Tag Archives: tools

Tools & Craft #43: Observations from an Ex-Power-Tool-Designer

My first job out of college was designing power tools for Black & Decker in the ’80s. Not the consumer-grade stuff; I worked in the Industrial Construction division—I’m talking aluminum housings, no plastic, real bearings, expensive tools. We produced the best power tools made in the USA at that time with real innovation. Our competitors were other industrial tool makers like Milwaukee, Metabo, and Festo (which later became Festool).

During that time the B&D consumer division was making three grades of not-so-great tools which were what you would buy in Sears and normal stores. This was before Makita and Hitachi had any real impact in the market. (Ten years later all of this was gone. None of the professional grade tool companies in the US are left – they are brands only.)

I was no power-tool-designing genius but I learned a tremendous amount in the year and a half I worked there. I learned from my colleagues, I learned by watching. I still quote from my experiences there to the folks here at Tools for Working Wood. It was an amazing time for me.

At lunchtime we’d walk the length of the factory to the company cafeteria and back, passing the company store. We used to pop by the store at least once or twice a week where we could buy various seconds of tools, the odd souvenir and things like this very limited edition train car in the picture. In my time there I assembled a fairly good collection of circa-1980 power tools from the company store and at the time they were the best tools you could get – I will probably write about them in the future.

But while I have great nostalgia for my time there, power tool technology has gotten a lot better over the years. And while I feel that, especially when it comes to traditional tools, the older designs if done well can’t be beat, seeing how modern technology can push the design of a fret saw or a coping saw is really interesting and keeps me from constantly looking backwards.

This is a really exciting time to be an ironmonger. In the past ten or fifteen years we have seen a revolution in the design and availability of well-made and well-working hand and power tools. The hand tools in both traditional and new designs work better than ever, and power tools are easier to use, more functional and safer than ever before.

This is happening just as the need for these tools is, I fear, peaking. The end product, furniture, has been left behind. Furniture itself as a possession is less important than it was. For all the advances in tools, building a Newport highboy, or a Ruhlman bureau is still really hard to do and takes skill and practice more than just fancy tools.

Skill is skill and that won’t change.

___________________

This “Tools & Craft” section is provided courtesy of Joel Moskowitz, founder of Tools for Working Wood, the Brooklyn-based catalog retailer of everything from hand tools to Festool; check out their online shop here. Joel also founded Gramercy Tools, the award-winning boutique manufacturer of hand tools made the old-fashioned way: Built to work and built to last.


Core77

Tools & Craft #42: Combining CNC Routing with Craftsmanship

When I wrote about CNC-cut plywood furniture last week, the comments we numerous and critical. I don’t disagree. But the question was raised about what happens when someone with an appreciation for traditional design wants to use CNC to cost effectively extend what can be done by hand.

We make our Gramercy Tools dovetail saws by CNC’ing a walnut blank and then hand finishing it. The reason it all works is that the person who programs the CNC router to produce our handles not only has an appreciation of the type of details we look for, but also is a master CNC artist. This is craftsmanship of a digital kind followed by craftsmanship of a traditional kind that enables us to have such nice handles—not some magic bullet machine.

It wasn’t easy to find a shop that could make the handle. The handle itself started out as a composite sketch based on actual 19th century saw handles and was modified and adapted to our dovetail saw and to what our testing thought worked best and looked nice. A lot of what we wanted to do was capture the design sensibility in both look and feel of an early 19th century saw handle. We think that the geometry we use, a combination of the lightness of the saw and the high hang of the handle makes it easier for a person to saw straight. But the ease of use also has to do with how the saw feels in the hand which is partly a function of the quality of the finish of the handle. We also think that the traditional look is important to get right because it helps put you in the frame of mind of the time period of furniture you are making.

One example of the detailing is that we thought the tiny radius that at the base of the horns on the top of the saw handle looked too industrial. We increased the radius for strength and then added decorative “file” notches to give a crisp demarcation line that looks better but doesn’t weaken the handle. It’s a Victorian feature that you see on planes a lot. The “file” is in quotes because in the first run of handles we would used a saw file to add the notches. That’s the traditional way and it takes two seconds. Currently the notches are added as part of the CNC routing.

Once we actually had a proper 3D model we sent the handle out to bid. I don’t remember the number of CNC firms who flat out turned us down, or the number who quoted crazy prices. I do know that the number wasn’t small and the reason was that the companies that were able to do the programming to produce the blank didn’t have the ability to do the hand work needed for finishing. And the companies that could do the hand finishing just didn’t have the programming chops to make the handle cost effectively.

Finally, when our current handle maker said “maybe” I was ready to dance in the street (The Macarena if you must know – this was a few years ago). For the handle maker it was a chance to push his craft and we are so happy he did. The final picture shows an unfinished handle – as it came off the CNC compared to finished handle.

The point of this post is to show you from practical experience that CNC made doesn’t have to be primitive or the lowest common denominator. A CNC router is a tool like any other and in the hands of great craftspeople great stuff can be made.

___________________

This “Tools & Craft” section is provided courtesy of Joel Moskowitz, founder of Tools for Working Wood, the Brooklyn-based catalog retailer of everything from hand tools to Festool; check out their online shop here. Joel also founded Gramercy Tools, the award-winning boutique manufacturer of hand tools made the old-fashioned way: Built to work and built to last.


Core77

Tools & Craft #41: My Thoughts on CNC-Cut Furniture

The first time I saw a lot of furniture that had been CNC-milled out of plywood was at a Maker Faire some years past. 

The furniture was clever stuff. The more interesting designs interlocked without any additional fasteners, some of the simpler stuff used a few screws. I was deeply impressed… Until I thought about it.

We can’t deny that a CNC router is a useful tool. Sometimes you see it used to dumb down a traditional design such as a frame and panel, where the panel is faked by simply routing the depression into an MDF board. This is loads faster than doing it the traditional way, and if the client doesn’t care that it’s fake, makes good business sense. But at the same time, more and more shops use CNC for making real parts, sometimes at the very high end. Dovetail drawers are a snap, panels are easy, and complex mortise and tenons are pretty simple. CNC carving can also add details and complexity which were previously not cost effective. With a direct connection from the drafting and design phases to manufacture, there is additional savings in time.

But in the search for streamlined, push-button manufacturing, I felt some of the folks showing at that Maker Faire forgot something important. From a making standpoint, being able to push a button and have a machine spit out parts that snap together is very cool. But from an end user standpoint, what is important is design, quality, and cost. I think a CNC router does best as just one tool in the arsenal of many. In the hands of a skilled craftsperson, CNC can really open up your design options. But trying to make a CNC router the be all and end all limits your options and wastes material. Also, square edges and visible joints are nice in some contexts, but modern furniture loves sinuous curves done by rasp, sander and eyeball.

It’s a cool technical challenge to design anything while limiting yourself to only one material and one method of fabrication. And for that the makers of the furniture I saw at the show deserve credit. But as the harbinger of the future, I am not holding my breath. What I am waiting for is for traditional cabinetmakers to evolve the CNC-cut ideas that I saw into something that I want in my house.

___________________

This “Tools & Craft” section is provided courtesy of Joel Moskowitz, founder of Tools for Working Wood, the Brooklyn-based catalog retailer of everything from hand tools to Festool; check out their online shop here. Joel also founded Gramercy Tools, the award-winning boutique manufacturer of hand tools made the old-fashioned way: Built to work and built to last.


Core77

Tools & Craft #40: Designing Functional Furniture is Hard

In 1984, art dealer Sandy Millikan sat down with Wendell Castle and said, “Wendell, if you do another show of furniture, you are going to get labeled a furnituremaker. If you want to be an artist and be in the fine arts world, I think you have to deal with the issue of art. Now how do we do that?” (The quote is from Fine Woodworking #59.) The result was a exhibition of thirteen clocks, including the non-functional “Ghost Clock” which is one of the centerpieces of the modern furniture on display in the permanent collection of the Renwick Gallery in Washington DC.

The Renwick, which is part of the Smithsonian Institute, states on their website: “The collection, exhibition program and publications presented by the Renwick Gallery highlight the best craft objects and decorative arts from the 19th century to the present.”

But it doesn’t. And this is what so disappointing to me. What it mostly shows is well-made art objects that have no relationship at all to the working craftspeople in this country.

One of the glaring differences between the furniture in great collections such as Winterthur, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Kaufman collection at the National Gallery is that the furniture in those collections represents the high end of furniture that was actually used. Some cabinetmaker, signed or anonymous, made something for some customer, and it got delivered and used in their house. Sure, it’s mostly fancy stuff, but the work had context. These days hundreds of cabinetmakers are making furniture and architectural woodwork pieces—some spectacular—that have similar context, for use the way people use built objects today. The museum world ignores them.

How is anyone supposed to learn about how modern craft fits in their world if the educational resources are stuck in an ivory tower? Where are the exhibits of real modern woodworking? I have customers who are doing spectacular work for clients. Sometimes it’s furniture, but more usually interiors. Bedrooms, living rooms, and of course, kitchens. It’s not all good, but some is real great, and some shows great craft.

By the way, Wendell Castle is a really talented guy, an early issue of FWW showed off some of his more useful functional pieces. It’s a shame that the Renwick isn’t showing something that is much harder to design than an art piece. You see, to design a piece of furniture (or building) that is functional, useful, and also passes a sniff test of master craftsmanship, art, and engenders thoughtful discussion is a lot harder than just making some art piece. I think also in our society if a piece is functional it’s automatically downgraded from being art.

Yes, you say, but what about the Maloof double rocker and Krenov cabinet on display in the same exhibit? Those pieces are functional. They are, and I was very happy to see them. I’m a big Maloof fan and copied one of his desks years ago. But I would suggest that the pieces on display by both Krenov and Maloof are more art pieces than other furniture these makers made for use in daily life.

The Krenov cabinet, which is elegant and lovely, isn’t a practical piece in any modern context. It’s a curio cabinet, not a take on furniture that Americans regularly use in their houses.

The Maloof double rocker is almost a joke on his signature single rocker, which is awesome. Maloof built hundreds of pieces that are absolutely modern in their usage. This chair is a collectible—more than something one would sit in every day. His rockers are great modern furniture and what would you rather own, one of his regular rockers that are comfortable and fun, or this double rocker, which you might sit in when? His desks are wonderful examples on how modern craft can interpret classic forms.

Here is what I want to see at the Renwick: An exhibit of modern desks. I want to see what people are making to actually use as desks in the modern computer age. From fancy financial workstations, to something elegant and comfortable that works with my laptop and printer. I want to be inspired. I want to see the best of modern architectural woodworking. For example, more than a decade ago there was a bar in NYC called Iridium where upstairs the interior looked like it was built by the mad hatter’s cabinetmaker. Nothing was square, everything was curved, crazy, and unbelievably cool. (I haven’t been there in over a decade, and I don’t know what remains of the original interior.) But that’s great design, and great craft was needed to pull it off. This is what should be on exhibit.

Note: Another issue I have with the Renwick—and just about every furniture exhibit on the planet—is the insistence of curators to display all furniture on three inch platforms. Sure it’s great for making sure people don’t bump into valuable stuff, but the raised height gives a deceptive sense of scale to the work.

Some museums do it right. Many years ago I was at the Design Museum at Canary Wharf in London, and in addition to all the stuff roped off, the museum had assembled a group of about a dozen modern chairs, all reproductions of the iconic designs of the twentieth century, and you were welcome to sit in them. I learned more about chairs and appreciating modern design in twenty minutes that you could possibly believe.

___________________

This “Tools & Craft” section is provided courtesy of Joel Moskowitz, founder of Tools for Working Wood, the Brooklyn-based catalog retailer of everything from hand tools to Festool; check out their online shop here. Joel also founded Gramercy Tools, the award-winning boutique manufacturer of hand tools made the old-fashioned way: Built to work and built to last.


Core77

Design Experience that Matters: Handy Tools for Working With 3D Printers

Here at Design that Matters we do a lot of 3D printing, so we’ve built up this collection of handy but inexpensive tools for supporting our 3D printers. They live in IKEA silverware caddies mounted next to the machines and they just make the work go easier.

1. Super Lube synthetic grease for the build plate lead screw (the lube supplied with most machines gets used up quickly). A single tube of lube lasts for ages. 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Cheap cutting pliers for trimming PLA spools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Metal feeler gauge for consistent results when manually leveling the printer build plate (Makerbot Rep2 works best when the 0.2mm gauge just fits between nozzle and build plate).

 

 

 

  

4. UHU glue stick for securing prints to build plate (useful even with heated build plates). This works better and is more convenient than covering the build plate with blue painter’s tape.  

 

 

 

 

5. Window scraper for removing glue residue and stubborn PLA deposits from build plate. 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Cricut craft spatula for un-sticking prints. We’ll create a little gap under the print with the window scraper, and then lever the rest of the print off the build plate with the craft spatula.  Bonus: we’re less likely to stab ourselves. 

 

 

 

 

7. iFixit metal spudgers for scraping off and digging out printed support material and other defects.

 

 

 

 

  

8. Cheap dental picks for removing support material from internal cavities.

 

 

 

 

 

9. Steel tweezers for getting gunk off the extruder nozzle without melting fingers.

 

 

 

  

 

10. We also have a couple self-healing cutting mats taped to the table next to the machine so we can fuss around with scrapers without scarring the tabletops or damaging the build plates. 

 

 

 

 

A Few More Items:

We’ve mounted an appropriate set of Allen wrenches on a 3D-printed bracket attached to every machine. 

To reduce filament-jams in our oldest machine, the trusty Replicator 2, we printed and mounted this filament guide from Thingiverse on the back of the machine:

Image by FERDYP

For storing PLA, we were delighted to discover that even the big Makerbot-brand spools fit perfectly inside a standard 5-gallon bucket. To prevent humidity from spoiling the PLA, we snap a Gamma Seal Lid on top of the bucket and throw in a handful of silica gel desiccant packs before we screw it shut.

Stay Tuned!

After a productive four years with our Makerbot Replicator 2 (and a frustrating two years with our Makerbot Replicator Gen5), we just upgraded to a Lulzbot Taz 6.  We’ve started experimenting with new filament materials and a heated printer bed.  

We find that glue sticks are still useful for first-layer adhesion, although for exotic materials like nylon some consider generic PVP-based glue sticks more effective than UHU sticks. We still prefer the combination of the window scraper and the spatula for unsticking prints. The new filament spools also fit in our airtight 5-gallon buckets for storage. The biggest change is that we no longer need the feeler gauge, given that the Lulzbot has a self-leveling bed.

Do You Have Any Tips for Us?

We’re still learning how to get the best results from our 3D printers for the least amount of effort. Some machines create rafts (print bases) that are tedious to remove. Although we’ve had success sanding parts with paper or a Dremel, the resulting smooth parts very quickly look grubby (something about dust and oil getting into the seams). For high-quality aesthetic models, we haven’t found an alternative to the laborious process of: bondo, sand, primer, paint, clear-coat. Have any of you come up with a better solution?

_____________________________________

This “Design Experience that Matters” series is provided courtesy of Timothy Prestero and the team at Design that Matters (DtM). As a nonprofit, DtM collaborates with leading social entrepreneurs and hundreds of volunteers to design new medical technologies for the poor in developing countries. DtM’s Firefly infant phototherapy device is treating thousands of newborns in 21 counties from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. In 2012, DtM was named the winner of the National Design Award.


Core77

Design Experience that Matters: Handy Tools for Working With 3D Printers

Here at Design that Matters we do a lot of 3D printing, so we’ve built up this collection of handy but inexpensive tools for supporting our 3D printers. They live in IKEA silverware caddies mounted next to the machines and they just make the work go easier.

1. Super Lube synthetic grease for the build plate lead screw (the lube supplied with most machines gets used up quickly). A single tube of lube lasts for ages. 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Cheap cutting pliers for trimming PLA spools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Metal feeler gauge for consistent results when manually leveling the printer build plate (Makerbot Rep2 works best when the 0.2mm gauge just fits between nozzle and build plate).

 

 

 

  

4. UHU glue stick for securing prints to build plate (useful even with heated build plates). This works better and is more convenient than covering the build plate with blue painter’s tape.  

 

 

 

 

5. Window scraper for removing glue residue and stubborn PLA deposits from build plate. 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Cricut craft spatula for un-sticking prints. We’ll create a little gap under the print with the window scraper, and then lever the rest of the print off the build plate with the craft spatula.  Bonus: we’re less likely to stab ourselves. 

 

 

 

 

7. iFixit metal spudgers for scraping off and digging out printed support material and other defects.

 

 

 

 

  

8. Cheap dental picks for removing support material from internal cavities.

 

 

 

 

 

9. Steel tweezers for getting gunk off the extruder nozzle without melting fingers.

 

 

 

  

 

10. We also have a couple self-healing cutting mats taped to the table next to the machine so we can fuss around with scrapers without scarring the tabletops or damaging the build plates. 

 

 

 

 

A Few More Items:

We’ve mounted an appropriate set of Allen wrenches on a 3D-printed bracket attached to every machine. 

To reduce filament-jams in our oldest machine, the trusty Replicator 2, we printed and mounted this filament guide from Thingiverse on the back of the machine:

Image by FERDYP

For storing PLA, we were delighted to discover that even the big Makerbot-brand spools fit perfectly inside a standard 5-gallon bucket. To prevent humidity from spoiling the PLA, we snap a Gamma Seal Lid on top of the bucket and throw in a handful of silica gel desiccant packs before we screw it shut.

Stay Tuned!

After a productive four years with our Makerbot Replicator 2 (and a frustrating two years with our Makerbot Replicator Gen5), we just upgraded to a Lulzbot Taz 6.  We’ve started experimenting with new filament materials and a heated printer bed.  

We find that glue sticks are still useful for first-layer adhesion, although for exotic materials like nylon some consider generic PVP-based glue sticks more effective than UHU sticks. We still prefer the combination of the window scraper and the spatula for unsticking prints. The new filament spools also fit in our airtight 5-gallon buckets for storage. The biggest change is that we no longer need the feeler gauge, given that the Lulzbot has a self-leveling bed.

Do You Have Any Tips for Us?

We’re still learning how to get the best results from our 3D printers for the least amount of effort. Some machines create rafts (print bases) that are tedious to remove. Although we’ve had success sanding parts with paper or a Dremel, the resulting smooth parts very quickly look grubby (something about dust and oil getting into the seams). For high-quality aesthetic models, we haven’t found an alternative to the laborious process of: bondo, sand, primer, paint, clear-coat. Have any of you come up with a better solution?

_____________________________________

This “Design Experience that Matters” series is provided courtesy of Timothy Prestero and the team at Design that Matters (DtM). As a nonprofit, DtM collaborates with leading social entrepreneurs and hundreds of volunteers to design new medical technologies for the poor in developing countries. DtM’s Firefly infant phototherapy device is treating thousands of newborns in 21 counties from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. In 2012, DtM was named the winner of the National Design Award.


Core77

Tools & Craft #39: Seventeen Utopian Benches You Can Build

I love seeing any gallery show that’s about furniture. A few years ago I attended artist Francis Cape‘s “Utopian Benches” exhibition at the Murray Guy Gallery in Chelsea. Cape created a series of benches based on designs by people seeking Utopia (more on this in a bit). My son and I arrived at the gallery prepared to be enlightened, to be entertained, and to sit down.

The exhibit consisted of seventeen benches arranged in a grid in a large airy room. The arrangement screamed “Art” so your first inclination was to walk respectfully around them and try to get a visual sense of them. While all the benches do the same thing, they all look different, with different forms of joinery, differences in size, profile, and decoration. But that’s not the point.

Eventually you sit down on one. And of course you try to form an opinion: Is this a good bench? What makes it special? Do you want to build it? You wiggle your butt against the bench and then get up and sit in another bench and do the same thing. This gets boring.

Then you start talking to someone, and since there are all these benches around, the natural inclination is to sit down and talk. In my case, I had a very interesting conversation with my son and then with Janice Guy, one of the gallery owners. As the conversation progressed, we moved seats a couple of times, and the point of the exhibit became clear. This show isn’t about a bunch of benches. Sure, it’s convenient to see them all in one place, and we all have favorites. What’s important is how we react with a group of benches.

If you have a long bench, people can sit next to each other without really having to talk to each other. With two opposing benches, you can easily have a conversation. Benches, unlike dining chairs and sofas, speak to the communal. A single-seat chair is about the person sitting in it. A room of benches is about how groups of people interact—and that’s what this exhibit is really about.

The benches in the show are for sale, but—true to the concept of the show—the benches are offered as “small gatherings” of at least three. And this is genius. Think of it in the context of a home. A single bench up against a wall or something is a plebeian piece of functional furniture handy for sitting when you’re taking your boots off. A “small gathering of benches” in a den or living room begs to be sat on, rearranged, and made into a social focus of an area. For me, the most important takeaway from the show is how the way furniture can make people interact. I’m usually so focused on the details of a piece that it’s pretty easy for me to forget the context of how the end users will use the furniture when it’s in situ.

This exhibition was based on Cape’s book (which we stock), We Sit Together: Utopian Benches from The Shakers To The Separatists of Zoar. I leafed through this book over a period of several weeks before reading the whole thing one morning whilst firmly planted on that ubiquitous urban communal bench—the subway.

For all the enlightenment in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries, it was still a pretty inhospitable place for small religious sects, and many migrated to the United States in search of religious freedom. Many of these groups were highly communal, and the simple, backless bench was a sign both of piousness, and equality. Except in a very cursory way, this thin volume doesn’t explore the beliefs of any of these groups. Instead, it investigates the construction, and reasoning behind different styles of bench. Each chapter deals with the basic history of a community and provides a measured drawing of a communal bench that would have been typical of the community.

This is a superb book to consult if you want to build a bench or two, and the benches are largely of very simple, straightforward construction. The book is a very interesting read with enough background information to inform without getting bogged down, and the round-up of bench styles is a real eye-opener on what can be done with a basic traditional form. For designers and furniture makers, We Sit Together provides an interesting overview of the implications and ideology conveyed by even the seemingly simplest of objects.

___________________

This “Tools & Craft” section is provided courtesy of Joel Moskowitz, founder of Tools for Working Wood, the Brooklyn-based catalog retailer of everything from hand tools to Festool; check out their online shop here. Joel also founded Gramercy Tools, the award-winning boutique manufacturer of hand tools made the old-fashioned way: Built to work and built to last.


Core77

How to Build a Coffee Table with Just Two Tools, Make a Secret Compartment Shelf, Create Motion-Activated Bike Lighting & More

Motion Activated Bike Lighting Prototype

Bob Clagett uses an Arduino 101 board to create a unique bike light. Helpfully, he covers not only the build, but the coding as well:

Traditional Farmer’s Table

Laura Kampf builds a bauerntisch, a traditional farmer’s table, from Spruce and Hemlock. I like her idea of using biscuit cleats to hold the top down while allowing for expansion and contraction:

DIY Modern Coffee Table with Two Tools

Chris Salomone builds a coffee table you can construct using only two tools, and goes over the build order in detail:

Secret Compartment Floating Shelf

DIY Tyler builds a floating shelf with a magnet-unlocked hidden compartment inside it:

CNC Downdraft Table with Storage

Dustin Penner, hater of MDF, must treat with the stuff in order to create this downdraft table for his desktop CNC mill:

New Shop Tour

Out of everyone on this list, Marc Spagnuolo probably had the largest and best-outfitted workspace with his 1,600-square-foot “dream shop” in Arizona. Now relocated to Colorado, Spagnuolo has had to start over again. Here’s his new set-up, nearly complete:

p


Core77

How to Build a Coffee Table with Just Two Tools, Make a Secret Compartment Shelf, Create Motion-Activated Bike Lighting & More

Motion Activated Bike Lighting Prototype

Bob Clagett uses an Arduino 101 board to create a unique bike light. Helpfully, he covers not only the build, but the coding as well:

Traditional Farmer’s Table

Laura Kampf builds a bauerntisch, a traditional farmer’s table, from Spruce and Hemlock. I like her idea of using biscuit cleats to hold the top down while allowing for expansion and contraction:

DIY Modern Coffee Table with Two Tools

Chris Salomone builds a coffee table you can construct using only two tools, and goes over the build order in detail:

Secret Compartment Floating Shelf

DIY Tyler builds a floating shelf with a magnet-unlocked hidden compartment inside it:

CNC Downdraft Table with Storage

Dustin Penner, hater of MDF, must treat with the stuff in order to create this downdraft table for his desktop CNC mill:

New Shop Tour

Out of everyone on this list, Marc Spagnuolo probably had the largest and best-outfitted workspace with his 1,600-square-foot “dream shop” in Arizona. Now relocated to Colorado, Spagnuolo has had to start over again. Here’s his new set-up, nearly complete:

p


Core77

How to Build a Coffee Table with Just Two Tools, Make a Secret Compartment Shelf, Create Motion-Activated Bike Lighting & More

Motion Activated Bike Lighting Prototype

Bob Clagett uses an Arduino 101 board to create a unique bike light. Helpfully, he covers not only the build, but the coding as well:

Traditional Farmer’s Table

Laura Kampf builds a bauerntisch, a traditional farmer’s table, from Spruce and Hemlock. I like her idea of using biscuit cleats to hold the top down while allowing for expansion and contraction:

DIY Modern Coffee Table with Two Tools

Chris Salomone builds a coffee table you can construct using only two tools, and goes over the build order in detail:

Secret Compartment Floating Shelf

DIY Tyler builds a floating shelf with a magnet-unlocked hidden compartment inside it:

CNC Downdraft Table with Storage

Dustin Penner, hater of MDF, must treat with the stuff in order to create this downdraft table for his desktop CNC mill:

New Shop Tour

Out of everyone on this list, Marc Spagnuolo probably had the largest and best-outfitted workspace with his 1,600-square-foot “dream shop” in Arizona. Now relocated to Colorado, Spagnuolo has had to start over again. Here’s his new set-up, nearly complete:

p


Core77

How to Build a Coffee Table with Just Two Tools, Make a Secret Compartment Shelf, Create Motion-Activated Bike Lighting & More

Motion Activated Bike Lighting Prototype

Bob Clagett uses an Arduino 101 board to create a unique bike light. Helpfully, he covers not only the build, but the coding as well:

Traditional Farmer’s Table

Laura Kampf builds a bauerntisch, a traditional farmer’s table, from Spruce and Hemlock. I like her idea of using biscuit cleats to hold the top down while allowing for expansion and contraction:

DIY Modern Coffee Table with Two Tools

Chris Salomone builds a coffee table you can construct using only two tools, and goes over the build order in detail:

Secret Compartment Floating Shelf

DIY Tyler builds a floating shelf with a magnet-unlocked hidden compartment inside it:

CNC Downdraft Table with Storage

Dustin Penner, hater of MDF, must treat with the stuff in order to create this downdraft table for his desktop CNC mill:

New Shop Tour

Out of everyone on this list, Marc Spagnuolo probably had the largest and best-outfitted workspace with his 1,600-square-foot “dream shop” in Arizona. Now relocated to Colorado, Spagnuolo has had to start over again. Here’s his new set-up, nearly complete:

p


Core77

How to Build a Coffee Table with Just Two Tools, Make a Secret Compartment Shelf, Create Motion-Activated Bike Lighting & More

Motion Activated Bike Lighting Prototype

Bob Clagett uses an Arduino 101 board to create a unique bike light. Helpfully, he covers not only the build, but the coding as well:

Traditional Farmer’s Table

Laura Kampf builds a bauerntisch, a traditional farmer’s table, from Spruce and Hemlock. I like her idea of using biscuit cleats to hold the top down while allowing for expansion and contraction:

DIY Modern Coffee Table with Two Tools

Chris Salomone builds a coffee table you can construct using only two tools, and goes over the build order in detail:

Secret Compartment Floating Shelf

DIY Tyler builds a floating shelf with a magnet-unlocked hidden compartment inside it:

CNC Downdraft Table with Storage

Dustin Penner, hater of MDF, must treat with the stuff in order to create this downdraft table for his desktop CNC mill:

New Shop Tour

Out of everyone on this list, Marc Spagnuolo probably had the largest and best-outfitted workspace with his 1,600-square-foot “dream shop” in Arizona. Now relocated to Colorado, Spagnuolo has had to start over again. Here’s his new set-up, nearly complete:

p


Core77

How to Build a Coffee Table with Just Two Tools, Make a Secret Compartment Shelf, Create Motion-Activated Bike Lighting & More

Motion Activated Bike Lighting Prototype

Bob Clagett uses an Arduino 101 board to create a unique bike light. Helpfully, he covers not only the build, but the coding as well:

Traditional Farmer’s Table

Laura Kampf builds a bauerntisch, a traditional farmer’s table, from Spruce and Hemlock. I like her idea of using biscuit cleats to hold the top down while allowing for expansion and contraction:

DIY Modern Coffee Table with Two Tools

Chris Salomone builds a coffee table you can construct using only two tools, and goes over the build order in detail:

Secret Compartment Floating Shelf

DIY Tyler builds a floating shelf with a magnet-unlocked hidden compartment inside it:

CNC Downdraft Table with Storage

Dustin Penner, hater of MDF, must treat with the stuff in order to create this downdraft table for his desktop CNC mill:

New Shop Tour

Out of everyone on this list, Marc Spagnuolo probably had the largest and best-outfitted workspace with his 1,600-square-foot “dream shop” in Arizona. Now relocated to Colorado, Spagnuolo has had to start over again. Here’s his new set-up, nearly complete:

p


Core77

How to Build a Coffee Table with Just Two Tools, Make a Secret Compartment Shelf, Create Motion-Activated Bike Lighting & More

Motion Activated Bike Lighting Prototype

Bob Clagett uses an Arduino 101 board to create a unique bike light. Helpfully, he covers not only the build, but the coding as well:

Traditional Farmer’s Table

Laura Kampf builds a bauerntisch, a traditional farmer’s table, from Spruce and Hemlock. I like her idea of using biscuit cleats to hold the top down while allowing for expansion and contraction:

DIY Modern Coffee Table with Two Tools

Chris Salomone builds a coffee table you can construct using only two tools, and goes over the build order in detail:

Secret Compartment Floating Shelf

DIY Tyler builds a floating shelf with a magnet-unlocked hidden compartment inside it:

CNC Downdraft Table with Storage

Dustin Penner, hater of MDF, must treat with the stuff in order to create this downdraft table for his desktop CNC mill:

New Shop Tour

Out of everyone on this list, Marc Spagnuolo probably had the largest and best-outfitted workspace with his 1,600-square-foot “dream shop” in Arizona. Now relocated to Colorado, Spagnuolo has had to start over again. Here’s his new set-up, nearly complete:

p


Core77

How to Build a Coffee Table with Just Two Tools, Make a Secret Compartment Shelf, Create Motion-Activated Bike Lighting & More

Motion Activated Bike Lighting Prototype

Bob Clagett uses an Arduino 101 board to create a unique bike light. Helpfully, he covers not only the build, but the coding as well:

Traditional Farmer’s Table

Laura Kampf builds a bauerntisch, a traditional farmer’s table, from Spruce and Hemlock. I like her idea of using biscuit cleats to hold the top down while allowing for expansion and contraction:

DIY Modern Coffee Table with Two Tools

Chris Salomone builds a coffee table you can construct using only two tools, and goes over the build order in detail:

Secret Compartment Floating Shelf

DIY Tyler builds a floating shelf with a magnet-unlocked hidden compartment inside it:

CNC Downdraft Table with Storage

Dustin Penner, hater of MDF, must treat with the stuff in order to create this downdraft table for his desktop CNC mill:

New Shop Tour

Out of everyone on this list, Marc Spagnuolo probably had the largest and best-outfitted workspace with his 1,600-square-foot “dream shop” in Arizona. Now relocated to Colorado, Spagnuolo has had to start over again. Here’s his new set-up, nearly complete:

p


Core77

How to Build a Coffee Table with Just Two Tools, Make a Secret Compartment Shelf, Create Motion-Activated Bike Lighting & More

Motion Activated Bike Lighting Prototype

Bob Clagett uses an Arduino 101 board to create a unique bike light. Helpfully, he covers not only the build, but the coding as well:

Traditional Farmer’s Table

Laura Kampf builds a bauerntisch, a traditional farmer’s table, from Spruce and Hemlock. I like her idea of using biscuit cleats to hold the top down while allowing for expansion and contraction:

DIY Modern Coffee Table with Two Tools

Chris Salomone builds a coffee table you can construct using only two tools, and goes over the build order in detail:

Secret Compartment Floating Shelf

DIY Tyler builds a floating shelf with a magnet-unlocked hidden compartment inside it:

CNC Downdraft Table with Storage

Dustin Penner, hater of MDF, must treat with the stuff in order to create this downdraft table for his desktop CNC mill:

New Shop Tour

Out of everyone on this list, Marc Spagnuolo probably had the largest and best-outfitted workspace with his 1,600-square-foot “dream shop” in Arizona. Now relocated to Colorado, Spagnuolo has had to start over again. Here’s his new set-up, nearly complete:

p


Core77

Uncovering Tools That Haven’t Been Touched Since 1941

Hey readers, here’s Part 2 of the New Deal tool chest find (Part 1 is here) by guest writer Dr. James E. Price. Dr. Price is an anthropologist, archaeologist and an accomplished joiner. You’ll find his bio down at the bottom. He’s managed to acquire a toolbox, still filled with tools, originally issued by the U.S. Government in 1933 for the Civilian Conservation Corps (read our story on the CCC here). It’s a very rare find with great American historical significance.

The rest of the entry is in Price’s words, edited for length and clarity. The photos and captions below are his.

Dr. Price writes:

Each of the tools in the chest was numbered by a stamp or engraving on the tool itself and there is a numbered brass tack beside the place it goes in the chest. I promised you that I would feature the tools on this page one at a time and you can assist with the research of its manufacturer, the years it was offered, a picture of it in a period catalog, or any other information pertinent to each tool.

We start this evening with the claw hammer which is Number 32 and is secured in the top till by a brass spring clip. The manufacturer’s imprint is on one cheek of the hammer and the other side is stamped “USVA”. The latter stands for The US Veterans Administration. They were used at The VA Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge about a tool if you have information on it.

The subject clawhammer is in the top till.
The imprint has been damaged but it appears to read, “C. OGDEN, NEW YORK”. The “C” is somewhat questionable.
You can see the original inventory number stamp, “32”, on the wooden handle right behind the head.
The other side of the hammer head is stamped, “USVA”.

Next I continued cleaning and stabilizing tools in the top till. Here I’ll show you the three little Stanley Hurwood screwdrivers and two awls. The three screwdrivers are on the upper left of the photo below, each one in a spring clip with their tips in slots in a piece of wood glued in the end of the till. They are each marked “26”. One of the awls, the one with a beech handle, marked “25” is above the screwdrivers and the other one with an ebonized handle, stamped, “48” is to the left of the hammer. All the tools in the top till are marked, “USVA”.

This is a closeup of the three Stanley Hurwood screwdrivers.
The words “STANLEY HURWOOD, PAT. APPL’D FOR” are stamped on the handle of each screwdriver. The handles appear to be rosewood.
This awl is stamped “25” and the handle is beech. In small letters the wood is stamped “BUCK MFG. CO.”
The upper awl has an ebonized handle with no manufacturing marks but is stamped “48”.

It is likely the tools were issued in 1933 or 1934 and probably never used after the beginning of WWII. The chest and its tools gives us an intimate view of what was needed by finish carpenters in those years. To my knowledge no other complete government-issued tool chest and its contents survived from The New Deal Era so this one is a unique cultural resource that demands careful preservation and study.

Hand-tool beginners who frequently ask what tools they need, take heed. If you assemble a set of tools of the functional types found in this chest, you will have enough tools to make lots of wonderful wooden things.

The photo below shows the back left corner of the bottom of the chest. Note the three gimlets resting in holes in an upright board and the block plane secured to that board with a leather strap.

The tools were rusty from being in the bottom of the chest. Tools in the three tills above this bottom tier are not nearly as rusty.
The block plane is a Stanley 220 and the blade has been hollow ground so it saw use. The japanning is near 100%. This photo shows the disassembled plane after cleaning. No attempt was made to remove stains remaining after the powder rust was removed.
The gimlets did not fare as well as the block plane. They had a rust encrustation on the steel bits. Once the rust was removed some pitting is evident. The handles are rosewood.
I was born December 28, 1944 and the chest and its tools are a decade older than me but probably ceased to be used right before I was born. Of course I had to try out the gimlets knowing that my hand was the next one to use them since they were put away in the bottom of the chest by the carpenter who last used them.
This is a photo of the gimlets and Stanley 220 block plane cleaned and stabilized before I returned them to their proper place in the bottom of the chest that has been their home for 80 years.
This photo shows the three gimlets and block plane back in the chest.
The New Deal Tool Chest and its tools are currently on public exhibition in the lobby of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways Headquarters in Van Buren, Missouri. The exhibit will go through October, 2017.
This is a photo of the top three tills and their contents on display by The ONSR Interpretative Division of this National Park.

Stay tuned as I go through the rest. As I continue to remove tools from the chest I’ll describe them after I have given them a light cleaning.

________________________________

Anthropologist and archaeologist Dr. James E. Price grew up watching his father make ax handles, gun ramrods, sassafras boat paddles, cedar turkey calls and furniture. His father taught him the art of joinery. “Woodworking was important on our Ozark farm. My family owned a small sawmill which produced lumber for use on the farm. We built buildings, repaired wagons, made furniture and boat paddles, and many other objects and structures of wood.”

Dr. Price, a sixth generation Ozark dweller, prizes the careful process of using hand tools to create objects that he sees as useful, functional art. “Without using any fossil fuel source, I can take a pile of boards and make them into an object of beauty. The tools are the instrument, and the piece becomes a kind of permanent music. If it doesn’t burn or blow away, it can last a thousand years—it will be impossible to pull apart.”


Core77

Uncovering Tools That Haven’t Been Touched Since 1941

Hey readers, here’s Part 2 of the New Deal tool chest find (Part 1 is here) by guest writer Dr. James E. Price. Dr. Price is an anthropologist, archaeologist and an accomplished joiner. You’ll find his bio down at the bottom. He’s managed to acquire a toolbox, still filled with tools, originally issued by the U.S. Government in 1933 for the Civilian Conservation Corps (read our story on the CCC here). It’s a very rare find with great American historical significance.

The rest of the entry is in Price’s words, edited for length and clarity. The photos and captions below are his.

Dr. Price writes:

Each of the tools in the chest was numbered by a stamp or engraving on the tool itself and there is a numbered brass tack beside the place it goes in the chest. I promised you that I would feature the tools on this page one at a time and you can assist with the research of its manufacturer, the years it was offered, a picture of it in a period catalog, or any other information pertinent to each tool.

We start this evening with the claw hammer which is Number 32 and is secured in the top till by a brass spring clip. The manufacturer’s imprint is on one cheek of the hammer and the other side is stamped “USVA”. The latter stands for The US Veterans Administration. They were used at The VA Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge about a tool if you have information on it.

The subject clawhammer is in the top till.
The imprint has been damaged but it appears to read, “C. OGDEN, NEW YORK”. The “C” is somewhat questionable.
You can see the original inventory number stamp, “32”, on the wooden handle right behind the head.
The other side of the hammer head is stamped, “USVA”.

Next I continued cleaning and stabilizing tools in the top till. Here I’ll show you the three little Stanley Hurwood screwdrivers and two awls. The three screwdrivers are on the upper left of the photo below, each one in a spring clip with their tips in slots in a piece of wood glued in the end of the till. They are each marked “26”. One of the awls, the one with a beech handle, marked “25” is above the screwdrivers and the other one with an ebonized handle, stamped, “48” is to the left of the hammer. All the tools in the top till are marked, “USVA”.

This is a closeup of the three Stanley Hurwood screwdrivers.
The words “STANLEY HURWOOD, PAT. APPL’D FOR” are stamped on the handle of each screwdriver. The handles appear to be rosewood.
This awl is stamped “25” and the handle is beech. In small letters the wood is stamped “BUCK MFG. CO.”
The upper awl has an ebonized handle with no manufacturing marks but is stamped “48”.

It is likely the tools were issued in 1933 or 1934 and probably never used after the beginning of WWII. The chest and its tools gives us an intimate view of what was needed by finish carpenters in those years. To my knowledge no other complete government-issued tool chest and its contents survived from The New Deal Era so this one is a unique cultural resource that demands careful preservation and study.

Hand-tool beginners who frequently ask what tools they need, take heed. If you assemble a set of tools of the functional types found in this chest, you will have enough tools to make lots of wonderful wooden things.

The photo below shows the back left corner of the bottom of the chest. Note the three gimlets resting in holes in an upright board and the block plane secured to that board with a leather strap.

The tools were rusty from being in the bottom of the chest. Tools in the three tills above this bottom tier are not nearly as rusty.
The block plane is a Stanley 220 and the blade has been hollow ground so it saw use. The japanning is near 100%. This photo shows the disassembled plane after cleaning. No attempt was made to remove stains remaining after the powder rust was removed.
The gimlets did not fare as well as the block plane. They had a rust encrustation on the steel bits. Once the rust was removed some pitting is evident. The handles are rosewood.
I was born December 28, 1944 and the chest and its tools are a decade older than me but probably ceased to be used right before I was born. Of course I had to try out the gimlets knowing that my hand was the next one to use them since they were put away in the bottom of the chest by the carpenter who last used them.
This is a photo of the gimlets and Stanley 220 block plane cleaned and stabilized before I returned them to their proper place in the bottom of the chest that has been their home for 80 years.
This photo shows the three gimlets and block plane back in the chest.
The New Deal Tool Chest and its tools are currently on public exhibition in the lobby of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways Headquarters in Van Buren, Missouri. The exhibit will go through October, 2017.
This is a photo of the top three tills and their contents on display by The ONSR Interpretative Division of this National Park.

Stay tuned as I go through the rest. As I continue to remove tools from the chest I’ll describe them after I have given them a light cleaning.

________________________________

Anthropologist and archaeologist Dr. James E. Price grew up watching his father make ax handles, gun ramrods, sassafras boat paddles, cedar turkey calls and furniture. His father taught him the art of joinery. “Woodworking was important on our Ozark farm. My family owned a small sawmill which produced lumber for use on the farm. We built buildings, repaired wagons, made furniture and boat paddles, and many other objects and structures of wood.”

Dr. Price, a sixth generation Ozark dweller, prizes the careful process of using hand tools to create objects that he sees as useful, functional art. “Without using any fossil fuel source, I can take a pile of boards and make them into an object of beauty. The tools are the instrument, and the piece becomes a kind of permanent music. If it doesn’t burn or blow away, it can last a thousand years—it will be impossible to pull apart.”


Core77

Toy Design & Casting, Testing Power Carving Tools, How to Tap Threads into Wood and More

Mr. Pen Man

Something very different from Jimmy DiResta this week. Jimmy, a former toy designer, goes back to his roots:

Testing Out Arbortech’s Power Carving Tools

Izzy Swan recently purchased a set of Arbortech’s stuff, and does an experimental carving to learn how to use them:

Art Frame

Frank Howarth creates a rail-and-stile frame for the large art piece he created last week, taking care to ensure the 4-foot-wide centerpiece has room to expand and contract:

Making an Axe Handle

April Wilkerson “gets the hang” of making an axe handle after a mid-project setback:

Tapping Threads Into Wood

Marc Spagnuolo is bringing a new tool to market, a set of taps designed to be used in wood. Check out some of the applications:

Building French Doors

Pretty cool to see from start to finish: The Samurai Carpenter builds, including the framing, a large set of wood-framed glass doors from scratch and installs it all:


Core77