The Wiktor Kuc experience


The first I heard of Wiktor Kuc was on a DVD by Chris Schwarz’s were he showed a North Brothers drill that Wiktor restored. I first got into contact with Wiktor Kuc via e-mail on 5/11/2014. He specialises in the restoration of various boring tools and in particular eggbeater-type hand drills. Wiktor was extremely helpful in terms of discussing the different models of handrills made by North Brothers, Goodell Pratt and Miller’s Falls that would potentially suite my needs. After quite a bit of that we decided on a Miller’s Falls no. 2 (ca 1938) as a general allrounder.

I managed to raise the dough by March 2015, which got me onto the waiting list. As you can see from the screenshot below, Wiktor sent my precious drill to me on the 10th of September. In other words, it takes some time, but believe me it is worth the wait.

I included the drill’s travel itinerary as it is quite amazing how it almost circumnavigated the entire globe to find me in Namibia. Another interesting thing to note is that it took only 11 days to go from Albuquerque to LA, LA to New York, New York to Washington, and Washington to Amsterdam. It then took a whole month from Amsterdam to Namibia!! They probably sent it with a long distance camel via the Sahara desert (or alternatively it might just have something to do with that old saying that goes “This is Africa”).


Anyway, the drill I received after all of this is poetry to say the least. I have to agree with Christopher Schwarz, that Wiktor restores these babies to a condition that is far better than when they were new in the mid 20th century. I have found that it can struggle a bit with the extremely hard native woods I work with predominantly, but it takes no prisoners in slightly softer species. For the real hard stuff I found a Goodell Prat no. 5½B from Jim Bode that has two speeds, but it has not arrived yet. I will report on that in a future post.


Wiktor is already working on a North Brothers no. 1530 for me to take care of smaller drilling jobs. I can highly recommend his work and customer service. Thank you Wiktor!

Japanese toolbox inspired knife and fork carrier – part 1


During December holidays at our beach house we spend almost all our time outside on the deck. Every meal is therefore an al fresco affair. I usually do 95% of the cooking over the holiday period, to give the wife a break. Over the past few years it used to irritate me endlessly not having something to carry all the usual utensils, olive oil, salt, pepper etc etc to the table. We cannot leave anything outside, as the monkeys would carry it off in no time. They are real pests and are known as Blou Apies in Afrikaans (Chlorocebus). In the picture below you can see one showing off the blue part of it’s anatomy were it got it’s name from.

blou apie

For that reason mentioned above, I decided to build something that can make this chore less frustrating. In the end I settled on the idea of an open toolbox. The joinery was inspired by a Japanese toolbox I saw on the net and the curves and other aesthetic elements probably come from Cape Dutch architecture, which I love dearly.

I found a Dolfhout (Pterocarpus angolensis) board in my collection for the job. As you can see, it has stunning grain patterns with a marked contrast between heartwood and sapwood. The only problem with this particular board is the dramatic changes in grain direction, but I thought it should be fine for a fairly small toolbox which will do very light duty.


I used the setup below to chop the board into appropriately sized pieces. It should be clear from these pictures how my “overkill” of holdfast holes in this bench continues to be extremely handy for all sort of hand tool operations.


Here I am ripping one of the pieces with a Disston no. 12.


This is the design I came up with for the end boards of the tool box.


The floor/base board has two through tenons on each side that will be wedged.


Here I am creating the mortises in the end board.


After the two pieces were fitted I marked out the location of a very shallow dado to accept about 3 mm worth of floor/base board. I used a chisel and no. 71 Lie-Nielsen router plane to remove the waste.



Pretty much the same joinery and idea was used for the sides of the toolbox.


All the joinery fits nicely together at this stage. The tenons will be wedged and left to protrude once the toolbox is assembled.


I used my reconditioned (pre 1900) no. 66 beader to put beads at the bottom of the sides and the side of the base (where these two parts meet).


I found this ghastly Stanley plough plane amongst the tools my father never used. It was given to him as a present from work, but he was a power tool woodworker so it never saw any action. Having restored several old Stanley planes, I have to say that this is an embarrassment to the Stanley legacy. The crappy plastic handle defines this tool shaped object. Anyway, it did manage to cut a dado for the divider that slots into the base, but I cannot wait for Lie-Nielsen’s new plough plane that is supposed to be out soon.


By the way, the featured image is an African sunset on the Mighty Okavango.

Roubo sharpening bench – the not so grand finale


OK, I realise this will not be the most exciting post in the history of woodwork blogging, but seeing that my site is in the first place a way for me to document my journey for myself you will have to bear with me. This will however be the not so grand finale to a riveting series of posts on building a second Roubo-style bench. As per the title of these posts it will be used as a permanent sharpening station during it’s first life and hopefully become a workbench in a second life once my shop gets extended. I plan to add a holdfast type “twin screw vise” as a face vise at that stage.

As you can see in the pictures below I used Without (Cape Holly or Ilex mitis) for the shelve boards. They all received tong and groove treatment with my Lie-Nielsen no. 48 T&G plane.


As you can see here it is a beautiful wood species.


The shelve boards were nailed into position with finishing nails. I did not used to like the idea of using nails for proper woodworking, but Christopher Schwarz has convinced me that there is historical evidence for the use of nails for specific tasks. In this particular case I thought that the nails will allow the boards to move with the changes in ambient humidity and having such small heads make them almost invisible. As you can see, I left two gaps to allow for wood movement, which also doubles up as convenient slots to get rid of debris when cleaning the shelve.


In these pictures you can see my sharpening station taking shape. Now I can simply walk over and sharpen what ever needs a razor edge. Up until now, I always used to procrastinate for too long before sharpening, because it meant that I had to set up the station first, sharpen and then pack it away.


Thank you for joining me on this journey.

My second commission – part 2


If you want to read this epic tale from the start, go here for part one.

The stock for this Nakashima-esque table has been sitting in the shop for the past 2 weeks. It should have acclimatised adequately by now for us to take the next step. Having said that, we’ve had a heatwave warning were they expect temperatures to go above 45ºc on a regular basis in the next 5 days or so. That might mean that the stock will need further acclimatisation, but what the heck.

I still remember vividly how we were waiting in eager anticipation for the  so called ‘heatwaves”, while living in Yorkshire UK. Usually we would ask the locals when the heatwave was supposed to hit when it got up to 18ºC (if you are lucky) and they would say that we are in the midst of it! At that stage we usually noticed that all the locals were halve naked in the streets. We would still be wearing jerseys and only venture outside if absolutely necessary.

Clearly it seems Namibia has a different type of heatwave. Anyway, it seems as if I went on a wee bit of a meteorological tangent there.

In the pictures below you can see the Kershout (Candle wood) boards we chose for the top. This stuff is exceptionally hard and the tree that the board on the right came from must have been close to or more than 900 years old. These trees spent all that time in the pristine surroundings of the Knysna-Amatole montane forest. Since being harvested the boards has been air dried and seasoned for at least 11 years, possibly closer to 16.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to work out what would be the best way to join them into an aesthetically pleasing top, while allowing the natural ‘defects’ and cracks to take centre stage, as per George Nakashima’s famous mantra: “Every part of each tree has only one perfect use.”


I used my Festool TS55 with it’s guide to cut as straight as possible. Another variable I had to keep in mind is the maximum width of my planer, which is 300 mm. The wood is so hard that you will simply toast all your hand planes and yourself in attempting to plane these by hand. As you will know by now, I am not one to shy away from ridiculous hand planing tasks, but to attempt it in this case would be absolutely mental.



I plane the boards in two very tiring sessions down to the appearance in the pictures below. As you can see there is still some way to go, but it needs to settle down for a while before I can do the rest. If one does too much at once, the wood tends to move all over the place.

The wood was so hard that the planer really complained while removing as little as 0.1 of a millimeter. You can just imagine how many passes it took to get it down to the current state of play.


By Sunday night I clamped the boards to each other and the top of my assembly table to keep them straight while they wait for probably 2 weeks before we touch them again.


… because I want to be like David Charlesworth


Stanley no. 5 1/2 C (ca 1902-1907) rehab

I bought this plane from Jim Bode in August of 2015. It is my 4th no. 5 and 5th Jack plane (if I include my shop made wooden Jack plane). Why, … because I want to be like David Charlesworth, that is why! It is more than an adequate reason to buy another Jack plane in my book. David is such an icon to me, I just love his meticulous and cerebral approach to the craft.

In the interest of woodworking ethics/morality, I should probably say to the beginners out there (who wants to be like me … did I say that out loud?), that you do not need 5 Jack planes. In fact ,you do not need any other bench plane than a single no. 5. The problem is that I like the tools of the trade as much as the trade itself.

This plane seems to be David Charlesworth’s favourite as it is never far from his reach in those famous Lie-Nielsen DVDs. The no. 5½ was made between 1898 – 1958 and this particular specimen is a Type 9, which were made between 1902 – 1907. The pictures below are those taken by Jim, before it traveled to Sub-Sahara Africa.


Kenny at the Prop Shop did the usual bead blasting for me.


I actually prefer the Type 8’s frog receiver to these, but they are still pretty good. Stanley changed the frog receiver in 1902 as indicated by the patent dates in the main casting. They did this to cut the time and cost of production, not as an improvement in function. The slippery slide towards poorer quality at a higher price is probably what led to the emergence of so called ‘tool shaped objects’ that we are so familiar with in the 21st century.This particular plane does not have the frog adjusting screw, which was added to the Bailey series from 1907 onwards.


One of the reasons I like this plane so much is that it does not have anything cast into the area of the main casting behind the frog. I find the smooth surface much more comfortable when putting firm thumb pressure in this area, … you’ve guessed it … ala Charlesworth.


Rust converter.


Anti-rust undercoat.


High gloss truck enamel paint.



This past weekend I managed to assemble the plane.


Sorry for the poor quality of this picture, but you should be able to see that I did some work to flatten the area where the blade beds down …


… as well as the frog receiver area.


David Charlesworth eat your heart out.


I have already done some work with this plane and it is an absolute gem.