Test Driving the Shoulder Knife Workshop

A few weeks ago my friend B came for a couple days to test drive the shoulder knife making workshop that will be at The Barn later this summer (August 23/24).   We had a great time of visiting while he was working on a natural branch from a fallen tree, cleaning it up an fitting it to his torso for use as a marqueteur’s shoulder knife.

He made great progress and we are anxious for the real event in a couple months.  If you would like to come and make a shoulder knife for yourself, just drop me a line.

As for my current activities I have been busying myself getting ready for the students arriving for the Make A Set of Roubo Squares workshop later this week.

Workshop Teaser – Cutting and Soldering the Shoes on Roubo Squares

After the blade-and-beam are prepped and trued with the reference square from Chris Vesper I cut and shaped the shoe being soldered to the outer edge of the beam.

Then I prepped the surfaces themselves by cleaning them with 400 grit abrasive paper, and placed them together with flux in the contact of the joint.  The square was held in place simply by placing it between two fire bricks.

A propane torch and some wire solder finished the task.

A little clean-up and the square was ready to get to work.  Now do that several more times and you have a nested set.

This workshop will be June 20-22, 2019


Other workshops at the Barn this summer are:

Historic Finishing

Make A Roubo Shoulder Knife

Make A Ripple Molding Machine

Less Is More, or Supercharging A Mill File For More Precise Metalworking

Not too long ago I discovered something that perhaps many of you knew already (and if so, why didn’t you tell me?), and my response to the problem and solution imparted great satisfaction.

Being both a metalworker and a tightwad I  am pretty fussy about my files, and in fact have a substantial number of them.  One I could never talk myself into getting was a die-maker’s mill file with one shoulder devoid of cutting function.  All the ones I had seen while shopping were simply more money than I wanted to spend.  Since this is a utility I need on a fairly frequent basis I generally just put a strip of tape along one edge of the file so I could work into one side of an inside corner without boogering up the adjacent shoulder.  Perhaps I had some bad tape but recently I was continually frustrated as it peeled off while I was working the inside corners of the Roubo squares.

I decided to deal with the problem once and for all.

I took my new-ish mill file to the disc grinder and very gently just ground away the teeth/grooves on one edge.  I say “gently” on purpose because I did not want to heat up the tool and have it lose its temper.  So gently it was.

After that I took it to the vise and dressed the sanded edge to a fairly nice polish (1200 grit diamond stone).  In almost no time  (less than ten minutes) and for no money(!) I had a die-maker’s mill file that allowed me to work both more aggressively and more precisely on inside corners.  And if I need to do any edge filing, I simply rotate the file 180 degrees and use the opposite edge.

I hope I don’t hurt my shoulder patting myself on the back…

Workshop Teaser – Make A Set of Roubo Squares

Every participant will begin with a slab of brass which we will cut on the table saw to yield the preferred number of graduated squares.

Once these have been cut and the corners cleaned up, they will be laid out for the graduated nesting sizes.

Ogees are cut and filed into the ends, and all the detailing is finished in preparation for the silver soldering of the shoe on the outside of the beam.

If this workshop interests you, drop me a line via the Comments or Contact functions of the site.  It will be June 20-22, and the tuition + materials is $425.  You will leave with a completed set of squares.


Other workshops at the Barn this summer are:

Historic Finishing

Make A Roubo Shoulder Knife

Make A Ripple Molding Machine

Finishing Kerfing Plane Tune-Up

Since I had very little invested in my set of kerfing planes I felt no hesitancy in attempting to modify them into greater usefulness, even if the result was their destruction. Fortunately it did not.

Clearly the solution to the knuckle scraping problem illustrated last time was to elevate the position of the trailing hand.

Since the bodies of the planes were made from Baltic birch plywood, my favorite material for prototyping (although probably far too often the prototypes remain the final in-use version for a lot of things) I just cut the handles off and remounted them to a more satisfactory position.

The only real challenge was to make sure that the glue line between the plane body and the newly re-located handle fit closely so that the new glue line was robust enough to withstand the use.

It was. I glued the handle in its new location then went back in and rounded out the front of the hand hole and it was ready to get back to work.

As you can see and I can testify the new posture was perfect for continued use without having to be attentive to the blood flowing out of my pinky knuckle. For someone who re-saws by hand a fair bit, this is a big deal.


PS I am still trying to post the next video. I must have forgotten some trifling step in the process, but a soon as I remember it the video will go up.

Tweaking the Kerfing Plane Design

A while ago I made myself a dedicated kerfing plane, adapting the designs by Tom Fidgen which in turn were probably originally documented by Roubo in the 1760s. Tom re-invented the idea unaware of Roubo’s tools, and in turn I adapted them for my own use. My first foray into this arena was re-purposing a derelict plow plane, and idea that worked okay, but then I moved on to a dedicated tool made with Baltic birch plywood build more along the lines of a backsaw profile.

For the workshop I taught last summer in Arkansas I made a few more kerfing planes, and their shortcomings, which I had dealt with unthinkingly, were a serious issue as almost every person who used them got their pinky finger knicked simply due to their configuration.

I noticed that the students modified their handhold to grab the tool differently, as I had done at home almost unconsciously after ripping open my pinky knuckle a time or two. It was time to address this nuisance and I did.

I’ll show you how next time. Stay tuned.

2019 Barn Workshop – Make a Set of Nested Roubo Squares

One of the more pleasant aspects of creating the English-version of the Roubo books has been to integrate the images of tools and the descriptive text of their use in the atelier. Roubo had a particular take on a range of measuring devices to be used in the fabrication and assembly of furniture, and I was especially taken with his cabinetmaker’s squares. I have made a variety of them in wood, brass and ivory and find them a delight to use.

In the upcoming workshop on Making A Nested Set of Roubo Squares each student will make a series of stepped squares, in other words each one will be a step up or step down in size from the next. These will be fashioned from solid brass stock with the base/shoe silver soldered to the beam of the square as illustrated by Roubo (his squares were welded steel, I believe. The text is ambiguous if I recall correctly). We will use one of Chris Vesper’s sublime squares as the reference for all the tools made this week. Chris told me that the square I bought from him has an accuracy of no worse than least 0.0005″ per foot of blade length. If that is not good enough for you it is time to check into an asylum.

The class will be June 20-22, and the cost including materials is $425. You can contact me here to get more information.

Where Did I Put That Stinking Knife Handle?

Recently I was sitting down ready to incise the pattern into the block that would become the pattern for the mold for making my soon-to-be-available Blend 31 block wax.  It was at that moment that I realized I had put the handles for my detail knives someplace for some reason I could not remember.  It was not that I had misplaced one of my handles, I could not find any of them, suggesting I had collected them for some purpose that I could no recall.  Fortunately they will be found as soon as my task is completed.

In the mean time, I needed a handle for the knife blades I needed to use.  So I made one.

Taking a piece of dowel stock from inventory I sawed a small slot with a fine Japanese back saw, inserted the blade into that and bound it with twisted copper wire, much in the same manner as quill brushes.  It worked just fine for the carving of the mat board that was the detailed surface of the block pattern.

An hour later I had the design incised into the surface and the block was ready for making the rubber mold.


And sure enough, the box with my micro tools was found right after this was finished.  Sigh.

Up A Creek Without A Polissoir

At the recent gathering of the Professional Refinisher’s Group one of the presenters was addressing a topic that would have fit seamlessly with the use of polissoirs.  When I asked the host for his, I was informed it could not be found.  I canvassed the group and none was to be found.  Even I had not brought one with me!  While I normally travel with my rolling Store for some reason this time I did not.

But with a little thrashing around and some yeoman’s help from TomD we made one that worked enough or the task.

The starting point was the old shop broom, a roll of twine, and my dull Victorinox multi-tool knife (dull because I had cut some wire and had not sharpened it.  My bad.)

After cutting of some broom fibers we set about trying to find the string necessary.  We could not find anything really robust, what we found was some soft twine similar to macrame yarn.  So we used what we could find.  (I think the broom went back to hang on its nail, ready to go to work albeit a little less effectively).

Working carefully, and celebrating the fact that my broken arm from two years ago has recovered almost all of its dexterity and strength, I started putting it together.  My biggest challenge was trying to work right up to the limit of the tensile strength of our soft twine.  Normally I use heavyweight waxed linen cord, which I literally cannot break by hand, resulting in a polissoir so tight it has a sharp sound when rapped against a hard surface.  This undertaking did not yield such a result, but the polissoir was tight enough to serve well enough for the task at hand.

I trimmed one end  and we put it to work.

I’ll know to never travel anywhere without a polissoir in the future.  Note to self: when packing for a trip, it’s glaucoma meds, toothbrush, and a polissoir.

Test Driving A Prototype

For the past several months I have been cheering on Steve Voigt in his quest to make brand new toothing planes in the style of his vintage-design plane line-up.  A while ago he was speaking at the Washington Woodworker’s Guild and I brought a half dozen of my vintage toothers for him to examine and measure.

A couple weeks ago his first prototype arrive at the barn for me to test drive.

It is a lovely artifact as you would fully expect from Steve (or any of the other of our contemporary planemakers — none of them are making anything less than superb tools) and I delighted in getting it set up.  It was a feast for the senses, beautiful visually in its proportions and craftsmanship, fitting my hands like and old, well-worn glove.

I know Steve is working on a plan to make his own irons but this one was a vintage one in remarkable condition.

Steve is definitely on the right track.  I made a lot of the teeny toother shavings and found that it leaves the surface well-prepared for whatever you want to come next.  I made notes on my observations and sent them back to Steve, and will return the tool itself for a couple of very minor modifications to transform it from merely excellent to exquisite.  I cannot wait to get it back as a purchase, it will likely become my most heavily used preparation plane.