) Douglass chisel he bought on ebay.  Counting the buying cost, materials and adding the hours spent flattening the flawed back to a 'semi usable' state, the new Lie-Nielson is cheaper.
Of course there are good and poor alternatives to high end tools. If I look at the Lee Valley catalogue I find more mid range Lee Valley, Hirsch (Kirschen) and Narex bevel edge chisels.
Frank Klausz looks at off the shelve chisels.  In his DVD he starts by presenting mid range gents saw, a chisel and a used Stanley plane.  For the chisel the choice is open,  he goes for a Marples blue handled chisel,  similar to his wooden handled chisels.

The chisel is cleaned, (hollow bevel) grinded on a large diameter white wheeled grinder.  And then flattened and sharpened freehand on two waterstones 800-6000. The waterstones holder is made of wood, so he goes on to show how to make a holder with wooden watertight joints. How else,  he is a woodworker.  The waterstones are flattened on a wooden base as glass plates are not necessarily flatter.

The plane is a used Stanley #4.  After cleaning up,  the blade is processed the same way as the chisel,  with more time and attention to the back of the blade.  To finish the sole is flattened on 400 grit sandpaper.

After a test cut with his saw he flattens the teeth and sharpens the teeth in a,  what else,  wooden saw holder.  After that the saw gives a very decent test cut.  To complete he goes on to show how to set saw teeth with a flat screwdriver.

The Story
All in all a good DVD,  contrary to a book I can't quickly check details before going to action,  but Frank Klausz walked me trough every step of the sharpening process.  It is a good start and the expense is limited, this is if I had made the right choices when buying my sharpening material.

Lutz wasserschleifbock
Knowing that Frank Klausz has an European background, I  had hoped that I would get a oilstone explanation or something about a more traditional wet grinder or maybe a word about Belgian slate.  But no, it is all waterstones and grinders.
I bought a more traditional German made waterwheel with a seventies design on the flea market.  Times have changed,  as this is definitely not a Tormek.  I can't read the stone specifications as the description is gone from the stone, but the stone was very wobbly and this is probably from factory, the previous owner didn't bother to true the stone and probably did get disappointed as the stone is nearly unused.  I did solve it with a cheap truing stone,  nearly doubling by this my costs.  A more important problem is that by today's standard the stone is a slow cutter.  This probably explains the success of high speed grinders. I could replace the stone with an expensive modern stone,  but that would not solve the tool holder problem.  So I have to look around until I find a better idea.

31 October 2010

Woodworking course - 8

One more
A last joint,  where we combined a profile in the front and for the back a groove at the bottom and a rabbet at the top.  On retrospect it was intended as an exercise about manual feeding the profiler but I just made a heavier use of my tenon saw.  I even avoided the tenon machine as the two machines where in use by using my saw.  Of course hand sawing tenons gives problems on straightness.  It is probably better to finish with a router plane or a router to get correct alignment. Apart from that I left a large gap in the mitered profile.  Before I try this on a real project,  I need to exercise my skills on a number of test joints.

The joint with only tenon and mortise. To avoid any confusion about side and the like, I now draw every joint detail before cutting.:

The joint with all the grooves and cutouts:

I looked for a first project and found one.  I intend to make a small frame and panel chest based on the dimension of a rectangular stool.  Dimensions 45cm-45cm-30cm (18"-18"-12").  If I stick to the stool model the chest is tapered. Of course this strongly reduces my chances to produce tight joints.  As material I probably go for the cheapest pine,  even if the traditional material here are oak and beech.

21 October 2010

Seeing - Rococo

I made a short visit today to an administrative building.  Build in 1760 as an university college, it became an institute in cellular biology (microscopy) in 1890 and is used now by the administration after a renovation in 2000(?).

After the context some woodworks.  For the last renovation they apparently removed the plaster and the low ceilings in the roof.  The rust spots of the nails holding the old plasterwork on the oak beams can be seen.  Surrounded by flat white walls only the woodwork shows some baroque curves.

18 October 2010

Woodworking course - 7

I started with a succession of mistakes, confusing left, right, top and bottom.  I ended drawing all the cuts on the piece before cutting and even then I messed up by cutting the tenon to deep.  I also discovered that the tenon should not overlap with the rabbet.

room for improvement

too long that cut

lay out problem

Next a tenon joint with a profile on the front and an extended shoulders. Even with the help of a copper plated parring jig,  I came 10 minutes short to finish it (or to mess it up).

That's it for today,  I hope that we start some real project pretty soon.  After today I feel confident that I will mess up just any project I will undertake.  Therefore I plan to mill 30% extra profiles to be able to correct mistakes without bothering about precise shaper setup.  
In another galaxy, Steve Branam of the Close Grain blog shows how in just a weekend he mastered Ball And Claw Carving, impressive.

14 October 2010

Woodworking course - 6

This session we discovered the last main machine of the workshop, a shaper.

 With this we were able to make a groove and a small profile (rabbet) in the face  of our joint.  As the picture shows there is room for improvement. I did improve it a little afterwards by paring the back shoulder and cutting the style to length.

After doing (messing up) this joint I looked online for a shoulder plane.  Axminster had a cheap copy of the Record 311 to sell until last week .  But now there is only the more expensive Clifton 3110 (3 in 1) in the catalogue and the much cheaper Axminster No. 19 (Stanley 92) Shoulder Plane.  But alas, Derek Cohen is not very happy with the Stanley 92, as remove for honing means "undo the main screw… undo the small screw… remove the lever cap… wiggle out the blade. All settings are lost."

The better mouse trap
That's it for machines,  we have seen all the major machines of the workshop.  There are some more like a bandsaw and large sanding machines.  But the main activity is centred on the classic five that are also present on combination machines:  tablesaw,  jointer, planer,  horizontal morticer and shaper.  Where the tenon machine is more specialised.
On the long run it is a mouse trap as I become dependent of professional workshop machines.  One solution is to look out for a used combination machine, most are tri phased and that is an extra problem.  The feeder on the profiler is a safety must and is certainly complex and expensive.   The other solution is to focus on routers,  the woodrat for example goes a long way to cover most problem operations if the limited mortice depth (< 5cm 2") is not seen as a problem.

Still standing on the side line,  bandsaw and sander.

06 October 2010

About the blog

I decided to structure my internet wood related stuff, by setting the more interesting sites into Google Reader.  When inserting a site I got the number of Reader inscriptions to a blog.  There is probably a better way to see this,  but I have not found it yet.  Not counting magazines and the like, many have 20+ subscribers,  some get 100+ and the champions go over 500.  With Matthias Wandel from woodgears.ca and The Village Carpenter in the champion category.

As out of the common blogs I see: Chris Hall, the kitchen carpenter, with his 34 irregular joints sawhorse;   Mathias Wandel,  the engineer woodworker and Anxo Mosquera (yes Google translate please) a all capital woodworker.

Me, I pass the 9 months,  52 posts mark, have 0 subscribers and my presence is only to give others a good feeling about their achievements.  Visits are mainly Google directed for the st_nley thirteen fifty (no Google,  nothing to index here) pl_ne.  Besides that, my notes about the cellulose based vacuum powered engines from Mathias and my poor attempts to document medieval wooden artefacts.

Woodworking course - 5

We went through haunched tenon and then a mitered haunched tenon.  The gap at the front is due to a bad alignment of the cutter heads.

haunched tenon

mitered haunched tenon

Then we went for something new,  a  tenon joint with a groove and a profile in the front.  The profile will be mitered where the back stays normal,  this give a tenon of unequal length.  We started with the mortise, then the tenon,  then most probably the profile and to finish cutting everything in place with handsaw and chisel.

For reference Sean Hughto and Charles Stanford documents the creation of the same joint, much more elegantly, using handtools on Derek Cohens site

It was a fast start, and I got the length of the tenon wrong (I think).  The cut is made with the front against the table to get a good fit at the front.  Next week we probably discover profiles.

03 October 2010


Moving a pair of old beds (1930?) with my car, I was surprised to see a succession of 3 chisel marks on the wood. A pneumatic chisel gone wild? Looking further I could see that the 8 joints were paired with roman numerals from I to VIII, a nice idea.

Looking at the joints I see nails with a X section used to pin the joint. I see two advantages to these pin-nails: On soft wood there is no need to drill a hole, and the lengthened section of the nail avoids that it can be pulled through the wood or easily bent.

29 September 2010

Woodworking course - 4

We finished our lap joints,  T-lap and end lap and tried out a slip joint

After that we made a first try to make a machined haunched tenon joint
Lay out:  We work with fifth for the haunch height and the depth of the mortise,  where the tenon is made a tenth short to allow some room for glue.  The tenon gets over one third of the thickness of the wood.  In this case 10mm for 25mm thickness (3/8" and 1" ).
This is different from for example Rodale's Illustrated Cabinetmaking where a tenon goes probably half the stile width and uses half the thickness. It allows for 1/16" clearance.  The shoulder gets 1/3 to 1/4 of the tenon thickness  and a cosmetic shoulder 1/8".  The difference can be due to the machines used,  with a horizontal mortiser it is easier to go deep and once you go deep you need more thickness to support the sides.  And I guess that the ideal tenon becomes narrower in depth giving a good section at the shoulder without cutting the whole stile away.
Maybe deep tenons are more appropriate for flat frames like doors and windows,  where stiffness is important and half deep tenons for furniture where a tenon is mostly limited to half the depth.

First the horizontal mortiser

And then the tenon machine.  To see this machine working I have to refer to Roy Underhill as he shows a more advanced version of a tenon machine on his shows episode Old woodworking machines.

To finish the tenon saw to cut the haunch and probably a rasp or a chisel to round the tenon.