One of These Days – Repairing the Twin Screw Vise

On my favorite workbench, a 35-year-old torsion box top with an Emmert, a wagonwheel, and a 48″ twin screw vise, due to mucking about with the twin screw fittings in the distant past and very heavy use for all those years, the iron collars had become loose and no longer were tighten-able enough for the vise to work.  Given that the torsion box top is about 90% hollow this made the repair a nuisance albeit a simple one to address.

I removed the vise, the screws are held to the jaw by split collars, and set it aside.  The screw collars on the bench came off easily as the screws holding them to the bench were all loose, hence the need for the repair.

With the receiving collars off I fitted some pieces of 1/2″ Baltic birch plywood to the back sides of the bench apron, a tricky task made problematics only because my fingers were almost the same size as the opening.  Using white PVA I simply glued them in place.

The next morning I fitted them to the round opening with a rasp, then re-inserted the retaining collars and drilled out the extant screw holes with a smaller pilot hole.  Instead of using the previous screws I switched to some 2″ #12 slotted screws I had in my mini-hardware store, screws I bought from Blacksmith Bolt and Rivet.

I carefully installed the new screws, making sure to not strip out anything, and installed the 48″ jaw.

It is now better than it ever was.  Another checkmark on the list.

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.

Revisiting A Classic Long Rifle

In looking back over the projects of last year I realize that I never recounted my revisiting the classic c.1810 western Pennsylvania long rifle, made by well-known gunsmith David Cooley.  My previous effort was to simply stabilize it, but this time I got to dive in deep and repair it much more intensely.  Once I got it apart it was clear it had been damaged and repaired several times.

Here are a few detailed images to remind you of the exquisite workmanship of the tool.

Over the coming posts you will get the tale of making it more intact, not enough to shoot but certainly enough to handle and exhibit safely.   At issue was the through-and-through break running perpendicular to the length, right at the trigger mechanism.

Stay tuned.

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,

Cockroach’s Cousin – Rainy Day Work

I don’t  mind working outside when it is cold, within reason, but I prefer to stay inside when it is cold and wet, as during a recent day.  Since there was work to complete on the insides of the affected windows that was not a problem.

In the living room I had a fair bit of re-installation to complete, mostly because I originally selected a convoluted trim scheme thirty plus years ago.  As a result I had to remove considerably more interior trim than would have otherwise been the case when I reconstructed the wall around the one window.  Me and my affinity to G&G detailing with select vintage woods…

But, it all went back together just fine.  A little patching and painting for the wallboard and it will be done.

The window in the piano room was more involved as that interior trim was infested and I burned all of that, so I needed to make all new trim from vintage walnut.  Which, fortunately, I have a fair bit.

Since my larger machines are 225 miles away in the mountains I had to use these two old reliable beauties from the 1950s, my Craftsman version of the Williams & Hussey planer and the little Homecraft tilt-top beauty that was the American version (precursor?) of the classic Inca 8″ table saw.  I have always really liked this little saw, and can see the time when I tart it up once it becomes my every-day workhorse in a smaller shop in the distant future.

I sawed and thicknessed the boards on the machines then finished them off with hand planes in the basement workshop.  Installed the new trim looks just like the old trim, which was the goal.

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.

Fashion, or, An Opportity To Learn A New Skill

I’ve always liked the idea of having “branded” t-shirts for the barn, and even went to far as to work with my marketing specialist daughter to create the branding itself.  I found that the two orthodox options, ordering them from a regular printing company (required a minimum order of 25 shirts to get the unit price down to reasonable) or a one-off on-line producer (unit prices of $25-30) were unappealing.  Iron-on transfers were also problematic as most of the shirts I wanted were very dark color, and inkjet printers do not do “white”

Instead I watched a youtube video and painted my own silk screen and made a couple to see if I liked the idea.  I made a wooden screen frame, printed out the design at full size and then using screen masking medium I traced the pattern with the aid of a light box from back in the days of antiquity when we viewed things called “slides.”  It was a delicate balace, diluting the masking medium enough to paint ultra-fine details but not so dilute as to wick across the screen fabric.

I worked on the screen for a few minutes at a time over several weeks, then printed some out some practice tries on an old rag with the mayonnaise-consistency ink and a silk screen squeegee.  The results were okay, but I’ve still got to learn the “feel” of the process.

I may try again, simplifying the design details to make it bolder.

Some Self-instruction For 2020

I generally consider New Year’s Resolutions to be wishful thinking at best and sanctimonious posturing at worst, but I do find the practice of setting realistic goals to be a useful guide and reminder for the future.  Mine range from the mundane to the transcendent.  Here are a few of them, in no particular order:

Organize the pile of stuff in the barn (and get rid of that which simply occupies space unproductively).  The mantra for the year is Crap is Crap.

Think strategically about my long-term goal of consolidating my tools to the size of a cargo van.

Improve my skills at the bench.  All of them.  And add new ones.

Add some needed wiring in the barn, including a 220v circuit to the basement, thus bringing my larger machines on line.

Find new homes for machines and tools I do not need.

Come to a better understanding of the barn’s power system.

Complete  the Period Finisher’s Manual manuscript; quit overthinking every chapter, section, description, sentence, and word, and get something into the hands of Chris Schwarz.  Seriously, get over yourself and get it done.

Complete the glazed doors for the book cases in the library.

Build at least two more Gragg chairs.

Figure out how to connect Mel’s Wax with the furniture caretakers for whom it would be a benefit.

Become comfortable with, and bring on-line, YouTube and Instagram content. (Twitter and Facebook are not part of the equation)

Get my foundry up and running, leading to —

Complete the patterns and prototype for H.O. Studley’s piano maker’s vises and get production moving on his mallet.

Paint the barn, or better yet find someone who will.

Embrace and encourage (and listen to) my loved ones more regularly.

Get involved in public discourse.  The proper time to foster community and liberty and resist totalitarian collectivism and libertinism is always now.

Be less frustrated and angry about the effects of aging, like the inevitable loss of strength and flexibility, but especially my diminishing visual acuity.

And finally,

Be more impassioned, knowledgeable, discerning, gracious, and devout in living out my Faith in The Redeemer.