View Full Version : Hand Tool Making- It's an Addiction

Dave Anderson NH
06-10-2003, 10:01 PM
Hi I'm Dave and I have a tool making problem..... (All- Hi Dave)

For the last month or two I've had a real shortage of time to make any furniture type projects or anything else wooden which requires any sort of long term committment. The Honeydoo list and the weather have conspired to keep me busy with other things. Still, I needed my woodworking fix so I did some making of hand tools out of cutoffs and a few pieces of special material I bought. The other reason is that in about 2 1/2 weeks the 13th Annual Wood Days festival is at the Canterbury Shaker Village and I needed some project for my annual demo. Over the last few years it has become traditional for me to make a hand tool using only hand tools and I've already become tired of doing bow saws and spokeshaves of various types and styles. It was time for something new.

The picture below shows in the back the panel marking gage of a traditional 18th century style using a captured wedge to lock the beam in place. The measurements and template are from my single most treasured hand tool, a boxwood panel marking gage which carries the stamp of my g-g grandfather, James Draper Anderson, and dates from sometime after he arrived in Cambridge MA as an adult from Londonderry Northern Ireland in 1853. The wood is quartersawn black walnut with a BLO finish and the cutting knife is a scrap of steel rule from the die shop at work. I've completed two of these and have the blanks ready for 2 more to demo during the two days at Canterbury.

Next I made a small marking gage for regular work out of black walnut but used 2 5/16" diameter brass pins for the fence. This allows the gage to be used on both a straight and a curved edge. Finally I decided that I ought to make myself a REALLY special gage so I went up to Goosebay Lumber and poked around. This gage on the left uses a beam and a captured wedge of Gabon Ebony and the fence and the wedge holding the cutter are Ambroynia Burl. Again I used brass pins for the fence. Since I was at the lumberyard anyway, this 1 1/2" square by 12" long piece of Indian Rosewood kept saying"take me home". I heeded the call and made an awl frompart of the blank, a piece of 3/16" O1 drill rod, and a Lee Valley brass ferrule. I also started the handle for a marking knife which is in the picture along with the length of O1 tool steel bar stock which will make the blade when I get around to it.

I hope you enjoy the picture below, I've rambled along for too long now.

Dave Anderson NH
06-10-2003, 10:08 PM
Handmade tools

Tom Scott
06-11-2003, 12:40 AM
Beautiful work as always, Dave.
Man I love that ebony and burl gage. Stunning!


Philip Duffy
06-11-2003, 5:36 AM
Great stuff, Dave. All those items will inspire others to try, and come close, but "no cigar" for them! BZ. Phil

Glenn Clabo
06-11-2003, 7:17 AM
Sweet! And I agree, the Gabon Ebony and Ambroynia Burl is REALLY special.

Noah Alkinburgh
06-11-2003, 8:43 AM
Man Dave those are nice!!

I would love to make one of those spokeshaves, or well any of it actually. :) Really nice stuff.


Marc Hills
06-11-2003, 9:37 AM
Absolutely gorgeous pieces, Dave. The two-pin fence design seems like a very elegant way to increase a marking gauge's usefulness. Those exotic hardwoods really set off your craftsmanship.

I have one question though. But Iím not sure I can phrase it very well. In using a two-pin gauge, how do you register the fence when setting the depth of the marking knife? I can understand how you would use it if you take measurements directly off existing work, but what if you want to set the gauge to, say, exactly 3 inches? You canít measure from one of the pins to the marking knife -- that would be the side of a triangle, not the distance between the fence and the marking knife. Where to you measure from?

Or maybe thatís the answer. That is, perhaps the two-pin gauge is traditionally used by registering against existing work only. I get the sense that 100 years ago, woodworkers werenít nearly so hung up on numeric measurements as we are today. As long as one registered the mortise to the existing tenon, then measuring errors would be taken out of the equation.

Dave Anderson NH
06-11-2003, 9:48 AM
The easiest way to do it if you want a numeric measurement is to use the edge of the benchtop and set a ruler perpendicular to the edge and then adjust the beam holding the cutting knife in or out while the brass pins are against the edge of the benchtop. I agree though, real numeric measurements aren't necessary a lot of the time as long as multiples of the same part are all of equal dimension. Sometimes I just draw something up, make a template, and see if it looks "right". The small marking gages were made that way except for the exposed pin length which I made 5/8" long so that they wouldn't hang up on 3/4" thick stock.

Marc Hills
06-11-2003, 9:58 AM
for the quick reply and answer.

Maybe the difference between a real woodworker and a wannabe (besides talent, experience and more talent) is the willingness to put away the pencil and tape measure and go by direct measurements and intuition.

Dave Anderson NH
06-11-2003, 10:47 AM
The real difference between a woodworker and a wannabee is just getting in there and doing it. Experience comes from, well, experience. The trick is to just get into the shop and plug away. Sometimes things work out well and sometimes everything you touch turns to trash. Remember, none of us show our failures here, only our successes. Each of the marking gages got better than the earlier ones as I refined technique, design, and learned from my mistakes. Drawing a sketch and thinking about the order of processes before cutting any wood can help prevent the firewood pile from growing too quickly. Unfortunately no matter what you do, you will always produce some expensive firewood.

It's no different with the bow saw you made. If , or hopefully when, you make another, it will turn out not only better than the first, but will take you less time and effort since you now have some experience and hopefully more confidence. We won't EVEN get into overconfidence and the messups that that can cause. Been there, done that!