Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Little Insight From Patrick Edwards

Here is a great little video brought to my attention by djwong on the WoodNet forums.  This video comes to us from and it features Patrick Edwards the maker of Old Brown Glue.  He gives some great pointers on hide glue.  Enjoy.

Hide Glue Testing

After a sabbatical I have made it back to working with hide glue.  I have done some testing and have had some utter failures and great successes.  Working with this glue is one of those things you have to experience for yourself.  You can read all you want but until you put glue to water you won't "get it."  That being said I have a few things you should look out for if your going give this glue a shot...

As far as I'm concerned here is the holy trinity of hide glue; Viscosity, Temperature, and Age.  The glue has to be thinned correctly, wood and glue have to be at the right temperature, and the glue needs to be fresh (1 week life span if stored in fridge).  Sounds complicated, huh?  As it turns out its really not that bad.

Viscosity - The hard part is how do you know if the glue is at the right consistency if you have never used the glue before?  Proper measuring seems to be the best method.  My 251 gram strength glue needs to be mixed at a 1 part glue to 2 parts water by weight.  This led me to steal my wife's dieting scale out of the kitchen (thats between me and you).  If you use the same container each time you might be able to do this by sight, or even put lines on the side of the jar to indicate how much glue and water. After you have been doing this for a while you will be able to add water on the fly and get the glue to where it just looks right.

Temperature - The glue needs to be at full temp before use (about 140 deg.)  If its cold in the shop you will also want to warm the wood being glued.  You can do this however you want;  heat gun, hair dryer, sit wood by the stove, etc.  If the wood is to cold it will start to gel prematurely and you'll get to scrape the glue off and try again.

Age - To see if your glue is still good heat it up and place some between two fingers.  Wait for it to start to gel and separate your fingers.  You should see webs of the glue form between your fingers.  You want nice long webs.  From my little experience the webs get weaker and break off easily when the glue starts to age.  It will look like you have small hairs on your finger.  At that point I would toss it and  make up some new glue.  I did a little test on new glue vs glue that was 4 days old and the old glue was much weaker and didn't seem to cure fully.

Is all of this really worth it?  Absolutely, I'm sold.  If I start form scratch it takes me about 2-2 1/2 hours to make a new batch of glue that is ready to use.  For me that is acceptable.  I just get my glue started in the morning and work on the project.  By the time I'm ready for the glue it is generally ready.  Hide glue is much cheaper than other glues.  For about $10 you can buy a bag of glue that will last you a long time.  How many times have you bought at bottle of PVA and let it set for a while and then wondered if it was still good?  If your like me, you do that every spring.  Hide glue will last forever in its pellet form.  Just keep it stored in a cool dry place (thank you Ziploc).

David B.

PS.  Shout out to all guys on WoodNet forums for pointing me in the right direction on getting my viscosity right.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review: Hide Glue

Ever since my class at Marc Adams, where I got to use hide glue for the first time, I have really been excited to learn more about hide glue.  I wasn't having a ton of luck in old texts.  The old texts seem to assume that everyone just used hide glue as a part of their lives.  They would also discuss additives to the glue that have very obscure names or simply not available today.  When you see ingredients like Gum of Ammoniac, Spirits of Wine, and Gum of Sandarac its pretty discouraging.  

Over the last several thousand years we have been using hide glue in one form or another.  It feel into obscurity after World War II when PVA glues were commonly available.  Over the last 10 years I have had to forget what I thought about woodworking and start fresh.  In my shop where there used to be a radial arm saw there is now a hand tool workbench.  What used to be my table saw is now a catch all for my hand tool projects.  As a matter of fact I have spent more on hand tools than I ever did on power tools.  Along with my power tools my glue choices have also changed.  My old standard, Titebond I, is replaced by a bottle of Old Brown Glue.

So as part of my christmas this year I bought some hot hide glue granuals and the book Hide Glue: Historical & Practical Applications By Stephen A Shepherd from Tools for Working Wood.  I wanted to learn as much as I could about this "hand tool" and try different formulations.  Here were my expectations of the book...
  1. How to select the right hide glue for my uses.  What gram strength?  What formulations (pearls, granules, etc).  
  2. How to properly mix and heat hide glue.
  3. Tips and tricks on how to mixing and heating easier.  For example:  A good crockpot/baby warmer setup.  Type of containers to use to for the product, baby food jars? Small glue bottles? Anything to make life easier.
  4. Different recipes to alter how the hide glue performs.  I understand there are ways to make hide glue water proof, have a long open time, extremely short open time, and more flexible.
  5. A little about the history of the glue.
After reading the book I was a little perplexed and somewhat disappointed.  Mr. Shepherd obviously did a ton on research.  The problem was that he didn't present the information very well.  The book seemed more like the notes that someone would take preparing to write a book, not the book itself.  There also seemed to be a lot of information either left out or stuck in out of the way places in the book.  If I write a book on hide glue my first mission would to be to make sure the reader is very well versed in how to set up a glue pot, what glue to buy, how to mix it, and how to apply it properly.  This seemed to be quickly passed over but devotes a great deal of the time on the organic chemistry of the glue.  I'm sure there are a few guys out there who would be interested in that.  As for myself, I don't care about covalent bonds, simply explain how different properties of the glue work for or against me.  This chapter of the book left me feeling like Penny on Big Bang Theory when Sheldon is attempting to teach her physics.

"It's a warm summer evening circa 1600 B.C..."

On the good side, there is a ton of valuable information in the book.  It's just unorganized.  You find yourself looking forever for things.  He also delves deeply into the history of the glue.  My favorite thing in the book is the glossary.  It explains what some of those cryptic ingredients are that you see in a lot of the old woodworking texts.  Would I recommend it?  Yes, there just simply isn't any other books out there that I know of.  I would have like to have seen Mr. Shepherd team up with someone in the woodworking community that deals more in the book publishing side of the world.  Surely someone at Popular Woodworking, Fine Woodworking, or Lost Art Press would have been interested in a book like this.  To my knowledge there isn't any other books dedicated to hide glue.  I have gotten the impression from the blogs and forums that hide glue is making a big come back.

As for my adventures in hide glue, I haven't really gotten started yet.  I have hope to get out to the shop soon and begin doing some testing.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ray Iles Drawbore Pins

I am currently working on a coat tree that will have the legs mortised to a central post.  I decided that the best way to join the legs to the post was with a draw bored mortise and tenon.  I almost have the legs done and I'm getting ready to start on the mortises.  In the past I have always used a machinist drift pin as a draw bore pin.  For the most part it works ok.  Its lack of a handle (and my laziness to make one for it) has been a real draw back.  So it bit the bullet and bought a pair of Ray Iles Draw bore pins.

So why did I choose the Ray Iles version.  Mainly because they are the only current model that is turned eccentrically.  This means that the center line of the turning is slightly skewed.  I could see how this would be an advantage when trying to pull a joint together.  I also don't own any of they Ray's tools and wanted to give them shot.

My initial impressions of the tools as I unwrapped them was that I was less than impressed.  The tips of the pins were just roughly formed.  The handles had dents and dings in finish and there is just something people leaving tail stock holes in their handles that turns me off.  The pins seemed to be roughly turned.  I don't mean to be overly critical, maybe Lie-Nielsen & Lee Valley just have me spoiled.  When I buy a premium tool not only do I expect it to work great but look and feel great also.  I had even considered calling Tools For Working Wood and asking them about the pins.  In the end I decided I could fix the roughly formed tips of the pins and that was my major complaint.

I just felt like this tool was unfinished.  A few minutes at the grinder cleaned them up nicely.
?? In use I have far fewer complaints.  The tool works exceptionally well.  You don't have to put any downward force on the pin.  I can remember watching one of Chris Schwarz's videos on using draw bore pins and I recall him talking about how important a good handle was because of all the tight turning and pressure you would use with it.  This tool didn't require all of that work.  Simply drop in the hole and with little effort it will pull your joint together tightly.  As a matter of fact you have to be very careful not to enlarge your hole by advancing the pin to far.  I do wish the pins had a more gradual taper to assist with this issue.

Over all the pins work great.  They are a huge advancement from the drift pin I was using.  I just wish a little more time had been spend on fit and finish.  I still plan on purchasing Ray's mortise chisels and look forward to giving them a try.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jorgensen Vise, Where have you been all my life?

I have a fast and famine relationship with woodworking.  One year it will be all I think about, the next I don't want to think it about it at all.  Over the last few years I have been trying to build a relationship with hand tool wood working.  A few years back I built a Roubo type workbench, but funding got a bit tight and I never got to really finish it.  I just had a legs and top.  It didn't have any vises or frills.  For my 40th birthday my wife buys me a Class with the Schwarz at the Marc Adams school of woodworking.  This rekindled my fire for woodworking.

I found myself getting very frustrated with the my bench.  I couldn't find a decent way to hold the work while I planed.  I needed a tail vise, plain and simple.  As with most of my purchases, this started with what some might call a business plan.  I have to come up with a well reasoned argument for why I need this tool, how often I will use it.  This will include demonstrations and sometimes....begging.    My wife has to be this way because if she didn't I would be living in a cardboard box huddled around my tools.  Luckily, my wife was able to free up the funds for me to buy a Jorgensen 7" vise and some Veritas round bench dogs.

When the vise arrived I quickly got started on installing it.  Installation was pretty straight forward.  Just had to mortise out a place on the end of my workbench for the vise.  I fired up the router and made pretty short work of it.  A couple bolts later and I had the vise pretty much installed. 
Installed Jorgensen 7" vise
I added a chop and glued on some black leather and drafted a buddy to take a turn drilling dog holes.
I discovered a bit of an issue.  The quick release mechanism was not working consistently.  When you would turn the screw in to tighten it would just freely spin.  If I would just reach under the vise and barely touch the nut it would start to engage.  I ask my brothers on Woodnet Forums and no one really had a solution.  I continued to play with it and see if I could wrap my head around it.  If you are not familiar with these vises here is what the nut looks like.

?If you see on the sides of the nut there are little bosses.  The limit how much the nut will spin free spin before it starts to engage or disengage the threads.  I suspected that one of the bosses was letting the nut turn just a little too far.  My first thought was to weld a spot on the boss.  Since I don't know too much about welding I decided to try something else.  What I decided to do was glue a piece of leather onto the boss that was giving me issues.

You can just see the little piece of black leather I added to the boss.
Unlike most of my on the cuff "repairs," this one worked like a charm.  I have been using the vise now for a couple months and it has never failed to engage.  I'm sure I could have returned the vise, but I would generally have to pay for the shipping and these things aren't exactly light.

As for the vise...I love it (after it was fixed at least).  I honestly don't know why I didn't do this earlier.  The vise doesn't have any sag and seems to resists racking well.  I actually like the bench I built twice as much as the Lie-Nielsen benches that we used at Marc Adams.?  I love the flexability of round dogs.  It gives me the option to use the dog holes for my dogs or my hold fasts.  My bench is also heavier and doesn't try to "walk" away on me. 

 I added a row of dog holes down my bench (5" from front of bench, 3" on center).  This seems to work out great.  I would advise anyone to not skimp on the dog holes.  I also chose to add a dog hole in my chop instead of using the dog that come with the vise.  I wasn't a big fan of the built in dog.  It wasn't quite tall enough for my installation and it looked like it might bend backwards and allow the wood to creep up it.  Adding the dog hole in the chop was simple and has worked great.

Adding this vise was like a archaeologist finding the rosetta stone.  My hand planes started to make sense to me.  Planing boards flat didn't seem like such a task.  I couldn't actually devote my time and brain power to the task at hand instead how to secure the work to the bench.  It seems every so often in my woodworking life I cross a threshold where things just seem to instantly become clearer.  These ah ha moments are what keep me interested in this craft.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Stanley 102, a real Sweetheart

While making the rounds at a local antique mall I discovered this little plane sitting on the half price shelf.  Its a Stanley Sweetheart 102 block plane from the 1920's, as best I can tell.  It had a few rust issues, but nothing I couldn't handle.  It was all there and iron was is pretty good shape.  For $7.50 she had to come home with me.

Staley 102 after a little cleaning up.
?? This is a simple little plane but I love the size.  A lot of folks today would probably refer to this plane as an apron plane.  Its a little smaller and a full size block plane and it doesn't have any knobs or levers to get get hung on things.  This would be great to keep in your shop apron to tag along with you to buy lumber.  One of my favorite parts of the plane is that it has a sleek coffin shape.

It has a slight coffin shape making it a even sleeker plane.
I probably wouldn't use this plane as my every day user but it still has a place in my shop.  I find in my shop that my block plane gets used for different things and I tinker with the depth of cut a lot.  This little stanley is a no frills plane;  no depth adjuster, no lateral ajustment.  I'm also a big guy and this plane it a little small for my hands.  If my finger is in the front dimple then my palm doesn't rest on the rear of the plane.  This makes it pretty hard exhausting on my fingers.  For someone with small hands this plane would be perfect, but for now I'll continue to use my Record 60 1/2 as my everyday block plane.  However, I feel certain this little guy will make himself useful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ye Ol' Woodie

Recently I come accross this plane at a local antique market and had a hard time putting it down.  Normally when I find woodies like these they are pretty much trashed.  It all ways seems they have missing parts, broken handles, or a bit of termite damage.  This one seemed to be in great shape and I was running out of excuses not to add it to the "collective."

The plane is a 26" long joiner/try plane.   It was produced by the Auburn Tool Co. in the last of 1800's.  After a bit of fussing with the iron and chip breaker and flattening the sole she was ready for action.   These planes make a completely different sound when you use them.  It sounds like you tearing a piece of paper in half.  This is my first woodie like this and the blade adjustment is going to take some getting used to.  While I have read how to adjust these planes, in practice it isn't so easy.  I have a hard time setting the iron for a light shaving.  When tapping on the button ro release the wedge I tend retract the iron way too much.  It may be one of those things that someone has to actually show you how to do.

I love the plane and I'm sure i'll find a place for it in the rotation.  I would love to find a fore plane like this one.  These woodies seem to excell and taking off heavy shavings. I also get quite a bit of satisfaction at using a tool that is 120+ years old and it finally found a home that will put it to good use.  It almost makes me want to grow a handlebar mustache.