Laying out the seat

Apparently the stool is on everyone’s list at the moment.  I like it because it is a sorta halfway point between a chair and, well, nothing.  Sitting on the ground?  Maybe.  Plus there are only three legs, so I only have to worry about one drilling angle once I laid out the mortise locations. To locate the leg positions, I played with the wireform model I put up a couple of posts earlier and decided on a 4 inch diameter leg circle on a 12 inch seat.   The next thing to do was to lay out an equilateral triangle on the seat bottom so I could get the legs equidistant from one another.  Just a little bit of simple geometry  construction was all it took.

I have some pictures of me constructing that triangle that I will post a little later.  Good old high-school geometry reminders from the teacher in me. After laying this out, I drilled the 5/8 in holes with a wood owl bit and an 8 inch brace with a holdall chuck.   On instagram I joked that the leg layout lines looked like the cover of a metal album, it definitely has that archaic magic symbol look to it. For this stool seat, I beveled the underside with a jack plane and then cleaned up the bevel with a new, to me, stanley M151.  I fell in love with the spokeshave almost immediately.  Get the thing sharp and it is a blast to use.  It’s definitely an ongoing lesson in reading grain though.  The spokeshave is like the chisel in that regard.


After I beveled the underside, I reamed the 5/8 holes with the large veritas reamer, checking my leg angle as I went.  You don’t have to have a fancy sliding bevel like the Blue Spruce Toolworks one below, but man, it makes it nicer.  Everything I have ever picked up from David’s company has been ultra nice and super functional.  You can see my 16 oz Blue Spruce mallet in the background of this photo, which is acrylic infused and indestructible.  After this step, I started in on shaping the legs.


The Anxiety of Tool Care

Many of the tools I own and use are more than twice as old as I am. This actually produces a sense of anxiety about how I treat the tools and how well I care for them.  When you become, essentially, a keeper of the tool for the next generation, your relationship to these things change.  This bleeds over into my other, less provenanced, tools as well.

Take my set of 1990’s marples chisels for example. These were the bad-ass Dodge Stratus of the time and the entry-level chisel of every woodworker I know. And they’re still great. But my dog got ahold of the 3/4 chisel while I was sharpening one day and chewed the end. Thankfully no one was hurt, but the handle was mangled.

Did this change how this chisels worked? No way. But it changed how I felt about it.  The handle stared back at me from my tool chest and kept saying “fix me.”  So I finally did.  I have made one chisel handle replacement before for a long paring chisel that was just a simple hexagon.  For this handle,  I decided to make a modified london pattern handle .  There are a number of tutorials on making these handles on the wb (see here, here, and here, for example).

The basic procedure is pretty simple.  Take a block of wood, ash in my case, and plane (or saw) into an octagon.  Chuck this into a lathe and turn the curvy parts.  Drill a tang hole and pound the handle home.  For this handle I picked up a ferrule from Ron Bontz at Bontz Saw Works because they are nice looking and I wanted something other than the copper pipe cutoffs that are the standard for the typical handle replacement.

I am pretty happy with how it turned out.  The handle is a little tilted, but I was happy with the outcome from me free-handing it with the tange hole. When you put the handle on, try to line up one of the flats of the octagon with the plane of the blade.  It makes it easier to register when you pick it up.   I finished it with a little shellac and it’s now ready for another 20 years of work.

Burnish this

Last year sometime, James posted a review of a birdcage awl by Chris Black on his blog The Daily Skep. I wasn’t in the market for an awl at that point, but Chris makes several other tools and sells rehabbed old user tools as well.  If you’re in the market for something, check out what he has on craigslist.

While I didn’t need an awl, I did need a burnisher.  Craig has some nice ones that use a hardened M2 tool steel bar.  A quick hop over to the AZO Materials website, which is a great place if you ever need some quick and dirty material properties, told me that the bar should be close to 60 HRC in hardness.  That’s pretty hard.  So I ordered one.


It’s a great looking tool.  The handle is nicely turned and the ferrule is the right size to balance the transition. So, instead of using it, I went right to the lab and put it into a hardness tester to see if the hardness was what it was promised to be.


The hardness of this burnisher was 61.1 HRC.  That’s hard and should be able to turn a hook on almost anything.  No where near as hard as carbide (90 ish HRC), but more than enough to do the trick.  I’ve used it now to sharpen a few scrapers and it just works.  If you have some sort of crazy hard scraper it might not work, but the old bahco and the two cherries card scrapers I have turn a hook right away.  So if you need a burnisher, you would be hard pressed to go wrong with one from Chris.  Get it here.

As a postscript, I do not suggest hardness testing your burnisher.  The diamond indenter leaves a little raised ridge around the indent that can cause trouble when you’re burnishing. I had to sand it smooth after testing.

Mark it

Growing up, I didn’t really use marking gauges because we built everything with power tools and you tended to use a tape measure or rule. When I started working more with hand tools, I began to understand how important these tools are to success. Reading books, and watching the Woodwright’s shop, showed me that nearly every operation needed this tool. When I started using marking gauges and put away the tape measure, things got much easier. So I’ve put some miles on marking gauges at this point.



I own both pin and  wheel-type cutting gauges, and I like the wheel gauges a lot, but I find for marking out rip cuts or mortise lines I almost always reach for a pin-style gauge.  They seem to make a clearer line and I am better able to keep them from tracking with the grain. The two pin-style marking gauges above are ones that I use regularly.  The top one was purchased as a birthday gift sometime in the early 1990’s by my parents.  The bottom one was purchased by me on ebay for about the original purchase price of the top one.  Technically, they are not the same gauge, the top is a modern incarnation of the stanley 61 and the bottom gauge is a 65, which cost almost three times as much than the 61. But, they are both very similar, down to the beginnings of knot right at the 4.25″ mark. Both have a square head, rectangular bar, and were made in the USA. The fit of the bar on the older gauge is much tighter than the new gauge, which keeps the head from racking and makes it easier to keep the mark in the right place.

If you are going to make cross-grain lines, I would avoid the pin-style gauges.  They tend to tear out and require some fussy pin sharpening to keep that from happening.  In fact, I generally mark tenons with the wheel type gauges that I own.  These gauges are easy to pick up and are still something that is made relatively well at all price points.  Lurking ebay for a vintage model is probably what I would suggest.  Be picky though, because many have been used and abused.  If you are inclined, you can make your own as well.  Peter Follansbee has some info on his website and there have been a few articles in popular woodworking