Stealthy Lions

PEXTO Samson and a more robust design than the North Brothers Yankee. If you need a beefy brace fora big job there’s none better. They tend to be a bit on the pricy side since they are always in demand and not very common.

Here’s an interesting bit of trivia. Millers Falls made braces for Craftsman (I belive) in the 1940s-50s. These were high-quality braces but lacked the exotic wood pad and handle, but otherwise identical in every way to the mainline Millers Falls tools. You can tell the Millers Falls Craftsman tools by the “BB” maker code in small font near the Craftsman logo. I’ve seen a couple of different models- one of these is unmistakably a Millers Falls Lion in branded for Craftsman.

I’ll admit I’ve become a bit of a brace geek. I’m a big fan of the Millers Falls Lion brace. It’s a heavy-duty brace every bit as well-made as the PEXTO Samson and a more robust design than the North Brothers Yankee. If you need a beefy brace fora big job there’s none better. They tend to be a bit on the pricy side since they are always in demand and not very common.

Here’s an interesting bit of trivia. Millers Falls made braces for Craftsman (I believe) in the 1940s-50s. These were high-quality braces virtually identical in every way to the mainline Millers Falls tools but lacking the cocobolo handle and pad. You can tell the Millers Falls Craftsman tools by the “BB” maker code in small font near the Craftsman logo. I’ve seen a couple of different models- one of these is unmistakably a Millers Falls Lion branded for Craftsman.

Take a look at these two and see if you can pick out the Millers Falls Lion from the Craftsman.

Lion Braces
Lion Braces (click for larger)
Lion Chucks
Lion Chucks (click for larger)

OK, so the stained pad and handle give it away- the top is the Craftsman, the bottom the Millers Falls no. 772 made ca. 1925.. Other than the wood, both are identical in every way.

So keep an eye out and an open mind toward those Craftsman braces. You might find a Lion in disguise.

Mortise Chisel Handles

I’m Following up on a recent Twitter discussion (you can follow me @HKToolCo ) on making handles for traditional British “pigsticker” mortise chisels. I promised I would dissect one to see how the handles were attached. Granted, this is just one example, but I think it’s good evidence.

Note: I added some more information today including shots of a some other mortise chisels.  There are also  some interesting comments submitted by readers below. Feel free to discuss in the comments section..

I’m Following up on a recent Twitter discussion (you can follow me @HKToolCo ) on making handles for traditional British “pigsticker” mortise chisels. I promised I would dissect one to see how the handles were attached. Granted, this is just one example, but I think it’s good evidence.

Here is the subject: a Marples 3/8in pigsticker with a broken handle.

Broken Mortise Chisel Handle
Broken Mortise Chisel Handle (click for larger)

The handle broke along the grain due to an off-center blow from  a mallet. Judging by the mushrooming on the end of the handle it was used to being hit very hard. This handle didn’t have perfectly straight grain- it had some run-out along one edge. If you are making mortise chisel handle make sure to use riven stock and watch the grain!

Removing half the handle and leaving the bit in situ we see this:

Chisel Handle Cross-Section
Chisel Handle Cross-Section (click for larger)

(lots more on the next page)

Continue reading “Mortise Chisel Handles”

A Note on Molding Planes With the Owner’s Mark EEL.

Hello everyone. I posted this note over on Google+ a few weeks ago. I thought I would repost it here for all of you who aren’t on G+. There have been a number of molding planes that have come up for sale lately with the owner’s mark EEL at the heel. I thought I’d let you in on what I know about these planes.

Hello everyone. I posted this note over on Google+ a few weeks ago. I thought I would repost it here for all of you who aren’t on G+. There have been a number of molding planes that have come up for sale lately with the owner’s mark EEL at the heel. I thought I’d let you in on what I know about these planes.

The EEL mark stands for Eugene (Gene) E. Langdon. Mr. Langdon was a famous furniture maker from Pennsylvania specializing in 18th century furniture. Mr. Landgon passed away in 2011 and the contents of his shop were consigned to auction.  He had an enormous collection of molding planes and other hand tools, all in excellent condition. Some of his molding planes like the ones shown below one, tuned and ready to use. All of his molding planes have the “EEL” stamp on the heel.  A number of them have shown up on eBay and on other tool dealer’s for sale lists.  I snap them up whenever I find them (and can afford them) because they are almost always top-notch and fantastic users. Mr. Langdon kept many of his molding planes honed, set, and ready to work. He was featured in Fine Woodworking several times and his shop was featured in Fine Woodworking No.174, the 2004/2005 tools and shops issue. If you have access to this issue you can see the racks and racks of molding planes he owned and used.

Gene Langdon's Owner Mark
Gene Langdon's Owner Mark
Here is a FWW short biography:

This is a silly game, but it has a picture of his shop here:

Finally, there is a book available that details Gene’s work and life. The preview on this site will give you some idea of the quality of his work and give you a quick glimpse of his shop.

That’s it for now. Look for more Old Tools tomorrow- assuming all goes as planned!

Josh

The “Diamond” Foot-Power Mortiser

I brought home a fun new shop tool this summer- a foot-powered “Diamond” mortiser by the Seneca Tool Mfg. Co. It’s a massive piece of cast iron and steel that has survived the past 110 years or so intact and complete and still works great! Read on for the story and lots of pictures. Thanks for reading!

I added a new tool to my shop the summer. I don’t buy much for myself these days. I have my small working set of tools that I use and my collection of Harvey Peace saws, some of which I use, others are purely wall-hangers. I don’t “need” a lot in terms of tools at this point. In fact, I have to be very careful about becoming too attached to tools I find because it’s easy for me to convince myself to keep something. There’s a fine line between collecting and hoarding. I never want to be considered a hoarder.

However, every once in a while I come across something that’s so unusual and so interesting that I just can’t pass it up. It’s the kind of thing that makes you say “wow” and get that tingle of excitement that you might have a chance of owning it. This is the type of tool that you only have one chance at and will probably never see again. I’ve learned over the years that when something like this comes up you jump at it and so what you can to get it. I still regret my decision seven or eight years ago to pass on a dead mint Harvey Peace P-70 handsaw because it was just a little too much. At the time I didn’t realize how rare that saw was, never mind in that condition. I’ll never have a chance at that saw again. So, whenever possible I try to go for those one of a kind tools.

This brings me back a few months to the end of July. I was up in Avoca, NY at MJD’s three day old tool extravaganza up at his HQ in the Finger Lake region of upstate New York. This event featured a 3,000+ lot auction spread out over three days. Many of these lots had dozens and dozens of items, 10 Stanley planes, 30 molding planes, 100 saws. This auction doesn’t have a lot of his high-end stuff, it’s a lot of “TLC needed tools” and frankly some real junk. It’s good junk though, and there are always some real diamonds in the rough. There were more old tools than one person could possibly look at over the course of three days, never mind inspect. While perusing the second day’s auction lots, I came across a machine in the “big items” tent that made me say “wow”. It was a “Diamond” foot-powered mortising machine made by the Seneca Falls Mfg. Co in the late 1800s. The machine was in great shape considering that it was well over 120 years old. All of the cast iron work was complete with no cracks. The machine moved perfectly and the adjusters were all present and accounted for. It had most of its original paint. Even the set of five original bits were there. It was just plain cool. I really wanted it for my shop.

I went back to my hotel that night and did some research. I found a few examples on the Internet, most of which were in pretty poor shape. I did some poking around on the Vintage Machinery website and found some great information (Vintage Machinery, formerly OWWM, is a fantastic site if you haven’t’ found it already.) including some original advertisements and catalogs. I learned that the Diamond mortiser was originally sold for $25 in 1890. This is close to $600 in 2011 dollars according to the inflation calculator. It featured all iron and steel construction and weighed in at 145lbs. The spring-powered “chisel reverser” can be easily adjusted for tension. It has screw-operated hold-downs on the table to keep the work flat to the bed. The entire bed can be moved up and down by loosening  a hand screw and sliding it along a giant dovetailed way. Coolest of all, the table could be rotated 45 degrees in either direction to allow it to work at almost any angle.  It came standard with three bits. Additional bits in sizes from 1/4 to 1in. were offered at additional cost. An optional tenon cutter was also offered for this machine as well as a “blind slat” mortising tool for making blinds. From what I found in the catalog, the machine was complete and in excellent condition. I decided to go for it.

Original Advertisement for the Diamond Mortiser
Original Advertisement for the Diamond Mortiser

The next day I inspected it again and still found no flaws. It wouldn’t come up for sale for a long time- there were 1,250 lots to be sold that day, a good six or seven hours of auction. As I sat there, I tried to figure out ways to justify the cost. The auction estimate was $750-$1,500 but large things like this tend to slip through the cracks at auctions. The absentee bidders can’t afford to bid high and pay shipping on top of the cost, and the floor bidders may not have much interest in it. Still, you never know what’s going to happen in an auction.I figured I could sell a few things out of my collection to raise some funds, and if it really worked as advertised I’d sell my hollow-chisel mortising machine which hasn’t done much but gather dust these past few years.

Late in the afternoon the lot came up for sale. It opened  with the high absentee bidder at about $300. I jumped in and ran the absentee bidder out at a surprisingly low number. The auctioneer then turned to the floor looking for bids and found no other interest. Why is it that when you have the high bid on something you _really_ want the auctioneer seems to slow down and take 5 minutes to search for a new bidder before hammering it down? In reality, the bidding took all of 20 seconds for this lot to sell and I wound up winning it for what I think is a very reasonable price, slightly less than those 25 1890 dollars would be worth today taking inflation into consideration. Another way to look at it- it cost about half of the going rate for a Stanley No.1  in good shape and I’ve seen probably a hundred of those over the years. I don’t think I’ll ever see another one of these. There are lots of ways to self-justify new acquisitions, trust me.

After the auction I conscripted two of MJD’s younger, larger auction helpers to assist me with loading it in my truck. It’s only 145 pounds, but it’s all awkward angles and moving parts, and there is no good way to lay it down without putting lots of weight on one fragile part or another. After a few minutes of careful loading, followed by a healthy and well-earned tip, I had it loaded to my satisfaction, propped on top of layers of Styrofoam and cardboard. I covered it with a tarp and hoped for no rain or major potholes on the way home. It arrived home safe some seven hours later. I convinced my wife to help me unload it and we managed to get it into my shop without any damage to the machine or our marriage.

The Diamond Mortiser in its New Home
The Diamond Mortiser in its New Home
Close-Up of the Fence, table, and Hold-Downs
Close-Up of the Fence, table, and Hold-Downs
Showing the Adjustable Chisel Reverser, Embossed Frame, and Sliding Height Adjustment
Showing the Adjustable Chisel Reverser, Embossed Frame, and Sliding Height Adjustment
At top- the Chisel Reverser and Drive Shaft with Morse Taper Chuck.
At top- the Chisel Reverser and Drive Shaft with Morse Taper Chuck.
Massive Foot Pedal and Cast Iron Legs
Massive Foot Pedal and Cast Iron Legs
The Bed Tilts 45 Degrees or More In Each Direction
The Bed Tilts 45 Degrees or More In Each Direction
Four of the five Original Bits That It Came With.
Four of the five Original Bits That It Came With.

I’ve had the machine in my shop for almost two months now and I’ve played around with it quite a bit. I can’t resist showing it to everyone who walks through. It’s certainly a conversation piece- hard to miss and everyone asks about it. So, how does it work? It actually works very well. The technique is just like chopping a mortise by hand with a mortise chisel except that it’s much faster. You start at one end of the mortise and work your way down, then reverse the bit and sneak-up on the far side of the mortise. With the bits freshly sharpened it makes short work of smaller mortises in most hard and softwoods. Wider, deeper mortises require a few passes which is to be expected. The major benefit for me is that the mortises are always square and plumb. The mortise bottoms need some clean-up work afterwards, but the vast majority of the work is done by the machine and much faster than I can do by hand. In fact, I’m pretty sure it does a better job than my Delta benchtop hollow chisel mortiser, but I may be a bit prejudiced. It’s a hell of a leg work-out as well.

The Machine in use cutting a 3/8in. Mortise in Cherry
The Machine in use cutting a 3/8in. Mortise in Cherry

I’ve found a bunch of fun stuff the past few months. I hope to have more time to share some of them with you. Keep an eye out for more tools coming up later this week. As always, thanks for looking.

-Josh

A New Auction Find

I usually attend auctions to find good tools to restore and resell. Once in a while I find a tool  I just have to keep. Besides saws, I also have a “thing” for crisp molding planes, especially British planes. When I found this plane at a local auction I knew right away it was a keeper.

J. Buck Molding Plane
J. Buck Molding Plane

This is a J. Buck, London quirk ogee in a really uncommon small 3/8 in. size. Buck made some of the highest quality molding planes in my opinion. The overall execution and attention to detail on this plane is amazing. It’s also as crisp as the day it was made. Aside for the MAX OTT owner’s mark there is barely a scratch on it. It was clearly used very little, if at all.

Continue reading “A New Auction Find”

This One is a Keeper!

I was sorting through my stash of molding planes, looking to pick out a few nice ones to put up for sale. I came across a nice deep but narrow roman ogee by A. Mathieson and Son. Mathieson was a prolific maker, and one of my favorites. Their planes are usually of very high quality and make excellent users. The plane I picked out was used, but well kept. A bit grungy, probably from tallow used to lubricate the sole. I could make out the marks where the former owner(s) hand rested in use. I like to find tools in this state- well used, but with visible signs of the former owner.

Mathieson Roman Ogee
Plane Profile

I thought it was a really nice looking plane, but I have a similar roman ogee. I hemmed and hawed but eventually put it in the “sell” pile. It was then that I noticed the owner’s mark, not at the heel or toe, but stamped in the side of the plane. “J. CLARK” Well, that clinched it! It’s not often you find your name stamped on a 100 year old molding plane!  I’ve found planes with my last name stamped on them, and I have a couple of  “W. CLARK” planes, but none like this.

Continue reading “This One is a Keeper!”

Interesting Tool: Rosewood and Brass Bevel/Square

Here’s an interesting tool I found at a recent auction:

Rosewood and Brass Bevel Square

This is a T-Square that serves two purposes.  It has an eighteen inch blade with a Brazilian rosewood and brass body. It functions as a normal square but the body can be split to act as a bevel:

Split Bevel
Split Bevel

Continue reading “Interesting Tool: Rosewood and Brass Bevel/Square”