Thursday, October 31, 2013

Branching Out

Being surrounded by the 17th century and it's crafts and wares on a daily basis tends to seep into your psyche. As a result I have had a nagging obsession with weaving a basket. So I decided I would try my hand at it and see where it gets me.

Step one was finding material. I first tried Green Briar because it grows like a weed around the museum. This turned out to be a big waste of time. It is kinky (not in a fun way), thorny, and quite brittle when trying to bend it, all very poor qualities when making baskets.

Flash forward a couple days and I was cutting nice Cherry coppice shoots for some wattle in a wall. After trimming off the smaller branches I noticed that they were the perfect size and springiness for basket weaving. I bundled the "scrap" and headed off to the shop after work to do

One cherry faggot!

Copying some of the period baskets that I studied at the museum, I made two sets of three spars for the bottom of the basket. And by studying I mean looking at briefly and observing all the nonessential details and ignoring the actually important construction techniques...I might have to take a better look at some of the baskets in the future.

Six spars makes twelve I think I am just making up basket terms.

Next I starting weaving, over and under over and under over and get the point. This is where better observation would have helped me out...I was pretty much just making things up as I went along.

Here is the bottom coming along nicely.

After about 45 minutes I had an almost finished bottom. I tried to add the spars for the sides, but I didn't have stock that was large enough, and I need to research how I can go about bending the sticks at right angles without snapping the wood (maybe boiling first?).

Some spindly looking side spars.

Off to the coppice grove (aka Alden House garden) to harvest some more stock before continuing this basket, stay tuned for part two shortly.

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Mallet is Still Cooler than Yours

Still fightin' words, but once again I am confident that this statement is I now have two cool mallets that could absolutely beat up yours in a fight. On top of other ridiculous goings on at the museum, I am able to make my own tools in traditional manners. As I was making some gluts out of really nice straight grained hickory I noticed that this was some really choice wood...and I could really use a carpenters mallet.

I did some quick research and found some great wood cuts and engravings, as well as Moxon's description of a carpenters mallet. So based on these overall proportions and shapes I made myself as traditional a mallet as I could (of course beech would have been the ideal choice of wood). I limited myself to only hand tools, and even used a wooden plane to smooth the faces and fair the top curve (a lot tricker than metal planes, but really satisfying). The mortise is not as tapered as I would have liked, so I added a couple pegs to keep things nice and snug.

Heart wood and sap wood are just as useful in Hickory.

Friday, October 4, 2013

So when do we Sharpen?

Today at the museum some of the wood-loving folks (aka wood butchers) and the blacksmiths had The Saw Wright, Matt Cianci, come over and do an all day saw sharpening intensive class. He really knows his stuff and enlightened us all on the basics of taking our old beat down reproduction saws and sharpening them to be...well...better.

Matt has a real great method for teaching novice saw sharpeners and breaking down all the steps into bite sized pieces. He first starts by explaining all the theory and saw tooth geometry. We even made a makeshift easel out of our riving break, "The most sturdy easel I have ever seen" according to Matt.

After the theory, we jumped over to the bench and Matt started on some demonstrations.

No detail is too small when sharpening saws, Matt explains everything.

We set up some "beater plates" and Matt runs through jointing, shaping, and setting. These are steps that are needed to rehab an abused uneven saw plate into a nice usable sharp saw.

"The best six bucks I ever spent" Matt says, as he explains making a rake angle guide.

Peter Follansbee even stopped by for a lesson, he was sick of "buggering up" his saws.

Jointing establishes a nice uniform straight tooth-line, or a bellied tooth-line in some large green crosscut saws. This is almost the most important part of sharpening a saw, without it you will slowly wear the teeth into a wavy, usually convex, mess that can be seen on so many vintage handsaws.

Jointing with "training wheels," we soon ditched the jig and went free hand.

Next comes shaping, where we even out the teeth and establish the basic geometry of the saws. We started on Rip saw teeth, because they are much easier to file...working tooth by tooth, and focusing only on slope and rake.

Doing some practice shaping on the "beater" saw plate. By the way, the Gramercy Saw Vice is incredible.

Matt then explains the many ways that have been used to put set into the teeth. Hammer with setting block, saw wrest, and pliers type saw sets. He shows us his really nice pistol grip saw sets (Stanley 42x) and takes a look over and approves the ones we have for our use at the museum (APEX pattern generics). He shows us the proper use of the pliers sets...which is much easier and faster than I had imagined.

The Stanley 42x is a sweet tool, it clamps the saw plate, and then engages the anvil plunger to induce the set.

We also played around with a saw wrest that Matt spotted hanging over our workbench. He pointed out that most people use this tool incorrectly. The correct use is to place the slot above the gullets, spanning two teeth, and then twisting the wrest so that one tooth is set in one direction while the other tooth is set in the opposite direction. Using this method for set is a lot more uncontrollable than the pliers type sets...but it is an older more research needs to be done to see if this is what we should be using. For the time being we are sticking with pliers sets, just for the ease of use and consistency while refining our sharpening skills.

I had no idea that this tool was a saw wrest, but it is a pretty interesting solution to putting set into a saw.

Time to joint again!...who would have thought that sharpening a saw consisted of so little actual sharpening. At 2:00pm, after properly shaping the teeth, introducing set, and re-jointing the tooth-line, it is finally time to SHARPEN the teeth. Basically you file each gullet until the flats on the top of each tooth (introduced by jointing) disappears.

The teeth aren't perfectly shaped, but you can clearly see the sharpened versus non-sharpened teeth.

The last step is to stone the tooth-line, essentially running a medium grit stone along the side of the teeth, removing any small burs introduced by filing. This step just sweetens up the teeth and makes the saw cut a little bit smoother. And the true test...Matt grabs the first saw finished (courtesy of Ryan) and takes it for a test rip.

This freshly sharpened saw cuts fast and easy into this half dried white oak.

The class was very informative, and I would recommend any class that Matt is teaching. He really knows his stuff, never minds digressing...which is a quite common problem with my type...and has a contagious enthusiasm not just for saws, but for all tools and woodworking.

PS. I put these pictures on my computer and wrote this post as soon as I got home...but somehow Peter Follansbee already beat me to the punch. Well done Mr. Follansbee, well done.