FYI- This is probably my most unnecessary and awesome restorations to date.
About a month ago I picked up a vintage, Chicago-made Mead 1″ belt sander off craigslist for a measly $60. It was in great shape, the previous owner had it for decades and he took the time to re-paint the body of the sander and the motor as well as grease up all the pulleys. He did a great job on these parts and I could have just plugged it in and started sanding. Being ridiculous, however, I decided to take it from classy to world-class. There were a few minor things that bothered me (the belt wasn’t aligned precisely between the motor and sander pulleys, the wire path was ugly, the wood used for the base and sanding deck was cheap and cracked, and the deck wasn’t square to the belt) and one major point of irritation (the on/off switch).
The first thing I addressed was the tilted table. The previous owner used a copper shim to correct the table but I wanted to fix it for good. I painted the body with red layout fluid, then loosely installed the deck. After pivoting the deck a few times I removed it and could clearly see the high spots in the casting that needed to be knocked down with a round file. I repeated this process a couple times and after about 10 minutes had the table nicely squared up to the belt.
Next I swapped out the switch with a vintage style toggle switch that seemed appropriate and made a simple wooden box to house it. I also took the time to inlay the face plate into the housing.
The last thing I will cover in this post is the new base. I used walnut that was a little thicker than the original base, but otherwise I left the dimensions nearly the same. The feet were made from the same board, cut free from either end of the base. I could have cut long-grain feet instead of short-grain, but then I’d have to deal with differential expansion and the grain pattern wouldn’t be continuous. The short grain feet aren’t as strong, but given that they’re thick and trapped in a dado I think they will be fine… they certainly look nicer to me, especially when you don’t see end grain on the sides of the board. I used an old router template I had lying around to cut an arch in the feet and a stacked dado set (that I was already using for a larger job) to dado the base. One note on dado sets, they leave small V’s in the corners of the cut where the outer blades score the fibers. This is great for clean cross-cuts, but I don’t like the small V it leaves after the cut. I correct this is seconds with a router plane set to a depth that aligns to the tip of the V. Run the plane through the dado and you’ve got a perfectly square recess for the feet to sit in.
For the wire path I wanted something as clean and hidden as possible. The motor wire runs immediately underneath the base where it is captured by a series of custom made wooden hold-downs. The wires pass through the base where the front foot gets installed, into the switch box, and finally out the back of the base. Overall I think it will look very nice when finished.
The last operation for the base was laying out the hole locations for mounting the motor and sander. I couldn’t simply copy the original because as I said before they weren’t aligned very well, but after a few minutes of measuring double checking the belt everything was ready for drilling. When I went to dry-fit everything I noticed the belt sander had some wobble to it, so I touched that off on a larger belt sander and got the casting dead flat in a matter of minutes.
That’s all for now, in two following entries I will wrap up the (improved) deck, overall assembly, detailing and finishing. I’ll also discuss the belts I use and a few of the things that make this sander so useful. Stay tuned.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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