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 WordPress.com 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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Choose to be green-don’t trash it, refit it

It was early in the season and the Broncos were getting spanked by Atlanta. Well, at least my lady and I had our cheese plate and a glass of wine to console us. Then it happened. The handle of my favorite cheese knife snapped off at the tip. I was carving off a chunk of “Robust” cheese from Whole Foods. Clearly the foot pounds of pressure that I applied exceeded the tensile strength of the cheap Chinese plastic handle.

Disgusted, I was half way to the trash with the whole kitten ka boodle before I stopped in mid stride. Rather than consign the blade (which was still good, and oh by the way did I mention how much I like it?) to a landfill to be dug up a thousand years from now by a bearded archeologist, I resolved to fit it with a new handle.

A 2″ x 2″ piece of pine looked ripe for the project.

So I marked the 4.5″ length on a foot-long piece, laid out the center on the end grain and drilled a 1/8″ to accept the blade’s tang. Then I demarked the handle’s end point with shallow saw cuts so as not to sever it from the 1-foot long stick. I did this so that I could more easily shape the handle end because the lower part of the stick would be anchored in my vise.

Next came the drawknife which cut away the bulk of the material. I outlined the perimeter of the ferrule over the end hole then cut away the wood until I got close to fitting it. At this point I switched to 80 grit sandpaper until the ferrule just barely fit over the end.

The drawknife was followed by a very rough rasp, which was followed by a smoother file whose facets looked something like a float. After that I used 80 grit sandpaper to complete the final shaping and finished off the wood going through progressive grits of 100, 220, 320, 400.

One liberal coat of tung oil finish sealed the wood. Then it was a matter of locking the blade in the vise and tapping the wood handle onto the tang. I should have epoxied the tang in the hole, but it feels firm enough at this point.

Then it was time to cut the cheese. Which I did with gusto on my Robusto.

Ah…to hold the blade in my hand again is like finding the-most-comfortable-sweatshirt-you-ever-owned-but thought-your-mom threw away, behind the couch.

And it still fits! Cheese on brothers and sisters.

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How to convert your drill press into a woodworking tool

“Now what?”

That’s what I asked myself after buying a $25.00 drill press at an estate sale and tuning it up. You can read about that adventure here.

The “what” as it turns out, was to make it woodworking-friendly by building and affixing a drill press table. Let’s face it. While the metal circular shelf might be great for metal working, it’s crap for delivering the precision us woodworkers require.

So after some research I created a list of criterion that my table had to meet:

  • Hold stock securely for mortising and drilling
  • Able to angle with bed
  • Large enough to complete most tasks easily
  • Pleasing appearance
  • Replaceable insert
  • Adjustable fence with slotted grooves top and bottom to secure stops and holddowns

That said, I settled on this design…mostly. 

I tweaked the design by eschewing slot tracks that formed a square, and going with two tracks perpendicular to the front and back.

As an aside. Can I ask you a personal question? When was the last time you saw the word “eschewing” in a woodworking article?

The fence I made from a reclaimed oak 2″ x 4″ that I picked up for free at a Fort Collins, CO warehouse shipping dock advertised on Craig’s List. The base is ¾” plywood with oak banding around the edges. I eased the sharp edges with a roundover bit on the router table.

The t-slot hardware I got from Lee Valley because it was inexpensive. The hold-down hardware I got from Rockler on sale.

The stop blocks I made out of scraps.


The insert, I made out of 3/8″ plywood.


Using it
First things first. Here’s the final build.


As careful I was in my planing and squaring the fence, it still requires me to tweak it a bit when I put it under tension. Meaning that things can go slightly out of square. This is a case where working the fence on a power jointer would have paid dividends.

Still, the fence is functional and, so far, has met all my needs.

You’ll note that the top of my fence has a slot but no t-slot track. I cut the slot in anticipation of purchasing the t-slot track later (wanted to minimize costs on the initial build). Frankly, I haven’t felt a need for it so I’ll go without for now.

I also had to cut out a bit of table to allow the table adjustment handle to move freely.



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