The Nib and the Blade

Ponder the nib as you hold the wood in the bench hook and saw across the grain. Ponder the nib as you hold the wood in the bench hook and saw across the grain. Good handsaws are taper ground that is, the metal is thinner on the back than it is on the tooth side to permit an easier passage through the kerf. They may also be ground thinner near the toe end of the back than at the handle end. You can test the grinding and temper of the steel by bending the blade in your hands. The evenness of the...

Knife and Crooked Knife

In truth, a knife is all you really need but once you've acquired many other tools, you've probably forgotten where you left your knife. Knives are, well, knife-edged tools sharpened on both sides of the edge so that rocking on the bevel controls the depth of cut. You don't have much control with both hands working out in space, one holding the work and the other holding the knife. When shaping a long peg, try resting your knife hand on your knee and pulling the peg back, sliding it between...

Saddle Notches

Unhewn logs are most simply joined with saddle notches. Rough and ready, these are simply hollows chopped to cup over the ends of the round logs below. Each hollow, however is a scribed, custom fit, its depth determining the closeness of the logs. Roll a log into place on the wall and there will be a gap between this log and the one directly beneath it. Notching will drop the upper log to close this gap, as well as locking the corners together. The question is, how much of the gap do you want...

Stock Knife

Since this leverage idea works so well, let's extend the idea by making a knife with one end anchored by a loose hook set into a block and the other end extending to form a lever. With a low-hanging T-handle grip for control, the stock knife was the preferred tool of wooden clog makers. The hooked end limits the length of work that will fit under the blade, but, by definition, clog makers don't work wood much more than a foot long. A stock knife is supposed to be safer than a hatchet for...

Fillister Plane

What if the rabbet plane did have a fence that could be set to control the width of the cut What if it had a depth stop as well, and perhaps a little vertical blade to sever cross-grain before the skewed iron shears it out This is the moving fillister, and many woodworkers get more use out of it than out of almost any other plane. The fence on the moving fillister is held to the sole of the plane by two screws and will reveal only as much of the iron as needed for the width of the cut. The...

Dovetail Notching

Half-dovetail notches are even simpler to cut than V-notches. The process is the same, except that you cut just one slope on the logs instead of two. The half-dovetail notches always slope down across the grain of the lower log to the outside. As before, scribe upward with parallel lines. As with a cutting edge, you try to find a compromise angle for the slopes of the dovetails. The steeper the slope, the greater the interlock, but the more fragile the notches become. This is a good excuse to...

Boring Machine

The first boring machine salesman must have had an easy job until the competition got going. True, all boring machines work about the same as they bore the hole. Two hand cranks turn a bevel gear meshing with a second bevel gear on the shaft that holds the interchangeable auger bits. This lets you set the machine on the timber, sit on it, and crank away as the machine guides the auger with speed, power and precision. The gear frame slides down a rack as the lead screw of the auger pulls it into...

Mortise and Tenon

Joseph Moxon in his 1678 Mechanick Exercises struggled with proportioning the basic mortise and tenon joint. He observed that if one be weaker than the other, the weakest will give way to the strongest when an equal Violence is offer'd to both. Therefore you may see a necessity of equallizing the strength of one to the other, as near as you can. But because no rule is extant to do it by, nor can (for many Considerations, I think,) be made, therefore this equallizing of strength must be referred...

Corner Chisel

The carpenter's corner chisel squares a mortise after the auger roughs it in. It's an old idea, but for carpenters, the advantage was so marginal it hardly justified the cost. As tools became cheaper, specialty tools like the corner chisel became more common at building sites. Carpenters, working in straight-grained timbers, can readily square corners with a framing chisel. The edge goes in across the grain and splits off the waste toward the auger hole. For wheelwrights, however, mortising elm...

Plan E A Spring Pole Lathe

Perhaps because of its simplicity, the spring-pole lathe is easily dismissed as a make-do device. This lathe, adapted from an old German technical encyclopedia, is no make-do. It's precise, portable, powerful, adjustable, adaptable, and self-contained. The two dead centers permit no play in the workpiece, and the direct drive of the cord wrapped around the wood loses no power in transmission, friction, or vibration. I want you to make this lathe. I based the entire design on readily available 1...

Two Shaving Horses

Spokeshaving Piece Wood

With the drawknife's keen edge, as you sit on its back split from logs with a wedge, which you rive out by breaking the grain that is weak that flows through the oak like gray hair in a streak. The legs fit in holes in the plank like a stool, each fixed with a wood wedge that follows this rule Shaving horse legs 2 x 2 x ig plank 3 x g x 60 ramp 11 2 x g x30 support 6 high clamp overall 31 long head 6 x 6 arm 2 x 3 fit the wedge 'cross the grain of the plank that you sit on, its strength to...

Cleaver and Countryman

When frost will not suffer to dyke and to hedge, then get thee a heat with thy beetle and wedge A short saw, and long saw, to cut a-two logs, an axe, and an adze, to make trough for thy hogs A grindstone, a whetstone, a hatchet and bill, with hamer, and english naile, sorted with skil A frower of iron, for cleaving of lath, with rollforasawpit, good husbandrie hath. Exploit the weakness of the grain when you work wood Exploit the weakness of the grain when you work wood and its strength when...

Grindstone

Axes, saws, and augers are tempered so that you can sharpen them with a file. On most chisels, gouges, adzes, shaves, and knives, however, a file will skate off the hard edge. These hard-tempered tools must be sharpened with a stone, and even those tools that a file can cut will benefit from the finer edge produced by the whetstone. The whetstone gives the final polish to the edge, but the work begins with the coarse grit of the sandstone wheel. When you acquire a good sandstone grinding wheel,...

Knuckle Joint

What supports a drop leaf when it's up Sliding supports can pull out, and wings and gate legs can open on metal hinges. But when you want a single rail and leg to swing out, you use the knuckle joint a wooden hinge with intermeshed wooden barrels turning on a metal pin. This joint shares characteristics of the rule joint, in that each cylindrical knuckle fits in a concave socket on the adjoining piece. Like dovetails, however, knuckle joints always join the ends of boards, not the sides. You...

Scrub Planes and Winding Sticks

Debate of the Carpenter's Tools, 1500 The art of the plane would seem to be all edge no wedge. The wood is cut so finely that it never builds up enough leverage to split, even minutely, ahead of the edge. At least that's the theory. In practice, we use a sequence of planes moving closer to that ideal. Working across the grain with a short scrub plane, the joiner can quickly level the surface of the wood. The jack or fore plane (15-17 inches long), working down the grain, smoothes the rough...

Lapped Half Blind Dovetail

These are the dovetails for drawers and casework, hidden on one side of the joint and exposed on the other. On the carcase of a desk, the top and bottom may be the same thickness as the sides, but their dovetails stop short, leaving unbroken the display of grain on the sides. Drawers also have an unbroken display on the front, but usually join pieces of unequal thickness the sides and back being thinner than the front. Drawers often have their bottoms set in grooves plowed into the front and...

Sawhorse and Square

The besaigue works to its best advantage when the timbers are lying low to the ground. It's a French thing, but like most other carpenters, those in France also elevate their work on the horse foaled of an acorn. Sawhorses for heavy oak timbers are more like benches made from a log flattened on top, with three or four legs set into holes bored through it. For stability and strength, the legs of a sawhorse splay out to the sides and to the ends. When making a heavy horse with augered leg holes,...

Plan F A Treadle Lathe

Treadle Lathe Plans

This is a good working lathe that makes up in hardware availability what it might lack in historical accuracy. You can build this lathe with common lumber and hardware store materials, but it does require some heating and hammering to bend the crankshaft and forge the drive center. If you are not set up to do this yourself, it's a fine opportunity to support your local blacksmith. The lathe frame is just three right triangles connected by four horizontal 2-by-4 rails. Two rails form the bottom,...

Sharpening Big Crosscut Saws

Raker-toothed crosscut saws operate on the same principle you find in planes that work across the grain. They first slice across the grain with knifelike blades and then shave out the wood in between. Learn to sharpen them and they won't be such misery whips. When all is right, the saw works easily and pulls out long strings of wood, severed by the slicers and planed free by the rakers. The crosscut saw can make its own filing vise out in the woods. Saw a kerf in a log just deep enough so that...

Bowl Turning

Pole Lathe Mandrel

So, it seems, there are times when you need a scraper. Sets of turning tools include scrapers, and there are times in spindle turning when you're glad to have them. Perhaps when turning a boxwood flute you need a sharp corner. The scraper works brilliantly on box and other very hard woods if it's sharp and held at the proper angle to the surface. A spike mandrel lets you turn bowls between centers. A spike mandrel lets you turn bowls between centers. It's the burr on the edge that does the...

Through Dovetail Tails First

Dovetails are cut by superimposition. I wrote earlier about laying out mortise and tenon joints by superimposing one element on the other and transferring dimensions. This makes some people uncomfortable. Good cogs in the mass production machine are supposed to work from a measured drawing, manufacturing each precise part and then fitting them all together. But try to find a measured drawing from the days of the great cabinetmakers there are none. Their forms emerged from the constraints of...

Lap Joints and Gauges

The simplest timber joints are lapped notches, just like those used in log buildings. For plain half-laps, you take away half of each timber at the area of overlap. You'll find half-laps at the very bottom of a building in the corners where the sills intersect, and in the very top where the rafters join at the peak. The laps usually get pegged for security, but as always, the joint carries the load, not the peg. Half-laps bring equally thick timbers into the same plane, but few timbers are...

Molding Planes

The jumble of molding planes seems bewildering too complex to comprehend. American practice uses many specialized planes, each doing one complex molding. In the British tradition, the joiner tends to build up complex shapes with a few planes. I recently bought a chest of molding planes owned by three generations of English joiners, E. F. Margetson, Tom Killner, and Robert Simms, respectively. Chests of tools are time-traveling vessels, and each passenger has a story to tell. There were the...

Tenon Cutter and Spoke Pointer

If pegs had shoulders, they'd be tenons. Tenon cutters were once an obscure wheelwright's tool, but the popularity of rustic furniture has brought a new generation of designs. For the wheelwright, the tenon cutter, also called a hollow auger, quickly shaped a precise, round tenon on the end of a spoke, ready to fit into a hole bored through the felly, a section of the circumference of the wheel. For the rustic furniture maker, hollow augers quickly terminate nature's shapes with simple...

Rubbed Glue

Miter Shooting Board

If you look at the end of a board and see that the rings run across the width, that board will warp. Perhaps not much, but in humid weather the rings will curl tighter, and in dry weather the rings will flatten out. Since the warping is predictable, you can arrange the boards to cancel out the cumulative effect. Alternating the heart side down and heart side up will ensure that one cups up while the next cups down in a gentle undulation. Clamping two boards together and jointing them at the...

Mortise and Tenon for Leg and Rail

Mortise Gauge

The heart of joinery, like that of carpentry, is the proper mortise and tenon joint. It makes our tables and chairs, our doors and windows, with mechanical and aesthetic refinements for each application. We'll take them in turn, starting with the table. At each corner of a chair or table stands a post. When we make doors and windows, we call these posts stiles, but since we're starting with tables, they're legs. We'll cut mortises in the legs to receive the tenons from the horizontal pieces....

Plan C A Roubo Bench

Wooden Bench Screw

The common workbench of Andr Roubo's time was a single massive plank sprouting four legs. I say sprouting rather than supported by because this form of bench uses stool rather than frame construction more like a Windsor chair than a table. The version I describe here, fitted with a toolbox with a locking lid set between the stretchers, is based on one I saw in the town of Isle sur la Sorgue in southern France. Simple as it is, this is a challenging bench to make. The timbers are big hard to...

Coopered Joints

Coopers rightly frown if you call them barrel makers. Staved containers come in all sizes, from firkins to hogsheads, with barrels somewhere in between. Coopers have the longest plane of all (as they are quick to tell you). The five- or six-foot-long cooper's jointer inverts the relationship between work piece and plane. The cutting edge of the cooper's jointer faces upward, with one end of the plane resting on the floor while the other end is elevated on two legs. The cooper stands beside his...

Sliding Dovetail

One measure of the security of a joint is how far it must move before it disconnects. A second measure is the direction of disassembly relative to the load. A simple housed dado joint has a grip of less than an inch. The main load is downward, but sides only have to bow out or the shelves bend a little before the books go tumbling down. The sliding dovetail keeps your books on the shelves by keeping the direction of disassembly perpendicular to the load. It has to be withdrawn six inches or so...

White Oak Black Ash and Hickory Bark Bottoms

Chairs with bent backs and split splats need woven wood seats. White oak splits for baskets and chair bottoms come from the sapwood of a soft, straight, smooth-barked tree about three to eight inches in diameter. Split the log into pie-shaped sections, and then split off the heartwood as close as you can to the dividing line between the light and dark wood. Shave off the bark and any remaining heart, working it down until you have a piece of clean sapwood that is as wide in the plane of the...

Plan D Haslucks Bench

Paul Nooncree Hasluck seems to have been the most prolific how-to writer of the last century. You'll find under his name books on making clocks, violins, picture frames, saddles, and motorcycles, to name a few volumes on working with metal, glass, cordage, bamboo, and wood and works devoted to photography and rustic carpentry. Born in 1854, by the beginning of the twentieth century Hasluck was editing several how-to magazines and compiling the reader contributions into the many books that bear...

Secret Miter Dovetail

Before you close the joint, secret miter dovetails look like cliff dwellings built on the slopes of the miters. However, when you bring the pieces together and bunt them with your hand, they close with a clack and the cliff dwellings vanish. There's no sign of any joint, no trace of the work inside just the thin line of the miter. The work begins with the pins. The form of secret miter dovetails dictates that you cut the pins first and then transfer their dimensions to the tail board. Gauge the...

Plumb Bob and Snapline

Even if you're not going to measure the timber precisely with a square and rule, you still want to be sure that the hewn faces are flat, not twisting or curving. Plumb bobs or winding sticks can take care of the twist snaplines take care of the curve. Winding sticks are just any two long, straight edges. You could use two framing squares or two yardstick-sized slats. With one set against the far end of the log, you can sight over one placed at the near end. Turning one or the other until they...

Turner

He was alone in his garret, imitating in wood one of those indescribable ivory things, made up of crescents, spheres, inset one in another, all lined up like an obelisk and just as useless. He began the final part, the end was in reach In the broken light of the workshop, blonde dust flew from his tool like a fan of sparks from the shoes of a galloping horse. The lathe wheels spun, whirring. He smiled, chin lowered, nostrils opened, lost in the complete, reliable happiness found in mediocre...

Free Tenons and Butterflies

Doweled edge joints get little respect. They keep company with clunky patented doweling jigs and cheap construction. The pegged free tenon, however is the joint that launched a thousand ships. Free tenons not only join the planks of the hull, they also make it watertight. To understand this, look at the joint and think how wood swells when wet, getting fatter but not longer. When Odysseus had to build a new boat, the radiant goddess Calypso brought him augers, and he shaped the planks to fit...

Shooting Board Donkeys Ear and Miter Jack

Donkey Ear Shooting Board

A miter box holds the saw at an angle to the work. A shooting board holds your work at an angle to the plane. Just as the saw must work into the molding, so must the plane. That makes the miter shooting board most helpful in shaping small miters that turn an inside corner. The faces of the angled block hold the wood at the correct angle and support it as the plane rides by in its track. For broad pieces and external miters, you need a donkey's ear. This version of the shooting board holds the...

Treadle Lathe

Leonardo da Vinci's sketchbook contains perhaps the earliest depiction of a continuous-action treadle lathe. The essential element of the treadle lathe is the crank mechanism that converts the reciprocating action of the foot treadle into the rotary motion of the large flywheel pulley, which, in turn, drives the smaller pulley in the head stock at high speed. Even this simple mechanism is prone to disorder. The weakest point in my design is the connection between the 1 2-inch-diameter axle and...

The Devil the Travisher and the Forkstaff Plane

The devil and the travisher share the form of the wooden spokeshave. The devil has been around forever ever since we broke open that first stone and cut ourselves on the sharp edge. The chair maker's devil is a scraper in spokeshave form. As with any good scraper, it doesn't scrape as much as it shaves. The vertical iron is ground at 60 degrees and may be lightly turned to hook forward with a few strokes of a hard steel burnisher. In spite of its name, the chair maker's devil is a sweet-cutting...

Rounder Plane and Taper Auger

If the spoke pointer is like a pencil sharpener, the rounder plane is like an endless pencil sharpener. The stick gets shaved down to a certain size and then passes through a hole in the tool. You can work as far as you want, making just a tapered tenon on the end of the stick, or unwrapping shavings down the whole length. A rounder plane often gets named after the item it shapes. Ladder makers call it a rung engine, but rake makers call it a stail engine, after the name for a rake handle. Boat...

Bowl Adze

Troughs suit hogs just fine, but we prefer to call them bowls. A bowl adze works inside a sphere, a world concave in all directions. The adze head must fit within this curve, as must the swing of the handle. A bowl adze shaped into a curve both along its length and breadth can reach in and chop hollows as when making wooden bowls or scoop shovels. Such an adze will have the bevel on the inside, like a common adze. A bowl adze head can also be straight along its length, but then must be beveled...

Spring Pole Lathe

There are differences in the way lathes are driven, their potential speed and power, and the way the wood fits in them, but the principles of successful turning remain the same with any lathe. The spring-pole lathe works with reciprocating circular motion the foot treadle makes the cutting stroke and the spring pole handles the return. Between the pole and the treadle, the drive cord wraps around the work, passing on the side facing the turner. In a handy bit of mechanical serendipity, the...

Foxtails and Keyed Tenons

The mortise and tenon joint takes endless forms to adapt to every situation. We just finished drawboring a mortise and tenon to lock it in place, but what if we couldn't or didn't want to peg it If the tenon passes all the way through a piece, as it will in frames and sash, we could expand the tenon with wedges from the far end. If we expand the mortise a little bit on the outside, the wedged tenon will expand to fill it, forming a dovetail. This works fine for a through tenon, but a blind...

Molded Frame

We'll make a simple molded frame with a single raised panel. I'll call it a door because it's the shortest name, but several of these basic units could make a cabinet more could wainscot an entire room. The mortise and tenon process from the table leg and rail joint is modified here to allow for the groove and the molding. A name changes too. In frame work, rails are still rails, but the vertical posts are now stiles. The stiles and rails of this door will have a decorative molding down their...

Framing Chisels Slicks and the Besaigue

A framing chisel is the proper tool for this job. Big and strong, the wooden handle in the heavy socket preserves both the mallet and the tool. When the splitting is done, hand pressure alone can guide the framing chisel's edge to shave the face grain smooth. With taps of the mallet, it can shear off the last sixteenth of an inch of end grain to bring in a shoulder. Slid down a split billet, it can shave it into a rounded peg. Saw the shoulders of the notch,. split out most of the waste, Saw...

Wooden Mouldins For Stickin On Wood

Sash lies deep into joiner's territory. Sash making has long been a specialty trade in woodworking. A person who would think nothing of building his own home would still probably buy his windows readymade. Sash doors are used in furniture as well, and the principles for making them are the same. Like a panel door, a basic window sash is a rectangular frame of four sticks two vertical stiles and top and bottom rails. The space within the frame is divided into smaller rectangles by narrower...

Firmer Chisel and Gouge

Each blow of the axe or adze combines both guidance and power in the same stroke. With the glut and maul, guidance becomes a separate step from the power stroke. You place the wedge where you want it, then drive it in. You still have to hit the tool with the mallet, but the edge is already on target. You have taken yet another step away from the craftsmanship of risk, toward the craftsmanship of certainty. A firmer is a broad chisel that you can drive with a mallet, as opposed to a paring...