John Porritt, a collection of details — Windsor & Stick chairs

Although I don’t make many Crafts (tool collectors) of New Jersey meetings, my good friend John Porritt was scheduled to speak about Windsor and stick chairs. With the distance we live from each other, this made for an easy trip to catch up.

The craft monthly meets start off with a boot sale. The weather was a little overcast but not bad. About a dozen people set up. Recently I took down a large red oak in the backyard and was now looking for a few additional metal wedges; you can never have enough when splitting a big wheel.

Around 1 we moved inside for the talk that was less a chronological history and more a free flowing talk on a dozen or so chairs that John had brought with the help of Jim Bode. They ranged in age from1740 to the present and in condition, as John is skilled in the ways of restoration, as you many have read in my other posts about him.

Now just being honest, I do love some vintage tools, but my furniture likes are more in the Frits Henningsen or Peter Hiort Lorenzen, aka Danish modern world than classic English and Welsh.

John however has a great way of seeing past the obvious and finding the subtler details easily missed at first glance. Mix that with a strong knowledge of wood and furniture construction and even a mid-century geek can find common ground.

John bounced around the room pulling chairs from the tables, pointing out details and/or repairs that might be needed or had been made in the past. With a group like Craft you have a wide variety of woodworkers and John answered questions as he worked through the chairs.

After about hour it was time for me to head home. Craft is a bit of drive for me so it was good to see a few members I’ve done work for in the past and to catch up with John. He’s admittedly not a child of the internet but if you reach out to me I’d be happy to put you in contact. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing many of his repairs, restorations, and chairs. I happily recommend him to anyone in the market looking for help with a restoration. His skills and technique in the field are not something you’ll find on Youtube.

And with that I’m off to the bench to get some saws ready for market.

Joe F. AKA the saw Monger

I’m back, baby!

Okay, it’s been more then a few months (read years) since you’ve read the rambling of the saw Monger and said— this is the reason for standardized testing in public schools. . . but you know you miss me! And I’m back baby.

I’ll start with something positive, I hope the 5 of you reading this, most likely family, are doing well

Now onto the reason fro writing. I changed the Second Chance saw works Site to a new provider while I sort out getting both the blog and sales sites merged. I’m no web master so it could be a wile and till then if you plug in www.secondchancesawworks.com you will be redirected to the blog. The ebay site remains untouched.

Lastly for those into social media in addition to this blog, (which I will be updating more often) I have a facebook and instagram account. So that’s it for now but I just returned from NH and will be writing about the trip and I’m sure other stuff as well. Till then.

Cheers
The Saw Monger.

Winter Wonderland

ChristmasShopI’ll start but saying Happy New year to everyone in Sawville and hope Santa treated you well for Christmas. The winter months in the world of tools slow down but I’ve been lucky enough to have a few saws streaming through the shop for sharpening and restoration so my hands haven’t been too idle.

December and January are always slow on the auctions and boot sales so I was happy to get a call from someone I met earlier this year at the Hearne Hardwoods open house.  He had a number of older saws that he was selling off and at the time we met he was just looking to get rid of any that had been left by the previous pickers who had gone through the collection. His small shop was located not far from Trenton. I knew the seller that had gone through the collection so at best I figured I’d find some interesting wall hangers and saws for parts.

After a quick tour of his shop we headed over to his storage area and dug through one of the largest collection of carpentry day or travel type boxes I’ve seen. Rick explained that for years he’d hit the Golden Nugget flea market and bought them when the prices were just a few dollars. He’d sell off the tools but liked the boxes. Over time, like most stuff with drawers, they filled up. Saws for so many years had low value, and well, they just piled up. Now that pile was on a tarp in my wagon and as promised I took all of them, the good and the bad.

canofsawsOnce back home I sorted them into trash, parts and possible restoration/keepers. As I had figured, most were in the trash and parts piles but Rick had some really nice wall hangers for the few of us that enjoy the history and look regardless of the function. Rick was a retired carpenter but also did some turning on the side and in the mix was a bowel of various saw screws and hardware that was fun to go through. I’m always in search of spare Munger patent screws as many of the early Peace and WMC saws used them, and due to the design they don’t take excessive torque well.

After the dust settled I set to work pulling handles from plates. Note to self, I need to find a local scrap yard as my collection of bent plates must be near 100 pounds at this point. As predicted, I did find a few interesting wall hangers for the shop and I’ll share a few of them.

The first is an unmarked, I would guess English, table saw that looks to have last been filed rip.  At first I was thinking this was possibly the remains of a panel saw that’d just seen a few decades of use, and at some point the lower cheek started to get in the way so the handle was cut to be open. However, as I now write this and look at the pictures, I still feel the plate has been cut down but the handle was mostly likely always open. The old English beech handle with split nuts remains tight and I would guess at some point as the saw grew shorter a nib was added, then broken off. The beak and top hook of the handle have that classic FAT yet shapely look like a plump woman in a Renaissance painting.

tablesawNext up is a well loved early Disston. I’m guessing this is a No 9 but I thought they used apple handles. This one however looks to be beech or at least not a fruit wood, but it’s been heavily coated with finish so it’s a little hard to tell. Regardless, it’s a wonderful old Disston from a time before aid of machinery. This sucker was hand shaped with files. The No 9’s are also an interesting model in that the handles changed shapes and some examples look more like the No 7, while others have the double lobes of the later No 12. I’m not sure if the plate is original to the handle but a faint etch can be made out. I also found a small secondary one closer to the handle of which “Warranted” is about all I can make out.

DisstonNo9plateI’m a sucker for hardware saws so this was a keeper regardless of the condition. It’s amazing the info one can find online and a quick Google book search found me this ad from the 1880’s, Humphrey, Dodge & Smith Jobbers and retailers in hardware. Look at the saw screws that are a distinctive dome style that with repeated use have sunken into the apple wood handle.  It’s interesting to note that most saws filed this deep into the plate would exhibit a shaved cheek from the handle hitting the wood with each stroke or a broken lower ogee. This one seems to have had some care taken by its previous owners.

HumphreyDodgeHumphreySawI’ll finish with this one and as someone who’s done their fair share of repairs I love the use of recycled bits, fit, and finish. I find a good deal of Spears & Jackson saws in my travels. For the most part I think the early ones had inferior steel to the US counterparts but handles, fit, and finish are always quite nice. The wood alone in this handle is nicer than most I find in similar years made in the US. However, what kept this one from going under the knife and off to the scrap yard was the repair. The saws may be from the UK but that handle repair is all America. I’m left wondering what the 5 stapled in the metal represents. Also note the fit of the screw heads; this was done with care by someone who felt if they were going to take the time, regardless of the job, it would be done right. Surely worthy of a place on the wall.

S&Jhandle

S&JsawI’ll pick out a few others for a later date. . .

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2014.

Joe Federici
Jobber of fine handsaws

Got Wood?

HH03Let me start off by saying thank you to everyone who stopped by my bench at the Hearne Hardwoods open house. This was my second year going and I tried to be a little better prepared and brought tools to sell as well as a kit for those of you with questions about filing.

Being my second year I had a better idea what to bring and how to set up. I also expanded my time and went both Friday and Saturday after talking with Mario and Allen of Philadelphia Furniture Workshop who felt Friday was the busier day.

HH02Getting there on Friday prior to the opening also allowed me to set up and walk around a little. For those of you outside the area or just haven’t had the time to visit Hearne, driving up it looks like most lumber yards with a large pole building but after a short walk around and side said building you quickly realize the amount and selection of flitch & log sets they have.

HH01For those of you that did stop by and talk, a few of us talked about a hardware store saw for “Chandler & Barber” that I was filing as time permitted. At the time I hadn’t had time to look into the hardware store.  As it turned out, Chandler & Barber was one of the largest and well know hardware stores in the Boston area.

HH05Hardware was their back-bone, but like Sear and Woolworths, they branched out over the years. Owners Alexander Chandler, editor of Hardware Record Magazine , and D. Fletcher Barber owned and operated the hardware company located at 122-124 Summer Street in Boston during the mid-1800’s through the 1920s. The manufacturing of these saws would have been contracted by one of the larger saw manufacturers and looking the saw over I would say Disston or C.E. Jennings.

HH04Before signing off, I also want to thank the many of you that have sent me saws for sharpening.

Saws, for the time being, have become a large part of my income and I appreciate the new and repeat business. For those of you who follow me in ebay, you will have noticed I’ve switched over most of my saws to buy it now. I’ve done this for a few reasons, the main one being it’s just the fairest way to do business for both me and the future owner. No shill bidding for buyers to worry about and I can get a fair price for the work done. Plus for those who feel the price is high I’m always willing to take offers. For those of you looking for the best deal I normally sell the same saws on my personal site at a slightly lower then ebay price. I do this as my site saves me the MANY ebay fees and I pass it on.

Rest assured I’ll always keep a few saws on auctions for the diehards.

Till next time,

Cheers,

Joe FedericiA fool for fall!

The Jobber of Fine Handsaws

Hearne Hardwoods open house I hope everyone had a really great and productive summer.  In the northeast it’s been a bit of a wet one, so for my friends in the boating world it’s been a good one for sure.

Early in the summer I was in New Hampshire for a repeat trip to see a good friend and fellow seller. Dean’s place as always is a treasure trove of cool and unusual saws. Recently I’ve been on a Joseph Flint kick after first picking up a well loved example in upstate New York last year.

J.FlintWhat first struck me was the medallion in the handle was reversed; something I guess as a left handed sawyer I just naturally noted. Now I should point out, this being a well-used example, it’s quite possibly something a previous owner did; regardless, I filed it away under “that’s cool”. Since then I’ve been on the hunt, and although I’ve bought a few other examples including a Shurly Dietrich which he was involved in, none have had a reversed saw screw medallion.

Clapp&TreatBut I digress; so to get back on point… While at Dean’s I picked up another J. Flint and a really cool hardware store saw made for Clapp & Treat Hardware and later Outfitters. More will come on that, as I just finished cleaning it up and will try to post a picture.

For those of you in the Philadelphia area, Hearne Hardwoods is having an open house again this year. The dates are Friday, October 4th and Saturday, October 5th. This year I’ll be there both days, so please stop by and say, “Hi.” Like last year I’ll have my workmate and vise and will be happy to answer any questions. Last year I had a lot of fun meeting local craftsmen and talking shop.

Critical PastMy friend Mark of Foley Filer and past post emailed me a great link to some vintage black and white films taken of the Disston plate. The quality is quite good and it’s cool to see how some of the plates were toothed and the handles were carved and shaped. You can buy them for as little as $4.00; Mark reports they view quite well even with the watermarks.  The site is Critical Past and if this link doesn’t work just search Disston and you should get 5 clips.

In other news I’ve recently moved the shop back to South Jersey and doing my best to change over any paperwork or websites to my new mailing address. My email and such remain the same, but if you’re interested in getting a saw sharpened or worked on, my new mailing address is:

SECOND CHANCE SAW WORKS
P.O. Box 446
Moorestown NJ 08057

In addition my turn-around should be a little quicker as I’m a fulltime saw mechanic, while seeking local employment, happily now back in the Philly area. Life is full of change and I’m looking forward to new opportunities. In looking over some older advertisements from the mid-1800’s I found references to a “Jobber”, which I rather liked and felt fit me as I currently meet both definitions.

Joe Federici
Jobber of Fine Handsaws

TLC sAw Stlye

JohnsonswaxThe summer is here and I hope everyone is enjoying it. Your friend and saw monger has been busy! Finishing up the spring meets in the area, getting things posted for sale, and recently buying a new car! Something at 44 is one of the few firsts left. .

I know the blog posts have been few and far between; excuses, excuses but I’ve had a few requests to talk about TLC saw style. The good news is once they are restored and/or in good condition they don’t require a lot of special care. So with that in mind I thought I’d share a few tips and best practices I follow.

Let’s start with storage. Rule numero uno: Don’t store the blade bent! It’s the best practice you can follow and not really hard to avoid with a little care. Some guys like pegs and others fancy tills. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Pegs lay one handle against another and you may need to dig and shuffle with multiple saws that can lead to dings or drops. Tills are another option and come in all types, designs and complexity. Again the key is the blades aren’t bent while in storage.

Mike Wenzloff once said to me, “Wax is a saw’s best friend,” or as I like to say, “Friction is a bitch.” Either way rust isn’t smooth. If you bought a saw from me it had Johnson’s Paste Wax on it. I average about a tin a year and just finished one a few weeks ago. I can’t give you a number but it’s easily over a hundred plates. The other benefit of wax is rust prevention.  However if you feel wax just dulls all that elbow grease and your goal is shining chrome polish, some aluminum foil followed by a buff with a clean rag works as well. It sounds crazy but talk to anyone who’s restored a bike with pitted chrome and they’ll tell you it works. You may find that fine steel wool works in place of the foil, but I find for rust prevention that wax wins and can still be applied after the polish.

Rust prevention here in the northeast is really the biggest issue. So with that in mind it’s important to recognize most wood has some moisture left and this will significantly cut down on the life of a sharpened saw. One thing I’ve found that helps tremendously is to brush after use. So listen up kids to the Saw Doctor, “Ignore your teeth and they’ll go away!”

sawbrushFun aside, I’d recommend a quick brush off at the end of the day. No need to do it after every use UNLESS it’s a high point dovetail; in that case it can help with a tightly set saw.

I first learned to use a brush when sharpening and once in hand just kept finding great uses for it. It took some searching but I found a US maker that uses “real” bore hair plus a size that works well for cleaning my rasps. If you’re interested, they are for sale on my personal and eBay sites.

Lastly the handle and saw screws…It goes without saying that wood is not indestructible so follow general best practices. Don’t use them as a hammer. Also when cutting with a backsaw pay attention to your depth of cut. Don’t smash the handle into wood trying to get the saw to cut deeper. STOP! Wood does not cut wood well. Reread my blog about saw screws. I find my fair share of broken screws, so easy on the torque, tiger. There’re just defenseless screws.  Lastly feed that wood. Most of you are woodworkers so I’ll leave the finish up to you. Wax is a simple solution; boiled linseed oil is another popular choice. I tend to use shellac and wax as it doesn’t darken the wood or react with other finishes.

Just to recap as I can ramble…

Store saws flat so blades aren’t bent. They can be vertical or horizontal.

Rust prevention is key. Wax, oil or polish all work.

When done using your saw wipe it down and brush loose dust off the tooth line.

Check the handle for play every now and again to see if it needs tightening. If working with a backsaw be mindful of the depth of cut and don’t smack the cheek into your kerf. It’s bad form!

I’m sure a lot more good tips are out there so for sure pass any good ones along and I’ll post for others to enjoy.

JSWwax

The new wagon AKA Sawyer getting a little TLC of it’s own.

Joe Federici AKA the Saw Doctor reminding you:
“If You Ignore Your Teeth, They Will Go Away”

The Quest for Fastnacht

Horst_03A few weeks ago I wrote about the Horst auction; in short, getting skunked and barely lifting my arm to bid.

A few weeks later there was the winter tool auction so I thought I’d give it another go. I also met up with my friend Malissa so the time worked to serve double-duty as she’s been helping to get my paperwork in order.

There wasn’t a tremendous amount of saws but more than last time and I figured it was a good opportunity to meet many of the local dealers. Most of the better saws I find I buy directly and auctions are a great place to network.

The day job prevented the possibility to preview so I was up before the rooster Saturday and made the trip to Lancaster, PA in traffic-free record time.

Horst_05Getting there when the doors opened left me plenty of time to look things over. The auction contained a nice collection of over 500 items. Most were wooden planes and tools from the Pennsylvania area. In addition to the stuff inside they had some larger box lots outside. As is the nature of box lots, most consisted of heavy items and/or project restorations. I did spy a cool metal user-made saw vise. The price went way more than its usefulness. I wouldn’t even want to think about shipping it so the idea of resale held no value to this Monger.

Horst_049 am was game time. I looked around to see who was there. I’m still someone new to auctions in this area and am finding prices overall a bit higher this year. This is a good thing, except I don’t think the users and collectors got the memo.

Coffee in one hand, auction number and notes in the other, I was following along writing down prices on things I found interesting. The first few saw lots came up and the buyers looking to stock up drove the process above market, so I walked outside to see the box lots for a little while. They run the inside and outside box lots simultaneously so I founds lots of wives and friends proxy bidding.

Horst_02The next group of saws contained Disston cone nuts that looked like a hardware store addition with metal plate sides. I’m a fan of metal plated handles of all makers and these were missing a few nuts, so I figured I might have a shot. Well, wrong again, but this is where the story gets interesting. Where I was sitting my view was blocked and I thought the high bidder was a seller from around Wilkes-Barre, PA, whom I’d had met at the Mid-West gathering a few weeks earlier.

Seeing a repeat of a few weeks ago I figured it was just around midday and I’d cut my losses and head back to the shop. I had a few handle repairs and no shortage of sharpening and thought the time would be better spent. I gathered up things and walked over to Jason (thinking he had bested me on the saws) to see if he had any more info on the saws.

After shaking hands he corrected me and said it was another collector from right in the same area that had won the saws.  Introductions were made to Terry who then told me he’s a collector of wooden planes and all things made in the Lancaster area, in addition to a weakness for unusual saws with no particular makers in mind. We walked outside and he had an interesting Mathieson he picked up locally. I’m not an expert on them but this one had brass hardware similar to the McNiece Patent. We talked about it and, seeing I was empty-handed, he said he was downsizing his collection and had a few user saws that might be of interest.

Figuring my luck at the auction was a bust and he was heading home, I followed him for the short but nice trip through the farm roads of Lancaster back to his house. Not knowing what to expect I was overwhelmed by his collection. Terry was a bit modest; he too is a member of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association and had been collecting for many years. The saws were impressive but secondary to his collection of wood molding planes. I looked over and talked with him about a few. My knowledge of plane makers and wood planes in general is lacking.

Note to self: pay more attention to Josh Clark at the boot sales!

Regardless, it’s always fun talking with someone that has so much first hand information and examples from years of collecting.

Horst_08After the quick tour and lesson we walked down to the basement and unstacked some (nice) saw chests containing a few dozen saws each. Most were from the early 20th century and a few real early American makers. Mind you, not everything was looking for a new home but I was happy with the selection of really good users and a few rare ones as well. We figured out a fair price and then carried them out to my car.

Horst_07Feeling a little better about things, I returned to the auction to see where things were in the process. I waited out about 20 lots just to see the last of the saws go above market and then smiling headed back to the car to find a place to eat. I’d been hoping to get some local Dutchie foods, such as Fastnacht which is normally made this time of the year.

I always look for local things whenever I travel. I’m big on pulling u-turn’s and slamming on the brakes when I pass a farm stand. Malissa knowing this had emailed me about Fastnacht Day which I googled and learned is a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition that falls on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, aka Fat Tuesday, the traditional day to eat the best or maybe the richest sweets before the Lenten fast.

Horst_01However, despite my best efforts, and maybe in retribution for the good fortune with saws, I had no luck finding a local fresh bakery or restaurant offering local cuisine.  In the end we decided on a local sandwich shop that was very good. Udder Choice claims the largest selection of ice cream scoops in the US; I figured it was roughly at over 200, which didn’t seem that impressive.  I mean, I have more than 200 saws and the other week, when talking with Carl, he knows a collector that has over 3000.

Horst_06So I settled for a trunk full of choice saws over Fastnachts and I think my waistline is happier for it. But next year Fastnacht day falls on March 4th so get ready; I know I will.

Joe Federici
Saw Monger and Duchy food connoisseur

Inside the anarchist cabinet

Craft_04One thing you may have noticed about the saws I bring to market is I don’t discriminate.

I regularly do handle repairs of all types and as time goes on I’m finding I enjoy the process more and more. I’ve always had an interest in restoration and the experimentation to get it “just right” and just plain messing about to get the needed finish or treatment.  It’s a lot of experimentation and research plus a healthy understanding of color and light. Those last two things transfer well from many years approving color at magazines and now at catalogs.

But enough about me and on with the blog.

In the fall of 2012 I attended the fall MJD auction in NH (see link for post). It was a fun show and although it didn’t make the highlights I had the pleasure of meeting John Porritt. Like many others, John started building furniture then gravitated to other specialties including: Windsor chairs and repair/restoration of furniture and tools.

We struck up a conversation while looking over some saws, made introductions, and as often is the case, John was a lover of all handsaws as well. John as it turns out is a fan of Atkins saws, something you don’t expect from a native of England. I explained I tended to lean more towards Disston for resale but I’m an equal opportunity collector and rather like Peace and Richardson.

Later that day after things slowed down we talked with more detail about restoration and dealing with broken horns on handles. John explained a process he favors, curving, and he found a way to trick the eye and blend the seam naturally. I hadn’t really formulated the idea at that time, but now as I look back I see it more clearly.

The ideal repair is hidden in plain sight, not under 6 coats of paint. Something easier said than done. The idea of matching wood is a multi-step process of backwards engineering and not about brushing stain on to cover the joint.

He was kind enough to extend an invitation to visit; we exchanged cards and before weekend’s end we had traded saws. Sadly it was already fall and within weeks the colder weather had set in and I figured I’d try again in the spring.

Fast forward, and as I was looking over the February meeting of CRAFTS of New Jersey, I saw that John was on the docket to speak in Highbridge, NJ and the Sunday looked free so I made plans to attend.

I’ve been a member of CRAFT for a while now but due to schedules and life I have only made the spring tool auction held at a different location but still in Hunterdon County, a very nice section of the garden state. It would be a little troublesome to travel to but I’m willing to bet that’s part of the reason.

The February meet was in the midst of a cold snap that threatened a little snow but as luck would have it the rich blue winter sky was clean for the pre-meet tailgate. The colder temps reduced my eagerness for pictures but not the car boot sales. I counted about 12 or more sellers with a good selection of tools ranging from top shelf to long-term projects. Everyone was happily milling about unaffected by the cold. These boot sales are as much about connecting and making new friends as buying and selling. You find over time it’s often one in the same. It’s a similar experience I have at my local green market and outdoor markets that are popping up all over the country and are in stark contrast to sales on eBay.  If this were the SAT’s it would read.

Ebay is to Boot sales as Walmart is to:

  1. McDonalds
  2. Main street America
  3. G.M
  4. Farm markets
  5. Both B and D

Ok enough eBay bashing . . . It’s like the roads in Pennsylvania, low hanging fruit.

Craft_03

Back to the CRAFT meeting. I walked the lot, found John, and he keyed me into some interesting saw manufacturer catalog reprints. I thoroughly enjoy the old illustrations and find them a great resource. I’d love to reproduce some on t-shirts in the future. I also picked up a few good saws, a nice early Disston No. 8 with a beautiful handle and an American Boy that needed a top horn repair.

Craft_01By noon people started moving indoors and John was in the midst of unloading two dozen or more cans and jars filled with all types of liquids, powders, and waxes. In short I thought “the anarchist cabinet.” Some were simple things like a piece of rust from a leaf spring found in the Hudson, crushed into a powder.  Others were dyes, stains, and pigments mixed with waxes and soap. Lastly there were the more caustic things used for bleaching color out.  Things like nitric and boric acid and hydrogen peroxide are used for pulling color out of woods.

John started off with a little background and history. He was an orphan, who endured a miserable existence in an English workhouse. He escaped and traveled to London where he met the Artful Dodger, leader of a gang of juvenile pickpockets. Oh wait! That’s Oliver Twist.  John did however move here from England (I think he said 5 years ago) and now lives with his wife on the tail end of the Taconic Parkway, which I think would be considered part of the Berkshires but don’t quote me on that; I can’t do all the research.

Craft_02Once done with the introduction he jumped right into things. He brought some really nice completed examples of work as well as a portfolio of furniture and chairs.  He was here to talk about restoration and brought a few recently made replacement wedges for wood molding planes.

Having limited time everything was done high level but at the same time he offered lots of useful tips, tricks, and resources including an out of print book by Michael Bennett, “Discovering and Restoring Antique Furniture: A Practical Illustrated Guide for the Buyer and Restorer of Antique Furniture.” Note that the hardcover seems to sell for less than the paperback and contains the same copy. I’ve since read through about ½ and am really enjoying it.  It’s cut down that feeling of reinventing the wheel.

John went over some thoughts on wood selection and how he starts the process depending on whether the wood needs to be darkened or lightened to match back to the piece. In most cases it’s darkening and the example he worked was such. Unlike what you might think it doesn’t start with stain.  Think reverse engineering like I talked about earlier.  The process starts with aging and stressing the wood. John used a number of shop-made and found tools including a (1970’s Black and Decker drill) outfitted with a crazy looking paint stripper that looked like a softer nylon wheel. For sure, not OSHA approved! Other tools of interest were a vintage ivory burnisher, leather tools, and a WWI era chainmail pot scraper. His were the real deal but I did find they are still made today. In short the goal here is to add texture and also smooth out the wood. John worked in stages getting the wood texture correct before adding color. In fact color seemed to be the last thing he added. After tapping, burnishing with the BACK of sand paper, and other black magic, he got into the color. Bleaches and acids are used; author’s note: look alive and follow labels. I’ve worked with nitric acid and it’s nasty stuff.

John applies dyes and stains of all types. Like anyone he’s found colors and brands that work well and he applies them in small amounts along with organic material like rust and natural pigments. One tip I picked up was the use of a heat gun. I’ve used them in the past for all types of things but never thought about it when working with multiple finishes. As he worked through the process he passed examples around and held things up to see.  I did my best to take a few pictures.

By the end John had covered a multitude of things and given out some really great tips. He doesn’t currently have a website; he’s more of a phone person but does have email and you can contact me for his number.  I don’t want to post it but I’m happy to pass it out. He’s done work for some of the big guys like Jim Bode, Patrick Leach, and Leon Kashishian, whom I’ve recently come to know. He hails from the fine borough of Hatfield, PA and is a fellow collector of the fine early makers of Philadelphia saws.

next blog we head BACK to Lancaster in search of Fasnachts! and saws

Joe Federici
Saw Monger and anarchist at heart

sometimes it take a village

Work in progressAs some of you may remember, over the summer I picked up a Noden Adjust-A-Bench at auction. After lugging it up 5 flights of stairs, it’s been sitting in my apartment, waiting for me to move things around and build the necessary jigs.

In short, inspiration or motivation was needed.

Motivation was found in the form of a friend coming to visit and the necessity to clean up and organize my apartment work space. Reassembling the table with a single person was a little troublesome righting it but the improvement over the old worktable was a welcomed improvement. I was really looking forward to the adjustability to file smaller backsaws higher than bigger panel saws.

Once upright, the first thing needed was a proper bracket to hold my vise. I wanted something sturdy but also removable as I use the space for other tasks as well. My solution was to dovetail a bracket and use 5/16th carriage bolts and wing nuts.

The next thing I needed was a vise. Not really concerned with heavy use for woodworking, I figured I’d pick up a Wilton 7″. I found a local listing and made plans to meet. As it turns out the seller, Hop Usner, was a retired printer who worked in offset and sheet-feed, a world I know as well.  He currently buys and resells mostly power tools for woodworking and just picked up some school shop equipment. Among them was a really cool complete miniature letterpress for cards and envelopes. I took a few minutes to check it out and see what fonts and other parts were included and while doing so a Wilton patternmakers vise caught my eye. The vise looked in really good shape for its years, and its ability to flip from a machinist jaw to a 7” parallel would make it a real space saver. So as they say, a deal was struck.

bench_07With some extra time off around the holiday it was time to get cranking on the necessary jigs and hardware needed. I started with the bracket for my trusty TFWW saw vice. Like most of the tools Joel has built it’s both indestructible and the Cadillac of its type.

bench_04I had some smaller pieces of 5 quarter maple that would work perfectly. Having a few saws, I decided to go with a traditional dovetail joint. These being bigger DT’s than I normally contend with, I decided to reduce the angle and widen the tails a bit. The end product is less than master craftsman but not too shabby. After a quick coat of oil, it was ready for installation.

I first learned about a Noden bench when taking a class at Philadelphia Furniture Workshop. Allen and Mario, the owners, use one to teach from as it works well for a variety of tasks. Thinking at that time it would work well as a saw bench, I looked into the company and found they were designed by a local furniture maker/tool designer, Geoffrey Noden in Trenton, NJ. The retail price is fair but more than my budget would allow for.

Fast forward and I guess the gods saw it differently. The point of this back story is to say once I got my table together, one of the breaks on a caster promptly broke. This would prove to be an issue as my floor is less than flat.

So knowing (see back story) Noden isn’t far from the shop, I figured I’d see if a replacement could be found. As it turned out Geoff said he had a bum batch of his casters a ways back and offered to replace it for free. Having the time and interest in seeing his shop, I decided I’d head over the following day and also stop by Willard Brothers to ogle over some fine woods and see what pear and apple he they had in stock.

Brainstorming the best way to mount the vise to the bracket, I must have missed a turn and I realized I was off track, but as often is the case with adventures, my detour in misdirection put me in front of a fasteners store Onyx Fasteners; as the name suggests it deals with all things fasteners. Karma really is your friend!

This being not such a great part of Trenton, after being buzzed in and wandering my way through a maze of boxes, bins, trays, and bags, the owner guessed,

“You must be lost. We don’t get much walk in business.” I explained it was his luck as I was both lost and in need of some threaded inserts. He brought me a few different styles from a large selection and after I picked a few, we moved on to directions. As it turned out he knew Geoff and explained I was just a little north of where I should have turned. Before leaving we exchanged cards and he even pulled a few old saws out of the back room he’s been meaning to list on Craigslist. I don’t currently deal with the larger cross cut saws but they do fit a need for many.

Back on route Geoff’s shop wasn’t far. When I saw a flitch of white oak in front of a non-descript building I had arrived. Once inside he gave me the caster and a quick tour of the place. His main business the last few years has been the benches and the Noden Inlay Razor that he demonstrated to me that allows you to create custom inlays of all type. After seeing it I’d say it’s quite an ingenious design. Like many designers and craftsmen, Noden has filled his shop with prototypes of the bench and other projects. Although these current designs are mostly metal much of the furniture he makes is traditional in nature. I marveled over a large slab table with joints that used 3″ plus mitered dovetails.

Of course we talked saws after that and I checked out his collection of golden aged Disston’s including an 18″ sash saw that was used for those mitered dovetail joints. He also had an interesting early production Lie Nielsen dovetail saw that was given out to a select few for feedback.  After finishing up with the saw talk it was time to hit the road.

From here it was a few miles through Trenton to the infamous and previously mentioned Willard Brothers mill and tree service. Although I left empty handed it’s always wonderful to check out the selections. In the past few years as the popularity of woodworking for hobbyists has grown so has WB.

The next day having the finished bracket and final plans for attachment I quickly made some plugs for the 5/16 carriage bolts, packed up the needed tools and headed to my apt. for installation. The plan was as follows: Mount the vise to the dovetailed bracket and leave the top two mounting points proud so they contacted the bench. I then used threaded inserts and screws for those two holes. The entire assembly was then attached with counter sunk carriage bolts and held fast with wing nuts. The through holes were then capped with maple plugs made from scrap wood.

I also used counter sunk carriage bolts and since these would not need to be removed, or so I thought, I used air-craft style nuts. About that not needing to be removed part, it would seem that once installed the turret wouldn’t lock in one position and caused the vise to spin. Hmm… maybe this wasn’t such a good deal. Investigating further I could tell the locking mechanism used a washer that looked like a replacement to cam itself against the turret. This is quite different than how most round objects are clamped. Most would use a pinch style clamp; think break levers on handlebars.

bench_05Knowing a solution wouldn’t be found in my apt., I gathered up my things and headed back to the shop. Luckily still having a few days off I could investigate and research the problem, hopefully figuring out a simple solution. I started by emailing Hop to see if he had any ideas and then hit the web. I found some good information about the vise

Universal Turret Vise-1

The early version with pinch clamp on left and later model with cam clamp right

In 1959 Wilton invented what they called the Wilton Universal Turret Vise. It has two jaws that swiveled into place on a turret that allows the user to hold large items for woodworking, or with a flip use a set of smaller jaws for working metal including pips. Even though it hit the market in ’59 the patent was granted in 1961. Looking over pictures I could tell they changed the design at some point changing from a clamp to this cam style lock. I was also lucky enough to find the patent online with pictures and, although I’m sure it’d be clear to an engineer, it was a bit hard to follow but confirmed my belief that the key was an offset washer that when tightened would cam and effectively jam the turret from spinning.

bench_06The next challenge would be figuring out the proper size and having it made! Lucky for me I have a friend who I knew the second I saw that aluminum washer would be the perfect person to help, Gabriel Romeu.

Without getting too side tracked, I’ll just say I first meet Gabriel about 10 years ago. In that time I’ve learned how to do a multitude of things that span rolling a kayak to operating a Bridgeport lathe. In short some people answer questions and others teach you how to fish. Gman is the ladder and someone I always go to when I’m stuck on a problem.

So with vise and bits in hand I was off to his shop. Once there I caught up on his many recent projects including a recently built 3-d printer that I’ll say is just plain cool. After I explained my theory and we mulled it over, Gabriel quickly knocked out some test collars. As they say 3rd time’s a charm and within 20 minutes I had the needed part. I packed up the vises and 2 of his Sandvik saws in need of sharpening and headed back to the shop.

It wasn’t till later that week I got everything installed, holes plugged, and applied some finish. I’m happy to report all is working great. After working on a few saws I’m left wondering why I waited this long to upgrade. The only issue is that ugly ass handle on the vise.

So knowing the intended use for the vise is on the softer side of use, mostly knocking off backs or holding wood for test cuts, I decided a wood handle would be much nicer. The problem was that after checking the inside dimensions I needed a 7/8” shaft which excluded most commercially made replacement handles.

bench_03Lucky for me however a friend and customer Terry Rogan recently purchased a new lathe and offered to help, following up with the stipulation he would need to “test fit” so I should send the vice to him. Nice try Terry. The handle arrived shortly after and I can’t be happier with how it fits, works, and looks; it’s perfect. So with the holiday behind us and the new bench with vises ready to rock, the last piece of the kit was a plywood shelf utilizing the space under the top; I’m calling this complete.

bench_02I’d like to finish up by saying thanks to the many new friends who helped me out throughout the process. It’s proof positive it takes a village to keep this monger on track and I’ve often thought if you’re open to detours in life, life often provides some fun ones.

Joe Federici
sawyer with style

Facelift— saw style

As I’ve pontificated on in the past, one thing that drew me to saw-dom is the interest in repairing older saws and I soon found I rather enjoyed it.  Shortly after, Second Chance Saw Works was formed on that idea.

One area of interest I quickly gravitated to was repairs of backsaws and more specifically replacement of toothed plates. I find many a backsaw is doomed to live a life on the wall because the plate is bent or possibly bowed due to it being knocked on too deeply over the years. I think the size also lends itself better to a small shop like mine. Lastly, a Foley hand saw retoother followed me home at some point, so I already had the ability to tooth plates. Heads up if you’re thinking of buying one, they breed like rabbits and I now have a few of them!

Bows can often be fixed by resetting the plate but kinks in short thin plates often do warrant the time for the positive results one wants, but replacement is a better option.

When I first got started I bought my plate stock precut but ran into long delivery times and issues with getting them cut to a size that worked best for me. More recently a friend and fellow saw collector offered to help cut some with a local stomp shear he had access to. Although I don’t tend to replate a lot, the opportunity to cut my own and reduce shipping and wait time made the investment in inventory worthwhile. I figure I can also offer supplies to others if needed. I would also add that the opportunity to use large ass, dangerous equipment with no sissy OSHA regulations was a bonus.

I use mostly .025 and .032 plate and do find some thinner and thicker, but .025 works for most 1900 saws. The .032 was popular for larger 18″ and also some of the early UK saws.

Once supplies were ordered a time was set to meet up at my friend David’s shop. Being saw collectors we had a quick show and tell. David’s got a wonderful collection of early American and UK saws. I brought a sad but still very historical older Disston that turned out to be a rare No. 14 that was given to me at the NH show by a friend. I felt it was a fair trade for his help, plus it’s now in the proper hands with David.

Once done, saws were put away and we headed over to his friend’s shop. Now I was having a bad camera day and really didn’t end up with anything good but suffice to say this place was cool.

I’ve always been fascinated by metal work and fabrication in general. Like many who enjoyed bikes, I’ve always wanted to weld my own lugged steel frame. It’s on the bucket list for sure. Walking into this darkened metal shop/studio you instantly get the feeling anything IS possible. Immediately you’re presented the distinct boot end of a 60’s era XKE in the process of restoration. While checking it out we dug a little deeper to find a large hydraulic or powered shear. David being used to the environment got down to business locating supplies while my eyes darted around taking it all in.

We had a fixed schedule so I quickly got back to the job at hand. The shear is designed to handle stock much larger and thicker so we rigged up a landing area for what would be mostly 14 x 4 pieces of plate. Next we figured out the best way to feed the uncut roll and got stomping.

  Blued spring steel is sold for many uses at various widths but the sizes I needed are mostly sold for shim stock. We started with rolls of 8″ wide by 10′ long. I mostly wanted 14, 16, and some 18 and 12. The leftovers yielded some 8 as well. When I was buying precut plate, 12″ lengths were commonly cut to 3” that yielded a shallow plate after toothing.  I’d rather start with a 4″ plate, which gives me some flexibility.

When all was done even with a few mix-ups, we cut well over 40 plates that should last me for some time, at a faction of the cost, plus extra width of the plate for a little flexibility. All and all, a productive few hours.

Once done we cleaned up, said our goodbyes and it was back to my shop. Having the plate cut is really only part if the process. Before it can be used it needs to have the blue removed, sanded, polished, as well as toothed.  I’ll leave that process for another time.

Joe Federici
The International Saw Monger of Mystery