Category Archives: Shop made tools

Building a working collection of bow saws – The hardware


One of my key projects for 2015 will be to build a working collection of bow saws. I bought the big blades (700mm in length) below from Dieter Schmid in Germany. The plan is to build a Frame saw using the rip blade and a Roubo-esque crosscut bow saw with the crosscut blade.


A few pictures of the crosscut saw I want to replicate loosely.  It can be found in Lost Art Press’  “Book of Plates”. I cannot say enough good thinks about Lost Art and their books. Every book is a seminal work in itself, which makes it impossible to decide on a favourite. Surgeons in my part of the world have a motto: “If in doubt, cut it out”. My motto with Lost Art Press books is: “If in doubt, buy it”.


These little beauties came from Gramercy Tools. I plan to build a smaller (12″) bow saw using their design. I plan to use it mainly from removing waste material between dovetails.


The wood for these saws is the pile on the right hand side. I chose Witpeer (Apodytes dimidiata or White pear in English) and Assegaai (Curtisia dentata).  Both these woods are extremely tough, hard and durable, which made it some of the favourites for Wagon building in the early Cape Colony. My supply comes from the Knysna evergreen forest, where I bought it more than 14 years ago.


I will write separate posts on the construction of each saw. To check out the other posts:

12″ bow saw

Roubo-esque crosscut bow saw

Fidgenian Frame Saw – part one

Fidgenian Frame Saw – part two

Shop made saw benches – 2


My first version of Ron Herman’s saw bench were assembled this weekend. I decided to finish one (of the two) in order to hopefully learn something and use that knowledge to make small improvements to the second.


This is the tenon on the end of the apron. It is a through tenon that will be wedged.


The stretchers has a type of halve-lap dovetail (for lack of a better term) design as you can see. You will also notice that I decided to reinforce all the joints with slotted wood screws.


I added these strips of beech to the bottom of the top for two reasons: 1) to add strength, 2) to improve the grip of a holdfast due to the increased thickness of the top.


The same goes for the strips added to the end boards. You can also appreciate how I shaped the feet, which is one of the slight tweaks I made to the design.


Another one of those (tweaks) was to add an elongated hole in the middle of the top to act as a handle then one wants to move the bench using one hand only. The plan is to add two similar holes to the end boards to grip while moving it with both hands. I used slow setting epoxy as my adhesive of choice given that the bench was assembled in one go (that took me 1 hour). The extended open time is essential for this purpose. One of the advantages of adding the screws was that I needed no clamps at all.


Hopefully the bench will be finished in the next few days.

Shop made saw benches – 1


While my monster workbench is getting quite close to being finished, I want to start building two saw benches. I need to start preparing the stock as it inevitably takes a lot of time, seeing that I need to laminate bits of crappy wood to make up the boards I need. It pains me to see how those American woodworkers can rock up to a lumberyard and buy perfect boards (of almost any species) in any imaginable dimension, go home and start working on their project. I work for weeks to cobble together strips of wood to make up boards that will be appropriate for the task. I decided to use Tasmanian Blackwood in this particular case, as I have quite a bit of it and I do not like using it for anything else than shop structures.

I looked at heaps of different designs (in the past 6 months or so) to work out what would suite me best. The design I settled on is based on a saw bench in an article entitled “If the tool fits …” by Ron Herman, in the August 2011 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine.

In the pictures below you can see the rough stock I picked. It is not the best stock at all, but I would rather use the good stuff for other purposes.


Here I tried to work out what the ideal height should be given my personal Vitruvianisms (I think this might be a new word). It seems that 18½” (47cm) fits my Vitruvian lower leg.


Arranging the strips for the first two glue-ups.


As per usual, I used my Festool Domino to ensure that the edges stay flush. The Domino is the only power tool I still enjoy using. It is fairly quiet and generally a joy to use.




The second batch of stock that was processed.


This is my woodworking buddy. Her name is Pipsqueack.


From these pictures you can appreciate the wide range of different colours one can find in Tasmanian Blackwood. These strips were the first to be hand planed on my new bench. The two planes I used feature in the last picture.


Another round of glue-ups.


Removing the dried excess glue with my shop made flush plane.







Lamination done.



I started preparing the laminated stock this weekend. The first and most arduous task was to get rid of the slight twist in the boards. Once one face was flat I used the electrical planer to flatten the opposite face.


After flattening one edge, …


… my shop made panel gauge came in handy to mark out the opposite edge. While doing this, I realised that by flipping round the lids of my sliding tool trays it creates an ideal stop (in conjunction with my planing stop) to do this task. Just another nifty feature of my bench design.


Yep, I am a “tails first” type of guy … for now anyway. This is my first attempt at multiple dovetails, so my approach might change depending on how it pans out.


Cleaning out the waste.


Transferring the tails to mark out the pins. Here you can appreciate how my shop made assembly table assists with this delicate task.


A first careful fit.


Also see Part 2 and 3 of this riveting series.

Dog maker


My nearly finished workbench needs a profusion of dogs. In order to speed up the production and have some degree of consistency, I made this dog maker out of a scrap piece of beech. It has a multitude of “high-tech features” such as:


1) Self-tapping screw to hold the stock in position.


2) A hole for drilling the bullet catch hardware hole.



3) A kerf to saw a flat face (leaning 2º forward from the vertical position, ensuring that the upper most tip would touch stock first)


4) A kerf to cut each dog to the exact same length.


That is followed by a few more steps, once the dog is liberated from it’s maker. The pictures tells the story.






Shop made beader


… or at least that is what I think it should be called. I have been in the market for a beader for some time now. I found a nice pre-1900 Stanley no. 66 recently, but it is still hanging with Patrick Leach in the US of A. Patrick usually hangs on to my acquisitions until “critical mass is reached” (as he puts it) to justify a shipment.

This weekend I wanted to use beads to hide the fact that the two sliding deadmen I am currently working on are laminated. So I whipped this little guy together from some scrap Witels (Platylophus trifoliatus). I saw the design idea in a Fine Woodworking article (I think), a few years ago. It is armed with a Lie-Nielsen blade. According to LN, these blades will fit the Stanley no. 66. I will hopefully be able to report on that in the not too distant future.

As you can see, it did a sterling job.


Shop made tools used in building my 18th century bench


Seeing that my 18th century inspired bench is getting very close to being finished, I though it might be an interesting exercise to look at all the shop made tools that contributed to the final product. As you might know by now, I am based in Namibia. This means that I do not have the luxury of buying good quality woodworking tools from stores. At first it used to frustrate me with a vengeance, but over the past three years it became apparent that it is a blessing in disguise. Since I started building my own tools and restoring quality vintage tools, my learning curve went into overdrive.

Once you have managed to build (and to a lesser degree restored) a tool, you tend have a much better understanding of how it works. I also find it much more satisfying to use a shop built tool than any other.

So lets look at the lineup that helped me to build this bench. I simply picked photos from the 26 (at this stage) posts documenting the building process in superfluous detail. These posts are all entitled “My 18th Century Workbench in progress” followed by a number. I include links to posts I wrote on how each tool was built for in case you might want to take a closer look.


This is a shop made dowel plate and the mallet that did 90% of the damage needed to cut all the gargantuan through mortises.


This picture features a shop made wooden fore plane (right) and scrub plane (left). We will deal with the scrub plane later.


These sanding planes were used extensively during the tedious lamination phase.


My version of a birdcage awl (right), which I fashioned out of an old centre bit. The marking knife was made using an old plane blade and a scrap piece of Tamboti.


This is my heavy dead-blow mallet that was indispensable during the assembly of such massive joinery. It is also featured in the post entitled “Mallet Mania”


This turned Assegaai mallet was employed for the majority of the fine-tuning that the joinery needed.


At this stage I have to say that this scrub plane is my favourite shop made tool. It absolutely mutilates (in a good sort of way) any excess material that needs prompt attention. It also comes in handy as an aggressive fore plane due to it’s length. If it was not for this warmonger, I would still be trying to flatten the two laminated beams that makes up the twin-top of the bench.


A large shoulder plane with some je ne sais quoi.


This is my version of a Melencolia square.


Winding sticks



In the pictures below you can see a wooden jointer and straight edge.




This is my version of a panel gauge.



A few bench hooks.



My assembly table was probably the most indispensable shop made tool in building the bench. In the the pictures below you will also see the legvise and sliding deadman I built to enhance the repertoire of the assembly table. I chose a few photos that illustrates how the assembly table made short work of otherwise tricky tasks.




A flush plane



Some shop made squares.


I hope that this might inspire other novice woodworkers to build their shop and tools with their own shop made tools. It is a very satisfying journey.





Tour de Shop and project inventory 2014


My last proper weekend in the shop for 2014 has now come and gone. It is therefore now time to start reviewing what I have managed to accomplish during this year and to take a quick look around the shop.

It all started with the rehabilitation of the two planes I happened to buy at an antiques sale in RSA over the December holidays. The Bedrock no. 606 has become one of my go-to tools.



I also bought this no.78 Rabbet plane from Stanley at the same auction, but it’s rehab took quite some time as it had several parts missing.



This was the last of my holiday shopping, a no. 45 Plough Plane from Stanley. It was covered with a thick black paint, and had no iron/s. I decided to tidy it up for shop decoration purposes.



I managed to finish turning all those file handles that I started with at the end of 2013.



My major project for 2014 started on the 1st of February and is not finished by quite some way. I spent at least 80% of my shop time this year working on my 18th century workbench and am pleased to say that it is at least assembled by the end of 2014. You can read all about it in a series of posts entitled “My 18th Century Workbench in progress”

IMG_9580IMG_9581photo 3photo 4


My 17 m³ wood finally completed it’s journey when it took occupation of it’s purpose built shed.


These exquisite chisels from Lie-Nielsen arrived after a wait of several months. I made this very basic storage to keep them out of harm’s way.



Didi (my son) started his woodworking journey by turning this mallet for himself.



I used an antique brace bit from my father’s collection that had key parts of it’s business end missing to fashion this birdcage awl. It is a real winner.


Didi’s next project was this bird feeder.


I revamped and sharpened this old scissor.


This shop high stool saw a bit too much action during the 14 years since I first made it. I re-upholstered it with leather and strengthened the base, while (clearly) not worrying too much about je ne sais quoi.


Didi learnt a few more skills by producing this beautiful Assegaai handle for an old axe we had lying around.


This Miller’s Falls no. 88 joiner gauge was successfully rehabilitated.


The wife and I managed to make a team effort of the re-upholstering of “die rooi bank”.


In order to hand plane the two edges of my benches top parallel, I had to first build this large panel gauge.


In order to create the space for my 18th century bench, I had to rearrange  some of the power tools. This planer and radial arm saw were placed on the same steel table and lined up to become each other’s out-feed table.


A set of winding sticks.


My favourite shop made wooden plane received some cosmetic surgery. I added a thin strip of Tamboti to it’s chipbreaker/lever cap and covered the lever cap screw with Kaapse Swarthout. This is a true workhorse as it makes short work of all scrub plane and very aggressive fore plane tasks.


My own version of a Melencolia Square.


Custom made leather apron.


Restored a Stanley no. 10 Rabbet plane (ca 1900) and a Bedrock no. 607 Jointer.


Replaced my ½” Lie-Nielsen mortice chisel handle with a shop made Ysterhout version. So far it is standing up to heavy abuse without breaking a sweat.



A custom made pairing handle for my bevel edge chisels.



Finally got round to making an Ysterhout straight edge.


Restored this Stanley no. 203 bench clamp.



Restored this Stanley no. 9½ block plane.½-block-plane-rehab/


I started restoring this Stanley no. 8 Jointer (ca 1896), but there is a lot more work to do next year. I will replace both tote and knob.



Tour de Shop at the end of 2014

This is simply a series of photos documenting the state of the shop at the end of 2014. The major change from last year has been the addition of the assembled (though not finished yet) 18th century style workbench. I also managed to collect quite a few new hand tools with the help of Patrick Leach and Jim Bode. As I am writing this my first shipment from Jim has not arrived yet despite leaving the States on the 12th of October. My guess is I will never see those tools or money again. Just one of the joys of living in Africa.

(9/1/2015 – I am very happy to report that the shipment arrived in Namibia on the 6th of Jan 2015 without as much as a scratch. I will write a post on this saga in the near future)


Mallet facelift


A week ago I damaged the non-leathered end of my shop made heavy dead-blow mallet, while getting carried away with hitting some Assegaai dowels (draw pins) home. It needed quite a bit of persuasion and I did not realise how hard those dowels are. Anyway, so I drilled out the damaged area and filled it with slow setting epoxy. I will report back on this post how it worked out after some abuse in the shop.


It is done!!!


Well, not quite, but it is glued up!!! And that before the humidity changed. At 15h30 on the 12th of October 2014, my wife and I started assembling the bench. It was a very stressful 2 hours, but now I can relax and work at my usual leisurely pace.

I will soon have some better photos, but here are a few to wet the appetite.

photo 1photo 3photo 4


Shop made Ysterhout straight edge


I have been looking for a suitable piece of timber to use as a straight edge for a while now. A few weeks ago I found this piece of Ysterhout that has been kicking around the shop for the past three years. I did not even consider Ysterhout as an option as it is not particularly stable in my experience. When I picked up this piece while ferreting around for a suitable piece of Witpeer, I saw that it was dead straight with grain to match. It is the piece on the right in the picture below.


I planed it down to a thickness of a ½” over the coarse of several days and it stayed dead straight. The design I chose has the specific purpose of exposing as much end grain as possible in an attempt to help the timber to adjust to changes in ambient humidity in no time.


After shaping it as pictured, I left the straight edge for a few days before fine tuning the business end.


A coat of Tung oil finished the job.