Monday, February 25, 2013

A Good Haul

This weekend I tricked The Boss into taking a trip up to Southern Maine to check out all the Antique shops along Rte 1. I told her that we could look for decorations for the house, or new props for her photographs...but she could see right through me and knew I was in it for the tools. Well it is a good thing she went along anyways because I found several gold mines.

A modest days take...I am pacing myself.

We found a flyer with "all" the shops listed, which was around thirty, but we found about twice as many stores that were not advertised. We started in York and worked our way up to Kennebunk before the stores closed. Anyone in the New England area should definitely make it up to Rte 1 at some point because we were out for 7 hours and only made it half way up the Antique super highway (my words not Maine's).

Anyways, on to the good stuff. I started off finding a whole basket full of Auger bits, I grabbed a #12 and a # 15, which were two sizes that I needed to fill in my set. All of the bits were in great shape, and there were a couple Craftsman Braces that needed some TLC, but I already have a nice brace.

Two very clean Auger Bits 3/4" and 15/16"

Next we found a great cluttered store that had a front porch chock full of old chisels and clamps. If I had the time, money, knowledge, and inclination I would have spent hours digging through bins and buckets to get some great deals. I saw several large Buck Bros Cast Steel chisels and I am pretty sure I have heard that those are great tools (sound off in the comments to confirm or deny). I left with a 1/4" mortising chisel and an old yard stick, which I will be using in a forthcoming project.

1/4" Pigsticker Chisel, hopefully it sharpens up OK 

Another great find was an Antique mall that had over fifty individual dealers. There were a couple interesting stalls with old tools, but one dealer stood out. There were tons of great looking planes and frame saws, several really good condition bi-fold rules, and the coolest mallet I have ever seen in my entire life, which I will reveal in more detail in my next post.

A Very Interesting Mallet

The final store that we stumbled upon was the best of all. We walked in at 4:57, right before closing, and directly at the front door was an armoire filled with wooden molding planes and other assorted hand tools. It looked as if some of these planes were in service just the day before, which is amazing because some of them dated back to the early 1800s. I grabbed a 1/4" beading plane, and made a mental note to withdraw all of my savings and go back the next day (kidding...or am I).

This 1/4" Beading Plane is in Great Shape

We had such a great time that we are planning on heading up to Scarborough in the Spring and working our way down to cover all the stores that we didn't make it to.

PS. I am a terrible blogger because I was out all day and saw so many great tools but I took ZERO pictures. I feel shame and will work on this in the future.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I Want to Go to There

So unless you have been living under a rock you have heard that Handworks in Amana, Iowa is going to be the most epic woodworking event this decade. I want to go to Handworks so bad I can taste it. The venue is amazing, the vendors are unique, and the focus of the whole event is the driving force of this blog. Anyone who has anything to do with hand wood working is going to be there, especially all of the best boutique tool dealers in the world. I am trying my best to convince The Boss (aka my wife) what a wonderful tourist spot Amana is in the spring, but I am getting a feeling she is not buying it. So to anyone that can ditch a couple days from work to walk around a dim dusty barn chatting with bearded men about century old techniques, I envy you. Hopefully I can scrounge enough money together for the trip, but if not, give paradise my best.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Do what you love, and love what you do

It is funny how when you are in a certain frame of mind you always seem to find things that appear to echo how you are feeling. While I was wandering the digital highway I ran across a wonderful video narrated by Alan Watts.You can watch the video below to get the full effect of his words and imagery...but be careful, it might just make you quit your job.

This video stuck a deep chord with me as I am somewhat a product of this philosophy. I went to school for Mechanical Engineering, but after four years of school and several internships I realized that this was not what I wanted to be doing, especially since work takes up so much of ones adult life.

To me, this looks like hell on earth.

So I made a decision, a brash one maybe, but it was mine to make. I would spend my life creating things on my own terms. Yes I would have to get a job to pay the bills, but why not have it somewhat related to the things that I truly want to do with my life. So I took a job as a carpenter. The work is hard and seldom glamorous, but I feel fulfilled at the end of each day.

The view from my "office" this week. What did yours look like?

Do I regret it? Not in the least. I built my own house for a fraction of what it would have cost if I hired someone else to build it while I withered away in a cubicle. No one can ever take your knowledge away...except for father time, but he does whatever the heck he wants anyways so I wouldn't worry about that. And on top of that I get to take beaten down, outdated houses, and build something unique and beautiful everyday of my life.

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Single Piece of Wood...

That is all it took to forever change my view on woodworking, and more importantly my interest in craftsmanship and artisan made goods. Recently I stumbled upon The Woodwrights Shop with Roy Underhill. In my first eye opening episode Roy was talking about a French fellow by the name of Roubo, or more accurately a book stand that Roubo discussed in one of his writings. This book stand, commonly known as the Roubo Book Stand in hand woodworking circles (which aren't as small as they used to be) is carved and sawn from a single piece of wood. The most impressive part of the book stand is the fact that it has fully functioning hinges that allow the whole thing to collapse for easy storage.

Made from a single piece of Hickory...the heart cutout is not Roubo's original design.

Needless to say I was completely sold on the whole concept. Here is this amazing piece of workmanship that can ONLY be made using hand tools, no amount of rigging or jigging or Tom foolery that normally accompanies power tools will help you turn a single piece of wood into a fold-able book stand. So like most of my prototype ideas I decided that my sweet, innocent, and highly understanding wife was the perfect person that I could make this book stand for...and Valentines Day was coming up after all.

This side profile shows how ingenious Roubo's design really is.

Flash forward several hours in the shop banging dull chisels and sawing (the only handsaw that I had at the time was an old, dull Craftsman panel saw from my father) and I had a quite respectable looking book stand  After some decorative curves, a heart cutout, and sanding I put on a mineral oil/beeswax finish and stood back to admire my very first truly handmade ware.

The detail of the hinges shows how hand tools are the only way to go with this project.

This handmade book stand was the definitive turning point in my thought process on building things. I now spend my time reading about hand woodworking, planning new projects, researching old and new hand techniques, and trying my best to amass a tool collection that most woodworkers would deem useless.

I love the Grain on the Back...and it matches our cabinets perfectly!

P.S. My wife loves her book stand  and actually uses it more as an iPad stand while cooking and baking, not exactly Roubo's original intent but it works quite well. She also took these great photographs of her book stand, so if you like what you see check out her blog to see some really great photos.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Antique Saw Vise

So I was out at the antique stores this morning looking for some over priced rusted junk, when low and behold I stumbled across a marvelous find beneath a pile of old cobbler's shoe forms.

An Unique Old Saw Vise

It is an old saw vise unlike any that I have run across. When I saw the price tag for $12 I couldn't give the shop keeper my money fast enough. This was a steal and a half (as far as my skewed mind is concerned) and the shop keeper didn't even know what it was. "I have had that for almost three years now, I didn't think I would ever sell it," she said as she rang me out.

You can see the cam lever released, which opens the jaws of the vise.

So lets start with what I do know. It has a very simple mechanism, a cam actuated lever that closes the jaws, and the entire vise has only three parts, the front jaw, the rear jaw and the cam lever. The vise is just under 10", which is great for my dovetail saw, but a little on the small side for my Sash and Panel saws, but I figure I can sharpen all of my saws with only one re-clamping.

The Japanning is about 50% intact, so I will probably hit it with a wire brush and give it a nice new coat of paint. The top of the jaws has definitely had its run-ins with saw files over the years, but this only adds to the charm of the tool. Finally, and probably my favorite part, there are four mounting holes cast into the body of the rear jaw. This mounting system seems to be a lot sturdier than the clamp style ones that I have run across so often at the flea market.

A rigid mounting system.

There is a makers mark cast into the body under the jaws...but it is rusted over and filled with gunk so it is hard to read. As far as I can tell it reads "STBARRE PAT'D" but my attempts at online research have come up empty handed. After I clean and refinish this vise I might be able to get a better reading of the cast name.

Anyways, I will be spending some time cleaning, oiling, and refurbishing this vise, so follow my blog to stay updated on my progress for this and other projects. Post your comments if you have seen a vise like this, or even better, know when and where this specific model originated.