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The Frame Saws of Colonial Williamsburg

Back in December 2013, I topped off the Mr. Fusion, warmed up the Flux Capacitor and headed back to the 1780s for our annual pilgrimage to Colonial Williamsburg Virginia. During this visit I wanted to check out some of the frame saws my friends are using and what they thought about the saws ahead of building my own.

My first stop was that Anthony Hay Cabinetmaker’ Shop…

The Anthony Hay Cabinetmaker's Shop at Colonial Williamsburg

The Anthony Hay Cabinetmaker’s Shop at Colonial Williamsburg

Hanging on the wall was a nice two man frame saw and a smaller veneer saw you may recall seeing in an episode of The Woodwright’s Shop. (Season 6, Episode 9 — Free Preview Here on YouTube )

Frame saws hanging on the wall of the Hay Shop

Frame saws hanging on the wall of the Hay Shop

In talking to my friend Ed Wright, the master Harpsichord Maker in the Hay Shop, he showed me some of the finer details of the larger saw shown below.

Ed Wright with a frame saw in Anthony Hay Cabinetmaker's Shop

Ed Wright with a frame saw in Anthony Hay Cabinetmaker’s Shop

The saw’s size and details were derived from Roubo’s plates. The hardware was forged by Colonial Williamsburg’s Blacksmiths, not to be confused with Williamsburg Blacksmiths up in Williamsburg MA (I bought my hold fasts and log dogs from the former, and barn hardware from the latter and I am very happy with both). You can see the forged eye bolt below, passing through a threaded square section and pressing against a metal wear plate.

Close up detail of the tensioning mechanism of a frame saw

Close up detail of the tensioning mechanism of a frame saw

The saw deviates from the Roubo plate a bit with the offset turned handles shown below. (Check out Don’s post here – which includes a copy of the plate I am referring to and is related to the recent LAP reprint of Roubo on Marquetry which includes a nice translation of this plate and Don’s experiments with his own reproduction saw) Ed said that the turned handles worked well over the years even if they give the saw a slightly more modern (Say 19th century) appearance compared to the simple carved volutes in the Roubo print. If you were to use this saw all day long vigorously sawing fine veneers I could see wanting this sort of turned handle and it seems to be popular in other reproductions I’ve seen. While the carved volutes seem like they’d be tougher on the modern sawyers’ hands I suspect the likely simple volutes were contoured to fit in the sawyers hand and would have forced him to have a lighter grip on the saw which might have allowed him to react more directly to the wood and make fine adjustments as he goes. From examining Figure 10 of the Roubo print it looks to me like the sawyer on the right has a very light grip and is sighting down the saw to gently steer it on an appropriate course as the the left sawyer is sighting as well as pulling the saw through the cut. Don’s translation talks about the advantages of sawing on a slight incline and lifting the saw on the return stroke to clear sawdust and not bind the saw. Sawing with a second person can be like having a dance partner — if you are in sync and can communicate well verbally and non verbally you have a shot, if you are out of sync things can go south quick as the narrow blade is unforgiving and wants to follow the path of least resistance.

Close up detail of turned handles on the frame saw

Close up detail of turned handles on the frame saw

The saw blade is held in place via pins that are held in tension, thus tensioning the blade. The blade shown here is quite wide, though not quite as wide as the ~4″ Roubo suggested. When using this type of saw you need to be careful not to over tension it as you can deform/stretch the holes in the blade. The impression I got was that this saw was a little slow cutting at times. A lot of folks online have experimented with saw tooth geometry and similar variations. Adam Cherubini had an interesting and somewhat controversial post regarding his experiences with frame saws which you can check out here.  (Be sure to read the comments as several other folks who have been experimenting in this space weighed in).

Close up detail of the pins the secure the blade to the frame

Close up detail of the pins the secure the blade to the frame

When using a frame saw to re-saw planks or make veneers you can see some of the telltale marks of the tool as it slices through the figured wood. (See below). In general the blade wants to follow the path of least resistance, so cutting in with another saw to start as Roubo describes or using a ‘kerfing plane’ as Tom Fidgen suggests are great ways to better your chance of success. If you’ve seen any of the many great projects to come out of the Hay Shop you’ll have no doubt Ed and the others in the shop have mastered many uses of the frame saw.

Panel that was cut with a frame saw -- shows the telltale pattern of tool marks showing how the saw progressed through the wood

Panel that was cut with a frame saw — shows the telltale pattern of tool marks showing how the saw progressed through the wood

My next stop was to visit Master Carpenter Garland Wood in the Joiner’s shop. Every time I visit I want to pull up a bench and take up residence in the shop as another member of the crew. The benches, tools and projects all feel like home.

Garland Wood in the Joiner's Shop

Garland Wood in the Joiner’s Shop

In the Joiner’s shop Garland showed me the frame saws he had on hand in the shop. Shown below is a nice felloe saw with its narrow blade used to cut curves. In the wheelwright’s shop you can see some larger versions of this style of saw. The example below has nice delicate lines, a simple volute detail, and nicely wrought wing nuts on both ends of the saw. In the foreground of the photo below you can see a tiny bit of a simple bow saw which we’ll talk about in a future post.

Small frame saw in the Joiner's Shop

Small frame saw, a ‘felloe saw’ used for cutting curves and the like, in the Joiner’s Shop

There are very few places you can drop by and pick the brains of talented folks who share the same level of enthusiasm for traditional woodworking and sharing the craft with others — Colonial Williamsburg is one of those places. I’m thankful to Ed and Garland for their time and advice. I look forward to putting some of it to use in building my own frame saw.

Take care,
-Bill

P.S. I’m of the mindset that we still have more to learn about these saws and look forward to experimenting a bit with my own. I ordered the first production frame saw kit blade from Bad Axe Toolworks based on a saw from Tom Fidgen’s Unplugged Woodshop and will be posting about that in the future.

Categories: Historic Places, Museum, Tool Reviews, Traditional Woodworking, Woodworking Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Visit with the Frid Family

This past weekend I had an amazing opportunity to visit the home of Peter Frid — Tage’s son, and visit with his family.  Beyond seeing some of the many items Tage made it was great to hear stories of what life was like with Tage and Emma from Peter, his wife Kathy, their son Oliver and his wife Cherie.

 

Tage Frid's iconic 3 legged stools and natural edge coffee table

Tage Frid’s iconic 3 legged stools and natural edge coffee table

I was very exited to see Tage’s iconic 3 legged stools in person — building a pair has been on my mile long todo list since I first learned about them years ago. I tried unsuccessfully to see these chairs at the MFA and RISD museum but every time I went they were not on display. Not only did I get to see them, but I got the chance to sit on one of them as well. The stool is very stable and surprisingly supportive given its seemingly diminutive stature. It was also just as comfortable to sit in it facing forward as it was to sit in it backwards. I had read the story about how Tage came up with the idea for the stool while sitting on a fence at a horse show, but it was neat to hear that the reason Tage and Emma were at the show was because Peter and his sister were riding in that very show.

Also shown in the picture above is a very nice natural edge coffee table with inlaid metal that is seen in the Gallery section of Tage’s 3rd book.

Tage Frid's Grandmother Clock

Tage Frid’s Grandmother Clock

In another room was Tage’s famous ‘Grandmother Clock.’ The black and white photos of Volume 3 of Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking do not do it justice as the wood has aged beautifully. Inside the case are all the traditional polished brass movements you would expect to find in a large case clock.

Grandmother Clock and Bar Cabinet

Grandmother Clock and Bar Cabinet

Adjacent to the clock is a beautiful liquor cabinet that is also from the Gallery section of Volume 3. It is made from mahogany and the panel details on the side and top are carved in. The cabinet also has beautiful copper/bronze hinges that pivot on an egg shaped knuckle.

Tage's favorite chair to sit in

Tage’s favorite chair to sit in

Shown above and below is Tage’s favorite chair to sit in. With clean lines, expressed construction, and thickly upholstered cushions I can see why he liked this chair a lot. Like most Danish modern furniture the lines are clean, the details are subtle and piece has a visually light feel.

Expressed joinery and clean lines on this comfortable chair

Expressed joinery and clean lines on this comfortable chair

The profile view reminds me of some cues from a morris chair and the forward lean of the legs reminds me of some of the chrome accents on cars from the 1950s — even while standing still it wants to be moving.

Tage Frid End Table

Tage Frid End Table

The end table above has another great story behind it. In some of Tage’s writings and articles he mentioned the rocky start he had when first arriving at the School for American Craftsmen wherein the facilities were not well setup and some folks were not eager to hear what Tage had to say. One morning while the students were attending lectures with another instructor Tage took a large board and started milling and working it. By mid-day he finished construction of the table and by the end of the day he even applied a scraped lacquer finish. This feat caused quite the sensation at the school and suddenly a lot more folks wanted to hear what Tage had to say as the existing way the program operated would have taken about 2 weeks for students to carry out this work and with inferior finish results. (You can read more about this story and many others in the Smithsonian interview of Tage Frid available online here.). The table has a delicate look that was ahead of its time and has aged well.

Round pedestal table and corner chairs

Circular pedestal pull-out table and corner chairs

In the above photo you can see the circular pedestal pull out table Tage made in Chapter 4 of Volume 3 of his book. The table base has some interesting design details that hide where the table expands from. The book details the intricate and interesting sliding mechanism that supports the removable table leaf. Also shown are some corner chairs with upholstered seats. They are comfortable when sitting upright and support you well even if you sit with a more relaxed or slouched posture.

While not a cabinetmaker by trade I suspect the knack for woodworking and artistic creativity is in the genes as Peter built numerous very nice cabinets and built-ins around the house, including the kitchen cabinets and tops shown in the background of the above photo and a very nice computer desk. Oliver is an art teacher and accomplished painter and you can see some of his work here.

A sampling of Tage's bowl turning

A sampling of Tage’s bowl turning

Tage also did a fair amount of bowl turning especially in his later years. Above are a few samples of his turning work. The large checkered/segmented bowl and blue lacquered bowl in the foreground were two of my favorites. The large salad bow near the top of the photo is also interesting. Rather than create a large tenon or undercut a tenon for use with a bowl chuck it seems that Tage used 4 wood dowels to presumably affix the large bowl blank to a faceplate or similar — thus maximizing the size of the bowl he could get from the blank and also allowing him to easily cut it off of the faceplate when the turning was completed.

Peter Frid (Left) and Oliver Frid (Right)

Peter Frid (Left) and Oliver Frid (Right)

Pictured in this last photo are Peter Frid (Tage’s Son) on the right, and Oliver Frid (Tage’s Grandson) on the left. I want to thank Peter for opening up his home to me, a thank you to Oliver for the introduction and a big thanks to Kathy and Cherie and the whole Frid family for their hospitality and allowing me to poke around admire some of Tage’s work. It was an inspirational visit and reminds me how I need to get back out into the workshop and finish off my Frid inspired workbench.

Take care,
-Bill

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about Tage Frid and his work, please check out my earlier post about him here.

P.P.S I also got to see some of Tage Frid’s workbenches and will be exploring those more in a future post.

 

Categories: Fine Woodworking, Historic Places, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Jordan’s Toolbox

Some woodworking projects are for fun, some are skill builders, some are to keep the lights on and some are for necessity. As they say “necessity is the mother of invention.” When taking a woodworking workshop at the North Bennet Street School one of the challenges is often lugging all your tools to class. The school is set in the North End of Boston and most folks take public transportation to get to the school as parking in that area is expensive and in short supply. I’ve seen folks use bags, backpacks, plastic toolboxes, 5 gallon buckets, rolling carts, suitcases, you name it. I can still remember lugging big toolboxes on the subway when I was student.

This past weekend one of my students, Jordan Ruiz, showed up to my Introduction To Shutters Workshop with the toolbox you see below:

Closed toolbox with oak hasp

Closed toolbox with oak hasp

He designed it off the top of his head and made it mostly from a single pine board.

Open drawer

Open drawer

What I like about his utilitarian design is how he translated a lot of the traditional hardware needs into wooden or other natural equivalents. Note the oak hasp which is articulated and secured with wooden pins. A hemp rope drawer pull. Dowels to secure the moving wooden tote handle, sliding top secured by a captured dowel etc.

French fitted packing foam to keep the tools in place

French fitted packing foam to keep the tools in place

I also like how Jordan used some packing foam to ‘French Fit’ all of the tools into his toolbox.

Jordan Ruiz with his toolbox

Jordan Ruiz with his toolbox

If he’s willing to do all that work to prepare for a workshop I can only imagine the dedication and creativity he’ll have at the job site. I think Jordan has a bright future ahead of him in the woodworking field. (He also made a very nice shutter as seen in the previous post)

Take care,
-Bill

Categories: NBSS, Teaching, Workshop, Workshop Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Good Shutter Can Be Hard To Find

You don’t often see a good working pair of shutters on a newly constructed home. Most times you see a pre-fab set of vinyl shutters screwed on to the side of a house or no shutters at all. The vinyl shutters usually have no hardware and often are not properly sized for the windows they are adjacent to. I want to reverse that trend and make sure at least a few folks know how to make a traditional wooden shutter.

Shop plans for my Shutters Workshop

Shop plans for my Shutters Workshop

I designed and taught an Introduction to Shutters Workshop at the North Bennet Street School this past weekend which was a lot of fun. Beyond my usual hand drawn plans I also modeled this project in SketchUp. (You can read more about that effort here).

The class hard at work

The class hard at work

In the class students learned how to make a shutter using traditional hand tools and via power equipment. They were able to weigh the pros and cons of each against their skill sets and use what was most appropriate to their project. (Some folks will be repairing a few shutters, others will be making enough for an entire home)

Making octagonal pins

Making octagonal pins

After building the frames, cutting all the mortises and tenons, and fielding the panels, everyone learned about traditional draw-boring. By making and using tapered octagonal pins and driving them through the offset hole drilled into the tenon, the joint is drawn together. This joint uses no glue, is quite strong and can be serviced in the future if a rotten piece needs to be replaced.

John finishing up his shutter

John finishing up his shutter

We also discussed many design options, regional variations and examined several examples we had on hand. It was a busy two days, but I’m hopeful that we’ll see some proper new shutters start popping up in the area.

Group picture with some finished shutters

Group picture with some finished shutters

Take care,
-Bill

P.S. I have several more workshops coming up at NBSS over the next 3 months if you are interested in joining me — there are still a few seats available. Up next is Traditional Molding with wooden Molding Planes in April, Saw Horses and Saw Hurdles in May, and Making a Window Sash in June.  You can learn more about each of them here.

Categories: NBSS, Teaching, Traditional Woodworking, Workshop | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Boxes for every occasion…

Building customized storage solutions is one of the joys of being a woodworker. I never seem to have enough storage at home or in the shop. On days when I don’t have a lot of time in the shop, when I have some nice scraps I want to use or when I want a quick warm-up, I often find myself making boxes and other storage solutions for items I want to take care of. Below are three posts I recently made for Popular Woodworking on their ‘Woodworking Daily’ blog to explore some of my thoughts on this topic. I hope that they will inspire you to get out into the shop and make something today.

Aging 100 Years in a Day

Sliding top timber framing chisel box

Sliding top timber framing chisel box

You can check out this post on making a sliding top timber framing chisel box from eastern white pine, simple rabbet joints and cut nails. It features a weathered finish made from milk paint and wax that will only look better with age and use. You can read the post here.

Working in the Round

Turned Box

Turned Box

This turned cherry box is a great way to start turning round boxes. The hollowing is done via a large Forstner bit. You can learn more about how to do this here.

A Great Box to Have Dinner With

Dovetailed Candle Box

Dovetailed Candle Box

This walnut candle box was one of the first projects I built as a student at NBSS and we still use it today. I’ve seen similar boxes for sale at Colonial Williamsburg (Prentis Store) and various Shaker Villages, so even in our modern times there is apparently still some demand for candle boxes. Learn about some of the details you can apply to your own shop built version. You can read more about it here.

Take care,
-Bill

Categories: Popular Woodworking, Workshop Projects, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There’s a Better Way…

A tip I sent in to Fine Homebuilding was converted into a video clip as part of Chuck Miller’s “There’s a Better Way…” blog on FineHomebuilding.com

"There's a Better Way" To hold your sharpening stone on the job site

“There’s a Better Way” To hold your sharpening stone on the job site

You can watch the video for free here.

Self Anchoring Sharpening Stone Holder

Self Anchoring Sharpening Stone Holder

You can also check out the original tip in an earlier post here.

Take care,
-Bill

 

Categories: Fine Homebuilding, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Drafting in the Digital Age

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” — Benjamin Franklin

When it comes to design and drafting old Ben’s quote rings as today as it did in the 1700s. A good design and a clear set of plans can spare you from a lot of unnecessary frustration or wasted material. When I went to High School in the 1990′s I had the opportunity to take classes in traditional drafting on paper and using AutoCAD on old DOS based PCs that were old even at the time. The computer was viewed as the future, but the extra time for smaller projects and prices/availability of good software was a hindrance. For the sake of expediency and my wallet I generally broke out the drawing board when I needed to make a set of plans.

Workshop Shutters In Color + Perspective

Workshop Shutters In Color + Perspective

Years later when I went to the North Bennet Street School they also espoused the use of traditional drafting with leads and full size drawings. No messing with expensive computers and ever-changing software. This works great for chairs and pieces with lots of complex curves. But for timber frames and buildings, often with many repeating elements a small change in the design could literally send you back to the drawing board for hours.

Workshop Shutters

Workshop Shutters

I recently got a copy of SketchUp and around the holidays found a real good deal on Robert Lang’s SketchUp for Woodworkers Shop Class on Demand Videos and watched them around Christmas. SketchUp took a bit of getting used to compared to my old AutoCAD days, but after watching Bob’s videos, and with my background as a software engineer and traditional draftsman I got up to speed quickly. (You may have noticed a proliferation in some computer generated renderings in recent posts) Bob Lang’s videos start with simple projects and tools and increase in complexity. I recommend getting both videos as the second video (‘Advanced Techniques’) was the most interesting to me wherein he shows the user how to create dovetails, work in the round, layout the model for printing dimensioned renderings etc.

Shutters Workshop

Hand Drawn Shutters

Save a Tree, Burn some Pixels

About a year ago I designed some traditional interior shutters for my workshop — I started out drafting them by hand. The plans sat on my TODO list for a few months and now with SketchUp in hand I decided to explore some other design possibilities with the raised panels.

Various Panel Options

Various Panel Options

Design Options Explored (Colors added for easier reference here, I’m not planning to build any shutters for a circus):

  1. Red — Raised, Sunk Fielded Panel
  2. Orange — Raised and Fielded Panel
  3. Green — Raised and Fielded Panel (rounded fielding)
  4. Brown — Flat Panel
  5. Purple — Raised Panel
  6. Blue — Bead and Butt
Panel Details

Panel Details

In the end I settled on #1 above which was part of my original design, but this software saved me from having to experiment with a few test panels to see how things looked from different angles — a nice time and effort saver which offset the perceived longer time it took me to draft this project in SketchUp in the first place. Each project I get a little faster with SketchUp and I think part of why I feel like it takes longer is you generally need to complete your model in most if not all details as opposed to some shortcuts I can take when drafting by hand. (Though I think I am getting a bit OCD as I created all the mortises, draw bored pins etc in full 3D)

Dimensioned Shutters in Color -- Rittenhouse Blue

Dimensioned Shutters in Color — Rittenhouse Blue

With SketchUp you can also experiment with colors and textures. Above you can see my shutters in Rittenhouse Blue to match my existing trim out in the shop. For other projects I’ve used actual textures which help give you a feel for how a surface would look with real wood grain etc.

Exploded View

Exploded View

The other big time saver is how fast you can generate other views — beyond top, bottom, front and back you can quickly generate an exploded view….

Section View

Section View

Or a section view…

Molding Details Dimensioned

Molding Details Dimensioned

or a dimensioned detail view. The dimensioning goes in quickly and the model can be probed in the future if you missed a dimension and want to see exactly how big a part or detail should be. All of these views help me create additional visual aids for this blog and for my teaching as I think a lot of woodworkers are visual learners. You can also share your models with other users or download thousands of models from the 3D Warehouse to save you some time.

I also like the fact that I can draft from the couch in front of the TV at night when I am too tired to be out in the shop and don’t want to be in another room hunched over the drafting board. If you have been waiting for a good reason to try out SketchUp, or draft something new you have no excuse — if you are reading this blog you are likely on a device that can be used to run SketchUp.  :-)

I look forward to seeing some of your new creations and hearing what others think about using the program.

Take care,
-Bill

P.S. If you’d like to build one of these shutters with me in person, there are still 1 or 2 seats left in my upcoming workshop at NBSS on this very topic. You can find more details here.
P.P.S. If you’d liked to check out Robert Lang’s SketchUp For Woodworker’s Shop Class on Demand Videos or DVDs  I bought my copies from here. (I don’t get any sort of kickback for this, just recommending a good resource)

Categories: Design, Drafting, Portfolio | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Tage Frid — The Great Dane

Woodworking is a lifelong journey of discovery and rediscovery. Along the way you’ll meet a lot of great folks and interesting characters who are surprisingly willing to share advice and help you out. The craft has been passed down this way for millenia.

Everything Old is New Again

Modern woodworking media seems to go in cycles much like clothing styles or car designs. Right now it’s popular to study the early works of Moxon, Roubo and Nicholson etc., or prove you have the best router or table saw trick. Others are interested in espousing the mix of old and new tools and techniques which is not a new concept. Manual training programs like those at NBSS have been doing it for over 125 years and the Shakers before them etc.

I want to buck the current trend and take a trip back to the 20th century. When I got started in traditional woodworking one of the first teachers I had was Tage Frid via the  ‘Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking’ 3 volume set with its iconic white covers. I haven’t seen these books or Tage’s work come up much lately and thought it would be helpful to blow the dust off those books hopefully re-kindle some interest as I think they are a great resource.

Tage Frid

Tage (Pronounced ‘Tay’) taught me and countless other woodworkers the basics via his books and teaching.  He grew up in Denmark and apprenticed as a cabinetmaker. His time as a journeyman took him to various other shops including the Royal Danish Cabinetmakers. In 1948, at the age of 33, the American Craft Council persuaded him to immigrate to New York and teach woodworking. Tage lead the woodworking program at the School for American Craftsman in Alfred NY which was later moved to the Rochester Institute for Technology. From 1962-1985 Tage was a professor of Woodworking and Furniture Design at RISD helping to propel that program to national prominence.

Tage Frid

Tage Frid

Also notable was Tage’s involvement with Fine Woodworking where he worked as an editor from it’s inception in 1975, through 171 issues until his passing in 2004. Described as having a sharp tongue and an ‘impish’ smile you can get a small taste it it through his writing and interviews which often have some memorable nuggets.

He could cut a dovetail while joking and flirting with the ladies. He referred to nails in furniture as ‘Swedish dowels.’ When critiquing a piece of work, which was nerve-wracking for students, the blow was slightly blunted by his sarcastic humor.  Hank Gilpin recounts some memorable zingers:

“Oh, good curve. Too bad it’s the wrong one”
“Nice dovetails. What’d you use — a chainsaw?”
“Beautiful legs Henry. What were you thinking about — an elephant?”
And the classic: “Congratulations, you’ve just figured out the most complicated way to hold a board 30 inches off the floor.” [*]

The goal was not to put anyone down, it was to help each student stay humble and push him or herself to reach new heights in a fatherly kind of way. I had a similar experience during my own training and find myself rehashing some Frid one liners and Rich Friberg-isms in my own shop and classroom. Thankfully the flavor of sarcasm I learned from Rich is a little less harsh, but still fun.

Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking Boxed Set by The Taunton Press

Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking Boxed Set by The Taunton Press

Teaching

When asked about teaching repetitive topics Frid had the following to say:

Don’t you get bored demonstrating the same old dovetail?
“Maybe you left too early. I always demonstrate difficult joints and techniques depending on what the audience wants. The dovetail is just the overture. What I like about teaching is that I learn something new every day. A student asks me, ‘Why can’t I do it this way?’ and I think, ‘Why not?’ Then we figure it out.” — Tage Frid (excepted from an old interview in Fine Woodworking you can read here.)

Levity aside, Frid’s teachings focused on teaching solid joinery — form should follow function, wood has a beautify of its own that should be enhanced and not hidden and instilling an innate sense if proportion via a keen eye for detail.

“The best tool is the eye. Train the eye. The eye guides your hands to achieve the form. If the eye says ‘It’s right’, it is right” — Tage Frid [*]

With a solid grounding in the basics and exposure to a wide range of tools and techniques students are able to take on whatever challenge a project or shop can throw at them. During his lengthy career as a teacher, writer, editor and studio craftsman Frid helped teach several generations of woodworkers. You can see his work live on through his students and their students.

Tage Frid Stool

Tage Frid 3 Legged Stool

Design

Working in the Danish-modern style a lot of Frid’s pieces had a distinctive look compared to many of his American contemporaries. They were generally lighter looking with delicate lines and curves that celebrated the grain. The designs are especially interesting when you view them in the context of the time they were produced — the 1940s-1980s.  Many of them were years ahead of what we think of as the the mainstream designs of the time .

For me, one of his most iconic pieces is the now famous 3 legged stool. If you read his 3rd book you’ll learn about how he came up with the design while watching a horse show and sitting on a fence. It was an interesting case study as he explains some of the revisions he went through to hone the design. These stools have been on my mental to-do list for about a decade now and I hope to eventually build some for myself.

When he first arrived in the US in the 1940s there were no good places to get a solid workbench. As a result Frid had to design and build a bench for himself and for his classrooms.  Based on a traditional continental design with a shoulder vise and a tail vise the bench below was well suited for a cabinet maker. Over the years many a student, both in person and via his writing, would build and use one of these benches or a similar variant.  In some upcoming posts you’ll see me build a scaled up version for my own shop.

Tage Frid Workbench

Tage Frid Workbench

What’s with the book report on Tage Frid?

Tage Frid’s work has shaped several aspects of my woodworking, design and teaching and I had a laundry list of odds and ends I wanted to share with you here. I also have been working to finish off my Tage Frid inspired bench and wanted to set the stage for it.  And lastly because once I saw it, I could not un-see it — my Dad (who was my first woodworking instructor) is a bit of a doppelganger for Tage Frid. (Check out the picture below and compare it to the first picture of Tage Frid in this post) They both have very similar body shapes, taste in glasses, hairline and half smiles. I can’t talk too much because I look a lot like my Dad, I’m just the taller model at 6′-2″, so I suspect there will be a similar picture of me someday in the shop.

William D. Rainford -- My Dad -- And Tage Frid Lookalike

William D. Rainford — My Dad — And Tage Frid Lookalike

If you are interested to learn more about Tage Frid please check out the links below, it’s worth the time.

Other Tage Frid Resources:

Time to get back out into the shop — it’s cold outside.

Take care,
-Bill

P.S. I never got to meet Tage Frid in person, he passed away while I was living out in Seattle but I would have loved to meet him. If anyone knew him personally I’d be curious to know a few things I haven’t been able to find online:

  • What happened to his shop, bench and tools? Are they in a museum somewhere? Did they go to his grandson?
  • Anyone have a picture of him in the classroom near the iconic benches he used to build?
Categories: Fine Woodworking, General Information, Traditional Woodworking, Woodworking Techniques, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Bolt Stretcher

What do you do when you need a very long bolt? Most hardware stores only stock bolts up to about 10″ or 12″ in the sizes most woodworkers use — 1/4″, 5/16″,  3/8″ and 1/2″ diameter.

Time to break out the bolt stretcher?

Assuming you don’t have such a mythical machine you can make your own longer bolts.

Start with some threaded rod and appropriately sized nuts…

Filing off the rough machined edge

Filing off the rough machined edge

File off any paint and machine/mill marks from the end of the threaded rod.

TIP: Place a nut a 1/2 in or so down onto the threaded rod before filing. Once you finish your filing you can remove the nut, and in the process will clean out the top threads which may have been deformed by the filing. Use should also use this technique when cutting threaded rod or bolts.

Why do I need such a long bolt?

In this case, I am building a workbench with a shoulder vise — this bolt helps make sure the massive vise screw does not blow out the wood joinery.

From Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking Volume 3 he suggest brazing a nut onto the end of a threaded rod, so I figured I’d give that a shot…

Mapp + Oxygen cutting and welding torch used for brazing

Mapp + Oxygen cutting and welding torch used for brazing

Time to break out the Mapp + Oxygen cutting/welding/brazing torch and some brazing rod which works much like solder. (Make sure you work in a well ventilated space and take all necessary safety precautions). Clean the mating surfaces and apply flux, then braze the nut to the threaded rod.

Brazed nut

Brazed nut

Once it cools down you can file off any excess and use this newly made bolt. I’m no expert on welding, but the amount of hardware, time, and cleanup seemed excessive. Even with some filing, wire brush work and then some polishing I was not happy with the result — this end of the bolt would be visible in the finished bench. The coloring was off and now the nut looked a little off.

Is there another way?

I thought back to my days working on my Mustang and old F-150 and a remembered good old Locktite Red Threadlocker 271.

Locktite 271 Red Threadlocker

Locktite 271 Red Threadlocker

This little tube packs a heck of a grip. You apply some threadlocker on the threads and inside of the nut, put them together and let it cure for 24 hours. You would need to exceed 500 degrees F and 245 ft/lbs of torque in order to break the bond — so in other words, plenty of strength for my use.

Threadlocker curing

Threadlocker curing

Once cured I cut the bolt to length, filed off the hacksaw marks and cleaned up the leading threads using the tip above.

15" Long Bolt

15″ Long Bolt

Now I have a nice custom sized bolt ready to go. If the need arises I hope you’ll give these techniques a try. If you do, let me know in the comments.

Take care,
-Bill

Categories: Metalwork, Woodworking Techniques, Workshop Projects | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Where did all the paraffin wax go?

Paraffin wax has many uses around the shop and can often be found in my tool belt or shop apron. It’s something I often take for granted and rarely thought about until recently when I needed to replenish my stock and could not find it in any of the usual places…

The Hunt for Paraffin Wax:

I tried all the places I’d swear I had seen it before…

  • My local food stores — Shaws, Hannafords, Market Basket, and Stop and Shop
  • The big box stores — Target and Walmart. (Walmart even listed it in stock on the website with a product ID but after searching on my own nobody in the store had a clue about it and all claimed people regularly come into the store expecting them to have things the website says are in-stock but nowhere to be found)
  • Any other place I thought might reasonably have it — Walgreens, Rite-Aid, CVS, True Value

No luck.

The next best idea I had was to try some craft stores. Michael’s and AC Moore didn’t list it on their websites, but Hobby Lobby claimed to carry some but was sold out online. After clearing snow in the evening and feeling a bit of cabin fever I decided to give Hobby Lobby a try in person. After hunting around I finally found some in the candle-making section. Given all my hunting around I bought the last two 1lb blocks of paraffin — likely a lifetime supply for most woodworkers.

The Strategic Paraffin Wax Reserve

The Strategic Paraffin Wax Reserve

My favorite workshop uses for paraffin wax:

  • Lubricating screws — especially when driven into hard woods or when the screw made of a softer metal like brass it lubricates the threads and makes it easier to drive the screw. It does not affect the screws ability to hold in the wood, and is accomplished quickly by dragging the threads through a block of wax
  • As part of a workbench and similar shop finish — From Tage Frid and other sources he would dissolve paraffin with turpentine and boiled linseed oil and use it as a durable renewable workbench finish
  • Sealing metal and tools – by dipping them into melted paraffin
  • Lubricating planes and saw blades – a quick rub with some paraffin will help your planes and saws glide easily through the wood
  • Lubricating wood on wood moving parts – such as the tail and shoulder vises in a traditional workbench or on a drawer slide
Waxed Screws In Hard Maple

Waxed Screws In Hard Maple

Tips on working with paraffin:

  • You can cut up the block of wax into any size chunk you like using a large kitchen knife. I tend to use a block about the size of a hotel bar of soap
  • Be careful in the summer as it can melt in the sun, so be careful where you store it in warmer weather. I normally have an old Altoids tin in my toolbox to keep it from getting on everything
  • For making a finish be careful as paraffin is flammable so you’ll want to melt it in a double boiler or slice it very thin or use an old cheese grater to increase the surface area before mixing it with your solvent(s)

Where did all the paraffin wax go?

Paraffin wax is generally a bi-product of the gasoline production industry and is most often used to make candles, seal jars, and as a USDA approved coating for candies and some fruits and vegetables. For folks that used to can their own food they would often seal the jars with paraffin wax (often marketed as ‘Gulf Wax’ in the food store near the Ball Jars — it came in a white box and was cut neatly into 4 bars.) From looking online it seems the USDA has advised against using wax to seal your preserves and canning seems to be less popular in recent years as most food stores no longer stock Ball jars and that sort of thing — replaced by ziploc containers and other modern plastic disposable junk. Without the connection to food, I could see food stores dropping it from their shelves.

I suspect there might be more to the story, so if you have a better theory on why paraffin seems to be a lot harder to find, or have spotted some recently, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Take care,
-Bill

Categories: Traditional Woodworking, Woodworking Techniques | Tags: , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

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