Posts Tagged ‘vintage tools’
The Chicago manufactured Mead belt sander is finally finished. It took a while as I was working on it between other jobs and trying to prepare for Woodworking in America, but it was worth the wait. Picking up where the last blog entry left off, the only thing I had left to finish was the sanding deck. This is my one complaint with the design of the sander, the entire deck has to be removed to change the belt. The belt change itself couldn’t be simpler: push the head of the sander down, slide the old belt off, slide the new belt on, release the head. It literally takes me 10 seconds to swap belts… except every time I do I have to unscrew the wing nut from underside of the deck, the swap belts, put the deck back on, re-thread the wing nut to its post (you don’t loosen it, you have to remove the nut completely), then get my square, make sure the deck is square to the belt, lock it down, and put my square away. It turns a 10 second operation into a couple minutes. This may sound trivial, but I intend to use this sander for working with wood and metal and I have several belt types and grits to suit my needs. I want to change belts quickly and get back to work. I also don’t want to take the chance that the deck isn’t square to the belt every time I change a belt. My solution was to modify the casting that supports the wooden deck by cutting off the inside portion to the right of the belt. I hate to hack up the castings on a vintage piece of equipment, I can’t just go buy a new one if I don’t like my finished product, but in this case the benefits outweigh the risks and hack it up I did. I opened up a slot just wide enough to slip the belt off, slide it through the back of the decking, and then replace with a new belt in the same fashion. This was completely worth doing in my opinion and I couldn’t be happier with the finished product now that I’ve had a chance to take it for a spin.
The restored sander now up and running. I finished the walnut with Watco Danish Oil followed by a few coats of wipe-on polyurethane followed by wax. A lot of people seem to have the impression I’m going to all this effort to keep the tool shut away in pristine condition. Let me assure you, I will be putting this thing to work without reservation. But whenever possible, I think restoring a tool like this is more than just an exercise in fashionably toolery. Going through every part reveals a lot of hidden flaws in the tool (in this project alone I found the tilted deck, frayed wiring in the old switch box, a poorly aligned drive belt, and a non-flat sole to the sander casting) as well as several cosmetic (cracked wooden base, ugly switch box, and poor wiring path). You also gain an intimate knowledge of the tool, just like restoring your first hand plane, that will help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of each tool you own and how to use them most appropriately to yield the best possible results. Now let me step down from my soap box and show the finished product. Enjoy.
As for the belts, I ordered a wide range from Klingspor. The blue are Alumina Zirconia for grinding metal, the yellow are Aluminum Oxide with “gold coating” which can be used for wood or metal, and the brown belts are basic Aluminum Oxide wood belts. I purchased a few grit levels of each style. I also purchased a linen belt that can be loaded with a honing compound in case we end up selling marking knives or something similar where several identical edges need to be honed quickly, this might prove very useful.
Finally, here’s a shot of the motor specifications for those who care about such things. (And now I have to get back to prepping for WIA)
Things have progressed nicely with the sander. The base is now finished, the sander and motor are mounted, and the wiring is installed, all that remains is the modification and installation of the sanding deck itself. I did re-design the switch box since my last entry, here’s why: My original box was small and clean looking (which I liked) but it didn’t allow access to the switch once everything was installed. This may or may not be fine for my lifetime, but sooner or later something will come loose, the switch will die, a wire will get cut and need replacing… something, and at that point I would need to destroy the old switch box, make the repairs, and install a new custom box. Eventually this bothered me enough to design a switch box with a removable cover plate. It’s larger than my first box and has four screws holding the front plate on, but I think it’s for the best and I’m happy with how it looks. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking until my third and final entry on this restoration project.
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
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.
The biggest issue when getting started in working wood with hand tools is wondering, “what tools do I need?” I remember thinking I needed all bench planes #1 – #8 and every saw or chisel size sold by a given manufacturer. After all, if I didn’t need all the sizes they wouldn’t be offering them, right?
Well, as you spend some time in the shop and read a few books you will quickly learn that is very wrong. And while there is a lot of information out there on which planes or saws you should get, I’ve seen little to no words of wisdom around what drills are useful and why. So here is what I’ve found most useful:
First, no single drill will handle all your hole-boring needs (or to some, your boring hole needs, but I digress). The diameter of the hole you want to drill determines how much torque your drill will need to provide. A traditional hand drill (or “egg-beater drill” as they’re often called) can only handle small holes, up to about a 1/4″ in diameter. They are fantastic tools that can be easily found on the vintage market at a very affordable price. Take the time to get a decent one that is complete and in good shape and/or fix it up yourself (see my restoration advice here). I own two of these drills, one smaller than the other. The larger (a Millers Falls #2) is my workhorse. It does the bulk of the drilling in my shop and if I had to live with the absolute minimum number of tools, this would be one of the two drills I would own (I actually own five drills total). My second hand drill is smaller (a Millers Falls #5a) and is nice to have on hand for very delicate work or if I’m alternating between different drill bit sizes, I can dedicate each of my drills to a different bit size rather than switching bits back and forth between the same drill. I also find these drills easier to keep vertical compared to a cordless drill which is always trying to tip over due to the offset handle and battery weight.
When I need to drill small holes horizontally, I prefer a breast drill. The name is derived from how the tool is used; the pad at the top is pressed under your… well… breast and your hands align and crank the drill. I own a two-speed version (a Stanley 905) that allows me to choose between faster drilling or more torque, just like with a battery powered drill. I find this drill easier to support, keep flat, and crank when drilling horizontally, but as this is not something most woodworkers do very often I wouldn’t go nuts trying to track one down.
Now for the larger holes. From about 1/4″ – 1″ diameter holes, hand braces are awesome and readily available… the bits (called auger bits), on the other hand, can be a little tough to find in a complete set (sets typically range from 1/4″ – 1″ sizes in 1/16″ increments).
The term “brace” is based on the older wooden versions of this drill which were reinforced with brass plates, or braces, to avoid cracking the wooden frame during use. Hand braces have two major features that differentiate one from another. First is the sweep size. A 10″ brace, for instance, is one which has a handle offset 5″ from the chuck, thus creating a 10″ diameter circle you must sweep the brace around to turn the bit. The larger the sweep distance, the more torque you can generate (nice for your largest drilling needs), where smaller sweep distances allow for faster drilling (preferable for smaller bits). The second feature to look for in a brace is ratcheting chucks vs solid chucks. Ratchets allow for reversing the direction of rotation when an obstruction prevents the brace from making a complete circle. This sounds like a big advantage and indeed if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t make a full sweep of the brace you will want a ratcheting chuck. However, this shouldn’t be a regular occurrence and the ratcheting mechanism can add a sloppy feel to the drill (depending who made the tool and how well it’s been cared for). Thus, I have two braces. The first is an original (before Stanley bought them out) North Brothers Yankee 2101A brace with a ratcheting chuck and 12″ sweep. This would be the second of my two essential drills and can handle any large-hole-drilling need I may have. However, when drilling a smaller hole (maybe 5/8″ or less) and assuming there is nothing in my way, I will often reach for my Millers Falls brace without a ratcheting head. These tools are so cheap it’s worth having a couple around, especially if you vary the features they bring to your shop. These tools work well drilling vertically or horizontally, but the way I use them differs based on the situation.
A few tips on the bits themselves. For hand drills, you can use the vintage bits that accompany some drills, but I just use brad point bits. They are just easier to find and cut cleaner. For the auger bits, two common styles exist: Jennings and Irwin. I can’t say I prefer one over the other, but if they get dull they can be tuned up with an auger bit file (check Lie-Nielsen’s website to buy one, they are only $8.50). Finally, if your auger bits are blowing out the back of your board, stop drilling as soon as the lead screw pokes through the back. Then flip the board over, line the bit up with hole, and finish drilling from the backside.
Have a great day, -WMT
Vintage hand drills are some of the most useful and inexpensive tools to have around the shop. Few are manufactured new today and the drills that are don’t come close to the quality of the vintage models. I have two sizes I use all the time, both made by Millers Falls, a #2 and #5A.
The biggest issue most people have with these “egg beater” drills is the misconception that they don’t work well. That’s true if you’ve only tried rusty junkers. It’s no different than using hand planes. Garbage planes cause more problems than they fix, but a well tuned plane can make you sell off all your power tools. A smooth running hand drill is accurate, quiet, fast, and never runs low on batteries. So if you’re interested in restoring an old drill, here’s how I go about it. DISCLAIMER: the operations shown on the drill press could be considered dangerous… so is using a tablesaw, jointer, etc. if you’re not familiar with the tool or operation being performed on that tool. In short, if you’re not comfortable with how I cleaned up these drills, don’t try it.
First, you need to acquire a drill in the usual manner (eBay, flea markets, tool shows, theft, etc). Look for three things: solid handles without cracks or a loose fit, gears with no broken or chipped teeth, and a chuck that operates with all 3 jaws and associated springs. Obviously major flaws like missing screws, cracked bodies, or rusted out drills are no good, but those are usually thrown out these days (a little surface rust isn’t a problem though). Most drills being sold are in at least satisfactory condition and can be had for $5-$25.
With the drill acquired, it’s time for the restoration process to begin. Disassemble the entire tool. Take out the screws, remove the drive gear, unscrew the chuck, etc. If any rust or surface tarnishing is present, give the parts a 24 hour bath in Evapo-Rust (more info on that here). Once the hardware is cleaned I paint the body with enamel, typically black gloss on the body, red on the gear, but it’s your drill, do as you like. There’s nothing magic about this process. Just brush the enamel on, then clamp it by the chuck in a vice to dry. Over-paint areas that butt up against metal that is supposed to be paint-free (like the edge of the gear). This will ensure full coverage and the over-painting will get removed later. It can take several days to fully dry, sometimes over a week depending on the temperature. Make sure the body is completely dry (no tackiness to the touch) before proceeding, otherwise you may be starting over (believe me, I know)…
On to the fun stuff (in my opinion at least). Most drills only have two screws in the assembly and it’s worth getting them pristine. Chuck them into the drill press (or lathe if you own one) with the head down. leave as much clearance as possible, but make sure you have enough threaded into the chuck so things stay in alignment. A couple warnings here: first, don’t over-tighten any of the threaded areas in the chuck or they can get damaged. You only need a firm enough grip to resist light material removal, so just gently hand-tighten the chuck. If you need to, put some blue tape around the threads. This will protect them a bit and give a better grip in the chuck. Now, with the screws secure and spinning, file the heads clean of dents, then finish with some fine sandpaper for a nice polish. I usually go to around 800 grit for a clean, somewhat matte finish.
The main gear is handled in a similar way, but you have to put a bolt through the center so there is something to chuck into the drill. File/sand the edges to the desired finish. Make sure any over-painting is removed.
With the hardware painted and cleaned up, it’s on to the wooden handles. The side knob that many drills have is easy to clean up by chucking into the drill press just like the screws, again, be careful not to damage the threads.
The gear handle is tricky. It can not be removed from the arm because it is typically riveted on. I got around this by spinning a steel rod in the press (in this case, a 1/2″ diameter center punch), clamping the handle on the bed of the press, and belting the two together with a generic pulley drive belt. Some light side-pressure and the friction of the belt is enough to spin the knob while sanding down to bare wood. A few tips here: use a large diameter rod to avoid bending under the side load as well as to provide enough surface area for the belt to stick to the rod. Also, keep the table close to the press to minimize the side load/torque on the press. Drills aren’t meant to withstand too much side load, so just use enough to spin the knob (which isn’t much). Center the knob over a cut-out in the table so it can spin freely (shown in the 3rd picture below).
For the large handle, the body (minus all removable parts) can be chucked into the press. There is one problem, however, as the center will spin while the body remains stationary. I placed a clamp over the small gear to lock it to the body. Tape could also work, but whatever you try, keep it tight to the body. Again, sand down to the bare wood.
Finally, some finishing touches. I have drills with film-finishes for the wood and others with oil. The film looks more traditional, but I like the feel of the oiled wood, so it’s up to you. There’s a good chance the main handle has a threaded cap (traditionally for bit storage). I don’t use these for anything at the moment, but I want it to work well for future use just in case, so I wax the wooden threads after the finish is dry. There are also several holes around the drill’s chuck and drive gear for oil. Put a few drops in and add more as required. My only other tip is in the fit of the main drive gear. I don’t like too much clearance between the gear and screw holding it to the body. Excessive slop is felt with every revolution of the drill and if the gears mesh too tightly it adds drag to the tool and increases the wear on the gears, shortening the life of the tool. I use plastic shim stock (because it wears well and is available in precise thicknesses) to take out the slop, leaving only a few thousandths of clearance.
That does it. You should be left with a top-notch drill that will last for generations. Happy drilling.