30 December 2011

Meta post

As I am finishing this blog second year, this is a post about the blog.  I nearly stopped the blog in march but in the end continued, it's still a wonderfull world and the blog is maybe my way to take some notes about  it.  The excellent millcreek woodworking blogger echoes a taxonomy about wood blogs:  Some .., some ...,  some don’t seem to make any sense at all. That's ok,  according to my grandfater the family motto was ni sous, ni sens  (nor money nor sense)

After using various Bruegel pictures in recent posts,  I add a missing one,  having used a detail for the figure of my blog profile.  I was looking for a carpenter in a Bruegel painting, found one, without his tools but quite liked the head in the shadows in accordance with my intended 'anonymity'.  It's a surprising picture that could be named alone in the crowd.  I see it as a Bruegel self-portrait,  but I could be wrong as I don't know what specialists say. It's tempera on very old cloth so this time no blog fitting description: wooden panel with decorative oil finish.

25 December 2011

Happy People: A Year In The Taiga

Zapping along the channels,  I found Happy People: A Year In The Taiga based on a four hour documentary by Dmitry Vasyukov.  Those people can be very impressive,  certainly as in a different mindset the documentary could be called a year in hell.  It also brings back memories of magic winter holidays I spent in the woods of the Vosges and the Jura on skis.

On a woodworking level it is also very interesting as it shows that the way of the axe is still  alive ... axes and chainsaws... axes, chainsaws and thousand trees to choose from.  I missed the part about wooden hut building and probably also about making boats,  but for making skis and traps an axe is probably enough.

21 December 2011

Wooden planes - a German system

Second post in a series about western wooden planes

Looking for information about wooden planes I found two German companies ECE and Ulmia offering a large range of wooden planes.  Both Ulmia and ECE also offer those planes in very similar (beginners) sets.  The main difference  is the missing frame saws in the Ulmia set as it does not produce any.  Ulmia describes this as Tool assortment contains quality tools - compiled by practical experts in technical training colleges - to address every requirement of modern vocational training.  So I expect that many colleges will propose their  students to use a similar set.  Apart from the large number of squares (150 mm, 250 mm, 350 mm) there is also a large number of same sized planes. What about these?


Kurz-Rauhbankhobel 48 mm (short jointer)
Doppelhobel 48 mm (double iron jack)
Putzhobel 48 mm (smoother)
Schlichthobel 48 mm (single iron jack)
Schropphobel 33 mm (scrub)
Doppel-Simshobel 30 mm ( rabbet)


Luckily my limited understanding of German is covered as Ulmia lists the planes in the set in English
- jointer plane 60 mm 600 mm  ( DIN 7218)
- jack plane 48 mm 240 mm  (DIN 7219)
- smoothing plane 48 mm 220 mm 49° ( DIN 7220)
- bench plane 48 mm 240 mm ( DIN 7311)
- scrub plane 33 mm 240 mm ( DIN 7310)
- rabbet plane w. dbl iron 30 mm   ( DIN 7307)

And gives a description of these planes
Scrub plane Processing of very rough, uneven or contaminated surfaces in preparation for smoothing or levelling (rough planing) the surface of rough sawn or bowed boards.

Bench plane For initial processing of rough sawn or scrub planed surfaces (finishing). Particularly suitable for trimming warped, rough boards at an incline to the grain and also for shaving cross-grained wood. 

Jointer plane For finishing and level planing surfaces, joints and straight edges. Particularly suitable for processing large workpieces with long surfaces and for shaving and jointing.

Jack plane For levelling and smoothing finished surfaces along and also at an incline to the grain. Application similar to the jointer plain, but on smaller workpieces.

Smoothing plane For smoothing solid wood and veneered surfaces and for smoothing and matching in work. When working with knots or alternating spiral grain, it leaves no visible planing joints.

Final remarks.
The DIN numbers show that these planes comply to manufacturing standards,  searching I found these were set in the seventies,  but I could not access them for free.
The narrowness of the scrub plane blade 33 mm looks unusual,  but maybe in practice it is not very different from a standard plane with a strongly cambered blade.  

A different approach to this multi plane set for starters is the start with a do it all #5 jack plane:  Used as it is a bench plane (one), after sharpening sized halfway the jointer and the German jack  (two and three),  a cambered blade to be a scrub plane (four),  a tight mouth and more sharpening gives a smoother (five).

18 December 2011

Wooden planes

This is a first post in what should be a series about wooden planes.  A series because I have too much material in mind too write it down in one session.

After reading mainly American blogs I started by buying metal planes.  But to cut costs I bought wooden jointer planes something like a #7 and a #9, with woodworms and all, cheaply on the second hand market.  As an afterthought I regretted not buying also standard wooden planes. Later on I got back in wooden planes when buying a set of hollow and rounds,  they are more fun to hold than say a Stanley #50.

Searching the web for technical details about modern wooden planes I found The Best Thing strongly supporting wooden planes:  For fine work, the ECE 711 Primus plane will easily outperform Bailey type smoothing planes like the Lie-Nielsen. Only the best antique (or reproduction) British infill planes can match or sometines outperform these ECE Primus planes, and then only on the most difficult woods.

Jim Toplin answers in his book The New Traditional Woodworker the question: Why aren't I showing wood bodied bench planes? with There's nothing wrong with the traditional wood-bodied plane.  In some (if not all) ways they are inherently superior to the metal plane ... ...  but I've never learned to tune and use them ... plus, few students show up with wooden planes.  

Personally I don't see major reasons why wooden planes should be superior,  but they are made of wood and you can set them by hitting them with a mallet and when that goes well it's more satisfying than fusing over setting screws.  So looking for a smoothing plane I dropped in the end the idea of buying a #4 bedrock or the excellent new Veritas Small Bevel-Up Bench Plane and started to look for wooden planes.

16 December 2011

Cart fences

After seeing an analogy between chisel racks and hay cart fences ...  I know, let's say it was beer,  I went on internet to find hay cart pictures.  I found surprisingly few of them,  time and mechanisation have changed the situation since I worked on them. I did find a picture of a small one on a French second hand site.  Char à foin en bois,  appropriately for this blog made of wood,  only the two recovered small truck axles are in metal.

To fully load a cart you may need a fourche à balle  allowing to deliver 20 kg (sometimes 40 kg) straw or hay bales up to 4 m (13') high.  When loading a cart the safety risks are numerous, if you are unlucky you can be stabbed by a pitchfork,  fall, impale yourself on the fence to finish under the wheels of the moving cart, by this tipping it over to get buried under tons of bales where what becomes your last cigarette starts a bonfire.

For the fun of it two Bruegel paintings De oogst and a detail of De hooi oogst (both 1565), with straw and hay carts.

13 December 2011

Open toolboxes - 4

This post is part of a series about open toolboxes.  Popular woodworking published an article of the early (starting out in America) Frank Klausz toolbox  Your First Tool Kit. Searching on-line I found it here.  At first sight it had not much special,  but after being made more aware through Popular Woodworking and Chris Schwarz of more standard toolboxes,  I became attracted by its lay out.  Where a traditional toolbox gives access through its top to a deep box and is partially filled with sliding drawers at the top level.   This box sets the drawer at the bottom and gives a more easily accessible box at the top.   A second aspect clearly shown by the Klausz box is that the bottom drawer does not cover  the whole bottom and leaves room to place larger objects like chisels and planes at the sides.

Here follows three toolboxes,  one from Frank Klausz as presented in his Your First Tool Kit article and two others I found on a second hand site, 2 .

We are now forty years and more later, I can imagine that this design further evolved and that modern metallic toolboxes represent a newer generation of the toolbox with drawers design.

20 November 2011


After looking at a 50 year old tool-chest in a previous post,  I was unable to situate one tool.

Not so much the wooden paring helper,  it's there for paring mitered profiles,  like the one on the following image.  In this case the joint is tight but the profile has a gap.

It's rather what could be an angled pinch dog to be seen at the top.  Maybe it's used to hold and tighten the joint while it's drawbored.  For nailing it would be only usable for the first two joints.  I add two pictures, one of a pinch dog, the other of a clam clamp both to hold while gluing.

As a last thing, the toolbox is missing one major tool.  I expect the former owner to have a combination machine for cutting, planing, moulding, mortise. And the tenons?  Maybe they are done with a handsaw.  The picture does not show the more impressive pre-war cast iron machine, but it gives 4 operations in one shot.  In modern variations shaper and saw both use a sliding table (solving at the same time the tenoning problem) and share a fence with the planer.

19 November 2011


Reading Chris Schwarz's blog where he is Rethinking the Traditional Tool Chest and asserting that, by birthright, chests keeps rust out.  I thought,  no way.  Without feet the bottom will rot within a year - at least in a traditional shop in these climate. The first add, for an old tool chest with tools, will show me right and display predictably a fifty year old collection of rusted tools.

After a five seconds search I found these, without feet and spotless!  And for 400€ it's yours.  My guess is that modern heated cellars-garages do the trick,  don't try that in my late 18th century vaulted cellar.  Ok ok, Chris Schwarz is right, by birthright etc ... Anyway, it's a display of a lifetime of professional involvement.

The layout is also interesting.  The drawer is set at the bottom to optimize space and for ease of access. It leaves at the sides and back enough space for the full height chisel racks.

12 November 2011

Open toolboxes - 3

Another part in a toolbox series triggered by Chris Schwarz attention for toolboxes in The anarchist Toolchest.

I found a few weeks back Roy Underhill's 1940's Carpenter's Toolbox drawing.  Looking at it probably triggered it's dismissal, as the link is broken,  and there is nothing left on-line about that toolbox. The carpenter toolbox is interesting as it aims for portability and it tries to do something useful with the lid.  But that comes with a price, to keep access to the bottom of the box, the sides must be low and once opened the lid more than doubles the footprint of the box, unless the box is set at the edge of a table.

Luckily the concept is still alive, Homestead Heritage School Of Woodworking has a six days course to make one of these.

Looking for alternatives to the design, one possibility is to open the lid upwards.  In this case the moving lid needs a recess to leave room for the handle or a clever alternative.  A possible problem is that the box becomes too high once opened and falls over.  A last alternative is to make a detachable lid that could be fixed at the back of the box.  I have never seen this so it is probably not the right idea.

After searching the whole internet I remembered to look in FWW: #24 - A Joiner's Tool Case with interesting details like lengthened drawer runners and a smaller bottom drawer to give a better access to the bottom compartment.  Also present in Jim Tolpin's Toolbox book in many variations and labelled lidded totes.

A more modern take on a finish carpenter's tool tote comes from Gary Katz.  It's a fixed top model.   The drawer has moved to the bottom of the box.  The top is there to sit and stand and has even recesses to hold screws.  The round holes are for holding cordless power drills. An external rack is there for the chisels. The whole fits into a milk crate.

01 November 2011

Compound angle mortice and tenon joint - 2

Thanks to Kari Hultman, who refers on her blog to a French Woodworking Video from 1912 of the Ina: La fabrication d'un siège à l'école Boulle, I saw a manual method for making compound angle tenons.

The video shows many interesting details in the making of a Louis XV style seat,  that has by its form only angled joints. Early in the video a wooden leg vise is presented standing proud of the surface of the workbench

[edit] Through a post of the Part Time Woodworker I discovered an image of the same leg mobile vise (étau) in a Chris Schwarz post displayed in a catalogue from La Forge Royale

When it comes to cut a tenon a square frame-vise is attached to the vise.  The top surface of the frame is used as a reference plane for cutting the tenon as it stands square to that surface and the shoulders are set parallel to the top surface.
The tenon shoulder height is set above the frame top to leave room for saws and sawing.  Then a template is used to mark the tenon.

Sawing the shoulders is done with a plane like block saw,  with a horizontal blade on it side,  resting on the horizontal frame-vise. The block saw seems to have symmetrical handles to work on both sides and has most probably symmetrical teeth.
After that a frame saw is used for the vertical cut. Just straight down,  and not a safer three step method with reclamping as proposed by for example Robert Wearing.

During the whole tenon cutting process the piece is attached only once and that's even before most of the markings. After seeing mainly router solutions for compound angle tenons,  I was happy to find at last a hand tool method.  

31 October 2011

Oak furniture

Two poor pictures of a nice piece of oak furniture described by the owners as Louis XV Liègois.  This sets it somewhere around 1750

Liège is also known for other artifacts

And got a waffle named after the town
Liège waffle

Not to be confused with the
Brussels waffles

30 October 2011

Workbench height - 2

Reading Jim Tolpin's The new traditional woodworker I quite liked the part dedicated to workbench heights.

Thanks to a great variety of workbenches in his workshop and a sense of proper height for each activity or is it a  more demanding back, Jim Tolpin develops a system of various heights:  Knee heigh saw benches,  finger tip height for the assembly table,  wrist height for the planing bench and elbow height for the joinery bench.

Saw benches
Jim Tolpin proposes asymmetrical saw benches and these are interesting.  Having one side with square legs allows to put two of them side by side and to saw really close the top, minimizing unbalance and vibrations. My sketch probably misses an essential characteristic of the benches,  they are stackable.  So the width of the top should be less than the width between the legs.
Getting interested I checked the Bahco catalog for their longest handsaw and found  a Bahco Pc-24-File-U7 fcut Fileable Saw 24In at 14£.  It should be closer to 26" long according to  Tolpin.  The fileable aspect makes it a sole survivor in the Bahco catalog,  most probably due to the omnipresence of hard on teeth plywood.  There is for an added cost a more up to date low friction hardpoint Bahco 2700-24-Xt7-Hp Handsaw 24In at 26£.
Is it traditional? Probably not here.  The swedish Vagnmakeri på Söder video from 1932 displays what is by then the old ways of hand sawing. It's done with a frame saw at hip height (wrist height).  It's maybe not the perfect example as it  is about cutting curves. The ergonomy is different from a saw bench cut:  he stands upright behind the blade, with two hands at the saw and pulling the saw down coming from nose height. This position is not specific to a frame saw,  as I have seen on the web people using a handsaw with a high two handed hold. 
With a saw bench  I would need to lean forward resting on one arm, being before the blade and pushing the saw down starting close to the shoulder. The picture shows a high sawing bench,  (Bernard Jones 1920). It leaves more room for the saw. Compared to Tolpin low benches, the knee is higher and is more distant from the cut.  And the left shoulder is also locked higher keeping the trunk in a similar position.
If I look at the french peugeot catalogue of  1938, I see 12 regional models of frame saws (Parisienne, Bordelaise ...) and not a single handsaw.  For narrow blades the standard saw (price in red) is a 26" model with a 10mm blade.  For straight cuts there is a 40mm blade and  numerous lengths. A last 'veneer'  model has a 6mm and a 30mm blade in only one length 24".

Using saw benches is probably very interesting,  but I am in a different tradition.  And I see them as only good for straight cuts, keeping up the need for a second setup.   As it is now, with untraditional  plunge saw and jig saw at hand, I am probably more in need of a decent cutting table (at wrist height?).

To keep this post out of the pile of unpublished ones, I close it without touching the other Tolpin benches. Maybe more about bench height another time.

22 October 2011

Wooden nails

After Adam Cherubini's seminar on Nailed Furniture at WIA 2011 I got some echoes through the blogosphere.

I have my own nailed furniture.  Here an example of paint-grade furniture of the twenties,  that was stripped (and survived) in the nineties to give it a second life. ... on second thought,  the nails possibly date from the nineties restoration.
A seventeenth century nailed example is harder to find,  to make the wood survive it would be most probably oak anyway, and oak is hard on nails.

Adam Cherubini is more specific about his nailed furniture: fasteners and a clever use of rabbets, dados and grooves.  That's different,  I always imagine I am here in a former panel and frame country and there is little chance to find assembled wide board

If I forget about the originals and go for the fun and fast aspect of nailed board, I hesitate as there are already alternatives with wooden fasteners: Dowels, like Krenov. Biscuits, making most of the rabbets, dados and grooves superfluous. Finger joints? And using screws:  pocket hole joinery, screws, dowel screws, ... . Most of these, although easy in realisation, present maybe an excessive modern - machine made aspect.

Wooden nails?  I was thinking thin dowels with a head to allow fixing thin panels without the nails slipping out. Ok here I have some ideas.  I grabbed some bamboo satay sticks,  measured them as being a skinny 2,5mm (0.1") and  went for a transversal load test.  I drilled, by lack of a 2,5mm drill, a 3mm hole in two boards and looked for the breaking point.  Two attempts gave me values close to 20kg.  I can probably improve that with glue and better holes to 30kg.  But it's not enough,  I am looking to something like 50kg and I expect to find it with a diameter between 3 and 4 mm.   If that succeeds I can go further: making nail heads, gluing and testing longitudinal load.
Testing further I covered the wood before gluing to test only the transversal strength of the stick and obtained a 27kg (60lb) breaking point with glue.  A second test: driving a stick in a 2mm hole with a hammer failed,  that's provably why nails are from metal.