Details from my c.1770 Gabriel hollows and rounds

As some of you know, I'm the proud owner of a full set of 18th century hollows and rounds made by Christopher Gabriel c.1770. These planes could have been on the shelf next to those that found their way into the famous Benjamin Seaton tool chest, which is incredibly cool to me. All bear the same owner's mark and seem to always have been together (thanks again Patrick!)

Pardon the halo on these, a small part of my prized collection

I recently had a request over on my Instagram feed for some specific measurements from these planes from a fellow woodworker who is seeking to make his own set of molding planes. In doing so I noticed something very interesting regarding the width of the chamfers that are cut to soften the top corners and make the planes more comfortable to hold.
#2, #8, #16 pairs

The #1 set, i.e. 1/16" wide, has a chamfer which is 3/16" (or 6/32") wide. The #2 pair goes to 7/32", and this measurement stays the same all the way through the #11 pair. Starting with the #12 pair, the measurement goes up by approximately 1/32" of an inch for each pair of pairs (even and odd), i.e. #12 and #13 pairs are 8/32" (1/4"), the #14 and #15 pairs are 9/32", the #16 and #17 pairs are 10/32" (5/16"). The #18 pair is 11/32" but I do not have anything larger to know if that same formula would continue into larger, joiner sized planes.

#2 pair - 7/32"

#8 - 7/32"

#16 - 10/32"

In a world where many modern makers use the same sized chamfer for all their molding planes, regardless of size, this is an interesting detail. I found it intriguing that handmade planes exhibited this type of precise formulation.

I'd be very interested to learn if anyone else has a set of planes like this which displays this sort of sizing formula.

- Zach Dillinger

Fitting a Jacobs chuck to my old post drill

A couple of days ago I posted about a post drill which I've been tripping over since 2012. I bolted it to the middle bent in my timber frame shop the other day, thinking it would be of limited utility to me and my work due to its specialized S&D style chuck which can only fit 1/2" diameter shanks with a flat ground onto them to engage the chuck's set screw.

Then my friend John Johnston showed me a picture of his very similar drill, to which he had fitted a modern Jacobs chuck. His method had been to obtain a chuck with a Morse taper shaft, file a flat on it, and install it into the old drill chuck. I set out to do just that but was unable to find a chuck with the shaft at any of the stores in the area. So I tried something different.

The local Harbor Freight (yes, I know...) had a Jacobs chuck designed to replace worn out chucks on power hand drills. It has a 1/2-20 threaded hole which would normally thread onto the drill's electric motor spindle. Instead, I obtained a 1/2-20 threaded bolt and threaded it into the chuck using Red Loctite (largely superfluous since this fitting actually tightens as the drill spins in the right direction).

 I then measured the chuck's depth to see how long the shaft should be, and cut the head off the bolt. Anytime you do metal work, utilizing new hacksaw blades and files make the work much, much easier.

 I then hand filed the flat onto the new shaft using a new 10" mill bastard file.
 The chuck fit perfectly and works exactly as I had hoped.

 It still looks great. I hooked the chuck key to a length of light chain and nailed the chain to the same post so that I can't lose the key. And I'm planning to replace the modern lag screws with old-style square head lags (courtesy of my friend Jim Thommen).

I am not planning a full restoration on this but, now that it will be functional, I may give it a more thorough cleaning. And I still need to find the proper table, of course. 

- Zach Dillinger

Post Drills and Tornados

A quick update from the shop. I've been literally tripping over this Champion #101 post drill since I bought it from a Martin Donnelly auction in 2012. It, along with several other tools which I still own, were de-accessioned from the Colonial Williamsburg collection. I finally got sick of it laying on the floor so I mounted it to one of the main posts in my timber frame shop.

Looks great there. It will mostly be decorative but I may get around to fitting a modern chuck to it for actual use. Though, since it took me seven years to hang the thing, I wouldn't hold my breath.

I was in the middle of cleaning this up a bit and oiling the bearings when I heard the local tornado sirens go off. I shut up the shop in double-quick time and headed to the basement with April and Abigail. I managed to stay in the basement for a whole five minutes before venturing outside to see what was happening. It was dark, of course, so I couldn't see anything except the sideways rain flashing in the back door light.

I'm told by my mother that standing outside in dangerous weather is a common trait among Dillinger men. Apparently my dad even had a special storm watching hat, though I simply don't remember. I think I'll adopt the same affectation in honor of my dad Bill.

To Dad.


18th century style tool chest

I've been working out of a large, traditional tool chest for some time, the form similar to the famous Anarchist's Tool Chest popularized by Chris Schwarz. This is a great solution to storing a traditional set of tools but I've long wanted something a little different. This weekend I scratched that itch.

I spent this past weekend demonstrating period woodworking at the Johnson's Wood Expo in Charlotte, MI. Though it's an exhausting two days, it's always a great thrill to work alongside Scott Phillips, Chris Schoenberg, John Wilson, and Ernie Schuette and I can't wait until next year.

My home on Saturday
Since my wife had gone on a family trip with her parents and taken our daughter Abigail with her for weekend, I was all alone when I got home from the Expo each night. Not something I'm used to! So I spent those hours building this, a low tool chest inspired by the famous Thomas and Warren Nixon chest owned by the Framingham Mass Historical Society.

At 18" outside dimension, it is, I think, slightly wider than the actual thing but perfectly sized for my favorite set of planes, a chisel rack, and saw till. At approximately 50 inches long, it's a big mamma jamma but it will hold all I need and a bit more. I'm still planning a sliding till and, of course, it will need a proper mortise lock and casters (right now it is just sitting on a moving dolly). The finish is Sea Green milk paint under linseed oil, paste wax, and my own special blend of aging oil.

 Like many pine chests of the period, it is simply rabbeted and nailed together. I also lined it with acid-free construction paper to help prevent dust and moisture from attacking the treasures within. The blue paper in the till is a nod to "sugar paper", a commonly used drawer lining material from the period.

 I've only had a few hours in the shop with this chest but I like it very much already. It will probably supplant my deep 19th century style box in the very near future.... anybody wanna buy an updated antique tool chest?

I also built this handy 18" square. I happened to have some oak offcuts and scrap of just about the right size. It should be a nice addition to my kit.

Thanks all for reading. I'll do my best to have more frequent updates about my work and my various writing projects, including an upcoming article for Mortise & Tenon Magazine.

All the best,

Porch swing installation

I've always wanted a traditional porch swing but have never made the time to install one. Over the weekend I corrected that. Though I may build one myself in the future, I opted for a pre-built example from Amazon. It's hard to beat  one that is $65 shipped and shipped to my house in two days. It took about 15 minutes to put it together and another hour or so to paint it.

That done, it was time to figure out how to hang it. The existing porch ceiling is 5/4 beadboard which is likely original to the house. I cut two small exploratory holes in the ceiling with my Rockwell multitool so that I could be sure I was installing the eye hooks into structure.

I stuck my phone into one of the holes to get some pictures of the porch roof framing. Pretty neat looking work.

Those are old 2x4 which measure an honest 2 inches by 4 inches and they are on 18" centers. This is a bit of a problem given that I have a 5 foot swing which requires eye screws mounted between 48" and 60" apart.

My solution was to sister two 2x6s together, notching out the ends to rest on the plate and on one of the joists. The sistered structure was then screwed to one of the rafters. The eye bolt was then drilled through the beadboard and into the sistered piece, giving me solid structure above the swing. The other eye bolt was screwed into an existing joist which happened to fall perfectly in the right place.

Repairing the holes in the beadboard was simple enough. I just screwed a backing board into the beadboard and then screwed the pieces I cut out to the backer board. After calking the screw holes and repainting, you have to look pretty hard to see that the work was done.

I spent a good portion of my Sunday relaxing on this new porch swing and I couldn't be happier. Abigail, of course, was less than impressed with the height and speed of the porch swing and insisted on being pushed to ever more dangerous heights on her own swing in the back yard.

Though increased destructive power was not a requirement for this particular job, I was most impressed with Fiskar's marketing for this new hand sledge which I saw at my local Meijer store. Superbly done, Fiskars.
I feel like this hammer would make a great Father's Day present, as would any of my books. You can find those below;

With Saw, Plane and Chisel
Duct Tape is Flammable
On Woodworking

Till next,

More porch progress

As detail in my last post, I have been working on the porches on my 1900-built farmhouse. Significant progress was made over the weekend despite receiving more than two inches of rain in less than 30 minutes. A true downpour, as shown by the video below:

The side porch floor was primed, at which point I painted the ceilings in a shade of the classic "haint blue". I chose Sherwin-Williams SW 0063 for those who are interested in the color code. This is just after the first coat while still in the process of painting around the headers and window trim. 

I also painted the front porch ceiling as well. Next up is the top coat on the side and front porch floors and the restoration of the porch door you can see in the photo below. It's been nailed shut for decades and I can't wait to have in functional again. I also need to build a railing for the porch. It isn't required by code but I want the two porches to match.
Abigail approves of this suggestion, as you can see judging by her expression after I told her the plan.  

I promise to get back to actual woodworking on the blog soon, including some exciting news about Mortise & Tenon Magazine (though I should probably let Joshua talk about that).


Home repair with hand tools (and some electric devils)

One of the projects on my summer to-do list is a complete restoration of my porches. My 1900-built farmhouse has two existing porches and one that was removed many years ago (it will be recreated at some point in the future). The north-facing porch is the most in-need of repair, with numerous rotten boards and large swaths of peeling paint which I attributed to improper installation by a previous owner (this attribution proved correct).

In the image below, which was the worst area of rot, you can see that the vertical post supporting the front of the porch was left too long and that the flooring was simply laid right over top of the post. This did two things. One, it humped up the boards which opened the joints and allowed water in and, two, it ruined the slope so that water wouldn't run off properly. I cut this post down utilizing a Rockwell oscillating multi-tool (my home renovation projects are not entirely unplugged...) before installing new boards. The Rockwell is a powered devil, true, but it has earned its keep in my repair kit.

I had to ultimately replace boards in four different areas of the floor, as you can see here. Each replaced board was primed on four sides and each joint was caulked at installation, with the remaining two sides to be primed later. I primed the undersides of all the existing boards that I could reach, so hopefully this will help prevent further damage in the future. 

I did use several hand tools in the process, including the wedges from my raamtang vise from Popular Woodworking a few years back. The wedges helped me to draw up gaps in the boards before driving the hidden nails into the boards to lock them in place.
I also used my trusty Stanley transitional jointer plane to trim up some of the new porch boards that were just a touch wider than the boards they were replacing. I love my transitional planes almost as much as I love my traditional wooden planes, as my very first-ever plane was a Union transitional jointer.
Next up, lots of scraping and sanding, more priming, and then the top coat. I'm also going to be redoing the front porch stairs (they are truly horrendous in appearance) and will be repainting the floors and ceilings as well.

I also want to get this out there now so you can plan in advance. I'll be demonstrating at the Johnson's Wood Expo in September, alongside other truly excellent woodworkers like John Wilson and Scott Phillips of The American Woodshop. If you've got copies of my two books, With Saw, Plane and Chisel or On Woodworking, bring 'em along and I'll sign 'em. I'll also have a few copies to sell there. I hope you can make it.

Until next time.

Life goes on...

I've been struggling to get in the shop these last few months (OK, last few years). The Michigan winter refused to loosen her grip until just recently and my as-yet unheated shop is rather inhospitable during those frigid months. I have stayed busy, though, writing, reading, and working on my 1900-built farmhouse, including the cosmetic restoration of my beautifully tiled coal burning fireplace. It took months to track down enough of the proper tile to finish the work but the results were definitely worth the effort.

Next up on the house is a couple of big projects that I have wanted to do for a long time, namely a new set of stairs for my front porch and rebuilding the long-destroyed dry-stack fieldstone wall that separates my yard from the dirt road. Thankfully most of the stones are still there, just buried in a hundred years or so of leaf compost from the massive maples overhead.

As a sidenote, I'm demonstrating next week at the Mid-Michigan Woodworker's Guild meeting. Tuesday the 21st form 7:00pm to 9:00pm. Should be a great time and I'm very much looking forward to it.

So, in short, I'm still here. Still writing (all of my books are still available on Amazon by clicking here.). Still making sawdust. Just not as much of either as I would like. My layoff ends now.


Updates from a very busy woodshop

I've been very busy in the shop, building two projects for upcoming Popular Woodworking articles. I still managed to work on a couple of personal projects.

First, a Roman bench as popularized by Chris Schwarz. Mine is a bit shorter than the plan calls for but is still a very useful little thing. I've always sat for a large portion of my work and this makes it that much easier to do so.

I knocked together a qamutiik (Inuit sled) for hauling firewood this winter. Made with traditional lashings instead of nails or screws, the flexibility of this sled should help get over the snowbanks and ice between the wood shed and the wood stove.

I've also cut down, stripped the bark from, and put up to dry a 8 foot maple sapling. This is destined to become a spring pole for a new lathe. My old lathe is worn out from a decade or more of hard use and I plan to replace it once the PW build craziness is over.

From the remnants of this tree and other deadfall from the yard, I've put up a few twig bundles for the wood stove. This is always a fun little distraction that can happen at any time. Lately I've been having my two year old daughter Abigail help me gather sticks from the yard. Fun times.

Finally, I knocked together this little box. Inspired by the Mastermyr box with a couple of small changes, this will store my augers, gimlets, braces, and other boring equipment on a daily basis and will also make a fine partner for traveling to demonstrations. It still needs a lid but, since this picture was taken, I've planed out a piece of sassafras to serve. Again, lightness is a priority for traveling.

That's pretty much it in terms of things that I can talk about. You'll be seeing my writing more and more in PW and on the PW website so keep an eye out for that!


My second book is available now!

During my layoff from my woodshop, I spent a fair amount of time organizing and filing mountains of notes, thoughts, photos, and ideas for later use. During this process I realized that "later" was now and "use" was another book. I organized my thoughts, rewrote a bunch of them, and put together this little collection.

It is currently print-only and is available here. The Kindle version is forthcoming.

Because it isn't exactly a traditional book and doesn't really fit any traditional woodworking publishing category, I self-published using Amazon CreateSpace. The process was quite smooth and I will do it again. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a book or six rattling around in their head.

I'm very proud of this book. It is totally different than most of what you'll see in the woodworking media. Part comedy book, part philosophy text, and part how-to. If you pick up a copy, I hope you enjoy it.

All the best,

Tool wall

Well, are you bored with reading posts about my shop renovation project yet? I'm starting to tire of the project myself. I'm aching to get back to some real woodworking but I have a few more things to take care of first.

The tool racks are largely done, just need a few more in a few spots and I need to figure out auger bit storage. They currently live in tool rolls on one of the new shelves but this may change. I'm leaning towards a few bit blocks stashed on the shelf below the saws.

It should be warm enough to finish painting everything in the next two weeks. Then I can lay the new decking for the attic floor and get my lumber storage organized up there.

I can't believe the number of tools that I own that I simply forgot about. I need to have a woodworker's yard sale...

Williamsburg / Jamestown pictures

I've been very busy putting up insulation and siding in my shop, which is not very interesting work to read about on a blog. So, I've dipped into my archives a bit and decided to put out some pictures of a trip my wife and I took to Virginia back in 2010. Our travels took us to Historic Jamestown, Jamestown Settlement, and Colonial Williamsburg... here are a few of the pictures we took during that trip.

The original hearth and chimney of the joinery at Monticello

A slightly different angle of the 'Nickel View'

A very cool architect's desk designed by Jefferson

The Hay Shop

The Williamsburg Courthouse

A cornice plane stamped 'Underhill' and made by the man himself

A messy workbench at the joiner's shop

One of many fascinating timberframe buildings at Jamestown Settlement

New work at the Settlement

Inside the church

I'm copying this style of rack for my axes and froes

A recreation of one of the ships that carried the colonists to Jamestown in 1607

Beyond the pale...