Tip on thicknessing by hand accurately

Many people have difficulty planing to a precise measurement. They struggle because they lack the proper tool for the job. That is to say, the proper marking gauge. Veritas created a marking gauge with two blades. One has the bevel on the inside, while the other has it on the exterior. I won’t waste time describing what they’re for because we all know what they’re for.

Veritas Marking gauge

Use the flat surface of the circular blade against the material while gauging your stock for thicknessing. Why? Because using the bevel side, which is what most people do (including myself), will indent or undercut the line. You’ll notice a few thou difference when you plane to that line if you planed successfully. The thickness difference throughout the board would be roughly 1/128.

Except for a few spots near the centre where it is high 1/128, this piece is perfect on 3/4. That is incredible accuracy by hand and something to be proud of.

Here’s a rundown of how I prepare my boards for thickness. I don’t just plane aimlessly. Whether or not I need a scrub plane depends on how much material I need to remove. I lessen the cut as I get closer to the gauge line in order to creep up on it. The key is to maintain patience; if you don’t, you will almost certainly cross over the gauge line.

Not everything needs to be flawless, but when it does, it’s nice to know that you don’t have to rely on machinery. You are capable of relying on your own two hands.

Here is some thing off the topic.

The wood on the right is American black walnut and the one on the left is Queensland walnut. They may appear to be same, but their qualities are vastly different. This makes me think of my twin boys. Even though they are identical twins, their personalities are very different.

Book Holder Episode 1

This will be a thirteen-episode build series on how to make a book holder using only hand tools. 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.

How To Make a Hand-Engraved Hammer with Simple Tools

The video description is from the maker himself.

In this video I am showing how I made a simple hand engraved hammer without a forge or fancy tools. For the Hammerhead I have used a 25mm by 25mm steel bar (1” x 1”) and cherry wood for the handle, cherry is not ideal for hammer handles but it is beautiful and this hammer will get very light abuse, ideally hickory or ash wood is used.

Moisture Meters


Moisture meters measure the percentage of moisture or water in wood. Woodworkers use them to determine whether or not the timber is too wet or too dry to be used for furniture making. If the timber is too dry, glue bond failure may occur and if too wet again you may face the same problem. Using a moisture meter irrespective of whether you’re a hobbyist or professional is essential.
I admit that up until recently I haven’t owned a moisture meter and have to a certain degree worked wood successfully without one, but I emphasise the phrase “to a certain degree”. Not every timber I worked was without its problems of cups, warps and bows. Not every timber I planed remained flat the next day. Had I used a moisture meter prior to working that wood I at least would have been informed of its moisture content (MC) and would have decided then and there whether or not this timber is workable. However, not always is the MC the culprit, as I mentioned in the kiln drying article on the blog. If the timber isn’t dried correctly, it can form stress and regardless of its moisture content you may face hard times working with it.

Pinned versus Pinless
A pinned style includes two pins that are proud on top of the meter. These two pins are inserted into the timber either face or, more commonly end grain to take a reading. A small electrical current is passed between the points, and the amount of resistance is correlated to a moisture content. Moisture is a good electrical conductor so the wetter the wood the less resistance there is to the current. The accuracy of a pinned version is affected by the variances in the naturally occurring chemical composition of wood species, but isn’t as affected by the difference in density from one species to another.
A pinless version penetrates deep into the wood using an electromagnetic wave through the area under the sensor pad. This creates an electromagnetic field which the meter correlates to a moisture content. The real beauty of a pinless version is it’s non-destructive, which means there are no holes bored into your timber and it scans a much larger area than the pinned version.
The debate regarding the accuracy of the two versions has been ongoing for years with only ever one outcome, pointing favourably towards the pinned version until recently. With technological advancements, the pinless style has been shown to be just as accurate with the added benefit of being non-destructive. However, it always boils down to the quality of the device and there are many manufacturers out there producing both versions that range in price from $30 to $1000.
All companies, regardless of version will make claims that their meter is the best in terms of accuracy. Knowledge through research will make you better informed as to the accuracy of their claims.
So how do we know which manufacturer to choose? Well lucky enough for you I have done this research over many months and am providing a link for you http://www.moisturemeter.com where you can see for yourselves which brand is better than others. These tests were conducted by experts and the methods they used are described on the website. I urge you to thoroughly go through all the brands tested so you can make a truly informed, unbiased decision. After all, money doesn’t grow on trees even though the leaves are the same colour.
After extensive research of many, many brands I have opted to go with a Wagner MMC 220.

With this meter, you also receive a clip-on carry case. Yes, this meter is fragile – you cannot exert more than 2-pounds pressure and a drop from 4 feet or more will result in damage to the unit, requiring that it be sent back for re calibration. I thought I’d point that out straight off the bat. Other than that, according to independent moisture meter experts it’s accurate and measures moisture in the wood and not on the surface of the wood. It measures softwoods and hardwoods including tropical species. In the manual you receive, there is a list of specific gravity for most commonly used timbers. If your timber isn’t listed they also provide a link where you can find this information.
In summary a moisture meter is a must have for any serious woodworker. If you’re building once or twice a year and you purchase timber from a trusted source then it would be a complete waste of your money to own one because, by the time you get around to building your project your wood would have significantly dried and acclimated to your shop’s environment.

On the other hand, if you’re buying timber from privateers and not so reputable businesses (and I could name a few) then it would make good sense to bring one with you. Not everybody’s honest and not everybody’s claim of their stock being dry is true. So, having a meter for your own peace of mind is money well spent in my books.

The Last Screwdriver You’ll Ever Need

By Peg from MetMo Driver

Hello everyone!

We are a small team of engineers with a passion for investigating and bringing historic tools back to life.

We have spent the last 6 months collecting, studying and reverse engineering a tool first designed in the early 1900’s – the Weltrecord ratchet screwdriver. This was one of the early examples of combining a ratchet mechanism with a mechanical drive handle, creating a pocket tool that would fall somewhere between a brace and a regular screwdriver. 

There were some precursors to this particular design, but this German made piece is unique in that it combines a switchable ratchet mechanism, interchangeable drive bits, collet chuck and the drive arm.

As an operational tool these original versions are still useful today with the ability to put more torque and pressure onto a screw, avoiding slipping and subsequent damage to the screw head.  

A picture containing building, outdoor, ground, brick

Description automatically generated

Above: Original screwdriver in use

With modern production techniques and new materials, we were able to take the genius of that early patent and improve in some key areas with our new tool, MetMo Driver.A picture containing weapon

Description automatically generated

Taking a look at the original, you can see the whole design is much slimmer than our version, which was most likely a cost issue back when the tool was being produced. Our new driver has a much larger form factor which brings with it some key benefits;

The adjuster pin to change from forward/reverse/locked is now a knurled brass component which is much easier to interact with than the original pin, especially on cold days in the shop when you’re in two pairs of gloves and full arctic survival gear! 

The chuck and reciprocating pin have now been hardened to increase wear resistance and the much larger chuck has a broached hex drive with a neodymium magnet mounted internally to hold all standard bits. This was a major step forward from the old design which used specialised bits and a collet system which has long since seized on our unit. 

The free spinning handle has been helped along by the introduction of a brass bush and the increased size allows you to get much more weight behind it to prevent slipping and damaging a stubborn screw.You can see a how we produced this prototype here: https://youtu.be/c2ywZnQLPeI

Introducing Mr Baumann 

The original inventor was a German chap named Conrad Baumann, who ran a company called Conrad Baumann Werkzeugfabrik (roughly translated as toolmaker) that operated from around the end of the 1800’s. The drivers were sold under the Baumann-Weltrecord brand, translated into English as the Baumann-world record. 

Pictured here is a later version of the early design.


Conrad was a tool maker by trade but also an inventor, with patents on various screwdrivers, as well as an innovative form of shirt buttons akin to folding cufflinks! But I digress.

Getting back to the patent that we used to redesign the MetMo Driver.

The funny thing here is the original design was not a patent at all but instead a specialised German design mark! Let me explain – Thanks to rapid industrialisation and interest in international trade after the founding of the German empire in 1871, the imperial patent office introduced the “German Imperial Utility Model” or Deutsches Reichs-Gebrauchs-Muster (in German) in 1891 and would act in a similar way to modern day design trade marks or design rights, but also prove that it was a genuine product of Germany.

On a product, this Utility Model would be designated by the letters DRGM much in the same way we use the TM or C symbols now. This system was used from 1891 to 1945 and early examples of the Weltrekord ratchet screwdriver have DRGM stamped into the handle, putting the original design date anywhere between those dates.

We had hoped that through contacting the historic patent office in Germany, we’d be able to narrow the date down, but all of these early records were lost when the second world war ended. What we did find was a tool catalogue from 1942 that listed the Conrad Baumann brand and suggested it had been in business for around 10 years prior to that, so we know it was already an established and widely distributed product at this time.

The history doesn’t stop there though, in 1950 a German patent was filed with the US patent office under the same company name outlining the same details of a ratcheting screwdriver and is the first written record of the ratcheting screwdriver encompassing removable bits with an independent drive handle.


Above: The original patent drawings and Patent number

Conrad goes on after this to file two more patents, one in 1959 that officially ties his 1950s patent to his original DRGM mark that would have been lost. Another was published in 1967 a much more complex and refined design, that took advantage of the latest engineering techniques of the time, the addition of a moulded plastic handle, smaller mechanics and reduced size overall, combined with a collet style chuck. But interestingly still designed to only work with the supplied bits.  

Above: drive bits were of this set size with a D shaped drive dog this set also has an extension arm.


Close up of the collet chuck, seized in place on this particular model. https://ksr-ugc.imgix.net/assets/036/763/046/c3c69e4b16be8db4421a782cc67c6826_original.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.0.2&w=700&fit=max&v=1648123789&gif-q=50&q=92&s=dfbed7f8af295da3b9b39a43ae48f64c

 Close up of the collet chuck, seized in place on this particular model.

later versions of his screwdriver have the 1950’s patent number stamped into the handle instead so if you see the DRGM mark you have a pre-1945 model on your hands. There are more of the later versions available at auction, identifiable by the semi translucent plastic handle, however, there seems to have been a design flaw with the collet style chuck on these later models that has resulted in this part no longer holding onto the bit as would have originally been intended.


Above: The Iconic stamp and patent mark of the Weltrekord brand

The last known record of Conrad’s business was in 1975 where his business was given an official registration certificate to supply the US government. At the time the early power drills and cordless battery drills were starting to take off and Conrad would have been reaching the end of his career. It is possible it was bought out by one of the other tool companies in the area, but like many small businesses we may never know its fate in history.

The area where Conrad set up shop has a rich heritage in toolmaking, on Gerber str, Remscheid-lüttringhausen in Germany located in the northern Rhine region. This area had seen rapid economic growth in the early 1800’s with mechanical engineering and toolmaking as the main industries. In the early 1900’s Remscheid was the centre of the German tool industry.

Then during the second world war this manufacturing area was considered a threat and in 1943 the town was almost completely destroyed by a British bombing raid as part of the RAF’s battle of the Ruhr, involving over 270 aircraft.

To this day the town has a very high concentration of well-known quality tool manufactures whose history’s date back hundreds of years, starting out specialising in a single tool much like how Conrad had started. It is also home to the German tool museum, something I am keen to visit when I get the chance. More information about the museum can be found at https://www.werkzeugmuseum.org/

To the best of my knowledge this screwdriver first went into production over 100 years ago and was produced for around 70 years. But there are very few remaining, so they were never mass-produced items. With the early wooden handled pieces most likely made by hand in small volumes by Conrad himself.  So, there you have it the most comprehensive history of the Baumann-Weltrekord ratchet screwdriver around!

Above: 1960s version vs our 2022 re-creation

We have spent the last few months lovingly recreating this original patent, modernising some of the components with much harder wearing materials and allowing for use with a much wider array of drive bits by introducing a standard hex drive at the head.

loving the look of the original exposed mechanism we have kept true to the earlier models of the driver and re-created this as it would have been, with a few enhancements allowing for updated production techniques.    

Above: The final re-creations.

To learn more about this recreation, check out our site at MetMo.co.uk

Making a Japanese Dai

by Brian Holcombe

This is an extract from ISSUE II of “The Lost Scrolls of HANDWORK” magazine

I will detail the process of making a Japanese plane body, known as a dai, to compete in the annual NYC Kez, hosted by Mokuchi in Brooklyn, NY.   Kez is short for Kezurou-Kai, which translates to ‘Let’s plane’, a competition in which participants compete to create the thinnest wood shaving.

In competition, the shaving must not only be thin but completely intact, it must also be the full width of the board (usually around 2″) and the full length of the competition board which is typically 8′.  World record holders have pulled shavings as thin as 2 microns, which is almost impossibly thin, being far thinner than a human blood cell at 8 microns.

In Japan, it’s my understanding that competitors use Hinoki cypress, while in the US we will be competing by using yellow cedar, which is actually a cypress and very similar in quality to good Hinoki cypress.  The yellow cedar we use is very old and tightly grained.

Competitors often cut their own dai, some choosing exotic materials or laminating their dai in hopes of creating a dai that will wear well, hold their tune for a good length of time and hold the blade with good support.  I’ve chosen to use beech, which is not entirely ideal, especially by comparison to Japanese white oak, but shares some commonalities.  Beech is the traditional western plane making wood, it can grip and release the blade repeatedly without losing its ability to do so.  Beech is fairly stable and very much available.  In my case I’ve chosen beech because of those positive traits and the fact that I can access it locally.

The cut-out process starts by prepping dai blanks, choosing material that is rift sawn and with grain running straight on all faces to reduce or eliminate runout.  I resaw the blanks to the required thickness of 35mm and down to a width of 80mm and 85mm.   I’ve cut multiple blanks, some I will set aside to age and two I will cut out.  One will be used, the other discarded.

I’ve chosen a blade by Shoichiro Tanaka of VAR white 1, Tanaka is one of few makers using VAR white 1.  This would be an ideal blade for competition with exception that it is 65mm and so less ideal than the typical 70mm, but it was made available and so I have chosen to put it to the test.

Next in prepping the dai block, I plane all four sides square, starting first with the sole which I adjust using winding sticks.  The sole of a plane is the ‘bark side’ of the wood block, this is done so that any tendency for the board to cup results in two ‘skates’ on the outside edges of the sole, which are easy to flatten down without enlarging the plane’s mouth and so that blade is not clenched by that same cupping effect.

Once the block is squared I can begin my layout, starting first by marking the mouth line with a knife, then transferring that mark to the side of the dai where I can layout my blade, wear, escapement and bedding angles.

This dai is specifically made for a single blade, meaning it will be used without a cap iron, chip breaker, sub blade, or secondary blade (however you like to call it).  When cutting shavings this thin and on such fine stock, a single blade is ideal.  Few competitors will want to complicate matters by adding a chip breaker, if they do it will be simply so that their normal planes can be used to compete with.

If you inspect closely you’ll note that the wear angle, which refers to angle between the top blade and the mouth opening, is extremely tight.  I’ve shown it being a single line in fact.  The reason for this is that my goal in cutting the dai will be to set the wear angle so tightly that only a fine shaving can pass through.

The escapement angle is transferred back to the sole and used to set the width of the mouth opening.  This is not to be confused with the distance between the blade and mouth which will be next to nothing.

The lines are next transferred to the top of the dai and knife marks are then applied.

I begin chopping out the dai, first cutting the mouth area, then flipping the dai onto its top side to begin cutting the bed and escapement.

The mortise is now formed in its rough shape, and it looks just that.  I’ve remained inside the lines and have nearly come through the bottom of the plane to meet the work I’ve done at the mouth.

Finally, I break through, then close in on my final fit by chopping the bed until it is fairly thin.  Next, I true up the escapement and the wear until a clean surface is achieved and finally I pare the sides cleanly.

Now I can cut the side grooves, this is a fairly critical bit of work.  I use a flush cut saw to form the top of the groove, which is the critical cut, then again on the lower part of the groove.

After which I clear the grooves with an 3mm chisel.

Now I have something to work with, but still much effort remains.  At this point I finish trimming the bed down to my knife lines, leaving the area nearest the mouth quite heavy.

Finally, I can bed the blade, I do so carefully to ensure that I can create a nice fit between the bed and blade nearest the mouth.  If done correctly a ‘smile’ is formed.

At last I detail the dai, rounding over the back, chamfering all corners (except of the front and back of the sole) and finish planing the exterior faces.  I’m ready to begin tuning.

I’ve carefully tuned the sole, as detailed in my previous posts on the subject.  Happily, I was able to keep the mouth exceptionally tight, in this case from the sole it appears to be closed.

However, when we sight down the blade we can see that a shaving will be able to fit through.

The proof is in the pudding as they say, however this pudding would suggest I have a great deal of tuning ahead of me.  The shaving is thin and full length, but not nearly thin enough, a real winner would be revealing a cheese cloth appearance, suggesting that it can barely hold itself together.

Bjorn Hide Glue

Eugene Bjorn Thordahl

I met this wonderful, kind, most knowledgeable man on the internet that’s still is in the hide glue business. This man has taught me in the last few days via email about hide glue that I have thought possible. I thought I knew it all, which is usually the opposite for me as I always say you never think you know it all because you close the doors to gaining knowledge. He has generously provided me with a 15 page document which I will release to you over the coming days in small batches as, according to the statistics, to keep your interests high, blog posts need to be small.

Eugene Bjorn Thordahl began work in the hide glue business back in the 50s for a corporation that had a monopoly in the hide glue business. They were the major suppliers to businesses, US and foreign governments worldwide. Eugene was in the thick of it all and worked for every department until he reached Vice President. Sadly, the business closed in the 1980s but this wasn’t the end. Eugene picked up where they left off and started Bjorn industries continuing to sell quality hide glue till this day and God willing for many more years to come.

Eugene sources his glue from the last manufacturer left In America M&H, which is well known for its manufacturing quality. This is the same supplier that Patrick Edwards buys from and Tools for working wood and any other quality woodworking store that sells hide glue. It is also the only source I have ever used. M&H uses preservatives to extend the life of the glue and dispels the awful odour that hide glue is infamously known for. They are made in granules as opposed to the pearl version which you will read in the coming posts on why granules are better than pearls. Make no mistake, though the quality between the two is identical.

Eugene has gained extensive knowledge on the subject more so than anyone I have ever met. He easily puts to rest some of the misinformation that’s out there on the world wide web.

P.S. I may sound harsh sometimes in my posts and I note that people have good intentions. They sadly parrot from one another like the blind leading the blind, so to speak, not fully comprehending the subject and therefore misinforming the masses via YouTube, blog posts and websites. When things go wrong, the user blames the glue rather than the source from the poor practices they picked up from.

As you can buy hide glue from the other suppliers I mentioned above and probably around the same price, what you cannot find with anyone else are the two forms available, which are “High Clarity” and “Regular Clarity” glue. The high clarity means that the join lines will be clear whilst regular clarity you will see the glue line, much like what you see with yellow glue and the Titebond III. In addition, he also offers various “Bloom Strengths.”

As for shipping to Australia, our spastic government has apparently imposed a six-page document that needs to be filled out to get it through customs. My only take on this would be to get it through a US shipping company like myus.com or others like it. I’m not entirely sure if that is the answer. I’m just saying it’s a possibility worth exploring.

Have a look around his website I’m sure you will be pleased with what you’ll see and if you’ve never used hide glue before, then give it a go and live a bit of history. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up throwing away your old glue bottles and replacing them with hide.

If you need to send him an email, avoid using the contact form on his website as none of my emails got through to him.


email at info@bjorn.net. or give him a call 704-953-2026

Compliment to the hands

This short video is about a well known Croatian violin maker Ivan Hus (1898 – 1992). The video doesn’t go into any great detail, except that it shows how once upon a time one made a violin. Ok, maybe that’s a little unfair as the process hasn’t changed for those still working by hand. His tools are not shiny, his hand plane is full of worm holes yet fully functional. The film was made in Croatia in 1967. When looking at the film, I initially thought it was in the 1920s.

There are still small pockets in the world who continue to practice woodworking by hand, but sadly the rest of the world has abandoned this and moved towards robotic woodworking through CNC machining and what not. The mighty dollar seems to always take precedence over what truly holds value. Without getting too philosophical, I will abandon what I intended to say and allow you to watch the video. If by the end of the video you feel what I felt, then you’ll know what I wanted to say.