Saw Handle Maker – Dougie Pope (1993)

Dougie Pope is seen producing a wide range of high quality handles in a trade that was once widespread to supply the huge number of saws manufactured in the city. He was filmed at Sheaf Bank Saw Handle Makers, Sheffield

The film is part of a series entitled ‘Masters of Metalworking’ commissioned by Sheffield City Council’s Ruskin Gallery working closely with Ken Hawley who is the narrator on this particular film. It was originally released on no.3 of the series of films in 1993.

The film is made available by kind permission of the Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust who now manage some of the city’s museums on behalf of the City Council.

Compass, Divider, and Calliper

Compass, divider, and calliper are basically instruments that have two legs pivoted to each other at the top and are concerned with small-distance measurement or transfer. The compass and divider have straight legs; the calliper has curved legs.

The terms compass and divider are often interchanged, for each instrument can be used to draw circles, mark divisions (divide a given distance), or simply mark a distance. Technically, a compass is a drafting instrument that has one pen or pencil point and one sharp point that is positioned at the centre of the circle to be described, while a divider, on the other hand, has two sharp points, one for the centre and the other for scribing or marking. Calliper is a corruption of calibre, the diameter of a hole (as in a firearm) or of a cylindrical or spherical body. The outside calliper has inwardly curved legs that measure the diameters of solids created by rotating tools, such as lathe-turned objects, and the inside calliper has outwardly curved legs for measuring bores.

Dividers and callipers were known to both the Greeks and Romans, though the calliper was uncommon. A divider with a circular sector, or wing, connecting the two legs was sketched in 1245; its modern counterpart is the wing divider with a thumbscrew clamp and screw for fine adjustment. The calliper is mentioned in the Middle Ages, but the divider was the principal tool of the architect working on full-scale layouts of stonework, such as in the construction of a cathedral. Such dividers were large, often half as tall as a man. The divider underwent refinements that made it an important drafting instrument for Albrecht Dürer and Leonardo da Vinci; Leonardo suggested improvements that included the knuckle-joint hinge (to increase rigidity) and the adjustable proportional divider (Roman proportional dividers had a fixed pivot that gave only one ratio). Leonardo’s notes also show the beam compass with a screw adjustment for large radii, as well as a compass that had interchangeable points, in which one leg had a clamp for different drawing media, such as graphite or chalk.

Final analysis on home brewed LH Glue

This ones going to be short as there’s not much to add with the exception for two crucial procedures to have a valid glue.

As I’ve experimented with various number of teaspoons of canning salt and adding to the mix before cooking and after cooking I have discovered the following two.

1. Adding less than 2 teaspoons of salt will give the glue a shelf life of upto three weeks. I found this to be rather strange as one teaspoon was added and still it wasn’t enough to extend the life of the glue. I noticed two small molds appear. This is normal behaviour if it was just hot hide glue without salt or urea added to the mix.

2. Adding salt after the glue has been cooked twice gives the glue a murky appearance. Whether or not this has any adverse effect I cannot say. As I’m not sure I suggest you add the salt before it gels.

Saw Makers – Derek & Richard Taylor (1993)

Derek Taylor was a good source of information for Ken Hawley. Ken said that Derek trained as a saw maker at Slack Sellars after WW2, and learned all aspects of the saw trade there. He moved to Garlick’s in Afric Works, Orange Street possibly in the late 1960s/early 70s and bought the firm when the manager, Ted Hudson (himself trained at W Tyzack, Sons & Turner), retired.

There was thus a direct link to the great days of Sheffield saw making between the wars. Derek shifted the firm to 78 Hoyle Street in 1978, where the film was made, and sold it on to Thomas Flinn in 1999. At that point his son Richard left the trade, as it is understood that he felt he could not continue to make a living from it by himself. Ken learned much about the saw trade from Derek, and turned to him for forgotten details after Derek had retired to Dronfield.

The film is part of a series entitled ‘Masters of Metalworking’ commissioned by Sheffield City Council’s Ruskin Gallery working closely with Ken Hawley who is the narrator on this particular film. It was originally released on no.3 of the series of films in 1993. The film is made available by kind permission of the Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust who now manage some of the city’s museums on behalf of the City Council.

Bench Plane Maker – Albert Bock (1965)

Albert Bock, who retired in 1966, was the last wooden bench plane maker at William Marples & Son Ltd in Sheffield. Filmed at William Marples’ Hibernia Works, Westfield Terrace, Sheffield the year before he retired. The film is one of a series filmed in the mid-1960s which Ken Hawley inspired. By then he was acutely aware that he was witnessing the disappearance of a wide range of craft skills on which Sheffield’s reputation had been built over the two previous centuries.

China

Remarkably little systematic study has been made of Chinese furniture. Its origins remain comparatively obscure, its workshops mostly unrecorded, its designers unknown; consequently, its dating is extremely difficult. Most of the forms of Chinese furniture, such as the low table and the covered bed, are found in the oldest Chinese paintings in existence; the designs have been remarkably conservative throughout the ages.

Chinese furniture can be divided into two main types: lacquered wood pieces either inlaid with mother-of-pearl or elaborately carved, and plain hardwood pieces.

Of the first, almost nothing is known, and dating of pieces is possible only from the designs of decorative motifs, such as dragons and peonies, and from their background motifs. The most important historically in this class are black lacquer pieces inlaid with mother-of-pearl that have been preserved in the imperial repository (Shōsō-in) in Japan from the 8th century. Of the red lacquers, such as seats and tables, the earliest pieces date from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644); their workmanship is characterized by softer contours and freer, more spirited designs than the later pieces of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911/12). These lacquered objects influenced European cabinetmakers.

Plain hardwood furniture is frequently encountered. Its deserved popularity both in China and the West has been won by its classic simplicity, reserved ornament, and lack of pretense. In these products of the finest workmanship, purity of line, plastic strength, and a flawless polish produce a harmonious, solid effect.

Chinese horseshoe armchair, huanghuali (a type of rosewood), Qing dynasty, late 16th–early 17th century; in the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

A Chinese house requires less furniture than a Western house. Correspondingly, the types of furniture are fewer, being limited mainly to wardrobes, chests, tables both high and low of all types and shapes (altar and couch tables, for example), stools, beds (sometimes testered with curtains), screens and stools for use by the bed, and chairs.

Although the fundamentals of Chinese joinery must have been formed a millennium before the modern era, the great development in Chinese furniture took place with the introduction of Buddhism from India during the first centuries CE. Before that time the Chinese had sat cross-legged or knelt on the floor or on stools. Buddhism introduced a more formal kind of sitting on stiff, higher chairs with back rests and with or without side arms. The chests and armoires are superb examples of careful joinery and often have finely worked metal mounts that greatly enhance the beauty of their solid design.

A number of hardwoods were used for the plain furniture: purple sandalwood (the most distinguished); rosewood of many varieties, mostly imported from Indochina and called “old,” “new,” and “yellow”; redwood; burl (especially for inlay); and so-called chicken-wing wood. Rosewood in its many varieties is perhaps the most frequently encountered and the most popular for its seeming translucence and satin, soft finish. It is above all the faultless workmanship, so typically Chinese, and the fine polish of Chinese furniture that attracts the Westerner. It was the Chinese respect for the spirit of wood and their command of line, curve, and cubic proportions that became the ideal of the 18th-century Western cabinetmaker.

Roubo Frame Saw

I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a frame saw and kit from Blackburn tools. The saw is 48″ long and is 3 1/2″ ppi.

3.5ppi

I ordered it to be sharpened, and the holes drilled. Boy, is it sharp. The kit is of high quality. The metal is thick and strong and the eyebolt is the best I’ve seen. Everything about it sings quality right down to the thick slotted screws. The workmanship is outstanding.

I made a temporary frame out of structural pine. The frame calls to be made from straight grained timber and pine is straight grained so it shouldn’t cause any problems unless you over tighten it. If you do that, then the likelihood of the frame exploding before your eyes is very high. You’re not doing yourself any favour by not building a frame out of quality timber. Seeing the kit is of quality, it would only do it justice to have the frame the same. However, it isn’t necessary.

Eye bolt and frame

There’s a metal plate behind the frame where the screw pushes against it to tighten the blade. Without the metal plating the screw would chew up the wood. To tighten the saw blade, you turn the eye bolt and to really crank it up you use something as a lever inserted in to the eyebolt. However, I caution you not to over tighten it. As mentioned above, you risk snapping the frame. If you don’t snap it, you will put the frame in twist and therefore the blade will be in twist. I just tightened mine by hand until there was enough tension on the blade to stop it from wandering too much.

I forgot to mention inserting the small metal bracket into the two holes before tightening the blade. This holds the saw blade in place. The plans call the arms to be 1 5/8″ thick. The brackets that the arms are inserted into are that thickness and it’s a good idea not to go too much under 1 5/8″ so the bracket won’t twist when you tighten the blade. If it twists, then the blade will be in twist.

The blade teeth are 3.5 ppi which makes the cut quick. Anything less would be impossible to use and anything greater will take longer to resaw.

Whilst in use, the bench skated over the floor. My English style workbench is heavy, but my floor is tiled which makes my bench slide even when I’m shooting end grain. I presume the fix is simple and I’ll get around to it soon enough, but it’s not unheard the same happening to others when using this frame saw. One solution is to butt the bench up against something immoveable.

Ah, the million dollar question; how did it perform? Well, I found it to be quite hard for one man because of its length. I’ve seen Shannon Rogers use it fine but for me it’s difficult. When I had help the saw sung through the cut, but on my own I was out of breath and had a real hard time pushing it through the cut until I slanted the wood excessively and then ploughed through it. I then experimented by sawing a kerf around the perimeter of the wood. That seemed to work. The wood didn’t need to be slanted in the vice. I also found that I cannot use the whole blade on my own. I’m now thinking if I should place an order for a 32″, but that’s another AU$420 it would cost me. It’s not cheap if you’re living outside the US.

The first time round I went off the line halfway through. The second time the cut was right on the money.

Oh, and don’t forget to decorate your frame to give it that bit of historical authenticity. My carving sucks but I will get the hang of it one of these days.

There is definitely a learning curve you must go through, like anything in the craft. I guess it always comes down to practice and experimentation. Initially, I eye had the eye bolt facing me, but then I found it painful on my stomach as it hit it on every stroke. So I flipped the saw blade round and not the whole saw so it would still cut on the push stroke.

I’m really disappointed in it not being as easy as I thought it would be and the fact I got the longest one on Shannon’s recommendation. I will not dismiss it as I’m sure he went through the same learning curve which is why he has two or three different size frame saww. Education is never free, it always comes with a hefty price tag.

Modern

After the late 19th century, furniture design in the West was divided into two main categories: revivals of past styles—only occasionally precise reproductions, more often free adaptations; and various expressions of changing modern life. The latter category absorbed the best as well as the most progressive talents of the era.

Modern furniture design after World War I was of three kinds: functionalist modern—progressive, adhering to an aesthetic of the machine and often designed by leading architects; transitional modern, which came to be called contemporary and was infused with elements from the past; and commercial modern, called “Borax” because hawkers of that cleanser used to offer premiums, and the word became associated with extra values which commercial furniture often offered by the manner in which it was advertised, or in overblown forms and gaudy veneers. All furniture design was influenced by the social and economic trends of the era: formal living declined; mechanization of household labour expanded; living spaces shrank, particularly in height; and home entertainment became important. After World War II, especially, people married at a younger age, total population growth accelerated, and a generally rising standard of living was enjoyed by a vastly enlarged middle-income group. Furniture became smaller, lighter, easier to maintain, and more widely distributed.

About 1925, a new rationality began in furniture design, stimulated by the emergence of progressive experiments typified in the works and theories of the Bauhaus, a revolutionary German school of arts and crafts established in 1919 and staffed by leading architects, designers, and painters until Hitler closed it in 1933. Bauhaus instruction used crafts as experimental techniques and trained students to design for mass production. Low price levels, maximum utility, good quality, and simple, clear forms were considered essentials of well-designed consumer goods. The celebration of modern technology in progressive design was the most effective accomplishment of the Bauhaus. Forms, colours, and materials hitherto confined to shops and laboratories were introduced into homes and offices with programmatic earnestness and considerable stylishness. Tubular chrome-plated metal, black Bakelite, and large unframed planes of glass were typical. Much furniture used at mid-century in reception rooms, terraces, kitchens, or dining alcoves derived from Bauhaus originals. The availability of wood in Scandinavia led, in the 1930s, to similar rational, modern furniture, using a variety of laminating techniques. Related, more ambitious experiments in three-dimensional moulding of wood laminates were undertaken in the United States around 1940. Then wartime austerity enforced a salutary simplicity.

After World War II, earlier design activity resumed. Scandinavian designers abandoned advanced technology for a time and launched a victorious campaign for sculptured, solid-wood furniture in matte finishes that notably enlarged the vocabulary of progressive design. Italian furniture was similar in trend, more open to structural and technological experiments but more accented and less acceptable generally. American modern furniture achieved its first international influence in moulded plywood and plastic chairs and in semi architectural storage units.

Functionalist modern furniture consciously related itself to progressive architecture, which aided its steady growth in the third, fourth, and fifth decades of the 20th century; at the same time it was also encouraged by friendly periodicals, shops, and museums. Educational and cultural agencies earlier in the century had generally opposed modern design, but gradually there was a change in attitude, and by the mid-20th century it was accepted.

Transitional modern

Conservative in style (but not imitative), well-constructed, and carefully finished, the best modern furniture earned its reputation of being in good, correct taste. Often relying on handcraft details and on wood, most factories used speeded-up variations of earlier cabinetmaking operations. This, along with the United States’ emphasis on artificially stimulated obsolescence, affected all modern design between World Wars I and II. As in the case of stylistic revivals, favourite sources of inspiration for transitional modern were late 18th- and early 19th-century court and country house furniture, with variations in Chinese and Rococo. This furniture served a wide public that found the avant-garde forms and materials too cold and “clinical.”

Commercial modern

Most modern furniture designed between 1930 and 1940 was bulky, bulbous, glowingly coloured, glossily finished, and rich with hardware or shiny fabric. It pleased the public but not critics and connoisseurs. Gradually, and more noticeably after 1945, stylistic details filtered down from more progressive design levels to appear as commercial fads, such as sectional seating and storage units, spidery metal frames, and plastic-shell seats; the Victorian whatnot (set of open shelves for the display of bric-a-brac) was revived, freestanding and rectilinear, as the room divider. Convertible sofa beds and radio and television cabinets were almost all designed in the commercial manner. The innovation of foam upholstery was bitterly fought by union workmen around 1940 but in 15 years had become commonplace in sleeping and seating furniture.

In time a continual flow of new production methods effected basic changes. Lighter masses, thinner silhouettes, and new forms made possible by new materials as well as new technologies seemed to put modern furniture design on the threshold of a new era. By 1970, however, faddism and commercial versions of bizarre and bloated shapes in seating furniture again ushered in a new brand of “Borax.”

19th century

The Empire style began in Paris about the time of the Revolution and quickly spread throughout Europe, each country adapting it to its own national taste. In England it is commonly called the Regency style. Two French architects, Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine, who designed the furnishings for the staterooms of Napoleon, contributed in great measure to the creation of the style. Their ideas were incorporated and propagated in Recueil de décorations intérieures (1801 and 1812; “Collection of Interior Decoration”).

Basically, the new style was a continuation of the Neoclassical style, with a much stronger archaeological bias, leading to direct copying of Classical types of furniture; to this was added a new repertory of Egyptian ornament, stimulated by Napoleon’s campaigns in Egypt. Mahogany-veneered furniture with ormolu mounts assumed the shapes of Roman, Greek, and Egyptian chairs and tables, with winged-lion supports and pilasters headed with sphinxes’ busts or palm leaves; where no Classical prototypes existed, contemporary designs were enlivened with Classical ornament.

In England, Thomas Hope, an amateur designer with some knowledge of antiquities, was the chief exponent of the Regency style and entirely decorated his country house, Deepdene, Surrey, in it. When the fashion was taken up by cabinetmakers, the results were often woefully incongruous. Mahogany and rosewood were used with bronzed or gilt ornament, and metal inlay, a cheaper technique, replaced inlay and marquetry. Along with this style came a renewed enthusiasm for the Chinese taste, as best exemplified in the furniture and decoration of the Brighton Pavilion. In the final stages of the Regency style, both the design and construction of furniture in England and on the Continent showed signs of heaviness and overelaboration that heralded the general decline throughout Europe in the 19th century.

In the United States the style was widely adopted. Its chief native practitioner was the New York cabinetmaker Duncan Phyfe, who in the first decade of the century produced furniture for the wealthy of his city. His designs gave a unique interpretation to Empire ideas. French cabinetmakers, such as Charles-Honoré Lannuier, emigrated to the United States at this time and produced furniture in a stricter French style.

By the 19th century, with increases in the efficiency of transportation and communication, styles became more universal in their adoption but still maintained national and regional differences.

The Empire style, which carried over into the 19th century, began a series of styles that revived form and decoration from the past. This reinterpretation often resulted in a product removed from the principles of the original style. The introduction of the machine and of the factory method sometimes brought about a decline in quality in furniture production.

The Biedermeier style, which originated in Germany and Austria, flourished in the prosperous middle-class homes of Europe from about 1815 to 1848. This style is characterized by classical simplicity. Chairs had curved legs, and sofas had rolled arms and generous upholstery. Mahogany veneers and light birch, grained ash, pear, and cherry were used. The design and much of the ornament were influenced by the Empire style, in particular the Grecian element. The style took its name from “Papa Biedermeier,” a fictitious character whose column, offering opinions on taste in furniture, appeared in Austrian newspapers.

In the 1820s there was a revival of the Gothic style, which in England was partly stimulated by Romantic literature such as the novels of Sir Walter Scott. Losing all the lightness and humour of the mid-18th-century Gothic revival, heavy medieval motifs were profusely and indiscriminately applied to every type of furniture.

A series of other revival styles followed the Gothic. The Rococo revival was one of the most popular; it borrowed the curvilinear elements of the French Louis XV style, especially the cabriole leg, and restated them in a heavier idiom. Entire suites of this furniture were fashioned in mahogany, rosewood, and walnut, the price being highly dependent upon the amount of carving on the frame.

During the first half of the 19th century (the exact date is unknown), metal springs were introduced into furniture construction. The spring construction made chairs and sofas much more comfortable than had the stuffing employed by cabinetmakers during the 18th century.

Another technical improvement introduced into furniture design was the use of plywood. Plywood had great strength and stability and could be more intricately curved than a natural piece of wood. One of the chief exponents of this technique in the United States was John Henry Belter, who was born in Germany in 1804 and served his cabinetmaker’s apprenticeship in Württemberg. He reached a height of popularity in the 1850s. Belter’s work is mainly in the Louis XV revival style.

Michael Thonet, an Austrian craftsman, experimented with bending layers of veneer in Boppard, Germany. Thonet was successful in perfecting a process for bending solid beechwood by heat into curvilinear shapes. His chairs, popular during the latter half of the 19th century, are still made.

Elizabethan and Louis XIV revival furniture was also very popular. The Baroque twisted upright was one of the chief elements employed. The straight, turned leg was also reintroduced. This elaborately upholstered furniture was produced in suites and was blocky and square in its overall form, in contrast to the Rococo revival form.

The Louis XVI style was reintroduced in suites of furniture with round tapering legs, oval backs on chairs and sofas, and elaborate upholstery. The Louis XVI leg was often used on comfortable upholstered furniture whose structure consisted primarily of a flexible metal, or “Turkish,” frame. The only wood visible on this furniture was in the legs, the remainder of the frame being completely upholstered. In such furniture the art of the upholsterer reached its height through the use of elaborate tufting, tassels, and braids.

The English poet and artist William Morris has been called the father of the modern movement. Critical of the shoddiness of the machine-produced goods of his own day, he turned for inspiration to the handcraftsmanship of the Middle Ages and, basing his own work on their designs and methods, attempted to revive a respect for fine craftsmanship and to stir the aesthetic sense of his contemporaries. His influence, though important, might have been greater if, instead of turning away from the machine, he had applied his high ideals to discovering a way in which machines might be used to the best advantage. Morris’ followers in the field of cabinetmaking included such designer-craftsmen as Ernest Gimson and the Barnsley family who, working with a few assistants, produced small quantities of high-quality handmade furniture, the craftsmanship of which has never been rivalled. The example of Morris and his followers was so widely copied on the Continent that many people believe modern furniture design originated exclusively there.

During the third quarter of the century, there was a movement in England toward greater simplicity and aesthetic beauty in furniture. The straight and simple lines of Japanese design served as a source of inspiration. The result was the aesthetic, or artistic, style; its chief exponents, producing both designs and furniture, were Edward Godwin and Christopher Dresser.

Henry van de Velde, a Belgian architect and designer, followed in the footsteps of William Morris and was the conscious propagandist of the Art Nouveau style, which flourished from about 1893 to 1910. Characterized by moving, sinuous curves, the style found its inspiration in organic and natural forms and in the Japanese prints that were so popular in Europe during the third quarter of the 19th century. Van de Velde’s furniture was often designed en suite so that it would give an effect of totality to a room. The interiors of a house in Brussels, created by another Belgian architect, Victor Horta, well illustrate the sinuous curves and natural forms employed by the Art Nouveau designers. The movement was also adopted in France where Hector Guimard was one of its chief exponents. A variant of the style is seen in furniture produced by the Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The Art Nouveau style in furniture design was not as popular in England or in the United States as it was on the Continent.