Archive for the ‘Woodworking’ Category

Best Brooms Ever

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

The shop was almost warm enough to be bearable today, and it needed a good sweeping.

Decades ago, we lived in the middle of Indianapolis, Indiana. A blind man would show up at our house occasionally carrying a dozen or so brooms over his shoulder. He sold brooms made by “Industries for the Blind.” We enthusiastically bought from him because his were really well made brooms of sturdy, thickly padded, broomcorn. They lasted almost forever, more years than I remember. They were the best brooms ever. We left Indianapolis over 30 years ago and there are no blind men walking around selling good brooms where we live now. In that time, the last of the blind-made brooms have worn out.

The last of the real broomcorn brooms I bought at a big-box store was so flimsy, it wouldn’t support its own weight. I’ve witnessed a steady decline in the quality of store bought brooms, seeing broomcorn get thinner and thinner and finally being replaced by plastic bristles, set in plastic heads, attached to plastic handles. They don’t behave like brooms and break too often. Pure junk!

photo of 2 brooms

So, I went on a hunt. The answer to my search was not “handmade,” “blind-made,” “sturdy” or any of the other “durable” words, but “broomcorn!” Two new brooms from Broomcorn Johnny’s now hold my praise for the best brooms ever. Brian Newton is the artisan who operates the broom shop named Broomcorn Johnny’s in Brown County, Indiana. We’ve had two of his brooms long enough to know they’re the new “best.” The flat one is what he calls a “cabin broom.” The round one has about the same amount of broomcorn but is tighter wound and great for heavier work. The flat one stays in the house / cabin. The round one just cleaned up the shop better than any broom I’ve had in the past 15 years and hangs there now. (Cabin brooms are available in plain or in a range of color schemes.)

These brooms seem expensive at $60 – $70 each. Yet, I know they’ll easily outlast the $12 box-store brooms by a factor of 8 -10. That makes them a real bargain, and very attractive too.  Highly recommended, and I have no financial gain from this recommendation.

Kerfing Plane – Done

Monday, October 27th, 2014

photo of completed planeThere are a lot more pictures this time because I read that a lot of people avoid saw making, rehabilitation and sharpening. I want to show that it’s within easy reach of anyone who wants to try and doesn’t care to wait while saws take long trips to the sharpener and back. We can find many sharpening guides and tutorials online. Nearly all are very useful. For this particular saw plate, I followed Paul Seller’s recent tutorial about cutting saw teeth. The method worked wonderfully!

The plate itself is roughly 10″ by 1.5″, recycled from an old Disston that I cut down to make my frame saw a few years ago. Cutting to this shape was simple hack sawing. The tooth edge was smoothed “flat and straight” with a simple single-cut mill file. I decided to cut it to the same pattern I use for other resawing work, 5 TPI, zero rake, no fleam … just a dead simple aggressive rip pattern.

My ever handy Stanley No. 36 1/2 R rule has multiple scales in  8, 10, 12, 16 parts to the inch. The 10 scale made easy work of laying out a guide. The slideshow walks through a number of steps, with notes about each.

The 10 to the inch scale of a Stanley rule is used for marking out 5 TPI.
The little no-name saw was OK for cutting the guide but gave up when it came to the plate.
After making the tooth spacing cuts
Which to use, the one with 6 moving parts and adjustments that can sometimes loosen, or... ?
Saw filing setup. The adjustable lamp is the most important part.
When looking from the edge doesn't show what you expect, look from the side and seek those glints of light from unsharp teeth.
Coarse tool, set for a gentle #8.
Finished plane - toe end
Finished plane - business side - What big teeth you have.
Finished plane - fence side
First cut. The angle is off a bit.
Kerfed all around. The slight angle is noticeable at the corners.
First resawn board. Close enough for government work, but not for me.


photo of first test resultEnd result? A small piece of pine became the test victim. I set the fence to produce a kerf 3/32″ from the edge and went at it with only casual concern. What will this thing do without a lot of fussy attention? Cutting was easy once the initial grabbing was overcome. Hint: start from the far end as one does when planing a molding. You can see in one of the pictures that the kerf is not absolutely square. It’s tilted slightly. Despite that, I ended up with two boards that have less than 1/32″ of roughness left from the cut.

It will be perfect after I make an adjustment to either the face of the fence or to my right elbow.

UPDATE: It was my right elbow that needed adjustment. The plane is perfect when the monkey pushing it holds it correctly.


Kerfing Plane – More carving

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

photo of leaf like carving…and here’s the curvy side.

Next up: cut the saw plate…

Kerfing Plane – a Little Carving

Monday, October 20th, 2014

“Hey, aren’t you done with that thing yet?” You know I can’t make something without a carving decoration.  So…

photo of carving on the fenceHere’s the harder one first. Carving straight lines along the grain line is harder than carving curves. While I’m never satisfied with a carving, this one is done enough to set aside and wait for its partner.

It’s all Shannon’s fault. During his review of a Bontz saw, he mentioned an Art Deco feature in how the saw’s back was shaped. That sparked an old interest and I was off to re-explore the genre and come up with a couple of designs.

The curvy one is next. And yes, I’ll cut a saw plate some day.

Kerfing Plane – the Fence

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

So, what are those threaded holes for? Threaded rods, of course. And the adjustable fence.


The fence itself is pretty simple, two pieces glued together with holes drilled to allow sliding along the threaded rods. Tom Fidgen planed off the bottom piece at an angle, providing a way of resting the plane at an angle which keeps the blade off the bench. I liked the idea and did the same.

Now, the threading… I’ve read good and bad (too often more bad than good) about the quality wood threading kits. I was almost tempted to use metal parts (Hello McMaster-Carr), but decide to give the Woodcraft 3/4″ threading kit a try. It’s worked out very well! No problems, no horror stories. The cutters are plenty sharp enough for producing good results on cherry. I was careful to chamfer entry points, to lube the tap with BLO, and to soak the dowels overnight in BLO before threading.

The dowels are right on 3/4″ diameter, ripped from 4/4 stock and then turned on the treadle lathe.

The nuts too are turned. I stacked four 4/4 blocks together with double sided tape, sawed off the corners and turned on the lathe. Each was then drilled with a 5/8″ auger and tapped. Easy-peasy. I left them round, rather than putting flats on the sides, because they are easy enough to grip and don’t need much torque to do their job.

It comes together very nicely, allowing the fence to be adjusted right up against the blade. I’ll cut the threaded rods down some after I decide how far I might really want to extend the fence.

Kerfing Plane

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

photo of kerfing plane being builtResawing lumber is a part of many projects, from big long boards for the hulls of boats, to fine hardwood boards for boxes. It’s time to take resawing accuracy to the next stage. I follow the usual technique of sawing from all 4 corners and flipping frequently to stay on track, or for a very long board, still flipping frequently side to side. Even so, going astray a little bit and recovering often produces the dreaded “X” in the middle of a board. That’s sometimes a hump, with matching divot in the other piece. I’ve never had an error of that sort serious enough to ruin a project, but I would like to spend less time “cleaning up.”

No, don’t blame it on my saws. They are terrific and I keep them wicked sharp. It’s the guy pushing the saw.

Tom Fidgen published his solution, a “kerfing plane,” on his blog and in his recent book Unplugged Workshop. The idea is to produce a kerf of reasonable depth on all edges of a piece of lumber, and then use that kerf to guide the saw. We’ll see if it makes a difference.

Tom started with a fixed fence version and converted to an adjustable fence version. I’m going straight to the adjustable version. Here’s a start at the main body, in cherry. The “stains” near the upper holes are from linseed oil used to lubricate a tap for threaded holes (more on that later). The blade, needing teeth, is from an old Disston. The saw nuts are from Issac Smith’s Blackburn Tools.