Friday, December 31, 2010

Millers Falls Auger Handles

After the last post about my drilling/boring tool panel upgrade, a reader (Alfred) was curious about the two auger handles visible at the top of the panel. He specifically wanted to know the range of auger sizes these handles could accommodate: "Do those handles accept the regular brace auger bits/ only the larger ones, or do they require special size bits?"

I promised to find out, and in the process my curiosity about the two handles was piqued. So here's the answer to Alfred's question and a bit more (okay, that one was not intentional ).

First up is the Millers Falls No. 2 auger handle, as described in their 1925 Catalogue:

Mine is a newer version (it has the Greenfield, Mass. address, rather than the older Millers Falls, Mass. address) but as far as I can tell it is the same as the one in the catalogue. Well, with the exception that someone seems to have gone crazy on it with some spar varnish. "Oooh! Shiny!"

This shot is the front side, with the smaller of the two square "jaws":

Here is the reverse side, with the larger opening:

It's a pretty simple device really. Just loosen the wing nuts, insert the auger, and clamp it tight, with one "jaw" holding the tapered end and the other the shank.

As their catalogue copy states, it can handle very large augers:

But it can't handle the smaller bits:

The auger in the handle is a 13/16ths, which was the smallest I could fit securely. The 4/16ths on the bench top was impossible to use in the handle.

Now on to the Millers Falls No. 4, again from the 1925 catalogue:

Mine might actually be a copy, as I can't find a single identifying mark on it, other than an owner's stamp of "Leo Putnum".

Here you can see the beefy two jaw chuck:

And from this angle you can see the ratchet control lever to the right of the auxiliary handle attachment point:

Speaking of the auxiliary handle placement - here it is:

The end part of that handle rotates on its own, much like the pad on a brace.

This is one versatile beast. It easily handles (not another one!) the biggest auger I have:

As well as the smallest:

Although, come on, that seems like using a sledge hammer to drive a 4d nail.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Drilling/Boring Tool Panel

Time is funny. Just the other day I was thinking, "You know, I really ought to upgrade my drilling/boring tool panel like I did to the saw panel a few months ago." Turns out it's been almost 11 months! What?! Where did that time go? Deja-vu - I think I've said this before...

Well, regardless of my lack of time reality, the idea was a good one. The drilling/boring panel was one of two pegboard panels still hanging on in the shop (yes, intended). It was time to convert it to something that not only works, but makes me happy when I look at it. (Don't get me wrong, I don't hate pegboard, but it just doesn't satisfy me at some level.)

Here's the before shot:

Besides making it look nicer, I wanted to expand the amount of storage to include new tools (some of which don't technically meet minimum "drilling/boring" requirements - oh well, I'll deal). The new panel would be slightly wider, and a good bit longer.

Construction-wise, I followed the same process as with the saw panel, with only one difference. I used a nice set of Sandusky Tool wooden match planes that were designed for the thickness of wood I was working with (3/4"). This let me avoid dealing with the "second tongue" effect that the Stanley #49 created, while at the same time leaving the tongue offset enough for beading the front edge, unlike the Stanley #48. Hmm - I guess progress isn't always progress is it?

And here is the final result:

I think it would look even better if I had the time to make all new shelves and holders, rather than just modifying the old ones (I did add one "new" shelf, but it was just a left-over from another part of the shop overhaul). Maybe later...

That just leaves on last pegboard panel in the shop, and I'll get to that soon. Soon as in next November?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mystery Tool - Solved!

I love it when a mystery gets solved, but I kind of hate it when I should have known it all along!

After the first post, Damien commented: "Looks like a free standing handle that fits a round axle with two sides flattened at the end." I immediately got a picture in my head of a round chuck with two flats, but I kept thinking it had something to do with sewing machines.

And then on the second post, Alfred commented "I wonder if it is a wrench for an awl. Some older leather working awls have a split chuck with a tightening screw that probably fits the opening in your tool."

After reading that I gave myself a huge dope slap and ran out to the shop where I have several cobbler's awls that I use to start screws etc. Grabbing one, I tested it out and it's a perfect fit. Awesome! Not only is the mystery solved, but I have a new and useful tool. In the past I just used an adjustable wrench to change awls (sharpened nails actually) but it tends to slip off - the new closed wrench will be much better.

Just to double check, I looked in my library and found an illustration under "Sewing Haft" in the "Dictionary of American Hand Tools" that clearly shows just such a wrench changing the awl on a haft or handle.

If anyone has a copy of "Dictionary of Leather Working Tools and the tools of allied trades", by R. A. Salaman, we could probably find the actual name for this tool. Until then, I'm just going to call it a "cobbler's awl wrench".

Fun! Thanks everyone for your ideas and sleuthing! And way to go Alfred for nailing this one!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mystery Tool - Additional Photos and Thoughts

A few additional pictures of the mystery tool along with some new thoughts and observations. You can click on any picture for a larger view.

Full tool, with quarter for scale and a new angle on the "loop" to show thickness:

A close-up of the business end - note wear pattern inside opposite corners of the slot (which I think indicates it was used as some kind of wrench):

A close-up of the end of the threaded cap - showing what I previously took to be the initials "B.H." - although now I am not so sure:

My brother Josh thinks that this might have been some kind of sewing machine wrench for changing needles, which were stored in the compartment in the handle. I like that guess, but so far I have not found any supporting information.

What do you think?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mystery Tool

Well, after the last mystery object played itself out, there was a request for a new one.

So, for Philip, and anyone else who likes a mystery, here it is:

Approximately 5 1/2" long and... has a storage compartment in the handle.

It's very well made with some nice details such as the tiny decorative marks on the ferrel and the rings on the handle. The only other markings I could find were a somewhat cryptic group of awl pricks on the butt end which I am fairly certain spell out "B.H." - they were definitely done by hand and not too neatly, so I don't think they are the maker's mark, but rather a previous owner.

At first I was thinking it was some kind of multi-tool, but there is no chuck, so any attachments would need to hook onto the loop somehow. Also, the storage compartment is pretty small, more along the lines of drill bits etc., and I don't see how those would hook onto the loop anyway.

Any ideas?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Owner's Mark Stamp

In a previous post, I shared some thoughts and observations on plane owner's marks and I ended up wondering how to make my own metal owner's mark stamp. Well, it's been over a year, I still don't know how to go about it, but I have finally gotten my hands on an original to aid in my quest.

It was made for one "C. B. STILWELL" by "JACOBS & CO 74 WASHN.ST BOSTON".

Here's a photo of the stamp and the mark it makes:

I am hoping that by closely examining the stamp, I can figure out how it was made. It seems clear to me that files were used - very tiny files, for the exterior of each letter. But I haven't yet sussed out how the interior sections were shaped.

Here's a closer shot of the business end:

I know I could pay someone to make one for me, but that just isn't my style. I might get there one day if I can't figure this out...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Box-O-Chaos Project

In my shop, some projects get completed almost as soon as I think of them, while others need to wait. Some wait a long, long time. This one has been waiting for 10 years.

Here's the back story:

We used to live in Bend OR. When it was time to move back to Alaska, we packed every cubic inch of both our vehicles, had a major yard sale, and packed everything else into the maximum allowable size boxes and mailed them. We had been going great guns for several days to be out on schedule, and some things just kept slipping through the cracks.

The afternoon of our departure I realized that there was a rocking chair just sitting there in the living room. How had we missed that? There was no way it could get added to the "take along" list. There was absolutely no room in the cars (none - I'm surprised we could breathe in there), and all possible space on top of the cars was already full. I didn't want to leave it, because while it might not be a great piece of furniture, it was the first furniture we had bought together as a couple. Nope, it had to make it to Alaska. All I had to do was disassembled it, with no tools (packed), get it to fit into the last remaining box, and make it to the post office before they closed (20 minutes). No problem.

So, I gently took that chair apart on the front lawn using a Swiss Army knife and a hunk of firewood as a club. I shoved it into the box and handed it over to the USPS with at least three minutes to spare. Then it was North to Alaska!

Back to the present:

As I am moving great heaps of stuff around in the garage I find myself looking at a large, unopened cardboard box. I was wondering what it could be, when two thoughts hit me in quick succession. First, it's got to be the missing rocker. Second, I could fix it up for a Christmas present for my wife.

So I open the box and this is what I see:

Wow. Looks like someone smashed a chair apart with a piece of firewood or something.

Oh, but wait, it's not that bad. I found the original fasteners randomly floating around in the bottom of the box.

Okay, so I've got my work cut out for me. This is going to be close - wish me luck.

PS - Just to avoid any confusion, this rocker-in-a-box should in no way be confused with the other rocker-in-a-box project I have in the hopper. They are very different. For one thing, that one is actually in three boxes. For another, it has only been sitting in the shop for slightly more than one year. And finally, that rocker is from Oregon, while this one is from... never mind.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Revealed! - The Mystery Wooden Object's Secret Identity!

"Now let's see who the Mystery Wooden Object really is!"
"Why it's old Mr. Wilson - the caretaker of the amusement park!"
"Yes, and I'd have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for you meddling kids..."


Oops! Sorry, that was from the Scooby Doo edition of this post - don't know how that snuck in here...

Okay - are you ready?

(Click here first if you haven't read the previous two relevant posts)

The Mystery Wooden Object (MWO) is...

...a Pakistani Cow Amulet! Yes! What?

Congratulations Regis! You are the clear winner:
"Looks like a cow bell. Maybe that darker square insert in the back holds the "bells" inside. Or an ornament to put around an animal's neck."How did you come up with that anyway? Email me your address and I'll send you your prize!

Okay, so when Kaija called me, she had just been to a little store back East, which she describes as being a "woodsy/crafty/chotsky with a smattering of international groovy stuff" type store. While perusing the goods, she came up short in front of a small tray full of MWOs! The accompanying signage simply stated, "Pakistani Cow Amulets."

Here's what she saw:

Well, after talking to Kaija, I called the store to pump them for information. They didn't really have much. About all they knew was that they were some kind of amulet worn by cows to help keep them safe. Hmm.

Armed with this new knowledge I called Uncle Google and had a long, long chat. It took awhile, but here's a summary of what I found out:

(And remember - "It's on the internet, so it must be true!")

Mostly associated with the Swat Valley in Pakistan (but covering a much wider region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, at least according to some sources) these amulets are believed to protect and identify livestock - possibly cows, but more likely goats or sheep. They are worn around the neck of the animal. Some are very simple, with no carving and just the hole at the top for the cord to pass through. Others are carved in ancient patterns (said to be Buddhist designs by one source). Still others go to a higher level of protection - incorporating a small chamber containing a prayer or blessing from a local religious leader. Apparently, after the animal is slaughtered, the amulet is used on another animal - which means some of the amulets are very old. Types of wood mentioned were cedar and rosewood.

Well, that explained just about everything I (we) had noticed about the MWO. I was right about the wear pattern inside the through mortise, only I was picturing it upside-down with the rope or fabric at the bottom, while in reality the amulet hung from the cord, not the other way around. And the square of wood in the back was not a cut off tenon - it is the plug to the hollowed-out chamber. Cool!

Kaija graciously went back to the store and picked up a few of the MWO's cousins for me. Here is a set of "reunion" photos:

You can see the range of details. Only one has a plug. Only two have any carving - one with a triangular design (upper left - the same one that has the plug) and one with a simple series of kerfs cut in the sides (lower left - five kerfs on one side, and six on the other). One has almost the exact same shape as my original, but no plug, no carving and is generally more "rough". In fact, all of these seem a bit more primitive than my first one.

Of course, I have a ton of new questions. Who makes these? Are they made by a specialist (town woodworker or carver?), or by the church, or are they made by the owner of the livestock? What kind of wood is it? It sure doesn't look like cedar (well, N. American cedar isn't really cedar anyway, so how would I know?) or rosewood. Are they still being made/used? How did these end up here? Why weren't they reused? How old are they?

If you have any insight, please post a comment. But for now, I'm satisfied - and the MWO is no longer a MWO. It is a Pakistani livestock amulet.

Finally, I have no idea if these things really work, but it just might explain the increased frequency of this kind of occurrence at our house:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yet Another Use For Handscrews

Here's another frequent task in my shop that a handscrew accomplishes with ease. Whenever I brand a creation, I use a propane torch to heat my branding iron. My torch is rather tippy and a handscrew gently tightened at an angle around the base, trapping the cylinder between the two jaws and the front screw, much like a bit in a three jawed chuck, holds it nicely. This setup gives it the hands-free stability I need to safely ignore it and focus on not messing up the branding process.

I guess you could do something similar with another type of clamp, but the round gas tank would make getting a firm hold, without squeezing too hard, a challenge. Also, the handscrew, with its large flat faces, makes for a more stable footprint than other clamps.

PS - The fire extinguisher is just out of photo to the left - in my shop, when the torch comes out to play, so does the extinguisher.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Real Wood Beats Plywood, But Plywood Beats Pegboard

Well, at least nice birch plywood beats pegboard.

I have two of those metal shelving units (or are they carts?), the ubiquitous chromed ones, that I use for tool storage. The bottom shelves on each unit have pull-out trays, and the top two shelves are, well, shelves. A long time ago I cut pegboard liners for the shelves so the planes and other tools that lived there wouldn't be resting on the metal racks. I can't remember why I used pegboard, but it probably had something to do with having it on hand.

Anyway, it has worked fine, but has never really made me happy. Well, as part of the ongoing "get rid of stuff that doesn't fit/belong in my shop" offensive, I found a solution. I discovered some thin birch plywood that needed to earn its keep or hit the road. Well, I'm not a fan of plywood, but it does have its uses and clearly this stuff was more aesthetically pleasing than pegboard, so I made the switch.

Not hard at all, since each fitted piece of pegboard was used as a template for the new liner. Here are some shots of the upgrade.



Definitely an improvement in my eyes.

The bigger picture:

It's funny how a small change can have a major impact that seems out of proportion. In this case I think the change from pegboard to birch ply improves the whole corner of the shop. Cool!

The tools:

Not much to it really: Japanese style saw for cutting the thin plywood (using a very low angle helps minimize flex and chatter), hand drill for boring the oak lip peg holes (if you spin the drill counter-clockwise for a bit, it will get you started without tearing out the thin birch veneer, then switch to normal clockwise operation), and a rat-tail rasp for creating the clearance notches for the shelving unit's railings on the back of each shelf. In the background, you can see the old pegboard liner which I used to trace everything onto the plywood. You can also see how handy it is to have your sawbench and shavehorse the same height. This is especially true when working with full sheets of plywood.

The next pegboard to be removed will be the backing on my tool panels, which will be replaced by real wood. I already did the saw panel, which you can read about here and here, but it's time to finish the rest.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Short, Easy Project in Seven Steps

The other day I had about one hour to spend in the shop. Now, I've got dozens of projects that I need to work on (with building a door for the shop at the top of the list), but none of them are the kind that one hour would get very far into. So I decided to reload the CD player with some fresh jazz while I figured out what to do.

As I was listening to Roy and Diz, and puttering around the shop, I kept going back to the CD case to find out the name of a tune, composer etc. After about the third time the thought occurred to me: "Hmm, it would be nice to have a little stand thingy to hold the CD up at a convenient angle for reading." And there it was, a short easy project that I could complete from start to finish in what was left of my hour.

Here's how to make something useful (sort of) in a very short amount of time - in just seven steps.

Step One - rustle up a chunk of suitable scrap:

I just grabbed a short length of 1x3, but something fancier would be fun.

Step Two - clean up all the surfaces of said scrap with a smoothing plane:

Step Three - select a moulding plane and stick a decorative edge:

In this case, after digging through my moulding samples I selected a small astragal and cove profile made by "I. Cox" (which coincidentally is the very same plane featured in the previous link). Now that I think about it, it might actually be a quirk, bead and cove profile. Wait, maybe it's a fillet, bead, fillet and cove. Oh bother!

Step Four - plow a groove wide enough and deep enough to hold the CD at the desired angle:

I just guessed and plowed a 5/8" wide groove, which needed to be 1/2" deep for things to work out right.

Step Five - cut to length:

Step Six - Optional - decide to fix a flaw in the moulding profile (created by sloppy, rushed technique) by planing a bevel with a shoulder plane:

A side-by-side comparison between the new profile of bevel, quirk, bead and cove or is it fillet, bead - (oh never mind) and the original sample on the right.

Step Seven - oil it up and admire the final product:

Not a very necessary creation of course, but since when has that been a consideration? Do you really need a reason to have fun in the shop? No.

And the complete tool set (minus the sticking board):

Really, this project could be made with only four tools: smoothing plane, plow plane, moulding plane and saw. Or even just three if you skipped the moulding and just went with a bevel. The Phillips head screwdriver is for adjusting my sticking board screw-stops, while the slot head screwdriver is for adjusting the #45 multiplane - neither would be needed if you used used a different plow and work holding system. There really is no layout required, as you can size everything with the CD case itself - so the folding rule, the square and the marking knife could easily be left on the shelf. And of course, if you were more careful than I was with your moulding plane, there would be no need for the shoulder plane.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Solved! Mystery Wooden Object Identified - Teaser.

"Make Way! Blow the trumpets!" The Mystery Wooden Object has been identified! Yes!

I've said before that I love mysteries, and I love them even more when they get solved. This one took over two years, which only makes it that much sweeter.

Back in July of 2008 I wrote a post about the Mystery Wooden Object and asked readers for help in identifying it. Some interesting ideas were bounced around, but there was no breakthrough.

Then, a couple of months ago my niece Kaija (of Kaija's Project fame) called me from the East Coast with the big news: she had a hard lead on the answer, in fact she was standing in front of a small pile of my Mystery Wooden Object's cousins!

Well, after talking to her and doing some additional research, I now know quite a bit about the MWO - which I will share in a future post.

I thought it might be fun to see if anyone wanted to take one last shot at identifying it. As an incentive, I'll send my spare copy of Making Authentic Craftsman Furniture to the first person who pegs it, or to whoever gets closest before I spill the beans.

Here are some newer shots to mull over:

And one of the prize:

Good luck! And one hint - forget about the East Coast connection. It's more than a bit of a red herring...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

More Exciting Shop Changes - and some thoughts on books.

Progress! Wahoo! It's really starting to feel like a shop again!

The big ex-government desk was moved into place (thanks to my brothers) and became the focal point for the "office" end of the shop. Three new shelves were installed and the ever growing woodworking library was relocated to the shop, where it belongs.

It's pretty amazing the energy that those books possess - when I step through the doorway they just turn my head and make me smile. Have I mentioned that I love books? It was pretty cool, just yesterday I was watching the latest Woodwright's Shop on PBS and Roy was talking about influential woodworking books. Of the books he discussed, I have all but one in my collection.

I love learning, and am thankful for the internet and all I have learned through it, but nothing compares to holding a book in your hands. Plus, with older books, there's the whole "Who has held this book before me?" question to ponder and you have a tangible link to the past. It's a little hard to explain maybe, but it's similar to the difference between electric baseboard and a woodstove - both will heat the room, but there's just no confusing the two energy wise.

If you are a complete book geek like me, you may want to check out the detailed list of my library: click on the "View My List-O-Books" link in the left navbar or just click here. As always, questions or comments about books are highly encouraged.

Anyway, here are the shots:

There's really only one drawback to the library; it occupies the same wall where I would like to add a window in the future. Here's what I'm missing in that department:

Hmm, I might just have to figure out a way to have both...