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In:Vintage Tool Talk

Comments Off on Dissecting a Stanley #62 Folding Rule

So if you read this you’ll know why I decided to gut my folding rule.  I’ve been playing with the idea of making these rules from scratch and after my restoration debacle I figured I’d take a closer look at how Stanley made theirs.  Disclaimer: I am not a folding rule expert, these are simply the observations I made while examining the only #62 rule I had at my disposal.

First, some overall dimensions.  The length of a 4 fold rule is 24″ broken into four equal sections (6″ per section, duh).  Each section 1/2″ wide and 11/64″ thick (I think 11/64″ is an unusual number to land on, but it was exactly that dimension and it does feel correct in use, so 11/64″ it is).

The binding is made from strips of brass that were slightly over 1/32″ thick.  They are held to the wooden body with steel pins (~1/16″ diameter) that run through the entire body and are deformed, or swaged, at the ends to prevent them from falling out.  One thing I found curious was the location of these pins varied greatly.  They were not perfectly or consistently centered along the thickness of the tool and the spacing between pins was also very inconsistent (it averages around 1-1/4″).  There were, however, five pins used per section so at least that was constant.  This variability makes me assume the pinning was done manually which is surprising for the number of 4 fold rules Stanley turned out, but maybe trying to automate the placement of so many fine holes was unreasonable at that time and manual labor was just easier…

The brass binding strips, just over 1/32″ thick.

Steel pin running through the body.

The far ends of the rule are also capped in brass, the side strips run right to the end, but a C-shaped cap is sleeved over the faces for added wear protection.

The upper cap is in its original state, the lower cap was ground through exposing the wood underneath.

Here you can see the C-shaped cap surrounding the wood and brass banding.

Finally the hinges.  There are two types of hinges used, one for the center joint that acts like a pair of scissors and another used in two places to fold the end sections inward over the middle sections.  The scissor joint used is similar to a rule joint used on tables.  One section of the ruler has a brass plate pinned to both faces.  This is the only time brass pins were used instead of steel.  The brass pins are virtually invisible which means they won’t distract the user when reading the markings on the face.  These outer plates are sandwhiched (if that’s a word) over a thick piece a brass attached to the opposite half of the rule.  The layers are then pinned in the middle and the joint if free to rotate.

Pinned scissor joint.

The two folding joints are similar, but not the same.  There are again two outer strips of brass attached to one section of the rule (it’s actually just part of the edge banding), but the opposing section then has extra brass strips added below the surface of the edge banding.  These extend about 5/8″ into the body of the rule and are pinned.  Finally, a floating brass barrel takes up the space between the upper and lower brass strips.  A steel pin passes through the joint.

Folding hinge joint.

The final step would be to add the markings which would be challenging without a stamp.  Lasers don’t cooperate with brass and any form of “painted on” markings would wear off, especially where the brass needs marking.  A difficult tool to make properly for sure, especially in small batches.  As I said in my last post, it’s back to the vintage market to find a functional #62 for the shop.

Have a great day. -WMT


In:Vintage Tool Talk

Comments Off on Restoring a Folding Rule (what not to do)

Things don’t always go as planned… so here was a failed attempt at cleaning up a Stanley #62 brass bound 4-fold rule.

I purchased the tool for $10 and it was in decent shape, just missing the pins that help keep it aligned when closed.  That’s easy enough to fix, but the face was a little dirty so I thought I’d try cleaning it up.  I knew it would be a gamble given that I would be working with thin brass, wood, and printed letters, but it was only $10 so I took a shot (and missed completely).

The Stanley #62 rule when I bought it.

This is what I was trying to clean up, just a bit too much grime for me to ignore.

I didn’t want to use an abrasive method for cleaning as I knew I would wear through the lines and numbers quickly so I started with a chemical treatment.  I had some oxygen bleach on hand from cleaning my cedar siding and was hoping it wouldn’t effect the print much… it did.

After treating with oxygen bleach, the wood looks great, but the print became faded in many areas.

I figured I’d had it at this point, but the printed areas were pressed to a reasonable depth in the wood so I took it a step further.  I tried painting the face with black paint then quickly wiped off the excess, leaving the bulk of the remaining paint in the indented areas, right where I want it.

After the paint was rubbed off.

This made the 4-fold rule look as bad as when I bought it, maybe worse.  Finally, with nothing left to lose I gave abrasive cleaning a shot.  This left the tool a mess; some areas looking like new, some just okay, and some downright terrible.  My $10 and 45 minutes were wasted, but at least I learned a few things.

Rather than simply throwing it out, I decided to cut it apart and get a better look at the binding and joints.  I will share the details of how these rules were constructed in a following post.

Guess I have to find another rule for the shop… -WMT


In:Vintage Tool Talk

Comments Off on Disston D-8 Crosscut Handsaw Restoration

Last week I picked up an excellent 26″ Disston D-8 crosscut saw with 8ppi.  When looking for saws I shoot for a plate that is in decent shape, some rust is okay, but I’ll pass on blades that are kinked, have damaged teeth, or excessive pitting on the tooth line.  A nice handle is a bonus, but those can be restored or remade entirely if necessary.  I also look for hardware that is complete and hasn’t been chewed up by screwdrivers.  Below is the saw I purchased through Craigslist for $10 and considering what these go for on eBay (when you don’t really know what you’re getting) this was a steal.

The “before” picture. minor rust, perfectly straight plate, the handle shows only minor wear.

The Saw Plate: The saw comes apart easily, but use an appropriate screwdriver so the brass screws don’t get chewed up.  My Lie-Nielsen #3 driver worked nicely.  To clean up the plate, I started by scraping the surface with a razor blade scraper.  This knocks down any surface rust and removes any old finish or residue that may have dried on the plate which will prevent the rust remover from reaching the steel.

A razor blade scraper quickly preps the saw plate for the following rust removal procedure.

After the scraping I soaked the plate for 12 hours in Evaporust.  I made a simple trough by wrapping some scrapwood  with a garbage bag.  It’s just large enough and deep enough to hold the plate and minimizes the amount of Evaporust required to keep the plate submerged.  After a 12 hours soak, I scrubbed the surface with a Scotch pad, then soaked for an additional 12 hours.  Finally, I cleaned the plate with a brass-bristle brush, Scotch pad, and steel wool.  Rinse the plate off with water, dry, and oil immediately.  The plate is now ready for sharpening.

Soaking the saw plate in Evaporust thanks to a crudely made trash bag trough.

A brass-bristle brush helps clean out any rust pits, then the entire plate gets scrubbed with a scotch pad and fine steel wool.

I won’t get into sharpening handsaws specifically.  That’s an enormous topic with several books, DVDs, and websites dedicated to it.  I would, however, recommend Ron Herman’s DVD on sharpening handsaws if you’re looking for more information.  For a quick overview of file guides for saw sharpening, click here.

Sharpening the plate. Normally this is done with the handle attached, but I had the saw apart so I chose to sharpen it before putting it back together.

The Hardware: The brass saw nuts are easy to clean up, though you can leave them alone if you like the patina.  I gently chuck each half of nut into my drill press using only light hand pressure.  Too much pressure will damage the brass threads or crush the tapped housing.  I run the press at a moderate speed, somewhere in the 700-1,200 rpm is a good place to start, then start working the face with abrasives.  I start with 220 grit sandpaper and finish at 320.  Each grit only gets 5-10 seconds of light pressure to do its job.  The 220 removes and surface patina or any various types of shop grime.  It also eliminates (or at least smooths out) dents and scratches.  The 320 simply refines the scratch marks left by the 220.  After sanding, polish up the face with a Scotch pad and finally 0000 steel wool.  This leaves a relatively scratch-free, shiny surface.  You can also use fine sandpaper (up to around 1,000 grit), but I don’t keep much of that on hand, so I chose the Scotch pad and steel wool as it was more readily available.

From left to right: 220 grit, 320 grit, Scotch pad, and finally 0000 steel wool.  The whole process takes less than a minute per nut.

Chuch the nut in gently and smooth the face with light hand pressure.

Before and After

The payoff

The Handle: Saw handles vary in condition.  They can be so bad that they should be discarded and a new handle fitted, they can require some simple clean up and refinishing, or they can be left alone entirely.  This saw had a handle in great condition, just some minor wear on a few edges.  I’m tempted to make it look like new again, but there’s really no need and I have enough to keep me busy at the moment so for now I simply re-attached it as-is.  For more information on making a handle from scratch, click here and here.

The Finished Product: I ended up putting about 1.5 hours into the saw as well as the $10 it cost to purchase.  I’m quite pleased overall, now I just need a full sized rip saw and then I’ll probably have to make a new saw till to hold everything.

The completed D-8 crosscut saw.

Handle and Hardware.

Logo detail nicely intact.



In:In the Shop, Tool Review, Vintage Tool Talk

Comments Off on File Guides for Saw Sharpening

Sharpening hand saws is intimidating for most people, but there are some readily available options that simplify the process greatly.  Here’s a quick overview:

Angles: Before sharpening, you need to determine the angles you want to file into the teeth of your saw.  The rake angle is the angle between the face of a saw tooth and an imaginary line perpendicular to the baseline of the saw teeth seen when viewing a saw from the side. It is generally 12 to 15 degrees on a crosscut saw and 0 to 8 degrees on a rip saw.  You also need to control the fleam angle, the angle that is filed across the face of the teeth, creating a knife edge that slices wood fibers when cutting. On crosscut saws fleam typically ranges from 15 to 25 degrees, rip saws typically have little to no fleam.  (read Understanding Western Handsaws for more info)

Control: Once you know the angles you want to create, holding a file consistently and accurately for dozens of teeth in a row is tough.  Fortunately, there are several options available to you that make saw sharpening fairly straightforward.

Option one is to make your own file guide.  I picked this up from Ron Herman’s DVD and it works great.  I made my guide out of some scrap cherry in about 15 minutes.  The pictures will help explain the details, but the idea is to hold the file handle in your dominant hand and the file guide (with the tip of the file buried in it) in your off hand.  Hold the file level and the edge of the file guide perpendicular to the saw plate.  If you can do this, the guide will control the rake and fleam angles for you, it’s easier than it sounds.  (You may notice my guide is using a 30 deg rake and fleam angle, this is fairly steep for both but it was deliberate for this saw.  You typically want something closer to the angles listed above.)

File guide cut from scrapwood.

Cut the sides of the guide at the desired rake angle. In use, hold the angled face perpendicular to the saw plate which will skew the file to the correct angle.

Bury the file in a slightly undersized hole. The angle it’s bedded at off vertical will be the rake angle you induce during sharpening.

So this guide works well in a pinch, but if you have several saws to sharpen you’ll quickly realize you need a new file guide for every angle combination you want… this may only mean making 2 or 3 guides, but for others it would mean making many more.  So for all your file guiding needs there are a couple adjustable file guides you can purchase.  A reasonably priced option was recently released from Veritas and functions along the same principles as the wooden block, but you’ll notice a variety of angle combinations and file sizes can be accommodated with this single device. A second option from Blackburn Tools gives you the same functionality, but in a much classier package and at a premium price.

I have not purchased a file guide from Veritas or Blackburn so far, but I have more sharpening on the horizon so I intend to shortly.  Hopefully this gives you the confidence to pick up a saw (preferably a cheap one that you won’t mind practicing on) and get sharpening.  It’s really very simple and Ron’s DVD, as well as various free videos from youtube and Lie-Nielsen, will provide you with all the information you need.

Half the teeth sharpened, half to go.



In:Tool Review

Comments Off on Glen-Drake tite-mark review

There aren’t many “wheel-style” marking gauges out there.  A few cheap options not worth talking about, then there’s a respectable model from Veritas, but the king of gauges is the Glen-Drake Tite-Mark.  I’ve used the Veritas marking gauge for years (with the micro-adjust feature, don’t buy the standard gauge) and at around $40 it’s a nice tool at a great price, but the Tite-Mark at $89 is awesome and worth every penny.  Here’s a run-down of the features:

Tite-Mark “wheel style” marking gauge

First, the materials are quality steel and brass, precision machining all around.  The cutter is A2 tool steel and can be removed for sharpening.  The cutter also buries in the head to protect it when not in use (a common feature for these tools).  The lower knob locks in the head at its approximate location, then you simply rotate the knurled brass cylinder for micro-adjustment and tighten the top knob to hold your final setting.

Brass head with Knurled adjustment knob.

Two things to point out here, the micro-adjustment is designed for use with one hand which leaves your other hand free to hold your work or a scale if you’re aiming for a specific measurement.  This is a unique and highly desirable features on a marking gauge.  In addition to one-handed use, the head micro-adjusts approximately 3/4″, that’s roughly double what I get out of my Veritas gauge.

Next, there is a small nylon screw in the back of the head.  This allows the user to adjust the resistance between the head and rod.  If you want things to move freely you can loosen it slightly with your thumbnail.  If you want the head to stay put until you push on it, just tighten the screw a bit.  Most likely you will set this once and then never think about it again.

Nylon thumb screw for drag adjustment.

Unlike most gauges where the heads spin freely around the steel rod, the Tite-Mark locking screws ride in a groove.  This is necessary to enable the one-handed adjustment feature, but G-D took the extra effort to make it a stopped groove which prevents the head from accidentally sliding off the rod and potentially landing on an unkind surface (concrete floors).

Stopped groove

Finally, the Tite-Mark is the only gauge I know of that has numerous accessories and variations to meet your specific needs.  They offer a mini version for working on smaller parts, a longer rod version (9″ vs. standard 6″), and rod extensions to increase the rod length even further (making it more of a panel gauge).  There are also double-beveled cutters for laying out both walls of a mortise simultaneously.  These cutters can also be ganged up for double mortise layout, marking four separate walls in a single pass and with perfect repeatability between parts.

If you’re only going to buy one gauge I highly recommend the Tite-Mark.  I will not be getting rid of my Veritas gauge, however, as it will make a nice back up when I have multiple settings to maintain.



In:Tool Review, Vintage Tool Talk

Comments Off on #112 Scraper Plane Comparison

Scrapers are the secret weapon of many woodworkers in the fight against tear out (a quick overview of their function can be read here).  Many woodworkers have never heard of them and in my experience the few who have struggle to get them to perform as they should.  Once you become comfortable with them, however, they become one of your best friends in the shop.  If you are already using scrapers with great success pat yourself on the back, you’re part of an elite woodworking minority.

Scrapers fit into three major categories (at that’s how I view them).  First is the simplest, least expensive, and most useful form of the tool, the card scraper.  Just a piece of steel typically rectangular in shape, though curved scrapers exist for handling (not surprisingly) curved profiles.  The edges are sharpened and honed like you would a chisel or plane iron, but unlike other hand tools these edges are honed 90 degrees to the faces.  A burnisher is then used to turn a hook, or burr, which is what actually allows the tool to remove a small shaving (not dust) and leave a tear-out free surface.  Many good card scrapers exist from companies like Lie-Nielsen, Bahco, and more.

Example of some common card scrapers

The second category is basically a card scraper held in a jig (I’m not sure what to actually call this category), the most famous arguably being the Stanley #80 which Veritas did a wonderful job recreating (and improving).  There were dozens of these contraptions put out by Stanley and others over the years, their advantage being that the handles keep you thumbs from burning (which happens with heavy use on a card scraper), they leave a flatter surface (card scrapers can easily dish out a localized area, this is both an advantage and disadvantage of card scrapers), and they are easier to sharpen since the cutter looks like a traditional plane iron (though a hook is often added after sharpening).  

Veritas #80

Finally, the third category is that of the scraper plane.  The large sole keeps the surface being worked extremely flat, they are comfortable to use, and unlike the category 2 tools, scraper planes have an angle adjustment that allows the user to optimize the cutting angle based on the hook.  Since turning a hook/burr is typically done by hand it will tend to vary slightly from one sharpening to another, being able to adjust the angle in the tool to account for this is an excellent feature not offered by the category 2 option.

The two premium options available today are from Lie-Nielsen and Veritas and both are modeled after the Stanley #112.  I recently picked up the Lie-Nielsen and Alan (Walke) owns a vintage Stanley, so I decided to compare the two and pass that information along.

Stanley and Lie-Nielsen #112 scraper planes.

The LN is almost identical in size and shape compared to the Stanley.  Some notable differences were the slightly larger angle adjustment knobs (from 1″ on the Stanley to 1-1/8″ on the LN) and two ribs added across the body for rigidity.


Note the thick blade, larger adjustment wheels and extra rib just below these wheels on the LN.

You can see the added rib in front of the mouth on the LN.  The only downside here is clearing shavings is a bit more difficult with the rib in the way.

To test their performance, I used each tool on Bubinga and curly Maple, both prone to tearing.  Each tool was capable of delivering good results, but I had an easier time on the LN, largely due to the blade.  The blade in the Stanley was very thin and was so short it was difficult to adjust… this may not be the original blade, so I don’t want to fault it too much, the tool itself is well made and felt solid in use.  On the downside, I tried using the LN blade in the Stanley tool, but it was too thick and would not fit in the Stanley.  The blade on the Stanley was also thin enough that I could feel it flexing in use which limited how thick of a shaving I could get from it.

Tear out in curly maple

When using scraper planes, you’ll want a few extra accessories compared to standard hand planes.  A 4 oz hammer (brass prevents dinging up the blade) is crucial for fine depth and skew adjustments and waxing the sole helps to reduce the force to push the tool in use (same as with a hand plane).  I found a small brush to clear the mouth to be essential as well.  Unlike hand planes where shavings tend to flow out of the tool, scraper shavings bunch up and are often so thin that they break apart.  And because such a small amount of material is being removed, even the slightest shaving hanging out of the mouth can get pinched under the tool and lift the blade off the wood.  I found my self brushing the mouth clean every four or five strokes.  This is a bit tedious, but if you’re using the tool appropriately you shouldn’t have too many strokes to take before you’re done so it didn’t really bother me and the results were worth it.

Useful accessories for scraper planes

And how were the results?  Well, I was able to take full shavings that measured just over 0.001″ thick.  This is about as thick as you’d go with a scraper plane, it gets very difficult to push the tool if a thicker shaving is being taken (remember you’re scraping the wood, not slicing it, so you can’t take nearly as thick of a cut as you could using a hand plane).  In general, I was scraping shavings a little under 0.001″ and leaving clean, smooth surfaces behind.  I also found you could hold the tool comfortably by gripping the front knob alone, or by wrapping your fingers around the knob and placing your thumb behind the bronze blade holder, which lead to a little trick I am calling the “thumb trick”.  If the shaving is a bit on the light side using a normal grip, try placing your thumb behind the blade holder and applying some pressure during the stroke.  This deflected things enough to give the blade just a bit more bite in use.  It doesn’t sound like much, but it allowed for some control over heavy vs light shavings without having to reset the tool (not the easiest operation to complete with a scraper plane).  I should note that I don’t over-tighten the blade clamp wheel, if you do you may stiffen things up so much that the thumb trick is not effective.

Bubinga shavings

Full shavings in curly Maple

Final results, right off the tool, no finish or additional clean up to the wood at this point.

So should you go out and buy a scraper plane?  For most the answer is probably no, at least not yet.  They are a bit tricky to master, both in their setup and their use.  If you aren’t comfortable with card scrapers yet, start with those.  They are cheap and will be used far more often than a dedicated scraper plane.  If you’re comfortable with card scrapers, do you work tricky woods, particularly larger surfaces you want to keep as flat as possible?  If not, again there is probably little benefit of owning a scraper plane.  However, if you’re answering “yes” to the previous statements, a scraper plane might really be useful for you, just be patient with them, it may take some time to come up the curve.

A few final comments, I purchased the LN #112 used and it arrived with some damaged handles.  I contacted Lie-Nielsen about getting some replacements and they sent them for free.  What a great company to work with and purchase tools from.  Also, I focused on the #112, but LN sells a smaller version, a rabbet version, and offers toothed blades if you’re trying to rough up a surface slightly for veneer work.  They also have helpful videos on their website discussing the setup and use of their scrapers.





In:Our Tools

Comments Off on Winding Sticks Maintenance

Our winding sticks are made from quartersawn material and are perfectly parallel when they leave our shop.  However, wood is wood and depending on your shop conditions you may need to tune them up periodically.

The first step is getting the bottom edge straight.  You can check the sticks against themselves by touching the their edges together and looking for gaps or set them on a flat surface, like the top of a table saw, and check to see if they sit flat.  If the bottom edges aren’t straight you’ll need to plane off a few shavings.  Given their tapered height, we recommend using a long grain shooting board.  You’ll want to shim the top edge of the stick off the shooting board or you will end up planing a square edge on the sticks, which is fine except they will tip over a little easier in use.

My shooting board has a fence to control the final width and keep the sticks from shifting around. Note the black shims used to raise the top edge slightly.

Shoot the bottom edge until you get a full length shaving.

Once the bottom edges are done, the top edges need to be made parallel to one another.  This does not mean they need to be dead parallel to their bottom edges, a slight taper over their length won’t matter (more on that later).  The best way to do this is to place the sticks on your bench with the inlaid surfaces facing each other.  Leave a gap of roughly 1″ between the sticks to make plane-balancing easier, gently pinch them between some bench dogs, and use a light cut on a jointer plane to remove some material.  When you’re getting a full shaving off each stick you’re done.

Space the sticks an inch or so apart with the inlay faces pointing towards each other.

Plane the top edges of both sticks simultaneously until you get two full length shavings.

Lightly chamfer the edges and a block plane or sandpaper and apply some Watco Danish Oil (“natural” color) to the sticks and they will look like new.

The main thing to be aware of with winding sticks is to use them in the same orientation every time.  Let’s say your freshly tuned sticks are tapered across their length a total of 0.008″.  That’s not bad and because both sticks are equally tapered (due to planing them simultaneously) they cancel out their error and work perfectly.  However, if you flip one stick in use you just doubled the error to 0.016″ and will be unintentionally planing some of that error back into your board.  This is one of the reasons we use inlay on both sticks.  As long as the sticks are tuned up with the inlay facing in and then used in that same orientation every time you don’t need to worry about the top and bottom edges being exactly parallel.



In:In the Shop

Comments Off on Day-to-Day Sharpening

Sharpening is arguably the most essential part of working wood with hand tools and one of the most intimidating.  If your tools don’t seem to “work right” they are probably dull.  Chisels, saws, hand planes, anything that cuts wood really, will function better and better the sharper they are (though there is a point of diminishing returns with sharpening).  Most guides to sharpening start at the beginning (grinding a profile, lapping the back, etc.) and carry the process through to a finished tool. This feels (and can be) very time consuming.  The reality is once a tool is prepped, sharpening takes minutes and is very simple.  Only repairing a damaged tool, like a dropped chisel, will ever take more than a few minutes once that tool is up and running.

Here’s what sharpening usually looks like in my shop.  I pull out my little bin of accessories (pictured below) and get set up.  This involves flattening my waterstones (for more info click here) and setting up my honing guide.  My honing guide has a straight roller as well as a cambered roller, so depending on the tool I’m sharpening I may have to swap rollers.  Then I set the angle, clamp down on the tool, and I’m ready to go.

Sharpening accessories.

One quick tip, if you’re only planning to re-hone an edge on your finest stone you can just jump into it, but if you need to start on something course (less than 8,000 grit) the stone typically needs to soak for a few minutes.  I generally put my stones in a plastic bin to start soaking, then get my tool set up in the jig.  Usually by the time the tool is set up the stone is almost ready to go.

Another thing that can help beginners or if you’re sharpening a tool you’ve never sharpened before is to blacken the cutting edge with a permanent marker.  Take a couple strokes on your stone and check where the marker has been removed.  This gives a clear and early indication of any problems that may be arising.  If you know the blade is square, for instance, but you’re removing marker from the corner of the cutting edge, then your blade is either mounted at a skewed angle in the jig or you’re putting too much pressure on one side of the tool.  Regardless, the sooner you catch it, the easier it will be to correct it.  If the cutting edge isn’t square to begin with, the marker helps to indicate when you’ve removed material all the way across the cutting edge, re-establishing the desired square edge.

Marker on the cutting edge.  After one stroke I can see I’m removing material evenly, right at the tip of the cutting edge.  Ideal for a micro-bevel.

Up to this point, I’ve burned about 5-10 minutes of my time getting everything out, soaking the stones, and getting the tool set up.  Before I begin to actually sharpen, I check my guide’s cam position. The Veritas guide I use has its roller wheel mounted on a cam  which makes sharpening micro-bevels fast and easy, but only as long as you remember to start the roller on the lowest cam setting.

Notice the brass wheel on the side, the little notch is pointing up and to the right. This is the low setting for establishing the primary bevel.

Now you can see the little notch is pointing down and to the left. This is the high position for tilting the blade up slightly, creating a micro-bevel.

So with the tool mounted, the cam set in the low position, and the stone soaked, I take a few swipes on my 4,000 grit stone (usually, occasionally I go back to 1,000 if I have more material to remove).  I check to make sure I’ve sharpened all the way to the tip, then rotate the cam wheel to raise the tool and hit my 8,000 grit stone.  When the bevel is polished, I carefully remove the tool, polish the burr off the back of the tool and wipe it down with oil.  Done.  This should only take 2-3 minutes.  I could stop here, but because I’ve taken the time to get everything out and prep the stones, I typically try to capitalize on my effort by finding 4-5 tools that might be getting dull.  I hit each one and clean up.  When all is said and done, I’ve spent 20-30 minutes sharpening, start to finish, but I’m left with several razor-sharp tools and when you’re using quality tool steels the edge lasts a long time.

So don’t let sharpening intimidate you, it’s fairly simple and absolutely necessary.  For more information, you can check out the course material I developed for a sharpening class I’ve taught.  Sharpening Handtools



In:Tool Review

Comments Off on Saddle-tail review update

I recently reviewed the saddle-tail from Sterling Tool Works (click here to read).  However, a more economical version (called the saddle-tail2) was just put up for sale that I thought was worth mentioning.

For specifics, check out Sterling’s blog about the new tool here, but here’s a preview:


In:Tool Review

Comments Off on Sterling’s saddle-tail review

Sterling Tool Works makes one tool (so far), but they make it well.  The Saddle-Tail (S-T) can be used as a dovetail marker or a saddle square and is made in America from machined brass and tool steel.  Before I get too far along, let me say I love dovetail markers.  They are fast, accurate, and repeatable and after using one I think you’ll be very reluctant to go back to squares and adjustable bevels.  Now lets talk details.

The Lie-Nielsen dovetail marker (left) and two Saddle-Tail markers (right).

For years I’ve been using the Lie-Nielsen (LN) dovetail marker and am relatively pleased with it.  It’s made from brass and cocobolo, comes with a 1:7 slope and 1:6 slope and costs a reasonable $35.  The S-T from Sterling Tool Works is different.  Instead of two slope options like the LN guide, the S-T has one sloped face and one square face, thus making it both a saddle square and dovetail marker.  In addition to having a saddle square, the claim is that with one sloped face you won’t accidentally flip the tool in use and mark two different slopes on the same board.  Personally, I could go either way on this point.  I like having more than one slope option and with the LN guide you get two options in one tool.  You can get up to three slopes from Sterling but you have to purchase multiple tools.  This would be my only quibble, it’s a matter of personal preference and it’s not really against the tool itself.  If Sterling ever offers a dual-sloped version (and I think they should) there would be no debate on who owns the dovetail marker market… though I suppose a dual-sloped guide could no longer be called a “Saddle-Tail”, oh well.

Now lets get into the things I like… and there is a surprising amount for such a small tool.  First off, the manufacturing quality is top notch.  The fit is outstanding and the finger recess machined in the brass is the first indication of the thought that went into the tool.  There is also a relief notch in the corner to allow a snug fit even on boards with rough edges.

The finger recess in the brass is a very satisfying addition to the tool.

Next, the heft of the tool is substantial.  Instead of aluminum or wood, the body is brass which adds appreciable weight especially when combined with the thickness of both the brass and steel.  This thickness not only adds weight, but gives the user more surface area to register a marking knife against (though you’ll probably use a pencil most often with this tool).


…is better.

Now for my favorite feature, the size.  After all a dovetail marker is little help if it doesn’t mark full lines.  This is my only complaint about the LN guide.  It’s a beautiful tool and works well, but any stock over 3/4″ thick doesn’t get a full line marked across it.  3/4″ is plenty for a single drawer side, but most people cut both drawer sides at the same time, doubling the thickness of the cut.  As a result, drawer sides over 3/8″ thick can not be marked in pairs without going back and extending the line with a standard square.  Dovetailed carcasses are also over 3/4″ in many cases so the additional length of the S-T, as I said before, is my favorite feature.  How much reach do you actually get?  The brass body extends 1-5/8″ and the steel extends 1-1/4″.

This board is just over an inch thick. Note that the LN guide can’t reach the back portion for marking a line, but the S-T still has plenty of length to spare. Awesome.

The length is also necessary for making the tool a useful saddle square.  My favorite saddle square is from Veritas.  It’s inexpensive, large, and comfortable.  The S-T, however, is almost the same size and makes owning the Veritas version unnecessary.

Using the S-T as a saddle square.

The Veritas square functions in the same way.

Compared to the Veritas saddle square, the S-T has the same marking capabilities on one edge and is only slightly shorter on the other.

Finally, the slopes being offered by Sterling are somewhat unique in themselves.  When cutting dovetails in hardwood today, a slope of 1:7 or 1:8 is suggested, softwoods use a steeper slope at 1:6.  However, pictures and existing pieces of older furniture suggest steeper slopes were often used.  Sterling decided to offer slopes at 1:4, 1:6, and 1:8.  As you can see in the first picture, between my LN and two Saddle-Tail guides I can choose from 1:4, 1:6, 1:7, or 1:8 so I’ve got plenty of options.

In closing I’ll say this, the Saddle-Tail guide from Sterling Tool Works is an outstanding tool I highly recommend and one you will be proud to own.  However, premium tools are never cheap and the S-T guides run a hefty $75 a piece.  If you can’t swing that for a layout tool, the LN guide is well worth the $35 (though be aware of its length limitations as I mentioned above) as is the Precision Dovetail Template from Wood Joy. And if you’re really pinching pennies you can get the aluminum guides from Veritas (just don’t buy this version, they’re useless in my opinion).

If only cutting dovetails were as easy as laying them out. -WMT

Update: click here.