Japanese Marking Gauge – The Block

The block for the Japanese marking gauge was, well, just a left over oak block from making some finish samples many years ago.

Since the irons were 1/2″ wide and needed to penetrate the block with an opening that allowed for them to be clamped in place I simply punched a 1/2″ square hole through it with my mortising machine.

Once that was done and I was sure the irons fit through nicely I marked an arc across the top of the block, to cut later.  The line of the arc just happened to coincide nicely with the perimeter of my trash can lid.

In order to make the tool the most useful as either a single cutter or a double cutter I surmised the need to have the first (inner) iron to be able to become invisible to the marking process.  I accomplished this by cutting a recessed housing in the block for the first iron to reside.

Now the inner iron nestles away inside the block (upper picture), and even with the outer iron in place (lower picture) the tool profile is minimized.

Next time I’ll describe my iron clamping system, there are many to choose from but since I am incurably lazy I went the simplest way.  It was the source of some embarrassment but worked out in the end.

Stay tuned.

Sign Of TheTimes

I suppose it is a sign of the current state of affairs that I spent a little time yesterday gathering the supplies necessary and then making several bottles of hand sterilizer.

I mixed equal amounts of Everclear 151 proof grain alcohol with 70% rubbing alcohol, then added Carbopol 941 polyacrylic acid as the gelling agent, about two spoonsful per pint.  My Carbopol had hardened into a block so I needed to toss a nugget into a mortar bowl and pulverize into a powder with the pestle.

I added the Carbopol powder slowly through a strainer for better dispersion into the mixing bowl with the stirrer going just enough to move the materials (alky, the distilled water portion, and the powdered gelling agent) around for about ten  minutes to fully hydrate the powder, then let it sit.  Since it acts by gelling only the water the gelation was quite slow, several hours, since the water portion of the solution was only around 1/4.  This was actually very helpful as I could then decant the slightly-thickened-but-still-gelling liquid into the dispensers.

This morning I have three dispensers sitting on the dining table with the contents looking perfect, two 4 oz. bottles to carry in our pockets and one 8 oz. jar for use wherever.  I also refilled my spout top dispenser in the barn, which I will not use much now that the water is turned back on and I can wash my hands with soap and water.

Stay isolated and safe in this time of martial law, er, mandatory house arrest, er, whatever, folks.  (“A rose by any other name…”)

Workbench Wednesday – Tim’s Bench II

As Tim and were discussing his new bench he expressed a strong interest in a bench that was both oversized (10-feet long) and would serve as a “partner’s bench, in other words both faces would be front faces set up fully for use.  Since the bench was two-faced I needed to make sure that both aprons were double thickness to accommodate holdfasts.  Normally I only double one face for a Nicholson bench.

In addition, since the bench is going into a shop modeled on a late 18th C working space my usual method of tossing one together with decking screws was not an option.  Instead I ordered several lengths of #14 flat head slotted wood screws from my reliable supplier, Blacksmith Bolt.


I still used decking screws when assembling the pieces, but only to tack things together until I was ready to drive home the #14s.  I almost always start with the legs and did so again here.  I will admit to using PVA glue since the environment for the bench might be a bit dicey at times.  I slathered on the glue and clamped the two pieces together with decking screws and fender washers  It is a system that is fat and works perfectly, allowing me to maneuver the clamping pieces easily.

I wanted the edges of the boards to be nice and clean so I planed them once the glue was dry and the decking screws were removed.

I also planed the faces to get rid of the planer chatter from the original mill.  If the pre-hand-planed surface is any indication it must’ve been a rough day for the machine.

The apron bottoms needed to have crisp corners too.  The corners were really rounded, so I tossed them onto the apron of an eight-foot Nicholson and got them cleaned up.

Before long I was assembling the front and back sides of the bench in preparation for attaching the inner aprons, the end aprons, and the ribs.  I predrilled and countersunk all the holes then sank in the flat head screws.

Stay tuned.

Resuming The Bow Saw Prototypes

You may recall that a while ago I undertook the making of a bow saw prototype for Mark Harrell of Bad Axe using one of his saw plates as my starting point.  I completed the initial prototype saw but in the end found it to be little more than an amusing undertaking, not really useful to Mark in planning out some possible inventory expansion.

If the goal was to replicate exactly the saws of Roubo I failed pretty miserably.  Now, had the task been to make a saw that Victor Horta would like, then I came closer.

I am returning to the project, and over several upcoming blog posts recount my journey to get something as close to Roubo as I could, to provide something for Mark to hold in his hands and use at the bench so he could more thoughtfully do some planning.

NB – I gladly collaborate with any tool makers who want my opinion, input, or experience brought to their specific problems.

Let It Flow! a/k/a “Delightfully Bewildered”

With the mild winter behind us it was time to reconnect and rev up the hydroelectric turbine and reconnect the drinking water line to the barn.

Woo Hoo!  We ended the winter with plenty of firewood, more than half-again as much as we used.  I’m looking forward to increasing that reserve even more by next winter.

I walked the water line last week and checked it out, making repairs as needed to two places where trees had fallen on it.  This was the least damage it’s had over winter.  I also took some time to re-route some sections of the line to straighten it out a bit more.  Even emptied of water a hundred feet of 2″ Schedule 40 PVC pipe is heavy and awkward.  Especially when you have to move several of these.  My shoulders are barking at me in several languages today.  The process is exhausting mostly because the footing is so treacherous in and along side the creek I have to be at maximum attention to avoid slipping and falling.  Which I did.

Late afternoon Saturday I connected all the penstock sections and opened the gate valve to the hyro-turbine and it went “whoosh!”  The subsystem electronics booted themselves and the electrons were flowing.  I guess it is time to set to work on designing the new downstream cross-flow turbine.

I had planned to take advantage of the next warm and sunny day to make one final attempt to troubleshoot the solar controller, the solar sub-system had been limping along for the past four months for no discernable reason.  But much to my bewildered delight I noticed that the solar sub-system charge controller was working perfectly when I checked the powerhouse at the end of this afternoon.   All by itself.

I’m not saying it was Divine Providence, but I’m not not saying it either.

Addressing the Lacunae – Japanese Marking Gauge

Among the tools I did not have in my set of Japanese woodworking tools were any marking gauges.  Within the form are many different variations so ‘I was faced first with deciding what kind of marking gauges I wanted to make and keep in the tool box?  In the set of hand tools in the shop I have several marking gauges ready to be put to work, but the Japanese tool box was already close to capacity so I needed to be very circumspect in the decision for this function.

Fortunately at the recent Wilbur Pan Japanese tool demonstration, between Wilbur’s tools and the inventory brought by JayC to display and use by the woodworkers in attendance, there were several to view, handle, and use.

In the end I came up with my own version of the two-bladed gauge, with some slight modifications so that it could function well as a single blade or a double blade tool.

My starting point was a pair of mild steel bars, each 1/8″ x 1/2″ in cross section.  Mild steel rather than tool steel because the mild steel would bend easily and the sharpened cutting edge would be marking wood, so the mild steel was plenty robust enough for that.  I got the steel bars down from my overhead inventory; I probably bought it at the hardware store at some point in the past when I was just stocking up on raw tool-making materials.


Placing the bars vertically in the Emmert tool-makers vice, making sure to square them to the jaws, I simply bent one and then the other of the bars so that they nestled against each other nicely.  The hammer work was minimal to persuade them to conform.

Now, on to the block.

Rikon Tune-up, Part Deux

In addition to the earlier Rikon tune-up, consisting of a new lower tire, a new 1/4″ blade (although I am likely to supplant that with a 3/8″ blade) and tweaking the guides, I also recently re-installed the original rip fence augmented by a curved single-point resawing block.  My own view of this setup is that a fixed rip fence is almost nonsensical on a bandsaw, given the almost inherent drift in the tool design.  But, a band saw that is set up to rip and resaw well is a joy to behold.

Many, many articles and videos have been made about “truing” a bandsaw’s cut.  Personally I find these a fool’s errand for the most part on a small-ish bandsaw if the end objective is to turn the bandsaw into a precision sawing machine.  Sure, I stone both sides of the new blade when it is first running after being installed, to remove any distortion/excess at the weld joint.  I also round the trailing edge of the blade with the stone while the blade is running.  These two steps increase the performance considerably, but almost never result in a cut that is perfectly parallel to a fixed fence.   One option in response to this,  which I have used, demonstrated, and even included in a video, is to cant the fence to the degree of the run out.

A single-point resawing block is a preferable solution, IMHO.  Somewhere along the line I picked up a Kreg brand block and had it available to affix it to the original rip fence as illustrated.

The beauty of the Rikon fence design is that I can have one side outfitted with a curved single point block and leave the other side with a half fence, which is also pretty usable (I have found that anything longer is useless on a band saw).  I do not mind using both sides of the fence and thus cutting in two different orientations, one on the right side of the fence and one on the left side.

BTW, I notice that both Woodcraft and Highland have these little beauties on sale right now.

Workbench Wednesday – Tim’s Gunsmithing Partner Bench 1

In the years since escaping Mordor for the idyllic solitude of Shangri-La (heck, “social isolation” is the normal practice for every day ending in “Y” out here) one of the valued local friendships is that of Tim, an all around cool dude and a primitive skills enthusiast.  One of those “primitive skills” is Appalachian long rifle-making and connoisseurship and he has been an invaluable aid in my work on the David Cooley rifle.

In recent months Tim has been engaged in salvaging a couple of mid-18th century log buildings from south central Virginia, re-erecting them on his place a few miles from here to serve as his workshop for making rifles and other tasks relative to 18thC frontier living.  Once I learned of this project I proposed building the tool to fulfill his need for a proper period-appropriate gunsmithing work bench.  Tim’s rifle-smithing is in the later-18th century English style, so his bench will be a Nicholson.

We picked up the superb southern yellow pine from Virginia Frame and Lumber in Fishersville and over the next few Wednesdays I will be chronicling the project to outfit him in the manner he and his new shop deserve.

Stay tuned.   I think you will find this an interesting trip.

Not A Novel Virus, But A Novel Tool

Part of my process of refining the raw “slum gum” unfiltered beeswax from the honey factory delivered in a case of roughly 6-inch thick slabs from the bottom of a five gallon bucket, involves a step wherein the coarsely filtered molten beeswax/hot water slurry (removing the bee bodies and gross debris) is poured through fine pasta strainer into a cake pan and allowed to cool undisturbed.

After cooling and decanting the water with any remaining water soluble adulterant, I am left with a big block of beeswax with a fairly uniform layer of sediment on the bottom face of the block.  This needs to be removed before moving on to the next step of filtering.

Normally I try to time the scraping off step for when the block of wax has cooled enough to be fairly solid, but still warm enough to be scraped easily with a large knife.  There are times, however, when I do not get to this step soon enough and the block of wax with its accretions hardens fully.  And with enough cold, it can get pretty hard.  Scraping this is not impossible but it is some hard work when I am doing several of them at once.

Recently I had a great idea while rummaging through my “Giant Files” drawer and pulled out this little curved Surform tool.  I found that for a fully hardened block, even one that is chilled and rock hard, it removes the precipitant easily and quickly.

That smack is the sound of my pam striking my forehead.  Usually in  just a minute or less the block is ready to be put aside for the next melt during which time it will be getting its final filtering from me before moving into Mrs. Barn’s domain and one final filtering before casting into blocks.

I love it when caprice like this happens.

Model 296 Polissoir (and Whisk Brooms) Back In Stock

I am delighted to report that after a few weeks of being out of stock, as of ten minutes ago I am now replenished with Model 296 polissoirs and they will begin shipping again immediately.

Ditto the whisk brooms.