How I finally got a handle on tanged tools.

When I first got into sharpening my own saws, I crafted file handles out of wood scraps. The unshaped, rectangle wood pieces dug into my hand and didn’t allow for much filing finesse.

P4-Handle-Square Block

Next I tried making handles out of thick lengths of oak dowel rods.


Better, but it didn’t feel comfy in my hand. So next, I applied my drawknife, spokeshave, rasps, files and sandpaper to a large circular piece of wood (a former curtain rod), down to a handle-looking thingy.

P6-Handle-Shaped from Curtain Rod

That worked ok, but files didn’t stay put in the hole I drilled to accommodate them. Nor were the handles perfectly round either. Then I tried the Skrooz-on-type handles.


They have metal threads to accept the file tang and retain it. But I’ve had mixed results with files staying put. The handles are very comfortable and come in varying sizes. And no doubt, I’m not versed on which sized tang fits into which sized handle. (Order a #2 handle for 4” files, #3 for 5” files and so on.) But, as you’ll see, why should I be? Why is that something I should trouble myself to know?

Fast forward to a sunny, autumn Saturday in Denver. I opened the front door to find a box of vintage tools on the porch. A friend (God bless you Kay!) had picked them up at a garage sale and left them there to delight me. Among the various mini-saws and files was this.

P1-Craftsman File and Tool Handle Patent No 2,479,661

A Craftsman File & Tool Handle, Pat. No. 2,479,661. It has a wood handle with metal pieces for the vise jaws, ferrule and screw cap.


  • 4 3/4″ overall length, 1 1/8″ diameter.
  • Holds tanged tools.
  • Steel, parallel clamping jaws to grip the entire length of the inserted tang.
  • A knurled knob to adjust clamping pressure.

Here are some closups of the handle.

P2-Craftsman File and Tool Handle-Detail Shots

To use it, simply place the file tang in the jaws, aligning the “v” portions of the tang into the mating notches in the jaws. Then simply rotate the end cap to tighten the jaws. This approach easily handles various tang sizes from regular taper to double extra-slim taper.

Note that I don’t have to know the tang “size” of the file. Nor do I need to know what “size” the threaded inserts on my Skrooz-on handles are. All I have to know is how to operate the end cap to tighten and loosen the jaws. Very nice.

P9-Accomodates different tang sizes

And the vise works quite well. You can cinch it down tightly so that the file stays put. No moving around, nor falling out. And when I apply pressure to the handle in use (sharpening a saw, for example) it moves with the file as a single, secure unit. Moreover, the round handle allows me to make nuanced adjustments for rake.

P12-Filing Disston D-8 Thumbhole Saw

The only beef I have with the handle is that it isn’t as ergonomic in my hand as the Skrooz-on handles.

I like the thumbhold near the end of the handle with an upward flare.

P8-Skrewz-on closeup with thumbhold

Still, the Craftsman is comfy enough to get the job done.

Overall, you only need one or a few of these puppies to supply all your file handle needs. At the least, it’s perfect for your saw filing as you’ll be trading out many different sized files to sharpen backsaws, handsaws and panel saws of various points per inch.

And while my Ebay searches haven’t turned up a lot of vintage samples, you’re lucky enough to enjoy its 21-century granddaughter. She’s available from Midway USA by a new manufacturer, General.

P13-General Tool Handle at Midway USA

Note the very same patent number as the one that appears on my Craftsman handle? On this model, however, the handle looks to be made of rubber or hard plastic. On the plus side, the jaws are still made of steel. And at $5.59 + shipping, it’s worth trying at least one.

–Convenience (one handle fits most all your dang tanged tools).

–Ease-of-use (just fit the tang into the handle and adjust the tightening cap).

–Secure fit (thanks to the handle vise jaws).

–Handle not as ergonomic as Skrooz-on-type alternatives.

–Modern iteration sports a rubber/plastic handle (from what I can tell).

All told, the pros combine to make this nifty tool handle a welcome addition to my shop.


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Spicing up your handtool life with unusual planes

When I first got into hand planes, I focused on picking up bench planes for use in my shop. Then I started adding specialty planes, like a scrub plane to dimension wood. After that it was joinery planes (plow, rabbet & shoulder).

Today, any time I see an unusual plane, and it’s reasonably priced and it’s in decent shape, I buy it.

And so it was with this Stanley No. 194.



Not that this plane will be a user for me. Read Patrick’s Blood & Gore description of the plane below and you’ll see what I mean.

#194 Fibre board beveler plane, 8 3/8″L, the width of a razor blade, 1 1/2lbs, 1936 – 1958

“Oh joy, another plane for fiber board, but this one is special (can you say special?). It cuts a chamfer up to 3/8″W on fiber board. One woulda thought world peace was at hand with the introduction of this marvelous piece of technology, where folks worldwide would busy themselves with beveling fiber board all day. But, no, we had two wars to suffer through during its production. Hmmm, is there a cause and effect here, somewhere? “


I have one question.

This one came with a razor blade, so I either need to purchase a vintage blade or craft my own. Does anyone have a #194 blade they can spare (i.e. sell me)? And if not, would you provide the dimensions of the OEM blade? I could craft one from an old saw plate I’m thinking.


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Flea Market Tool Finds-Something I’ve never seen-13-01-27

Here are the latest cool items I picked up at my favorite flea-market booth dedicated exclusively to vintage tools.

First, a Bit Brace Extension, a Millers Falls No. 35. It’s in fantastic shape. I didn’t even know these existed until I picked it up. Anyone know what types of jobs they were used for in days gone by?


And some closeups.


Forstner bits being highly expensive as they are, I’ve taken to picking them up at estate sales and flea markets. Got a really nice 2″ one (for my drill press) at an estate sale. And this 5/8″ brace bit at the same flea market.

I followed a fellow woodworker’s advice on how to sharpen auger bits and now this puppy cuts a really nice hole.


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Free Maple! And giving back to a neighbor

Tim and Dianne are the kind of neighbors you love to have. Always ready to lend a hand and very handy at everything from blowing out your sprinklers for the winter to throwing an awesome block party.

So at the July 4th picnic, Tim mentioned that the decrepit red maple in their front yard had died and that they were going to have it removed. That prompted, “Say, you wouldn’t mind setting aside a piece of the trunk for your woodworking neighbor, would you Tim?” “No problem,” says he.

A week later I came home to find a piece of the promised log in our front yard. After dragging the heavy sucker—think of the opening scene from the movie Les Misérables where the con picked up the massive mast section with the French flag attached to it; that’s how heavy it felt—I set it in the back yard.

Over the next few days, I processed the log into 4/4 boards and stickered them to dry out. And if by “processed”, you take that to mean I lost 7 lbs in blood, sweat and tears using hand tools that left blisters on my hand, you’d be right. (The 8/12 on the boards is the month and year I processed them. I painted the ends to prevent checks, but that didn’t work too well.)


So when Christmas rolled around four months later, I decided to use the maple in a gift box for our fine neighbors. Yes, it’s still pretty green, and it was tough breaking it down to 3/8” thick boards for the sides and lid. But that’s nothing a  L O T  of sweat, a Disston D7 and a circular saw gone wild can’t handle.

I resawed one board to make a book-matched lid. However, the cut was so rough that the book-matching effect was reduced after planing it smooth.


I butt-joined the mahogany sides to the maple and pinned them with 1/8” brass rods.


I’ve experimented with the creation of finger holes to lift box lids as the lid edge sits flush to the front. On my first attempt, I used a half-round file to make the recess and this worked ok. On the second try, I used a sanding drum chucking in my drill press and that worked out badly because the box drifted as I held it at a 45 degree angle to the drum.

Then I read in David Freedman’s Box-Making Basics, that the author uses cove bits at the router table to create finger holes. Even better. Here’s a shot of the finger hold I made using a ¼” cove bit.


The Reveal


Tim and Dianne have three kids. That means they never have any time to themselves. So in keeping with the tradition of putting something into the gift box for good luck, we included a gift card to an upscale Chinese food chain. I’ve always said that date night tastes better over a glass of white wine and sweet and sour pork.

The belated Christmas card included many thanks for their help over the last year and well wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013. And the smile on Tim’s face when I delivered the box to him was thanks enough for me.

May they look upon their box and remember the red maple in the front yard that gave them such joy over the years. And if it calls to mind the gratitude of happy neighbors, all the better.


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Repairing a vintage handsaw handle

“We’re going to have to cut out a big chunk to save her,” I could hear the saw-handle doctor saying. “We’ll also have to deal with that cheek chip.” I swallowed hard before he continued. “The horn repair is pretty straight forward, but the other two things add up to major surgery.” After waiting a moment to let that sink in, he added “As her ward, you’re going to have to make the decision one way or the other.”

My heart sank at the diagnosis. But the x-rays showed over a century’s worth of damage as clear as a harvest moon.


My head told me that 124 years of kicking around shops and jobs are bound to produce some dings. But my heart longed to put the worst of these indignities in her past. So that she could face the next century with pride.

“Let’s operate,” I said. “What forms do you need me to sign?”

The “doctor” in this case was me. And the patient was a Disston No. 7 handsaw I recently picked up at a handsaw honey hole I wrote about here.


I resolved to repair the handle as best as I could. Still, I was nervous about putting her under the knife. I had never repaired a handle like this before, so I would be adding to my rehab skills on the fly. ***shudder*** “Surgery,” and “on the fly” are four words you never want to hear spoken in the same sentence.

I thought back to the first time I spied the Disston No. 7 standing in the “$3.00 each or 4 for $10.00″ barrel. Its fine lines, distinctive lamb’s tongue and incuse medallion had 19th-century written all over it. Back home, the Disstonian Institute’s Web site confirmed it, dating her to between 1878-1888. That makes her at least 125 years old. Oh the stories she could tell…

What’s your surgical plan doctor?
The red circles below identified three spots for repair.


The plan was this:

  • Cut out the offending areas—removing as little of the adjacent “good” material as possible (e.g. use a fine-kerf saw)
  • Flatten the cut bases to a consistent depth using a router plane
  • Glue over-sized donor wood in place, and then
  • Shape and blend them to form, using rasps, files and sandpaper.

Tracking down an organ donor
I have all sorts of scraps around my shop from cocobolo to mahogany to cherry. My goal was to have the repairs be as inconspicuous as possible—so none of those species would do.

The original handle appeared to be beech. I didn’t have any beech. In retrospect, I should have hunted some down. Instead, I hit eBay and garage sales to buy a few, worn out vintage saw handles to serve as donors.

Many of them were still in good shape and had neglected to check off the Yes under “organ donor” on their drivers’ license. But tragedy being a part of life, I found a brain-dead handle that had indeed given its consent in the form of a “Y”. And even though it was applewood, I paid up a whopping buck for it at a garage sale. As I walked away, I wondered if I had the courage to cut into it—cadaver or not.

A wood-surgeon’s tool kit
The delicate task of excavating damaged wood—and preparing the surface to graft healthy wood—called for my most precise tools.


Starting from the top and going counter-clockwise my surgical kit consists of:

–Dozuki dovetail saw for making very precise cuts

–LN dovetail saw for drift-free cuts where a thicker kerf is ok

–15 ppi carcass saw for preparing donor wood to be grafted

–Router plane to establish a consistent depth of the excavated area

–Chisel for detail work around excavations

When I need to make a very precise cut, I like to have the nurse slap my Dozuki saw into my hand. That’s the one at the top of the picture above. I’ve found that the very small kerf, pull-stroke cutting action and handle combine to give me surgical control over my sawing.

Making the first incisions
Cutting away the horn’s damage was pretty straightforward.


I made the rip cut first using the Dozuki saw. Then with the 15ppi JH Noble carcass saw I crosscut away the remaining waste.


The side, top and cheek cuts were a bit trickier. The lateral rip cuts could not be made with the saw teeth parallel to the handle because they would bite into other areas. So I angled the Dozuki as best I could to establish a shoulder. Then I used a chisel to pare away the bulk of the material.

A SB #71 router plane pared the last bit of wood to ensure even depths for both cuts.



Collecting the donor wood
Even if I had a 125 year old piece of beech I think it would have been difficult to get donor wood to match my handle’s grain. So I didn’t worry too much about using applewood. That said, I paid particular attention to ensure that the grain of donor wood matched the orientation and direction of the “healthy” handle.

This was really difficult to do because to get donor pieces thick enough, and with the grain oriented in the right direction, I had to work around saw-nut holes and the saw plate kerf.



Stitching up the cuts—the right adhesive for the job
Desirous of strong repairs, I opted to use 5-minute epoxy.


Note that the donor piece was oversized to allow for the shaping stage to come.


Performing plastic surgery-it’s all about symmetry and blending
Once the glue was dry, it was time to shape the oversized parts and blend them in with the rest of the handle.

A course rasp took off the majority of the excess while roughing out the curves. This was followed by a double-cut-half-round file to refine the shape and to remove more excess. As I got to 1/32″ of material, I used sandpaper to complete the final shaping. Eventually, the “proud” surfaces blended into the adjacent material, leaving a surface that felt to the touch to be in the same plane.

During the shaping process, I took great care to maintain a symmetrical appearance using the undamaged sections on the opposite side of the handle as a reference. This turned out to be more difficult than I thought because my labors display slight differences between the two sides.

Before sanding the new pieces flush to the side of the handle, I shaped the saw-bolt holes using a 9/16″ spade bit. I put it in a hand brace, and only rotated the cutting edge along the newly added wood to “carve” out the remainder of the hole. This was done while simultaneously applying English so as to rim the new wood without cutting away any of the legacy wood.


Here’s what the handle looked like after the repairs but before finishing.


Applying a dermal abrasion to get that youthful look
Once the shaping was done, I sanded the whole handle through the grits (150, 220, 320 and 400), then took it for a spin on the cotton wheel of my bench grinder. This polishes the handle to leave a silky-smooth surface inviting to the touch.

After letting two coats of BLO dry overnight, I applied three coats of paste wax, allowing each coat to dry for at least 15 minutes before buffing it out.

The reveal…good thing they signed the “informed consent” form
Well, for my first effort, I’m ok with it. My suture work could use some improvement however.


The epoxy glue lines are far too conspicuous in my opinion so next time I’ll try using yellow wood glue. And while I did a decent job aligning the grain in the upper fix, the cheek repair was a few degrees off.

In my own defense, I was collecting donor wood from an old saw handle, complete with weird angles, changing grain direction and such.

And the grains of the two woods are sufficiently different that I might as well have tracked down some beech stock. It would have been easier to work than the vintage handle I butchered up.

If you don’t look too closely, you’ll see a 19th century No. 7 that’s going to become a nice user once I sharpen it.


Once the finish dried, the patient was discharged.

She’ll still have to go in for outpatient care—to be sharpened—but we expect her to make a full recovery, and lead a normal, productive, sawyer’s life for the next century. And that’s a healthy prognosis in my book.


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2012 in review-Thank you all for taking the time to enjoy the words I crafted for you this year.

Many thanks to my readers for your feedback. It is invaluable in helping me to keep writing that which delights you…and to phase out that which does not. As much pleasure as the writing process gives me, I consider its true measure whether it enriches your life in some small way. Your collective comments suggest that I’ve met that standard more often than not. I shall endeavor to keep that faith with you in the new year.

Here’s wishing you a happy, healthy prosperous 2013!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 17,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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Quick to make; treasured for a lifetime-My gift-giving mantra

Fellow Lumberjock Woodwrecker’s Palm Box projects gave me just the inspiration I needed to get my creative energies flowing.

Palm Boxes for Christmas.

It turned out to be a woodworking perfect storm, allowing me to:

1. Get experience mixing and matching different/expensive wood species with a minimal investment in materials and time,

2. Practice new box-making techniques like using pins for hinges, butt joints reinforced with dowels and brass rods, and laminations. And best of all…

3. Creating Christmas gifts that family and friends will enjoy over the years.

For matching wood species, I turned to Garret Hack’s Fine Woodworking’s article The Right Way to Use Contrast. It was a lot of fun trying out many of the combinations he suggested.

David Freedman’s Box-Making Basics provided me with details on how to do the pin hinges. Given that I used butt joints to affix the sides, I reinforced them with either oak dowels or the same 1/8” brass rod I used for the hinges. On the butternut/walnut box #4 below, I shaved off too much while shooting the sides of the lid, so I laminated some butternut to the walnut lid to get a perfect fit.

Finally, I chose the best scraps I had: ones that showed figured grain and beautiful colors. I used ¼” plywood for all the bottoms.

Here’s the basic design:



Here’s the lineup:


Box #1: I built this one for Mom. The front/back is of alder which stained quite well (tung oil), the sides are walnut and the lid is mahogany. I shipped it before taking any measurements. She told me she’s going to use it to hold recipe cards.



Box #2: This one is for a buddy. (8 1/8” L x 4 3/8” W x 2 7/8” H) He and I like to share a cigar now and then, and even though this is not a humidor, I’ll throw in a couple cigars before dropping it by his house. The lid is made from reclaimed oak 2 x 4s I got from a loading dock in Fort Collins, CO. The sides are walnut and the front/back is alder. The front/back are alder and the sides are walnut. Also finished with tung oil.



Box #3: This one’s for my lady. (8” L x 4 3/8” W x 3 ¼” H)Having gotten the design down and practiced drilling holes for the hinge rods, I stepped up to cherry and maple. I used the most figured of each I could find though the spalted maple lid makes a nice contrast with the cherry. I finished this one with three coats of tung oil followed by three coats of paste wax.



Box #4: This ones’…for me. (10 1/8” L x 4 7/8” W x 3 ¼” H) I took an instant liking to working the butternut and the contrast with the walnut is very elegant in my view. I decided to keep this one myself, assigning it to duty on my work desk to house the ink bottles for my fountain pens. I used brass rods to reinforce the butt joints gluing them in with 5 minute epoxy. I finished this one using Danish oil.



Candle Holders # 5 & #6: For my lady. The laminated sides are actually cut-offs from the mahogany/alder prototype I built to guide my build of a walnut/spalted maple wedding box for a buddy. I disassembled the glued up box by cutting off the boards at the joints. And rather than toss the joints, I used them in the building of the candle holder. I also used brass rods to reinforce the joint of the top piece to the base. Danish-oil finish.


Here’s another one–walnut with butternut borders.


When I cut out the hole for the candle holder, it left a nice lip on the disk, which, rather than throwing out, I decided to make into a tree ornament.


Pen/Pencil Holder #7: My engineer Dad loves this type of stuff. He has fistfuls of pens and pencils so this one will get filled quickly. I don’t have any pictures of the one I completed for my Dad, but here’s a picture of one a fellow Lumberjock did. I used a tung-oil finish.


And that’s a wrap for my 2012 Christmas builds.


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