maandag 10 augustus 2015

In the mean time, more carving

It's not that I do nothing, I'm just too much occupied with hollidays. Next week I leave the family alone and head for Switserland for some mountain climbing with a friend. But I did finish a small practice carving in cherry this time.

It's far from perfect yet, but that's what practice is for. I would like to have the flower a little larger, and the radius of the lobes of the four leaves a bit wider too. But overall, it ain't too bad. Cherry carves wonderfully, even this killn dried stuff.

It isn't ment to be perfect either. This stuff should be a bit like they made in the English renaissance, the period roughly between 1500 and 1700. And I like particularly the more vernacular pieces like they would have had on a farmstead, instead of in the best room of one of those incredibly rich nouveau riche merchants in the large cities. The things I like aren't picture perfect, they often have some naivity. I am far from an arts connaisseur, but for example, I like this from a Roman church

a lot better then this from a later Italian renaissance church.

Allthough the later is of a much higher level of craftsmanship.

This plagues me a bit when I am working. I am still striving for as perfect an execution as I can muster. Luckily in this carving business I am still very much a beginner.

donderdag 6 augustus 2015

New maker: 19th century style double iron handplanes.

Steve Voigt started a new business, making and selling double iron handplanes along the lines of the late 18th/early 19th century English wooden planes.

That means:

- No laminated plane body. The mortice is chopped out of the solid wood.
- Quarter sawn beech. Not easy to find in those sizes in America, but he seems to have found a good source.
- Double iron. Of course! No technological backwards stuff with single irons, way too tight mouths, high bedding angles and scraping plane action.
- Tapered blade. Not laminated alas, but he gets them from Lee Valley, so they ain't too bad.
- He makes the capiron himself, in just the right shape with a nice springy bend at the end.
- Abuttments and a wedge with fingers. Not a cheap crosspin.

So, have a look on his new website. They aren't going to be cheap of course. But the price isn't out of range for a boutique plane either. I've seen Krenov type planes, the ones you can easilly make yourself in a weekend, at double the price.

Voigt planes

(Oh, and I didn't get paid, he didn't even ask for this announcement. I'm just enthousiastic about it).


During our summer hollidays in Italy we visited Verona, a town with a very nice medieval city centre. It was my first time in one of these famous Italian towns, and it sure was a succes. Some pictures.

The town square.

The castle at the river.

Many very old churches. This is the St. Zeno, a Roman Church from around 1200.

A detail of one the huge church doors, the carvings were a surprise!

Many stone carvings.

And endless rows of fresco's.

A pictorial history in stone of the creation.

And then we went up into the mountains for some much needed excersize.

woensdag 5 augustus 2015

Making screws

Just back from a three week holliday in Italy. I'll post some pictures of Verona later, they had some fascinating medieval stuff down there. Later this month I'll be on another trip, so I don't have much time to continue with the carving yet.

I was looking at the hardware for the cabinet. The hinges will be attached to the inside of the door, and the outside of the cabinet sidewall. Usually in the 17th century hinges would be attached with long nails, going all the way through the wood and then being clinched on the inside. this is how I will attach the hinge to the cabinet sides. But for the door it wouldn't look so hot to have a nail protruding through the front. When looking at some antiques I think they wouldn't have cared much anyway, but I decided to use some short screws and leave the face of the door unmarred.

Screws have been in use in furniture since the 15th century, but very sparingly. Screw cutting lathes are a late 18th century invention. Before that time they were made by hand. The nail and screw manufacturing was often done as a kind of home business. A geographic area would specialise in this kind of trade and many families would do this kind of work all day at home. The screw was made from a length of wrought iron, hammered to a round circumference and then swaged out in a die to form the head. Then the threads would be filed. This leaves a rather irregular shape of course.

My local shop quit selling slotted head screws, so this is a perfect opportunity to try my hand at some screw making too. I use low carbon steel in the round, so I don't need a real blacksmith shop. I made a split die first, which is just a chunk of steel cut through the length. Then a hole is drilled and countersunk to create a shape for the screwhead. The steel rod protrudes a bit above the die, and is then hammered down into the countersink with the fin of a heavy hammer to really drive the steel into the recess.

That forms the basic shape of the screw. The slot is cut with a hacksaw, not too precisely in the middle, because I suspect many of the old time screwmakers must have been pretty drunk. You don't see many perfectly centred examples.

To lay out the threads I don't measure anything. I take a regular woodscrew along side as an example and nick the steel at regular intervals with a triangular needle file. I try to remember the angle of the file so the slope of the thread ends up reasonably close to what it should be.

From these nicks I file each one progressively further around the steel blank. As soon as I get to the other side I will have to wiggle around a bit to make the two ends line up. This doesn't matter, there is still ample time to correct the basic spiral. And it doesn't matter if the threads don't end up perfectly.

Then I get a saw file and then deepen the grooves until the edges come to a sharp(ish) edge. At last I use a thin flat needle file with the corner to make a bit more room down in the grooves. Here are the four in the rough.

 And this is after shortening and how they look when used to attach the hinge.

It was a fun little job. After some experimenting, it took me about two hours to make these four screws. It's a pitty most of it will be burried in the wood and not be visible, but the heads have the nice irregular shape of a real antique hand cut screw. A look you just don't get from a hardware store screw.

dinsdag 7 juli 2015

Play with the gouges

Just some getting used to the tools. I play around a bit in spruce, not the ideal carving wood, very soft but also loves to splinter and break where you don't want it to. I try to make some flower shapes.

donderdag 2 juli 2015

Sharpening the gouges

It's steaming hot at the moment in Holland, 35 degrees or thereabouts. We're not really used to temperatures like that. It wears me out, but last night the temperature dropped a bit and I felt some energy returning. I used it to sharpen the set of Dastra gouges I bought last year.

They certainly were not bad, but could use some attention. Most only needed some work on the washita stone to raise a wire edge, polish it further with the Arkansas translucent, work the wire edge with a washita slipstone and finally the strops. I use a side to side motion on the stone and feel for the wire edge often. When a certain part still didn't raise tha tburr, i work that part a little longer. It's pretty simple of course. Some had a very steep bevel, and needed the grinder to get them back to a resaonable angle.  All in all it took an hour to do all 32 gouges, about two minutes each. It's not a race but it is nice to be able to do this kind of thing relatively quickly.

They're great tools. I hope to use them a bit this weekend.

dinsdag 30 juni 2015

Early dovetaling

Like I wrote earlier, I use some rather primitive dovetailing technique for the three small drawers in my medicine chest. They have a single tail on each corner, instead of the neat row of tails and pins you see in slightly newer stuff. This is all based on the time when the dovetail made its first presence in drawer construction, the 17th century.

Making them is also a little different, allthough I believe these techniques survived for a long time. Even the fanciest pieces from the 19th century show overcuts in the corners and marking lines still present. Only in the modern eye, used to machined perfectness, this looks a bit odd.

Making the drawers starts out innocent enough. After sawing the one big tail (overcutting the corners a liberal amoubt), I mark the pins with a pencil. I like the pencil better then a knife these days, because it is easier to see. This is a modernism of course, pencils were probably too expensive back then for a simple joiner.

The sides of this socket are then sawn out. Here the overcutting continues. I cut a long way into the face. This is a half blind dovetail so it is always difficult to clear out the corners of this socket. Overcutting helps enormously. You can even do better on this, really dig the point of the saw into the corner. These overcuts will be inside the drawer and can hardly been seen.

The rest of the waste is chiseled out in the usual fashion. To get at the last fibers in the corner of the sockets, I use a utility knife. I don't have skew chisels, and this works plenty well enough.

And the result. They fit nicely. Corners are clearly overcut in this picture. You can also still see the marking lines. All that doesn't matter in this kind of stuff. The bottom is nailed on, it was rather difficult to mail into these 1/4" thick sidewalls! I had to repair a few spots where a nail had gone astray.

It looks like most of the contruction work is finished by now. Time to sharpen the gouges for some carving work!