Tag Archives: Hand Tools

The Tool Store at the Woodwright’s School

The Woodwright’s School is already hallowed ground for a lot of woodworkers, but hovering above workshop is Ed Lebetkin’s Antique Tool store….

Up the stairs and take a right at the large model plane
Up the stairs and take a right at the large model plane

Before heading up there, I was warned to leave my wallet behind as there would be a lot of temptation at the top of the stairs….Ed’s store is filled with just about every kind of traditional woodworking tool and accessory you could want.

Wide angle view of Ed's Antique Tool Store
Wide angle view of Ed’s Antique Tool Store

An amazing assortment of chisels, planes of every kind, marking gauges, braces and bits.

Wall of molding planes
Wall of molding planes

One whole wall of the shop is filled with molding planes .

Chisels, mallets, auger bits etc.
Chisels, mallets, auger bits etc.

New stuff is always coming and going so you’ll want to visit often — or see about renting a space to camp out and be first to check out the new arrivals. 😉

Self-advancing Boring Machine
Self-advancing Boring Machine

During my visit I was enamored with an unusual boring machine. The castings on the tilt mechanism look similar to my old Swan boring machine but what made this machine unusual was the mechanism to advance the business end of the unit horizontally via the large knob on the bottom — rather than the whole dance of shimmying yourself and the unit up the timber and re-aligning the auger to make the next hole. The runners and support structure for it was all metal which leads me to believe it was a later design towards the end of that era.

New toys from Ed's tool shop
New toys from Ed’s tool shop

I tried my best to get out without buying anything — especially since the Nashua Live Free or Die Tool Show and Auction is coming up in a couple of weeks, but it’s like Ed knew I was coming. I found a great reprint book on Concord NH furniture makers, a book on the Shaker Barn full of tools at the Shelburne Museum in VT which I wrote about here, a MWTCA reprint of a tool catalog, a nice old Stanley auger bit extension for use with a bit brace, and a Stanley 203 bench clamp. This neat little clamp is something I’ve looked at in the past — and makes a nice addition to any bench with a sliding deadman. I look forward to giving it a try.

I’m looking forward to my next visit. If you’d like to plan a visit to the tool store or contact Ed you can find his contact info on the store’s web page here. Ed’s a great guy. If you meet him, be sure to tell him I sent you. 🙂

Take care,
-Bill

The Woodwright’s School

For Labor Day weekend this year I flew down to the Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, North Carolina to take a 3 day class on making a Jointer Plane with Willard ‘Bill’ Anderson (more on that in an upcoming post).

My flight got in early on Friday and I had the chance to hang out with some friends at the school during the last day of a class on building the Anarchist’s Tool Chest with Chris Schwarz.

The Woodwright's School
The Woodwright’s School

The Woodwright’s School is located in downtown Pittsboro which is a scenic town about 20 minutes from Chapel Hill.

Roy Underhill planing a groove
Roy Underhill planing a groove

Don’t let the sometimes quiet streets fool you, once inside the school you are in a lively space full of folks who as passionate about woodworking as you are. Roy was on hand to help students as they worked their way through the last day of week long class on building a traditional English tool chest based on Chris’ book ‘The Anarchist’s Toolchest’.

The class busy working on their Anarchist's Toolchest
The class busy working on their Anarchist’s Toolchest

One of the attractions to Roy’s school is its focus on only using traditional English/American hand tools — there were no whining power tools, no Dozuki saws and no plastic handles to be seen — or at least none that I saw when Roy was making his rounds. 😉

Feeding Bill's bar tab and Khrushchev's shoe
Feeding Bill’s bar tab and Khrushchev’s shoe

If you ever read Roy’s book on public speaking you’ll get why Khruschev’s shoe is an interesting trophy. Beyond the witty stories and advice on how to keep a crowd engaged and entertained, the last chapter on the morning after a presentation was the one that resonated the most with me. Applying the advice therein has improved several lectures I have to make each year.

Drilling out a mortise
Drilling out a mortise

Traditional woodworking can feel like a very small world at times — the gentleman in the photo above was also in the class I took earlier this summer on making a Name Stamp with Peter Ross at Roy’s school — even though I was 700+ miles from home I happy to see that I could still run into people I knew.

Roy's corner cabinet
Roy’s corner cabinet

Loitering in the back of the classroom is a corner cupboard you may recognize from Roy’s show. I heard his wife has been waiting on it for a while — which made me feel a tiny bit better about the dresser I owe my wife Alyssa — which reminds me I need to get working on that again….

Chris Schwarz teaching
Chris Schwarz teaching

It was also great to spend some time hanging out with my friends Chris Schwarz and Megan Fitzpatrick including a stroll through Ed’s tool shop above the school.

Chatting with Megan Fitzpatrick
Chatting with Megan Fitzpatrick

No toolchest is ever completely filled and Ed’s shop has a huge collection of traditional tools on par with some of the best regional tool shows. I tried my best to be good and save my pennies for the Nashua tool show later this month, but I did find some new toys.

Chris' Dutch Tool Chest
Chris’ Dutch Tool Chest

I had fun chatting with everyone, examining some interesting tools and helping to sweep up before a trip to the City Tap — which is a awesome bar just behind the school with great food and drinks.

Roy helping a student
Roy helping a student

On my way out of the school I saw my old friend Otto Salomon and various other proper woodworking models from the Teacher’s Handbook of Sloyd.

Sloyd Prints
Sloyd Prints

It seems the Woodwright’s School is full of new and old friends that are literally popping out of the woodworking.

If you’d like to learn more about the school, make some new friends, meet up with old friends, or sign up for a class you can check out the school’s website here.

-Bill

Lights, Camera, Action….

I’m happy to report that the companion video series for my recent Fine Homebuilding article ‘Master Carpenter: Reproducing Traditional Moldings’ went online today.

Behind the scenes. (Photo courtesy of the Taunton Press)
Behind the scenes. (Photo courtesy of the Taunton Press)

I had a great time making the videos and I hope you will enjoy watching them. Several of them are free, though a few of them are reserved for FineHomebuilding.com (FHB) members only.

Bill Rainford using molding planes to reproduce traditional molding profiles. (Photo courtesy of the Taunton Press)
Bill Rainford using molding planes to reproduce traditional molding profiles. (Photo courtesy of the Taunton Press)

Details below as they were presented this morning in Fine Homebuilding’s e-newsletter and where to find the videos:

Fine Homebuilding Logo
Fine Homebuilding Logo

In this Master Carpenter series, Bill Rainford shows how to get period details right with both power and hand tools.

Watch the intro video

Plus watch more free episodes from this series:
Interview with the craftsman
Bill chats about how traditional carpentry is better for his body and soul
An inside look at old-fashioned home building
Bill and senior editor Chuck Bickford visit the Alvah Kittredge House and dig into its traditional construction details

Sign in as a member or sign up for a FREE 14-day trial to see this complete series and much more.

Take care,
-Bill

How many tools are in your Tool Chest?

Tool chests come in all shapes and sizes — from the hand built traditional joiner’s chest, to a mail order gentleman’s chest, to the plastic fantastic junk you find in big box stores today. Depending on what kind of work you do the number of tools you have in your chest may vary, but at some point I think all traditional craftsmen (and craftswomen) wonder how many tools they can actually fit inside their primary chest.

How many tools can you fit into your tool chest?  Don’t worry, if you want to cram in a few extra items before we start counting I’m willing to wait.

Alexander Forbes Tool Chest from the Mid-Late 19th century.
Alexander Forbes Tool Chest from the Mid-Late 19th century.

How many tools did you to fit in your chest? How about 500 tools?!  That’s right, the tool chest shown here once belonged to Alexander Forbes who was a cabinet maker and Pullman car builder from Cleveland Ohio contained over 500 traditional woodworking tools.

Close up of the Forbes Tool Chest from Ohio
Close up of the Forbes Tool Chest from Ohio

This tool chest is currently on display at the Winterthur Museum and Gardens in Delaware and is part of the 400 Years of Massachusetts Furniture display at the museum.

A sampling of the tools from inside the chest
A sampling of the tools from inside the chest

On the wall behind the chest you will see over 100 tools on display from this chest that dates to about 1880. The tools look like they are in exceptionally good shape and would be right at home on my own workbench. This set is representative of the kinds of tools a cabinetmaker would use to make many of the pieces on display in this exhibit.

Side view of Alexander Forbes Toolchest
Side view of Alexander Forbes Tool-chest

Don’t let the painted and time worn exterior finish fool you, the interior of the chest was well laid out and carefully constructed with mahogany tills proudly inlaid and showing off the woodworking skills of Alexander Forbes. He apparently also had incredible spacial relation skills to fit that many tools into that fairly average sized chest and to it in such a way that the tills etc do not get beat up in the process. Having said that I assume he likely only crammed all the tools in there for longer trips; I would think for efficiency purposes he’d likely partially unpack/deploy tools just to make enough room in the chest to access all the tools he’d need on a daily basis.

Tools for learning the trade of cabinetmaking -- any of which could be found on my own workbench
Tools for learning the trade of cabinetmaking — any of which could be found on my own workbench

The display also went to great lengths to explain how craftsmen learned their trade, how they used various woods and how many pieces were constructed.

Dressing Table parts in varying stages of completeness to demonstrate how it is build. Made by Steve Brown (NBSS CFM Instructor and former Dept. head)
Dressing Table parts in varying stages of completeness to demonstrate how it is build. Made by Steve Brown (NBSS CFM Instructor and former Dept. head)

Prominently on display was the partial dressing table shown above which was put together by Steve Brown who is an instructor in the Cabinet and Furniture Making program at the North Bennet Street School in Boston. This carefully constructed sample piece concisely shows the progressive steps it took to make a piece like the period dressing table shown to the left of the tool-chest I’ve been admiring.

Sample of the many chair variations created by Massachusetts craftsmen
Sample of the many chair variations created by Massachusetts craftsmen

Moving beyond the intro, the display shows representative samples of ‘Boston’ style furniture in the collection and the wide variety of the objects created by Massachusetts Bay craftsmen during the last 400 years.

Beautiful side chair and high-boy
Beautiful side chair and high-boy

From simple utilitarian stools to high style chest pieces you get a feel for the design elements that representative of the work coming out of Boston and the surrounding area. You will need to visit the exhibit in person to fully experience the depth and variety of style I am talking about.

Floating staircase that was saved from destruction and installed at the museum
Floating staircase that was saved from destruction and installed at the museum

Beyond this exhibition which runs through October 6, 2013, there is a LOT more to see and explore at Winterthur. They offer several tours to parts of the house that are not part of the regular admission, including customized tours you can request, so I highly encourage you to schedule some tours of the other floors when you visit. In the fall I heard thy will also have an exhibit on the costumes of Downton Abbey which will be interesting to see along with all the great furniture, architectural elements (many rooms are furnished with the interior trim that was salvaged from historic homes around the country), and beautiful gardens.

If you’d like to learn more about Winterthur, please check out their website here. And if you’d like to learn more about  ‘400 Years of Massachusetts Furniture’ which is a series of events throughout the year at a consortium of museums and cultural institutions you can learn more about it here.  At the least you’ll learn how to efficiently pack tools in your tool chest….

-Bill

Hand Tool Heaven — Shaker Barn at Shelburne Museum VT

Can’t get enough of 17th and 18th century hand tools? C’Mon I know I’m not the only one…..

Reconstructed Shaker Barn is home to the tool collection
Reconstructed Shaker Barn is home to the tool collection

In a rather unassuming barn deep inside of the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne VT you’ll find a treasure trove of antique tools on display. The collection has a large display of classic woodworking tools and many specialty trades like coopering, timber framing, bookbinding, locksmithing, shoemaking, blacksmithing and many other common trades of yore.  Sounds almost like a listing of the majors we have at NBSS. 🙂

Molding planes
Molding planes

Every time we go, it’s always the first thing I want to go look at, and while it may seem a lost world to many, I’m always giddy to see how many tools from the same time period I’m regularly using in my own shop. It’s one of the best collections of traditional woodworking tool’s I’ve seen and it’s all on display.

In addition, the Shelburne also has great period houses, a paddlewheel steamship, lighthouse, classical and modern art, a huge collection of old toys, wagons/buggies/sleighs, rotating exhibits and events. If you are ever in the Burlington VT area I highly recommend you spend a day at the museum.

You can find out more about the Shelburne Museum here.

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