Monday, August 27, 2018

The boring bits till, hand tool edition

Now that my Boring till is finally on the wall (Heh, it only took me a year), I have been thinking about how best to store and yes, display my boring bits...

The boring till, on the right of the window.
I have yet to decided on what is going up behind bench in front of it...

I fully envisaged that the power bits storage would be different than the brace bits storage, but how, I did not know yet.

This Week End in our travels, we passed conveniently by the large Wilmot flea market, and I spied this little rack, for one buck (Cdn $1, a Loonie)…

It is a home made collector's spoons rack

When I saw it, I thought, hum, wonder if it would fit my bits??
So you know I had to drag some into the kitchen to try it, don'tchuno (pronounced a la Ken :-)

Some of the smaller spoons and gimlet bits, will somewhat fit. 
Definitively would need larger holes

Laid down to see how much height I have.
About two (2) rows for the larger one would do.
But I like how the longer ones on top are resting in two (2) rows, 
better secured, less rattling's around 

About 1-1/2 inch spacings

Wide enough for my big paws, with wide bits

 But how many can I lay out...

12, not quite the full set of 13 bits, in any kind of bit set(s).

In the brace bits world, a full set of bits was 1/4 inch to 1 inch by 1/16 th inch increments for a total of 13 bits, numbered by the number of 16ths (EG No 4, 4/16 is a 1/4 inch bit, No 13, 13/16 is 1/16 smaller than 7/8 and etc)

So in this cabinet size, I can layout two rows of 12 bits each, for a total of 24. Not bad, but I will extend it to do a full 13 bit set(s). Height wise, it is a bit wasteful for only two rows.
I will keep the middle row to help support (cradle) the bits. And I think we have a winner!

Some quick measurements, and we are off to the races.

19 inches wide, outside dimension.
Will need to add two inches to the inside holder to hold 13 bits

By 22-3/4 inches high.
Will cut that back down a bit (pun intended), maybe one inch?

The outside sides are 1-1/4 inches wide

The inside depth is 1 inch, sufficient for all bits

This is the current holder shape, for holding collector's spoons by the neck
Will uses round holes and open straight slot up front, like on boring till

The back thin ply is made of wafer boards??
Everything is glued and pinned by a small brad.
Bit of flex on the holders, mine would be stiffer

So, there we go, this would be my Boring Bit Till, hand tools edition.
And the scalloped sides? Well, it does help to reach in the outside bits, I will keep that detail, unless it becomes a cover for a deeper box???
And those favorite's bit of mine, the center bits, they can get quite large, quickly. Their spacing wont be evenly spaced  Will need tinkering on some scraps

Coming up soon, same Bat channel

Bob, jumping around projects, easily distracted... Squirrels!!
Meanwhile, back to the moulding planes...

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Cleaning and reminescing

Before we left end of July, I was starting to get some blisters from all the tree pruning I had been doing.  Jean made me stopped my yard work until my hands looks better.
Thats right, real men dont wear gloves... :-)

Well after all this time, I’m healed, lets make some new ones :-)

We don't have the heat waves we had recently, but it is still pretty hot in the day time.  I usually work outside early in the morning before the sun heats up too fast. Past 1100 or whenever I am sweating buckets, it's time to stop and retreats inside to the air conditioned rooms.
Everyday, I check after 2 PM, our Government website which shows which County are OK to burn today. I live in Kings County, by the Bay of Fundy.

More branches to burn, getting there slowly.
Sure am getting good uses of my new fire pit.

Since our return, I managed to get four nites of burn so far, yesterday being my last one.
I am slowly going around my lot line cleaning up the trees branches from the trees that were dropped.
I need to get that line cleaned up in prevision of an upcomming fence.

When I retreat inside, lately the garage has been cool, thanks to the cross breeze from my opened new windows. Of course, in order to get remotely close to those window frames, neccessitated some ahem, re-arranging, stuff around the floor.

OK Dad, a little more stuff on the right and the left and we are done,
 I don't see any squirrels in there

While I had to, may as well, keep going around the floor and peek a boo inside crates, boxes what have you.  Some have not been opened since... a long while.

As I go around, the idea is to re-organize and turf stuff out.  Well, that would be the idea ...
Relocating the lathe, opened up a whole area I have not seen into in awhile.
And since both bench areas in front of the windows had to be cleared, I have horizontal surfaces to spread out stuff.. or Crappola as Ralph would says

One of my old school box lunch, circa early 60s, with stuff inside

During the Apollo moon missions, I was fascinated with all the cameras and stuff.
So I made myself a bunch of cameras and set décor and filmed my own man on the moon landings:-)
Mom had a super 8mm cameras, I made some films with special effects, including pyrotechnics using smalls firecrackers and pellets gun shooting.
What? You did not think I could had landed on the moon for real right!? :-)
Oh, and they all got shot by aliens at the end...

One of my early digital clocks from the 70s. This was No 2, a deluxe version made a lot simpler by the use of a dedicated clock chip. My first one was a power hungry TTLs affair.
That used a Tandy Radio Shack board and chip, most other parts came from Addison in Montreal 

It will need some tender loving care.
Wonder if it still works?? Will find out...

Under it was a bunch of old headsets, some world war 2 surplus stuff

Wow, some of these chemicals are getting old...
from L-R
- A Kodak film cleaner, went thru a few of those in the early 80s transferring my old Super 8 to VHS
- Contact cement, no idea if still good ?
- A very interesting magnetic fluid, used to troubleshoot multi heads tape recorders, it let you see the recorded pattern on the tape, pretty cool stuff.  From my early days of  maintaining tape recorders: audio, video and digital tapes
- A caved in ABS cement can, trash.

Found this stuff in an old Steinberg grocery store bag, 
so from Quebec and mid 80s. Looks like stuff that was found in our old farm house we lived in before moving to Bagotville on our first tour 1984-7 
Yes, turfed most everything...

Starting to look good, pretty well done in that area.

I can walk around my table saw, bonus :-)

This area has all been cleared and cleaned, there was evidence of squirrels activities, 
but I don't think they are back.  Nonetheless, Rudy is still keeping an eye out, 
every times he goes in... making sure

My next wall to tackle, yippee

Between gathering wood in the morning for burning in the late evenings and cleaning the garage, not much progress on my next installment's on the moulding planes.  But I promised her that my accumulating piles of planes and books in the living room will disappeared soon, so I better get back to it, besides, I still don't wear gloves :-)

Came across an older sign that was in my dad workshop

Dad old sign, that type of sign was common in Quebec in the late 40s-60s
A glass plate with back painted gold lines, a backing of lightly embossed aluminum foil with black lettering. The whole sandwich is held together by crimping the bottom mounting plate to the wavy glass sides. They long stopped making those...

I normally hang his "shingle" over in my shops, 
like I did in my last shop in Bagotville 2006-11

And these cabinets in that last picture, are the usual types I built for my shops thru the years. 3/4 MDF, with rabbet and groove joinery, glued and screwed, using special screws, then painted. They are mounted on adjustable foots so they are not in contact with the floor.  I plan on doing some more soon for this garage.

And lastly, all my previous woodworking mistakes and some stuff I kept for what??? are going up in smoke.... never to be seen again

Bob, who better get back to his moulding planes saga before she... :-)
Yes dear...

Monday, August 20, 2018

About wooden moulding planes

This history is an intro to an upcomming series on these planes.

In case you did not notice yet, they are everywhere, they shows up a lot on the antique tool circuit, flea markets, antique dealers, barn finds and what have you.
Yes, they are plentiful out there, ever wonder why??

The three most used types of planes were; The bench planes, the grooving planes and the rabbet planes.  Used to prepare the wood surfaces and joinery.
These relatively simple tools (all have straight blades) were made by the artisans during their apprenticeship period.
Similarly, joiners would had been making specialized tools such as moulders for their work.
Most of these tools would be found unsigned (no makers mark) but may have one or more owner’s stamp.

Moulding planes as we know them today appeared in English listings (city or business directories) towards the end of the 1600s (17th century) Hollows & Rounds, Beads, Reeds and some Ovolo and Ogees.

But of course they show up earlier, much earlier...
The Romans used moulding planes with the irons let into a tapering groove at the side of the stock, and this design persisted throughout the Middle Ages (RA Salaman).
I would venture that they lasted much longer... Albeit in a slightly modified form until the 19th century and perhaps a bit longer.

This is a so called Roubo, French type moulding plane, made by Caleb James.
So called because it shows up in Roubo works in one of his plates (illustrated page)
Its construction is similar to the description of the Roman moulding planes
Pic from Fine Wood Working article, mag No 224 April 2016.

The plane in question Roubo Plate 19.
Notice the wedge finial is sideways.
The shape of the mouth aperture and the shape at the end of the wedge throws the shaving sideways 

This type of construction is often found in older Continental planes (from mainland Europe).  Its construction is greatly simplified by using an open mortise on the side.
If you look at a typical English or North American moulding plane, there is a lot more work involved in excavating  the mortise for the wedge and the open ended slot on the side for the blade. 

A look thru my Stewart Ovolo plane, the classic English form, all excavated in the wood body. 
Not much web of wood left, now you know why they are apt to twist and curl if the wood was not chosen properly or were subjected to high humidity/dryness cycles.
Well seasoned wood was a must...

An often seen variation of the "Roubo, or Roman style", is the addition of a piece on the side to retain the wedge and add rigidity. Again some Continental tradition, but also I believed in Scandinavian countries (??)
Here are some pics found online (eBay)

A pair of French Moulding planes.
Notice how the top part look like its been added? 

Here is one clue...

And here is another

Notice also the squarish shape to the wedge, as opposed to the graceful curves found on the English style one's.  And in case anyone wonder, yes, that would be a lot more simpler to built than the traditional English method, that we are familiar with today, but should work just the same.
Here is a look at one found by fellow blogger Brian Eve 

Why are they so plentiful?

The appearance of the first professional planemakers coincided with the change in architectural and furniture styles along with the use of more ornemental mouldings.
The wood used in fine furniture evolved from oak to walnut and mahogany which were better suited to the new ornemental styles.

Shipping improved, trade expanded and a whole new prosperous middle class developped both in England and in the colonies (including North America)
As the demand for fine homes and furnitures grew accordingly, more and more types of moulding planes were required (Think “moulding du jour” :-).  The first recorded English  “plainemaker” (1660-1720) were previously listed as “Joiners” they probably started to make extra planes for others and gradually switched to full time planemaking.
For example Thomas Granford in England was first listed as a joiner then as a plainemaker and tool maker. Robert Wooding, another early English planemaker 1708-1724, apprenticed under Thomas in 1699.

As planemaking became an established trade, apprenticeship’s records started to appears, makers stamped their ware and develloped regional differences in their stylistic approach: the treatment of the upper edges of the plane body (size and type of chamfer treatment), the upper shape of the wedge (Rounded then flatter on bench planes), the size and shape of the top wedge finial on moulding planes (First it was part of a circle (round), then more of an ellipse shape).
Similar to furniture styles, some of the old-timer styles and features lingered on with the more rurals makers and those in the Colonies.

As tools became more available, slowly the customs of making one's tool set changed to buying them and made available to anyone who could afford them.

Within the North American colonies of Upper and Lower Canada (Ontario and Quebec), the New England colonies (which would becomes later States) the domestic shipping and transportation network were not as developed as in the Motherland(s).  Overseas shipping from Jolly old England was more economical, so in addition to the first tools that accompany the settlers and subsequent arrivals, lots of English tools were imported for resale in the port cities (New York, Boston, Montreal, Quebec city)
In addition there were lots of trade restrictions set up between England and their colonies, to benefit the English industries.  Surprise! Tariff and trade restrictions are nothing new!!!

Nonetheless, planemaking will become established first in the American colonies (F. Nicholson Boston (Wrentham) 1728-1752) then here in Lower Canada (Jean Baptiste Desforges Montreal, Qc 1790-1830, Sweetman, Montreal Qc 1820-1832) and Upper Canada (James Gabb Toronto On 1833-1836)
These being the earliest date I found so far...(Guide to Canadian  Plane Makers & Hardware Dealers third edition)

How many makers were making these wondrous tools?

In addition to the ones that continued to be made by the apprentices (the apprentice system here in the Colonies, was not as strict as the ones to be found overseas, due to the large and urgent needs of the Colonies) there were numerous makers that came and went during the 200 plus years that they were manufactured, from the early 1700s to the early 1900s.

Bell curve of known British planemakers from 1700
The zenith being around 1850
Compiled by WL Goodman

In addition to the peak of English makers at 140 (in one year), there were 32 Canadian planemakers identified so far.  Of these the census of 1871 found 7 in operation (6 in Quebec, 1 in Ontario) and they had a combined output of 17,000 planes that year alone

The next census of interest is in 1901 were we found that the Quebec plane production was about 700-1000 planes per workers, per year, for a combined output of 7,000 to 10,000 planes from Roxton Pond alone.

And lets not forget the Americans.  In Nov 1854, Greenfield Tool Co by itself produced 11,900 planes.

After an early start in the early 1700s, numerous apprentices turned tool makers came and went on their own, but by the second quarter of the 19th century, the introduction of machines, the use of water and steam power and the great improvements in communication (Post office, Telegraph) and transportation (water canals, more and better roads, railroads) led to the formation of  large companies aided by catalog sales and ever expanding markets

Interestingly this increase demands ended up making the use of convict labour on both side of the US-Canada border.
Auburn tools NY (US) and JP Millener Kingston On (Cdn) used prison labour contracts until banned.

Some of the largest plane factories in USA were

H. Chapin / Union Factory, New Hartford CT  1828-97
Arrowmammett, Middletown CT                      1836-57
Greenfield Tool Co, Greenfield MA                  1851-83
Auburn Tool C, Auburn NY                              1864-93
Ohio Tool Co, Columbus OH                            1851-1920
Sandusky Tool Co, Sandusky OH                     1869-1925

In the US alone there were over 5380 different imprints (makers or hardware dealers marks) identified in the 2003 edition of the Field guide to the makers of American Wooden Plane

In case you were trying to keep tab on it all, yes, that is a lot of planes that was made and is awaiting to be found out there. And not surprisingly, I do happened to have planes from each of these major manufacturers and they do turned up often in my travels for rust hunting.

Of all these planes manufactured, the ones showing up the most in records are the moulding planes. Not surprisingly since that was the high demands for the ever changing tastes in the moulding du jour that spurred the manufactures of planes on a large scale

And finally, this rather large numbers of moulding planes, required to keep up with all the changing style, became a problem looking for a solution...

A problem looking for a solution or was it the other way around?

First solution was to standardise on a given lenght of 9-1/2 inch in the early 1800s.  Earlier planes varies from 10-1/2 inches to no less than 9 inch, creating storage difficulties inside tool chest.
A problem? Well yes, you try to lug around a large quantities of plane of various sizes!
Some of the earlier planes are sometimes found truncated to fit nicely alongside their newer brethens... if they were cut on the toe, the maker stamp would be lost :-(

The other solutions were all aimed at reducing the number of specialized tools required.
Using a set of Hollows & Rounds, a Rabbet plane and a Snipe bill plane, you could reproduces just about any moulding profiles. But the number of H&Rs needed can blossom rather quickly.
A half set still numbered 18 planes, add the rabbet and the snipe bill and you are down to 20 planes, hopefully of all the same lengths.

Next solution was the introduction of the metallic combination planes.  Inspired by the Plough planes of old, by using a varieties of cutter and using skate(s) as a sole, one can make “some” of the simpler mouldings.  This solution was culminated by the introduction of the Stanley No 55 Universal plane, a Moulding mill in its own.

Ooooh look at all the profiles it can do...

The Masochist's dream plane, the Stanley No 55
Pic from Hans Brunner tools

This ever larger need for mouldings could not be satisfied by handplanes alone, behold the rise of the circular cutter.

First in pedal powered machines (Former or Shaper Barnes machinery 1886), and planers/moulders in line shafted machinery, then with electrification came the modern electric portable routers and the electric planers/moulders, shaper eliminating the need for all these wondrous planes... or did they??

The Barnes Foot Powered Former
A machine for making mouldings up to 7/8 in with replaceable cutters
The speed of the knife is between 20 to 25 hundreds RPMs (2500 RPM) and the machine cost $20.
Not as fast, nor has the range of a steam powered former, costing $150-200 but very versatile

Yes, today you can now make moulding run of any length all day long with CNC machines and etc, but it remains a small inconvenience, or better said, a limitation, with a circular profile cutter...
It cannot reproduce negative spaces, given the material used and the speed they are spinning, there are profiles that just cannot be executed with a circular cutter(s)

A sample variety of router's cutters purporting to replace 10 moulding planes
Not as many adjustments to tweak like on the No 55 plane, but still takes time to set up
Pic from MLCS website

Ironically, such profiles are easily executed with these wondrous moulding planes.
You can either used a close enough router bit shape and then cleaned up and modify the shape using a few judicious use of H&Rs for example, or you can simply design your own profile to suit your needs and scale, with the tools you have at your disposition... in your stash of moulding planes...

Next part: Characteristics that help identify their provenance and relative age

Bob, who survived the summer heat waves of 2018

Indeed, it could be had been much worse...

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A tale of tool hunting and some progress around the Hacienda

We are back from our trip to see all the grandkids and kids all at once, we went to a life celebration on a camping ground in Ontario.

We rented a cabin, and so did one of our son, next door. Each cabins have a name and a theme, which kinda set the décor inside.  Our son Levi was in the Out of this world cabin (ET and other space creatures) we slept in the Dog house...

YES, I can honestly say that we have reached a new milestones in our relationship, I slept in the dog house, well actually both Jean and Rudy also :-)
The first night it was pretty cold, it dropped down to 11 C, Rudy appropriated all the blankets around him. Came morning, we had perhaps 5 in square of blankie left between Jean and I :-)

The grand kids thought it was pretty funny that Grampa was going to sleep in the doghouse, I did not quite got the joke until I saw our cabin, sure enough it was called the Dog house.

Yes, we slept in the dog house, Rudy felt right at home :-)

On our way up and down took time to see my good friend Jack in Nepean. He recently lost his wife at home, from cancer. He knew I went thru it earlier and I could so understand what he was going thru... :-(

Due to some medical emergencies in the family, we had to cut our trip shorter and rush back home. Did not get to do much, if any tool hunting... And yes, we had to skips a few visits along the way.
Sorry friends.

While we were away, my friend Dave, went a few times to check on my house.
After he accepted, I told him about being cautious of the automated sprinklers I deployed around the house and to stay away from the back deck, need urgent repair.
He went 5 times and jokingly said that it was Dave 5, Sprinklers 0, he has yet to get soaked.
I replied that I should have gotten the WIFI model instead of the Bluetooth one, that way I could spray him remotely :-)

When we got back, I went around to see how the gardens survived the heat waves with my clever watering systems I deployed. Solar pumps, Bluetooth enabled timers, electronic timer, soaking cones and etc. running drip irrigation, soaking hoses, rotating sprinkler's and etc. I felt quite smug :-)

Turns out, it was no big feat on Dave part against the Sprinklers...

When we left, I forgot to turn on the water valves to the sprinklers.
 Oups, says Bob with a red face :-)

Back home earlier, the first order of business was to put in our two windows Air Conditioner units and to finally replaced the two windows in my garage.
They had been stored inside since last November .

My friend and contractor, Doug Harrison

First one, in the back, replaced

Next one was the double unit on the side of the garage.
This is what my earlier repair look like from the side (first time I see how I did). I previously just cut off the rotten portion and spliced new pieces of wood, being careful not to stuck the window to the house framing

New unit installed, need to clean up, caulk, then install the black shutters back

The specs of my new windows.
Low-E coating, Argon filled, doubled glazed and blah blah...

Thinking of maybe recycling these two windows in backyard structures later on??
If that take too long, I'll just turf them out to the recycling scrapyard

Also took time under the sun during the continuous heat waves, to solidify the back deck.

Yes, those are my two off cuts of the 6X6 beam I put up in my basement hand tool shop.
The literally fallen apart green wooden remains was the former 4X4 post... 
I added extra support under when I first salvaged the deck a few years back (posts on deck blocks)

Not doing much to it, just has to hold up until it get demolished and a new one goes up.  Hopefully later this season.  As soon as we finalize the design and I figured out how I am going to afford it :-)

Back home, we went last weekend to Truro area, to visit Jean's sister and do some exploring around. There are some antique dealers in the area, so we dropped in to see what we could find.

There was quite a few tools to be found, but most of it was useless, hand drill with stuck gears, badly rotted and rusted planes etc. Not good :-(

Planes left outside since ….
The moulding planes are now beyond salvaging :-(
The long jointer body is starting to rot at the bottom of the nose on the ground... Tst Tst.

This is the antique store which had those planes outside (above)

But I persevered and finally found some good stuff across the street

Right across the street there is this one, which kinda looks after them all under one roof when it comes to using Debit machine instead of cash.  Each sales is recorded under various codes to differentiate each dealers.

Did not took long before I came across some interesting and promising finds

A Millers-Falls late model (70s) Mitre box for $95, not bad...
But NO I do not need another MBs in my shop thank you. ( I own 7 already)  Passed...

I had high hope for this location since it has a rich woodworking heritage: Dominion Chairs Company, makers of the world famous Bass Rivers chairs.  Yes, they exported around the world from this tiny location in rural Nova Scotia.

Saw a few chisels (Eskilstuna  Sweden) a few working hand drills, a few moulding planes, metallic bench planes etc, then I spied this one.

It is in beautiful condition and the dark colours remined me of an English planes. 
They were using lots of Tallow on their planes and consequently they tend to acquire a darker colour

Back home did a quick look up, and sure enough it is from the UK, Scottish actually, not English

Stewart from Edinburgh, Scotland
The way the maker stamp is done point to an early plane.
More on that in a follow up blog post...

I was so excited about this find, I just had to rescued it before it suffered a fate  like the ones left outside. Yes, Cdn $28 is a bit high, but I just had to rescue it.  Besides my eyes were telling me, this thing is quite old, older than the ones I usually comes across...   A suivre...


In the little town of Bass River in Nova Scotia (close to the head of the Fundy bay), there was once a furniture manufactory established along the Bass River. The river was used to bring the logs to the manufactory saw mill but it did not quite provided enough hydraulic force to powered the factory, they then relied on a steam boiler to run a steam engine driving line shaft machinery.

Using steam boilers meant that there was a constant threat of fire and sure enough it burned down with some regularity, 6 times, the last one being in 1989. It was never rebuilt after.

A poignant remember of the constant dangers.
As said earlier they burned down a few times (6)

The partners started making furniture at their homes around 1860, then in 1876, they became a Joint stock company: The Union Furniture and Merchandise company. 
The name Dominion Chair was adopted in 1903.  During their years they endured 5 devastating fires, an explosion, a four month old general strike in 1979 and finally the six and last fire in 1989.

Some of the explicative display boards around the site:

A pole railway used logs for tracks instead of steel rails.
It was often used to bring out trees from the forest and to bring in boilers, steam engines, saw mill etc. And of course shuttle workers in and out

These 6 fires and explosion have no doubt made an impact on the numbers of tools left to be found... :-(
But there are some remnants of the machinery left behind.

A portable boiler. The factory used a fixed one, but portable boilers like these 
were often used to generate power for portable saw mills etc.

A small steam engine from the original plant

This interesting machine was used to impressed the back of the chair 
with a decorative pattern (embossing machine)
Making press back chairs.

Hard to photograph in the harsh sunlight, but you can make out the pattern.
This machine was embossing cold. The curved back were feed by hands from a soaking bath.

Examples of antique pressed back chairs
Pic from Kijiji

They previously used a machine which heated the drum with 5 gas flames.  Guessing they switched after one of the fires.. :-(
This information was provided to me by a volunteer at the local museum. My guide used to work at the Dominion chair plant in the early 70s.

Being Pioneer days they had displays outside around the museum.

You can always count on some vintage tractors at rural shows

See the antiques display in the background?

Some woodworking related tools

Something I don't see exhibited often, lawn tractors??

So back home, back into our somewhat regular routine.
Today, Wednesday we worked at our local foodbank.  I was shocked to see our cupboard so empty, never seen them that low .

So now is a good time as any during these lasting months of summer, a friendly reminder that your locals foodbanks need supplies all year long, and for some reasons at this time of the year they always seems to run low...

If you were thinking of donating money instead of food items, it is always a better idea, since we have a bigger buying power than individuals can.  For the same amount you spend at the grocery store, we can purchase more and the things we need most. But however you can help, we will gladly always take it.

Bob, the Rotarian thanking you for helping us feed our neighbours, whomever you are, were ever you are.