View Full Version : Homemade Neander Tools

Dave Anderson NH
04-13-2003, 9:51 PM
The last couple of weekends I've been working on prototypes for my annual demo of toolmaking at the New England Wood Days at the Canterbury Shaker Village in June. It's become a tradition for me to make a hand tool with hand tools and minimal equipment. Some years I've made spokeshaves, others I've done 18th century bowsaws, and I needed a project for this year. Last fall my Dad brought me a panel marking gage from my great-great Grandfathers tool chest. James Draper Anderson was born in Londonderry Northern Ireland in March of 1823 and the next record of him is his marriage in Cambridge MA in 1853. He was a shipwright and lived until March 19th 1903 in Cambridge. The gage is very important to me since it is the only one of his tools which carries his name stamp ( J Anderson) Most of his other tools were bought used and carry other name stamps. Not surprising since I'm sure he left Northern Ireland with little more than the clothes on his back. He was fortunate, at least he had a trade and could make a living with his skills.

Here is a picture of the first two gages made from quarter sawn black walnut recovered from the basemanet of my diemakers grandfather. This stock is air dried and probably was cut over 70 years ago. The finish is two coats of boiled linseed oil, though I will probably give it a coat or two of paste wax after it cures.

Marc Hills
04-13-2003, 11:45 PM

A few observations from your very personal post on making hand tools. First and foremost:

Bully for you to continue such a storied tradition. Should I be so blessed to draw from such an intimate family connection to woodworking. Really, I do envy you your heritage. It must be a profound experience working with your great, great grandfather's inscribed tool, and using the very wood your forefathers cut so long ago.

I'm a rank novice compared to you if you are annually presenting at a woodworking exhibition. At 40 I find myself recently returning to a hobby I launched in my early twenties. I'm pleased to still have and use two of my original woodworking projects; a very crude but functional carpenter's toolbox and a mortising gauge. My early foray into this hobby was heavily influenced by very dog-eared copies of the companion books to Roy Underhill's "The Woodwright's Shop". Two marriages, countless moves, career changes and a joyous birth of my now three-year-old daughter account for the lapse in my woodworking pursuits.

It's you panel marking gauge that reminded me of my mortising gauge. About the only similarity between my humble project and your beautiful pieces is the captured wedge design. If I recall correctly, a bow saw was my next project in mind before life intervened. I'd love to hear/see what you've done building a bow saw.

I've spent some time on the Emerald Isle and I'm curious that you identified the place your woodworking ancestor hailed from as "Londonderry". From what I learned first hand, depending on your political persuasion, referring to that northern Irish city as Londonderry as opposed to "Derry" was cause for a fight, if not a heated discussion over several pints of stout. In the 18th century, do you think your great, great grandfather thought of it as Londonderry, or just Derry?

Speaking of place name confusion, it isn't entirely clear: did your ancestor leave the land of Yeats for Cambridge, England or (as I presume) Cambridge in the colonies?

And finally, the aforementioned reference to Guinness notwithstanding, I couldn't help but notice the conspicuous presence of a glass of white wine next to your two facsimiles of your cherished family heirloom. Why do I suspect that you and I are the minority in our choice of beverage?

Pardon my ignorance, but where is Canterbury Shaker village? I see you are in New Hampshire, and if it's in New England, a June trip would be nice, if for no other reason than to raise a glass of Chablis in honor of one James Draper Anderson, for having so enriched the vocational heritage of these United States.


Dave Anderson NH
04-14-2003, 6:16 AM
Hi Marc-

My g-g-Grandfather was of Scots extraction and like many Scots ended up in Northern Ireland so there was no doubt that he was Orange. When he emigarated (no one knows exactly when) to the states, he settled in Cambridge Massachusetts. In the early part of the 1800's before most of the Back Bay of Boston and vicinity was filled to provide additional land for homes and industry, Cambridge had its own seaport and there were quite a number of boat shops and shipyards. We don't know, but believe, that he learned the shipwright trade in Ireland and we do know he continued it after he arrived in the states. His son, John Draper Anderson Sr, continued the tradition in both Cambridge and the neighboring town of Chelsea.

Canterbury Shaker Village is in Canterbury NH about 15 minutes north of the state capital in Concord. It is one of the larger shaker villages and still has all of its original lands and buildings. Each year during the last weekend in June they hold a Wood Days Festival which has live folk and bluegrass music, art and crafts, and of course woodworking. The woodworking runs the gamit from band saw milling, wood/canvas canoe building, timber framing, wood turning, furniture making, and naturally tool making. Our group, The Guild of NH Woodworkers, has anywhere from 15-25 demonstrators displaying their work and working on various projects. This year Chris Becksvoort is also coming down from Maine. Among our guild demonstrators are Garrett Hack, David Lamb, Terry Moore, Tom McLaughlin, and a number of other members of the NH Furnituremasters Association. We all have a great time and this year is the 13th continuation of the event.

The glass of wine is sort of a tradition. Back on Badger Pond I once posted a shop project picture with a glass of wine in the background. Since then it has become a tradition and some of my buddies give me grief if I now post any picture without a glassof wine lurking somewhere in the picture. Yes, it is my beverage of choice and one of the joys of hand tool woodworking is that I can enjoy a glass while I work without risk or removing any digits.

I've attached a picture of one of the bowsaws I made. These saws are a copy of the 18th century style which Mack Headley uses in the Hay cabinet shop at Colonial Williamsburg.

Marc Hills
04-14-2003, 11:57 AM
Hi Dave:

Thanks for answering all of my questions. So Canterbury is just a hop skip and a jump from Portland. I'll definitely try and get down there in June.

Thanks also for the picture of the bow saw. Beautiful. The steel rule in the picture helped me get a sense of the proportions. Iím intrigued by those wooden cylinders at each end of the Ė not sure of the terminology -- stretcher. Iím guessing they are pivot points to accommodate blade changes and tension adjustments?

Those round privot blocks appear to be separate pieces of wood. Are they captured by the tensioned saw frame or are they somehow attached to either the stretcher or the upright frame members?

Finally, what sort of blade is that, and did you have to mill the hardware to hold the blades? I think Roy Underhill had me thinking about a larger, rougher tool using a piece of old bandsaw blade. Before I lost track of it almost 20 years ago, I had collected the wood and the saw blade blank. I think I was planning on filing a tooth pattern into it. Finding a source of real blades and mounting hardware would make it more likely that I could produce a functional tool.

Thanks for clueing me in about Chris Betsvoort here in Maine. I did a search and see that he is doing a few programs this summer at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village just north of Portland. One can learn only so much from books.

Ernie Kuhn
04-15-2003, 2:42 AM
How close is Grey? When I was very young, I had an aunt that owned a resort near Grey. If I remember correctly, travelling from Connecticut, we went north of Portland, past Sabbath Day Lake to get to Grey. It was about 10 miles or so from the Poland Spring House/Lodge which I understand burnt many years ago.

Marc Hills
04-15-2003, 9:11 AM
Hi Ernie:

Your childhood memories are mostly correct. It is very close to Gray. It actually goes (south to North) Portland, Gray, Sabbathday Day Lake and Poland Springs. The Shaker village is right next to Poland Springs. The only major road up that way is Route 26, which goes right next to the Shaker compound. You definitely would have seen it as a child on any trip to Poland Springs.

Yes, there was some grand resort in Poland Springs that burned down years and years ago. From pictures I've seen, it was quite a facility.

Interesting fact: Maine's Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village is not a museum, it is the last functioning Shaker community left in the world. There are only half a dozen or so residents there, most quite elderly. They supplement their income with a gift shop and some instructional programs, but they are real, practicing Shakers.

Dave Anderson NH
04-15-2003, 9:46 AM
The bowsaw uses a standard mortise and tenon joint to join the stretchers to the uprights. The "ball joint" is only on the outer third of each side of the saw. This does provide some slight ability to adjust the the tightness of the blade.

The blades were bought from Garrett Wade via mailorder. They sell a set of 3 for about $24 which includes an 8, 12, and 16 tpi blade. The blades are of mediocre quality, but seem to work OK.

For the handles and blade holders I bought 5/16" diameter brass rod from McMaster- Carr and cut the pieces to length with a hacksaw. I then removed a section about a half inch longfor half of the diameter of the rod. I chucked this up in the wood lathe and radiused the notched end of the rod. Finally I drilled a hole perpendicular to the rod diameter in the notched area and tapped it for a threaded rod from Home Depot. I cut peces of threaded tor put them in the vice and filed off the threads at one end so the holes in the blade would fit through them. The unfiled end was screwed into the tapped hole and a drop of Loctite was applied to help hold it in place. This was a lot of work and an easier method would be to slot the end of the rod, drill a hole across the diameter and use an escutcheon pin or small brad to capture the end of the blade. Obviously, I have a habit of doing things the hard way.

Marc Hills
04-15-2003, 12:37 PM

Thank you for patiently answering my bowsaw questions. So you got the blades from Garrett Wade? Now youíve done it. I swore off any more tool catalogs after receiving the Japan Woodworker (and recovering from the prices contained therein!) And you found the quality from GW to be mediocre? Now I know Iím definitely in a whole other (lower) league!

One last set of questions about the bow saw design and then Iíll let this thread rest. (Your photo is good enough that I think I can work up a set of plans so long as I understand the construction details). So what I thought were wooden cylinders are actually part of the stretcher, correct? So each end terminates with that rounded element with a shouldered tenon sticking out of it? The corresponding mortises on each upright: closed or through and are they loose in any way to allow varying angles under tension? Thanks again.


(PS: you didnít get any responses to your other hand tools thread. Those plane iron hammers are beautiful and I enjoyed reading about their construction, as Iím sure others did. Iím just not at that point where I can appreciate those tools as much as the marking gauge and the bow saw. Sure would like to have that coffin plane though!)

Paul Regan
04-15-2003, 2:03 PM
First of all, the tools are amazing! I have seen your posts here and on the Pond and have always been impressed.

You mentioned New Woodworking days in Canterbury in June. Could you post the date? Iím about an hour away in Mass and have never been to the Shaker Village there (Pittsfield, Ma yes- a fascinating place).

On last thing, you mentioned the Guild of New Hampshire woodworkersÖis this a strictly professional organization or a more informal group pf woodworkers?


Dave Anderson NH
04-15-2003, 4:34 PM
Marc- I was refering to the quality of the saw blades only re Garrett Wade. I don't buy much from them though since I find their pricing high and Woodcraft, Fine Tool Journal, and other sell most of the same stuff cheaper. Don't bother with figuring out the bowsaw. Send me your home address via the private message system on this site and I'll send you a copy of the full size patterns and the accompanying notes. I made a bunch of copies and have given a number of them away.

Paul- The guild is about 1/3 full or part time professional and about 2/3 amateurs ad we have about 325 members. Most are NH residents, but a few are from RI, MA, VT, and ME. Only $25 per year to join. Check out the website at www.gnhw.org New England Wood Days is June 28-29 at the shaker village. Admission to the place is $12 and includes a tour and all the days events. Some of the folks here and on the Woodcentral hand tool forum are plannng to make it a get together for folks in the area. I'll post something about this in a week or two.

Marc Hills
04-15-2003, 5:38 PM
Thanks Dave, I'm emailing you now with my address.