I am a parish pastor whose occasional escape from ministry is working with hand tools. I also enjoy teaching elementary school kids about 18th century woodworking and giving them a chance to see old tools in action. In this first photo I was portraying a colonial artisan who told students about a frame saw (veneer saw) that was used to cut thin pieces of wood. Being a fan of Adam Cherubini, I had to make a big frame saw when he did a feature on them in Popular Woodworking several years ago. Being a scrounge and frugal, I also hesitate to buy things that I think I can make myself. Making tools is fun and even more so when I can experience the joy of using them. So here is my story, a parishioner helped me to get an antique frame saw while I lived in Upstate New York. It was constructed with through mortise and tenon joints which were locked with wooden pegs. I also studied Adam’s article in Popular Woodworking and the famous Roubo engraving showing frame saws. The result is that I built not one but two frame saws. The first frame saw employed blade holders made from cheap spade bits that I annealed and drilled to accept bolts for attaching the blades. Funny how those spade bits can be re-purposed for all sorts of tool applications. On the second saw, which was larger, I designed it to have the classic Roubo design which sported saw buckles as blade holders. I used flat steel from a home improvement store to make homemade buckles to hold the blade. The buckles were made by forging them into a rough oval shape via my hand cranked track forge and then welding them together at overlap points using a Harbor Freight stick welder. Once the buckles were welded, I cut slots to accept the blade. Securing the blade to the buckles was accomplished here by using steel cross pins that pierced each end of the saw blade/web and those pins were pulled against the buckle ends through the use of wedges at the intersection of the buckle and the arm. On my first saw, I copied the original which sported a threaded blade holder which tightened against both of the saw arms. After I annealed the spade bits and shortened them, I cut threads on them to accept a washer and nut. For blades or webs, it wasn’t feasible to buy saw blades for my application at that time so I made a couple to my own specification. It wasn’t hard, I simply purchased some spring steel from McMaster Carr and then used triangular files. I found it enjoyable to make my first blade which sported a 24 inch blade and 4 tpi. The second blade wasn’t as much fun, and sported a 36 inch blade with 2 tpi. I made work for myself by breasting the blade to have 1/2 inch of curvature along the tooth line. You can assemble the saw frame in a lot of ways, my preference was to copy the original design I had which is mortise and tenon joints. By putting mortises in the arms and putting tenons on the ends of the stretchers. Tension on the blade automatically translated to compression on the stretchers. You may notice that the mortise and tenon construction is different between the two saws. It doesn’t matter which way it is done, both methods of frame construction work. I like the Roubo design, because the saw can be disassembled when necessary as the mortises are not pinned. No need. I appreciate the knowledge of our forebears and simply copied that construction technology. For the Roubo saw, I made the arms of the frame by using 1.25 inch thick cherry and using 1.25 by 1.5 inch square pine for the stretchers. I am very pleased with the two frame saws that I made and I offer this an alternative to purchasing pre-made saw parts.
I was recently asked about my treadle grinding wheel that I posted on Youtube. There was interest in the substructure that supports the axle and bearings for the grinding wheel. So before I give some details, I want to give a little introduction to my foot powered grinder.
Back in the late 80’s I had the opportunity to purchase the old grinding wheel at a flea market in Springfield, OH. I was already 10 years into my passion for hand tools. I was hooked on regularly watching Roy Underhill and the Woodwright’s Shop on PBS and often hunted for old woodworking and blacksmithing tools at flea markets as an escape from my environmental consulting work. I still remember the look on my father-in-law’s face and Barb’s too when I tried to load the grinder into the back of their minivan.
The grinder features a big sandstone wheel that was a common item for any homestead in the 1800’s. Most likely the grinding wheel was mined from the Berea sandstone, a 320 million year old geologic formation (Mississippian Age) that was famous for offering quality grinding stones. Settlers once mined the Berea sandstone in the Cayuhoga Valley for grinding wheels. Here is a picture of the texture of the stone.
Mine was originally a treadle grinder and it may have either been equipped with a water trough or a funnel above the stone for regular wetting to facilitate grinding edges on tools. I don’t know. Years ago I made a funnel and attached a vertical support rod so it would provide a steady drip of water. I have enjoyed using this treadle grinder and one day I might build a new carriage so the base is more stable. So far my modifications include the funnel, forging a connection link, and building a new treadle. I don’t do all my sharpening on it, but it is quite gratifying to grind a new bevel on one of my axes.
Looking at the pictures you can tell that the front and the rear legs look different. The legs near the tool rest are clearly the original ones and the other square shaped legs were added later by a previous owner.
If someone knows more about the company, McD, that made these I’d love to hear about it.
I’ve been admiring the work of Peter Follansbee lately, especially his carving of riven oak panels and spoons. My Christmas gifts this year included some instructional DVDs and a couple hook knives. All of this has motivated me to find and restore an old axe so that it functions as a carving axe.
I took an old Blombach axe, made in Germany, and retrofitted it with a new handle in the style of the Granfors Bruks carving axes.
Here is a picture of the axe right after I removed the handle which you can see featured a metal sleeve. I believe that my axe was probably originally setup to be the carpenters model.
The restoration began with me purchasing some hickory from a local source. My selection criteria included finding stock that had curved grain not straight. I wanted curved grain so the grain pattern would run parallel to the handle curvature I wanted. I designed the handle to exaggerate the curvature of the Gransfors Bruks axe. I started with 1 3/8″ thick stock and worked it with a drawknife, coarse rasp, spokeshave, and then finally I used a cabinet scraper. After frequently testing the fit of the handle fit to axe head as I reduced down the stock, I got to a point where I was happy with the fit of the handle in the eye and could then invest more time in shaping the handle. The outcome is that I made a handle that nicely fits my hand. This is the first time that I’ve made my own handle and it was a good experience. I might eventually invest in a Gransfors Bruk carving axe, but right now I’m satisfied that this retrofitted axe has a good edge and will be suitable for attempting to carve a wooden spoon in the Swedish tradition.
Here is a picture of the completed axe restoration. I ground and honed the bevel on one side and then oiled the handle with boiled linseed oil.