The Shop - See “Tour the Shop” Post. To zoom tap images, to mega zoom, tap-tap, tap.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Tour the Shop

This is my third, and maybe best, shop. It has a window with a view of my meadow and pond and the Blue Ridge.  It is in a walkout basement and is 400 square feet. The usual machinery is mostly on wheels. Both hand tools and machinery are a mix of collector and user. Yes, I have a lumber rack. My workbench is 7 feet long and has been wih me for over 50 years. The shop power and lighting are carefully designed. A dust proof walk-in closet contains HVAC and hardware storage.


Saturday, December 19, 2020

Trammel Points

 Shop made pair.

Mahogany body, brass handle, steel point, sheet copper keeper, bone lock knob. Backside of one has pencil holder.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Show No Shame

An original and a look-alike. On the right, a Stanley #122 Liberty Bell plane made in 1876. On the left, an Ohio Tool Company knock-off #0122 made circa 1894. The year 1894 was busy. The Stanley patent on the #122 expired and Ohio Tool merged with Auburn (NY) Tool Company. 

Ohio Tool made knock-offs of many Stanley tools, prefixing the Stanley model numbers with a zero. The Ohio #0122 is a drop-dead copy of the #122, except for the lever cap logo and lever connection to the cutter, which is very thick and tapered. Note the Ohio red japanning.


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Rare Block Plane

 Stanley #120, length 7-1/8”. Manufactured from 1876 to 1947. This example was produced in 1878 and is considered extremely rare. It has the Liberty Bell plane style adjusting mechanism which was used in these planes until 1887. Acquisition of this plane completed my collection of Liberty Bell planes.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Round We Go

Rounding plane, witchet, widget, take your pick on the name. This tool, found in the Texas Hill Country, is user made (stamped E. G. Bell). It is of mesquite, I think, with a cutter from a saw blade. The hole tapers from 1” to 3/4”. As seen in the photo, it turns out a very nice 3/4” dowel.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Why Two Compass Saws?

Grandpa’s tool box had these saws in it. No maker’s mark on handles. Illegible marks on blades, which are 8 tpi. I have recently become interested in what these saws are all about.
Turns out one saw is filed rip, the other crosscut. They are intended to cut curves, as in a round table top. As the direction of the grain changes the user swaps from rip to crosscut or visa-versa. The kerf is wide to allow turning. Though they make a rather rough cut, they do the job and that’s why we have spoke shaves.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Klox n’ Box

A blog containing examples of work from the Wolfden Woodshops

Click Here

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Sleeping Beauty

I purchased this Stanley No. 67 mortise gauge mixed in a junk box at auction for $3.50. Nobody else even looked at this well-worn gauge. This one has an unusual wooden slide adjustment. It was made from 1867 to 1898. 
Bob Kaune, not the most inexpensive but basically reliable dealer, has one listed this month at $259. Wow! He rates it as EXTREMELY RARE.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

See the Light

In the 1950's, Delta sold an accessory, known as the “Retirement Lamp” for its scroll saws. Most saws are missing this feature and originals now sell for around $100. I tried to use an articulated desk lamp for years. It either got in the way or provided poor light. I recently decided to reproduce the retirement lamp.

Lowes sells a 6” reflector lamp for under $10. Combined with shop scrap, a little labor, and a cool-running LED bulb, I now have perfect lighting for my scroll saw. I wish I had built this 20 years ago. Think I’ll make one for my band saw.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Sassafras Tea?

I made two of these boxes fifteen years ago. Intended to be shooter’s range boxes, they turned out to be too heavy and clunky for that use. I now use one as a traveling tool box, the other for storage. Dimensions are 22 by 10 by 10 inches. A sassafras carcass, with mixed hardwood interior fittings. Half-inch box joints are left proud for visual interest. There are three layers of storage, two being removable trays.

With the exception of a fitted tray of carving gouges, the box is only populated with a specific selection of tools when traveling. Why sassafras? My lumber yard had wide planks.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Historic Expansive Bit

This historically significant bit is the first  patented (1852) expansive bit known to have been manufactured. It is considered rare. It was invented and manufactured by Charles L. Barnes of New York City. It has a range of 5/16” to 1/2”. Two other sizes, 1” and 2”, were made.

I acquired this bit about a year ago for $3. It was very junky looking, but identifiable as an expansive bit. Nobody thought to identify it at that time. That took some recent on-line research. Other than the patent listing, there is an article, which includes this bit, by Eric Brown in the E.A.I.A. Chronicle, March 2019. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

How Dry I Am

It began as a shop project for my grandsons. The Rittenhouse 1782 hygrometer, as shown by Roy Underhill in his Woodwrights Work Book (1986). David Rittenhouse, an instrument maker, was a contemporary of Franklin and Jefferson, and the Astronomer of the United States. The hygrometer is based on two thin strips of wood, one piece of tangential grain, the other longitudinal, glued together with the grains at right angles and mounted on a board. The difference in expansion due to humidity change causes the strips to curve, presenting a humidity measurement. 

Right photo, 30% RH.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Smell of Sawdust

My former home in Northern VA is surrounded by deep, wooded ravines. There were many fallen trees in the woods, mostly 12”+ chestnut oaks. On a cool autumn day it was pleasant to work in the quiet woods, bucking the trees into fire wood lengths. The aroma of freshly sawn oak was wonderful. Often a squirrel or bird would perch on the end of my log, wondering what I was up to.
No noisy chain saws here. I used these Disston one/two man timber saws. Four footers that, when sharp, easily sliced through the oak. The hardest part of the job was hauling the bucked logs out of the steep ravine.

Wolves at the Door

Like a wolf, I am compelled to mark my territory. These plaques are on the doors to the Wolfden Woodshop (left) and the New Wolfden Woodshop (right). This design originates with the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Colonial Williamsburg No Longer Using Vintage Tools

The craft shops at Colonial Williamsburg (CW) have recognized that using old tools wears them out, which is counter to the desire to preserve knowledge of vintage tools and the tools themselves. A modern toolmaking shop was created in CW in the 1980’s to build reproduction tools for use in the shops. From photos of this operation, I would guess 100 years-worth of repro tools were made. This shop is no longer in operation.

Don't think tools can be worn out? Look at the thickness of the soles on wooden planes. A too wide cutter mouth is an indication of wear. I had a Stanley #5 iron jack plane from my grandfather.  The sole was worn down to nothing, you could see through it. I parted that one out. Narrow blades are an indication that a saw has been sharpened many times. I have an early Disston D15 Victory hand saw that has lost at least 1-1/2” to sharpening.

When I acquired my first 100 plus year old wood bottom planes, I tuned them and used them.  I have come to agree with CW,  old tools should be preserved by not using them. As satisfying as using vintage tools is, I now do not. Well, upon occasion, I might take a careful test drive.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Public Television Tools - $19.95 plus S+H

A few years ago the National Public Television station WCVE, in Richmond Virginia, auctioned off the props from their production of Mercy Street, a Civil War era story line. There were several million dollars worth of stuff and the auction was held over at least two four-day weekends. Most of the props were just “old stuff”, with some genuine antiques mixed in. Several of us from Central VA  attended both weekends, a big effort.

I am not fond of auctions as people tend to over-bid, but I went along to carry stuff. I bid on and won a box of mixed old tools. I am a sucker for hand screws with threaded wooden rods. What a mix of stuff I got for my effort! I will not elaborate, some of it is in the photo. My trash bucket was happy. My cost was something like $5 per keeper.

Thursday, June 20, 2019


Upon occasion a woodworker hits upon a setup that faultlessly turns out a desirable object en masse. In the early 90’s I had one to produce marking/cutting gauges.  Everyone loved them and I made them by the dozens. Sold them at $10 a pop. Trekkies will remember the furry little animals that inhabited the starship Enterprise by the thousands. We called the gauges Tribbles.
Shop made (front), old timers ( rear).

The beams and fences were made of andiroba, a mahogany that the Woodworkers Club shop had in endless supply. Cutters from broken bandsaw blades, also in endless supply. Cutter wedges were scroll-sawn from maple for contrast. The wedge mortises were formed with a hollow chisel mortiser, with a quick taper trim by hand. Fences were made in two pieces with the beam mortise formed with a dado blade, then glued together. A tee nut is hidden in the beam mortise providing locking screw threads. Either a penny or dime is also in the mortise to prevent gouging by the locking screw, which was either a thumb screw or something fancier. A Watco finish made them look slick

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Grab a Tool

Collecting vintage tools is big business, and is very rewarding. Collectors lurk everywhere. There are clubs, associations, and societies around every corner. They are gathering places for collectors to talk, study, buy, sell and trade tools. If you are not a club member, you should join one. The usual cost is about $10 per year.
Find links to all sorts of collecting activities and clubs HERE. Better yet, join a club near you.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Another Tool Collectors Club

 Mid West Tool Collectors Association, MWTCA, is a non-profit with 3,500 members and is more or less international in scope; it has members as far away as Australia. This club holds annual local, regional and national tool meets. Members receive the Gristmill, a scholarly quarterly tool magazine and many other benefits. Annual dues are $25, Canada $40. Check out their web site, 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Tools That Plug In

The shop is a friendly, quiet place to work with hand tools. But, life is short. Power tools make quick work. Maybe I’m not so good with hand tools? Hot sawdust smells good? I decided to inventory the power tools in the shop. What a shock! Fourteen plus machines. How can that be? How do I move around and work in the 400 square foot space? The shop does not shout, “here be machines”. I guess parking them along the walls hides them. Never in my right mind did I set out to build a machine shop. Nevertheless, there it is. Norm would  be proud of me, Roy not so much.

Here is a list of machines: table saw, router, dust collector, miter saw, planer, band saw, drill press (2), mortiser, sanding station, scroll saw, shop vac, lathe, air compressor, mixed power hand tools.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Old Iron

Who doesn’t love old machines? I have two. A Delta 24” scroll saw, built in 1952, and this W. F. and J. Barnes Co. drill press. We call her Madonna. When disassembled, with her two drive cones sitting side by side on the floor, well... that’s how she looked. She is a Barnes model “15 INCH DRILL”, serial number 5615, with a patent date of NOV 12 1885. Don't know how old, maybe 130 years. She was lacking a chuck, quill return spring, and bearing oilers; easily replaced. Her worn babbitt bearings leak oil  everywhere. At the speed I run her, it is no matter. She had the remains of a foot-operated line shaft clutch. I added an electrical switch to the clutch rod and run an old GE bronze bushing 1/4 hp washing machine motor. The motor is adequate. The foot switch is a luxury. When doing a complex production run, two drill presses, set up, are nice to have. My other press is a modern Jet bench top model.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Mini Tools

I made these tools over a 10-year period, one tool per year, in editions of 50+. They have brass wire hooks to hang as a Christmas ornament. Most were sold to members of my tool collecting society at $5 a pop. The proceeds were donated to the club to support operation costs. The non-tool ship was made to commerate the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown Colony, a big event in Virginia.
The bench vise, marking gauge and hand screw actually work. Saw blades are cut from old band saw blades. Threaded rod was obtained from a model airplane catalog. Beads for handles came from a crafts catalog. Brass strip from an online hardware store. Then there is fencing wire and finish nails. The thumb screw actually came from Lowes. After cutting all those small parts, I am happy to say I still have all of my fingers.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Fales Patent Combination Plane

Patented by Amos Fales, Denver CO, 3/7/1882. Manufactured by Otis A. Smith, Rockfall CT, from 1883 to 1914. A good description of this plane can be found at Patrick’s Blood and Gore web site. You will have to use your browser. Enter “ fales”.

When you become known as a collector, people bring you all kinds of stuff. Free! A friend, cleaning out his basement, brought me the totally bare Fales plane body. It was ugly. I told him to go back home and to look for a pile of wierd parts. He brought me what you see in this photo. There are 26 cutters and 7 sets of forms/skates. The rectangular arm was missing; I made one. One thumb screw was missing; easily replaced. The piece of ash in the photo has a quirk bead edge, made with this plane. It works. Well.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Stanley “Liberty Bell” Planes

I have a collection of these planes with examples of each model and each type. A type study of the Stanley “Liberty Bell” plane may be viewed HERE. Type studies are used by collectors to date a tool. I wish to thank the Richmond Antique Tool Society for hosting my type study on their web site.

I came by this collection by accident. One of us was into antique silver flatware and we visited many, many antique malls. Boooring. I needed something to do while she browsed for silver. On a whim, I decided to see how many Liberty Bell plane examples I might find.

Models 120, 104, 122, front to back.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Where Did That Mahogany Come From

Top panel of Cuban mahogany, carcase of andiroba, another mahogany.
Back story: My neighbor relates that his grandfather brought a mahogany log back from Cuba in 1912 and made a tall clock case from it. Some 25 years ago my neighbor gave me the surviving chunk of the log, maybe 6x6x15 inches. Not a lot of wood. I finally resawed the block into four edge-glued panels, one of which you see here.  Swietenia mahogani is a very dense (s.g. 1.0) and hard wood. Very nice to work with and finish (Watco & wax).

Monday, March 4, 2019

Recent Work

Mahogany presentation case for a Colt Python revolver. Interior is lined in crushed velvet in the French fit style.