All posts by Gerhard Marx

Psychiatrist and Woodworker

Tamboti and Witels marking knives

Marking knives are one of those multifarious paraphernalia that have not made it’s merry way to the distant shores of Namibia. Seeing that it is a fairly vital tool in a proper woodworking workshop, I had to make a plan.

First, I set off to find some reasonable steel for the project. I decided to use the blade of an old Bailey no.4 hand plane of my Dad that I am busy revitalizing. There are some Lie-Nielsen custom replacement blades on it’s way to me as we speak to replace this particular blade. Anyway, so the steel was sorted. Then I had a good ferret around for suitable off-cuts of wood for the handles.

Finally, I decided on some Tamboti (Spirostachys africana) and Witels (Playlophus trifoliatus). I only have two very small pieces of Tamboti that have probably traveled more than 2000 km over 15 odd years with my father and already 1800 km over 13 years with me. Maybe it is time to do something with it. The first two pictures below show the old plane blade on the Witels wood. The copper ring you spot is one of those the plumbers use to join copper pipes. Clearly I need to improvise and use what is available.

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Tamboti-red_MAR5443_IJFR A beautiful Tamboti tree in the wild.

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You will usually find these gargantuan Witels trees in the wettest parts of the forest.

In the next few pictures you can see the small piece of Tamboti. I deliberately chose to cut a blank that contains a bit of sapwood to show off the beautiful colour contrast. These blanks were so small that I had to improvise again in order to fit it on my antediluvian lathe. You can see the plywood wheel with a recessed area accepting the blank that is screwed to a bigger piece of hardwood. Yes it is fiddly to say the least.

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Here you can see the turned Tamboti handle. The sapwood really adds some je ne sais quoi, don’t you think? You can also see the part of the blade allocated to this particular knife. The front part of the handle is turn to be a fraction bigger than the hole through the copper ring, but with absolute end slightly smaller to get it going when tapping it over with the blade in place. A take-home message from turning this blank, is to look for wood that has fairly straight gain throughout. The haphazard gain pattern on the front of this blank looks nice but does compromise it’s strength somewhat.

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Below you can see the Witels blank being shaped on the lathe. This was the first time I have turned Witels and only the second time I have worked with it at all. In hindsight it is probably not the best wood for this application as it is very porous and softer than what I am used to if compare to Assegaai (my go-to wood for tool making). Nonetheless I do not think there are too many people with Tamboti and Witels marking knifes.

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Unfortunately I did not take pictures of how I shaped the the blade or the internal design of how it was fitted to the handle. Therefore I made some crude Sketchup drawings to give you an idea.

You can clearly see the shape of the blade. It has a thin shaft that was inserted into the hole drilled down the middle of the handle. That part of the shaping was done by cutting it roughly to size with a grinder and finished off with hand files. The front of the blade however took ages as I did not want to overheat the steel and lose the temper. Therefore it was done slowly over hours with water stones and wet-and-dry sanding paper. Part of the blade was seated inside a slot cut into the front part of the handle, which clamped down on it when the copper ring was tapped over that section of wood. I also use epoxy to help fix the blade to the hilt (if you pardon the pun). It was inserted down the shaft’s hole, as well as inside the slot. Something that worked very well was the epoxy on the wood that came into contact with the inside of the copper ring reduced the friction significantly while tapping it over.

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Here you can see the final product. The Tamboti knife has a fairly short blade for all the run-of-the-mill work. The Witels knife has a blade almost double the length of the first and also sports a slightly more Brobdingnagian handle.

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My journey 3

In this installment of ‘My journey’ I want to explore the core reasons why I became interested in woodwork. As a psychiatrist I make a living out of having a reasonable understanding of how one’s childhood (to a large degree) shape the person you turn out to be. In my case it is just the same.

Possibly the single most influential factor came about as a result of my parents’ divorce when I was almost 5 years of age. My mother and I subsequently moved from a town infested by Blue Bulls supporters, to the area were the rest of the family on both mother’s and father’s side has dwelled for several centuries. This area is one of the most spectacular parts of Azania, with ancient hardwood rainforests cladding the Outeniqua mountains as it meanders along the southernmost coastline of Africa.

I therefore found myself separated from my father by roughly 1200km of National Party ruled territory. My father, who also grew up in these parts, spent most of his free time plugging away at some woodworking project. We therefore spent most of the precious little time we had together making sawdust, hence probably the positive association with woodworking. In particular I remember how we glued the Yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius) top of the dining room table that we still use on a daily basis, back in 1985. In fact I have done quite a bit of the writing of these posts, while sitting at that very same table.

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Another influence came from spending quite a bit of time in the forests were the wood we used in the shop stood for 500 years or more. You might think I am exaggerating, but these trees generally grow very slow and end up extremely hard and dense. The forest belongs to the ‘Big Two’. The colossal Kalanders (also known as Outeniqua Yellowwood or Baster Geelhout or Podocarpus falcatus), some of which are up to 35 meters tall, has a stem circumference of up to12 meters (containing 30 square meters of wood) and rules it’s kingdom with graceful authority. The ruling powers of the Elephants that used to teem in the forest has weakened due to diminishing numbers. Only a few survive, but the thrill of possibly running into them continues to add mystique to the experience of roaming around the primeval forest.

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If you want to know more about these animals I suggest that you look for the work of Gareth Patterson. He has made an in-depth study of them since 2001 and found evidence to suggest that there are at least 5 different females within the surviving group that moseys around the forest hinterlands. This seems to suggest that there is a good chance that they will not be lost to future generations as some authorities reported in the past.

One of our family fables has it that one of our earliest ancestors in this part of the world hunted these forest gods during the time when they were responsible for many deaths amongst the woodcutters. The story of these woodcutters is also a fascinating one. They were probably some of the toughest people who ever lived.

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As a result of the close historic ties and personal experience of spending time in the forest I feel intimately connected with the wood that comes from it. For that reason I have religiously collected wood from these forests over the last 13 years, most of which was dried naturally. I feel a certain responsibility to produce something special with it out of sheer respect for it’s history and heritage.

This leads me on to my approach in the shop, but we will leave that for next time.

Alternative workbench/assembly table (Chapter three)

In this chapter we will start to look at the design elements of the table/bench top I cobbled together from various sources, which was predominantly driven by my frustration with previous ‘benches’.

The top shelve of the table is low enough to allow easy access during the use of F-style clamps that reach through the tabletop. One can even store a few jigs without it being in the way. The top shelve is fixed with wood screws to the teak sleeper and countersink bolts to the angle iron stretchers. This helps to stabilise the table in a dimension I do not know the name of.

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Next I moved on to prepare the aprons of the top. The aprons were made up by laminating plywood and designed wide enough to enable one to clamp material to the edge of the table. It is also thick enough to allow space for a fairly massive t-channel created with angle iron fixed to Ironwood (Olea capensis subsp. macrocarpa) This t-channel would eventually run along three sides of the tabletop to allow easy clamping to the side of the table with F-style Bessey clamps and the attachment of any future jigs. You can see rabbits cut into the apron plywood in some of the pictures. These were meant to accept a part of the angle iron that forms the mentioned t-channels. It might become a bit easier to understand as we progress to that part of the process. I include a crude Sketchup drawing to give you some idea of what I was aiming for.

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The aprons were then screwed and glued to three sides of the tabletop.

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The fourth side of the top needed a wider apron to allow secure attachment of the quick-release vice, which I decided to place in a unique (and therefore possibly stupid) location. I have since read that Mr Bench (Christopher Schwarz) advises bench builders not to design anything new, as the most useful designs have been established through trial and error over many centuries.

The vise was place in the middle of the end of the table (a design feature I have not yet come across in any book or internet source), with two pipe clamps on either side set up to act as removable end vises. The idea was that I could use these in conjunction with the quick release vise to form a type of twin-screw vise on either side of it. Proper twin-screw vises are as easy to come by around these parts as a spacecraft, hence the substantial improvisation.

Together with the fourth apron I fashioned another bit of laminated plywood to enable the quick-release vise’s base to reach across the heavy angle iron that forms the steel apron of the tabletop. You will see the rabbits cut into this piece creating a very tight custom fit to the angle iron apron. This design feature effectively fixed the quick-release vise to the metal carcass of the table, rather than only hanging on the plywood top. Steel woodscrews pass through the plywood top, then through the angle iron to imbed itself in the mentioned plywood spacer.

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In the pictures below you can follow the process in creating the said pipe-clamp-end-vises. I first drilled (partial) holes in the plywood apron that were meant to accept the pipes of the clamps. I then used these holes to mark the correct location were it needs to passes through the metal apron. Then drilled those holes with the bit pictured.

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Once this was done the bit of the pipe-clamp that slides over the pipe (do not know the correct term for it) was fixed to the inside of the metal apron. This design allows one to easily remove and insert the pipe-clamp, without having to fiddle under the top in order to insert the pipe into the bit I do not know the name of. I apologize for the poor quality of some of these pictures.

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Once all of the above preparation work was done I installed the quick-release vise. You can see that I used heaps of fairly heavy woodscrews and what we call coach bolts for this purpose. The woodworker in the second picture is called Pantu. He is our live-in gardener/builder/soccer coach of my children/receiver of rugby coaching from my son/babysitter etc etc. He likes to learn about woodworker in his free time and therefore does his bit towards our shop development. The third row of screws from the edge passes through the angle iron apron of the table.

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At some point a bit earlier in the process, I recessed an area that would accept a steel ruler on two of the edges of the tabletop. This would have been another job better suited to a router, but I had to do it with my newly acquired Festool TS155. On one of the pictures you can see that I had to make heaps of cuts (each only 2mm wide) to achieve what a router would have accomplished in one or two cuts.

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The actual rulers were installed only much later, after all the table’s edges were finished. We will embark upon that epoch in the next thrilling chapter on the table’s birth.

 

Bench Bitches

In this post we will look at an African solution to a lack of bench bitches.

Due to my predicament of living in self-inflicted woodworking isolation, it is not even an option to wonder into the nearest hardware store to pick up basic pieces of equipment such as bench dogs. Therefore like most other workshop-must-haves I needed to improvise and build my own.

For the same reason there are lots of bits and pieces I need to produce, so I thought up the following plan in order to speed up the production of this work-holding gem. The holes in my ‘bench’ are 20mm (0.79 in) in diameter and 96mm (3.78 in) apart (centre to centre). I took a piece of 20mm (0.79 in) threaded rod and chopped it up into bits of two different lengths. The shorter version being around 70mm and the longer version 150mm. The accompanying nuts were then welded onto the one end of each of these.

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After tidying up the welded areas, I took some leather strips and glued it to the bolts to ensure that it will not dent wood.

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These dogs stand 15mm (0.59 in) proud of the bench surface, which takes care of most situations I regularly come across. In cases where I need higher dogs I use the ones with another nut screwed on as indicated in the pictures below. You can see that it gives me the option to create a dog of exactly the correct height without too much fuss. It is however not as easy as the ones that you simply pull out of the bench top to the desired height, but this was not an option for me as my ‘bench top’ is only 20mm (0.79 in) thick. The thin top does cause the higher dog-setups to be somewhat floppy, but so far I do not tend to need these very often.

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One added benefit of my dog design is that I can screw a spare nut into the threaded rod that protrudes underneath the bench in order to stabilise the longer dog setups.

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If you are curious you can read all about my Alternative workbench/assembly table in a series of post with this title.

For stock thinner than about 18mm (0.71 in) I use a wide plane stop made out of 6mm plywood. I see Christopher Schwarz calls these devices ‘Redneck jigs’. I wonder what he would call my bench dogs then. It is probably better not to find out.

Finally, I made a small shelve below the top with 22mm (0.87 in) holes to accept the set of bitches for easy access.

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Below you can see some pictures of the bitches at work.

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Alternative workbench/assembly table (Chapter two)

Finally after an anamnesis of note, we will proceed with the task of documenting the process of building an interim work surface with some proper work holding options. As stated in chapter one, most of the design features came from the Festool MFT table, but also included a smattering of random internet-generated ideas.

Due to my lack of tools to mill and laminate fairly large chucks of wood at the time I decided to get a steel structure made by a friend. In the pictures below you can see my rough hand drawn sketches to the welder. I apologise for the coloured lines running through the sketches, it must be some problem with my scanner. You will also see some gibberish mixed with english in my handwriting. This is Afrikaans, which is my first language. You have probably picked up that english is my second language.

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This became the carcass of the table to which I added all the bits over a ten month period. The steel frame was designed with 20mm threaded rod at the bottom of each leg in order to adjust the height of the table. The idea was that in this way I can get it on exactly the same level as my table saw (which I still did not have at this stage and therefore unsure about exact height) in order to use the assembly table as an extension table with the table saw.

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In the above photo you can see what I mean with the height adjustability. While the steel base was being built, I started the process of drilling the ‘dog holes’ in the plywood top. The problem I faced was that I did not have a functional router at the time and therefore had to use a handheld drill. In order to do a semi-descent job I decided to manufacture a guide jig for this purpose. I took a 2 meter piece of heavy angle iron (5mm thick) and drilled holes of 20mm diameter spaced 96mm (centre to centre) apart. This was stolen directly from the Festool MFT version as I thought there must be a fairly good reason why they decided on these measurements.

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The idea of this jig was to get the holes lined up as close to perfect as possible given the method. It worked quite well in terms of getting it lined up square and straight. The weakness of my approach came as a result of using a handheld drill rather than a router. Using a handheld drill makes it very difficult to drill a hole that is exactly 90 degrees to the work surface in all directions. The dog holes of my table are therefore slightly off 90 degrees in a pretty random fashion. This leads to dogs that sit in the same way, but so far it has not really caused any hiccups from a functional point of view apart from reminding my obsessive compulsive daemons that it is imperfect. As this will eventually become a dedicated assembly table, the holes will be used primarily to accept F-style clamps through the top, in which case the slight error in alignment would have no effect. A router would have done a better job non the less. In the pictures below you can see the alignment of the holes and it being used to accept F-style clamps and my own version of bench dogs. I will write a post at some point in time about these dogs.

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The next step in this riveting ordeal was to create a heavy sleeper made up of laminate strips of Rhodesian Teak. The proposed purpose of this sleeper is to stabilize the metal carcass/frame in it’s length, especially for tasks such as hand planing. I bought some Rhodesian Teak boards that were harvested in Zambia. Apparently the harvesting of this wood has been stopped completely since I bought these boards about 18 months ago. In the last picture my son Didier pose with a hunting top and water boots in a town with an annual rainfall of 360 millimeters (14 in)!!!!

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In the next few photos you can see how the sleeper found it’s resting place between the two shelves underneath the table. The gap you see in the bottom shelve is meant to get rid of sawdust easily as the angle iron sides stands proud of it’s surface. You will also notice the colour difference of these two boards. I used scrap bits of chipboard that was recycled from the crates my father built to safely transport all the workshop equipment from George (RSA) to Windhoek (a journey of 1800km or 1118 miles).

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I think this will conclude chapter two. In the next chapter we will look at the cumbersome process involved in adding all the paraphernalia to the top of this table.

Alternative workbench/assembly table (chapter one)

I decided to build an assembly table that doubles up as a workbench as a first option. The plan is to extend the workshop at some point in future, at which time I will build the proper bench and have the benefit of having two dedicated areas for each task. For now I have to live with something that can do most of what a good bench can do (but not quite) and all that can be expected of an assembly table. At the moment I am thinking that my dream bench will probably be a variation of the so called Holtzapffel design. I am slowly working through the two books by Christopher Schwartz on the topic.

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The main reason I decided to go for the assembly table setup first was that I thought I could get more out of it as an all-round working surface. This is obviously open to debate and as these things go, I have learnt about the shortcomings of my setup only since using it. I will get back to that later on in this particular novel.

As this was my first project in my current shop after a 3 year hiatus away from any shop work, I thought it would be better to do something less involved before building my dream bench. This way I will have a surface to work on and get an opportunity to first hone my skills a bit. It also provides time in the shop to find out what type of bench would work best for me. I also had a serious lack of tools at that point in time, as everything I collected over the past years (in Kiwiland) were stolen between New Zealand and Namibia when we moved here.

The assembly table I designed included heaps of ideas from past frustrations with not having a proper bench and ideas found on the internet. However the bulk of the design came from the Festool MFT worktables.

So let’s go back to first explore where this so called experience/frustration with inadequate benches comes from. The first attempt at setting up a shop of my own was back in 2000 in the garage of our first house. This was in my home town of George on the south coast of South Africa. The bench I used was one that my father built many years ago. It has a steel carcass, cladded with wood. As my father used to be mainly a power tool woodworker it served him well. It served me well in those early years too, but later on while living in New Zealand I was force to become more hand tool orientated due to the cost of having to set up a new shop from scratch as I did not take any tools along. The bench is not ideal for hand tool work due to it’s limited work holding options. It reminds me of another reason I went for the assembly table setup as a first step and that is that I still have the green bench when I need to whack the daylights out of a piece of wood. Please note that this photo was taken while the shop was dormant during the 8 years we lived in New Zealand and only acted as a wood storage facility.

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Below you see it in it’s new home in Windhoek.

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In the pictures below you can get an idea of the frustrations I faced in the small single garage where I tried to do some basic work in New Zealand. The bench is a fire door on a hinge and two legs that can be removed quickly to enable the door to swivel down when the car wants to get back in it’s little house. The same goes for the Mitre saw which swiveled up during the vehicle’s sleeping hours. You can clearly see how this so called bench also lacked work holding abilities. This might be one reason why my current working platform has work holding options coming out of it’s ears.

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In my current shop I started off working on a piece of plywood on top of collapsable sawhorses that I built in 2000. This is obviously an frustration in itself. The sawhorses were even more keen than my dogs to take a walk (due to their collapsable nature) when ever pressure were applied in a horizontal direction.

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With all of that done you should have a good idea of what I have been through with ‘benches’ that might influence the design of the next working surface.

In our next thrilling chapter, we can then get on to the building of the actual bench and I am pretty sure you are going to have several sleepless nights waiting in ecstatic anticipation for it.

Mallet Mania

May 2013

I thought I should start with something easy as far as documenting my progress in the shop. These hand-tool-building posts are therefore not in chronological order.
It was a good 18 months into my workshop-development-activities when I got round to building some mallets. I started with two made on the lathe that seems to be recommended from carving purposes. I actually find that they are very handy for general chisel work too.

First, I found a few bits of scrap Assegaai (Curtisia dentata) and so called Rhodesian Teak. Assegaai is my favourite wood for making tools as it is known for it’s elasticity and tends to be very hard too. The Zulu’s obviously had good reason for preferring this wood for their assegais. It was also used extensively for wagon building (in particular for the spokes of the wheels) in the Old Cape Colony. In the pictures below you can see some pictures of the Assegaai tree, leaves and the traditional weapon it’s name is derived from.

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Rhodesian Teak (Baikiaea plurijuga) has undergone a name change to Zambian Teak, which is probably more politically correct. The bits of teak I used came from some left over from another project to do with my workbench/assembly table, which we will cover in another post. By the way, this wood actually originates from Zambia, despite the fact that you find the tree in several other countries such as Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana to name a few.

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In the above pictures you can see the scrap pieces I used, with the Cecil John Teak (CJT) closest and Assegaai furthest.

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You can see the lamination process which is the curse that I have to live with as 95% of the wood in my possession were cut into boards varying between 25-30mm (around the 1 inch mark). Therefore, I need to laminate in order to generate stock thicker than that.

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My lathe is old and a bit dodgy so I tend to do my best to shape the blanks before loading the cannon. In this case I used the bandsaw.

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Here you can see the Assegaai mallet already turned next to the CJT blank. The light coloured spots you see on the Assegaai mallet is caused by a fungus, but does not affect the wood’s strength at all (apart from inflicting the colour change) in this case. I therefore prefer to use Assegaai with these spots for my tools, where one is less concerned with aesthetics.

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The above pictures show the same Assegaai mallet after a treatment with Ballistol oil. I use Ballistol on all my tools. In the case of metal tools the plan is to prevent corrosion, as opposed to wooden tools where the aim is to limit moisture movement. Luckily I find myself in a very dry climate anyway where we do not see any clouds between May and October. Yes, that means no rain either and quite low levels of humidity. By the way this Ballistol stuff is really top class in my opinion. It smells nice and has been used by just about every adventurer, hunter, bush doctor, and gun nut south (by way of expression of course, as it was probably used even more to the immediate north of the mentioned desert) of the Sahara.

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Here both mallets are finished and you can see that I made some minor adjustments to the handle of the CJT mallet. The Assegaai mallet weighs 500 grams (1.1lb) and the CJT version weighs 430 grams (0.95 lb), which might sound like an insignificant difference. In actual fact I find these mallets quite different in that the CJT mallet is significantly smaller (and therefore quite a bit more manoeuvrable), but does not lose that much in weight.

(Added 11/11/2013) – This weekend I learned a new trick. The short piece of copper pipe picture below (which I picked up for free from a antique dealer) have me the idea to line the holes I drill in tool handles with copper. The idea is to drill a hole of the same diameter as the outside of the copper pipe, apply some epoxy, tap the pipe in, tidy it up, and Bob’s your Uncle.

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Now I have the option of hanging the mallet.

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Fine, so let’s move on to mallets of the alternative design. So far I have built two, again with an aim to produce mallets of different weights and size.

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For both of these I decided to use a combination of Hardepeer (Olinia ventosa) (deep yellow in colour) and Stinkhout (Ocotea bullata) (dark brown) in order to take advantage of the beautiful colour contrast. Yes I know that is contrary to what I said earlier. I must admit that I am a sitting duck for aesthetically pleasing tools.

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For the bigger mallet I used hand tools to cut the mortise for the handle, before gluing the Hardepeer inner part. Note the flaring nature of the mortise.

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In order to add some considerable heft to this mallet, I created a flat mortise (not sure if this is the correct term) to accept a piece of steel. The piece of steel fitted very tightly into the mortise and was fixed with a screw as well as being glued in with epoxy.

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Then I glued the two Stinkhout pieces to the outsides of the Hardepeer inner.

The handle was made up of two pieces of Witpeer (Apodytes dimidiata) laminated together.

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Then the shaping process started together with six Witpeer dowels inserted from side to side through the laminated parts. Two of these dowels also passed through the steel weights. This was probably not necessary, but (you’ve guest it) were added for aesthetic reasons and I did want to ensure that the steel weights never starts rattling inside while using the mallet. Maybe others have some experience with this? Let me know whether it might add value or simply a wast of time.

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The handle was shaped using a band saw and Lie-Nielsen carcass saw to cut out the rough blank and from then on only files. It was then glued into place using two Stinkhout wedges to expand it into the flaring mortise and left proud by ½ an inch, which was trimmed after a few days.

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The head of the smaller mallet was made up of the same species of wood, but were the lucky winner of an Assegaai handle. It does not contain any steel and weighs in at 350 grams (0.77 lb), as apposed to the Godfather of mallets at a whopping 1300 grams (2.87 lb).

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The same method of attaching the handle was used, again for strength in the first place yet adding a touch of je ne sais quoi as well.

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Finally, I glued a piece of leather to one face of each mallet and finished it off with a coat of (you’ve guessed it) Ballistol. The leather that was used came from the skin of a Red Dear I shot on the South Island of New Zealand (Fiordland) while living there between 2002 and 2009.

9/12/2013 – This weekend I finished a this beautiful mallet which will become my main mortising mallet with my new Lie-Nielsen bevel-edge chisels set, which is set to arrive early in the new year. It has an Ysterhout head and a Boekenhout handle. The Ysterhout is ridiculously hard and sinks in water. It took em ages to created the mortise for the handle and almost loss several chisels in trying to. I used sealskin on the on face. It is as tough as nails (if you excuse the pun). As you can see it weighs in at 780 gram.

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A week or so ago I added a number of layers of leather to the leather side of these two mallets. The idea being that it would make them saver when tapping joinery together in order not to dent the work.

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My journey 2

 

As you probably saw, I wrote ‘My journey 1’ over the Easter Weekend while watching school rugby in Joburg. This is the first time since then that I have had a chance to continue my blog-journey.

I know this is meant to be a woodworking blog, but as it is mainly for my own purpose, I have to elaborate on where I am currently and how it came about. While writing this post I am sitting on the shores of the might Okavango river, listening to the tranquil sounds of a light breeze drifting threw the reeds and a abundance of birds trying to out do each other in one continuous choir competition. It is even better than it sounds, but it took a bit of effort and good old fashioned African ingenuity to get here. This idyllic spot is situated (during this time of year) on an island surrounded on the one side by the deep Tigerfish infested waters of the Okavango river and on the other by a floodplain, which plays home to bad tempered Hippos and hungry crocodiles.

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We got stuck just meters away from the great river, only to find, once we managed to get unstuck and launched the boat, that the engine of this particular vessel did not function to the level needed in order to negotiate the dangers of the mentioned river, Hippos and crocodiles. Eeeeeesh, diess ones is broken!!!

So let us continue with the woodworking. I am a Psychiatrist by profession and love my day job, but as day jobs go, you end up doing too much of it, which tends to take some of the fun out of it. As explained earlier, I always wanted to establish a proper workshop to indulge in some creative work with wood.

Since the end of 2011 I have started to do just that. We bought a fairly rundown house in Windhoek, the Capital of Namibia. Despite being rundown, it had a couple of things going for it. It has a massive garden that is overpopulated by large trees for the children and an extra long double garage with a high sealing for me. Look, the wife chose the house so I am pretty sure she is happy with it to. Thought I should add that before I am accused of being a male chauvinistic pig.

The process of setting up my shop is what I hope to capture on this site. It has progressed quite slowly, because of several reasons. It therefore pleased me when I recently heard Chris Schwartz use an Eastern saying that goes something like: “do not fear slow, only fear stop”. The reasons for the slow progress have to do with a lack of time (like I am sure most hobbyists find), and the predicament of being geographically challenged.

Yes, living in Namibia on the Deep Dark African Continent creates some major challenges. I outlined the particular challenges in an article I recently wrote for the Modern Woodworkers Association’s newsletter. Whether it will get published I do not know, but I will put it on this site in some or other shape or form in the near future.

The idea of this site is to document the process for myself and the odd family member or friend who wants to check out how I am getting on from afar. I still do not know much about how to make the site look good and would rather do work in the shop than find out so it might take a while before it starts looking like something.

What I want to concentrate on in the mean time is to document the various small projects that I have been able to complete so far, so be on the lookout for posts on a leg vise, sliding deadman, mallets, marking knives, bench dogs, and various jigs.

My journey 1

I always wanted to do woodwork on a regular basis, but it simply did not look like a serious option in order to earn a decent living. The culture I grew up with (working class white people in the heyday of Apartheid in what is now known as the Old South Africa) suggested that only a University degree could enable you to do that. Over the years I realised that this is complete bs, but at the time I had to make decisions on a future career there were basically three options as I saw it (or maybe in hindsight, as my family and local community saw it): medicine, law and theology.

At least this made it an easy choice, so medicine it was. Soon after I made this decision it became apparent that it would almost immediately take me away from woodworking, even sooner than expected. By the age of 15 I had to drop woodworking as a school subject, because one could only take it at what they called Standard Grade, which did not earn one enough bonus points to even hope to get into Medical School. Therefore History replaced woodworking, together with the usual academic subjects such as Maths, Biology, and Science. That was way back in 1988.

Since then, woodworking became something I saw as a pursuit for “one day when I am all grown-up”. According to this life philosophy, I only grew up in 2010 (at the age of 39), which was the year when I started to setup a workshop in the double garage of our newly bought house in Windhoek, Namibia.

In future posts I will fill in the gaps and explain the idea behind this blog site. At present I am trying to figure out how this blog-site works, so hopefully it will become more attractive as I learn more tricks.