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.

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.

Cockroach’s Cousins, Part 4

With the south and east sides of our daughter’s living room dealt with it was time to move over to the north wall on the opposite side of the house.  I left the old cedar shingle panels underneath the front porch “as is” because even though they were 35 years old like the rest they were protected and still fine even though they had the many years of oxidizing on them.

The main issues for the north wall were that, unlike the south wall of the living room, the north wall was concrete block over which were vertical firring strips for nailing the old cedar panels (yes, we bought a pink concrete block house back in 1984).  This is an important point as I now needed horizontal firring for the new individual shingles.

Plus, the window closest to the front of the house was a goner and needed replacing en toto.  Once again sticker shock struck, as the window that was somewhere in the $200 neighborhood 35 years ago had definitely gone upscale in the years since.

Also, this is the wall that has lots of spatial disruptions including the phone service, the electrical service, the heating fuel tank, and all the plumbing and electrical for two mini-split HVAC units.   Due to these issues and the general reduced accessibility the pace of work slo-o-o-owed… dow-w-w-w-n-n-n… a… lo-o-o-ot…

Nevertheless, even though the weather is turning colder unless it is literally raining on me I am happy to keep the project moving forward.  Even when it is raining there is work I can do inside.

With the new window installed the work proceeded.  An added benefit was that this new work allows me to enclose all the plumbing for the mini-splits.  Much more betterer.

I am pleased with the results, but displeased at the slow pace of the work.

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.

The Carpenter’s Step-Son

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.


The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”


And they said, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary?”

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 

I pray for you to have a blessed Christmas with loved ones and that you are celebrating the Incarnation, through whom we can be reconciled with The Creator.

One Of These Days… – A Japanese Toolbox As A Solution?

As I mentioned earlier I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the hanging wall cabinet for my Japanese tools was not a successful solution.  I figured a traditional Japanese tool box might be the better path and browsed youtube for examples of folks making them.  None of those examples seemed to be exactly what I was looking for.  After referring back to the mother ship, a/k/a Toshio Odate’s monumental book Japanese Woodworking Tools, my copy of which is well worn, I was validated in his statement that the tool box is made to hold whatever tools were being housed.  Thus there are as many different sizes and proportions of toolboxes as there are craftsmen and their tools.  Duh.

With that level of freedom conferred I spent a couple days making the one that suits my needs perfectly, and will, I suspect, make the tools much more accessible and thus more integrated into my work routine.  Since Japanese tools seem much more kinesiologically sympathetic to my, uh, aging meat machine, it is likely that this method of work might become my dominant habit.  I’m all about cultural appropriation, baby, snowflakes be damned.

Were I to have a conversation with the 1970 Model of Don I would tell him, “You know, playing basketball on asphalt courts several hours a day is going to make your knees really ache some day.”  And believe me that day came a long time ago.

Stay tuned to follow along as I go down this path.