This is Frank Bartlett’s first post on Je ne sais quoi Woodworking. I hope it is the first of many as he is clearly a very talented woodworker and hand tool encyclopedia. I realise that I have an advantage in making that assessment as I have had the privilege to see some of the other projects he has done. Of course he gave me grief regarding the compliments, but I decided to leave it in the text as it is my honest assessment. So for now just trust me, you will come to enjoy his contribution to this site. Both Frank and I want to encourage other (especially African) woodworkers to become involved in this way. Feel free to contact me if you consider writing up some of your projects.
So without further ado, over to Frank Bartlett from the Cape of Storms:
Looking for an old mitre box had almost been an obsession of mine, for some time now (refer to Gerhard’s blog entry on his Langdon). But being in Africa, that is like looking for a needle in a haystack (suppose that is why Gerhard was (willingly) “forced” to turn to Jim Bode for his beautiful Langdon). I once saw a Stanley advertised up in the Free State, but it was one of those: “I know what its worth, make an offer….” ads, which is a pet hate of mine and which I’m not very good at. Needless to say, the seller didn’t bother to return my urgent emails after my offer! Anyway, that one went down the tubes although I still think my offer was fair given the condition.
So, after Gerhard’s notice that there may be one available on a 160km round trip, I had trouble sleeping that night, after reading through Bob Demers’ (The Valley Woodworker) prep of his box…. Anyway, eventually found the shop and there she was, at the entrance! Without a price…. Now, that could mean a few things, one of which of course, its not for sale. Which it turned out to be. After munchos small talk, the lady indicated she was keeping it as a rarity and furthermore, her son had told her on a previous occasion that he would like to have it. She also added that it “was very expensive anyway”. Turned out to be R900. For its condition I thought “eisch”, but presented the money (in small notes, and lots of them). The eyes lit up but nah, first wanted to contact her son to get his opinion. Fortunately for me, being in Africa, her son was somewhere out of cell phone range.
Paid up, grabbed and went for it. Must have been quite a sight walking with this (heavy) old thing merrily the odd six blocks (REALLY been looking for this shop…) because I turned not just a few heads. The photo below was taken in the antiques shop.
Back at home I was able to scrutinise it thoroughly. Appears to be circa 1912-1916 model (because the length stop was only patented in 1916). Although there were a few parts missing, it was still surprisingly complete (most importantly missing the Disston medallion, trip clamp, one stock guide, one knurled tie bar screw and saw guide stop screw). Now these screws have really weird threads. So, not really critical components that I can get in due course.
Once it was stripped and it was off to the wire wheel. I recently changed from a 1000rpm 5inch wheel to this 8 incher at 3500rpm on this 1930’s B&D. Whew! My fingers took quite a beating, not wanting to use gloves or pliers or vice grips on tiny (weird) threads… Unnerving experience, but tried to take as much care as I could (except for holding these things with my fingers)!
On larger surface areas I prefer to use wire wool and turps and then clean it afterwards with White Spirit. The screws however, went the wire wheel way and was left bright and shining. To get an artificial patina back, I applied Birchwood Casey Gun Blue paste on the wire wheeled parts. Worked wonders. Afterwards the bottle of Boeshield T-9 was utilised because living in an area (where two oceans meet, nonetheless), rust is never far away. So, I tend to use this on tools or parts that I don’t get to oil regularly. For daily use on saw plates or planes etc, before storing them, I have a can of Jojoba oil handy.
Then to the sacrificial frame board. I chose Cape Yellow wood (Podocarpus latifolius or Geelhout) because its soft. Cape Yellow wood is probably the second most famous timber from South Africa (second only to Stinkhout or Ocotea bullata or Black Stinkwood). I first flattened the board and then jointed it. The last picture in the below set is a Podocarpus latifolius growing on the slopes of Table Mountain.
Time then for sawing and pairing the rabbets for the stock guides (what is that Cape Boxwood handled Witherby doing so close to the edge, I’m asking myself now…)
Drilling and forming the cutouts
And there you go!
Just some last thoughts on the 11ppi Disston saw. Apologies for not posting pics on the restoration, was just too exiting! Handle is flawless, especially after I doused it with Kramers Antique Improver. Teeth still cuts good but I still want to do the sharpening deed myself, just because..! Very little etch left unfortunately, no matter how careful I removed the rust (with turps, 400grit wet and dry, wrapped around a pad). There was just nothing left (not even the gun blueing/sandpaper trick worked). Very interesting, I saw on an old catalog that the box comes with a 26×4 inch saw, yet mine measures 24,5inches along the teeth. If you extrapolate the cutaway, you measure 26inches and 4 deep. I guess thats how they define the “26×4” on the brass plate.
Just one word of advice, this is a biggy and needs storing space, although it is difficult to store when you just want to look at it all day.
Cape Town greetings!