Damascus Striking Knife with handle

I ripped up some curly maple stock for tool handles and also found a smaller sized blank of the same ‘tiger maple’, but not a lot of stripes and fashioned a handle to match my other tool handles.  I use the tapered octagonal handles like illustrated in Moxon or from the 1596 ill fated Nova Zembla expedition, I do like the Dutch influence, on all my chisel and other tool handles.

Great shape and they don’t roll off the bench.  Early on in my apprenticeship I had a chisel roll off the bench and I caught it before it hit the ground and damaged the edge.  I immediately changed all of my chisel handles to the tapered octagon design.  Well, not exactly immediately, I had to attend to a gash on my hand and blood on the tool.  The blood got removed first then I attended to the nasty wound.

Since that time, nearly 40 years ago, I have purposefully lost my ‘catch’ response.  I literally can’t play catch.  Now if a tool drops, I quickly and safely move out of the way and deal with a damaged tool rather than a lacerated hand.

I shaped the curly maple with a small Moxon smoother then went to my toothing plane to deal with some tear out.  Worked great, then a scraper to remove the toothing marks.  Then using a very fine drill and two very narrow chisels I excavated a rectangular tapered hole in the narrow end to hold the Damascus/pattern welded blade in place.  Once it was fit tight, I etched the blade with a clove of garlic and used a bit of fish glue to secure it in place.

A coat of Moses T’s St. John’s Oil and it is ready to strike out.



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My Queer Creek Stone has a new home

I bought this a while back at the local swap meet and gave the guy his asking price, something I normally don’t do.  It has remnants of the original Norton Abrasive Co label and I thought it said ‘Queen Creek’, but on doing some research I discovered it was in fact ‘Queer Creek’ and was the name of the stone/quarry from which it comes.

I decided I needed to make a box to hold and protect the stone.  I selected a scrap of pine and chopped out the mortises with a chisel and smoothed out the bottom with a wooden router plane.

There are points at the corners on the bottom to hold it in place on my workbench while I am sharpening or honing.  I used a square cut headless brad, pounded it in then snipped it off leaving a tiny point projecting.  One long nail took care of all 4 corners.

Now I need to make an appropriate box for the fine  Guangxi waterstone that I just acquired.  I want to cut one end off the stone to make an ink stone, then I will make the box.

I will mention my unusual method of sharpening on an oil/water stone in the near future.


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Making the case for Liquid Hide Glue

Yes, Hot Hide Glue is better [whatever that means] than Liquid Hide Glue.  It has a greater strength.  However Liquid Hide Glue is better [and I know what that means] than any modern glues.
Hot Hide Glue is the benchmark to which all glues are compared as it was one of the first glues used by humanity.  Hot Hide Glue is mentioned in all Adhesive Technology references right up front, first thing and it is the adhesive to which all others are judged against.
Many groups like [I have been told] the Society of Period Furniture Makers and many luthier groups do not like liquid hide glue and only use hot hide glue, and there is nothing wrong with that.  However dismissing liquid hide glue out of hand is a bit much.
Liquid hide glue is a far better choice than any modern glue because of the many reasons that I have mentioned before here and in Hide Glue – Historical & Practical Applications.  Liquid hide glue because of the anti-gelling agents added has lost about 10% of the strength of hot hide glue.  Adding things like alum to make it waterproof, or glycerin to make it flexible, or bone dust as a thickening agent also reduces the strength of hot hide glue by 10%.  So altered hot hide glue and liquid hide glue still has a shear strength in excess of 2800 psi.
Old Brown Glue, Lee Valley Fish Glue, and Franklin/Titebond liquid hide glues are all available and are all very good.  People complain about the shelf life, but if stored at low temperatures the usable life of the glue can be extended for years.  The problem most people have with liquid hide glue is the stuff they used was too old.

Do the stringing, cottoning, legging test to see if it is fresh enough to use.  Place a small amount on your thumb and index finger of one hand and touch them together repeatedly.  Fine filaments will appear in an ephemeral looking smoke if the glue is fresh.  If not it has expired and can be thinned and put in the garden, high in nitrogen.
I use both in my work but to be honest I use more liquid hide glue than hot hide glue and I have not had any trouble with making furniture using liquid hide glue or for many repairs.  The stuff is easy to use, convenient and has all of the benefits of hot hide glue [less 10%] and none of the drawbacks of modern glues.
Easy to clean up, now, tomorrow or a hundred years from now, does not suffer from creep, is largely transparent to stains and finishes [glows under UV light for easy removal], is reversible and washes out of your clothes.  And it is organic and contains no petroleum distillates and is renewable.

Hot Hide Glue is great but so is Liquid Hide Glue, give it a try.

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If you make or repair furniture, Please don’t use modern glues.

Because sometime in the future someone will be repairing what you make or what you repaired with modern glues and they will have nothing good to say about you.  I said something here.  I do a lot of repairs to furniture both old and new and when one comes in glued together with white or yellow or poxy or primate or instant or hot glue gun glue, I have to charge more for the work.

EDIT Fish Glue from Lee Valley is also excellent.

Get some ground hide glue from Joel at Tools for Working Wood or some liquid Old Brown Glue in a bottle and use that for gluing your furniture together or if you are repairing furniture both new and old and everyone will be happy, including the next person that has to deal with broken furniture.

I know I have gone on and on about this, but it is a very important point.  If you have used modern glues for repairs or new construction in the past and you change your ways there is redemption.  If however you continue to use modern glue to repair old furniture [and some day the furniture you make will be old] then as someone suggested, there is a special place in hell.


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Shaving Horse


The shaving horse is a tool used by a number of trades including coopers, wheelwrights shingle makers and chair makers as well as a common tool used around the farmstead.  It is a bench on which the worker sits with an adjustable jaw that holds the work fast as it is being shaped.  While the shaving horses main use is to hold work while it is being shaped with a drawknife or spokeshave, it can also hold work being planed, drilled or any application where you need both hands free to do the work.  The tool is also called a ‘schnitzel bank’, a mule, dumbhead or a bodger’s bench, depending on the place of origin.

The design varies from maker to maker but there are two basic varieties: one with a center lever with a block to hold the work and one with two side levers and a center bar that secures the work.  The two designs have their advantages, the single lever can hold wider work but the double lever holds the work more securely but is limited to the width of the bench.  The double lever is easier to build than the single lever model.  The single lever is the most common type but both have ancient traditions.

The bench and ramp (working surface) are the same for both models.  The bench needs to be long enough to have an adequate room to sit and work in front of the ramp.  At times you want to sit a little closer to the ramp to do fine work and at other times you want to sit further back to work longer pieces.  The elevation of the ramp should be enough to allow you to work without your hands hitting the bench while holding a drawknife.

The shape of the seat should be comfortable with rounded over edges, as you will be straddling the bench as you work.  If you make the bench out of a wide board you can cut inward curves in the wide board to accommodate your legs.

The length of the benches legs should be long enough for comfortable seating so that your feet are on the floor and you can easily reach the foot peddle.  You want to be at a comfortable height.  Some old benches are slightly sloping with the seat legs higher and the ramp end a little lower.  If this tool is going to be used in a permanent location then it is a good idea to cut saw kerfs in the ends of the legs and use wedges (and glue) to secure the legs in the sockets in the underside of the bench.  This can be blind wedging (fox wedging) or the holes can be drilled through the bench seat and the wedges attached from the top.  If you need to frequently transport, move or store the shaving horse then the legs can just be friction fit into the sockets.  This allows the legs to be easily removed.

The jaws on the single lever model can be made of a large piece of wood and cut and shaped to the desired profile.  It can also be built up from smaller pieces and pegged together.  The lever connecting the jaws to the foot peddle should be constructed of a stout wood such as white oak or hickory.  The jaws can be constructed of a hardwood, which will take a lot of wear but may dent the work being held.  Jaws of a softer wood will not wear as well but will also not mare the stuff being worked on the shaving horse.  The jaws of the double lever model need to be strong enough to take the pressure exerted by the foot.  I prefer jaws on the double lever to pivot so the work of any shape can be fully engaged against the ramp.  Some examples of the double lever jaws have a V-shaped notch on one sharp edge to hold square stock as it is being worked.  The jaws on the single lever need to be rounded on the front edge to be able to engage any shaped piece that is worked.  The rounded edge also reduces dents and damage to the work pieces.

On the single lever model there is an elongated mortice cut in the ramp and bench behind the upright support.  There are a series of holes drilled horizontally in the ramp to allow the lever and jaws to be positioned either closer or further from the front edge of the ramp.  The lever also has a series of holes to allow the jaws to be adjusted for thinner or thicker work.  A pivot pin is run through the appropriate hole in the ramp and through the necessary hole in the lever for the thickness of the work.  The pin should be stout enough to take the pressure exerted when using this tool.  The foot pedal is a large stout dowel that passes through the bottom of the lever.  It should be long enough to extend out each side a sufficient distance to allow you to easily engage the pedal to exert the pressure and hold the work fast.

On the double lever model there are also holes drilled horizontally in the ramp and in both levers.  This allows for the same sort of adjustments as to position of the lever and thickness of material.  The pivot pin goes through the hole in one of the levers, through the ramp hole and engages the lever on the other side.  The foot pedal is secured between the two levers and can extend out on each side to give additional foot room.

There are several methods to make the jaws open by themselves when pressure is released on the foot pedal.  A wooden spring can be attached to the end of the bench and a string is attached to the tip of the bow and the top of the jaws.  The string is adjusted until it pulls the jaws open with no pressure on the foot pedal.  As the pedal is pushed to engage the work, the bow bends a bit putting tension on the string and as the foot pressure is released the jaws will open to allow the work to be repositioned.

Another method is to balance the design so that the jaws fall open automatically.  This can be difficult as the jaws usually stick out ahead of the lever and by nature causes the jaws to close when there is no pressure on the pedal.  This requires that you open the jaws before the work can be inserted rather than being open all the time.  You can also put an extra weight on the foot pedal, which will cause the jaws to open with no foot pressure.  By positioning the weight in front of the foot pedal to compensate for the center of gravity the jaws will open when pressure is released.  The position of the counterweight depends on the design and center of gravity of the jaws, lever and foot peddle, and this can be done after this part of the bench is complete.  This allows you to position the work without touching the jaws, which is an advantage when doing a lot of repetitive work on the shaving horse.

There is no greater pleasure than sitting astride a wooden bench you have constructed and working wood by hand.  You can place the shaving horse outside and enjoy the weather and surroundings as you are shaping chair rungs, roughing out turning blanks, tapering shingles or just making pegs or dowels.  If you have been doing any of these operations at the workbench in a vise, it will immediately become clear how much time you can save using this wonderful tool, besides you get to sit down and work.



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