Category Archives: Tool acquisitions

Akio Tasai Pairing Chisel

January 2017

In January I became the very proud owner of an 18 mm pairing chisel made by the legendary Master Akio Tasai from Sanjo, Niigata. I have been eager to get my hands on one of these ever since I saw David Charlesworth discussing it on one of his Lie-Nielsen videos. He said something along the lines of: “This is a chisel made by a gentle by the name of Tasai and it gives me tremendous pleasure each time I look at it.” In that regard I cannot agree more with David, it is an absolute joy to use and look at.

Due to their considerable price and an unfavourable exchange rate, I have been confined to dreaming about one rather than buying one for several years. That made it so much more special when I finally got to handle a Tasai. As you can see, it comes in a pretty box decorated with Japanese gibberish (to the bovine amongst us anyway).

I have not come across a better made tool in all of my woodworking journey. As per usual for traditional Japanese chisels, it is made up of two distinct metal components. The back (or so-called mirror side) is composed of extremely hard blue steel that is especially made for Master Tasai. The rest of the chisel is made up of a much softer multi laminated steel. It is this Damascus style laminate steel that creates the aesthetic appeal of these chisels.

Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of the so-called “Ura” on the mirror side, but it is basically a very slight hollow that is meant to decrease the time spent on sharpening the chisel. Given this nifty design element I thought it would be a breeze to sharpen. That turned out to be a fantasy. It actually took a lot more effort to polish the back that anticipated, but I am sure the ura will speed up subsequent sharpening sessions.

As I said, this chisel looks impressive, but it’s true worth comes to the fore when it engages with wood. I made a few test cuts on the shoulders of these huge tenons. The shoulder lines were marked out with a knife so it was simply a case of feeling the cutting edge into these tracks and leaning on the chisel. It literally glided through the wood and left a superior polished surface in the end grain.

I have since used the chisel on African hardwood and it does not seem to shy away from the confrontation. If anything, it performed better in the hard stuff.

That then concludes my review of this work of art that happens to be quite a useful tool at the same time. I would say it is worth a lot more than what you find on the price tag.

Master Tasai, I am not worthy!


The Jenesaisquoi Persuader


This story starts way back in May when Jonathan White (of Bench Blog fame) sent me a William Marples Hibernia Mortise Gauge as a very generous, but completely unexpected present. You can read his and my posts on the tool for background. Anyway it got me thinking how I could return the favour. At the time I already met a delightful young Namibian blacksmith by the name of Hanno Becker. He trained in Germany through the ancient apprenticeship model they have for all craftsmen. Since he finished his training he moved back to Namibia and started his own business. He is a very refreshing change from the often money orientated younger generation. Hanno is driven by excellence.

Hanno and I decided in February to try and create our own version of a Japanese Daruma hammer that I wanted to use with chisels for fine joinery work. I have adopted David Charlesworth’s techniques for this type of work and a good purpose made hammer is essential. These Japanese hammers are so well thought out (over a matter of several centuries) and made that it is not just a case of rocking up and producing a good quality hammer, even with Hanno’s considerable and well polished skills. We wanted to have one perfectly flat face and one slightly convex.

By late June Hanno had the first prototype ready. You can see what it looks like in the picture below. By that time I had ample time to ponder over the shape and choice of wood for the handle. I wanted to create a handle that sloped towards the flat face of the hammer and away from the convex face. The idea behind this is to open the convex face up to keep one’s knuckles away from the work when setting nails, hence the convex design of the face. The curve towards the flat face helps keep the face perfectly square on the butt end of your chisel while doing precision joinery work, hence the flat design of the face.

This picture illustrates one of the most challenging obstacles in producing these hammers the traditional way. As the blacksmith forms the hole for the handle it deforms the shape of the billet.
This picture illustrate the ergonomic advantage of the sloped handle while doing joinery work with the hammer.
This picture illustrate the ergonomic advantage of the sloped handle while doing joinery work with the hammer.

I made my first handle and used the hammer for a week before handing it as a present to my cousin the Urologist. Apparently he has been using it to chisel out prostates ever since. Apparently it works like a dream, albeit a particularly frightening one.

My apprentice Connor is helping me to shape the handle.
The handle gets wedged in two directions. First a wooden wedge longitudinally, followed by purpose made metal wedges diagonally with regards to the aforementioned.


A trick I learnt from Hanno is to heat up (ever so slightly of course as not to have an effect on hardness or tempering) the head and rub on beeswax. It creates an attractive protective finish that smacks of the old artisan age.


What I learnt from this first attempt is that the handle needs to fit perfectly in the head otherwise you end up with the metal wedge splitting the handle below the head. There is a learning curve to everything in the shop I guess.


Another advantage of the handle curving towards the flat face is that it can be placed on the workbench like this while doing joinery work and it is easy to pick up immediately in the desired orientation to continue working. The curve and oval shape of the handle also informs the user immediately which face is at the business end if picked up without looking at the hammer.


After this first prototype Hanno and I collated our thought on where we could improve the design. What we notice on the positive side was that the hammer is an absolute joy to use. Clearly the age old tradition of hardening only the faces and keeping the rest of the head relatively “soft” works wonders for the feeling of superior power transfer and pretty much eliminating recoil. When I first read about this in Japanese hammer literature I thought it was just hype or marketing, but believe you me it is quite striking (pun intended) when compared to a regular commercially made hammer. I noticed that one needs to use the hammer for a little while before the mentioned effect reaches a peak. All I could think was that it has something to do with the “joint” where the wood meets the metal. It seems as if it needs to settle or mature a bit.

It might have something to do with the properties of the Assegaai (Curtisia dentata) I chose for the handle. Allegedly it was the species favoured by the Zulus for their spears, hence the common name of the species. Assegaai was also heavily favoured by colonial wagen builders, especially for the spokes of the wheels. Assegaai is extremely fine grained and hard, yet surprisingly flexible. Another prized property is the fact that it tends to be extremely stable once well seasoned. A property that is priceless to keep the spokes secured in their mortises and would probably apply to the joint with the metal head. I think it has something to do with these properties of the Assegaai which translates into a joint with the metal that needs a bit of time to settle to give a very noticeable improvement in the feel of the hammer. In conclusion we thought the first prototype was a resounding success, but wanted to see how much better it can get.

We decided to try and aim for a artisan round (as apposed to perfectly round) shape to the head, improve on the inside shape of the hole through the head to increase the grip of the handle, and I wanted to create a more flowing look to the curve of the handle. Hanno then invited me to his shop on a Sunday to witness the process firsthand. At this stage he had already made two more heads and thought he was ready to produce a winner.

This is one of the two heads Hanno made in phase two.

On the big day Hanno first made a new chisel for punching the hole through the billet. He developed a few ideas on how to improve the chisel from the first two phases. This chisel is made from a special type of steel that is ridiculously hard in order to punch a hole through the special steel that Hanno handpicked for the hammer’s head. The chisel tapers slightly to ensure that the hole first narrows over the first third and then flares out after that when approached from the end where the handle enters. This feature together with the wedges ensures a very sturdy joint with the handle.


Once the chisel was done he moved on to the billet.


The hole gets punched through the billet from both ends bit by bit. It was at this stage that I realised just how skilful this young man is.


As you can see, this process tends to deform the billet somewhat.


One perfect hole done and dusted.


At this stage it takes even more skill to regain the round shape without deforming the hole.



A week later Hanno delivered what would become my bench hammer and it looked liked this. My Jenesaisquoi Persuader (as apply named by Matthew J McGrane on Bench Blog) has become my favourite tool, it is literally the only tool that does not have a dedicated storage spot as it lives on the bench. I use it constantly to set my holdfasts (with the domed face of course) and it is a revelation in tandem with my Lie-Nielsen chisels while doing joinery work. Now I only need a Akio Tasai chisel to go with it. If there is one outstanding feature of this hammer that gives me tremendous pleasure (ala Charlesworth) each time I use it, it would be the incredibly soft efficiency of the power transfer. When hitting a holdfast there is almost no discernible recoil.





By late November I received two hammer heads representing phase four of the development. By now my handle shape improved to a more pleasing curve and I picked the best cuts of Assegaai I could lay my hands on.


Below you can see my hammer’s handle. (i.e. phase three)


The following photos illustrate the improvements we identified for phase four. We wanted to increase the size of the hammer’s sweat-spot by increasing the diameter of the cylinder shaped head, while retaining the weight of approximately 375 gram. That necessitated the head to become a bit shorter.


The phase three hammer is on the right and the phase four on the left with a noticeable  increase in diameter.


Again phase three on the right and phase four on the left. Roughly the same weight yet noticeably shorter.


I try not to fuss too much when making these handles as they are meant to be working hammers not museum pieces. I also used  the set of tools that I imagined an old artisan from yesteryear would employ for this task. That is perhaps with the exception of the electrivorous bandsaw that was initially used to cut the curves, but was followed by drawknife, spokeshave, card scraper and finally sandpaper. As my talented friend picked up in his assessment of the hammer, it actually balance best when you choke up on the handle somewhat. This is also intentional as that is the grip one would use when doing precision chisel work (illustrated by the picture below). When setting nails or holdfasts the balance is less important.




The wooden wedge.


Followed by two (another detail we added) rather than one purposed made metal wedges.


From right to left, phase 2, phase 3, and finally phase 4.



And here they are in the opposite direction, with phase 2 on the left and 4 on the right.


Finally they received a coat of Ballistol. I prefer using only a light coat of oil as it retains a better grip and tends to be less sweaty compared to lots of coats of varnish.


Then I sent them on their merry way to Washington and Nova Scotia. They are presents for my two blogging friends Jonathan White and Robert “Bob’s your Uncle” Demers. I hope you guys get as much joy out of them as I do.

Bosch find


As I have written ad nauseum in the past, Namibia is not a particularly Utopian wasteland for tool collectors. It was thus with some surprise that I found this old Bosch drill in quite an exceptional condition at an Antiques Shop in Swakopmund. I already have two old corded hand drills given to me by my father, but wanted to buy this one for my son. At the equivalent of US$36 it was not going to break the bank either, so why not?

Clearly this drill seems to be from an era prior to the dark blue and green colours used by Bosch in more recent years. What I want to find out from all you tool aficionados is, how old is this drill and would it be considered to be any good? Yes Bob I am referring to people like you who has an embarrassing amount of knowledge on tools of any description.

It has “Scintilla SA” and “Switzerland” on the metal label. Maybe that helps.

I would appreciate any info to help know a bit more about the history of these drills.


Why do we collect tools?


This is a question that came up in a recent discussion I had with Frank Bartlett and Bob Demers. I thought it could be a good idea to have a wider discussion to hear what other woodworkers and collectors of woodworking tools have to say. To get you thinking I will try to verbalise my ideas on the topic.

As a (very much) parttime hobbyist woodworker I do not get to spend a lot of time doing woodwork. It is a constant frustration, especially when you end up not being able to do any work for almost a month, like what happened to me recently (hence my prolonged absence from the blogosphere). During times like that the only thing I can do is to use the little bits of time I do have to read about woodworking or tools. When I think about it, I probably spend a hell of a lot more time reading than working (woodworking that is).

I sometimes get the impression that some bloggers/writers tend to make negative comments about people who read more than what they work. It creates a type of stigma which I think is very unhelpful. Most of the woodworkers that form part of the online woodworking community are not able to make shavings constantly, but tends to read as much as they can because you can do that in short breaks at work, on holiday etc. They are therefore perhaps slightly less skilled, but usually quite a bit better informed about various historical aspects of the craft. That certainly does not make their contribution less valuable or in any way inferior.

Now that I have opened that can of worms, I would like to argue that it is this specific dynamic that has the biggest influence on my collecting tendencies. Reading about various different tools, how they are used, who made them, why they are so “essential” etc etc, plays a huge role in that urge to find such a tool. Once you find one, especially a really old one, it is like finding a treasure of some sort and therefore quite a challenge to resist.

That brings me to another angle on the same basic idea. It is very strange how life can sometimes go full circle. When I had to make the decision to drop woodworking as a subject at school, I replaced it with History. It is a long story which I explained in a previous post, which you can find here.  Despite history being something that took me away from woodwork I have a suspicion that it now plays a role in my fascination with tools.  Partly as a result of my interest in history, I find it extremely fascinating to read about the history of tools, the companies who made them and learning how to date the tools according to various features that changed over the years of it’s production.

Once you (armed with the above knowledge) then come across a tool that you know was for example made before 1900, it becomes irresistible, especially if the price is ridiculously cheap. It almost feels like time traveling when you have the privilege of using a tool that was used by other craftsmen more than a 100 years ago. In this way you also become part of that history.

At this point I have to state that I still like to think that I buy tools to work with rather than put them on a shelve (of course with no judgement on those who prefer doing just that). I can back that up by the fact that I am buying a lot less now than before. I almost have a complete set of stuff I need for the work I am doing at this stage. Well, to be honest the unprecedented  weakening of our currency also played it’s part. Despite that I now only tend to buy very specific tools that I need for certain tasks that would be difficult with my current set.

Again there is probably a caveat to the above statement that would be important to add in the interest of complete transparency. I have been able to find a way to justify further “unnecessary” tool procurements. If I see a tool that is reasonably priced and a significant step up from the one I already have, my justification goes like this: “the new tool can replace my old one and I can then keep the previous one for my son”. In fact I actually also buy tools “for his best mate Connor”. Crafty hey?

Unfortunately it has already happened on a few “isolated” occasions that the justification had to be utilised.  It therefore made me take note of Frank’s comment that he decided not to build up a second set of tools for his son. He argues that his son will actually appreciate the tools more as heirlooms if he (his son) has his own history with the tools. In other words, used those very same tools for some years with his father. I have never thought of it like this and think he makes a good point. The only problem I have with that is that it would negate my handy justification (for continued indulgence in tool procurement) and expose my carefully manicured tools to inevitable albeit non-deliberate abuse until their skill level picks up.

What I have noticed though, is that I tend to nowadays lean towards tools that would not need much rehab whereas in the past I bought stuff that needed a lot of work. I do not regret it at all though, as the rehab projects taught me so much about the tools and how they work (or should work). After restoring 6-7 bench planes you should however know what you need to know and it actually becomes something that keeps you from generating shavings, hence my change in tactics. In the picture below you can see a picture of my Stanley no. 78 rabbet plane. It is from my early phase. As you can see it was completely reconditioned, needed a levercap (which I fashioned out of a piece of brass), made an idiosyncratic levercap screw from scratch and ordered a new blade from Lie-Nielsen for it. Now I would not even dream of doing that.


I hope these musings will suffice as a good starting point for a wider discussion on this topic. Please join in and add your two cents’ worth.

PS – for a comprehensive and riveting discussion on the topic see this post by The Valley Woodworker.

The Wiktor Kuc experience – take 2 and related reverie


This is another post that almost got lost in the drafts section of my site’s dashboard. I was reminded of it as a result of discussing the merits of various types of breast drills (for the metal-like qualities of the wood I work with) with the famous Bob Demers (aka The Valley Woodworker). One of my all-time favourite tool manufacturers is North Brothers. Despite that I have never been able to find a true North Brothers tool, only Stanley made versions of their tools. So when I ordered my second Eggbeater from Wiktor Kuc I went for the legendary North Brothers no. 1530.

It so happened that he had one that was halve way through the restoration process already so I was in luck, because my previous order took a very long time. That is of course because Wiktor is so good at what he does that everyone wants drills restored by him, which means that you have to be patient.

Anyway while Wiktor was busy finishing the 1530, I realised that what I really need is a drill with a low gear that would work better in the hardwoods. The Miller’s Falls no. 2 (circa 1938) he restored for me previously works fine for drill bits up to maybe 5 mm in hardwood, but is difficult to turn smoothly using something bigger. As luck would have it, I happened to stumble across a Goodell Pratt no. 5½B on Jim Bode’s site at that exact time. I have never given Goodell Pratt any thought, but it seemed to fit my needs perfectly at an price I could afford (back then, before Jacob Zuma’s well documented indiscretions). So I quickly checked with Wiktor who agreed for me to get it sent to him so he can ship it together with the 1530, which saved me a fair bit of dough. Thank you Wiktor.

A few months later the duo arrived in the Land of the Brave (quite literally sometimes). The Wiktor Kuc restored no. 1530 was as expected top drawer work. It is one of my favourite tools and I am so glad I bought it when I did because I probably will never be able to afford it again. Thank you Mr. Zuma.


That said, the Goodell Pratt was a real surprise packet. It is just one of those tools you bond with immediately. Like love at first sight. It clearly does not have the pristine beauty of the 1530, but boy is it a great tool. I now do most of my work with it and Goodell Pratt has shot up in my estimation as one of the best manufacturers known to man. It works particularly well in the hard stuff in it’s low gear, so that is where I leave the setting.

Here is some information I found on the Old Tool Heaven website for those who wants to know a bit more:

No. 5 1/2B

Goodell-Pratt hand drill no. 5 1/2BTwo-speed hand drill

  1. 1898— malleable iron frame; hardwood head and handles, head with mushroom-shaped top; detachable, elongated side handle; non-adjustable gear guide; spindle runs on hardened steel cone bearing; speeds adjusted by turning shifter knob on frame; three-jaw chuck adjustable 0 to 3/8 inch. Frame enamelled black; drive gear painted red, bright parts are nickel plated.
  2. 1911 — as above, but detachable chef’s cap side handle; ball bearing spindle.
  3. 1926 — as above, but mahogany-finished hardwood head and handles.

Manufactured by Millers Falls as of 1931.

Illustration from 1903 catalog.

Mine was therefore clearly made after 1911 and before 1931.


Here you can see where they all found a happy home on my Hovering Skeleton Chest.



As mentioned before, I had another delightful exchange with Uncle Bob concerning my preferred choice for a breast drill. He had the following to say:

Now as far as the elusive breast drills are concerned, agreed with you that the GP model 6 would be a good one, but…
these all enclosed switch mechanism don’t seems to come out very often. ??
You need a two speed model, Goodell Pratt, or Millers Falls, or North Bros and yes Stanley
Out of these 4 you can trace their origins to either GP or North Bros before being acquired by MF or Stanley

As for using them, they can be a bit tricky for the unwary 🙂 I’ll explain later in a blog post perhaps?
The second trust bearing on the wheel or a dedicated roller/slider to support the big geared wheel makes a big difference in how smooth they can operate since less chances of binding.
That leaves us with the speed selection.

The one you shown me, has the selector mechanism all enclosed and used sliding pawls to switch gears. I have no experienced with these, but it cannot be as strong as the simpler mechanism where you simply move the wheel one hole over., such as on my Miller’s Falls No 12s
Even there, we have a few small changes thru the years as to how to release and lock the wheel.
The earliest No 12 (green) simply uses a screw that you remove and re-install on the other hole. Simple, strong, but you got potentially a loose screw to keep track of.

Later models (red) uses a captured slider that you push or pull to release/lock the spindle wheel. Nothing to loose, bonus.
And then there are a myriads of variations on this theme, some No 12 uses push buttons to release/lock the wheel and etc.

Today these types of mechanisms lives on, a testament to their rugged simplicity.
Once in a while I come across modern German made version (Schroeder, and etc) They sport an all enclosed mechanism, gearing and all..
They seems to operate smoothly, but again, no personal experiences.

I always learn so much from these exchanges that I thought it might be useful to a wider audience. He has given me permission to publish it, so relax.

Thank you Bob.

Mystery Tyzack? … yeah right!


This is a post that I almost forgot about, but since chatting to the famous Bob’s your Uncle Demers (aka The Valley Woodworker) recently it reminded me of the information he found on this saw. As you might remember, this Tyzack was part of my December 2015 tool finds in the Garden route. I asked for help to get an idea of the saw’s history.


I received the below information from Bob Demers on the 10th of March 2016:

In 1839, 30-year-old sawmaker Henry Tyzack moved from Sheffield to Shoreditch, just outside the City of London. Henry’s father Samuel was a sawmaker, as was his younger brother Joseph and his uncle, Thomas Tyzack. We do not know exactly when Henry started making saws and other tools under his own name, but 1843 is the date used by the successor firms. In 1861 or shortly afterwards, Henry transferred the business (with two employees) to his eldest son, Samuel, who in 1860 had leased a small shop of his own. By 1871 Samuel had five employees. Henry died in 1876 and Samuel died in 1903.
The “& Son” in the name S. Tyzack & Son likely refers to Edgar, born in 1877, although another son, Horace, was also involved in the business. The name changed to S. Tyzack & Sons in 1905, after Edgar Tyzack inherited the business.
Throughout its history, the Tyzack firm resold tools made by others and also sold tools that they made themselves. Their product line primarily consisted of hand tools for the carpentry and cabinetmaking trades. This website’s focus is machinery, and this firm is listed here because they made miter trimmers (which straddle the fuzzy line between tools and machines) and, from 1920 to 1959, metal-turning lathes. These lathes, and some of their miter trimmers and related products, used the “ZYTO” brand name.
The company operated until 1987 when it was finally wound down. Early history of the firm

So your back saw is from BEFORE 1905 (when the name changed to Tyzack & Sons)
and AFTER 1860 when he transferred his business to his eldest son.
So between 1861 and 1905.
6th Jan 1871 a city ordnance renumber No 8 old street to No 345
So your saw was made between 1871-1905

In all respect it is a good saw



Clearly there is no mystery in the antique hand tool world too big for Bob to solve.

Accurate sawing, off the grid – Miller’s Falls Langdon mitre box no. 75


It has been quite a few years now since becoming disillusioned with the DeWalt radial arm saw that used to belong to my father. I used to think that it is the best thing since cream cheese, but realise more and more as time went on how inaccurate  and dangerous the thing is. It takes ages of fiddling around and making copious test cuts to get it to saw square in two different planes. Then you might get two descent cuts and before you know it the blade grabs the stock and the setting is lost again. It also tends to burn the incredibly hard African timber I work with.

So I decided to look for an alternative solution. My research into the topic of mitre saw boxes confirmed that the Langdon ACME no. 75 would be my first choice. Some of the literature on the Old Tool Haven website suggests that “the Langdon Acme miter box represented the zenith of the Langdon Mitre Box Company’s achievements“.

After waiting patiently for the desired mitre box to become available, I finally bought a Langdon ACME from Jim Bode. Kathryn who is my usual contact person at Jim Bode Tools, was so kind as to send the Simonds saw (that came with it) to Mark Harrell at Bad Axe Tool Works for a sharpening. 

Mark had the following to say about the mitre box/saw combination: “NICE score on the Millers Falls No. 75 miter box setup. I have the exact same large miter box and saw here at the shop. The saw’s manufacture happened at some point BEFORE 1928, when Simonds abruptly ceased making hand and backsaws. There’s a bit of a mystery surrounding that, because they were competing quite nicely against Disston. My theory is some sort of dope deal transpired between the two manufacturers. I do know that of all Disston’s competitors (that they couldn’t either drive out of business or buy out), Simonds’ quality and marketing ran toe-to-toe against Disston. In any event, they quite surprisingly quit making hand and back saws in 1928—so, your saw pre-dates that.”


I tried to zoom in on Mark’s dating by looking at the mitre box. From looking at the Old Tool Haven write-ups the saw box was made after 1906 when Millers Falls bought the Langdon Mitre Box Company as mine has the Miller’s Falls brand name on it. Further more it has a 1909 patent date on it, thus after 1909 then. The pictures below show how the plate looked like before the Miller’s Falls takeover and what the mitre box in question looks like.


The following picture from the MF 1939 catalogue show a slightly more evolved mitre box, so mine should be older than that.

MF 1939 catalogue

I then had a look at the saw to see if that can help us to zoom in on the date of manufacture. I already knew it pre-dates 1928 from Mark Harrell’s information. According to the Saw Nuts website this medallion was used between 1922-1926. Thus this setup was probably manufactured during the early to mid 1920’s.


The mitre box finally arrived on the above date.



As a result of making a detour via Bad Axe Tools, the Simonds saw arrived a month later. Mark did an absolutely brilliant job of sharpening this beast, it is lethal.



I noticed that although I took every precaution to set it up perfectly, the saw drifted ever so slightly to the right. Luckily my personal tool historian/magician Bob Demers (The Valley Woodworker) mentioned to me last year that it might well do something like that. I therefore asked him how to fix the problem. This was his advise:

After making sure that the box is mechanically “tuned” to cut 90 degrees and the saw sharpened correctly. Having been done by no less than Harrell, you bet it is,

then comes the fine tuning of the saw set.

Unless the saw sharpener has the box with him, it is impossible for him to know witch way to tweak the saw set.

You see if the saw want to naturally favour one side or the other (Not following a straight line) it is because there is a tad more saw set on the offending side and it is compound by the small mechanical errors introduced by the box mechanisms .

The set being slightly more on that one side the saw is cutting an asymmetrical kerf and want to drift toward that side.

Think of two guys  paddling a canoe. If one guy is paddling a tad stronger on one side, the canoe will drift toward that side.

We are not talking of much of a difference so go easy….

The way to fix that is by GENTLY running a mill file (no handle) with NO pressure or a oil stone (must be flat, and never a waterstone, too soft)  on the side the saw is drifting toward

That action will just abrade the tip of the offending saw tooth set. Go easy, you do not need much to teak it.

Re check the action after each pass, often 1 or 2 pass is all that is needed.

You will probably hear or feel the file when it catch the offending proud saw tooth.

So if that is all, why don’t the saw filer do that themselves?

Because even if the saw was perfectly tuned to go straight, there is still some minutes  mechanical things in the box itself which could force it ever so slightly left or right

What we are doing in effect, is tweaking THAT saw for THAT mitre box

Hence why you must ensure first to eliminate all gross errors in the box mechanism and ensure that the saw is travelling true.

Once that is done, it is simply a matter of tweaking the set of the saw to achieve a true cut.

To test how true the saw is cutting, flip over one cut piece and put it back against the other fresh cut. They should lay flat and straight.

The error you see is TWICE the actual error that way

NEVER force the saw to correct a wandering cut. ALWAYS let the saw cut the way it wants.

As we often says: Get out of the way, let the saw cut. It want to cut straight that way, let it

Once the saw AND the box are adjusted to each other, it is possible that a check with a square will reveal a small error, but the saw will still cut square.

It is adjusted to that box…

At this point it is a wise idea to some how identify THAT saw goes with THAT box… Just saying, especially if you have a “few” 🙂

Once you get it as close as you can get it, just remember that other ultimate weapon at our disposal: A shooting board and a freshly sharpen heavy plane 🙂

Hope this answer your question.

It is faster and easier to tweak it than to write about it 🙂

NEVER used a long mitre saw (23 to 28 in long), free hand outside its box. It will bend

The spine is not strong enough to resist bending forces, it is designed to be restrained by the saw box guides.

Now if that is not a master on this topic then I do not know who is!! Thanks Bob!

So that was exactly what I did and true as Bob (pun intended) it took two light touched with the mill file and it was humming to a perfect 90 degree with every single cut.


I know Patrick Leach often speak of the “tool model”. I mean no offence to Patrick, but I think this is the tool supermodel of the woodworking blogosphere. I might be slightly biased, but what the heck.


As you can see here the cut is sublime, all credit to Mark Harrell.


Holiday tool finds


After my (by now) usual antique shop rounds in the Garden Route area  during December, these are the fruits of my looting.

A no. 131B Yankee ratcheting screwdriver.

I already have two of these so this one will probably become the property of one of my young apprentices, Connor Burmeister-Nel. It has both the Stanley and Yankee brandnames on it and was made in Germany, which means that it was definitely made after 1946 when Stanley bought out North Brothers. It is the first one I see that was made in Germany, so I asked Robert Demers of The Valley Woodworker to investigate what that means in terms of it’s age. (Bob has subsequently published this excellent article on the topic)

The other no.131’s I own were both made in the UK. One of those also sport both brand names and the other has only the Stanley brand name. The latter screwdriver also has a plastic handle which is not nearly as nice to work with as the wooden handles on the other two. What that one has going for it however is that it was bought new by my father-in-law back in 1978. It will therefore become my son Didi’s “Yankee”. I bought the pictured Yankee for US$ 7.41 on todays exchange rate.


A key hole saw

At least that is what I think it is called. It has no makers mark, a very nice brass thingy (once again JNSQ woodworking delivers cutting edge technical terminology)  that holds the blade and a Beech handle. My guess is that it is British in origin. (US$ 10,38)


I bought this spanner for decoration purposes only. It is massive to say the least. It is striking a pose with a shot glass loaded with Jaegermeister. (US$ 2,08 The metal must be worth more than that)


Rabone 3′ two fold boxwood rule

It looks to be pretty much unused. (US$ 11.56)


S. Tyzack & Son back saw

It is in a very good condition and will make a very fine user after some minor rehab. I plan to joint and resharpen. I paid US14,82 and from the looks of it, it must be worth at least US$ 100. If anyone has more intimate knowledge of these saws and their history I would love to hear from them.


Stanley no. 49 bit gauge in original box

It is clearly brand new/unused. They are used a stop gauge on one’s auger bits. (US$ 5,87)


Handmade 6″ dividers (US$ 10,38)


Unused Stanley no. 45 combination plane in wooden box

All the parts are present apart from possibly the screwdriver that came with some of these sets. It is clear from looking at the fence and blades that it has never tasted any wood. I paid US$ 56. Similar sets usually cost between US$250 -300 from Jim Bode.


Cross peen hammer

Unfortunately I did not take a picture of this little hammer before replacing it’s handle and doing some cosmetic/functional reshaping of the head. I furnished it with a Assegaai handle, which was shaped using a drawknife and card scraper. It was wedged using a wooden and a metal wedge. I bought it for US$ 1,48 in a pretty dreadful state. It had a metal pipe for a handle that looked like it was fitted by a backyard butcher.


A no. 130A Stanley Yankee ratcheting screwdriver with three bits

The is the medium sized model in a superb working condition. It was given to me by my cousin (once removed) the Urologist. I am not sure whether there might be some Freudian subliminal meaning to his gesture (coming from a Urologist??), but it was much appreciated. This screwdriver originally belonged to his uncle who died some years ago. I already had one of this particular size, which I will now be passed on to my son. Then I can use this one given it’s history.(US$ 0)


Disston D-8 (26″ 7 tpi) circa 1947-53 (based on the medallion) and made in Canada

This saw was also a present from my cousin. It belonged to the same uncle. I plan to straighten the blade, make a new handle (based on a Disston no. 120 from the 1876 catalogue) and sharpen it for my apprentices. Comparing it to my two pre-1900 Disston no. 12s, it is shocking to see how the saws of this iconic company deteriorated over a 50 year period. The handle is can only be described as inferior in every aspect to the earlier offerings by Disston.

Mark Harrell of Bad Axe advised me not to waste the time and effort, but it will not cost me any dough and you always learn something from a restoration project even if it is that you should not have bothered. He did however say that the quality of the blade should be top notch, but had some concern regarding the amount of rust.


I would appreciate more information on any of these tools, so to all those tool geeks out there, go mental.


Here is some feedback I got from my friend Bob Demers (aka The Valley Woodworker). He is such an expert on this topic that I though everyone could benefit from reading this:

BTW here are some things I noticed in your last post on your loot 🙂

That Disston saw is from the 50s judging by the poor resemblance of a once gracefully shaped handle, sad isn’t …

If you do make a new handle, and I encourage you to do so, pay close attention the holes locations, and the orientation of the existing hand hold on the handle

Because that is what determined this saw hang angle

I would not be too concerned with the blackened appearance of the saw blade. Although I understand why Harrell says you should not bother too much with it (because they are plentiful and better ones can easily be found, around here in NA anyway), as long as there is not tooo much pitting, all is fine.

Yes, normally a shiny plate work to our advantage, since it glide easier and by watching the wood reflection on the blade you can see easily when you are at 90 degrees

BUT, no big deal (Sandvik even made saws with a black Teflon like coating on some of their saws, what is more important in this case is the reduced friction.

That even blackish coating is often a layer of oxidation that prevent further rusting by making a barrier.

I would simply scrape gently the blade surface with razor blades and some sort of penetrating oil like WD40 (very messy uses lots of paper towels or rags)

It should smooth out the blade, remove any rust incrustation and protect the maker etching on the blade.

If you were to sand it, you would probably obliterated quickly.

I would finished the job with a light sanding using a flat solid block (piece of wood, no sponge, cork or other flexy bit, in order to protect the ewtching.

Finished the job with a light wax and buffing application and voila, one slick blade gliding in the wood regardless of blade color 🙂

It would also make a great candidate for practicing saw sharpening and setting.

Your so called keyhole saw is known as a Pad Saw, and you are correct in saying that it looks English, cause it is. Often the only markings to be found are on the blade itself

And yes, it can be used as a keyhole or small compass saw.

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!

Disston back saw (ca1887)


I bought this beautiful saw from Jim Bode Tools in June and organised for them to first send it to Mark Harrell at Bad Axe Tool Works for a proper sharpening.

Mark had the following to say when he received the saw: “It’s a VERY nice 1887 saw from the PHILAD’A era (1887-1896) in impeccable condition. The only thing that needs to be done to it is to retooth the asymmetrical toothline”. 



I received it together with another saw Mark sharpened for me on the above date packaged as illustrated below. I will write a separate post on the mystery saw in future.


OK you can have a sneak preview of the mystery saw to wet your appetite.


Didi got stuck into testing it out before I could even remove the Bad Axe Business card.


I have to say that Mark did a sterling job of sharpening this saw as it cuts exceptionally well. I have no hesitation in recommending Mark to anyone who wants to get a saw sharpened to absolute perfection.

My new Disston also fits my hand like a glove and therefore became my favourite saw within days. It was already used on several tasks while finishing my most recent bench.