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.

The Filling of Hard and Soft Woods

BY A. Kelly (1911)

The following woods are called “open-grained” woods and require a paste filler to make a good foundation for a varnish finish: Ash, beech, butternut, baywood, black walnut, chestnut, elm, mahogany, oak, and rosewood.

The following woods are called “close-grained” woods, or softwoods, and should be treated with a liquid filler to fit them for varnish finish: Basswood, cedar, California redwood, gumwood, Oregon pine, poplar, spruce, tamarack, white pine, Washington fir, whitewood, and yellow pine.

The following woods are called “close-grained hardwoods,” and are sometimes filled with paste filler, but this is not generally done, it not being absolutely necessary: Birch, cherry, Circassian walnut, and maple. Fill with liquid filler.

The filler must be coloured to match the wood; it is best to make it rather darker than the wood. It is important to get the right colour for a filler, so that it will be as near the colour of the wood as possible, only a trifle deeper in shade. Again, the colour of the finish may be determined by the filler; that is, the filler will be stain and filler both. Some of the finest colour effects with woods are obtained in this manner.

The purpose of paste filling is to make a solid surface for the varnish coats. The paste enters and seals the pores of the wood and all the open parts. This can only be done on wood having an open grain. But while the cellular structure is thus filled, the fibre is left more or less unfilled, and hence it is customary in many cases to apply a coating of liquid over the paste filling, when dry and rubbed down.

For this purpose, we may use shellac varnish, or a light-bodied liquid filler.

Liquid fillers are used where the wood is not open enough to take in a paste. Its purpose is to saturate the fibre of the wood and thus prevent it from taking up the liquid of the varnish coats, thus robbing the varnish of its oil and turpentine, causing it to be too brittle. Shellac varnish is a liquid filler and is often so used.

Application of Fillers

Liquid filler may be made from paste filler by the addition of the proper thinners. Usually liquid thinner is simply a cheap varnish, with the addition of cornstarch, or clay, or another suitable base. Before the advent of commercial liquid fillers, the surfacing or filling of close-grained woods was done with varnish, applied in several successive coats, each coat being rubbed down and into the pores of the wood by means of a piece of soft white pine, made chisel-shape, and upon this foundation the varnish finish was laid.

Various woods and their adaptability to the different fillers, substances in use, formulas for fillers

The use of a liquid containing some pigment or starch makes it possible to filler surface the wood with one coat. This may be sandpapered down, and a coat or two of varnish will give a finish. We call them surfacers because these liquid fillers are not rubbed into the wood, but laid on the surface, the same as varnish.

The filler or surfacer simply saves us the costlier varnish.

Shellac and Other Substances

Shellac is preferred where cost is not taken into account, because it sandpapers easier than varnish filler, but it is less desirable under varnish than even cheap varnish, because of its hard, inelastic nature, causing cracking of the varnish placed on it, particularly when the shellac is placed between two coats of varnish.

Liquid filler does better over paste filling than varnish, as it seals the open pores better. Liquid filler should be applied much the same as varnish, flowing it on even and smooth. It is best not to colour liquid filler if it is made with silica, because the silica, owing to its weight, will sink and allow the colour to float, giving the surface a painted effect.

Such substances as terra alba, talc, whiting, corn starch and barytes have the fault of whitening or fading out in the wood, a serious defect where any colour is used.

Carbonate of magnesia is very good for holding up the filler, and the same may be said of a few others of this class, but all in all nothing equals finely pulverized silica, whether for paste or liquid filling.

Starch makes a transparent filling, but it is impossible to make a dry starch and varnish filler that will keep long before using. Cooked starch makes the transparent filling, but raw starch will show white in the pores, perhaps worse even than whiting, which also is bad. Even silica is not free from the fault, but is less objectionable than any other mineral filler. Silica does not absorb the liquids of the filler, and, being thus non-absorbent, it is not affected by moisture as is corn starch. It unites mechanically with the fluids of the filler, fills the pores of the wood well, and adheres to the surface perfectly so that finishing over it is easily accomplished. It has been well said by an expert finisher that “a good finish cannot be obtained when starch, earth, and similar substances are used in the filling. “Starch is soft and easily applied, and work can be rushed by using it, and that is the most we can say for it as a filler.

Starch will not hold up the varnish, nor will the application of three or four coats help matters much. Silica can be pushed into the grain of the wood, making a solid foundation on which two coats of varnish will give a splendid finish. Silver-white and pulverized silica look much alike, having much the same atomic or molecular formation. Silver-white is a white siliceous earth found in Indiana. It is much used for making fillers.

One other fault of silica, and it is not a very serious one, consists in the fact that it will settle or not hold up in solutions. Also, it dries out rapidly, but this may be modified by adding a little oil to ‘ it, and in some cases the thinning may be done with oil alone, of which I shall speak presently. However, the fact of its setting so quickly is an evidence that it will be durable.

It should be said here that where large quantities of filler are used, as in the finishing room of a large furniture concern, the barrel of filler should be kept covered, to prevent the evaporation of the liquids, and to keep out dirt and all foreign substances. No one would think of leaving a barrel of varnish with the head out and uncovered, yet filler is composed largely of the same volatile liquids and will oxidize and become hard in like manner.

Referring again to corn starch filler, when it is applied it seems to fill perfectly because it is very absorbent of the liquids and seems to fill the pores of the wood perfectly. In a measure this is true, but in course of time, in the process of drying and hardening, it shrinks and a close examination of the filled wood with a microscope, or even with the naked eye, will disclose a surface full of unfilled pores and this may still be seen after the varnishing has been done. Furthermore, the filler will require much more time for hardening than is ever given it, and the result is seen in the chilling and cracking of the varnish.

Hardwood filler should set in from IS to 20 minutes, and to do this it should not contain an excess of oil, which would retard the drying. Thin, it with turpentine.

Filler Formulae — Liquid Fillers

Shellac varnish is a very satisfactory liquid filler or surfacer, in that it dries quickly and can be sandpapered easily. But it is usually too costly for general practice, besides which it is thought to act more or less badly under oil varnish. When used for surfacing close-grained woods, it should be applied thin. Two coats are better than one. It should be sandpapered down well.

 Imitation shellac may be made. A finisher says he makes one that is not only cheaper than shellac but is better in other ways. He takes equal parts of raw oil.

 Turpentine, brown japan and rubbing varnish, to which he adds enough corn-starch to thicken the mixture, making it rather heavier than ordinary paint, or so it can be applied with a brush. After it has been on the wood long enough to set, he rubs it off with a coarse cloth, rubbing the stuff into the wood at the same time. He applies two coats.

Here is another formula: Take four pounds of either finely pulverized and floated silica or China clay, the former preferred, and stir it into one quart of Japan driers, and beat the mass until perfect admixture takes place. Then add, while stirring the mass, six quarts of the best light hard-oil finish, or other equally good varnish, after which let the mixture stand an hour or so; then strain through a fine sieve. When desired for application, thin up to the proper consistency with turpentine, making it quite thin for liquid filling. It may be used also as a paste filler without thinning.

Oil may be used in place of varnish fora liquid filler for some purposes. Many of the best yachts and steamships have all exposed woodwork filled with an oil-thinned filling, over which is applied a number of coats of elastic varnish, like spar or carriage finishing varnish, with ample time for each coat to dry, and each coat is sandpapered. The process involves time and expense, but it gives a very durable finish when exposed to the weather.

Kaolin, Silica and Other Fillers

Kaolin filler may be made thus: Mix together a gallon of pale body hard-drying carriage varnish, one pint of turpentine, and one pint of pale-drying Japan. Take two and one-half pounds of kaolin and add enough of the mixed liquids to form a paste, which run through closely set hand paint mill, grinding it once, then add the rest of the thinners by brisk stirring, until perfect admixtures secured. Then the filler is fit for use, though it may be further thinned or made stiffer as desired.

Silica paste filler may be thinned down with varnish and turpentine to form a liquid filler. To four pounds of the paste filler add a gallon of coach varnish which may then be thinned with turpentine to a liquid filler consistency.

Liquid filler should be given at least24 hours to dry; 48 hours is better still.

Silver-white filler may be made with equal parts of raw oil, gold size japans and turpentine, with silver-white enough to form a paste, which must be worked smooth. Then it may be thinned with turpentine to the proper consistency.

White liquid filler is made after various formulas, and the following one is as good as any: In a gallon of raw linseed oil put two pounds of pale rosin, powdered, and place on the fire, stirring the mass until the rosin is melted. Take from the fire and add a pint of white japan and two quarts of turpentine; stir all together, and when the mass is cold, add eight ounces of cornstarch. After mixing the starch into the liquid, make it very thin with turpentine, and pass it through a paint mill or strainer.

Some woods require a transparent liquid filler, but such a filler should be made to match the wood in colour, which is of course very light. Mix together eight ounces of cornstarch, eight ounces of finest pumice stone powder and a quarter-gill of white shellac varnish and a quarter-pint of boiled oil. Mix thoroughly together, and thin for use.

Sharpening in the “Bad Axe” Style

Anyone that truly works with hand tools knows the value in having sharp tools. Sharp tools minimises muscle fatigue and accidents that arise from frustration by unnecessarily over exerting yourself to get the work done. Handsaws are no different to planes, chisels, or any other hand tool. A mediocre sharpened saw works well, but super sharp saws like the ones from “Bad Axe” perform better than more modern manufactured saws. Admittedly, I have never tried a “Bad Axe” saw because I live in Australia, but I have read so many articles about its superiority and cutting speed that I have only imagined how fast it actually cuts until now. I have wished to pick Mark’s brain on what rake and fleam he uses that makes his saws so superior to the way other sawyers have sharpened their saws.

Today I found an old in FWW article on how to sharpen a saw on Mark’s website. I anxiously downloaded the article and read it slowly and carefully, making sure not to miss anything. When I finished, I was a little confused. I didn’t find any rake and fleam that he favours. In fact, it says to stick with the angle determined by the manufacturer. The only thing I got from the article was the stroke method he used. Medium, heavy, then a light finishing stroke he say’s. Making sure every tooth is of equal height and every gullet of equal depth. That’s it! That’s all he does. I pulled out my saw vice and a spare LN backsaw, which I intend to sell and sharpened it using Mark’s recommendation. Upon completion, I was surprised at how prickly the saw teeth felt. I put it to the test on some scrap pine and it just went through it like butter, then I tried some white oak which he recommended and it too sawed through effortlessly. I then pulled out my other backsaw sharpened by Lie Nielson and tried it sawing white oak with it, and it struggled. I had difficulties pushing it through the wood.. I nearly fell on my arse in awe of Mark’s expert sharpening technique. The rake and fleam I used was the manufacturer’s default of 15°. What I changed was the method of stroke as per Mark’s recommendation. Not only did it saw faster, but there was zero tear out on the back. Go figure that one out. I highly recommend you download this article, read it, and then give it a go. I guarantee you will never look, read or watch another saw sharpening video again.

One last note, use the recommended size files that Mark recommends. You can find other sized files on his website. Bad Axe Saw Sharpening Files by Friedrich Dick ( Take the time to read his articles, I’m sure you’ll agree them to be very informative.

Rely on yourself and stop relying on others

This post is ongoing from my previous post on glue failure. I mentioned to you that Titebond’s liquid hide glue has failed on a long grain to long grain joint. The glue never cured. As a test I placed a dab of glue on a piece of wood several days ago and it’s still very soft and sticky. This is enough evidence for me that this glue is old, despite what’s written on the bottle. Whether someone has done this unintentionally (human error) or to save on costs I don’t know and neither do I care. All I know is that they need to get their act together. I‘m still awaiting their reply and have accepted that it may never happen. The irony in it all is that if you speak to the salespeople at Carba Tec which is our local woodworking store, they try to steer you into using other Titebond products and pass off hide glue as an outdated weak glue that need not be used anymore. That’s the same thing the “tech” guy at Titebond on the phone said to me. It’s laughable and sad that we live in a day and age of total ignorance. This has been a wake up call for me to make an effort to pursue making my own version of liquid hide glue. Because in the end, making your own fresh batch is better than relying on the word of others

The same deal is with shellac, why people still buy Zinsser Shellac products bewilders me. They neither know how old the can is, nor how long it’s been sitting on their shelves. Products despite who sells it can sit on a shelf for many years and I know this to be a fact as I’ve seen it. A reputable paint store purchased one time only a batch of 100% Pure Tung Oil and Citrus solvents. I bought 5 years ago several bottles of Tung Oil and a couple of 4 litre cans of the Citrus solvents from this store. Recently I returned to the shop to get some more, and he looked it up on his computer and said this is the last batch we have, we will not be placing anymore orders as the last sale we had, was 5 years ago. I laughed, and said yeah that was me, so I bought what was left except for the one can I left on the shelf. I left it because I couldn’t afford it, as it is very expensive and not because I’m a prick. So the point being products can sit on shelves for many years and you’re none the wiser. The seller was honest about it and I have no qualms in buying this old stock as I know that this can never expire, but you cannot say the same about shellac and nor about hide glue.

If you have granules of hide glue and you keep them out of direct sunlight preferably in a cabinet, should and will last indefinitely, but as soon as you immerse it in water the breakdown process has begun.

You have up to three weeks max to use the glue before it goes off, unless you add preservatives in it after cooking the glue to keep it from going off a little while longer. Think about how they kept meat back in the day when refrigeration didn’t exist. They either ate it all within two days or they salted it and preserved it. So this is what I’m going to do from now on with my own liquid hide glue and I wish to share this ingredients with you. You too can make your own room temperature liquid hide glue that you know when it’s been made and when it will expire. Be warned though as experimentation is key to a successful outcome. It may take several weeks or months before you come up with the right dosage that you need for your everyday woodworking. Remember you’re not making large amounts to roll out for sale, you’re just making enough for yourself which is why you need to experiment and not rely on the measures left by others on the net. They worked out what will suit them and if your size needs are different then theirs, then you will need to work out what will suit you.

Canning/Pickling Salt

This is the same thing, just worded differently. Here In Australia they call it Pickling Salt. In the US, it’s Canning Salt. It’s also known as canned salt, rock salt, sodium chloride.

What is Canning Salt?

Canned salt is made from pure granulated salt. What sets it apart from other salts is that it does not contain any anti-caking ingredients or additives like iodine. These additional ingredients, which are found in common table salt, can make pickle brine cloudy or the colour of pickled vegetables black. Another standout feature of canned salt is its composition.

Where can I buy it?

If you live in the US, you can buy it in any supermarket. If you live in Australia, you must order it online. Here is where I’ve ordered mine from. Herbs and Spices Australia. The salt is made in Tasmania, which is where most of our timber comes from.

Can I make my own?

Yes you can, but it’s not worth it as it isn’t expensive to buy. However, if you still wish to make it, read below.

First, though, consider if you can correctly store this type of salt, as it shouldn’t be near any moisture when settling. Store the salt in a waterproof container that is airtight so that the ingredients don’t react with oxygen and change from a light colour to a darker shade.

Canning & pickling salt can be made by whirring kosher salt in a blender or spice grinder (or a handy-dandy coffee grinder used for grinding every kind of seed, bean, and grain that ISN’T coffee).

Take about a cup of kosher salt and run it through the grinder. Get it pretty fine, to make sure that it could dissolve adequately in the canning process. Then store it in a mason jar next to the boxes of kosher salt and bags of sea salt. In the end, you’ll get perfect canning and pickling salt.

How do I make my own Liquid Hide Glue?

As I said earlier in the post, experimentation is the key. It all boils down to how much you want to make. The steps below will be for the same size large bottle of Old Brown Glue 20fl.oz or 590ml. The trick is that most of us will not need that sized bottle, but instead will want that smaller version of 5fl.oz or 148ml.

This is what I’m looking at, which is why I said you need to experiment with the amount of salt needed for that small amount of glue. One way you could do it, is use the amount I will write below and pour it in several small bottles and give them away or possibly even sell them. But I’m looked at as a freak for working with hand tools and using hide glue, so I have no one to give it too and selling it may or may not work. One can never know without trying.

The methods below I will give you from three sources and it’s up to you which method you choose to follow:

Don Williams written by Christopher Schwarz:

To make a batch of liquid hide glue takes about three minutes of active work, according to Williams,but it’s three minutes spread over a 48-hour period. And you don’t need anything special in addition to the hide glue – except table salt.

To begin, you have to make hot hide glue. I’m sure if you have yet to purchase a glue pot (a special pot for making and reheating hot hide glue), you’re not of the mind to do so for this single purpose. You don’t have to. You can use an electric hot plate, a saucepan, a small glass jar and a small amount of hide glue flakes or pearls, along with salt.

Here are the steps:  The first day, mix two parts hide glue flakes with three parts water into the jar and let everything soak. The following morning, heat water in the saucepan to a temperature of 140º F (a thermometer helps with accuracy), add in one part salt to the jar then cook everything for about two hours. Next, immediately stick the cooked mixture into your refrigerator for the balance of the day (quick cooling is key).

On morning three, fire up the burner and cook the mixture for another two hours (Williams always cooks the glue twice). Once the batch cooks the second time, you have liquid hide glue.  Williams adds that he seldom makes more than a pint of glue at a time. He pours it into a plastic ketchup or mustard squeeze bottle for easy dispensing.

And here is the most interesting part of home-made liquid hide glue: The salt makes this product stay liquid at room temperature and salt preserves the glue so there is no spoil date – just as salt has done throughout time in salting meat.

Chris claims there’s no spoil date, I will shoot off an email to Don to confirm this.

Source two is someone I don’t know who has repeated Don’s idea and hasn’t added much to the subject. I still posted it for the sake of the pictures.

I used a 1/4 measure, so this means 1/4 salt, 2/4 hide glue granules, 3/4 water. This glue is 260# Bloom gram strength from Lee Valley Tools.

Mix the hide glue and water together. Leave out the salt, for now. Let the mix sit overnight. I put mine in a 1qt jar.

The next day, add the salt, then heat the jar of goop in the glue pot of your choice at 140°-150° for 2 hours. I use a $10 dollar Crock Pot that I bought at Walmart. The “warm” setting is perfect for hot hide glue.

After 2 hours, put the mix in the refrigerator overnight (Important!). Evidently the quick cooling is key, because up till now, this is what I had always done and it hadn’t made a big difference.

The next day my mix looked like meat jello, same as always. But hang in there. Heat the goop for another 2 hours at 140°-150°. This time is for real. Liquid hide glue! 

Room temp success. The salt will act as a preservative, too. I would normally make a much smaller batch, but I’ve got some bigger projects in the works and expect to use this reasonably quick.  Here is the link should you wish to see other stuff he wrote. My Peculiar Nature

Third and final one is from Mortise and Tenon

There you can see the link to their website.

So there you have it and my last word on how to mix the stuff, but not my last word on whether I have successfully made a no expiry date strong liquid hide glue. More on my findings soon. Good luck to those who will venture out on this journey with me.

Liberate yourselves from the dependency on large multi-million dollar companies, who regard you as insignificant whether or not you buy from them.

Last minute addition

To help those decipher the above US mix ratio from Mortise and tenon, I will convert it for us under the commonwealth and we all use the same measurements:

1/2 Cup hide glue granules=118.3g

1/2 Cup Water = 118.3ml

2 tsp pickling salt = 11.8g

140°F = 60°C

I would suggest following Don Williams method of first mixing the granules and water ratio provided but leaving the salt out. Once the granules soak up the water and turns into a gelatinous state, heat up the stove and water to 60°C. Add 11.8g of pickling salt and begin cooking the glue for 2 hours. Refrigerate it overnight, then the next morning cook the glue again for another 2 hours and you have liquid hide glue.

I have misled you unintentionally

On January 19, 2021, I posted an article on how to fix an out of true chuck. Unfortunately, I was wrong and I wish to correct that. I stumbled across this mistake today when I was building myself a drying rack. My bit became extremely wobbly and at first I thought I didn’t put it in right so I took it out and put it back in and the same wobble was still there. After careful examination, I noticed one jaw wasn’t gripping the bit. So, I pulled the chuck apart, checked the springs and looked for any debris that might be sticking the jaw. After I was satisfied all was good, I put the chuck back together again and gave it a test whirl and WAMMY the same jaw was getting stuck. Once more I pulled it apart and looked for the culprit and there, it was staring right back at me or should I say screaming “you moron you put me upside down.


If you look at the inset of whatever that cylindrical object is called, you will notice that it’s not designed to hold the bit in as I stupidly thought, but it was designed to ride on the shaft centered so it doesn’t slip or move to one side as it did to me. This bit moves the jaws in and out of the chuck. So the correct way to install this bit is below.


Also to avoid damaging this bit you never push the drill bit all the way so it bottoms out onto the cylindrical bit, to avoid damaging it over time which looking at this photo there may be a small indentation.

So, now that it’s fixed, is there a wobble? Not a huge one like there was, and not any less than there always were. I was at the flea market last Sunday and there’s only one seller in the entire market that sells only vintage hand tools. I checked three 2A hand drills and a smaller one I wanted and every one of them had the same amount of wobble as mine. Take a modern day drill in comparison and you will immediately notice the difference. The modern drill spins, true. I wasn’t around when these hand drills were built new to know whether they were built with the wobble. I remember reading somewhere that the chap who designed the 2A said that out of all the hand drills they’ve designed and built, the 2A is the best. With that in mind I can’t lay any blame on the manufacturers, nor can I say over time this buggered up. What I know is that all the hand drills I’ve tested at the markets perform the same as mine, and that is extremely annoying when I’m trying to be precise when working on something delicate. If I get a chance to try out a modern day chuck that fits this drill, I would like to see if this would zero out the wobble and make it perform like a modern day quality drill.

I’m so used to working with it, it would feel alien to use a modern cordless. If the opportunity arises that I find a non-used version of the 2A or a toolmaker decides they will make one and it doesn’t cost $1000 as what’s becoming the trend nowadays because of the “unplugged” hype, coupled with the cost of production, labour etc etc, I will buy one. Lee Valley has introduced a hand drill that’s perfect for those who work on boxes, but nothing larger.

Out of the three hand braces I have 8, 10 and 12″ the 12 is cactus, it will not spin true whilst thankfully the other two do. If you look closely in videos of people using a brace, you will see many as they’re boring that the bit isn’t turning true. This will cause the hole you’re boring to be slightly larger than the bit. This is the dilemma you face with vintage tools, they’re old and a lot of them are out of their use by date. We can only do the best we can through the limits we’ve imposed upon ourselves through our love for hand tool woodworking.

I want to apologise for making that earlier error which mislead you.


By Joseph A. McGeough

In casting, a liquid metal is poured into a cavity or a mould, where it takes the shape of the mould when it congeals; casting shapes the metal to essentially final form once a proper cavity has been prepared. Some touch-up work may be needed; for an edged copper tool, such as an axe or knife for example, hammering the cutting side gives a keen edge.

A great step forward was made with the discovery that gold, silver, and copper could be melted and cast with many advantages. Casting meant that the size of the tool was no longer dependent on the size of a chunk of available copper. Old tools could be added to a melt instead of being thrown out. This reuse of old metal accounts in part for the scarcity of virgin-copper implements.

To make the procedures of melting and casting possible, several innovations were required. Pottery making, already well established, provided the knowledge of heat-based processes. Clay vessels were essential to working with fluid metal, for, in all but the most primitive operations, it was necessary to convey the melt from furnace to mould. Aside from providing crucibles, pottery making taught how to restructure a fire with a deep bed of prepared charcoal to provide a heat superior to that of a simple campfire. Tongs of some sort had to be devised to carry the hot crucible; it is surmised that green branches were bent around the pot and replaced as needed.

A number of forms of moulds were developed. The most primitive was simply an impression of a rock tool in clay or sand to give a cavity of the desired form. A more durable mould resulted when the cavity was worked into stone. Cavities of uniform depth allowed flat but profiled pieces to be cast. For example, some axe blade castings were roughly T-shaped, the arms of the T being afterward bent around to clasp a handle of some sort, with the bottom of the T becoming the cutting edge. A one-piece mould, prepared for a dagger, could have a groove for most of the length of the cavity to provide a stiffening rib on one side. With experience, closed but longitudinally split and, hence, two-piece moulds were devised, each side having a groove down the middle to furnish a strengthening rib on both sides of the blade.

Split moulds for copper were not desirable because pure copper is a poor metal for casting. It contracts a good deal on cooling and has a tendency to absorb gases and thereby become porous, blistered, and weak. Also, molten copper exposed to atmospheric oxygen contains embrittling cuprous oxide.

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.


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.


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 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
2 1/2
Rust removal on rough-finished metal.
Rough sanding of wood; paint removal.
General wood sanding; plaster smoothing; preliminary smoothing of previously painted surface.
Final sanding of bare wood or previously painting surface.
Very fine220
Light sanding between finish coats; dry sanding.
Extra fine320


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

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.