Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review: Hide Glue

Ever since my class at Marc Adams, where I got to use hide glue for the first time, I have really been excited to learn more about hide glue.  I wasn't having a ton of luck in old texts.  The old texts seem to assume that everyone just used hide glue as a part of their lives.  They would also discuss additives to the glue that have very obscure names or simply not available today.  When you see ingredients like Gum of Ammoniac, Spirits of Wine, and Gum of Sandarac its pretty discouraging.  

Over the last several thousand years we have been using hide glue in one form or another.  It feel into obscurity after World War II when PVA glues were commonly available.  Over the last 10 years I have had to forget what I thought about woodworking and start fresh.  In my shop where there used to be a radial arm saw there is now a hand tool workbench.  What used to be my table saw is now a catch all for my hand tool projects.  As a matter of fact I have spent more on hand tools than I ever did on power tools.  Along with my power tools my glue choices have also changed.  My old standard, Titebond I, is replaced by a bottle of Old Brown Glue.

So as part of my christmas this year I bought some hot hide glue granuals and the book Hide Glue: Historical & Practical Applications By Stephen A Shepherd from Tools for Working Wood.  I wanted to learn as much as I could about this "hand tool" and try different formulations.  Here were my expectations of the book...
  1. How to select the right hide glue for my uses.  What gram strength?  What formulations (pearls, granules, etc).  
  2. How to properly mix and heat hide glue.
  3. Tips and tricks on how to mixing and heating easier.  For example:  A good crockpot/baby warmer setup.  Type of containers to use to for the product, baby food jars? Small glue bottles? Anything to make life easier.
  4. Different recipes to alter how the hide glue performs.  I understand there are ways to make hide glue water proof, have a long open time, extremely short open time, and more flexible.
  5. A little about the history of the glue.
After reading the book I was a little perplexed and somewhat disappointed.  Mr. Shepherd obviously did a ton on research.  The problem was that he didn't present the information very well.  The book seemed more like the notes that someone would take preparing to write a book, not the book itself.  There also seemed to be a lot of information either left out or stuck in out of the way places in the book.  If I write a book on hide glue my first mission would to be to make sure the reader is very well versed in how to set up a glue pot, what glue to buy, how to mix it, and how to apply it properly.  This seemed to be quickly passed over but devotes a great deal of the time on the organic chemistry of the glue.  I'm sure there are a few guys out there who would be interested in that.  As for myself, I don't care about covalent bonds, simply explain how different properties of the glue work for or against me.  This chapter of the book left me feeling like Penny on Big Bang Theory when Sheldon is attempting to teach her physics.

"It's a warm summer evening circa 1600 B.C..."

On the good side, there is a ton of valuable information in the book.  It's just unorganized.  You find yourself looking forever for things.  He also delves deeply into the history of the glue.  My favorite thing in the book is the glossary.  It explains what some of those cryptic ingredients are that you see in a lot of the old woodworking texts.  Would I recommend it?  Yes, there just simply isn't any other books out there that I know of.  I would have like to have seen Mr. Shepherd team up with someone in the woodworking community that deals more in the book publishing side of the world.  Surely someone at Popular Woodworking, Fine Woodworking, or Lost Art Press would have been interested in a book like this.  To my knowledge there isn't any other books dedicated to hide glue.  I have gotten the impression from the blogs and forums that hide glue is making a big come back.

As for my adventures in hide glue, I haven't really gotten started yet.  I have hope to get out to the shop soon and begin doing some testing.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ray Iles Drawbore Pins

I am currently working on a coat tree that will have the legs mortised to a central post.  I decided that the best way to join the legs to the post was with a draw bored mortise and tenon.  I almost have the legs done and I'm getting ready to start on the mortises.  In the past I have always used a machinist drift pin as a draw bore pin.  For the most part it works ok.  Its lack of a handle (and my laziness to make one for it) has been a real draw back.  So it bit the bullet and bought a pair of Ray Iles Draw bore pins.

So why did I choose the Ray Iles version.  Mainly because they are the only current model that is turned eccentrically.  This means that the center line of the turning is slightly skewed.  I could see how this would be an advantage when trying to pull a joint together.  I also don't own any of they Ray's tools and wanted to give them shot.

My initial impressions of the tools as I unwrapped them was that I was less than impressed.  The tips of the pins were just roughly formed.  The handles had dents and dings in finish and there is just something people leaving tail stock holes in their handles that turns me off.  The pins seemed to be roughly turned.  I don't mean to be overly critical, maybe Lie-Nielsen & Lee Valley just have me spoiled.  When I buy a premium tool not only do I expect it to work great but look and feel great also.  I had even considered calling Tools For Working Wood and asking them about the pins.  In the end I decided I could fix the roughly formed tips of the pins and that was my major complaint.

I just felt like this tool was unfinished.  A few minutes at the grinder cleaned them up nicely.
 In use I have far fewer complaints.  The tool works exceptionally well.  You don't have to put any downward force on the pin.  I can remember watching one of Chris Schwarz's videos on using draw bore pins and I recall him talking about how important a good handle was because of all the tight turning and pressure you would use with it.  This tool didn't require all of that work.  Simply drop in the hole and with little effort it will pull your joint together tightly.  As a matter of fact you have to be very careful not to enlarge your hole by advancing the pin to far.  I do wish the pins had a more gradual taper to assist with this issue.

Over all the pins work great.  They are a huge advancement from the drift pin I was using.  I just wish a little more time had been spend on fit and finish.  I still plan on purchasing Ray's mortise chisels and look forward to giving them a try.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jorgensen Vise, Where have you been all my life?

I have a fast and famine relationship with woodworking.  One year it will be all I think about, the next I don't want to think it about it at all.  Over the last few years I have been trying to build a relationship with hand tool wood working.  A few years back I built a Roubo type workbench, but funding got a bit tight and I never got to really finish it.  I just had a legs and top.  It didn't have any vises or frills.  For my 40th birthday my wife buys me a Class with the Schwarz at the Marc Adams school of woodworking.  This rekindled my fire for woodworking.

I found myself getting very frustrated with the my bench.  I couldn't find a decent way to hold the work while I planed.  I needed a tail vise, plain and simple.  As with most of my purchases, this started with what some might call a business plan.  I have to come up with a well reasoned argument for why I need this tool, how often I will use it.  This will include demonstrations and sometimes....begging.    My wife has to be this way because if she didn't I would be living in a cardboard box huddled around my tools.  Luckily, my wife was able to free up the funds for me to buy a Jorgensen 7" vise and some Veritas round bench dogs.

When the vise arrived I quickly got started on installing it.  Installation was pretty straight forward.  Just had to mortise out a place on the end of my workbench for the vise.  I fired up the router and made pretty short work of it.  A couple bolts later and I had the vise pretty much installed. 

Installed Jorgensen 7" vise

I added a chop and glued on some black leather and drafted a buddy to take a turn drilling dog holes.

I discovered a bit of an issue.  The quick release mechanism was not working consistently.  When you would turn the screw in to tighten it would just freely spin.  If I would just reach under the vise and barely touch the nut it would start to engage.  I ask my brothers on Woodnet Forums and no one really had a solution.  I continued to play with it and see if I could wrap my head around it.  If you are not familiar with these vises here is what the nut looks like.

If you see on the sides of the nut there are little bosses.  The limit how much the nut will spin free spin before it starts to engage or disengage the threads.  I suspected that one of the bosses was letting the nut turn just a little too far.  My first thought was to weld a spot on the boss.  Since I don't know too much about welding I decided to try something else.  What I decided to do was glue a piece of leather onto the boss that was giving me issues.

You can just see the little piece of black leather I added to the boss.
Unlike most of my on the cuff "repairs," this one worked like a charm.  I have been using the vise now for a couple months and it has never failed to engage.  I'm sure I could have returned the vise, but I would generally have to pay for the shipping and these things aren't exactly light.

As for the vise...I love it (after it was fixed at least).  I honestly don't know why I didn't do this earlier.  The vise doesn't have any sag and seems to resists racking well.  I actually like the bench I built twice as much as the Lie-Nielsen benches that we used at Marc Adams.  I love the flexability of round dogs.  It gives me the option to use the dog holes for my dogs or my hold fasts.  My bench is also heavier and doesn't try to "walk" away on me. 

 I added a row of dog holes down my bench (5" from front of bench, 3" on center).  This seems to work out great.  I would advise anyone to not skimp on the dog holes.  I also chose to add a dog hole in my chop instead of using the dog that come with the vise.  I wasn't a big fan of the built in dog.  It wasn't quite tall enough for my installation and it looked like it might bend backwards and allow the wood to creep up it.  Adding the dog hole in the chop was simple and has worked great.

Adding this vise was like a archaeologist finding the rosetta stone.  My hand planes started to make sense to me.  Planing boards flat didn't seem like such a task.  I couldn't actually devote my time and brain power to the task at hand instead how to secure the work to the bench.  It seems every so often in my woodworking life I cross a threshold where things just seem to instantly become clearer.  These ah ha moments are what keep me interested in this craft.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Stanley 102, a real Sweetheart

While making the rounds at a local antique mall I discovered this little plane sitting on the half price shelf.  Its a Stanley Sweetheart 102 block plane from the 1920's, as best I can tell.  It had a few rust issues, but nothing I couldn't handle.  It was all there and iron was is pretty good shape.  For $7.50 she had to come home with me.

Staley 102 after a little cleaning up.
 This is a simple little plane but I love the size.  A lot of folks today would probably refer to this plane as an apron plane.  Its a little smaller and a full size block plane and it doesn't have any knobs or levers to get get hung on things.  This would be great to keep in your shop apron to tag along with you to buy lumber.  One of my favorite parts of the plane is that it has a sleek coffin shape.

It has a slight coffin shape making it a even sleeker plane.

I probably wouldn't use this plane as my every day user but it still has a place in my shop.  I find in my shop that my block plane gets used for different things and I tinker with the depth of cut a lot.  This little stanley is a no frills plane;  no depth adjuster, no lateral ajustment.  I'm also a big guy and this plane it a little small for my hands.  If my finger is in the front dimple then my palm doesn't rest on the rear of the plane.  This makes it pretty hard exhausting on my fingers.  For someone with small hands this plane would be perfect, but for now I'll continue to use my Record 60 1/2 as my everyday block plane.  However, I feel certain this little guy will make himself useful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ye Ol' Woodie

Recently I come accross this plane at a local antique market and had a hard time putting it down.  Normally when I find woodies like these they are pretty much trashed.  It all ways seems they have missing parts, broken handles, or a bit of termite damage.  This one seemed to be in great shape and I was running out of excuses not to add it to the "collective."

The plane is a 26" long joiner/try plane.   It was produced by the Auburn Tool Co. in the last of 1800's.  After a bit of fussing with the iron and chip breaker and flattening the sole she was ready for action.   These planes make a completely different sound when you use them.  It sounds like you tearing a piece of paper in half.  This is my first woodie like this and the blade adjustment is going to take some getting used to.  While I have read how to adjust these planes, in practice it isn't so easy.  I have a hard time setting the iron for a light shaving.  When tapping on the button ro release the wedge I tend retract the iron way too much.  It may be one of those things that someone has to actually show you how to do.

I love the plane and I'm sure i'll find a place for it in the rotation.  I would love to find a fore plane like this one.  These woodies seem to excell and taking off heavy shavings. I also get quite a bit of satisfaction at using a tool that is 120+ years old and it finally found a home that will put it to good use.  It almost makes me want to grow a handlebar mustache.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Veritas Skew Rabbit Plane Revisit

In my previous post I felt like I people would get the ideal I was pretty critical of this plane.  I really do like the plane but it takes some getting used to.  So I'll try and cover it in more detail.

First lets start with the iron.  Most folks I have seen sharpen a skew one of two ways;  Lee Valley Skew jig for the MKII sharpening system or they free hand it.  I bought the jig.  The jig makes the setup fairly fool proof.  I get the iron as sharp as I can.  When your dealing with planes that have to be registered on the work the last thing you want to do is to be trying to shove the plane through the wood.  You must take nice controlled strokes with this plane.

Skew Iron in the Lee Valley Jig
After putting the iron back in the plane it takes a little fettling to get everything lined back up.  This is the system i use.
  1. Put the iron in the plane and replace the cap iron.
  2. Tighten the cap iron knob a little so that it doesn't come loose while you do your adjusting as you will have the plane upside down a lot.
  3. Put the magnet on the side and make sure the edge of the iron lines up with lines up correctly with side of plane.
  4. Advance the iron until you can see it while sighting down the plane sole.  It needs to be level.  Once you get it level tighten the cap iron a bit to hold it in position.
  5. Break out a straight edge to make sure the knicker, plane iron and side of the plane are all in alignment.  Occasionally I need to move the iron over a bit.  For this i just a small hammer.  When everything is in alignment tighten the cap iron down to hold everything in alignment.  This shouldn't be super tight.  If you over tighten you won't be able to advance and retract the iron.
  6. Adjust your knicker blade depth if need be.
  7. Now just adjust the depth of cut, fence, and depth stop to the size of your rabbit and you should be ready to go.  I prefer to take light shaving.  Maybe 3 thou or so.  I'll take the extra strokes, it gives me more repeatable results.
Step 3:  Use the magnet to hold the iron in the correct adjustment with the plane side.  
Step 5:  Make sure knicker and iron are in alignment with the side of the plane.  This is where you can see if you have any problems.

Step 6 & 7:  Knicker is at a good working depth.  Can adjust the depth stop to the correct setting now.
Those 7 steps take me less than 5 minutes.  If you don't take the time to do those things, well, that is how "accidents" happen.  

Before we take this puppy for a spin lets keep mindful of a few things that can still mess up your rabbit.  This is where technique come into play.  There are two forces at work work here; keeping the plane registered the work (left hand), and pushing the plane forward (right hand).  

As with any plane we must be sure to you proper technique when pushing the plane.  At the beginning of the cut you must put more pressure holding the front of the plane down.  As you continue with the cut you should move the majority of your pressure to the back tote.  If you are experienced with bench planes this is nothing new to you.

The other issue we must be mindful of is keeping the plane firmly registered and not letting the plane tip from side to side.  I know from experience how easy this is to do, especially on narrow rabbits.  It just requires a little concentration.  If your taking to deep of a cut or have a dull iron can make this very difficult.

Note I'm not using the knob.  It makes the plane to top heavy in my opinion.  I put my thumb firmly on the plane body it is much easier to register.  Plus, I find that I get more feedback from the plane this way.

A nicely cut rabbit.

This is one of those things that takes an hour to describe and 10 minutes to do.  I easily sharpened the iron, fettled with the plane and cut the rabbit in less than 10 minutes.  The plane works great but its does take a little getting used to for a beginner.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Growing Fleet

While I have been away the fleet has grown considerably.  Thought I might show them off a bit and give you my take on them.  Most of these tools were bought for my class at Marc Adams a while back. I have had a month or so to use them.

Veritas Bevel Up Planes
First off the bevel up planes from Lee Valley.  Some of you may remember I already had the joiner plane.  I just added the jack and smooth planes.  So what did I choose these planes?
  • Ease of use.  These are easy planes for a beginner to set up.  There are no chip breakers to fuss with.
  • Flexibility.  I can convert any one of these planes to a high angle plane in just a couple minutes by simply resharpening the iron.  So if your planing that Birdseye maple and need a nice high angle plane to reduce tear problem and nothing else to buy.  Also the irons in these planes are interchangeable.  So I can use my smoother iron in my jack plane if need be.  This has come in handy a couple times.  I have put my smoother iron (typically set on a higher angle) in my joiner when the wood wasn't cooperating and was leaving deep tear out.
  • Cost.  Because I had several tools to buy I couldn't afford the Lie Nielsen models.  Having used both the Lie Nielsen and Veritas versions of the bevel up plane I would say you get much more bang for your buck with the Veritas.
I have been very pleased with these planes.  The A2 irons take and hold a edge.  I can pull shaving so thin that I don't even call them shavings, I call them fluff.  The fit and finish was superb.  On the down side there are some things I don't like also.  The Norris style blade adjuster on these planes can be a pain.  The pivot points for the adjuster are so close together that the slightest movement will move the iron side to side dramatically.  I have learn to overcome this demon but it does take some getting used to.  You give up the ability to just sliding your finger down and turing the blade depth knob in between cuts.  You must be careful when you turn the blade adjustment knob not to move the blade side to side. I don't normally adjust the blade that much so it hasn't been a huge deal for me, more of an inconvenience.  My only other complaint is that the smoother and joiner (especially the joiner) doesn't have machined sides so that you can use them on your shooting board.  The jack planes does have machined sides and is fairly renowned as a great shooting board plane.  It would have been nice to have this capability with the other planes.  I'm not sure if this was done to save money or to reduce the amount of unpainted steel you have to keep rust free.  Never the less, this is something that I wish Robin Lee would take a look at.

Overall, I really like the planes and would have no reservations recommending them to someone.

Veritas Small Plow Plane, Veritas Moving Rabbit Plane, Veritas Large Router Plane
This is a mixed bag of specialty planes by Veritas.  We'll discuss them individually.
  • Small Plow Plane.  I don't have a lot to say about this plane.  The product is has a great fit and finish to it.  I got a set of different width blades that seem to work great.  The fence has always locked perfectly square for me.  There honestly aren't a lot of new planes out there to compare it to.  I'm not sure why Lie Nielsen isn't already making a plow.
  • Moving Skewed Rabbit (Fillister) Plane.  This plane takes a bit of practice to get the hang of.  We used this plane in our class and I heard several people curse it's name, including me.  Its not because it's a bad plane.  Most folks brought new planes with them and they had very little experience, if any, using the plane.  This plane can be awkward to set up.  The blade has to be flush with the wall of the plane or your rabbit will just get wider and wider and the plane will be hard to push.  I come up with a "jig" to help me keep this aligned while I tighten everything up.  If you look at the photo above you will see a silver metal disk on top of the plane.  Its a rare earth magnet.  By placing the rare earth magnet on the wall of the plane it will pull and hold the iron in position.
The magnet holds the iron in alignment with the wall of the
plane so you can adjust blade depth and tighten everything up.

  • I store the magnet on top of the plane when not in use.  Works pretty nicely.  The problem i had with the plane was that my knicker was out of adjustment.  Chris Schwarz spotted this instantly and corrected it for me.  Turns out someone didn't read the directions.  Even after you get the plane adjusted correctly it takes some time to get a technique that works for your.  Its very easy no let the plane tip and mess up your rabbit.  Chis showed me that he removes the knob from his so he can more easily use the plane body to guide the plane.  The handle seems to have to high of a center of gravity and makes the plane easier to tip.  Don't let me give you the ideal that I don't like the plane.  The plane works but there is a larger learning curve than other planes.  When I get a messed up rabbit, I am normally the problem.  Perhaps I'll do a write up just on this plane and how to use it.
  • Large Router Plane.  This plane is much more straight forward.  It just works.  I chose this plane over the Lie Nielsen because of blade selection.  This plane has a wider selection of blades including the spear point blade which I don't think is available from Lie Nielsen.  This is another product that I feel you get more bang for your buck versus the Lie Nielsen.  I really must by this planes little brother the small router plane.  The biggest problem i have with it is that keep trying to use it in small places where it won't fit.  

Czech Edge Birdcage Awl and Marking Knife
I also got a couple of layout tools from Czech Edge, the birdcage awl and a making knife.  I have enjoyed the tools.  They have a nice fit and finish and have performed as advertised.  One thing that shocked me was the size of the birdcage awl.  For some reason I was expecting something smaller.  It resembles a really nice prison shank.  It does a great job starting holes for drill bits or making locations for nails and screws.  I used the marking knife my class for laying out dovetails and it did a great job.  The blade is nice and thin to get into those tight pins.  The only suggestion I would make is that they need shape the handle more so your fingers have more to grip.  I found my fingers slipping down the shaft a bit.  Overall great tools that I would recommend to others.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hide Glue, why does it keep hanging around?

During my recent class at Marc Adams I got to use hide glue for the first time.  Its been one of those things I have always wanted to try but had never gotten around to.  Hide glue can be a little intimidating, especially with all the stories out there.  I often hear stories where create all these crude concoctions.  It brings to mind a which over a kettle adding a pinch of lizards gizzards.

It isn't surprising that these things happen.  You have to expect people to tinker with your chemistry after you have been around for 4000+ years.  Even how to mix the glue up seems to be a bit of a mystery.  Some folks do it one way and other do the opposite.  Like I said, fairly intimidating.

Hide glue is like sharpening, the more information (and is there a lot of it!) you get the less you know.  You don't need any fancy equipment.  If you are just wanting to try it out you can use a stove, sauce pan, and candy thermomenter and you will do fine.  That is, if your wife doesn't catch you.

If you want to get your feet wet there is another option, the option we used at Marc Adams.  We used Old Brown Glue.  This is simply hide glue that has been mixed with urea so that it will remain liquid (or somewhat liquid) at room temperature.  The glue has a one year shelf life but that can be extended if you store it in the fridge.  When your ready to glue up simply heat the glue to get it to the right consistency and then apply it.  It doesn't have to be that warm.  Simply putting it in a window sill on a summer day will do just fine.  But in the winter you might want to invest in a small $10 croc pot.

I have been using hide glue since the class and love it.  I feel more at ease using it.  The are the benefits I have seen so far...
  • No fuss clean up.  Simply take a damp rag and you can remove excess glue easily.  Also works great at getting it off the workbench, clamps, etc.
  • No more glue blotches when applying stain.
  • Has the right consistency.  The glue has sort of a snot consistency.  Seems to stick to the wood better and you get some initial tack.
Obviously this is the glue for all situations but my bottle of Titebond is getting pretty lonely.  I urge anyone who hasn't tried hide glue to give it a shot.  You'll be glad you did.

Photo by Chris Schwarz

Monday, October 1, 2012

By Hammer & Hand

I recently attended the Marc Adams School Of Woodworking and attended a class taught by Chris Schwarz called By Hammer & Hand.  This class was based on a book compiled by Joel Moskowitz and Chris Schwarz called The Joiner and the Cabinetmaker.  The book consists of a reprint of and old text by the same name plus background and discussion by Joel and Chris.  In this book we follow the early career of a cabinetmaker apprentice.  The project we focused on was the second project the apprentice was allowed to build on his own, the school masters box.

Let me start with my experience at the Marc Adams School.  This was a week long class and it was a great experience.  I had never taken a woodworking class and didn't know what to expect.  If you have a little vacation time coming, it's worth the money.  Everyone at the school was very nice.  Our shop assistants that helped out were very knowledgeable and a great help.  The lady's that worked in the lunchroom put out very tasty food, not your typical cafeteria grub.  If you are considering attending for the first time, give me a shout and I can give you and idea of what to expect.

I wasn't sure how much I would get out of the class.  I thought I might not learn a whole lot but it would be a good time and fun to hang out with other woodworkers.  I knew how to dovetail, that seemed to be the greatest hurdle for this project.  I was wrong.  I did learn a few things, more importantly, I learned a little about the process.  I spent a lot of time focusing on grain direction, wood orientation, and how to use a woods natural beauty to your advantage.  I wasn't able to finish my box for a few reasons.  One was I had a difficult wood to work with and it took more time to lay out everything.  I also had to spend a lot of time in wood prep.  Most folks brought their wood already planed and ready to go.  I brought rough cut, highly figured wood that demanded some careful planning.

My box still needs the moldings and hinges.  I am looking at having a local blacksmith make the hinges and hope to have the box completed soon.  The box is made from spalted quilted maple.  Very beautiful wood.  It took a while to wrap the spalting and to really take advantage of the figure.

Chris did a great job with the class and I think we all loved our time there.  Here a quick video Chris shot of the class...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Back In Black

Back from the dead!

I am reviving the blog.  A lot has happened while I have been away.  Changed day jobs, attended Marc Adams school and took a class with Chris Schwarz, finished my workbench (well mostly), and recently have been working on my hand skills.  I'll cover a few of these things and try to get everyone caught up.  Glad to be back...