New In The Shop – Scissors

One of the tools ubiquitous in most work setting is a pair of scissors.  Less common in a woodworking shop is a good pair of scissors.  Thanks to the evangelism of my pal Mike the upholsterer (thanks Mike!) I am always on the lookout for a good pair of scissors to add to the shop toolkit.  He has about 42 bazillion pair of scissors, each in top condition.

When I take note, it is surprising how often I grab for a good pair of vintage scissors to cut out patterns, make shims, or what not.

While at PATINA a couple months ago I was browsing through the tailgating flea market prior to the program and found a sweet, heavyweight pair in extremely good condition ($5 IIRC).  Once I got them in the shop and cleaned up they did not even need sharpening or adjusting.  The blades are six inches long and the action is smooth.

These scissors cut fabric, paper, cork sheet, leather, and lightweight carboard without breaking a sweat, and commercial veneers almost as easily (I use the veneers for shims, mostly).  Best of all is they do not take up much space.

So be on the lookout for similar tools for your shop and toss away the cheap scissors from the dollar store.  You will be glad you did.

One Of These Days… – Accessing My Hand Saws

About the same time I made the hanging wall “cabinet” for my Japanese tools I also made a similar cabinet for my hand saws.  It is fair to say that the second iteration of the concept was every bit as successful as the first.  I had this “cabinet” tucked into the corner above my Roubo bench.  Once again the cabinet door was so large (24″ x 36″) that almost everything (well, mostly the Gerstner full of layout tools) blocked it from opening fully, thus inhibiting the access to the inside contents of a dozen mostly vintage carpenter’s saws.  Plus, the combined inside depth was so shallow, ~4 inches, that I had to hang the saws flat inside, several to a peg.  That got real old, real fast.

The only part of the set-up that I liked was the holstered fittings for my back saws, which kept them visible and accessible.

So I pulled out all the saws from the interior and abandoned the “cabinet” on the wall.

Pulling out some scrap plywood I made two shelves to hold saws, one slotted for the top and one plain shelf for the handles at the bottom.  I attached these to the wall where my Japanese tool “cabinet” had resided previously.  The fit and location seem perfect.

I use the sides of the top shelf to hang surplus Japanese saws, and that arrangement also works very well.  I’m thinking that I will make a swinging panel on the front of the shelves to hang my back saws, but have not committed to that yet.  I have a bit more spatial arranging to do in the studio space before I get to that point.

Japanese Tool Box – The Trays

Rather than using the traditional tool rolls for any loose tools I decided to add two upper trays to the box interior.  One was dedicated to by bench chisels, or at least as many of them as I could fit in there easily, and the other for anything left over.

The trays themselves were made using left over pine stick from the box-fabrication, thickessed to ~3/8,” with 1/4″ Baltic birch plywood bottoms, all glued and pinned with brads.

To support the trays, which sit over the planes and are slightly cantilevered over the saw till, I glued and tacked thin support battens on the box wall and a divider of the same height between the planes and the saws.

I am likely to mount a few tools to the underside of the lid, like the square and other layout tools, but for now I’m calling this a former “one of these days” projects.

Japanese Tool Box – The Lid

Perhaps the most idiosyncratic feature of the Japanese tool box form is the lid, which fits and locks into place but is easily removable for accessing the tools inside.  The exact configuration of the fitting and locking arrangement is precise and fussy, and I messed it up royally.

The first step to fitting all of this together is to add cross battens to the tops of the box ends, and cross batten handles to them.  Many (most?) Japanese tool boxes have these handles flush to the end boards, I prefer them to be placed at the ends of the side boards such that there is a little recess behind them for easier gripping.  it’s just the incurable iconoclast in me.

The top slab fits underneath the top end battens and inside the box walls.  Like the bottom of the box, the top is a slab of hand planed <5/8″ pine, but planed to a whisper fit to the inside of the box walls


Then 3/4″ thick cross battens were glued and nailed to the top slab such that one end slides underneath one of the cross battens on the box top ends, then the top slides back underneath the other end batten to be locked in place with a sliding wedge.  Once again my trove of squared nails proved to be the treasure it is, as the soft nail shafts were easily crimped over without incident.

Being A COMPLETE IDJIT I attached the two lid battens in the wrong place, each shifted by 1/4″ in the wrong direction; I got the spacing of the protruding lips bass ackwards.  After much fussing and fuming and legitimate self-deprecation, complete with some impolite language, I had to trim 1/4″ off of the wrong end then glue it onto the correct end with white glue and bamboo pins.  It worked out just fine since it was not a stress-bearing function, but it was and remains an embarrassing learning moment.

Once I got all the fitting correct I added the traditional diagonal batten of 3/4″ stock.  This serves ostensibly as both another handle for sliding and removing the top and mitigating any tendency there is for the wide slab to warp.

Two cross-batten feet completed the construction of the box itself, leaving only the fitting of some interior features.

New In The Shop – Files and Rasps

When I was giving a recent presentation to the Richmond VA area MWTCA and RATS I was of course bound to browse the tool flea market and had some success.  My pal John Davis has acquired a goodly supply of NOS files and rasps and I picked up a couple from him.

At about the same time I got a pair of Nicholson patternmaker’s rasps and a pile of handles from Highland Woodworking in Atlanta.

These are valuable additions to the tool kit, and all of them are high performance tools well worth the space and expense.  I think the NOS files were a few dollars apiece, and the rasps were less than half the price of French ones and seem to be every bit as good,

Japanese Toolbox – Getting the Height Right

Once the box was assembled and the tools placed inside it for reference, I knew the ~10″ height was wrong.  Fortunately it was too tall, an easily rectifiable situation.  Had it been too short that could also be fixed, but this was easier.

I estimated the necessary height by arranging all the saws and planes in place (this picture is after the cutting-down).  The latter was easy, just lay all the planes on their sides in the most efficient spatial arrangement running the length of the box.  For the saws I made a slotted bar saddle to hold them in place, alternating the handles for a tighter fit.  In the end I was able to fit in eight planes and thirteen saws on the bottom this way.

Measuring to the top of this assembled inventory I marked then sawed off the excess wood.  Much more better.  The final height of the box walls was just under eight inches.

Plus, I now have a right-sized tool box plus another shallow pine box that can be used for something else, all I have to do is nail on a bottom.

Japanese Toolbox – Assembly With Squared Nails

The dimensions of my box were 38″ long by 15″ deep and 10″ high as the starting point, not long enough to include my very longest saws but a good selection nevertheless.  Obviously once the box was assembled I could not modify the length and depth but could adjust the height (which I did need to do, but that’s later).

I sawed the boards to the exact dimensions I wanted, and avoiding the temptation to cut dadoes at all the contact lines, I went old school and glued and nailed all the joints together (although really old school would have avoided the glue).  This was one time I chose white glue rather than hide glue since I did not have any of the latter prepared.  I pre-drilled all the nail holes with my Yankee drill (I do not possess Japanese gimlet drills) and drove them home.

Fortunately I had a bunch of 8d squared nails, I mean a bunch.  I found these at a yard sale in central Pennsylvania on one of my trips to Martin Donnelly’s Toolapalooza.  The yard sale sign said “Tools” so of course I was morally compelled to pull over.  While none of the tools interested me, this cubic foot of squared nails did.  I see the label said $5 but I doubt I paid that much for it.   These were not case-hardened concrete nails but soft steel or wrought iron from days long past, a feature that redounded much to my benefit in the coming steps.

I glued and nailed on the bottom and suddenly I had a box that would hold a whole lotta tools.

New In The Shop – Herrli Scraping Plane

Even as I continue the process of winnowing the barn contents, including (especially?) surplus tools, I am strategically improving my tool holdings.  This is one of those instances.

At last summer’s SAPFM Mid-Year one of the presenters was plane maker and one of my favorite guys Tod Herrli.  I never fail to learn something mighty useful from his presentations, but this year I was able to come away with something extra.  He’d brought a few planes with him and I bought this slightly diminutive scraper plane.  It’s been used several times since I got back home.


I’ve got a pair of snipes bill planes on order from him, to be made in some spectacular black cherry I delivered to him.

Japanese Toolbox – The Wood

Finally I had a perfect use for some of the magnificent select 4/4 Southern Yellow Pine I obtained a couple years ago, and this tool box was it.  I grabbed  couple of the 10-inch wide boards and headed up the hill to get started.

My first step was to mill it down to 5/8″, there was no need reason to use it any thicker.  One of theo notable characteristics of a Japanese tool set  is how much lighter it is in the aggregate versus a European one of the same variety.  I mean, many, many pounds lighter.  So, even a fairly large box would be sufficiently robust at 5/8″ wall thickness, anything heavier would simply add unnecessary poundage.  I ran the boards through the planer, and in retrospect I would have instead re-sawn them rather than turn 3/8″ of prime SYP into shavings.  Next time…

I cut the boards to the rough lengths I wanted and ripped one of them to re-glue into the top and bottom panels after hand playing the edges.

Cleaned up with a Japanese plane they were ready for me to move forward.

Old Tools Gone

In my quest to be both generous and strategic I have been slowly paring down my inventory of surplus tools, mostly by giving them away to the worthy trio of Rob Hanson (whom you too should support and shame on you if you are not), my son-in-law LtCom R, and webmeister Tim.  Given my de-emphasis on in-house workshops I simply do not need so many redundant tools and it is time to get them to a good home.  My 10-year goal is to condense my tool holdings to what will fit into a cargo van, so at some point in the distant future I will have the Mother of All Workbench Yard Sales!  But that day is not yet even on the horizon.

Here is the most recent package (the fifth?) I sent to Rob a couple months ago, with more to follow.  I have been in the shop so little over the past few months that I have not really had a chance to go grazing for him but I’ve got a surplus Record 52-1/2 vise with his name on it, awaiting only crating and shipping.  I also keep boxes for LtCdr R and Tim that get things put into them as they are readied.