Early History Of Tool Making

By Joseph A. McGeough

Metals and Smelting

The discovery that certain heavy “stones” did not respond to hammer blows by flaking or fracturing but were instead soft and remained intact as their shapes changed marked the end of the long Stone Age. Of the pure, or native, metals, gold and silver seem to have attracted attention at an early date, but both were too soft for tools. The first metals of value for toolmaking were natural copper and meteoric iron. Although they were scarce, they were tough and potentially versatile materials that were suited for new purposes, as well as many of the old. They also introduced a new problem, corrosion.

Metalworking

Copper occurs in native state in many parts of the world, sometimes in nuggets or lumps of convenient size. It is malleable; that is, it can be shaped by hammering while cold. This also hardens copper and allows it to carry a sharp edge, the hammered edge being capable of further improvement on an abrasive stone. After a certain amount of hammering (cold-working), copper becomes brittle, a condition that can be removed as often as necessary by heating the material and plunging it into cold water (quenching). The softening operation is known as annealing, and repeated annealing are necessary if much hammering is required for shaping.

Among early toolmakers, nuggets of copper were hammered into sheets, divided into strips, and then separated into pieces to be worked into arrowheads, knives, awls, choppers, and the like. Copper was also shaped by beating pieces of the soft metal into appropriately shaped rock cavities (moulds).

Meteoric iron, widely distributed but not in heavy deposits, was a highly prized material more difficult to fabricate than the softer copper. Its celestial origin was recognized by the ancients: the ancient Egyptians called it black copper from heaven, and the Sumerians denoted it by two characters representing heaven and fire.

Like copper, iron hardens under the hammer and will then take a superior edge. Iron can be annealed, but the process is quite different from that of copper because, with iron, slow cooling from a high temperature is necessary. Meteoric iron is practically carbonless and, hence, cannot be hardened in the manner of steel; a high nickel content of about 8 percent makes it relatively corrosion resistant.

For early toolmakers, small meteorites were the most convenient sources of iron, but larger bodies were hacked at with copper and rock tools to yield tool-sized pieces for knives, spear points, arrow points, axe heads, and other implements. Meteoric iron was beaten into tools in much the same way as copper, although it could not be forced into a mould in the manner of the softer metal. Much rarer than copper, meteoric iron also was often used for jewellery, attested to by burial finds of necklaces of iron and gold beads, iron rings along with gold rings, and ornaments in sheet form.

Fixing an out of true chuck

Trying to drill a hole accurately with a wobbly bit is a pain in the backside. This pain I lived with for several months until I figured out what was wrong. When I bought this eggbeater, I never had such issues, but since I dismantled the chuck for cleaning several months back, I noticed the wobble started.

I will go through the steps I have taken to find a solution. You can also follow these steps when you’re next at flea markets before buying a hand drill. You don’t want lemons because these hand drills aren’t cheap anymore.

The first thing I checked was the bit. I laid it flat on my table and rolled it. There were no irregularities, for good measure I placed it in my drill press and it was fine. So, I crossed that off the list.

Open and close the jaws in the chuck and watch if the jaws open and close evenly together. If not, get a new chuck.

Next unscrew the chuck completely off the threaded shaft and inspect the shaft. Crank the drill and eyeball shaft carefully. Your eyes will pick up any irregularities if the shaft is bent. You’ don’t need any expensive gizmos for this.

Threaded shaft must run true and straight

Next pop out the jaws and inspect the flat milled back that holds the bit. This must be clean, undamaged, and milled perfectly flat. It is highly unlikely that it isn’t perfectly flat, so inspections by eye are close enough. There can’t be any dings.

By now I was frustrated and I mean really frustrated. I checked everything I could check, and they all passed with flying colours, but did I. There was one last thing I didn’t notice when I put the darn thing back together again. Since I don’t know the part name, the two pictures will give a better picture of what I’m referring too.

Incorrectly seated
Correctly seated

That’s right folks, that part that I’m pointing too was flipped the wrong way round. The bit rests in the cylindrical depression you see in the middle, which aids in keeping the bit centred (centered for the yanks) coupled with the jaws holding the bit in place. These two combined aid the drill bit from wobbling whilst drilling. Amazing, isn’t it? Something that’s so easy to miss can lead to months and months of frustration and hair loss.

Sandpaper

By fix it club

Most do-it-yourselfers still refer to various grades of “sandpaper,” but the proper term for these sanding sheets is “coated abrasives.” There are four factors to consider when selecting any coated abrasive: the abrasive mineral, or which type of rough material; the grade, or the coarseness or fineness of the mineral; the backing (paper or cloth); and the coating, or the nature and extent of the mineral on the surface.
Sandpaper
Sandpaper can be held in the hand or wrapped around a sanding block.
Paper backing for coated abrasives comes in four weights: A, C, D, and E. A (also referred to as “Finishing”) is the lightest weight and is designed for light sanding work. C and D (also called “Cabinet”) are for heavier work, while E is for the toughest jobs. The coating can be either open or closed. Open coated means the grains are spaced to only cover a portion of the surface. An open-coated abrasive is best used on gummy or soft woods, soft metals, or on painted surfaces. Closed coated means the abrasive covers the entire area. They provide maximum cutting, but they also clog faster and are best used on hardwoods and metals.

There are three popular ways to grade coated abrasives. Simplified markings (coarse, medium, fine, very fine, etc.) provide a general description of the grade. The grit refers to the number of mineral grains that, when set end to end, equal 1 inch. The commonly used O symbols are more or less arbitrary. The coarsest grading under this system is 4 1/2, and the finest is 10/0, or 0000000000.

The following chart contains information on sandpaper types and uses.

GritNumberGradeCoatingCommon Uses
Very coarse30
36
2 1/2
2
F,G,S
F,G,S
Rust removal on rough-finished metal.
Coarse40
50
60
11/2
1
1/2
F,G,S
F,G,S
F,G,A,S
Rough sanding of wood; paint removal.
Medium80
100
120
0(1/0)
00(2/0)
3/0
F,G,A,S
F,G,A,S
F,G,A,S
General wood sanding; plaster smoothing; preliminary smoothing of previously painted surface.
Fine150
180
4/0
5/0
F,G,A,S
F,G,A,S
Final sanding of bare wood or previously painting surface.
Very fine220
240
280
6/0
7/0
8/0
F,G,A,S
FAS
FAS
Light sanding between finish coats; dry sanding.
Extra fine320
360
600
9/0

_2
_2
FAS

S
S
High finish on lacquer, varnish, or shellac; wet sanding.
High-satinized finishes; wet sanding.
SELECTING SANDPAPER

1 F = flint; G = garnet; A = aluminium oxide; S = silicon carbide. Silicon carbide is used dry or wet, with water or oil.
2 No grade designation.


My Thoughts

There are higher grits of course that I have seen up to 7000. They possibly go even higher however, the likelihood that you will ruin your timber is high. From experience, the coloured high grit sandpaper above 2000 will burn its colour onto the wood when using a lathe. Even if you sand with a very light touch, it still occurs. The same cannot be said for grey coloured sandpaper. The 3M 3000 grit foam is an excellent choice for sanding the final coat.

3000 Grit

It’s fine to use on a high-speed lathe, but don’t expect to leave enough grit for second rounds. Hand sanding is fine. I have successfully reused this paper at least 15 times before I had to discard it.

The other one is their next grit size up the 5000 grit.


The colour of this is blue and without a doubt will leave its colour embedded on the wood if used on a lathe. The same will apply even if applied by hand. If you concentrate too much on a particular area, the heat will build up quickly and melt the paper onto the wood. This is extreme, but I have done it. Using this paper will aid in burnishing. The cost of 3M paper is ridiculously expensive, and I do not understand how they can justify it. I don’t know of any other company who makes foam pads of this type.

If you wish to burnish your project you must be made aware that irrespective of how small and insignificant the mark on your work is, it will be highlighted significantly when burnished. Just like all marks are highlighted by the stain when staining, so will any damage be highlighted on burnished timber.

Here Is the Proof

I mentioned earlier that shellac will harden (fully cure) within 10-13 days before the product can be shipped. Some expressed scepticism, whilst others shrugged it off as mere fictitious jargon, but here is the proof.

Whilst this is thankfully only a sample piece for an upcoming project, I am grateful it happened so I can help you not make the mistake I did so long ago. You may wonder what caused this, well, I placed it in my vice not clamping hard at all to plane the edges. I wanted to figure out just how to French polish small pieces as I intend to do so on small jewellery boxes.

Why shellac when there are so many cheaper and faster alternatives? Because no other finish in my opinion can give me the clarity, depth and glass like finish that shellac can and oh almost forgot; longevity. Museums are full of antiques coated with shellac that still don’t need re-coating. Shellac has stood the tests of time whilst modern day products such as lacquer and polyurethane will never outbid shellac, neither in longevity and most definitely in appearance. I understand that there is a need for modern finishes as they come with many benefits such as ease of application, shorter drying times, ready to go out of the can etc, but shellac will always be my most go to finish. It doesn’t mean I don’t use other finishes it means that I use shellac more often than not.

Steel Wool

By Fix it club

Steel wool is a bundle of thin metal fibers spun into a pad. It can be used to remove paints and varnishes, or for polishing and finishing. The softness of steel wool permits its use on surfaces like glass and marble.

Steel wool comes in many grades of coarseness. Always apply the correct grade of steel wool to the work you have at hand, as detailed in the chart below.

SELECTING STEEL WOOL
Coarse 3Paint and varnish removal; removing paint spots from resilient floors.

Medium 1 Rust removal; cleaning glazed tiles; removing marks from wood floors; with paint and varnish remover, removing finishes.

Medium coarse 2 Removing scratches from brass; removing paint spots from ceramic tile; rubbing floors between finish coats.

Medium fine 0 Brass finishing; cleaning tile; with paint and varnish remover, removing stubborn finishes.

Fine 00 With linseed oil, satinizing high-gloss finishes.

Extra fine 000 Removing paint spots or stains from wood; cleaning polished metals; rubbing between finish coats.

Super fine 0000 Final rubbing of finish; stain removal

I want to finish off by saying I wish you all a happy new year, a safer and prosperous new year.

100 year old Process for the Ebonising of Wood

By H. C. Standage

Boil 1 pound of logwood chips 1 hour in 2 quarts of water. Brush the hot liquor over the work and lay it aside to dry. When dry, give another coat, still using hot. When the second coat is dry, brush the following liquor over the work: 1 oz. of green copperas to 1 quart of water, to be used when the copperas is all dissolved. For staining, the work must not be dried before the fire, but in the sunshine. If in a warm room then away from the fire.

Polishing the Work

To polish this work, first give a coating of very fine glue size, and when dry smooth off very lightly with No. 180 paper, only just enough to render smooth, but not to remove the black stain. Then make a rubber of wadding about the size of a walnut, moisten the rubber with French polish, cover the whole tightly with a linen rag, put one drop of oil on the surface and rub the work with a circular motion. When the work has received one coat, set it aside to dry for about an hour. After the first coat is laid on and thoroughly dry, it should be partly papered off with No. 180 paper. This brings the surface even and at the same time fills up the grain. Now give a second coat as before. Allow 24 hours to elapse, again smooth off and give a final coat as before. Now comes spiriting off; great care must be used here, or the work will be dull instead of bright. A clean rubber must be made as previously described, but instead of being moistened with polish, must be wetted with 90 per cent alcohol, placed in a linen rag screwed into a tight even-surface ball, just touched on the face with a drop of oil, and then rubbed lightly and quickly in circular sweeps all over the work, from top to bottom. For the fine ebony black stain, apple, pear and hazel woods are the best wood: to use. When stained black they are the most complete imitations of the natural ebony. For the stain take gall-apple 14 oz., rasped logwood 3 1/2 oz., vitriol 3 1/4 oz. For the second coating a mixture of iron filings 3 oz. dissolved in strong wine vinegar 1 1/2 pints is warmed, and when cool, the wood already blackened, is coated with it 2 or 3 times, allowing it to dry after each coating. A strong lye is now put into a suitable pot to which is added coarsely bruised gall-apples and blue Brazil shavings, and exposed for the same as the former to the gentle heat of an oven which will yield a good liquid.

Staining the Woods

The woods are now laid in the first named stain, boiled for a few hours, and left in it for 3 days. They are then placed in the second stain and treated as in the first. If the articles are not thoroughly saturated, they must be once more placed in the first bath and then in the second. The polish used for wood: that is stained black should be white (colourless), to which a little finely ground Prussian blue should be added.

Veritas Grinder Tool Rest

The Veritas tool rest is possibly one of the best after market tool rests I’ve bought. But without a doubt there are more sturdier ones that I’ve seen fellow woodturners use and that are absolutely over kill for sharpening your irons. If you have one all the more power to you, but if you don’t and you do find it difficult to grind your irons dead square free hand then consider watching this video and saving it to your archive so you can refer back to it when you decide to purchase one yourself. I also recommend the Rikon 8″ slow speed grinder. I’ve had 6″ grinders for years till I decided to bugger one up and then upgraded to the 8″. I’ve not regretted it one bit and God willing she will last as long as I do.

Grinder Wheel Alignment

I recently bought a slow speed grinder as I’ve grown beyond weary sharpening A2 steel entirely by hand. If my plane irons were thin Stanley O1 blades, then I would never need a grinder even if the blade was nicked. However, it is what it is and life goes on.

With every new grinder or with every new wheel replacement, you will need to balance or align the wheels. You also may have to periodically balance the wheels throughout the life of the wheel due to dressing, wear and profiling. The balancing of grinding wheels is essential despite dressing them! Skipping this step may cause chatter marks, excessive wheel wear and spindle head wear to name but a few.

When you start the grinder, you may notice that the wheel has a slight wobble. This can be due to the large flange washers not running true. Fixing this isn’t as difficult or time consuming as you may think.

First turn the machine on and look at the wheel to see if there is a wobble. The chances are high that there will be. If there is, turn the machine off, unplug it from the wall, wait for the wheels to stop turning and take the covers off.

Make a reference mark on each flange washer and the wheel to record their original location.

Next, loosen the shaft nut and rotate the flange washer clockwise and the other wheel counter clockwise by ½”.

Tip: If the wheel is new, you may notice the flange washer won’t rotate due to it being stuck to the paper. I used the tip of a flat blade screwdriver to strike the flange washer, a light tap is all that is needed to unstick it from the paper.

Tighten the shaft nut by hand and rotate the wheel by hand. If you don’t feel confident that you will observe any change, then tighten the shaft nut and turn the machine on. If there is still wobble in the wheel, turn it another ½”. Keep doing this until you’re satisfied. You could spend an eternity finding that sweet spot, but at some point you will have to stop and say it’s good enough for my purpose. A small amount of wobble is fine.

The final step is to dress the wheel. The centre bushings “roughly” centre the wheel on the shaft. Inaccuracies in the manufacturing process may cause fluctuation in the wheel and to address this, a wheel dresser can be used to make the wheel run true.

Place the wheel dresser on the tool rest angled upwards with the edge of the wheel dresser facing the wheel. Slowly bring the wheel dresser to the stone until you hear the untrue side touch the dresser. As you apply light pressure, the face of the stone becomes true.

Some things to be aware of:

The left side shaft nut has left-handed threads and so the nut is tightened counter clockwise. The right-side shaft nut has right-handed threads and is tightened by rotating it clockwise.

Do not over tighten the shaft nuts. Doing so can cause damage to the wheel and the flange washers. A light touch is all that is needed. The direction of travel will keep the nuts tight.

When buying a new wheel make sure the R.P.M. rating is greater than the grinder’s motor. The outer diameter of the wheel must be according to the size specification of your grinder. The bore diameter of the wheel must be the same as the original wheel.

Do not remove the labels on the sides of the wheels. They help to spread the holding pressure of the tightened nuts on the grinding wheel flanges.

Applying the entire face of the wheel dresser to the stone without the support of a tool rest may introduce deeper grooves and further untrue the stone.

Troubleshooting as is in the manual

If the adjustment of the flange washers does not make the wheel run without side to side oscillation, then remove the wheel and flange washers and check the shoulder on the motor shaft at the point where the flange washer seats against it. A slight burr on the edge of the shoulder can stop the flange washer from seating properly. The burr can be removed using a file to smooth the edge of the shoulder. Look for any roughness on the surfaces of the flange washers and smooth these spots on sandpaper placed on a flat surface. Then replace the wheel, re-adjust the flange washers, and dress the wheel.

With wheels properly aligned,this is a wonderful machine that serves its purpose in eliminating the drudgery of sharpening A2 plane blades. With the further aid of an after-market tool rest, you’ll have one powerful addition to your sharpening tool kit.

How to re-handle axes

If an axe breaks, it is almost always the shaft/handle that is the culprit. A poor quality or damaged shaft is a major safety risk. However, if the head is still in good condition, you can re-use your tool by fitting a new shaft.

When fitting a new shaft to your tool, it’s important to ensure that the shaft is dry. If it’s not and dries after the head as been fitted, there is a danger that the head will come loose. This also applies to the wedge if you fit a new shaft using a wooden wedge.

To fit a new shaft to your axe, do the following:

  1. Cut off the existing shaft just below the head.
  2. Drill a number of holes in the eye.
  3. Tap out what is left and clean the eye.
  4. Press and tap the head onto the new shaft, firmly but carefully. Cut off the protruding part of the shaft.
  5. Fit the steel wedge so that the end of the shaft fills the eye. If the steel wedge is not sufficient, you should fit a wooden wedge before the steel wedge. You can make this by cutting a wedge from a dry piece of hard timber. Then split the end of the shaft using a chisel. Apply some wood glue, tap in the wooden wedge and then cut off the excess.
  6. Tap the steel wedge out so that it locks the wooden wedge in position. Then apply oil to the end of the shaft to protect it against moisture.

How to sharpen, store and use an axe

Sharpening

  1. Use a convex edge for applications such as delimbing, felling and splitting.
  2. Use a straight edge for hacking.
  3. An axe that has been sharpened at an angle is dangerous to use as it can easily slip!
  4. A concave edge entails a high risk of the axe splintering.

You can sharpen your axe edge using sandpaper or a bench grinder. The safest way to sharpen is using a wet grinder, but sometimes it may be necessary to first grind out burrs or other damage using a different method, e.g. a bench grinder.

NB: It is very important that you take care when sharpening and ensure that the axe is not affected by heat! If any part of the axe turns a blue colour, it signals that its tempered zone has disappeared in that part of the axe and it is no longer as resistant to wear.

Storage

Never store your axe in excessively dry places, e.g. in boiler rooms or leaning against a heater. You then risk the shaft drying out and the axe head coming loose whilst being used.

Use

Never strike the neck of the axe with another tool. Never use the axe as a sledge. Only sledge axes can withstand being used as a sledge.