Level playing field


On Sunday I finally made the effort to set up my radial arm saw and my planer (both DeWalt but from different eras) on the red steel table (first photo). About eight weeks ago I took the radial arm saw off it’s custom steel table and bought a new cross cut blade for it. I decided to move it to the red steel table to create more space for my new 18th century workbench that I am in the process of building. It used to reside next to the red steel rack that house all my offcuts (second photo).


In order for these two power tools to be functioning next to each other I had to get them on the same plane. That meant that I had to lift the planer.


Here you can see how the radial arm saw now acts as an out-feed table for the planer and vice versa. It took ages, fiddling around with different strips of wood to line the two surfaces up perfectly.


I also flipped the old chip board over that did duty as the radial arm saw table and made a new fence. Once I managed to set the saw up perfectly square in the two important dimensions, I cut a new zero clearance groove through the fence.


… and finally I cleaned the track in which the saw runs, which had heaps of antediluvian grease- sawdust-crap obstructing the saw’s path. A fresh serving of grease got it back to it’s former self.


Upholstery needle awl


Recently my wife and I decided to re-upholster a couch I restored some 15 years ago. We decided to use leather. While thinking through the tools and steps needed I realised that I do not have a monster needle to do the buttons. I found an old file handle and a piece of steel that did duty as a guide for a router’s fence in a previous life. I drilled a small hole about 30 mm from one end, countersunk it on both sides and sharpened that end. For the purpose of the couch we used this crude tool with a plastic handle.


Once the couch was finished I drilled another hole in the part of the shaft that will end up inside the handle and tapped a small nail through it. Epoxy was used to fix it within the old file handle.




Second acquisition from Patrick Leach


My second (of hopefully many more) shipments from Patrick Leach arrived yesterday. It reached these shores in perfect condition after a two week journey and a further week of faffing around at Namibia’s customs.

June 2014 US postal


A group photo.


This is a Buck Brothers drawknife made around the turn of the previous century by this famous company. It is an absolute gem, they simply do not make tools like this anymore.


A #71 open throat Stanley router plane with three different blades, in original box and hardly ever used condition.


A #923 Stanley 10″ brace in perfect condition and no obvious signs of being used much at all. Again, you simply can not buy anything approaching this quality made more recently.


These are two Sorby (Sheffield made) pairing chisels Patrick acquired in England recently and shipped it to the USA, only for the edge tools to extradite themselves to Namibia after a very brief visit. There are a ¾” and a 1″, both in as new condition with the usual boxwood handles.


Winter wooden hand planes


In 2013 I built a comprehensive (or it felt like that at least) set of wooden planes during the winter. They worked wonderfully well until the humidity shot up during the rainy season. This was not a surprise as I planned to only use them during the dry season, which is most of the year anyway here in Windhoek. I knew about this tendency of the wooden planes to go out of flat with the change in seasons from all the reading I did before embarking on the building phase. One author recommended that one should actually build a winter set and a summer set, then you never have to re-flatten them.

We had a fairly wet rainy season this year and the humidity in my shop continued to fluctuate between 50-75% until mid May. I kept checking my wooden planes to see when they would return to their flat state. One week ago I started thinking that they might never return to this state without encouragement. I started developing theories on why that might be, ranging from poor workmanship to wrong grain orientation to flaws of the laminated construction/design and many more.

Finally one evening last week I decided to coerce them back into working order using 3M adhesive backed sandpaper on glass. To my surprise when I checked the soles on the flat glass prior to the planned coercion, they were spot on back to flat. It thus took about a month from the time the ambient humidity got back to around 30% (which was the humidity at which they were built and flattened) for them to return to their flat state. While I was at it I decided to do a light sanding anyway.


All the planes were exactly the same, but these pictures of the jointer illustrates it best. In the pictures below you can see how the sole looked like after a few light passes over the sandpaper. The toe, the area around the mouth and the heel were all in the same plane. That is exactly what you want for a well functioning plane. I continued to sand it all into the same plane, but it only took a few more very light passes. I can therefore confirm that these planes return to their flat state once back at the ambient humidity it was last flattened at. In this case it took about 4 weeks.


Makeshift Panel Gauge


‘Makeshift’, in this particular case, means I ‘made’ it myself and the fence can ‘shift’ to the appropriate position needed. Of course it also alludes to the fact that the original idea was to fashion a ‘proper’ makeshift (as in temporary substitute)  panel gauge as I needed one for the next phase of hand planing the twin-top of the 18th century workbench I am in the process of building (to the correct width) and did not want to waste too much time in building it. The problem is, as soon as I start thinking about an easy way to produce a makeshift tool, my obsessive compulsive urge to overdo it, kicks in. In the end, it becomes a major mission to design the best looking je ne sais quoi-esque panel gauge the world has ever seen. I rarely (if ever) succeed in this quest, but it does not stop me trying, as it usually turns out to be an enjoyable challenge.

In the end I consulted the file where I saved quite a few pictures of different panel gauge designs and articles on how to build one. I ended up picking the design seen in the picture below as a starting point. I found the picture on the internet ages ago and unfortunately did not make any notes on the company or person who designed and made them.



With this mechanism in mind I started playing around with a few ideas (freehand) on paper as you can see below. The shape I felt could work (if explored a bit more) was the one in the top left hand corner.

Panel gauge design 1

That night I sat down with a few drawing aids and explored the options thoroughly by using quite a few of the new skills I learned from the brilliant Lost Art Press book entitled By hand & eye (George R. Walker & Jim Tolpin). I finally settled on the shape below.

Panel gauge design 2



On Friday afternoon I managed to find a Piece of Kaapse Swarthout (main body of the fence) and 5mm (thick) strip of Ysterhout (for the surface that slides against the work piece). I also combined these two for the adjustment knob. These parts were glued up over night.


Next I found a nice straight grained piece of Assegaai for the stem. Some fiddling with a couple of off-cut wedges provided a safe way to fix the small piece to the assembly table before cutting the groove with the router.


It was then sized on the table saw, hand planed to near perfection and fed to the table saw again to cut the bulk two small rabbits. The rabbits were finished off (3 mm x 3 mm) by hand using the my rehabilitated #78 rabbit plane.


On Saturday morning I started on the fence. First task was to drill the hole for the insert nut.


The shallow dado (3mm deep) that is meant to accept the stem was cut first. I used Robert Wearings trick to first created a groove using your chisel and using that to guide your saw for precision work. After using my carcass saw to cut the sides, I proceeded to remove the waste using a router plane. Once the dado was done it made it possible to saw the sides of the areas meant to accept the brass guides. Again the router plane and a chisel made short work of it.


In order to liberated the actual fence from its mother, so to speak, I drilled out the areas pictured and cut the rest with the band saw.


The knob received the following treatment. I used epoxy as adhesive and added black acrylic paint to it for the infill work.


On Sunday I started shaping the brass guides.


Then back to the fence for some file TLC, followed by fixing the guides into position and a coat of tung oil.


I fashioned the blades out of a piece of this heavy hack saw blade. It is surprisingly hard steel and about 2 mm thick. As you can see I shaped the cutting edge with two different angles and put the bevel on opposite sides, which means that between the two blades I have 4 different cutting options depending on which blade is selected and how it is mounted.


It is the first time that I thought of using this technique to tidy up and shape a knob. It worked like a charm.


Here I added two thin Ysterhout spacers to align the bottom of the tem perfectly with the bottom of the brass guides. The ysterhout is also extremely resistant against wear. The wedge that keeps the blade in position is made of Tamboti.


Last night I quickly did the final shaping of the stem …




… and Bob’s your Uncle, Ted’s your Auntie … one ‘makeshift’ panel gauge with je ne sais quoi!




I decided to fix the spare blade to the back of the gauge and it ended up having a nifty function to act as a hook to keep the gauge from falling from it’s new little home on my tool rack.




Panel gauge in action.



Die Rooi Bank


‘Die Rooi Bank’ is Afrikaans for ‘the red couch’. I bought this oak coach in 2000 from a secondhand dealer. It was in an atrocious condition, without any upholstery to be see and all the joints were loose. I took it apart, cleaned up the wood and reassembled it using PVA glue (as appose to the hot hide glue that was used originally). I then re-upholstered the couch from scratch with the red red fabric as seen in the pictures below. The fabric has unfortunately seen too much action from our kids and therefore we decided to replace it with leather from Nakara. In the pictures below, you can see how we did exactly that over one and a halve days.