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Woodworking from another era.

Mar 20, 2015
1,891
Catalina 22 New Style SHSC, Lake Winnipeg
I am in the process of cleaning out my dad's house and gathering all my great grandfather's tools .

My great grandfather was a cabinet maker. According to my late father, great granddad, like other cabinet maker apprentices, had to make his own toolchest and storage as part of his final test before being a tradesman.

For my whole life, my dad had this set of drawers, that looked very much out of place, attached to the bottom of his workbench.

They belonged to the nesting tool chest great granddad made. Modern woodworking has nothing on the 1800s.
Here is a shot of a tool drawer. No nails or screws. No plywood. Just solid wood, joints, glue and finish. All done with hand tools. Using hardwood you would find in high end furniture. Drawer front is about 2 inches tall with a veneer of some species added. Otherwise appears to be mahogany. 2 Different knobs are on the drawers. I suspect the one in the photo is not original due to the design and that it was attached with a bolt from the back. (What i suspect are the originals, are small ebony knobs that are glued into the face like dowels)

Currently, cleaning all the years of grime that my dad and I got on them when used as "just some old drawers".
If I truly realized what he had, I would have bought him some cheap drawers and rescued these decades ago.
A bit of water and fine steel wool is a good start.
 

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Jun 21, 2004
1,516
Beneteau 343 Slidell, LA
Amazing the things that the old timers could fabricate with hand tools. I struggle to duplicate their craftsmanship with an array of power tools! Makes me appreciate their dedication in learning the craft and their capabilities.
 
Mar 20, 2015
1,891
Catalina 22 New Style SHSC, Lake Winnipeg
Amazing the things that the old timers could fabricate with hand tools. I struggle to duplicate their craftsmanship with an array of power tools! Makes me appreciate their dedication in learning the craft and their capabilities.
That wood joint amazes me. The fingers are so small. When I get back to the house, I'll take shots of the cabinet he made.
 
Oct 19, 2017
6,376
O'Day 19 Littleton, NH
Hand-cut dovetails with what looks like mahogany to pine, Bird's eye maple drawer front. Very nice work. A valuable piece for its craftsmanship and materials alone. Beautiful. I would love to see more.

By the way, machine cut dovetails are the same size on both halves of the joint. Only hand-cut dovetails have that fine tail.

-Will (Dragonfly)
 
May 12, 2004
1,256
Hunter Cherubini 30 New Port Richey
Love the old wood-working hand tools. My father, grandfather, and g-grandfather were all master carpenters. Don't know what happened to me. I believe my g-grandfather built Pullman cars in Canada in the 1800's. Inherited some of his tools after my dad's passing. What a treasure.
 
Oct 19, 2017
6,376
O'Day 19 Littleton, NH
Absolutely fantastic. He was also a very skilled woodcarver. If you have his carving tools, don't let them go for anything.

Judging by his work, his tools were probably the best, made even better by age. I am soooo jealous.

This was my apprentice tool box from school. Ihad to dig deep in my basement too get it out; Mahogany trimmed with poplar. My instructor was appalled that I wanted to pair those two woods where they would be visible, but I thought the green heartwood of the poplar would make the mahogany red stand out. He admitted that it worked.
20200530_192642.jpg20200530_192702.jpg20200530_192726.jpg20200530_193220.jpg20200530_193038.jpg20200530_192913.jpg

My senior project was a claw and ball chair of walnut. I never finished it because I was using my instructor's carving tools and I never had the right gouge to finish the ball of one foot after I graduated.

-Will (Dragonfly)
 
Mar 20, 2015
1,891
Catalina 22 New Style SHSC, Lake Winnipeg
Absolutely fantastic. He was also a very skilled woodcarver. If you have his carving tools, don't let them go for anything.
Judging by his work, his tools were probably the best, made even better by age. I am soooo jealous.
Unfortunately it looks like his carving stuff is long gone. I vaguely remember my dad saying that my uncle got them.

My dad said that, great grandad called my uncle or possibly my grandfather a "wood butcher", and was happy that my dad at least had the patience to do decent woodwork. Lord knows why he didn't end up with all the heirloom tools.

After my grandfather got back from WW1, he worked for the railway in the car shop, and was a musician on the side.
Some of the old tools I have found, were likely his.

His musical instruments went to my uncle, who had no musical ability at all. Oldest son situation possibly ? who knows.
I suspect that he sold the tools and instruments because he would likely have seen them as a financial asset.

To me they are heirlooms. I would like nothing better than to make something with my great grandfather's tools , or play a musical instrument that my grandfather or father played.

So the antique tool chest and set of drawers, will have a mix of tools from 2 generations. (my dad's stuff will be in my cabinet for use) With luck one of my nephews will take them over one day.


This was my apprentice tool box from school. I had to dig deep in my basement too get it out; Mahogany trimmed with poplar. My instructor was appalled that I wanted to pair those two woods where they would be visible, but I thought the green heartwood of the poplar would make the mahogany red stand out. He admitted that it worked.

My senior project was a claw and ball chair of walnut. I never finished it because I was using my instructor's carving tools and I never had the right gouge to finish the ball of one foot after I graduated.

-Will (Dragonfly)
Very good to know the idea of an apprentice tool box still exists. Nice work !
I suspect that the instructor/apprentice disagreement is something as old as time. hehe.

I have this feeling that even the appreciation of quality workmanship is becoming a lost, in a disposable society.
New generations in the west don't seem to see the value in it.
When I was in Malaysia, I wanted to load a container with the handmade and carved furniture I saw there, and replace almost all furniture I have.
Next time I get there I want to go see it being made.

Is there much of a market in the west for quality new cabinetry today ?
Do you still have the chair so you can finish it ? Though, if it is unfinished but usable, it would have a story attached to it.
 
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Oct 19, 2017
6,376
O'Day 19 Littleton, NH
I have the chair. It's in the rafters of my garage. All parts are ready for assembly, but the carvings are not done. One day...
It has the pretties piece of crotch grain walnut for a splat, I have ever seen. I designed the chair from a picture out of Wallace Nutting's "Furniture Design" ed. 3. Beautiful Queen Anne style. I'll dig it out sometime and post pictures.


Is there much of a market in the west for quality new cabinetry today ?
Yes, but it is limited and very high end. I suspect most customers want the status more than the quality of a hand made piece. Few can afford to pay a guy $50+/hour for the hours it takes to build something like a dining table and six chairs, for example.

When I was in school, I calculated a three legged table I built to sell for $1200 and that was figuring at $9/hr. If a craftsman with decades of experience wants to be in business for himself and earn as much as his plumber, multiply that price by 10. Plus the overhead of a shop is way more than any plumber has to spend. He better be good to make it at that level.

-Will (Dragonfly)
 
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Jan 19, 2010
8,512
Hunter 26 Charleston
Those are FANTASTIC!
When my dad retired, he took up woodworking and he "apprenticed" with an old Filipino guy he befriended (now dead). Some of the stuff my dad now makes blows my mind... but you really got to love it and give it the time it deserves. My dad will spend three months building a table. Of course that table will now last 100 years ... unlike the Ikea crap we buy today.
 
Mar 20, 2015
1,891
Catalina 22 New Style SHSC, Lake Winnipeg
If a craftsman with decades of experience wants to be in business for himself and earn as much as his plumber, multiply that price by 10
Rant mode on
That is something that has always annoyed me. IMO residential plumbing is a 6 month class at best. How hard is it to understand water/poo goes downhill and pipes cant leak. You barely need to know how to solder now. The tech barely changes at all. Compare that to real craftsmen. Heck an auto tech has to constantly update his knowledge and skill and amount of tools. Imo most plumbing should be a low wage job, especially based on the shoddy work I have seen. (Sprinkler system, and large commercial work excepted)
Rant off.

To distract the plumbers in the forum, here are the wood planes i just found in a box:
20200531_180437_HDR.jpg20200531_180432_HDR.jpg
 
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Mar 20, 2015
1,891
Catalina 22 New Style SHSC, Lake Winnipeg
I designed the chair from a picture out of Wallace Nutting's "Furniture Design" ed. 3. Beautiful Queen Anne style. I'll dig it out sometime and post pictures.
Looking forward to it.
I see this stuff as similar to "vintage sailboat porn"

That said, i find myself most attracted to Japanese, Scandinavian and Prairie design when it comes to furniture and architecture for my own actual use.
That is changing though. My house is becoming more and more a mix of things acquired in my travels.
 
Jan 19, 2010
8,512
Hunter 26 Charleston
Well... on the issue of plumbers .... they sometimes have to do some rather :poop: work that you could not pay me to do.

I once got my septic tank pumped and the guy who did it actually stuck his HEAD down the tank lid and shone his light around to make sure the drain tiles were clear. He then gave me a bill for $250

...believing in karma I wrote him a check for $300
 
Mar 20, 2015
1,891
Catalina 22 New Style SHSC, Lake Winnipeg
Looking at those wood planes, i was musing on how they were made so the bottom contour matched the blade.

I assume that the blade and wood base were cut with a belt driven grinding wheel ? You could also use the blade meant for the plane to cut the contour to match.
Anyone know ?
 
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Oct 19, 2017
6,376
O'Day 19 Littleton, NH
The wood plane is cut to match your desired molding. The iron is hand ground with patience and a practiced eye. These are one of a kind pieces. Often the tools at hand dictate the design. A lot of stop and check.

-Will (Dragonfly)
 
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