Donations Cart Episode 4
This will be a four-episode build series on how to make a donations cart using only hand tools. This a rush order that I only had a few hours notice to build it. I was very stressed out.
Donations Cart Episode 3
Tools for the Making
The author makes tools for several reasons-to recapture the quality of days gone by, to meet the demands of special applications, and to improve on the designs available from mass producers. The objects shown on the facing page recapture the combined elegance of function and appearance that every first-rate cabinetmaker once expected from his tools.
I am probably the only active woodworker with both a Norris and Primus smoothing plane gathering dust on a shelf. The reason for this curious circumstance is that I have built replacements that come much closer to my personal vision of what a plane should be. l make guitars, working almost entirely with hand tools: a comprehensive collection of planes, saws, chisels, scraper blades and miscellany accumulated over 30 years. The scale of my instrument building does not call for heavy power tools, with their concentration-shattering din. Making musical instruments is essentially a quiet activity, a calming ambience in which I draw great physical and metaphysical pleasure from planing, sawing, scraping and otherwise working wood by hand. My idea of a good tool is a solid, well-made object that does the job it was designed to do. It should be comfortable to use and, I hope, look attractive. Finding hand tools that fit these particulars is not as easy as it once was. Power tools have pushed out many hand tools, and manufacturers have dropped others because turnover is too small by today’s high-volume standards. Lightweight plastics are fast replacing wooden handles (to the detriment of a handsaw’s balance), and high labour costs in industrialised countries will l increasingly shift manufacture to low-wage countries, where price will be more important than quality.
The whole ethos of merchandising has changed since the days when tools of durable excellence streamed from the factories of Victorian Britain. Tool manufacturers then shared the universal assumption that having a good product was the high road to competitive success. Skilled journeymen, the” marketplace” back then, demanded fine quality; lesser tools made for dilettantes were whimsically described as “Gent’s” tools.
Today, competitive pressures focus on that end of the market where the preempt I’ve word is not so much “good,” but “right”-the right tool, the right price, and the right merchandising. The appeal is aimed at the great mass of basically unskilled led buyers who are building shelves in their garages. The choice of colour for a plastic handle (involving market research and colour consultants) is counted a weightier matter than the alloy in the blade. For these and other reasons, I came to understand that if I wanted my dream plane, I would have to make it myself. I wanted tools that would not only function better than those on the market but look beautiful too. Using planes as much as I do, I soon realised their shortcomings. The Norris smoothing plane, a famous example from the golden age of British tool manufacture, has deficiencies that make it less than wonderful today. The front grip is a brief stub of wood offering a restricted handhold, and the closed handle is designed for the three-finger grip favoured by British woodworkers but alien to me. The screw adjusted cap is inefficient-a half-turn too little can affect the plane’s functioning. The cutting edge is concealed from view and can easily strike the bottom of the fixed screw cap or the top of the mouth, and the mouth is not adjustable. The things I really like about the Norris are its heft, coffin-sided shape, thick blade and the configuration of the wooden frog. My own design for a metal bench smoother was based on these Norris features.
The wood-bodied Primus plane is a well-made German tool with a cumbersome adjusting mechanism. Removing the blade for sharpening is an above average bother, and replacing it involves complete repositioning of the blade using two knobs. I find the Primus’ horn-style tote unsatisfying in terms of comfort and control. As a plus, the mouth opening can be changed by simple adjustment of a wooden insert. I wanted my plane to have an adjustable throat, depth-adjustment without slack, lever-action blade cap for fast blade removal, and a lateral adjustment by means of a concealed device that could not be knocked askew. I made many sketches and tried different styles of tote and handle before constructing the metal bench smoother shown on the facing page. The patterns for the brass lever cap and malleable iron body casting were made of wood, with the bent sides made of maple veneer laminated over a curved form. Both of these, plus the pattern for the sliding toe piece, were sand castings. The regulating mechanism parts, and cap lever, were built of boxwood and cast by a lost-wax foundry using inexpensive silicone moulds. Steel regulator shafts and knurled brass knobs were turned by a machine shop. Precise hand-fitting of all the regulator parts eliminated slack motion. Wooden parts are Brazilian
rosewood, the handle being a three-piece lamination. The blade is a 2-in. chrome vanadium replacement blade, 1/8 in. thick (available from Woodcraft or Garrett Wade).
For the wood-bodied plane, I used a laminate construction to avoid the difficult job of mortising the throat out of a solid block. Quartersawn teak was chosen for its dimensional stability, and the sole was lined with stainless steel. The metal lining is epoxied to the sole and secured with a “key” mortised into the front and back end of the body. These keys are hard soldered to the sole plate. Loosening the screw in back of the tote permits movement of an insert in the sole to open or close the mouth. This plane is a joy, comfortable to work with for long periods, and has the balance and heft that make it a good all -around plane. It holds a 1/3/4, -in. Chrome vanadium blade, 1/8 in. thick.
My total cost for four planes (jack and jointer in process) will average out to about $65 per plane. Not cheap, as planes go, but certainly a worthwhile investment to me. So far, I’ve built 22 tools-planes, try squares, mortising gauges, bevels, and spoke shaves.
Good commercial chisels are not in short supply, so my chisel making has been confined to special-purpose kinds. I particularly like the exceptional comfort of a chisel-handle shape based on the handle of an engraver’s burn in, used in conjunction with a square instead of round ferrule. A square ferrule automatically orients the hand in its proper working mode. I plan about 10 more tools, including block plane, instrument-maker’s vise, level, hand router, and hand drill of improved design. The time is not far off when China, India, and other developing countries will be shipping basic hand tools of very acceptable quality to world markets. It is interesting to speculate that domestic producers may then abandon the homeowner market and choose to focus on tools for the skilled woodworker. We might see a bench plane that is not a Ford, but a Mercedes. In the meantime, I’ve found that it’s entirely possible to make your own tools using the best materials available, and without the cost constraints manufacturers have to live with. Not the least benefit of surrounding yourself with elegant tools is the constant stimulus to do work that measures up to the tools.
Irving Sloane makes guitars in Brussels, Belgium. He has written several books on guitar construction, and these, too, focus on the benefits of making special-purpose tools. Making his inlaid bevel gauge.
Donations Cart Episode 2
This will be a four-episode build series on how to make a donations cart using only hand tools. This a rush order that I only had a few hours notice to build it. I was very stressed out. After many years of not recording, this is my first video project, and I am optimistic that there will be many more to come. If you haven’t already, please show your support by liking and subscribing to my channel.
Donations Cart Episode 1
This will be a four-episode build series on how to make a donations cart using only hand tools. This a rush order that I only had a few hours notice to build it. I was very stressed out.
How to Market?
Another good read found.
A comment on small-shop economics
by Josh Markel
Two years ago, eight woodworkers gathered in a cold
Philadelphia shop for the purpose of mutual aid. After
several months of intermittent meetings, two main goals
emerged: to form an organisation, and to put on a large,
juried and, we hoped, impressive area show of woodworking
By now, both of these goals have been
achieved, and yet our questions about how to make a living
as designer-craftsmen remain: what to make, for whom, in
what style, how to market it, and, more generally, what constitutes
integrity in this profession?
The experience of a few of the founders of the Society of
Philadelphia Woodworkers is illustrative. Of these “founding
fathers” only one, myself, was in fact a father when the organisation
was begun. This itself says something about the kind
of life one must lead to be a designer-craftsman. Typically,
my friends spend most weekends and many evenings in their
shops, leaving little time or energy for lasting close relationships.
Typically, they survive on incomes so low that family
life is all but ruled out anyway.
Consider Bob Ingram. He routinely sells furniture at the
best galleries in the area, appears in the most esteemed juried
craft shows, and has won awards for his work. He would
seem to be a success. Last year, however, he made furniture
he priced at $28,000, sold $22,000 worth, and had expenses
of $19,000, even though he shares a low-overhead shop. The
numbers don’t work out very well.
Ingram has very carefully developed his work for that niche
of the furniture market that craft woodworkers are uniquely
suited to fill. His furniture emphasises types and cuts of wood
Generally unavailable in production furniture, though he does
not favour expensive” exotic woods. His designs cleverly mix
hand-shaping with : jig-shaped pieces, or else they are completely
jigged for small-batch production.
Ingram had hoped to stake out his market in the furniture
galleries, so for two years he solicitously built toward his debut
last June at the prestigious Rhinebeck fair. It was a total
disaster: “They wanted either low-priced stuff in quantity, or
else funky stuff where price was no object,” he says. ” I had
neither. ” Now Ingram is shifting his strategy toward short run
production for the contract-furniture market on one hand,
and toward fanciful constructions for the furniture galleries on
the other. He is opening his own by-appointment showroom,
and has been showing his portfolio to manufacturers and marketers
who sell primarily to architects and interior designers.
Demand for his work has recently increased, and in response
to it, Ingram has hired helpers. He feels ambivalent
about this because he is accustomed to having control over
every aspect of his operation. In addition, he finds that the
craftsmen he would prefer to hire aren’t content working for
somebody else. They all want to be on their own.
Ingram shares a shop with Jack Larimore and Larimore’s
Skilful helper, Dave Page. Last year, Larimore’s economic tale
Bob Ingram’s table can be made in various woods, colours and
sizes-whatever the customer desires.
would have been even more woeful than Ingram’s. As for so
many others, the wife with the steady job is the unsung heroine.
But Larimore’s persistence and talent, and the patience of
his wife, Gretchen Hoekenga, have begun to pay off. His
sales are increasing through the galleries and craft shows, and
by word of mouth. It’s about time, too-he’s just become a
father and can no longer depend on his wife’s steady income.
Larimore seems to have hit a design style that taps into the
current interest in ornament, using a mixture of colour and
natural, mostly local woods. The style evolved from the case goods
projects he does to pay the bills, in which he attempts
to get away from unadorned boxes by adding decorative elements
keyed to the client’s decor. The pieces look one-of-a kind
and in fact are, but they’re also quick to make.
I asked whether this Post-Modernist style was a deliberate
response to a market trend. Larimore agreed that it was, adding,
“I see myself as a designer rather than an artist, and so I
have a responsibility to suit my client’s tastes in ways that
satisfy my own sense of aesthetics and theirs too. Furniture,
being a decorative art, is quite susceptible to style changes,
and the best pieces in each style will be timeless. ” Going with
the trends needn’t be devoid of integrity.
As an antidote to a steady diet of one-offs, our show last
spring offered an award for the best piece designed as a multiple.
We hoped to encourage craft woodworkers to think in
new ways, as well as to draw some notice from those segments
of the furniture industry open to external design and development
work. Peter Korn’s dictionary stand (facing page) won
the award. It is an excellent example of an unpretentious and
graceful piece that does not require hand-shaping.
Korn’s evolution has been different from Larimore’s: “I
always avoided taking casework jobs just to make money. I
felt that if I invested in the machinery necessary to do these
jobs profitably, I would have to cover the investment by
keeping the machines busy all the time. I’d never get back to
furniture. ” Even so, his walls are decorated with prototypes
and jigs, revealing many clever attempts to crack the production-
furniture market. Like most designer-craftsmen, Korn
has yet to get a serious opportunity to develop a product for
mass-marketing, though he’s been at it for ten years. I suggested that woodworkers need to develop their own
direct-marketing methods. Kom replied that the costs of advertising
and the amount of time necessary make this less attractive
than persuading some firm to buy a design. Time spent
on business instead of on woodworking is also a factor in the
gallery market-Larimore has recently employed a half-time
secretary, just to answer inquiries and to send slides to prospects.
Korn says that when he started out, “the commissions
the galleries took really rankled, but now 1 think the galleries
perform a valuable service in cultivating the market. “
Korn is doing better this year than before, and he feels that
the market for craft furniture is growing. Nevertheless, he
says, “I would be making more money if I had stayed a carpenter.”
He supplements his income by teaching, at the Anderson
Ranch in Colorado in the summer and at Drexel University
in Philadelphia during the winter.
With rare exceptions, furniture makers who appear successful
in galleries aren’t making any money. None of my acquaintances
has yet been able to use a well-established small shop as
a springboard to design or production-prototype work for the
furniture industry. None has managed to build up his own
mail-order or showroom business. I sampled the more than
thirty people who exhibited in our recent Philadelphia show.
Overwhelmingly, these craftsmen are young white males
without families of their own. Harsh economics seems to govern
not only who can make furniture, but what kind of furniture
is made as well. These artisans tend to make expensive
gallery pieces, intended for clients who, as Larimore says,
“buy them for display in their homes or collections. “
Pieces that command high prices generally are vigorous and
flamboyant assertions of the skill and imagination of their
makers. They also tend to be overly precious and self-consciously
artsy, in order to please the jaded tastes of those who
can afford them-it’s a truism that if you want to sell to the
rich, you must study and emulate what the rich are buying.
More and more, this category of contemporary work refers to
the imagery of sculpture, painting and architecture, to cash in
on the critical credentials of these other art forms. Less and
less does it refer to requirements that originate either in how
the product will be used or in how it was made. These pieces
of furniture shout to be seen by themselves, but not to become
integrated into the life of a home.
By way of contradicting myself, let me say that I very
much enjoy both seeing and making furniture that results
from an unhindered play of the artistic imagination. I enjoy
the best of this work, much as I enjoy an occasional trip to a
fancy French restaurant. It’s fun, but it’s not a steady diet.
There is much to learn. I’d like to know more about craftsmen
who have built small shops into successful, short-run
production operations. Some craftsmen, such as Thomas
Moser of New Gloucester, Maine, have effected successful
production shops that sell through direct mail, and I’d like to
hear more about them. I’m especially curious about the many
5- to 30-man shops in northern Italy that produce much of
the clever furniture seen in Abitare magazine.
It will be difficult for craftsmen to pursue design directions
that engage a broader audience than rich collectors, even
though this is where the rewards currently are, both monetarily
and in terms of the critical approval of their peers. A different
design direction requires a public that knows that good
furniture is a lifetime investment and therefore worth the
bucks-not the large bucks of a few collectors, but the collective
bucks of a middle class which could forgo an Olds for a
Chevy and buy a beautiful desk with the change. We can
learn from industry what works and what doesn’t, without
being blinded by industry’s constraints. We will have to devise
sophisticated designs that can be jig-produced rather than
hand-shaped. The challenge of industrial society is neither to
be swamped by the conformity of enormous scale, nor to reject
it by returning to hand-production. There has got to be a
middle path that will utilise the tremendous creativity of the
craft-woodworking renaissance-before we all go broke.
Josh Markel, a professional woodworker for the past six
years, is a director of the Society of Philadelphia Woodworkers,
4 101 Lauriston St. , Philadelphia, Pa. 19128.
The secret of these mysterious, Mouldings eluded Irvin Rosen for 50 years until a shock absorber commercial showed him how to make a razor-sharp knife bob enough to cut undulating waves.
Reinventing a 19th century mechanical marvel
by Carlyle Lynch
My friend Irvin Rosen was just a youngster in 1925 when he encountered a woodworking mystery that would haunt him for nearly 50 years. He was helping his father restore a 1830s-vintage clock embellished with a precisely cut ripple moulding that he had never seen before. Rosen was impressed that neither his father nor his grandfather, both experienced craftsmen, could imagine how the moulding had been made, though they were certain it had been cut with a machine, not hand carved. Rosen vowed to learn the secret of the mysterious moulding. It took him nearly 50 years, and his quest led him to re-invent a woodworking machine that had been lost more than a century ago.
Rosen’s machine is a motorised scraper. A lead screw connected to the motor drives a heavily weighted razor-sharp cutter back and forth along a strip of mahogany or rosewood in a methodical carving/scraping motion. As the cutter assembly moves along the moulding stock, a metal finger attached to it follows a special template to give the carriage a regular undulating motion that corresponds to the ripple pattern of the moulding. It’s a time-consuming process, taking several hundred passes to cut even a small piece of moulding. Rosen suspects the original mouldings were cut in a similar way, but he can’t prove it. All the original ripple moulding he’s found has been on clocks made at the Jonathan Clark Brown factory in Bristol, Conn. Brown’s factory burned in 1853, and his machine was destroyed. No patent, sketch, or description of it, has ever been found.
I didn’t meet Rosen until after he had invented his machine, so, on a recent visit to his home in the tiny hamlet of McKinley, Va., I asked him how he did it, with so little information to go on. Rosen is a slightly built, soft-spoken man loaded with what some call “native ability,” that combination of sound knowledge of tools, a lot of common sense, and no fear of work. He needed that kind of character. Before retiring as woodworking teacher at the Virginia School for the Deaf in Staunton, he spent much of his free time working on the moulding-sketching, building, trying every idea he could conceive. But, after three years of almost constant thought and work following his retirement, he hadn’t figured it out.
Then, after one especially tiring and discouraging day, he sat down after supper to watch the television news and saw a commercial advertising shock absorbers. A car was speeding over a series of railroad ties, its body moving smoothly forward, while its wheels danced a blurred staccato over the ties. There it was, to make the cutter dance up and down. He had already been experimenting with linear scrapers, so he began working to combine their back-and-forth motions with the shock absorber action.
After experimenting with various types of tracks, templates and guides, he found the right combination.
The machine Rosen devised, shown on the facing page, centre, is a fairly simple device. The motor drives a variable-speed pulley keyed to a long, horizontal lead screw mounted in pillow blocks. A nut on the shaft propels an angle-iron frame fastened to a carriage that straddles two angle-iron rails. The moulding stock is clamped between the rails under the carriage, which, in turn, holds a vertically mounted cutter against the moulding blank. A weight on the carriage forces the cutter against the strip, while the turning shaft slowly propels the carriage forward, down the length of the shaft. As the cutter moves along the moulding stock, a metal finger under the carriage bears against a rippled template fastened
to one side of the track, causing the carriage to bob up-and-down (or left-to-right), as shown on the facing page. When the cutter reaches the end of the shaft, it flips a switch that reverses the motor, beg inning the cycle in reverse. In this way, the machine can run unattended for hours. It takes about 200 passes, and
three hours, to mould a 25·in strip of mahogany, and twice that long for rosewood. The variable-speed pulley lets Rosen control the speed of the cutter. The wider the moulding and the harder the wood, the more slowly the cutter has to move.
Rosen has copied all the ]. C. Brown mouldings he’s found. With another carriage, one that moves from side-to-side between the curved template and a strong spring, he makes “pie crust” moulding, which resembles that on carved pie-crust tabletops. He has also discovered a way for his machine to make curved and circular mouldings, but that part of his invention is still under wraps.
Rosen, himself an expert clock restorer and builder, now sells ripple mouldings to craftsmen all over the world. Since that fire in 1853, steeple clocks, still a popular pattern of American shelf clocks, have been quite plain little things with little more than half round pilasters decorating their cases. Now, thanks to Rosen’s determination and curiosity, builders can give their reproductions all the compelling pizzazz of the Brown originals.
Carlyle Lynch, a deSigner, cabinetmaker and retired teacher,
lives in Broadway, Va.
Make yourself a Disposable Foam Brush
A disposable foam brush is ideal for applying varnish and shellac because it eliminates brush marks and is disposable. These brushes have become expensive for such a simple tool. Get some foam offcuts from any foam and rubber store and some scraps from your offcuts bin.
Use a sharp knife or Stanley blade works well here and cut out a small mortise. The wood can be of any size or thickness, just make sure you either round off the end that’s going into the mortise or bevel it like I have. To be truthful, I just thought about rounding it off, I think that is a much simpler and quicker way. Insert it and staple it the foam to the stick.