Hello and welcome to my blog. What I'm doing here is documenting my personal expression of "hands-on history" from a craftsman's perspective. I've been on this path for a large part of my life and it's taken me to some interesting and challenging places. I hope to share the processes and the historically inspired objects I've crafted along this journey into our past. This adventure has deepened my appreciation for past craftsmanship and the intelligence of common place things in Early America. Besides, now I have all this cool stuff to play (teach) with.

Jim Miller

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Carpentry Tools Revisited or Picking Up Where I Left Off

    Once apon a time, I felt inspired to craft my own set of traditional carpenter's tools. I'm not sure how far I expected to go with that notion but for some reason, my ambitions got the better of me. The sum total of my production ended up being one Jack Plane. It turned out to be a good project though, as that plane became a learning tool, every time I used it.

     The plane project started with the purchase of the book "How to Make Wooden Planes" by David Perch and Leonard Lee (of Lee Valley Tools). After springing for a good thick steel from Garrett Wade., I picked up a nice block of hard maple and went to work. One of the advantages of crafting your own plane, is that you can custom fit the Toat to your hand. I discovered that a comfortable fit contributed to overall performance. The only flaw in my plane was its propensity to clog at the Mouth. I finally solved that problem by reducing the opening with an inset piece.

My Jack Plane
Photos by Author

     Since it now appears I'm back in the Traditonal Carpentry game, I felt compelled to revisit that "craft your own tools" notion of a decade ago. All I needed was a little inspiration. The blogging world is a great place to find inspiration and mine came from the Frontier Carpenter Blog.. Ron had posted on a sweet replica he made of an original 19th century wooden brace. Lucky for him, he owns the original and could make a carbon copy. I'm not so lucky but his work convinced me that I wanted to make my own brace.

Ron's nicely done copy
Image courtesy the Frontier Carpenter blog

      Some of my tool books feature original examples of braces, from the very primitive to plated Sheffields, but nothing really grabbed me until I started  researching online. In the Crafts of New Jersey publication called the "Tool Shed", Issue 93 of Sept. 1996, I found an article by Ron Pearson called The Primitve Wooden Brace. In the article, several varietys of wooden braces are categorized by the author according to how the bits mount. After studying the photos in the article, I felt I had enough information to design and build my own version of this classic early tool.

A beautiful brace featured in the article

    The project started with the purchase of a nice block of maple from the Wood Workers Source and after the final shaping, lathe work and sanding, I decided to stain the brace to resemble a more expensive wood. To me, it made it feel a little less "primitive". From an online auction, I scored 3 original bits, then mounted them in their newly turned pads. I liked the idea of a thumbscrew to secure the square shaft of the pad but gave it my own spin with a brass plate mount. I was very pleased with the way it turned out and decided to keep the ball rolling by crafting a few more "necessary" tools.

My Version of a Mid-19th Century Brace

     When I retired from the Columbia Carpenter's Shop in 2008, I sold all of my Crown Tool replicas to a docent / carpenter. To make up for that loss, I decided to craft my own try square, mortise gauge and bevel from scraps of hardwood I had accumulated. The patterns for the three tools came from online sources like Google Images and my reference books.

My Gauge, Bevel and Try Square
Ready for Work !

     . For the moment my tool urge seens satisfied but that could change as we continue to develop the new interpretive Carpenter's Shop at the Angels Camp Museum.  So, stay tuned !

1 comment:

  1. Jim,
    That is one nice brace you made! You skill and attention to detail are amazing.By the way I like the way you made the pads. The cloths-pen style I made are a pain to construct.