I’ve Been Schwarz’d !!

This morning Chris Schwarz was kind enough to mention my web site on his blog. Chris warned me ahead of time so I had some time to prepare, but I wasn’t expecting this level of response! I left the house this morning, right after Chris published his entry, headed to my daughter’s Pre-K “Thanksgiving Feast” at school. I returned, full of good food and with one tired kid, to find more than 50 email messages waiting for me. I’m just responding to them now, processing them in the order they were received. If you haven’t heard from me yet, you will. I appreciate your patience!

Thanks for reading,


A New Auction Find

I usually attend auctions to find good tools to restore and resell. Once in a while I find a tool  I just have to keep. Besides saws, I also have a “thing” for crisp molding planes, especially British planes. When I found this plane at a local auction I knew right away it was a keeper.

J. Buck Molding Plane
J. Buck Molding Plane

This is a J. Buck, London quirk ogee in a really uncommon small 3/8 in. size. Buck made some of the highest quality molding planes in my opinion. The overall execution and attention to detail on this plane is amazing. It’s also as crisp as the day it was made. Aside for the MAX OTT owner’s mark there is barely a scratch on it. It was clearly used very little, if at all.

Continue reading “A New Auction Find”

Found Another Interesting Peace Saw- The No. 60

In my last post I published some pictures of a Harvey Peace P-70 handsaw I recently found and had restored. Just before I crossed paths with that saw I found another fairly rare Harvey Peace saw to add to my collection- the No. 60. The 60 was the top-end of Peace’s line of traditional handsaws. It has a full size plate, traditional handle pattern (as opposed to the “Perfection” line which had let-in handles) and a nib at the saw’s toe. The 60 was unique in that it was made from the highest grade of London Spring Steel and featured a beautiful wheat-carved apple handle. The handle had the double loop similar to a Disston 12 and long, sweeping horns. It is a highly refined handle design.

Harvey Peace No. 60 From 1884 Catalog
Harvey Peace No. 60 From 1884 Catalog

The 60 is a very uncommon saw. In over 10 years of collecting Peace saws I’ve come across only one, a beat-up thumb-hole ripper. That drought let-up a few months back when a No. 60 appeared on eBay- properly identified and accompanied by nice photos. After a week of sweating I snatched it up at the last second for a price I was very happy with. The saw arrived a few days later in great shape.

Harvey Peace No. 60

Continue reading “Found Another Interesting Peace Saw- The No. 60”

Finally Found a Harvey Peace P-70! (Caution: Saw-Geekery Ahead)

I’m a huge fan, collector, and user of the saws made by Harvey W. Peace. Yes, I am a saw geek. I have been trying to gather at least one example of each saw Peace made in the 40 odd years Peace worked in Brooklyn. This has been a challenge because some of his saws were made for a short period of time and/or were made in limited numbers. One of the most elusive saws has been the P-70 which was the absolute top-end saw in the “Perfection” line of handsaws. I saw one example of this saw at a LFOD Auction in Nashua, New Hampshire back in 2003. At the time I didn’t realize what a rarity it was, and my tool funds were low,  so I had to let it go. That is one of the few tools I truly regret not getting. For seven years I haven’t seen another example. That changed a few weeks ago when this arrived at my door-

Harvey Peace P-70 Handsaw
Harvey Peace P-70 Handsaw

Continue reading “Finally Found a Harvey Peace P-70! (Caution: Saw-Geekery Ahead)”

This One is a Keeper!

I was sorting through my stash of molding planes, looking to pick out a few nice ones to put up for sale. I came across a nice deep but narrow roman ogee by A. Mathieson and Son. Mathieson was a prolific maker, and one of my favorites. Their planes are usually of very high quality and make excellent users. The plane I picked out was used, but well kept. A bit grungy, probably from tallow used to lubricate the sole. I could make out the marks where the former owner(s) hand rested in use. I like to find tools in this state- well used, but with visible signs of the former owner.

Mathieson Roman Ogee
Plane Profile

I thought it was a really nice looking plane, but I have a similar roman ogee. I hemmed and hawed but eventually put it in the “sell” pile. It was then that I noticed the owner’s mark, not at the heel or toe, but stamped in the side of the plane. “J. CLARK” Well, that clinched it! It’s not often you find your name stamped on a 100 year old molding plane!  I’ve found planes with my last name stamped on them, and I have a couple of  “W. CLARK” planes, but none like this.

Continue reading “This One is a Keeper!”

An Interesting Disston Advertisement

I added a new Disston advertisement to my Old Tools Advertisements section of my site. This ad has a great picture of the Disston lumberyard. Specifically, it shows a portion of the apple logs waiting to be sawn into boards for saw handles.

View of Apple Logs in Disston Lumber Yard

This photo really puts the size and scope of the Disston operation into scale. There must be thousands of apple logs in this photo, and this is just a “portion” of their apple inventory at this particular point in time. It’s an amazing amount of wood. This is one reason I love old advertisements- they take us back in time to when these tools were being made and provide us with valuable insight.

Interesting Tool: Rosewood and Brass Bevel/Square

Here’s an interesting tool I found at a recent auction:

Rosewood and Brass Bevel Square

This is a T-Square that serves two purposes.  It has an eighteen inch blade with a Brazilian rosewood and brass body. It functions as a normal square but the body can be split to act as a bevel:

Split Bevel
Split Bevel

It is marked “John Wilson, Sheffield” on the end grain of the stock:

Maker's Mark
Maker's Mark: John Wilson, Sheffield

Goodman’s book on British Plane Makers describes Wilson as making “joiner’s tools” in Sheffield from 1868-1901. He later combined with Robert Sorby in 1901. The tool doesn’t have any way to lock in a particular angle, but the hinge is tight enough that it takes a decent amount of force to move it once it is set to a particular angle. As such, I’m inclined to believe that this layout tool was indeed intended for the draftsmans’ or architects’ desk and not the joiner’s bench or a job site. I think it’s a really neat layout tool- a keeper for sure.

I’ve asked around and haven’t found anyone yet who knows what this layout is called, or if they are common or now. Has anyone seen one before? Drop me a comment and let me know.

It functions as a normal square but the body can be split
to act as a bevel.

Revisiting An Old Project

My first “real” blog entry is going to revisit a project I completed over two years ago.  In December of 2008 my family was in the midst of a big change. My grandparents were moving out of the house they had lived in for almost 60 years into assisted living. Their house was on the market at about the worst possible time, the housing market being at about its lowest point in the past 10 years. One of the things we had to do in order to make the house more salable was to remove a large ornamental weeping cherry from the front yard. My Grandfather planted that tree not long after the house was built in the late-1940s. He and my Grandmother moved there from Brooklyn, taking advantage of the  GI mortgage program offered to WWII vets. I recently found a couple of pictures from the very early 1950s of my mother and aunt with my Grandfather standing in front of a skinny little sapling of a tree.

My Aunt and Grandfather
Mom and the Cherry Tree

The tree grew quickly, filling the small front lawn. It always put out beautiful blooms in the spring. It also grew some fantastic looking burls at the graft area. My uncle, a luthier, always lusted after the burls on that tree for instrument woods- he’s always looking for interesting burls. For years there was a running joke in our family involving my uncle, a chainsaw, and a night-time raid on that tree.

After almost 60 years, the tree had grown to over 20 inches diameter at breast height. The tree was not long for this earth, however, and was both a safety risk and an eyesore. The main branches were dead or dying and the trunk had begun to rot from the inside. I took down the tree in the summer of 2008, saving the two largest sections of trunk to try to use for projects. Unfortunately, the giant burls my uncle was waiting for turned out to be to badly rotten to save.  I split and re-split my two chunks into quarters, removed the bark, and let it slowly dry for six months outdoors.

Before the holiday season I decided to make a gift for each member of my immediate family using the wood from my grandparent’s cherry tree. I brought the quarters inside and started turning on the lathe. I had some prior experience with turning but it was mostly spindle work- chisel handles and the like. Faceplate work was completely new to me. I wound up doing a lot of scraping. The first bowl took close to four hours to complete.  I wasted the next three blanks, wrecking the bowls in progress in spectacular fashion. My fourth try was a success resulting in a small burl bowl that’s second from the right in the picture below.

After that I spent some time and money on a proper bowl gouge and watching some inline videos on bowl turning. The next bowl took less time, and the next less still. The last took only about 45 minutes from start to finish. Once I got the hang of the technique it was easy to see how some folks get hooked on turning bowls and do nothing but. I wound up with six respectable bowls that I gave to my parents, grandparents, sister, brother, wife, and aunt and uncle.Everyone seemed very pleased to have a piece of that tree that was a part of the background of their lives for so long.

Holiday 2008 Bowls

I lost my Grandfather this past week. His death was not completely unexpected, but sudden and a shock to my family. I thought about this project a lot in the days afterward, especially my Grandfather’s reaction when I told him where the wood came from. He expressed interest for sure, and definitely liked it, but I felt like he thought it more curious than anything else. He was not overly impressed, that’s for sure. It wasn’t until his funeral that I thought of the perfect way to describe him, and his reaction. In her eulogy my aunt described him as “undemonstrative” which I think fits perfectly. He, like a lot of men of his generation, didn’t complain or make a big deal out of life’s events, he just did things. Want to learn to ride a bike? No problem- he took me to a parking lot, took off the training wheels, and gave me a push. No big deal. Fall off? No problem, get back on and try again.  That undemonstrative nature shouldn’t be confused for a lack of interest or love for his family. On the contrary, he worked tirelessly spending most of his life and retirement years taking care of and providing for his family.

I learned a lot of good lessons from my Grandfather. He was passionate about building and creating things, especially woodworking and gardening. He taught me to always take good care of my tools, a  lesson I learned the hard way when I was about 12 years old. He had lent me a pair of lopers to do some yard work. When I was done I left them outside. The next day he found them outside, on the ground, soaked with rain.  I can remember only a handful of time I ever saw him get angry in his life. This was one of them. Needless to say, I haven’t left any tools outside at the end of the day again.

Pillaging the Firewood Pile

I hope this may interest some of you..

I’ve been interested in wooden planes since I fell down the hand tool slope about 10 years ago. I have always had it in my mind that I would become a plane-maker some day. Over the past few years I have taken some classes on plane-making and made about a half dozen molding planes for myself and others. Finding good beech for plane stock has always been a challenge. Seven years ago, or so, I bought a beech log, brought it to a mill, and had it sawn into plane billets. If I remember correctly, I got about 80bf out of that log once it was all quarter-sawn. I let it dry in a solar kiln for about a year then moved it to an outdoor pile to finish seasoning. Unfortunately, I lost almost the entire stack after the cover blew off during a winter storm, a fact that went unnoticed, and the pile remained uncovered until the next fall. In the mean time the pile was infested with some sort of powder post beetle. I wound up with some nice, quarter-sawn firewood.

This year I finally received my long-awaited firewood permit from the water authority. We heat our home with 100% wood heat and usually require about 6 cords/year. I was granted a beautiful wood lot only about 5 miles from my house. It is former pasture land so I figure there’s nothing there older than about 60-80 years. The lot was logged once, probably 20 years ago. It is currently managed for both timber and recreation. The forester marks cull trees that are imperfect, unhealthy, or just weedy. It’s a nice mix of hardwoods. The pioneer species like Birch are starting to reach their peak and are dying off, being replaced by mostly oak. There’s also some beech back there, which brings me back to the original point of this post.

Continue reading “Pillaging the Firewood Pile”

A Visit From the Sawyer

Hello everyone!

The freak October snow storm hit us especially hard here in Connecticut. The snow fell fast and piled up to more than a foot at our house. It was a wet, heavy snow that stuck to everything. Most of the trees still had their leaves  which resulted in lots of snow build-up. The heavy limbs broke and took entire trees down. The damage was incredible- dar worse than the hurricane that hit less than two months ago. We lost power and utilities for five days. There are still several tens of thousands without power in the towns north of us. Overall we fared very well. We lost several trees but sustained no damage to our home. After the hurricane, which left us without power or water for seven days, we invested in a good inverter/generator so this time we had water, lights, and some basics. Our wood stove, as always, kept the house warm. Again, we were very lucky.

Yesterday I had a visit from a local sawyer I found. Back in August we had some tree work done on our property to remove some of the more hazardous trees that were too close to the house for me to cut myself. I’m good with a chainsaw but I won’t cut any decent size trees within a tree length of the house. We were left with close to five cords of firewood on the ground and six decent logs that I wanted to have sawn.

Logs Waiting to be Sawn

Most of the trees we had cut were black birch- Betula lenta, also called sweet birch. Black birch is a pioneer species, one of the first trees to grow when land is reclaimed. It grows fast and dies young. Most of our property was farm/pasture land up until about 80 years ago. The birch we had cut must have been some of the first to grow after farming stopped. In those 80 years these trees grew to about 24 inches in diameter but by now they were past their prime and dying off fast. Black birch gets nasty cracks and cankers that progress quickly making the trees unsafe. The trunks were decent size- 18-24 inches diameter and fairly straight and clean.

I hoped to get some decent lumber out of these logs. Black birch isn’t something you will find at a lumber yard- it’s not really a commercial species though it is used for veneer in some cases. The wood is extremely hard- one of the hardest native species in the US. It’s a diffuse-porus wood meaning there is no variation between the early and late wood resulting in a very even, smooth texture and no visible pores. Although it’s a very hard wood it works fairly easily with hand tools. I’ve made some things from some birch I cut a few years ago and found it to be very enjoyable to work.

My ultimate goal was to cut some quartersawn stock to use to make wooden planes. In the past I’ve done this by bucking the logs to the length I want then riving quartered billets out by hand and squaring them up on my bandsaw. This is a slow, time consuming process and results in a lot of waste. These days my free time is very limited and it just wasn’t a practical way to procede.  I met a local sawyer with a mobile sawmill at a fair this summer. We got to talking about my job and he said he’d be happy to do it. I was surprised since it’s a fairly small job, just seven logs, and I wanted it sawn in a particular way which is more time-consuming and more difficult for the sawyer. Andy, my sawyer wasn’t put off at all by the size of the job or my requirements. He charges a flat fee per board-foot or a very reasonable hourly rate when quartersawing. He has no minimum, and charges a reasonable mileage fee. As the customer, I’m responsible for any resharpening fees on the blades or replacement costs if he hits a buried nail or something.

This Monday was the big day. He arrived mid-morning along with his wife. They had the mill setup and were cutting in under 30 minutes.

Woodmizer Mill
Andy's Woodmizer Mill

Sawing went quick and we were done within three hours, including a lunch break. I picked and stacked boards while he rolled the logs and setup the saw for the next cut. It went very fast. the surprise of the day was the bees- the sweet smell of the birch being cut attracted honey bees all days. They were everywhere- on the boards, in the sawdust, everywhere. It was pretty cool to see.

Taking a board off of a squared up log

I wound up with a lot of usable wood- the quartersawn birch I wanted for planes as well as some really nice soft maple and a few slabs of cottonwood that I plan to use for benches (sitting not workbenches). I have it all stacked and stickered in the driveway for now. It will be processed and moved to its new home sometime soon (I promise, Dear). I like the idea of building with wood harvested from my property. It makes the end products a little more special in my view.

Finished Stack of Lumber

So, if anyone in the CT area is looking for a good sawyer who will travel, really knows what he’s doing, and is willing to work with you, let me know and I’ll send you his information.

Thanks for reading.. More tools should be coming this week.