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 chisel that should only be pushed. The name comes from the French, fermoir. It's been a confusing name, but Salivet's 1792 definition of the tool clears things up: "The fermoir, or clasp, is a chisel whose steel is gripped between two outer layers of iron. This gives it great strength, and requires that it be sharpened with two bevels. Carpenters employ it to outline rough works. They run from one to three inches broad."

Carpenters hardly ever see double-beveled chisels now, but when steel was more expensive and less reliable, it was a good idea to have it sandwiched between layers of iron. These days, what we call firmer chisels are single beveled. If they are laminated, the steel is on the flat face, just as with paring and mortising chisels. Sculptors and carvers still use the double-bevel chisel, but it is all steel. In any case, after chopping something like a bowl to rough shape, you can finish the convex outside surface with a firmer chisel and mallet.

A mallet runs about 15 inches long, including the head, but you can choke up on the handle for lighter work. In theory, the faces of the mallet angle in a bit to converge at the user's elbow. The intent is to keep the mallet face square to the chisel head at the end of the stroke, but mallets generally last long after the bevels have worn away. Live oak, hickory, and beech are common mallet woods, but any dense, split-resistant stuff will do.

Smoothing the inside of the bowl calls for a gouge. The gouge equivalent of the old fermoir would have the bevel on the outside of its curved edge. With this bevel riding against the wood, this out-cannel gouge can cut the inside of a curve, diving in and out of the surface.

When the gouge has its bevel on the inside of the curve (the in-cannel configuration), it tends to cut straight or dig in. In-cannel gouges work best for straight paring cuts close to a surface on side or end grain. Working with moldings, you might rough in a long hollow with an out-cannel gouge before shaping it with a plane. Then you'd use an in-cannel gouge to trim the ends to fit over another molding at an inside corner. This is the joiner's work, however, and not that of the countryman.

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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